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Wilson Polk at the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg held June 26, 1938. This was the last reunion of The Blue And Gray.
Arkansas Gazette Sunday November 1938
By Winnie Sparks
"Chipper" was the word for Wilson Poke Wallace, 95 year-old Confederate veteran of Ozan, Arkansas, until his return to Gettysburg in July
He was a happy Mr. Wallace to all his friends, a shrewd, clever, rational, impulsive, dynamic, religious nonagenarian who, friends declared jokingly, had more lives than the proverbial cat
From the days of his birth, August 9, 1844, until his return to Gettysburg he was a living example. " Give me liberty or give me death," expounded years ago by Patrick Henry, to whom Mr. Wallace had accurately traced his lineage.
Growing up, not in short or long trousers, but in the long tailor shirts characteristic of his day, Mr. Wallace, at the age of 17, pride fully put on his jeans and entered the Confederate Army at Nashville, Arkansas, April, 1861. Until his discharge in May 1865, his bravery, his loyalty, his patriotism, his willingness to face the foe and his dangerous experiences were surpassed by few other soldiers.
At the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, he was so severely injured in the thigh that he was sent home for a 10- month furlough. He affirmed that at Poison Springs, a spot not many miles from the present site of Camden, Arkansas, he shot and wounded the first federal soldier shot in Arkansas. (Editors note. This could be a reference to the first Union soldier wounded at the Battle of Poison Springs.) A federal bullet once blazed a path across the top of his head. There were other close calls for him to.
At Farmington, Tennessee, Mr. Wallace's Company captured a battery of nine pieces of artillery that had successfully resisted 15 charges. At Hopkins church, then at Fayette, Mississippi, Mr. Wallace was one of the 600 Confederates who fought and put to flight 5000 federals who were trying to get possession of a drove of hogs for food.
Caught in a snowstorm one night, Mr. Wallace with a few of his comrades took refuge in the gnarled, under the roots of a large tree in the forest. Falling asleep they awoke the following morning to find themselves warmly blanketed in snow and nearby tracks of federals who had passed in the night.
Heroism under fire. The paternal grandfather of the writer lay seriously wounded on the battlefield in the midst of musket thunder and cannon roar during another battle. Youthful, fearless Wilson Wallace face the foe, rushed to his dying comrade, and carried him from the battlefield and so tenderly dressed his wounds and cared for him that life instead of death won the wounded soul.
So responsive was he to duty that when his division, commanded by General Dick Taylor, surrendered at Jackson, Mississippi, he was not present. Throughout these many other daring and exciting experiences in Mr. Wallace's life. There was a present an invisible force which modernist might perhaps call luck. Mr. Wallace called it God.
In attending a Confederate reunion in the early 1900s, he met a gray hair old veteran who was telling of a boy shot at the battle of Corinth and carried off the field on a caisson belonging to his battery. "I am that boy," remarked Mr. Wallace standing near. "Who would have thought it after 40 odd years." Exclaimed the old soldier as he clasped Mr. Wilson's hand as though he were a long lost brother.
After his discharge from the Army, Mr. Wallace return to Ozan and to land for which homestead papers were signed by President Buchanan in 1859. There he lived, toiled, married three times, and became the father of 22 children, 14 of whom are living. Nine of these became college graduates.
During his 80s he was one day dynamiting stumps from a newly cleared land near the creek which runs across his farm. Mr. Wilson's stop to examine a fuse, which seemed not to react to the fire touched to it. Hours later he realized he was lying in the creek, his eyes blinded by thick mud and his body partly buried in mud and water. With hardly a clear thought and with dim vision he crawled the distance of 1 1/2 miles to this home. After the mud was washed off and the shock had passed, he was none the worst for his "dynamite" experience.
A few years ago he across the highway at the curve by his orchard, a truck struck him. For a week there seemed no hope, and then, as if by a miracle, it was only a short time until he was himself again. So, not even dynamite or a speeding truck could end his earthly days.
At the 1937 homecoming held at his country church, Mr. Wallace was asked by his war-time comrade, 94 year old Jimmy Wilson of Columbus, Arkansas, why he had not use some of the money he inherited from his
brother to buy a car. Mr. Wallace was responded that Maud and the buggy were good enough for him and that he was not interested in cars as he wished to save his money "for his old days."
To him a man was not old until he useless and he at 94 was far from that.
He arose at daylight and retired at dark and did not fail to fill the hours between. Having fed himself and his horse Maud daily, almost by clock, regardless of the weather if he was well, he made Maud trot him in his buggy to town two miles away. Maud knew that trot it must be or there would be troubled. If the buggy was broken, the old veteran rode astride like a true soldier.
If their were business matters to be settled, or shopping to do, off in the city of Nashville, 10 miles away, he went, or he put on his long tailor black coat, and black broad brimmed hat and he and his devoted wife stopping the bus at their front door road off to Hope for the day.
Mr. Wallace had no theory concerning his long life and his wife states it was not good physical care of himself that lengthened his life. Doubtless, his attitude, beliefs, his habits, his faith was the theory.
Age changed his attitude towards the war. Like others of his youth he felt the Civil War was the right way to settle the trouble, but in old age he affirmed that war is evil and wrong and that slavery was never right. He had no theories as to how war can be prevented, but he felt that every possible means should be affected to prevent it.
He believes that a man to be a man must be honest, " honest with himself, with this fellow man, and with God." To him the barriers and hardships of one's life can be successfully overcome by labor that produces sweat of the brow and by faith.
He was particularly interested in his church and politics. Being strictly a follower of the Presbyterian doctrine, he demanded order and procedure in all of his affairs. Always attended church and Sunday school he served as an elder for the last seven years. Ministers regardless of their denomination were always hospitably welcomed in his home. Twice daily he and his family knelt around the home altar in prayer and worship to the master. His Bible was his friend whom he well knew.
On Sunday mornings his lips were still as the song from the modern hymns were sung, but as the organ softly sounded with melodies from "How Firm a Foundation" or " There Is a Foundations", his exultant soul voiced itself above the voices of the congregation.
Mr. Wilson was an old timer, but he was modern enough to keep in tune with the times by reading such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Readers Digest, The American Magazine, and the Literary Digest, and his state paper and The Tribute, his church paper, which he read for 70 years. He did not care for books and he was not interested in modern art.
He was strongly opposed to slang and profound language, to any alcoholic beverage, to the theater, and to a woman riding astride. He used no tobacco in any form, drank no tea or beverages, now and then slipped a little coffee for breakfast, enjoyed buttermilk daily, and believed in eating all and what he wanted. He liked old-fashioned grub, particularly fish, vegetables, ham, tomato soup and peach pie, but all salads and now a day food fads, as he called them, were not included in his diet. Heavily laden with all kinds of good old-fashioned foods his table was always inviting and enticing to all who looked upon it. There was no Christmas dinner without turkey and summer time was always incomplete without a long row of watermelons waiting in the cool hallway to be eaten by the owner or to be served freely to casual callers.
His hobby was raising enough of everything to eat, particularly eggplants, the cultivation, which he was intensely interested in.
During all of his spare moments whenever he was not reading he talked incessantly to his wife about the war. There were few people with whom he confidentially chattered. If he saw a Confederate flag or heard Dixie played or sung, his patriotic spirit became so a live and full of pep that enthusiastic collegiate prep leaders might well be abashed.
Although Mr. Wallace was the oldest living member of his family, his 84-year-old sister, and his two female first cousins, one 91 and the other 93, are indications that long live is a family characteristic.
In June 1938, he was offered the opportunity of attending the 75th anniversary of the greatest battle of the blue and gray, at Gettysburg. This was something he vowed he could not miss. He had always attended Confederate re-unions held throughout the south. A physical examination by his family physician indicated that he was able to make the long journey; so, his wife being unable to go, one of his sons went with him.
On June 27, he bade farewell to his family and home to return to Gettysburg in streamlined air-conditioned trains. Gettysburg, where 1800 old fellows camped in a modern, electrified city.
The crowd, memories, emotion, unsuppressed, exuberant joys, and thoughts of their last reunion on this earth were too much for the patriotic troopers.
On July 5, he became ill, but two days later his physician felt that he was able to make the return trip home. Seriously ill of pneumonia, he was taken from the train at St. Louis and carried to United States Veteran's hospital, where at 12:25 AM, July 11, he answered the roll call from the Great Beyond.
His last conscious words were "I'm so glad I came." From his subconscious mind also came utterances about the goals, which he never reached a successful career as a civil engineer, which he always said he longed to be.
A few days later in the cool shade, of the beautiful oaks surrounding the country church, where he served as a cornerstone for half a century, rested a gray casket covered with a large Confederate flag and flanked with flowers, "How Firm a Foundation," the voice of a soloist floated across the crowd of grief stricken friends.
Suspended above the open grave a casket hung as if its occupant were waiting for some last communication between earth and eternity.
A member of the American Legion removed and rolled the flag and presented it to the broken hearted widow.
Then as if from above, but really from the unseen depths of the forest nearby, the clear plaintive notes of a bugle sounded taps. "Day is done; gone the sun from the lake, from hill, from the sky; rest in peace, all is well, God is nigh." The second and third buglers, father away, picked up echoes. A veteran of the gray had returned from Gettysburg.!
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