Charles Hermann Witt was born on March 26, 1830 in Hamburg, Germany. Whitt’s life before immigrating to America is virtually unknown except that at an early age he took up the profession of watch-making, that his father was in some medical profession, his grandfather lived to be 112 and his mother to be 93. Other than that his life is shrouded in mystery and conjecture. The first tangible documentation available is that of Witt’s occupation as a silversmith in Sacramento, California in April 1862; the same year he enlisted in Company E, 1st Washington Territory Infantry at Fort Vancouver, as a Private. From what we do know it is assumed he enlisted during the first two weeks of June 1862, because it has been said he was been mustered into service on June 19th, at Alcatraz Island; and mustering in usually occurs within days of enlistment. There is some question regarding his being mustered into Company E on Alcatraz Island, however, unless he was transferred from Companies “A” through “D”. That’s because according to all records uncovered, Companies “A”, “B”, “C” and “D” were organized on Alcatraz Island, while all other companies were organized at San Francisco, California and in the State of Oregon, at various other dates. In all likelihood, Witt was not mustered in on Alcatraz Island, but in San Francisco, California. In any case, records reveal that the 1st Washington Territory Infantry was originally organized at Ft. Vancouver & Ft. Steilacoom in the State of Washington on October 19, 1861.

Companies "A," "B," "C" and "D", upon being organized, were ordered to Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory on April 18, 1862, and sailed on April 30, 1862. Company "A" remained on duty at Fort Vancouver until August 1, 1862, and at Fort Walla Walla until December 1865. Companies "B" and "C" were stationed at Fort Vancouver until June 26, 1862, at Fort Hoskins till June 1863, then moved to Fort Boies from June 1st through July 4th and remained on duty there until February 1865 when they were mustered out.

Company “E” was organized in San Francisco and Oregon, and ordered to Fort Walla Walla on August 1, 1862; including Charles Herman Witt. From there on September 23rd it traveled to Fort Steilacoom, on to Camp Lapwai on October 19th, remaining on duty at Camp Lapwai until April 1864 when it went to Fort Vancouver and remained there until it mustered out on April 18, 1865.

All during the period of the American Civil War volunteers replaced regular U.S. Army soldiers throughout the northwest and greatly contributed to the protection of immigrants and settlers in the Spokane and Walla Walla valleys from hostile attacks by raiding parties of the Snake, Bannack and Shoshone Indian nations.

Records reveal there was nothing spectacular about the service of Company “E” or that of Charles Witt. He spent the majority of his time on extra duty, working as a laborer in the Quartermasters Department; until he was transferred to the Brigade Band in 1864. What we really know of Charles Witt actually begins with his departure from military life.

Obtaining a discharge on April 18, 1865 and sailing out of Portland, Oregon in 1870, Charles Witt arrived in Australia that same year; arriving at New South Wales. In the town of East Maitland Charles resumed his profession of watch and jewelry-making and in December of 1871 he married a widow; Anne Maria Leary. They remained in East Maitland for the next six years then moved to South Australia where Witt again turned to the military as a way of life. He joined and became a Major in the Adelaide Rifles, where he spent the next twelve years before returning to East Maitland; where he remained with his wife. Charles and Anne had seven children born to them between 1873 and 1884, of which only three survived infancy; Violet May was born in 1878, Ada Annie in 1879 and Charles Hermann in 1881.

Charles became a naturalized Australian in 1902 and received a veteran’s pension of $50 (US) a month for a good many years; until the time of his death at the age of 96 years and 6 months; on September 26, 1924. Anne also received a widow’s pension, until her death, on August 29, 1828. Charles Hermann Witt was survived by one son and two daughters; Charles Witt of East Maitland, Mrs. Jackson of Sydney and Mrs. J. Searles of Morpeth. Charles Hermann Witt was buried in the Church of England Cemetery in East Maitland, in an unmarked grave in Plot 16, Section 25, Anglican section of the East Maitland Cemetery. It appears that there are 2 children also buried there, Annie and Albert. A headstone has been offered for his gravesite, by the American Civil War Round Table of Queensland, Inc., but has as yet remains unaccepted.

 
 
 
 
 

Birth, Marriage and Death Records, New South Wales

California Center for Military History, Glendale, California

California State Archives, Sacramento, California

Karen Dibley, Maitland City Council

Compendium of the War of the Rebellion”, Frederick H. Dyer

Military Induction Records, M558 roll 1

History of the Militia and the National Guard”, John K. Mahon

Regimental Histories, Washington Territory

Royal Australian Historical Society Library

Union Washington Territory Volunteers”

 
 

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