EDMOND, Okla. — It seems almost imaginable today to have had a direct conversation with a Civil War veteran. But an Edmond man did just that.
Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Amzi Gregory, 82, remembers the tales of the Civil War told by his grandfather, Nathan Aaron Waddell, of Texas. Waddell spent four years in the Civil War’s Confederate Calvary.
Gregory was 4 years old when his grandfather died in 1940. Waddell was born in 1844 and joined the Confederate Army at age 17. He died in 1940 in Sayre at age 96.
Waddell fought in several battles in Mississippi. He and Gregory’s father, Fletcher Mason Gregory, Sr., sat with surviving veterans of the Blue and the Gray at The Battle of Gettysburg’s 75th Anniversary in 1938, dedicated by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The commemoration was the veterans’ last reunion.
“He told me about war. He got serious,” Gregory said. “I said, ‘Grandpa, I heard you got shot.’”
“Boy I did,” Waddell replied.
“I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘In the back,’” Gregory continued. “I said, ‘In the back grandpa?’ He said, ‘Discretion is a better part of valor every time.’ I died laughing.”
The bullet had ricocheted off his shoulder, and he took the led bullet to his grave, Gregory added.
“Now I’m going to tell you everything you ever need to know about war. That was the most damn fool thing I ever did in my life,” Gregory recalled his grandfather’s words.
Gregory said it took 30 years from Vietnam to Desert Storm to understand that “grandpa” knew exactly what he was talking about.
Waddell once became separated from his Calvary unit.
“This old boy just took him in the infantry and said, ‘You’re now in the infantry,’” Gregory recalled. “He (Waddell) said, ‘I don’t think so.’”
Waddell finally momentarily agreed. That night Waddell road out on a horse with three of his buddies. Gregory said when the Infantry found Waddell, its command told the Infantry to leave Waddell alone, Gregory said.
“And that was the Southerners clashing with each other,” Gregory said.
The Colorado River in east Texas is one of the places his grandfather lived as a child. He told stories about capturing a few alligators there, Gregory said.
“He was a unique type of feller,” he added.
Waddell rode a wagon down the Chisholm Trail many times and never owned an automobile. He would refuse to ride in a car when going fishing.
“He’d go up before the sun began to rise before it broke the horizon and walk,” Gregory explained.
His grandfather lived a full life without forgetting those Americans who built this country.
Gregory said it is important for people to understand the sacrifices generations have made through the history of the United States of America.
“I don’t care about it for myself, but hey folks, some of us have paid the price in this country,” he said.
Coburn writes for Edmond Sun, a CNHI News Service publication.