A Railroading Man from the 17th

Not only do I spend time studying the 17th CVI but I also like railroad history (coming from a railroading family back in the day). I found this short autobiography by Charles S. Mallett in a 1920 volume of the Locomotive Engineers Journal, which was the official publication of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

Mallett was with the regiment, serving in Company H throughout the war except for a brief time with a Veteran Reserve Corps unit. He was wounded and captured at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Paroled on August 2nd he was then transferred to the 1st Regiment, VRC in October. Mallett was re-transferred (!) back to the 17th in October 1864. Captured again at Dunn’s Lake, Florida in February 1865, Mallett was a POW until his release in April. After his discharge Mallett began a 50-plus year career as a railroading man, finally retiring in 1920. He lived out his final years on his farm in Louisiana, where he died on February 4, 1935 nearly 70 years to the day of his capture in Florida. Here is Mallett’s story, as he wrote it for the Journal:

Record of a Veteran Boomer

I was born March 6, 1847 at Easton, Fairfield County, Connecticut on a farm. I ran away from home September 1, 1862 and enlisted in the 17th Connecticut Volunteers. Was mustered out of the army June 8, 1865 at Hartford, Conn.

I made my first trip railroading July 4, 1865 on the New York & New Haven railroad as brakeman. I went firing August 2, 1865 on the same road on engine 29 for Jim Culbert. This engine blew up at Harlem bridge three weeks after I left killing the engineer and fireman. I have been somewhat of a boomer. I fired on the Shore Line, Connecticut River, and the New Haven & Hartford, also on the Long Island, Central New Jersey, Toledo, Wabash & Western, Indianapolis & Cincinnati, Chicago & Alton, and Rock Island roads. The last railroad on which I fired was the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, now called the Vandalia, where I was promoted to engineer October 17, 1870.

I have run engines on the following railroads: Missouri Pacific, St Louis & Iron Mountain, St Louis & Southeastern, Union Pacific, Wabash, Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix, Southern California, Great Northern, Kansas City Southern, and Fort Worth & Denver. I left the Fort Worth & Denver July 4, 1920 which makes me 55 years in railroad service. I have been quite lucky, as I was never hurt, nor ever hurt an employee or passenger. I never was on an engine that left the track.

I have been a member of the B. of L.E. for 43 years and have grown up with the railroad game from the days of the drop hook to the modern locomotive. I have run engines when it was a pleasure but I stayed with the game until it was a dread to hear the tap of the call boy. I am now on my farm near Coushatta, La., R.F.D. 3

C.S. Mallett

2 comments for “A Railroading Man from the 17th

  1. Bridget Carroll
    May 6, 2012 at 8:25 am


    While reading this, I see that Mallet was captured on July 1st and then paroled on August 2, 1863. I have a question: from my gr. gr. grandfather’s service record it appears that they were captured and paroled on the same days. On my ancestor’s record, it says the parole took place in Alexandria, Virginia. Do you happen to know the specifics for soldiers who were captured and paroled like this? Since it was the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, where would they have been held prisoner during the following days at the height of battle? Thanks in advance if you have any clues as to the above.

    • admin
      May 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      The soldiers captured at Gettysburg generally fall into a couple of categories. During the early stages of the war neither side was well equipped to deal with prisoners and so they used the system of parole and exchange common in Europe. In effect, a captured soldier would be paroled which means he would promise not to fight again until properly exchanged for a captured soldier on the opposing side. As the war progresses this system became more and more cumbersome and was fraught with inequity. When done properly, captured soldiers would normally be paroled and exchanged within a couple weeks, but again, as the war progressed this span of time increased. The reason your GG grandfather shows his parole at Alexandria was because released Union soldiers would end up being transferred to a parole camp (a Union Army facility) to await their formal exchange and subsequent return to their regiment.

      At Gettysburg many soldiers of the 17th were faced with a dilemma of sorts in that they were offered to be paroled on the spot in exchange for their promise to not fight until properly exchanged. Unfortunately, this was (simply put) against the rules and had the potential of throwing a wrench into the process with the possibility that soldiers who took this offer would not legally be considered “exchanged”. Some soldiers took the chance and opportunity and many others went south with the Confederates as POW’s, spending time in prison camps until they were properly paroled and exchanged.

      That’s a pretty basic description of the process.

      As for where they would be held DURING the battle – generally someplace behind the lines where escape would be difficult. Wounded prisoners would be held at whatever places were used as temporary hospitals (there were many at Gettysburg).

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