When the Civil War came along everything was just
right for Uncle Lum to be a model patriotic soldier. He was the right age, old
enough for the draft and young and strong enough to withstand the rigors of the
rugged existence of hand-to-hand combat in terrain a bighorn sheep would cull.
He had no wife and children to stay home and protect nor did he own any property
or slaves to fight for. Everything was just right except one; he did not want to
go! And he certainly was not a volunteer.
All the things that seemed perfect for him to be a prime soldier were the very things that did not give him the incentive to shoot and be shot at, for he had nothing to gain or lose except to lose his carefree existence. He loved his way of life, no strings, no boss and no responsibilities. He fought tooth and nail not to go and dragged his feet every step of the way.
When he saw there was no loophole he could slither through to get out of it he made up his mind to do as little as possible to help the cause. When they crossed paths with the northern troops and the battle got under way, Uncle Lum would dart here and there under cover of a rock or bush but always to the back or sides of his regiment. He tried to stay always on the outer fringes. This was easy to do since the southern soldiers were not trained to the rank and file, hold a position type fighting. It was mostly every man for himself and Uncle Lum was the most for himself person they could have drafted.
This dodging and hiding system Uncle Lum used almost proved to be his undoing, though. In a skirmish he and two or three other soldiers, who may have had the same idea about fighting as Uncle Lum, got cut off from their platoon and were left to themselves. When all was quiet they started walking in the direction they thought would eventually lead them back to their fighting buddies. They walked and stopped to rest and walked again with no sign of a Southern soldier. Finally, some Yankees on horseback found them and took them prisoner.
They made them march for miles up and down hills, ravines and across streams always in the woods so they were totally lost when they came to an old cabin. They tied the prisoners for the night and left guards for them. Uncle Lum said all through the night one or the other of the guard would stick his head in where they were tied and say with a sneer, "Yeah, you dirty Rebs, your old necks will stretch hemp in the morning." Uncle Lum said he was never so scared in his life. He just knew they would be hanged.
The next morning, the untied them and told them to march in front the way they pointed. Uncle Lum thought every step took him nearer the hangman's noose but when they got a good distance from the cabin the Yanks stopped and told them to be on their way. He said they left there running, afraid they might change their mind and come after them.
Uncle Lum said the only bright spot during the whole war was a little dog that had probably been left homeless by all the destruction. It adopted Uncle Lum and stayed with him through it all.
After the Yanks let the prisoners go Uncle Lum decided they were just some strays too, probably lost from a northern regiment and decided to have a little fun by taking them prisoner, but he couldn't be sure of it. So as he and his buddies traveled they had to watch for both the North and South sides or they could be taken as either prisoners or deserters.
They traveled together for days, each one trying to get his bearings, for they were lost seemingly beyond hope. Finally they decided it would be safer if they split up; one could hide better than a group.
Uncle Lum was quite a distance from where they separated when he missed his dog. He thought to himself that one could not even trust a dog any more, that it had probably turned traitor and gone with one of the others. So he put it out of his mind and went on his way.
He was always on guard and went to sleep each night with some clubs nearby for he did not know what to expect with the whole country full of soldiers from both sides. One night he was awakened from a sound sleep by a nose close to him. Still half asleep, he grabbed a club. It was so dark he could not see and when something touched him he took a swing with all his might. All he heard was a little yelp, then he knew what he had hit. His dog had trailed him and found him in the night. I'm sure killing that dog hurt Uncle Lum more than killing anyone during the fighting, if he did hit anyone. With the kind of fighting he did, I doubt if he shot at anyone.
Because Uncle Lum was so lost and was afraid to see or talk to people, it took him so long to get home the war had been over for months when he finally found his way and had the courage to show himself.
I wonder how his discharge papers (if he got any) classified him, as a deserter or missing in action. I'm sure he did not get any citations for bravery in military combat, though.