14 - HOME AT LAST
It was Saturday night when we arrived in Warren. The day we left Annapolis I wrote my folks at home announcing our departure for home. After my escape from Andersonville a report was circulated that I had been killed by the bloodhounds, so it was arranged to hold my funeral services in Warren the Sunday following my arrival home. My wife got my letter Friday night which proved that I was still in the land of the living. But she hadn't succeeded in notifying our relatives and friends in the country of the fact. So I found that I was just in time to attend my own funeral. But the rather gloomy affair was averted though the country people had come for that purpose. We have all sung "home, sweet home", but there are many who have realized the great truth of it as we did, who returned from Andersonville prison. Though of course we hadn't roamed through any palaces and awed by the grandeur of such, which often creates a feeling of homesickness.
I was soon pressed into service on the lecture platform but without any definite remuneration, however, I shall never forget the kindness of our friends at that time. They all, from miles around, filled the house with good things to eat and piled up fuel.
The sad, sad, thing that fell to me to do was telling the fathers and mothers of how, and where, their brave boys died in Andersonville. Out of the twenty one of our Company captured, only seven came out of Andersonville alive. Among those who lost his son were a husband and wife whose only son, a fine noble fellow of eighteen years of age, lost in the fight with scurvy and diarrhea. My heart was nearly breaking as I tried to tell them of the death of their only child, but suddenly my whole being was shaken with horrified surprise and indignation when the father, after a moment of quiet thought, calmly said "well it served him right, we didn't want him to go at all". He said this without a trace of remorse. I thought for a moment that I hadn't heard right, but in a few moments after collecting myself, I looked around for something to throw at the heartless wretch. Seeing a loose stone lying near on the street, I ran to it, picked it up, and readied to throw it, but by this time the man was beyond my reach, running with all of his might. My heart ached for the poor, almost inconsolable, mother. The father was a Copperhead of whom there were a good many in the vicinity - mostly New Englanders, strange to say.
It was not always the Yankees who were the best patriots by any means. While the Irish objected to risking there lives to free the "damned niggers", yet they were amongst the best soldiers we had. One, Pat Flanery, a railroad boy of about twenty three years of age, of our Company, was the tidiest, humblest, and one of the bravest of the whole Regiment. The poor fellow was scalded to death in Richmond while preparing his rat soup to eat. Two ruffians shoved into him and upset his kettle of boiling soup on his face and chest - he died in three days.
I was asked to relate our experiences by speaking in schoolhouse's in the country where the audience was more than the house could contain. The windows were open so that I might be heard further in that way. My talks were confined mostly to our experiences in the prisons. The night I spoke in one large hall, people came from a distance of twenty five miles. These people had boys or fathers in our Regiment.