“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”—Cynthia Ozick
Even though I never served in the armed forces, my family has a long history of service. My father Herb Wood served in the Navy during the Korean War and the lineage goes all the way back to my third great-grandfather Henry Hilton Wood who served in the Civil War when he was only 16 years old.
I am very proud and grateful of my family’s honorable service to this country and I am very grateful to all veterans who have served. As Cynthia Ozick stated, we too often take for granted many things, and our veterans are one of them.
“I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot.”—Gary Hart
Henry Hilton Wood wrote a book about his life, a part of which included the Civil War. Life was very different in the 1860s and going off to war was just as difficult for families then as it is now. Following is an excerpt from that, two partial chapters, which are also online at: http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/121stInf/121stInfArticleWood.htm
Chapter IV – EXPERIENCES DURING THE CIVIL WAR
The next day we left home for the camp where the regiment was forming at Herkimer in the Mohawk Valley, about twenty-two miles from home. The morning we left was a very trying time.
It was hard to say goodbye to father, mother, brother, sisters, friends, and the old home that had become very dear to me. We walked three miles to Cooperstown, then a large wagon, drawn by four horses, loaded with recruits, with flags and streamers flying, and started on the journey to the camp. There were several other wagons just like the one we were in. All along the road people were gathered in throngs, waving flags, cheering us and wishing us “God-speed”. We arrived at camp late in the afternoon and were immediately examined for fitness for service. The examination was thorough, and some were rejected. My brothers and I were accepted. We were then taken into a large mess hall for dinner. We were hungry, as we had had nothing to eat since early morning.
We were then shown our tent, a large one, eight of us to sleep in it. Straw was put on the ground for our bed, no clean “nightie” like we had at home, one blanket for each one. In the morning we went down to the canal to wash, as the dust and dirt of the previous day was still on our hands and faces, no towels; hardships of a soldier’s life had begun. We were then sworn into the United States service. Regulations were read to us. At the end of each one was “Death or such other punishment as a Court Martial may direct”, for disobeying. We then began to realize what we were up against.
We commenced drilling at once. We remained in camp here about three weeks. The regiment was full. Ten companies of one hundred men each, 1040 in all. We received orders to start for Washington. Then came the real parting. Father and mother came to see us off; they remained about two hours. Farewells were spoken amid sobs and tears. They were giving three boys in answer to their country’s call. Would they return to them? They left us in the care of our Heavenly Father. What they suffered on the way back home, words cannot tell. Father was taken sick on the way and stopped and stayed all night at a hotel.
In a few days we were in sight of that great dome of the Capitol at Washington. What a glorious sight that was, and to know that the war was over. We went into camp at Hall’s Hill across the Potomac River and from Washington. After a few days in camp we had our own Grand Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, because the 6th Corps was not in the Grand Review of all the Union armies in the Civil War. However this Corps did not lose any fame by not being in the Great Parade, for the 6th Corps record was well known in Washington. They knew how they stood like a rock in the way of the enemy at Cedar Creek, until General Sheridan, on his famous black steed, arrived from Winchester, twenty miles away.
Neither had they forgotten when the 6th Corps came running from the steamboat landing to meet the foe at the edge of the city. The foe retreated as soon as they saw the emblem of this Corps—a white flag with a large red cross in the center.
General Sheridan loved the 6th Corps and always asked for it in all of his great undertakings. The city of Washington did itself proud in this parade. Cheer after cheer arose, flags were waving, bands were playing, drums were beating (the drum that I now have, seventy years since that day, I beat in that parade) as proudly we marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. As we approached the reviewing stand on which stood all the remaining great Generals of the Civil War, our lines were as straight and our step as perfect as a West Point Cadet. Our uniforms were faded and rent by bullets and our flags had been torn by shot and shell. This too, was a Grand Review.
We returned to camp. Preparations were being made for our release and on or about the 15th of June, 1865, our discharge from the United States service was completed. I received an honorable discharge.
“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”—Jose Narosky
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