Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
Warlike Spirit of Menard County
Little Menard county has always had a warlike character. In my childhood there were still living in its bounds two soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary war. One was the father of James Short who was an early friend of Lincoln's. He lived north of Petersburg. It was old man Short who killed sixteen wild turkeys at one shot and the recoil of the gun broke his leg. The other was Daddy Boger who lived in Wolf. He was a basket maker and he would come to Petersburg every Saturday with a basket on each arm and every person in those days had a Boger basket made out of the best white oak splits. There were what was called hoop baskets, and were very strong and substantial. In 1844 slavery was either to have more territory or to go out of existence, we went to war. The cry was Polk and Texas. Texas had achieved her independence from Mexico with the Rio Grande river as the western boundary. In the election the south and Polk were triumphant, and Henry Clay, who had rather be right than president, was beaten. The slave power now ran wild and instead of stopping at the Rio Grande river, demanded that the line of Texas be moved two hundred miles farther west to the Rio Nuses, which Texas has never claimed. The Whigs opposed this claim, though when it came to voting supplies to carry on the war, they voted for them on the principle of "Our Country, right or wrong." So when our troops were moved over next to Mexico, it took no time to start the war, and then it was published all over the country that American blood had been spilled on American soil. This was enough. When the average American gets the smell of human blood, he usually goes in for all it is worth. So the war was started, and Illinois furnished four regiments. Col. Baker and Col. Hardin, as good men as Illinois ever produced, raised regiments in the central part of the state. Col. Or General Hardin laid down his life at Buena Vista, while Col. Baker reserved his life for Ball's Bluff, in the Rebellion. Menard county furnished one company of stalwarts. A. D. Wright was elected captain, William C. Clary, first lieutenant, Sheldon Johnson, second lieutenant, and Robert Scott, third lieutenant. The company had eighty-two men in its ranks, but death cut a wide swath in its ranks. The climate robbed the country of more than half of its men. Some were killed in battle, so not more than one-half of the men returned, and some of those who did, came back, had the seeds of disease planted in their systems and soon died. In fact it is in all wars, those who return, come hoe to die or linger out the rest of their days in pain, so it is doubtful whether there will be a single Mexican soldier alive in two years from date. There were only six alive in 1898, and several have died since. Tom Watkins died only two years ago. He was more widely known than any of them. The capture of Santa Anna with a lot of treasure and the wooden leg of Santa Anna, who was compelled to leave it in great haste to save his own person, was an episode of the war. Thomas L. Harris' name is mentioned in connection with this with several men from Pekin. As one of the results of the war, we acquired New Mexico and California, though we paid $15,000,000 for the latter. It turned out to be a good investment, as the gold in California was discovered about that time. The slave power now ran mad and stopped at nothing to extend their arena of slavery. In this they sealed their doom, as the last straw broke the camel's back, so things were carried to the point until the north arose in their right and said: "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther."
We have said that the first settlers of Menard were natural born fighters. They came from fighting ancestors. Their sires came from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and the way they settled their differences was to knock it out. Even to this day whole families are wiped out and in a few years the other family grows strong enough to wipe out the other family out. These things have existed for generations. In my childhood the military existed in Menard more than at the present time. With out schools for learning the art of war, a citizen can be made into a soldier into a short space of time. I recollect when every person liable to military duty had to muster two days in each year. Andrew Moore of Indian Point was captain and a very important man was he with a military suit on. He looked soldier like, but his most impressive toggery was an old silk hat caved in at the sides, with a red plume on top. Andy, with solemn mein, would give the word of command and the troops would automatically obey. Muster days which would come in August were red letter days.
In the war of the rebellion, little Menard never had a draft, but furnished her quota of troops. It has been said to her discredit, that she had many citizens who were opposed to the war, but we know that the Democrats and Republicans poured out about the same amount of their best blood on their country's alter to save the Union, and that all were patriotic in their own way, though they all could not see just alike. Menard had enrolled 1,084; killed in battle, 26; died of wounds, 19; killed by accident, 2; wounded, 26, died in prison, 8; died of disease 129; deserted, 50; total death from all causes, 184. A great many died on returning home from disease contracted during the war. "Our Country, right or wrong," although it would not hold good between neighbors, yet when applied to our nation, has always been the rallying cry. The last war was right, the war ten years from now will be right, and we have many men who will hurrah for the war fifty years fro now. General Sherman said: "War means hell." In the destruction of property or life it means the wounding and maining of the youth of our land, and yet we hear it said every day that the war helps our business and our trade, and we don't care how long the war lasts, so we thrive by it.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson