July 3 — I renewed my march early this morning, with an entirely empty haversack, and I am ashamed to beg, consequently I walked all day without anything to eat except some spontaneous gatherings, such as fruit, berries, and cherries along the wayside. Between Crigglersville and the Blue Ridge I met a lady going to market with some pears. She gave me a dozen of them and as they were not very large I ate the whole dozen while I was talking to her.
I crossed the Blue Ridge to-day, and just little before sunset I struck the farm lands at its western base in Page County. I was then so hungry that I could just make out to tell the truth as I called at a wayside farmhouse for some bread and milk. The kind lady told me to tarry a while, and she set me a good supper, and that was the first square meal that I had eaten for nine months, and the first time that I sat at a table in fourteen months. I took my position without maneuvering and made the attack without any skirmishing, and it proved to be the most successful, pleasant, and satisfactory engagement that I have been in for many weary days. After supper I walked about half a mile, unrolled my blanket and nestled down in a fence corner to spend my last night of outing in this campaign.
Monday, 3d—Reveille sounded at 1 a. m. for the Iowa Brigade, and at 2 o’clock we started for the city, marching down to the wharf for the purpose of escorting General Sherman from the landing to the residence of Mr. Osborne, the editor of the Louisville Journal. The general looks fine; he never looked better to us boys.
Soldiers’ Rest, Chicago, Monday, July 3. We left Kokomo 8 A. M. and had a very pleasant ride through a beautiful country teeming with good crops, etc. The same cordial welcome shown as yesterday. Reached this place 5 P. M. last evening and marched through crowds of inhabitants out to see “the boys coming home”, with a bright new flag proudly floating in the breeze, to the Soldiers’ Rest where we were furnished a splendid supper by the fair ones of Chicago. Slept where we might. I rested on depot platform. Have had another good breakfast, and am impatiently waiting 9 A. M. when the train leaves for Madison, Wisconsin. Captain Simpson has telegraphed for permission to let the boys go home and spend the Fourth.
Home At Last
After almost three years’ absence, I found my valley home at dusk on the third of July, 1865. And what a happy union it was. Father, mother, sisters and brothers, all together. The circle unbroken during the terrible three years that had rolled over us since I parted to try my fate in a soldiers’ camp. The bitter tears of anguish then, were replaced by those of unbounded joy. All the hardships and privations of my campaign were amply repaid at this joyful union.
But three years had brought a change here as well as upon me. The locks of my aged father were considerably whiter than when I left. Mother I was rejoiced to find looking so well. That frail casket which I feared so much could never see this happy day on earth, has retained its vitality to a wonderful extent. Thomas, John, Margaret, Mary, Hannah and Ellen were the same in appearance as when I left, but Jane had grown from a school girl to the full proportions of a woman, and I scarcely could recognize her. The little boys are grown and much changed, but yet the same.
And this is not all the change. I left them without a place to call home, but found them situated in a lovely location, a pleasant house and expanding fields, for which I felt very thankful. But there was no time left for such thoughts that evening. Among other kindnesses I had bread and milk.
2nd. Attended service at the chapel. Mr. Ives preached. A good sermon. I desire to get more religion, more of the love of Jesus. God give me grace to live an earnest, living, though humble Christian.
July 2 — This morning a lady in Gordonsville sent us a bucket of buttermilk, and some six or eight of us had a few crackers left, which we put in the bucket in a sort of joint stock soup company style. After the crackers soaked a while we gathered around the bucket and squatted on the floor and cleaned up the soup in the twinkling of an eye. That was our last soldier meal together.
Soon after breakfast we said farewell, and disbanded, perhaps the last squad of the Army of Northern Virginia. We struck out in various directions, some with their faces turned to southwest Virginia, others to the upper Shenandoah. One man has a good long march to make, as his home is in Braxton County, West Virginia. Two Rockingham men went out on the Standardsville road; I am the only one on the New Market pike. I walked steadily all day, browsed once or twice in a blackberry patch, and about an hour before sunset I passed through Madison Court House, and to-night I am sweetly reclining on my blanket bed in a quiet balmy pine thicket about three miles northwest of Madison Court House.
Fort C. F. Smith, Va., July 2, 1865.
The men like it here, for the duty is much easier. We relieved some of the N. Y. Arty. Three companies are in a barrack, draw rations and mess together. I never felt it so warm. Nearly every afternoon I sit and let the perspiration drop from my chin; a very agreeable occupation. Some of the regts. in our old corps had a row yesterday, refusing to do duty. I don’t know how they came out in the matter. I should like to be with you the coming fourth. I know nothing for us to do but sit still and think of what a good time you are having. We have a fine view of Washington, Georgetown, Chain bridge and the upper Potomac. One man is allowed to visit Washington daily. The boys have got up a new game of cards, played like muggins; but the one that is beaten has to allow the rest to give him three raps each, across the nose; it leaves a very peculiar tingling sensation after the operation and makes any amount of sport. D. has been reduced to the ranks for abusive language. Jerry will tell you about the man the men have been under. We were mustered for pay by Maj. H――1. The men are improving in looks greatly. Putting on our fortification airs now, Sarvy!
Much love to all,
L. Bradley, Jr.
Monday Morning. Had for breakfast one cup of coffee and one slice of bread. I assure you, we fat on the living!
[On July 11 he was 19 years old.—Ed.]
Sunday, 2d—Things are working fine. Company inspection this afternoon. On account of the heat, the men remained in their “ranches” until time for dress parade at 5 o’clock in the evening. We cannot go to the city to attend church without a pass, since there is a brigade guard around the brigade.
Kokomo, Ind., Sunday, July 2. Crossed the Ohio River yesterday about noon, into “God’s country” as the boys call it. Said assertion was rendered true, having a good dinner at the Soldiers’ Home. But when they put us in cattle cars two hours late, to go North, the spirit dampened. Started at, 2 P. M. northward, an extra train, made slow time.
Now we travel through a country never darkened with slavery and rebellion. The contrast was very great. I almost imagined I was transferred into the Elysian fields of mythology. The fields teemed with golden harvest, grain nearly all cut, droves of cattle grazed in rich pastures of tame grass, pretty little children could be seen gathered around district school-houses, and sweet girls appeared in neat calicoes with “nary” a “swab” in their mouths. Above all, we were welcomed. White handkerchiefs are waved enthusiastically from every house and hamlet, stars and stripes were thrown out triumphantly to the breeze as we passed along, each demonstration drawing forth ringing response from the joyous soldier boys. At Henryville an entire school of young ladies turned out to welcome the “extra” train with soldiers, the building being draped with a large flag. At Seymour a great arch had been erected over the railway on which was inscribed “Welcome Home, Brave Soldiers.”
Night soon overtook us now. It was 10 P. M. when we arrived, sleepy and well shaken, at Indianapolis, of which we knew no more than to hastily jump into another string of dirty box cars, and rush on through broken slumbers to Kokomo Junction, where we arrived 5 A. M. Are now waiting for an engine down from Chicago to take us up.
1st. Stayed at home and read most all day. Peck and a friend came down and stayed a few minutes. Ren left yesterday for his sister’s in Ill. Hated to have him go. Am uneasy to get away myself.
July 1, 1865.
Dear Sister L.:—
I send you another “boarder.” The time for distinction of color per se is past. The face you see is the counterfeit presentment of the “American citizen of African descent,” Jefferson Chisum Brown, called for short (or surnamed) Jeff. Mr. Brown belongs to a numerous and highly respected family. The fact that his name is not descriptive of his condition is not uncommon, or at all remarkable. Though he is Brown, he is also “black as the ace of spades.” That is a camp simile, which you will not understand, but it means very black. Mr. Brown’s former residence was Charleston, and he belonged to the aristocracy there. He came over from there with Robert Small on the Planter, and though his trip will be an event commemorated in history, Mr. Brown himself can claim little credit for it, because as he acknowledges—”he didn’t know whar dey was a fotchin’ him to.” Mr. Brown is at present employed as a polisher of metal (cleans the sword) and an artist (handles the boot brush) under the auspices of my friend Burrows.