The Diary of Lizzie Dopps





Chapter V


Incidents of the Civil War Days when Eli was Serving his country - days that had so recently passed.

In the meantime the government was offering homesteads, and those having served in the late Civil War were being given the opportunity for six months to have first choice.

Father Dopps had enlisted in the Tenth Illinois Cavalry, taking his own horse, at the beginning of the war, as had also his son Peter.  Peter had died during the war, and Father Dopps returned broken in health, even before the war had ended.  He was discharged on account of sickness in 1862. 

Eli had been anxious to enlist at the beginning of the war, although he was just a young boy fifteen years old.  His father and mother had persuaded him that his first duty, since his father and older brother Peter had already gone, was to remain at home until his eighteenth birthday at least (if the war lasted that long) and care for his mother and the family, since he was the oldest boy left at home.

However, on his eighteenth birthday he felt he could no longer remain at home when his country needed him, so turned over his home duties to his other brothers and enlisted in the Twelfth Illinois Regiment.

While he was not injured in any battles, he almost lost his life in the service of his country.

It was on one of their long marches and so many of the boys were dropping out and being sent to hospitals, some with just cause as the measles and small-pox were breaking out in many of the camps, but some of the boys were just pretending, so that they might escape their line of duty,

Eli was far from well, but didn't want to be a quitter, so went on as long as he could stand it.  His company was to go on a short march that day and return to camp before night.  His captain, realizing Eli's condition, ordered him to remain in camp.

Eli was burning up with fever and craving a drink of water but there was no one to give it to him, as all those remaining in camp were about as sick as he.

There was a little stream of spring water almost a quarter of a mile away from camp.  If he could only reach it!  But he was too sick, too weak to walk even that short distance.  However, almost delirious with thirst, he determined to try, and so, staggering and half-crawling on his hands and knees, he at last reached this oasis, and lay on his stomach, drinking his fill of this cold, sparkling, crystal, spring water.

It did refresh him and quenched his thirst, but the efforts of his going there and getting back to camp had brought up his fever, and it had also taken hours to accomplish this.  

He had just returned to camp--in fact some of his comrades saw him crawling back--and when it was learned he had drunk a lot of cold water, they thought he was as good as a dead soldier.  However, they threw their blankets over him hoping to counteract the effect of the cold water.  It did.

Just as they had almost returned from their march, it had started to sprinkle, and as they had thrown their damp wool blankets on his fever heated body with the cold water within him, it was like a steam pack, and immediately his whole body was terribly broken out.

"Aha, another case of small-pox!" they exclaimed, and he was moved to a small-pox hospital, where he lay all night between two men with small-pox.

However, when morning came, the doctor then diagnosed his case as measles, and he was removed to another hospital.  Here he remained for some time and was a very sick soldier boy.

One day he asked the doctor if he could have a drink of butter-milk, but was denied it.  Half delirious and half-crazed with thirst and desire for butter-milk, he gave one of his comrades his last thirty cents to get a quart.  He succeeded in getting it, and Eli drank it at intervals.  It seemed to give him new life, and I think him "slipping one over" on the doctor gave him new zest.

Next morning when the doctor arrived, he was surprised that his patient was so very much improved.  However, as the doctor reached the door he spied the jar of butter-milk under Eli's cot.

"What is that, young man?"

"It is the butter-milk that has made me so much better," said Eli.

"Well, you scalawag!  I told you that you couldn't have it, but since. I can't deny you are better, I'll let it pass.  I've a good notion, though, to report you to your superior officers!"

It was the last year of the war when Eli could enlist, and of course, long before I ever met him, but I have heard him relate many interesting things of those war time days--some humorous, some sad.  How little he thought in those days he was serving his country, that that service would help him so much in later life!

And now to return to the story of our lives.  As I said before, the government was now offering homesteads, and those who had served in the war were given their preference for the first six months.

Father Dopps had taken advantage of this opportunity.  He had already gone west in the spring to stake out his claim for himself, and make arrangements for Eli, and Dave Close, Eli's sister Ellen's husband, who had also been in his country's service.

Upon our return from our visit in the east, Ellen and Dave, with their baby Etta, and Eli and I joined a caravan of eleven covered wagons going to the pioneer west to take up homestead claims.

And now I come to perhaps the most interesting period of my life for the next several years--a life in the pioneer west, sod houses, dugouts, Indians, droughts, crop failures, grasshoppers, blizzards, etc., and yet It was not all hardships.

Many happy times were spent in wide open spaces of this new free country close to nature and far from the crowded cities.  A life of adventure and freedom that only pioneers can know.

I looked forward to this trip with great anticipation.  I was glad to have a change of environment.  I had had a great disappointment.  We had thought our lives were to be blessed with a little child, but before my appointed time I lost my baby, a little boy, and so I welcomed this opportunity to see and do new things, and try to forget as much as possible our disappointment.

I could see a future for us in this change--but—what was in that future, far away from my loved ones at home, my dear father, my beloved step-mother, my brothers, and baby sister?

At the time of parting from them all, tears came to my eyes and rolled down my checks.  My beloved husband put his arms around me and said, "I'm afraid I have asked too much of you."  But the thought of his kindness and his consideration for me gave me courage and fortitude to face whatever was to be in that future as long as I had him and his love.

Ruth, of the Bible, loved her husband and his people so deeply she could leave her people to go with him even after his death.  Surely when I had my dear husband I could say as she had done; even to her husband's mother, "Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodges, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and also, if aught but death part thee, and me."  (Book of Ruth, Chapter 1, 16 & 17 verses)

What had I to fear when I had the love of such a dear, good, kind husband?  I looked up at him, and smiled and dashed away my tears.


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 © 2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design © 2006 Ardie Grimes