Articles bring back a memory
To the editor:
I have been reading with interest the monthly series on Civil War history published by the Henry County Civil War Sesquicentennial Task Force, and while reading the one appearing in the April 30, 2014 edition of The Mt. Pleasant News, authored by Mrs. Conwell.
I ran across a mention of Senator James Harlan, who was acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, and who played a prominent role in the history of Mt. Pleasant, being president of Iowa Wesleyan College (perhaps a university then?) during the years 1853 to 1855. He died on Oct. 5, 1899, at Mt. Pleasant, and therein starts my personal recollection of a story told me by my father, C. Robert Willits.
Dad was 19 and a student at IWC when Sen. Harlan died. He has told me he was picked to be one of the honor guard at Sen. Harlan’s funeral.
The honor guard was supposed to stand guard at the casket during the funeral and was issued rifles for the occasion.
The day before the funeral, Dad said they had to practice to familiarize themselves of activities required the next day and they practiced with a wooden box to represent the “casket.”
He said in executing the command “Order arms” with his rifle, he accidentally struck the box with the butt of his rife. The sergeant in charge of the detail turned to him and said, “Willits, don’t you dare do that tomorrow with the real casket.” He didn’t.
Dad always felt honored to have a part at the funeral of Mr. Harlan.