Dick Boughton, of the Second Kansas regiment, in a letter to his sister, gives the following incidents:
“It would be singular if, in a four or five months’ arduous campaign, I should not be occasionally in a tight place, as well as the witness of some painful scenes. While the Kansas Second were stopping at St. Joseph, on their way home, in September, two persons were arrested, and placed under guard in one of the hotels in that city. On the evening of their arrest, and the following day, it chanced to be my turn at guard duty; and I was one of the two placed at the door to guard the prisoners. Our instructions were to keep a sharp lookout, as one of them was a desperate character, arrested under the grave charge of shooting a Union man, and would probably attempt to get away. On the following morning the mother of one of the prisoners, hearing of the arrest of her son, came up to the room in great distress. She told her story amid tears and sobs, persisting in saying that her son was a good Union man; that he never carried any weapons, and had none when arrested, &c. &c. Poor woman! she was under the impression that her son was about to be strung up to the nearest tree, without ceremony, by the Second Kansas boys, whose ferocity she had heard tell so much about. After her first burst of grief had subsided into comparative silence, I told her that, if what she said were true, she need have no fears for the safety of her son; and added that, when relieved from my post, I would see our Major, who would inquire into the matter; and I could assure her that he would ask only to know the circumstances of her son’s arrest, without stopping to query upon opinions and settlements. That evening he was honorably released, and I had the satisfaction of taking mother and son by the hand, and receiving their gratulation.
“The case of the other prisoner was more serious and painful to me; and I give it, not as one worthy of being singled out as especially sad, but only as one of many circumstances of an equally painful nature, with which the soldier in active service in this terrible war has become reluctantly familiar. While still dwelling pleasantly upon the consolation my words had given the old lady in the morning, a light footstep was heard on the stairs, and presently a young lady made her appearance in the hall leading to our room. Her countenance was so pale and sad, with traces of tears, that it would have drawn pity from a heart of stone. Her step was so feeble and uncertain that I involuntarily took her by the arm as she approached, and supported her into the presence of her husband. They embraced each other for some moments, the silence only broken by convulsive sobs. Presently the wife, making a strong effort to be calm, spoke:
“‘Our child–our little Willie!’
“The husband knew too well the terrible purport of her words. At the time of the arrest, their only child lay ill in its mother’s arms, its little spirit hovering upon the verge of another world. When she could sufficiently command her emotions, she added:
“‘Before he died, he rose in my arms, and called for you, Charles–yes, he called for pa! O Charles, Charles! you could not come to us then.’ She again sank upon her husband’s bosom in uncontrollable anguish. Their tears mingled freely; and I found the moisture collecting in my own eyes in inconvenient quantities as the ‘second relief’ stationed themselves at our post, thus relieving us for a time. When we left the city, the prisoner pleaded very hard to be allowed to go with us; and I shall not soon forget his look of despair when it became necessary for our Major, despite his pleadings, to deliver him over to the command then stationed at that place.
“At the hazard of being tedious, dear sister, I will relate a little circumstance which happened while guarding these same prisoners. We had just got fairly settled at our posts after the arrest, when the officer of the guard came around, full of importance, and talking loudly, as if he wished to be considered Lord Mogul, Gen. Jackson, or some other distinguished individual.
“‘See here, guards; keep an eye on that tall fellow there, he’s a d—d secesh. If he undertakes to get away, run your bayonet through him. We’ll attend to his case directly; and he took especial care that the prisoner should hear his remarks. I did not wish to conceal my resentment at such language upon such an occasion; for I felt that he who used it disgraced the badge of distinction which rested upon his shoulders. It so chanced that a young lady, whose husband, a young lawyer, was off to the secession army, often passed by our door in going to and from her room, which was near. She often paused in her vibrations to express her sentiments on the secession question, which she did with great freedom, and with more unction at times than was compatible with her ladyship. I suppose somebody of sensitive nerves must have informed our officer of the guard that the lady was growing troublesome with her much talking. So when he came round again, he addressed himself to me in a voice full of authority, with:
“‘If that woman comes around here with any more of her gab, just put her in that room there, and lock her in.’ Sister, you know I am the coolest boy out, and can retain my linen with a grace under almost any circumstances; but just at that moment I felt more savage than my words would indicate, as I very coolly returned in substance that I hoped I never should so far disgrace my manhood as to offer violence to a woman for any sentiments she might utter.
“‘Obey my orders, sir,’ was sung out with a pomp and emphasis intended to carry terror along with them, but which aroused in me feelings wickedly opposed to anything like fear. ‘You’ll please excuse me, sir,’ I immediately responded, with just enough of tartness and accent to add impudence to disobedience. He then advanced towards me in a rage, saying something about putting me under guard, and reaching out his hand as if to take me by the collar.
“‘Hands off, if you please,’ said I, as I brushed his hand aside with a spiteful movement. He passionately seized his pistol hanging at his side. I saw his thumb upon the hammer as he drew it forth, thundering out as he did so:
“‘I’ll shoot you down like—‘
“I finished the sentence for him, as, springing forward with an activity that astonished myself, I planted a blow just over his left eye, which sent him reeling backwards towards the stairway; and he seized the baluster to save himself. His pistol fell from his hand, and rattled down the stairs behind. This ended the interesting scene, for he flung up his arms, and crying like a child, begged me not to strike again.
“I was now left to the pleasant contemplation of my situation, and the penalty attached to striking an officer; but my fellow-guard, when questioned, placed the matter in so favorable a light for me that I was not even arrested.”