Lake County History Chapter 89: Home is the Hero

“They kept us at the picket line all night. We were taken into the Union lines in the morning, and, to my great surprise and gratefulness, I knew the first man I met. He was a doctor that had been sent to the Confederate prison with my men and me. The doctor had been exchanged a short time before I escaped. We were sent to General Meade’s headquarters.”

“The negro stayed with me. He had been with me since I found him chopping wood. He was valuable to me since he had been able to move around the company without creating suspicion. He helped me make my way back to the Union Lines. General Meade said, ‘I cannot allow him to go any farther. I need him to guide Kilpatrick’s cavalry. We are going to make a dash on Richmond.’

“General Meade gave me a pass on the railroad train to Washington. When he sent me to get on the cars, I looked so much like a tramp that the guard stopped me. I told him, ‘I have a pass from General Meade.” He said, ‘That don’t make any difference.’ I looked around and saw General Humphreys. General Meade had introduced me to that officer. I went to him and told him that the guard would not allow me to get on the cars. He came to the guard and said so out loud that all around could hear him, ‘Let this man get aboard. He has more fight in him than anyone in that car.’ There were several Congressmen in the car, and I felt much honored.”

“When I got to Washington, a Captain came to me and asked, ‘Who are you?’ I was the worse dressed man he ever saw. I told him who I was. He asked me, ‘Do you have any money?’ I told him, ‘No, and I do not want any.’ He then said, ‘Here is $5 for you.’ I told him, ‘I do not want your $5. I will not see you again to pay you back, and I do not want something for nothing.’ Then he said, ‘You take this money. Whenever you see a man in your condition, give it to him. That will repay me.’

“I went to the Willard Hotel in Washington and told the landlord who I was. He said, ‘Dinner is ready. Go into the dining room and get your dinner.’ The porter at the door stopped me. He said, ‘A man looking like you cannot go in there.’ I told him, ‘Do your duty if those are your orders.’ The landlord came and told the porter to let me in. ‘This man has as much right as anyone to be in the dining room.’

“There were about three hundred people in the dining room, and they stared at me. I attracted so much attention that I could scarcely eat anything. The whole crowd stared at me. After dinner, I returned to the office. The landlord said, ‘Here is $100 for you. Go and get some good clothes, and you can go anywhere in Washington.’

“The government gave me a pass on the railroad to St. Louis and on the boat to Rockford, Illinois. When the boat reached Rockford, my neighbors and friends came aboard and carried me off. I remained at home until the first of April. Then I reported to my regiment on April 10, 1864, and took command of my old company at Rawlins, Tennessee.”

“I was in every battle until the capture of Atlanta. At the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, I found a dead Captain of the Confederates. He had my sword on him. It had been taken from me when we surrendered at Rome, Georgia before I was put in Libby Prison.”

Next Episode: The Pirate of Lake County

For more on Civil War History, read Paleno’s ‘The Porter Conspiracy’

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Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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