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Perry Cuskey

Leander Stillwell's moral dilemma

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Leander Stillwell was a member of the 61st Illinois, which was assigned to Miller's brigade in Prentiss' division upon arrival at Pittsburg Landing. Shortly after leaving St Louis on the way to their new assignment, Leander found himself faced with a problem, and tells us how he came to resolve it....

"On March 25th we left Benton Barracks for the front. We marched through St. Louis and onto the steamboat that day, but from some cause I never knew, the boat did not leave the wharf until about dark the next evening. My company was quartered on the hurricane deck of the boat. Soon after the boat started down the river an incident befell me that looks somewhat comical now, but at that time it was to me a serious matter, and one that troubled my conscience a good deal.

"I had piled my knapsack, with the blanket strapped on the outside, and my other stuff, at the foot of the gun stack which included my musket. Suddenly I discovered, to my great consternation, that my blanket was gone! Yes, my lords and gentlemen, some 'false Scot' had deliberately and feloniously appropriated my indispensable equipment for a night's repose. And a long, raw March night was coming on, and the damp and chilly air was rising, like a fog, from the surface of the river. All signs too, portended a rainy night. The thunder was muttering off in the southwest, intermittent flashes of lightening lit up the sky, and scattering drops of rain were even then beginning to patter on the hurricane deck and ripple the bosom of the stream.

"What should I do? I must have a blanket, that was certain. But all my life the belief had been instilled into me that stealing was well nigh the most disgraceful of all crimes, and that a thief was a most odious and contemptible wretch. Moreover, one of the ten commandments 'pintedly' declared, 'Thou shalt not steal.' But something had to be done, and speedily.

"At last it occurred to me that being a soldier, and belonging for the time being to Uncle Sam, I was a species of government property, which it was my duty to protect at all hazards. That settled the question, and conscience and honesty withdrew.

"Without going into the demoralizing details, suffice it to say that I stole a blanket from some hapless victim belonging to another company, and thus safeguarded the health and military efficiency of a chattel of the Nation. How the other fellow got along, I don't know. I made no impertinent inquiries, and, during the day time, indefinitely thereafter, kept that blanket in my knapsack, carefully concealed from prying eyes. But it will be recorded here that this was the only act of downright larceny that I committed during my entire term of service, except the gobbling of a couple of onions, which maybe I'll mention later."

- Leander Stillwell, The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War, p 30-31.

You can read and/or download the full version of this book on Google Books.

Perry

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Has anyone read the entire book? Speaking of books just ordered a couple new one "Grant's Final Victory" by Charles B. Flood and "The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion by John C. Tidball (edited by Kaplan) Tidball was in the eastern theatre in the civil war & was also an aide de camp to Sherman late in Sherman's career. Tidball was at Antietam with a battery of 3" Ordnance Rifles.

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Audio: http://www.archive.org/details/story_of_a_common_soldier_sa_librivox

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Audio book:

tillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_05_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_06_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_07_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_08_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_09_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_10_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_11_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_12_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_13_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_14_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_15_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_16_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_17_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_18_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_19_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_20_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_21_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_22_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_23_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_24_stillwell_64kb.mp3','commonsoldiercivilwar_25_stillwell_64kb.mp3'],'clip':{'autoPlay':true,'baseUrl':'http://www.archive.org/download/story_of_a_common_soldier_sa_librivox/'},'canvas':{'backgroundColor':'#000000','backgroundGradient':'none'},'plugins':{'audio':{'url':'http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.audio-3.2.1-dev.swf'},'controls':{'playlist':true,'fullscreen':false,'height':26,'backgroundColor':'#000000','autoHide':{'fullscreenOnly':true},'scrubberHeightRatio':0.6,'timeFontSize':9,'mute':false,'top':0}},'contextMenu':[{},'-','Flowplayer v3.2.1']}"> </embed></object>

Text: http://books.google.com/books?id=6QwTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA54&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

Jim

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Thanks Jim, especially for the audio book link. Did not know about that, but it's incredibly cool.

Guess I should have included a link to the Google Books copy to begin with. Sorry Sharon.

Perry

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