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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.



  1. Whoa, love this one, def on my to-read list! :)

    would you like to follow each other?:)

  2. I love this! I often feel like a "Jonah"! I'm gonna say I "pulled a Jonah" next time I drop something or somehow make myself look like a klutz! :)

  3. Thanks, Elle Alice! hahahaha I very often feel like a "Jonah" too! =)

  4. OOh! They played that song at a civil war reenactment in my hometown.

  5. OOps, commented on the post up of the one I wanted.