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Charles Ingalls: The Civil War Years

That civil war is where I lost my brother Joseph and my husband lost his brother and other friends. Terrible it was terrible to raise boys to manhood then have them shot down in the war. – Martha Quiner Carpenter to Laura Ingalls Wilder, October 2, 1925

Charles Ingalls did not serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, and the question as to how or why he might have escaped service has long plagued Little House readers. He may have elected not to volunteer for personal reasons, or may have been exempted for some reason. He didn’t pay a substitute to serve in his place (the records are complete and were examined), and his name is not among drafted men known to have been given a medical exemption (those records are incomplete). It doesn’t appear that he was drafted.

When the Civil War began in April 1861, Charles and Caroline Ingalls were living in Concord Township, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. From the first call for men to serve the Union until the late summer of 1862, Wisconsin regiments were mustered solely from volunteers, as large numbers of eager, patriotic Wisconsin men answered each new call to arms. Caroline Ingalls’ brother, Joseph Quiner, was an early volunteer from Jefferson County. He was wounded in the Battle of Pittsburg Landing and died in a field hospital on April 28, 1862. One can imagine that the death of Joseph Quiner might have dampened enthusiasm for the war effort among the Quiner and Ingalls families.

President Lincoln’s call for 300,000 men in July 1862 was met with the help of fourteen new volunteer Wisconsin regiments. When Lincoln called for 300,000 more troops in August – and with the war showing no signs of coming to an end that summer – the secretary of war ordered an enrollment of all able bodied males ages 20-45, by county, in preparation for any necessary draft of soldiers if the demand could not be met by volunteers.

WISCONSIN DRAFT, NOVEMBER 1862. The Wisconsin quota for the August call was for just under 12,000 men to serve for nine months, yet volunteerism was low. Wisconsin was a state of farmers, and although the governor asked for a delay until after the fall harvest, the deadline for volunteers to come forward was extended by only a week, and the quota assigned to Jefferson County was not met. A draft lottery was held to meet Jefferson County’s quota, but no Ingalls or Quiner men were selected.

FEDERAL DRAFT, NOVEMBER 1863. On March 3, 1863, Congress passed the Conscription Act which declared every able-bodied man ages 18-45 as liable for military service, and an enrollment of eligible men was compiled. The first Federal draft was held in November 1863. By this time, Charles Ingalls and Henry Quiner had moved to Pepin County. No Ingalls men were drafted in Jefferson County, and apparently Charles Ingalls and Henry Quiner were spared in Pepin County.

Wisconsin quotas under Lincoln’s calls for troops until July 1864 were filled by volunteers, spurred into service by generous bounties offered in order to avoid a draft.

FEDERAL DRAFT, SEPTEMBER 1864. Following a deficiency in the July call for troops, another draft was held in deficient districts. No Ingalls men were drafted in Jefferson County, nor Charles and Henry in Pepin County.

President Lincoln made another call for troops on December 19, 1864, with a federal draft to be held in March 1865 where the quota was not filled. It was probably this call that inspired Hiram and James Ingalls to enlist. The fourth federal draft was delayed, however, and it had not been held (involving Pepin County) at the close of the war, again sparing Charles Ingalls.


Charles Ingalls during the Civil War
     George as drummer boy in the Army (BW 8)
Civil War (BW 8; PG) – A war fought between citizens of the same country.