Edit finished on “Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead”

Edit finished on “Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead”

By John Fox

Cover of Gettysburg's Confederate DeadI just finished editing Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead: An Honor Roll from America’s Greatest Battle by Robert K. Krick and Chris L. Ferguson. All I can do is shake my head and say “Wow!” I say this not only because of the incredible research counted by endless painstaking hours but more importantly by the misery and sorrow encapsulated by each soldiers’ name on this roster.

This book includes the most accurate list ever compiled of Gettysburg’s Southern dead. Each soldier is listed by name, rank & company & regiment, date of birth, date of death, brief personal info, and burial spot. There are 5006 names on the list which adds up to 30,036 line entries. This represents a huge amount of work for veteran historians Krick and Ferguson. Those familiar with the Civil War field will certainly recognize Bob K. Krick’s name as he is an expert on Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and he retired as the National Park Service’s chief historian for Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. He has written numerous excellent books which include Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain [2001] and Conquering the Valley  [1996]. Chris Ferguson is widely regarded as an expert on Confederate military records and he has written Hollywood Cemetery: Her Forgotten Soldiers [2001] and Southerners at Rest: Confederate Dead at Hollywood Cemetery [2008].

This newest book, to be released by Angle Valley Press, represents a huge resource for historians, genealogists, family researchers and students of the War. But the one thing that keeps staring back at me off the pages is the huge amount of suffering born by each soldier whose name made the list. That suffering and anguish spread exponentially throughout the South as families learned the fate of their loved ones. Some families never really got closure on what happened to their brother, father or cousin as the roster all too frequently notes “Missing in Action and Presumed Dead – Burial Spot Unknown.”

During the first week of June 1863, Robert E. Lee’s army, numbering nearly 80,000 veterans, began to move toward the Shenandoah Valley to use it as a conduit to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania. While on the march, how many of these men thought that this might be their last campaign? Probably all of them. What would the 3rd Georgia’s Edward Aaron have done if he knew that he would be the first on this alphabetical list of death from Gettysburg? Or the three Almands – John, Reuben and William –  all from Cobb’s Georgia Legion and all possibly brothers. What became of the body of the 34th North Carolina’s major George McIntosh Clark? He was killed in action and buried in front of Gettysburg College but the body has never been found. Is it still there or has it been pushed around by a bulldozer blade and perhaps re-landscaped into an athletic field?

Then I drop three more lines down from Major Clark’s listing and I come to twenty-one-year-old Jonathan Clark. This young man served in the 42nd Mississippi and he fell on July 1. His father, forty-eight-year-old Captain Thomas Goode Clark, also fell nearby. Their bodies never made it into any marked grave. I cannot imagine the grief that Mrs. Clark must have felt when this news traveled back to Mississippi.

Civil War Battlefield Preservation at South Mountain

Civil War Battlefield Preservation at South Mountain

Battle of Fox’s Gap Preservation Effort

The Civil War Trust [CWT] has a remarkable opportunity to purchase the 45 acres of Wise’s Field at Fox’s Gap where a tremendous battle took place on September 14, 1862. The carnage during the fight for control of the gaps on Maryland’s South Mountain was a precursor to the Battle of Sharpsburg [Antietam] three days later. Through Federal matching grants the CWT needs to raise $112,500 by March 31, 2014 to preserve this Hallowed Ground.

The 50th Georgia’s baptism of fire came while fighting in Wise’s Field. There, the regiment suffered “an astonishing 86 percent casualty rate, more than it would experience in any other single battle of the war.” Two generals would be killed in action near this field – Confederate brigadier general Samuel Garland and Union major general Jesse Reno.

Angle Valley Press published Jim Parrish’s critically acclaimed Wiregrass to Appomattox: The Untold Story of the 50th Georgia Infantry Regiment in 2008. To support the CWT effort, Angle Valley Press will donate $5 for every copy of Jim’s book ordered through our website’s book order page. These books will all be signed by the author and come to you with free shipping/handling. All of the below excerpts come from Wiregrass to Appomattox as the Georgians found themselves surrounded on three sides at Wise’s Field.

At about 4 pm, the men in the green 50th and 51st Georgia regiments moved across Wise’s Field to a position along the Old Sharpsburg Road. As they executed the movement “they came under heavy fire from a portion of Brigadier General Orlando  B. Wilcox’s division.” Troops in the 79th New York and the 17th Michigan poured a horrendous enfilade fire into the Rebels.  

“In the sunken road [Old Sharpsburg Rd.] the dead and wounded piled up as volley after volley of enemy fire continued to rake the huddled Georgians.” The 50th Georgia’s lieutenant Peter McGlashan noted “‘the slaughter was horrible,’” while another officer referred to the spot as “‘a slaughter pen.’”  Then the 17th Michigan came out of the woods at charge bayonet and smashed into the 50th Georgia’s exposed left flank and rear. Lieutenant McGlashan described the carnage: “‘When ordered to retreat I could scarce extricate myself from the dead and wounded around me. A man could have walked from the head of our line to the foot on their bodies.’”

“One final tragic insult was heaped upon the many seriously wounded and dead from the 50th Georgia and 51st Georgia regiments as they lay in the Old Sharpsburg Road. Private George Hitchcock of the 21st Massachusetts described the horrible scene: “‘The sunken road is literally packed with dead and dying rebels who had held so stubbornly the pass against our troops who have resistlessly swept up over the hill. Here the horrors of war were revealed as [we] see our heavy ammunition wagons go tearing up, right over the dead and dying, mangling many in their terrible course. The shrieks of the poor fellows were heartrending.’”

Color Sergeant George Fahm from Thomas County, Georgia reflected on his good fortune to escape. He noted that the other eight members of the 50th Georgia color guard were shot down while “‘the flag, flag-staff, clothing, cap and blanket of the color bearer (myself) showed thirty-two bullet holes, and yet most strangely to relate, I did not receive a scratch in that battle.’”

The fighting on South Mountain continued until after dark. “That night, Robert E. Lee reluctantly decided to abandon his position on South Mountain and withdraw his troops before daylight the next morning. He would move west across Antietam Creek to a better defensive position along the heights around Sharpsburg.”

The stage was now set for an even bigger collision on September 17 at a small Maryland town named Sharpsburg. “All of the dead and many of the seriously wounded Confederates from South Mountain had to be left on the battlefield when Lee withdrew back to Sharpsburg. Those wounded who could not escape were captured and taken to Federal hospitals in the area. The hard and rocky soil made the gruesome job of disposing of Confederate dead a difficult one for Union burial details. In one instance, Federals unceremoniously dumped the bodies of fifty-eight Rebels into an unfinished well on Daniel Wise’s property. In 1874, the remains of 2,240 Southern soldiers were relocated to the Confederate Section of Rose Hill Cemetery at Hagerstown, Maryland. A plaque lists the names of those few soldiers who could be identified, but the vast majority are unknown.”

All above quotes from Wiregrass to Appomattox: The Untold Story of the 50th Georgia by James W. Parrish, 2008, Angle Valley Press,   www.AngleValleyPress.com


Civil War Trust to Preserve 45 acres at South Mountain

Angle Valley Press is excited to see that Civil War Trust CWT has established a campaign to preserve 45 acres at Fox’s Gap on South Mountain [MD] where significant fighting took place on September 14, 1862. Jim Parrish who authored Wiregrass to Appomattox: The Untold Story of the 50th Georgia Infantry Regiment noted that this battle was the 50th Georgia’s baptism of fire. The precise field where these Georgians found themselves surrounded on three sides by Federal troops is the precise property being preserved through this CWT campaign. For more info see the Civil War Trust website. This acreage is truly Hallowed Ground. We want to support the CWT in this effort so we will donate $5 from every copy of Wiregrass to Appomattox purchased from the Angle Valley Press website or via mail order. Your order will also be inscribed by Jim Parrish. More will follow here outlining the vicious fighting that took place that day at Fox’s Gap.


Picket Duty During a Deep Freeze in 1862

Picket Duty During a Deep Freeze in 1862

Picket Duty During a Deep Freeze

By John Fox

If you want to really know what thoughts, ideas and feelings rambled around in the minds of people from the past then the best place to begin is their letters, diaries and period newspapers. These are called primary sources. The problem though is that too many authors/historians today are too lazy to track down primary sources and they rely on secondary sources which is how a lot of nonsensical “history” (fabrication) gets passed down.

As the bone-chilling cold continues to cover the Shenandoah Valley I thought back to a an account written by Sam Watkins from his famous book “Co. Aytch” which details his life during the War Between the States while he served as a private in the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment. The below account comes from pg 62 of the book and Watkins recorded his sentiments during the first week of January 1862 when he went to relieve a picket detail early in the morning prior to sunrise as the temperature hovered near 0 F. The 1st Tennessee was part of Stonewall Jackson’s Romney Campaign and the sad scene took place near Bath, Virginia which is now Berkeley Springs, West Virginia just north of Winchester.

“At a little village called Hampshire Crossing, our regiment was ordered to go to a little stream called St. John’s Run, to relieve the 14th Georgia Regiment and the 3rd Arkansas. I cannot tell the facts as I desire to. In fact my hand trembles so, and my feelings are so overcome, that it is hard for me to write at all. But we went to the place that we were ordered to go to, and when we arrived there we found the guard sure enough. If I remember correctly, there were just eleven of them. Some were sitting down and some were lying down; but each and every one was as cold and as hard frozen as the icicles that hung from their hands and clothing – dead! They had died at their post of duty. Two of them, a little in advance of the others, were standing with their guns in their hands, as cold and as hard frozen as a monument of marble – standing sentinel with loaded guns in their frozen hands! The tale is told. Were they true men?”

[“Co. Aytch”: A Side Show of the Big Show, by Sam R. Watkins, originally published 1952 by McCowat Mercer Press and reprinted 1987 by Broadfoot Publishing Co., p. 62]



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