Sunday, March 3, 2013

Civil War Block of the Month - March 1863 Shouting Yankee Doodle

This block is usually called a Pinwheel, but among the alternate names are Millwheel, Water Mill and Water Wheel.  Those names serve as a reminder of my ancestors. Shep and Billy's father Hiram (my great-great-great grandfather) and Uncle Anson built one of the earliest mills in the area around what became Hayden.  The town history includes the family creating dams and millponds to power the mills. It was a successful business due to the family's enterprising nature, and the good fortune of a rail line coming right through the log yard of Hiram's mill in 1859.  The railroad allowed the family to sell lumber to large operations in Cincinnati that produced fencing, ties and railroad cars.  Shep's profession on the army rolls was listed as "Carpenter." We know he helped his father run the milling operation after Uncle Anson got sick and sold his share of the business to Hiram.

The Hayfields book includes early March letters from both Shep and Billy to their brother Henry.  Henry must have asked about his brothers' and the other soldiers' political views.  Billy's letter is datelined "At the hospital, Murfreesboro, Tenn, March 1st 1863." Billy writes, "...I don't think you will find half the abolitionists here that you will back there, in fact, I know you will not. I heard they had passed a conscribed law in the north, but if they have, I hardly believe it will ever take effect. I hope not anyhow, but however, there are a lot of gas bags back there that I would just like to see waging along with a knapsack through the dust. I'll bet they would not be so darned keen for war next time anyhow...." He tells Henry and his family he has not been paid because the Regiment is out on picket (and apologizes he didn't pay postage for the letter.)

Billy also describes seeing a soldier drummed out of the service with his head shaved, being paraded at the point of the bayonet in front of about a thousand spectators.  He says, "I believe I would rather stay in the service than to be mustered out of the service, I want to go home with a good character and a good head of hair. This man also had the letter "D" branded on his cheek which will remain as long as he lives." He concludes the letter reporting "I am getting stout and fat. I weigh 128 lbs. yesterday." 


One of the other Hayden soldiers in the 82nd writes to his wife at this time that he is glad that a doctor they know and have confidence in is now with the regiment. He claims they are living first rate, specifically they get "the best kind of smoked hams and biscuits."  

Shep is with the 52nd Indiana at Fort Pillow on March the 5th when he addresses Henry's question, echoing Lincoln's words,"I am for the Union with or without slavery if Peace and Union can be restored with slavery the same as it used to be.  I am satisfied for it to be done but if it cannot be permanently and honorably settled without freeing the Negroes, let that be done." 

Later in the same letter, Shep, sounding like political commentary about our government this week, writes, "I see by the late papers that there has been a Conscription Bill passed in Congress and all it lacked of being a law was the president's signature which I suppose it has undoubtedly got before this. Well, I have thought for some time that if we intended whipping the South we would have to have more men. The Republicans say that the Democrats are opposed to a draft but I do not pretend to believe all they say. I think that we should stick to what we think to be to the interest of the Government whether we be Democrats or Republicans."

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