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Harper's Round Table, July 2, 1895   By:

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[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.






The male population of Middleton, Ohio, in the early summer of 186 appeared to consist altogether of old men and boys. True, a few young men, most of them dressed in blue coats with brass buttons, were to be seen on the streets, but nearly all of them carried their arms in slings, and one tall lad of twenty, who had once been the best runner in the village, hobbled along on crutches, with an empty trouser leg pinned up at the knee.

One bright morning three Middleton boys were sitting astride the top rail of a zigzag fence that ran along a hillside at the edge of a thicket of underbrush. A long Kentucky rifle lay across a near by log. One of the boys held in his hand a glass bottle slopped with a bit of rag. Another had on a leather belt with "U.S." on the brass plate upside down. The third boy was digging at the rail with a dull jackknife.

"I came near to running away and goin' as a drummer boy," said the youngster with the belt, "but they wouldn't take me on account of my age. I'll be old enough this fall," he added. "Then you'll see."

"Your mother wouldn't let you go, Skinny," said the boy with the bottle. "She told Grandad that two was enough."

"Father'd let me go if he warn't with Sherman," said Skinny, "and brother Bill said I drummed good enough."

"My father wants me to stay home and look after ma," the second boy sighed. There had been no news of his father for six months, now.

"I've got a letter from Alfred, written jes before he was taken prisoner, I guess," said the third boy, closing his knife. He drew out of his pocket an envelope with the picture of an American flag on it.

"Go on and read it to us," said the oldest boy, wriggling himself up closer. And Hosmer Curtis began following the words with his thumb:


"DEAR BROTHER, I wish I was to home to night, with you all sitting in the kitchen, and mother reading to us the way she used to, rather than being here. I am writing this by moonlight mostly, as it is getting late. We have had a big fight all day, but drove the Rebs back across a crick into a swamp, where we captured a lot of them stuck in the mud. I am dreadful sorry to say that Tom Ditchard was killed. Poor Tom! I suppose the home papers will tell all about it; he was shot fording the crick. I have his watch; he gave it to me to bring back home. I hope I shall do so. To morrow we will move westward to head off Morgan, I guess; I hope we won't march far, for my boots are all worn out, and my feet are sore. But I am well; love to all, and kiss mother. I wrote her two days ago.

"Your affec brother, ALFRED.

"P.S. The Fourth of July will soon be here. I suppose you will have no fireworks, though perhaps we shall. Good by."

"I don't know as I'd like to be a soldier," said the boy with the gunpowder bottle he was also the proud possessor of the long rifle. "'Tisn't so much fun, I guess. Think so, Skinny?"

"You're a 'fraid cat," returned the boy with the belt. "That's what you are, Will Tevis."

The other flushed, but said nothing; he was by far the smallest of the three.

"How do you know Alfred was captured?" said the thin one, after a silence of a minute.

"He was on the missing list that's all we know," said Hosmer, putting the letter back into his pocket.

"It will be the Fourth in two days, now," remarked Skinny, as if to change the subject. "But I hain't heard any talk about any celebration."

"Let's have one all to ourselves," suggested Hosmer.

"What with?" asked the smallest boy. "I guess this is all the gunpowder there is in town." He held up the bottle... Continue reading book >>

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