I am numb with the thought that my son, Willy is dead. We procured a metal casket to send his body back to Lancaster, Ohio. At noon, the battalion of the Thirteenth United States Regulars, who had adopted Willy as a mascot on the Big Black River, provided a military escort. They carried rifles and beat the muffled drums in military funeral custom as his body was carried to the waterfront and taken on board the Grey Eagle for passage to Cairo, Illinois. Ellen, Minnie, Lizzie and Tom went aboard to return to Lancaster. I kissed them goodbye and watched as the Grey Eagle steamed out of sight. I trudged back to my room at the Gayoso to gather myself and ponder our next moves.
This evening I tried to bury myself in my work and wrote a report on the state of affairs to General Grant and informing him of the death of Willy.
“This is the only death I have ever had in my family, falling as it has so suddenly and unexpectedly on the one I prized most on earth, has affected me more than any other misfortune could. I can hardly compose myself enough to work, but must and will do so at once.”