White County, Illinois

From: "Ruth Ryan" <[email protected]>

( I know that his "step-father's" death date is inaccurate--probably more
like 1855 or 6)



Alfred A. Nelson, the last remaining Civil War Veteran in White County, who
died last week, left his memoirs of early days in the County.

It was just five years ago that he dictated the story of his life to his
granddaughter, Miss Elizabeth Nelson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles
Nelson of Springerton. Entitled "My Life", by Alfred Nelson, the account is
as follows:

(by Alfred Nelson)

I was born October 28, 1841, to Mrs. Sarah Ann Nelson in the pioneer home
of my grandparents, William and Mary Nelson, who lived about two miles South
of Springerton. My grandfather Nelson was Irish and my grandmother was one
fourth Indian. When I was three years old my mother married George Harmon,
thus I acquired one half brother and four half sisters. My earliest
recollection is the time at the age of four I got into a snow drift and
screamed for my mother's sister, Aunt Bashie, to get me out.

When I was six my stepfather hired a man to hoe corn. I was compelled to
help the hired man. When I was seven I attended a subscription school
taught by John Wright for four weeks. The next year I attended Rufus
Sexton's school for about three months. The next year Daniel Johnson was my
teacher. It was during this winter that I played a joke on my teacher.
Before he arrived one morning, I took the stove pipe down and filled it with
snow. When the teacher built a fire the snow melted and put out the fire.
I received my education in a log school house and sat on split logs for
seats. I had no desk. The chimney was made of sticks and clay. My studies
consisted of reading and spelling.

My stepfather died in September 1850. This left me to help make a living
for my half sisters and half brother. My step father was shoemaker but
after his death all his personal property was sold except a yoke of steers.
The next summer I raised one hundred geese, picked them and sold the
feathers for fifty cents per pound. My mother made all my clothes. I wore
jeans, flax shirts, and woolen stockings. In 1855 my cousin and went to
visit our great grandmother Nelson on her 98th birthday. After dinner she
called us into the house and read a chapter from the Bible without her
spectacles. The next year she received a fall which caused her death.

In the spring of 1858 my grandfather persuaded me to take my thirty five
head of cattle and move to Arkansas with him. We started out with two
covered wagons each drawn by two yoke of oxen. In our wagon were myself, my
grandfather, my mother, my half brother, and my four half sisters. My
youngest uncle, my Aunt Bashie and my uncle, Mose Rankins went along with
us. They had two wagons thus making four wagons in the train. Different
ones took turns walking behind and riving the cattle. We made the trip in a
month and settled in Izard County in the northwest part of Arkansas.

I hauled cotton in Arkansas until March of 1861. I learned that I was
about to be drafted into the Southern Army so I decided to leave. In May
the same party trekked back to Springerton, Illinois. In July, Mose and
Josh Rankin went to Shawneetown to enlist in the Union Army. I went to
Shawneetown with them but had no intention of enlisting. But four days
later, on August the first, 1861, I enlisted and was trained in Shawneetown
until February 1862. I belonged to Company G of the 56th Illinois Regiment.
>From Shawneetown I was sent to Paducah, Kentucky where I was drilled until
the middle of March. From Paducah I was sent to Shiloh where I took part in
my first battle. The battle began at sun up and by ten o'clock the enemy
was retreating toward Corinth. We followed them into Corinth which they
gave up without much struggle. General Grant with 20,000 men set up his
headquarters at Corinth where he remained until October.

On the 2nd of October, 1862, while we were about twenty miles from
headquarters, a group of enemy cavalry rode through our brigade and took the
flag from the 80th Ohio regiment. On October 3rd General Price and General
Van Doren attacked Grant's encampment at Corinth. Two of our regiments were
in Fort William, near Corinth. The rebels drove them out. Then my
regiment, the 56th Illinois, and the 10th Missouri, charged in the fort,
took it, and held it.

We then headed south to Raymond, I had become a sergeant but before we
reached Champion Hill I gave up my commission as I did not want so much
responsibility. From Champion Hill we crossed Black River and marched to
Vicksburg and laid siege to the city. The siege lasted 40 days before the
city finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. We then marched across Lookout
Mountain and took Missionary Ridge. From there I went to Chattanooga,
Tennessee and joined General Sherman. In November and December I went with
Sherman on his famous march to the sea. I distinctly remembered that it was
on this trip that I saw my first dead Negro. When we reached Savannah my
regiment was sent by boat to New York City. As I was very ill I was
compelled to remain in Savannah. The General Lyons, the ship on which my
regiment embarked, was burned at sea and all but five men were lost. Later
when I recovered I went to New York by boat. From there I was sent to
Springfield, Illinois, where I received my discharge from the Army. In
Springfield I learned that President Lincoln had been assassinated and that
his body was lying there in state. I viewed the body and came home.

When I returned my mother had died. I soon married. My wife lived only a
year and in a few years I married again. We settled on a farm 2-1/2 miles
east of Springerton and cleared a farm from the forest. In 1921 my wife and
I have lived among children in and around Springerton ever since.

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Created by Laurel Crook, 05 Oct 1998

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