Enlisted Teen Volunteers for Sentry Duty

Dark figure terrifies enlisted teen on sentry duty while with the Union Army.

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My father, who enlisted in Indiana in response to Lincoln's second call for volunteers, was 19 years old when he was put on sentry duty to watch out for any approaching enemy while his comrades slept.

It was after a long battle and he was very tired, but contrived to keep awake until 3:30 a.m. Then he was startled by approaching footsteps. At first he could see nothing, but soon discerned a dark figure, which he presumed to be an enemy spy.

According to instructions, he called out, "Who comes there?" There was no reply, but the figure came nearer. He repeated the call and still there was no answer. Then came the critical moment. His instructions were to call out those three words three times, and then if no reply was forthcoming, he was to shoot to kill. Terror seized him. "1 cannot kill a man!" he cried and prayed. He would himself be shot at sunrise if he disobeyed the order.

The third time he screamed the words and prepared to shoot, and in that instant, the figure came closer to him. He saw it was a horse.

Father said it was for him the happiest incident of the entire Civil War.

Mrs. N.E. Belanger
East Orange, New Jersey


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.