Our Past and Our Future


Vernon ~  Kinsey ~  Shepard  ~  Mason


Casteel  ~  Chronister  ~  Finch  ~ Iverson






By Elza Chronister - Co. H  8th Kansas Vet. Vol.  Four Years in my Country’s Service  (Three Thousand Miles with Knapsack on my Back)  Fought in thirty-three Battles during the Civil War. Elza Chronister, father of Emma Melissa Chronister Casteel Hawkinson, Grandfather of Maurice Wyatt Casteel, Great-grandfather of Byrl, Leah, Lorraine, Elaine, Morey, Wayne and Marvin.  Died January 16, 1923 Kremlin, MT   Buried in a deserted cemetery 14 mi. NW of Kremlin, MT.   His gravesite includes a civil war soldiers' head-stone.  The only known copy is in the library at Duke University.  This fact can be verified by visiting this link:  Book at Duke   Thanks to my Aunt Darlene Casteel for all the wonderful family history she has shared and to all the future information to be shared.  

(This file was produced by an OCR of a photo copy owned by the family,  any misspellings that you seem to notice, are not due to editing, but due to the terms used during his day.  They are as he wrote them, and they published them.)  

All Pictures are courtesy of Darlene and Wayne Casteel.


Elza Chronister

By E. Chronister

Co. H 8th Kansas Vet. Vol.

Four Years in my Country’s Service

(Three Thousand Miles with Knapsack on my Back)

Fought in thirty-three Battles during the Civil War


Born at Mansfield, Ohio, Sept. 15th, 1833.

At the advanced age of seventy-four years I have bodily ailments which for many years have been a. dread source of affliction. Forty-six years ago I enlisted in the service of my country, followed the Stars and Stripes through-thirty-three battles during the four years of service. Since which time, having become bowed by the vicissitudes of years and bodily affliction, memory having lost in part its brilliancy of former days. Therefore, I trust readers will overlook errors, if any occur. I do not claim exactness. I simply relate the old story as memory recalls.

He who serves-his-country-well,

In after years the story tell;

How on the Held; of blood and strife

He fought to prolong the nation’s life.

Can mortal tongue or pen portray - The soldier’s life in warlike way; Where death and woe in common dwell, Which Sherman denominated "Hell?"

Beneath the sod on Southern plain,

Where lie the boys in battle slain,

That the Stars and Stripes may longer wave

0’er freedom’s land, they strove to save.


As a farm hand employed by Winfleld Scott of Tiffin, Ohio, then a temporary resident of Rulo, Nebraska, whose land bordered the state of Kansas, where I had been employed for a year prior to enlistment. Which section of the country extending southward into Missouri, being terrorized by marauding bands of Jay Hawkers, resulting in factional fights and Guerilla warfare. Horsestealing being their principle object, though many murders were committed. Fort Leavenworth, being the nearest recruiting office, to which I repaired Jan. 4th, ’62, offering my life and honor for my country’s weal. Passing military requisites as a volunteer, I enlisted in Company H, Regiment H of Kansas (this branch of enrollment having not yet acquired proper military classification), commanded by Colonel Mitchell, where we remained for three months receiving instructions in manual of arms and evolution of Held work while the regiment was being recruited to its full quota. Regiment H of Kansas being an out-growth of the first Kas., which had been nearly annihilated during the battle of Lexington, Mo., while under command of Col. Mulligan. The remnant of this once gallant regiment was transferred to regiment H of Kas. In April ’62 we were placed under marching orders. Breaking camp, we were marched to Leavenworth City, having provost duty assigned us, which we continued to perform for two months during which time the regiment became fully recruited. During July we were placed under marching orders for three days, going into camp . at Fort Riley, Kas., where we became proficient in camp duties, remaining until fall. The regiment grew anxious to proceed to the front and enter upon active service, though many excuses were made for' our delay, though a threatened need of our service within the state being evident, as the state had declared against slavery, yet many secessionists were within its border who might bring within the state a condition fully resulting in Guerilla warfare. When danger along this line became no longer apparent, we were again placed under marching orders, and proceeded to Leavenworth City, where, with the Seventh Kansas (known as the Northern Jay Hawkers) were put on board transports for the South. The voyage consumed nearly a week, during which a great desire to be at the front was expressed by all, that they might be of greater service to. their country.

While disembarking near Memphis, Tenn., we were greatly disappointed on learning that we had arrived too late to participate in the battle just fought, in which our forces had been defeated. Many sought the privilege of viewing the battlefield, only to be ordered into line and join the rapidly retreating Union forces, who continued to retreat until Louisville, Ky., was reached, a distance of nearly three hundred miles, at which place the entire Union force underwent reorganization. Under the fatigue of this long and rapid retreat, our regiment lost its expectant novelty of a battlefield.

During the reorganization our regiment became then, and afterward, known as the 8th Kansas, Ist Brigade, 3rd Division, 4th Corps, under command of Gen. Buell. Immediately after reorganization we were marched to Perrysville, where we received an introduction to Gen. Bragg and the famous Johnnies. While deploying for the attack, we realized that a real battlefield lay before us. Soon a picket shot was heard, then another, and another, until the rattle of musketry in the distance resembled a huge corn popper, gradually increasing in volume until our regiment had become involved.

Thus amid the scream of bullets and fal1ing of men, the sight of which allayed all desire to witness a battle, the sensation incurred by advent into the first battle being indescribable, one which tongue cannot relate, nor pen depict. While the moans and groans of the wounded and dying form an impression which nothing can efface.  Well may it be said, "fear is inevitable." To the most brave and fearless person there comes a time in which fear gains the ascendancy, though it be hut momentary, when self-preservation becomes uppermost in one’s mind, which nothing but a determined mind can conquer.

No greater test of human qualities may be applied than entering a battle where I knowledge of duty and fear of death wage mental warfare.   Commands goad one on to physical duty and deeds of bravery. While thus under discipline, historic deeds have been enacted, which, under personal, sober thought, would be evaded though cowardice ensues. But not so with the volunteer. Orders must be obeyed, though death or capture seem inevitable. Is it not true that a thousand men acting in unison of purpose, .throw about each other a sustaining influence, which, as a vast mental force composed of a thousand integra1 parts tend to sustain the weaker, leading them on to action, without which, in many individual soldiers, cowardice would gain supremacy. With singleness of purpose, and continuity of aim, many regiments have fought through bloody fields to victory. There comes to one two dread periods resultant of battle, the indescribable feeling on entering, and the horror and sadness at its dose. To look upon the manly forms who have passed into the lethe of death around, causes sadness to swell the heart and bring tears to the cheek of sturdy manhood. Such is my description and experience of the first battle in which I took part; which lasted throughout the day until dark. During that night sleep was welcomed as never before, though not unattended by visions of battle and its inevitable woe. At early dawn we were aroused from our damp beds, ordered into line of march, when we were told that during the night Gen. Bragg had withdrawn his forces in retreat. As we took the line of march in pursuit, passing by the battleground of the day before, the sad impression the sight of which, can never be effaced.

After several hours of rapid marching our van guard came within range of the rear guard of Bragg’s retreating column, which it continued to harass until Crab Orchard was reached.

Being closely pressed, a portion of his forces drew up in 1ine of battle, resulting in a spirited action in which many Confederates lost their lives. Being in danger of a flank movement, they hastily resumed their retreat still harassed until Bowling Green was reached, the retreat having been closely followed for eighty miles.

Here Gen. Bragg intrenched and prepared for battle. The exciting chase having relieved our minds of our first battle, we were ready to again attack Gen. Bragg. A decisive batt1e was deemed inadvisable by the Union commander, thus the day passed with desultory firing, allowing Bragg to continue his retreat during the coming night, which would bring him into a Held more suitable for military action, and where reenforcements could be more readily attained. During the night Bragg again retreated, whom we closely followed, passing through Nashville, from whence our force. again harassed his rear until Murfreesborough was reached, having thus far retreated, nearly one hundred and fifty miles. Having driven Bragg into a country where re-enforcements and supplies could be had, Gen. Buell decided on a decisive battle. At this point Gen. Buell was relieved from command, whereupon Gen. Rosencrans assumed command of all the forces around Murfreesborough. For severa1 days both generals heavily re-enforced their armies. When ready. Gen. Rosencrans assumed the aggressive and brought on the battle, which was destined to be one of the most desperate battles of the war, the loss being one-fourth of the number engaged. For two days the terrible slaughter continued. The nation seemed to be trembling in the balance, the tide of battle swayed to and fro, amid charges and counter charges, each army fighting with the desperation of demons. So desperate was the conflict that upon a given point no less than four charges were made in double line at dose intervals, only to be repulsed with slaughter beyond description. Breastworks, hidden from view by the mangled bodies of the dead and wounded, where contending lines engaged in a hand to hand fight the dead lay as if in a winrow. 

Memory being inadequate to depict, or pen to describe the terrible scene, let us pass along, though not unmindful of those left on this field of carnage. After the battle my regiment was ordered back to Nashville, where it was assigned patrol duty, when I was taken sick and sent to Bowling Green soon after recovering, where I was held until spring, serving as general’s orderly. By persona1 request I was returned to my regiment at Nashville. Shortly after we were ordered to Chickamauga, where we went into line and again fought Bragg for two days. In this battle Bragg massed his troops upon our right, and with an impetuous charge and over whelming numbers, swept in from the Held, throwing the center into confusion. Our line being shortened by the loss of the left wing, allowed the Confederate line to overlap the center, and, by a front and flank fire, forced the center to fall back.   Gen. Thomas held the left wing through the bravery of himself and men throughout the day and far into the night against overwhelming numbers. As the ground held by his men in the desperate struggle dearly told the sad story of the hell of war, after night he quietly withdrew from the Held. In the evening our beloved Captain, E. P. Trego, called for three volunteers to accompany him back to the battlefield to look for missing men, to which the whole company responded. He replied that two or three is all the men I want, when he chose the following: Robert Pinkerton, George Smith and James Ashenhurst, who proceeded with the captain. In an hour the three volunteers returned in haste, having been fired upon. Our captain was killed. Amid flying bullets Pinkerton secured his sword, watch, revolver and papers, which later on were sent to his wife. After the battle I was detailed to search for and identify the company’s dead. finding our captain, I helped convey him from the Held and bury his remains upon the ground now occupied by the Memorial Cemetery of Chickamauga. I believe Capt. E. P. Trego occupies the first grave placed in the cemetery. After the battle the army retreated Chattanooga, where our regiment became surrounded by the enemy with all lines of communication cut off. Thus finding ourselves unable to further advance, we threw up breastworks determined to fight as long as our ammunition held out. As our supplies began to diminish, short rations began to appear, when we realized that starvation stalked abroad in our camp. We were compelled to go as many as three days at a time without even tasting food, which, with bad water, many became sick and helpless, in which condition we remained for a month, though not in despair, as we we11 knew the day of deliverance would come as soon as a way could be cleared. Thus we hoped and waited.  One morning, hearing firing closer than usual, which, on investigation, proved that relief was at hand, unmindfu1 of the pangs of hunger we endured, we fell into line awaiting opportunity to charge through the first break in the lines infesting us. On learning it was "Fighting Joe Hooker" who was hammering upon the Confederate wall about us, We became doubly certain of deliverance.

0n seeing the lines waver and give way we raised the Yankee yell and charged through the gap to freedom. Wheeling into position, we joined Hooker’s men, driving the Confederates before us, maddened by hunger, and hinderance from participating in the battles fought during our imprisonment, we fought with old time spirit and de-termination.  General Hooker having rescued us in time to participate in the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.

During the Battle of Lookout Mountain our regiment fought its way up the side of the mountain, assisted in driving the enemy over its summit down the other side toward Strawberry Plain.

The day on which this battle was fought, lowering clouds floated leisurely by, or enveloped its sides, leaving the upper and most prominent elevations extending above, hence the name, "Fight above the clouds." While standing on its summit, we had, a: view never to be forgotten. From which point of vantage we viewed for miles the beautifu1 landscapes, while woods, hills and fertile valleys passed before our eyes as a vast moving picture. Objects appeared, disappeared, to again reappear between the floating clouds below, with an occasional view of our forces as they pursued the re- treating Confederate forces driven toward Strawberry Plains.

Looking upon the valley below one could see the vast Union army in military formation, marching and counter marching, either into position or in pursuit of the enemy, as the sun shed its rays between the passing clouds upon our troops below. Their bayonets reflected back to us a brilliancy which added to their glory. To our left a thunder storm being in progress, from which darted forth lightning, while peals of thunder rent the air, added splendor to a "view of which the eye seemed never to tire.

From Lookout Mountain we were ordered to Strawberry Plains, where we again fought for several hours with sad results to the enemy, which being but one of the many battles of which Lookout Mountain was the center. From Strawberry Plains we were marched to Chattanooga, at which p1ace our regiment re-enlisted as veteran volunteers. Here the regiment was given a thirty days recruiting parole and sent home to Leavenworth, Kansas. During this parole many volunteers were secured through our effort. The month vacation from hostilities, in a weak and worn condition, through almost incessant marching and fighting, gave us an opportunity to once more see mother, home and friends, which but served to increase our patriotism, and love for home and Country and Flag.

At the expiration of this parole, we again embarked for the front, though not with the same desire to view the field of battle as on our former voyage, as we then well knew its meaning and attending woe. The trip down the river was greatly enjoyed as we had learned that outside of hard marching and fighting, there was at least some pleasure which cannot be more acceptable than to the veteran volunteer while in the service of his country.

Arriving at Nashville, Tenn., we reported for active duty. The first duty assigned the regiment was the guarding of a pontoon train then enroute to Atlanta, Ga., which we continued unti1 we joined Sherman’s army at Big Shanty, at which place our regiment had an altercation with a, Confederate force, which was settled according to military methods, requiring a greater part of two days, in which our force obtained the better side of the argument by scattering the enemy amid the hills. We continued our march to Crows Nest, at which place a Confederate force disputed the way. Forming into line, we charged them, soon to discover that they, too, were veterans. Thus the two veteran commands with indomitable bravery becan1e engaged, when by a desperate charge, they were put to route and driven from the field, after which our march toward Atlanta was resumed without molestation until the Chattahoochee river was reached ten miles from Atlanta. Driving Hood’s forces across the river, we proceeded to lay a pontoon across the stream, when the enemy appeared in force in the woods on the opposite bank, and, with unerring fire, compelled us to desist. Battery after battery was ordered up and opened fire on the woods which were then swarming with Confederate troops, who had determined on making the river the contending object of battle. The batteries thundered forth their missiles of destruction in rapid succession, until the woods were strewn with dead and the enemy driven, beyond range until the pontoon was laid and sufficient troops transported to hold the enemy in check, when the main army crossed, deploying right and left until a solid line extended along the river in battle front. At the command "Forward," in solid line they swept the country for ten miles, driving before them all Confederate troops between Atlanta and the Chattahoochee river. On nearing the city with flanks extending forward, the city was compassed with our army, penning Gen. Hood and his army within their own stronghold, where for ninety-four days he was kept under fire of our riflemen. At the end of which time, Hood with his starving army was compelled to evacuate the city, which he succeeded in doing by effecting an escape through a, purposelessly left weak portion of our lines, in order to get him out where he might either be captured or forced to fight, that the city might not be destroyed. On evacuating the city he was allowed to proceed to Sand Mountain, where he was brought to bay with no alternative other than fight or surrender. He chose the former without ceremony the storm of battle broke as lightning from a, thunder cloud. During this struggle the valor of our men had not been excelled during the war. Thus engaged in deadly strife for half a day, when suddenly there appeared at the Confederate front a white flag. Soon hostilities ceased, resulting in an armistice of a week’s duration. During this time our forces occupied the city, while many visits between soldiers of armies were exchanged outside of the city when tobacco, knives and stories were "swopped." During the armistice Gen. Sherman evolved a plan by which Hood and his forces might be drawn northward where Gen. Thomas might take care of them, while he with sixty thousand men cut loose on his intended march to the sea. Having marched from Nashville to Atlanta, a distance of two hundred miles, he captured the city and prepared to return. At the dose of our armistice, our corps was ordered to harass and draw Hood northward. To every aggressive movement Hood offered battle, which the wily Yankees succeeded in evading by effecting a retreat, which Hood mistook for retrograde movement, continued as they believed to drive our forces before him, whose marching endurance proved more than our equa1, and whose aggressive attacks on our rear near Spring Hill made us turn and give battle. Satisfied that Sherman had already started on his famous march to the sea, hastily throwing up breastworks, we engaged Hood for half an hour in a fierce fight over our works, which Hood charged in mass column. So dense and desperate was the charge that our works became covered by the dead and wounded, while the trenches bore semblance of a vast uncovered grave filed with mingled bodies of blue and gray. From there we continued our march to Nashville, Tenn., where Gen. Thomas had prepared to receive us. On our approach to Nashville we were met by an escort who conducted us through the Union lines, where we were received with cheers, while the Confederate forces went into camp and were left to meditate over the trap they had been led into. During the following week preparations were made for the coming conflict, during which time both, armies strongly entrenched, throwing up a double line of breastworks, in the rear of which a heavy line of intrenchments were built, at which, in case of repulse, a last and determined stand could be made within their protection. In front of these obstructions, both visible and invisible, were placed to obstruct the onward rush of assailants, by which they might be longer held under the deadly fire of the works.

One bright afternoon while lounging in our tent or beneath some friendly tree, the long roll to fal1 in line awoke the camp, to activity. Soon we became a stirring mass-of humanity. Orders were given to fa11 in line without camp equipage, which we knew meant a fight to a finish. Marching out of camp, we formed into three lines of battle, in which formation we advanced, halting at long rifle range where we prepared for the charge. The first line was ordered to charge the works. On we rushed in solid rank, and after a half hour of hard fighting succeeded in driving the enemy from their works, with our troops occupied, the enemy having retired to their second line of works. After receiving re-enforcements we were again ordered to charge the enemy’s second line, which we took after an engagement lasting until near night, driving them into their third line of works, which was strongly fortified and in front of which was an abatis, strewn about with death traps, pit falls, and other devices which might deter progress. After capturing their second line we rested for the night, sleeping on our arms within the intrenchments. At day dawn we were ordered to take their remaining line. Being formed in a solid double line, supported by a heavy line in our rear, we were ordered to charge. Raising the Yankee yell, we made a mad rush upon their works. So deadly was the storm of bullets showered upon our ranks that, after half an hour of hard fighting, being unable to withstand the storm or reach the works, our ranks wavered and gave way. Falling back, be reformed our line and took position in thc rear as a reserve line. Then our second line was strongly supported and ordered to take the works. Rapidly advancing at the double quick as we neared the works, great gaps were mown through our ranks by grape and cannister, which were quickly closed up Thus the struggle continued until the abatis and death traps in front were reached, which so delayed our progress, keeping us 1onger under the deadly fire which more than thrice decimated our numbers. Unable to longer endure the terrible storm, we gave way, leaving the ground strewn with dead and dying comrades. The third was brought forward, supported, and ordered to take the works, closely followed by a second line with those who had already been repulsed following as a reserve support. The onslaught of the first line being met with a fire beyond endurance, we struggled as only determined men can, who had begun to waver under the withering fire, when the second, line rushed to our support, with whose united effort we began to scale the works, driving the Confederates from their works in in wild confusion, with the loss of their artillery, stores and munitions of war. Thus Hood’s fine army was put to flight, broken up into disorganized bands, scattered and hunted down by the Union cavalry.

A further description of this bloody field being too sad to relate, we pass it by, while we continue to follow Hood with the remnant of his once fine army, which tried to effect an escape into Tennessee. Cast-away arms and equipment of every description marked the route he had taken. By rapid marching we pursued Hood and his scattered force to Bulls Gap, through which he was driven a rabble of demoralized fugitives. Here we halted guarding the gap against the approach of other detachments or return of Hood and his demoralized horde.

While guarding this gap news reached us that Gen. Lee had surrendered to Gen. Grant all Confederate forces then in arms against the United States government. 'Then a prolonged shout of joy arose which echoed and re-echoed through woods and hills reverberating along the mountain, while citizens rung dinner bells, church bells chimed forth to the world that peace had been declared. Meetings in churches were held in which heartfelt prayers, thanksgiving sermons and songs of rejoicing were heard. So enwrapped with the advent of peace did everything appear, that even the birds seemed to rejoice with rapturous song. Closely following this season of rejoicing, gloom and sadness cast its somber pall over the land by the sad news of the assassination of President Lincoln. Strong men gave way to grief and sadness, while our noble commander, nured to hardships and scenes of carnage, gave way to tears of grief over the loss of the nation’s friend, Abraham Lincoln.

We continued to guard Bulls Gap until the reappearance of Gen. Hood with his ragged, battle-begrimed, dejected fugitive followers who marched through the gap with colors cased and arms at trai1, not as an aggressive enemy, but submissive to the old flag, under which he surrendered his dejected and starving forces, which awoke in us the brotherly spirit of friendship and mercy. We divided our rations with them, that they, with the advent of peace might receive kindness from the men who so 1ong and strenuously opposed them. On leaving for home they were marched between our drawn up lines, when a parting handshake, occurred, many shedding tears, while none displayed the vindictive hatred once existing between the two contending armies. On their departure, from both the Blue and Gray, was heard "Good by, boys, we wi11 fight no more, which was our parting farewell.

Immediately after the disbanding of the Confederate forces, we received orders to march to Nashville, one hundred and twenty-five miles. As the war was over, we were allowed to relax from strict marching discipline by marching at will.

Our stay at Nashville was prolonged by inability to procure railroad transportation. At this time the spirit of rejoicing among citizens had risen to such enthusiasm that monster out of door meetings were held to commemorate the advent of peace. Stage platforms were built in the city and brought into camp, from which ministers of every creed were invited to preach. Soon our camp resembled an old fashioned camp meeting, which we greatly enjoyed. We were frequently remembered by the good citizens in the form of a large piece of cake and other delicacies which gladdened the heart of the veteran soldier boy.

At the dose of this season of religious fervor ministers and members of the several denominations united in a union communion service, extending invitations to those in the service of their country, who believed in commemorating the Lord’s Supper, to partake in any form which their conscience might dictate with honor to the Deity. The invitation was accepted by the greater part of the army who fell in line when ministers of the various churches passed down the line breaking bread and serving wine according to the desire of each communicant, each one a judge of his own conscience, none being denied the services of a minister of his particular creed if desired. Many thousands took part in this holy ordnance, which required many hours of continued service to perform. In magnitude of numbers and imposing solemnity it was the grandest communion in honor of God ever administered on The American continent.

Immediately following the grand communion service, orders were issued by Gen. Thomas for a grand review of the army under his command. A suitable plateau near the city was selected, having a moderate eminence near its center from which Gen. 'Thomas and his line of commanders might view the passing troops as they would march.

Orders being issued to "Clean up," each soldier vied with all in brilliancy of uniform and accouterments. On the day of the review, the infantry formed in company front by regiments, led the van. Thus, regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, swung round the eminence on which was grouped the commanding generals as a vast human wheel slowly revolving around the eminence which being the pivot on which it turned, formed one of the grandest military displays ever held under the old flag. closely following the infantry came the cavalry, transforming the great human wheel into one of grandeur which cannot be easily described. Next came the artillery in half battery front, again transforming the scene into one of power and destructive engines of war. Thus nearly all day ground the vast military wheel unti1 every man, animal and gun had encircled their noble commander. Though more than forty years have lapsed since I witnessed this grand military pageant, no scene, whether of military or otherwise, has compared with the grandeur Following the grand review, we were ordered on board cars to be transported to the Mississippi river where we were to take transports for Matagorda Bay. While boarding the cars at Nashville, a small regiment refused to accompany us, claiming their term of service had expired with the close of the war. Our regiment was ordered to fix bayonets and assist them onto the cars, which duty they themselves modestly performed.

Reaching the Mississippi, we tool boats for New Orleans, where we remained several days awaiting transports for Matagorda Bay. We left New Orleans July 6th, ’64.  While en-route to Matagroda Bay, I witnessed my first naval burial. John Thomas, my bunk mate, conceived the idea that he could walk the rope connecting the two mastheads, while he proceeded to put into execution, and had nearly accomplished it when a puff of smoke from the smoke-stack strangled him and, losing his balance, he fell upon the deck and immediately expired. He was given a respectful naval burial, during which service the entire fleet came to a dead sail until he sank beneath the water of the briny gulf. From Metagroda Bay, we marched to San Antonio, Texas, one hundred and twenty-five miles. There we remained until Nov. 30th, ’64, when we were mustered out of service and sent home. Still keeping military formation, we marched to Galveston, two hundred miles, hence by boat to New Orleans, where we changed boats for Cairo, Ills. From Cairo we took cars for St. Louis, Mo., where we were detained several days that the good people might prepare for us the banquet they had planned. This kindness and sumptuous feast is not forgotten, though it be forty years ago.

On arriving at Atchison, Kas., we formed in line at the cars and marched into the city. As we halted to break ranks we were besieged by mothers, brothers and sisters, some of whom nearly frantic, with tears streaming down their cheeks, begged us to tell where we had buried their boy. While fathers mingled with us hopeful of some last word from their boy, which was the hardest battle to fight during our four years of service.

Atchison being the home of our regimental commander, Col. John A. Martin, in whose honor the citizens prepared a feast for the entire regiment. The festive boards groaned under pyramids of wholesome victuals, hiding from view those on the opposite side of the great long tables.

The good ladies who served, not being satisfied with our capacity for wholesome victuals, still urged us to eat more, while they busied themselves filling our haversacks with the best the tables afforded. After the banquet we were marched to the hall here citizens made speeches of welcome, eulogizing us for what we had accomplished and praising us for what we had endured while paying highest tribute to the American flag and its defenders, which was followed by farewell addresses by the officers in command. The following is the closing sentence of our beloved Colonel John A. Martin, who commanded our regiment from the time we left Leavenworth for the front, until our return: "Boys, you have traveled over three thousand miles and carried your knapsacks and guns a11 the way". You have fought thirty-three battles, and what few there are left, I fully commend for your bravery. Boys, you have behaved like men. Go home and make good citizens of yourselves. I now bid you farewell. Good bye."

From Atchison we took the cars for Leavenworth, still under our old commander who formed us in line at the cars for last time and marched us to the fort (Jan. 4th, ’65, being just four years from the day of my enlistment), where we turned over to the government Our equipment, receiving full pay for services, bidding good bye to soldier life. On the following day we were transformed into citizens, mingling amid citizens thus attired, when, officers under whom we had served for four years scarce knew us.

The river having become filled with floating ice, causing the ferryboat to suspend operation, many of the boys, anxious to proceed on their journey home, found it necessary to cross the river by leaping from cake to cake in order to reach their train.

From Leavenworth I went to Byron, Ills., where I visited with friends and acquaintances until thoroughly rested, when I rolled up my sleeves and went to work, as all good citizens should do.

In conclusion let me state the reason of my going from Byron, Ills., to Kansas.  Kansas was then an anti-slave state. Every effort was being made by Southern slave states to drag it into slavery and disunion. Grave was the outlook when it became known that non-residents were pouring in from Southern slave states to force by ba1lot slavery upon the state.

A ca11 upon the North was made for men to offset this dread menace, for which purpose myself with many others, left Byron, Ills., which was not alone in the movement. Thus Kansas was kept in the union while slavery was kept out of the state.

Thus ends my meager recollection of the four long years of faithful service I gave to my beloved country and the Stars and Stripes.

Let liberty be our watchword true,

Let freedom be our song.

Unfurl the glorious Stars and Stripes

To wave through ages long.

No emblem is so true and grand

For justice and for right.

Where’er the Stars and Stripes are raised

Shines freedom’s holy light.

America is the land we love

Its emblem we adore.

For ever, let it wave on high,

For ever, e-ve-r m-o-r-e.



(By a Friend.)


Eulogy seems fittingly appropriate, yet is not needful.

Your deeds of valor as recorded on the fair pages of history, are commendable

through a11 generations to come.

You, who have stood at the front, we11 know the immensity of the desperate struggle for human freedom and the preservation of our glorious Union.

You, who have passed through the trying fire of a long and bloody rebellion, when

the Union trembled in the balance, when justice wept over the distracted nation erected

in the name of freedom, when mothers, wives and children bowed in gloom and sad-

ness over graves of noble heroes who gave their lives in defense of home, country and

our glorious Union.

You, who faced a desperate foe seeking the dissolution of the best government on

which the orb of light has ever cast its rays, that human bondage might become the bulwark of a new government and fair Columbia be forever banished from the nations of

the world.

Those were the days that tried American meta1. Those were the days when noble

Lincoln shed tears as he stood by the helm of the ship of state, guiding it through

turbulent waters into the haven of peace. When, by your loyalty, the American people have become united by the sacred bans of affection for home, country and our be-loved flag.

Be not led by impulse as you rally ’round the emblem of your country and sing with glad refrain "Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue," but by love and patriotism remember that the object of your devotion found birth amid the throes of oppression; was rocked in the cradle of liberty and reared into prominence among nations of the world, by a liberty loving people, battling for freedom and the right of self government.

Whose guidance has been in trusted to the Supreme Ruler. To whom every American offers grateful prayer in behalf of his beloved country as they sing:

"Our Father, God, to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright,

With freedom’s holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God, our King."

All photo's owned by Darlene and Wayne Casteel, taken on there trip in 1999. 

Notes below each photo from Darlene.

All Alone

All Alone

This is the deserted church building that we used as a landmark to locate the cemetery where Elza is buried. The cemetery is just across the farm access road. After the church collapses some day, the only way to find the cemetery will be by checking the mileage covered. Uncle Wayne & I recorded the mileage on each leg of the trip out into the fields.

Elza Chronister's Grave In the distance

Elza Chronister's grave in the distance

Can you see a very small white speck off in the distance, nearly buried in the grass? That's Elza's head stone. I took this shot just to show the state of the cemetery.

Elza Chronister Tombstone

Elza Chronister Tombstone

This marker is self explanatory. Took us a long time to find this one, too. Along side Elza'a grave is a depression in the ground about the size of a grave that we suspect is Frances' final resting place since we know they are both buried at this site, but there is no marker except a half of a wooden marker. No lettering could be read. This is out in the farm land 14 miles N.W. of the wide spot on the hi-way known as Kremlin. It's the area where Uncle Wayne was born while the whole family was living with their Aunt Monica, who was Elza & Frances' older daughter. She died in 1929 and is buried in Havre. Byrl says they were living at her place when she died. There is no marker at her grave. We haven't yet tracked down her husband, but by the time of the 1920 Montana census she was listed as a widow. Her obituary lists no surviving children, so she may never have had any.

Precise directions that I wrote down when we were there:  On Hi-way 2, travel 3.4 miles West of Kremlin to an unmarked dirt road on the right.  Go north 8 miles to the Leon Williams mail box (of course, some time in the future, the name may be changed), then west 3 miles to the abandoned church on the left.  The cemetery is across the farm road from the church.  There are only 6 markers, 5 of which are very large, cement "vault" type large enough to cover the entire grave, although they are not tall.  Elza is buried near the north boundary slightly toward west from center.  I have an idea that Monica's husband is buried in that same cemetery, as there is a smaller depression on the other side of Elza from what we figured was Frances' grave.  Maybe they are both there, and we have them reversed, but we don't have any information so far as to where or when Monica's husband died.  I've tried to learn the denomination of the church to find out whether or not they have a record of who is buried there, but so far I've been unsuccessful.  The original boundaries of the cemetery are still identifiable from fence posts still standing (as of July,1999).  Barbed wire hides in the grass to catch unwary wanderers.


Dennis ~ Debbi, First Cousins

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Last update on 10/25/03