February 7 in history:
- In 1845, a drunken visitor to the British Museum smashed the priceless Portland Vase, thought to date from the 1st century BC, into more than 80 pieces.
- In 1965, the United States began regular bombing and machine-gunning of North Vietnam, a war in which 58,220 Americans were, according to the Pentagon Papers, sacrificed because presidents of both parties misled the public about his success.
- In 1965, George Harrison’s tonsils were removed.
- In 1974, Mel Brooks’ comic masterpiece “Blazing Saddles” hit theaters.
- In 2019, a research paper on a recently discovered kangaroo fossil, published in Riversleigh, Australia, showed that kangaroos learned to jump 20 million years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The stunned world of science has not yet recovered.
On February 7, 1863, David B. Strahan of the 69th Indiana who was training in Wayne County wrote a letter to Young’s Point near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
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“Respected John (John Gallager, Editor of the Winchester Journal) – Dear Sir:
“I sit down now to inform you that I am still among the living and in better health… Not everyone can say this, because there are many diseases in our army, and as many die as by an enemy’s bullet or bayonet. We are encamped in a perfect cemetery; there are from twenty-five to thirty buried every day; there is here now a profusion of smallpox and other dangerous diseases; but then that’s all there is to the war, the death that both sides suffer… We’re in sight of Vicksburg, and can see the Confederate fiends roaming there at for all to see.I don’t know what they’re aiming to do, or what we’re aiming to do.There’s a fair number of our boys deserting, and that’s something no amount of money , or anything else, could make me do. I think too much of myself, my country, and my friends at home, to dishonor them. We’ve seen a lot up of difficulties, but it is something that is expected from the dirty work that we do. writing letters from their friends, advising them to desert and go home, for we were only fighting to free the Negroes. But I think it’s more than that… My God! If you could see smuggling (a term used by the US military during the war to describe newly escaped slaves who joined Union forces) how they were beaten and handcuffed here a guy wouldn’t think but we were trying to free a people from a great injustice! I would not call a man my friend who would write to me and advise me to desert; and that we were fighting for nothing! There are human beings at stake! If I thought I was fighting for nothing, I would desert in less than an hour; I think I’m fighting for one of the best governments and one of the greatest countries the sun has ever shined on, and so I’m willing to suffer a little to support them.
“Yours truly, DB Strahan, 69th Indiana”
David Basil Strahan of Nettle Creek was a 69th Indiana soldier who trained in Richmond. After the war, he moved to Kennard, Howard County, where he fell in love, and married Mahala R. Feagans on July 3, 1971. Heart failure took his life on April 9, 1910; he was buried in Fountain Park Cemetery there.
The 69th Indiana, of which Strahan was a part, had an original troop strength of 1,002 men, mostly from Wayne County. The regiment lost a total of 331 men during service; three officers and 77 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, three officers and 248 enlisted men died of disease. A total of 407 other people were injured and removed from service. The 69th Indiana returned home with only 264 men, a quarter of its strength.
Contact columnist Steve Martin at [email protected]