The Mississippians who fought in the Civil War were left with many memories of the conflict. Some were good memories and some were bad; but some of the most vivid concerned the moments of unexpected kindness displayed by someone who had no reason to be kind at all.
Such is the case in this story, written by Edmond Talbot, a corporal in the “Lake Rebels,” Company E, 6th Mississippi Infantry. On May 1, 1863, the 6th Mississippi was engaged in a bloody fight near the Magnolia Church during the Battle of Port Gibson. Talbot was wounded at Port Gibson, but it was what happened after the fighting had passed him by that led him to write to the Atlanta Constitution, a letter which was published in the November 1, 1891 edition of the paper.
An editor for the paper prefaced Talbot’s letter with this commentary:
A GOOD SAMARITAN IN BLUE
Here is one of those incidents which make us think more of our kind. This touching letter from a Confederate soldier, who wishes to find the Yankee soldier that did him a kind act thirty years ago, breathes the fragrant breath of gratitude, which is as fresh and strong now as it was thirty years ago.
Without any further commentary, the paper printed Talbot’s missive, a long-shot request to find the man who had aided him more than thirty years earlier on a blood soaked battlefield in Mississippi:
While engaged in the civil war at Port Gibson, Miss., I fell a victim to the ill fortune of war. I was severely wounded in my right lung, which rendered me unable to speak audibly, and while in this condition there came to my assistance an unknown friend, clad in blue, who showed me exceeding kindness.
After he administered to my thirst I surrendered my arms, and learning of my desires, he had me placed upon a litter and carried by unwilling men to a church near by. There I was cared for until I was able to get elsewhere.
In giving details I will state that this friend did not carry me from the battlefield when he first found me, but left me for awhile, telling me that he would return, and sure enough he did, to my surprise, and rendered the above mentioned service.
Comparatively speaking, this man was my enemy, yet I am partially indebted to him for my present existence. Had it not been for that noble heart that beat within his bosom, I never would have been carried from the battlefield. More than once the bearers of the litter complained of my weight and expressed their desire to carry men who would survive.
I was too badly wounded to take any note as to the features of this friend, and as a result have no idea as to his general appearance, but think he was a non-commissioned officer, and belonged to the infantry.
I belonged to the Sixth Mississippi Infantry, Company E, and we fought the Twenty-Ninth
Wisconsin regiment in our front.
It is very seldom that we experience a manifestation of such love and respect from a foe, and if the doer of that noble act is still living and can remember the expressions as well as the act, and will respond thereto, I will be very much gratified. If he has passed over the trials of this world and gone to try the realities of the unknown, I can only wish him peace, bliss and happiness.
The almighty power saw proper to spare me and allow me to reunite with the Confederates, and to return to my much loved country, and raise a family that prides in the sunny south as did their sire.
Address E. M. Talbot, Rochester, Jackson Parish, Louisiana
Edward Middleton Talbot was born February 14, 1839, in Pike County, Alabama. Sometime after 1850 his family moved to Mississippi, as they are shown on the 1860 U.S. Census living in Neshoba County with his father, stepmother, and six younger brothers and sisters. (Findagrave.com listing for Edward M. Talbot and 1860 U.S. Census for Neshoba County, Mississippi, Page 126).
Edward M. Talbot enlisted in the army on August 24, 1861, as a corporal in Company E, 6th Mississippi Infantry. His service record indicates he was wounded at taken prisoner at the Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi, May 1, 1863. After Port Gibson Edward never returned to his unit, and the final card in his service record indicated that his residence at the end of the war was Bienville Parish, Louisiana, and that he was part of the mass surrender of troops at Natchitoches, Louisiana, on June 6, 1865. I found this very curious, as Talbot’s regiment, the 6th Mississippi, was not in Louisiana in 1865. (Compiled Service Record of E.M. Talbot, 6th Mississippi Infantry)
I was able to clear up the mystery of Talbot’s surrender in Louisiana when I located his Confederate pension application, filed with the state of Louisiana in 1916. In this document he wrote: “I was paroled May, 1863, at the Battle of Port Gibson, Miss., wounded. I came home and after getting well joined the 28th Louisiana, Trans-Mississippi Department. My father refugeed west of the Mississippi with his negroes, and after being paroled I followed him.” (Louisiana Soldier’s Application For Pension; available online at: https://familysearch.org/search/image/index#uri=https://familysearch.org/recapi/sord/collection/1838535/waypoints.
I checked the compiled service records of the 28th Louisiana Infantry, but Talbot does not
have a service record with the unit. Most likely, he was never officially enrolled in the unit, as he would have had to get an official transfer from the 6th Mississippi to the 28th Louisiana, which would have been difficult and very time consuming to accomplish. Without an official transfer, Talbot would have been considered a deserter by Confederate authorities, a fact the officers of the 28th Louisiana would have been well aware of; but all Confederate regiments were short of manpower in the latter stages of the war, and they were probably willing to overlook his less than legal transfer.
Edward Talbot never returned to Mississippi after the war; he made his home in Louisiana and made a living as a small farmer. When he applied for a pension in 1916, the tax assessor of Jackson Parish wrote the pension board a letter stating that the old veteran had real estate worth $160.00, and personal property valued at $200.00. This pittance did not disqualify Talbot for a pension, and his was granted on December 14, 1916. Edward Middleton Talbot died on April 1, 1922, and is buried in Jonesboro Cemetery in Jonesboro, Louisiana. In his obituary it was said of him, “He was another of the ‘Men in Grey,’ who has answered to the last roll call. A pioneer citizen, a unique character, he commanded the respect of all who knew him by his absolute honesty and sincerity of purpose.” (The Bienville Democrat, April 6, 1922).
Despite all my research I was unable to find any indication that Talbot found the Union soldier who had aided him at Port Gibson. If they were unable to meet in this world, I hope they met in the next, that place of “peace, bliss and happiness” as Talbot put it.