CHARLES W. EARLE, A. M., M. D.

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd. ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 515-519

CHARLES WARRINGTON EARLE, A. M., M. D., the subject of this sketch, was born in the State of Vermont, and was a descendant of Ralph Earle and his wife Joan, who came from Exeter, England, and settled at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, probably in 1634, and became the progenitors of the numerous Earle family of America, which is now represented in every State and Territory in the Union. The genealogy of the family shows that many descendants of Ralph Earle have been especially prominent in the different professions and occupations.

Moses L. Earle, the father of Charles W., resided at Westford, Vermont, where the son was born on the 2d of April, 1845. Nine years later, the family, consisting of the parents and a son and daughter, removed to Lake County, Illinois, where they settled on a farm. There they experienced the usual hardships of farmers in this portion of the West at that time. . In the warm season the labor of carrying on the farm was attended to, and in the colder portion of the year the children attended school.

Charles Earle's life did not vary from that of the others until he was sixteen years of age, when the War of the Rebellion began, and he, a strong, robust boy, considered that his country demanded his service in her hour of need, and hastened to enlist in the Fifteenth Illinois Infantry, which was mustered into the service of the United States in the summer of 1861. The regiment was enlisted for a period of three months, but on reaching Freeport it was announced that the full quota of three-months men had been recruited. The alternative of discharge or of remaining in the three-years service remained. Young Earle and his companions preferred to enlist, and in a short time found themselves at the front, operating with Gen. Fremont in Missouri. In the fall of 1861, young Earle was disabled while assisting to unload a transport on the Missouri River, and was discharged from the service on account of disability. Returning home, he remained there until his recovery, and then, in deference to his father's wishes, went to Burlington, Wisconsin, and attended the academy there until the spring of 1862. He then responded to President Lincoln's call for three hundred thousand volunteers and became a member of the Ninety-sixth Regiment Illinois Infantry. This regiment was camped at Rockford, Illinois, until the demonstrations of the Confederate General, John Morgan, began to threaten the cities on the Ohio River, when it was sent south and joined the command of Gen. Gordon Granger. In the spring of 1863 they first saw active service with Gen. Rosecrans in Tennessee.

Soon after his re-enlistment young Earle was made Orderly-Sergeant, and when the regiment was at Franklin, Tennessee, he was promoted to the Second Lieutenancy of his company. He commanded his company at Chickamauga and was twice slightly wounded. His conduct on the field of battle received special commendation from his regimental commander. In this battle his company went in forty-five men strong and came out with ten, several of whom, including himself, were slightly wounded.

Several years after the war, Col. George Hicks delivered an address at Kingston, Jamaica, relative to the services of the Ninety-sixth Regiment, in which he said: "I found that I had now only a very few men with me and I should have thought that I had wholly strayed from my regiment, were it not that I had with me the colors of the regiment, together with the commander of the color company — the intrepid boy-Lieutenant, lion-hearted, fearless, unflinching Charlie Earle, whose name must be inscribed high among the highest on the roll of Chickamauga heroes.''

On the following day, September 22, Lieut. Earle, with the remnant of his company, was ordered to reinforce the pickets on the summit of Missionary Ridge, and to remain in the position to which they were assigned until relieved by proper authority. Their position was greatly exposed, and through the cowardice of the staff officer, who failed to relieve them at the proper time, they were captured by the enemy.

On the night of October 1, they passed inside the gates of Libby Prison, where Lieut. Earle found himself a fellow-prisoner with Gen. Neal Dow, of Maine, Chaplain McCabe, fourteen Colonels, thirty-five Lieutenant-Colonels, thirty-nine Majors, more than three hundred Captains and about seven hundred and fifty Lieutenants. He remained in Libby till the 9th of February, 1864, when he escaped, at the time of the famous delivery planned by Col. Thomas E. Rose, of the Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania Infantry. Lieut. Earle and his particular friend, Capt. Charles E. Rowan, were informed of the project to escape soon after the tunnel was begun, and assisted in constructing it. The experiences incident to its construction and their subsequent escape from prison were the subject of a pamphlet published by Dr. Earle some years ago, in which he set forth in graphic manner the story of their adventures. After six days and nights of peril, exposed to the greatest hardships, they saw a squad of cavalry a hundred yards in advance which they recognized as Federal soldiers and knew they were safe. What followed is best expressed in the writer's words.  He says:

"It is impossible to express in appropriate words our feelings at that time; indeed, I doubt ability to do so.  No words of mine could form a fitting peroration to that event, commencing at the terrible battle of Chickamauga— a battle than which none could be more bravely fought, in which scores of my young friends went down, school-mates and neighbors—and ending with an escape from military prison, the anxiety and solicitude of that picket duty, the thousand-mile trip to Confederate prison, the joys and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments, the waitings and watchings while incarcerated, and the days and nights of peril and sufferings and cold and hunger, the swamps and briar thickets, the anticipation of success, and the despair at the thought of recapture; all this, and finally freedom and home and friends—what words can express it all ?

"We came into our lines a few miles from Williamsburgh. Some of the escaped officers reached our lines the third day out from Richmond, and Gen. Butler, who was at that time commanding Fortress Monroe, sent out, on alternate days, the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry and the First New York Rifles to drive back the enemy, and to patrol the country with tall guidons to attract the notice of the escaping prisoners. The First New York Rifles were our deliverers. No one can describe the kindness shown to us by this body of men. Every attention was showered upon us. We were banqueted at Company A's head-quarters, and feted at Company B's, and banqueted again at Company C's, and so on.

"As soon as possible we reported at Washington. Every paper was full of the escape from Libby. Fifty-five of one hundred and nine reached our lines; the others were recaptured. We were ordered to rejoin our respective regiments, permission being given to delay reporting for thirty days."

Returning to his regiment, Lieut. Earle was made First Lieutenant, and began the Atlanta campaign with his former companions in arms. He did not remain long with them, however. Immediately following the battle of Resaca, he was ordered to take command of a company whose conduct had never been satisfactory to the Colonel of the regiment. The young Lieutenant was a strict disciplinarian, and with him in command the record of this company at once and continuously improved. In the battles about Atlanta he was assigned to duty as Adjutant of the regiment, and during the last eight months of the war was detailed as Aid-de-Camp and Acting Assistant Inspector-General on the staff of Gen. W. C. Whittaker. At the close of the war he was brevetted Captain of the United States Volunteers for gallant and meritorious conduct at the battles of Chickamauga, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Franklin and Nashville, and was mustered out of service.

In the fall of 1865, he entered Beloit College, Wisconsin, where he spent three years. At the end of that period he entered the Chicago Medical College, from which, in 1870, he was graduated with the second honors of his class. Dr. Earle had studied medicine in the office of Prof. William H. Byford, and enjoyed his friendship and profited by his advice, and he now commenced practice in the office of his preceptor.

In the following year, 1871, Dr. Earle was married to Miss Fannie L. Bundy, of Beloit, a sister of the late Maj. J. M. Bundy, editor of the New York Mail and Express. Two children were born to them: Carrie and William B.  Dr. Earle's father, Moses L. Earle, resides at Waukegan, Illinois, as does his eldest sister, Mrs. C. A. Partridge. Another sister, Mrs. Dr. F. H. Payne, resides at Berkeley, California. One brother, Dr. Frank B. Earle, is a medical practitioner in this city. Another brother, Fred L., is on the old farm in Fremont, Illinois; and still another, William A., is in Texas.

Dr. Earle's practice at an early stage assumed proportions that made his life a busy one. In 1870, at the organization of the Woman's Medical College, he became Professor of Physiology, although probably the youngest member, and at the bottom of the list in the faculty. At the end of twenty-one consecutive years of service, on the death of Prof. Byford, he became President of the institution. He was one of the founders of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Professor of Obstetrics, and after the death of Dr. Jackson was elected to the Presidency of the Board of Directors. At the time of his death he was Dean and Professor of Diseases of Children in the former, and President, Treasurer and Professor of Obstetrics in the latter.

In 1886, Dr. Earle visited Europe and pursued a course of study in the hospitals of Vienna, Florence and Berlin, after which he wrote a series of essays on obstetrics. At the outset of his professional life he became a member of, and devoted much of his time to, the local medical societies, in most of which he served as Secretary and later President. For seventeen years he was attending physician at the Washington Home, during which time he treated more than ten thousand inebriates, and later was attending physician at the Wesley Hospital. He was Professor of Obstetrics in the Post-Graduate Medical School, President of the Chicago Medical Society, and was a charter member of the American Pediatric Society, and of the Chicago Medico-Legal Society; member of the British Medical Association, Illinois State Medical Society and the Chicago Pathological Society. He was one of the founders and former Presidents of the Chicago Gynęcological Society, and was also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, of the Loyal Legion, of the Lincoln Political Club, the Illinois Club, and the Irving, a prominent literary club on the West Side.

Notwithstanding the enormous demands of his practice, Dr. Earle wrote a large number of medical articles on a wide range of subjects, which attracted the attention of the profession, not only in America, but in Europe.

Among his writings were notable essays on temperance, education, military themes and general topics. He contributed much to medical journals and was one of the authors of "Keating's Cyclopedia of Diseases of Children,'' and also of the "American Text Book of Diseases of Children."

 From his occupancy of the Chair of Diseases of Children in the Woman's Medical College, Dr. Earle was able to publish many papers on pediatrics.    Among others is one entitled:  "Diphtheria, and Its Municipal Control," after the reading of which before the Chicago Medical Society, a resolution was offered by Dr. Earle and passed without a dissenting vote, recommending the present system of placarding infected houses.    He also wrote articles on typhoid fever and influenza.

Dr. Earle was an earnest, consistent Christian throughout his life, from the time he united with the Congregational Church at fourteen years of age. In 1870, he became a member of the Union Park Congregational Church of Chicago, where his name has ever since had an honored place.

At a meeting of the Chicago Gynęcological Society, held May 24, 1894, Dr. Henry T. Byford said of Dr. Earle: "Outside of the profession he was popular and prominent. * * * He was passionately fond of music and was a good singer. He was a favorite after-dinner orator. He possessed a commanding, almost colossal, figure, a handsome face, a powerful intellect, a magnetic temperament, and a voice whose sonorous and sympathetic vibrations commanded attention and made friends. He took no vacations and worked almost incessantly, notwithstanding the urgent and constant appeals made by his wife and friends. But the limit of physical endurance was reached on October 20, 1893, when he was taken ill with spinal meningitis. Cerebral symptoms soon developed, and he died November 19."

Dr. Foster said: "In the medical societies he encouraged cordial fraternal relations among their members and the dissemination of practical knowledge in the profession, and appreciated the power of societies for public good, either through individual effort or by united influence upon special legislation. My acquaintance with Dr. Earle dates from his graduation. During his entire professional career he was aggressively active, never daunted, always hopeful. He had an exceptionally large circle of friends, and few enemies, notwithstanding his pronounced and outspoken opinions. He was a born fighter of disease, and was as anxious and determined to exterminate it as he was to overcome any other obstacle. He was the ideal representative family physician. Dr. Earle was thoroughly practical in his teaching; he practiced what he taught, and taught what he practiced. He did not pretend to be a classical and learned professor, but instilled into his students all that he knew of the subject he was teaching.''

 Dr. E. J. Doering said: "I certainly never knew a more generous, gentle and kind-hearted man than Dr. Earle. His very presence was an inspiration, his genial and cordial greeting made us all feel at home, and I feel that in his death we sustain a loss we never can fill, and that we shall always treasure and cherish his memory as long as life lasts."

— Submitted by Sherri Hessick on September 27, 2003

DISCLAIMER:  The submitter is not related to the subject of this biography nor is she related to anyone mentioned in the biography.