Today, on Confederate Memorial Day, we remember the sacrifices made by Southern soldiers in defense of their homes and families. This is the perfect time to share this reminiscence of the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, written by Nathaniel L. Barfield, who served in the 3rd Mississippi Infantry. Written for The Lexington Advertiser (Lexington, Mississippi), on the 50th anniversary of the battle, it was published by the newspaper on July 24, 1914:
Just Fifty Years Ago
Arlington, Ga., July 20, 1914
Dear Advertiser: – Just fifty years ago today, as we look backward we imagine we see Gen.
Featherston with his brigade drawn up in line of battle, which was composed of 1st Mississippi Battalion Sharpshooters, 3rd [Mississippi Infantry] of which this writer belonged, 22nd, 31st, 33rd and 40th [Mississippi Infantry]. A staff officer hurried up and stated in our hearing: “General Featherston, General Loring wishes to know why you do not advance.” To which Gen. Featherston replied, “Tell Gen. Loring I am now in advance of the command I was to follow.”
Scarcely had that officer left when another rode up, and in very commanding voice repeated the same message. Then came the expression from Gen. Featherston, and I almost fancy I see and hear a face and voice – I would not recognize as the words came, “Tell Gen. Loring I am now two hundred yards in advance of the line I was to follow, but if he says forward! I can do so,” at which came the well-known command on such occasions.
We crossed the creek and when in reasonable distance the old brigadier shouted, “Charge!” and great was that charge, nevertheless more than half were either killed or wounded. My brother lost an arm, my old uncle, Capt. Pearce, for years has suffered from the effects of a wound in the neck that has made him an invalid. Colonel Drake, of the 33rd [Mississippi], standing with one hand resting on an old gate post giving orders to his regiment, gave his last command.
At the reunion in Jacksonville, I met one of the battalion, the postmaster at Lady Lake, Florida, also one of the 33rd, which were all of the old brigade as far as I then saw, none of my old company or regiment. N.D. Hearn, of Ebenezer, Robt. Shirley, of Free Run, Yazoo County, Capt. R.N. Pearce and A.L. Holt, Yazoo County, are all the survivors I know of
belonging to my company. Dr. G.C. Phillips, my especial friend and the senior surgeon of our brigade, is the only one of the surgeons now living so far as the writer knows, and how thankful today as we look backward just fifty years with the many changes attending, that we are permitted to write the little history above stated. Who will remember in nineteen sixty-four, just another half century, to record the doings of July the 20, 1914? Will the present editor then be in his office to direct a publication, I wonder?
To one and all now living – old survivors – accept my great love and best wishes. To you, Mr. Editor, I send happy greetings
N.L. Barfield, Co. I, 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Perrine, Florida
In his reminiscence, Barfield wondered how he and his fellow Confederates would be remembered in 1964 – or if they would even be remembered at all. I think he would be very pleased to know that his story is being told in 2017, over a century after his article first appeared in print.
Nathaniel L. Barfield was born on October 16, 1842, to Thomas and Mercy Barfield. His father was a prosperous planter in Yazoo County, Mississippi. (1860 United States Census, Yazoo County, page 999; also findagrave.com listing for Nathaniel L. Barfield).
Nathaniel enlisted in the “John M. Sharps” on August 31, 1861, at Benton, Mississippi. This company, raised in Yazoo County, became Company I, 3rd Mississippi Infantry. (Compiled Service Record of Nathaniel L. Barfield, 3rd Mississippi Infantry)
The Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, took a terrible toll on the 3rd Mississippi Infantry; the regiment suffered the loss of 11 men killed, 71 wounded, and 6 missing. Nathaniel Barfield escaped this killing ground without harm, only to fall in another, equally bloody battle at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. Shot in the head, Barfield was captured in December 1864 at Franklin, probably while he was still recuperating from his injury at a Confederate hospital. (Compiled Service Record of Nathaniel L. Barfield and Military History of Mississippi 1803 – 1898, page 152.)
After recovering from his wound, Barfield was sent to Camp Chase prisoner of war camp in Ohio. He remained under confinement until the war ended; the 22 year old private took the oath of allegiance to the United States on June 13, 1865. (Compiled Service Record.)
With the war over, Nathaniel Barfield went home to Mississippi, married and raised a family. He must have had some wanderlust in him, however, as he moved quite often; in 1880 he was living in Holmes County, Mississippi; by by 1900 he had moved to Lee County Florida, and in 1920 Nathaniel made his home in Dade County, Florida. (1880 United States Census, Holmes County Mississippi, ED 6, page 148A; 1900 United States Census, Lee County, Florida, ED 163, page 2A; and 1920 Dade County, Florida, United States Census, ED 38, page 8B.)
Eager to find out more about Nathaniel’s post-war life, I did a search through Newspapers.com, and found the following article, published in The Lexington Advertiser (Lexington, Mississippi), March 27, 1914:
Comrade Barfield Hopes to See Many from Holmes at Reunion
Perrine, Fla., March 15, 1914
Dear Advertiser: – Through Brother W.H. Faulconer, of Ebenezer, I learn the Lexington Camp will doubtless be represented at Jacksonville – this state in the reunion which is not far off. How gratifying to this writer as we picture the faces of the long ago that may be seen on that occasion. Dr. G.C. Phillips, the senior surgeon of Featherstone’s Brigade, Dr. Raiford Watson, N.D. Hearn, W.H. Faulconer, my old church clerk, and others whose names I do not now remember, should we meet, may I be permitted to encircle one and all in these old feeble arms, while their faces may be doubtless bathed with the tears which can not be suppressed. God bless one and all.
The 24th annual United Confederate Veterans reunion of which Barfield spoke was held on May 6- 8, 1914, in Jacksonville, Florida. Fortunately for posterity, this reunion was filmed, and the footage can be seen on Youtube:
In the course of my research, I found one additional newspaper article about Nathaniel Barfield concerning another Civil War anniversary that he was celebrating. The following article was published in the Palatka Daily News (Palatka, Florida), December 8, 1921:
Celebrates Anniversary of Rifle Ball In His Bean
Perrine, Dec. 6 – N.L. Barfield on November 30 celebrated here the 57th anniversary of the receipt of a rifle ball in his skull during the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, which he still carries in his head. The dining table at the Barfield home, around which were gathered several of his children and grand-children, bore in the center a large cake with the date “1864” on it in icing. In the center of the cake was a small flag with the inscription “Franklin, Tenn., 4 p.m., Nov. 30.”
Nathaniel L. Barfield died on July 28, 1927, and is buried in Miami Memorial Park Cemetery in Miami, Florida. It is my sincere hope that he rests peacefully under a beautiful Southern sky, content in the knowledge that his service during the Civil War has not be forgotten.