In the month of May, 1861, I enlisted in the Polk Rifles, a company raised, chiefly, Cedartown, Van Wert and adjacent territory. The officers were:
Captain H. Frank Wimberly
Lieutenant Ham Jones
Lieutenant John L. Dodds
Lieutenant Julius A. Peek
We went into camps at Camp McDonough, near "Big Shanty", Cobb County, Georgia, remaining there about six weeks, during which time "Polk Rifles" was attached to Phillips' Legion, and designated as Company D.
On August 1, 1861, we were sent to West Virginia and attached to a Brigade under General Floyd. While on picket duty at Meadow Bluff, I had a short conversation with General Robert E. Lee, but I did not, at that time, know who he was. He was the first man I ever heard use the word "enfilade".
A few days after leaving Meadow Bluff, Billy Gibson, Brother William and myself were stricken with typhoid fever and were left at the house of Mr. Richmond on New River. My brother died, and Bill and I barely "got through". From Mr. Richmond's, Billy and I went to Red Sulphur Springs, at which place Billy purposely left a glove at the home of an attractive young lady that he might have an excuse to "call again". While convalescing at this famous health resort, we received a short furlough home, and at the expiration of thirty days, we rejoined our Command at Hardeeville, South Carolina. Soldiering here was uneventful, and on June 22, we were ordered to Richmond, having previously been attached to Drayton's Brigade. Upon arriving at Richmond, our Brigade was attached to the Division of General LaFayette McLaws, Longstreets Corps. The "Seven Days Fight" around our Capitol was just about over, and General McClellan was in full retreat.
General Joseph E. Johnson having been wounded, General Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia, by whom we were ordered to the Rapidan, and upon arrival, the shells were sounding "Ominous". This was our FIRST ENGAGEMENT! From here, we were ordered to Manassas to support "Stonewall" Jackson, who was being hotly pressed. Longstreet arrived about 2:00 p.m., and three hours later, General Pope was "headed" for Washington, "Headquarters-in-the-Saddle". We drove everything before us, and another "Bull Run" defeat greeted the Federal hosts. It was here that we almost annihilated the New York Zouaves, who did not have judgment enough to RUN. Twenty thousand lay dead and wounded upon the field. It was in this deadly struggle that Billy Jones was shot through his foot.
From here, we were ordered to Maryland. After wading the Potomac and passing Fredericksburg, we encountered the Federals at Crampton's Gap. It was Lee's design only to delay McClellan, who was again in command of the Army of the Potomac, until Jackson could capture Harper's Ferry. It was here that I was captured. The ladies of Fredericksburg, by permission, fed all Confederate prisoners for five days, and they did it WELL, for which I shall ever be grateful. Most of us were sent to Fort Delaware as "Prisoners of War". After "perishing" here for three weeks, half of us, about four thousand, were exchanged and sent to Richmond. I came out on a "DEAD MAN'S NAME", fearing mine would not be reached. My name was called, however, toward the last, and I was reported "DEAD".
Arriving at Richmond, I went to the Treasury and drew the wages due me, also $100.00 "bounty", and boarded at the Spottswood Hotel for two weeks, which was a great luxury after my "starving" experience at Fort Delaware. Upon leaving the hotel, I went to Gordonsville and joined my Command, about December 1, 1862. In a day or two, we were ordered to Fredericksburg, which place we reached in rain, sleet and snow. Here, the Army was remodeled, putting the troops from each state in Brigades to themselves. Phillips Legion, the 24th and 16th Georgia, and Cobb's Legion were made a Brigade, with T.R.R. Cobb in command.
On December 12, Cobb's Brigade took position at the foot of Mary's Hill, on the road facing Fredericksburg, and in full view of our Batteries on the hill behind us. At daylight the next morning, General Sumner's signal gun ushered in the beginning of the greatest slaughter of modern times. All day long, charge after charge was made to break our lines; but each assault resulted in failure, and the sad news was wafted to many Northern homes, "Thy loved ones are no more".
The last charge was made by Mearheart's Irish Brigade, and out of 5,000 men, only 249 reported for duty next morning. The carnage was so great that the Federal papers "dubbed" it "Burnsides' Slaughter-Pen". General Cobb had only about 12,000 and there were 12,500 Federals left dead and wounded in our front. However, we suffered a heavy loss in the death of General Cobb. I think our greatest loss was caused by the guns of our own men stationed on the hill in our rear. Gus Tomlinson went twice and Lucius Stone once on the hill and told them they were killing our own men at the foot of the hill. Colonel Cook, of Phillips Legion, was killed, and Jule Peek had command until he was wounded, after which, Captain Barclay took command for the balance of the day.
Talk about Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg: that was grand, indeed; but I never saw anything that surpassed umner's charge at Fredericksburg. He simply charged, and charged, and charged, until there was nothing left of his Corps to charge with. All were dead, or dying, or wounded.
Burnsides was removed and Joe Hooker was put in his place, whom we met at Chancellorsville in May of 1863, when the same story was repeated and "Fighting Joe" was removed.
About one month after this, we were put in motion, going North. We met a few straggling columns of the enemy, which were easily brushed aside. Our first serious fighting was at Gettysburg, which was one of the hardest fought battles of the War.
We went into them with our bayonets and clubbed them with our guns. It was here that I went after a Flag; and after shooting one man, and clubbing five others, I was in the act of reaching for the Flag when a fellow named Smith jumped in ahead of me and grabbed it. I came very near CLUBBING HIM, but he put up such a pitiful mouth about having a "family of small children that he wanted to see SO BAD", I let him have it so that he could get a furlough. Gus Tomlinson saw the whole transaction.
We slept on the battlefield two nights, I think it was, after Pickett's famous charge, and then fell back to the Potomac, which we found so swollen that we had to wait for it to fall before we could wade it. Returning to Virginia, our Corps (Longstreet's), was ordred to Chickamauga, to help General Bragg out of a difficulty. This accomplished, we went to Knoxville and worried Burnsides awhile, just before going into "winter quarters" at Russelville. Here, I received another furlough and visited homefolks for thirty days. On my return, I met my Command at Charlottesville, Jefferson's old home. In a few days, we were marching to "The Wilderness", where we fought another one of our "big battles". Gus Tomlinson was wounded, here, and Matt Wimpee and myself carried him off the field in a perfect hail of "minies". this was on July 6, 1864. On the 12th, we "did them up" at Spottsylvania; on the 13th, at Rapidan; and on the 17th, at Cold Harbor. Here, we killed and wounded 17,900 in thirty minutes, they having charged our WHOLE line at one time-- something they had never undertaken before. They paid dearly for the experiment.
About this time, Grant decided to capture Richmond, by way of Petersburg. His line was 35 miles long, reaching from east of Richmond, to the Weldon Rail Road, below Petersburg. Lee had only 35,000 to fill this huge space, but he repulsed EVERY CHARGE. Grant made for ten months. NO OTHER MAN could have done it. If positions could have been reversed, Grant would have been crushed in two days.
On April 1, 1865, D.H. Hill was killed, and his lines broken. This caused Lee to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg. Our Division, on the retreat towards Appomattox, was surrounded at Amelia Springs and captured, except for 119 of us who ran out between two Federal lines. They could not shoot us without shooting their own men since there was a line of the enemy on each side of us. We were "halted"enough, but we did not "heed". We went out through a swamp, where I lost one of my shoes in the mud, but did not take time to get it. Having reached the "main road", we met General Lee, whom we asked for orders. He told us to meet him at Long Bridge, whither we went and spent the night, crossing over the next morning. After walking about four miles, we came to General Lee's headquarters. Lieutenant Reece made me "spokesman" and I inquired about our Division (Kershaw's), and was told there was no report from it. General Lee asked how many were in our squad. Upon being told that we numbered 120, we were told to report to General Gordon, at Farmville, which we did, and was with him until the surrender at Appomattox two days later.
From Petersburg to Appomattox, every foot of ground was bitterly contested, both day and night.
There are a great many things that I would like to write, but in so doing, would make this sketch too long. I will close by recapitulating the most important battles in which I took part:
2) Thoroughfair Gap
3) Second Manassas
9) Louden, Tennessee
11) Strawberry Plains
12) The Widerness
13) Rapidan (No.2)
14) Cold Harbor
15) Deep Bottom
17) Amelia Springs
18) Cedar Creek
Besides there, there were a good many small fights and skirmishes that are hardly worthy of record.
Polk Rifles, Phillips Legion
Polk County Confederates