My great-grandfather was always proud of his service in the Civil War although he never liked talking about the fighting and he believed that if the politicians who started wars had to fight them there would be no wars. He believed that the cause of the war the ending of slavery was the right thing even though he abhorred the war itself. Once many years later he had an occasion to be confronted by a group of Klan members who had ventured on his property because of his stance on slavery and the emancipation issue. They had threatened to burn a cross on his land because of his views. He calmly stood his ground and let them know that if they returned to carry out their threats he would be there waiting for them. They never returned.
Coming up the first of July is the 150 Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. My great-grandfather Andrew Jackson Everist served in the 57th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War and was for a short period of time an orderly at Grant’s Headquarters, from a perspective of a 15 year boy who had run away from home to join the Grand Army of the Potomac he would forever say that the history books had it wrong that Grant wasn’t the General everyone thought he was, but then he was looking at from an entirely different perspective.
For the time his outfit was attached to Grant’s Headquarters at Vicksburg it was his and another 17 year old orderly’s job to wake Grant up, help him dress, trim his beard if need be and then in the immortal words of my great-grandfather, “If he was still too drunk, lift him up on his horse and standby until he could successfully right himself without danger of falling.” My great-grandfather gladly relinquished his duties as one of Grant’s orderlies when his outfit got the task of breaking camp for William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army on its march through the South to the Sea. He always told people that he became a lifelong Democrat because of his brief time as Grant’s orderly.
When they held the 75th Anniversary of Gettysburg, he accepted Franklin Roosevelt’s offer for free transportation and journeyed to Gettysburg in July of 1938. His most vivid recollection of the event was getting to see and hear Roosevelt speak and the fact as he succinctly told my mother when she asked him how it went on his trip, “Oh all them old bastards were still fighting the Civil War! Just a bunch of old fools!” I still have the medal they gave him at the encampment. It has his name on it and the number of issue. It resides in an honored place alongside the medal I received for my service during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
He survived to the ripe old age of 96 (although army records had recorded his age at induction as 18 instead of 15). He was the last surviving Civil War Veteran in Geary, Oklahoma and on his birthday January 20th, 1941 the town turned out to honor him for his birthday and his service.
I still have the picture of him standing with a Veteran of the Spanish American War and a Veteran of WWI as well as with the then Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives who spoke at my great-grandfather’s birthday party. He passed away in his sleep on January 30th 1945 aged 96 years and 10 days. It was my honor and privilege to have actually known him even if it was for a very brief time.
Ode to My Great-Grandfather
Andrew Jackson Everist, Sr.
Buck Private 57th Illinois Infantry
Grand Army of the Potomac,
In service there attended.
He was young and wanted to serve,
Ran away before he lost his nerve,
Off to join the Grand Army bold,
He was only fifteen years old.
What he found wasn’t to his liking,
A lot of guns knives and spiking,
The killing fields were murderous,
Only the flies remained delirious.
His outfit was sent to Vicksburg,
To serve Grant’s Headquarters,
They made him a lowly orderly,
At that he served quite poorly.
Didn’t like serving the General,
He considered US Grant a sot,
Cleaning him when he was drunk,
Didn’t make him like him a lot.
But he served as he was told,
Though was glad as he could be,
When his outfit left for Georgia,
On Sherman’s march to the sea.
He came back from war a man,
Didn’t talk of what he had done,
He was just glad the war was over,
And that the North had finally won.
He thought all war was wrong,
That we should find another way,
That too many good men died,
So politicians could have their say.
He lived out his days a farmer,
Working a farm in Covert, Kansas,
Attended the 75th Anniversary encampment,
There at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
He never regretted his time serving,
But he hated wars and the strife,
He remained forever a peace lover,
Lived a long and prosperous life.