ADVENTURES IN REBELDOM.
*We copy from the Lyons, (Iowa) Mirror, the following account of a young man formerly from Vermont, but now of the 6th Wisconsin infantry, in a letter to his mother, soon after the battle of Gettysburg.
Dear Mother: (Sophia Smith)
I suppose yon have been waiting long and anxiously to hear from me. This is the first chance I have had to write since the battle of Gettysburg. I was not wounded but was taken prisoner the first day of the fight. It is a long and tedious story, so I will not give the full details, only enough to show what I have been through since the first of July. There were some two or three thousand prisoners in all; we were kept on the battlefield in rear of the rebel army until after the fight was over and they retreated to the Potomac. Then we were marched to the river by way of Waynesboro and Hagerstown. We crossed the river at Williamsport on the 9th, and took the road , for Staunton. I had lost my shoes soon after I was taken, so I had to march barefoot. They gave us but little to eat. I sold my watch for thirty Confederate scrip, but it did not last long for I had to pay such prices for everything. I paid as high as four dollars for half a peck of flour. I had three comrades, so my money did not last long. At Winchester I cut my foot on a piece of glass: it was very painful but I had to keep up with it. We reached Staunton on the 18th, after a march of one hundred and fifty miles. Staunton is 127 miles from the Potomac. It is needless to say that we were weak from hunger, tired and foot sore. From Staunton we were to be sent to Richmond. They sent them all off but 800 of us, and they, told us that they were going to put us on Belle Island; the others they were going to parole and send back. I came to the conclusion that I would not go to Bell Island, so I, with my two comrades, formed a plan to effect our escape. We heard that our lines were at Front Royal, about 75 miles distant, and we thought we could make the trip if we could only get away from the guard; so on the 27th we traded around and got nine or ten crackers apiece and at night we watched the guard to find a chance to get out. About eleven o'clock at night I found one of the guards asleep; I went and told my two comrades to follow me us quietly as possible. We got out past the guard all right, and then struck for the Blue Ridge on the east side of the Shenandoah. We traveled nights and laid still daytimes, never venturing into a road. We reached the mountains on the 30th, and then we followed down the east side of the river. Whenever we heard any one coming we would lay down in the brush or behind a fence. We passed right through a rebel cavalry camp one night, and I crawled up within two or three rods of one of their fires where a crowd were sitting, to see if I could hear anything about where our men were. I could learn nothing, so I crawled off und passed out amongst their horses into the woods. About this time our bread gave out, and we had to live on berries and green apples; once in a while we would find a milk house, and then we would get what milk we could drink. We passed Port Republic on the night of the first of August. We would meet cavalry squads every little while, but none of them discovered us. When we got down within about twelve miles of Front Royal, we crossed over on the west side of the river; we got rather careless, as we thought we were pretty near our lines and we did not keep as close as we should have done through the daytime. We were seen by some citizens, although we did not know it at the time. We started at dark on the evening of the 7th, as we usually did. We did not go more than five or six miles before we heard someone coming; we were right in front of a house at the time, and I jumped over the fence and laid down behind it; the other two boys crossed the road and laid down in the brush. Presently the crowd came along and halted right at the fence, about twenty feet from me, but it was so dark that they did not see me. They called the man out of the house and I overheard their conversation. They told him there had been three Yankees seen about six miles from there, and they were going to hunt them up. The man that lived in the house, whom I heard them call Johnson, hallooed to his boy and told him to fetch out his gun and cartridge box; the boy brought out the gun and Johnson gave it to one of the crowd and told him to make good use of it. They stood and talked a minutes longer and then started on; after they had all gone we got up and travelled, fully convinced that those "three Yankees" had better be getting out of there.
We did not go but a short distance before we met two other squads with arms going to hunt the Yankees; we hid and let them pass on. We thought we were all right, and were going along a pretty good jog when the first thing I knew it was, "Who comes there?" "Friends," said I, and then started and ran, the others following. They fired some five or six shots at us, but did not hit me to hurt me any; a ball or buck shot just grazed my right thigh, enough to make it smart a few minutes. We all got separated before we had run ten feet. I saw one of the boys fall, but whether he was hit or whether he stumbled and fell I do not know. I am afraid he is killed though, for I have seen nor heard nothing from him since.
I ran about ten rods and then dropped down and laid still until I found I was not followed, when I got up and crawled off as still as I could. I went down the' river a couple of miles and then hid in the brush until the next night, when I swam the river and went up within a half mile of Front Royal, where I again hid in the brush, calculating to watch the next day and see if any of our troops were there. The first thing I saw in the. morning was company of rebel cavalry going down the pike; this showed me at once that our troops were not there, and my only show was to either go and give myself up or strike for Harper's Ferry. I was so lonesome that I did not know what to do; I did not know whether the other two boys were killed, or what had become of them. I finally concluded that I would strike for Harper's Ferry; so at night I started out, but my feet were so sore that I could not travel, and I did not get more than 5 or 6 miles in all night, so I came to the conclusion that if I could get a skiff I would try and get down the river that way although the river was full of falls and rapids. I crawled up on a point of the bluff just before sundown one night, and discovered a skiff lying on the other side of the river; this I thought was my best chance, so at dark I crawled down to the bank of the river and was waiting for everything to get still, when a man jumped into the skiff and crossed over to where I was laying. I kept quiet, and he passed on up to a house about fifty yards distant. After he had gone I jumped into the skiff and started down stream. The skiff was an old one, and leaky, and I had to use my hat to bail it out. About one o'clock I discovered that I was followed by a party on each side of the river. I paddled along just as though I did not suspect any thing, but kept close watch of my pursuers. I could see them every few minutes when there would be an opening in the bushes on the bank. I paddled along until I came to an island of pretty good size, when I run close up under the shade of the trees, jumped out on the bank and let the skiff float along. I then went back up to the head of the island and swam the river, crossed in the rear of my pursuers and put for the mountains. I don't know how long they followed the skiff, but I guess they felt cheap when they found the bird had flown. The next night I crawled a few miles' farther, but there was a stone-bruise coming on my heel and it was getting so bad that I could not walk. I laid in the woods here two days and two nights, just getting far enough to find what black berries I wanted to eat.
The evening of the 9th I saw a skiff on the opposite bank, and thought if I could get it I could get to our lines by morning, as it could not be more than twenty miles. I waited until dark and then swam the river and got the skiff, which proved to be a very nice and light one. I got along very well until about two o'clock, when I came to some rapids; I finally got past them after swamping five or six times and running over falls of seven or eight foot. At daylight I came in sight of the mountains on the Maryland side. I knew that as soon as I saw them, and I knew that it could not be more than five or six miles to Harper's Ferry, so I kept on after day- light, passing over several falls and getting my boat filled several times. I finally got to Harper's Ferry about seven o'clock in the following condition: No shoes; a pair of pants minus the seat and part of the legs; a coat minus the tails and lining, which I had cut off to wrap my feet in; a shirt I had worn for nearly two months; and a hat that beggars description. I reported to the Provost Marshall (Military Police), and there I found to my surprise, one of my comrades who had got in the day before. If he had been my own brother I could not have been more glad to seen him. The Marshall gave us all we wanted to eat, and some the boys gave us pants, and that afternoon we were sent to Washington, and from thence here where we arrived yesterday. I found a couple of my old comrades that belong to our regiment, and one of them gave me a clean shirt and blouse, and the other gave me a good clean pair of pants and drawers. I have no shoes yet, and in fact could not wear them, for my stone-bruise is very painful, and I have to walk with a crutch. I think in the. course of two or three weeks I will be able to return to duty. I met several boys of the regiment, but I was so thin and poor that they did not know me until I told them who I was. I am recruiting up fast. I lived for twelve or thirteen days on black berries and green apples, and what little milk I could steal from the milk houses of a night. But thank God I am where the Stars and Stripes float once more.
Your son, R. N. Smith. (Robert Nelson Smith)
*Robert Nelson Smith (21 Aug 1839 - 24 Oct 1908), a native of VT. From Wheatland, De Soto, WI, he enlisted 16 July 1861 with 6th Wisconsin Infantry. He was mustered out 15 July 1864.
Hernando De Soto
De Soto, Wisconsin is a village on "The Great River Road" along the banks of the Mississippi. It was named for Hernando De Soto who led the first recorded Spanish and European expedition deep into the habitat of the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Indians. Prior to the modern-day United States, the area was known as "The Northwest Territory" . The adventurous explorer was seeking a new passage to China. The exact location of his final demise on the southern Mississippi is disputed between Lake Village, Arkansas and Ferriday, Louisiana. From 1820 - 1854, De Sota's namesake served as a fur trading post known as "Winneshiek Landing" in Bad Axe County, Wis.
Robert Nelson Smith was residing in Wheatland, De Soto, Bad Axe Co., WI at the time of his enlistment in the Union Army (16 July 1861 with 6th Wisconsin Infantry).
United States Civil War Soldiers Index, 1861-1865
Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994, Rec. #24
Lived 20 yr. in Illinois
BioM: Coy, Ellen J. (1867)
Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934
Marriage: 17 September 1867
Father: (?Joseph) Smith
Mother: Sophia ?
1850 Federal Census, Ludlow, Windsor , Vermont
Alvah Smith Male 24 White 1826 Vermont
John Smith Male 20 White 1830 Vermont
1860 Federal Census, Wheatland, Bad Ax, Wisconsin, United States
1860 Federal Census, Clinton Township, Clinton, Iowa
1870 Federal Census, Morgan Township, Franklin, Iowa, United
States, pg. 5
1870 Federal Census, Hampshire Township, Clinton, Iowa, United
Wm J Smith Male 40 White
1905, Iowa State Census, Clinton, Iowa, United States
Address: 412 N. 7th St.
Wife: Margaret died 4 Apr 1898, 67 yrs., 4 mo., 18 da.
Both are buried in the Oakland Cemetery, Clinton, Clinton County, Iowa, USA
BioM: Bliss, Sophia (25 Dec 1833)
----Source: Bradford, Vermont Marriage Records
Surnames: Bliss, Clark, Smith
----Source: Vermont Death Records
Surnames: Eaton, Haskins, Smith
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Surnames: Ashberry, Benedick, Berry, Bliss, Bodwell, Buchannan, Burge, Clark, Coy, Day, De Soto, Drew, Duma, Ethelbert, Felt, Fosdick, Givens, Godard, Harris, Harrison, Hawkins, Johnson, Jones, Lawrence, Lewis, Lind, Macaboy, Marinous, Masher, Mason, McDill, Mcelroy, Milles, Olson, Owens, Page, Parks,Price, Parsons, Phillips, Pullam, Putnam, Reminton, Robert, Roberts, Ruby, Sears, Shaw, Sherwood, Shumway, Simons, Simpson, Smith, Tyler, Waller, Warham, Warren, Watruth, Weaver, Webster, White, Williams, Wright, Yale, Parks, Maynard
Obit: Smith, Wyman W. (1768-1832)
Wyman W. Smith, died 28 Dec. 1832 at the age of 84 (1748)
Marriage #1:Abigail Putnam
Marriage #2: Mary Smith 24 September 1793, Newbury, Orange, Vermont, United States, wife of Wyman W. Smith
Birth: 5 April 1771, Danvers, Essex, Massachusetts Bay, British Colonial America
Death: 28 Dec. 1828 at the age of 58 (1770)
Vermont, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1732-2005
1850 Federal Census, Milwaukee, ward 5, Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
Solomon Bliss 1767–1853 & Jerusha Strong 1767–1817
Joel Tyler Shaw is one of the early settlers of the town of Wheatland, Wisconsin. He landed at DeSoto, Oct, 11, 1855, by the steamer War Eagle, which was afterwards burned at LaCrosse. The same fall he entered 120 acres of land on section 29, where he still resides. His farm now contains 160 acres, 100 acres being improved. Mr. Shaw was born in the town of Glover, Craftsbury twp., Orleans Co., Vt., 24 May 1821. His parents were Seth T. and Clarinda (Mason) Shaw. His father died in New Hampshire, and his mother in Vermont. Mr. Shaw was married in Massachusetts, to Elizabeth Bodwell, a native of New Hampshire. They have two daughters- Jane Adelaid (31 May 1849), now Mrs. Chris Larson, born in Vermont, and Julia Frances, born in the town of Wheatland, now Mrs. Harry Clark.
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