Charlie Goddard was born in Pennsylvania May 14, 1845 to Catherine and Abner Goddard. He was the only child of nine that survived childhood. Charlie’s father died at age 43 in September of 1852, shortly after moving to Winona, Minnesota.
His mother, Catherine, re-married in 1854. Catherine and her new husband, Alexander Smith, were not together for long. Alexander disappeared in 1856, presumed drowned in the nearby Mississippi River. Catherine and Alexander had one child, Orrin F Smith. Before the war Charles worked on a farm and in a saw mill.
Just fifteen when the call for troops went out, Charlie wanted to go to war so badly that he lied about his age and claimed to be 18, the minimum age for enlistment without parental permission; 17, if you did. Despite his mother’s pleas for him to desert, he stayed with the First Minnesota and went off to war.
Charlie kept his promise to his mother and wrote many letters home telling of life in the unit. Charlie was sickly and not in good health even before joined the army and army life only made things worse for him. He was sick with dysentery at the beginning of the war and missed the Battle at Bull Run. He was in the hospital again at least once in 1862.
By the fall of 1862, the morale of the First Minnesota was low. As the cavalry and artillery corps were increasing their ranks, they were permitted to recruit from the ranks of the Infantry. Many from the First took this opportunity to move on, hoping they would have a better life on a horse or shooting cannon. Charlie wrote home on Dec 4, 1862 and mentioned this issue amongst other personal tidbits.
“Sam Stebbins was going to get his discharge. I do hope that he may, for I don’t think he can stand the fatiguing marches the army has to undergo; besides, Sam is a newly married man, and I have no doubt he is very anxious to get home. Ely is in fine health and spirits; but is nearly as dark as an Indian: Charlie North is in good health, and often wishes for a meal at Mrs. Smith’s. John Lynn has enlisted in the 1st Regular Cavalry for the remainder of his three years. Hiram Brink is well also. At one time, when we were at Bolivar, nearly the whole Regiment were going to enlist in the 1st Cavalry, but they stopped recruiting, and that was the only thing that saved out Regiment from being scattered through the different cavalry and artillery regiments. Lieut. John Ball is assigned to Co. F, of this regiment, and is 1st Lieutenant. He was our Orderly Sergeant at Camp Stone, Md. Joseph Periam is our Captain; we like him much better than we did when we first came into the service.”
At the Battle of Gettysburg, Charlie was wounded in his left shoulder and his left thigh during the regiment’s charge on July 2, 1863. Captain Periam died from a mortal head wound received during the charge.
After the battle Charlie was treated by the army surgeons and hospitalized in Philadelphia. The wound in his thigh was so near the main artery that too much exertion might cause him to bleed to death. His mother came to visit. She was accompanied by Charles Ely’s mother, also of Winona, who came to visit her wounded son. Charlie recovered and returned to the regiment. His wound never did heal properly, but he held on and served his full three year enlistment, being mustered out on May 5, 1864.
After his discharge, he returned to Winona and lived with his mother who was running a boarding house. In addition to helping her, he worked for the first six months in a lumberyard. This was followed by a year working in a branch lumberyard in nearby St. Charles, Minnesota which was followed by a year and a half stint working in an abstract office for John Ball, who had commanded Company K for a time. In 1868 Amos Ellsworth employed him as a bookkeeper at a wage of $100 a month, $50 of which he gave to his mother. In addition to moving from job to job, he ran for county clerk and won, likely based on his war record.
Before he could serve, he died of tuberculosis. In addition to suffering from the physical wounds he received during the war, he seemed to suffer from the mental trauma of war, now called Post Traumatic Distress Disorder. The worn out Civil War veteran died at age 23 on December 9, 1868. He is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona.