About Charles Earl "Black Bart" Boles
"Black Bart" American Civil War Soldiers
Name: Charles Boles
RESIDENCE: Decatur, Illinois
Enlistment Date: 13 Aug 1862
Side Served: Union
State Served: Illinois
Service Record: Promoted to Full 1st Sergeant.
Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant (Not Mustered).
Enlisted as a Private on 13 August 1862.
Enlisted in Company B, 116th Infantry Regiment Illinois on 6 Sep 1862.
Mustered Out Company B, 116th Infantry Regiment Illinois on 7 Jun 1865 at Washington, DC. http://civilwar.ilgenweb.net/r155/116-b-in.html
He enlisted for three years with the 116th Reg't Illinois Infantry on August 13th, 1862 at Decatur.
- The Regiment left the state for Memphis, Tennessee, November 8th.
- At Memphis till November 26 with Grant's Central Mississppi Campaign.
- "Tallahatchie March" November 26 - December 12.
- Sherman's Yazoo Expedition December 20 to January 2, 1863.
- Assault on and capture of fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, January 10-11.
- During the siege of Vicksburg, May 18 - July 4th he was promoted a First Sergeant in Company B *
(July 1, 1863).
- Siege of Jackson July 10-17.
- Operations on Memphis & Charleston RR in Alabama October 20-29.
- At the foot of Missionary Ridge November 24, 1863.
- Moved to Alabama and then to Geogia by the first of the year.
- Fought at the battle of Resaca May 14-15, 1864.
- Advanced on Dallas, Georgia with Gen.
- Sherman's army May 18-25 and on May 26, 1864 he received a severe wound in the right side/abdominal region.
- By August he had returned to his unit for the siege of Atlanta July 22 - August 28.
- He continued the "March to the Sea" with Sherman and was with him during the Campaign of the Carolinas.
- He was mustered out in Washington D.C. June 7th, 1865. He had marched many miles a day and had relearned to sleep on the ground. When he went home, he set up farming near New Oregon, Iowa and the life was too alien and sufficating to him and he decided to search for an alternative.
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THE FAMILY TREE OF
CHARLES E. BOLES
There is very little known about Charles E. Boles early life. We have collected a lot of information, much of it conflicting, but what we offer is as factual as we can find. If someone has other documented information, we would be glad to update the information we have.
Charles E. Bowles was born in Norfolk County, England in 1829. At the age of two he migrated with his parents to Alexandria township, Jefferson County, in upstate New York (in 1831). The family homestead lay four miles north of Plessis Village, toward Alexandria Bay. At some point Charley, as he was usually called, changed his last name from Bowles to Boles for an unknown reason.
Black Bart California's Infamous Stage Robber
Charles E. Bowles was born in Norfolk Co. England in 1829, the seventh child to John and Maria Bowles. He later changed his name to Boles. At the age of two he migrated with his parents to Alexandria township, Jefferson County, in upstate New York. His father, John Bowles, farmed their homestead of nearly 100 acres, which lay 4 miles north of Plessis Village.
Charley, as everyone called him, had a common school education but excelled at sports and was probably, for his weight, the best collar and elbow wrestler in Jefferson County. As a small child he had smallpox but was strong enough to overcome it. It was an endurance quality that would serve him well during his gold mining days, during the Civil War and again during his career as Black Bart.
In 1849 Charley and cousin David set out for the goldfields, spending a hard winter in either St. Joseph or Independence, Missouri. They arrived in California in early 1850 and started mining at the north fork of the American River, near Sacramento. Gold mining in the early days was back-breaking work, often with few rewards. Charley and his cousin mined for only a year before retuning home in 1852. Charley insisted on returning to the California gold fields. This time his brother, Robert, accompanied Charley and David to California. However, tragedy struck on this trip, and both David and Robert were taken ill and died in California soon after their arrival. Charley continued mining for two more years before returning home. Charley then went to Illinois where he married Mary Elizabeth Johnson in 1854. They had four children.
In 1861 the Civil War broke out and in 1862 Charley volunteered to join the Union Army. He enlisted for three years with the 116th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry on August 13th, 1862 at Decatur. On July 1, 1863 Charley was promoted to a First Sergeant in Company B and twice had the opportunity of becoming a Lieutenant. On May 26, 1864 at Dallas, Georgia, he received a severe wound in the right side/abdominal region. Considering the conditions of the wound, it is remarkable that he survived. After his recovery Charley returned to his unit and fought in the battle of Atlanta. Charley served honorably as a soldier during the war and was mustered out as a First Sergeant on June 7, 1865.
After the war Charley returned home and started farming again, but farming was not to his liking and he became restless. After all the time in the army and living in the open air, along with memories of the goldfields, Charley decided he could make more money mining than farming. With his wife's permission he left his family to look for gold. Charley went to Montana and located a small mine that he worked by himself. Charley's mine made use of long "toms," which are basically troughs of boards 12 feet long and 8 to 10 inches deep. Covering the end of the tom was a metal sheet with holes in it to let grains of sand and gold pass through. A steady stream of water was the key to the operation. One day several men tried to buy Charley out, but he refused believing that he was better off keeping the mine. That decision was significant to Charley. The men who had approached him were connected to Wells Fargo and they wanted the land the mine was on. They cut off Charley's supply of water and he was forced to abandon the mine. Charley was very angry and he wrote about it in letters home. In one letter he said "I am going to take steps," but never said what steps. It seems according to his own letters it was the forced abandonment of his mine that made Charles Boles turn on Wells Fargo and make them his target. The last letter Mary Boles received from Charley was from Silver Bow, Montana, dated August 25, 1871. After that she did not hear from him again until after he had been captured and identified as Black Bart in 1883. Mary thought he had died.
Now things start to change. Exit Charles E. Boles, Enter Charles Bolton, a dapperly dressed man in his mid-fifties. He stood 5 feet 8 inches tall with clear blue/grey eyes and he sported a brushy moustache. He was a man who liked to live well and intended to do just that. He stayed in fine hotels, ate in the best restaurants and wore the finest clothes. Now all he had to do was find a way to earn a living to support his preferred lifestyle, and he found a dandy.
U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865
about Charles E. Boles
Name: Charles E. Boles
Regiment State/Origin: Illinois
Regiment Name: 116 Illinois Infantry.
Regiment Name Expanded: 116th Regiment, Illinois Infantry
Rank In: Private
Rank In Expanded: Private
Rank Out: First Sergeant
Rank Out Expanded: First Sergeant
Film Number: M539 roll 8
Being home with his family wasn't excitement enough with the nation at war. He enlisted for three years with the 116th Reg't Illinois Infantry on August 13th, 1862 at Decatur.
The Regiment left the state for Memphis, Tennessee, November 8th.
At Memphis till November 26 with Grant's Central Mississppi Campaign.
"Tallahatchie March" November 26 - December 12.
Sherman's Yazoo Expedition December 20 to January 2, 1863.
Assault on and capture of fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, January 10-11.
During the siege of Vicksburg, May 18 - July 4th he was promoted a First Sergeant in Company B (July 1, 1863).
Siege of Jackson July 10-17.
Operations on Memphis & Charleston RR in Alabama October 20-29.
At the foot of Missionary Ridge November 24, 1863.
Moved to Alabama and then to Geogia by the first of the year.
Fought at the battle of Resaca May 14-15, 1864.
Advanced on Dallas, Georgia with Gen.
Sherman's army May 18-25 and on May 26, 1864 he received a severe wound in the right side/abdominal region.
By August he had returned to his unit for the siege of Atlanta July 22 - August 28.
He continued the "March to the Sea" with Sherman and was with him during the Campaign of the Carolinas.
He was mustered out in Washington D.C. June 7th, 1865. He had marched many miles a day and had relearned to sleep on the ground. When he went home, he set up farming near New Oregon, Iowa and the life was too alien and sufficating to him and he decided to search for an alternative.
virtual museum of the City of San Francisco
Chapter Two: Black Bart: Sierra Stage Robber
It took western lawmen eight long years to nab the most noted of all 19th century Sierra stagecoach robbers. Time enough for the legendary "Black Bart" to pull off a record twenty-eight hold-ups. Bart's reign of terror lasted the better part of a decade because no one could identify the mysterious lone bandit who dared waylay Wells Fargo stages all by himself. Bart was a most improbable highwayman. He was skinny, short and bald, and didn't even own a horse. He walked to his crimes, carrying a shotgun so old and rusty that it wouldn't shoot. In fact, the weapon was never loaded. Black Bart always worked alone, although he would frequently create decoy gunmen for back-up, placing wooden sticks on boulders to stimulate their rifles. Bart's strategy was deceptively simple psychology. He would wait at a dangerous bend in the road where the stage was forced to creep along slowly. At just the right moment, he emerged as an apparition in the deepening twilight. To enhance his supernatural qualities, Bart wore a long white linen duster over his clothes. A ghostly flour sack covered his head and derby hat, with two holes cut out for eye slits. In a "deep and hollow voice" Bart would command the trembling stagecoach driver to "Throw down the box!" Drivers knew that he meant the valuable Wells Fargo security chest. For stage drivers in the mountains, Bart's spooky reputation unnerved the most stoic of them. In order to further his ruse, Bart would often call out to his imaginary gang, "If he dares to shoot, give him a solid volley, boys!"
Bart was considered a gentleman by most of his victims; his focus seemed to be the Wells Fargo money box and the U.S. Mail. Well-known as an extremely courteous bandit, Bart refused to steal women's jewelry and avoided gun play at all costs. Some people sympathized with Black Bart. California, like much of the United States, was in the grip of a severe economic depression in the 1870s. The powerful Bank of California collapsed in August 1875, taking with it many financial institutions and businesses. At the same time, mining stocks plummeted on the San Francisco Stock Exchange. Drought forced thousands of farmers and farm laborers to seek work in the cities. There were ten thousand hungry workingmen on public relief in San Francisco alone; other men were fighting for jobs that paid only two dollars a day. Crime replaced industry, and the decade became known as the "Era of Good Stealing." Between November 1870 and November 1884, the total amount taken from Wells Fargo by stage robbers, train bandits, and burglars was in excess of $415,000.
Black Bart was not the first man to rob a California stagecoach; that bold deed was accomplished in 1856 by Tom Bell, whose story must be told another day. Bart's life of crime began July 1875, when he held up a Wells Fargo express stage with a double-barreled shotgun. No one was hurt, but Bart's booty was $300 in gold coin. Unlike other road agents, Black Bart was patient. He did not strike again until the following summer, when he robbed another stage near Quincy, California. It was a modest start, but the seemingly insignificant, random hold-ups were only the beginning of Black Bart's legacy. For the next eight years, Bart pulled heists from Shasta, in the north, to Fort Ross on the Sonoma coast, but he preferred to haunt the Wells Fargo stage routes throughout the Sierra Nevada gold country. He never fired a shot and always got the "box."
In his fourth robbery, Bart wrote a short poem which he left in the cleaned out money box. He signed this note "Black Bart – The PO8." Evidently, Bart considered his short rhyming missives to be "PO8ry." After his fifth hold-up, the poet laureate of road agents left the last poem he would leave at the scene of a crime:
Here I lay me down to sleep
To await the coming morrow
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow
Let come what will, I'll try it on
My condition can't be worse
And if there's money in that box
'Tis munny in my purse.
Wells Fargo detectives said that the handwriting proved the "Black Bart" bandit had extensive experience in clerical work and declared that they would find the cocky criminal soon. An $800 reward was posted for Black Bart's arrest and conviction. Despite this incentive and a well-organized search by Wells Fargo's Chief of Detectives, James B. Hume, Bart began to steal with impunity. He seemed to be everywhere. Black Bart had a unique ability to travel extraordinary distances in impossibly short periods of time. J.B. Hume could barely keep up with the widely-scattered hold-ups. At least Bart acted like a gentleman. In order to calm their passengers, the Wells Fargo Company published a statement about the bandit's modus operandi; "He has never manifested any viciousness and there is reason to believe he is averse to taking human life. He is polite to all passengers, and especially to ladies. He comes and goes from the scene of the robbery on foot; seems to be a thorough mountaineer and a good walker." By 1883, Black Bart had become a romantic legend in California, but his luck was about to change.
The morning of November 3, 1883, dawned clear and cold. Reason McConnell, driver for the Nevada Stage Company, was hauling nearly five thousand dollars in gold dust and coin. His only passenger was nineteen-year-old Jimmy Rolleri, who was keeping McConnell company on the ride over Funk Hill, near the Stanislaus River. The horse-drawn carriage slowed as it climbed the ridge, and Jimmy jumped off. He had his Henry rifle and wanted to see if he could shoot a rabbit, or a deer if he was lucky. The horses slowly plodded up the steep grade, until, just before the crest, Black Bart appeared out of the bushes. Bart had been here before. He had committed his first robbery at this very spot on July 26, 1875. Black Bart ordered McConnell to throw down the gold box, but this time the Wells Fargo chest was bolted to the floor of the stagecoach. While Bart took an axe to the lock on the box, Jimmy Rolleri quietly emerged from the brush. When the road agent backed out of the coach holding a heavy sack of gold and a bundle of mail, Jimmy and his trusty rifle were waiting for him. As soon as he saw the armed teenager, Bart dove into the underbrush and ran for his life. McConnell grabbed Jimmy's gun and fired two shots at the fleeing bandit. Both rounds missed. At that Jimmy said, "Here, let me shoot. I'll get him, and I won't kill him, either." Jimmy's bullet hit Bart in the hand, forcing him to drop the mail, but the fleet-footed thief disappeared into the thicket still carrying the sack of gold. Bart stashed the loot, tramped one hundred miles through rugged, overgrown country in three days, and then boarded an eastbound train for Reno to hide out. Later in the week, he returned to California.
Black Bart may have escaped, but this time he left incriminating evidence behind, most damaging of which was a handkerchief with a San Francisco laundry mark on it. Exhaustive detective work by Harry N. Morse, ex-sheriff of Alameda County, eventually led J.B. Hume to Charles E. Boles, a retired mining engineer and well-respected gentleman of San Francisco. Hume and Morse interrogated and then arrested Boles. On November 16, 1883, Boles pled guilty to the last robbery and returned the loot. He was convicted but sentenced to only six years in San Quentin Prison in return for his cooperation and good behavior. The unassuming Boles didn't drink or smoke; in fact, his worst vice was coffee. His background was somewhat of a mystery. Born in England he came to California twice during the Gold Rush, but returned to the Midwest, married, and enlisted in the Union Army. He fought in the Civil War for three years and was seriously wounded in Georgia. Boles returned to duty as a first sergeant and was later commissioned a second lieutenant. Charles Boles was a distinguished soldier, but a lousy family man. After the war, he abandoned his wife and three daughters for the western mining country. His family had not heard from him in years and concluded that he had been killed by Indians. Charles Boles served about four years in San Quentin before being released on January 21, 1888. He was fifty-four years old. Boles disappeared after that until Detective Hume heard in 1900 that the old man had died while hunting game in the High Sierra. Black Bart may be gone, but his legend endures.
Charles Earl "Black Bart" Boles's Timeline
Plessis, Jefferson County, New York
April 26, 1857
New Oregon, Howard, Iowa, United States
May 17, 1859
jefferson, New York, United States
June 6, 1861
Decatur, Macon, Illinois, United States
August 13, 1862
American Civil War Soldiers
Name: Charles Boles
Howard County, Minnesota
May 1, 1867
Charlie left his family May 1, 1867 and never saw them again......
February 28, 1888