My father, at the age of 17, enlisted in Company A, 108th Illinois Volunteers, and had to say he was 18 in order to enlist. He was the drummer boy the first year, then carried a musket. He was in several battles, and was with the troop that captured Selma, Alabama.
He said when the Rebel band knew they would be captured, they destroyed all their musical instruments. Father was interested in the shell of a snare drum. A youth said to him, "Boss, I know where you can get heads for that," so Father bought the heads, repaired the drum and after coming home he, two of his brothers and a friend or two formed a band that was in demand for all celebrations, picnics and political rallies.
I still have the drum shell and the ebony drum sticks; on the shell is printed "Selma, Alabama."
Father spent six months and eight days in Anderson Prison. He saw the man who was hanged in prison and drank from the spring that broke out on a side hill. He said all the men were so happy to get good water because what they had was so filthy.
Some friends were asking Father about his prison experience. My little girls were just shocked and came to me and asked, "Mamma, what did Grandpa ever do that they put him in prison?"
He used to sing some of his Army songs to us children. I remember part of one.
"When captured by a host of men, each with a loaded gun They stationed us in an open pen, exposed to rain and sun. No tents or trees to shelter us, we lay upon the sand
“And side by side great numbers died in Dixie's sunny land. This was our daily bill of fare in this secret saloon
“No sugar, tea or coffee there at morning, night or noon, But a pint of meal, ground cob and all, was served to every man. For want of fire we ate it raw in Dixie's sunny land."
Mrs. M.D. Varner
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.