Submitted by Judy Simson
A Passage of History of Co. A, 107th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with a Local Interest
In April, 1864, while the Army of East Tennessee was at Mossey Creek,Tennessee, being reorganized, expecting soon to join Sherman to takepart in the Atlanta or Georgia campaign, the writer wandered through thewoods one sunny day. He accidentally came upon a blue-eyed,light-haired boy of fourteen years, sitting alone on a large log. I saton the log with the lad, thinking he was a native of that country, andentered into conversation with him. He said he lived in Indiana, havingbecome dissatisfied with home. His mother was dead. His father hadmarried again and he and his step-mother could not get along together.He had made up his mind to run away from home and join the army. Heasked me what state I was from. Being informed that I was fromIllinois, he asked if he could get into my company and regiment. As wesat there I tried to persuade him that he was too young and small tomake a soldier; that he had better return home to his father. To thishe answered, no; that he had started out to become a soldier and if hecould not get into my regiment he would try some other one. I then toldhim if he was bound to be a soldier, he had just as well join myregiment as any. I said, we will go and see my captain and find whetherhe will take you in my company or not.
We found him in his tent alone, writing. When we entered, he looked upand said, "Hello, boys, sit down." We sat down until the captain couldgive us his attention. In a few minutes he stopped writing, turnedaround and addressed me, saying, "Scottie, who is the little fellow youhave with you?" I then told him where I had found the lad, theconversation I had had with him; that we had come to him to see if hewould muster him into our company. The captain turned to the blue-eyedboy: "You want to be a soldier? You are not big enough to carry a gunand knapsack; you had better go back to your home, and stay with yourfather two or three years, then, if the war is still going on, you willbe able to make a soldier." To this the boy replied, "I have startedout to be a soldier and I am going to be one; if you will not take me inyour company I will find some other company that I can get into." Tothis the captain said, "Well, if you're determined to enlist, you hadjust as well belong to Company A of the 107th Illinois, as any otherregiment or company. Come with me; we will go and see the colonel andfind out what he thinks about having you mustered into the regiment."We started to the colonel's quarters. On the way down I stopped with mycompany.
The captain and the boy went on to see the colonel. In a short timethey came back through my company. The captain called me as Iapproached him and the lad, and said to me, "Here, Scottie, is yourrecruit. Take him and see if you can fit him out with a gun, uniformand knapsack; teach him the drill; make a soldier out of him as fast aspossible." I took the blue-eyed boy and soon had him fitted out with afull Yankee uniform and got him a gun and knapsack. When fitted out hedid look like a little soldier. The lad took hold of things withearnestness, and soon became acquainted with all the boys in thecompany. They all took a great interest in him.
In a very few days after this, we broke camp and started on our march tojoin Sherman's great army to take part in the great Atlanta campaign.It wasn't long until Robert SMITH (for that was the name under which theblue-eyed boy enlisted) became a favorite in the company. The firsttime he came under fire was at Buzzard Roost and Rocky-Face Ridge,Georgia. He showed himself to be made of the right kind of material.He never flinched nor showed any signs of being excited. From the aboveplace, and for weeks, we were daily under fire. Little Robert Smith wasalways in his place of duty. When on the skirmish line he was alwaysdiscreet and careful in his movements; but did not like to fire his gununless he had dead aim on his mark. He stood up under the hard work ofthe campaign until we got quite close to Atlanta, when he was takensuddenly ill and was taken back to the hospital. In a few days the newscame from the hospital that our little Robert Smith was very sick withbrain fever. It was thought by the doctors that he could not live.Days passed, still the report from him was bad. The army slowly movedtoward Atlanta. Smith was left farther and farther behind. After along time, news came that little Smith was on the mend and would likelyrecover. His recovery was very slow.
Atlanta was taken by Sherman's grand army, after which a few weeks' restwas given. Another campaign was begun, Sherman dividing his great army,sending the 23--4 corps back to Tennessee to take care of the rebelgeneral Hood, who was there in command of the rebel soldiers then in ourfront, who had concluded to force his way back into Tennessee, tointercept, if possible, Sherman's great march to the sea, with the otherpart of his army. This movement placed our little blue-eyed Smithfarther and farther from the regiment. We often thought of and talkedabout him, but we never saw him nor heard of him again.
The war closed, the regiment was discharged, the men went to theirhomes, but none of us could tell what had become of the littlelight-haired, blue-eyed boy. Thousands of times have we thought of theboy and wondered if he had lived to get out of the army; had he died,and his people, perhaps, never to know what had become of their boy.
A few days ago, after a lapse of thirty years, to our utter surprise, wereceived a long letter from our little recruit, dated at Kingston,Tennessee, which reads as follows: "My dear friend and comradeScott:---I am so glad I have found you out at last. I feel as though Ihad found some of my dearest kinfolks." He says further: "I am amarried man; have a wife and eight children; am a farmer; work from tento fifteen hands all the time; am Justice of the Peace of Roane county,Tenn.; settled here after coming out of the army; have been here eversince; am doing well; would like so much to see you; think I will haveto make a trip up to Illinois on purpose to see you."
Now in concluding this little sketch of war history, will say: Never didI receive a letter from anyone that did me more good to read than theone I received a few days ago from our once little blue-eyed RobertSmith, who is now a grown man, the father of a large family, and doingwell in the world. Now, my company comrades, those of you who may seethis piece of history in the paper, will no doubt remember our littleblue-eyed, light-haired recruit, who now signs his name to his letter,which I received from him a few days ago, R. W. GAMBELL, and states thathe was enlisted under an assumed name, Robert Smith. As soon as he wasdischarged he again took up his proper name. Thinking this littlesketch of history will be of interest to my comrades, I will quit forthis time.
G. W. S.[George W. Scott]
Roane County Coordinator
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