Written and Researched by Douglas Stewart Thomsen
Nathan Augustus was a Civil War Veteran who led a simple life. He won no medals and died forgotten; and except for a military tombstone, he left nothing. But he did leave something, he left his name, a name that should not be forgotten, he was an honest and loving man who went to war far from the rolling hills in which he toiled.
He was born in Greene County in the year of 1844. His parents were Thomas and Mary Augustus. The Augustusí lived in the town of Oak Hill. He also had a brother Melvin born in the winter of 1849. Not long after Melvinís birth the boysí father passed away at the age of forty eight and Nathan had to assume the role of father and supporter of a younger brother (who was incompetent) and an aging mother.
As Nathan grew older sentiments in faraway places started smouldering. Feelings about slavery and States rights were kindling a Civil War. Nathan was a farmhand trying to support a mother and brother with his meager earnings. Then our Nation erupted in war.
The war was in its second year and Nathan went to Durham and enlisted in the army on August 14, 1862. His officer, Lieutenant James H. Everett, a Durham man, signed him in and Nathan now belonged to Abraham Lincoln and Company K 120th New York State Infantry.
Nathan stood five feet seven inches tall and was a good a soldier as the rest. At the battle of Gettysburg, Nathanís life would be changed and this change would attribute to his death twenty one years later. It was the second day of the battle and Nathan would take a Rebel musket ball just above his right ankle. He spent five days in a field hospital at Gettysburg and then was transferred to Baltimore, Maryland at an Army Hospital. After many months in the hospital he received a furlough and came home to Oak Hill.
When it came time to return to his company he decided to stay in Oak Hill. Who knows what the reason was? Maybe he stayed to help his mother and brother, or had a sweetheart, or was just sick of a bloody war that didnít seem to have any ending.
On Christmas Eve of that year, 1863, Provost Marshal Guards came to Oak Hill and arrested Nathan as a deserter. He went back to his company and had a field court martial and was fined thirty dollars, the cost of his arrest.
Nathan went through the rest of the war and was at Appomattox Court House, when Lee surrendered to Grant. Nathan stayed with Company K and again was a good infantryman. At the battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, he was missing in action.
After the war Nathan returned home to Oak Hill, this time to stay. He got a job in one of the foundries as a moulder and worked along side other Oak Hill veterans, such as William Hallenbeck, who was also a moulder. William spent sixteen months in Anderson Prison and was in Company K.
Nathan never married. He supported his mother and brother with his earnings from his work as a moulder, and a supplemental stipend of two dollars a month from the Federal Government, for the wound in his leg, incurred at Gettysburg.
It was a Sunday, November 30, 1884 when Nathan and Melvin were cutting firewood on a steep hill near Oak Hill, that Nathan met his maker. Melvin was throwing logs down to Nathan, when Melvin let one go and yelled for Nathan to get out of the way. Nathan being lame was not able to move quickly enough to avoid the cascading log. It struck him behind the ear and Nathan went down with a crushed skull, wounding him mortally.
Now there were an elderly lady and her incompetent son who owned nothing real nor personal; but life is just sometimes. A true sense of community and the maxim, "I am my brotherís keeper" prevailed. The good people of Oak Hill assumed the responsibility of the welfare of Melvin and Mary Augustus, protecting them from a life confined to the somber walls of the County poorhouse.
Iím sad to say that through further research Mary (Hordecher) Augustus did live out the last six years of her life at Alms House in Cairo. She passed away April 18, 1909 at the age of 81 years and returned to Oak Hill for the last time.
Nathan Augustus lies buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery, acknowledged by his country with a military tombstone. But for the rest of the Augustus family, they lie in unmarked ground, though all are united at last.