When Charles was seventeen years old, he volunteered for duty in the Rhode Island Militia. He joined on October 30, 1862. His father had to verify his age. He listed his occupation as laborer and his residence as Providence, RI. Charles had blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was 5’5” inches tall.His first assignment was to the Hospital Guard Unit, Company A, at Portsmouth Grove, RI. His unit was set up to be a permanent garrison of the post. He was a Military Policeman. His duties were to guard the hospital and the Confederate prisoners housed there. It was a very large hospital complex. At times there were thousands of patients there from various state regiments. Prisoners were sent to Portsmouth by orders of the General Court to serve out their sentences at hard labor, some with ball and chain attached to their legs. Soldiers were also sent to Lovell to await Court Martial. Details were often made from the Guards to take Rebel prisoners to Governor’s Island, New York harbor after their convalescence, and to take Union soldiers to the same place before being returned to their respective units. The details were so large that the commanding officer was obliged to divide his entire force into three reliefs, giving the men two hours on and four hours off, which was very hard on them and told on their health. They had very little rest. These duties seldom had diversity to break their monotony, and though not attended with danger, were very severe, particularly in the winter season. The piercing northwest winds swept over the open bay. There was no shelter that first very cold winter, and the troops were quartered in tents. Temperatures that winter were recorded as being the worst in decades. Sentinels were relieved on the hour, the men often coming in with their trousers frozen stiff to the knee. Captain Blanding ran an orderly camp, and he took a great deal of pride in the discipline that characterized the Hospital Guard troops. Lt. Colonel Freedley, USA, the mustering out officer gave the men the handsome compliment of being the best behaved troops he had ever discharged from service. Charles served his first tour of duty here at Lovell General Hospital, Portsmouth, RI. He was discharged on August 26, 1865. He became a private citizen after his first three year tour of duty.On October 6, 1865 in Providence, RI, Charles was mustered into Company B, Second Battalion of the Fifteenth U S Infantry. He was twenty two. His unit was sent to Mobile Alabama, and in January, 1866, the Second Battalion under Major Dudley was transferred to Vicksburg. The unit was assigned to police the post war city. On July 8, 1866, the entire U S Army was reorganized, and the Second Battalion of the Fifteenth Infantry was changed to the Second Battalion, Twenty Fourth Infantry. The unit was assigned to Reconstruction duty in Vicksburg. Charles was mustered out at the end of his enlistment in October of 1868, in Brookhaven, Mississippi. In 1870 as the railroads began their expansion West, Charles was ready for a new adventure. On June 7, 1870, he enlisted at Providence, RI for the third time of his young life. He was 25 years and six months old. His occupation was listed at Fireman, probably on an oyster boat powered by steam. The oyster company was located near the Washington Bridge in East Providence. He always returned to this line of work with his brother Arnold between enlistments. He joined the Twentieth Infantry, Company B, U S Army and was sent to Fort Wadsworth (Fort Sisseton) Dakota Territory. On August 31, 1871, Company B escorted a surveying party of the Northern Pacific RR to Fort Rice and then to the Yellowstone River. They marched 660 miles. While at Fort Sisseton their duties were to keep the peace and to protect the new settlers and the railroad crews from Indian attacks. Company B, Twentieth Infantry was then assigned to Fort Cross (Fort Seward) Dakota Territory on May 4, 1872. Charles did not leave with his unit at that time. By November he was at Fort Seward where he performed duties similar to those of his duties at Fort Sisseton. While there, he received a Court Martial on June 30, 1873, and had to forfeit $5.00 pay for one month. I would like to know what happened! Company B left Fort Seward on October 12, 1873 and arrived at Fort Ripley, Minnesota on October 14, 1873. Charles finished his tour of duty with the Twentieth in June of 1875. He was honorably discharged from Fort Ripley, Minnesota.
Charles returned home to Rhode Island after serving thirteen years in the military. He was only 30 years old.
He spent his last years at the Bristol Soldiers Home in RI. He died there at the age of 83. Private Charles William Cole is buried in the Civil War Section of the North Burial Ground in Bristol, Rhode Island