Charles W. Trowbridge was born in Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey in an area known as Trowbridge Mountain. He moved to Brooklyn, New York with his parents in 1854.
He enlisted in the 1st New York Engineers, Company F, on December 4, 1861, later promoted to Sergeant and being assigned as “orderly” to General David Hunter, Commander of the Department of the South, Union Army.
Sergeant Trowbridge was reassigned to the 1st South Carolina Volunteers under General Hunter when the regiment was first organized in May of 1862, however, the unit was disbanded in August of 1862 due to pressures from President Abraham Lincoln and the War Department. The policy at the time was no Black soldiers were needed or wanted in the Union Army.
The 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment was reorganized in November 1862 and Sergeant Trowbridge was commissioned Captain and assumed command of Company A; this being the same company that he and his brother, John Augustine Trowbridge, served together in May 1862.
In 1863 he was promoted to the rank of Major. He was known to have had daily devotion with the regiment, and it is written that he gave his men speeches on the equality of the races and that they should not allow themselves to be considered less than equal.
In May of 1864, Colonel Thomas W Higginson left the regiment due to injuries received at Edisto. At this time the command was officially given to Colonel W.F. Bennett, but for whatever reason it was Major Trowbridge who actually commanded the regiment at that time and until mustered out. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on December 9, 1864, his highest rank. It was said that he did not have the education that the War Department deemed adequate for promotion to Colonel.
Susie King Taylor in her book “A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoir’s” writes, “He was greatly admired by his troops. This may be partly due to his continuity of tenure, and his refusal to leave the troops at the end of his 3 year tour of duty, both of which must have greatly endeared him to his men.”
Susie King Taylor also indicated that despite the disbanding of Company A in May 1862 the men never stopped being soldiers, and by time the regiment was legally organized, all the men knew Charles Trowbridge and wanted to be in his Company. This included her husband Edward King of Company E, who expressed disappointment in not being assigned to Company A. She further states that he visited all of his men in their tents before they came under his command, and had her to teach any that were interested in learning to read and write.
After the war, he returned to New York and was a 4 term Alderman for the 10th Ward in Brooklyn. In April of 1882 he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and became custodian of the old state capitol building until his death on Christmas Eve of 1907. The Governor ordered the flag hoisted to half-mast and the capitol building closed on the day of the funeral.
(Part 1, post Civil War narratives by Charles T. Trowbridge, was published in the January, 1997 edition of Lest We Forget. Part 2 and the conclusion will be published in the April, 1997 edition).
Cheryl Trowbridge-Miller is the third cousin three times removed from Lieutenant Colonel Charles T. Trowbridge. She is the Trowbridge Family researcher.