16 - WARS END
When we were all assembled we numbered about forty five thousand men. We hadn,t any apprehension as we knew how thoroughly Lee was hemmed in. We had regular communication with home which made life altogether different to what it had been before I had been home from Andersonville. We had taken all the railroads in Kentucky and Tennessee and manned the trains with northern men as Engineers and Conductors, the Firemen and other trainmen being Negroes, with the exception of some crippled soldiers who could serve as train guards.
Nothing of special note happened while we waited for action until the joyful news of Lee,s surrender was brought to us by courier. Although we had expected such to happen for some time, there were wild demonstrations of joy when the news came to us at last. For the awful struggle was ended and the nation was saved, and home-sweet-home, with glorious peace throughout the land after four years of hell. as Sherman described war.
We remained here for about ten days, then the Division was scattered. Our Brigade was sent down the road toward Rossville on the Big Holston River in the very eastern part of Tennessee. Where we were instructed to clean up the bushwhackers which infested that part of the state and the surrounding country. To go back a little- before we broke camp the awful news of Abraham Lincoln,s death was communicated to us by telegram - a mounted officer carrying the message. The sad news almost overwhelmed the army with grief. There was only one man in our Division that was not grieved by this sad and depressing message. He must have been hot-headed and misguided wretch; he shouted "God be praised, it,s a good thing". He could say no more for as many as could get there hands upon him, had him in their clutches in an instant. The treatment he received in the ensuing few minutes can better be imagined than described here. He was soon tied to a tree and placard pinned upon his breast with the word printed in large letters- TRAITOR. Then many in passing him spat upon him and heaped curses upon him until the officers removed him from our midst, this hated man. He was put in a place where he was guarded by some of his own Company. We were at a loss to understand how one who had fought for the preservation could express that sentiment. It was an occurrence which we all deeply deplored.
We remained on the Holston River until the affairs of Lee,s surrender and etcetera was settled at Appamatox. Grant then ordered that the army be reduced by three hundred thousand men. All those, or nearly so, of those who had been in the army for four years were discharged.
Our whole Regiment was ordered to Russelville in East Tennessee to capture the bushwhackers who committed awful depredations upon both friends and foes. We soon came upon a band of them upon the banks of the big Holston River and we showed them no mercy. It was really awful the way we annihilated them, but we considered that their fiendish acts justified us in shooting them like dogs.
I recognized one them as one of the guards who had been at Andersonville prison and was paroled for shooting a prisoner, a mere boy, for going upon the deadline. He didn,t really mean to go upon the line, but he was so weak that he fell over onto it while we were trying to get a drink of water. So we all swore vengeance upon this heartless wretch who had done such a cruel act. He vehemently denied that he was the man but we soon proved that he was when we found his parole thirty days for shooting a prisoner on the deadline. I had known his name and here was the same name to. We hadn't the slightest doubt this being the man. He pled piteously for his life, but he had to die as the others did.
The leader of the gang escaped which puzzled us a great deal. We traced him by his blood for about a mile and then lost the trail in the timber, which we thoroughly explored, but he had evidently escaped to the mountains by some unaccountable way and we never heard of him again. We succeeded in thoroughly breaking up this band of outlaws; for this the Confederates were as thankful as the Union people.
We stayed here until sometime in May. Our principle being to guard a bridge which was feared might be burned by some outlaw or uncontrollably embittered Confederate. We enjoyed our stay at Russelville considerably by dancing and music. Some of the officers got on their dignity in seeing the Privates being so popular with the pretty girls of the place and refused to dance with the Privates. They complained to the Colonel about the freshness of the Privates but got comfort from him for their trouble. No doubt there were many heartaches when we left for Nashville early in June.
We stayed in Nashville overnight. Next day we retired to a fine large grove about four miles from the city to establish a camp until the time when we should be mustered out. The whole brigade in camp there. On the tenth day of June we received orders to be mustered out, but before leaving the boys decided to serenade Generals Thomas and Scofield in Nashville. So they got together many hundreds of banners and floats and torches and with the best music we could produce, we marched to the headquarters where our beloved Generals were and made a great demonstration of our affection for them and our joy in going home.
General Thomas came out and responded in a touching speech. He said "boys, I deeply appreciate your brave deeds in defense of your country, your loyalty to your commanders, your manhood at all times, and now let me offer you a few words of advice- Go to your homes and resume your occupations where it is possible for you to do so, and in the same gentlemanly fashion in which you have left your homes. Take up your vocations with the same vigor and spirit in which you fought for your country. Help to rebuild the nation in a quiet and gentlemanly way. Now I expect to retire from this strife with just as much of a gentle spirit as I may have had before this trying ordeal commenced. You know that there are those who have been predicting dire calamity to the country by the return of a hoard of renegades from the army who wouldn,t work on account of lazy habits acquired in army life and etcetera. Now I know that there will be a very few who will be disinclined to work or to rowdyism, and will be very few, and should there be any of such, it will be because of a natural inclination and not because of the bad habits formed in the volunteer service. I wish I could express to you how much I appreciate your brave service, be just as faithful in the battles of life at home. And I hope you will be gentlemen wherever you are. God bless you all, and good-bye."
He spoke thus to us, every word ringing with sincerity. General Scofield substantially reiterated what General Thomas had said. We were glad to be going home but we were sad to bid a-do to these noble leaders.
Nashville was a very gay and happy place that night with the exception, of course, of the defeated Confederates. After this all of the veterans were allowed to go to their homes immediately. Our Regiment, being of a later enlistment, was returned to do duty in guarding stores in the city. There were great quantities of ammunition and captured goods. Beside our Regiment there were about a couple of thousand troops stayed in camp.
That same week I was sent for by Doctor Pierce, a Major Surgeon, to see him in his office. He said "how would you like to pick out some of your men of your Company to help me do some sanitary work here in Nashville?", he added " I have two or three hundred houses which need inspection and I want about eighteen or twenty dependable men to work with me and I know I can depend on you going through with the job all right. While I picked out the required number of men and acquainted them with what was really expected of us. In the first place we were provided with quarters in the three hundred room hotel which the Union had confiscated and used as a prison for about three hundred Johnny,s. They were confined in a basement in the uppermost floor of the hotel building when we arrived. They were those who couldn't take the oath of allegiance and others who had committed depredations. We established ourselves very comfortably, and were given a very generous allowance of provisions by the commissary. Our duties for the Doctor commenced at nine o,clock and continued from eleven thirty o,clock till two. It wouldn,t do to tell of our experiences in print for it would shock some of even those who had seen some of the rougher and immoral side of life.
There were over three hundred houses to inspect, mainly for the sake of the army boys. In these places we found men and women who were shockingly diseased. They were detained and sent out to the army hospital where they were treated in a thorough fashion. It seems we witnessed a lasting warning to those who might be inclined to such immorality. It was deplorable that many of the army did indulge in such vice, though we found none of our Regiment who needed hospital treatment.
Chicago and New York men were by far the most of those suffering from the diseases of viscous habits. There were many young men who had better died on the field of battle than to have gone home in the condition they were. The work was very distasteful to us but it was best that it should be done, so on that account we were willing to suffer the displeasure of it.
In our spare time we had much good entertainment. One of the chief places of interest to us was the State Capitol Building while the Legislature was in session. One manufactory I remembered was a plow factory where plows of wooden mold board were made. Cotton and tobacco were the chief agricultural products of that part of the country. At all the State Capitols, County Seats and chief cities, were stationed federal troops to maintain order.
17 - MUSTER OUT
Our Regiment was quite badly reduced and our boys were anxious to get home. Some of the Regiments were anxious to stay in the service. When the time came that we had a chance to be mustered out, we agreed immediately. We were so anxious to get home that we didn,t quarrel with the War Department over the arrangements for transporting us from the scene of war. The officers were to ride in passenger coaches and their horses in the express cars while we were to go in the boxcars.
We left Nashville at three o,clock in the morning and arrived in Louisville the following night. We had the right-of-way so made good time. It required two trains to transport us. We stayed in Louisville two days and those of us who were in good health had a jolly time. When we were to resume our journey northward we found that arrangements had been made to again to carry us in boxcars. But to this arrangement we indignantly objected to. We refused to go in this way. We struck, and very effectively. Communication with Washington at once commenced with the result that the next order was to take us on in passenger trains only. We had planned to board the next passenger train for Chicago when the order from Washington was received. It was a good thing that it was unnecessary for us to carry out such a scheme for it was likely that some of us would have been hurt.
We arrived safely in Chicago in the early part of October. How we were cheered by the meadows and fields of our own good homeland. And the great city of Chicago enlivened our spirits greatly. We went to Camp Douglas which was about a mile beyond the city. There was still quite a number of Johnies, or Southern prisoners, here when we arrived. Some of them never went South. A good many of them were afraid that they would be shot for deserting from the Confederate army, so ignorant were they. They couldn't understand how they could go back to their homes in safety. They were very much inclined to go to Canada to be on the safe side. All we had to do here was to eat, drink, keep clean and stand camp guard which was not a hard task here. The only stirring incident that occurred was Sherman,s men getting into trouble with the city police. The soldiers had been celebrating a little to boisterously when the police got busy and landed some of the boys in jail. This act provoked their comrades to desperation with the result that a serious fight took place. One or two of the police died of their wounds later. None of the soldiers died of injuries that I know of. When the General was aware of what was taking place he interceded for his men very effectively. He told the police they would have to release his men within a very short time or they would have the whole army to deal with, and they wouldn,t leave the jail until it was razed to the ground. Sherman pleaded that his men would commit no serious offense, that they were only having a good-natured time.
Each Regiment was paid off in it,s regular order of coming to camp. There was so much red tape to go through in this performance that there was much time consumed. The trouble didn't end there, several of the boys were relieved of their coupons of pay by pick-pockets. One of our Company was grievously scared by the discovery of his loss. The one who did this dastardly crime was caught by comrades and was treated in such a fashion that he found a great relief in giving us a good wide letting alone. He was a very prosperous looking chap, he had a very stylish silk hat on, now that I remember. He was about fifty years of age. He had between six and seven hundred dollars of the boy,s pay coupons with him when caught.
After this experience, the boys kept their checks in their inside pockets. Some had really been very careless in concealing their pay envelopes. Before receiving our pay we received our discharge at an office near to our pay office. The Captain officiated, but if he was absent the ranking officer did the job. The whole performance had to be done very accurately and systematically. We had two Pat O. Farrell,s in our Company and both were shot in the thigh; one in the left and the other in the right thigh. One was quite reserved, and the other quite a chatter box and very witty. Both were from the old sod and both were good brave soldiers. When our turn came to go home one train took us across the level prairies of Illinois to Jo Daviess County, six Companies of us.
18 - HOME SWEET HOME: WARREN
Home again! home-sweet-home!. At Warren we were met by the town band and most of the inhabitants of the place. I had kept in touch with the editor of the Sentinel, and so of course, the people were kept informed of our doings and when our special train would arrive.
The following day a dinner was given to us including all of the loyal people who wished to partake of the feast and join in the demonstration of welcome. There were very few of the townspeople who were not enthusiastic, loyal people. The Mayor of the town gave a brief address because he was not gifted with oratorical ability to give a long speech. The Marshall of the day gave a very interesting and appropriate address.
As nearly as I could remember there were about twenty of the original Company left to take part in this reunion. Everyone was soon busy at work again after visiting friends and settling up their accounts.
Father had secured a piece of land to settle for a debt which was situated near Appleton Wisconsin, near Green Bay. We found much of the land covered with water, from a few inches to a foot in depth and it was also covered with tamarack. There were eighty acres in the farm. When we arrived to examine the place father said "well what do you think of it?" "well to tell the truth, I think its not worth ten dollars" I promptly answered. "I don,t think it is worth anything" he returned, "but I thought you might be able to make something off the timber".
When we left the scene I had no hope of ever getting anything out of our Wisconsin land, but about six weeks later my chance came to make a disposition of the possession. A peddler came by our way offering a money maker- a patent right to a soap making compound. He asked five hundred dollars for his patent right. I believed it to be worth that amount and that it would be a profitable investment, but had no money to buy it with. Happily I remembered our land near Green Bay and offered to trade him that for his patent, but little believing that he would agree to such a proposition. He did, and an even trade. We never heard how he succeeded with the land, perhaps he traded it off again before long.
I worked the new business together with other work during the winter and did pretty well. We got a draying outfit and had a man running that in Warren while I was doing the soap business and the butcher business. I butchered hogs and delivered them to market for the farmers for from fifty cents to a dollar apiece. I got railroad laborers from Warren to help me in the butcher work. During the winter season many of them were laid-off from the railroad so they were glad to pick a days work in this way when they could. The market required all dressed hog, the price was about a schilling a pound then. The largest ones we butchered that winter were two which weighed seven hundred, and seven hundred and fifteen pounds each. We also spent some time in cutting and grubbing second growth timber. We were paid for this work in wood for fuel purposes. We paid our dray master fifty cents a day and board to run the dray that winter. The following summer I spent all the time at draying, which paid fairly well.
During the years immediately following the war, the farmers prospered, that part of the country developed well, land had been well tilled, and the buildings on the farm good, that was good was worth about forty dollars per acre. Raw land was worth from six to fifteen dollars per acre. Our son's were now considerable help to us. Joe, the eldest boy, was real handy with horses so he helped me considerably. Tom, the next boy, did a good deal of work around us poor farmers for which he got good pay as a boy.
As severe blow came to us in 1867 when wife and mother was taken in death from us. She was sick only three days of blood poisoning attending a premature childbirth. We had five children and the eldest was about seventeen years old. The youngest was three years of age, so I had to employ a woman to help us to take care of the family. The care of the family for the next three years was a heavy burden for me.
In 1869 I remarried; in this marriage I was blessed for my whole life as long as this noble wife and mother lived. She had children, four girls and a boy. She had had her share of trouble too during the long struggle of the war. Three years before the war she was left a widow with three children. Edward Towne, the eldest, was a boy of ten years. Lou was but a baby, and the twins- Sarah and Alice, came between. She remarried and they went to Arkansas just before the war to take of a railroad boarding camp, that is for a contractor who is building the road. The road was being constructed from Memphis to a point in Arkansas. It was through a malarial country, her husband contracted a fever there and died in a short time. He left her with a baby added to the family.
After this sad and trying ordeal she moved to Memphis to stay until she could make enough to take herself and family back to Illinois. Before she could do this the blockade of the Mississippi was on so they stayed in Memphis until the fall of 1863, after the blockade was raised. They returned by the way of New Boston, Illinois, where she had many relatives who were prosperous farmers in that vicinity. Soon after this they went back to Apple River where her mother had a small farm.
She often speaks of the big heartedness of Sherman while he occupied Memphis, and she was one of the great many needy mothers who were helped by that kind old man. He had his soldiers go out into the forest and get wood for fuel for both the Union and Confederate women. He had great quantities of this wood brought in for this purpose. It was sure a blessing to have such a man in command there at that time.
Her mother bought a Colonel's property in town, who had made a rather unenviable reputation in the war, so consequently life was not pleasant for him in his old home place. For several years she worked hard at nursing, keeping borders and etcetera, and other honorable work to keep the home together. She was striving in this way when I became acquainted with her and until our marriage.
To go back a little now- during the war, her only son and eldest child, Ed Towne, eager to help his mother and also to go to war, at the age fourteen enlisted as a ninety day man for a bounty of one hundred dollars. After this time expired he returned home but stayed a short time when he re-enlisted for a year and secured a four hundred dollar bounty money. But fifty dollars of it, he nor his mother never got, for his Captain who was entrusted with the money of many others, embezzled it all.
Also to go back to the time she was in Memphis- a Southern planter and his family took her twin daughters to raise and care for. She thought that she was very fortunate in finding a fine home for them. A misfortunes of war fell heavily upon these people, they were ruined by it. So the poor little girls had to suffer the consequences too. They were compelled to leave these people and find employment elsewhere, and they found a home with an aged missionary. But for sixteen years their mother did not know where they where. At the time of our marriage I was busy at house moving during the summer season. This occasion took place in 1869.
In October of 1870 the annual rally of "The Survivors of Andersonville" was held in the auditorium of Chicago. There was an immense audience to welcome us. The first day was taken up in the visiting of comrades, the second day in the election of officers, the third day we devoted to addresses to the public. The auditorium was filled by a vast throng of patriotic people. The addresses consisted mostly of recitals of the experiences of Andersonville survivors.
It so happened that I was one of the first selected for a speech, and it seemed to me that I failed very much in saying what I most wished to have told. My embarrassment almost overcame me at first. But soon I forgot the audience and was way down in that hell on earth, with the dead and the dying, the sick and the broken hearted, and many hundreds of miles from their home. My blood boiled as I told of one awful incident, trying to picture the conditions of a sixteen year boy who had his feet eaten off by scurvy which terminated in gangrene, and how he had sawed off the bones of his feet when the tendons were laid bare by the flesh all being eaten away; and of my carrying him on the transport, and how in my weakened condition, I fell on the deck with my human burden; there was little more than a skeleton. I was but little more than the same myself.
At this point in my recital I was interrupted by a thundering voice in the rear of the audience, which before it was stilled, caused a tense situation. He said "it's a damn lie!" and added a curse which is better not to quote here. Before I could collect myself to answer such a contemptible wretch, a man who was seated close beside the rostrum ascended to a place near me, sat down and removed his shoes. Turning to the audience he almost shouted "let the man who said that come here and I'll beat his brains out with these shoes which cover my artificial feet! I am John W. January! I am the boy who my friend here has just told you of. There was a stir in the rear of the audience. Those who saw and heard it were aware of what was going on. We heard that the police quickly saved the wretch from violence from the hands of the audience.
It was a very trying experience for me but I was satisfied to tell the truth of our awful experiences in the war prisons of the people of the South. John W. January soon followed with a extemporaneous address, not having expected to be called upon to speak. But under the circumstances he just had to say something of his terrible experience, and he gave a very credible talk. The audience thoroughly appreciated it because they could see that every word of what he said was the truth.
The fourth day we were most hospitably treated by the people of Chicago. Officers who had commanded the Regiments and Companies, which our members had been apart, met with us and were very friendly and liberal. They treated us all to a supper at the Sherman House before we departed for our homes- they treated us royally. I was made very happy by being presented with a gold medal after my address. It was inscribed with a figure of a bloodhound on one side, and on the other side a boy being trampled to death; and also, presented by the "Andersonville Survivors Association". Most unfortunately a few years later I lost this present by it being stolen; I always thought by a young skip-grace in our town.
For some time previous to, and later than this, I suffered extremely by asthma. During the winter months I was almost wholly incapacitated by the distressing disease. The same year I sold out the dray business there were two others engaged in the same work in the town, which did not allow a living for any of us. At this time Warren had about twenty eight hundred people and there was a good deal of business done in the town considering its size. After leaving the draying business I engaged in house moving work. After my first wife died we went into debt for a rather worrisome extent. Mary, my eldest daughter, had to take her mothers place as best she could in the care of the home. We had a woman come to do the heaviest work. When I remarried we found there had been a great deal of extravagance in the management of the household affairs. But I was now blessed with a wife who realized the situation and proceeded to manage the home with economy and efficiency such as comparatively few women are capable of, and she always had been one of the best of wives and mothers, and still lives to help and cheer in the home as very few can do it at the advanced age of 83. She had had her big share of troubles and privations during the war too. But she has the happy faculty of driving trouble from her and not allowing it to incapacitate her for the duties of life. She looks upon life and death reverently, but very sensibly. She often speaks of the big heartedness of General Sherman while he occupied Memphis and she was one of the great many women who were recipients of his kindness. He had his soldiers go out to the forest by the city and bring in great quantities of wood for fuel for Confederate and Union women.
The year following our marriage, the awful Chicago fire destroyed a great part of the city. After this catastrophe advertising for teams and men to clear away the debris was widely distributed through the country. The city, contractors, and owners of the wrecked buildings offered five dollars per day for man and team. So I was not long in responding to this call for help. I had a fine team of percheron horses, which with the harness, weighed thirty six hundred pounds and they cost us two hundred and twenty five dollars. I took with me one of my sons and an orphan from New York who had worked for the farmers around Warren. We were the only ones who went from Warren to work among the ruins of Chicago.
The journey to great city consumed nearly three days. Upon arriving there we put up at the United States Hotel. It was one of the oldest hotels in the city and bore an awful hard reputation for bedbugs, but it was the only hotel available for us at that particular time. The first job we got was for the Field Leader Company. The work was in cleaning the debris from the basement. It was very hard and disagreeable, and the worst part of it was in getting a large safe out of the hole. This job required about fourteen days of hard work to complete. My son received a dollar and a half, and myself with team, five dollars per day. The orphan got work for others nearby. As soon as we finished work for this firm we went to work for Potter Palmer at the same kind of work. This job required two and one half weeks to finish.
Rebuilding of Field Leader and Company's establishment commenced as soon as we were through cleaning up. The debris was all dumped into the lake. There was a bridge built out into the lake for the purpose of facilitating this work. It was a very unsafe structure to go over, especially with a team that was a little shy. So the fellow who was doing the bossing on this end of the job asked my son to drive his team out onto it; he positively refused to do it. The next load I took myself. The sight that met my eyes as I reached the scene provoked me to almost uncontrollable degree. Upon the bridge was a fine gray team which was plainly skittish upon the bridge, or rather, trestle. Upon the passing of a switch engine the team began crowding and one was pushed off the structure; and it hung by its collar for a few minutes which nearly exhausted its mate. But it soon dropped through the ice below, and broke through, and was never seen again.
Though it was early in the winter season, the weather had been bitterly cold and froze quite a thickness of ice. I turned on the fellow whom presumed to boss the job and gave him a scathing rebuke for ordering my boy to drive his team on such an outrageously dangerous place. A man, in standing there, asked an explanation of the whole affair. After hearing what I had to say, he turned to the boss and ordered him to leave the premises immediately. We learned afterward that the would-be boss was a city alderman. There were many horses lost in that work on the dump before the clearing was finished. The debris, which was dumped into the lake, covered about five acres which in later years was valuable property. But there were many, many, more acres filled in before we got through with it.
Rebuilding of the burned district proceeded with astonishing quickness. My part in this work came to an end by a most villainous and heartbreaking deed, by one who was surely possessed of the devil. I went to take care of my team as usual in the morning when a sickening sight met my eyes. One of my horse's stifle joint was cut and the other's- one leg broken above the knee. I got help as quickly as possible. One of the horses was rendered entirely useless and the other, together with a new harness and wagon, I sold for one hundred and twenty five dollars.
I was offered a trade for nearly five hundred dollars for the property a few before the villainous deed was committed. But I considered it to be a hard matter to convert the property into cash at that time, and for that reason declined to trade. I put a detective on the case but the man who I suspected of the crime disappeared entirely from the city immediately. I had sent my son home to go to school before this time. Our boy orphan stayed in the city; he was getting along well when I left for home.
I was very disheartened when I got home, and to make matters worse, the asthma attack came back on me worse than ever so that I was unable to do any work for nearly three months. The next spring we resumed house moving with a smaller team than we had. I could have had work in the planing mill, but could not endure the dust on account of the asthma. We did fairly well in the house moving business. I charged ten dollars per day when not taking a job by contract. I had three hundred dollars invested in the business, exclusive of the team and wagon.
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