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Family Reunions

Many fathers returned from the war to discover that their children did not recognize them. Many children, in turn, found that the war had changed their fathers.

We all turn and look toward the road, and there .... is a soldier with a musket on his back, wearily plodding his way up the low hill just north of the gate. He is too far away for mother to call, and besides I think she must have been a little uncertain, for he did not so much as turn his head toward the house. Trembling with excite¬ment she hurries little Frank into his wagon and telling Hattie to bring me, sets off up the road as fast as she can draw the baby's cart. It all seems a dream to me and I move dumbly, almost stupidly like one in a mist . . . .
We did not overtake the soldier, that is evident, for my next vision is that of a blue coated figure leaning upon the fence, studying with intent gaze our empty cottage .... His knapsack lay at his feet, his musket was propped against a post on whose top a cat was dream¬ing, unmindful of the warrior and his folded hands.

He did not hear us until we were close upon him, and even after he turned, my mother hesitated, so thin, so hollow eyed, so changed was he ....

I could not relate him to the father I had heard so much about. To me he was only a strange man with big eyes and care worn face. I did not recognize in him anything I had ever known.

Hamlin Garland describing his father's return to Wisconsin
from the Civil War in 1865, A Son of the Middle Border, pp. 2-3

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