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GMI Cadet Coatesworth C Hamilton

GMI Cadet Coatesworth C Hamilton
Volunteer Aide
Company E, Infantry Battalion

This "little boy soldier" is fourteen year old Georgia Military Institute cadet Coatesworth "Coates" Hamilton, younger brother of Captain (later Lt Colonel) Joseph Hamilton of Infantry Company E. His tragic story would have been lost to history except for a claim filed against the Federal government by Captain Hamilton's father, Dr Benjamin Hamilton. This claim had never been approved by the Federal government and Lt Colonel Hamilton was still pursuing it in 1900 after his father's death. The letter he wrote in support of this claim does a good job of telling poor little Coates Hamilton's story............

Los Angeles, Cal
June 11th 1900
Mr J P Maddox

Dear Sir,
Your letter of the 6th inst just received. You ask for all the facts as I remember them tending to prove my father's loyalty to the Federal Government. My father was elected from Lumpkin County as a delegate to the Georgia State Convention on the "Union Ticket" & voted against the secession ordinance in that convention. At that time I was a student in Wofford College, Spartanburg So Cal and about the last of March 1861 I wrote to my father that I thought of joining a company that was then organizing in Spartanburg & expecting to be sent to Charleston S C; and asked him to send me some money. He answered this letter by saying that he too thought of going in the army, that he wanted to get up a company & the first fighting he wanted to do was to "whip South Carolina back into the Union". He advised me farther to stay in college & graduate (in July following) & that if there should be a war, there would be plenty of time & opportunity afterwards & that he would not send me money for any such purpose. Soon after this & without farther correspondence on that subject, I with others of my class (in April) left college & without joining any command started to go to Charleston (Ft Sumpter). When we got to Columbia, S C the Governor stopped all men going by rail towards Charleston saying there were more men there than he knew what to do with & we (students) at once joined the 3rd Volunteers; it being under orders to go to Charleston. Hon R W Simpson now of Pendleton S C, one of our number, will corroborate this statement and in order to do this I borrowed forty or fifty dollars from Dr Shipp, then Presdt of Wofford & gave him my watch & chain as security. I wrote my father about it but he would not reclaim it though it had cost him one hundred & ten dollars. John W Shipp, son of Dr S (Col Shumate perhaps knows something about him & his whereabouts) will corroborate this fact for he carried the watch for years; perhaps has it yet or can tell what became of it. Then your questions, "Did he know when you went to the army?" NO. "Did he encourage you to go or did he oppose it?" He did. I was a member of the 3rd S C Volunteers but a short time when I was transferred to the Ga Vol to accept the Captaincy of Co E Phillips Ga Legion Infantry. About this time Gov Brown of Ga ordered a detail of Cadets from the Military academy at Marietta to a camp of instruction to serve as drill masters for the companies getting ready for duty. My brother Cotesworth was among the number detailed & served for some time as drill master. Some inducement was offered him to go with a company he was drilling & he wrote my father he was going. Father, knowing that he meant it, came to me at Camp McDonald (not far north of Marietta) & asked me to induce him to go with me but not to muster him into service (he was not then 15). I did as he wished and my brother was never mustered in. A J Reese, Orderly Sgt of my company while my brother lived, will testify to this fact. Brother died soon of (illegible). A J Reese was raised by a Mr Wimpy, Uncle of the lawyer Wimpy & I presume still lives in or about Dahlonega. My father gave as a reason why he wanted him to go with me that he would soon get tired & be willing to go back to the Academy. When I came home to take charge of the Dahlonega Co my father urged me to give it all up, said, "It's the greatest mistake of your life, etc"

Joseph Hamilton

We get additional confirmation of poor little Coates' death in a letter written by Cpl Augustus "Gus" F Boyd of Co E from Peterstown, Va on November 27th, 1861. In it he states, "Coats Hamilton is dead and the Captain has gone to Ga with him." The Legion had gone into the mountains of western Va to join General Floyd's army in September 1861. Floyd almost got his army surrounded and captured at Cotton Hill but managed to slip away. The long retreat out of western Va in November subjected the men to brutal weather and the troops were swept by raging epidemics of measles and typhoid. Several dozen soldiers perished during the retreat and Coates must have shared their fate.

Photo courtesy of Lt Colonel Hamilton's descendants Tom and Sandy Pruitt in California

Written by:Kurt Graham