The Thirty-seventh regiment of Iowa, doing duty in St. Louis, in 1862, was a regiment of exempts–few, if any, of its members being under forty-five years of age, and many of them over eighty. “Take them all together,” says a correspondent, “they are a band of hardy veterans, whom the exigencies of the situation have fired with a zealous patriotism well worthy of imitation by younger men. But the most remarkable member of this regiment is a private of company II, named Curtis King, whose history and description are truly curious. He is over eighty-one years of age, six feet two inches in height of brawny and stalwart frame, baring his bosom to the cold winds of winter without endangering his health, and moving in his round of duties with the celerity of a youth of eighteen. Owing to his great age, and the fact of his being blind of an eye, he found great difficulty, when the regiment was forming, in getting permission to enlist, two or three companies refusing to take him; but he was at length successful, and since the regiment has been on duty he has proved one of the most efficient man in it. He is, and has been from his youth, a Democrat of the old Jackson school, and even now indulges industrious invective against the Abolitionists. He was born in Culpepper County, Va., and claims to be a lineal descendant of Pocahontas; and this statement in verified by his physiognomy, which betrays the characteristics of an Indian. He has been twice married, (first when only nineteen years of age,) and is the father of twenty-one children, one of which was, two weeks since, only fifteen months old when it died. He claims to be able to repeat every word of the Bible from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, and can neither read nor write–a daughter having read the book to him, his wonderful memory allowing him to retain it after committing it to memory. The daughter commenced her reading to him at five years of age, he being then twenty-six. In 1815 he emigrated to Ohio, resided there some twenty-five years, and then removed to Wapello County, Iowa, where his home now is, and where he enlisted. Mr. King’s family is somewhat celebrated for longevity, his mother having lived to the age of 103, and one grandfather to 105 years.
The history of this country is familiar to him, and his citations of historical points and the connection with them of great men who flourished during the latter part of the last century, are wonderfully accurate–remembering, as he does, Washington, Jefferson, Randolph, and the Adamses, &c. He has often seen Washington, and remarked as a characteristic of the ‘Father of his Country,” that he never saw him smile; that he seemed to have little sympathy in the enjoyments of other men. The father of Mr. King was a soldier of the Revolution.
About twenty of Mr. K.’s grandsons and some four or five great-grandsons are now in the United States service, and the old man indulges a laudable pride in the fact that not one of his family is disloyal. Eleven of his grandsons responded to the first call of the President for volunteers. One of his daughters, who resides in Ohio, weighs 325 pounds. He himself never took a dose of medicine from a doctor, nor did any one of his family while they remained under his control, he being what is called a “root doctor,” and having done the physicking for his own people by the use of herb and root teas; his “practice,” too, was successful.
The opinion of this aged veteran upon the war, though he gives it in a somewhat homely and antique figure of speech, is not to be ignored as devoid of good foundation. When asked his ideas as to the result of the struggle, he replied: “Well, I think the longest pole will knock the persimmon. It may take a long time; but the North has got the most men and the most money, and it is bound to come out first best in the end. And,” he continued, “if the young men will do as I intend to do, the rebellion will be put down, for I am in for the war, or as long as I last.” The cheerful and contented disposition of this old man might well be taken for an example by younger soldiers, to say nothing of his strict observance of discipline, or the efficiency and value of such men to the service.
Originally posted 2008-09-06 18:16:23.