Private Jesse Monroe Pendley - Company C

Company C of Infantry Battalion (Habersham Volunteers)

Jesse Monroe Pendley was born on May 24th, 1836 at Marietta, Georgia to Reuben and Mary Ann Hisaw Pendley The 1860 census shows the 23 year old Jesse living with his younger sister Mary, age 21, and farming in Cobb County. When it became obvious in late 1861 that this was not going to be a short war calls went out for additional troops. Georgia went so far as to stipulate that she would institute conscription if sufficient numbers of men did not volunteer. As an additional incentive to volunteering to serve, bounties were offered and enlistees had the option of joining units of their own choosing. Colonel William Phillips, commander of the Phillips Legion had returned to Marietta to recover from a severe case of typhoid fever contracted in the brutal mountain campaign in western Virginia during the late fall of 1861. Numerous men in the Legion had succumbed to measles and typhoid and Colonel Phillips was actively recruiting replacements. On March 1st, 1862 Jesse enlisted in Co C of the Legion's Rifle Battalion. The original six companies of the Legion's Rifle Battalion were unique in that they were armed with US Model 1855 Rifles, a weapon of greater accuracy at long distance than the antiquated smoothbore muskets issued to virtually all Confederate infantry in 1861.

The red headed, red bearded Jesse is seen in his photograph wearing the black collared and cuffed, single breasted frock coat with matching trousers issued to Georgia units early in the war. This makes it highly probable that his photo was taken in 1862 shortly after his enlistment. He holds a very rare "lasso knife" made by W.J. McElroy's factory in Macon, Georgia. This knife was described in the February 11, 1862 Macon Telegraph as having "a blade twelve to sixteen inches in length, with a solid brass handle, to which is attached a rope. It is designed for throwing at the enemy, and it is a deadly weapon in the hands of skillful men." He also hefts his Model 1855 Rifle with sword bayonet. His cap box and bayonet scabbard are attached to his leather waist belt which has a frame buckle. A cartridge box is worn on his shoulder belt and he sports a black slouch hat.

His compiled service record indicates that he was present at the Battle of Second Manassas on August 29/30, 1862 where the Legion fought it's first major battle and was involved in a bungled night attack, suffering 23 caualties. From here they moved north into Maryland where the unit was in a vicious action at Fox's Gap on South Mountain September 14, 1862 losing 112 men. They fell back to Sharpsburg, Maryland and on September 17th were overrun by masses of IX Corps Federals southeast of town losing another 35 men. They then retreated back into Virginia, rested and regained unit strength until the battle of Fredericksburg December 13th, 1862. The Phillips Legion had been reassigned to General Tom Cobb's brigade in November and they were on the left end of that brigade as it decimated masses of Federals from an almost impregnable position behind a stone wall at the foot of Marye's Heights. Jesse's Company C had the misfortune of being the only one in the Legion not sheltered by the stone wall, occupying crude rifle pits on the telegraph road where it passed through the stone wall. As a result, Company C took significant casualties of 8 killed and 14 wounded, but Jesse escaped injury. The Legion's commander Lt Colonel Robert Cook was killed in this fight as was General Cobb. Command of the brigade then passed to General William T Wofford. Jesse was then engaged at the battle of Chancellorsville May 3rd, 1863 before the Army moved north into Pennsylvania in late June of 1863. The Legion reached Gettysburg early on July 2nd after a grueling night long march and were shifted to the south end of the field with the rest of McLaw's Division to participate in Longstreet's assault on the Federal left flank. Hood's Division went in first on the right and then Kershaw's, Barksdale's and Semme's brigades attacked the Peach Orchard salient and the area to it's immediate south. Wofford's brigade went in last, sweeping through the Peach Orchard and on into the Wheatfield. The Legion, on the left flank of Wofford's brigade, actually hit a point where the Federals had been pushed out of the way. Thus it was that as they charged into the Wheatfield, they were able to wheel to their right and pounce on the open flank of the 4th Michigan Infantry. The fighting here was brutal hand to hand combat with fists, clubbed muskets and bayonets being used freely. General Wofford later remarked that he saw more use of the bayonet in this fight than any other during the war. The Legion captured two Federal flags in the Wheatfield fighting. They then realigned themselves and continued to press eastward towards Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top finally taking position at a stone wall just west of the ridge and northwest of Little Round Top. Federals were massing reinforcements in their front and they engaged in a brisk exchange of fire. By now it was late in the day and General Longstreet, seeing no way to push the Federals off Cemetery Ridge, ordered Wofford's brigade back. Since nightfall was rapidly approaching many men chose to remain behind the cover of the wall, figuring that they'd slip away under cover of darkness. Unfortunately for them, this plan did not work out as Crawford's Pennsylvania Reserves charged forward and captured many of the southerners behind the wall in the gathering darkness. Somewhere in this action (and probably back in the Wheatfield as he was not captured) Jesse was wounded. We do not know the nature of his wound, but he was back with his unit in time to head west with two of Longstreet's Divisions to reinforce Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee in north Georgia. Wofford's brigade arrived one day too late to take part in the battle of Chickamauga but they did then participate in the siege of Chattanooga. The Legion then moved north to Knoxville in November where on November 29th, 1863 they spearheaded a terribly bungled attack on Federal Fort Sanders. Poor reconnaisance resulted in the charge of Wofford's brigade into a deep ditch at the foot of the fort's walls where the attackers were trapped and slaughtered. Over 200 men from the brigade were captured and shipped off to the notorious Rock Island prison camp. Once more, Jesse's luck held and he escaped without injury. They returned to Virginia in the Spring of 1864 in time to take part in the vicious battles of the Overland campaign (Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor) but Jesse missed these fights as he was hospitalized at Farmville, Virginia on May 1st suffering from debilitas. He returned to his unit on June 16th and was then present in the trenches during the Petersburg siege. The final entry in his service record is a clothing issuance receipt dated November 27th, 1864.

In a 1907 census of Confederate veterans in Winston County, Alabama, Jesse states that he was paroled at Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1865. This leads me to believe that he was probably one of the many men who became separated from their commands in the nightmarish final retreat to Appomattox. The Legion had formed part of the army's rearguard and they were overtaken and almost annihilated at Sailors Creek, Va on April 6th, 1865.

Jesse's returned to Cobb county and married Louisa Casey on May 20th 1866. Shortly thereafter he moved to Winston County, Alabama where he lived out his days. He died there July 30th, 1909 at the age of 73 and is buried at the Lynn Cemetery.

(Thanks to Mr Ira Pendley, Jesse's descendant for providing his photograph)

Compiled by Kurt Graham

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