Pvt. Charles H. Francisco

During the civil war, thousands of McHenry County citizens volunteered to serve in the United States military. They would see combat in some of the war’s largest campaigns, such as Vicksburg and the Atlanta campaign. One of the regiments formed was the 95th Illinois infantry. The 95th was formed by soldiers mainly from Boone and McHenry Counties. The troops were mustered into service in Sept 1862, and reported to Camp Fuller in Rockford to train. By the end of the year, the Regiment was put into Ulysses S. Grant’s army that was preparing for what would be the Vicksburg campaign. Part of the 95th Infantry, Company D, was McHenry’s very own, Charles Francisco.

Charles, or Henry, was born in 1835 in Cayuga County, Ohio to Abraham and Anne Francisco. The Franciscos came to McHenry township with their nine children in 1844. While the family established a farm, Abraham also worked as a mason, constructing several buildings in McHenry. This included the first schoolhouse in McHenry. This was the building that German citizens would end up using as a church until St. Mary’s was constructed. It was probably from his father that Charles would learn his trade as a mason. Charles married Elizabeth Floyd on Valentine’s Day 1856. By the time Charles was heading off to Camp Fuller with the 95th, he and Elizabeth had three children, Henry, Mary, and Ella.

Section of 1862 plat map of McHenry County. Abraham Francisco’s property is by the blue arrow. Note McHenry on the right hand side.

In the spring of 1863, General Grant was preparing to work his way down south to finish getting control of the Mississippi River. The 95th traveled down south, participating in combat in Memphis, Jackson, and Champions Hill. The first real fighting the regiment faced was on the 19th of May, 1863 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Confederate forces in Vicksburg knew that the Union was heading down to try and take the city. Seen as the key to the control of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg was crucial for both armies. The Confederates build an impressive set of works around the city that would make it extremely difficult to take. On May 19th, the Union forces, including the 95th, tried to take the city but were repulsed. They were said to have got within 100 yards of the city’s defenses. Grant gave his army two days of rest and prepared for another attempt on the city. On May 22nd, the Union artillery and navy bombarded the city and defenses overnight and into the morning. However, the Confederate army was so well entrenched that the artillery wasn’t as successful as hoped. The commander of the 95th, Colonel Thomas Humphrey lead the attack to try and breach the defenses. Some Union forces were able to make some progress, getting within 200 yards of the defenses, but in the end, the Union army was held in check. The casualties for the 95th were severe with 109 soldiers either killed or wounded. Overall the Union army lost 3000 troops during the attacks.

Map of Battle of Vicksburg on May 22, 1863. The 95th was part of General Ransom’s brigade which is represented by the top arrow. Compliments of the Dickinson College Civil War Collection.

During the fighting of the 22nd, Charles Francisco was wounded in the chest. He was possibly sent to a Union hospital in Memphis, as many of the 95th wounded were sent there. If so, it was there that he succumbed to his wounds on June 7, 1863. Memphis was a key city for the Union during the Civil War. One of the things the city had was a site for a large number of hospitals. Unfortunately, many of the wounded died while being cared for, causing the need for a large cemetery. Thus the Mississippi River National Cemetery, later the Memphis National Cemetery, was established in 1867. It was here that Charles was buried. His Burial Register form indicates that he was originally buried at Fort Pickering in Memphis.

1888 lithograph of Vicksburg from Kurz & Allison-Art Studio. Compliments of the National Museum of American History.

Elizabeth Francisco and the children would move up to Sheldon, Wisconsin near where her mother, Jane, lived. Around 1880, Elizabeth married Edgar Smith, himself a Civil War veteran. The couple would be married for over 30 years until Edgar’s passing in 1913. Elizabeth would pass in 1917. The 95th would see combat in Natchez, Fort DeRussey, and Guntown, among others. The regiment was on its way to Montgomery, Alabama on April 19, 1865, when they received word of General Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox.

In the end, Charles Fransisco was fortunate in that he had a tombstone with his name on it. He is surrounded by thousands of fellow soldiers whose remains weren’t identified. Ultimately it stands as a symbol of the sacrifice he made defending his country.


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