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100 Years Ago

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Loss of Loved Ones

Relatives of those fighting hundreds of miles away played the waiting game. Letters from the front arrived from time to time. Some serve as a window to the heart of a soldier far from home. Captain William Wilkinson sent a letter to his wife from Virginia in the summer of 1864 which read in part: "It seems to me there is nothing in all this world, of an earthly and merely personal nature, to which I do so devoutly sway, as that of being again permitted to live again in our quiet home, with my dear wife, my bosom companion, to whom I can tell all my joys and all my sorrows..."  Captain Wilkinson never returned home.

The communication every mother and wife dreaded was the one that announced that her husband or son had died. The notice took various forms. Elizabeth Stonerock must have had every reason to expect her husband, Mathias, would return home. The war was almost over by the spring of 1865. It was during the last week of April 1865, when she received an official letter from Moses Welch of the United States Christian Commission. In part, Welch informed her: "Your husband took sick with small pox...of the severest kind. He was called away this afternoon at 3 1/2 o'clock. He has from my first conversations with him confessed Christ and appeared sustained by Christian hopes...He answered 'yes' to my inquiry if I should tell you that the Lord sustained and supported him. He will be buried tomorrow in a grove two miles out of the city."

Other less fortunate ones apparently received notice via a letter to one of the newspapers in town. The news that William Edwards and Daniel Vanote, Shelby County soldiers in the 20th Ohio, had died was carried in a March 27, 1863, Letter to the Editor in the "Sidney Journal." Imagine the reaction of the Vanote family when they read the Letter to the Editor from the officer of the 20th who recruited him in Sidney: "He (Daniel) had been raised by fond and loving parents, and being subject to the rheumatism as he was, he never should have enlisted...He and his father came to me one day in Mr. McVay's store stating that although Daniel was not subject to the draft, he was determined to go. Had I understood his case, I would not have enlisted him."

Some family members were more fortunate in that they were able to be at the side of their loved one when death occurred. Pasco resident Mary Staley wrote to her husband, David, of the 134th Ohio on July 20, 1864. She told of the death of Jeremiah Goble, a family friend. "Mr. Goble [Jerry’s father] brought Jerry home dead last Wednesday he got to him before he died. He died very happy...His mother took it very hard. She has not been well since."

Among the many county soldiers fighting with the 99th Ohio who died in the war was William C. Penrod. His parents were heartbroken at the loss of their youngest son, who was just 20 years old. The editor of the "Journal" printed a tribute to him written by his mother, which said in part: "William, though young, was a true patriot, and when his imperiled country demanded his services, he felt it to be his duty to go forth...He was always at his post...amid the roar of cannon and the crash of musketry. He was wounded at the battle of Stones River, and after lingering for twenty days, his Maker called him from suffering to dwell at His own right hand."

Many were eulogized in poems appearing in the local papers. Typical was the poem that honored George Wilkinson, a member of Company H of the 99th.  Comrades in the regiments sometimes passed a resolution that was sent back home to the newspaper. Sgt. Brown of the 20th was killed by an artillery shell outside Savannah, Georgia. The January 13, 1865, resolution in the "Journal" from his comrades included a prayer that "a kind and merciful Providence" support his widow "during this trying affliction."  There were also the inevitable false reports of death at the front. W. H. Shaw, who later became a doctor in Sidney after the war, was reported killed at the Battle of Stones River. It was almost six months after his capture before he was able to return home to his family.

'Civil War' segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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