Every now and then I read books relating to the western theater, or, more rarely now, the eastern theater. While reading B. F. Magee’s, History of the 72d Indiana Volunteer Infantry Of The Mounted Lightning Brigade (1882), I came across a passage that struck me as expressing such a universal sentiment that I decided to share it. Magee’s regiment served throughout the war in the western theater and for most of that time in the “Lightning Brigade.” His regiment was stationed near Macon, Georgia, on May 21, 1865, when the following occurred:
“…as we lay there till 3 o’clock in the morning, we again went over the whole ground of the war, and discussed the effect of peace upon ourselves and upon the country, and upon our chances of making a living when we got home; and so far as making a living was concerned, we unanimously agreed that it would be better for us to stay in the army. We were all farmers, and this was the case with three-fourths of the regiment; and we had been away from our accustomed labor so long that we would not know where or how to take hold. Harvest had already commenced where we were, and we knew that the time for making a crop or engaging in any other kind of business for the year had just now gone by, and we knew it would be almost a year before we could get into any kind of business that would bring us a living; and in our whole squad we do not think there was a man who seemed anxious, or even glad, we were going home” (pages 612-613).
Until I read this passage, I had not really thought of how the war’s end in the springtime impacted soldiers who had agricultural backgrounds. Many regiments that served in the trans-Mississippi, both Union and Confederate, were mostly comprised of farmers and agricultural workers; perhaps their thoughts were similar to those of the men of the 72nd Indiana at the end of the war.