« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
of virtue and of great humanity, although he had the grizzly appearance of that cold, grim determination which was so remarkable in that great commander, General Grant, and which concealed beneath it all the gentleness of a little girl and all the suavity of the most sensitive. It will now be easily admitted that he would not be afraid to observe the precepts of virtue in any circumstances. To illustrate this I will narrate the following fact. In a battle, the name of which I cannot now recall, some stimulants were offered to the soldiers of his company just as they were about to be ordered to make a terrible charge. The captain replied for himself and his men in the following language, as nearly as I can now remember his words: “We do not need this artificial bracing up of our courage.
When we enlisted we knew that war was death. We are now ready to face death for this government, but at the saine time we want to meet our God in a state of sobriety. We will not take these stimulants." That charge was made and those soldiers were not defeated.
To me it seems beyond doubt that if Captain Real had had in his youth the benefit of a scientific and military training he would have taken a place in the history of the war among those generals who have attained to high distinction. While he was a strict disciplinarian, as far as the enforcement of discipline belonged to his rank, his intuition of the characters of men enabled him to enforce it in ways unknown to men of less intuitive minds. The following incident will explain this characteristic of him. One of his men was condemned, for some act I do not now recall, but which from the punishment would seem to have been an act of cowardice or of desertion, to be placed with hands tied behind his back in front of the army in the next battle. Coming on the field Captain Real stepped forward, untied the man's hands, gave him a musket, and ordering him to look at the flag addressed him as follows: "Now defend that flag and win back your life and honor." The commanding officer, observing the action of the captain, rode up and asked why he had untied that man's hands. The captain, cool and calm, replied that he required all his men to use the musket in battle. The captain often told this incident
to friends and used to say that until the end of the war no truer or braver soldier ever defended the stars and stripes than was that man.
In severe engagements, when hard pressed, the captain often used a musket and allowed the sword to hang loosely by his side. He used to say that on such occasions he would feel the need of something in his hands besides the sword, which seemed more for ornament than for usefulness.
Sinking beneath the surface of the great conflict he often made an effort to comprehend its causes and grasp its consequences. The army having on one occasion marched all day in a drenching rain, bivouacked at nightfall in deep mud. Captain Real happened to be near a small shed, or rather four erect poles with two or three boards on them, beneath which he arranged a couple of sticks found there, upon which he stretched so as to be out of the mud, while the boards overhead shed some of the rain from him. The lightning was blinding and the thunder like the roaring of many battles. In this position he was both unable and unwilling to sleep, for the reason that he imagined himself to be one of the happiest of men for possessing such a luxurious lodging. He passed that night in soliloquizing on what the war meant for the present and for future generations; soliloquizing on all that was contained in the idea of home, the cradle of man, of civilization, of refinement, of morality, of religion; soliloquizing on what part a government acts in creating, diffusing, perfecting, preserving all those manifold and ineffable blessings, and just before the reveille concluded that to suffer and even to die for a government that conferred on its citizens more of such blessings than any other that had ever existed was one of the highest and holiest of duties, and rose from that luxurious couch, if possible, a more resolute and determined soldier of the Union.
While he gloried in the army and used to say that nothing in all history, nothing on earth, equaled the perfection and irresistibility of the volunteer army in defending a government the roots of which were entwined around every ligament of the heart, while he still clung to the associations formed and friends made in time of war, nevertheless, like all his comrades, when the final victory was won he converted his sword into a plowshare, turned from the field of blood and carnage to the beautiful undulating prairies of Nebraska, adorned with every flower and resonant with the song of birds.
The eyes that had so long feasted on scenes of destruction were charmed with the peacefulness of this new panorama. Having been mustered out of service, he married Miss Ellen Purcell, of Henry county, Illinois, came to Nebraska in 1871, and took a homestead claim in Fillmore county. He often used to say that he came as far west as the Burlington and Missouri River railroad could carry him, for it put him off at the end of its tracks. In Fillmore county he acquired 2,000 acres of land, and later purchased some in Kansas. Besides utilizing his lands he engaged in various kinds of business. He built and conducted stores, elevators, hotels, managed lumber and hardware and implement businesses. He was chiefly instrumental in laying out and building the town of Grafton. Later on in life he retired from all other business and devoted all his attention to the management of his lands. He built a beautiful home on the edge of the village, replenished it with comforts and attractions that made his children become home loving, generously entertained friends and acquaintances, and even strangers ever found there hospitality and cheerfulness. He led all his children to desire higher education and furnished to each as he attained the proper age the means of attaining it. Idleness he never allowed to enter his home. During vacation he allotted to each certain employments on the farm and during the rest of the year those who were not in college had to labor some morning and evening. He never cut off from his children the pleasures proper for their age, but he prevented excess and took cognizance of those permitted. When visited by friends he would often call all the children around the piano and have them sing while one of them played the accompaniment. He often joined in with them; but he was not a musician and only supplied the discord. His favorite was "Way Down Upon the Swanee Ribber." Sometimes when he would like to have the children sing this he would say: "Well, call up the colored troupe.” Then the little ones would
gather around and he himself would become a child again with them. Captain Real's idea of domestic government is worthy of notice. In the miniature republic of his home there never was a rebellion, never even a divided government. Neither did he absorb the whole government in himself, so as to be an absolute despot. In the management of family affairs neither the children nor friends were ever witnesses to any differences of opinion between him and his wife. They always consulted together in the privacy of their room, agreed upon a course to be pursued, and in the carrying of it out acted as one. In that domestic republic no child ever learned the habit of appealing to one parent when refused by the other, thus dividing the house against itself. As the children grew up he gave them an insight into his affairs and consulted with them. This made them something more than mere stayers at home, and gave range to their growing energies and ambitions. He taught them to respect not only ecclesiastical, but civil holidays also, and how to profit by the sentiment celebrated.
As to his humanity and charity, Captain Real gave proofs of them on proper occasions. To the poor renter he often supplied a complete farming outfit and waited for pay until the renter could spare it from the production of his labor. During the years of drouth, and hot winds, and hail, and grasshoppers, he furnished many with necessaries, remitted rents and written obligations to debtors, and to those who fell not into despair, but remained and hoped for a better day, donated seed, accompanied with words of encouragement. In all such works he never considered the recipient's political or religious convictions, or ethnie relations. He was as broad as the brotherhood of man, and did not exclude even those who had offended him. From this, however, it must not be inferred that he was a man without fault, for he was human; but he labored to minimize them and to prevent others from suffering from them. One day, sitting and chatting with comrades of the G. A. R. in front of the postoffice, he said: "Well, my friends, when you bury me, bury my faults with me. One of the comrades remarked in a joking way: “I don't know,
Captain, that would take a pretty large grave.” It can be said of him that he never brought sorrow to any home, but often dispelled the clouds and made the sun to shine and wiped away the tears.
When the catholics of that place were building a house of worship he allowed them to take the lumber from his yards and kept little, if any, record of it. Respecting the religious convictions of his fellow men, he did not refuse them assistance when they wished to build for the same purpose. He laid out and donated to the catholics a beautiful cemetery about a mile from town. Right beside it he donated a similar one to the protestants. He always respected the dead and wished to see their remains laid a way decently and reverently.
The following incidents will show some of the characteristics for which he was noted in ordinary life, and especially his supreme fearlessness. On one occasion, during those years of crop failures, a priest came to minister to the people of that county and was entertained by Captain Real. On the day when religious services were held the people, being very much impoverished, contributed but very little to meet the priest's expenses. When about to take his departure Captain Real asked him if he had received sufficient to meet expenses at least. He thoughtlessly replied that perhaps he had received enough to get him "the cigars." In his grim, freezing way the captain said: "Can you devote the money spared to you by a religious but impoverished people to such needless purposes ?” The rebuke was severe, but well timed and proper. It taught a view of Christianity sometimes forgotten even by ministers of the Lowly Nazarene.
Another time a rector was appointed to that mission who was in many ways incompetent. The captain called upon the bishop to remonstrate, but to no purpose. Departing dissatisfied he said to the bishop: “You seem to have sent him there for revenue only,” alluding to political doctrines agitated at that time.
Memorial union services on the occasion of the death of General Grant were held in one of the churches. Many speakers, clerical and lay, made addresses, and among them Captain Real.