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Elijah Gates Camp - Archives

Captain Thomas C. Holland "What Did We Fight For?"
Published in the Nov 1923, Confederate Veteran

At the Philadelphia convention, convening May 14, 1787, for the purpose of discussing and devising for a constitutional government, seceded from the old, and at that time no cry of treason was heard. About nine States agreed to to new government, which were enough to put it into operation, but there were four other States which did not enter the compact. Therefore, eachState acted for itself, and the Southern States did the same thing when they formed the Confederacy. In this agreement, New York and Virginia reserved the right to secede. History tells us that the little State of Rhode Island remained out of this government for two years. Several States declared absolutely for State rights, among them Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. John Quincy Adams at that time was declared a secessionist. Later, when some one wished to let the Southern States go, Mr. Lincoln objected on the ground that their revenue was wanted. Again, in the Missouri Compromise, the South was not allowed to carry its slaves into northern territory - property bought from New England slave traders. Daniel Webster said that anti-slave methods of New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts were against the constitutional provisions of 1787 and 1850 for noninterference with the return of fugitive persons held in lawful servitude, and distinctly treasonable. To uphold all our claims and our faith in the Constitution, in 1861 we shouldered our arms, as meager as they were, and marched to the front to drive the enemy off of our soil.

In the year 1861, while still a schoolboy at the Creacy schoolhouse near the Quaker Church in Bedford County, Va., taught by one A. L. Minter, I became interested in military drill by the teacher, who was the adjutant of the Southside Regiment of the county belonging to the virginia militia. The country had recently had a shake-up by the John Brown riot at Harper's Ferry, and believing that our State should be prepared to drive away the foe from her borders, I enlisted as a drill boy while at school, on the second day of February, 1861, drilling on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the noon hour. On or about the 12th of March we organized a company, elected officers, and marched to Lynchburg, Va., where we were mustered into service by Col. J. Langhorne, of that city. On April 27, 1861, I was mustered in as second lieutenant, and the company was named the Patty Lane Rifle Grays; but the name was not appropriate, as we received flintlock muskets, shotguns, and anything that would shoot. Our first call was to Manassas, where we were joined by Captain Spessard's company from Craig County and Captain Pressman's company from Alexandria. This detail was sent immediately to Fairfax Station and in a few days began to tear up the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, which, I believe, were the first rails removed from any road, unless it was in Baltimore. We skirmished in and around Mount Vernon, then returned to the army at Manassas and were placed in the 28th Virginia Regiment as Company G; was on picket duty on the night of the 20th of July, and on the morning of the 21st we met the advance picket of McDowell's army. We drove them back, but reenforcements from the enemy compelled us to return to our main army on the south side of Bull Run.

In our drive on the enemy on Sunday, the 21st, we captured Congressman Ellsworth, of New York. He was going to be one of the first of Mr. Lincoln's forces to ride into Richmond, and perhaps he was, as he surely landed there, but minus his fine phaeton and horse. Perhaps he landed in a coach or a box bar. Frequently some one mmakes the inquiry: Why didn't we go on into Washington? In the first ploce, the roads were narrow, utterly blocked with cut down piieces, caissons, and vehicles of every description. Sometimes we had to cut new roads through woods around the debris in the road. A part of the army only reached Cub Rub that night. Going into Washington ws similar to Hooker, Burnside, Shields, Banks, McClellan, and Grant going into Richmond. It was not an easy task. Longstreet's Corps met the 2nd Corps U. S. A.m on many fields. They wre both acknowledged good fighters; taking the army of Northern Virginia as a whole, it had some splendid fighters. There was never more determined or harder fighters, than Generals Jackson, Johnson, Beauregard, and many others, but in neither army, North or South, was there ever a star that shone brighter than the immortal Lee. Some of the best men of the South are slumbering upon the numerous battle fields with unmarked graves. From my company G, 28th Virginia Regiment, I lost thirteen men killed at Seven Pines, and only six were ever identified. My loss at this battle nearly equaled my loss at Gettysburg. In the latter I lost many prisoners; at Seven Pines none. I went into actionn at Gettysburg with eighty-eight men rank and file. Seven answered at roll call after the battle. Many were wounded and taken prisoners, myself among the number, having been shot through the head and left for dead just about twenty steps in advance of where General Armistead fell. Both os us were taken from the field to a temporary hospital under some trees, where he breathed his last on 5th day of July, 1863. I wa finally taken to David's Island, New York, where part of my jawbone was but otu and was buried there, and it is perhaps helping to fertilize the soil upon which the inhabitants are raising potatoes.

In the article in the VETERAN for July on who crossed the stone wall at Gettysburg first, the writer gives the names of John A. I. Lee, of Company C, of my regiment, 28th Virginia, who was a brother officer of mine. Also she mentions John J. Eakin, whom I knew intimately, all of us serving four years in the same regiment. i would add that after our Brigadier General Garnett had been killed upon the field (General Armistead was supporting Kemper and Garnett), Armistead rushed to the help of our brigade which was being annihilated and took Garnett's place. What few of us there were left, all rushed to a battery which proved to be Cushing's of Philadelphia. Quite a number of us crossed the wall at the same time. I could not say who was first. Perhaps Lee was, but if so, he had many very close seconds. If anyone will refer to an article I wrote in the VETERAN for February, 1921, they will find some of the reminiscences of the Gettysburg battle. I was appointed Adjutant General for the bogus charge at our peace meeting in 1913, and also made the survey of the distance of Pickett's charge, just one mile.

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