taught with great thoroughness, in a fair amount of all kinds of manly sports, and in hard work, mainly on the farm and in building a new home, which left no time and little inclination for any kind of mischief.
At sixteen years of age I spent three months in surveying public lands in the wilds of northern Wisconsin
, and at seventeen taught district school in the little town of Oneco
By that time I had chosen the law as my profession, and was working hard to complete the preparatory studies at my own expense.
The winter school term in Oneco
having closed early in the spring of 1849, I returned to Freeport
and resumed my struggle with Latin.
Then an unforeseen event turned the course of my life.
The young man who had been appointed to West Point
from our district only a year or two before had failed to continue his course in the Military Academy.
Thus a vacancy occurred just at the close of Mr. Thomas J. Turner
's term in Congress.
There was no time for applications or for consultation.
He must select another candidate to enter the following June, or leave the place to be filled by his successor.
Fortunately for me, Mr. Turner
, as one of the public-school directors, had been present at an examination where the subject with which I had to deal was mathematical; if he had caught me at Latin, the result must have been fatal to all my prospects.
Besides, Mr. Turner
had heard from his brother James of the stamina I had shown in the public land-surveying expedition; and also from my father of my determination to get a good education before beginning the study of law. So he brought me a cadet appointment when he came home, and said he believed a boy with that record could get through West Point
, the training there being, in his opinion, a good preparation for the study of law.
The little savings from all my past work had been invested in a piece of land which was sold to fit me out