HISTORY OF LIFE IS WRITTEN BY
VETERAN ALFRED A. NELSON TELLS OF HIS EXPERIENCES
IN STORY DICTATED TO GRANDDAUGHTER.
Alfred A. Nelson, the last remaining Civil War Veteran in White County, who died last week, left his memoirs of early days in the County.
It was just five years ago that he dictated the story of his life to his granddaughter, Miss Elizabeth Nelson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Nelson of Springerton. Entitled "My Life", by Alfred Nelson, the account is as follows:
(by Alfred Nelson)
I was born October 28, 1841, to Mrs. Sarah Ann Nelson in the pioneer home of my grandparents, William and Mary Nelson, who lived about two miles South of Springerton. My grandfather Nelson was Irish and my grandmother was one fourth Indian. When I was three years old my mother married George Harmon, thus I acquired one half brother and four half sisters. My earliest recollection is the time at the age of four I got into a snow drift and screamed for my mother's sister, Aunt Bashie, to get me out.
When I was six my stepfather hired a man to hoe corn. I was compelled to help the hired man. When I was seven I attended a subscription school taught by John Wright for four weeks. The next year I attended Rufus Sexton's school for about three months. The next year Daniel Johnson was my teacher. It was during this winter that I played a joke on my teacher. Before he arrived one morning, I took the stove pipe down and filled it with snow. When the teacher built a fire the snow melted and put out the fire. I received my education in a log school house and sat on split logs for seats. I had no desk. The chimney was made of sticks and clay. My studies consisted of reading and spelling.
My stepfather died in September 1850. This left me to help make a living for my half sisters and half brother. My step father was shoemaker but after his death all his personal property was sold except a yoke of steers. The next summer I raised one hundred geese, picked them and sold the feathers for fifty cents per pound. My mother made all my clothes. I wore jeans, flax shirts, and woolen stockings. In 1855 my cousin and went to visit our great grandmother Nelson on her 98th birthday. After dinner she called us into the house and read a chapter from the Bible without her spectacles. The next year she received a fall which caused her death.
In the spring of 1858 my grandfather persuaded me to take my thirty five head of cattle and move to Arkansas with him. We started out with two covered wagons each drawn by two yoke of oxen. In our wagon were myself, my grandfather, my mother, my half brother, and my four half sisters. My youngest uncle, my Aunt Bashie and my uncle, Mose Rankins went along with us. They had two wagons thus making four wagons in the train. Different ones took turns walking behind and driving the cattle. We made the trip in a month and settled in Izard County in the northwest part of Arkansas.
I hauled cotton in Arkansas until March of 1861. I learned that I was about to be drafted into the Southern Army so I decided to leave. In May the same party trekked back to Springerton, Illinois. In July, Mose and Josh Rankin went to Shawneetown to enlist in the Union Army. I went to Shawneetown with them but had no intention of enlisting. But four days later, on August the first, 1861, I enlisted and was trained in Shawneetown until February 1862. I belonged to Company G of the 56th Illinois Regiment. From Shawneetown I was sent to Paducah, Kentucky where I was drilled until the middle of March. From Paducah I was sent to Shiloh where I took part in my first battle. The battle began at sun up and by ten o'clock the enemy was retreating toward Corinth. We followed them into Corinth which they gave up without much struggle. General Grant with 20,000 men set up his headquarters at Corinth where he remained until October.
On the 2nd of October, 1862, while we were about twenty miles from headquarters, a group of enemy cavalry rode through our brigade and took the flag from the 80th Ohio regiment. On October 3rd General Price and General Van Doren attacked Grant's encampment at Corinth. Two of our regiments were in Fort William, near Corinth. The rebels drove them out. Then my regiment, the 56th Illinois, and the 10th Missouri, charged in the fort, took it, and held it.
We then headed south to Raymond, I had become a sergeant but before we reached Champion Hill I gave up my commission as I did not want so much responsibility. From Champion Hill we crossed Black River and marched to Vicksburg and laid siege to the city. The siege lasted 40 days before the city finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. We then marched across Lookout Mountain and took Missionary Ridge. From there I went to Chattanooga, Tennessee and joined General Sherman. In November and December I went with Sherman on his famous march to the sea. I distinctly remembered that it was on this trip that I saw my first dead Negro. When we reached Savannah my regiment was sent by boat to New York City. As I was very ill I was compelled to remain in Savannah. The General Lyons, the ship on which my regiment embarked, was burned at sea and all but five men were lost. Later when I recovered I went to New York by boat. From there I was sent to Springfield, Illinois, where I received my discharge from the Army. In Springfield I learned that President Lincoln had been assassinated and that his body was lying there in state. I viewed the body and came home.
When I returned my mother had died. I soon married. My wife lived only a year and in a few years I married again. We settled on a farm 2-1/2 miles east of Springerton and cleared a farm from the forest. In 1921 my wife and I have lived among children in and around Springerton ever since.
Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org.