Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June, 1865

On June 9th, about two weeks after the Grand Review of the Armies, Billy and John were mustered out of service.  Both went back to their homes and families near Hayden, Indiana.
Great-Great Uncle Billy married John's sister Caroline just after the war.  They had two sons, Fredrick and Shepherd.  My Great Grandmother's book tells us that Fredrick died in New Jersey during the Great War (WWI).  Shepherd stayed in southern Indiana and went on to be a musician like his father, and was the County Superintendent of the Public Schools from 1911 until 1938. Billy was a carpenter, and the museum in Hayden has examples of furniture he built in their pre-1900 bedroom display. (The couple pictured are from a different family)

Billy Whitcomb dresser at the Hayden museum

Billy Whitcomb bed, nightstand, and mirror at the Hayden museum
There is no photo of John in uniform, nor are there any of his soldier letters. As we understand it, John wanted to forget the war.
Earliest picture I have of John

The local history museum in Hayden featured John in a newsletter article a few years ago and called him "one of the most prominent men and progressive farmers at one time in Spencer Township." John did not marry until 1874 - his wife Alice was 10 years younger.  They had 14 children together - 12 of them lived to adulthood.  This was the house they built - (photo from the mid 1900's)

John used his soldier's pay to buy land near his father's place. By 1884, he owned a total of 730 acres. Alice wrote of John, "farmer by vocation and by nature, he loved livestock and to till the soil. He went at his work early in the morning with great zest and determination, which brought him unusual success.  He took pleasure in his surroundings: the sunrise and set - the glories of the day ... grain fields were seas of beauty to him." I can go on about his achievements but let me instead copy this portion of what Alice said about John and Billy (who was her mother's brother), and their friend Levi -
John and Wm were comrads in Co. B 82 reg't Ind. Volunteers. infantry. always felt near. Had another comrade forming a trio, and who knows but that the ties formed on the bloody fields of Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain are stronger even than the family ties formed when fields were green instead of red. 

Levi, a few months before he died sent John and "Billy" this toast:

"Heres to you old pals
May you live a thousand years
Just to keep things happy
Through this vale of tears:
And may I live a thousand years – just short one day.
'Cause I wouldn't like to stay on earth
When you had gone away."

When John & Billy got this toast how deeply their hearts were touched. This triumvirate of the days of 1862-5 was broken by the death first of Levi – in a short time John joined him //November 1912//. Two weeks more Billy too joined them. All patriotic, kind, were loving husbands, good fathers, tolerant neighbors. At parting there is always something sweet to remember.

To remember John in my quilt, I tried again to make the Indiana Farmer block I attempted for the Grandmother's Choice quilt. What was 8 inches for that quilt is 18 here, which I thought would be easier.

It was still a difficult block. I pieced it, except for the ends of the tabs which are appliqued where the background ticking stripe meets the asymmetrical blue star points.

Unlike the 82nd, Indiana's 52nd remained in the field. Eli wrote to his cousin Calvin from Montgomery Alabama on June1st -

I seat myself this morning to scratch you a few lines in answer to your kind and welcome letter of April 30th which came to  hand a few days ago and found me enjoying very good health. Well Cal I have put off writing longer than I should but I was trying to learn something of our future whereabouts, as near as I can find out you might as well direct via Cairo when you write again. The officers got orders to have their books straightened up so as to be ready when called upon and the 2nd Brig had orders to go down the river starting this morning. You need not be at all surprised if I should spend the 4th of July with you. Oh won't we have some great times when I get home again.

After discussing letters sent and not received, and telling Calvin he's thinking about not shaving his mustache until he gets home, Eli writes,

I believe I shall go out tomorrow and get some plums and blackberries. I wish you were here to go with me we would have a gay time wouldn't we. There was one of the 178th NY shot himself this morning and made a sure thing of it, the ball entering his mouth and come out of the top of the back of the head tore his head very badly to pieces. I think he was very foolish now that the war is over and so good a prospect of getting home soon.
For most everyone the war is over, but with Eli still in the Union Army writing letters to Calvin, I'm not finished making blocks for my quilt yet.

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