Your March issue on the Civil War is of great interest to me. My father served for three years in the 16th Illinois Regiment of Volunteers. He was wounded in the Battle of Chickamauga, was hospitalized on Lookout Mountain, and walked home—back to Atlas, in Pike County, Illinois, where he had been born in 1840.
Although there were no public schools in Illinois when he was growing up, there were “subscription” schools. In a sense these were private schools where the students attended a few weeks in the fall and again in the spring. During the winter, weather conditions were too bad for travel through woodland trails, and in the summer months the children worked in the fields. Somehow Dad learned to read and write. He was very interested in politics and on one occasion he shook hands with Mr. Lincoln (they called him Mr. Linkern) when Lincoln was speaking in Pittsfield, the county seat.
Later my father plowed under prairie grasses to start farming on the wonderfully rich and bottomless soil along the Mississippi River. He had to plow at night with a lantern hanging between the horses because insects would have killed the horses in the daytime. He lived in a tent. I wonder how he ate and sustained himself.