Chapter XIII -- Deserted by the Army

I had been somewhat afflicted with rheumatism before leaving Florence and on the first day's march my right lower limb became painfully swollen and gave out; in the night I reached camp and the next morning started out with my company again. It was not long before we entered a long lane.

Before leaving Florence all those having no blankets had been supplied with one single blanket, one coarse shirt and one pair of light khaki cotton pants which had been reinforced by a pair of gray woolen of English manufacture. In receiving our pants we were formed in line and as we marched by a Quartermaster's tent a pair was handed to us regardless of size or length. I suppose the pair that I received had been made for a fat Englishman, large in waist and short in height, and I could effect no exchange. As I said, mine were too short; I being small in waist and six feet and four inches in height, my pants made a ludicrous fit. The jacket I drew, like my pants, was large around, but short.

Standing in that lane and waiting for the artillery and wagons to pass across a boggy creek, the ground hard-frozen, and the wind blowing hard and cold from the north, my pants lacking six inches of reaching my shoes, so for lack of suspenders I had to cut holes in the top of my pants so as to lap them over and keep them up. My jacket and pants failed to meet in the middle of my body by a good four inches.

Imagine me, if you can, in that garb, standing there without fire and that cold north wind striking that thin waist line, and my naked ankles. That evening I told our regimental surgeon that I could walk no further. He said that they did not have any conveyance for the sick and disabled and that I would have to look after myself.

One of my company went to a farm house not far from the road and stayed with me that night, our command having passed on ahead of us. The next morning I was unable to walk and my friend was forced to leave me and follow up the command. After staying one day at this place I made it to another house and stayed all night, having travelled eight miles that day. The people I stayed with at the second house were Union people but as I was on my way home, they talked free to me and told me that my old friend's son where I had been staying was the Captain of a company of Bushwhackers. I stayed at this house a few days longer and again started for home but when I reached the Tennessee river it had risen considerably and was very rough. I tried to hire a man living on the bank to set me over, but he refused. I went up the river to a house and tried another man, but he also refused. I offered him a ten dollar Confederate bill and my four dollars in greenback that I had received for my blanket, but he still refused, giving as a reason that the river was too rough. I started back down to the lower house and seeing the dugout tied under the bank among the bushes, I went down and loosed this boat and pushed out. All went well for a short time, then my strength failed and for a time I let the craft drift. It drifted toward the west bank and when I felt rested enough I commenced to paddle to shore, landed and tied up the dugout, climbed up the bank and found myself in the burying ground of an Indiana regiment. I knew by the headboards that I was near the Shiloh battlefield.

It was now raining a cold, steady rain and I knew of no shelter near. Taking a course as best I could for where the old church had once stood I set out to find the place. I neared the place where I expected to find evidence of where the old church had been, but everything had a strange appearance. After walking for some time I came upon a camp with a lone woman present and she told me that her husband was out on a hunt for provisions. She pointed out to me the hill where the old church had once stood. When I reached the spot and looked around for a moment everything became more familiar and I found that I had been travelling in a circle and had passed near the place a time or two before. I fell into an old road that I had once been familiar with. It was still raining and dark had come on and I was still seven miles from home. Though somewhat obscured by clouds, the moon gave some light and between midnight and day, the boy that my mother heard was dead, rapped on her door.

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