GOING TO SEE THE ELEPHANT
GOING TO SEE THE ELEPHANT
"Going to see the elephant . . ."
W. D. Hall, his Book. Diary of travels in service presented by a friend and valued highly. All persons will please forebear cribbing over this book: W. D. Hall
Journal Page 1
W. D. Hall. 23rd Mo.: containing a list of moves and travels during the rebellion in the United States; in which the above named was one who participated in its repression.
This book is valued very highly as it contains valuable notes and is also a present by a Friend.
Journal Page 2
Travels of William D. Hall of Co 23rd Missouri Volunteers comencing Aug 25th, 1862. Enlisted in U. S. Service Aug 25/62, left home Aug 28th 62.
William D.'s journey and our journey both began in the northwest corner of Missouri where W. D. and his father and some siblings had moved from Indiana just a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War. They settled on a small hardscrabble farm on land that swoops up and down like a roller coaster. Wild irises bloomed along the roadside in several places outside of Blythedale. The land where the Halls lived was green and lush, but even so, the country was too rocky and rough for anything other than subsistence farming or cattle.
While the Halls settled into their new Missouri home, while W. D. met, courted and married Mary Thompson, the United States was poised on the brink of disintegration.
Lincoln was elected to the Presidency in 1860. In January 1861, South Carolina seceded from the Union, and like dominos tumbling, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas followed.
Lincoln responded by declaring a state of insurrection and calling for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months of service--a wildly optimistic assessment of the situation. Just days after Lincoln's move, the Union crumbled even more as Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Caroline seceded.
Missouri could have gone either way. There were forces in the state's government that pushed for joining the Confederate States of America. Only military intervention thwarted an attempt to take over the Missouri arsenal for the south and thus commit Missouri to the southern cause. As the southern uprising settled into a full scale war, and the south won a victory at Manassas and forced a Union retreat at Richmond, Lincoln sent out a call for an additional 300,000 men. Given the timing, it is likely that William D. responded to this call to arms.
Glaze Cemetery sits just south of a narrow road, Road N, that goes east from Blythedale, Missouri in Harrison County and joins the road to Cainesville.
An ancient tree sits to the northeast of W. D.'s grave. His father, William, and Zachariah, possibly a brother, are buried close by. Weather, time and some kind of black fungus have all but obliterated any readable markings or inscriptions. Dale had to do a rubbing of the stone to decipher that W. D. was born on November 5, 1837, and died June, 28, 1880.
In Bethany, Missouri in the first of many motel rooms on our journey, we confronted the reality of the project we'd undertaken. The Civil War was a vast four-year conglomeration of generals, soldiers, battles, stupid mistakes and surprising cleverness. We planned to follow one man through this complicated landscape. Our knowledge of the Civil War was limited to half remembered school units, movies like Gone with the Wind and the Ken Burns documentary about the war. We knew where W. D. traveled. However, our thinking hadn't gone much beyond that.
Once we were actually in Missouri a