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Co. B., Reunion
At Old Salem Chautauqua,
THE Effort to hold a reunion of the survivors of Co. B, 16th. O. V. I. at Old Salem Chautauqua, Petersburg, Ill. last August was not as successful in point of numbers as the sponsors hoped it would be. Just how much the decrepitude of age, caused largely by the exposures and hardships of our military service, was pursuing the boys was not known at first, but was very clearly developed by the correspondence which came in answer to the invitations.
Not a single one but who experienced a desire to be there, but many on account of the infirmities of age felt that they were unable to the task, which was clearly evidenced by their attempt to write, as well as splotches on the paper which marked the falling places of tears which would intrusively swell and fall upon the sheet, which were more eloquent than any words they could have penned.
These were the best evidences that the hand of time and our long se par at ai on had not dampened our ardor nor loosened in any degree the bond which our three years service and loyal devotion to our country had cemented us together with. But rather as we got farther from the scene, and were enabled to see it in all its great proportions, and realized the enormous and happy and substantial results of our toil, danger and sacrifice,m the feeling grew within us that we would like to grasp again the hand, and look into the face of those who stood by us, shoulder to shoulder, when death and danger was staring us in the face, and the bond grew stronger, and the desire to see each other again became intense. We rejoiced that we had had a humble part in the great struggle for national existence.
However, what our reunion lacked in numbers was made up in intensity of feeling and genuine satisfaction that made it a time never to be forgotten by those present. In fact we would not if we could forget it. As one comrade remarked it was like a green oasis in the desert of a man's life and he had no conception that this meeting could arouse such feelings nor stir such memories and emotions. And from every one came glad expressions that he had been permitted to get to the reunion and the memory of these comrades was made more previous than ever.
Those present were: Lieut. J. N. Boling and Mr. and Mrs. T. B. Miller of Stanwood, Iowa; Charles Wallick, Victor, Iowa; Robert McLaughlin, Lytton, Iowa; M. F. Strock and wife, Kirksville, Mo.; R. N. Gorsuch and wife, Pekin, Ill.; Geo. Weatherwax and wife, Peoria, Ill.; T. B. Linn, Indianapolis, Ind.; and Nathan Collins, Arcola, Ill.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were spent at Old Salem, and on Wednesday we went up to Pekin and spent the day with Comrade R. N. Gorsuch and his estimable family, and enjoyed a fish fry, fresh from the waters of the Illinois river.
In all our company roll contained 116 names, the large majority of whom are on fame's eternal camping ground having answered the last roll call. For this occasion the roll had been placed on a sheet of paper 17 inches wide by 17 feet in length. Those who were known to be, or supposed to be, living were printed in pink while those who were known to be, or supposed to be, dead were printed with black, and as we gazed upon that roll it had all the appearance of a skeleton, and it was a fruitful stretch of the imagination to call the missing ones back, and fill up the ranks with buoyant manhood and strength, full of hope, determination and ambition, as when we last marched out of Camp Tiffin for the front that snowy November day.
For the better part of two days we sat before that roll, as it hung on the wall of a tent, and commencing with Captain William Spangler spoke of each member of the company until we reached the last recruit.
No two men in the company were alike in their appearance, temperament or conduct, and none of us present saw each of these comrades in the same relation or the same light, but each was inclined to speak of the comrade in the light or the association in which he appeared the most strikingly to him, and it must be admitted when we were ready to pass to the next we had discovered all his virtues, and if perchance he had any vices we threw over these the mantle of charity, knowing that in this life there is not perfection.
The sedate and the solemn, the mirthful and convivial, the friendly and companionable, the energetic and industrious, the querulous and distrustful, the brave and the conquering, the faint hearted and fearful, the scheming and contriving, the shrewdness and alertness, the patriotic and preserving qualities of each were fully brought out in these many sided views and we were let to admire and revere the memories of the absent and fallen in a higher sense than we had ever done before, and complimented ourselves that it had been our lot to be associated with men who proved in the crucible of the severest tests to be such true and faithful men.
We followed the line of march of the regiment, marked here and there and yonder, in somber dell, on mountain side, in lowly glade under the cypress, the magnolia or the pine or under oceans wave, the little mounds our hands had left, which marked the last resting place of those who had so bravely borne their part in the fearful strife.
At times we were provoked into bursts of mirthfulness as the drolleries of waggishness of some comrade would be brought out. For instance when William Smith, who had been detailed while they were prisoners of war at Jackson, Miss. to assist the confederates in procuring some beef, declared that the beef was so poor and thin that it took four men to hold the animal up, while Johny knocked it in the head as a merciful way of putting it out of its misery.
Or that of Luther Parcel who always insisted that he had enlisted for 1000 years and was not going to serve a day less. We presume he has been promoted ere this. Or when the order was passed down the line that in a few moments the regiment would be called on to storm the breast works on Chickasaw Bluffs, he deliberately filled and lit his pipe, remarking that he might be too busy to do so a little later, and that this was his time of day for a smoke, and he believed in maintaining his steady habits. In a few moments the line swept forward under a storm of iron and leaden hail which seemed sufficient to sweep them all to the ground, and many were slain and nearly all the rest made prisoners, but Luther enjoyed his pipe through it all until he found himself a prisoner.
The opposite climax was reached when the character of Corporal Jacob A. Cole was reached, whose every thought and wish and act were ennobling, pure and patriotic, and in whose conduct no flaw, official or private could be detected by the closest scrutiny. Certainly one of the best and most noble lives that was ever sacrificed for any government or any cause. His perfect composure and self possession in the face of death, when the arch enemy of life was fastening its talons in his vitals, and his natural force was ebbing away as the death watch in the shattered wall tolled out the pulsations nearer and nearer to the last, when he spoke of his desire to live until the end of the conflict, knowing full well that some must die, but the thought he had cherished was that it would not be him, yet expressing a willingness to die, was a mark of patriotism as pure, as good, and as untarnished as the diamond in all its lustrous sheen of brightness.
The words of love and devotion he wished sent to his mother, telling her of his fealty to the lessons he learned in childhood's innocense at her knees; and then to that other one to whom he was betrothed, assuring her that he had always been true to her as he knew she had been true to him, and whose picture was the last object his lips ever touched, all produced a scene of melting tenderness in which all hearts seemed to melt into one, as the fountains of the soul welled up and out of our eyes, in copious streams, which no one present seemed inclined to check or suppress. Only when trying to fathom such an experience as this can we get the faintest comprehension of the infinite sacrifice to purge the sins of our nation and preserve the honor of our country and flag.
And as we sat, hour after hour, going down the long list, and living over again the scenes of those terrible days, when often if one had faltered his influences might have caused someone else to falter, and yet it sometimes seemed like certain death to remain at the post of duty. Those were the times which tested men to the last degree, and the consolation comes to us in these our last days, as sweet balm from off the isle of spices, that so many proved true as the needle to the pole. Hail, hail to the noble brave whose hearts are yet young, though nature no more supports our bodies with that bouyancy and elasticity that made it possible for us to accomplish what we in all humbleness did.
We are on the down hill of life boys. Behind us are the scenes of our conquests and the graves of the fallen, and just before us, it may be much nearer than we think, is the little open charred house that shall hide our sacred dust until the great Arch Angel shall stand with one foot on the sea and the other on the land, and swear by him that lived, was dead, but now liveth forevermore that time shall be no more.
Of course we expected to attend many of the sessions of the Chautauqua, but one or two efforts proved that to us it was a tame affair as compared with our reunion. Even Mr. Bryan, in his "Innocense Abroad," failed to enthuse us, and we left those who had come on purpose to applaud him to enjoy their self imposed task.
Most unfortunately for us, on account of incessant rains previous, and the swollen and turbulent Sangamon river, together with the drinking water we were compelled to use when the thermometer registered 105 in the shade, the conditions proved to be unsanitary and affected each of us seriously, and possibly some may never entirely recover from the effects of our four days stay there.
Yet with all this a more successful reunion was never held, nor one more appreciated by every one present, some of whom wondered how we ever conceived a plan so perfect and one to produce such pleasant effects.
1. Since the first pages of this booklet were printed we have received the sad news announcing the death of Thomas Gamble.
2. We are sorry that the typographical error occurred in Joe Beegle's name, making it read
Bugle. Now Joe was a little noisy at times, yet to Harry Myers belonged the title of Bugler.
3. Also in the name of J. G. Boling, the typo made it
Balling. John was not that kind of a fellow, for he just grinned and bore whatever befell him.
4. Just at the last we got word from W. Shep Moore, that he is neither dead nor asleep, but still alive, living at Meadville, Neb., all of which he can proven by the good wife who has been sharing his joys and sorrows for the last 40 years. Glad you are still on earth, Shep.
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