Richland Co., Ohio


Military Records:  Looking Backward - Reminiscences of Days That Tried Men's Souls

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Robert McFarland


RICHLAND SHIELD & BANNER:  23 May 1896, Vol. LXXIX, No. 2 from a series of articles entitled "Reminiscences Of Days That Tried Men's Souls".


Submitted by Amy


Soon after the battle of Pittsburg Landing our company, with others, was detailed to assist the teams through the swamps and over the hills on the road to Corinth.  Heavy rains had made the roads almost impassable and the wagons being heavily loaded were frequently up to the hubs in the mud.  The mules would become frightened, the drivers excited and the "Old Harry" was to pay generally.  During one of these times of trial for mules and men, Gen. Garfield and part of his staff rode up.  The general saw the trouble at once, dismounted and assisted us to straighten things out.  He spoke kindly to the teamster, told him to go easy and all would be right.

We left the main road thinking to find a better and shorter route, however, nothing but mud and mire were encountered.  On going some ten or twelve miles it became night and we drew up on a side hill to camp in a large briar patch.  Being very tired I threw myself on the ground a few moments before putting up the tents.  While thus resting my brother John, a member of the same company, came to me and said "I am sick".  He dropped down in my arms perfectly helpless.  I immediately saw he had a very high fever, and requesting my mess-mates to assist in putting up the tents, I gathered some poles and stakes, and made him a bed of boughs, up off the ground.  I prepared supper, such as it was, and tried to get the sick boy to eat, but he did not.  All that night he was restless and at times delirious, by morning he could not raise his head.

I attended "sick call" for him and had the doctor to come and see him.  The doctor pronounced it a very severe attack of fever and left some medicine.  Orders then came to march.  We lifted John into an ambulance, and all that morning I remained by my sick brother.  At 2 o'clock we camped in the woods.  I made a sprig bed and lay the boy down.  He was growing worse every hour.  For three days we lay here in camp and the boy was delirious all the time.  Worn out I fell asleep and on wakening John was gone.  On searching I found him in the bushes outside of camp and calling help, he was again placed in bed.  After the first night in the briar camp John remembered nothing till he reached Mansfield three weeks later.  To prevent his getting away thereafter I tied him to my arm with a guy rope when I slept.

At this camp we were blessed with good spring water.  I bathed him twice each day in this clear, cold water and I always will claim it saved his life.

An order then came to have the sick all removed back to Pittsburg Landing, 28 miles, over one of the roughest roads ever made by Uncle Sam.

During the night I could not sleep, wondering what I could do, as none would be allowed to go but the drivers -- and what would they care fore the sick boy among so many?  Only a boy about 17 years old, my youngest brother, to be sent away to die!

In my trouble I called to see our captain, one of the bravest and biggest hearted men that ever lived.  The first thing he said, on hearing my story was "You must go with him, let us see the brigade surgeon."

Off we went to the surgeon's tent.  He gave us a bluff as only red tape can do.  Our Captain would not stop there.  "We will go and see Gen. Garfield" he said.

We found Garfield in front of his quarters.  He greeted us with a pleasant smile and the captain introduced me to him and told the sad story, that the boy could not live many days and had been too good a soldier to die uncared for.

General Garfield looked at me and said "I believe all the captain has told me is true.  I have no authority to give, but will say this:  You go with your brother and see him safe to the landing, and further, if you think best and should trouble come from it your captain and I will stand by you."

The great, noble Garfield.  I could have wept for joy!

Well, we put John in an ambulance along with another sick soldier from Company I;  neither could raise his head and both given up to die.

About 8 o'clock we started, you can imagine my feelings as we jolted along over logs, roots and chuck holes.

Night came and found us two and one-half miles from the landing, on the battlefield, where the road was lost.  A big battle obliterates everything, even the roads.  The night was dark and the teamster unhooked his horses and left me alone with the sick boys.  The stench from the battlefield was terrible and I passed the night amid the groans of my comrades and could only pray that they would live till morning.

The teamster came about 7 o'clock and at 8 we reached the landing.

Boats were very numerous along the shore and I saw one with a streamer "For Cincinnati" so I went aboard.

I have forgotten the name of this steamboat.  I remember the thought came to me that this boat would carry the sick boy as near home as was possible for me to arrange.  I took a look around at the different wards and at the nurses.  At last one seemed to meet my approval and I thought I could trust him.  He was a young man.  I spoke to him and asked where he was from:  He said he was a Cincinnati boy.  I told him I had two very sick boys I wanted to trust to his care.

He helped me to carry them aboard and in the bunks.  I asked for water and gave each boy a good bath.

Then I said to the nurse "This boy is my brother and here is $10, two five dollar bills.  I have put one of these bills in his pocket with a letter saying, if this boy falls into your hands please send the telegram attached hereto at once, this I have pinned to a five dollar bill.  The other five is in an envelope, which is for you or to get extras for these sick boys."  The nurse gave me his word that he would do the best he could.

I then kissed my little brother goodbye and left the boat.  I had done all I could and never expected to hear of his recovery.  I hastened back to join my regiment on its way to Corinth.  

What I tell now I learned afterward.  These two boys were put ashore at Evansville to die.  It would be useless to carry them further, as they could not possibly live to reach Cincinnati.  Where they were landed there, were kind-hearted women ready to assist the boys in blue.

That letter, with that five-dollar bill, was found pinned in my brother's vest pocket.  The dispatch was sent to Mansfield at once and in less than 30 hours from the time the delirious boy was put ashore to die, a doctor from Mansfield was at his side.  He was brought here and was kept three weeks at this doctor's house and nursed back to life.

On recovery he returned to his regiment, was wounded at the battle of Chicamauga [sic.], taken prisoner and remained in a southern prison pen until the war closed.

The sick boy was John McFarland, now living on the old McFarland homestead farm near Lucas.  The doctor was Dr. Herrick, who died some years ago.  The captain was Samuel L. Coulter, afterwards a major, who is also dead.  

-- Robert C. McFarland

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