Friday, July 4, 2014

Stories of Civil War Soldiers - Lewis Truesdale

Stories of Civil War Soldiers
Lewis Truesdale

This is the third of the five stories of Civil War Soldiers of the Oak Creek Valley from Part III:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

Lewis Truesdale Civil War experience

I was in my nineteenth year when war was declared. I was well aware of what was happening and what might happen as my father, Hugh, was a state legislator in addition to a farmer and horse and mule breeder and trader. My maternal grandfather, Jake Patton, had previously been a state legislator and now was serving on the County Commission which had divided loyalties between northern and southern interests. I expected to join the Union cause when the right time came.

In short order, Jake let us know that he had obtained an Army Commission and would be recruiting and organizing a cavalry regiment. From that day forward, he was always, “Colonel Patton,” even in the family. It was agreed that his son, my father, Hugh, would be responsible for rounding up all the horses and mules in the valley as quickly as feasible and driving them to Houston, west in Texas County, to be sold to the Union troops already there and growing. I was to help with that activity, finish what farm work I could, and head north, myself, to become a recruiter for Colonel Patton of young men to join his regiment.

I had spent three years with my Truesdale grandparents near Jefferson City attending secondary school, so I knew many of the young men there, already, and had kept in touch with a number of them. I had even continued to visit my grandparents, from time to time, of course, since my father and mother were also there regularly due to his legislative duties.

By the time I was ready to leave the valley, Daniel McDonald, my 22-year-old brother-in-law had decided it was time for him to leave, as well. Perhaps he was my first recruit, because we did both end up serving under Colonel Patton in his Cavalry Regiment. Later, I found that David Baldridge had also joined the regiment as a supply Sergeant and Liam Olson became a farrier working on care of the horses.

I spent several months recruiting while the regiment was being organized; official organization of the regiment was January 1, 1962. Our patrols were generally in the central Missouri area. I never left Missouri on a patrol. On January 1, 1963, I was promoted to Lieutenant and was second in command of Company G. In the fall of 1962, I had been assigned to recruiting duties for nearly three months. This pattern continued in fall of 1963, and I was promoted to Captain on January 1, 1964, and assumed command of Company G. My company never saw any enemy military action, although we were involved in a number of incidents that might more accurately be called police actions.

During a leave in 1864, Caroline McDonald and I were able to marry, at my Truesdale grandparents home, with many family members present, including Colonel Patton and Kate as well as my parents and Caroline’s parents.

We were mustered out almost immediately upon receiving official word of the end of the war. As the expectations began to become clear it would be ending, we had begun to prepare for our return to the Oak Creek Valley. Daniel, David, Liam and I met on several weekends during this time.

Colonel Patton had gotten the message that GranPa Henry had asked a patrol to pass along to him that he was safe and still living in the woods near Oak Creek in late November 1863. We hoped and assumed he would have still survived by the time we got there in May of 1865. Colonel Patton had helped and encouraged us in our plans to return to our home valley.

When we finally arrived, Daniel and I were so happy to be greeted by GranPa Henry McDonald and young Alex McDonald, all grown up, and just as happy to see us. The two of them looked like a couple of mountain men, for sure. They were already to get to work on the farms when they saw the mules and the packs we had with us.

I should mention, at this point, that the valley of the Oak Creek was a beautiful sight, as we came over the ridge from the north, along the west side of Oak Creek. It looked just like it must have when my father and the other settlers arrived in 1833. There were no signs at all, that met the eye, that the valley had previously been settled and prospering. It made us want to try twice as hard to make that happen again.

David and Liam must have traveled faster than we had, because they arrived about ten days after we did. By that time, under directions from Henry and Alex, we had retrieved the plow and other implements from their cave storage cache and had already begun to do some plowing. Henry had in mind the area to work on first, so we got right at it. When David and Liam arrived with the next set of animals, both horses and mules, we were able to get some planting done pretty fast, even though it was late in the season. We assumed other folks would be following us into the valley before winter.

Along with harness, seed, and supplies, we had each brought with us an extra rifle and ammunition. We had heard that outlaws and raiders continued to roam the area, and we didn’t want to be caught off-guard and unprepared. And, there were a couple of incidents over that first summer. By being on-guard, we were able to drive off the two sets of ‘invaders’ without further incident.

David and Liam had brought some tools and equipment hoping to get a simple saw mill operation going and the grist mill in some sort of operational state by fall. Liam set up what blacksmithing tools he had near the mill site.

Over the summer, in pairs, we made several trips to Houston to the west, and Salem to the north, to begin to bring in other items we needed, and did some bartering with goods we had available. For example, the many deerskins that Henry and Alex had preserved still had value. 

With the end of the war, horses and mules were available in abundance, no longer needed by the military. My father, Hugh, and I believed that mules were still going to be valuable assets as farmers got back to their land, so we planned to resume our breeding and training program by picking up quality stock as we could. Colonel Patton was an active participant, a partner, in our plans. Each trip I made out of the valley, I attempted to pick up one or two more good animals for our herd. We assembled them in the central valley, near Oak Springs, where we had been, before.

Before winter, working together, much like our forefathers, we had four houses constructed, one near the mill, one on the McDonalds place and two in the central valley. 

Daniel, Henry and Alex occupied the house on the McDonald land, of course, and Daniel’s wife, Jane, and their young son, William, just a year and a half old, joined them that fall.

David and Liam lived in the house by the mill, of course. Liam liked the idea of setting up his own blacksmith shop near the mill, as well.

Colonel Patton wanted us to build near his former home and Caroline and I would live in it. He was determined to “get things back to normal” in the valley as soon as possible. Honestly, we younger folks didn’t understand his “normal” but we worked hard to help make it happen. 

Caroline was pregnant with our son when she arrived in the fall along with the Olson’s, Owen, Anna and Allison, as well as my 15-year-old sister, Nellie. James arrived in early February; that is a story in itself, for another time. 

Colonel Patton and Owen Olson had agreed that Olson would return to open the town blacksmith shop near the original site, under his own ownership, but the Owen house would be rebuilt near its original location. In between, Olson and his family would open a new General Merchandise store near where the original Patton store had been.

Colonel Patton made several trips through the valley continuing his role as a County official and political person. I didn’t understand it all, at the time, but have since learned to appreciate his efforts, and those of some of the other older men and women, as well. My father, Hugh, continued to represent the area, along with parts of Texas and Dent counties, in the state legislature, as well. So he came and stayed with us, from time to time, even in that first year back. I later realized that these visits by my father, my grandfather, and even Victor Campbell, Owen Olson and Gideon Inman, were part of a concerted effort to “resume the building of Oak Springs” even though there was no longer anything there, from the past efforts. The dream lived on, however, and they actually made it happen, I’m pleased to report.

Part of this dream, and as the result of efforts continued through the war, a new Town Council was elected in late November, and I was elected along with Jake Patton, Owen Olson, Victor Campbell and Gideon Inman. Victor and Gideon, along with a number of others, had already filed letters of intent to build homes on lots they already owned in town in the spring of 1866. Gideon, working with Colonel Patton, had kept all the town records, along with the Township real-estate records, and had kept in touch with most of the land owners. It was a remarkable feat, and paid off handsomely over the next few years. 

By fall, Township Trustees had also been certified by the County, through Colonel Patton’s efforts: David Baldridge in the east, Owen Olson in the central, and Delbert Campbell in the west. Delbert and his wife, Delia Rhodes Campbell, had filed a letter of intent to return to the family farm in the spring of 1866.

Through that first year, as we cleared land around homesites and along roadways, we discovered there were more salvageable materials and spaces than was first apparent. By the fall, the first wagons had come to town over the Houston road, the road north to Salem, and southeast to Eminence. By the spring, regular freight runs had returned.

With the return of the Olsons, and freight runs, the mail, though slow, and sometimes sporadic, began to return to normal. 

With encouragement from Colonel Patton, I had re-established correspondence with several of the men in my cavalry company who I knew were thinking of getting a new start at farming, and had expressed some interest in our valley. Over the next three years, six of them had actually come, with their brides. I rented some of our land in the east valley to four of them and two joined me in the central valley in the horse and mule business with smaller plots of land to use and care for.

We now have added the Oak Creek Valley Livery and Stable to the Oak Creek Valley Breeding business.

Upcoming Stories of Civil War Soldiers and Others

*** Gideon Inman
*** Owen Olson

May we each have a Homeplace, if only in our hearts!

Dr. Bill  ;-)

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