Occasionally we come across an old newspaper story that is so amazing, we can’t help but wonder if it’s really true. This story about Civil War soldier Otis H. Burton seems to fall into that category. After a little fact-checking, however, all available records seem to support this sweet love story. With all the heavy news lately, sit back and enjoy this 19th-century tale with miraculous twists and a happy ending!
Otis H. Burton was born in Bangor, Maine in 1837. As a young man, he decided to move west and seek his fortune. He ended up in Missouri where he fell in love with an accomplished young woman named Susan Mary Payne. Before he had a chance to profess his love to her, she moved to another state. They soon lost touch.
About this time, the Civil War broke out and Otis enlisted in the 25th Missouri Regiment of the Union Army. While serving in the war, he was severely wounded and not expected to survive. He wrote a farewell letter to his mother but against all odds, he eventually recovered. After feeling well enough to rejoin his regiment, Otis joined them on a mission to transport supplies across the plains. During the journey, a band of Native Americans attacked the party, killing everyone in the company except for Otis, who received severe wounds.
Otis was taken prisoner and led back to the tribe’s mountain home in the Southwest. He gradually recovered from his wounds, adapted to his new surroundings, and started to gain the trust of his captors. All the while he was looking for an opportunity to escape.
One day, after about six months in captivity, tribe members returned to camp with several stolen ponies. Otis observed the horses and noticed one that was of a high breed and showed promise for speed and endurance. Otis cared for the horse, petting and feeding the animal. Eventually, they allowed him to ride the horse.
During one ride, Otis ventured out further than usual. Seizing the opportunity, he took off at top speed, riding furiously with his captors in close pursuit. Finally evading them, Otis rode hard for three days before finally clearing hostile territory.
In the distance, Otis saw smoke rising from the chimney of a small house. He shouted for joy, glad to finally be free. He approached the house and made his way to the door. After knocking, the door opened and there stood Susan Mary Payne, his love from Missouri. After the initial shock, Susan shared her story. She had married a Confederate officer, Joseph L. Robey, who was killed during the war. She was now living alone. Otis shared his story and the two happily reunited. They started to rebuild the relationship began so many years earlier in Missouri.