Civil War vet brought fighting spirit to Lake County Star

Charles Radcliffe during the Civil War

Charles Radcliffe during the Civil War

Courtesy photo Chase Township Public Library

LAKE COUNTY — Every Nov. 11, on the anniversary of the end of World War I, men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in battle and peacetime, are honored. Veterans have had a strong presence in Lake County since the county’s very beginning. 

In fact, the first creator, publisher and editor of the Lake County Star, Charles K. Radcliffe, also known as “Star Charlie,” served with the Union Army during the Civil War, and was wounded in battle. 

Radcliffe was born in 1845 in Mentor, Ohio. He was 17 when he enlisted as a private July 30, 1862, in Co. F of the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, serving in engagements continuously, crossing the Chattahoochee River, according to a short biography of Radcliffe in "The Story of a Thousand."

He wrote a daily journal during his time in the war, and in later years, wrote the history of the 105th Regiment. The biography described him being wounded at Perryville on Oct. 8, 1862. 

“Charles Radcliffe relates that while the fire was the hottest, the men in the front of Co. F. to shield themselves a little behind the crest of the knoll, knelt down, or rather crouched down to load. While in this position the man upon his left was struck and sank down in a heap. Leaning over him to inquire how badly he was hurt, a bullet cut his right sleeve and made a flesh wound in his arm. If he had not leaned over to aid his friend, it would have struck him full in the breast.” 

He also was taken prisoner June 21, 1863, with the capture of a forage train near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and released on parole a few days later.

Excerpts of Radcliffe’s journal entries in the biography, accounted some of the hardships. 

On June 18, 1864, a journal entry read: “A solid shot struck Corp. Childs killing him instantly and mangling his body dreadfully. It also wounded Corp. Lester. The loss in our regiment is 8 or 9 today. Oh such dreadful work, how I wish it were over.”

On April 15, 1865, he learned of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Flags were immediately lowered at half mast and draped in mourning. Stores closed, and with various dwelling houses, draped in mourning also. Minutes guns have been firing slowly all day.” 

The close of the war was said to find Radcliffe more dead then alive. He mustered out at Nashville, Tennessee, on May 17, 1857, noted as "sick and absent."

On May 27, 1865, he arrived home.

“For two years and nine months, I have been in the service. I’ve seen many a danger and hardship, but have come forth nearly untouched. I will close my ‘memorandum’ hoping that I may never see the day when I must make another such while alive.”

He went to Missouri to recover his health. He farmed and took a college business course. He then located eastern Lake County. 

A STAR IS BORN

On May 1, 1873, the Lake County Star was born, with the first issues printed in Green Dell, P.O. Chase, by 1874, Radcliffe moved his newspaper operations to Baldwin. 

The “plucky” newspaper man didn’t drop his fighting skills on the battle field, but continued local battles using the weapon of his pen on the pages of the Star, in regards to politics and other issues. 

He was a fierce proponent of moving the county seat from Chase to Baldwin, feeling it was a good central location, with ample waterpower for industry and prospects with the railroad. 

He also rose to local and state-fame in 1877, when newspapers statewide, even in Detroit, reported how he exposed political rings and corruption in local government, even being hung in effigy in Baldwin on Sept. 15, 1877. 

“Those ‘Effigy’ chaps had better let Bro. Rad alone. He gives them a bad deal in last week’s Star and promises to remember them in the future. He has always been a thorn in their flesh, and this last effort of theirs to throw dirt only serves as stimulant. Go ahead, Bro. Radcliffe, you are serving both God and the people and doing the legitimate work of the press,” Reed City Clarion: Oct. 4, 1877. 

Radcliffe, a staunch Republican, not only mourned Lincoln’s assassination in his lifetime, but was torn by the assassination of Pres. James Garfield, who died Sept. 19. 1881. Garfield was from the same town of Mentor, Ohio, and Radcliffe and his family attended services for Garfield in Mentor. 

“On last Sunday, Sept. 25th, we had the mournful satisfaction of being present at the memorial service held in the modest church of the Disciples at Mentor, where Garfield had preached in the days of his ministry, and where he had many times attended service, with his family,” Radcliffe wrote in the Sept. 29, 1881, edition of the Star. 

Radcliffe lived a strong community life, being involved with the Lake County Agricultural Society, putting on early Lake County fairs. He was a temperance man with and active with the Good Knights Templers, and was active with church. He was one of the Baldwin School superintendants, superintendent of the poor, ran for Pleasant Plains Township clerk, and wore many other hats. He published the Star through at least 1886.  He also was express agent for the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad. He died in Detroit in 1930. 

Radcliffe, with his experience of overcoming challenges on the battle fields of a war-torn north and south to the new challenges of breaking through the north woods of Michigan to build up communities in a pioneer life, documented each step of the way, promoting progress and success, and standing for what he knew was right.