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Title: The unique story book

Author: Anonymous

Release date: August 30, 2022 [eBook #68867]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: A. B. Courtney, 1895

Credits: Demian Katz, Craig Kirkwood, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (Images courtesy of the Digital Library@Villanova University.)



Entered at the Boston Post office as second class matter.

Vol. 2.

May, 1895.
Published Monthly.

No. 17.

The Unique
Story Book.

Smallest Magazine in the world. Subscription price
50 cts. per year. Single Copies 5 cts. each.

Room 74, 45 Milk Street,



“Do you remember the diamonds we found up at old Gray Jake Wagner’s house when we were making that little raid around Taylorsville?” was asked of Colonel Andrew M. Benson, of Portland, Me., by a former companion with whom he was dining at Syracuse, N. Y. The colonel at first failed to recall the circumstances, but on the mention of a certain Miss Wagner’s name a relaxation of his features showed that all recollection of the episode was not lost, and the dinner party was soon in possession of the facts, as follows: In the latter part of the year 1864, Colonel Benson, the captain of the First District of Columbia cavalry, with Colonel James M. Gere, also captain at the time, Colonel Walpole, of Syracuse, and Lieutenant Cornell, of Vermont, were confined in the prison pen at Columbia, S. C., and during December they escaped and made their way to Crab Orchard, on Doe River Cove. There they found a company of 83 struggling[3] Federal soldiers. Though in the heart of the enemy’s country, the members of this little band were suddenly stimulated to excessive bravery by thus meeting with their fellows, and conceived it would be a fine joke to make a little raid on Taylorsville, a village nearly 50 miles further north. The daring of the scheme appeared when, upon examination, it was found that 30 of the men had just one round of ammunition, while 31 had only one extra charge. Six, however, were mounted, and, at the head of this plucky detachment of cavalry Captain Benson was placed. Captain Gere led the infantry, and the whole squad was in command of Lieutenant James Hartley. Such was the make-up of the band that started out with more pluck than powder to capture Taylorsville. About 40 miles of the distance had been covered when the plantation of a rebel was reached who was notorious in all the country round. A halt was ordered to treat with the owner, Gray Jake Wagner, who was at that time just walking out to feed his hogs.

“Oh, take what you want; but only spare my life,” cried Gray Jake Wagner, throwing up his hands like a flash and dropping his pail of swill as a bullet whistled past his ear, advising him of his distinguished visitors.

“We want,” said Captain Benson, “whatever[4] you have of use to us.” And it took but a glance to tell the astonished planter that nothing could come amiss to that ragged company so lately escaped from the horrors of a rebel prison. Now, among other members of the Wagner family was a pretty daughter of the old rebel, aged eighteen, who had just returned from boarding school to spend the holidays. After listening to the conversation with her father, and catching a glimpse of the visitors, she ran frightened to her own room. The troops swarmed about the place like bees and rushed into the house at every door. Several soldiers soon found their way even to the room of the scared young lady and demanded the immediate surrender of her revolver and ammunition.

“I have no revolver,” cried the frightened girl.

“You have,” yelled one of the soldiers with an oath, “and you will give it up.” But at just this juncture the tall form of Captain Benson, who was then a dashing officer of 28, appeared, and he took in the situation at a glance. Drawing his revolver, he threatened to drop the first man who touched a thing in that room or failed to leave without a word. The men withdrew in silence, while the frightened Miss Wagner, with tears and sobs, expressed her heartfelt thanks to her gallant protector.


“What did you find in the house?” asked Captain Benson of the infantry officer, as they left the place. “I found these diamonds,” he quietly added, pointing to three glistening drops on his shoulder. The raid did not extend very far beyond Gray Jake Wagner’s. Taylorsville, they learned, was full of rebel soldiers, and the little party barely managed to reach the Union lines.

Miss Wagner obtained in some way the address of her benefactor, and afterward, by letter, it is said, she sent her thanks, which she could only partially express in the excitement of their meeting.


In July, 1861, General J. D. Cox’s division was chasing General Henry A. Wise’s Confederate forces up the Kanawha River, in West Virginia, and to impede the rapid advance of the Union troops the bridge across Pocotaligo Creek was destroyed. The stream was only a couple of rods wide, but its banks were steep and the bed of the creek was too much of a slough to allow fording by the wagon trains and artillery. The regular army engineers wanted a few weeks’ time to prepare plans, and considered it necessary to send to Cincinnati for tools and material to construct a bridge. The General, being informed that the[6] Eleventh Ohio Infantry Regiment, then encamped at “Poco,” had a company composed entirely of mechanics, sent for the captain, and, after a short conference with that officer, directed him to put his men at work. Commencing at nine o’clock in the morning, in seventeen hours a substantial “bridge” was built across the creek, and which was used by army wagons, cannons and soldiers for a long time, probably until the war closed. A raft of logs, timbers from a deserted house, and poles cut in the woods near by, were the materials used for the bridge, the tools being a few axes and augers. These practical bridge-builders were members of Company K, principally machinists, molders, etc., from the shops of Lane & Bodley, of Cincinnati, the captain being their late employer, P. P. Lane, afterward colonel of the regiment.


Colonel Johnson, commanding the 108th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, during the late war, up to the time he fairly earned and secured his “single star,” was a strict disciplinarian. Straggling and foraging were especially tabooed by him; certain and severe was the punishment of the culprit who was caught away from his command without authority, and if any foraged provisions[7] were found on the scoundrel they were at once confiscated. As it was not practicable to return the provisions to the lawful owner, the colonel would have them served up at his own mess table, “to keep them from going to waste.”

As a consequence, the colonel was cordially hated by many of his men, and many were the plans laid down by them “to get even” and circumvent him, but, owing to his astuteness, they generally came to grief.

One day a soldier of the regiment, who had the reputation of being “a first-class, single-handed forager,” but who had nevertheless been repeatedly compelled to disgorge his irregularly procured supply of fresh meat, and as repeatedly to pass an interval of his valuable time in the regimental bull-pen, slipped away from camp and, after an absence of several hours, returned with a loaded haversack and tried to get to his tent without attracting any attention. He was noticed, however, and promptly arrested and escorted to regimental headquarters.

“Omar, you infernal scoundrel, you have been foraging again,” said the colonel.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Haven’t, eh! Let’s see what is in your haversack. Leg o’ mutton, eh! Killed some person’s sheep,” said the colonel. Omar was sent to the[8] guard house as usual, and the foraged property to the colonel’s cook.

The regimental mess, consisting of most of the field and staff officers, had fresh meat for supper and breakfast. During the latter meal the colonel happened to look out from under the tent fly that was in use as a mess-room, and noticed Omar, who was under guard cleaning up around headquarters, eyeing him very closely. The colonel remarked: “Well, prisoner, what is it?”

“Nothing, colonel,” replied Omar, “except I was just wondering how you liked your breakfast of fried dog.”

Consternation seized the party at the table. With an exclamation or expletive, every one of them sprang to his feet, and from under the tent fled.

Omar ran for his life, and at once, as per preconcerted agreement, over half the men in the regiment commenced barking and howling like dogs—big dogs, little dogs, hoarse and fine, bass and soprano, fortissimo and mezzo-soprano, dogs ’round the corner and dogs under the house—in short, there was the “dog”-onedest kind of a racket made until the colonel grasped his sword, and, foaming with rage, rushed for the men’s tents; but they were too old to be caught.

For a long time, though, they would “regulate”[9] the colonel if he showed signs of being excessive by barking, but at their peril, for he would certainly have killed a barker if discovered.

After that breakfast the regimental mess strictly abstained from eating any second-hand foraged meat.


Louis Abear, says the Detroit Free Press, was a private in Company H, Fifth Michigan Cavalry, and made a good soldier. At the battle of Trevillian Station he was taken prisoner, and before his release he was confined in five different prison-pens and two jails.

While he was in Millen Prison, an exchange of sixty prisoners was to be made. The officer of the day told off sixty names at the door of the pen, but for some reason, probably because he was too ill, or perhaps dead, one man did not come forth. At that moment Louis, who had been sent out after fuel, under guard of course, came through the gates pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with wood.

“Here, Louis, here’s a chance for you. We want sixty men to go North and are short one. Jump into the ranks here!” exclaimed the officer.

“To be exchanged?” asked Louis, trembling more than he did when under fire.


“Yes. Be quick.”

“Then take Hank. He’s sick, and will die if he remains here,” and Louis darted into the hospital ward. Hank had a pair of pantaloons and shoes, but no coat or hat. Louis pulled off his, put them on Hank, and brought him out, weak and tottering. As Hank filed out the gate and once more breathed the air of freedom, Louis, hatless and coatless, took hold of the handles of his wheelbarrow and started for another load of wood.

Can mortal mind conceive of such an act? It cost him seven months of a living death, and all for a man with whom he was not even intimately acquainted.

And now for the other side of the picture. Ever since the close of the war, until a few months ago, when Hank died, these two men have lived right here in Wayne County, Hank with a home and family, Louis with neither; have met occasionally, but at no time did Hank ever refer to the act in Millen Prison that set him free and saved his life; never invited him to his home; never alluded to the past, or addressed his savior other than as a mere acquaintance. On his death-bed, however, he told the story, and asked his relatives if they ever had an opportunity, to befriend Louis for his sake. It was tardy acknowledgement of one of the noblest acts the world has ever known.



President Lincoln has been made responsible for so many jokes, writes Ben. Perley Poore, that he reminds one of a noted Irish wit who, having been ruined by indorsing the notes of his friends, used to curse the day when he learned to write his name, as he had obtained such a reputation for willingness to oblige that he could not refuse. Mr. Lincoln might well have regretted ever having made a joke, for he was expected to say something funny on all occasions, and has been made answerable for all manner of jests, stories and repartee, as if he had combined all the elements of humor, commonplace heartlessness and coarseness, mingled with a passion for reviving the jokes of Joe Miller and the circus clowns. Yet he did say many excellent things. On one occasion Senator Wade came to him and said:

“I tell you, Mr. President, that unless a proposition for emancipation is adopted by the government, we will all go to the devil. At this very moment we are not over one mile from hell.”

“Perhaps not,” said Mr. Lincoln, “as I believe that is just about the distance from here to the Capitol, where you gentlemen are in session.”

On one occasion, at a reception, when the crowd of citizens and soldiers were surging through the[12] salons of the White House, evidently controlled by the somewhat brusque Western element, a gentleman said to him:

“Mr. President, you must diminish the number of your friends, or Congress must enlarge this edifice.”

“Well,” promptly replied Mr. Lincoln, “I have no idea of diminishing the number of my friends; but the only question with me now is whether it will be best to have the building stretched or split.”

At one of these receptions, when a paymaster in full major’s uniform was introduced, he said:

“Being here, Mr. Lincoln, I thought I would call and pay my respects.”

“From the complaints made by the soldiers,” responded the President, “I guess that is all any of you do pay.”

Ward Lamon, when Lincoln had appointed him Marshal of the District of Columbia, accidentally found himself in a street fight, and, in restoring peace, he struck one of the belligerents with his fist, a weapon with which he was notoriously familiar. The blow was a harder one than Lamon intended, for the fellow was knocked senseless, taken up unconscious, and lay for some hours on the border of life and death. Lamon was alarmed, and the next morning reported the affair to the President.


On another occasion a young soldier had fallen out of ranks when his regiment passed through Washington, and, getting drunk, failed to join his regiment when it left the city. To the friend who came to secure a pardon, Mr. Lincoln said: “Well, I think the boy can do us more good above ground than under ground,” and he wrote out the pardon.

In all such cases as the above, where the ordinary human weakness was the motive, Mr. Lincoln’s heart was tender as a woman’s, but to prove that he could entertain no sympathy for a cool, deliberate, mercenary crime, he was approached by the Hon. John B. Alley, of Massachusetts, one day, with a petition for the pardon of a man who had been convicted of engaging in the slave trade, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and the payment of a fine of one thousand dollars. His term of imprisonment had expired, but in default of payment of the fine, he was still held. In answer to the appeal for pardon Mr. Lincoln said: “You know my weakness is to be, if possible, too easily moved by appeals for mercy, and if this man were guilty of the foulest murder that the arm of man could perpetrate, I might forgive him on such an appeal; but the man who would go to Africa and rob her of her children and sell them into an interminable bondage with[14] no other motive than that which is furnished by dollars and cents, is so much worse than the most depraved murderer that he can never receive pardon at my hands. No, he may rot in jail before he shall have liberty by any act of mine.”

Upon another occasion the wife of a rebel officer, held as a prisoner of war, begged for the relief of her husband, and to strengthen her appeal said that he was a very religious man. In granting the release of her husband, Mr. Lincoln said: “Tell your husband when you meet him that I am not much of a judge of religion, but that in my opinion the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their government because they think that government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread in the sweat of other men’s faces, is not the sort of religion upon which men can get to heaven.”

One day news of a great battle in progress reached Mr. Lincoln, and his anxiety was so great that he could eat nothing. Soon after he was seen to take a Bible and retire to his room, and in a few minutes he was overheard in one of the most earnest prayers for the success of our arms. Later in the day a Union victory was announced, and Mr. Lincoln, with a beaming face, exclaimed: “Good news! good news! The victory is ours, and God is good.”



So many acts of heartlessness and cruelty during the great civil war have been recorded that it is a real pleasure to have an opportunity to record an act of manly kindness on the part of a gallant Confederate soldier to a Yankee boy. In the town of Bennington, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, in the spring of 1861, there lived a poor woman with six children, five boys and one little girl, the youngest of the former a stripling 14 years old. When the wires flashed the news from Washington all over our land that the rebels had fired upon the old flag at Fort Sumpter, the four older boys responded to the country’s call and hurried to the seat of war. The younger lad, his heart fired with genuine Green Mountain patriotism, ran away from home and, eluding pursuit, made his way to the camp on the Potomac. But his ardor was somewhat dampened by the discovery of the fact that he could not, in consequence of his youth and diminutiveness, enlist as a soldier. Determined to remain at the front; and having, as the saying is, to scratch for a living, he went to selling newspapers to the soldiers. Leaving the camp between New Baltimore and Warrenton about the 10th of November, 1862, he went to Washington for a supply of papers. Having accomplished his object, the young lad set out on horseback for the camp, having to travel a distance of thirty[16] miles. A change of position by the army during his absence had occurred, and as a consequence he ran into the rebel picket line and was taken to General J. E. B. Stuart’s headquarters, at a hotel in Warrenton, and from there sent to Libby Prison, in Richmond, arriving there November 13. Major Turner was in command of the prison, and when the young prisoner was brought into his presence, observing that he was a mere boy, the Major spoke kindly to him, and, after his name had been enrolled, asked him the customary question, if he had any money or valuables about his person. The frightened boy had managed to conceal his money, $380, in his boots, and in answer to the question, put his hand down, and while a tear-drop glistened in his bright eye and his boyish lip quivered, he brought it forth and handed it to the rebel major, and trying hard to choke down the swelling in his throat, he told of his widowed mother at home, his four brothers in the army, his having made his money selling papers, and saving it to send with his brothers’ wages to his mother. The Major folded the boy’s passes around the money and said to him: “You shall have this again, my boy, when you are permitted to go from here.” Six weeks afterward the lad was paroled, and, repairing to Major Turner’s office, the kind officer, handing him the package of money and the passes, just as he received them, said: “Here is your money, my boy.” With trembling hands, but a joyous heart, the little fellow took the package. He was sent to Washington, and a few weeks afterward was going his old rounds selling newspapers. The boy was Doc Aubrey, the newsboy of the Iron Brigade, who now resides in Milwaukee.

Transcriber’s Notes:

Punctuation has been made consistent.

p. 12: Another version of this story (George B. Herbert, The Popular History of the Civil War in America, F. M. Lupton, Publisher, New York, 1885, p. 476) includes the following additional paragraph immediately after the paragraph that starts “Ward Lamon, when Lincoln had appointed him ...”.

“I am astonished at you, Ward,” said Mr. Lincoln; “you ought to have known better. Hereafter, when you have to hit a man, use a club and not your fist.”