* OFFICIAL *
Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
- Feb 5, 2017
From Leander Stillwell 1862 - 61st Illinois
”While at Jackson, an incident occurred while I was on picket in which Owen McGrath, the big Irishman I have previously mentioned, played an interesting part. As corporal I had three men under me. McGrath being one, and the others were a couple of big, burly young fellows belonging to Co. A. Our post was on the rainroad a mile or two from the outskirts of Jackson, and where the picket line for some distance ran practically parallel with the railroad. The spot at this post where the picket stood when on guard was ata the top of a bank on the summit of a slight elevation, just at the edge of a deep and narrow railroad cut. A bunch of guerrillas had recently been operating in that locality, and making mischief on a small scale, and our orders were to be vigilant and on the alert, especially at night. McGrath was on duty from 6 to 8 in the evening, and at the latter hour I notified one of the Co. A. men that his turn had come.
The weather was bad, a high wind was blowing, accompanied by a drizzling rain, and all signs portended a stormy night. The Co. A fellow buckled on his cartridge box, picked up his musket, and gave a scowling glance at the surroundings. Then, with much profanity, he declared that he wasn’t going to stand up on the bank, he was going down into the cut, where he could have some shelter from the wind and rain. I told him that would never do, that there he could see nothing in our front, and might as well not be on guard at all. But he loudly announced his intention to stick to his purpose. The other Co. A man chimed in, and with many expletives declared that Bill was right, that he intended to stand in the cut too when his time came, that he didn’t believe there was a Secesh within a 100 miles of us, anyway, and so on.
I was sorely troubled, and didn’t know what to do. They were big, hulking fellows, and either could have just smashed me, with one hand tied behind him. McGrath had been intently listening to the conversation, and saying nothing, but, as matters were evidently nearing a crisis, he now took a hand. Walking up to the man who was to relieve him, he laid the forefinger of his right hand on the fellow’s breast, and looking him square in the eyes, spoke this: “It’s the air-rdhers of the car-r-parral that the sintry stand here,” (indicating) “and the car-r-parral’s ar-r-dhers will be obeyed. D’ye moind that, now?”
I had stepped to the side of McGrath while he was talking to give him my moral support, at least and fixed my eyes on the mutineer. He looked at us in silence a second or two, and then, with some muttering about the corporal being awful particular, finally said he could stand it if the rest could, assumed his post at the top of the bank, and the matter was ended. The storm blew over before midnight and the weather cleared up. In the morning we had a satisfying soldier breakfast, and when relieved at 9 o’clock marched back to camp with the others of the guard, all in in good humor, and with “peace and harmony.”
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