Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

DYE, JOHN W (unknown)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 4, 1888)

A Veteran's Story
Thrilling Adventure at Fort Donelson
The Hero's Resident of Santa Cruz County
Wounded Nine Times but Lives to Tell His Tale

The are in this county veterans of the late war who could tell tales of daring and heroism in their own experience which would pale many of the thrilling war incidents which now fill the columns of the magazines and newspapers of the country. Modesty forbids these veterans from relating their own exploits on the field of battle in defense of their country's honor. Occasionally a group of these heroes will gather together, and the pages of their life's history will be turned back to the memorable years from '61 to '65, when our nation needed brave defenders. After once becoming started the veterans will tell one story after the other, each incident bringing to mind some unwritten event which has not figured in the columns of the press.

It is a rare treat for the lovers of war stories to sit in the ante rooms of the halls when Wallace and Reynolds post hold their meeting, and listen to the deeds of valor and daring which are related by those who were "thar."

In a little cottage near Arana Gulch resides a hero who had a thrilling adventure during the war, and today carries with him scars which are ever a constant reminder of his "brush with the enemy." The name of this hero is J.W. Dye. He enlisted three times. He was a member of Co. F, 9th Illinois, and was with the company three months, then re enlisted with the same company for three years. Mr. Dye served about a year when he was wounded at Fort Donelson. After recovering from his wounds he enlisted in the Veterans Reserve Corps, with which he remained two years.

At Fort Donelson he received nine wounds. He was wounded in the left foot, left leg and jaw with bullets, and was given six sword cuts by a Confederate officer.

To a Sentinel reporter the veteran in a modest way the other day related his experience at Fort Donelson in February, '62.

"It was a hot fight, I assure you," he began, " it was the first decisive victory for our side. I had just been placed on picket duty at daylight, when I saw a party of men carrying wood on their shoulders. I suspected that they were rebels, and so informed the Sergeant of the Guard, whom I had called when I saw the men. He replied; ' No, they are not rebs; them must be some of our men who have been out after wood.' He was just then relieved by another Sergeant. This Sergeant saw that the men carrying the wood were really rebels, and ordered us to fire, which we did. Then a general alarm was sounded along the line, and then the celebrated battle of Fort Donelson commenced. For two days the battle raged fiercely, and on Saturday, February 15th, the third day of the fight our company, which was held in reserve, was detailed to support Schwartz's battery. We had a hard fight over this battery for over four hours. The rebels took it away from us two or three times, but we regained it each time and finally held against all odds."

"While I was on picket duty I was wounded in the leg, and had placed a strap around the wound. While we were supporting the battery I was on my knees loading and firing, as the wound in my leg pained me so that I was unable to stand. A Confederate officer, who saw me on my knees, called on me to surrender, and I replied, 'Not as long as I can load and fire.' He fired his revolver at my face, the ball striking me in the jaw, and glancing along the bone. Another Confederate officer came up just then and said to me: ' What are you firing for, you are a dead Yank.' I replied, 'I guess not.' Then he commenced striking at me with his sword. I warded the blows off with my bayonet as best I could. I kept him off until some one shot his arm off, when he quit. I still stayed there, and they were fighting all around me, and I found it of no use to retreat."

"After the day's fighting I commenced to crawl away on my hands and knees, when I met a kind-hearted darkey, who said: 'Boss, I spose yous hurt; let me tote you.' He then lifted me on his back and carried me two miles to the field hospital. There were so many wounded men in the hospital that I couldn't even get into the building. I then crawled to a fire near where there was a physician attending to other wounded soldiers, who also had been unable to obtain admittance into the hospital. I asked for some morphine, and he gave me five grains. I swallowed the morphine, which soon had the desired effect, and I fell asleep, weary and suffering with pain. I slept from four o'clock one afternoon until six o'clock the next evening. When I awakened I found that I had slept with my feet to the fire, which had burned off the bottom of my shoes. The first thing I asked on awakening was for news from the front, and I was informed that the rebels had surrendered on Sunday morning."

The surgeons examined my wounds and decided to amputate my left leg. They brought me to a porch preparatory to finding room for me in the hospital. On this porch were seventy five other wounded soldiers. I waited two days for the surgeons, but they did not come. On the third day I was faint with hunger, not hadn't had anything to eat for three days. I crawled into a hut, which was some distance off, I stayed in this hut for four days before the Sanitary Commission sent a boat to take one hundred of us to Cincinnati. I remained in the hospital there for two months before I was discharged, but my leg was saved. After being discharged from the hospital I again enlisted, but was fortunate enough to escape being wounded again.

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