Part four of a series
The song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” written during the Civil War in 1863, was instantly and widely popular, sung in both the north and south as well as in England.
When Johnny comes
marching home again
We’ll give him a hearty
The men will cheer and
the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes
An estimated 800 to 1,000 Houston County men served in the Civil War, 79 of whom did not come home. They lost their lives from battle, typhus, measles, malaria or infected wounds. It is thought that 55% of all Union troops and 95% of all Confederate soldiers suffered from dysentery. Twenty-five years after the war, men were still claiming dysentery caused by Civil War service.
Torvald Anderson of Houston received a disability discharge in 1863 and died as soon as he got home. Shortly after the war, many veterans died, especially those who had been captured and imprisoned. At Andersonville, the war’s deadliest of approximately 150 prison camps, about 13,000 of the 45,000 Union soldiers sent there – died there, mostly from malnutrition.
Some of the more than 30 soldiers from the Norwegian Telemark settlement in Badger Valley were captured and sent to Andersonville. Aanund Springane and Per Trondson ate whatever they could – cats, dogs – before they escaped and came home to recover. They were referred to as “beinragel” (rattling bones or skeletons), because of their emaciated condition. Once their health was restored in Badger Valley, they returned to rejoin their unit.
There was a common phrase for those coming home from war – “when they came back, they were never quite the same.” And life was not always the same. The employment for a disabled veteran was limited in a society that depended primarily on physical farm labor. He could become a school teacher, get a desk job, or run for public office.
M. Ingman taught school in Fillmore County before retiring to Sheldon, where he lived off an Army pension of $8 a month. David Crowe and John Hartman, both of Hokah, came home with a leg missing. Loss of a limb, especially a leg, could shorten life. Crowe lost his leg at age 20 and died at 48.
Many veterans came home and stayed; others took their families farther west. There were 246 veteran burials in Houston County, but some had moved into the county after the war. An estimated 200 to 300 veterans either settled in or passed through the county after the war. Highly prominent was Capt. William H. Harries, who survived a usually-fatal chest wound, moved across the river to Caledonia after the war. He was county attorney for several years and served in Congress from 1891 to 1893. Harries later was the commandant of the Soldiers’ Home in St. Paul. Having been wounded at Antietam, he carried the bullet to his grave in Caledonia.
In 1866, the Minnesota department of the Grand Army of the Republic was formed – a veterans’ organization “to preserve and strengthen those kind and fraternal feelings… and to perpetuate the memory of the dead.” It thrived throughout the state with a post established in almost every village in Houston County.
The Money Creek chapter was the only one in the county with Sons of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) long after old veterans had all died. The GAR held reunions and encampments all during its 90-year existence in Minnesota. Often lasting three days, old soldiers and their sons lived in Army tents, consumed hard tack, beans and coffee while refighting old battles, marching and listening to old tunes.
When a veteran would die, it was not just family or friends of that would carry the remains to the cemetery, it was also his fellow comrades in arms until there was no one left. At the funeral of Frederick Monk in 1930, Moses Emery was the lone representative of the G.A.R. Emery, who may have lied about his age while enlisting as a Money Creek teenager, died in 1934 at the age of 87 – the county’s last Civil War survivor. It was over.
This week’s column is based on the writing of Civil War historian David Klinski of Caledonia.