I was just a little first-grader when Grandpa was a gentle, sweet-smelling old man who wore his black derby hat in the house to keep his head warm.
Grandpa Jim took turns living with his three daughters: Emeline Henry Howell and Susan Henry Bruton, both in Centralia, and my mother, Nancy Henry Meyers, who lived near Columbia.
I was allowed to give Grandpa his bitter medicine and a quick cracker twice a day. I also lifted his legs to a pillow on his extra chair.
When the United Daughters of the Confederacy collected firsthand information from surviving Boone County Confederate soldiers, I didn’t know or care whether James Lawrence Henry fought in a gray uniform or in blue!
I recall his burial in Centralia’s cemetery, a few years after Grandmother Huldah Pratt Henry’s death.
Ages later, my husband, W.F. "Chub" Gerard, read many books about the Civil War, and for his birthday in l961, I gave him reprints of the 1861 Harper’s Weekly magazines - one a week arrived for 52 weeks in our rural mailbox.
Each issue had full-page sketches of battles by artists who were at the scenes they sketched.
Those drawings shook me! Grandpa had survived unbelievable misery and horror. My sweet, gentle grandpa had been through hell - 13 battles - and the endless tragedies those artists vividly portrayed!
One day when I was visiting the State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia, a woman tapped my shoulder and asked, "Is this what you are looking for?"
It wasn’t. It was a total surprise.
I did not know such a document existed, and it was more wonderful than I could imagine!
It was a folder of first-person experiences written or dictated by surviving Confederate soldiers!
"James Lawrence Henry" was written across the top of the open booklet in my hand.
I recalled hearing many times that my grandpa from Centralia and his brother Albert from New York met while bathing in a creek during a lull in the fighting at Vicksburg.
One brother had coffee, and the other had tobacco; they exchanged.
The brief break in the fighting was said to have been related to the need to bury dead soldiers from both armies.
When the Daughters of the Confederacy asked surviving Boone County veterans to write or dictate their war experiences, my grandfather felt it was important to write: "One thing I’d like to impress on the minds of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, at the surrender at Vicksburg, no Yankee crossed our line until we had marched outside of them and stacked our arms. We were starved out, not conquered. Ö I received my parole from General Canby at Jackson, Mississippi on May 12, 1865 and it took me from May 12 to July 4 to get home. ... I’m sorry I could not write this better and have something more interesting to relate, but I am nervous and old and have wheels in my head that don’t mesh right."
I will give more of the details in my column next Monday.