Biography of a Civil War Veteran

Charles B. Knobbs

Charles B. Knobbs was born Feb. 13, 1844, in a log cabin near Springfield, Illinois. His early life was spent in hardships very much like that of Abe Lincoln. There was very much timber land on his father's farm, which gave the boy wide opportunity to learn things of nature while developing in him a strong body physically together with great skill in athletic activity. He often hunted in the woods with his brother Dock, now and then bringing down a wild turkey, a deer or perchance even the more savage animal, a panther, which was quite commonly found in those days. He having a fearless disposition might have lost his life many a time, had it not been for his keen marksmanship with the rifle. One day while he and his brother were out in the woods getting the cattle together to drive home, a peculiar thing happened. As the cows crossed the creek they shyed around a fallen tree which lay in a deep part of the cow path. The boys not knowing why headed right for the tree, when suddenly Dock called, "Charlie, there's a panther!" Charlie with rifle in hand shot and leaped back at the same time. His shot hit home and the beast fell with a scream at his feet. In the meantime, the cattle had scampered over the hill, so the boys ran after them, when, who should they meet but the hired hand running on foot up the hill from home in great excitement, for he knew there was another panther near the one they shot. Back they all turned when, sure enough, they spied another panther lurking up in a tree right over where the boys had been standing. The hired hand fired another shot son down came Mrs. Panther with a loud scream to the place where her mate lay. The boys then realized in what danger they had been. Charlie received a common school education in the log cabin public school near his home. The fighting instinct was his chief characteristic in school. He was no bully nor did he allow any one to be bullied either. He often defended the weak against the strong. His school life came to a close when he was thirteen, after which he remained at home helping his father. He was his father's best hired hand. His work consisted chiefly of felling trees for rails or firewood, planting and harvesting corn, while the winter days were spent in hauling word or corn to town for sale. One day his father told him that if he would load the wagon with firewood he could go along to Springfield to hear the Lincoln and Douglas debate on the slavery question. The next morning before sunrise Charlie and his dad were seated upon a load of wood hauled by a team of oxen on their way to town, ten miles distant. By noon they had arrived at their destination. They found a great concourse of people crowding the streets near the lecture stand. He witnessed the applause of the people at the arrival of Douglas and also the sneering remarks made at poor Abe Lincoln. From that time on he admired Lincoln very much and henceforth he was firmly opposed to slavery. The following year, 1861, he was among the 75,000 volunteers who rallied to the call of President Lincoln at the beginning of the Civil War. His mother in tears endeavored to persuade not to join the army as he was only sixteen years of age. The father, though a poor man, offered him a three-year high school course, something not common at this time. All these entreaties were of no avail so that at last his parents consented to let him go. August 29, 1862, he enlisted at Springfield in the 107 Illinois Infantry under Col. Snell. After five months he was transferred to Company K, First Regiment of Illinois Light Artillery Volunteers commanded by J.H. Calvin. The first battle in which he was engaged was at Unionville, Tennessee. As he had a very daring spirit and was anxious to get to the front, yet the first sight of the wounded and dying men and horses, the shock of the cannonading, and the smoke of the firing lined, caused him such fear that his hair moved his cap up and down on his head. But after some weeks he head overcome all fear even enjoying the rough life of a soldier. The next battle was at Bluntsville, Tennessee, third at Bean Station, Wraytown, Chattanooga, second battle of Bluntsville, and Welksford. He then marched with Sherman's army to Atlanta, Georgia, but was sent back after Hood, the rebel general, to Nashville, Tennessee. He being in thirty-two engagements in all, was not wounded in battle, though holes were made in his clothes. His eyesight was once injured when he was working a cannon during a bombardment. He had several thrilling experiences during the war in which he narrowly escaped loosing his life which was undoubtedly due to his gallant bravery. On one occasion, a spy was needed by General Sherman to bring a message of relief to Col. Brown at Memphis. Charlie and his pal Park McGowan volunteered. Park went by land but Charlie went by river, as he was a good swimmer. The message had to be there before daybreak. After walking some distance down the bank he spied an island to which he swam. He found a forked log lying on the edge of this island, so on kicking it into the stream, he jumped astride it, thus floating down the river with the current, which caused the log to swing nearer the coast at each bend in the river. All went well until he came to the picket lines of the enemy near the city. These were ten rods apart with a sentinel there keeping a bonfire for light. After passing two of them successfully, the log made a sharp turn in the river which brought him suddenly near the bank where the third fire was. "Halt! Halt!" the sentinel shouted, "there's a man on that log." Then "Bang! Bang!" But no man was on the log, he was under it with his head up in the fork of the log. In a short time he arrived unhurt at the row of Union gunboats and was allowed to pass. The commander overjoyed, threw his arms about the lad promising him promotion to a captaincy. Charlie refused the offer. The Colonel then offered him $50 in cash which he gladly accepted. At another time down in Georgia, as he and Park were out foraging one night they were captured by some Cherokee Indians, who bound their hands and feet to trees. The next day they were to be shot. In the meantime several Indians made sport of them, mocking them and spitting on them; soon after sunrise, as the Indians were lining up to fire the fatal shot at the two soldiers, twenty-five of the 14th Ill. Cavalry men came racing through the ravine shooting in all directions. The Indians fled while the two men were picked up and taken back to camp. Charlie Knobbs was honorably discharged from the service at the close of the war June 19, 1865 at Springfield, Illinois. Not long after this he married Mary Lowry. They were blessed with twelve children eight of whom survived and are still living. Later on, he moved to Nebraska, accepting an ex-soldier's land grant from the United States Government. He is now living (aged 82) with his oldest daughter, Anna McKenzie, in Brush, Colorado.

My copy of the above story was given to me by Paula Farikoff and Carla Carrico, my cousins. Our common ancestor is Charles Arthur "Red" Knobbs, one of the sons of Charles B. Knobbs. I was told that this story was written by one of "the Nuns", CB Knobbs' daughters. Three of his daughters were Catholic nuns and school teachers. In March, 1995 my grandfather, in sorting out his late wife's belongings, found the following and gave it to me. The Original is still in my possession. In the following letter to an unidentified daughter, C. B. Knobbs relates the majority of the above information about his military tenure. The stories of message carrying, and subterfuge may be recollections by the original writer of stories told to her in her childhood.

"Trenton Nebraska
Nov 17 -- 1915
My Dear Daughter in answer to your letter I will give you a little History of my Army life I enlisted listed on the 29 of August 1862 in the 107 Illinois Infantry, then after 5 months was Transferred to Company (K) first Regiment of Ills Light Artillery, Volunteers Discharged from the Service on the 19th of June 1865 at Springfield Ills as I kept no Dira I can't tell the dates of the Battles I was in my First Battle was at Unionville Tenn Second was at Bluntsville tenn & third Bean Station Wraytown, Second Battle of Bluntsville, Welkers ford with Sherman to Atlanta Georgie, and Back after the Hood the Rebel General to Nashville Tenn I think it was 32 engagements I was in during the war we are well as usual Hoping you are the same we are having fine weather now but we had the coaldest wetest Sumer I ever saw here well I will close C. B. Knobbs"
If you have any questions please contact me, Mary Scott.