Fond Memories of the Civil War

This picture puts me in mind of being a young boy, oh, eight or nine, say, a New York sidewalk bootblack, once-a-month bath-taker, smoker of discarded cigar butts, snap-brim cap wearer and handbill agent, at a penny per thousand, for the Know-Nothing Party, circa 1863. 

Following the late-evening administration of a spit polish to the boots of one Captain MacPherson upon his unsteady exit from Rosie's Gentlemen's Retreat and Tavern, being invited by the same Captain, sighting down one pantaloon leg at me on the sidewalk, his foot still resting upon my apple crate, to cast the lots of me and my trusty dog with that of the Grand Army of the Potomac. They could always use a good boy. Well... hadn’t I been reading the papers? War sounded grand! What small boy wouldn't want to spend the autumn in a hail of grapeshot and cannon? 

Captain MacPherson was best known for the handlebar mustaches which, with the aid of a precious Florentine wax that he credited with uplifting his spirit as it upheld his whiskers, he succeeded in extending farther to the sides of his face than anyone else alive - at a time, mind you, when the magnitude of curlicued mustachios were the measure of a man. So far to either side of his gallant visage did they reach, the tips bleaching in the sun beyond the shade of the brim of his hat, that on an occasion when Johnny Reb mis-sighted his .451 Whitworth by twenty inches, he blew half the mustaches right out from beside the Captain. It was worse than a blood wound. McPherson wasn’t much good after that. He had to be reduced to telegraph duty. He was missed by all his men.

If memory serves, we were pictured here when Mr. Brady's cumbersome daguerreotype machine was accidentally triggered while we straggled, hat in hand, off the field at Antietam or Nashville. It's hard to be sure. It was a long time ago. 

The dog? Oh, a fine dog - as long as he wasn’t drinking. A few licks of whiskey, though, and all bets were off. Once the soldiers recognized a dipsomaniac, some kindred spirit would cite compassion and pour a few more drops in a tin mess plate. So, apart from being either a hell raiser, out cold or hung over, he was all right. A dog of war, as it were. I loved him despite his faults, and he me inspite of mine. Together we trod many a mile.

He was half coyote and a little bit mule-backed, as drinking dogs tend to get, but otherwise, the resemblance to Junior is startling.

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