John W. Hagan Encounters the Georgia Melish

The Civil War letters of John William Hagan document in part the actions of the Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate infantry raised in Berrien County, GA by Ray City settler, General Levi J. Knight. In his letter of July 7, 1864, Hagan writes about the retreat of the Confederate States Army towards Atlanta.  On July 5, the CSA made a brief stand at “Johnston’s River Line,” a defensive line  on the north side of the Chattahoochee River which included earth and log works known as  “shoupades,” after Confederate engineer Brig. General Francis A. Shoup.

About the time the Berrien Minute Men were taking up positions on the River Line the regular Confederate States Army troops were reinforced by Georgia Militia state troops  which Hagan’s letter optimistically describes as “10,000 effective men.”  

Gustavus Woodson Smith,  major general of the Georgia state militia,  considered his troops creditable but unseasoned.

Albany Patriot
July 14, 1864

JOE BROWN’S PETS UNDER FIRE

          The Atlanta Appeal is permitted to make the following extract from a letter from Gen. G. W. Smith to a gentleman in this city. Gen. Smith is not given to adjectives and adverbs, and means always what he says.
         “The enemy ran up square against my State troops yesterday about 5 p. m. The cavalry were forced back and passed through our lines and the yankees cam on us right strong. Some misapprehension of orders caused a little confusion for a few moments only upon the left of our line, and perhaps twenty men left the trenches, but were back in a few minutes. The militia behaved very creditably; they stood their ground and stopped the advance of the enemy. We had only six men wounded and two missing, the dirt they had thrown up saving them from much loss, and enabled them to hold their ground against superior forces. They have rendered a good service to the army and the country, and have found out that every ball fired by the enemy didn’t kill a man. The militia will do. I watched them closely, and consider them all right – not yet veterans – but they will fight.

After the Battle of Atlanta, the Georgia Militia was praised in the press.

Augusta Chronicle & Sentinel
July 31, 1864

Our gallant militia officers have fairly won their spurs…They have been styled “Gov. Brown’s pets,” but are now, also, the pets of the army and the people. They have done infinite credit to their patron; and neither he nor they will ever be ashamed of the sobriquet. He has given them a rough handling, for pets, but it has been all the more glorious and advantageous for them. He has been unusually careful of their military education, and they have not failed to profit by their training in the school to which he sent them.

But others would be less complimentary of the state troops.

W. G. Lewis, an Arkansas soldier with the regular Confederate States Army,  encountered the volunteer soldiers of the Georgia militia near a pontoon bridge the Confederates had built across the Chattahoochee at Paces Ferry.  The skirmish at Paces Ferry, fought July 5, 1864,  after which the Confederate forces retreated across the river and attempted to cut loose the pontoon bridge.

The disdain of  regular CSA troops for the state militia, or “Melish” in the soldiers’ derisive vernacular,  is apparent in Lewis’ reflections, published in the Sunny South newspaper January 21, 1899:

        Many stories have been written for this page about the old veteran soldiers, and I hope many more will find their way to these columns ere the old soldiers are numbered with the things of the past.
        There is a time in every individual’s life when we love to live in the past. “Days that are gone seem the brightest” was said by some poet long ago, and this adage, it seems to me, is applicable to nearly every phase of life. From the most exalted to the lowest walks of life, we all love to think of the days that have long since passed away. The old soldier has arrived at that period when he loves to look back and live over again those turbulent scenes he was once an actor in. Then let us tell our stories while we may, for there will come a time when this page will be devoted to another class of literature than that of stories from the old soldiers, for there will soon be none left to write them.
        Some of these stories have been pathetic, some humorous, while others told of heroic deeds of this or that command or individual soldier.  I do not remember of ever seeing anything on this page about the Georgia militia. They took part in the campaign around Atlanta, and I thought a brief sketch of the militia as I saw them upon one occasion, together with a humorous incident which befell them shortly afterwards, might be interesting to those who love to read this page. Although the main features of this sketch or matter-of-fact story that I here present to the reader are humorous, and I might say ludicrous when viewed from a military standpoint, it will be borne in mind that it is not the intention of the writer to cast an odium upon the fair state which these men represented or any of her soldiers, for the incident here related is nothing more than what would happen to any body of untrained soldiers.
        The historian as well as the old veteran who fought side by side with the Georgians knows their courage as soldiers cannot be questioned.
        But war with all its grim realities has its humorous as well as its dark side sometimes; and there is not a company or regiment of soldiers who participated in the civil war but at some time or other has not seen the “funny side.” The Georgia militia was no exception to this rule: though what was fun for our boys in this instance was “death to the frogs,” as the old saying goes.
        So with this explanation I hope that if kind providence has spared even one or more of these good old men who form the of this sketch, and if he should read these lines that he will forgive the writer and join in a laugh over the inevitable which happened so long ago.
         But a sad thought intrudes upon my memory here, when I reflect that in all probability there is not one of them left to tell the story, for most of them were then past the meridian of life.
          It was on one beautiful evening, the 4th of July ’64 if I remember correctly, late in the afternoon, when Johnston’s rear guard reached the pontoon bridge which crossed the Chattahoochee river, on his retreat to Atlanta. This rear guard was composed of the brigade of cavalry to which I was attached.
         A desultory artillery fire was being kept up o us from a distant battery, so far away, though, that their shots were spent by the time the reached us, and would come rumbling over the bluff where we were waiting our turn to cross the river. They could be plainly seen before they struck the ground, ricochetting in the air, and giving the boys time in one instance to get out of the way. They had the exact range of our bridge, though, and had their shots been shells, might have done considerable damage; but they were solid shot and did but little execution. An amusing incident happened while we waited at the bridge. A darky seeing one of these spent balls come turning end over end, and lighting near where he stood, ran over and picked it up, when he dropped it quicker than you would a red-hot poker and ran like a good fellow. “What’s the matter?” asked some one. “That thing’s hotter than h—” shouted the darky as the boys roared with laughter. There was only one casualty from these balls in our brigade. A trooper in the First Mississippi cavalry had one of these cannon balls to strike his hand as he held his carbine, cutting his hand off and killing his horse.
        This is distressing somewhat, but we will come to the militia now pretty soon. As we crossed the pontoon and ascended the eastern bank the sun was casting his farewell rays for the day just over the tree tops that stood on the western bluff.
         Away to our left across an open field, I saw a body of soldiers marching in columns of fours.  As our respective lines of march converged, we were soon in speaking distance and near enough to see who they were. A glance at their clean, new looking uniforms, their superfluous trappings and plethoric haversacks, their snow-white beards in many instances, told us without an introduction, that this was the veritable Georgia militia, of which we had so often heard.
        No sooner were we in speaking distance than such another tirade of jests and gibes that they were greeted with from our boys I had seldom ever heard before, and their very odd appearance amused them very much. It is proper to state here that several of the southern states had given nicknames to their soldiers, which they went by till the end of the war. The North Carolinians, for instance, were called the “Tarheels,” the Floridians “Sand Diggers,” Alabamians “Yellow Hammers,” while the Georgians were called “Goober Grabbers.” Hence the reader will understand what our boys meant by their mock earnestness concerning the Georgians’ peanut crop.
        So the militia were greeted with such gibes as these: “Here’s your Georgia goober grabbers!” “Here’s your melish!” and “Lay down melish, I am going to bust a cap,” and “I say, old man, how is your peanut crop this year?” One tall, lank old fellow, who carried a pack that looked more like the pack that belongs to a pack mule, was accosted by one of our boys thus: “I say, my friend, what state are you moving to?” “Why do you ask?” said the unsuspecting Georgian. “I see you have all your household goods. What did you do with the furniture?”
      In this way we exchanged jokes as long as we were in sight of each other, the Georgian taking it all in the very best of humor, and giving our boys back as good as they sent.
        Away back in my rear as far as I could see down that long line of cavalry, the boys were still having their fun with the militia, and every now and then a shout of laughter would go up, telling that some one had been the butt of a joke.
        These men were as robust and fine looking a body of men as I ever saw. The commander in particular was as fine a military looking man as I ever saw. He was tall and handsome, with a fine gray uniform: he was the finest looking officer I had seen during the war.  He did not seem to be an old man, and I am sorry that I can’t remember his name at present.
        We soon passed out of sight of the militia, and I had almost ceased to think anything more about them in the many shifting scenes of soldier life for the next week or so,  when the next time I saw them—well,  I didn’t see them. I only saw where they had been a few minutes before.
General Johnston, the good old economical general. I called him, because when an article is scarce, then it’s time to be economical, this was General Johnston. He knew that Confederate soldiers were scarce. He, therefore, never rushed his men over breastworks continually to have them shot down, but instead husbanded his troops, and never fought unless he had the advantage. Well, as I was going to say, this wise old general, after we had crossed the Chattahoochee, knew we needed a rest, after our arduous campaign around Kennesaw, in all that rain and mud, and we were completely worn out.  So, to give us rest and at the same time season the militia who had never been under fire, he placed them on picket duty instead of the regular soldiers. That, of course, helped us considerably. The militia was camped on or near the river, while the main army rested some distance back from the river. One day while the army, I might with propriety say, “lay peacefully dreaming” (even if it was day time), a terrific cannonading opened from the opposite side of the river. We were somewhat surprised at this and some one said they thought the Federals were going to force a passage of the river nearly in our front, but the enemy had no such idea. Pretty soon a detachment of cavalry from our brigade was galloping to the front, to see what was up. When we arrived on the scene of action, that which which met our sight caused us to laugh, even in the midst of danger. It was the militia camp, but not a sign of militia could be seen. Their camps had been hurriedly deserted, while their baggage, rations and everything else lay in profusion about the camp. There were turkeys and chickens tied to trees, old country hams hung conveniently from overhanging limbs, butter and eggs in the camp, and even pickles, preserves and all the delicacies of home life. They left blankets, and their quilts that their good old dames bad supplied them in some cases with, and some of the boys said they found a feather bed in the camp, but I did not see this. Well, you should have seen the boys loot that camp in less time than I can tell it. Did the officers control them? Well, I guess not. There, amid an occasional bursting of a shell, they set about feasting, as they had not for many a day. The Federals had silently masked their batteries on the opposite bank of the river and without the least warning, had suddenly poured in upon them a shower of shells which was so sudden and unexpected that the militia, at once sought safety in flight. It has always been a puzzle to me whether the Yankees had been informed by some deserter of the location of the militia camp, and who they were or whether they had looked through their field glasses and saw how sumptuously they fared, and had envied them to that extent that they concluded to shell them out for spite. Be that as it may, this was one time when to the victor belonged the spoils was reversed, for while the Federals had the satisfaction of routing the militia, our boys had the pleasure of appropriating the spoils to themselves. The shells soon ceased, while our boys took the place of the militia and order was again restored.
         A short time after this incident I was very much amused at a story I heard one of our infantry tell on a militiaman. This soldier went out to relieve him from picket duty, when he found the old gentleman sitting at the foot of a tree, his gun across his lap, smoking his pipe, despite the strict army regulations prohibiting smoking while on duty. As the old man straightened up the soldier noticed he had no cartridge box. “Where is your cartridge box, my friend?” observed the soldier. “Oh,” said the militiaman, “the pesky thing chafes me and I threw it away. I carry my cartridges here,” and the old man went down in the coat tail pockets of his long, civilians’ coat that struck him about the heels, and produced a handful of cartridges. “This is where I carry them,” said he, with an air of indifference.
Months went by and the militiaman was transferred to some distant part of the line in the siege of Atlanta, where no doubt he served his country with honor, as there was plenty of fighting all along the line, and I never heard anything more from him until after the fall of Atlanta, when Governor Brown issued a proclamation disbanding the Georgia militia in order that they might go home and cut their crop of sorghum cane. No doubt some of the old soldiers who were in the Georgia campaign remember how the soldiers joked and commented upon this. All the southern papers had something to say about it, and one of the papers in commenting wound up with a verse of doggerel poetry, which ran something like this:

“Three cheers for Governor Brown
And his sweet proclamation.
Likewise the “Georgia Militia,”
With their cane knives raised on high:
For they will drive away starvation.
In the sweet by and by.
When they cut the Georgia sugar cane,”
They will suck sorghum till they die.”

W. G. LEWIS
Co. K. Ballentine’s Reg. Cav., C. S. A. Hope. Ark.

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Berrien Minute Men and the Shoupades

During the summer of 1864, the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia volunteer Regiment participated in the last defense of Atlanta following the retreat from Kennesaw Mountain. On July 4, 1864 they were in the line of battle at Marietta, GA. After withdrawing in the middle of the night ,  the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men were made on July 5 at a new defensive line on the the Chattahoochee River.

The actions of the Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate infantry raised in Berrien County, GA by Ray City settler, General Levi J. Knight, are documented in part in the Civil War letters of John William Hagan.  In a lettter to his wife, Hagan wrote about the Confederate retreat to the Chattahoochee and his confidence in the defensive works of General Joseph E. Johnston’s River Line.   These earthwork fortifications along the north bank of the Chattahoochee, some of the most elaborate field fortifications of the Civil War, were constructed under the direction of Artillery Commander, Brig. General Francis A. Shoup.

 

Battle Field near Chattahoochee River Ga
July 7th 1864

My Dear Amanda
I this morning write you a short letter in answer to yours jest receved dated July 2nd. This leaves E. W. and myself in fair health. I have nothing of enterest to write you. We are now in line of battle near the river I recon we are about 13 miles from Atlanta. I wrote to James on the morning of the 4th & at 1 or 2 Oclock on the night of the 4th we retreated to this place. Here we have got splendid works & can make a splended fight, if the yanks will only attack us in our works I do not know wheather Gen Johnston intends to make this a perminint stand. Our lines runs to the river on the left & across the river on the right. I do not know how long the line is but it is tolerabley lenghtty. I am told that we will have some reinforcements in a few days & according to the yankee accounts we can handle them much better than we could have handled them at Dalton. The yankees acknowledge a loss of 45 thousand in kiled wounded missing & sickened & sent away since the left Dalton & by puting our loss at high figurs our loss in evry way will not exceed ten thousand, so you see they are weaker 45,000 & we are weaker only 10,000, & since we reached this place we have got the malistia of Ga which is 10,000 effective men & Ala is ordered to send her malitia forward at once which will add to our strength 8 or 10 thousand more. So I think we will be able to handle them very well &c. We are glad to know you are going to send us something to eat not that we are suffering but we want something besides cornbread & bacon. You must send us a bottle or two of syrup & be careful to pack the box well & stop the bottles well also. You must not send us any cloths. Jest send us a box of something to eat by D. P. McDowell if you get this in time to do so. You must make us some rich cakes & if you have any honey we would like to have a little bottle of it. Cousin D. P. McDowell to bring the box through as soon as posable so that the tricks will not spoil. You must have the box well bound & nailed up well. You must excuse this short letter & write us a long one. Nothing more E.W. sends his love to all. I am as ever yours affectsionately

J. W. H.

Remnants of the Confederate earthworks at the Chattahoochee River Line  still exist today and can be viewed at Shoupade Park.  “Shoupade” was a term coined by Gustavus Woodson Smith,  Major General of the Georgia state militia, who remarked that the design would make Shoup famous.

 

Shoupade

Shoupade

According to the Civil War Trust,

On the night of July 4-5, the Confederates marched back to a line that once again had already been prepared. Two weeks earlier, when the army was at Kennesaw, work had begun under the direction of Joseph E. Johnston’s chief of artillery, Brig. Gen. Francis A. Shoup. According to Shoup, Johnston had told him “it was but a question of time, and that a short time” before the army would retreat across the Chattahoochee River. Chagrined, Shoup asked whether he might supervise construction of fortifications on the north bank of the river at the railroad bridge. Johnston, eager for anything that would delay his inevitable retreat across the Chattahoochee, agreed. Thereupon Shoup directed the army’s engineers and hundreds of slaves in tree-cutting, digging, building log-and-earth infantry forts. There were some three dozen of these “Shoupades” (Gen. G.W. Smith’s term), which were connected by log palisades for more infantry and studded with artillery redans, all arced in an almost six-mile line around where the Western & Atlantic Railroad bridge crossed the river near Peachtree Creek. During the night of July 4-5, Johnston’s troops marched into these defenses.

Each shoupade was a log-and-earth fort shaped like an arrowhead pointed at the enemy. The outside walls were almost vertical, built with logs laid horizontally up to a height of sixteen feet. Dirt ten to twelve feet thick was packed in between the outer and inner log walls. Inside was a banquette, or firing platform, for infantry. Each fort was intended to be manned by 80 riflemen. The 36 shoupades were built 60 to 175 yards apart. Between them was constructed earthen redans for artillery, two guns in each. Log stockades eight feet high connected shoupades and redans. The key defensive element, to Shoup, was that shoupades and redans were placed so that troops in each position could pour enfilading fire toward the next, all the way down the line.

 

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John W. Hagan Witnessed “Unholy War” and the Execution of Elbert J. Chapman

John W. Hagan

John W. Hagan of Berrien County, GA

John W. Hagan of Berrien County, GA

John William Hagan, born October 10, 1836 in Jefferson County, FL, was a son of John Fletcher Hagan and Elizabeth Dayton. He came to Berrien County, GA around 1858 when he married Amanda Armstrong Roberts. She was the 15 year-old daughter of Reubin Roberts (1807-1874)  and Elizabeth A. Clements (1815-1862), and a niece of Bryant J. Roberts (see Bryan J. Roberts ~ Lowndes Pioneer  and Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County).

With the outbreak of the Civil War John W. Hagan enlisted for service in the Confederate States Army, mustering into the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company D, the Berrien Minute Men, in the fall of 1861.  Hagan had prior military experience, having served in 1856-1858 as a private in the Florida Mounted Volunteers, in Captain Edward T. Kendrick’s Company, in actions against the Seminole Indians.  Perhaps because of his education and prior experience , albeit limited,  he was elected on October 1, 1861 to serve as 3rd Sergeant of Company D (Company K after reorganization) of the 29th GA Regiment.

Initially, the 29th Regiment was engaged at advanced batteries providing coastal  defense for Savannah, GA.  In the spring of 1863, the regiment was sent to Charleston, NC, but was quickly dispatched from there to Mississippi in a futile attempt to shore up the defenses of Vicksburg against the advances of federal forces under Ulysses S. Grant.

John W. Hagan wrote regularly from field camps and battle lines to his wife and family back in Berrien County. His letters frequently contain mention his relatives and colleagues in the Berrien Minute Men, including Bryant J. RobertsLevi J. Knight, Jonathan D. Knight, William Washington Knight, Henry Harrison KnightJames Fender  and many others.   In all there are 43 confederate letters of John W. Hagan.

In his letter of July 23, 1863 Hagan,  after two years  of war, was obviously disgusted with the looting and destruction the Confederate Army visited upon its own citizens. Writing to his wife, he stated ” I beleave our troops are doing as much harm in this country as the yankees would do with the exception of burning houses.”

While Hagan was with the 29th Regiment in Mississippi deserter Elbert J. Chapman, a private known to the company as “Old Yaller“, was captured and returned to his unit. Chapman, while absent without leave from the Berrien Minute Men, was still acting the part of a soldier fighting with a Texas Cavalry unit.

John W. Hagan in a letter to his wife dated  May 29, 1863 posted from “Camp near Deaconsville, Miss”    included the following:

“Amanda, I have some news to write you. One of our deserters was arrested yesterdy & brought to camp. E. J. Chapman was taken at Canton City. He was a member of a cavelry company in Canton & arrested & brought to camp by one of the Sharp Shooters. He says he has bin in service in this State 5 months, but we do not know what to beleave about him. He also says B. S. Garrett was taken up in this state & shot as a Yankee spye.  If  such is the case I am satisfide with his death but I am sorry he did not get his deserts from the proper hands.  I do not know what will be done with Chapman.  We are going to carry him to Canton City to day or tomorrow, turn him over to the military authority to be  dealt with according to the nature of his offence.”  -May 29, 1863

A month later Hagan, obviously weary of the death and destruction of war, wrote of the court martial and execution of Chapman.

Camp near Forrest City , Miss     July 23rd, 1863

My Dear Wife, I this evening seat myself in this benighted reagen [region] to write you a short letter which leaves Thomas & myself in fine health &ct. I have no news to write cience [since] our retreat from Jackson.  We fought the Yankees 8 days but was forced to retreat for want of  more force.  When we first arrived in Jackson after retreating from Big Black [river] I was confident we could stand our ground & give the Federals a decent whiping. But the longer we stayed and fought them the more reinforcements they got & if we had have stayed & fought a few days longer I fear we would have suffered, for our lines was so long we did not have men to fill the entrenchments & support our batteries.  So we retreated in good order & we had a trying time when we made the retreat. Our Regt was left on the field to hold the enemy in check while the other portion of our Brigade made there escape. The projic [project] was not made known to but few of the men and offercers of the Regt & when we went to leave the field it was suppose by the most of the men that we was only changing our position & they did not know we was retreating until we was all out of danger.  The retreat was well conducted & we lost no men or property on the retreat. We are now stationed near the rail road & expect in a few days to be shiped to some place.  Some think we will go to Tennessee & some think we will go to Charleston or Savannah, but I have but little hope of going to either Savannah or Charleston.  But I beleave we will go to Tennessee or to Mobile.  The fact is, this army is too small to do anything in this country & I think will it will be divided & some sent to Savannah & Charleston & some to Mobile & the rest will be sent to Gen Bragg in Tennessee.  Gen Johnston has given up command to Gen Hardee & has gone on to assist Gen Bragg. We are now waiting for transportation & as soon as transportation can be furnished we will leave for some place we cannot say whear to.  We have had some hard fighting cience [since] we have bin out hear, but our Regt has suffered the least of any Regt in our Brigade or divission. We only lost 9 in killed & wounded while other Regts lost 3 times that number.  I would give you a ful account of the fight & the causilties but I wrote a letter to James & Ezekiel & give them a list of the killed & wounded & requested them to send the letter to you. I did not know then but we would march on to some other place whear I would not have an opportunity of writing to you.

I also give them a tolerable fair account of the fight.

Amanda, I never new [knew] how mean and army could do in a country.  I beleave our troops are doing as much harm in this country as the yankees would do with the exception of burning houses.  But our men steal all the fruit, kill all the hogs & burn all the fence and eat all the mutton corn they can camp in reach of.  Our army have destroyed as much as 200 acres of corn in one night. We carry a head of us all the cattle we find & at night they are turned into some of the finest fields of corn I ever saw & in fact wheare this army goes the people is ruined.  I am disgusted with such conduct & feel that we will never be successful while our troups are so ungrateful.  I dread to see our State invaded but I hope this war will cease soon, but I havent grounds to build my hopes upon. But I & every Southern Soldier should be like the rebbel blume which plumed more & shinned briter the more it was trampled on, & I beleave this siantific war fear [scientific warfare] will have to ceace,  & we will have to fight like Washington did, but I hope our people will never be reduced to distress  & poverty as the people of that day was, but if nothing else will give us our liberties I am willing for the time to come. I am truely tyerd of this unholy war.  Amanda, you must use your own pleasure about fattening the hogs, but I think you had better fatten all the hogs that you think you can make weight 100 lbs by keeping them up until January or Febuary for pork will bring a good price, & in case our portion of the State is invaded that much will be saved, & if our troops should pass through there & are as distructive of as army is, we would have nothing, & if such a thing should happen I want you to turn every thing in to money & leave for some other place. But I hope such a thing will never happen, but if Charlston should fall Savannah is shure to fall, & then our country will be over run by troops. This country is now in a glumy state, but the dark part of the night is allways jest before day, so we may be nearer peace than we think.

We had a hard cien [scene] to witness on the 22nd.  E. J. Chapman was shot to death by sentance of a cort martial.  It was a hard thing to witness, but I beleav he was a fit subject for an example, for he confessed being guilty of everything that was mean. & if you write you must direct to Forrest City & I will write again soon. I do not have any eyedia [idea] of having an opportunity of goine [going] home until the war is ended but if times gets no better than at at present I shal not want to leave the field. But if times gets esy you know I would be proud to see you & my little boy.  I have so far ben verry lucky & I hope I shal continue so. Tom [Roberts] sends his love to you all & says you must not look for him nor be uneasey about him for he isn’t far the way. I must close I must close as I have to write on my knee.

I remain as ever yours affectsionately

John W. Hagan

Of course, the execution of E. J. Chapman, CSA for desertion was hardly an isolated event. So many soldiers deserted, the Confederate States Army eventually developed an amnesty policy in an attempt to return them to duty. But before that, many deserters were executed. On March 2, 1863 John W. Gaskins of the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment wrote home to his family that three men in the Regiment had been shot for desertion. Two of his company mates from Berrien County, Absolom B. Dixon and Irvin Hendley, had served on the firing squad that shot Private Isaac Morgan, Company B, 50th Georgia Regiment.

About the post war period, historian Bell I. Wiley reported,

After release from military service Hagan returned to Berrien County where he lived until 1881.  He then moved to Lowndes County where he acquired a large tract of land and was a successful farmer.  He changed his residence to Valdosta in 1896 and entered the livestock business in partnership with Jessie Carter.

Hagan became engaged in politics and was a local leader of the Populist Party

He represented Lowndes County in the Georgia House of Representatives for two terms (1886-87, 1890-91) and beginning in 1904 was for four terms a member of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners, during two of which he served as chairman. He died in Valdosta on May 17, 1918 at eighty-one and was buried at Union Church Cemetery (then called Burnt Church) near Lakeland, Georgia.

Children of John William Hagan and Amanda Armstrong Roberts:

  1. Susan E. Hagan, born March 30, 1860, Lowndes County, GA; died August 25, 1860, Lowndes County, GA
  2. Reubin Columbus Hagan, born May 21, 1861, Lowndes County, GA; married Laura Roberts
  3. Georgia Hagan, born March 17, 1866, Berrien County, GA; married  James John Bradford, November 14, 1888
  4. Emma Tallulah Hagan, born June 08, 1867, Berrien County, GA; married J. A. Smith
  5. Fannie Ellen Hagan, born October 27, 1868, Berrien County, GA; married James Baskin
  6. Ida Ann Hagan, born August 16, 1870, Berrien County, GA; married John T. Smith
  7. Amanda Josephine Hagan, born March 05, 1872, Berrien County, GA; married Frank Arnold

Child of John William Hagan and Mary “Pollie” Smith Giddens (widow of Aaron Giddens):

  1. Texas Hagan, born June 19, 1875

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William W. Knight Writes Home About Old Yellow and Men of the 29th Georgia Infantry

From 1861 to 1863, William Washington Knight served  as 2nd Sergeant in the 29th GA infantry in Company K, the Berrien Minutemen,  a Confederate army unit organized by his father,  Levi J. Knight.  William W. Knight was born March 4, 1829 and grew to a man in the neighborhood of Beaverdam Creek, near present day Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

In October of 1861, William W. Knight left his farm, 26 acres of cleared land and 464 acres forrested, in the care of his wife, Mary (See The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll). He left Mary with their one horse, $25 worth of farm implements, six cattle, 35 hogs, about 350 bushels of Indian corn, 120 pounds of rice, 50 bushels of peas and beans, 100 bushels of sweet potatoes, 75 pounds of butter, 80 gallons of molasses, and 50 pounds of honey. Their farm was situated next to that of William’s uncle, John Knight, and also the farm of William A. Jones, who was also serving with the Berrien Minutemen.

In a  Civil War letter dated June 3, 1863, transcribed below,  William W. Knight observes that deserter Elbert J. Chapman had rejoined his unit.    Chapman, known to his troop mates as Old Yellow or ‘Old Yaller,’  was shot for desertion about five weeks later, in a tragic episode of military discipline.  In the letter, Knight mentions several other soldiers (see notes below), including his brother, Jonathan David Knight.

As noted in previous posts, this is one of 37  of Civil War Letters of William W. Knight which have been scanned and placed online by Valdosta State University Archives. He  wrote home to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Carroll Knight, and father numerous times while on deployment  with his unit.

In the letter of June 3, the quality of the original document combined with Knight’s affinity for run on sentences makes for rather difficult reading.  For clarity, the transcription below takes some interpretive  liberties with punctuation. Knight’s letter of June 3, 1863 can be viewed in the VSU archives.

Mississippi

Camp Near Yazoo City     June 3rd 1863

Dear Mary,

Again I seat myself to write to you  few lines th[ough] I wish you could see the seat and place we are camped at. We are in a narrow bottom with a creek running through it, clear limestone water.  It is all the running water we have seen in any creek since we have been in this State.  We are below Yazoo city three miles, or rather we are sout[h] of it, fifty miles from Vicksburgh.  There are more men here than you ever saw in all your live, the number I will not give, not knowing but this might fall in the Federals hands. We came here yesterday. We lay up day before two miles from here.

We left our camp at Deasonville, Saturday near twelve o’clock and marched till night.  Sunday was the hardest days march we ever taken, not the farthest, we have marched farther in the day, but the country very broken, the weather very hot and not water enough to barely sustain life. Many men gave out and could go no further. Some fainted in the road and had to be taken up and carried off but none of our brigade died from the march so far as I can ascertain.  This country is the barest of water of any I ever saw.

We are gradually  closing up around Vicksburgh. The Abrahamites are around it, our men inside under Gen. Pemberton, our outside army under Gen. Johns[t]on or he commands the whole army.  We are under Gen. Walker. He is my General now and in command this squad here.  They are from different states.

There is some sickness among the men but none of them dangerous. I think in our company there the following men sick but they can walk about and tend to their business: John S Adams, William Cameron, Henry A. Lastinger, Mathew R. Lindsey, Edmond Mathis, Aaron Mattox, John A. Parrish, Corpl. John R. Patterson, Alfred B. Findley, Jacob J. Truitt.  They are only too weak to hold out to march. They have fever or diarrhea.  Jonathan had the fever two days ago but he is better, he did not have much fever yesterday, he got too hot Sunday of the march. Lt Parrish is well again. All the rest of the Company are well.

Manning Fender got a letter from James Fender last week he was getting better. We left him at Columbus, Ga.

Elbert J. Chapman, or as the boys called, Old Yellow, is with us again. William D. Warren of the Sharpshooters from Thomas County found him at Canton.  Warren did belong to our regiment before he was put in the Sharpshooters battalion. Chapman is heartier than I ever saw him, he was in the 20th Mississippi Regiment of mounted infantry. He had been there five months and two day[s]. The regiment has been in several battles since he has been in it. He went by the name of Manning Coleman. He says he does not know any thing of Benjamin Garrett, that he has not seen him since last December. They got parted at Brookhaven in this State.

We have no tents in our regiment, we take the world and weather as we find it. We have four fry pans and one oven for our company. The rest of the companies are no better off than our[s]. Where we are stopped we get enough to eat, but when we are marching we do not have any chance to cook enough to eat, and water to cook with is often not to be had.  We marched seven miles Sunday. After sunset we stopped to camp where it had been represented we could get water but it was not there to get, and we had to come seven miles further before we could get it, and then there was not enough and what there was was very bad.

I will describe the kind of water we have been using until we come to this place. That is, if your imagination will help draw the picture.  It is in holes in the creeks, the soil thick yellow mud void of sand, the water yellow muddy stuff with a green scum on it – but seldom over a foot deep – some times half covers holes. And no more near enough to be got at, and that the chance for several thousand men, and a great many of them like hogs.  If they are not minded out, they will be in it, washing there hands, face, feet or old, nasty clothes. Its astonishing how many men there in this world that are only animals in human form. Ask one and he will tell you it is wrong, but he saw somebody else do so and he had as well do so as any body else. That is always the answer you get. They have a kind of elastic consciences that expand to fit any case.

This is a very rich farming country. They make fine corn with the least work of any country I have ever been in. They break up their land, plant their corn, side the corn, turn the dirt from it, hoe it out, let it stand about two weeks, side it again turning the dirt to the corn, let stand about the same time, and plough out the middles, and they are done that crop.  They make from thirty to fifty bushels to the acre. Their lands are nearly all bottom lands. It averages fifty bushels to the acre.

Mary, I got two letters Saturday from you dated the 9th & 17th of last month. I was very glad to hear that you and the children had been well since I left Savannah.  I say had been, for the[y] had been written so long they were almost out of date, but I recon mine are quite as old before they get to you if they ever get there.

Well, Mary, I recon you need not be uneasy for fear I will suffer for money because of what I sent you. I have quite as much as I will need, I hope. If I had not have left Savannah I should have sent you as much more.  I have sent you this year one hundred and ten dollars in money and a little over thirty dollars worth of things.  I  have about sixty dollars with me now. I recon it will last me till we draw again.  I had much rather see you and the children than any amount of money we will ever have at one time.

I am in hope I will keep well and able to do all the duty that may be required of me.  I think all the men in our company would get well in a week if they could have that long to rest.  There is no chance for them to write when we are on a march. We have but one ambulance for the regiment. It will not carry more than eight men.  I will write when ever I have a chance.

Your Faithful Husband

William W. Knight

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Some additional notes on the men of the 29th Georgia Regiment mentioned in Knight’s Letter:

William W. Knight,   Enlisted as a private Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment, October 1, 1861 in Berrien County, GA.  Made 2nd Sergeant in December, 1861.  Was sent for Camp equipage in December 1862. September 5, 1863 receipts show he accepted at camp in the field a delivery of two pairs of shoes. Receiving equipage in the field, October 31, 1863, “the men being in a destitute condition.” Requisition records show he was at Dalton, GA on December 6, 1863 where he received additional equipment for the unit.  Died of chronic diarrhea at Milltown, GA. December 27,1863. A son of Levi J. Knight, and husband of Mary Elizabeth Carroll.

John S. Adams was from Duval County, FL. He enlisted as a private in Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment on April 3, 1862 in Savannah, GA.  By the late spring  of 1863 service records show he was a patient at the Confederate hospital at Point Clear, AL.  He apparently recovered to return to his unit, but in the summer of 1864 he was again sick, this time appearing on the register of patients at Ocmulgee Hospital, Macon, GA and suffering with chronic diarrhea. He was furloughed on May 16, 1864.

Alfred B. Finley,  private, Company D, 29th Georgia Infantry. Born in Georgia on January 15, 1840. While in the Confederate service he contracted measles and St. Anthony’s Fire (erysipelas),  a streptococcus infection which resulted in loss of his left eye. Captured near Nashville, TN on December 16, 1864, during the Battle of Nashville, TN.  Released at Camp Chase, OH,  June 12, 1865.  Died at Nicholls, GA on October 18,1921.

Benjamin S. Garrett, private, Enlisted October 1, 1861 Company K, 29th Georgia  Infantry at Berrien County, GA. August, 1862 at Convalescent Camp. Service Records include the notation “Deserted.”  Reported absent without leave for December 1862. Some say Garrett was later killed in Florida, but regimental records show he joined the 17th Georgia Infantry Regiment, was sent to Virginia, caught typhoid pneumonia and died November 9, 1862 at Chimborazo Hospital No. 5, Richmond, VA.

Jonathan D. Knight, Was the brother of William Washington Knight. Jonathan D. Knight was Captain, Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment. He was captured near Decatur, GA on July 22,1864  during the Battle of Atlanta and held as a prisoner of war until released at Fort Delaware, DE on June 17,1865. Later elected a senator in the Georgia state government, and signed the Georgia Constitution of 1877.

Henry Andrew Lastinger,  private, joined the Berrien Minute Men (later renamed Company K, 29th Georgia Infantry) officially inducted on August 1,1861.  He was a son of Louisa  English and William Lastinger. His sister, Elizabeth Lastinger, was present at the Grand Military Rally for the Berrien Minute Men held in May, 1861 at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Four of his brothers also served with the Berrien Minute Men. A fifth brother served with the 5th Georgia Reserves. On September 19,1863 Henry A. Lastinger was shot in the right foot at the Battle of Chickamauga, GA, leaving him permanently disabled. Received extra pay from March 18 to August 2, 1864. Pension records show he was at home on wounded furlough close of war. Born in Georgia in 1832. Died December 24,1908.  His brother, Lacy Elias Lastinger, wrote about the execution of Elbert J. Chapman after the war.

Matthew R. Lindsey, private, Company K, 29th Georgia Infantry.   According to Widow’s Pension records he enlisted May 10, 1862, was wounded in right shoulder at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain,  June 27, 1864; was furloughed for 60 days in 1864, and was unable to return the unit.

Edmond W. Mathis, enlisted in Company K, 29th Georgia Infantry as a private on October 4, 1861, later Corporal.  He was captured near Nashville, TN on December 16, 1864 during the Battle of Nashville, TN.  Died February 11, 1865 of pneumonia at Camp Chase prison, Columbus, OH. Buried in Grave #1175, Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery.

John R. Patterson,  born about 1830, enlisted in Company K, 29th Georgia Infantry as a private October 1, 1861. Appointed Sergeant. Wounded near Atlanta, GA,  August 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign. Evacuated to a temporary Confederate field hospital at Forsyth, GA, known in confederate service records as “Ford Hospital”, established  by Andrew Jackson Foard, Field Medical Director for the Confederate Army of Tennessee.  Died in the hospital at Forsyth, Monroe County, GA August 14, 1864. Buried at Forsyth City Cemetery.

John A. Parrish, Private, Enlisted in Company D, Georgia 29th Infantry Regiment on November 1, 1861. Absent, sick, December 31, 1861. In Convalescent Camp August 31, 1862. On June 14, 1864  he was wounded at Pine Mountain, GA; that was the same day Confederate General Leonidas Polk was killed atop Pine Mountain by a lucky cannonshot from Union forces.  After June 14, John A. Parrish never returned to his unit. He was born February 18, 1844 a son of Josiah and Mary M. Parrish. Died October 28, 1885; buried Antioch Cemetery, Adel, GA.

Jacob Truett,  Private. Born in South Carolina February 9,1834.  Enlisted December 5, 1861in Lowndes County, GA. Service Records show in October 1862 he was “absent on expired sick furlough,”  and still absent sick in November and December, 1862.  In the Spring of 1864 he was issued new clothing and  detailed with Captain O. D. Horr.  He was again issued new clothing on September 30, 1864. Wounded in left shoulder at Murfreesboro, TN on December 7, 1864, the date of the Battle of Murphreesboro.  Admitted to Way Hospital at Meridian, MS, on account of wounds, January 19, 1865. Pension records show he surrendered at Greensboro, NC April 26,1865, the date and location of General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to General William T. Sherman.

James Fender, Corporal, Company K, 29th Georgia Infantry.  Absent sick, October and November 1862. Listed as Absent without Leave in December 1862. On September 3, 1863, he drew pay for July and August.    Buried at Fender Cemetery, Clinch County, GA

Manning Fender, private, Company K, 29th Georgia Infantry. At Convalescent Camp August, 1862.  Killed in battle at Chickamauga, GA, September 19, 1863.

Aaron Mattox,  enlisted in Company  G, 29th Georgia Infantry.  On August 22, 1864 he was captured  at Atlanta, GA and sent to  Camp Chase, OH.  From there, he was transferred to Point Lookout, MD on March 22, 1865. He died while imprisoned there in 1865 .

William Cameron. Private.  Shot in the left arm  during battle on June 15, 1864 with the ball lodging in the left elbow.  Admitted to Ocmulgee Hospital, Macon, GA on August 23,1864 where apparently the lead ball was removed from the wound. Furloughed home to Clinch County, August 29, 1864. Surrendered and Paroled at Thomasville, GA on May  26, 1865.

Related Posts:

More on the story of Old Yaller

More on the execution of “Old Yaller”, Elbert J. Chapman, a private of the Berrien Minute Men whose widow resided in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Rays Mill District.

“A VICTIM OF MILITARY DISCIPLINE.”

(Ed. Note: In the January number of this magazine was published a letter written by Captain Phil Carroll, of Augusta, Ga., giving an account of how a Confederate soldier who had transferred himself from Savannah, where there was no fighting, to the Western army, where he could fight and where he did fight, was shot as a deserter by his Confederate companions-in-arms.

Considering this one of the most barbarous deeds ever committed in the name of military discipline, the incident was woven into the war-story, “Bethany.”

The publication of Capt. Carroll’s letter attracted the attention of Capt. R. T. Redding, who wrote to Maj. Cumming about it.

The Major replied, corroborating Capt. Carroll, and hands us a copy of the letter, which we are glad to publish.)

Joseph B. Cumming, 1886. Cumming served as Adjutant General of Walkers Division, and was present when the order for the execution of Elbert J. Chapman was issued.

Joseph B. Cumming, 1886. Cumming served as Adjutant General of Walkers Division, and was present when the order for the execution of Elbert J. Chapman was issued.

January 15, 1909.

Hon. Thos. E. Watson, Thomson, Ga.

My Dear Mr. Watson: At the request of Capt. R. J. Redding, of Griffin, I send you herewith, for such use, or no use, as you choose, copy of a letter which I wrote to him a few days ago.

Very truly yours,

JOS. B. CUMMING.

January 7th, 1909.
 Capt. R. J. Redding, Griffin. Ga.

My Dear Sir: I have your letter of January 6. I have not seen the article written by Mr. M. P. Carroll to which you refer. Mr. Carroll, however, probably refers to the execution at Morton, Miss., of a deserter, not from the 46th Georgia Regiment, but from one of the Georgia Regiments of Wilson’s brigade, either the 25th or the 29th or 30th Georgia, The facts, as I remember them very distinctly, were these:

“While Walker’s Division was in bivouac at Vernon shortly before the second battle of Jackson, a Confederate Cavalry Regiment came marching by. Col. Wilson, in command of Wilson’s Brigade, was an onlooker as it passed. He recognized in the ranks of the Cavalry a deserter from his Regiment while the latter was stationed at Savannah. He made reclamation for the man on the Colonel of the Cavalry Regiment, and the man was surrendered to him. He was tried by courtmartial for desertion, his desertion having consisted in his leaving Wilson’s Infantry Regiment, then stationed on the coast of Georgia, and joining a Cavalry Regiment at the front—a “desertion” of a soldier from inactive service in the rear to fighting at the front.

There was delay in promulgating the finding of the courtmartial, produced by the active operations in the neighborhood of Big Black, and at Jackson after the fall of Vicksburg. In the meanwhile the man was kept under guard. Neither he nor any one else except the members of the court knew that he had been condemned to be shot.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman's life be spared.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman’s life be spared.

The last day of our march from Jackson to Morton, there was a terrible rain and thunder storm, so violent that the troops, particularly as night came on. became very much scattered, and under these circumstances the guard lost their prisoner. After, however, the troops had bivouacked for the night in came the prisoner and surrendered to the Lieutenant in command of the guard, remarking, “Lieutenant, you thought you had lost me.” The next day the sentence of the courtmartial was promulgated and the order sent down to the headquarters of Walker’s Division for the execution of the sentence. I was then Adjutant General of the Division and under instructions from General Walker immediately sent a copy of the order to Col. Wilson, commanding the Brigade, with instructions to make a detail from Schaaf’s battalion for the execution of the man the next morning. Col. Wilson was horrified at this denouement, and at once got up a petition signed by himself and the officers of the man’s Regiment addressed to General Johnston, asking at least commutation of the sentence. This petition was brought up to General Walker’s headquarters where it happened that General Johnston was visiting at the time. I received the petition and handed it to Major J. B. Eustis (afterwards U. S. Senator from Louisiana), one of General Johnston’s staff, and asked him to hand it at once to General Johnston. He said, “I will do so, but there is no use; General Johnston will not change the order.” He did hand it to General Johnston during the visit, but he refused to consider it, and the petition was handed back to me. I prevailed upon Major Eustis to offer it again to General Johnston after he had mounted his horse, and I can see now the rather impatient way in which General Johnston waved Major Eustis aside.

The next day the man was shot.

My admiration for General Johnston was and remains very great. I never think of this incident without great pain and deep regret as the one shadow on the picture, which I image to myself of that great man.

At the close of the war I was on General Johnston’s staff, and was fully cognizant of, and participant in, an incident which showed, after all, how in the midst of great cares he could remember a poor private soldier and save him from the execution, to which he had been sentenced, but which had become uncalled for, as the war was manifestly about to end and the necessity for stern discipline was over.

Very truly yours,

JOS. B. CUMMING.