The Second Mass and Its Fighting Californians
A Reference site of images, articles, artifacts of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry including the Cal 100 and the Cal Battalion.
Charles M. Jenkins
Courtesy of Wayne E. Sherman
Charles Meyrs Jenkins was born at Circleville, Ohio, June 2, 1839. His ancestors originally came from Wales and Germany, settled in Maryland, and afterward moved to Ohio. Charles came to California via Panama in 1850. In the war of the Rebellion the Government did not call for volunteers from the Pacific states to serve in the East, for two reasons - the expense of transportation was so great, and then it was thought there might be need for them here, as there was much talk of a "Pacific Rebellion." Nevertheless a California (cavalry) battalion of 500 adventurous spirits voluntarily organized themselves, in October 1862, and offered their services to the Government. But in order to be accepted they had to smuggle themselves into the service, and get themselves accepted as a part of the quota of the State of Massachusetts. And they actually paid their own fare from San Francisco to New York, and Governor Andrew paid their fare from there to Boston, where they were mustered in for three years, or the war, as the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, with Colonel Charles R. Lowell as commander. This battalion was in about fifty battles.
Mr. Jenkins fought in twenty battles, and was a prisoner of war fifteen months, suffering a thousand deaths from sickness, cold and starvation. He was captured at Coyle's Tavern, Virginia, and was taken to Libby prison, then to Belle Island, and from there to Anderson Ville. Eventually he was taken to Savannah, and then to Millen, Georgia, where he was exchanged. Of the 150 men captured, only three lived to get out: Jenkins, Dr. Dempsey (now living in Ventura County), and William Manker, who died soon after his release; he over-ate at Parole Camp and never recovered.
Mr. Jenkins who says he resolved to be a man and live if possible, controlled his appetite, and weathered through, barely. But it was nearly twenty years after the close of the war before he recovered from the effects of the starvation and chronic dysentery he suffered from during his long and terrible imprisonment. After being exchanged he joined his regiment, December 1864, at Winchester. He was twenty-six days with Sheridan in his raid, and at the final surrender at Appomattox. Of course at this time he could only do the lightest service, but his comrades relieved him whenever they could, and he stayed with his command until the last. He was mustered out at Fairfax Court-House, July 20, 1865.
During his service he acted as private, Corporal and Sergeant. Immediately after his discharge Mr. Jenkins came back to Los Angeles, where he has lived ever since.
Notwithstanding all Mr. Jenkins has sacrificed, namely, the best part of his life, if his long disability is included; and notwithstanding all he has suffered, equal to a thousand deaths, for his country, he has never received one dollar, aside from his wages, from the Government, as pension or otherwise. It may be because he has not asked for it, for the reason that he is too independent to ask favors of anybody!
But can the American people consent to receive such sacrifices and not hunt up the heroes who rendered them, and reward them in some measure, as they deserve, even without asking?
Mr. Jenkins was married to Phoebe Speague, July 13, 1869. They have no children. If with her care and nursing and assistance, he is yet alive and has any means on which to live and "keep the wolf from the door," thanks are due to their own heroic exertions, and not to the government of the United States!
A word should be added as to the boyhood and early life in California of Mr. Jenkins, for he came to California when he was a mere boy, with his step-father, George Dalton,Sr. Young Jenkins learned the printer's trade and worked on the first newspaper published in Los Angeles, the Star, also on the Southern California, the Southern Vineyard, El Clamor Publico, and the News. On April 1, 1889, he was appointed special Aide-de-camp on the staff of the Department Commander, George e. Gard, of the Grand Army of the Republic, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Mr. Jenkins was "Zanjero," or overseer of water or irrigation of the city of Los Angeles, for about seven years.
From -An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County California
The Lewis Publishing Company Chicago 1889