Georgia Confederate Veterans' Association of Fulton County.

History, Confederate Veterans' Association, of Fulton County, Georgia (Volume 2) online

. (page 6 of 25)
Online LibraryGeorgia Confederate Veterans' Association of Fulton CountyHistory, Confederate Veterans' Association, of Fulton County, Georgia (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

is complaint to this Association. But it being a matter of fad and law for


th( . , !lW officers to examine and decide, of course this Association has nc .author-
;!;. '; ,„„,,. to grant U>d relief as he desires. He is a merchant, on Marietta


Of Atlanta is another of our Veterans, noted for his good nature and
ir| . ni!ll lu ' :mI11 ,,. He was bom in Bibb county, Ga., on the loth of April, 1842.
and moved with his parents to Americus, Ga., in 1849. _

1„ \pril L861 lie was a member of the Sophomore class m Emory C ollege,
« Klnnl ( la A fe* days after he was nineteen years of age he entered service
M a private in the Sumter Lighl Guards, which, upon the organization of the
Fourth Georgia Volunteers, became Company K.

Th „ regimenl was ordered to Norfolk, Va., which was considered at that
time the posl of danger. Remained at Norfolk without fighting until May
L862 when the regimenl was ordered to Richmond. Was present at battle of
Seven Pines but not actively engaged. Was with the regiment in battles
. 11 , 1U1 „1 Richmond, at second Manassas and Sharpsburg. He was slightly
wounded al Gettysburg, and again at Spottsylvania. After battle of Sharps-
burg i,, was appointed Orderly to General Doles, and did not serve with reg-
imenl any more, though being attached to same brigade, participated in all the
battles in which ii was engaged, which included all fought by the army ot
Northern Virginia. In L863 he was appointed aid-de-camp to General Doles,
and served in thai capacity until June, 1864, when General Doles was killed at
second battle of Cold Harbor. From then until close of war he served as
baistanl Adjutant General of guard forces in prison department. During
L866 m 1m- fanned in Calhoun eounty, Ga ; from 1868 to 1875 he farmed in
Sumter countj Ga., but ill-health forced him to abandon it. He moved to
Americus and' followed the prof ession of book keeper until 1884, when he was

appointed I k keeperin Comptroller-General Wright's office, which position

be Mill liolds He married in 1864, and has four boys and one girl. He was
on e ,,l the flrsl Veteran- who joined in the call for the organization of this


I. one of our regular Veterans, lie volunteered May 29, 1861, at Chula-

boma, Marsha] county, Miss., in company I, commanded by Captain T. J.

Harden. Mustered into service June 1-t following, at Richmond, Va., in the

Nineteenth Mississippi Regiment, commanded by Colonel Kitmot, of W. S.

m's brigade. Colonel Kitmot was from Holly Springs, Miss. Went

Richmond to Bunker's Hill, then to Manassas and to Yorktown. The

flrsl battle was al Williamsburg, on the retreat from Yorktown. The next
battle ai Seven Pines, then at Cold Harbor in the morning of 27th June, 1862,
and in the afternoon al Gaines Mill-. He was wounded there in the left arm,
which was amputated above the elbow June28, 1862. He is now acitizen of
Atlanta, ami a Veteran who lakes much interest in the affairs of this Asso-
eial [on.


| | Veteran who lake- an active interest in our Association. He w;\ a

membei • •! corapanj 1'. in the Fourth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers. He


enlisted at Calhoun, Ga., as a private under Captain Blair Mayes. He was
appointed Corporal and served as such during the remaining lime of liis ser-
vice. He was wounded at the battle of Predricksburg, Va., on the 18th of
December, 1862, from which his leg had to he amputated.

He was born in Chester District, 8 ('.. but when lie was an infant his
parents moved to Gordon county, Ga., and he was brought up near the town
of Calhoun. He is now forty-nine years old, and resides in the city of Atlanta,
No. 16 Walton street.


A feature of the objects of our xVssociation is the plan of having short
essays of history at our meetings. After considerable endeavor on my part as
Historian to get the members interested in such work, the plan was adopted .if
having a member selected at a meeting whose duty it should be to read an essay
at our next succeeding meeting.

The first of the series was offered by Rev. T. P. Cleveland, who read a
sketch, at November meeting, as follows:


The writer having waited for over twenty years for some one better qual-
ified to perform the important duty, and being ignorant of its ever having been
done, essays to write a brief sketch as a tribute to the memory of one who
ought to hold a high place in the estimation of every Confederate Veteran and
of every native Georgian. I refer to General


He was born in Wilkes county, Georgia, and was the son of Andrew Q,
Semmes. His mother's maiden name was Mary Robertson. The first school
he attended was at the male academy in Washington, Ga. He afterwards went
to Rev. Dr. Beman's celebrated school at Mt. Zion, Hancock county, and com-
pleted his literary course at the University of Virginia, It was under the
tutelage of Captain Partridge that he first clearly manifested the taste and traits
which afterwards signalized him as a "born soldier."

He married Miss Emily Hemphill, of Wilkes county. He had four child-
ren — two girls, who became highly accomplished young ladies, and two hoys,
twins, wdio grew to manhood. Only one of the children married. Pauline, the
youngest daughter. Her husband was Captain Spencer Semmes, a bod of
Admiral Raphael Semmes. She left several children, who are the only survi-
vors of General Semmes' immediate family.

For several years after marriage the subject of this sketch led the life of a
farmer in his native county, but afterwards moved to Columbus, Ga.. where
he was highly esteemed as a prominent, public spirited citizen, and man
of business. In politics he was a staunch Democrat, and could have adorned
any position which his State might have given him. hut his ambition did not
seem to go forth in that direction, and he contented himself with the glory of
being a pure patriot.

,tHe was, for many years, the Captain of the famous Columhus Guards,
which did good service under Captain Davis in the Mexican war. Not long


before the "war between the States," the celebrated Chicago Zouaves' chal-
lenged any company of infantry in the United States to drill against them. In
behalf of the "Guards" Captain Bemmes accepted the challenge on the condi-
tion "thai the evolutions should be in accordance with Hardee's or Gillam's
laities.'' Arrangements were being made for the drill when the war broke
out, and, consequently, all negotiations ceased, and both companies went to
Virginia. Captain Ellsworth, if I mistake not, of the Zoauves, was the first sol-
dier killed on either side in Virginia, if not the very first killed after the com.
mencement of hostilities.

Captain Semmes was promoted, soon after the war began, to the Colonelcy
of the Second Georgia Regiment of Volunteers, one of the best regiments that
went into Confederate service. This regiment was highly complimented by
Mr. Davis after a review of it near Richmond, and from this regiment there
went out a greal many distinguished commissioned officers.

lie was promoted, in the year 1862, to the rank of Brigadier-General. His
first Adjutant was W. G. Clemens, a New Yorker; his second Roswell Ellis,
who was an officer of the Columbus Guards in the Mexican war. His ap-
pointed aid de-camp was — Briggs, and volunteer aids John Redd and — Cody,
all of Columbus, Ga.

And well may it be said of him — a more loyal heart never beat for his be-
loved Southland, a braver hand never grasped a sword for her defense. He
seemed to be an utter stranger to physical fear. Once, when a minnie ball
pierced the red turban be was wont to wear in battle, that his men might see
him and follow on as he lead them in the fray, quietly removing it from his
head, lie said to a soldier standing by, "a half inch is a good deal when a man's
life is concerned;'' a half inch below would, no doubt, have caused his death.

lie always dressed in his best uniform when expecting to go in battle, and
always carried a toiirneipiel in his coat pocket; and when he fell at Gettysburg,
with the femoral artery cut by a minnie ball, he called to a private soldier of
the Tenth Georgia Regimen! to assist him in applying the instrument, and thus
he was spared from bleeding to death on that famous battle field.

And here let me give a historic fact worth mentioning. The man who
performed the difficult surgical operation, to-wit: the ligation of the femoral
artery, was Dr. Todd (a brother of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln), who was then the
surgeon of Bemmes' brigade.

'fhe writer of these lines was permitted to return with this brave brigadier
to Martinsburg, Va., and will never forget the scenes at Williamsport, Md.,
where the Pojtomac was crossed All of General Lee's army wagons, except
ambulances, ordnance and headquarter wagons, were on the north bank of the

Potomac, 'fhe enemj finding it out. made a desperate but abortive attempt to
Capture and destroy them. Southern pluck came to their rescue; stragglers,
detailed men ami hospital men reinforced the men who were OH duly, and

bravelj repelled the disappointed Federals and saved Lee's transportation. It

Wa« alter this pivotal skirmish thai we succeeded in conveying General Semmes
aCTOBB the river in a boat, anil placing him in the kind hands of a hospitable
familj at Martinsburg, Va. In a few days blood poisoning set in, and after
awhile hie patient -i>iiit left the suffering body and returned to God who cheated

and redeemed ii.


While General Bemmes was a man of extraordinary physical courage, he

was none the less eminent for his moral courage, lie was, for many years a
consistent member of the Presbyterian Church. He was a striking and beau
tiful illustration of the subduing and sanctifying power of divine grace for
like all of his brothers, he was as high strung, fearless and unflinching as any
man perhaps who ever lived.

A more beautiful death, nor one more appropriate, for a soldier, I never
saw or heard of.

He called for his sword -that sword which had never been tarnished by
an ungallant act or an unknightly deed— and laid it by his rfghl side n,. took
his well worn pocket Testament and placed it in his hands folded on his breast.
He sent farewell messages to his men, his staff and field officers, and, lastly, to
his dear wife and children, and then with eyes closed and lips breathing prayer
his soul ascended to the God who gave it life and immortality.

One incident comes to mind which clearly showed the stern convictions of
duty, coupled with kindness of heart, which this gallant General possessed.
One morning about early breakfast time, a straggling Federal was picked up by
one of the headquarter guard, and brought to the General's tent, with the state-
ment "that the man was hungry, shall I feed him.' - "By all means " lie re-
plied. "I would shoot down with one hand a soldier fighting in the line, and
with the other hand give food to one wdio was a prisoner of war."

Much might be said of this chivalric cavalier, but w r e forbear. To the
young Southern volunteer, unaccustomed to the yoke of military restraint.
General Semmes seemed unreasonably severe in his discipline (tor it was pain-
ful to him to see anything done by a soldier in an unsoldierly way), but as the
war wore on, and the volunteer, with his bright brass buttons, began to devel-
ope into a valiant veteran, a decided change of opinion occurred, and when In-
died no General in the Southern army, perhaps, held as firmly as he did the
confidence and esteem of the men who followed him. While in his character
the "fortiter in re" seemed to predominate, he was by no means destitute of the
"suaviter in modo." No man had a higher sense of honor— no man more ready
to die for his convictions of what was right. In these days of demagoiam
and trickery his integrity as citizen and a soldier is a precious and stimulating
memory. His reports to the commander-in-chief were models of plainness and
perspicuity, and always breathed the spirit of humble reliance on a higher
power. Although not a West Pointer, he was once appointed a member of the
Board of Visitors to that national military institute, lie also published, a few-
years before the war, a small work on military tactics. Am) although there
has been a strange silence with regard to this now sainted soldier, the time will
undoubtedly come when his name will he recorded high among those w ho fell
leading embattling hosts in a war the most famous in the history of the world.

The second Essay was read by Colonel L. P. Thomas, upon


The organization of the Forty second Georgia Regiment, at Camp McDon
ough, Ga , took place in 1802 The following were the field and Btafl of
ficers: R. J Henderson, Colonel; R. F. Maddux.. Lieutenant-Colonel; \\ n,.
H. Hulsey, Major; Hugh Wyly, Adjutant.


It is imt necessary, in this short article, to mention the names of the com-
pany officers, many of whom have passed over and joined the great majority.

The first active duty performed by our regiment was around and near
Cumberland (Jap, Tennessee. This command was composed of companies
from Gwinnett, Walton, Newton, Milton, DeKalb and Fulton counties, most
of them hardy young men, and from the best families of our farming commu-
nity. It is in pari my aim, in this article, to speak of a few funny things that
occurred with our hoys when we first entered actively into service. We all
understood the use of arms pretty well, and under the strict discipline of our
gallanl Colonel we were soon to make a record. We looked for the time to
come when we would stand face to face with the enemy of our country, and
drive hack the whole Federal army if it should chance to come that way. We

were ready.


We were then at Cumberland Gap, Tenn. You know how fresh troops
talked and fell at that time, for some of you were there with us. Do you rc-
member how white and clean our new army tents looked, high up on the rugged
mountain side? We actually had our names printed on these tents. You could
see on one. -W. L. Calhoun, Captain Company K, Forty-second Georgia Reg-
iment " On another, "L. P. Thomas, Captain Company A, Forty-second Geor-
gia Regiment." The other officers had their names in bold Roman letters, and
we were very proud of them. We all had well-filled trunks, too, and our mess
boxes were models of beauty, and they were generally well filled. We had
not as yet heard a gun tired, but the boys said they were ready, let 'em come.
Well, one dark night we had our picket line thrown out in front of our quar-
ters, about one mile from us. It was on a ridge in front of Cumberland Gap,
and as rough ground as soldiers generally find to picket over. It was moun-
tainous, and nearly fatal for a skirmish line to become demoralized on such an
occasion. Do you remember what strange ideas some of us had about how
battles wen' fought? Some had an idea that we would form two long lines of
battle strum: out in an open field, and when the command was given for us to
advance, we would just go for each other, tiring and advancing on each other,
until the last man fell. 1 have no doubt some of you had as erroneous ideas.

Well, our boys, of course, were not exceptions to this rule. While on
picket duly thai night, soon after darkness had settled over mountain cliffs,
that threw their dark shadows way down the scraggy mountain sides, some one
discovered brilliant lights Hashing here and there. As they seemed to come
Dearer and nearer, the alarm was given. The enemy is advancing on us with
torches. One gun was tired and then another, and soon the entire line was let-
ting fly the missiles of war into the imaginary enemy. Well, the result — can
you - 1 less jr.- We fell back, not whipped exactly, but badly demoralized, as
the saying was, and what do you think was the trouble? Why, lightning bugs,
of course. Thej routed the boys, and the bugs held the ground. This shows

w hat undisciplined Boldiery w ill sometimes do.

SECRE I or s| , CE8S in WAR.

Hut we commenced to spell up after that, and the record made by our reg-
iment afterwards was unsurpassed in an} in the Western army, its discipline


was perfect. It was called the staying regiment afterwards, and officers and
men had a regimental pride that was creditable to all alike. Without discipline
you have men that cannot be relied on in war. How is this to be brought
about, some officers in high command fail to comprehend — that failure to un-
derstand, how are we to obey those in command over us; in other words, to
love, and at the same time to fear them; that failure to lead or he led and to
move as one man; to observe and accept that discipline, so necessary to the
making up of a grand and true soldiery, was one of the great causes of our
failure. That our men fought well is undeniable, but better Staying and bet-
ter fighting qualities could have been developed in some commands are equally
true. I feel that much was due to our regimental commander, the gallant R.
J. Henderson, afterwards promoted to a brigade commander, and a hearty co-
operation of company commanders, for the glorious records we made.

I point with pride to the twenty-one battle-fields over which we passed.
Through leafless forest the winter winds and autumnal breezes whisper the
names of the gallant boys of our command, who fell bleeding thereon, ami no
doubt you all can say, with equal pride for your own respective commands,
•'we knew our duty and did it well." May those who died for home and
country on these hard fought fields of battle, sleep on sweetly, and their deeds
of heroism be carried down from generation to generation.


The first battle between Sherman and Johnston, after the evacuation of
Dalton, took place at Resaca, May 15th and 16th, 1864. On the loth we were
making movements to the north of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, and both
armies seemed to be skirmishing for the purpose of developing the position of
the other, and the evident intention of Sherman to turn to the right of John-
ston, and Johnston to prevent it This brought on the tight the following day.
We had been resting and recruiting through the winter of 1863, and both
armies were in excellent fighting trim. We felt confident of winning the firsl
battle from Sherman on his march to the sea, and when the boys were put into
line on the morning of the 16th, we were eager for the fray. The two cham-
pions were to meet, leaders they were of two grand armies— Sherman on on.'
side and Johnston on the other— and much depended on the result of this en-
gagement. The Federal army extended north and south across the railroad.
formed in two strong lines of battle At some exposed points, strengthened
by the third line, the Confederates fronting them with one single line. The
reserves of our army being held in position to strengthen any point, most m
danger of attack, as emergencies arose.


I will now contrast the disciplined soldier with the undisciplined. Let our
regiment pass in review before going into this battle -bin strong in line. See
how they moved in their impetuous charge on the enemy's lines under our gal
lant commander. From Dalton to Atlanta you cannot point to a more hotly
contested light.

You remember, Mr. President, for you earn about your person scare ol
that engagement, and although you -race that chair, and sit with so much ap


parent ease therein, you still feel sensibly at times the pain that wound brings
you lint did you sec then a faltering step? How swiftly we made that charge
across the open Held near the Western & Atlantic Railroad, and into the strip
of wood, where the grape shot and minnie balls sang savagely to our falling
comrades— one hundred and seventeen out of our number was left on that
bloody field.

Lieutenant Brown, of Company K, fell there; Colonel W. H. Hulsey, who
was gallantly carrying up the left of our line, went down and was borne from
the field, and many others of our officers I do not now recall. I remember our
gallant Colonel Henderson's conduct in that fight, and history will some day
give him the credil he deserves for saving to us the mortificatiou of a total de-
feat on thai day. With his sabre well lifted in the air, clasped by his strong
right arm, he rallied his men in the open field, after our first attack, and they
rushed around him, grape and canister flying and balls whistling, Henderson's
sabre was carried from his hand by a cannon ball. His wound on his temple
was bleeding profusely, the blood trickling down and off his boots, but un-
daunted he stood his ground, the very picture of a mighty hero, with one com-
pany after another reforming his broken ranks, until our lines were once more
re-established and secure, and so closed the day. Our charge had saved the
army, and had checked for a time the advance of the enemy. We slept on
our arms on the field of battle, and when the morning's sun and picket gun
awoke us, we Wl re again ready for the combat. On that field I had the honor
i" take command of this regiment. The battle was over, but I led it in many
hard-fought fights thereafter, and 1 am proud to-night that lean say that it
never disgraced its first commander in any of them. This account of the bat-
tle is given only of that portion in which our regiment was engaged. Want
Of official records prevents a fuller report


Our fighting is over, our battle-scarred flag still preserved with so much
care by our last color-bearer (Edwards), only floats over us at our annual re-
unions Pierced by many balls, tattered and torn, it tloats then in the breeze,
but there is no danger there now. Touch it gently, for we love it still. Yes,
as Father Ryan says in his beautiful sweet words of the Conquered Banner, in
his concluding verses:

Furl that banner, true 'tis gory,

But 'tis wreathed around with glory,

And 'twill live in song and story,

Though its folds are in the dust,
For its fame on brightest pages,
Penned by poets and by sages,
Shall go sounding down the ages,

Furl its folds though now we must.

Furl that banner softly, slowly,
Treat it gently, it is holy,

For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not, unfold it never,
Let it droop there furled forever,

I or its people's hopes are dead.



Yes, my friends, we felt then that our hopes woe dead ; but we arc
brightening up— we are rejuvenated. We are coming to the front again in all
branches of industry. We did well in war; what have we done in peace 7 We
are not ashamed of our record, are we ? And we can claim that discipline in
peace has done as much for us as it did, or would have done, in war.

Discipline — Webster gives its definition : education and government, order
to instruct and govern. You see, he covers a good deal of ground with this
definition. We are willing to be judged by it, and with unspeakable pride,
with confidence in the future of our country, holding these memories as dear-
est legacies, we bid you go on, do not faint by the wayside — no straggling al-
lowed now. If we are to accomplish anything we must do it quickly. Many
of our comrades have done well, and we find them holding high positions in
church and State. We are proud of them, and it makes us feel that we must
quicken our steps and press onward.

Most of you, my comrades, are to be congratulated for doing so well. No
doubt you often feel like giving up the unequal contest, but the fight must go
on. The cares of life thicken and press on as we grow older, but we niusi
not give up the fight. Strike the harder, and wdien the time of resl comes we
will rest the sweeter.

No doubt the words of the sweet poetess, .Mrs. Susan Coolidge, expn
our feelings fully, when we some times feel like giving up, and fain would
rest. She says :

" Let me stand still on the height of life,

Much has been won, though much there is to win,
I'm a little weary of the strife.

Let me stand still a while, nor count it sin,
To cool my hot brow, ease the travel pain,
And then address me to the road again.

" Ah, blessed law, for rest is tempting sweet,

And we would all lie down if so we might,
And few would struggle on with bleeding feet,

And few would ever gain the higher height,

Except for the stern law which bids us know

We must go forward or must backward go."

L. P. T.

This reference of Col. Thomas to the old flag of his regiment, brings to

Online LibraryGeorgia Confederate Veterans' Association of Fulton CountyHistory, Confederate Veterans' Association, of Fulton County, Georgia (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 25)