Following the Trail of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment on Book’s Tenth Anniversary

Following the Trail of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment on Book’s Tenth Anniversary

By John Fox

May 2014 will ring in the 10th anniversary of the publication of my first book which details the long bloody road of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.  It is hard to believe that Red Clay to Richmond: Trail of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment came out ten years ago.  Little did I know that a 1987 visit to a frame shop owned by Columbus, Georgia’s Jack and Dian Stroud would launch my Civil War writing path. The Stroud’s framed a Don Troiani print that I had purchased titled “Show Them the Cold Steel Boys!” which portrayed a wild-eyed Brigadier General Lewis Armistead leading his Virginia Brigade over the stonewall and into the muzzles of Union cannon at Gettysburg. Before I left the shop on that fateful day, Dian showed me a framed original letter that a Confederate relative had written. Imagine my surprise when Dian told me that her Aunt Ruby had two shoe boxes of letters written by Private James Marion Garrett to his widowed Mother. I asked, and almost insisted, that these letters needed to be copied and preserved. With my Army background, a history degree from Washington & Lee University and a love for all things Civil War I convinced myself that I was the person to do this. I must have convinced Dian who then convinced Aunt Ruby because several weeks later Dian called to say that she had the letters at the shop if I wanted to come see them.

Red Clay to Richmond:Trail of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment by John J. Fox III copyright 2004 Angle Valley Press

I raced back to the shop and soon held these letters written by a young eighteen-year-old Private James Garrett to his Mom. They spanned from 1861 until 1864 and highlighted Garrett’s experience through all the major fighting in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The letters revealed the daily trials and tribulations of a Confederate foot soldier both in combat and in camp – from the euphoric high of finding extra food to the low of lows as Garrett scribbled about the death of a good friend.

Private James Marion Garrett, Company D, 35th Georgia Infantry Regt.

And then in May 1864, after the fiery fighting at The Wilderness, fate caught up with the young Georgian. Early on May 12, two Confederate brigades led by brigadier generals Edward Thomas and Alfred Scales’ rushed through the dense woods on the east side of the now famous Mule Shoe salient to help Brigadier General James Lane’s Brigade. Union fire into both flanks from Second and Ninth Corps units had pinned down Lane’s North Carolinians.  

The sudden arrival of Rebel reinforcements pushed back troops from Union Brigadier General Robert B. Potter’s division assigned to Ambrose Burnsides’ Ninth Corps. Thomas’ excited Georgians, which included the 35th Georgia and Garrett, chased the retreating blue-clad attackers down a steep wooded hill and across a boggy marsh.

The narrative in Red Clay to Richmond noted: “Burnsides’ men slid back behind their entrenchments and watched as the Confederates struggled across the wet march. When the pursuers came within one hundred yards, Federal troops unleashed a torrent of grape, canister and minie balls. This concentrated fire tore huge holes in the Confederate lines. Private James Garrett gasped for breath as he dropped to his knees with a bullet through a lung. Before he completed his fall, another projectile ripped into his hip.”

North Carolinians and Georgians hugged the ground for about two hours as they endured the murderous fire from Burnside’s men. When the Georgians found their right flank turned they hustled “back across the boggy morass and up the steep incline.” The many wounded Southerners remained behind including Garrett.

The 35th Georgia’s sergeant major James P. Johnston noted in a letter to Garrett’s mother that “as soon as night came the ambulance corps found him and carried him to the field hospital.” Garrett hung on in the hospital for three days. A good friend, Sergeant Wilson J. Moore, maintained a bedside vigil and wrote to Mrs. Garrett that her son had left a small pocket book and an ambrotype to be sent home. Moore also noted James’ generosity because he always shared food that the Garrett family had sent from Georgia.   

Chaplain John H. Taylor spent much time at the bedside of James Garrett before the young Georgia soldier died. Taylor wrote Mrs. Garrett a letter describing her son’s faith and resolve during his final hours.

When conversing with him a short time before his death about his

prospects of heaven he exclaimed, ‘Oh how glad my mother will be

to hear I died a Christian.’ It is great consolation indeed to

know that he passed away so well preparing with such bright

prospects of heaven. Let that fact fill your heart with gratitude

to God. I know it is hard to part from our dear children, but if

they depart in Jesus we know our loss is their eternal gain. They

can never come to us but we can go to them. May the God of all

love fill your heart with peace and comfort. And remember that

you have a treasure in heaven which should be an additional

motive to make you think more of that blessed place. We wrapped

him in his blanket and buried him as best as we could under the

circumstances. You may rest assured that all that could be done

was done. Hoping that these lines will be of great comfort to

you, I remain your humble servant.

 A burial detail placed the body of twenty-one-year-old Private James M. Garrett into the ground near the field hospital on May 15, 1864. Several years later, the numerous bodies buried near this spot were removed to Spotsylvania Confederate Cemetery. However, Mrs. Garrett never learned the exact burial location of her son’s body.

Grave of Pvt. James M. Garrett, 35th Georgia at Spotsylvania [VA] Confederate Cemetery

Then in the mid-1990s I talked with Keith Bohannon who was doing some work for the NPS at Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania Military Park. Keith soon located young James Garrett’s grave and he sent me a photo of the headstone. Jack and Dian Stroud, Aunt Ruby, the extended Garrett Family and I all finally had an answer to a more than 130-year family mystery.  

Hanover Tavern to Host National Book Release of Stuart’s Finest Hour

By Nancy Jones, Angle Valley Press, LLC

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hanover Tavern’s Speakers Series on Tuesday, September 17 at 7 p.m. to feature Virginia author John J. Fox, who will introduce his newest Civil War book.

Winchester, VA., September 4, 2013 – Angle Valley Press will debut Virginia historian John Fox’s new Civil War book on Tuesday, September 17 [7 p.m.] at Hanover Tavern. The book details the dramatic Great Chickahominy Raid that made Confederate cavalry General Jeb Stuart famous. He led 1,200 horsemen on a three-day reconnaissance mission deep behind Union lines along the dusty roads of Hanover, New Kent, Charles City and Henrico counties during mid-June 1862. [Read more…]

W. Va. Soldiers Cited in New Book Highlighted by Trade Group

For Immediate Release week of August 24, 2010
Contact: Nancy Jones

W. Va. Soldiers Cited in New Book Highlighted by Trade Group  

Independent Publisher, a twenty-seven-year-old trade organization, just selected Angle Valley Press’ newly released Civil War book The Confederate Alamo as one of their August 2010 Online Magazine’s Highlighted Titles. The group has an extensive website that promotes the work of independent publishers and writers.

The Confederate Alamo was selected out of hundreds of submissions due to its attractive dust jacket, interior design and unique story. This narrative history researched and written by John J. Fox reveals the drama of the little known Battle of Fort Gregg, which closed out the Petersburg campaign in April 1865. Soldiers from four West Virginia Union regiments helped storm the fort. Three soldiers from the 12thWest Virginia in Colonel William B. Curtis’ brigade received the Medal of Honor for their heroism in saving their unit flag during the bloody melee. [Read more…]

Upcoming 145th Anniversary of Forgotten Petersburg Battle Remembered

For Immediate Release week of March 29, 2010

Contact: Nancy Jones



Upcoming 145th Anniversary of Forgotten Petersburg Battle Remembered

Most Americans have never heard of the Battle of Fort Gregg and yet they should because Confederate and Union soldiers exhibited abundant heroism there. By April 2, 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant’s men had tightened their noose around the vital town of Petersburg, Virginia. On that day 145 years ago, Federal soldiers pierced the thin lines of General Robert E. Lee’s beleaguered Army of Northern Virginia. Trapped on three sides with a river at their back, Lee’s men had never faced such dire circumstances. To allow time to craft an escape, Lee called on a small motley group of Southerners to make a suicidal last stand at Fort Gregg. [Read more…]

Forgotten South Georgia Confederates Remembered

For Immediate Release December 1, 2008

Contact: John Fox 540-539-1260


“This book tells the story of the regiment and its men in rich detail,

based on extensive original sources, many of them never before in print.”

Robert K. Krick, author of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain  and  Lee’s Colonels.

Forgotten South Georgia Confederates Remembered

Jim Parrish began to research his family background some ten years ago. His curiosity grew when he discovered that he had two great-great-grandfathers who had served in the 50th Georgia Infantry Regiment. Then he realized that no comprehensive history of the 50thGeorgia’s war experience existed. Determined to find answers, he embarked on a long journey that took him to places like Gettysburg, Savannah, Sharpsburg and Winchester. [Read more…]

Cemetery Detective Work Helps Families Find Lost Confederates

Official Release for  Southerners at Rest

For Immediate Release

Contact: John Fox 540-539-1260
“Countless families will discover the names of long-lost relatives
in the pages of this book.”  Robert E.L. Krick, Richmond NPS historian

Cemetery Detective Work Helps Families Find Lost Confederates

During the Civil War, thousands of Southerners never learned the fate of family members who served in the Confederate army. As the war dragged on, wagonloads of corpses continued to arrive at the gates of Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery.

[Read more…]

Virginia Author Receives 2006 Award from Georgia Secretary of State’s Office

The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board, sponsored by Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, has announced that one of the recipients of their 2006 “Award for Excellence in Research Using the Holdings of an Archives” is John J. Fox. He received this honor along with two other awardees in an October 16 ceremony held in the Georgia Department of Archives & History building at Morrow, Georgia near Atlanta. Fox received this recognition for his non-fiction book, Red Clay to Richmond: Trail of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment, which follows a group of Georgia soldiers through four long years of war in Virginia. [Read more…]

Virginia Author to Receive 2005 Robertson Prize for Confederate History

The Robert E. Lee Civil War Roundtable’s Civil War Library and Research Center has announced that the recipient of their 5th Annual James I. Robertson Jr. Literary Prize for Confederate History is John J. Fox, III. Fox will receive this honor for his non-fiction book, Red Clay to Richmond: Trail of the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment, which follows a group of Georgia soldiers through four long years of war in Virginia. [Read more…]