Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sudden Death: Charles S. Stewart

Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Stewart

       Charles S. Stewart was born in New York in 1828, but moved to Mobile, Alabama where he made a living as a merchant. He would marry Julia Brown before the Civil War began. When the war began, Stewart joined the Confederate Army and fought at Shiloh and the actions around Corinth. In May of 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in command of Fort Morgan guarding Mobile Bay. 

Fort Morgan as it looked during the war

       Congress authorized the construction of Fort Morgan following the War of 1812 when it was realized the country needed these fortifications to guard against invasion. It took over seven million bricks to construct the fort. The fort was named after Revolutionary War hero Daniel Morgan and was completed by 1834. 
       In early 1863, a rumor reached the South that a new fleet of ironclads were about to attempt taking Mobile. Stewart wanted to test the strength of his forts heavy caliber cannons. The brave leader decided to oversee the cannon fire for himself. Somehow, one of the 32 pound cannons had accidentally been loaded with twice the powder needed. When the order to fire was given, the gun exploded. Large pieces of the metal tube flew in all directions. 

Death of Charles Stewart

       Five artillerymen were killed by the exploding artillery piece. Charles S. Stewart was struck in the head by a two hundred pound fragment of the gun tube. Reports state that Stewart was beheaded by the flying shrapnel. 
       One soldier wrote, "I immediately went over and found that his head had been entirely severed from his body and scattered around for some distance, one side badly bruised and one arm broken. All the pieces of his head were picked up and carefully washed and placed in the coffin."
       A dental bridge in Stewart's mouth was knocked out and twisted. It was recovered by an officer along with the stars of his lieutenant colonels insignia and a few buttons. They were sent to his grieving wife. 

Dental bridge, stars, and buttons

       One of Charles Stewart's granddaughters placed a monument at Fort Morgan supposedly at the spot where he died. Legend holds that Colonel Stewart's blood still stains the bricks there. 

Monument marking spot of Stewart's death

       Today, Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Stewart rests in Mobile's Magnolia Cemetery. He was a brave leader. He proved this at Shiloh and around Corinth. He also proved his bravery when he stood with the cannon crews as they test fired the guns he was commanding to hold Mobile Bay. 

Stewart's grave in Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, Alabama

*Update on this blog: I found an entry on that placed Stewart's grave in Birmingham's Elmwood Cemetery. I'd wondered why he would be carried to Birmingham for burial when he actually lived on Dauphin Street in Mobile. Thanks to Martha Blount, a direct descendant of Colonel Stewart I have finally located his grave. He is not buried in Birmingham. Someone made an error on Findagrave. Martha taught me a lot of good info on Colonel Stewart and his wife that I plan to share in a future blog in the next week or so. Thank you Martha for the correction and I can't wait to visit his grave soon. Now if I could just talk Martha into one of Colonel Stewart's autographs to go on my wall with the rest of my collection.

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