Family History: I was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina on the 3rd day of August in the year 1839, the fifth child of William Kendall and Nancy Brown Kendall. My brothers and sisters were James Benjamin born in 1827, Benjamin born in 1829, William Jr born in 1833, Eleanor born in 1837, my younger sister Mary born in 1841, and my younger brother Leander born in 1846. We were all born in Wilkes County. Our family tradition is that we are all descended from a long ago Kendall ancestor who sailed from England in the 1630s and settled in Virginia not far from the English colony of Jamestown. The earliest of my ancestors named in our old family bible was William Kendall, my great grandfather, who was born in Orange County, Virginia around 1740. It is further written in our bible I am told that he married my great grandmother Sarah Ann Foster in 1756 and that in the year 1777 at the age of only 37 he was suddenly and unexpectedly called to God. My great grandmother Sarah Ann now a widow woman with six young children to care for including my three year old grandfather James Benjamin Kendall, decided or perhaps she had no choice but to follow two of her sisters and her brother and their families who in 1778 moved to Wilkes County, North Carolina. My great grandmother later was granted land in 1786 in Wilkes County in her name on which she had a log home built where she lived until her death in 1830.
My grandfather James Benjamin Kendall married my grandmother Mary Dula on 13 October 1795. I remember both of my grandparents as they moved with us when we went to live in Georgia late in year of 1848. Grandma “Polly” died a year later in 1849 when I was around ten. Grandpa James died also in Fannin County around 1857. They were both in their 70s when we moved to Georgia and the long and difficult trip plus the stress of starting a new life at their late age, must have been too much for them. I do not know where they are buried.
There were two primary reasons why our family decided to leave Wilkes County. Our extended family were all poor farmers and with each passing generation and with more and more settlers moving into the Wilkes County area each year, the acquiring of additional land for our new family members was impossible especially without our having the necessary money. Furthermore, our family had occupied our land for three generations and with each passing year the soil became less fertile making the corn and other crops harder to grow. Our families therefore had more people to feed, the land produced less food, and new land was just not affordable or available.
Land in Fannin County: On the other hand, the availability of cheap land in north Georgia was well known to the residents of Wilkes County. In 1837, the U.S. Army had forcibly removed the Cherokee Indians from the area and in 1838 land lotteries were established to encourage new settlers to relocate to these mostly virgin farm lands in Gilmer and Union Counties. Furthermore, the area had suddenly become famous due to the discovery of gold in the late 1820s and copper in the early 1840s. It was however, the free land grants that our Kindall family and our cousins in the Brown and German families obtained in the year 1848, that finally provided us the opportunity to resettle our extended family in North Georgia. By 1850, over 50 of my uncles, aunts, and cousins as well as my own immediate family had resettled in what was to become a few years later in 1854, the County of Fannin, Georgia. The population in those years in Fannin County was approximately 3,500 including a few slaves and Indians. The vast majority of us were poor and uneducated but we took great pride in our independence especially from the reaches of the U.S. government and the State of Georgia.
I no longer remember the exact location of my father’s land grant where we built a log home in the winter of 1848-49 and planted our first crops in the early spring of 1849. I think that the area was called Toccoa but I cannot be sure. The farm house in any case is long gone and the land has changed so much over the past sixty years that nothing looks familiar to me anymore. I know that our farm was on the west side of the Toccoa River for each Sunday our family took our wagon and crossed the Toccoa to attend services in our Baptist church located near Morganton. My oldest brother, James Benjamin Kindall with his wife Selena Dula Kindall whom he had married only a few months before we left North Carolina, had settled on the east side of the Toccoa River not far from the church. This area at the time was part of Union County. We use to visit with Jimmy and his family each Sunday after the church service. Selena’s grandfather Bennett Dula was our grandmother’s brother so I guess that sort of made Jimmy and Selena cousins of a sort. Anyway, Jimmy and Selena later moved to Towns County, Georgia and while I saw them rarely in my later years, I did have the opportunity to give my condolences to Selena after I learned that her brother, Thomas Dula, was hanged in Wilkes County after the war for murdering a girl. Selena always maintained her brother’s innocence. [Editor’s note: The brother Thomas Dula became somewhat of a folk hero after his death which culminated with the Kingston Trio’s recording of the ballad of “Tom Dooley” in the late 1950s which sold six million records.]
I remember that my father complained almost from the beginning about the land that he had been granted but then my father complained about a lot of things. His problem as I recall was that too little of his 20 acres was level. All that I remember from those early years was that the land level or not, was completely covered with huge tall trees that I now know were pines, oaks, chestnuts, and a mixture of other hardwoods. Considering how completely leveled of trees Fannin County is today in 1910, my father should have been delighted to have the plentiful wood available to build our log house and barn and the necessary wood to heat our home in the winter and cook our food.
Copper Miners: Copper was first discovered in Polk County, Tennessee in 1840 and by 1850 the first copper mine in Copperhill was in full operation. Benjamin, William and I had no difficulty finding immediate employment at one of the copper mines. Benjamin went to live with his friend Merady Blaylock and his family up in McCaysvllle on the Tennessee border after Blaylock who was already a miner in Copperhill helped the three of us get hired at one of the mines. Now that William and I had employment and for the first time in our lives a cash income, we immediately moved into a boarding house in Copperhill. Work at the copper mine was hard and very dirty work but the next few years were some of the best years of my life. There were some 1,000 men living in and around the McCaysville and Copperhill area who worked at the various mines. The hard work made us strong and for the first time in our lives we eat well and as a result we were healthy and full of energy. On weekends we all had cash to spend and it was well spent on liquid refreshments and parties with good friends all around. The area was of course, filled predominately with men and the lack of women meant that the three of us, despite the fact that we were all of an age when most men had married, were still single. Without doubt our unmarried status made it easier for us to enlist in the Army on 22 April 1861. Benjamin was 32, William was 29, and I was 22 when we volunteered.
1860, Election of Abraham Lincoln: As you know, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in November of 1860 despite the fact as I learned later that his name was not even on the ballot in most of the southern states. In any case, I did not vote in this election nor in any other election since. I am not even sure that I was eligible to vote since I did not own property or pay taxes nor could I even read the names on the ballot or sign my name. Furthermore, most of us miners could not have cared less about who won the election. The major issue it seemed was about the right to own slaves and since none of us owned slaves and there were almost no slaves in Fannin County [Editor’s note: less than 3% of the Fannin County population in 1860 were slaves] the slave issue just did not seem to be all that important. Apparently it was because the slave owning politicians in Georgia voted to secede from the Northern States on 1 Jan 1861. They apparently were afraid that the northern states and Abraham Lincoln would pass a law prohibiting the ownership of slaves. Personally most of us, at least the younger men in our group, had no issue with the ownership of slaves as it was kind of a natural way of nature, but our real problem with the Federal government was their trying to tell us what we could and could not do. There were a lot of arguments in the mining fields but for the most part most of us agreed with Georgian politicians and the other Southern States who voted to secede from the Union.
In hindsight it seems kind of pathetic and sad when I recall all of the cheering and hugging that took place among all of our fellow miners when we learned of the bombardment on 12 April 1861 of the Federal troops posted at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor. I do not think that any of us at the time thought that an army of Yankees could come close to matching our Southern Boys in a good fight and the action at Fort Sumter was our proof. The talk of war was immediate and everywhere.
22 April 1861, Enlistment in the Confederate Army: Over the next few days word spread quickly that they were going to sign up new recruits at the Courthouse in Morganton in Fannin County. Benjamin, William and I decided immediately that we were going to enlist. It would give us a chance to get away from the copper mines, to travel through Georgia or where ever, and to get paid while we marched around in uniforms chasing away Yankees. None of us thought that the war if it came to be, would last very long and our enlistment period was in any case for only one year. On 22 April 1861 about ninety of us walked the dusty dirt roads in Fannin County to enlist at the courthouse. It was like a reunion for us as we knew about half of the men who showed up and many of them were family members such as our cousin Larkin German who we elected to be our 2nd Lieutenant, his brother and our cousin Thomas German, Stephen Dobbs, who we elected our 1st Sergeant and who was married to our cousin Selena Brown, and Renee Marion Chastain who later in 1864 married our cousin Rebecca Brown. We were all excited and proud that we were among the first group of Georgians who enlisted to defend the rights of our State.
Our march to Atlanta and then to Savannah: On 23 April 1861, we started marching south following under the leadership of Captain William A Campbell. No one seemed to know where we were going which now looking back in later years seemed to be a pretty typical daily occurrence as we were expected to just follow orders and not to ask any questions. But the next few days was a pleasant march for us down to Cartersville, about a 60 mile march from Morganton, where here we boarded a train headed for Atlanta. I had seen trains before since our copper ore was hauled by rail to Cleveland, Tennessee, but this train was totally unlike those old trains used by the copper mines. This train was beautiful and to excite us even more as we passed through the towns on the way down to Atlanta, small crowds waited alongside the tracks and cheered us as we passed. Atlanta was totally unlike anything we had ever seen. Nothing back home prepared us for this: so many buildings, people, animals, and so much noise and dust. We were taken to a large park where we prepared our camp and began our training which consisted mostly of marching in unison back and forth and all around. It was sure hard to believe that we needed to learn to march to fight the Yankees. We were so proud when crowds of people followed us everywhere and over the next few days we were given new uniforms and the best new rifles we had ever seen and the size of the crowds increased even more. Finally, we were greeted by the Governor of Georgia, the honorable Joseph Brown, who told us how proud he was of us and our decision to defend the rights of Georgia. He even started calling us the Joe Browns. We were to be his Company. We were told later that Governor Brown was worried that the mountain counties in North Georgia, particularly Fannin County, would not support the war effort so that when our small company enlisted so early, he was so delighted that he raised the money for our new uniforms and gear and most importantly, our rifles. After our short stay in Atlanta we again boarded a train headed for Savannah, Georgia. We arrived in Savannah on the 1st day of May, 1861. We were not prepared for Savannah’s oppressive heat and humidity.
May 1861, Camp in Savannah: We set up camp just outside the city in a large field that was a short march from the local train station. We were helped with the camp preparations by numerous Negro slaves who had been provided by some of the locals no doubt to welcome their first Confederate troops to their city. The slaves performed the really difficult work around the campsite such as digging the latrine trenches while we focused on setting up the tents and unloading our supplies and equipment. One thing that really surprised us during our month long stay in Savannah was the sheer number of Negroes in and around the city and we all agreed that there must be two or three Negroes for every white person and the Negroes seemed to be the only ones working. Our typical day in Savannah and later in Brunswick where we moved at the end of May, was that we would rise before the sun came up, eat breakfast, and then for the rest of the day we would drill and learn to load and shoot our weapons. It was interesting at first but after days and days of marching around the field performing the same maneuvers over and over again, it became exceptionally tedious and some of us including Benjamin and William and I even joked that working in the mines for ten hours a day was more enjoyable. At least on Sundays it was less boring and on several occasions we marched through Savannah to the cheers of the local residents. The City of Savannah was an incredible place. We were raised in a small log cabin with few nearby neighbors and later we lived near the mines in a ramshackle wooded house where we shared every room with others. Here in Savannah the homes were huge and built of bricks that were surfaced with stucco. The streets were lined with trees and most of the main streets were surfaced with brick. Beautiful city parks that they called Squares were everywhere. The mud and dust that we experienced out at the camp was almost non-existent here in Savannah. It was it seems, to be our duty as volunteer soldiers to defend this way of life. It was hard to understand but then we were uneducated.
Sickness: None of us were immune from the camp diseases. It was part of our life from birth and we all had lost a close relative to an early death. But, it seemed that the number of soldiers here in our camp that were succumbing to some form of illness was far greater than what we had ever experienced. By mid-May only two weeks after we arrived, more than a dozen men in our company were in the camp medical tent. The rumor was that it was the local swamp air that was causing the fevers and this made sense since we knew that many of the locals were known to leave Savannah in the summer months when the hot swamp air was at its worst. When we departed Savannah at the end of May and relocated to Brunswick south of Savannah, a number of our fellow soldiers were left behind in the hospital. We later learned that two of them had died, one from measles, an illness that at the time I had never heard of. I know now some 50 years later that the fevers were caused by something called germs and many of us who grew up in the mountains were especially vulnerable to these germs. The germs were able to easily jump from one sick man to another man because we lived so close to each other particularly in the crowded tents. However the germs jumped, it became a very serious problem in the months ahead and all of us were sick at one time or another and many men died.
29 May, 1861, To Camp in Brunswick, Georgia: One of the most frustrating things about being a private in the army was that no one told us anything. We got lots of orders but never an explanation as to why we were being ordered to do something; we just had to guess the reason. For example, on May 29th we were directed by our 1st Sergeant Dobbs to start packing up our camp in Savannah. I knew Dobbs pretty well since he had married my cousin Selena Brown a few years back, so I asked him what was happening. He told me that he was not sure, he was just following orders. So was the way of the army. Even during the battles of the next few years we would charge forward and backward through fields and forests and up and down hills with absolutely no idea of what was going on. At least on May 29th no one was firing lead minie balls at us and we soon learned that we were headed for an 80 mile march south down to Brunswick, Georgia. Brunswick as it turned out was just another campground and training area but it was here where we joined other soldiers from all over Georgia and instead of being just a small company of soldiers under the command of our Captain William A, Campbell, we became part of the 2nd Georgia Infantry Regiment under Col. Paul J. Semmes. Our regiment was composed of seven different Companies with a total of almost 700 men that included our own 85 Fannin County group of men. In addition to all of the soldiers and over 200 tents in the field, there must have been two or three hundred other people including men, women and children and negroes. We were told that many of the men were vendors to the army selling everything from meats to straw and the women and children were family members or in some cases prostitutes hoping to earn some of our soldier pay. By the time that we arrived in Brunswick the field was already a dust bowl and in the days following with seven hundred men all marching all over the place, there were times we could hardly see in front of us through the dust. We trained in Brunswick for almost two months and during that period of June and July we had many days when we trained in the pouring rain and rain made the field a sea of mud and it also made the straw on the bottom of our tents where we slept each night, a wet pile of straw mixed with mud. The number of men who came down ill and in some cases died increased dramatically and we had yet to face the enemy. We were tired and we were bored and most of us wished that we were back home.
21 July 1861, Breaking camp and up to Virginia: And then without warning on 21 July 1861 we packed up our camp and the entire 2nd Regiment marched north back to Savannah where we boarded a train and headed north. The train ride north which we were told was headed to Virginia was very slow and we stopped and waited numerous times. The track was obviously busy with other trains. We changed trains at least twice. Since many of us were in open cars normally used to carry cargo, we were exposed to the weather which left us all soon sunburned and even dirtier then we were when we climbed on board. We finally arrived in Richmond, Virginia on 29 July 1861 and from the train station were marched over the next several days up to Camp Walker near Manassas, Virginia which we were told was near the site of the first Battle of Manassas, also called Bull Run, that had been fought only a few weeks early. Camp Walker was crowded with Confederate Brigades from all over the south many of whom had fought at Manassas on the 21st. We all knew that we were near the site of our great confederate victory and only 30 miles from Washington, DC. We all expected that the war would soon be over and it could not be too soon. My brothers and I and almost everyone else for that matter were ready to go home.
The military drilling and the firearm training continued for the entire time we remained at Camp Walker. The only break we got from this otherwise boring routine was an occasional picket duty or our being ordered on one of the many reconnaissance patrols that were continuously sent out to look out for approaching Yankees. We heard that several times there were skirmishes with Yankees patrols where guns were fired, but nothing major. We thought at the time that the Yankees must be afraid of us since we had heard nothing more from their army since the earlier battle in July. My brother Benjamin received some good news on 10 February 1862; he was elected Ensign. He was always the natural born leader in our family.
In hindsight, I now realize that we were in a kind of battle the entire time we stayed at Camp Walker. The battle that was fought in nearby Manassas on July 21st cost our army around 400 men killed plus a number of men who died later of their battlefield wounds. Unfortunately conditions at Camp Walker were so terrible what with the poor sanitary conditions, the contaminated water and food supplies, and the wet and cold living conditions that more men died during the almost seven months we were stationed at Camp Walker than had died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Manassas. Our own small company from Fannin County lost at least ten men to disease while at Camp Walker in addition to the men who died prior to our arrival in Virginia. As of March 1862 we had lost to disease and whatever almost 20% of our 2nd Regiment men and this was before we even engaged in our first combat. At least other than losing weight and having almost continuous problem with diarrhea, Benjamin, William, and I remained alive.
March 1862, Marching south towards Richmond: One day in early March of 1862 we were awakened as always by the bugler but this morning instead of just rising and preparing breakfast and a hot cup of coffee as usual, the sergeant directed us to start packing up immediately as we were moving out of camp as soon as possible. Our Company, the 2nd Georgia Infantry, joined with three other Georgia regiments, the 15th, the 17th, and the 20th to form a Brigade under the leadership of General Robert Toombs. We had around six hundred men able to march in our company and approximately 2,500 men in the total brigade and as a group we began marching southward towards Richmond complete with a long line of wagons carrying our supplies and artillery. Once in Richmond we crossed the James River and headed east towards Yorktown. The exhausting march took us a little over a week and we were pushed the entire way with long days of marching with only short breaks for meals and rest. Rumors abound that we were finally going to battle with the Yankees although it made no sense that the Yankees would be at Yorktown near the Chesapeake Bay when it would have been much easier for them to attack us at Manassas Junction. When we arrived in the Yorktown area we were joined with many other brigades. I learned later that we totaled around 11,000 men all of us under the command of Brigadier General John B. Magruder.
April 1862 to July 1862, the Peninsula Campaign: By late March we started observing a few Yankees patrols in the distance which a few days later turned into a full force of blue uniformed soldiers out in front of us who began moving in artillery and building a line of entrenchments similar to our own. They were so close to us that sometimes we could hear them talking and occasionally we would shout insults and even jokes back and forth. On the 4th day of April 1862, the Yankees began their attack. We were down the line from the point of the attack and we could not see the fighting but the noise of the battle, the cannon fire and the sound of the rifles, could be heard for miles. Our troops were able to hold off the Yankees on this day, but the next month of our lives was lived in pure hell.
It was as if God was disapproving of man’s transgressions and his anger let loose the rains which like in Noah’s day began almost immediately and for almost a month it rained continuously. Our trenches filled with water and no matter what we did to try and drain them, they stayed filled. We did not dare raise our heads above the parapets of the trench fortification for fear that the Yankee sharpshooters were ready to send a minie-ball into our heads. No fires were allowed day or night and even if we could keep them going against the constant rainfall we had no food to cook other than limited quantities of cornbread and salt meat and definitely we had none of our beloved coffee. The artillery bombardment was almost continuous. I cannot imagine looking back these many years now how I was ever able to get any sleep in those water soaked trenches with our constant fear that an artillery shell would explode in our trench. But we survived and fortunately I guess our 2nd Regiment was never engaged directly against a Yankee attack. We lost a few men during this month in the trenches, but their deaths were caused by our abysmal living conditions and not from battle wounds. I observed one day a man who had died not by an enemy ball but from an illness or perhaps his body was simply too weak to live on. We found him curled up and submerged in the mud where he had lain for at least a day before he was discovered. Apparently there were dozens of men who died in a similar manner in both armies during this awful one month period in April of 1862.
Re-enlistment: Ironically, our one year enlistment term was up for many of us who were confined to the trenches. Some of the men refused to re-enlist including my own brother William and my first cousin and our Sergeant, Larkin German. All of us were living in hell but few of us complained which cannot be said of William. He wanted out and he had been saying so for months. We were sad to see them go. After
Our Brigade was soon increased to 35,000 men as new regiments arrived although as we learned later we were still greatly outnumbered as the Yanks were said to have us outmanned by more than 3 to 1. It was also clear that their artillery strength far outnumber ours. Our leaders must have recognized that we were about to be overrun for in the middle of the night on May 4th our entire brigade quietly and slowly retreated down the muddy roads back to the fortifications near Williamsburg. We had no idea what was going on but this retreat if that is what it was, seemed to be well organized. The Yankees attacked our forces in the late morning of May 5th at the Williamsburg line although the brunt of the Yankee attack was against our recently arrived Division under the command of Major General James Longstreet. Our own Brigade did not engage in the battle as we continued our retreat towards Richmond. We could hear however, the sounds of battle and we were horrified to learn later how many of our men were killed and wounded on this day. The many wagons that passed us later this afternoon were filled with wounded men many of them covered in blood and crying out in pain. It was a sight that I will never forget and unfortunately a sight that was to be repeated before my eyes many times over the next few years.
The next two months is only a blur in my memory. Our entire army retreated from the enemy back to the Richmond area where it seemed that daily we built entrenchments only to move the next day to a new area where we again dug trenches. Our Regiment during this period did not attack or defend against the enemy although on multiple occasions we were marched into the field where we expected action only to later be moved to another location. None of us knew what was going on and we woke up each morning never knowing what this day would bring. Would we have any food to eat? Would our friends die from their lingering illnesses? Would I kill the soldier in blue this day or would he kill me? We knew that the war was continuing around us by the ever increasing number of makeshift graves we encountered and by the sight of bandaged and dying men.
27 June 1862, Battle of Garnett’s Farm: My first taste of a full scale battle took place on 27 June 1862 which was later called the Battle of Garrett’s Farm. Apparently that was Mr. Garrett’s farmhouse that was just off to our right from where we stood in the open field facing the Yankees. We were able to field from our 2nd Georgia Regiment only 270 men on this day under our Col. Butt but surrounding us on both sides were the other regiments in Col. Toombs’ First Brigade, the 15th, the 17th, and the 20th Georgia Regiments. We were also supported in our rear by the Third Brigade. At shortly after 7:00 PM in the evening, some of the companies in the 2nd Regiment including my own were ordered to advance and take a position in the ravine in front of us and adjacent to the farmhouse. As we moved forward the Yankee sharp shooters in front of their mainline opened fire and for the first time since joining the army over a year earlier I was terrified that I was about to die. As we ran across the wheatfield the rain of minie balls passing by us sounded much like a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing around our heads and bodies. We were all shouting as we ran perhaps to deflect our fears but in some cases the shouts were actually screams of pain as minie balls scored hits and sent men to the ground. After a seemingly forever amount of time we reached the ravine and dove for cover. We were joined shortly by two other regiments. The enemy soon attacked us to drive us out of the ravine but after an hour or so of fighting we held them off. As it was almost dark, we were ordered to withdraw from the ravine. Our day mercifully ended without further enemy engagement. Of the 270 men of our 2nd Regiment who fought bravely this day, 10 men were killed and around 110 men were wounded including too many who would later die. My good friend William E. Garrison, Willie, was hit in the stomach with grapeshot and he bleed to death in the field of wheat before we could drag him to safety. I never knew anything could be this awful. Fortunately neither Benjamin nor I were injured but unfortunately, more killing was yet to come.
We were ordered to move forward against the enemy who were positioned at least a half mile in front of us. Our march which began in an orderly fashion with the regimental flags flying high above the line and the music of the many regimental bands including our own 2nd regimental band loudly playing, soon became a bit disorganized as the different regiments began to crowd into one another. The confusion was further compounded as we got closer to the enemy and their batteries opened up sending canisters down upon us causing the ground around us to explode in balls of fire and rains of metal fragments. The smoke from the artillery and our guns soon clouded our vision as we marched across muddy rutted roads and over wooden stockade fences. Meanwhile we faced a destructive fire of grape shot. We were close to the enemy line, maybe 200 yards, when we were finally ordered, the order shouted over the dreadful noise of the battle, to lie down. None of us who were still standing hesitated to follow the order for we knew full well that we were about to be slaughtered if we remained upright. We stayed down for about half an hour returning fire to the enemy until we were ordered to about face and fall back.
Wounded in Battle: As I stood up, I was suddenly slammed in the upper chest and thrown back several feet onto the ground, the air knocked completely out of my lungs. I struggled and flopped around as I grasped for air. Several of my brother soldiers stopped to help me but they were immediately ordered by our sergeant to continue falling back. I was soon left alone except for the nearby line of Yankees who were hardly paying any attention to me what with the large number of dead and seriously wounded men on both sides lying all around me in the field. I soon recovered my breath but I was unable to move. It was like I was in a dream. At least in my dream there was no pain. When I finally woke up after passing out from the shock of the iron ball that passed through me, it was dark and I was being moved and this time there was intense pain. I was carried on a blanket to a wagon filled with other men who were covered with blood and obviously in agony. I lost track of time but several days later I found myself in a hospital in Richmond. The hospital was crowded to the point where many of the wounded men had no bed to lie in and many of the men were dying from their untreated wounds. The smell and sound of death was everywhere. The intense July heat and the closed in still air in the hospital building was killing men as fast as did their wounds. War was not the noble cause we had once thought; war was just organized murder.
My wound was serious but I had been lucky. I was hit with a minie ball just above my right nipple. The ball passed through my lung and passed out my back just below the shoulder bone. I had several broken ribs and a damaged lung but the wounds themselves were small and the fact that the ball had missed my heart, major blood vessels, and my backbone and then had passed out of my body resulted in my survival. As dreadful as the hospital was, it gave me a chance to rest and eat regularly. The Yankees had won the battle but apparently they were pulling out of Virginia giving us all the faint hope that the war was soon to be over. An incredible number of our Confederate soldiers had been killed at the Battle of Malvern Hill including 11 in our 2nd regiment one of whom, my good friend Robert McMinn, was from Fannin County. I was among the 70 men in our regiment, 3 from Fannin County, who had been wounded. At the hospital while we were recuperating I became close friends with James M Jones who was also wounded at Malvern Hill. He was shot in the left leg although fortunately for Jimmy the ball missed his bone which probably saved him from a leg amputation. Jim and I are still close friends now these many years later.
I stayed in the hospital in Richmond for a little over two weeks and while I was not even close to being ready to get back to normal life, my wounds had not healed and my ribs were still broken and hurt with even my slightest movement, Benjamin agreed with me that if I stayed in that hospital for much longer I was bound to die from one of the many diseases that were in the air everywhere in that building. Our 2nd Regiment was at camp just outside of Richmond and Benjamin using his influence as an ensign borrowed a wagon to carry me and several other soldiers back to the camp. I was hardly in a position to perform my duties but at least at the camp I was around friends and the air was fresh. At least one benefit of being wounded and going to the hospital was that when we left the hospital we were handed new uniforms and shoes taken from one of the many soldiers who had died. Shortly after returning to my regiment, in my new uniform, I was told that Robert E. Lee, our new commanding officer, had reorganized the army and our regiment was now a part of the Army of Northern Virginia. We were part of the First Corps under the command of Major General James Longstreet. The First Corps had five divisions and we were in Jones’ Division as before, under the command of Brigadier General David R. Jones. We were still in Toomb’s Brigade under Robert Toombs although we were directly under the command of Col. Henry Benning and our company was now being led by Lieutenant William R. Holmes who assumed the command in Col. Butt’s absence as he had been wounded at Malvern Hill. Frankly none of this really made any difference to us personally since the only commands we followed were those given by our sergeant. I was really excited and impressed however, when several weeks after returning to our camp, General Lee and General Longstreet rode through our camp followed by a lot of other men on horses. I guess they were inspecting us just like we were inspecting them. General Lee looked like a leader who knew what he was doing and we all felt certain that he will soon lead us to victory and the war would be over.
Our dog Sarah: By the end of the first week of August rumors were everywhere that the Yankees were pulling out. Perhaps they were as tired of fighting as we were. It had been over a month since I was wounded. I was feeling much better now although I was still not in any condition for a long day of marching. Fortunately things at our encampment were pretty quiet and the men who had been thin and exhausted after the two months of hard fighting, were starting to improve physically and the laughter that was commonplace in the camp before the fighting, was starting to be heard again. One of the things that brought much joy to all of us in the camp were the stray animals, particularly the dogs who must have been separated from their owners in the course of the fighting. Our favorite stray dog in the camp was a collie who one of the men named Sarah. Sarah came around every morning looking for food and she soon became so comfortable with our small group that she would spend the entire day with us even following the men out when they went out on patrols. Sarah became so attached to our small company of men that she followed us when we finally left the camp. Sarah was with us for almost a year. She walked along side of us on the long days of marching and she even followed us into battle running with us and barking as loud as she could. Strictly speaking pets were not allowed in the army, but our officers never told us to get rid of Sarah. I think that they loved her as much as we did. Sarah was killed on the second day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg and we never got a chance to give her a proper burial. We had lost our dog as we had lost so many of our friends.
30 August 1831, Battle of 2nd Manassas (Bull Run): I do not really remember the details of the battle other than its horrors. I remember that our Brigade along with others was ordered to advance to the enemy across a field a distance of two miles and much of the way we were running in a double quick time. We were exposed to shot and shell almost the entire way. The Yankees facing our long line of yelling men retreated and we were after several hours of fighting able to capture a number of their men and artillery. Unfortunately after my excitement from the battle ceased to hold me up, I realized that I was exhausted beyond belief and the horror of seeing so many dead and dying men lying on the field around me caused me to sink into a deep depression. I was not alone. We were told the next day that the Yankees were retreating and we had won a great victory. It did not really cheer us up. I did not learn until much later that 1,300 of our men had died at Manassas and 7,000 had been wounded with many more to die later. Of the 163 men in our 2nd Regiment who were healthy enough to go to battle, 2 were killed and 53 were wounded. In our Fannin County Company that was part of the 2nd Regiment, only my good friend James M. Jones was wounded. James as I mentioned earlier was also wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill and we had spent time together recovering from our wounds at the hospital in Richmond. At Manassas however, Jim was very seriously wounded when a shell fragment hit him near the top of his head which apparently cracked his skull. He was unconscious for several days and in the hospital for several months with this injury. Years later after the war, Jim still complained that his head injury affected his hearing in one ear.
We remained camped near the battle site for only a few days before we were ordered once again to start marching. During these few days we rested as best we could but our days were filled with the hard work of collecting and burying our dead soldiers and redistributing their effects. This meant that many of the soldiers who were without such items as shoes, clothing, blankets, canteens, and functioning weapons and ammunition were provided with these items that had been removed from the bodies of the fallen soldiers. In the course of the battle our army had taken around 9,000 Yankee prisoners and many of these prisoners were stripped of their personal items although this was not a policy approved by our officers. Guns, ammunition, artillery, horses, and wagons captured from the Yankee army were also gathered together and organized in a formation so that we could move out quickly. We also over the course of these few days rounded up the prisoners and marched them to the train station in Manassas Junction where they were boarded and taken to a prisoner of war camp somewhere in the south. One of the most unpleasant things that we had to face during these few days was passing by the hospital tents where amputated legs and arms were piled high nearby. We also heard the occasionally scream of a man in terrible pain. None of this horror made much sense to us but we knew that our officers would take care of us and do the right thing and that somehow, sometime everything would work out for the best.
20 September 1862, Retreat south to Culpeper: We woke up the next morning expecting more fighting, more deaths, more killing, but the Northern Army guns remained quiet and our officers’ only orders were for us to collect the wounded if there were any left on the field and gather up and bury the dead. That evening as night fell we marched south away from Sharpsburg. I think that we all were at our lowest morale point since the fighting began so long ago, just six months earlier. The wagon train leaving Sharpsburg that night seemed to stretch for miles. Many of the wagons were loaded with some of the hundreds of men who were wounded and unable to walk. Unfortunately there were also many men to seriously wounded to leave the hospitals in Sharpsburg. These men and a few doctors we left behind to the Yankees and to the mercy of God. We slowly marched southward for the next two weeks until we reached Culpeper in Virginia where we at last stopped our daily marching at least for the next eight weeks.
Camp Fever at Camp near Culpeper: Shortly after settling in at our camp near Culpeper I came down with a high fever and for the next two weeks I remembered almost nothing other than occasionally waking up with an incredible thirst, stomach pains, and a powerful headache that made me want to die just to rid myself of my suffering. Over the past year I had seen many men sick from the diseases in our camps. In fact more men were bedridden from the camp illnesses than were laid out from their battle wounds. But I had been lucky and most of my health problems had been limited to an ongoing case of diarrhea and the occasional chest cold. The camp doctor later told me that I had been knocked down with the camp fever but I had been luckier than many other soldiers who had died from the same illness. I was laid up in bed for almost four weeks and it took another four weeks for me to regain my full strength. I was never a large man. Before the war at 5’-8” tall I weighed around 150 pounds but I was sun tanned and made strong from the hard work at the copper mines. After my illness I was down to 120 pounds and my clothes which were now mostly rags hung loosely from my pale skeletal frame. Unfortunately my appearance which would hardly frighten an enemy soldier in battle, was not much different than the appearance of my comrades. The war this past summer had taken its toll on us and now we were facing another Virginia winter. It did not help that the food we were feed was both inadequate to stop our constant hunger and was tasteless or in many cases inedible. A typical meal consisted of a cornbread cake prepared in some kind of grease and a cup of “coffee” made from something other than coffee beans. When we got lucky we were served meat but it was usually tasteless, salty, and tough to chew and sometimes even rotten. It is no wonder that so many of us were sick. We all prayed that we had seen the last of the war for this year and that while life in a camp especially in the winter was not something we looked forward to, it was better than marching into battle and facing death.
December 11th thru December 15th 1862, Battle of Fredericksburg: The Battle at Fredericksburg took place between December 11th and the 15th with most of the heavy fighting ending on the 13th. Fortunately, our Regiment was not heavily engaged in this battle perhaps because we were in no shape to be of much help. On the 11th and 12th of December several of the companies in our 2nd Regiment were sent out to harasses the Yankees as they tried to cross the river but most of us from our Fannin County Company which was greatly diminished in size due to illness, did not engage the enemy. One of our boys from Fannin County however, Jimmy Brendle, I did not know him well, was captured by some of the Yankees sharp shooters during one of our early patrols but he was later exchanged. Jimmy’s not too bright behavior I understand lead to his capture. He told us later that he was well fed by the Yankees and he kind of hated to be exchanged. Our Division under General Hood was in the middle of the battle line with General Jackson to our right and other divisions of Longstreet’s Corp to our left. While it was hard during the battle and even after the battle for that matter to tell from our vantage point whether our army was victorious or not, we learned later that the Battle of Fredericksburg was a great victory for our side particularly as a result of the efforts of General Thomas Jackson’s men who had positioned themselves behind a long stone wall and then held their position firmly and bravely against constant waves of attacks by the Yankees. Following each attack wave despite our distance from the field of battle, we could hear the cheers of our men as the Yankees retreated. The field in front of the stone wall we were told was blue at the end of the battle. Blue from the thousands of killed and wounded blue uniformed soldiers who lay on the ground before our men. General Thomas Jackson was largely credited with our great victory and because his men refused to retreat from their position, “Stonewall” Jackson once again lived up to the nickname he had been given following the Battle of Manassas. Stonewall, because his men refused to budge. We were greatly inspired by this victory. [Editor’s note: The Battle of Fredericksburg resulted in 1,284 men killed on the Union side and 9,600 wounded and 608 men killed on the Confederate side and 4,116 men wounded. Fredericksburg was the last major battle of the war in the year of 1862 and despite the appalling number of deaths to date as a result of the conflict neither side had gained any advantages either militarily or politically. The Civil War however, was already an appalling display of mankind’s complete and utter stupidity.]
Winter 1862/63, Winter Camp at Guinea’s Station: Our division under Major General Hood retreated south from Fredericksburg on 17 December 1862 to an area called Guinea’s Station located on the Rappahannock River where we were to spend the remainder of the winter months in camp. Here we hoped to heal our army from the wounds of the hard battles we had fought, the illnesses that we constantly faced, and the poor living conditions of the past summer. Unfortunately the winter months were much colder than average and many more men died. My memory of that time brings back only great pain. I will continue my story after I have had a chance to rest, perhaps tomorrow morning. Thank you for your patience.