Sergeant Charles Gray
Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry
Charles R. Gray was a twenty-two year old resident of St Louis when he enlisted on September 17, 1861 in Company D of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry. He began his career as the company's Eighth Corporal and on March 18 of the following year he was promoted to Seventh Corporal. He received three more promotion in June, the final being to Fifth Sergeant.
Sergeant Gray was promoted to Third Sergeant of the company in December, the grade in which he ended the war. With the majority of his comrades, he reenlisted to serve with the Consolidated regiment through the end of the war.
If this information which we find in the Official Roster were all we knew about Gray, it would reflect a distringuished career. However, the Official Records of the war preserve an amazing story. It appears that he was appointed by General Thomas to scout, and in that capacity, was captured. For some reason, the correspondence below incorrectly relates his rank as "private." It is also curious that the Roster fails to note his capture… but these records were often incomplete. For an interesting view of this historical episode, see the following correspondence:
New York, October 26, 1864
General: I am a paroled prisoner of war just arrived from Rich-mend, Va., and previous to that from Charleston, S.C. We were confined in the jail yard of the latter place several weeks. While there I learned that two of your scouts were in solitary confinement in jail, kept on one meal of mush and a little meat per day. I found means to communicate with them through a negro boy that took their food to them. They gave their names as James Pike, Fourth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, Company A; Charles R. Gray, Fifth Iowa Cavalry, Company D, and say they were taken on the 5th of June near Augusta, Ga., in uniform and under arms, and narrowly escaped being hanged. They are suffering very much, not being allowed to wash themselves or clothes but seldom, and, in spite of all, are true as steel and breathe vengeance against the rebels when they get out. They were much disappointed that they did not go with those who were exchanged last month according to arrangements made between Generals Hood and Sherman.
Trusting you will be able to do something for their release,
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Thos. B. Stokes
Ensign, U.S. Navy
Headquarters Department of the Cumberland
Nashville, Tennessee, November 1, 1864
Respectfully referred to the Commissary-General of Prisoners, with request that two rebel prisoners of war be selected as hostages for the within-named men, viz, Corpl. James Pike, Company A, Fourth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, and Private Charles R. Gray, Company D, Fifth Iowa Cavalry, two scouts sent by me into the country occupied by the rebel army in May last. I would also request that the rebel authorities be informed that hostages have been selected and will be subjected to the same treatment as they inflict upon the two soldiers named.
By command of Major-General Thomas:
Brigadier-General and Assistant Adjutant-General
Office of Commissary-General of Prisoners
Washington, D.C., November 16, 1864
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War for instructions.
Brig. Gen., U.S. Vols., Inspector and Com.Gen. of Prisoners
War Department, November 17, 1864
Respectfully referred to the commissioner for the exchange of prisoners.
By order of Secretary of War:
Louis H. Pelouze
November 19, 1864
The Secretary of War directs that the recommendation of General Whipple be carried into immediate effect, and that the rebel authorities be advised as suggested by General W. The Commissary-General of Prisoners will designate the rebel officers, &c.
Major-General of Volunteers