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Oliver the "Jonah"

While I was researching, It Took a War, I came across a chapter in Hardtack and Coffee (best Civil War book ever) about the "Jonahs" who were found in every squad in camp.  Here's the definition of a "Jonah" from Hardtack and Coffee by John D. Billings:

"Now, accidents will happen to the most careful and best of men, but the soldier whom I've been describing could be found in every squad in camp - that is, a man of his kind. Such men were called "Jonahs" on account of their ill luck. Perhaps this particular Jonah after getting his tin plate level full of hot pea-soup was sure, on entering the tent, to spill a part of it down somebody's back."-Hardtack and Coffee

"When pea soup failed him for a diversion, he was a dead shot on kicking over his neighbor's pot of coffee..." -Hardtack and Coffee

So, that's what inspired me to write my very own "Jonah" for Company I, 11th Pennsylvania. I named him Oliver Willyard.

The conversation then turned to Oliver Willyard and what his story was. Oliver took off his cap as he stared into the fire. “Me?” He twisted it in his hands. “Well, my Pa and Ma owned a store, and I worked at it with my brothers and sisters. But every time I went to get a customer a barrel of flour or coffee beans, I would spill it all over the place. It started to get expensive - all the merchandise I wasted - and Pa said I should try being an apprentice for the newspaper instead. I spilled so much ink there that they sent me home, and I started to work at a farm outside of town. Wouldn't you know it? I nearly killed their dog by tripping over him while holding a pitchfork. So, I came home and decided to join the army. I think Pa and Ma were a little worried about me, seeing as I’m a little clumsy.”
As he said this, Oliver went to pour himself a cup of coffee and knocked the kettle into the fire, the liquid distinguishing some of the flames with a loud sizzle. “Oh, uh...oops,” he looked around bashfully. -It Took a War

Poor Oliver. He means well.


Tenting on the Old Camp Ground

Music drifted in the night air. It was a melancholy song that caused Lucas to stop thinking and just listen with a heavy heart. -It Took a War

Tenting Tonight
By: Walter Kittredge
We're tenting tonight on the old camp ground
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight
Wishing for the war to cease
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight, tenting on the old camp ground

We've been tenting tonight on the old camp ground
Thinking of days gone by
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand
And the tear that said "Goodbye"


We are tired of war on the old camp ground
Many are dead and gone
Of the brave and true who've left their homes
Others been wounded long


(Tenting Tonight artwork by my sister, Haley.)

 A draft notice in 1863 was the main inspiration for "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" written by Walter Kittredge. It was written as a farewell to civilian life and a plea for peace when Kittredge was drafted. He never did serve in the army, the cause being he had battled rheumatic fever as a child and was exempt from service.

Kittredge tried selling his creation to a Boston publisher, but it was turned down. They were looking for a more patriotic song than the mournful words Kittredge had penned down.

Kittredge then brought his song to the Hutchinsons, a famous singing group. They were very excited about the song and performed it in a series of concerts. "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" became an instant success.

A man named J.W. Turner plagiarized Kittredge's lyrics and turned it from gloom to joy. It never became popular. The lyrics went like this:

We're tenting today on the old camp ground
Our hearts are light and joyous ever;
We think of home, we talk of friends,
And happy times we've had together.

Yeah, it was pretty lame. 

What are your favorite songs from the past? 


Civil War Weekend

My sister and I spent last weekend tenting at a Civil War reenactment. It was a really cold weekend - highs in the upper 50's (rainy on Saturday morning) and at night it dropped to the lower 40's, but we survived with the help of a buddy heater! Not historically accurate but a lot more comfortable!

The Union camp...

There wasn't a dance at this reenactment, so the four of us (Michaela, Mason, Haley and I) had our own in the parking lot next to the camp and played a reel on our ipod. We also sang the entire song of, "Goober Peas" while washing dishes that night. Good times. =)

Sitting in the chairs our dad made us for reenacting!

There was a parade on Saturday morning. Only a handful of people came to watch because it was raining. 

Michaela and Mason...

This reenactment took place on an old fashioned train. Over the weekend there were 3 train rides. There was a skirmish in a field, then the train picked up the soldiers. There were scenarios acted out for the spectators riding on the train, such as Union soldiers being taken prisoner by the Confederates. We kept quoting one particular solider after we overheard an amusing scenario...

Confederate soldier: "He's hiding something in that glove. What do you have in that glove?"
Union solider: "Yeah, it's called A HAND! Anyone have a hand here?"
A bunch of Union soldiers lift up there hands: "Yeah!"

The accordion/guitar players started playing "Dixie Land" and the same solider started singing really loudly, "The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah! Down with the traitors, up with the stars; while we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again, shouting the battle cry of freedom!"

One of our reenacting friends pretended to be a spy and hid a map in her Bible. She's such a great actress! We handed out homemade cookies to soldiers, thanking them for supporting the Union. 

There were also Confederates lurking in the grass as the train made it's way through the countryside.

The spy.

Look! A Confederate photo bomber! 

(Huge thanks to my mom for taking lots of pictures for us!)

It was a really fun weekend!