T he rainfall woke me; it was still dark. I heard a rooster in the barn and I knew it was time to get up. I sat up in bed and heard my uncle and aunt getting up. I got dressed and rushed out to the barn to feed the horses. I knew that my uncle wanted to start early; he was taking me to Peoria. I was thinking that we should put the trip off. My uncle was not very healthy and I hated to expose him to this wet weather.
I finished with the horses, and went to the woodshed and picked up an armful of wood for the kitchen. I started the fire in the kitchen stove. When my uncle came out to the kitchen, I asked him how he was feeling. He told me that he would take his buffalo coat and he would be alright. My aunt came out and started breakfast; she was not very happy about me leaving. I was going to Peoria to enlist in the Army. My aunt kept saying that this fighting was not Christian. I felt a little guilty about leaving my aunt and uncle; they were both over sixty years old. They raised me since my father passed away. I remembered when we closed up our house in Maxwell and they brought me home with them. I did not know it then, but when I said goodbye to them that day, it would be the last time I would ever see them.
After breakfast, I went and harnessed up the horses. We were taking the covered buggy. I filled four nosebags with oats. I filled both side lamps with kerosene, just in case my uncle returned in the dark. When I got back in the house, I put on my coat and said goodbye to my aunt. She had been my mother since I was twelve years old. She had a big basket of food for us while we were on the road. I took it out and put it in the back of the buggy. When we started out, she stayed in the light of the doorway and waved to us. It rained all the way to Peoria; the horses had a hard trip in all the mud. After I said goodbye to my uncle, I joined a long line of enlistees.
I stood in line for almost an hour. Some ladies brought us coffee and snacks. They were signing everyone up for ninety days, claiming the war would be over by then. For some reason I didn't believe it. When my turn came, I told the fellow that I wanted to sign up for the duration of the war; he did not know how to do that. He called over a captain and told him what I wanted to do. The Capt. asked me if I wanted to sign up for the regular army. I explained again that I just wanted to sign up for the duration of the war. The colonel came over to find out what the delay was about.
After the captain had explained, the colonel said, "Sign him up just as he asked for the duration of the war." The Captain continued to argue that he would have to rate me regular army.
The colonel told him, "I don't care if he don't care."
Later, I learned that he was going to be our regimental commander. I heard him say to the captain, "The lad makes sense." Later, the colonel swore us in. I became a member of the Illinois Volunteers, First Infantry Regiment on April 20th, 1861.
I was issued a new uniform that was a fairly good fit. They let me keep my own boots, in addition to the ones they issued me. They marched us over to the schoolhouse where we were going to stay for five days. Every morning we fell in. They called our names for roll call. They had some regular army men to train us. After five days, they marched us to a camp of tents where our training was going to start. Thank God the sun finally showed through the clouds and began to warm our camp.
We usually started the morning with a drill, then we went marching until the men started falling out due to their new shoes. I always waited until the marching was over, then I would put on my new shoes to break them in.
We were issued our rifles and bayonets and they instructed us at gun practice. I was a good shot. I got my first r