5th Minnesota Battle Flag Charles E. Chapel

Name: Charles E. Chapel
Company: C
Veteran; promoted Corporal; discharged for disability; wounded; lost an arm in siege of Spanish Fort.
  • Date: August 6, 1843
  • Place: Rock County, Wisconsin
Mustered In
  • Date: March 14, 1862
  • Rank: Private
  • Age: 18
  • Residence prior to military service: Faribault County, Minnesota
  • Vocation prior to military service: Farmer
  • Date: November 6, 1930
  • Place: Newport, Washington County, Minnesota
  • Burial:
Mustered Out
  • Date: June 15, 1865
  • Rank: Corporal
  • Age: 21
  • Residence following military service:
  • Vocation following military service:

Charles E. Chapel Biography and Civil War Narrative

Charles E. Chapel was born in Rock County, Wisconsin, on August 6, 1843, the son of John B. and Catherine Chapel. John was born about 1817 in New York, and Catherine was born about 1821, also in New York. Charles was the oldest of at least nine siblings. As he was growing up, Charles' family moved from Wisconsin to Boon County, Illinois, to Fayette County, Iowa and, finally in 1856, to Faribault County, Minnesota. The 1860 U.S. Census shows the J. B. Chapel family living and farming in Winnebago City, Minnesota:
On March 14, 1862, 18-year-old Charles E. Chapel of Faribault County, Minnesota, enlisted as a Private in Company C of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

As a member of Company C, Private Chapel served garrison duty at Fort Ripley, north of Little Falls, Minnesota. He also was included in a detachment to Fort Ridgley, near New Ulm, Minnesota, that defended that fort against Sioux Indians in August 1862. On June 19, they left Fort Ripley with a detachment of 50 men under the command of Lieutenant Timothy J. Sheehan to report to Fort Ridgley.

Marching about 200 miles via Elk River and Henderson, they reached Fort Ridgley on the evening of June 28th, and reported to Captain John Marsh who commanded the post. After annuity goods were distributed to the Indians, Lieutenant Sheehan and his detachment began marching back to Fort Ripley on
August 17th to join the rest of their company who had remained there.

News that a massacre was taking place at the Lower Sioux Agency arrived at Fort Ridgley the next morning (Monday, August 18th) so Captain Marsh quickly sent a mounted messenger with orders for Lieutenant Sheehan's detachment to return immediately to Fort Ridgley. Marsh left Fort Ridgley to lead the rescue team at the Lower Sioux Agency and left Lieutenant Thomas P. Gere in command at the fort. When the orders reached Sheehan on Monday evening, Chapel and the rest of the detachment had already marched 42 miles from Fort Ridgley and were setting up camp between New Auburn and Glencoe. They immediately began a forced march back to Fort Ridgley and arrived at the fort on Tuesday. Upon their arrival back at Fort Ridgley, Lieutenant Sheehan took command. Meanwhile, about 2 miles west of the fort, Indians under the leadership of Little Crow were congregated and planning their movements. Oscar Wall, in his Recollections of the Sioux Massacre (p. 83), lists Chas. E Chapel as one of the soldiers from Company C present at Fort Ridgley on Tuesday evening, August 19.

On Wednesday, August 20th, while Little Crow approached the fort from the west, a party of 500-600 Indians attacked from the northeast. Soon the fort was surrounded, and the Indians kept up their attack on the fort for five hours, the defenders responding with artillery and muskets. Sergeant James G. McGrew worked with a detachment from Company C manning first a 12-pound mountain howitzer at the northwest corner of the garrison.

It becoming soon apparent that the Indians were in large enough force to maintain a continuous siege if so disposed, and that all the artillery ammunition was likely to be required, it was decided to remove at once into the stone buildings, from the log magazine, the ammunition remaining there, consisting principally of the supply for the extra field-pieces. The magazine stood on the open prairie to the northwest and distant from the stone barracks some two hundred yards, the one quarter from which the Indians could not approach under cover. McGrew now took position so as to command any locality from which men detailed for this duty could be reached by the enemy, and the ammunition was all safely brought in. Among those who assisted in this venture were two young soldiers of Company C, Charles E. Chapel and Charles A. Rose. The paymaster, C. G. Wykoff, and his guard of four men from St. Paul, also assisted. [The History of Renville County, Minnesota, Volume 1, pp. 626-627]

Another description of Chapel and Rose's venture is given in Minnesota in Three Centuries, 1655-1908, Volume 3 by Lucius Frederick Hubbard and Return I. Holcombe:

Much of the ammunition belonging to the post was stored in a log magazine on the open prairie to the northwest and distant some 200 yards from the commissary building. It was determined to bring the supply in and two young soldiers of Company C, Charles E. Chapel and Charles A. Rose, were detailed for the service. They accomplished their work under a constant fire from the Indians and did not falter until all the ammunition was safely brought in. [p. 335]

At nightfall the firing ceased and Little Crow withdrew his forces to the lower agency. No attack was made on Thursday, August 21, but a larger attack was made on Friday the 22nd. The Fort held and
in the following days, defensive works were strengthened. On Wednesday, August 27th, additional reinforcements arrived. Chas. E. Chapel's name is listed on the monument erected to remember the defenders at Fort Ridgley.

Charles E. Chapel and Lieutenant Sheehan's detachment of Company C left Fort Ridgely on September 18th to rejoin their companions at Fort Ripley. Company C joined the rest of the 5th Minnesota on December 12, 1862, near Oxford, Mississippi. Chapel continued to serve in Company C throughout the Civil War. He participated in numerous campaigns including the Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863), the Red River Campaign (March 10-May 22, 1864) and the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864).

Private Chapel re-enlisted as a veteran on March 16, 1864. Credit was given to Winnebago, Faribault County, Minnesota. At some point he was also promoted to Corporal. During the summer of 1864, re-enlisted veterans were given a furlough between June 17 and August 17, allowing them to go home to Minnesota. While in Minnesota, on August 5, 1864, Charles Chapel married Mary Sophronia Van Nice in Faribault County, Minnesota. Sophrona was born in Iowa about 1847, the daughter of Cornelius and Susan Van Nice who were natives of New York and farmed in Winnebago City, Faribault County.

The final major military action of the War found Chapel and the 5th Minnesota engaged in the Campaign against Mobile, Alabama, and its Defenses under General E. R. S. Canby. On March 7, 1865, the First Division of the 16th Army Corps arrived at Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island at the mouth of Mobile Bay. On March 23, the 5th Minnesota was transported by steamer across to the eastern side of Mobile Bay to Fish River. Marching northward, they encountered Confederate pickets who retreated to Spanish Fort, directly east of Mobile on the northern end of the bay. Siege operations were implemented, constructing parallel after parallel of intrenchments. Colonel Lucius F. Hubbard later described the situation:

The construction of these approaches was very arduous and dangerous duty. Many a poor fellow literally dug his own grave while prosecuting this work. Sharpshooters from behind the rebel works were constantly busy, and the enemy's mortars and artillery frequently deposited shell that exploded in the trenches. [Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, Vol. 1, p. 279]

Charles E. ChapelAccording to a biographical sketch published in the newspaper years later, "Chapel lost his left arm by being struck with a shell at the fight at the Spanish fort of Mobile Bay, April 2, 1865" [The Saint Paul Daily Globe: Thursday morning, June 8, 1893, p. 6, column 1]. Corporal Charles E. Chapel was discharged for disability on June 15, 1865, at the age of 21.

Chapel returned to his wife and home in Winnebago City, Faribault County, Minnesota, and in November 1865 he was elected sheriff. He appointed Charles A. Rose (formerly of the 5th Minnesota, Company C) of Blue Earth City and Silas Richardson of Winnebago City.

Charles and Sophronia had three children while living in Winnebago City:
In 1871, Charles E. Chapel was elected Sergeant at Arms of the Minnesota Senate. On December 31, 1871, the Charles Chapel family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. In the spring of 1872, Charles was appointed janitor of the state capitol, a position he held until January 1885. From 1882 to 1885, he held this position under Governor Lucius F. Hubbard, his former colonel in the 5th Minnesota.

Six additional children were born after the move to St. Paul:
Mrs. Mary Sophronia Chapel died in June or July 1886. About six months later, on December 30, 1886, Charles Chapel married Isabel Smith Young, the daughter of Hugh Young and Margaret (or Mary?) J. Smith, born October 1856 in Connecticut.

Charles E. Chapel held the position of deputy sheriff of Ramsey County from January 1885 until January 1887, at which point he received the appointment of military store-keeper for Minnesota. The Adjutant General's report published on page 498 of the Executive Documents of the State of Minnesota for the year 1870 (Vol. II) describes the Military Store Keeper position:


Charles E Chapel Election PosterRunning as the Republican candidate, on November 8, 1892, Charles E. Chapel was elected Sheriff of Ramsey County, Minnesota, defeating the Democratic candidate, Anton Miesen. Chapel was the only Republican to win on the ticket. He was inducted into office on January 2, 1893. In 1894, the Republicans won by a landslide and Chapel was re-elected, but in 1896, Chapel lost in a close race to Democratic candidate John Wagener.

Charles Chapel was actively involved in the Acker Post #21 G. A. R. He  joined under its first charter on May 21, 1872. He re-joined under its second charter on February 9, 1882, and was elected Officer of the Day. In 1892 the post elected Chapel to be Junior Vice Commander. On December 8, 1894 he was elected as a delegate to the state encampment for 1895.

Following his time spent as sheriff, Charles and Isabella Chapel moved to Forest Lake, Washington County, Minnesota. Both the 1900 and 1910 U.S. censuses show Isabella's mother living with them. On April 4, 1916, Isabella Chapel died in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota.

Charles continued to live until 1930 when he died on November 6 in Newport, Washington County, Minnesota, at the age of 87.

[5th Minnesota Home] [Company C] [Tim Bode] [Tim Bode's Music Page

This page is maintained by Tim Bode (timbode@juno.com ). Page created on 5/02/2011. Last modified on 5/02/2011.

2011 Tim Bode