Charles H. Marsh
- Written by Joseph B. Barnes, Esq.
Captured Confederate flag
Private Marsh, born in Milford, joined the 1st Connecticut Cavalry and saw service in the American Civil War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action against Lt. General Jubal A. Early’s (CSA) command, at Back Creek Valley, the area encompassing the headwaters of the Potomac River, near North Mountain, West Virginia on July 31, 1864.
He captured the Confederate flag, a mark of great heroism and a key to victory. During the Civil War, forces would rally to and around the color bearer. The Flag held aloft amid the smoke and fire and confusion of infantry skirmishes was key to the location and direction of forces, battle lines and lines of attack. Taking the opponents flag would often result in great confusion and demoralization among the enemy and result in victory, so the flag bearer was usually well defended by his peers.
Private Marsh had joined Company D of the 1st Connecticut Cavalry on October 21, 1861. In October 1862, one year after his enlistment, Marsh was captured by Confederates near Haymarket, Virginia. He was found with a letter which indicated to the Confederates that he may be a spy, and he was jailed at Castle Thunder, a facility in Richmond for civilian prisoners and Union agents. Marsh protested to Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon, arguing that the area where he was captured was Union-held, and he should thus be considered a prisoner of war rather than a spy. His argument was rejected, but he was nevertheless released in a prisoner exchange in December of that year. He rejoined the 1st Connecticut Cavalry and took part in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in May 1864 and then participated in the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during which he captured the Confederate flag on July 31, 1864. The Medal of Honor for that accomplishment was awarded six months later on January 23, 1865.
After discharge from service with the rank of corporal, Marsh returned to the Lanesville area of New Milford, Connecticut where he had been raised but, shortly thereafter, moved to nearby Pawling, NY. The privations of war weighed heavily upon him. He would die of consumption (TB) contracted during the war at just age 27. He was buried at Quaker Cemetery in New Milford.
Marsh Bridge, spanning the Housatonic River in New Milford, was named in his honor. He is one of two Milford residents to have received the Medal of Honor, the other being Indian Wars hero and Milford Hall of Fame honoree (2008), George W. Baird.