When quite young, I often listened to my father tell stories of the Civil War, some too depressing to mention and others of laughter, daring and love. I mention the one of the camp cook who put in too much rice to cook and it swelled out of bounds, and the foraging raid when one soldier took a crock of butter and broke the crock when scrambling over a stone wall. Also of the quaint character who served as camp aide and was much in demand to bring the boys their coffee when they hollered, "Eli, bring out the coffee," to which he sometimes replied with his vocabulary of cuss words. However, when a fierce battle was on, he risked his life to take the coffee out. Though warned, he replied, "My boys have got to have their coffee."
I have in my possession a packet of letters my father wrote while serving in the Civil War. From one date, May 27, 1863, I quote the following story.
"I have been in a battle. I will give you a brief sketch of a raid we had later in Virginia yesterday. It is against the orders of the Colonel to cross the river. Yesterday morning I and two other soldiers went to the Lieut. to get permission to cross the river. He said he would not give us permission to cross the river. He said he would give us a pass to go and swim; so we went down to the river and made a raft and put our clothes on it and commenced swimming. We kept on swimming till we landed on the other side of the river.
"Our clothes had got wet. We got what water we could out of them and put them on. The other two boys appointed me Capt. and we started off on our mission. We went about one mile from the river and stopped and took dinner with a Rebel. After dinner we hitchhiked about three miles farther, when I got sick of footing it. So I told the boys that if I was commander, we would have some horses.
"We went to a farmer who had three horses. He was just going to work with them. I told him I would like to hire his horses and at the same time took the best one by the bit, threw the harness off, put on a blanket and got on the horse. The other boys did the same.
"We started off toward Leesburg. We went within 2 1/2 miles of Leesburg. We learnt there that there was Rebel cavalry and that they were scouting around everyday. I got a saddle. We then took another road and went about 10 miles toward Harper's Ferry, stirring up the Rebs at every house.
"We then stayed off public roads and kept in the fields and woods till we got back to the Potomac.
"My horse would jump all the fences and ditches. When we got to the place where we were to cross the river, I found my horse was a Government horse. U.S. was marked on his shoulder. I told the boys U.S. meant us. So we took him across and presented him to the Captain."
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.