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George Franklin Peckham
Company "C" 11th Wisconsin
11 Apr 1843 - 30 June 1914

"In the winter of 1861 and the spring of 1862 we were guarding the line of the Iron Mountain Railroad at a place called Big near River..." George Franklin Peckham


One Episode of Civil War Days

by George Franklin Peckham 11 Apr 1843 - 30 June 1914

In the winter of 1861 and the spring of 1862 we were guarding the line of the Iron Mountain Railroad at a place called Big near River about 30 miles south of St. Louis Missouri. That being our first duty after joining the army. The railroad bridge was about 80 feet above the water at time when low. It rises to considerable height where there is a freshet. About 6 months before we got there the bridge was burned by a man by the name of Higgenbottom, who lived about 8 miles from the river. he did this so the Union Army could not use the line of railroad to ship supplies to the men in the field. Mr Higgenbottom was caught and taken to pilot Knob, Missouri as a prisoner of war. He had grown up sons who lived on his farm which consisted of 1.200 acres, and they were feeding about 100 head of beef cattle which they claimed were for the use of the Union army. We learned that the Southern Soldiers were receiving them, not the Union Army.

Our meat was killed at St. Louis and shipped to us dressed on flat cars. These cars were used first to haul leas ore to St. Louis, our beef being thrown on the cars without being wiped off. There was considerable clay left on the cars which go on our beef making it speckled. We being young soldiers were more dainty of what we ate then, than we were three years later! By getting a pass from our commanding officer we could go outside the lines but this pass was good only during the day. Were we outside the guard line after dark we could not get in unless we had the countersign. One day there were 8 of us young fellows that made up our minds that we would get passes and go out to this farm and get some of the good beef. We went out and intended to get back with our beef before dark.

Without asking any questions we went to their feed yard and caught a very nice fat three year old beef and led it into the road. When the Higgenbottom boys saw what we were doing, they came out and made us an offer like this, "if we would turn our beef back they would give us as fine of a dinner as we could wish for." We tied the beef to a post and told them that if they did that we would turn the beef loose. Because we did not believe that they had as good of cooks as our mothers and thought we were safe to get the dinner and the beef too. When the dinner was ready it tasted so good and they treated us so nice that we turned the beef back into their yard. The sun was pretty hot and we had a rather full stomach, for we had over eaten, so it was pretty hard to walk back that 8 miles without resting. About a mile or so from the farm house we sat down in the shade of a tree and spent the afternoon in various ways.

As the sun began to go out of sight we became conscious that the meal although good would not do for the dinner for the next day, so we got up and started for camp, when we saw a large flock of sheep just over the fence. We began to think that beef was quite common anyhow and began to hanker for mutton stew, mutton chops, etc. After considerable talk we made up our minds that should we appear in camp without something that would help the other boys we would get the laugh, so we tied three lassoes together and two men go hold of each end and stretched out the full length of our rope and drove the sheep toward the fence while the other six followed along behind the rope. As soon as the sheep saw they were about to be cornered they attempted to run back and as they struck our rope the boys behind would catch all they could. The six boys got ten sheep. We culled out the two poorest and cut up our ropes and led a good fat sheep apiece along the road to camp.

About mile from our camp but across the river from the camp was a rebel fort consisting of about five acres. In the center was an old log house without either windows or doors but a good fire place. It being late when we got along there we thought at first we would put our sheep in there but we were afraid we would not be able to get them. We made up our minds that we would kill and dress them nicely and stay there until daylight. We raised the cellar door and not only let the sheep bleed in the cellar, but we threw the pelts and refuse down there and when we were finished, one coming into the house would see no sign of the slaughter. By this time is was half pass Eleven and we knew that the guard rounds would be along soon. the guard rounds is the officer of the day with a guard following him who inspects all the guard posts to see if everyone and everything is alright.

We were determined to make a try to get into our camp. We each put a sheep on our shoulders and marched onto the railroad track, toward the bridge. The moon was at its full and we had no trouble to locate the guard. As soon as we got within speaking distance the guard called out "halt" which we did. He asked us "who comes there", we answered "friends" he ordered one of us to advance and give the countersign. We told the guard we were without the countersign and he told us that he was going to hold us for the guard rounds, which just then came upon the north end of the bridge. When the officer of the day arrived he wanted to know what we were doing there. We told him that we went on a pass and got belated and did not have the countersign to get back in. He wanted to know what we had on our shoulders, we told him to name it and he being wise ordered the guard to open ranks so we could pass- which passed between the guards [with our sheep on our shoulders] to present arms. When the officer reached his tent, he found the hind quarters of a very nice mutton laying on his mess table, which showed that he at heart, had re-assessed the countersign - for which we were thankful.

Yours from memory

George Franklin Peckham written 6 July 1910

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Date: Wed Mar 13 2002
Name: Wilma Fleming Haynes
E- mail: gencon@harborside.com
Notes: My great grandfather George Franklin PECKHAM was born 11 Apr 1843 in Birdsell, Allengany, New York, he was the s/o William Augustus Franklin PECKHAM and Lydia M. CHAPIN. They moved to Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin when he was very young - He was mustered into the State Service 26 September 1861, on the 27th of September 1861 he was mustered into the U.S. Service to serve 3 years or more. [during the war] He entered at Madison, Wisconsin in Company "C" 11th Wisconsin infantry, second brigade first division 13 corps. He served as a Wagoner - engaged in the battle at Peach Orchard, Cash Creek, Arkansas, Vicksburg, Jackson and Mobile. He was discharged 2 Sep 1865 at Mobil Atlanta. He settled in O'Brien county and October 1879 at Sanborn Iowa. He was a member of Farragut Post No. 25 G.A.R. Department of Nebraska. He married after he came home from the war - on 7 Feb 1866 at Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin TO his 'childhood school mate" Emily Rosella Lyons. My great grandfather George Franklin Peckham died 30 June 1914 at Lincoln, Lancaster, Nebraska

Brian Brown, author of In the Footsteps of the Blue and Gray: A Civil War Research Handbook which can be purchased from ABE Books kindly sends the following information: On the 1860 cnesus of Jefferson County, Wis., Town of Milford, p. 394 I find the following:

J. B. Lillian farmer age 40 born NY
Lyndsette Lillian age 36 born NY
George Peckham age 17 born NY
Byron Peckham age 7 Wis
W.A. (male) Peckham age 4 born Wis.
Annie C. Peckham age 2 born Wis.

It appears that George's father has probably died and his mother has remarried. George enlisted in C, 11 Wis. Infantry on 9/24/61 as a wagoner (i.e. a wagon driver) from Milford, Wis. He served until discharged on Sept. 4, 1865.

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