One morning in the midst of the "setting-up" exercises which I am accustomed to take, and probably suggested by their rhythm, there came into my recollection a tune which seemed familiar but which I could not place. I knew that I had not heard it for many years, and, trying to find its association, I hummed it over and over till I was sure I had fixed it indelibly in my memory. At last it suddenly flashed upon me what it was. During the Civil War in the court- house square of the little Indiana town in which I lived, the village band had the custom of playing for the delectation of their townsfolk every Saturday evening during the summer, and this tune was one of those that I had heard then and had not since heard for more than half a century. It seemed to me that I had rescued a bit of flotsam from the wreck of Time and I had the happiness that we all have in being able to hold fast to something fleeting out of our youth. Alas! ten minutes later the tune had completely vanished, and I was no richer from that source than before, save by the momentary remembrance.
In the pages that follow I have endeavored to recall, and to hold more firmly through the mordant impression of the printed page, experiences, either individual or typical, which, it seems to me, may have interest for others than my own family, for whom I began this record, being moved to write the earlier chapters by the inquiry of my small namesake, "Bonpapa, what did you did when you was a boy?" So, before recounting my relations to prominent persons and to important public events -- and upon both I feel confident of being able to throw some novel and significant light -- I have given something of the life of an American boy in the Middle West just before and during our greatest epoch, that of the Civil War. If I have not caught all the color of those days I feel sure that what I have recovered from the past is truthful so far as it goes. If I have included anything that is uninteresting to the general reader it has not been because I have not kept him carefully in mind, and . . .