Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Civil War Tale of My Great-Great-Great Grandfather

One of the benefits of researching my family's history is that I get to discover all sorts of amazing facts about my ancestors. Here is one fanciful story:

My Great-great-great Grandfather was a man named Little Cobbet Budlong. He lived his early life in the hills of Tennessee with his family, before they relocated to Slopwater, Georgia, which is about 30 miles south of Atlanta.

At the time the Budlongs made their move to the Peach State, the American Civil War was just getting into high gear. What's-his-face had just lost that famous battle; you know the one I mean. The one on that hill. Anyway, Little Cobbet Budlong attempted to join up with the Confederate Army. Although he was 18 years old, and relatively healthy, they refused to accept him because he was too little.

He then attempted to join up with the Union Army. He apparently didn't care which side he was on, as long as he got a chance to shoot at someone. But, again, he was denied admission into the Union Army because of his "smallness".

(I should point out here that although his name was Little Cobbet Budlong, and he was a little man, one thing had nothing to do with the other. It was just a coincidence.)

So, after being denied the opportunity to become a great soldier, Little Cobbet decided he would concentrate his efforts on becoming a great lover. He attempted to woo any woman he could find. He often failed at this, too, because of his smallness. One of his advances elicited this response from Georgetta Hymen. It is typical of most womens':

"I will not love you, Little Cobbet. I am waiting for my dead husband to return home from the war."

So, Little Cobbet eventually stopped trying to love the women of the south, and instead decided to simply relax and enjoy the southern lifestyle. As you may already know, it was typical of people who lived in areas near the Civil War battle grounds to take a picnic lunch with them and view the fighting from a hilltop. It so happened that on one such occasion, a group of young southern belles got together to watch one battle. Little Cobbet was invited along to serve as a centerpiece (He would stand at the center of the picnic blanket, arms outstretched, dangling tassles.).

During the course of the battle, Little Cobbet felt a great pressure in his bladder, and when he went off into the bushes to relieve himself, he accidentally pricked his finger on a thorny bush.

Understand, medical science was significantly less advanced then than it is now, and it was decided that the best treatment for this wound would be to amputate Little Cobbet's left arm, at the shoulder. This was done.

The next day, when the belles were eating their picnic lunch, and Little Cobbet was standing bravely as their centerpiece, Corporal Yester Liverbottom glanced up at the hill and saw him. He called him down, and Little Cobbet went down onto the battlefield. When he got there, he received an amazing offer.

It seemed that the Confederate Army had just started a new battalion, the 131st, also known as "The Fighting Amputees." Several people in this day were having limbs amputated, because medical science was so primitive, and it was easier to just lop a limb off, rather than try to mend it. But, instead of allowing these potential soldiers to fritter their time away doing nothing, it was decided to start a separate battalion just for them.

So, Little Cobbet was conscripted into the Confederate Army as one of the original members of "The Fighting Amputees." He was one of twenty-three in that first squad.

In their first battle, they were sent to fight the 87th battalion of the Union Army. As they hopped over the hill, many of the soldiers from the 87th noticed them coming, and had plenty of time to get dressed, load their weapons, line up in formation, fire their rifles, reload, fire again, and shave. Little Cobbet was one of only two survivors of the original 131st.

He was not unscathed, however. In fact, a bullet caught him in the left big toe. His leg was amputated, as was the custom for so serious an injury.

The story could have, and probably should have, ended here. But it did not. For you see, Major James Cleanshaven (a former assistant to General Burnside), was impressed by the spirit of the Confederate Army's "Fighting Amputees," and decided to start a Union Army version. Little Cobbet himself was conscripted, and given the title of Corporal. He, along with 17 others, became the Union's 319th, or "The Hobblestone Fighters." (It was customary to recycle soldiers once you'd captured them.)

Their first mission was a ridiculously important one: Take Slackjaw Hill, an area prized by both sides for its strategic location, and its Peep Shows. The area was then in the possession of the Rebels. The Hobblestoners sought to change that.

As they hopped over the hill, the Confederate soldiers were stunned. They'd been expecting soldiers with at least four limbs. However, they recovered in plenty of time to mow all of the Hobblestoners down. Three survived. Little Cobbet was among them.

Again, he was not unharmed in the battle. A mosquito bit him on his right hand. His arm was, of course, amputated. As a reward for his remarkable valor, he was re-conscripted into the Confederate army, and placed in the new, and improved "Fighting Amputees" of the 472nd, which now had 2,743 members. Their first assignment: Get out there and kill some Union soldiers.

By this time, Little Cobbet had no arms, and only one leg, which made holding a rifle difficult. So, his rifle was belted to his side. He had no fingers to fire it, but the rifle did have a bayonet on the end, so if he could maneuver himself really close to someone and sort of wiggle his body back and forth, he felt he could really do some damage.

The members of the 472nd came hopping over Didjahear Hill, and came upon a group of Union soldiers unexpectedly. They suffered heavy casualties. Little Cobbet was one of four survivors. As luck would have it, he again was injured in the fighting. He sprained his right ankle while hopping around on it, and the leg was amputated.

When word of Little Cobbet's miraculous adventures reached Major Cleanshaven, he didn't believe it. But then, he was a drunk. One man who did believe it was Colonel Lionel "Applebelly" Crumbly. (So called because of his applebelly.) He made Little Cobbet a Lance Corporal, and put him in charge of the 9,834 members of the new "Hobblestone Fighters." They were then ordered to sort of wobble and roll around the countryside, picking fights with any Rebels they could find.

Little Cobbet now had no arms and no legs, and he had to use a special weapon that consisted of a rubber band and a pebble that was held between his teeth. Because he only got one shot and couldn't reload, he had to carry it around in his mouth at all times.

One day, Little Cobbet and his men hopped over the side of Wrongplace Hill and happened upon a group of sodden Confederate soldiers. Though the Rebels were drunk, and outnumbered 9,834 to 19, they were still able to devastate the Hobblestoners. Little Cobbet was one of six survivors captured by the Rebs.

And, as you might have guessed, he was once again injured in the fighting. While trying to fire the rubber band "Mouth Gun" the Union Army had fitted him with, he bit his tongue. Doctors amputated his head.

Long story short: Little Cobbet had many more adventures, fighting as both a Union and Confederate soldier. By the time the Civil War ended, Little Cobbet had nothing more than his belly button left. But that didn't stop him from going on with his life, and siring 14 children, one of whom was my Great-Great Grandmother, Charity Prudence Chastity Denial Budlong. And I, for one, am proud to come from such a powerful heritage.

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