Grandfather Escaped, Survived Strychnine Poisoning as a Soldier in the Civil War

Many hardships faced by soldiers; man escaped enemy, forced to hide in rose bush.

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My grandfather was born in 1835, and served during the Civil War with Company A, 40th Regiment E.M.M., at Sedalia, Missouri. He suffered many hardships during the war, including being poisoned with strychnine. My uncle died, and Grandfather was called home for the funeral. The night before the funeral, they had gone to bed when they heard the enemy coming. Grandfather escaped through a back window while Grandmother was opening the front door. Being a beautiful moonlight night, he couldn't go to the barn for his horse without being caught. He was forced to spend a very uncomfortable night in a huge yellow thorny rose bush.

Both sides would go to homes and demand food to be cooked for them. One time the company stopped at a house, where Grandfather knew the woman, but her husband was on the other side and she hated the Union Army soldiers.

She was churning fresh butter when they arrived. Grandfather asked for buttermilk with his meal.

He drank it and then screamed, "I am poisoned; don't drink any buttermilk!" The captain placed his gun to the woman's head and said he would blowout her brains if she didn't tell him what she had put in the buttermilk

She was terrible frightened and after she said strychnine, the captain went to her herb garden and got calamus, beat it up and gave it to Grandfather and saved his life. My grandmother and my mother always raised calamus.

Mrs. J.F. McKeehan
LaMonte, Missouri


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.