Special thanks to Wm Lloyd Harris for sharing research and contributing portions of this post.
Albert Benjamin Douglass
In 1862, Albert Benjamin Douglass appeared as one of the deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Infantry. He actually had a quite colorful record of service, prompting reader Wm Lloyd Harris to write with additional details relating “the rest of the story.” Harris is a great great grandson of Albert B. Douglass.
Military service was something of a tradition in the Douglass family. Albert’s father and four brothers served in the Indians Wars in Florida. Albert and all four of his brothers served in the Civil War. Before the Civil War was over Albert B. Douglass enlisted with at least four different units, was discharged once, and deserted three times. He fought for both the North and the South, and served in the Army and the Navy.
At the start of the Civil War, Albert Benjamin Douglass joined a company of Berrien county men going forth to be mustered into the 29th GA Regiment at Savannah, GA. In fact, according to Harris, his grandfather may have enlisted even earlier in another militia unit.
“A. B. Douglass appears as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company H, 25th Battalion Provincial Guard Georgia Infantry Regiment a local militia unit. The fact that the unit is termed ‘provincial’ typified early temporary military formations awaiting formal recognition or organization.”
Albert Benjamin Douglass was born in 1833, probably in Hamilton County, FL. His father, Seaborn Douglass, was born in Montgomery County, GA about 1800 and came to Hamilton County, FL in the late 1820s. Seaborn Douglass and his family appear in the 1830 census of Hamilton County. The Douglass place in Hamilton County, FL was apparently located about eight miles from the home of Captain Archibald McRae.
Abert Douglass’ four brothers, Allen D. Douglass, Burrell Douglass, William Douglass, and Robert Douglass, and his father, Seaborn Douglass, all served in the Indian Wars 1835-1858.
By 1838, Seaborn Douglass had moved his family to Lowndes County, GA. County tax records show Seaborn Douglass was late to pay his poll tax that year, although no taxes were assessed for any land holdings or slaves in Lowndes County. Seaborn Douglass appeared in the 1840 Lowndes County census with his children; an unknown daughter (b. 1821), Allen Dickerson Douglass (1822 – 1919), Burrell Douglass (1825 – September 8, 1884), William Riley Douglass (1830 – ca. 1895), Robert Douglas (1833-1862), Albert Douglas (1835 – ), Rose or Rosean Douglass (1839 – 1905), and an unknown daughter (b. 1840), although no spouse is found in his household. Seaborn Douglass is believed to have died about 1843 in Lowndes County, Georgia.
About 1851, Albert Douglass, then a young man of 19, married Abigail Shaw. She was a daughter of Martin Shaw, Sr., who was a pioneer settler of Lowndes County. Martin Shaw had been one of a handful of residents at old Franklinville, GA, first seat of government of Lowndes County, and had served as Lowndes’ first Sheriff.
Albert and Abigail Douglass appear in the 1860 census of Berrien County, Georgia. Albert was enumerated as 28 years old, Abigail as 35. Their daughter Francenia Douglass listed as age 6. Also in the Douglass household was the seven-year-old boy William W Turner. The Douglas place was near that of Abigail’s father, Martin Shaw. Nearby were the farms of Jonathan A. Knight, Thomas Giddens and of William R. Brodgon, where William H. Outlaw was residing.
CIVIL WAR SERVICE OF THE DOUGLASS BROTHERS
All five sons of Seaborn Douglass served in the Confederate States Army.
- Allen D. Douglass
Served in the 1st Battalion, Florida Special Cavalry, Company B. This unit was part of Lieutenant Colonel Charles James Munnerlyn’s famous “Cow Cavalry,” which was detailed to protect the supply of Florida cattle to feed the Confederate Army.
- William R. Douglass
Served with the 1st Battalion Florida Special Cavalry, also known as the “Cow Cavalry,” alongside his brother, Allen Dickerson Douglas, during the Civil War.
- Burrell Douglass
Enlisted September 22, 1862 at Camp Fort, Waynesville, GA, with Company A , 24th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry, under the command of Captain T.S. Hopkins ( This unit later merged with the 7th Georgia Cavalry, Company G). While the Battalion was stationed at Camp Lee, Bryan County, GA, Burrell and a number of other soldiers became dissatisfied with the leadership of Colonel Edward C. Anderson. Burrell Douglass deserted on May 21, 1863 and returned to his home and family in Wayne County, GA. Descendants believe he deserted and returned home because his wife was about to give birth, and his company had received orders to go to Virginia. About a year later in March or April, 1864 he enlisted with another company, Captain Mann’s “Satilla Rifles.” As soon as his name hit the war department he was arrested for his earlier desertion and placed in Olglethorpe Barracks in Savannah. On April 11, 1864 he was court-martialed and found guilty. He was sentenced to be shot “by musketry.” However, the execution was suspended on May 30, 1864, by order of Major General Samuel Cooper. Douglass remained in custody until Jefferson Davis issued a pardon for Confederate deserters who resumed service. Burrell’s records noted on November 19, 1864, “pardon and released to duty.” That was about the time Sherman was arriving in Savannah. Burrell fought as an irregular in the Confederate Army (wherein an undisclosed injury was received) until the end of the war. Buried at Mount Plesant Cemetery, Ware County, GA.
- Robert Douglass
Enlisted in the 7th Florida Infantry, Company B, on March 19, 1862. Died of “disease” in Knoxville, Tennessee, August 15, 1862. His wife, Elizabeth, received a widow’s pension as attested by Florida Confederate Pension Records. Buried in the Bethel Confederate Cemetery, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Albert B. Douglass in the Civil War
Records indicate Albert Douglass was enlisted in Berrien Minute Men, Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment. This was the second company of Berrien Minute Men to come forth from Berrien County, GA. This second company, organized in the fall of 1861, was successively known as Company B Berrien Minute Men, Captain Lamb’s Company, Company D 29th GA Regiment, and Company K 29th GA Regiment. The company mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment at Savannah, GA. Months passed as the regiment trained and served picket duty on the Georgia coast. The Berrien Minute Men were stationed at a number of camps on the coastal islands and marshes, first at Sapelo Battery, off the coast of Darien, GA, then in Chatham County, GA at Camp Tatnall, Camp Causton’s Bluff, Camp Debtford, Camp Mackey, and Camp Young.
Albert Douglass must have been among those men who chaffed at the defensive nature of these assignments. The only Regimental return on file for Albert Douglass, Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment, shows that by December, 1862, he was “absent without leave.” In the following months. the 29th Georgia Regiment advertised a reward for his capture as a Confederate deserter. Wanted notices were run in the Savannah, Georgia newspapers offering $30 dollars for his apprehension and giving his physical description as “32 years of age, 6 feet high, fair complexion, grey eyes, auburn hair.” Among his fellow deserters were Elbert J. Chapman, who would be executed for desertion, and Benjamin S. Garrett, who was shot for being a Union spy.
It appears that Albert Douglass must have left the Berrien Minute Men by the summer of 1862. The research of Wm Lloyd Harris reveals that Albert Douglas(s) had actually deserted the 29th Georgia and enlisted in the 26th Georgia Infantry subsequently fighting with Army of Northern Virginia in Virginia. As early as June 1862 he appeared with the 26th Regiment, Company A, the Glynn Guards, in Richmond, Virginia.
Douglass was no doubt familiar with many men of the Glynn Guards and of the 26th Regiment. The 26th Regiment [originally called 13th Regiment] had mustered in at Brunswick, Georgia in the summer of 1861, completing its organization in October, 1861. Its companies were recruited in the counties of Charlton, Berrien, Glynn, Twiggs, Clinch, Ware, Coffee, and Wayne. In fact, several companies of the 26th Regiment had camped with the Berrien Minute Men in July, 1861 Brunswick, including the Glynn Guards, Piscola Volunteers, Seaboard Guards and Wiregrass Minute Men. The surgeon of the 26th was Edwin A. Jelks, who had been with the Brooks County company, the Piscola Volunteers, at Brunswick in 1861 during the same time the Berrien Minute Men were there.
After serving in the Department of Georgia at St. Simons Island and Savannah, the 26th GA Regiment moved to Virginia where it was brigaded under Generals A. R. Lawton, John B. Gordon, and C.A. Evans.
The 26th Georgia Regiment and the rest of Lawton’s Brigade experienced their first engagement at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, sometimes known as the First Battle of Cold Harbor or the Battle of Chickahominy River. This battle took place on June 27, 1862, in Hanover County, Virginia, as the third of the Seven Days Battles. John Jefferson Beagles was also at this battle, serving with the 61st Georgia Regiment in Lawton’s Brigade.
Albert Douglass was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, for dysentery, June 29, 1862. Returned to duty, July 10, 1862.On August 14, 1862, he was admitted to Lovingston Hospital, Winchester, VA with a complaint of fever and convulsions.
Douglass returned to duty on August 27. The following day, in the late afternoon and evening of August 28, 1862 the 26th Georgia Regiment suffered horrific casualties at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm, at Groveton, VA. That same afternoon, The Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment was engaged just about ten miles west of Groveton driving federal forces out of Thoroughfare Gap through the Bull Run mountains, and taking up and occupying position. These actions were a prelude to the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) August 29-20. During the battle, 0n August 29, both the 26th GA and the 50th GA regiments were in positions at Groveton. Among the men from the Ray City area serving with the 50th GA Regiment were Green Bullard, Fisher J. Gaskins, Lemuel Elam Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, John Jasper Cook and John Martin Griner.
Douglass’ regiment lost 37 killed and 87 wounded at Second Manassas.
On September 17, 1862 the 26th Regiment fought in the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), again suffering heavy casualties. The regiment reported 6 killed, 49 wounded, and 6 missing at Sharpsburg.
Douglass was admitted to 1st Division, General Hospital Camp Winder on October 19, 1862 and transferred to Hod Hospital on December 23. He was back on the morning report of Winder Hospital on December 24, and then transferred to Ridge Hospital. He was admitted to Receiving and Wayside Hospital (General Hospital No. 9) on June 4, 1863 and the following day he was discharged from the Confederate States Army.
At least one man of the 26th GA regiment, perhaps it was Douglass, called himself a friend of Old “Yaller” Elbert J. Chapman. Chapman, like Douglass, left the Berrien Minute Men to go fight with other units, but Chapman was executed for his desertion.
After being discharged, Albert Douglass returned home. On July 18, 1863 he joined Captain Stewart’s Independent Company at Lake City, Florida; he was mustered into Company E, 9th Regiment, Florida Infantry. He was transferred to Company H, 9th Regiment on October 1, 1863. Albert Doulass appeared in a series of units. In August, 1863 he served as Provost Guard. In October, 1863 he was detached to serve guard duty, Signal Corps. In November, he was detached from Captain Stewart’s Company and transferred to the Signal Corps. He was present for duty from December 1863 to April 1864. On April 30, 1864 he was detached to the Pioneer Corps. Two months later, he deserted to surrender to Union Army forces.
After his surrender, Albert Douglass was transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he pledged the Oath of Allegiance to the United States on November 26, 1864. On December 5, 1864 at the age of 32, he enlisted for a two-year term in the Union Navy, as an Ordinary Seaman. At the time of enlistment he was residing in Washington, Davies County, Indiana. His place of birth was given as Atlanta, GA; his occupation listed as “farmer.” His Physical description was recorded as brown eyes, sandy blonde hair, florid complexion, 5’11” tall with a scar on his left arm.
Douglass was initially assigned to “R. S. Cairo.” This ship is sometimes thought to be the ironclad gunboat USS Cairo, but the USS Cairo was sunk in 1862 during a U.S. Navy excursion in support of the campaign for Vicksburg, MS. Actually, R.S. Cairo refers to the Navy Receiving Ship at Cairo, IL, where new recruits were mustered into the navy. This ship was the sidewheel steamer USS Great Western. There are no known images of the Great Western.
After completing receiving, Albert Douglass was assigned as an Ordinary Seaman to the tin-clad USS Gazelle, January 14, 1865. The Gazelle, also a sidewheel steamer, patrolled between the mouth of the Red River and Morganza, Louisiana, and convoyed transports. She was armed with six 12-pound rifled cannons. There are no known images of the USS Gazelle.
Apparently, Albert Douglass was on active duty aboard the USS Gazelle a scant two days before once again falling to illness. Aboard the Gazelle, Albert Douglass received the usual treatment for chronic diarrhea – a cocktail of Opium, Lead Acetate, and Tannic Acid – to no effect. This was followed by a three-day course of Opium, Silver Nitrate, and Powdered Acacia – also to no effect. Douglass was finally given an enema of five grains of Silver Nitrate in three ounces of aqua (distilled water) “without any apparent beneficial results.”
Douglass was sent to Memphis Hospital, Memphis, TN. Federal forces had occupied Memphis since 1862 and the city had become a major medical center. “Wounded prisoners came by boat and wagon to be treated at hospitals that began to specialize as the war progressed. Prior to the war the city had one hospital. By the end of the war, there were 15. The Union used the hotels and warehouses of Memphis as a “hospital town” with over 5,000 wounded Union troops being brought for recovery. ”
According to the Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Department of the Navy, Douglass was transferred on February 7, 1865 with chronic diarrhea. His sea bag contained his hammock, blanket, mattress, jacket, trousers, drawers, two flannel shirts, stockings, boots, handkerchief, and cap.
Transcription of Hospital Ticket
7 Feb 1865
To W. Grier
You are hereby requested to receive Albert Douglass, Ordinary Seaman affected with chronic diarhea in the hospital under your direction and to provide for him accordingly according to the rules and regulations of the US Navy.
Receipt: 1 hammock, 1 blanket, 1 mattress, 1 jacket, 1 trousers, 1 drawers, 2 shirts flannel, 1 stockings, 1 boots, 1 handkerchief, 1 cap.
Surgeon’s Steward in charge
Archy S. Palmer
Acting Ensign, Commanding
Transcription of Hospital Record describing his shipboard treatment prior to his admission to Memphis Hospital.
30 March 1865
Albert Douglass, Ordinary Seaman was born in the state of Georgia. Was admitted to sick list on the 21st of Jan 1865. Says he was affected with diarrhea two weeks before he reported to me. I do not know how he contracted the Disease as he was affected with it when he came aboard this Ship Jan 19th. Ha been treated with plumbi acetas gr ii; Tannin gr iii; Opii Pulv gr SS; three times per day for three days.
Pulvi acaci gr iii; Opii gr i: Argenti nitros gr 1/12; every 24 hours for three days.
Enema argenti Nitras gr v to Agua 3i ounce without any apparent beneficial result.
A. T. Crippen
Surg’s Stew in charge
Have treated with stimulants ever since.
Federal military records show Albert Douglass deserted the Union Navy while in the hospital, on March 30, 1865.
It appears that Albert never returned home to Abigail, and his whereabouts following his desertion from the US Navy in 1865 remain unknown. Abigail was last documented in the 1900 Lowndes County, Georgia, census in the household of John H. Godwin. second husband of her daughter Francine. Francine’s first husband was Henry Clay Surrency. Abigail Shaw Douglass is believed to have died circa 1905. It appears that Abigail believed that Albert perished during the war as she identified herself as a widow for the remainder of her life.
US Navy record also reflects that Albert was listed with an alternate name of Arthur Doyle, no doubt to deflect future trouble in the event he was captured by southern forces. (note that his initials AD remain a tie to his actual name).
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