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For Better, for Worse

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

On September 15th, 1862, Confederate forces under General Stonewall Jackson breeched the defenses guarding the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The arsenal and its great quantity of military supplies soon surrendered. General Jackson also took some prisoners: 12,500 Union soldiers, and one woman: Mrs. Andrew J. Moore of Andalusia, Illinois.

Mrs. Moore was not there by accident. A few weeks earlier, she had received word that her husband, Andrew, was lying ill in a military hospital, and she was not about to let a thing like the Civil War get in the way of her wedding vows. She had promised to stick with her husband for better or worse, in sickness and in health. She wasn't about to send just any plain old get-well card. She sent the very best: herself.

Andrew had been recruited as a private in Company B of the 65th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, along with many other young men from Andalusia and Rock Island. Their commander was a former Rock River Ranger, Captain Robert S. Montgomery. They entered the Union Army at Camp Douglas in Chicago and were soon on their way to Virginia, where the Confederates were making a determined stand at places like Bull Run and Richmond.

Some time that summer, Andrew fell ill, and Mrs. Moore hurried to his side to make sure of his care. It was not an especially good time to join Company B of the 65th Illinois Infantry Volunteers. They were one of the companies assigned to protect the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry and were among the prisoners taken that day.

Now Mrs. Moore was really upset. Company B carried a large American flag presented to them by the ladies of Andalusia, and which now seemed certain to fall into enemy hands. Mrs. Moore took the flag from the staff, wrapped it as an underskirt under her dress, and thus kept it safe behind enemy lines. At the end of the war, Company B presented the flag to Rock Island County. It was hung in Memorial Hall at the county courthouse.

General Jackson kept his prisoners for only five days, until September 20th. Then they were released, and Harper's Ferry was soon back in Union hands. Historians differ on the motives for this strange move, but I can see the hand of a feisty lady from Andalusia in there somewhere.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.