Francis Marion Wilcox Journal
Francis Marion Wilcox
While a resident of Pike County, Kentucky he was run for Justice of the Peace more than once and was elected by a good majority. His Judicial ability was extremely good. His ears were quick to hear testimony, his judgments clear and his decisions once rendered caused no appeals to be asked or taken to higher courts. His manner on hearing evidence was to weigh it, make up his mind at once, render judgment and this judgment in behalf of right. Lawyers with all their technicalities could not swerve his mind from the greater object, meeting out justice to all in accordance with the laws governing him as an Officer of the State. He was recognized as among the ablest magistrates of his County where his judgments were respected. While on the Board of the County Court of Claims he was liberal to those claims possessing merit and able in his arguments in behalf of all measures, looking to the interest of his County, always guarding the same against wild extravagance. Hence, he was much esteemed and believed in as an officer.
Religiously, he did not belong to any sect or denomination, yet always seemed to have a reverence for the deity and was a firm believer in all the dispensations of Providence as coming from God. He believed that God sent his Son to atone for condemned of "fallen man". He read and believed the Bible as being the spoken word of God. He never took the Lord's name in vain and detested those that did, looking on them as bigoted and self-willed to destruction unless they repented and found favor with an offended God. He always held ministers in high esteem, his door was always open to them and they felt at home in our house. When possible he attended preaching and always showed respect for God's people.
Politically, he was from birth an old line Whig. So long as that party lived his votes were always case for the Whig candidates and in favor of protection of protection of American manufacturers and agricultural products, believing that America should be for Americans. He favored some of the restrictive measures in regard to immigration - cherished by the true American Party or Know-Nothing party and believed that unless America restricted and made her immigration laws more rigid, in the end American boys born on American soil would one day lament and regret their foolish, open-handed invitation to the men of all nations to come to our shores and make our houses their houses. We can now see the propriety of the argument and say many of those things then denounced were right.
After the Whig party ceased to live in name my father sometimes voted the good old Democratic ticket, not because he liked to, but because it was the fashion and no other ticket was presented. He never voted this ticket because he thought them right. When the disruptions of this Government came through by the traitors of the Democratic party at the South, Father was afforded the means of becoming identified with the Party standing for the preservation of our Government and the Constitution unimpaired. He was every inch a man and believed cession as a step in the direction of revolution, war and bloodshed that ought to be put down at all hazards. Hence, when summons came for volunteers to strike in defense of the Government that had so long afforded us protection he said, "Amen!" and encouraged men to stand by the Union as it was the only means to secure us against the disgrace of seeing our prairies and public lands become the property of landlord slave holders, making the poor man the equal of the slave in all his bearings.
Father bought land in Carter County, Kentucky during the fall of 1860 on the waters of the Little Sandy River on a stream known as Deer Creek. To this he moved during the spring of 1862 coming down the Big Sandy River in a "Joe" boat hitched onto a raft of saw logs. In this "Joe" boat was all the household goods, father, mother and the children, all except me, Marion, who had gone on a visit to North Carolina and under Jeff Davis' edict could not return at will; hence he did not get favored with the river ride. This Joe Boat was soon landed at Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky where the family and plunder was placed in wagons and soon hauled out to Deer Creek farm in Carter County where they proceeded to clear up the ground, plant and cultivate a crop. This they did successfully, yet were often looked after by Rebel hordes, parading the country, stealing women's clothing, men's clothes, horses and even cattle. Things went on and got no better as the Union soldiers gained larger victories until the demoralized stragglers formed bands and rounded into their native state, Kentucky, only to pillage and steal.
Under the name of Rebel they accomplished their hellish works when truly they were roaming and plundering and murdering innocent men for no reason other than that they had been true Union men and whether they endorsed the Rebel government openly, we know not. But we do know that they went unchastised or punished and as such killed, murdered, stole and burned until no Union man dared remain at home and hence on October 1, 1862 we find Father and Marion enlisted their names as volunteers on Co. D, Kentucky Mt'd Infantry, Volunteers to aid in the fighting of their country's battles in defense of their country and homes against their fellow countrymen who should have been out fighting for their country and their state instead of waging war against it.
But brother was often met by brother in great conflict. "Twas courage against courage. Men differed widely in judgment as to the rightness of their cause and backed their judgment by the life's blood in this respect in regard to Rebel integrity. Yet this did not justify murder and arson and petty larceny, too low and mean for men of noble birth to engage in. I can forgive the honest among the Rebel soldiers, yet had no place for the degraded thief that entered the army to murder and steal. I leave him to the mercy of a just God before whom his hellish deeds are all known and unless repented of will damn his soul. May the Lord have mercy upon those blinded by Satan is my prayer after 29 years have passed.
The country now seems prosperous, the fruits of the great victory are realized by one and all, the four million of slaves set free had made great advanced in progress, education and civilization. Clothed with the full paraphernalia of citizenship after 240 years of slavery they have excelled our most enlarged anticipations and outstripped many thought to be their superiors in the race for a successful life.
Father from hard marching on or about New Years Day 1864 contracted a cold. New Years Day and the night before had been extremely cold with the mercury falling some sixty degrees in less than twelve hours from forty above to near twenty below zero. We were on December 31, 1863 ordered to make a forced march from Mt. Sterling to Paris, Kentucky a distance of twenty-two miles. We struck tents - that means took them down - and at 8:00 p.m. were in line of march in a cool rain within twenty minutes. We had not marched over two miles when the wind blew almost a hurricane.
A severe blizzard set in, our clothes that were already wet began to freeze stiff, yet we marched on and made about two miles more. The snow now driver by a heavy wind after night, blinded us so that it was impossible to go on. We saw a large brick building, turned in, knocked, but no admittance was gained. Some ten steps away a cabin was seen and we observed a faint light as though there was a fire burning within. Father, little Sam McDavid, John Slvas and Jessie and Marion all turned towards this homely shanty, knocked and rapped aloud and after a while a voice says, "Who com dar?".
"Five Union men, soldiers, almost frozen to death. Open this door or down will come your shanty".
"Yes sar, dat I will, just hold on dar Boss. I's an old man, but will let you in pretty soon, so I will!"
Up he got, turned the key, the door opened and in we went. We stirred up the fire, put on more wood as the corner of the shanty was piled full as though this African son of Ham had a warning from Headquarters that cold blast would be let on us and corral us for the night. We fired up and warmed up one side at a time until our clothes thawed out and got dried. There was only one bed in the house and a old colored woman, wife of our landlord occupied it, but she got restless over the thought that her husband had been elected fireman for the night by a majority of five, hence she arose and consented to join the meeting.
No sooner did she leave her bed than Marion and Slvas rolled in making room by laying spoon fashion for a third and after Father had thoroughly dried his clothes, he did not care to watch the old year out and the new one come in which by now was coming in like a lion, hence he too rolled in and three Union heroes were soon in the land of Morpheus or dreams. The old negro, his wife and the two other boys watched the old and new year until daylight came.
When we yet beheld the storm in all its fury being sworn to obey our Officers, we started traveling about one or two miles, stopped to warm up and in this manner by night we got to within two miles of Paris, Kentucky. During the day we overtook hundreds of soldiers who had dared to press on, only to crawl in and seek shelter under some dwelling, barn, roof or negro shanty. That day will never be forgotten by the living while they have reason. Many a poor fellow froze stiff in his saddle, all had ears, nose, feet and hands frozen. 'Twas on this day that the writer had his hands frozen, his nose and face also until the skin peeled off. We had got to within two miles of Paris, night came and we put up with a man named Fisher, a bachelor and slave owner. He was true Kentuck and every inch a gentleman and I hope he lives today. After giving us breakfast on the morning of January 2nd 1864, Father and I went on to Paris where we found a portion of our Regiment in an old church, barracks and so forth. They greeted us as heroes and swore that all the Mossback Company would round in soon and bye and bye they did arrive, yet were frozen and full of cold. Many soon began to show signs that their constitutions were not made of iron.
Pneumonia set in and to make bad matters worse, the measles found their way into our camp and the boys began to pile up in bunks to be hauled to the hospital and from there before a Reserve armed guard, many of them were hauled to their final resting place to have the usual military salute fired over their newly made graves. We lost during January and February more than twenty brave soldiers - all attributable to that cold New Years march and the blizzard encountered.
Right here I arise to say that those "featherbeds - stay at home braves" who begrudge the common soldier his meager pension, all the money in Uncle Sam's coffers would not have induced you out into that furious storm, neither would it have prompted us to go but our oaths were rostered in Heaven and when our Officers demanded that we go, we thought it but a sworn duty and had volunteered our services to perform it and in fear of death we often done it not counting the cost of multiplying what might happen. Soldiers enlist to discharge their duties regardless of the cost or danger. Hence battles are fought, marches are made and the hardships endured that we read about.
Father, about February 1st, 1864 took pneumonia fever while in camp. I had him took to a Mrs. Sarah E. Howells where we had been having our rations cooked then went for Dr. Hopson of Paris, Kentucky. He treated him for about three weeks. Father was on the mend but being removed then to the hospital, the doctors changed. He took a relapse and after a severe illness on the night of March 15, 1864 at about fifteen to ten o'clock, he breathed his last. arriving at the end of life's journey at age of forty three years, no months and eight days. On the 16th he (in charge of Comrade James M. Clay) was started home for burial where he arrived on or about the 22 of March being interred on a mound northeast of the old home on Deer Creek, Carter County, Kentucky at a site named by himself to me on his deathbed. He knowledge and reason remained good until the last day of his life.
He knew his end was drawing near and sent word to Mother and the little ones at home so soon to behold him sleeping in death, he who had so recently parted from them in such high hopes of meeting them soon again.
How many brave men who went forth to battle and in defense of Liberty and their countries cause never returned home and if they did return 'twas often after their soul had gone out of their bodies like father's. These men returned to comfort a dear wife and child, a sorrowing father and mother or an idolized sweetheart, leaving those whose brave hearts heaved with emotion as they beheld only a body with life stripped of its charms. These brave soldiers had done all they could. They gave their lives as a sacrifice upon their countries' altar that our fine institutions, the dear purchase of our fathers, might live and be transmitted to posterity. Many of the Union soldiers sent home dead were denied the privilege of having a hearse or team of horses to haul them to their last resting place as the guerilla bands claiming to be Rebels were roaming at large seeking to accomplish their hellish designs. Those bands would unharness the horses or mule teams from the wagon drawing the corpse of a Union soldier, take the team and leave the corpse to stand in the road. Hence work oxen had to be employed to haul the soldiers home.
My father was hauled 16 miles with work oxen on a sled from the nearest depot and not until almost in sight of home did my dear mother know he was dead. Another soldier who was murdered in the same county in which we resided was sent home on a sled with two other murdered comrades. This sled was drawn by work oxen and to the everlasting shame and disgrace of the name Rebel, they took one of the oxen that had been used to haul the dead man home to his wife and children and butchered it claiming the right to confiscate it as it was used in the "employ and for the benefit of the government that they had sworn to destroy". These are the acts we are now called upon to forget. These are the acts we are to bury as the "dead past". These are a portion of the acts we are called upon to shake hands over and greet with smiles - as well a mother be asked to forget her long lost only child as to ask a devoted Union man to forget his past. He may in his magnanimity forgive the penitent Rebel and receive him as a man though his deeds of destruction and disgrace and ruin cannot be forgotten. The grave only will hide these things from view and I doubt not that they will live on in the memory of an indestructible intelligence beyond the confines of this sin stricken world and pass in grand review before Him who is judge of us all.
The Rebel soldier may profess his friendship and declare his forgetfulness of the deeds already done, yet he in so doing condescends to do and say what I don't believe. I am an admirer of bravery and courage and detest that sentiment cherished North or South that asks me to gorget the past. This is something that no true Union man dan do. Nothing no true Union should ask of a brave Rebel to do. Something no brave Rebel ever can or will do. He will remember every shot fired towards our flag and those that went towards the Rebel flag. We should meet our erring enemies with becoming bravery and ask them to share our victory and friendship as American citizens but never, never ask them to forget the past. I don't want to forget the past. Let it live and serve as a waybill for erring humanity for generations yet unborn. I feel confident that I am voicing the sentiment of Father had he lived to see the close of the mighty conflict, but he did not.
Father was six feet and one-half inches tall, large and rawboned, long arms, long fingers. He was rather commanding in appearance, black hair and blue eyes, rather good looking, wore #16 collar, 7 1/4 hat, #11 size shoe on account of a corn - one too large (size 10 a better fit). He wore size 40 coat, pants 36 x 36. He would weigh about 175 lbs in the summer and 180 to 185 in the winter. He was good natured among us kids, would quarrel sometimes (considerably) yet seldom used the rod. No doubt he would have got along better if he had applied it more and done less talking which no doubt his children learned to their satisfaction. He was charitable and not inclined to pain their minds.
To sum up in a few closing words on the whole matter about our dear father, we must say he was a man possessed of a good mind, had a generous heart and a soul very large - enough to reach out towards suffering humanity and extend a charitable hand to those in distress wherever found. While a resident of Pike County, Kentucky during the twelve years he lived there, he was called upon often to make and furnish coffins to different families in which their dear dead ones were interred. When asked his price by the family obtaining the coffin he would say, "Myself or the family will need a coffin someday. If you are around and about then, you can help us make a coffin" and no charge was ever made or demanded. Yet when his race was run, none except myself was nearby at his close. He was furnished a plain coffin by the Government he had volunteered to defend and aid in saving and in this coffin was buried in his uniform worn on dress parade while alive and in the discharge of his duty as a Union soldier. The noblest garb on this earth. We the members of his family have placed at his grave a nice set of tombstones upon which is written the following inscription:
Samuel Wilcox of Co. D. 40 H, Ky Volunteers
Born March 7, 1821 died March 15, 1864
Age 43 years, 0 m. and 8 days
The foregoing items relative to Father should be revised by some member of our family and that part retained that might be deemed important. I must now leave Father and say a word relative to our dear mother who has so recently fallen asleep.