Charles Ewing (March 6, 1835 – June 20, 1883)

Updated: September 21, 2012

Charles Ewing was a lawyer, Catholic Church representative, and soldier, who served the Union army as a general officer in the Eastern and Western theaters during the American Civil War.

Charles Ewing was born in Lancaster, Ohio on March 6, 1835. He was the sixth child and fifth son of Thomas Ewing and Maria (Boyle) Ewing. Ewing's father, Thomas Ewing, Sr., was a prominent lawyer and a United States senator who also served as United States Secretary of the Treasury and United States Secretary of the Interior. Two of Ewing's brothers, Thomas Ewing, Jr., and Hugh Boyle Ewing, and his foster brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, eventually became general officers in the Union army during the American Civil War.

Ewing received his early education at St Joseph's, a Dominican College, in Perry County, Ohio. When his family moved to Washington, D.C., Ewing attended Gonzaga College. He later studied law at the University of Virginia, before being admitted to the bar. In 1860, Ewing moved to Missouri and established a law partnership in St. Louis with John Hunter, a boyhood friend from Lancaster.

After the American Civil War began, Ewing joined the regular army as a captain with the 13th U.S. Infantry on May 14, 1861. For the first year of the war, he served at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and Alton, Illinois on recruitment duty and guarding Confederate prisoners. In October 1862, Ewing's regiment joined the Army of the Tennessee in preparation for the Union assault on the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi. During the Vicksburg Campaign, Ewing participated in the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou (December 26–29, 1862), the Battle of Arkansas Post (January 9–11, 1863), the Battle of Champion Hill (May 16, 1863), two unsuccessful attempts to storm Vicksburg (July 19 and July 22), and the Siege of Vicksburg (May 25–July 4, 1863). On June 22, Ewing attained the rank of lieutenant colonel of volunteers and joined the staff of his brother-in-law, Major General William T. Sherman, as assistant inspector general of the 15th Army Corps. On July 4, 1863, officials brevetted Ewing as a major in the regular army for gallant service at Vicksburg.

After the fall of Vicksburg, Ewing participated in the Federal re-occupation of Jackson, Mississippi in July 1863. In October 1863, he accompanied the Army of the Tennessee eastward to relieve Confederate General Braxton Bragg's siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. During the Chattanooga Campaign, he participated in the Union victory at the Battle of Missionary Ridge (November 25, 1863).

Following the Union breakout from Chattanooga, Ewing accompanied General Sherman's army throughout the Atlanta Campaign, the Savannah Campaign, and the Carolinas Campaign. On September 1, 1864, officials brevetted Ewing as a lieutenant colonel in the regular army and, on March 8, 1865, to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers. Five days later, he became a colonel in the regular army. When the war ended, Ewing remained in the army, but he resigned his commission as brigadier-general of volunteers on December 1, 1865. He transferred, as a captain, to the 22nd U.S. Infantry on September 21, 1866. A few months later, on July 31, 1867, Ewing resigned from the army.

After leaving the army, Ewing pursued a career as a patent lawyer in Washington, D.C. On December 20, 1870, at the nation's capital, he married Virginia Larwell Miller, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. His wife was the daughter of Ohio Congressman John K. Miller. Their marriage produced nine children, seven of whom survived to adulthood.

On January 2, 1874, James Roosevelt Bayley, the Archbishop of Baltimore, appointed Ewing as the Catholic Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In 1879, the Bureau of Catholic Indian Affairs was officially created, with Ewing serving as the first commissioner. In that capacity, Ewing promoted Catholic Indian missionary interests in the United States until his death. In appreciation for Ewing's service, Pope Pius IX made Ewing a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great on June 1, 1877.

In June 1883, Ewing contracted pneumonia. Although he rallied and appeared to improve, Ewing eventually succumbed on June 20, at his home in Washington. Ewing was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

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"Charles Ewing," Ohio Civil War Central, 2019, Ohio Civil War Central. 14 Oct 2019 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=984>

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"Charles Ewing." (2019) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved October 14, 2019, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=984

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Ohio Civil War Central: An Encyclopedia of the American Civil War