From this place we were transferred to the Corps Hospital. I now learned more of our company's fatalities. Among the killed were Miller and Atwood, whom I have already mentioned, Mort Hall, and William Cook, the comrade who had the premonition of his approaching death, which I have already related. I do not know what my reader will think of "premonitions". I scarcely know what I think myself. However, in the case I have told you about there seems to have been some overshadowing destiny or fatality, and comrade Cook had (to say the least of it) a semiconsciousness of his approaching end. The fact that the comrade went almost entirely through the battle safely and was then killed by one of our own cannons, makes the case, if possible, still more remarkable. This most sad and unfortunate accident was caused by the dropping of a shot from one of our batteries which had been firing over our heads. Among the wounded was C. A. Johnson, O. P. Kelley, Thomas and Jasper Darnall, J. H. Flannigan, L. A. Johnson, myself and others whom I cannot call to mind. Our company's loss in killed and wounded amounted to more than half of those present in the fight. At the hospital, I being able to be up and around, witnessed many gruesome sights the surgeons amputating fingers, toes, legs and arms, until great boxes would be filled and carted off for burial. I call to mind one poor fellow who belonged to the 6th Iowa. His thigh bone had been shattered close up to his body. He refused to have his leg amputated. His surgeon protested and argued with him kindly and gently, telling him that his life was at stake, that he might survive an operation, but that without one he was bound to die. He listened quietly and complacently, but firmly and flatly refused an operation, telling his surgeon that he thought he could not survive after being cut half into, that if he died he would take his leg with him, if he survived he would have it with him also. Personally, I do not know, but subsequently I learned that he recovered.
It was now decreed that those who were only slightly wounded would be given a furlough and sent home. Among those thus favored from our company was J. H. Flannigan, L. A. Johnson, and myself. I did not feel that I had any particular desire to go home at this time, my mother having died since I was last there. Yet, I supposed I had about as well be there as anywhere else so I accepted a furlough and started home with the other boys. I remember that on the first day we got as far as Stephenson, Alabama, where we had first crossed the Tennessee River on our way to Chatanooga. I have told you that the Johnnies had burned the railroad bridge at this place. It was now in process of reconstruction. When we got on the train next day they frightened me considerably by backing out on the unfinished bridge carrying rails for adjustment by the workmen. It looked as though they would push us off into the river, one hundred feet below. We stayed over in Stephenson one night, paying the fellow who claimed to be running a hotel seventy five cents each for the privilege of sleeping on our own blanket on the floor, in a room reeking with dirt and vermin in endless variety. Railroad travel at the time of which I write was slow and very uncertain. The Government was bending every effort to the suppression of the rebellion. Everything, even travel on the railways and rivers was subordinated to the necessities and requirements of the Federal authorities, so our journey home was very tedious requiring about four days to reach Tamaroa, Illinois. We were delayed at Nashville and at Louisville, made a detour away out into Indiana, eventually reaching Tamaroa. Here we stayed over night with and uncle of comrade Johnson. Next morning we were all bustle and anxiety to get started on our way home. The old gentleman, comrade Johnson's uncle, had an old rattle trap of a wagon and team he desired to send to his farm in the neighborhood to which we were going. In the kindness and magnanimity of his great loyal heart, (I use the word loyal advisedly, the reader may invert the proposition if he desires and will doubtless be nearer the truth than I was), and prompted possibly by a noble, praiseworthy desire of contributing something to the cause of his country, at the same time avoiding the humiliating necessity of having to pay some one to do the job, he made us the very liberal proposition of letting us ride in the old shackeldy wagon, drive his team out to his farm, paying him the modest sum of only five dollars. We all felt that even this wonderful liberality placed a severe strain upon his magnanimity. He looked as if he felt he had made a mistake (after our ready acceptance of his offer), that he could as easily have gotten ten dollars as he did the five.
It was now December. There had been much rain and the roads were desperately muddy. A sudden cold squall had supervened, rendering the roads very rough. So much so indeed, that we chose to walk most of the time, preferably to riding in the old wagon. On the way we fell in with Old Uncle Braxton Parrish of Benton, Illinois, an M. E. minister. I was well acquainted with him and had heard him preach many, many times. He was a genial, sociable old gentleman, loyal and patriotic to the core. I enjoyed his association very much.
We arrived at Benton in the afternoon. I had lived in Benton for three years preceding the war and knew almost everybody in the town. Benton had some inhabitants who had a very unsavory reputation for loyalty. In fact some were so outspoken in their opposition to the further prosecution of the war, that their utterances were deemed treasonable and they had been arrested and imprisoned as enemy's of the Government under whose protection they lived. W did not tarry long in Benton, resuming our journey towards home.
Considerably after nightfall we arrived at Uncle Demetrius Johnsons, who then lived on what is now called "Knob" in Knob Prairie. He was the father of Marcus Johnson, the circumstance of whose death has already been chronicled. It was here I met his young widow, and as before related, the lines of sorrow were so strongly in evidence, her grief so deep and poignant, that I almost repented of the opportunity of seeing her.
A little further on comrade Flannigan and I separated from comrade Johnson. We were getting near home and our roads diverged. I went with comrade Flannigan and comrade Johnson by himself. His home was on a southeasterly course from where we separated, while ours was northeasterly. Jim and I arrived at his mother's house at probably two or three o'clock in the morning. Jim had never been home since his enlistment. Of course his folks were extremely glad to see him and-well, I am not going to tell what they did when they fully aroused and found out for sure that Jim was certainly there. His wife was at a neighbor's house, but was sent for, and that is all I am going to tell about it. I was a comparative stranger to all but Jim and his elder sister, yet I was received and treated with the utmost kindness and courtesy. After breakfast I continued my journey to the settlement where my own relative lived.
I did not enjoy my sojourn at home this time as well even as
I had on the previous occasion. My mother's absence saddened me
beyond expression. Notwithstanding, everyone treated me kindly
and seemingly tried to make me feel welcome, yet I longed for
the time for our return. In a measure I enjoyed the association
of the young people. I knew I had to back and somehow I felt that
the sooner I got back the better reconciled I would be. At home
a soldier was considered a Hero, and much adulation and honor
was bestowed upon him. Those of us who had the bump of modesty
largely developed were often caused to blush at the homage paid
us by the good, loyal patriotic people of Illinois. Do not let
this statement lead you to think that all the people of Illinois
were loyal and patriotic. Some, even in our own county and precinct,
we were told, were not only not loyal but absolutely disloyal.
Quite a number, it was said, were actually in secret opposition
to the Government, and to further prosecution of the war against
our (their) brethren of the south meeting in conclaves and
conventions, resolving that not "another man or another dollar
should be given to prosecute this unholy war against our (their)
brethren of the south." We were further reliably informed
that they had, and were having and holding secret lodges under
the name of Whangdoodle, Knights of the Golden Circle, etc. etc.,
in which to consider more perfect ways of opposition to the administration.
In the presence of soldiers these very fellows were all to goody
good for any thing. I really believe that some of them possessed
a sufficient amount of self respect to be actually ashamed of
themselves. We of the army had heard many bad stories of their
doings and saying and as a consequence were greatly embittered
against them. I assure you, they received a most decidedly cold
shoulder from us. As a rule they were treated with the utmost
contempt and scorn. Some even tried to tantalize and aggravate
them into saying or doing something in the open, evidently with
the purpose of affording them an excuse and opportunity to decrease
the male population of the community. On several occasions these
designs came perilously and dangerously near realization. I remember
one night while at home this time, I was at Uncle Armstead Hunt's.
About dark Jim Flannigan and Alf Moore came to our house, said
they had heard there was to be a meeting of the "Copper heads",
"Whangdoodles", "Knights of the Golden Circle"
lodge at Mellonville, now called Flint. We all loaded up our guns.
Uncle Armstead kept a pretty good second rate armory in those
days, caught out our horses, that is Jasper and I did, and off
us four went to Crackers Neck to find the lodge. We searched in
every place it was possible to hold such a meeting, but no lodge
could be found. If we had found such a gathering it may go without
saying, somebody would most assuredly have had occasion to regret
that coming together.
However, finding no one we went to a frolic a regular "Arkansas hoe down", - the first one I had ever been to in my life, although past nineteen years of age. It was a rather droll, comic proceeding to me. There were but few persons present whom I had ever seen before, and only one young lady that I knew. Some old married men were there whom I thought would have been more in the place at their home fireside. I took no part in the dancing. I had never danced a reel as they called it, or a cotillion in my life, nor did I until after I had voted.
One more incident of this trip. The little mementos and keepsakes of comrade Cook, who was killed in the battle of Missionary Ridge, had been preserved. When I started home they were intrusted to my care for delivery to his wife. I readily accepted the trust, giving the matter no special thought. Subsequently, however, with a full knowledge of all the trust and delivery carried with it, I should have hesitated to undertake it. It was some time after I had reached home that I concluded one morning to discharge my obligation to my deceased comrade and his sorrowing wife. Mrs. Cook lived probably a mile from Uncle Armstead Hunt. It was from his house that I undertook the journey accompanied by Jasper, Uncle's youngest boy. I had given no thought to the serious side of my visit until after we had started. Then I began to reflect over my mission. What would she do? The thousand and one questions she would ask me. All came to me so vividly now that if there had been any chance to retreat, any possible way of avoiding the unpleasant fulfillment of my obligation, I certainly should have taken advantage of it. When I came in view of her house, I saw her step to the door. She had heard of my being at home and had an inkling of my intended visit and its object. She remained standing in the door until I walked into the yard, then jumped out in the yard, threw up both hands and gave a scream that I can almost hear now. She was about to fall. I took her by the arm to prevent her falling. She partially recovered control of herself, threw both arms around me and gave vent to her feelings in the most pitiful, heart-broken anguish I ever heard. Candidly, I believe I would rather have risked my chances in another battle than to have undertaken to perform a similar kind office of friendship and comradeship.
While we were at home the regiment re-enlisted as a veteran organization. Not being there at the time, I did not reinlist. I could have gone into the organization after my return to the company, but I did not. Many causes unnecessary to relate contributed to my refusal to do so. Some inducements were offered me to join the veterans, which I refused. I have regretted this action many, many times. Before the time of those who did not reinlist expired, the war, at least the fighting in our department was virtually over. In fact, the regiment never had anything like a serious engagement after we left them at Atlanta, Georgia. An old adage says "Never cry after spilled milk," so I leave the subject and the event.
Early in January, while we were still at home, a heavy snow fell, followed by an exceedingly cold wave. It was said that the thermometers registered 20 degrees below zero. Peach trees were nearly all frozen and killed. I think we remained at home until March to allow our wounds to perfectly heal. Moreover, troops were all in winter quarters and our absence did not matter so materially. Eventually the time for our return trip was rolled around.
Our return trip was equally as tedious and wearisome as the previous one, but after many delays and layovers we ultimately reached the regiment, which was camped at Scottsboro, Alabama, some fifteen miles West of Stephenson. Soon after our return the regiment started on their thirty days Veteran Furlough. Many of them had never been home since they first left and, of course, all were anxious to see home, their people and "God's country" again. The Non-Veteran squad, consisting of some sixty or seventy, remained in camp at Scottsboro. We had practically nothing to do so time hung heavily upon our hands. We tried various little projects with which to pass away the time. One of these was chopping cordwood for the railroad. Coal had not yet been developed in that country and the railroads were compelled to use wood to make steam. Sometimes they were put to their wits end to get it cut. Finally they made us a proposition to furnish us axes and give us one dollar and twenty-five cents for every cord we would cut. I cut two or three cords and bruised my hands so badly that a catarrh supervened upon the bruise. I had ample time and opportunity for regretting my little escapade at cutting cordwood.
About the first of May, our squad attached temporarily to another regiment, broke camp at Scottsboro and went to Chatanooga, through and beyond that place toward Dalton where General Sherman was stationed with one of the finest armies of true and tried veterans that ever assembled on the American continent. From here he began his matchless campaign for the capture of Atlanta, one hundred and fifty miles distant.
My catarrh was now so bad that I was practically disqualified for duty. I was sent back to Chatanooga and placed in a convalescent camp, where I found comrades Flannigan, L.A. Johnson and C. A. Johnson, whose wounds were not yet entirely healed. In this camp we all lived at what we termed "The top of the pot". Our rations were endless in variety and quantity. Among other luxuries which we enjoyed was a barrel of mixed pickles, cucumbers, turnips, cabbage stalks, pepper and the Good Lord only knows what all else! We also had plenty of greens we would gather what was called "Lambs Quarter" off the graves of dead mules and horses, cook it, and I assure you we found it splendid with our pickles. Quite a number of Negro regiments were encamped not far from us. It was quite amusing to watch them drilling. They would come out with their paraphernalia, guns, belts, belt plates burnished and bright as gold. Naturally proud, their new uniforms the first respectable suit possibly any of them ever had worn, it made them look quite dandified. Their actions evidenced their joy and pride. The commands given in squad drill in the negro vernacular afforded us great amusement. Our regiment returned from their home trip, passed through on their way to the front. My hand was not yet entirely well, but I did not want to see them pass, so I joined them and went to the front. By now Dalton, Buzzard's Roost, and Resses all had fallen into Sherman's hands, and when we reached the front was confronting the Confederate army at New Hope Church. Our regiment resumed its regular place in the brigade and were soon actively engaged in the work of that arduous but brilliant campaign which culminated in the capture of Atlanta, Georgia. There had been some very severe fighting at this point before our arrival. One of Sherman's tactical movements to the flank of the enemy soon moved him away. Near Kingston they attempted another stand, but General Shermans masterful strategy and superior numbers kept them pretty well on the move until they sought refuge behind the impregnable works on Kenesaw and Lost Mountain. In this place, a fortress by nature, had been strengthened by engineering until it was virtually unassailable.
Go to Page 8 of the Memoirs
Return to Scrapbook page