“Our regiment, the 15th Missouri, and a few other regiments were being sent to Texas to assist the U.S.A. and Texas, as there was a war going on between our neighbor on the south, Mexico, and France,” Maurice Marcoot writes in his book, Five Years in the Sunny South. “Before we left for Texas, Joseph Bader of Highland and our company, who had been wounded then captured at Franklin, Tenn., returned in good health. Also, all those who had enlisted in 1862 for three years, were now being mustered out. Those of us that had enlisted in 1861 were not, as we had enlisted for the duration.
“On June 17, 1865, we were on our way to Texas. Our four regiments, together with our equipment and baggage were sent to Johnstonville, Tenn., and transferred to the steamer Indiana. Going up the Tennessee River to Paducah, Ky., then the Ohio River over to Cairo, Ill.”
Marcoot had another attack of rheumatic fever, and he was lying in his cabin, when his regiment reached Cairo. The Indiana was going to drop anchor in the middle of the river, and some of the officers were going to take the skiff into Cairo…
“This was more than the boys would stand. We were in Illinois and not getting to land… A squad of them fixed bayonets, marched up to the pilot and ordered him to: ‘Pull for shore!’
“It is unnecessary to say that he obeyed. Our officers hastily detailed a strong guard to prevent the boys from leaving the boat when they reached shore. But the guards threw down their guns and shouted for their comrades to come and started for the city. They were determined to set foot on Illinois soil before going to Texas. All but 11 of our company made it back to our ship before it pulled out, headed for Texas.”
Marcoot remained in his cabin and didn’t get to set foot on Illinois soil.
He continues: “At New Orleans, we disembarked, and we had a very pleasant journey across the Gulf of Mexico on the New York and finally reached Port Lavaca, Texas, on July 24, 1865. (By this time, we thought that we were real sailors. The seasickness was gone.)
“Our first march of 12 miles was made, without finding a drop of water or a shade tree. The sun was terrible, and we were loaded down with baggage. It was no wonder that some suffered sun stroke, as we hadn’t marched since April 9. This was truly the worst march of our enlistment, and it was a long way to the Rio Grande River, our destination.
“The next day, we finely came to a small creek, water. And along the banks were a scattering of live oak trees. This became our camp, but soon the air was full of mosquitoes, and the ground was alive with snakes, scorpions and horned frogs. During the night, the wolves surrounded us, and sleep vanished. The next morning, we surrounded a herd of wild cattle and were able to bring one down. We fared sumptuously on beef not furnished by Uncle Sam.
“August changed to rain, and on the 3rd, we had a heavy storm and lightening. The remainder of the month, it rained almost every day.
“On the 18th of September, we finally reached Matagorda Bay, but we had nothing to do.”
Marcoot took sick again.
“Most of our boys that had jumped ship at Cairo arrived in our camp, as they had concluded they would not tarnish the good record they had made. They were tried by a court martial, but were only sentenced to 30 days of hard labor, and our Cclonel changed that to fatigue duty in our camp. We were all relieved, and it was great to have them back.
“On the 23rd September, the 15th Ohio and the 51st Illinois were mustered out and left for home. On the 26th, the 44th Illinois also left, but not the 15th Missouri. We were sad, as these units had been together since 1861. More units were leaving every week, but not the 15th.
“We were now at Victoria, Texas, on the 27th of October, where most of the inhabitants were Germans, and we headed for the banks of the Guadalupe River, just two miles away. Here, we were assigned to railroad work, rebuilding the railroad, which we continued up into January 1866.”
Marcoot was just a boy of 16 when he volunteered. Almost five years later, he was equally as zealous to drop the armor, forget the past and return to civilian life.
“On Jan. 3, 1866, we were FINELY on our way our way HOME. On the 17th, we arrived at Cairo, then rail to St. Louis, and on Jan. 24, 1866, after four years and eight months, we were again ‘Free Men.’
“I will not attempt to describe my feelings upon this memorable occasion. It was enough to know that we were soldiers no longer, that our cause was JUST, we had prevailed. The horrible suffering endured, the cruel war was over. Thank God!
“Our old gallant 15th Missouri — those that remained, our companions for years — were scattering, each to his own home to greet his own family and friends.
“As an old soldier, if not an old man, I wish to say to our children: ‘You have the garden of the world you inherit from the soldiers of 1861-65. They gave it to you free and clean. Not with 6 million slaves, as we received it… It cost your fathers — the old veterans that were killed, everything…
“Go to the battle fields, over 400,000 of our soldiers and sailors, plus all of the wounded, and you will see it was not secured cheaply. Defend the old Flag. Permit none to dishonor it. It is your Liberty.”
Maurice Marcoot, on Oct. 4, 1866, married his sweetheart, Miss Mary F. Long, the daughter of Benjamin and Sarah Long of Deck’s Prairie. They had six sons and one daughter, Mary, who married Sam Michael, the butcher. They started farming in Leef Township and in 1882, Maruce was elected Leef Township clerk, serving for 12 years.
About1890, they moved into Highland, on Pestalozzi Street. Maurice was an early insurance agent in Highland, with the German Fire Insurance Co. of Indianapolis, Ind. By 1899, he had a saloon on the east side of the Square.
Maurice and Mary Marcoot celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1916. Maurice died in 1925, and his wife “Fanny” died in 1928. They are buried at Highland City Cemetery.
The 1912 History of Madison County, on pages 991 and 992, quotes: “Michael Marcoot is one of the old and honored residents of Madison County, where he is known as a man of sterling integrity and worth. He and his wife are accorded the high regards of their fellow citizens.”
Maurice, besides serving in the Civil War, was also the founder of the Highland Grand Army of the Republic Post 437, and that will be my next column.
(Quotes from The History of Madison County, my files and Maurice Marcoot’s book Five Years in the Sunny South, pages 96-111. This booklet was a gift of the late Clarence Grass, who was a grandson of Henry Rutz, who was also a member of the 15th Missouri. Henry had become a prisoner of war, escaped and was captured again. See photo with today’s column from Mr. and Mrs. John Marcoot of the Marcoot Jersey Creamery & Cheese of rural Greenville.)