While being carried down to the boat on a cot, I remember seeing Comrade Lazerous Taylor of our company, the father of Esq. W. S. Taylor, of Flannigan Twp. Comrade Taylor was trying to get some water out of the river and did not see me. This was the last time I ever saw him. I learned later that he died at this place. I was left on my cot in the cabin of the boat where there were probably a hundred others. It looked very much more like home than any of my previous surroundings during my sickness. It seems to me now as I retrospect the past that I began to get better soon after I got on the boat. We had good attention, our medicines were given punctually, had reasonably plenty to eat and best of all plenty of good ice water. Seemingly the first drink I had of that water improved me. A kind old motherly woman would make the rounds of the cabin each day, having a kind word and cheerful loving smile for every one. Her kind presence and loving ministrations caused us all to think of a mother, a wife or a sister back in "God's Country," our loved Home. How long we remained here after my advent into the cabin, I do not remember. Finally, however, we steamed down the Tennessee and up the Ohio Rivers. Our destination it was said being Cincinnati. On the way down the Tennessee River the main shaft of the starboard wheel broke with a noise like a cannon and steam came rushing up into the cabin in perfect clouds. This caused great excitement among the sick and nearly to a man they jumped up and made for the cabin door, intent upon self-preservation. Word from below came up that nothing serious was the matter and many of the poor fellows had to be helped back to their cots.
The injury our boat had sustained retarded our progress very much as we had to run with only one wheel. It took several days to reach Louisville, Kentucky, but our situation and surroundings were such a vast improvement upon our past soldier experience that we rather enjoyed the hospitality of the boat and our long ride. At Louisville we learned that the falls in the river would not permit a boat of the size of the "Silver Moon" to pass through whereupon she dropped back down to New Albany, Indiana, four miles below Louisville, and on the opposite side of the river. Here a good portion of us were taken to the hospital. What disposition was made of those remaining on the boat, I do not know.
New Albany is a considerable little City on the north bank of the Ohio. At the time of which I speak its citizens, it seemed to me, were intensely loyal to the Government, and their hospitality was charmingly beyond criticism. When the news leaked out that a survivor of the battle of Shiloh was in the hospital a great many of the citizens came to see me and tried very hard to make a hero of me. They would come singly and in squads, and have me talk by the hour of the great battle. Then they began plying me with invitations to their homes. These invitations, with one exception, I firmly but respectfully declined. Not that I did not appreciate their kindness and hospitable intentions, but I had been on a long, rough, arduous campaign, and my clothing was not in a presentable condition. I therefore had no desire to appear in society as a hero, or otherwise. One old gentleman, however, would not take "No" for a reply to his importunities. I simply had to go with him. He had a very pleasant little family consisting of himself, wife and two charming daughters. I was somewhat embarrassed on account of the appearance of my toilet, but they all exerted themselves to the utmost to make me feel welcome and to make my visit pleasant and cheerful. If I could have overcome my modesty in regard to my clothing, I certainly would have had a "time" while in this little city.
In the newspaper reports of the sick sent from the front to the many different hospitals, my mother had found my name, and of course was in a rage of despair until she could hear something more definite about me. She wrote to many different hospitals, and to the mayors of several different cities, inquiring for me, one letter being addressed to the Mayor of the city of New Albany. I was called out, he asked my name and upon being told he said "why do you not write to your mother, she is greatly distressed about you". I told him the circumstance of losing my pocketbook and that I was penniless. The Mayor handed me a one-dollar bill saying "Your mother sent this to pay me for the trouble of making inquiry for you. All I charge is that you take this and write your mother at once". I did so.
I do not know exactly how long I stayed at this place, probably some four weeks. After I became strong enough to go around I enjoyed myself about as well possibly as one could when thrown entirely with strangers. I became acquainted with a man named Hammond. I think he belonged to the 26th Indiana. I am not sure about this. He had his descriptive roll with him and was permitted to draw six months pay, which was accrued and due him. He was moderately free with his money and he and I ate up quite a bit of it. Our appetites had become ravenous and the hospital diet would not satisfy our craving. The boss in the kitchen, Aunt Delilah Fleshman, (I shall never forget her) told us that if we wanted any extras to bring them to her and she would cook them for us and we could eat at her table. We had many enjoyable meals with her. Our special desire was for fish. They were to be had in abundance and reasonably cheap. Ohio Cat for instance. Oh my! But they were good. I think I left Hammond at the hospital and when the time for parting came I left him regretfully. I have never heard of him since. In dismissing him I hope that his paths have been cast in at least no more rugged ways than have my own.
One other man with whom I became acquainted and by reason of whose acquaintance I was permitted to come home on furlough, was ---- Williams. I have forgotten his first name as well as the regiment to which be belonged. It seems to me he was called Dave. However, it will answer our purpose. His mother and people lived near Equality Illinois. Williams had been sick a long time and was very low at this time. Several times he was thought to be dying. Vital force was very strong in him. He would rally and seemingly do better a few days, then sink again and rally again. When able to talk at all the whole theme of his conversation was of his mother. He fully realized that he had to die, but it seemed he could not possibly reconcile himself to the dread ordeal of death without first seeing his mother. The physician in charge wrote his mother, laying the situation before her, not omitting to tell her how badly Dave wanted to see her. Whereupon she sent a (I would have liked to have said man) fellow after him. We were all truly glad as we all understood that he had come after Dave. It did us good to feel that the poor fellow was to have a chance to see his mother before he died. Imagine our surprise and chagrin when we learned that this despicable wretch had slipped away and left the poor mother's precious boy to die in the hospital. What his object or reasons none of us ever knew. We supposed probably that in Williams weakened and debilitated condition he was afraid to attempt the trip with him. This circumstance led to my acquaintance with Williams. Like everyone else about the institution, I one day tried my hand at consoling him over his sad disappointment. During my conversation with him I learned for the first time that his mother lived near Equality. It occurred to me that as his home was almost directly on my route home, I might possibly be able to "kill two birds with one stone," take him home and thus get to go home myself. I did not want to raise uncertain hopes in his bosom again so said nothing much about my hopes and desires, until I was satisfied that the idea was feasible and could be worked, although he had thought of it and suggested it himself. I went at once to the physician in charge and placed the facts before him. He became enthused and seemed overjoyed by my statement, which was that with Williams discharged and a furlough for myself, there was a possible end to the complication of getting Williams home. He entered at once with zeal and earnestness into the project. He wrote out a discharge for Williams and a furlough for me, sending me over to Louisville to have them countersigned. This done at 9 o'clock that night Williams and myself were placed on a steamer bound down the river. Medicines for Williams and directions how to manage him were given me. Amid many warm expressions and wishes for good luck and "Godspeed" to us, we started on our eventful journey to "God's Country" and home, with hearts full of gratitude and joyous anticipations of the prospective reunion with our folks at home. Williams' condition required all my time in giving him proper care. He was blistered all over the chest wall and his hip bones and shoulder blades had cut or worn through the skin, and especial attention had to be given these. The hope and prospect of getting home seemed to animate Dave and he was as cheerful as it was possible for one to be in his condition.
One incident of this trip. On the night after taking passage, the porter of the boat discovering me, an ordinary private soldier in the cabin where only the elite and "big bugs" are presumed to have free access, ordered me down on deck, where he claimed he thought I properly belonged with the rubbish. Of course I demurred and tried to explain the situation. He had no time for explanations and was hustling me right out. During our colloquy a large, rather austere looking man approached us. He wore the uniform of a Naval Officer. He inquired what the trouble was. I told him about Williams and that he required constant care and attention. Moreover, that our transportation provided for cabin passage for each of us. He told the porter to go about his business and that if he interfered with me again he would chuck him into the river. He then went with me to our state room to see Williams, remaining quite a while in pleasant conversation with us. On departing he said to me, "If that fellow bothers you any more just tell me and I'll attend to him," I was not molested again.
About midnight we landed at Shawneetown, Illinois. With the assistance of the boat's crew, Williams was taken down and placed on a cot in the wharfboat. Here I met Mr. Willis Hatchett, who lived near where Gresham now is in Franklin County. He was on his way to Louisville, Kentucky after his brother, Isaac Hatchett, a member of our company, who was there sick. Mr. Hatchett was waiting for an upriver boat. He remained and assisted me in taking care of Dave until morning. When morning came I went out in the city of Shawneetown to try to procure conveyance to take Williams home, it being twelve miles out in the country. But love nor the promise of pecuniary reward, or any other inducement that I could mention would open their obdurate hearts. I returned to the wharf very much depressed in spirits, yet full of determination. One thing was evident to me, that I must get Dave out of that old wharfboat as quickly as it was possible to do so. With this idea paramount in my mind, and with Mr. Hatchett's promise to look after Dave until his boat arrived. I started out on foot in the direction where Williams' people lived, resolved that if necessary I would walk the entire distance and then send some of his folks back after him. In the meantime I would try at every place I came to for a rig. About two miles out I stopped at a farmhouse and repeated my oft-repeated request of that morning. The lady of the house greeted me kindly and I could see at once that my story had reached a tender spot in her kind, motherly bosom. She informed me that he husband was in the army and that she was heart and soul for the cause. She said she had a small springless wagon, a team to pull it and a boy large enough to drive it, and that if these would answer she would be only too glad to let me have them. What a contrast to the replies I had been receiving that morning in Shawneetown. No time was to be lost in hesitancy. I accepted her kind offer at once as I regarded it as much better than trying to walk ten miles farther, which would probably leave Dave the greater part of that hot June day alone and helpless. The boy soon had his team hooked up and the kind mother placed some bed clothing in the wagon and loaned me an umbrella to shield Williams from the scorching sun. We soon drove back to the wharf and sure enough found Dave alone. A boat had come along and Mr. Hatchett had to leave him. Now, I got into trouble again. I was yet a boy, convalescing and not very strong. I could not get Williams into the wagon alone. I went into the city again for help. Not a soul would touch him. Some said they were afraid of infectious diseases. Some had one excuse, some another, but none would help. If I had had a good six gun battery that morning, Sunday as it was, I certainly would have taught the citizens of Shawneetown a long-remembered lesson. Fortunately a boat landed having some soldiers on board. A quick response to my explanation of the situation and Dave was tenderly placed in the wagon. We were soon on our journey. The country and the roads were all strange to me, but with what few points Dave could give, together with an occasional inquiry along the road we got along fairly well. By this time Dave was getting very weak. He had had no nourishment that day (nor I either). After so long a time we found we were getting into the settlement to which we were heading and Dave was "smartly" cheered up. Suddenly we drove up on a congregation engaged in Divine Worship in a grove. We halted to make inquiry on the outskirts of the congregation. Our appearance and attitude excited considerable curiosity and several approached the wagon, among them some ladies. One of them peeped in the wagon and getting sight of Dave gave a mild blood-curdling yell, and fainted. I subsequently found she was a sister-in-law of Dave. That yell broke up the meeting and here came the entire congregation. They crowded up around the wagon so that it was with considerable difficulty and some force I got them loose enough from us to permit our starting up again. We were nearing our destination now and as we started up the crowd filed in after us in single, double and quadruple files.
I had taxed my imagination smartly as to how Dave's mother would act when she found that he had actually got home. My conceptions had never approached what occurred. As we approached the house I saw a large, rather elderly looking woman step to the door, her eyes fastened upon us. There she remained until we drove up into the yard. She had observed that some one was reclining in the wagon. As we halted she stepped out into the yard. The first words she uttered were "Is that Dave?" Observing her pent up feelings touched my emotions and for the life of me I could not have spoken without bawling right out. I nodded my head affirmatively, and then a great stream of tears came pouring down her cheeks. She did not seem to be crying, but laughing for joy of soul at the return of her boy. But I must let the curtain drop on this scene. I cannot describe it. I do not know that I care to do so. Many, many times have I thought of this occasion and the tears would invariably rise in my eyes. It is a reflection associated with both pain and pleasure. I cut the outdoor scene as short as possible and ordered Dave taken in to the house, which was soon filled to suffocation. I told Mrs. Williams to get them out as Dave needed fresh air. She soon had them out, some with more ceremony than politeness. I then gave her what medicines I had and suggested that she send for a physician, which he did at once. She then knocked a Bee gum in the head and got us a good old fashioned dinner. I assure you I enjoyed it hugely.
The boy and I had a good long trip before us. It was expedient, therefore, that we get started as soon as possible. Mrs. Williams had learned my name and embarrassed me not a little by calling me "Mr. Hunt". When we were ready to start she said to me, "Now Mr. Hunt, what do I owe you for your trouble in bringing my boy home." This was a stunner to me. The idea of reward or recompense for what I had done had never even remotely entered my mind. I informed her that I had only performed an obligation that every soldier was under to every other soldier. I had done no more for her son that he would have done for me had the circumstances been reversed. That I was already rich in the consciousness of having discharged my duty to a comrade in distress, that I had no thought of receiving or accepting, much less of asking for reward. All the recompense I expected or desired had been realized in witnessing her joy over the return of her son and the hope I had that in a few days my own mother would enjoy the same happy felicitations. Mrs. Williams paid the boy for the use of his team and vehicle to his entire satisfaction and we started on our return. This was Sunday, after my return to the army I received a letter from a young lady informing me that Williams died on the following Wednesday. My strength not yet fully recuperated after my illness, the loss of two nights sleep in succession and the worry and fret incident to the trip had told severely on both my physical and nervous systems. I cannot recall where I passed that Sunday night. In fact, I have no recollection of a single event after leaving Mrs. Williams until the next morning.
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