When I was a small child there were several older folks in town who purely mesmerized me with their recollections of Civil War days, and I truly treasure those tales of long ago times. How I wish my friends and relatives could have been foresighted enough to have written some of their experiences to share with later generations. Not reports of the major battles, you understand, for such dull records have lived, and in all probability will continue to live on, in our social studies books.
Some educators feel the sole purpose of such detailed accounts is to drive young, historically challenged students out of their minds. But wouldn't the trials of the common soldiers and their day-to-day living problems, foraging for food, surviving in prison camps and that sort of thing be fantastic supplementary reading for a history class? That would be especially true if someone in the student's family background had written in stories.
If I had the money I would be willing to bet it that such reading would take the boredom out of studying the Battle of Wilson Creek.
I can give you a personal example. When I was teaching school one of my students brought a copy of a letter written by one of his ancestors during the War for Southern Independence. It was from a young soldier who had been sentenced to hang, along with several companions, in retaliation for some offense not of their making.
Before their execution the young men were given a few hours to make their peace with God and write a last letter home to their families detailing what was to take place. What a wonderful letter his was! Not in the least bitter or vengeful but full of hope and encouragement for the family he was forced to leave.
Needless to say, I always read that letter to my social studies class during our study of that time period, and I really seemed to impress them because I always got misty-eyed and choked up. I think they were a bit awed that Old Lady Bennett (one of the kindest names they had for me) was human enough to cry.
My good friend Elsie has been sharing stories with me about her grandfather and his account of being imprisoned on Ship Island after being captured by the Federal troops. When hostilities ceased, he was released and started home by way of a Yankee wagon which also served as a conveyance for many, many sacks of shelled corn. The Yankee plan was for the grain to be used as feed for the livestock of the army of the North, but such was not to be.
Indeed, no! Elsie's grandpa, as his last contribution to the Lost Cause, surreptitiously slit the bottom side of each and every sack, thus allowing the corn to trickle out through the cracks of the wagon bed. Can't you just see all the pigs and chickens in the countryside following such a steady stream of golden grain?
But the end of the first day that whole wagonload of corn had seceded from the Union!