The Ether Altars of Our Dead: A Memorial Address in 1875

I wanted to do something in honor of Memorial Day, and I thought the best thing I could do is let one of Mississippi’s Civil War generation speak. On April 26, 1875, J.P. Green gave a memorial address about Mississippi’s Civil War dead at Port Gibson. It was published in The New Orleans Times on July 10, 1875. Like most speeches from that era, it is very long, so I have just included some of the more interesting parts of the speech.

Green began his memorial by stating why it was so important that Mississippians remember those they had lost :

One more link is broken in the chain that binds us to the memoried past. A moment’s

Harrison County Confederate Memorial at Gulfport – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

hush in the busy struggle. A moment’s stillness in the rushing stream of life, all again as it was before; only a whole community to-day has mourned for the true friend, the tried comrade, the elegant scholar, and the honored citizen. All as it was before, only another soldier sleeps the last sleep, by the side of his comrades, the peer of the noblest there. A grief, all too sacred, forbids us more, and with a common sorrow yet hungering in our hearts, and the solemn words of “The Preacher” yet sounding in our ears, we have come to make our offerings upon these ether altars of our dead.

Once more upon the dial of time the hand stands still, pointing to the hour when it is most right, most becoming thus to gather in sacred reunion, to offer up the incense of loving hearts and tender memories to the dead heroes of a lost cause.

The present, with its busy realities fades from us, and the days of Lee and Jackson pass

Confederate Memorial at Laurel – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

in panoramic display, now illumined by some splendid success, now shadowed by some dark disaster. Our heart beats like muffled drums seem to have called from the far off Spirit Land a shadowy host, and as they pass in solemn review before us, we see standing up from each grassy mound, from nay a lone spot: where sleep the unmarked, but unforgotten dead soldier, forms who, as they join the Phantom Procession, exclaim: We too are your brothers in arms – comrades on the long and wearisome march, comrades in that last consideration of a heroic life – a soldier’s death – a soldier’s grave.

Green went on to name many of the places, so well known to Mississippians, where their kith and kin had fallen:

From Gettysburg’s fatal field: from Manassas, with her double crown of victory: from Richmond’s battle girdled, from Pensacola’s Gulf washed forts, from Carolina’s historic coast, from Vicksburg’s shell-plowed hills, from far beyond the Mississippi’s sea-like flood, from many a fathom deep, where the ocean’s lullaby had hymned their only dirge – they come, they come – our hero dead.

In still a later portion of the speech, Green stated how the terrible casualties that the state had suffered bound all Mississippians together in what he called “One great family:”

Each lonely mound, marked perhaps by some name that falls upon no familiar ear, is this

Confederate Memorial at Natchez – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

day tended by a sister’s love, mourned over by some aged father or mother, whose dead hero received at other hands the same gentle care they give the stranger here. Some sleep far from the homes or graves of all near or dear to them, but the air of spring, laden with the perfume of your offerings, perhaps will bear their sweets to a distant spot, to mingle them with a fragrance laid upon the grave of some one near or dear to you.

Near the close of his speech Green encouraged his audience to help build monuments to the South’s honored dead:

Every state, every county in the South should thus build up its memorials. Our land, so young in the grand drama of national life, is yet aged with the fiery baptism of woe and blood that has rested on it: that has made the jungled gloom of the Wilderness classic ground. That has made even your broken hills and darksome vales sentineled not but by the “Cold Capaulta and Magnolia’s gloomy bloom,” soil sacred by her strife and patriot’s grave…Go then from here to bear the wealth of your remembrance and love to offer around the graves of your dead.

Mississippians certainly took this advice to heart, and the results of their efforts can be

Confederate Memorial in Columbus to the soldiers from Lowndes County – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

found in every town square or courthouse lawn in the state, where silent soldiers cast in bronze or chiseled from stone stand guard for all eternity. Their work can also be seen in the graveyards that dot the Mississippi countryside where thousands of Confederate soldiers lie in neat, orderly rows with well-marked marble tombstones.

The next time you pass by a Civil War monument, or walk through a Civil War graveyard, take a moment to think of the Mississippians who fought for their state 150 years ago in the bloodiest war our country has ever known.

A Snowball Fight at Dalton, Georgia

For Mississippians serving during the Civil War, the enemy they had to fight most often was boredom. Combat took up only a small portion of their time, and they spent many long hours in camp and on the march. Soldiers being soldiers, they found many outlets for their pent up energy. One favorite pastime during the winter months was snowball fights. Often these affairs were took on the appearance of an actual battle, with thousands of men and their officers taking part. An account of one such “battle” was written by an unknown member of Stanford’s Mississippi Battery while they were camped near Dalton, Georgia, in March 1864. This narrative was published in the Charleston Mercury on March 31, 1864:


Camp Stanford’s Battery, Near Dalton, GA, March 22

Our optics opened wild with astonishment this morning, when we peeped out from our “shanty” and saw mother carte’s bosom covered with a snowy mantle, four or five inches thick. As soon as we had gotten our “grub,” we were ready for fun, and immediately the boys of our battery engaged in an indiscriminate snow-balling frolic.

Illustration from HARPER’S WEEKLY, January 30, 1864

Pretty soon, word came to us that the Eufala battery was preparing to engage us, and feeling the honor of Mississippi was as stake, we formed in line of battle and met the Alabama boys on the line that divided our camps. Here we had a spirited engagement for fifteen minutes or more, when hostilities ceased; and as neither party could claim the victory, we formed an alliance, offensive and defensive, and proceeded to charge Fenner’s Louisiana battery, also in our battalion. The gallant Louisiana boys feeling that it was a point of honor for them to protect their territory from invasion, turned out en masse, and having advantage of position, withstood all our assaults. They held a gap on the hillside, and as their flank were protected by a thicket of bushes, we could gain but little ground.

The battle had been raging for half an hour with alternate success, when, looking down the road in our rear, we saw two regiments of infantry (the 16th and 25th Louisiana I believe), approaching us rapidly, and fully armed for the fray. They came over for the purpose of whipping out Fenner’s battery. As soon as we learned this, we immediately struck hands with our late antagonists, and all the batteries now united, we marched to meet the common foe. The conflict was a desperate one, as we were determined to drive the invaders from our camps.

The enemy’s battleflag, an old silk handkerchief tied to a pole, advanced near our lines, when some of our gallant boys made a charge, and after a hard struggle, effected its capture. At length, after many hard blows on either side, the enemy sent forward a flag of truce, when hostilities ceased, and another alliance was formed. The officer commanding the infantry detachment then proposed to take his regiments and the remainder of his brigade (Gibson’s Louisiana brigade), and with the aid of our artillery battalion, commanded by Maj. Eldridge, we would, altogether, make an attack upon Bate’s old brigade, encamped about a mile distant.

The proposition was agreed to – we soon formed all our companies and regiments, and tramped through the deep snow to the enemy’s camp; when near it we formed in line of battle and deployed skirmishers in front. We found the foe fully prepared to meet us. They were drawn up in line, with their colors flying to the breeze. Our skirmishers now advanced and drove in those of the enemy. Our whole line followed in a tremendous charge, cheering and yelling, while our officers gallantly led us on. The first charge broke the lines of the enemy, and we followed them to their camps, captured a battle flag and several prisoners. They soon rallied, however, and rushed on our left flank with so much impetuosity that our ranks were broken, and another Missionary Ridge scene was enacted. The victorious enemy pelted us severely, and pursued our routed columns, taking many prisoners.

I had the honor of bearing one of our standards – the aforesaid pocket handkerchief we captured on the occasion. While I was “changing my base,” a tall, daring fellow from the enemy’s lines rushed forward, overtook me, and seized my flag; about a dozen others ran up to his assistance, and in spite of my valorous struggle, and shouts for help, they took me off a prisoner, and secured the captured colors. From that time I was only a spectator.

More stirrring scenes were to be enacted. Heavy reinforcements now came to the relief of our scattered brigade and battalions: Clayton’s, Stovall’s, and Baker’s brigades, all of Stewart’s division, were seen advancing. Two long lines of battle were formed – our routed columns again restored to order, and the command forward was given, which was followed by a yell that would have done credit to a legion of Comanches.

Bate’s old brigade had also been reinforced, as I was informed, by the Kentucky brigade, General Lewis, and perhaps others. The charge was sounded by our buglers, and the brigadiers and colonels gallantly led on their respective commands. When the contending columns met, the shock was terrible – the air was filled with whizzing snowballs, and above the confusion rung out on the clear cold air the shouts of the combatants. Here and there might be seen some unlucky hero placed hors du combat, with a red eye or a bloody nose.

Field officers seemed to be the most desirable game, and many a major, colonel, and brigadier was soundly pelted, and in some cases captured, horse, equipments and all. Our column, heavily reinforced as it was, proved too much for Bate’s division. The enemy’s ranks were broken, and our now victorious braves drove them into their camps, where they were glad of the opportunity to take shelter in their cabins.

We captured several battle flags and a number of prisoners. But our victory was dearly bought. We lost two or three standards, and have to mourn the loss of many gallant officers and men. Major Eldridge commanding our battalion was captured in the first charge; also, Adjutant Colwell, commanding the Eufala artillery. Time and space fail to tell of all the gallant deeds performed by our braves. The enemy being routed in the last charge, our scattered forces were collected, and the victorious host marched back to camps, every man in good humor, each one feeling himself a hero. The snow continued to fall during the day, and attained to the depth of six inches.

Our army here is in splendid fighting trim. Full confidence is felt in our gallant commander. The troops are in good spirits, and their physical condition unsurpassed. If the Yankee host of Thomas see fit to try our mettle, they will find us ready, and will assuredly meet with something warmer than a snowball reception.

The nameless writer of this article was correct – something warmer than a snowball fight was on the horizon. The Atlanta Campaign was about to begin, and thousands of Mississippians would be killed or wounded in the months of fighting to come. The time for games was nearly over.

Soldier Spotlight: Surgeon George C. Phillips, 22nd Mississippi Infantry

I have been wanting to do an article related to the Confederate Medical Corps for some time, as I greatly admire what that branch of the service did during the war. Working under extremely difficult conditions, often short of medicine and supplies, Southern doctors and all of the men of the medical corps did their very best to provide quality care to the men in their charge.

In 1902 Dr. George C. Phillips of Holmes County, Mississippi, spoke to a group of his fellow veterans about his service as a surgeon with the 22nd Mississippi Infantry during the Corinth campaign in October 1862. This talk was published in three parts in the Progress Advertiser of Lexington, Mississippi, on November 7, 14, and 21, 1902.

George C. Phillips was a 25 year old physician in Tchula, Holmes County, Mississippi, when the war started. He enlisted as a private in Company G, “Black Hawk Rifles,” 22nd Mississippi Infantry, on August 12, 1861. He was appointed an assistant surgeon in the regiment on September 26, 1861.

The September 1899 edition of CONFEDERATE VETERAN Magazine ran this photo of the reunion of the 22nd Mississippi Infantry on the cover. Dr. George C. Phillips is in the back row on the left.

Dr. Phillips talk on his experiences during the bloody fighting at Corinth, and the days immediately thereafter, illustrates the incredibly hard work done by the medical corps during a major campaign:

Commander and Comrades: You have asked me to give you my experience in removing the wounded of my brigade from Corinth Miss., after the disastrous battles fought there Oct., 3rd and 4th, 1862 by the Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn. Of the desperate charges made by our men against the enemy’s breast works, line after line of which they carried, until checked on the second day by the enemy, concentrating their entire force on the almost impregnable position of College Hill I have nothing to say but leave to some of our comrades who were present and took part in that awful struggle, my field hospital was on a small creek immediately behind our brigade line of battle, where there was shade and water.

Stereoview showing the Confederate dead in front of Battery Robinett at Corinth – Library of Congress

The infirmary corps ambulance drivers and asst. surgeons were informed where to bring the wounded. The surgeons of the brigade then set to work to prepare for the wounded that we knew would soon be on hand, improvising tables from wagon beds or any pieces of board we could get, or door of a house if any was near, having pots of water boiled, buckets of cold water set handy, instrument and bandages put in order. We had no tents. In the mean time the battle had opened and was waging in our front. By the time our crude preparations were finished, the wounded commenced coming in, those who could walk, on foot, others in ambulance, some in wagons, as we had but few ambulances.

Wounded men being assisted from the battlefield – Library of Congress

The men were taken out and laid on the ground in the shade of trees, and the conveyances sent back for others. Now came hard work for the surgeons, first in the lignating arteries that were bleeding, cutting out bullets that could be felt, laying aside, often a hurried examination, those requiring a capital operation until the rush was over, splinting and bandaging broken limbs that might be saved.

Late in the night, working by candle light. We finished, first work, with the lot of wounded and the poor fellows as comfortable as we could with the scant means at hand, lying on the bare ground with only their one blanket around them. Fortunately it was not cold, early the next morning the battle reopened and all through the day the wounded continued to come in, though not so numerous as the day before, the artillery doing most of the fighting in our front, the infantry supporting it.

Attending to the wounded after a battle – Library of Congress

About 4 o’clock in the afternoon I received orders to remove all the wounded who could bear transportation in wagons, back some miles on the road we came in on, to Chewalla, where we made the famous charge on the saw mill – so humorously described in poetry by Col. Reid. None of our wounded wanted to be be left, so I had them all placed in wagons (seventy two, if my memory is correct.) I am speaking only of Bowen’s brigade. We reached Chewalla and got the wounded all taken out about seven o’clock p.m., and I prepared to remove a man’s arm at the shoulder joint who ought to have been operated on the evening before but we did not have the time.

This photo of a Union ambulance train is from the Library of Congress. The ambulance train spoken of by Dr. Phillips was probably not this well equipped.

It was a dark night and the wind blowing, I had two sperm candles held by two men with their hats shielding the flame from the wind in spite of which, first one and then the other would be blown out. The case was so urgent however, that I determined to operate, even under these difficulties. As the amputation was to be at the shoulder joint, no compression of the blood vessels could be maintained. So I with the understanding that Dr. McMillen, a large strong man, was to grab the lower flap, as soon as cut, with thumbs across it compressing the bleeding artery.

Civil War Amputation Kit –

The bone was shattered by a piece of shell so that I was forced to sweep the knife around to disarticulate the head, Mc’s thumb was in the way ‘hold on’ he says, ‘you are cutting my thumb,’ ‘I can’t stop,’ says I, ‘but damn it Phillips it hurts, you are cutting right into my thumb,’ says he, ‘Hold hard Mc says i, this man’s life is in your hand and you must not turn loose.’ Mc did hold, and the man’s life was saved, but Mc had a sore thumb for some time.

About 9 o’clock that night I received orders “to load up the wounded and start at once with them to Holly Springs, on the same road that we came to Corinth on; to travel until I reached the bridge across the Hatchie River; to stop there long enough to dress the wounds of the men and to feed them; that a quartermaster sergeant would be sent with me, with funds to buy provisions and that I might detail an assistant surgeon to go with and assist me.

I selected Dr. B.F. Kittrell of the 22nd Miss., Regiment, we placed the wounded mostly in wagons that had been used for hauling provisions and forage for the army, there being only five or six ambulances, in which the worst wounded were placed until filled, some were too badly hurt to be moved, but they begged not to be left, and I had all loaded as best I could with straw and leaves in the wagons beds. These were the regular army four mule wagons without springs. We got started between ten and eleven o’clock that night. About twelve o’clock we came to a creek bottom, where the darkness was so intense that the drivers could not see the road and the jolting so great from the running into ruts and over stumps that the wounded could not stand it so I was forced to disobey orders and halted the train.

This illustration is of the Confederates retreating after the Battle of Shiloh – the retreat described by Dr. Phillips from Corinth would have looked much the same.

We stopped right in the road, and drivers, mules, and all who could except myself went to sleep, I was awfully sleepy but had to stay awake to start the train as soon as day began to break and the drivers could see to avoid rough places. We proceeded without incident until we reached Hatchie Bridge about 12 o’clock on the 5th. The train had just stopped and the team of the front ambulance unhitched when two cavalry men came charging across the bridge, at full speed, their hats in their hands, shouting “Go back, go back, the enemy are just across the other side.”

A modern view of the Hatchie River near where the bridge was located during the Civil War –

I told the division to turn round and drive to the edge of the woods on the plateau above the river bottom and wait further orders; to give Dr. Kittrell and myself all the canteens we could pack and we would bring the men water, many of them were suffering and calling for it, we not having been able to get any one route, Dr. Kitrell and I hitched our horses, went down the stream and filled about a dozen canteens apiece. When we got up the bank, we found a Confederate cavalry regiment formed across the road, tied the canteens to our saddles and mounted. Says I, “Kittrell lets see what this cavalry is going to do, there may be only a small force of the enemy on the other side and our men may drive them out of the way and we can go ahead.”

Marker illustrating the fighting that took place at Davis Bridge on the Hatchie River.

The commander of the regiment called in a loud voice, “all men with long range guns step to the front.” Not a man moved it looked as if none of them had long range guns, at least they did not think they were. He then rode down the line and pointed them out, one man said “My captain told me to hold horses.” Another said, “My captain told me to take care of his overcoat,” and so on, one excuse after another. It was a wedding they did not care to attend. Says I, “Kittrell, men are not going to fight, and we are in a middle of a bad fix. We had heard the distant boom of cannons back on the road we came. Lets get our train together and await developments.”

We found our train where I had directed them to stop, I moved them out of the road in the shade of some trees, while distributing the canteens of water. I saw one of our infantry brigades coming down the road at a double quick, thinking that it was Federal cavalry that had run our cavalry across the river and that they were no better fighters than ours (that was before Van Dorn and Forrest had made fighters of our cavalry) and as soon as our infantry struck them they would sweep them out of the way and open up our road, I went to looking after some of the wounded, giving opiates to some that were suffering greatly. Sam Gwin came to me saying that Dr. Keirn was in an ambulance not in my train, suffering very much with his wounded hand, as I finished, one of our men who had been who had been to me several times on the trip, came and begged me while we were stopped to cut his finger off, which had been shot the day before, and was hanging by the tendons and a piece of skin and swinging about pained him very much.

One of the wounded soldiers cared for by Dr. Phillips on the retreat from Corinth was Major Walter Leake Keirn of the 38th Mississippi Infantry. – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

I told him all right, and for Dr. Kittrell to come with him to the shade of a black jack, off from the wagons about forty yards. The Dr. asked me to let him operate as he did not often have a chance, to which I agreed, laid the man on the ground and commenced administering chloroform on a towel. For some reason he was the hardest man to anaesthetize I had even tried it on. He got to the stage of excitement and would not pass it. In the mean time the infantry that passed us had become heavily engaged as soon as they got down on the river and cannons firing from the other side. Says I, “Kittrell the enemy are not cavalry alone they have infantry and artillery.”

I pressed the chloroform and our patient who could hear the firing and in his semi delirious state imagined himself in the midst of a battle, fighting the yankees shooting and charging. At last the chloroform got the better of him. I told the Dr. to go ahead and be as quick as possible as the fighting was growing hotter and appeared coming nearer and I must get my train back out of the way. The Dr. had made one cut on the finger to form a flap when a shell passed through the tree top we were under. Kittrell remarked we can’t stay here Dr. we will be killed. Oh, says I, “Go ahead that’s a shell and they don’t shoot in the same place,” but the Dr. was nervous and his hands shook so that I said keep cool Kittrell or you won’t make a good job of this. I am cool enough says he but this is [an] operation under great difficulties. As he said this another shell struck the ground and burst about twenty feet to one side of us throwing dirt over all of us.

Kittrell stopped and said, “Doctor we must get away from here.” Says I, “give me that knife

Bottle of Civil War Chloroform –

I will finish this job.” With two quick sweeps of the knife I unjointed the finger and in a minute folded the flap down and bandaged the stump. I took no stitches, as is usual in such cases, laid his gun and cartridge box by him, remarking, “You can take your revenge out on the Yankees, if you are still of the same mind, when you blow off that chloroform as they appear to be large numbers just down under the hill, and ran to my horse in such a hurry that I forgot my bottle of chloroform.

When I got on my horse I looked around for my train, not wagon or ambulance could I see, nor could I imagine where they had gone as the road we came on was filled with more infantry, coming rapidly to support their friends, who were being hard pressed on both sides of the road, up and down the river, as I saw no other road, however, I supposed they had gone back that way until they met the infantry.

We galloped back alongside the road, asking if a train of wounded passed back, none had seen it. These were all Price’s men, among our best fighters, but I could not help but notice the expression of their faces, many of them haggard, all stern and serious. They had been repulsed in their two days fight at Corinth, followed by a victorious enemy and now their only road of retreat, so far as they knew, blocked by a powerful force of the enemy which they must whip before the force in their rear caught up.

They knew that there was deadly work ahead of them, into which they were going, worn, weary and hungry, it was enough to make them look serious. Here I witnessed one of the saddest scenes that I saw during the war, an old blind grandmother, her daughter and four little grandchildren, lived in a house around which the heaviest of the fighting was going on. They had fled and gotten into the road filled with our troops, the daughter leading her blind mother and one of the little children, the other three holding her by the dress, and all crying

Civil War Refugees – HARPER’S WEEKLY, November 5, 1864

I stopped and asked them what was the matter and where they were going. They told me where they lived, that they did not know where to go, that soldiers and fighting was everywhere. I directed them to leave the road and go down in a steep hollow and stay there until the fighting was over, then to go back home.

Going further back on the road we met two batteries of artillery. They stated that they had met no train of wounded. Knowing that they could not pass without one or the other giving the road, i saw that it was useless to look further in that direction, so we rode as rapidly as possible back to where we operated on the man’s finger. The man and his gun were gone, but the bottle of chloroform was still there. The fighting with both musketry and cannon was now raging all along the line of the river for half a mile and wounded men were coming back.

Riding north along a drive road we presently saw an ambulance about a quarter of a mile

The major that was tended by Dr. Phillips was Thomas C. Dockery, who was badly wounded during the Battle of Corinth. Only a captain at the time of the battle, he was not officially promoted to major until November 1862, This picture is taken from the reunion photo of the 22nd Mississippi shown earlier in this article.

ahead of us. Putting our horses in a lope we soon overtook it, and found it to be one of my train and containing the major of my regiment, who was badly wounded in the shoulder the day before by a shell, and three wounded privates. The major was suffering greatly from his wound. The driver informed me that the rest of the train had gone on this road ahead of him and the major would not let him drive fast enough to keep up. I asked Dr. Kittrell to ride ahead until he overtook the front ambulance and to pack them behind some hill until I came up, because shells were bursting all along the ridge we were traveling.

I hitched my horse to the back of the ambulance and got in to dress the major’s wound and told and told the driver to stop, just then a shell passed just over us and burst a short distance beyond. The major remarked, “Doctor, we will all be killed here.” “I can’t help it major,” I answered, pouring water from my canteen on his shoulder and removing the old hard bandage as rapidly as I could, I soon had it off, put a wet compress over the wound and was applying a fresh bandage when a shell passed under the mules and burst a short distance beyond, filling the ambulance with smoke but hurting none of us. “I tell you, doctor, we will all be killed here,” said the major. Well major, says I, “I had just as soon be killed fixing up a wounded ma as at any other time, but driver you let those mules go, and get away from here.”

When the wheels would hit a rock or root with a big jolt the major would grunt, but he did not say stop any more, in fact he was much more comfortable after I had bandaged his arm tightly to his side. I then mounted my horse, telling the driver to follow the road until he came up with the other drivers, went on at a lope. The road ran on a ridge parallel with the river and almost north for some distance, then turned into a deep hollow, almost due east. Down in this hollow I found Dr. K and all of my train. The trip getting out of range of the shells had been awful upon the wounded and two had died in the wagons. The drivers would put their teams on the run when the wounded would scream, swear and yell to them to stop when they would hold up for awhile, a shell would burst near them and they would yell to the drivers to whip up again.

From the direction I believed the road we were on would lead back into that we had come from Corinth. It was now nearly dark. Leaving Dr. K. with the train I rode on to try and find out where the road did lead. Less than a half mile I found that it did lead into the Corinth road, and that our wagon train was moving along it rapidly, knowing that if they followed it that they would go to the bridge on the Hatchie, where the fighting was, and as I knew the enemy had not been repulsed, I was puzzled to know what they were up to, the drivers did not know. After a little while a quartermaster major came along, inquiring of him, he told me they were going out on the boneyard road. I told him that I had been on that all day and had seventy wounded with me. He then told me that the boneyard road led to a mill on the Hatchie river, ten miles above the bridge, and they were going to cross on the dam, and that if i could get my wagons and ambulances in the train to do so.

I hurried back and moved my train to the road, telling the front driver to keep the heads of his teams right at the road and when I gave the word to rush in and all the rest to keep closed up, most of the train had passed when a wagon broke down just beyond us, before it could be thrown out I ordered my drivers to rush in quick, which they did. It was now dark. I supposed the quartermaster reported my presence, with the wounded, in the train, for after going a mile or two I received an order from Gen Van Dorn, through Division surgeon McVinlen to select one house on the road, assemble all the wounded there and surrender them. I told the doctor there was no use in surrendering until there was someone to surrender to. He replied that he had no discretion in the matter, that he had delivered the order as given to him.

I told him to tell the general all right. It was so dark I could not see any house, if there was any, and I intended to make this my excuse if hauled up for disobeying orders. An hour after this I noticed infantry passing us on the side of the road, presently Colonel _____ came along and recognizing me, how I do not know, for it was dark as pitch, asked me in a low tone, “If I knew that the wagon train was abandoned.” i told him no, but my wounded and myself were and informed him of the general’s orders and he said “the entire train is abandoned. My regiment is the last of the rear guard and we are passing now, there are no troops between you and the enemy and I just wanted to tell you goodbye.” Well, Jim,” I replied, “I am not going to stop as long as this train keeps moving unless the Yankees come up and order me to, and I don’t believe they are going to do that in the dark, they are about near broke down as we are.” “Well, good bye boys,” the colonel said, “I hope you will pull through.”

Late in the night we reached the mill dam on the Hatchie river. I don’t suppose a wagon had ever crossed on it before, our men had strengthened and widened the old dam as well as they could, in the short time they had, making a sort of mud bridge of logs and slabs on top of the dam, the water flowing over it all along, making about the roughest route wounded men were ever hauled over; providentially the entire train got over without accident so far as I know. A little while after crossing the river the wagon train and the infantry went into bivouac, leaving the road open. I saw my chance to get ahead of the army and drove all night, and until ten o’clock next day, when we reached Ripley, away south of either army.

Teams and men were completely worn out, thirsty and hungry. Some citizens directed me to a large meadow through which ran a fine spring branch bordered with large beach trees. Parking the wagon, all the teams were turned loose. I had the wounded taken out and placed together under the shade of the trees. At the far end of the meadow was a small flock of sheep. I wrote a note to the man owning the sheep, stating that besides the drivers and attendants, we had seventy wounded men, that for three days we had had nothing to eat: would he please sell me a couple of those sheep. He did not reply to the note but sent word by the man, that he had no sheep to sell, that what few he had was needed for his own family. (Our commissary sergeant got lost from us, in the confusion, the day before and did not join us again, in fact I expect he, as well as Gen. Van Dorn, thought the Yankees were taking care of us.)

It was a ground hog case, these men must be fed. I ordered two of the men belonging to my infantry corps “To take their guns and kill two of the fattest sheep in that flock, dress them nicely and make soup in camp kettles with one of them, for all the men. For four of the teamsters to take a wagon and bring in corn and hay for the teams and three or four bushels of meal, if they had to grind in and beg or steal some salt” all of which they carried out to the letter like the good soldiers they were. By the time the soup was done, and bread baked, all wounded had their wounds bathed and fresh dressings applied.

There were four tents found in the wagon, which were stretched, straw placed on them and the wounded all laid in them. Then every man had a pan of soup, a piece of mutton, and a good chunk of bread, and I tell you comrades, I thought that was the best soup, the tenderest mutton and sweetest bread I had ever eaten, and the soundest and best sleep that night I ever had, we all went to sleep before dark and did not wake until daylight the next morning, when after another good feed of soup, mutton and bread we started on the road for Holly Springs which we reached without further accident the evening of the second day, that is the 8th, and delivered my wounded at the general hospital.

I was not court martialed for disobeying orders, rather complimented for bringing the wounded out; in truth I think I was forgotten.

G.C. Phillips, Ex-Surg. 22nd Miss. Regt. Inf. Confed. States

Editors Note: George Crawford Phillips died November 3, 1927, in Akron, Ohio, where he

The Grave of Dr. Phillips in Odd Fellows Cemetery. The inscription reads, “He was faithful to every duty.”

lived with his daughter. He was brought back to Lexington, Mississippi, for burial, and in his obituary it was said of him: “Dr. Phillips was a veteran of the Civil War, serving as a surgeon in the Confederate army, and there never was a more ardent supporter of their cause than the brave soldier who filled his post for the whole four years of suffering and strife.” Doctor George C. Phillips is buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Lexington, Mississippi.

Walking to Macon: The Journey of James C. Williams to the 1912 Macon Confederate Reunion

While doing some research, I found an interesting little article in the January 1912 edition of Confederate Veteran magazine about James C. Williams, who served in the “Jasper Rifles,” Company I, 20th Mississippi Infantry. This is the article in question:

Article on James C. Williams from the January 1912 edition of CONFEDERATE VETERAN Magazine.

I was intrigued by the article, and wondered if it was possible that a veteran more than 70 years old could have possibly walked from Lewisville, Texas, to Macon Georgia. Well, I decided to do a little research and find out.

I started by looking up Williams’ service record on to see if he was in fact listed as serving in the 20th Mississippi Infantry. A few clicks later, I had my answer – he did indeed serve with the unit, enlisting at Corinth, Mississippi, on July 6, 1861. He was 21 years old at the time, and listed his residence as Garlandsville, in Jasper County.

Enlistment information from the compiled service record of James C. Williams

Williams was captured with his regiment in February 1862 when Fort Donelson, Tennessee, surrendered. Sent to Camp Douglas, Illinois, prisoner of war camp, he was exchanged in September 1862 at Vicksburg. During the Atlanta Campaign in 1864, Williams was listed as wounded on June 6.

After determining that Williams was indeed a Confederate veteran, I began checking newspapers from 1912 to see if I could find any accounts of his trip. I hit paydirt in the February 18, 1912, edition of the Dallas Morning News:

The next mention of Williams was in the March 16, 1912, edition of the paper:

Sibley, Louisiana, is just east of Shreveport, making it about 250 miles from Williams’ starting point in Lewisville, Texas – the old soldier was making good time.

Apparently newspapers from across the nation were covering Williams’ trek, for the Columbia, South Carolina State had this article in their March 29, 1912 edition:

Uniontown was approximately 25 miles east of Demopolis, Alabama, making the total distance traveled by Williams approximately 600 miles. In the April 11, 1912, edition of the Dallas Morning News, a reporter for the paper headlined his article about the trip, “Texas Veteran Nears Goal:”

On April 14, the Columbus Daily Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia, ran a story on Williams under the bold headline, “FROM TEXAS TO GEORGIA ON FOOT.” The article noted that the footsore veteran was the guest of Mr. A.A. McLeod while in was in the city. Evidently the old soldier did not have trouble finding places to sleep while on his journey. When interviewed by the paper Williams noted that: “I didn’t have to lie out but one night, I was refused a place to sleep at a certain place in Alabama, because some former lodgers had imposed upon the generosity of the people of the house to which I applied for lodging.”

Word of Williams’ trip had already reached Macon, and the local citizens had arranged to put him up in style. In the April 22 edition of the Macon Telegraph, the paper noted that he would be a guest of the R.A. Smith Camp, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and would, “Be shown a royal good time during his stay here. This was decided at a meeting of the camp held yesterday afternoon.”

On May 2, 1912, James C. Williams completed his journey by walking into the city limits of Macon. The Macon Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I walked all the way to Macon! Last January three old soldiers declared they could walk to Georgia. Two backed out, but I undertook the journey, and made it on foot. I walked the railway tracks, as a rule. I left Texas on the 26th of February, but rested along the way twenty-one days in all, and have been sixty-five days on the journey. My health is good.”

In saying that he had walked the entire distance, Williams may have stretched the truth a bit. The Columbus Daily Enquirer had noted on April 14 that “With the exception of the distance between Monroe, La., and Vicksburg, Miss., he had walked all the way.” The Columbus Ledger noted that same day that Mr. A.A. McLeod had met Williams at Hurtsboro, Alabama and came to Columbus with him, strongly implying that he had been given a ride. I suspect that well-wishers all along the route helped Williams, making his 65-day march to Macon possible. Regardless of how much assistance he received, it was an amazing display of stamina, and the veteran of the 20th Mississippi should be lauded for it.

The Macon United Confederate Veterans reunion was May 7-9, 1912, and

Medal for the 1912 Macon UCV Reunion

thousands of former soldiers and their families flocked into the city for the festivities. The Times-Picayune of Louisiana said of the reunion, “The soldiers are coming this time for their annual reunion, many of them to mingle for the last time with each other and recount their experiences in the terrible struggle in which the North was pitted against the South.” One of the highlights of the reunion was the unveiling of a Confederate flag, said to be the largest ever made. The paper noted that before the unfurling of the flag, “A public reception was held in honor of James C. Williams, a 72-year old veteran, who walked from Dallas, Tex., to Macon, making the trip in sixty-five walking days.”

The parade of UCV Veterans at the 1912 Macon reunion - Bibb County, Georgia, USGENWEB archive

When the reunion finally ended, Williams made plans to return home but not on foot. The Dallas Morning News noted on May 3, 1912: “A move has been started to secure funds for the purchase of a return trip ticket for Mr. Williams so he will not have to walk back.” The effort was probably successful, as I could find no other mention of Williams’ trip home to Texas.

James C. Williams lived a good many years after the 1912 reunion, dying in Lewisville on

James C. Williams is buried in the Chinns Chapel Cemetery in Denton County, Texas

December 4, 1927. Confederate Veteran magazine posted an obituary for him in volume 36, page 64, but I don’t have access to that particular issue. If anyone reading this has that issue, and would be willing to send me a copy of the obituary, please contact me and I will post it here.