Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On the Homefront-Sarah's Memories of the War of the Rebellion

Sarah Warriner Hamilton, my great-great grandmother, was born in March 1843 in Greenville, Illinois. Her mother died three weeks after giving birth to twins when Sarah was no more than 5 years old.

Sarah attended Montbello College at Alton, Illinois and taught school for a number of years. According to a family history, Sarah could have been an author if time had permitted. She wrote a number of short stories and also wrote the lyrics to a hymn after hearing a sermon on John 3:1-2. It's called "My Advocate" and I'm pleased to have a copy if it. I look forward to having my son learn it.

It is my understanding that Sarah kept a journal. I have yet to locate it in its entirety, but have a copy of a few pages that capture her reminiscences of the Civil War. Enjoy

Part of a writing by Sarah Warriner Hamilton Osgood

To go back to the time, when our boys marched away. I am surprised now, when I remember the erroneous ideas, we entertained (that as we young people), of war. We supposed they would be taken right to the seat of war, in a very few days, and lined up in battle, and that all was needed, to make soldiers out of them was a “suit of blue” a sword and gun; little dreaming of the days of drill and dull routine of camp life, they must go thro(ugh) ere they are ready to meet the foe.

So when it came to pass our soldier boys found themselves settled in camp, not far from home, our hearts began to settle back into their normal condition; and life to move on in something of the old routine, only we missed them so. Buying, and selling. Sowing, and reaping, must still go on, tho hearts are breaking.

Now our boys are sent to the front, their furloughs become fewer, life takes on more, and serious phases, varied with letters from the front, and now and then a visit, of a few days from someone of them.

One, what a happy go-lucky fellow he was—and such extravagant stories he told of life on the Gun Boat Fleet on the Mississippi river. While he was at home he conceived the happy idea of taking all his girl friends to the artists-for their pictures to take back with him. There must have been near a dozen, who, sat for a picture. Between two of the prettiest, he managed to seat himself. They had on those ugly shaker bonnets, the fashion of that time. I could not see the roguish face, trying to peer into the demure face of the girl on his left. It made a very comical picture indeed. After he returned to duty he wrote what fine parties they had, with the girls’ pictures in places of honor. He was another of the heroes that died.

I was in the long, long funeral train, that bore him to his last resting place. I heard the ministers voice as in a dream say, his sun has set while it is yet day.

As the stress of those days grew upon us my father, (than whom a greater Patriot never lived), grew haggard, and old, fast. His great anxieties, for his country, caused him sleepless nights. One incident will take to illustrate his tender heart, for the soldiers. It was during the early days of the war, that the papers chronicled the event, of a young soldier found asleep, while on duty and sentenced to be shot. We all felt greatly exercised over it, but, particularly so, was my father. I never shall forget how earnestly he prayed for the life of that young soldier; as tho he were his own boy. And when news came of the reprieve, there was at least, one heart, full of gratitude.

With what intense anxiety we all awaited news, from the front; and especially if a battle were imminent. In order to facilitate the spreading of the news, a tall flagstaff was raised in my uncle’s yard, in sight of all the county about. Whenever there was news received of a battle the flag was run up. If won by Union forces, it proudly floated from the top of the staff; but if the Union suffered a defeat, then it was run up at half mast. How the whole region watched, for the sign of that flag, and could hardly wait the return of the swiftest messenger, to learn the particulars. Were any of our boys in the engagement? Were they killed or wounded? Were questions we tremblingly asked ourselves. And when our brothers were finally engaged with the enemy, and received severe wounds, and came home to us, we began to feel somewhat relieved from the pressure borne so long.

And so the weary months rolled on, the sky growing darker. And then, the clouds began to lift a little, and then to roll away, and Peace has come again. Our old friend, the flag, that has been a sign, to us all thro(ugh) these trying days---now floats from the summit, we fondly said, never to be raised at half mast again, and we are wild, wild with joy.

But how soon, as our joy turned into mourning. Only a few days, and our flag is floating, at half mast again for our beloved Lincoln lies dead. Dead, did they say? We cannot will not believe it, and that was the way we felt in those dreadful days.

Well my butter has come.

1 comment:

  1. Tonya, Thank you for including this is one of my favorites, and I have shared it with many classrooms here in Cottage Grove, Oregon. In fact I am helping out in an 11/12th grade American History class this school year and we are currently looking at the history of the Civil War and Lincoln's presidency and assassination. I read this to two classes today! Thank you for your hard work and dedication. Love You, Aunt Carol