This letter was written by Brig. General Thomas Kilby Smith (1820-1887) as a favor to his friend Mary De Charms who sought a pension for the death of her son 2Lt. George De Charms of Co. C, 54th Ohio Infantry. George was killed in action at the Battle of Shiloh on 6 April 1862 while fighting with the 54th Ohio Infantry that was led at the time, by then Colonel Smith. For a great account of the 54th OVI at Shiloh, I’ll refer readers to “My boys from Cleveland, for God’s sake, do your duty!” The 54th Ohio Infantry at Shiloh, by Dan Masters.
Pension records indicate that Mary did not file her claim until after the death of her husband Richard in March 1864 who left her and her three daughters with no means of support other than what they could raise teaching school. It appears that even before her husband’s death, however, Mary relied heavily on the money made by George before and during his time in the service as her husband had abandoned her 17 years before and had since published material indicating his disloyalty to the US Government. Though the Pension Bureau did not dispute that her son was a fallen soldier and eligible for a pension, they questioned he was an officer as no record could be produced—until Thomas K. Smith generated the letter which he claims to have enclosed with the following letter. The pension record contains a letter dated 27 April 1865 which states that George’s commission as 2nd Lieutenant was awarded and backdated to 13 December 1861. 1
Mary lived until March 1880 during which time she received a pension for her son’s service.
A letter by Col. Smith contained in George de Charm’s Pension Record, dated 4 May 1862, not long after the Battle of Shiloh, reads: “Lieut. De Charms died as a soldier should die, with his face to the foe, died trusting in God, with his honor bright. He fell early in the fight of Sunday, shot, fell in front, the ball piercing the centre of his breast a little below his throat. His last and only words as he fell were, ‘Tell my friends I died like a man. I die happy in the service of my country.’ His remains were found and decently interred on Wednesday following. His brother [William] was present at the interment. His person has been rifled of his watch, money & valuables by the enemy. The battlefield of Pittsburgh or ‘Shiloh’ as it should be called properly is drenched with the blood of patriots, honeycombed with their graves. Partial newspaper correspondents who unfortunately are the historians of our country have failed to do Ohio justice in their vague & false reports of the battle—reports too often made to purposely forestall public opinion. Ohio has been nobly represented but none of her sons have been more heroic or deserve more praise than Lieutenant George de Charms….But what is all this to a Mother’s heart? Ah! how well I know how it pains…the tear wells to my own eye as I write. God help us. I would give anything to call him back again. I had learned to love him for his soldierly qualities, his earnest honest wit. But he has gone…”
Yellow Springs, Ohio
December 11, 1864
My dear madam,
It was my intention when last in Philadelphia to have called upon you but my manifold engagements and the brief time allotted for my stay prevented my seeing many even of my relations.
After leaving you, I saw Lieut. General Grant, spoke to him of your son George, and of you, and of the action the Pension Bureau had taken with regard to your pension. His Chief of Staff, Brigadier General [John A.] Rawlins promised me that upon the receipt of the commission of your son and a statement of the facts, he would make application for you & aid me in securing for you the pension to which you are legally entitled. I have therefore prepared the letter which with the commission I enclose herewith, that you may read the same, take copy, submit if you please to your friends, & then forward to General Rawlins requesting him to correspond with you. I think you had better write him yourself.
I trust, dear Madam, that this correspondence will result in your receiving the trifle the U. S. Government owes you and that it should be prompt to pay. I with very best wishes for the prosperity & happiness of yourself and your charming daughters to whom convey my kind regards.
Believe me with the highest respect, your sincere friend and obedient servant, — Thomas Kilby Smith, Brig. Gen’l.
Mrs. Mary De Chams
No 1616 Filbert Street
1 The following two letters are on file at the Ohio History Archives:
December 10, 1861
R. Buchanan, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. To Governor William Dennison. Letter recommending George De Charms for the appointment of Lieutenant in the 54th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry; and stating that De Charms had served in the 6th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry from its organization, was about 23 years old, large and muscular, and was well educated and a good soldier, and that he had no hesitation in saying that if appointed, De Charms would do credit to the service.
1 p. [Series 147-19: 206]
December 10, 1861
John W. Caldwell, No. 379, Main Street, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. To Governor William Dennison. Letter stating that he had seen testimonials of the merits of George De Charms, a Private in Company A, 6th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, that he had also seen the suggestion of Colonel T[homas] K[ilby] Smith that he might have use for De Charms as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 54th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and Smith’s request for De Charms’ transfer, and that he cheerfully concurred in the request for De Charms’ immediate transfer to the 54th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
1 p. [Series 147-19: 203]