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:
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 Fold3.com 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.
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
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.”
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
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.