Madison, Tuesday, July 18. The rolls have returned with Lieutenant Colonel Giddings’ (mustering officer) signature annexed, and the military tie which bound us together as the 6th Battery has ceased to exist.
10 A. M. we assembled once more and in the yard in front of Captain Simpson’s office, in the city of Madison, signed the final pay rolls, and received the much-coveted scrip “Discharge”, bearing date of July 18. “Mustered out of United States service on the 3rd of July”. It was not an hour of noisy demonstration, but happiness too sweet for utterance prevails, the emotion of thankfulness filling the dullest breast, “Free! Free!” was the exclamation of many as they became possessors of the prizes.
But to me it brought many dark and serious thoughts to mind. Yes, free, but for the first time in my life I am my only dictator as to what course to pursue. Have arrived at age with life’s issue fairly before me, and undecided what course to pursue. Inclination and duty seem strangely at variance. The importance of such questions is almost oppressive. But I must strive to attain the highest good that lies in my power. The dictates of conscience shall be my guide. To-night I retrace my steps to my quiet valley home. The many tender ties which bind me to my comrades of the march, battle and camp, are more than likely forever broken on this earth. And the diary which I have kept unbroken is hereby ended with the end of my service, having lived two years and eleven months in the service of my country. Three of the best years of my life have been lost to self-instruction, and the plans and hopes of my childhood have been ruthlessly toppled down, but the time has not been lost. I have no regrets for the way it has been spent. My prayer is that the remainder of my life may be as usefully spent. So, dear Diary, good-bye!
Madison, Monday, July 17. According to orders the 6th Battery was once more together in Madison by 2 P. M. anxious for the final action which places each upon an equality with the other. But disappointment appears to be the rule; to-morrow, 10 A. M., is the time.
Spring Green, Thursday, July 13. Have been on a two days’ visit amongst my old associates of Spring Green. Was to go in to Madison from there for my discharge, but they are not ready now till Monday. So it goes. I am going into the harvest field to work.
Mazomanie, Wis., Monday, July 10. Another family load of us attended the Equescurriculum [circus] at Mazomanie, intending to go into Madison in the evening, but word was sent that they don’t want us till the 13th.
Madison, Thursday, July 6. In accordance to orders I reported at Madison in company with Sister Mary and Brother John. Found an officer with great difficulty and was told that I was not needed until the 11th.
Spring Green, Tuesday, July 4. A happy day to the happy family. Fourteen of us filled the old family wagon and crossed the river to Spring Green where I met several of my Battery chums. A pleasant picnic passed off here for the benefit of the soldier boys. It was great gratification to know that our old friends welcomed us home so cordially. I read the Declaration of Independence and Reverend Phillips addressed.
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.
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.
Soldiers’ Home, Louisville, Ky., Saturday, July 1. 7 A. M. We have completed another ride in the dark, of 183 miles. Rode in second-class passenger cars, very crowded, and no sleep. Have had a splendid breakfast (for soldiers) at the Soldiers’ Home. Served in a manner which reminds us very forcibly that we are nearing civilization. Officers are working for the boys handsomely, will try to get us off 5 A. M. This hall is a musical one just now; four of the batteries, light artillery —all going home.
Louisville Depot, Nashville, Friday, June 30. Before dawn this morning Davie Evans and myself were aroused from a heavy sleep to go and watch the corpse of F. King. The body lay in an old freight car covered with coarse sacks. By it sat his brother Fred, the only mourner, writing the sad tidings to their dear ones, whose hearts are bounding in anticipation of the joyful meeting. Oh, how uncertain are human joys. One moment of time often turns the brightest picture into a painful blank. 9 A. M. we started in search of a coffin. Returned at 10:30 A. M. with a rough board one, and the undertaker took charge of it; his brother even, not allowed to see the cold clay close over him.
In the meantime the Company had gone into the exchange barracks a mile distant. Faint for want of breakfast we followed and procured a good substantial meal, which answered for both breakfast and dinner. Captain Simpson reported as ordered to General Thomas. Received instructions to return the detached men to their command. The 3rd to proceed with us to the States; the 8th boys must go back to Murfreesboro, a disappointment to them. Transportation procured. We expect to leave for Louisville 7:50 P. M. The 1st Illinois and Battery E, 1st Ohio, to go along. All are much pleased with our good luck in getting off so soon. Nashville is the same as ever, a low-down, demoralized hole.