The rebels retreat

There was no time now to think about anything but trying to stay alive.  As it so often happens in the fast-moving tide of war, the lines of battle shifted, and the Rebels were forced to make a hasty retreat in all directions.   The only men left in the yard were like David, unable to move without some help, or already dead.  The change in sides came so quickly all David noticed was the uniforms went from gray to blue and soon the Union medics were treating his wounds.  He was very happy that the bleeding had stopped on its own.   The mud had caked over the wounds like clay a bandage.  It probably saved his life.  One bulled had went thru his right pant leg leaving a hole.  But the other bulled had hit him in the left knee.  The core man dressed and bandaged his wound, then he got David back on his feet able to walk a little again.

A wounded Civil War soldier resting in a deserted war camp

The Doctor ordered him to be sent to Washington, where under kind treatment he sufficiently recovered to return light duty.   After the rebels were repulsed, David was ordered to the War Department barracks and did duty around the old Capitol Prison, and the Navy Yards Prison, where were confined Mrs. Surratt and other accomplices of Pres. Lincoln’s assassination.

The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United states, was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday, April 14, 1865.  He was attending the play, “Our American Cousin”, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., just as the American Civil War was drawing to a close.  The assassination occurred five days after the commander of the Confederate Army of the Norther Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army of the Potomac.

Lee and Grant meet in McLean front parlor to sign the terms of surrender

Booth’s co-conspirators were Lewis Powell and David Herold, who were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and George Atzerodt who was tasked with killing Vice President Andrew Johnson.  By simultaneously eliminating the top three people in the administration, Booth and his co-conspirators hoped to disrupt the United States government.

From behind Booth shoot Lincoln

As the President was watching the play, Booth shot Lincoln from behind at a distance of perhaps three or four feet, hitting him in the back of the head.  At 7:22 a.m. the following day, Lincoln died in the Petersen House across the street from the theater.

Powell only wounds Seward

The rest of the conspirators’ plot failed; Powell only managed to wound Seward, while Atzerodt, Johnson’s would-be assassin, lost his nerve and fled. Booth made a dramatic escape, resulting in a lengthy manhunt that ended in his death. Several other conspirators were later tried and hanged.

The convicted

The regiment was mustered out of service, and on its arrival in Easton the Colonel shared in the great ovation.  The occasion will long linger in the memory of the survivors.  The pleasure of the reception was greatly increased by the incident of the presentation of a fine sword, the gift of the officers and members of the regiment.

David and the troops boarded the train for Philadelphia and arrived in the city about 9 o’clock that night. Here they got good meals, had wounds dressed, but instead of taking a cot as the rest did, he lay down on the floor. About midnight the fellows commenced getting out of their cots and complaining of backache, took positions on the floor. The beds were too soft for an old soldier. That night and the next morning, the train-load with which they came, was sent to West Philadelphia.  The men, twenty in number, belonging to the 153rd Regiment, requested to be sent to Harrisburg, and their request was granted.  After reporting to general hospital, where they got dinner, they left for Harrisburg, arriving there that night about 9 o’clock. The first thing they looked for was Uncle Sam’s boarding house, known in war time as the Soldiers’ Retreat.

Harrisburg station

There was one corporal in the squad and he was sent to the mess hall  see about supper. He came back and reported that the man in charge said that they could not have supper, because he was expecting a regiment of militia in that night. David’s crowd was composed of twenty men and a corporal.  All the men looked ragged, bloody and dirty.  Some with heads tied up, some with arms in slings, some with crutches and canes.  In fact—they looked as if they had seen service, had been to the front, and this report was not acceptable to any of them.   So, the men held a council of war, and its decision was that they storm the retreat.   There were two or three old pistols and revolvers in the crowd, but none of them were loaded.  The men had no trouble with the guards, for they were on their side.  The guards easily passed them and they got right to the front of the line.

The Kitchen of a Pullman Car

After the group got in a big old fellow made his appearance.  He told them, because they were not properly dressed, they could come so far on one table and no further.  One of the fellows showed him an old revolver and the big man got out of their way. The men ate all they wanted, then retired to look for a place to sleep. David had fully decided to report that gentleman in charge of the Retreat to the governor of the state.  All the men found quarters for the night in a covered portion of the train depot.

Just at daybreak, as David awoke he heard commands, “Fall in.”   The militia had arrived which had been expected the evening before.  He wondered what the mess hall was going to feed them after David’s men ate their meal.   As they marched off you could hear the officers calling, “left, left, left.”   David said in a low voice to the other men, “they’ll find out”.

Union Infantrymen

The men found water behind the depot, took a wash, and curled their hair.  Soon after that a messenger arrived inviting them back to the Retreat for breakfast.  It seems that the cook made an early meal for the militia but they had left before it was ready to eat.   The big old man apologized for his actions the night before.    He said, “I was just a little off boys”.  He took out his jug, that softened their hearts, and they forgave him his sins for his whiskey.

Having a drink

The Colonel joined the men and asked them how they were all doing.  Someone in the back shouted to him, “It’s too hot and dry to talk much, sir”.  The rest of the men were left in uncontrollable laughter.  The Colonel offered to treat the men to a beer.  And with great appreciation all accepted.

A captain said to the Colonel, “There is only one man here left from my company”.  David and the captain were seated at a table.  He went over the list of his men, inquiring after everyone by name.  David could only report to him either killed or wounded.  There were only twelve left of the company after the battles.  The tears rolled down both men’s cheeks.  The doctor returned with arrangements for the men, and they were placed in a hospital on Mulberry Street.

The regiment arrived in Harrisburg on the 17th. The citizens of the town treated the troops to everything to make them comfortable. Then the day came to return home. The first stop was at Reading. Here they were met by a committee from Easton, and they presented each man of the regiment with a badge of honor containing the corps mark, the battles they had been in and the following poem.

We hail the hero’s safe return

To home and friends again

And mourn with tears of sympathy

The gallant patriots slain

A grand welcome

The boys were in fine spirits. The Colors and their Brass Band was on the roof of the car. The next stop was Allentown Junction.  David had informed Captain Stoul that he lived six miles up the valley from the Junction.  He could not walk it and that he had no money. The Captain started through the car to see if he could find twenty cents for David’s fare. He returned with the twenty cents all in pennies.  David told him, “from the looks of the change he must have got all there was”.  He said, “I would not undertake to get twenty cents more out of that crowd”.

David and some of the men got off at the Junction, and by the time he got up to the Allentown station there were about twenty to go up the Lehigh Valley Railroad. They all expected to walk but David, for there was not twenty cents in that crowd, and he had it. But they were fortunate. An old man, his name was Lauhach, learned of their misfortune and bought tickets for all of soldiers. David had been traveling two months without any money in his pocket, and he did not feel safe with twenty cents in the crowd I was in.  The train came along, and they were soon at their destination.

A coal train was passing at the time they arrived.  Being between the station, and the passenger train, and David not wanting to wait, he jumped out on the platform of the car.  To his amazement, on the platform of the depot Stood his mother, sister and two brothers. They were expecting an uncle of his from New York city.  In so little time, the living hell of war had changed David so much they did not recognize him.  They could no longer see the vibrant youth that had jumped on the back of Henry the mule, to ride off and enlist.

The conductor was helping Davie off the train, and his medical tag on his back with his name was turned toward them.  That was all it took, for the joy to see him, and the pain of seeing him, to overcome each of them into tears. No words can describe how glad they were to see each other.  They never said a word about David running away, and going into the army.

David was very happy to be back in his home community among his own people.  He had many relatives living there and indeed everybody made him feel glad to be home again. Here he got square meals and someone to dress his wounds.  They even gave David two clean shirts for, “one on, and one in the wash”.   The one he was wearing had to be held together at the waist with twine.

All the men from the regiment were met with a royal welcome from the good people of that county.  They gave them a fine dinner at the Fair Grounds where beautiful girls waited on the tables.  David personally was very hospitably entertained at the home of a Mrs. Fleming, whose beautiful and patriotic daughter Amanda, took him to her home and treated me like a brother.

Shortly after being mustered out of the army David went west to Illinois.   For a time he boarded with a Mrs. Liab Clark in the Town of Charleston, a former home of Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln’s famous Log Cabin was just out of Charleston and Mrs. Clark was the daughter of Dennis Hanks whom David knew very well from the war.  Dennis had written to him about finding work.

Lincoln’s boyhood home, a log cabin

David got a job on the railroad running from Illinois and Michigan.   While traveling through the states he saw opportunity in the open land cleared by the loggers.  Good farm land was there all you had to do was remove the tree stumps.

Farm land from forest

The earliest lumbering was done by the French in order to build forts, fur-trading, posts and missions. The British, and later the Americans, used Michigan’s hardwoods to build merchant and war ships.  Beginning about 1855, white pine became the most desired tree species by the lumber industry of the Great Lakes states. Navigable rivers and extensive pine forests formed the basis of a flourishing pine industry in Michigan.

The history of trees in Michigan

North of an imaginary line from Muskegon and Saginaw, the pines grew: white, jack and Norway, as well as other conifers. It was the white pine that allowed the heyday of the lumber industry. Many white pines were over 200 years old, two hundred feet in height and five feet in diameter.

Logging white pine in Michigan

Michigan’s pine became important as the supply of trees in the northeast was used.  By 1880, Michigan was producing as much lumber as the next three states combined.

The first area where many mills were built was Saginaw. Six rivers converge to form the Saginaw River which empties into Saginaw Bay and then Lake Huron. The rivers are the Chippewa, Tittabawassee, Cass, Bad, Shiawassee and Flint. Rivers played a very important part for the loggers because the lumber had to be floated to the mills and then to market.

Logs floated on rivers to the saw mills

The first group of people to set up lumbering operations were from New England, especially Maine and New York. The forests there were almost entirely cut, so the owners and experienced crews followed the work. Many felt that the huge forests of Michigan would last for many, many years, yet within a 20-year period, 1870 to 1890, most of the trees were cut.