Richard Nathaniel Cole, 89, Cave-in-rock's only Civil War Veteran.
CAVE-IN-ROCK, Ill. (Jan. 17, 1935) — The most aged man living in the vicinity of Cave-in-Rock is Richard Nathaniel Cole who was eighty-nine years of age on the 13th. of November just past.
He was born on a farm lying in the forks of Green and Barren Rivers, near Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1845. His parents who were of Scotch-Irish descent, were the late James and Martha Ann Cole. His father was a native of Virginia and his mother was born in Kentucky of a family of eight. R. N. Cole was the seventh child, he having six brothers and one sister. He and one brother, R. F. Cole of Louisville, Kentucky are the only remaining members of the large family.
His father was a successful farmer of pioneer days. He at first owned one hundred acres of land located as above mentioned. This he sold for $800.and with that sum purchased 800 acres near the first farm. He developed this land and dealt largely in stock. On this farm the subject of this sketch spent his boyhood.
In 1861, he enlisted in the service of the United States Army under General Shackleford at Hartford, Kentucky, but owing to his extreme youth, he was not mustered in until the following year. In this first year he added many recruits to the service of the Union by going at his own risk into dangerous territory, persuading and piloting men back to the ranks of the army for enlistment. These trips were usually made at night and very frequently required the swimming of the river.
Three of his brothers were also in the service. It is very remarkable that all four served until the end of the war in 1865 and none of them were even scratched in battle. While all except the subject of this narrative have passed on to the Great Beyond, the youngest lived to be 65 years of age.
"Little Cole" as he was called by his comrades still boasts of having been the most dependable thief in all of Sherman's army, having many times ventured out and brought in a hog, a sheep or a calf to relieve the hunger of his comrades when others failed.
He served under Shackleford, Burnside, Logan, Grant, Custer, Sherman and others of not such great fame. He was with Sherman on his famous march to the Sea. He had two horses shot from under him one at Bean Station, Virginia and the other at Knoxville, Tennessee. He was captured twice but made his escape both times. He was found unconscious from the effects of freezing on two occasions.
After the war he returned to the home of his parents but remained there but a short time. From there he went to Missouri near New Madrid. While there he met and married Marailla Wilson. To this union three children were born of whom only one is living, Mrs. Ada Dedrick, whose home is in Texas.
During his young manhood his wife died and he left Missouri and came back to Kentucky. After several years time, he married the second time, his wife being Jennie Carroll of Hibbordsville, Kentucky. Three children was born to this union. A daughter Olivia, who died in 1907 at the age of 17, a son Denny, who died in 1898 at the age of two and P.C. Cole, who was born at Cordsville, Kentucky and with whom the father now resides, as he was left alone the second time on May 8th. 1932. There are several grandchildren in Texas and three at this place, the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Cole. They are Mrs. Herbert Kaegi and the Misses Martha and Genevieve Cole.
After the war Mr. Cole's chief occupation was farming. Later he became greatly interested in bees and about the year 1905 he engaged to the business of raising them at Alzey Kentucky. In 1912 the family came to Cave-in-Rock and purchased property in Hessville. There he devoted his attention to bees and to truck farming until, on account of the infirmities of age, he became unable to continue at these tasks.
Perhaps some of the readers of this history may be interested in how he won the title of "Dr. Cole", by which name he is often called, by his friends here. In his earlier years he compounded a kind of medicine. As he traveled about selling his medicine, his customers began to call him "Dr. Cole."
Mr. Cole is probably the only man living near here who can claim the distinction of having voted for Abraham Lincoln for President of the United States. At the time he did this, he walked five miles through mud and rain in order to reach the polls.
He united with a church of the Christian denomination soon after being mustered out from the service. After moving to Cave-in-Rock he transferred his membership to the Christian church here, where it still remains.
While he is almost blind, and is feeble and bent with age, his son tells us that his health is better than it has been for twenty years. After the death of his wife in 1932, he went to make his home with his son, R. C. Cole, who lives about one and one half miles west of Cave-in-Rock. There he receives the best of care. On account of his feebleness he is not able to come to town as he did formerly, and his visits are greatly missed by his many friends here.
Thanks to Wanda H. Reed for contributing this article to the Hardin County ILGenWeb site. The Hardin County Independent first published this article on Jan. 17, 1935.
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