CIVIL WAR MEMORIES OF WILLIAM T. HUNT
Written by Wealtha Etta Hunt Goben ©1966
Transcribed and contributed to Illinois Genealogy Trails by Steve Lawyer
(The original manuscript was typed by Wealtha Etta (Hunt) Goben who was born in Jasper County to William Thomas Hunt and Martha Catherine Sutherland. She was a sister to Steve's great-grandmother, Effie (Hunt) Hepner.)
When Robert and family were here this summer, Kevan was very interested in the war between the States and loved to read it. I told him my Father was in that war for three years. He was so excited, I promised to write some of the things I remembered Dad telling me, and as I don't believe my own children know very much about that part their Grandpa had in that war I will try to set down from memory as much as I know of his war record.
There are two reasons I know so many, one is that few children have as close a relationship as I had with my father, and second, I have a memory very much like his.
My mother passed away before my 8th birthday, from then till I was in my 12th year I saw very little of my father as I was shifted around from one relative to another. When I was 12, my father decided that he, my younger brother, and I could make a home for each other. So we moved into a small 3-room house with a garden, and orchard near the little town of Rose Hill, Ill. My father had never had very good health since his army davs, but was able to potter around in the garden, raise chickens, and with those and the orchard we were able to get along on the small pension he got. My brother, Jim, was just 10 years old and what 10 year old boy can sit still and listen to Dad and sister?
My Dad got all the books he could on the war. He liked to talk about his war experience with me, and me, well I learned to enjoy those talks! For 8 years I kept house for him, then I married and went to live with my husband on a homestead in N. Dakota. It was part of the bargain that where I went, my father went, too.
It was late September and Dakota winters come early. We were shut off from the world, had few books no phone, and mail only 3 times a week and that meant an 8 mile trip to get it. My husband soon learned that while my Dad would never speak of the war, or say anything about his army experience, you could ask him a question and get him started. He would tell lots of stories and was able to make them very interesting. He had read book after book on the war and remembered the dates and details. Looking back now, two things stand out. One, I never once heard him say anything against the Southern soldier. He always said, "They were fighting for what they thought was right, just as we were, and could they ever fight!" and two, he never bragged, if he used the word I, it was mostly of something he had goofed up. It was always we, us, or our. He had a splendid war record and I am proud of it. I would like my children and grandchildren to know something about it, so my thanks go to Kevan for making me think I might write some of it out.
He told the stories just as he answered some question and then he would think of others. I will start at the time of his enlistment, and tell them as they happened as far as possible. But please remember that has been over 50 years ago and I have no history to refer to as all his records burned up when our house was destroyed by fire in 1918.
Also that was before World War 1, and war had become a way of life for the U. S. I was married September 18, 1910, and my father died May 30, 1916, age 74 years, 7 months and 14 days.
Memoirs, as told by my father William Thomas
[as I remember them]
by Wealtha Etta Hunt Goben
I was born in Indiana and my Mother died when I was three weeks old. I lived with my mother's parents, Rev. and Mrs. Andrews, till my father married again, after that I had two homes. We came to Illinois when I was 9 years old. Grandpa Andrews homesteaded in what is now Jasper County, Ill. My father, B. H. Hunt, "being a cooper by trade", settled in Mattoon, Ill. It is about 30 miles north.
When war was declared, I was about 18 or 19. I had the measles and "as they said in those days" they settled in my eyes and left them very weak.
In the spring of 1862, my eyes being no better, I hired out to a lady whose husband was in the army, and put in her crops. Getting through in August, I came through Mattoon on my way home and stopped to listen to a man recruiting men for a new Ill. regiment, and I signed up. When I reached home my father was reading. When 1 told him what I had done, he looked up at me said, "Well, you will be home in 3 months, blind." I replied, "Well, I'm going blind as fast as I can here, so I might as well do it in the army." That was all he ever said about it.
I remember very little about the next few weeks. We drilled with broomstick and hoe handles for guns. Our regiment was the 123rd Ill. Volunteers. Our commander was Colonel James Monroe who had been at the front for over a year. He had come home to recruit a new regiment.
I also remember the Ladies of Mattoon presented us with a hand-sewn flag (silk). When they presented it the speaker said they had looked up the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, or sweethearts of every man in the regiment. They had had them sew at least a part of a seam, so it belonged to every man. They asked that we carry it with honor, never let it fall in the dirt, and bring it back to them with victory. Col. Monroe accepted it in behalf of the regiment. He promised all they asked. (That promise was kept, and that Flag may now be seen under glass in the Ill. Capitol at Springfield.)
This I do remember well, that just six weeks from our enlistment we were on the battlefield at Perryville, Kentucky. Now why they would send a green regiment with no more training than we had into the front line, I will never knows but there we were with our muzzle-loading guns.
We formed at the edge of a woods and loaded our muskets. To do that we put the stock of the gun on the ground. With one hand we held the muzzle, and with the other, took from our belts a small package of powder done up in paper, just enough for one load. With our teeth we tore the paper open and put the powder and ball in. Then the wads went on top and it was all tamped down with our ramrods. We could shoot once and it was all to do over again.
Our guns ready, we came out of the woods, crossed a small meadows climbed over a rail fence and started down a small hill. There was a small stream at the bottom, small shrubs here and there, and also a few trees, but no sign of a Gray uniform anywhere. Just as we reached the brow of the hill the whole valley at the bottom erupted into a mass of Johnny Rebs. They came charging up that slope with their terrible rebel yell. Guns blazing. It looked like a million of them.
Well, we lost no time starting back for that rail fence. Some fired their guns, but most of us had but one -thought and that was to get out of there but fast.
When we reached the fence. I threw one leg over, and just as I started to jump down the wind blew my cap off. Of course it fell on the side I did not want to be on just then. (I remember at this point I said, "Now Pop, I bet the wind had nothing to do with that cap; your hair just stood on end, and pushed it off. He nodded and said "Could be, could be", then went on with the story.) I gave one look at that cap, then at the Johnnys getting so close and my comrades getting so far ahead of me, and decided who needs a cap anyway. Though they were all ahead of me I was not the last one to gain the woods. That is the way it went all day; we would form a line, fire one shot, then hightail it to the rear as fast as our heels could take us. Our officers could do little except try as best they could to keep us together.
Near evening we ran into the main line of Union forces. There they were flat on the ground, behind logs or mounds of dirt they had thrown up as protection. There was a small cannon just back of them, and as we went through their lines we told them, "you fellows will get out of here fast, for the Rebs are coming back there by the thousands." They just laughed at us, tried to get us to stay with them and see how fast they ran, but we had all the fighting we wanted and at that minute if we never saw another Gray uniform it would suit us fine.
So we went back through the lines and by the time we got back to the rear we were rather well scattered. But we were close enough to hear when the Johnny Rebs struck that line of old vets, who had been out since the war started. We knew they came no farther.
Had we not been such green soldiers, we would have hunted up some of our regiment but my buddy and I had but one thought; that was we must have a drink. Our canteens were dry; we had sometimes gotten almost as much gunpowder in our mouths as we did down our gunbarrel. Water we MUST have and we knew that country was full of springs; so we set out to find one. We soon did but also found a heavy guard around it and to all our pleading we got the same answers "Reserved for the wounded." The next one was the same, and the next one, and so on for miles. At last we found one not guarded. It was late and we were so tired, thirsty, and disgusted that we just spent the night there after drinking all the water we could hold. We used our knapsack for pillows and supperless went to sleep.
We woke up in the chill dawn and knew we'd better get back to camp as soon as possible. So, cold and stiff we filled our canteens and chewing hardtack we made our way back to camp. But where was the 123rd in all that mess? Well, after a long search and lots of questions, we found them just lining up to start the days march. The dying camp fires told us they had had breakfast and lots of hot coffee, also, the fact that they were camped on the bank of a clear stream of running water did nothing at all to help our ego one bit or our empty stomachs either. It was a hard lesson but that kind are well learned and never again did we wander away on our own; no matter how we scattered in battle. We learned that if it could be had our officers made camp where there was water.
We marched south. We had some small brushes with small parts of the Southern army, mostly scouting parties. We arrived at Murfreesboro sometime after the battle of Stone River. We went into winter camp there.
Sometime that winter the army of the Ohio was reorganized and the Army of the Cumberland was formed with General W. S. Rosecrans in command. I never knew why, but our 123rd Regiment replaced the 72nd Ind. regiment to make what was later known as "Wilder's Lightning Brigade." We were put in a Corps commanded by General Thomas, later called the Rock of Chickamauga. Our Brigade was composed of two Indiana regiments, two Illinois regiments, and the 18th Indiana Battery, Captain Eli Lilly commanding. Wilder was known as a man that wanted to get things done. Col. Monroe was the same; so maybe that was the reason for the transfer. Some way Wilder got permission from the higher ups to mount his brigade. So we spent most of the winter scouting for horses.
One morning at roll call, Col. Monroe called our attention to the silk flag. It was beginning to show the effect of rain and wind, and it looked like a long war; so if we kept our promise to the Ladies to bring it back, we would have to do something about it. He proposed that we roll our flag in canvas and put it in the Colonel's supply wagon. That way we would carry it all the time with us. So into the wagon it went and we marched behind a Government supply flag made of bunting.
That winter a man came to camp trying to sell a new repeating rifle called the Spencer 7 shot repeater. He said he had tried to sell the Government at Washington on them, but they would have nothing to do with them. Because some time before they had bought a new 16 shot repeater called the Henry Rifle. They were made in England but they had proved unsatisfactory, because they had so many gadgets on them that in the excitement of battle a man pulled the wrong one; the gun would stick, and a man was unarmed till it was taken apart. So they would not talk to him. He offered Wilder a good price to get them proved. All this was explained to us, then the Officers added the only way we could get them was for each man to buy his own gun. If we'd agree to let the paymaster take two dollars out of our pay each month, we could get them. We only received $13 per month, but such a cheer went up that, if a few were not in favor they said nothing. Anything to get away from those paper sacks of powder we had to open with our teeth. So we got our rifles and were all mounted; only waiting for a chance to show what we could do. But before we were mounted and the rifles had come, an incident happened that almost wiped out Wilders Brigade before we had earned the "Lightning" that we were later known by.
We were coming back from a scouting trip, and all at once out of nowhere, it seemed, we found ourselves surrounded by a good size wing of the Southern army. They just seemed to spring Out of the ground with their Rebel yell and charged at us on all sides at once. Our officers did the only thing possible, had us form a hollow square with one Regiment facing East, one South, one West, and one North with Lilly's Battery in the center. We were flat on the ground and the Battery could shoot over us. We had only one hope, we knew we were close enough to the main army that they could hear the battle, and would send help. But the question was could we hold out till help came. It was close. They charged us time after time. Once a gap appeared in one regiment, but the Colonel from each side helped close it before the Rebs could get in behind us. It was a beautiful sight to us when suddenly they broke and started to right and left; we heard a bugle sounding charge, and a line of Bluecoats appeared. We picked up our dead and wounded and thankfully went back to camp. We made lots of scouting trips while in winter camp, but that was the only time we ever ran into any but small groups of the enemy.
On one of our Scouting trips it rained almost all the 3 days we were out. On the 3rd day when we started back to camp we were a very glum bunch. It had been a very cold, wet night; the morning fires were hard to keep going. We were stiff and cold and the mud was shoetop deep, every step we took. The gloom was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. It was not improved when an orderly came back from the head of the line, his horse at a brisk trot, throwing mud all over us, and making us take to the ditches; The things he got called were anything but nice. Any man would have fought his best friend if he'd looked crosswise at him. The gloom settled down again, but soon from away in the rear we heard a faint cheer. What there was to cheer about was beyond us, but it was getting stronger coming nearer all the time. Soon we could see that Orderly coming back riding as if on parade, floating above him was our sewn old silk flag from our Ladies of Mattoon. We started to cheer too, and then some one started to sing That Girl I left Behind Me, and some way that rain was not so cold. Nor did we mind it getting down our neck so much. The mud, well, when did a little mud hurt anyone? Always after that if things were going bad, or we lost a lot of comrades Colonel Monroe would bring out the old flag and it never failed to help, except once.
When the spring campaign started we were in the mountains of Tennessee. We had our horses and rifles and were eager to try them out.
We were not Cavalry; we were "Mounted Infantry." We never fought on horseback as the Cavalry did. When we were going into battle, every fourth man took his horse and three others back where the supply wagons were. When the battle was over, the men went back and brought them up, or if we were following the enemy on foot, they stayed with the wagons till we needed them.
In those mountains it was impossible to get supply wagons and ammunition over any place except the passes, or "gaps" as they were called. They were so well guarded that a whole army corp could not get them out with a frontal attack. A regiment or at most a brigade could hold off a whole army.
At Hoovers Gap, Wilder was ordered to cross the mountains, go to the foot of the gap and keep the enemy busy till the main army came up on the other side. Then the Johnny Rebs, caught in the cross fire had to get out. We crossed the mountain crept up as close to the foot of the Gap as we could without being seen. When the order was given to fire, we came out of the bushes on the run, firing at every step. If an order was given to halt we did not hear it, and when we got into the gap, not a Johnny Reb was in sight. They reformed and charged us again and again but we held the Gap. When the main army came up all they had to do was march through. Though we never knew, I'm sure our officers got a good chewing out, and if we had failed, some of them would have been Court-Marshaled. But all's well that ends well, and we had demonstrated what the Spencer rifle could do. In describing what happened, the enemy said, "all we know is that, all at once a Brigade of Yanks burst out of the brush and came at us like a streak of Lightning". The next thing we knew they had the Gap and try as we would we could not get them out. We never before saw such fast shooting; They were just like lightning. The name stuck and even History calls it Wilder's Lightning Brigade.
We took Hoovers Gap some time the last part of June and roamed around back of the main Southern army Commanded by General Bragg.
We found we could go most any place as long as our scouts kept us informed where the main army was, and as long as there was not a large enough force to get all around us, we were alright. I'm not sure just where we went or how long a time we were gone, but I know we crossed Waldon's Ridge, fought a Division of Cavalry at Leed's Tanyard, drove another bunch back to Tunnel-Hill, and got back into the Union lines at Lee and Gordon's Mills some time in early September. We scouted back and forth for some time, engaging the enemy forces, "mostly Cavalry." We knew by the build up that a major engagement was coming but just where and when we did not know.
History says General Thomas got word that General Brag planned to cross the Chickamauga River at the two bridges lower down, turn up the river and crush the Union army a detail at a time. General Thomas's Division was there, but General Rosecrans and the rest of the army were some place near Bridgeport about 25 miles away. Thomas sent Rosecrans the news he had heard but Rosecrans did not believe he was right and was sure he had plenty of time. Thomas however did not believe in taking chances.
Of course we did not know all this then. We only knew that Wilder's Brigade was ordered to go to Alexanders Bridge and hold it as long as possible. Lower down the river Thomas put Minty's Brigade of Cavalry at Reeds Bridge. This was in the morning, and though they charged at us time after time we held the bridge till sometime that evening when Minty's forces were overwhelmed and had to withdraw. Then with the enemy in danger of getting behind us, we also had to withdraw, but we destroyed our bridge before we left. Then slowly we retreated to Lee and Gordon's Mill to protect the ford that crossed the river at that point. There we held the Confederate forces back all that night, but it would have been just impossible without our Spencer Rifles.
We had been told that morning to cook extra meat because it would be the only chance we'd have to cook the rest of that day. None of us guessed it would be three whole days before we'd get a chance to cook, or even make a fire. (Here I said, "But, Dad, you had to eat something - how did you get along." Well, we ate hardtack as we rode from one place to another and sometimes we chewed raw meat and coffee beans, he replied.)
The next two days were just a muddle to me, it seemed that we just jumped on our horses, rode as fast as possible from one end of the battle line to the other, wherever our line was weak and in danger of giving away, we'd leave our horses, meet a few charges from the Johnny Rebs, and as soon as they withdrew we were ordered to another part of the line that was in danger.
Years later a Confederate soldier moved to Ill. not far from where I lived. When we found we'd both been in the Battle of Chickamauga, he on the South and I, the North, we became good friends and spent lots of time comparing notes. When I told him I belonged to Wilder's Brigade, he said, "You mean you were in that brigade that moved like Lightning and ground bullets out of those guns like coffee out of a coffee mill?" Then he told me that his outfit had charged us several different times during that 3 day battle. But after the first few times we only charged once, because we knew when those guns of yours started grinding bullets out there, it was no use. We could never break your line, so we just withdrew."
(Here might be a good place for me to describe as best I can how the Spencer Rifle worked. We had the Spencer till our house burned and, as I remember it looked and worked like this: In looks it was a somewhat heavier barrel and the stock was quite a bit thicker than an ordinary rifle. The metal plate on the end of the stock had a small trap door. When that was opened, it disclosed a small round hole just big enough to hold a cartridge loosely, and as long as the stock. It held 7 cartridges, one on top of the other. On the underneath side of the gun was a long lever, 6 inches or more long, looking something like this (picture here). I'm no mechanic so I don't know how it was made inside, but to shoot it after it was loaded, you just pointed the barrel at the ground, pulled back the trigger, then put your hand in the hand hold on the big lever and pulled it out straight. It was just fast at one end, that put a cartridge in the chamber, you then pulled the gun up and shot. Then, with the gun barrel pointed up to the sky, you pulled the trigger back and the empty shell fell out. Then down to the ground to load it, so you can see why from a distance it looked as though they were grinding them out.)
Sometime on the second day we held a place on the Chattanooga and Lafayette known as the vineyard field and were there till ordered on the morning of the 3rd day to take up a position at daylight. It was called the Widow Glenn House. We were to hold the line there at all cost, and we held it till evening, when we were ordered to move back. Later we learned that our stand at the Widow Glenn House was one of the reasons that General Thomas was able to hold the Southern army till Rosecrans could get his main army back into Chattanooga. Then Thomas withdrew and his stand gained Thomas the title of "The Rock of Chattanooga". We were -proud to be part of that army. At the site of the Widow Glenn House there stands today a tall Marble Shaft dedicated to "Wilder's Lightning Brigade" and the part they had in helping to save the army of the Cumberland that day.
History says that that night the Generals met in Rosecrans tent to plan for the next day. Rosecrans was all for staying in Chattanooga till they could get reinforcements. Thomas, Wood, and most of the others wanted Rosecrans to regroup and reform the army and march out the next morning in battle formation. But Rosecrans would not consider it. He said the men are too tired, too worn out; we would just loose more men and accomplish nothing. Thomas argued that our men are no more tired, no more worn out than the Southern army is. If we will move out in the morning, ready to fight, they will never attack us again. They will withdraw and leave the field to us, for they are no more anxious to fight than we are. Besides we do not know when reinforcements will get here; they will shut off our supplies, and we haven't food to last long. Rosecrans said No, and he was in command, his word was law. Then Wilder asked Thomas if he could take his Brigade out. He said they had had a hot supper and could take several hours rest, then sometime after midnight they could slip around the end of Braggs Army and by morning be miles away. Being back of them we could blow up bridges, tear up railroads, and mess up their supply line in lots of places. Nothing can keep up with us but Calvary, and so far none of them have repeating rifles, so we will be safe if we don't stay too long. Thomas was willing, for he knew what Wilder could do, but Rosecrans objected. Finally, after much talk they gained Rosecrans consent. He had the last word for as Wilder turned to leave he said, "You can go, General, but you are headed straight for Andersonville." Before we got back to the Union lines, it looked for awhile as though he would be a good prophet, but that was in the future.
That night we had our first hot meal and coffee in 3 days and having had but little or no rest we fell asleep at once. Sometime after midnight, we slipped around the end of the Southern army and were on our way. We knew that our time would be short, because those Johnny Rebs were too smart to let us mess up their supply line for long. So we wanted to do as much damage as possible before they made it so hot for us we'd have to get out.
We blew up bridges, tore up miles of railroad track. We would pry the steel rails loose from the ties, pile up the ties in a big pile and set it afire. When they were burning good, we would lay those long steel rails on the fire and by the time the fire was out those rails would never hold a train again. How long we stayed behind the Rebel lines, I'll never know, for one day was so much like another that we did not try to keep track. But it was not long, I'm sure.
They were soon after us, first with small groups, and some Cavalry, then more and more of them. We could run away from the foot soldiers, but it took so long to damage the supply line that they'd almost catch up. At last our officers decided we'd better start for home. Home just then was the right wing of General Thomas' army.
We started back and one day our scouts told us we'd soon meet some Johnny Rebs if we kept on. Well, we were close to a woods, so we were ordered to leave the road and go back from the road and halt. The place we were at was close to a rather large hill. The road ran through a deep cut through that hill. Our officers left their horses and started to go where they could see. Some of us followed. We were not ordered back only told to keep very quiet. So we slipped up to the edge of that deep cut, and there screened by the tall weeds and brush, lay flat on our tummys. We watched a full Army Corps pass by on the read below. There was no need for the order to be quiet; we almost held our breath. A whole army corps, the dumbest private in our bunch knew we were in for trouble. Because an army corps would be like one man trying to stop a stampede of cattle for our one brigade to tangle with them.
When they had gone we climbed back on our horses and started for home as fast as our horses' heels could take us. We knew we had not much time, for those Johnny's would be on our back trail soon. We knew we'd been doing them more damage than we thought or they would never have sent a corps after us. We made as long a march as our horses could stand. For we knew what would happen. There were Cavalry enough to keep up with us and delay us. It could delay us till the feet soldiers could catch up. They soon have us surrounded, and--well, General Rosecrans would have been a good Prophet after all-for a brigade is no match for a corps, Spencer rifles or not.
How long it was I don't know, but there came a day when we were in open country. We knew they were not very far behind us. They had the advantage of knowing the country, and could take short cuts we knew nothing about. Then came the never forgotten day when we knew that they were not only behind us, but their Cavalry were on either side of us.
None of them were close enough for us to start a battle with, even if we'd wanted to and that was the last thing we wanted. Why should they start one, remember that war was brother against brother, and they were just as smart as we were. They knew that sooner or later we'd be too tired, "both horses and men" to travel farther, so we'd either have to make camp, or stop and fight; either way we were rats in a trap, for as soon as we stopped they move up ahead of us and we'd be surrounded.
But we also had two choices: we could stand and fight to the last man, or we could surrender and go to prison. (What the rest of the brigade thought, but we of the 123rd Ill. Regiment had our minds made up. We'd die but we'd never surrender, we'd heard too much about Andersonville prison. We wanted none of it, and so we talked as we rode along.)
We boys from Mattoon exchanged messages to give our folks "if you get out and I don't." For we knew that a few might make it out.
So the day went. We were not pushing our horses as we had been, but were just taking a nice lazy gait that would not tire them too much.
About mid-afternoon we were very surprised then we entered a large wooded pasture. There were lots of them in that country, but it was the last place we wanted to be when an attack came, as we knew it must soon. There was not much underbrush, and traveling was fairly easy, but it would also be fairly easy for the enemy to get lots closer without our knowing it.
If we were surprised at that it was just nothing compared to the one we got when the order was given, "Halt! Break ranks and make camp as usual." Had Wilder gone stark, raving mad, or just plain crazy? Did not he and the other officers know that to make camp as usual meant to unsaddle our horses and feed them, stack our guns, and each squad build a campfire and cook supper? We knew that if we made camp that night, that sometime between midnight and daybreak those Johnny Rebs would attack our camp. If we were asleep and our guns stacked we'd sure be sitting ducks for them to capture without a fight.
To say we were blue would be the understatement of the war, and did we gripe as soldiers always have, and I suppose always will. We did plenty of it. But good soldiers obey orders, so we made camp even if we did think it crazy and still griped.
Soon each campfire had its group of soldiers sitting around it eating and drinking coffee. It was not till then that some of us noticed that some things were not as usual. We most always did do a lot of visiting from campfire to campfire, but tonight we were all too blue to feel like visiting. Yet there was a lot of visiting done, and as we watched we decided it was being done by officers for though they had removed their coats or thrown light capes over their shoulders to hide the rank we knew them. Also knew that while Captains, Majors, Lieutenants, etc. often visited campfires of the men, never before had so many at the same time.
So when a major sat down at our camp, picked up a tin cup and said in a normal voice, "Well how goes it boys, and how about giving me a cup of coffee." We were all ears, when he spoke in a low tone between sips of hot coffee.
As near as I can remember, this is what he said, "Boys these are your orders and there will be no other orders given so listen very carefully, for our lives depend on each one doing things exactly as ordered. At the usual time you go to bed, fix your campfire as usual, pick up your bedroll and take it out of the light of the campfire, (thank God there is no moon) as if you were going to unroll it and go to bed. Instead take it back to the horses. Take your feed bags, and muffle your horses feet, all 4 of them. If you are short of feed bags, use clothes or even your blankets if you have to, but muffle all 4 feet. Then saddle and bridle your horse, tie on your bedroll then stand at your horses' head, with his head close to the tail of the horse in front of you. I repeat again No order will be given, but when the horse in front of you moves out, mount and follow him, close enough that you can see him but remember no talking, no noise." He poured out the coffee left in his cup, got up, stretched, and said in a normal voice, "very good coffee, boys. Better get plenty of sleep tonight we'll have a busy day tomorrow I'm sure." He strolled away, leaving us pop-eyed and wondering.
We looked around and sure enough the enemy campfires were all around us, not very close together, but too close for a whole brigade to slip through we were sure. Still it was a chance, and though we were sure it would not work, still it was better than being caught like sitting ducks. If they caught us, well, some of us would have a chance of fighting our way out. Also we knew that General Wilder was full of tricks as a cage full of monkeys. So we obeyed orders to the letter, there was too much at stake not to.
It seemed to me that we stood at our horses' heads for hours, though I'm sure it was not that long. One by one we started out at a very slow walk, when we were near a campfire standing in our stirrups so our saddle leather would not squeak, and almost holding our breath, we stopped when the horse in front of us did and went as they did till after what seemed ages the last campfire was left behind and we knew we had a chance.
We soon left the woods behind, and crossed some open fields. Soon we came to a turnpike, there we stopped and the quiet order came back to unmuffle our horses' feet, form ranks, and start for home, "but still no undue noise." But for that last part of the order we might have yelled like wild Indians. Instead we took a rather fast gait north.
But we were close enough to hear the rebel yell and clatter of gun fire when those Johnny Rebs charged our campfires just at daylight. We knew we were safe then. The foot soldiers could not catch up with us for we'd make as few stops as possible, till we got back to General Thomas.
How was it managed? Well, it was not long before we knew, and it seemed like a miracle then, and I still think it was just that. Early on the morning of that day, (that we thought was our last on earth) an old white headed negro wandered into camp, and was taken to General Wilder's Headquarters. Most negroes were for "Massa Lincoln's soldiers", and would help whenever they could. They asked him if he knew the woods that we could see in the distance, and he said, "Yes Sir, I'ze know every road and toepath through that woods. I'ze done hunt coon and possom in that woods in the dark since I was knee high to a grasshopper." After talking to him awhile Wilder felt he could be trusted so told him of the trap we were in and asked him if he thought he could guide us through that woods, and miss the camps of the Southern men.
The old man scratched his white head and after a while said, "Yes Sir, I'ze think I can iffin you will camp where I done tell you to. Its close to an old toepath and I'ze don't think any white man know about it. So iffen you will make no noise I'll try." They promised there would be no noise.
We had to smile when we heard them charge our campfire and thought how it would be if we could see the look on their faces when they found no one there. We were not worried about them catching up with us for we were headed back for Thomas and his army with no delays. Those foot soldiers had no chance.
We made it back to General Thomas with no trouble, but too late to take part in freeing General Rosecrans' army which was shut up in Chattanooga without supplies, the men were so hungry, they ate the corn that was supposed to feed the mules of the supply wagons. Grant had arrived with his army and took over command from General Rosecrans. We missed both the charge up Mission Ridge and battle of Look-Out Mountain. I remember I stood and looked at where those soldiers went up that almost straight up and down Mission Ridge and wondered how any man could climb up that with other men shooting at them from the top. But I guess there were two reasons; first those men had been shut up and starved till they were out for revenge and when they were ordered to go to the foot of that Ridge and stop nothing could stop them. Second the Ridge was so steep that the Johnny Rebs shot over their heads mostly and when they saw they were not stopping they started rolling big rocks down on them, but they just kept going.
History says that Grant, Thomas, and Woods stood on a small mound and watched that charge through their glasses. When they saw the boys were not stopping as ordered, Grant turned to the other two and asked, "Who ordered that charge?" Both Generals replied, "I don't know, I did not." Grant turned and watched them going and then remarked, "Well if it's all right then its all right but if not some Stars will fall." Both Wood and Thomas knew only too well whose stars he meant. The truth was no one ordered it, they just did not stop till they got to the top, then the Rebs were on the run.
I don't know how long it was till Grant was made Commander in Chief of all Union Armies, but when he was, he left Sherman in Command of the Western army and went East and took command of the Army of the Potomic. Sherman regrouped the men and started South. We were with them for awhile, then Sherman found that a Southern force under General Hood was in our rear and gaining strength as he found small scattered groups of Rebel soldiers.
Sherman had no intention of being bothered with Hood behind him when the main Southern army was in front of us. So he ordered General Thomas to take his army and keep Hood busy. The orders were to draw Hood as far north as he could before he gave battle. But when he got him as far north as possible, give battle and capture or destroy as much as was possible of the army. We had small skirmishes with parts of Hoods army several times and in several places, but they did not last long or amount to much. The only one I remember in detail was the battle of Farmington.
We were getting farther up into Tennessee than the Union Government liked, for Kentucky was still in the Union, and they did not want anymore battles on Union soil. So we knew a battle was building up and that day while on the march we knew we would find the enemy most anytime, as we were sure they were close. Soon we came to a thick cedar thicket. It was a real jungle and at its edge we were halted, told to leave our horses and were told what was ahead. That on the other side of that thicket was a pasture enclosed by a stone wall. Our officers were sure the Rebs would be waiting some place close. They were sure it would be on the far side of that pasture behind the stone wall. They said there is no cover of any kind in that pasture, and protected as they will be behind that wall they can pick us off easy. So this is what we do, Go through this jungle of cedar and vines at ease, which meant we could sling our guns over our shoulder by the strap and use both hands to help us get through and did not need to stay in formation. "And indeed we needed both hands to get through." When you get near the edge, stop, reform and go over that wall and across that pasture in double quick time, because they will open fire as soon as we are in sight.
Now the only thing wrong with that was that we forgot we were fighting Americans, and they could think just like we did. So being sure we'd decide just as we did, "because it was the most likely thing to do," they just out guessed us, and were waiting behind the wass on the side of the pasture the jungle was on. Just as we got near the edge we heard the command, "Fire", and a rain of bullets hit that thickett. It was so unexpected we were thrown into utter confusion. Men are just like sheep anyway. They need a leader, so just for a second we hesitated, some even turned as though to start back, but in that second, from the right, came the calm, cool voice of Colonel Monroe saying, "Forward, charge them Boys." It was all we needed. Our guns were in our hands, and we were at that wall before some of them could fire again. It was they that went back over that pasture at double quick time. I'm not sure if it was that battle or a later one that General Thomas destroyed Hood's army or captured most of it.
We lost our Colonel Monroe in that battle and we could think of little else, because every man not only felt that the Colonel was our friend but we were pretty sure that he saved our lives at the cost of his own. When he gave that clear command to Charge, his voice told the enemy just where he was and those near him said that hardly had the words been said, when he was hit. He was dead by the time he hit the ground. Had he not lived to give that command and we had panicked and started back they would have captured or killed almost all of us. It was not till the day's fighting was over and we started to camp that all of us knew we'd lost our Colonel. The next day we marched 30 miles, but we were a very gloomy bunch. Though the Lieutenant Colonel, "who had taken over" let us march all that day under our old silk flag from home, for the first time it failed to raise our spirits. Though I'm sure that most of them thought as I did that it was up to us now to keep his promise to take it back with victory.
That day we talked of him as we rode, and compared him to Colonels of other Regiments. Some of which were so strict and every army rule, no matter how useless, had to be kept. I've seen officers make their men march back and forth with heavy packs after they'd had a hard days march. Or even tied them up by their thumbs, just for some rule they broke that really did not matter. Not Colonel Monroe, he saved his boys in every way possible. I don't mean he could not be stern, and when you got a dressing down by him you did not want another soon. But it was for something important. Just let a man forget, or neglect to feed or take care of his horse, or do something that could endanger his comrades and Monroe could take the hide off you in big chunks and did.
But army rules that did not matter, for example, there were camp guards. Colonel Monroe never could see the use of camp guards, and he'd say, "After my boys march or fight all day I won't make them stand camp guard. When we went into camp, a guard was put around the whole army. Each man stationed just so far apart. Each man was to march from his station to the station on his right, then back to his own station, which made a continuous ring around camp. Each man was to keep his gun in his hands at all times, and if anything did not look right, he was to call the Corporal of the Guard. Each Brigade had its guard in the same way. Army regulations said that each regiment must have a guard to walk up and down each company street. That was the camp guard. All guards were to be changed every two hours. Colonel Monroe always said that, if the enemy, in any numbers, got through both outer guard lines they would be on the camp at the same time the camp guards, so it was useless. But ever so often someone higher-up, (I suppose you'd call him a V.I.P. now.) would come along on a tour of inspection and Monroe would get a good going over and ordered in no uncertain terms to put on camp guards. So on would go the camp guards and they'd stay till the V.I.P. had left, then the first night it would rain, or we'd marched or fought most of the day. Just after taps sounded Monroe would stick his head out from between the flaps of his tent and I can almost hear him yet saying, "take off that camp guard, take off that camp guard." Three times he'd yell that just as loud as he could and by the third time every one of them were in their tents, and there would be no more camp guards till some more orders from higher up came along.
Another time I remember when we had gotten so far ahead of our supply wagons that we were short of food. We had strict orders not to take food of any kind. We were still in Kentucky and they were still in the Union. So when we went into camp that night after a long days march we had only coffee and hardtack in our knapsacks. We had a hard march ahead of us next day and would have till the battle started some where up ahead. Our supply wagons were mired in the mud someplace in the rear. No telling how soon they would catch up with us.
We camped on some high ground very near a bluegrass pasture where a rather large herd of calves between one and two years old were grazing. As we made camp, took care of our horses, built camp fires and etc., we noticed Colonel Monroe was strolling down through camp and when he got close enough for us to hear he was stopping at different camp fires to chat with his boys and each time he would manage to make some remark about those calves like, "Boys, that is a fine looking bunch of calves over there." or "It looks like that is a very small pasture for all those calves." or "Boys, don't let those calves over there bite you", or "Don't go near that fence boys, I hear those calves are dangerous." We took the hint and in less time than I can tell it a bunch of us were over and had some skinned and ready to cut up. About that time a guard from Colonels headquarters came, ordered every one out of the pasture, took the meat up to headquarters and soon each campfire had plenty of meat for supper, breakfast and maybe some extra we could cook and keep for next day.
Early next morning a detail from General Wilders Headquarters came and ordered Monroe to report at once to The General. Soon he came back, gave his sword and command over to the Lieutenant Colonel and said he was under arrest till further notice, but could stay with the Regiment. For the next three days our ex-colonel rode up and down our line of march and called our attention to every sweet potato patch, every orchard, and to every thing else that was eatable and say, "Go ahead boys help yourselves, I'm not Colonel anymore, I don't care what you do." But the fourth morning came another order for Colonel Monroe to report to the General. Just as we were in line ready to move out, he came down the line with his sword and waving it in the air he told us all the things he'd do to us if we so much as glanced at a pasture or potato patch. In fact we were to keep our eyes straight ahead at all times. He was Colonel now and he was going to have orders obeyed to the very letter. It was hard to keep a straight face for we knew our Colonel. Can you wonder we were blue when we lost him? The Government paid for the calves we used, but we never knew how much of Monroe's pay they docked him.
Another reason for gloom on that 30 mile march was the fact that we did not quite trust our Lieutenant-Colonel, who would now be in command. Too many of us had seen him behind the lines when we thought he should have been in the battle. That very day I myself had seen him when I was sent back to the supply wagons for some ramrods and ammunition. As I went back on the run, he stepped from behind a tree and halted me to ask where I was going. I told him and he said, "Alright, get back as soon as possible." He started up toward the front, so we could not help but wonder what would have happened had Monroe been killed before he gave that command that started us to charge. But our fears were groundless, for never again was he not in his place in the front line, and we learned to respect and like him. But he never did quite take Monroe's place in our hearts.
After Hood's army was destroyed we started back South, but I don't think we would have joined Sherman's army, not at once, anyway. For he was in Georgia and we started down through Alabama. We were picking up scattered enemy units, who for the most part were very glad to be captured, and sometimes we came up against fortified towns that gave us a good sized battle before we took them. One of those was Selma, Alabama. They had good strong breastworks thrown up. We had to take them by a direct attack, and it was on those breastworks as he led his men in a charge that our Colonel got the wound that later caused his death. He was a brave man and I've thought since, that the few times we saw him back of the lines, he must have had a good reason to be there and we judged him without all the facts. He was not the only brave man killed in that battle. The pity was it need not have been fought. For later we got the word that General Lee had surrendered to Grant, and the war was over two days before we took Selma. The army we captured were half-starved and in rags and tags, and about all they had left was their brave spirit. We treated them with the respect all brave men should have. We gave them all the rations we could spare, and we visited with them and they seemed just as glad it was over as we were. In fact I'm sure there was ver little if any real hatred between the soldiers of the North and South in the field. The hatred the South had for the North was mostly made after peace was declared bv the greedy Carpetbaggers and the Government in Washington. Most of them were never in a battle, and they were embittered by the death of Lincoln. I've always thought that if the Lord had just left Lincoln here till he finished the work of saving the Union and then took him away in mercy, for it could have broken Lincoln's heart to know how the South was treated, I don't think he could have stopped it, because there were too many men in high government offices with hatred so deep he could not have moved them.
Not so with the soldiers in the field, at least not any I knew. I remember lots of times we'd be facing the Johnny Rebs each side in breastworks, close enough we could hear each other if we tried real hard. Some way the Officers on both sides were not ready to attack, though we knew they would soon. For the present all we had to do was wait, or take pot-shots at each other, which just hit the breastworks. After a while either we or the Johnnys would put up a bayonet with a rag on it, if it was alright, up would go one on the other side. Then we would clamber out of ditches and meet in the middle of no man's land between. Once there we'd agree on a time limit, ten, fifteen, or a very few times, 30 minutes truce. The Government did not furnish us with tobacco, and our blockade of the South kept them from getting coffee. So we'd trade coffee for tobacco, and visit. If two hot-heads did start an argument, we stopped it. We always left our guns in the trenches behind us. Soon the timekeeper would sing out, "Back to your holes Yanks," or, "Hunt your shelter Rebs, you've got two minutes" and back each side would go on the run, jump in behind the breastworks, grab our guns and start popping away at each other, though we knew all we'd hit was the mound of dirt we were each behind.
Well, the war was over and our thought turned toward home, home after three long years of war with never a furlow, or rest period of any kind. In fact, I don't think they ever gave furlows then. About the only ones to get home then were those sent home on sick leave, or mostly to recover from wounds. But I had never gotten a wound in the whole three years, I never missed a battle my regiment was in, and only missed one scouting march they took; I was very unhappy about that.
We got up one morning expecting to go on a scouting trip of about three days, and one of my jaws was swollen. I did not feel bad so I lined up with the rest for roll call. The Sargent noticed my jaw and told me to step out of line. I tried to tell him I was not sick and wanted to go. At last he told me to check in with the Doctor. I did and he said a very decided NO. Nothing I could say would move him. "It might be mumps," he said, "and if it was, I could endanger my life on a three day horseback trip." So for three of the longest days ever spent in the army, I spend just laying around camp with nothing to do.
There were always a few welchers that would fake any pain or anything else so they could stay in camp. We always looked down on them, and made fun of them. Now to be one was just too much, but at last the three days were over and when the boys returned I had no swollen jaw but I did have a brand new wisdom tooth to show them. Also I felt much better when they told me they not only had not had a fight, but had not even seen a Johnny Reb in the whole three days.
So we turned our horses heads to the North, for the last time we hoped. Nothing much happened, till one morning a big black closed carriage was put in care of our Regiment with very strict orders to guard it with our lives and for no possible reason to let anyone come close to it. The Carriage was so tightly curtained we could not see how many were in it, to say nothing of who it was. We were told to put them in the center of the Regiment and keep them well surrounded, but we were to stay a certain distance from the carriage at all times, and our orders were to shoot anyone who tried to get near it and would not halt when ordered to. We were all very curious and all sure it was some Government High Up: Mabe Grant, or Sherman, the Sec. of War, or of State, or even President Lincoln and maybe all of them together. But one thing we were very sure of and that was we'd better not let anything happen to that Carriage, or we'd get Court-Marshalled, if not shot.
When evening came some officers came, showed some papers to our officers and took the Carriage away. We never saw it again. Only then did our officers tell us who was the V.I.P. we had guarded all that day, and it was none other than the President of the Ex-Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis himself. We could hardly believe it, but they told us held been captured in Southern Alabama trying to escape into Mexico dressed as a woman. He very nearly got away with it.
The group of soldiers that ran on to them were satisfied with the answers they gave and were about to let them go on when a sharp eyed trooper noticed that one of the women handled the very long skirts and the hoops of that day rather awkwardly. Watching her, he saw she had on boots. Now boots on a woman of the South of that day were not uncommon, but not on a woman dressed as fine as that one was. A word to the officer in charge and they could hardly believe it when they found the catch was Jefferson Davis. (I might add here that in this day of debunking everything, I have read that it was all a mistake that Mr. Davis was not dressed as a woman, he just had on a long raincoat that came down to his ankles, but I'd have liked to have them tell my Dad or any other of those boys in Blue that were in that detail, that tale.)
I think it was in Nashville, Tenn. that we turned our horses over to the Government. We were told we would be sent the rest of the way by train; we would not be discharged till we got to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind.
We had to wait till they made up a train for the whole Regiment and at last it came. A very big old engine with very large, powerful looking drive wheels on both sides, ''the only kind we'd ever seen". It was pulling a long line of boxcars. We were not too particular at that time for it would take us closer home. So on we clambered and started out. Oh! what a ride. It was August and those boxcars were like ovens even with the doors open and that engine just crawled along. When we came to a grade it puffed, groaned, stopped and started again. We all decided we could walk as fast and not be half as uncomfortable. The first stop we made, we all got on top of those cars, at least it would not be so hot, also we did not say much to the trainmen for we knew there were just too many cars and too heavy a load for the engine to do any better. So all we said to them was that we'd marched more miles in one day than that train, and we had, too. Well, it was not so bad on top of the cars and at last we got to a junction. They told us they were sending out another train, so again we waited till at last it came, and we could not believe our eyes. The train was still boxcars and just as many of them, but that engine. You see the Northern railroads, having to do so much heavy hauling had found a smaller more compact engine with smaller drive wheels, but with more power, and more of them on each side. So that though the engine was much smaller it was more powerful. This we found out the hard way, but just then all we could see was the size and if that big engine could hardly pull that load how in the world did they expect that baby to.
We razzed those trainmen till I'm sure they wished the Johnny Rebs had shot every one of us. We told them everything from asking them to get a team of Army mules, to thinking they expected us to carry that engine up the grades, and then go back and get the cars. Well, we all clambered up on top the cars. This time we were not going to smother inside, and so we started.
It was the trainmens turn then and did they ever make use of it. I'm sure they had two firemen shoveling in the coal and that the gage was just as high as they dared let it go and not blow up. That train fairly flew and before we went a mile we were holding on like grim death to stay on and it was getting harder and harder to do all the time. Also we were getting sicker and sicker and about all you heard was someone groan, "Oh! Lord won't they never stop." Thank goodness those trainmen were not heartless, they'd had their revenge and after all they knew how hard it was to stay on top of a boxcar without practice. We were soldiers returning from a war just won, so they soon stopped and you never in all your life saw such a bunch of white faced, green around the gills soldiers as got down off those cars. Those who had not already thrown up their socks, proceeded to do so. Such a subdued bunch climbed inside those cars that even the trainmen refrained from saying all the things I'm sure they had planned to say, and that we really deserved.
From then on we always had the small engine, but we'd learned to respect them. There were always the same long line of boxcars to travel in, but at last we got to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. where we were mustered-out. The 17th and 72 Ind. regiments would take a train to places over Ind. The 98th and 123rd Ill. Volunteers would go on to Mattoon where most of the 123rd were recruited, the 98th would go on from there.
We now had no luggage except our rifles which we had paid for and had been allowed to keep. We were told there the railroad would send out a special train as soon as they could get one together. We did not mind the wait this time for we needed the time to get ourselves and our uniforms cleaned up. For after riding miles and miles in boxcars that had hauled all kind of things, did nothing to improve the looks of either us or our uniforms. We were sure our folks would meet us at the train. We were expecting the little engine now as we knew they were used on most Northern roads so when they told us our train was waiting on the side-track, we were sure surprised to see the same old line of boxcars it was pulling.
Right then and there we went on Strike and told those trainmen in no uncertain terms that they had taken us away from Mattoon in Passenger cars with nice Plush upholstered seats and most certainly were not going back like cattle in dirty old boxcars. They said it was boxcars or nothing; they were too short of passenger cars to use them for us. It was all they could do to have enough for the regular run of paying passengers. We informed them that if three years of our lives were not pay enough to rate a coach car it was just too bad, but boxcars were out, and that was the word with the Bark on it.
They then appealed to our officers, but they felt as we did, and said, "they are not under our command any more and we have no right to order them to do anything. They are not in the army now." While our train set on the sidetrack and the trainmen argued with us, the regular train came in on the main track, and stopped to unload passengers. The minute the Conductor said, "all aboard," we made for that train and in no time at all, not only all the seats were full, but all the isles, the space between the cars and the back platform as well.
While our trainmen stood there with their mouths open the Conductor (whom we'd almost run over) signaled the Engineer and we were on our way, but not for long. When we were about 8 miles out we came to a steep grade, and that overloaded train just could not get up. It tried several times, then backed up and told us we'd have to get off till they got up the hill . We were sure that if we did they'd not stop for us, so no one moved. They talked, and talked but we did not get off. But at last we did get down by the side of the track, for we were packed in so tight it got rather hot and uncomfortable, but we stayed close enough to get back on if they started up.
When and how they did it I don't know, but word must have gotten back to the Depot at the Fort, or else they guessed what would happen and acted on their own, but at any rate soon a messenger with a telegram from the Fort came to the trainmen. They gave it to our Officers and they read it to us. It said, "If we would go back to the Fort and wait they'd send a special train of coaches and clear the right-of-way, so we'd have no stops, they'd send word to Mattoon as to when we'd arrive. It was signed by the President of the road. We were afraid of a trick but I guess our officers thought it was time to do something so they talked to the train crew and the messenger. Then the Major said something like this to us, "Boys, I'm sure this is a real telegram and we are getting nowhere this way, so lets go back and give them a chance. The President says that he don't blame us for not going back in those boxcars, and he will see that we don't have to, and I believe he means it. I am not ordering you to go back but I'm advising you to take them at their word." So we shouldered our rifles and marched those long miles under an August sun to wait. But very soon a long line of cars pulled by two engines came; cars enough so we could all sit comfortable in seats and at last we felt that we would soon be home.
Meantime Mattoon had been all excited and had heard several times that we'd be in at such and such a time. The crowd would gather including the band, and then the word would come that we'd not get in that day. When the train of boxcars arrived at Fort Harrison, they sent word that we'd be in the next day sure. The crowd with the band stayed all day till in the afternoon the President's wire came saying it would be the next morning before we arrived but it would be early. So most all the crowd went home. So when we did arrive just at dawn the next morning there was no one there to meet us, except the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of those boys that were not coming back. They had spent the night there for fear they'd miss us and they were determined to know something of what happened, more than the Government's notice of "Killed in Action."
I tell you I'd have gladly fought the three day battle of Chickamauga all over again, rather than have to face that crowd of women. As quick as possible I ducked out of there, cut across to Broadway and down it till I came to a vacant lot with a path running crosswise over to Prairie Ave. where my father lived. There in the dawn light about half way down the path, I met my only sister, who was on her way to the depot to meet my train. I was home at last.
Home at last, but after all the welcome, the Flag waving, the celebration when we returned our Flag to the Ladies, and things settled down, I found I was restless. There was not much work, and I found I had a problem I had not expected. You see I'd learned to drink in the army, and I'd promised myself I'd quit when I got home. I was partly raised by my Grandfather, "A Methodist Minister" so it always bothered me. (I asked, "But Dad did you ever think that you might not get back?" He smiled and said "Not often, a soldier cannot let himself think about that. The bullets were always for the other fellow.") I did not think it would be hard to quit, as I did not crave the stuff, and it would not have been, except there were too many ex-soldiers in and around Mattoon, so every time I went uptown I'd run into some of them. The first thing was, "Come have a drink", and as they knew I did drink some of them would not take NO for an answer.
One of the worst of them was Little Micky. (I knew then held tell me a story if I had time to listen so I said tell me about Little Micky, Dad. And I pulled up a stool and sat down. This is what he said.) Well, people mostly can be put an just in average bunch and I think our Company in the army could have been classed as "just an average bunch of guys", all except three. One of them was Micky. Of the two others, one we felt sorry for. He was a good soldier on the march, in camp and every where till we went into battle. He'd keep his place in line, and march up to the firing line, but the minute the bullets began to fall, he went berserk. He'd just dance up and down, around and around. Someone had to hold his gun up or he'd shoot some of us. When his gun was empty, he'd just keep pulling the trigger. When it was all over, he'd come to himself, look around and say, "Did we get them on the run?" After a few times the Captain had him transferred to the Quartermasters Corps, where he made a fine soldier.
Our other man I'd class as just a Bum. As far as I know, he was a good soldier in the field, but our gripe was he'd never clean either his clothes or himself up. Now none of us could stay clean all the time, when you march, fight and sleep in clothes for days at a time, it's impossible. But as soon as possible we'd camp by a stream of running water and our officers would say "Boys we will rest and camp here for a few days." So next morning out would come every camp kettle in the Company. Full of water, they'd go over the campfire, and into them would go all our clothes that were fit to wear again, and into the river we'd go for a good scrub and swim, till we were sure all the dirt possible was boiled out of our clothes, and most important of all that we had well cooked all the cooties that had taken up squatters-rights in all the seams of our clothes. But would our Bum clean up? Not at all. He'd draw clothes, put them on and wear them till they were so dirty, filthy and crummy, or in rags, then held draw new ones, go off in the brush and change, throw the old ones away and that was it. We tried everything from making fun of him to stripping him by force, throwing him in the river and his clothes in the fire. But nothing helped, so at last we just left him to himself.
And the third one was Little Micky. I'm not sure I can describe him. For he was in a class by himself. He was a small Irishman, not many generations from the Old Sod. And he was the Pet of the Company, though, if anyone had called him that to his face he'd have a fight on his hands. But he'd pull things that no other man in the Company could get away with. Marching into battle Micky would never stay in line, but was always from 2 to 6 steps ahead, waving his gun and shouting, "Come on Poys, Come on Poys, give them H…" Pull him back into line and he was out again in a minute doing the same thing over again.
One day the Captain, after ordering him back into line several times, stepped up to him, pulled his revolver and said sternly, "Micky get back into line and stay there. If I have to order you back one more time I'll shoot you." Micky calmly turned to the Captain raised his gun and said, "and Be Golly Captain that's a game two can play at." The Captain holstered his gun stepped back and said to us, "Boys keep him back if you can or he will get shot in the back by some of us."
Little Micky was as fastidiously clean as our Bum was dirty. No matter how long the March or how dirty and muddy we were if someone cut a finger or any minor injury, Micky could always produce a fairly clean cloth to protect it. One time after a clean-up-day in camp, we were getting supper ready when down in a small hollow full of brush came a sharp pistol shot followed by others in quick succession. Now it was strictly against orders to fire a gun in camp, except for an attack. At the first shot the Captain started on a run, pulling his pistol as he ran, followed by the whole company. When we got where we could see into the hollow, there was our Bum's shirt "he had discarded" spread out on a brush and Little Micky with pistol in hand firing shots at it as fast as he could load his gun. The Captain ordered him sternly to halt and asked, "What in the …. do you think your are doing?" Micky turned the most innocent face you ever saw to the Captain and answered in a tone of astonishment, "Why Captain I was just shooting the dummed lice what was running away with a mon's shirt." The Captain put away his gun, ordered Micky back to camp and turning came up facing us and by the twist of his lips we knew he was trying not to smile so we just all hooped and carried Micky back on our shoulders and made a great hero of him.
Micky was a Devout Catholic and in one battle he and I were both behind the corner of a rail fence. Micky's head was just behind a big pine knot when a Minnie-ball came and buried itself about two inches in that pine knot. Micky, "with the bullets flying around him thick and fast", dropped his gun, got on his knees and blessed that pine knot, patted it, asked the Virgin Mary and all the Saints he could think of to bless it for saving his life, then calmly picked up his gun and started shooting as though nothing had happened. I thought he'd be hit any minute, but he never did and came through the war without a scratch as I did. That was our Little Mickv. We all loved him and there was never a dull moment when he was around.
I said then "Dad, two things have been bothering me. One is you have spoken of tents so often. How in the world did you manage to carry tents, even after you were mounted?" He said that was easy, first they were pup-tents, just big enough for two men to sleep in, and second they were fixed so they divided in the middle and each man carried one half. We wrapped it around our bedroll, and if we did not have time to put them up we used them for cover or for the ground if it was damp.
Then I said, "the other thing is that you always speak as though you were always a private, but I remember you meeting Old Comrades at reunions, or Fairs and they always called you Corporal Hunt. Your discharge also says "Corporal Hunt"; weren't you proud of being a non-commission Officer?"
He was quiet for a moment and then said I guess the answer to that is Yes and No. When we needed a new Corporal, our Captain told us we could vote on it, and the one in the Company that got the most votes would be it. They voted me in. I was proud that my comrades picked me, but so many of our Corporals were not very popular with the men because it gave too many of them the Big -Head. So when they were ordered to "take 4, 6, 8, or more men, Corporal, and go back and see what is holding up the supply wagons, I expect they are stuck in a mud hole and we are going to need them soon." They'd take the men and go back. But they were "the Corporal now", so expected the men to do the work, while they stood on the bank and gave orders. And the men after they had pried pulled, and hauled a wagon out of a mud hole only to have it stick in another farther on, they would look at the corporal rather clean while they are covered with mud from head to heels. They did not like him pulling rank on them like -that. So I decided as far as a work detail went I'd do my share as I always had, and I guess I did fairly well at least I never said, "I'm the Corporal."
To get back to Little Micky and the drinking, there was just no way to get away from him. He would not take NO for an answer. So in February, I saw I was no nearer quitting than when I got home. So I went back to Jasper County. Grandpa Andrews had passed away, and I was needed on the farm. There was nobody to tempt me to drink.
I had spent almost as much of my boyhood there as at Mattoon and I never went back up there except for visits. I knew most of the young people, but it seemed almost impossible they had grown up so. I'd always thought little of them as I'd seen them last, forgetting that I had grown too. Most of all was the change in the Tom-boy girls I'd left in pig-tails and short dresses.
One that was oftenest around was an only daughter of a Campbell light Minister, and she often pestered me to let her help do whatever I was doing. One day when I was plowing near their house, several of them came out and Mattie insisted I let her drive while I held the plow. At last I did and she not only succeeded in driving the team clear out of the furrow, but got her feet so tangled up in the lines that she fell down. I had to untangle the lines from her feet and legs before she could get up. I was everything but happy having to straighten out the furrow, and those girls lost no time in going someplace fast.
Now to my amazement they were very proper young ladies; pig-tails gone and the hair on top their heads and skirts just letting the tips of their shoes show. They were very much more interesting to me now. So much so that about five years later I married the girl that I'd had to untangle from the lines and who was no more Mattie, but "Miss Martha Catherine Southerland." And years later she became your mother. I think you know most of my story from that time on.
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