How William’s Life Was Saved

lilylush1Note: The Story below is from my great-grandmother, Lily. I remember the things which an almost five-year old remembers: her fragrance (roses), her loving touch, her great stories (some even of the Indians and biscuits given to them), the twinkle in her eye, and her love for Jesus.  You see, she prayed for me even though I didn’t know that at the time. Thank you grandma! And now, I love Him, too!

By Lily Ellen Swem Lushbaugh

(A Story of the Civil War)  —In 1939 for her granddaughter

There was excitement as well as sadness in the old brown farm-house that bright morning in 1862.  For William, the family “stand-by” was leaving for the war.  The call had come again for defenders for the flag, and William felt that this time he could not let it go unanswered.  His two younger brothers, John and Daniel, had already volunteered and were in the fighting ranks.  But William had been sorely needed at home to help on the work of the farm.  The oldest brother, Peter, was a cripple; therefore, could not be of much help in the farm work.  He was a true patriot and had offered his services in a clerical capacity to his beloved country; but had been rejected because of his physical handicap.  So the burden of the farm was all left for the old father to carry.  But he bade this dependable son, “Go William and strike a blow for your country; and may God bless you and bring you safely back to us.”

This was a varied household, gathered together on the old home place. Besides the parents and the crippled son, there was the oldest daughter Mary Jane, who was left a widow early in the conflict; and her husband slept “‘neath the southern skies”, leaving a little daughter, Dora, depending now altogether on her mother’s care.  Father and mother said, “Come home, Mary Jane, and bring Dora; you cannot live alone.”  So Mary Jane and Dora came “home.”  Then there was Thomas, the youngest son, a lad about twelve years of age.  Then there was Ellen (or “Ellie”) as she was more often called, a fair-haired child of seven, the baby of the family and the household pet.

There were also in this home two others.  A young boy, Isaiah, the son of the father’s brother who had lost his mother at an early age, and “Tura” the child of a widowed sister who was the same age as her cousin, Thomas, and they had been welcomed into the home of Uncle John and Aunt Sarah and cared for as their own.

Little Ellen thought her heart was breaking when she saw the most beloved of all her brothers ready t depart.  And Tura added her tears and sobs to Ellen’s until it was indeed a “house of mourning.”  The brave old mother hiding her own grief, chided the children for making William’s leave-taking so sad and gloomy.  But Ellen clinging closely to him could not dry her tears; until William, kissing the sad little face, bade her “be a good girl, and cry no more; and the very first money I get, I will send it to you and you must buy a velvet dress and have your picture taken in it and send it to brother Will.”  Somewhat comforted, she watched him march away.

The weeks passed by and the family had news of William.  He had entered the service and was encamped with his company near Chattanooga, Tenn.  He liked his comrades, “brave boys” he called them and his captain was to him a real friend.  Letters also came from John and Daniel telling of hardships endured and severe fighting but carrying withal a courageous note.  They wrote of how they had lived while working on the fortifications, standing knee-deep in water, working in complete silence, their only food a few handfuls of parched corn, but saying they were glad to endure all for “Old Glory.”

At last, came the promised letter to Ellen containing the money from William to buy her velvet dress.  How rejoiced was the little girl! And how mother hastened to town to purchase the figured velvet of which this garment should be made.  It was finally completed and the trip made to the “Art Gallery” (as it was called then) where a daguerreotype was made and enclosed in a closed case of carved and shellacked wood, the little gold-rimmed frame set in red velvet.  Such a demure little maiden, in this quaint dress! (Made with a plain waist and belt, a round neck, full sleeves and long full skirt.) A gold locket on a velvet ribbon around her neck and her long, golden hair bound in braids around her head.  The eyes so large and blue looked out rather sorrowfully from her serious face.  (I have seen the picture in later years and can assure you it was quite charming!)

The picture was duly sent and after a time received.  Then came a tender letter from brother, Will.  He said, “Tell sister Ellen that I carry her picture always over my heart and sleep with it there every night.”  He also said he had shown the picture to his comrades and told them of the dear little sister waiting for him to come home.  News of battles came from all three brothers.  John was color bearer for his company and was wounded at the “Battle of Lookout Mountain” while storming the enemy’s defenses.  When the colors were seen to go down the cry went out “John’s shot!”  But struggling to his feet, he grasped the broken standard crying “Hold on boys; I’m with you yet!” and was the first to reach the ramparts and to plant the colors there on the enemy’s fortifications.  At night he was carried to the hospital and found to be badly wounded, though he had fought all day; and when his boots were drawn off, they were filled with blood.  Both John and Daniel fought bravely in the terrible Battle of Corinth, after which word came to the dear ones at home that both boys were missing.  But later letters came relieving their suspense.  The boys had been wounded, but were still alive.

Then came the desperate “Battle of Shiloh”, one of the bloodiest of the war. William was with this division fighting with the ranks.  The creek before him was a river of blood.  Sickened by the sight and blinded by the smoke of battle, he was still pressing forward when he was struck by a bullet and fell to the ground.  A comrade by his side, stopped to help him and found that although stunned, he was unhurt.  Later the cause of this almost miraculous happening was found to be that the bullet—striking just over the heart—had hit the little case of Ellen’s picture and bounded back, and although the case was broken, the picture was uninjured and little Ellen’s picture had saved her brother’s life.

Great rejoicing was there in the homestead when the good news came of William’s escape from death and its cause.  Later on, William having shown so much skill in caring for his wounded comrades, was transferred to the “Floating Hospital” on the Mississippi River, where his chief work was nursing the sick and preparing tempting food to bring them back to health and strength.  How well he succeeded in his task, we may know from the fact that his comrades called him by the name that was dearest to them all—“Mother.”

But at last the war was ended; peace was declared and the three brothers returned to their home and their former occupations and later each one to marry the girl of his choice.  After a few years little Ellen went with her parents and two of her brothers to a village in Missouri, and many miles separated her from the brother, William she loved so well.  But visits were made on her part to the dear ones back east.  She grew up a joyous graceful maiden with sweethearts by the score.  But an early marriage, motherhood and home cares claimed the most of her time and thought.  So many years passed before she saw “brother Will” again, until he visited her in her own home.  

Under sunny Missouri skies in a quiet cemetery lies little Ellen; who never lived to be very old, but was for some years a patient sufferer from that dread disease, cancer.  Her blithe young spirit now only a memory.  Far away lies brother William. He lived to the ripe old age of 91 and was buried near his grandparents and parents, who had returned to the east.  He lived his life worthily and fought the good fight.  L.E.L

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