I was eight years old when the Civil War began. The first event that I remember in connection with the war was our teacher's dismissing school one day so that we might go over to the public road to see the Union soldiers. I suppose there were at least a regiment of these troops, if not more. As I had never seen soldiers before, their fine appearance as they marched by, dressed in their uniforms, with their guns, bayonets, drums, and full military equipment, made a lasting impression on my childish mind.
At the beginning of the war, my father wished to move from the State where we were then living. Missouri was a slave State and he knew that there was trouble ahead. Perhaps father would have had his way, had not God shown mother in a dream that he would protect us, and that we would be as safe in Missouri as in any other place. Subsequent events proved that we did well to obey God, for none of our stock or property was taken. The deaths of my brother and sister were the most severe trials through which we had to pass.
In January, 1862, the Federal soldiers again came to our neighborhood and camped near the same place where I had first seen them; but, at this time, the scene excited in me entirely different emotions. Snow was on the ground; the weather was very cold; and the soldiers took rails and made a large bonfire to keep themselves warm. The sky was lit up with the flames, and to me, in my nervous condition, the scene was frightful.
That same evening some of the soldiers went down to our little town (then called Belmont, afterwards Windsor), brought back to the camp with them the hollow trunk of a tree containing a swarm of bees, and laid it down to take out the honey. Mrs. Hammond, the wife of our nearest neighbor on the east, who lived but a short distance from the camp, thinking that they were planting a cannon, became frightened and came over to our house with her two little children. She was afraid there was going to be a battle, and sought our house as a place of safety. She wanted to stay all night. Father pitied her; and in spite of the fact that the children were sick with diphtheria, he felt that he could not turn her out.
Thus we children were all exposed to diphtheria; and as my nerves were in such a bad condition, and as I was greatly frightened because of the news from the camp and the presence of the sick children, I was the first victim of the disease. The next to take it was my sister Katherine. Just before she took her bed, she got her feet wet, and therefore had the disease in a very malignant form. The doctor who was caring for her, assured us that she was better, but he told some of the neighbors that she could not live until morning. We did not know that she was seriously ill until Father, who was sitting up with her that night, said, |Katy, it's time to take your medicine.| There was no answer; her gentle spirit had taken its flight.
The thought that my sister was dead was almost more than I could endure. The thought that she was gone into eternity, that I would never meet her again in this world, almost broke my heart. I wept for hours at a time. I would sit beside my mother weeping and wondering why my sister had been taken. It seemed that I could never forgive the doctor for deceiving us; and I think I never did fully forgive him, until the time when God pardoned my sins and gave me a forgiving spirit. Dear little sister Katherine! She was twelve years and six months old when she died. She was an unusual child -- patient and kind -- was never known to disobey her parents, and was loved by all.
The other members of the family took the diphtheria one by one, until all but my father and one brother had this awful disease. Some of us were sick for nearly two months and during this time none of the neighbors, except Daniel Douglas, our nearest neighbor on the west, came to lend any assistance. He came over and sat up a part of every other night when the sick ones were at their worst, and needed the most care. Even the woman who brought the disease to us refused to help, until she was compelled to do so by Mr. Douglas; and then she only helped to prepare Katherine's body for burial. It certainly was a sad time. Even nature seemed to cast a gloom over everything -- much sleet fell, and everything had a dismal appearance.
It was during the war and sometime before Katherine's death that Mr. Hammond used to cross our orchard going to and from his work. One day Father said to one of the Hammond children, |Come over and get some apples to eat|; to which the child answered, |Oh, Papa brings us all the apples we want to eat. He gets them out of your orchard.|
One day while my brother Harvey was passing through the orchard, he saw an apple caught in the fork of two limbs. Supposing that the apple had fallen from the tree and accidently lodged there, he ate it, and soon began to feel very sick. The doctor found upon examination that the boy was suffering from strychnine poisoning. From remarks that had been dropped, we thought we knew that a certain neighbor had poisoned the apple and that he had done it for spite. A visitor at our house remarked that she feared that the Union soldiers, who were then encamped near her home, would in their absence from home, get the strychnine they had bought for the rats and poison their meal or their water before they got home again. My brother suffered from the effects of the strychnine he had taken for a number of years before he fully recovered.
The husband of the woman of whom I have just spoken was a soldier in the Southern army. One time while he was out foraging, he went into a Union woman's house and asked for a pie. Finding out that she had her pies hidden under the puncheon floor, he raised a plank and proceeded to help himself. The woman, seeing her opportunity, threw the plank onto his neck and jumped on the plank. The man got a furlough, came home, and was confined to his bed for some time. It was reported about the neighborhood that he had a spell of fever.
The woman who brought the diphtheria to us sought our house as a place of refuge, because the house being |low and in a low place| the cannon balls would pass over it. After the Lord saved me, this incident came to my mind as a lesson in humility. |Low and in a low place.| If we as God's servants keep humble and in a low place, the enemy may hurl his darts and shoot his cannon balls: they will go over us and will not harm us. If we don't want to be disturbed or crippled by the enemy of our souls, we should keep low at the feet of Jesus where he can continually shelter us. |He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.|
Some time after these events the Southern soldiers, commonly known as |bushwhackers,| came into our neighborhood and camped in the woods. One evening as it was growing dusk, my oldest sister and the one next older than I went after water to a well half way between our house and the house of our nearest neighbor on the west. From this well both families used water. The girls had to go down a steep hill to get to the well; and as they came back to the brow of the hill, they found our dog lying dead. While the girls were at the well, the soldiers had no doubt killed the dog with a club, as no one heard a gun fired. My sisters went home with the water and then went back to investigate; they wanted to be sure that it was our dog that had been killed. They heard men in the brush near the place where the dog was lying, and being very young and not realizing their danger, they talked rather loudly and boisterously, saying that if they could see the men in the brush, they would shoot them with their fingers. The crackling in the brush indicated that the men were very near.
That night a large number of these bushwhackers entered our neighbor's house and stole bonds, notes, and clothing estimated to be worth [USD]2000. Mr. Douglas had just been to Sedalia, where he had procured a good supply of clothing. The soldiers pointed Mr. Douglas's own gun, which had never been known to miss fire before, at his head; but it failed to go off. Our house was not molested. The next day these same men caught one of Mr. Douglas's boys, made him take off his shoes, hat, and all his other clothing, except his underwear, and turned him loose. In this condition, he had to go about a quarter of a mile before reaching home.
It was probably some time after these events that the bushwhackers came to our house and wanted Mother to cook a meal for a dozen men. Mother was hardly able to be out of bed, but my sister Mehala, thinking that they were Union soldiers, said, |Mother, I can cook for them.| |Well, Mehala,| Mother said, |if you can, you may go ahead.| Mother helped all she could. They baked two large pones of corn-bread in the oldfashioned fireplace and fried plenty of fresh beef. Although the soldiers had ordered food for a dozen men, only two of them came. One of them took the provisions and the other guarded the house until he thought we would have no chance to report them. Then they went to the home of a neighbor and with much bad language said that Mother was Union and therefore pretended to be sick and did not want to cook for them.
During the war, things we had to buy were very high and things we had to sell brought only a trifle. Father sold corn to the Union soldiers for 25 cents a bushel. In imagination I can see the government wagons coming to haul the corn away to their camp. The beds of the wagons were somewhat like those used today, only they sloped outward on either side until they would hold more than twice as much as our ordinary farm wagons.
At that time, flour cost [USD]10.00 and upward, a barrel, calico from 35 to 45 cents a yard, and cotton yarn from [USD]9.00 to [USD]11.00 a bunch. This quantity of yarn would make only about 25 yards of jeans. Mother did her own spinning and weaving until some years after the war. We sheared our own sheep, washed and picked the wool, and sent it to the carding machine, where it was made into rolls. Then Mother and my older sister, who was nearly grown, spun the yarn and wove it into jeans and linsey, and also into flannel and blankets. Mother made all the clothing for the family -- underwear, pants, vests, coats, and even overcoats. I well remember the old loom and spinning wheel and the little wheel on which I used to quill for my sister while she wove. Small as I was, I had learned to knit. I knit mittens for the soldiers, for which I got 50 cents a pair at Sedalia, the nearest army post, twenty miles away.
In the early part of the war Father was a militiaman. At one time he came very near being accidently killed in his own orchard by some of his own men. Some Federal soldiers who were passing came into our orchard, and seeing Father at a distance, thought he was a Southerner. Father, seeing his danger, started to run; but one of the soldiers who was near enough to recognize him, cried, |Cole, don't run or they'll shoot you|; but Father thought he said, |Cole run or they'll shoot you.| Finally they got him to understand what they meant, and his life was saved.
I am not sure how near to our home actual fighting occurred. There were no battles fought nearer than Lone Jack. A number of our neighbors, however, were shot down in their own dooryards by those of the other side. One of our neighbors who favored the South but who was willing to be anything for the sake of safety, got fooled three times in one day. When the Confederate soldiers came along, he thought they were Federals and professed to be a Union man; and then when the Federal soldiers came by he thought they were Confederates and told them he favored the South. When his own men came by again, they took his property because he had lied to them. His wife followed the soldiers pleading, begging, and crying, until they gave up the property. In his case, lies did not prove to be a satisfactory refuge.
At Cole Camp, about twenty-five miles from our place lived some Germans -- good honest people, who had worked hard and had gotten quite a bit of property together. These thrifty farmers were not disturbing either side, but some men around Windsor, who called themselves |Home Guards,| went down to Cole Camp, killed these inoffensive Germans, stamped their heads with their boot-heels, took all of their goods that they could carry away, while the poor wives were begging for the lives of their companions. Then these miscreants returned to Windsor and divided the spoil. One of my brothers, a mere boy, who was working for one of the |Home Guards,| overheard his employer quarreling with another man over the division of the booty.
Before the |Home Guards| started on this raid, a preacher named Pierce, of the M. E. South denomination, prayed for their success. After their return, my father overheard him and one of the raiders talking. Father overheard this man tell Pierce that his brother had killed nine Germans and stamped them on the head with his boot heel. Upon hearing this the preacher, throwing back his head, laughed heartily. He seemed to enjoy the story very much. Up until this time Father was a member of the M. E. South denomination; but after overhearing this conversation he no longer professed to be one of them. It has often been remarked that war makes men wicked; but Mother used to say that usually the wickedness was in the men already and that war merely gave them a chance to put their wickedness on exhibition. Boys, of course, were especially demoralized by soldier-life, coming in contact as they did with so many wicked influences.
In the early part of the war, both Father and my second brother, John, joined the militia, which was later disbanded. Before the war closed, Father reached his 45th year and after that was too old to go as a soldier. John was quite patriotic and wanted to enlist for regular service. Nevertheless, he and my oldest brother went to Illinois to attend school. When they started, Mother said, |John, don't enlist in the army any more.| |Mother,| he answered, |I won't unless they draft me; but if they draft I will volunteer, for I don't like the treatment of a drafted soldier.|
Soon a rumor came that a draft was to be made, on purpose, I suppose, to |beat up| volunteers. So to avoid being drafted, my brother volunteered. He had been exposed to the measles shortly before his enlistment, but supposed that when he joined the army he would get a furlough for at least twenty days. He was disappointed: next day they got marching orders. He took the measles, had to go out on duty when not able, took cold, and soon died with congestion of the lungs. His body lies in the soldiers' graveyard at Chattanooga, Tenn.
About the year 1894, I think, while my youngest brother and I were out in gospel work, the Lord greatly burdened my heart to pray for Mother's support. My brother and I were supposed to help provide for her; and at this time Mother was especially in need, although I did not know it. The Lord showed me that I should save up what I had on hands for Mother's support until I should reach home, and that if I did not I would feel very sorry.
I did as God directed. When I reached home, Mother began to tell me of the poor crops and other drawbacks and what a hard time they had had. I told her I was glad to see that she had salvation, even if she did not have much of this world's goods, for I had seen many people with much of this world's goods, but with no experience of salvation, and they were in worse condition than she. I was still burdened to pray the Lord to supply Mother's needs; not only for the present, but while she lived.
When, after about three weeks' visit at home, I started again in the gospel work, I gave Mother all the change I had to spare. As I did so, she looked at me with tears running down her cheeks and said, |Mary, I don't want to take this; the cause needs it so badly.| |Mother,| I said, |you are a part of the cause.| She laughed and cried but took the money. Shortly after this I got a postal card from my brother at home, saying that he had news from Washington, that Mother had been granted a pension because of my brother John's death during the Civil War. For three years she had been trying to get this pension and had about given up hope of ever receiving it. Mother received [USD]400.00 back pension and [USD]12.00 a month for the remainder of her life. The Lord showed me that my prayer was answered for Mother's support, and the burden left me.