LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Wayne County Press
May 26, 1932
Story of former Wayne County Union Soldier, now Resident of Wabash County, Just Published.
(The Mt. Carmel Republican Register is publishing a series of sketches of Wabash county surviving veterans of the Civil War. A few days ago this story about M.M. Mills, a former Wayne county man was published. It is interesting and we reproduce it --- Editor)
Comrade M. M. Mills
When the Civil War was drawing well toward its close Comrade M. M. Mills, of Bellmont, was a lad of 14 and resided in Wayne county, west of Fairfield. One morning he was on his way to school when he and others with him met a soldier who was home from the front with a wounded arm. The boys stooped to talk with him and asked him how everything was down on the firing line. The soldier replied, "Sometimes you have a good time and sometimes it's fierce.".
The boy Mills turned to a companion, John Stayton, who was a year older and said, "I can back you out running off and going to war."
Stayton accepted the challenge, handed his lunch bucket he was taking to school to a brother, and Mills and Stayton ran away to enlist. They made their way to Fairfield. From there they took a stage coach and came eventually to Danville, Ill., where they passed for 18 years old boys, the war department refusing to take anyone for service under that age. They convinced the examiners they were 18 and so gained admission to the army.
Four other neighbor boys sought to enlist at the same time but were rejected. The lads were all under age andwanted to get far enough away from home to enlist that their folks would not trail them and take them back.
Comrade Mills became a member of Company G., 28th Illinois Regiment. His company was commanded by Capt. Isaac Lawrence.
Within three weeks after enrolling his name he was on the firing line at Mobile, where he arrived in time to take part in the last big battle, fought for possession of that place and the forts surrounding it. Already the Civil War was drawing to a conclusion. But there was some hard fighting at this place. The forts outside the city were besiege and captured. Fort Blakely and Fort Spanish. The former fell first and then the latter surrendered as the Union forces marched upon it. Then the Northern army marched into Mobile.
Comrade Mills relates an unusual incident that occurred in the siege of the former fort. He was lying with others behind breastworks that sloped upward and had cracks or slits in them through which the soldiers could put their guns and shoot. Beside Mr. Mills was a soldier, Sam Borah, from Wayne County, who had previously been in the 40th Regiment, served his enlistment and then gone to the 28th. Suddenly from the opposite side of the breastworks Borah saw a Confederate soldier who had advanced to the crack and was peeping through. Borah placed his mouth to the crack and spat a charge of tobacco juice through it, hitting the enemy in the eye. And thereupon the enemy who had been so hit raved and stormed and called his assailant uncomplimentary names. But Borah merely said, "Keep away from that crack, if you don't want me to spit in your eye." At the time this incident occurred shells were sweeping through the trees and it was only about two hours later that the fort surrendered.
Following the surrender of the forts and forces at Mobile, Comrade Mills' regiment was taken on boat to old Mexico. Mexico had been "cutting up" and threatened trouble and the forces were sent down to the Rio Grande to take any precautionary measures that might be needed.
While the regiment was stationed here another rather unusual incident occurred which Comrade Mills relates as a high light in his war experiences. Two American soldiers one day drank a little too much hot tonic and in a small Mexican town beyond the river discovered the Mexican flag at the top of a flag pole. They proceeded to find an ax and chop down the pole.
General Grundy in command of the American forces, sent word to the Mexican commandant to release the two soldiers, that they did not, in their condition, realize what they were doing when they cut down the flag pole. The Mexican commandant sent word back, "That they would be freed when they got through with them." Thereupon General Grundy fired back a retort advising that if the two soldiers were not liberated by sunrise the next morning he would batter their town to pieces with cannons. a Battery of heavy guns was pulled up in position with mouths pointing out over the levee ready to carry out their threat. As it began to get gray dawn the next morning the captive soldiers were placed in a boat and, under protection of a Mexican guard, were brought back across the river to their regiment. Then the menacing cannons were rolled back from the levee and the incident was over. General Grundy had bluffed the Mexicans into releasing the captives.
Asked if he was ever woulnded, Comrade Mills said, "Yes, I got a couple
of little scratches, but I was not in the hospitaland no record was made
of the wounds." A piece
of bursted shell hit him on top of the left foot and injured it somewhat. Another occasion was when a spent ball hit him in the calf of the leg.
Comrade Mills said that he was discharged at the little town of Allenville near the mouth of the Rio Grande, from where he was taken back to New Orleans and from there he came on back home.
Commenting on the fact that only three weeks trannspired between the time of his enlistment and the time he reached the firing line he remarked that, "The former Kaiser at the time of the last war was about right when he said American soldiers did not need any training, since they were born to the use of the squirrel gun and always were ready to fight."
As he looks back across the years to the sixties he recalls that he had a pretty good time in the army, and thus he concluded his story. "When the World War came along a few years ago I would have gone if I had been young enough. Say, but I wanted to get into that war. I wanted to get in so bad that I just itched to go, but I was too old. I had served my time."
14 Sep 2004
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