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This biography is from HEROES OF ALBANY, by Rufus W. Clark, D. D.

Lieut. Charles Wesley Heald

Lieut. Charles W. Heald was born September 28, 1818, in Granville, Washington county, N. Y. His parents, John E. and Olive A. Heald, were both descendants of Revolutionary heroes.

His early life was a continued struggle with poverty, and often in childhood he was but scantily supplied with the necessaries of life.

His father died when he was but a lad, yet young Heald nobly struggled with adversity, and aided in the support of his widowed mother and the younger children.

His thirst for knowledge was very early developed. After exhausting the meagre facilities afforded by the common school, he, with a scanty wardrobe, went to Poultney, Vt., to secure an academic education.

After leaving Poultney, he commenced the study of medicine, but owing to interruptions to which he was subjected, by the necessity of working with his hands and teaching, to procure the means of sustenance, he did not finish the required course until he was about thirty years of age.

In 1848, he graduated at the Medical College, Castleton, Vt., and immediately commenced the practice of medicine at West Haven, Vt. He had a trying field of labor, but was very successful, and obtained a high professional reputation. He had a robust frame, firm health, and was untiring in his duties, responding cheerfully to calls by night or day.

After a few years' residence in West Haven, he removed to Albany, in hopes of bettering his fortune. Here he found the profession full, and he had not patience to await the gradual appreciation of his skill. He manifested also an instability of purpose, that in fact was his greatest enemy to success in life.

Changing his profession, he applied for and received a license as a local preacher from the Washington Avenue M. E. Church; but he soon saw, that the ministerial office was not his calling. Subsequently his attention was turned to the legal profession, and he graduated at the Law University of this city in 1857.

Mr. Heald was a great reader, and his reading was so varied, and his memory so retentive, as to secure for him a familiarity with a most extended range of subjects. Few persons, with the limited advantages that he had enjoyed, were so familiar as he was with general literature. His library was well selected, and contained many rare books.

On the breaking out of the rebellion, Mr. Heald, true to his patriotic instincts and antecedents, was among the first to offer his services in the cause of the Union.

He entered the army in May, 1861, as Second Lieutenant in the Eighteenth Regiment N. Y. V., and served with the regiment in the famous battle of Bull Run. He was the first man who was heard to call in question the patriotism and military ability of Gen. McClellan. He believed that rebels should be treated with severity, and when Virginia slaveholders came into our camps hunting their run-away negroes, and were aided in their pursuit, Lieut. Heald was most eloquent in his denunciation of such a course. He did not approve of that mode of suppressing the rebellion.

He was remarkably frank and outspoken, and often declared that the war would never be a success, on our part, until a ditierent system was adopted by those having control of our armies. His controversies were frequent and very spirited; and finding himself uncomfortable, he resigned late in the autumn of 1861, and returned to his home in Albany.

He soon, however, again entered the service, this time as a private in Eleventh Battery. His knowledge of medicine soon brought him to the notice of his surgeon, and he was made Hospital Steward. His health failing, he was honorably discharged. After remaining at home for a time, he enlisted again as a private in the Second Artillery, Capt. Dawson. Here, on acconnt of his medical skill, he was much of the time detailed on service with the sick and wounded.

While in this company, he saved the lamented Capt. Dawson from capture, if not from death. Overtaking the Captain on foot, disabled by the kick of a horse, the Doctor dismounted and gave his horse to the wounded officer, just at the approach of the enemy. The Captain escaped, while Dr. Heald took to the woods, and after three days wandering, avoiding pickets, he reached the camp, having been several times fired on by rebel guerrillas. This most benevolent and heroic act, we have already referred to in the sketch of Capt. Dawson.

He served in this company until the autumn of 1864, when, worn out and reduced almost to a skeleton by the chronic diarrhoea (that scourge that during the war made more sad hearts than any other disease), he came home to die. He lingered, surrounded by his family and friends in Valatie, until the 14th of January, 1865, when death released him from his pains. He died a beloved and consistent member of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Albany, and in the full hope of a blessed immortality.

Generous in spirit, faithful in the performance of every duty, cool and brave upon the battle field, he won the affection and esteem of all who knew him. Such, too, were his intellectual gifts, that he would have risen to eminence in any department of literature or science, had he devoted his life to a single pursuit; but so versatile was his genius, that before he could attain an exalted position in one calling, he would enter upon another.

His passion for books amounted almost to a mania. He hungered and thirsted for knowledge, and in its attainment every desire of his nature seemed to be satisfied.

He has left in manuscript many lectures on a great variety of subjects, exhibiting much research and scholastic learning; but he has fallen. When the cause of human liberty demanded his services, his prospects for life, his passion for books, his family, were all laid on the altar of patriotism, and the name of Charles Wesley Heald adds another to the list of martyrs for freedom.

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