|Unit History Project|
Experiences and Activities of A Lifetime
Chapter IV - EXPERIENCES DURING THE CIVIL WAR
The next day we left home for the camp where the regiment was forming at Herkimer in the Mohawk Valley, about twenty-two miles from home. The morning we left was a very trying time. It was hard to say ''goodbye'' to father, mother, brother, sisters, friends and the old home that had become very dear to me. We walked three miles to Cooperstown, then a large wagon, drawn by four horses, loaded with recruits, with flags and streamers flying started on the journey to the camp. There were several other wagons just like the one we were in. All along the road people were gathered in throngs, waving flags, cheering us and wishing us ''God-speed''. We arrived at camp late in the afternoon and were immediately examined for fitness for service. The examination was thorough, and some were rejected. My brothers and myself were accepted. We were then taken into a large mess hall for dinner. We were hungry, as we had had nothing to eat since early morning.
We were then shown our tent, a large one, eight of us to sleep in it. Straw was put on the ground for our bed, no clean ''nightie'' like we had at home, one blanket for each one. In the morning we went down to the canal to wash, as the dust and dirt of the previous day was still on our hands and faces, no towels; hardships of a soldier's life had begun. We were then sworn into the United States service. Regulations were read to us. At the end of each one was ''Death or such other punishment as a Court Martial may direct", for disobeying. We then began up realize what we were up against.
We commenced drilling at once. We remained in camp here about three weeks. The regiment was full. Ten companies of one hundred men each, 1040 in all. We received orders to start for Washington. Then came the real parting. Father and mother come to so us off; they remained about two hours. Farewells were spoken 'mid sobs and tears. They were giving three boys in answer to their country's call. Would they return to them? They left us in the care of our Heavenly Father. What they suffered on the way back home, words cannot tell. Father was taken sick on the way and stopped and stayed all night at a hotel
"The mother who conceals her grief
We left Camp Schuyler, Herkimer Co., New York, August 28th, 1862. There were 200 men more than necessary to fill our Regiment. They were the beginning of the 152nd regiment which was soon filled. We left by train for Albany, arrived there in the evening then took a steamboat for New York City. We slept on the decks without anything but the boards under us, and no covering over us. Arriving at New York in the morning we marched to a park with a high iron fence around it and guards about it. We remained there 24 hours with nothing over us but the blue sky and nothing but the ground under us, and very little to eat. The guards kept us in, so we did not see much of the city. We left there for Washington in freight cars, stopping at Philadelphia. This city gave us a fine dinner; they fed every regiment that went through there during the war.
We had good passenger cars from there to Washington. We went into camp near Fort Lincoln. President Abraham Lincoln came out to see us and said he wanted to see his boys. We received arms, knapsacks and all the accouterments that make up a soldier's outfit. Blankets and a piece of tent cloth which could be buttoned to another and make a tent just large enough for two men to crawl into. The whole outfit: haversack, canteen, gun, cartridge box, knapsack all filled, blanket and tent cloth, with other things we had to carry, weighed about seventy-five pounds. We remained at this camp several days and then joined the Army of the Potomac under General McClellan, whose army was coming from along the James River near Richmond, where he had fought several battles, but was compelled to retreat and came with his army, by steamboat, to Washington.
Our regiment was put in an old brigade of the 6th Army Corps and the next day we started on our first march (a rush march) to meet General Lee's army that was crossing the Potomac at Harper's Ferry. It was a hard tramp for us. The sun was so hot and we were not used to marching. We met the enemy first at a pass in South Mountain, called Crampton's Pass. There I first heard the roar of cannon and screams of shot and shell. There, too, I saw the first dead soldier. The sight made me very sick. After awhile I became so accustomed to it I could lay down and sleep with them all around me.
The main battle of Antietam was fought about three miles from the pass. Lee's army had crossed the Potomac River at Harper's Ferry. Our army met them in open fields. One of the hardest battles of the Civil War was fought there. More men were killed and wounded in one day than in the same length of time in any other battle during the war. After the day's fight, Lee retreated to the Potomac River, our army keeping between them and Harper's Ferry. If McClellan had made an attack the next morning it is probable that Lee's army would have been destroyed, but McClellan failed to press Lee to the finish, and Lee and his whole army escaped across the Potomac, and our army went into camp near Bakersfield, Maryland. We remained in camp there six weeks. President Lincoln removed McClellan and gave the command of the Army of the Potomac to General Burnsides. While in this camp the Colonel of our regiment resigned and Emory Upton, a graduate of West Point was appointed in his place. He drilled us and applied the same discipline that they had at West Point, and made our regiment one of the crack regiments of the army.
We received orders to march at once. We moved down some distance into Virginia and camped for awhile. Here I was selected as drummer-boy, together with seven other boys about my size and age. A teacher was furnished us. After practicing a few days, we received orders to move in the morning. A cold December rain was pouring down but we marched, wet through. About four o'clock in the afternoon it began to snow. We left the high and wooded land and went down on wet, marshy lowland close to an arm of Chesapeake Bay, we were ordered to stay there. There was no wood to make a fire to warm ourselves by or to make coffee, nothing to eat but hardtack. Our clothes were freezing on us. That was the worst night we saw while in the service. Men grew sick and died because of that awful night at Belle Plain. We had been sent there to guard the ships that were to land supplies for the army. We moved on to Fredericksburg where Lee's army was in a strong position on hills and the Rappahannock River flowed between us and the foe.
A great battle we fought here, and the Union Army lost heavily. After the battle, we went back about three miles and fixed our camp for the winter; and there I learned to play the drum. I played on parade with the old drummers before either of the other boys learned. From that time until the close of the war, I had the drumsticks in my hand most of the time; my hands were calloused like a wood chopper's. At one time a terrible carbuncle developed on the back of my neck, the drum strap kept it irritated, causing me intense suffering. l was relieved from duty for several days.
During that winter only one move was made, known as Burnsides Mud March, because after the first day out, it began to rain and continued until we were stuck in the mud. It took hard work to get back to camp.
The first of May we made another attack on Fredericksburg under our new commander, Joe Hooker. He took the army around Lee's left flank, all except the 6th Corps which was to attack Fredericksburg when he had drawn most of Lee's troops after him. Our Regiment was in the 6th Corps. This plan was carried out. We took Fredericksburg and the fortified heights, add then pressed on toward Richmond, but Hooker was defeated and Lee turned his whole force against us. In a battle near Salem Church our regiment was almost annihilated, especially my company. Out of seventy-seven men only seven answered roll call next morning the others were killed, wounded or missing.
Nine of these young men were from Middlefield Center, New York, only one answered roll call. My brother, John was among the wounded.
All next day they tried to capture the 6th Corps. Again and again we stopped them and then retreated to another place. That night we got across the Rappahannock River and joined the rest of the army. We went back to our old camp and remained there about six weeks. During that time Lee's Army was very active; they raided our wagon train in which my two brothers were drivers and they narrowly escaped bing captured. They took 200 mules and about thirty drivers; none of these men were ever heard of again.
The enemy cut our line of communication. Our brigade, consisting of five regiments and a battery of artillery, was sent back about thirty miles along the railroad to guard it. While there, a force of cavalry came in the night and charged our camp. The men were all asleep except myself. I heard the first shots as they ran through the picket line which was doing guard duty and heard the clatter of the horses feet while running. I grabbed my drum and began beating the long roll, which is a signal of warning that the enemy is at hand. By my presence of mind and quick warning I saved many lives including the life of the General commanding the force. The foe struck the camp near where I was still beating the drum, and fired at me. Our soldiers were making it so hot for them that they hurried to headquarters to capture our General, but our men were so close after them that they could not stop to get him, so they fired a volley at his tent. He had heard my drum and had crawled out from under the back of the tent and ran behind an old corn crib. There were twenty ball holes through his tent about where he had been. He surely would have been killed had I not awakened him with the sound of my drum. He himself said I saved his life.
Soon after this, in June 1863, Lee's army started north; of course, we followed, keeping between them and Washington; with our Corps, the 6th, keeping much nearer to Washington. When General Hooker was superseded by General Mead near the small town of Gettysburg, the Union Army ran against the edge of the enemy and they began to fight. This grew into a fierce battle until both armies were engaged. The 6th Corps was 100 miles away. From noon that day until 4:00 P.M the next day we marched without stopping, and went into the battle in time to save Little Roundtop.
The next day the Southern Army was defeated with great loss and that night retreated in a hurry to get back to Virginia. We followed them the next day.It was very hot and we had nothing to eat. In the evening we waded through a river and began climbing up a mountain trail. A thunderstorm broke and it was pitch dark. Only when the lightning flashed could we see the line of troops winding in and out, far above us. When about half way up the mountain, I fell, exhausted. As a drummer I was at the head of the column. I knew my brother John would soon be coming alone so I struggled to my feet, trying to stand, thinking perhaps I might get in touch with him. Presently a flash of lightning as though in answer to prayer, revealed my brother just passing by.
I called out: ''John, stay with me. The Captain said : ''No falling out", but in the darkness John stepped out of line and together we laid down on a flat rock; it rained hard all night, but I slept until daylight.
In the morning we went right on over the mountain and scouted around to find something to eat. Finally we found a place where an old lady gave us biscuits and molasses, and charged us $1.00 apiece. We were glad to pay the price for we were very hungry and her servings were generous. Oh it tasted so good. We then followed along and joined our regiment in the evening.
Lee's army got away into Virginia. Our regiment had a sharp fight with the rear guard just before they crossed the Potomac. We camped there awhile, then followed on down after Lee. After a long march we had to cross the Rappahannock River. There was a fort and a bridge there and plenty of Rebs and cannon. A most picturesque battle followed. We came out of the woods upon level plain; formed in line of battle, regimental front; drums beating, flags flying soldiers marching like on parade, shells bursting and cannon balls making gaps through the marching ranks. One struck the ground in front of the Drum Corps, gravel flew up, one hitting my face; it bled a little; then a shell burst over our heads, a piece went through my drum; I could not play any more then, but kept my place. That night, after dark, we captured the fort, with all the troops, their arms and cannon. Our regiment took three flags and more men than our regiment numbered. They tried to burn the bridge but we put the fire out and moved across the river going south and the whole army went into camp near Hazel River.In December we made a reconnaissance across the Rapidan River. Before starting we drew eight days rations. We left some pieces of crackers on the ground. We were gone ten days. Weather was very cold and our food was all gone. We then started back. I put my knapsack on at 6:00 P.M.; we never stopped, marching until 6:00 A.M. Crossed the Rapidan' River and rested until the next day. We reached the place we started from, almost starved. We picked up the pieces of crackers that we had left on the ground.
I saw a stream of water and some men watering mules. One of these men proved to be my brother John. He took me to the wagon train and they took the best of care of me that they could, but I grew worse. The second morning the captain of the train ordered the ambulance driver to take me to the hospital at City Point.
The hospital consisted of large tents, and when the sun shone on them they were as hot as an oven. I was very sick and would have died, but for a change of doctors. They gave me pills and more pills, and I grew worse. The new doctor gave me a bottle of London Porter each day. It was a kind of beer. I began to get better, and was well in about three weeks. They put me to work, helping to take care of the sick and wounded. After working at that for about a month, I was ordered to join my regiment.
Our Corps, the 6th, was ordered to Washington. The enemy had sent an army by way of Shenandoah Valley to destroy our Capital. Their real object was to make Grant let go his strangle-hold at Petersburg. We traveled by steamboat, down the James River, across Chesapeake Bay and up the Potomac River to Washington. We arrived there just in time to save our Capital. We drove the enemy back to the Valley, by way of Harper's Ferry.
Of the battles in the Valley under General Phil Sheridan, I will only take time to give a sketch. Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek were the hardest. This last one was the one in which Sheridan made his celebrated ride on his famous black horse, and turned a seeming defeat into a glorious victory. I saw him when he rode up to his army. That beautiful black charger was covered with dust and foam, he had come twenty miles at top speed. Sheridan so enthused his men that they stopped retreating and turned on the foe with such fury that they completely broke them up. We took back all they had taken from us, and all of their cannon, and the cavalry drove them as far as they could find anything to drive. That was the last rebel army in the Valley during the war.
We stayed in camp near Winchester until near Christmas, when we received orders to go back to Petersburg. We left Winchester in box cars. We were loaded inside and on top of the cars, twenty-five men inside and twenty- five men on top of each car. I rode on top. We laid down on each side and had to hang on to that board that runs along the center of the car. We left Winchester at 4:00 P.M. and did not get off until 8:00 A.M. when we reached Washington. All the night it was freezing cold and snow was a foot deep on the ground. That was a terrible night. We dared nor let go of that board for a single moment lest we fall off. We were warmed and fed at Washington, then took steamboats down the Potomac, across Chesapeake Bay, up the James River at City Point; marched from there to Grant's line near Petersburg where winter quarter tents were ready for us.
The Union and Confederate lines of fortification ran almost parallel. Some places very near together, other places a mile or more apart. The lines were about thirty eight miles long, including those troops on the north side of the James River. Our Corps was near the center of these lines. One of the narrow places and two forts were near our camp. We were in the midst of constant gun fire. In the night, when awake, we could hear the musketry and sometimes the roar of cannon that shook the earth.
Once during the winter our division, consisting of three brigades, made a quick march in the night to the left of our army's lines, and Lee's right. We had a battle there, and while marching (or rather running) up a track in thick woods, we ran into the enemy, the front of our column was pushed right into the midst of the rebels. I was surrounded. How I got out of there I could not tell. Our boys came quickly into line and gave them plenty to do, so some way I escaped. That night, after the battle, it was very cold, and we had no covering but our blanket. In order to keep from freezing we dug hollows in the ground, put our blanket over us, then pulled the dirt on the blanket. When we crawled out in the morning we looked like pigs crawling out of their nests. That day we marched back to our camp in the center of the line. We were there until March 28th, 1865.
Sheridan's cavalry and the 6th Corps marched quickly to the left again, and attacked Lee's right flank, so that he was compelled to send many troops from the front to save his position. The drummers and some others were left in camp when our men moved to the fight on the left, and they put us in one of the forts near our camp, gave us plenty of guns and ammunition and ordered us to keep firing toward the enemy; the cannon of the fort were firing. The enemy were sending over shells, and the air at night, was all alight with streaks of light of shells and rockets. Oh what a night that was. We were not in much danger, and we laughed and had fun all night. This was done to make the enemy think that none of our troops had gone away. So the next day Lee began hurrying troops to his right flank to stop our troops. The had endangered his whole line.
On the night of April 30th our troops made a forced march back to their old place in the center, and Sunday morning April 1st, 1865, made an assault on the enemy in three places, before Lee's troops, that had been sent to the right, could get back. We broke through their fortifications in three places and poured our troops through so that Lee's army was in confusion and had to retreat. Jeff Davis was in church in Richmond that morning and a dispatch was brought to him from General Lee, saying my lines are broken in three places, and I can no longer hold Petersburg. Richmond must be evacuated at once."
That night Lee retreated southwest, following the James River. The next day we started after him, and as we marched, we met President Lincoln returning from a visit to General Grant. We stopped and made a place for him to pass. I was very near to him, close to the horse he rode. I looked up into his face as he took off his high hat and smiled at us.
We followed Lee's army. Sheridan's cavalry was keeping along the south side of Lee's army and cutting off all supplies and ammunition. The infantry and artillery were close after him. On Apri1 6th Lee's army made a stand at Saylor's Creek. There was a sharp fight, lasting from 2:00 P. M. until after dark. We captured a division of his troops and some cannon and wagons. It was our last battle, though we did not know it at that time. I lost a dear friend in that fight, Lieutenant Tracy, and in respect to his memory I named one of my sons, Tracy Wood.
We followed Lee close the next day. The way was strewn with things thrown away in their hurry. The next morning Lee's army was met by Sheridan's cavalry. They had cannon planted to sweep the road and a strong force behind them. Grant's army was behind Lee, in such a position that Lee could not get out without fighting. The James River was on his right and he was in a bend of the river. There was no chance for him. The army was unable to go into a battle as they were almost starving. So Lee then surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.
We laid in line of battle that morning every moment expecting an order to advance into battle, but that order never came. We were ordered to stack arms and rest. There were rumors that Lee would surrender. After awhile we saw an ambulance, carrying a white flag going toward Grant's headquarters. When, in surrender, General Lee offered his sword to General Grant, Grant said ''Keep your sword, you will prize it more than I. I have no wish to humiliate you or your army; your officers may keep their side arms, and your men can have all the horses to take home with them to help to put in their spring crops". Grant and his staff rode, among our troops, their horses on a run. Grant was swinging his hat and telling the men the Lee had surrendered. The men began to cheer and fire cannon with blank cartridges. Grant stopped them immediately and said: ''Boys, those poor fellows and starving be quiet while they lay down their arms, and then we will fed them with a part of your rations. Have a good time among yourselves, but do not rejoice." We surely did enjoy ourselves the rest of that day and the most of the night.We were there until the Southern Army was disbanded and sent home. Just as we were marching away on the 15th of April, we received the terrible news that Lincoln had beem assassinated the day before. The grief of the Boys in Blue cannot be described, for they loved him. They marched on, with bowed heads and tear-dimmed eyes. Many threats were heard, as they thought the rebels were responsible for this catastrophe.All of the army was ordered to Washington, except the 6th Corps. We were sent South, because the army under General Johnson had not surrendered. We marched 125 miles and crossed the Roanoke River into North Carolina. The drum corps from our brigade went to the head of the column and we marched through a city, the name of which I have forgotten, forty drummers, eighteen fifers, and five bass drums paraded through the streets playing martial airs, with flags flying. We were showing the people how a Yankee army looked.
Chapter V - OUR RETURN TO WASHINGTON
That evening we received word that Johnson's army had surrendered and we were ordered back to Washington, by way of Richmond. In the city where we were, there were lots of cars and train men so we rounded up a train crew, made them make up a train and take us back one hundred miles toward Richmond. That was as far as the railroad went. From there we marched one hundred miles to Richmond, arriving there in the evening of a very hot day. That night there was a terrible thunder shower. In the morning we were given permission to visit places of Interest in the city. We went in groups, and wherever we pleased. We saw Old Libby Prison, where many of our men had suffered. We went to Belle Island where there were 22,000 Union soldiers' graves. We visited the Capital building and saw the statue of Patrick Henry which stood in front of it, saw the Spottswood Hotel and many other places that interested us. We returned to camp very tired.
We started for Washington the next morning, by way of the Wilderness. We marched through the city of Richmond, and on past beautiful farms and orchards, along a fine road. We were in high spirits. As the day advanced the: sunshine grew warm and by afternoon it was very hot. The dust stirred up by the marching feet made it almost unbearable. Then we marched through a piece of woods which was on fire on one side of the rod; and that made it hotter; then came a long stretch of dusty road and I began to feel faint and dizzy. I saw some shade trees not far ahead and I tried to reach them but I was struck down by the scorching heat. Someone carried me and laid me in the shade. I do not know how long I was unconscious. I laid there until the rear guard; came along and they put me in an ambulance and carried me along until the troops stopped at night, then they took me to my own company. I was some better.
In the morning it was raining very hard, and the troops did not march. By the next morning they could not march for the ground was so soft that the wagons could not be moved. We were there three days. As I was not yet able to march I was allowed to ride with my brother, who drove a team in the wagon train, and thus I reached Washington. The day I had the sun stroke was my last day's march.
One day, as we Were driving across the old battlefield of the Wilderness, we stopped for a noon rest and to eat our hard tack. We saw several human skulls lying around on the ground, probably men who had been killed and never buried.
In a few days we were in sight of that great dome of the Capitol at Washington. What a glorious sight that was, and to know that the war was over. We went into camp at Hall's Hill across the Potomac River and from Washington. After a few days in camp we had our own Grand Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, because the 6th Corps was not in the Grand Review of all the Union armies in the Civil War. However this Corps did not lose any fame by not being in the Great Parade, for the 6th Corps record was well known in Washington. They knew how they stood like a rock in the way of the enemy at Cedar Creek, until General Sheridan, on his famous black steed, arrived from Winchester, twenty miles away.
Neither had they forgotten when the 6th Corps came running from the steamboat landing to meet the foe at the edge of the city. The foe retreated as soon as they saw the emblem of this Corps----a white flag with a large red cross in the center.
General Sheridan loved the 6th Corps and always asked for it in all of his great undertakings. The city of Washington did itself proud in this parade. Cheer after cheer arose, flags were waving, bands were playing, drums were beating (the drum that I now have, seventy years since that day, I beat in that parade) as proudly we marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. As we approached the reviewing stand on which stood all the remaining great Generals of the Civil War, our lines were as straight and our step as perfect as a West Point Cadet. Our uniforms were faded and rent by bullets and our flags had been torn by shot and shell. This too, was a Grand Review.
We returned to camp. Preparations were being made for our release and on or about the 15th of June, 1865, our discharge from the United States service was completed. I received an honorable discharge.
Chapter VI - EN ROUTE HOME
My regiment, the 121st New York, was ordered to turn in our guns and all property belonging to the government and to go to our own home state, New York, and there, at its Capital, Albany, to be paid off and discharged from all obligations to the state.
We started for home, sweet home, the next morning. Oh what a jolly lot of boys we were. We threw away our old coffee pots, fry pans and everything else we did not need. We marched across the Potomac on the long bridge and to the barracks near the depot. They tried to give us three days' rations of hard tack and salt pork, but we just would not have them. The men told them we were done with that kind of food.
At Philadelphia the ladies of the city gave us a wonderful banquet. Oh my! But didn't pie and cake taste good! We traveled in passenger cars this time. We arrived at Jersey City, opposite New York City, at noon. Toward evening we went across to the city. That crossing was a wonderful sight. We had a special boat. In the center of the bow above all, we had our colors O1d Glory--and on each side, the enemy's flags---the stars and bars, that we had captured in battle---seven in number. The shores were lined with people, and how they cheered. When we arrived the police had to hold the crowd back to allow us to land.That evening we took the steamer for Albany and arrived there in the morning. They took us to the barracks, but gave us the privilege to hire board and lodging if we desired, but we must report to the barracks at least once a day. My two brothers and myself secured a place in a private home. We surely enjoyed going about the city and eating real food. We stayed in Albany several days. On the 3rd of July we went, by train, to Herkimer, a town near the camp where our regiment was organized. The next day being the Fourth, we paraded the streets. It was a happy time. How the people crowded the streets to see the men in their faded blue uniforms. We were their own boys. Many came from this town and the surrounding country. This was their regiment that went out 1,040 strong, now numbering about 600. Only sixty of them were of the original regiment that marched away from Herkimer, the rest were recruits, added from time to time. How many had been lost in battle, captured and died in rebel prisons, I cannot tell. At this time, 1934, so far as I know, there is not one of the regiment alive except myself.
I had a tentmate, Henry Cadwell, who lived at Jordanville, New York, who attended the reunions each year and kept in touch with the remaining members of the regiment. He wrote me several years ago, that so far he knew, he and I were the only members living.
He passed away soon after writing this information to me.Referring back to the parade at Herkimer, I will say we were royally treated, and the citizens gave us a banquet. When we broke ranks that night we were never again, all of us, together as an organization. We went back to Albany that night. The next day we were paid off and released from the service.
Chapter VII - OUR HOMECOMING
The next day my brothers and myself took an early train for Herkimer. When we arrived there we hired a man to take us, in a light wagon, to Cooperstown. We reached there about 1:00 P.M. and started to walk home. We left some of our baggage at a store but I carried my drum. It was three miles to our home, but that was no distance for us to walk. We had gone about a mile when I saw a team coming. I watched it a little while and then I said: "Boys, it is Father." He had not yet seen us. Presently he looked up and when he saw three soldier boys, walking side by side, he grabbed the whip and urged the horses to full speed. He came up crying: "Here are my boys." We climbed into the wagon, each trying to see who could get the closest to father. After the tears of joy at the meeting we saw a light in his eye which we are sure had not been there for a long while. It was a gleam of gladness and thankfulness that the boys had come back home safe and as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Even the horses looked around as though they understood that something unusual was happening.
He turned the team around toward home and let them go slowly as he listened to his boys as they talked to him. Father told us he had driven to town three different days hoping to be there when we arrived. We had not been able to tell him the exact date of our return, as that depended upon just how soon we be paid off and given final discharge at Albany.
We took my elder brother, James, home first, to his wife and children. We did not remain to see the meeting, that was too sacred, but we hurried on home. Oh how good the old home looked to me. How often I had pictured it in my mind. I remember once, when I laid down after a battle. Night had come. I was tired, hungry and thirsty. I dreamed I was back home and coming from the fields at supper time. I could see the table set, the white tablecloth, and so much good food. Oh how I did eat. How good it all tasted. I awoke to find it all a dream and I was lying on the ground, still tired, hungry, thirsty, dirty and miserable. This time it was no dream, for with open eyes I saw my home. When we were almost there I saw my own dear mother; she was standing near the house, just beyond a low fence. Before the horses stopped I jumped from the wagon and over the fence and had mother in my arms. What a meeting that was. Today as I am writing of it the recollection of that sacred scene brings tears to my eyes and the overflow drops on the paper and blots my writing. Brother John was there quickly too. This reunion might never have been had it not been for mother's prayers. Every night she asked God to watch over her boys. A mother's faith and prayers saved her sons. Every soldier is a willing witness to the truth that in the fatigue of march, on the lonely picket post and in the fierce storm of battle, the consciousness that the prayers of loved ones were centered upon him was a strong sustaining power and an inspiration to heroic deeds. We went into the house, and oh how nice it did look.
Everything was in readiness for our homecoming. In the evening I took my drum and went out on the lawn and played it. My two sisters, Esther Cook and Emmer Smith, lived about a mile away. They heard the drum and, with their families, lost no time in getting home to see us. Neighbors and friends heard it and they came also. It was a real homecoming. They wanted to hear me play the drum and I beat it until I was very tired.
After they had all gone, a great treat awaited me. I was to sleep in a real bed. I had not slept in one for almost three years. Most of the time I laid on the ground, some times in mud, water or snow. When I was in the hospital a short time, I laid on an iron cot with a blanket under me. A real bed seemed strange to me, but what a wonderful change it was. We appeared to be living in a new world. Everything was so quiet and peaceful; we had been accustomed to the hum of many voices in conversation, plenty of noise, and thousands of men around us. How we did enjoy sitting in a chair at the table. So long we had just been sitting on the ground, taking our food in our hands or eating out of a fry pan or a tin can. We surely did appreciate our citizenship. My first thought then was to procure civilian's clothes, as I was still wearing my soldier's uniform, and it showed the signs of hard usage. I went to the tailors and selected the cloth for a new suit. In fact, I got an entirely new outfit which cost me $160.00. Everything was very high. I had quite a sum of money coming to me when I settled with Uncle Sam and was able to pay for everything purchased. That same day I bought a barrel of flour, which cost $20.00, and took it home for the family's use.
The first Sunday Brother John and I went to Sunday School, in our district school house, there was quite a crowd present. A neighbor, Lyman Smith, introduced us to those assembled, and made a very fine speech, emphasizing the fact that we were real heroes. We were not used to anything like that, and hardly knew what to do or say.
We had to accustom ourselves to the new mode of living and to give our attention to the work on the farm. This did not seem hard to us as we were three strong young men. Brother Oliver, who was not old enough to enlist for service, John and myself, each ready to put his shoulder to the wheel to help father.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History