by James L. Walker 

Note: from Jayne..  The following was a story told in the American Civil War History chat room in the now defunct Golden Gate Genealogy Forum.  I'm leaving his introduction to the story as he said it to the room members.  And now on with Jim's story.

It has been to my amazement, how many stories there are during the Civil War that relate fathers finding sons, sons finding fathers, brothers finding brothers and all manner of relatives running across one another during the events of the Civil War.  During the battle of Gettysburg, a Union colonel captured his Confederate nephew.  Of all these however, the one documented by Frank Moore in his “Anecdotes, Poetry, and Incidents of the War” (New York, 1866), is one of the strangest.

  Nine or ten years ago, a citizen of one of the towns in the eastern part of Massachusetts was unjustly suspected of a crime which the statute cannot easily reach, but which deservedly brings upon him the guilty of it the indignation of upright men.  There were circumstances which gave color to the suspicion, and the unfortunate gentleman suffered the misery of loss of friends, business and reputation.  His sensitive nature could not face these trials, and he fell into a condition of body and mind which alarmed his family.  At length, having invested his property where it could be easily managed by his wife, he suddenly disappeared, leaving her a comfortable home and the care of two boys, ten and twelve years old.  The first fear that he had sought a violent death was partly dispelled by the orderly arrangement of his affairs, and the discovery that a daguerreotype of the family group was missing from the parlor table.  Not much effort was made to trace the fugitive.  When, afterwards, facts were developed which established his innocence of the crime charged, it was found impossible to communicate with him; and as the publication of the story in the columns of several widely-circulated journals failed to re-call him, he was generally supposed to be dead.

            At the outbreak of the present civil war, his eldest son, now a young man, was induced by a friend, a captain in a Western regiment, to enlist in his company.  He carried himself well through campaigns into Missouri and Tennessee, and after the capture of Fort Donnelson was rewar4ded with a First Lieutenant’s commission.  At the battles of Murfreesboro’ he was wounded in the left arm, but so slightly that he was still able to take charge of a squad of wounded prisoners.  While performing this duty, he became aware that one of them, a middle-aged man, with a full, heavy beard was looking at him with fixed attention.  The day after the fight, as the officer was passing, the soldier gave the military salute and said:

              “A word with you, if you please, sir.  You remind me of an old friend.  Are you from New England?”

              “I am.”

             “From Massachusetts?”


              “And your name?”  

            The young lieutenant told his name, and why he came to serve in a Western regiment.

              “I thought so,” said the other, and turning away, he was silent.  Although his curiosity was much excited by the soldier’s manner, the officer forbore to question him, and withdrew.  But in the afternoon he took occasion to renew the conversation, and expressed the interest awakened in him by the incident of the morning.

              “I knew your father,” said the prisoner.  “Is he well?”

              “We have not seen him for several years.  We think he is dead.”

              Then followed such an explanation of circumstances of his disappearance as the young man could give.  He had never known the precise nature of the charges against his father, but was able to make it quite clear that his innocence had been established.

              “I knew your mother, also,” continued the soldier.  “I was in love with her when she married your father.”

              “I have a letter dated from her, dated ten days ago.  My brother is a nine months’ man at New Orleans.”

              After a desultory conversation the soldier took from under his coat a leather wallet and disclosed a daguerreotype case.

              “Will you oblige me,” he said, “by looking at this alone in your tent?”

              Agitated almost beyond control, the young officer took the case and hurried away.  He had seen the picture before!  It represented a man and a woman, sitting side by side, with a boy at the knee of each.

              The romantic story moved the commander of the division to grant the youth a furlough; and both father and son reached home soon after.

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