Major John Fielding Milhollin

Lucinda Milhollin huddled with her six children around her husband's grave. A shelter had been built over his grave after his burial months earlier, and the Milhollins had nowhere else to go. That cold November day, Federal soldiers had burned down their home along with the rest of the town of Cassville in Bartow County, Georgia. With a cold rain rolling over the ruins of the still smoldering town, Lucinda turned to her late husband for one last bit of help.

A little more than three years before that unhappy day, John Fielding Milhollin was living a pleasant life with his wife and children in Cassville. A former schoolteacher, he had studied law to become a court clerk and hoped to further his legal career. Then, in January of 1861, Georgia seceded from the United States, and that April, southerners fired on Federal Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. The south was at war, and Milhollin's life was about to change.

The 29 year old responded to the call to arms, postponing his career plans. Lucinda was not pleased. "That was the only time in my life that I felt hard toward John," she told a granddaughter in a 1912 interview. "It was four months before Evvie May was born, and I thought he was too hasty in leaving me and the children." But leave he did. Milhollin joined the Phillips Legion, a Georgia unit composed of both infantry and cavalry battalions. Elected 2nd Lieutenant of Cavalry Company B, he was skirmishing with Federals in the wild mountain country of western Virginia by September of 1861. But before leaving Georgia, Lt Milhollin sat for the ambrotype shown above, brandishing his saber and fluted Colt Model 1860 Army revolver. He left the photo with his wife, who had gotten over her hard feelings.

After a short period in eastern Tennessee, late January of 1862 found the Legion in Hardeeville, South Carolina guarding the Charleston and Savannah Railroad from Federals who had landed along the coast at Port Royal. After a number of months performing scout and picket duty, and during which time two additional companys were added to the Cavalry Battalion, the Legion returned to Virginia in July of 1862. Milhollin was promoted to Captain of Company B in September. The Legion Cavalry Battalion became a part of the Army of Northern Virginia's legendary Cavalry Corps commanded by Major General J.E.B. Stuart. Captain Milhollin and his troopers were active in both the Fredericksburg (December 1862) and Chancellorsville (May 1863) campaigns in Virginia. In July of 1863, Stuart's troopers arrived late at the battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, but saw action in the savage, swirling cavalry battle east of Gettysburg on July 3rd.

The Captain wrote his wife faithfully. Lucinda's eldest son, Bud, used to get the mail on his way to school. One day in November 1863, he picked up a letter from the army addressed to his mother in an unfamiliar hand. Curious, he opened it at school. Then, recalled Lucinda, "He came home and handed me the letter. I saw he had been crying. What is the matter, Bud?" I said. He was silent a minute. Then he said,"Pa's dead."

The news was true. Milhollin had died on November 10th from wounds received while leading his company against Yankee cavalry near Stephensburg, Culpepper County, Virginia on November 8th. His body was sent home within the month, along with personal effects including papers promoting him to Major, and a pass from J.E.B. Stuart calling him "a highly honorable man." Lucinda kept her husband's photo, uniforms, sword and pistol.

In May of 1864, Cassville lay in the path of General William T Sherman's armies as they rolled towards Atlanta. When Union forces occupied Cassville, Lucinda hid her husband's sword and pistol under a grave slab but a Yankee found them. After her home was burned in November, Lucinda had to sacrifice more and more momentos of John. She sold some of his books to buy a heifer. His uniforms were converted to clothing for her boys, after a dip in dye, "so we could not see the gray." Fortunately, Lucinda did preserve the photo, the letters and the pass from Stuart. Her descendants have these. But perhaps the most precious heirloom she handed on was her vivid memory of how war touched this family.

Photo coutesy of Richard Milhollin Coffman of Huntersville, North Carolina

Written by:Kurt Graham

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