A SOUTHERN SOLDIER:
THE STORY OF WILLIAM WILLIAMS
The following is the service record of William Williams. He couldn’t read nor write therefore
there are no known diaries or letters to tell his story. Through his own service records and the collaboration of members
from his own regiment, they will help me tell the story of his experiences of marches, battles he fought in and camp life
in the war in which he perished.
William Williams was born in Tennessee in 1830. Information on him is scanty at best. The most
that is known came from the 1860 Federal census, and family lore. It states his age and where he was born; it tells us that
he and his young family are in Floyd Springs, Floyd County, Georgia, in the northwest part of the state. Also according to
the census, it says that William was a laborer by trade and likely worked on nearby farms to support his family. His father
was most likely a farmer which was the most common way to make a living in those days. As a boy, William would have spent
his days helping on the farm to learn the trade of farming. In this census, it stated that William was born in Tennessee and
that he already had three children; Sarah, 5 yrs, William, 2 yrs, James, 4 months old; all born in Georgia.
Sometime during the early 1850’s, he met and married his wife Catherine, probably around
1854. According to Catherine’s obituary, she and her husband were both Georgians, which suggests he spent a lot of his
young adult years there. Catherine’s obituary also stated that she had been a member of the Baptist church for seventy
three years. This means she became a member about the age nine; it’s fair to assume that William was also Baptist.
In April of 1861, the Civil War broke out and by August of that same year, many of William’s
friends and neighbors had already enlisted in the Confederacy. On February 28, 1862, the “Rome Weekly” newspaper
had another call to arms that read as follows:
To Arms!! To Arms!!
The vandals and abolition hordes are upon us. They have position
of Tuscumbia, Iuka and Florence, on the Tenn. River and the M&C. Railroad. Roanoke Island has fallen! Fire and blood marks
their every trail. Houses are burned and property destroyed! Innocent and defenseless women and children are imprisoned and
murdered. Is there a craven hearted man in the sunny south who will refuse to shoulder his arms and meet the invading foe
at the point of the bayonet and bowie knife, in defense of his home and family alters. “if there be, he is not of us.”
If we would secure our rights and liberties, we must arouse to promt energetic action, and meet our enemies steel to steel.
Rather than to be subjugated by such thieves, murderers and robbers,
who would gladly see each man, woman and child perish beneath a sea of blood.
The undersigned propose to unite with their
fellow citizens in the organization of a military company, for immediate service, upon perfect equality of officers and privates,
so far as compensation is concerned. A meeting of the people of Floyd County is respectively invited at Rome, on Wednesday
next, at the city hall. Come everyone who loves his country and his family alters.
This could be the article that finally made William’s mind up about joining the service.
The war was already eleven months old and he must have been thinking of enlisting for some time. Therefore on Saturday, March
1, 1862; the day after this article appeared in the paper, William travelled to the County Court House in Rome, Georgia where
he met Lt. Thomas M Mayes of the “Floyd Springs Guards” AKA Company C of the “23rd Georgia Infantry”.
Lt. Mayes was on a 20 day furlough on business on recruiting service to enlist men to fill the ranks of the company where
he signed up William and nine other men that day.
The 23rd Georgia infantry was organized six months earlier on August 31, 1861 at Camp McDonald,
in Cobb County, Georgia where they remained until they were shipped off to help in the defenses around Richmond, Virginia
on November 10th 1861. That winter was an especially cold one in Richmond, the troops of the 23rd endured a lot of illnesses;
many men died, William was mercifully spared because of his late enlistment.
Lt. Mayes took his ten man squad including William, by train, the 700 miles to Yorktown, Virginia,
to meet up with the rest of the unit, having to be there by the 5th of March. William left behind a wife whom was 8 months
pregnant and three children; Sarah seven, William four and James one. This however does not mean that William did not have
stresses regarding having to leave his family in the state that they were in.
There was still much sickness in the camps of the 23rd around the end of March; the command sent
many men to the hospitals to keep them out of the way of the fight they expected. There he learned hands on in the school
of soldiering, spending days in the trenches fortifying earthworks, often being drawn up in the line of battle expecting a
fight to come at any time.
The bombardment of Yorktown began on April 5th, which quickly turned into a siege. During that
time William and the rest of men had to lay by their breastworks day and night in the cold, he got very little sleep and on
occasion was again drawn up in line of battle when things got excited, they also learned to dodge cannonballs by watching
for the flash of the cannon and then ducking behind their breastworks and wait for the bombshells to sail over their heads.
The siege continued for another month, until confederate General Joseph E Johnston seeing the
massive buildup of the union army on the Virginia peninsula, decided to withdraw his forces to more favorable position around
Richmond to fight, he ordered the evacuation of that place on May 3rd.
William and his regiment destroyed all their stores and artillery that they couldn’t carry
off and retreated under the cover of darkness, this made many of the men mad having to leave their fortifications without
an engagement, but soon realized it was a wise decision.
Union Gen. McClellan seen this withdrawal sent his army in pursuit of the confederates, catching
up with them at Williamsburg the next day on the 4th, this was the “Battle of Williamsburg”.
Here William stood in line of battle with the rest of the regiment in the wet and cold day and
night until finally they got news to go in the evening and then they went in double quick time for three miles but did not
get there in time for the fight as night come on. William’s regiment was present but not engaged.
After the days fighting was over with, Johnston continued the withdrawal that night. The retreat
lasted several days, some sources say two weeks, and Billy boy suffered very severely on the sixty mile retreat towards Richmond.
He had to tough it through constant rain and mud so deep they could hardly move. Many men died of the exposures and privations
they endured on the forced march, going three and a half days without anything to eat and having to through away most of their
clothes and blankets.
Hugh Barclay of company B said, the country is low between the great rivers, there was no mud,
but water and slush from shoe mouth to knee deep, no place in or out of the road to spread a blanket and much of the time
By the time they made it to Richmond, they lied right by their guns; the men were plumb wore
out and spent.
Colonel James Huggins of the 23rd said, “It is certain that no march or retreat during
this war can bear any comparison to it”. He further stated, “That once they reached Richmond, not more than one
half of the men and officers from the 23rd reported for duty”.
Williams regiment made it to within eight miles, but no closer than two miles of Richmond and
began fortifying a line of defense, the division to which William belonged, was “General D H Hill’s”, they
were located in a mostly timbered area on the left of their army next to the James river.
Much skirmishing went on up and down the line every day; it was called “feeling of the
enemy” for the purpose of locating their positions.
After some time William’s unit found themselves lying around Richmond not hearing much
of the Yankees, some thought they might be trying to slip around at some place not being watched, but there had been some
talk of a big fight coming soon.
That fight came on May 31st and lasted through June 1st, their division was moved from its position
towards the left of the army and went into camp near the York River Railroad. That night there was the heaviest rain, the
loudest peals of thunder, and the most vivid lightning ever saw and all of them were wet.
Next morning they dried out as well as possible, saw that their guns and ammunition were in good
condition and took up line of march down the railroad. They marched, a couple of miles, when they turned off to the right
into an old field and were brought to a halt fronting some woods, after going perhaps a half mile, here an orderly rode up
with a bolt of domestic which was torn into strips and tied to their caps. This began to look like something was going to
With the strips upon their caps, they moved in the direction they had started, about one fourth
mile, when they were halted and in line of battle and fronted where they supposed was the enemy. The order was given, forward
guide center march, which they did to an old unused road where they were again halted and stood in battle line.
While in this position an officer rode up and told their colonel a cannon would fire somewhere
along the line and at the report of the third gun to move forward, and "you won't go far before you strike the enemy".
As the noise of the last gun died away, they moved to the front as one man. They had not gone
far before they found a swamp with water knee deep to waist deep and with bushes and briars almost impenetrable. Through this
swamp they could not go in battle line when every captain preserving his distance forced his way through, the Yankees in the
meantime shooting at them. William’s regiment came across almost under the enemy’s breastworks, and the order
"company into line" again put them into battle shape, when with a whoop and a rebel yell they mounted the works and put the
enemy on the run. They drove them about one half mile, killing and wounding many. They lay on the battlefield all night.
They returned to camps tired and sleepy and not far from being hungry, they were soon piled about
on the ground asleep and resting themselves from fatigue. Later while here in camps, William drilled some and did picket duty.
After the battle the division was reviewed, and the regiment was publicly complimented by General
D. H. Hill for the conspicuous gallantry which it had displayed during the fight. The General said that it was owing to the
manner in which the twenty-third Georgia had conducted itself, that the tide of battle was turned in favor of the confederate
army on that bloody day.
Out of 400 men engaged of the 23rd, 18 were killed and 52 wounded.
Overall battle outcome
This was the first real combat that William was regularly engaged in. General Johnston tried
to overwhelm two union corps that appeared isolated on the other side of the rain swollen Chickahominy River, about twelve
miles from Richmond. The union and the rebels had about 26,000 men each standing by to join the action, but actually very
few were engaged, both sides pouring troops into the fight. The battle moved back and forth, both sides gaining and losing
Gen Johnston was seriously wounded on the first day of battle and command of the confederate
forces went Maj. Gen. G. W. Smith until the afternoon of the 1st, when Gen. Robert E. Lee showed up with a paper in hand giving
him command of all confederate forces. Lee seeing the battle going nowhere pulled his troops back to Richmond. The battle
ended pretty much as it began with both sides claiming victory. It might have gone much better for the confederates if not
for poor coordination of the rebel assaults. When the battle was over with, about 80 men of the 23rd were missing, wounded
or dead. The total loss for the confederacy was 6134 men in killed and wounded and the union troops were 5031.
In the month of June, the 23rd was assigned to Col. Alfred Colquitt’s Brigade. It was made
up of the 6th, 19th, 23rd, 27th, and the 28th Georgia Regiments; they became part of the Army of Northern Virginia, under
the command of General Robert E. Lee.
The division was moved to the neighborhood of Mechanicsville, the night of their arrival, they
saw a magnificent and imposing sight, their cannons on the hill, the enemy's on another, while they were in the valley between.
William was engaged again several more times in what came to be known as the “Seven Day’s
Battles around Richmond”, the first of these battles was “Mechanicsville
The Yankees had been in camps near this place and fortified themselves, the Rebel forces for
many miles had a strong force and on Wednesday June 25th the fight commenced within 2 miles of William’s camp, the boys
fell in and took the second line and stood till dark and could see and hear the fight going on but they did not get shot.
Thursday June 26th William was then ordered back to camps, at 1 o’clock that night they
were ordered to Mechanicsville 10 miles in, at sun up after marching to some 3 miles of that place, William and the boys got
orders to halt and lye down. About 3 o’clock the show commenced, they still remained on the rear line till just before
setting of the sun then they went in through, the main part of the fight was over though, William’s brigade was surprised
by the enemy on this occasion, and thrown into confusion, but order was restored by Captain Huggins and some other quick thinking
officers of the regiment.
The cannon balls fell thick all round them till 8 o’clock they still did not get a shot,
they stayed there and the dead bodies was very thick all round and it was awful sights, the trees and ground and houses was
all torn up badly plum to Mechanicsville three miles or more.
The engagement was fought out by the regiment until the enemy was dispersed from their front,
the Yankees torn into giblets. The loss of men this time was slight.
Friday June 27th, William participated at the “Battle of Cold Harbor”, this was the
bloodiest of the seven days, and there were several, at day he and the boys marched up within two hundred yards of a Yankee’s
battery in double file, under the enemy’s cannon balls, and then marched in and around in many directions, William’s
regiment was on the left of the brigade.
The Yankees had the advantage, and knew the ground and planted there batteries, the enemy threw
their cannon balls in thick, and killed many.
There was six hours of the regulars firing their cannon with not two minutes intermission. The
regiment lay stayed within two or three hundred yards of the Yankee battery for several hours under the hill, a portion of
the time. William’s brigade fell back and formed and went again, the battery left and followed them in quick time, they
always moved in quick time, they moved from Mechanicsville some 12 or 15 miles.
The regiment did not get many shots in through, but was in about as much danger as anybody; here
they turned the enemy's right flank after the bloody fight.
The way William and the boys were put through, they didn’t have the opportunity of giving
a fine deception, although they understood that privates did all the fighting; at that time there were no Yankees near them
and the Rebels still seemed able.
These battles ended in a confederate victory, and in all these battles, the Rebels loss was pretty
heavy, but nothing to compare to the loss of life, the number of wounded, captured and the destruction of the property of
the enemy. They captured many of the enemy’s teams, wagons, hospital stores, camp equipage, provisions and guns.
On June 29th, same day as the Battle of Savage Station, William was either wounded or became
ill, his records state that he was admitted to General Hospital #21 in Richmond, under “disease” it states “vulnus-sclopeticum”
which means “gunshot wound”, however, on page 40 of the hospital records it shows he was in for “diarrhea”.
He spent forty eight hours in this hospital, when he was transferred to Palmyra Hospital #18 just a couple blocks away. There
are no further records of this in William’s file, but whichever it was, he had time to recover, the 23rd didn’t
see any more action, until September of 1862.
The confederate army now returned to Richmond crowned with victory for which they had dearly
paid. The hospitals in Richmond and elsewhere were crowded with wounded.
Everybody had their hearts and hands both full.
Since the Seven Days Battles, things had quieted down and William had an easy time in the way
of drilling, not more than 1 to 2 hours a day, the balance of the day taken up cooking and eating vegetables. William had
experienced some summer storms on July 15th and 16th, by this time they had received new tents since they had to throw away
a lot of clothing, blankets and equipment to make a hasty retreat from Yorktown and were able to sleep a little more comfortably.
Also on the 16th William drew 25.00 in pay and while he was still stationed around Richmond, regiments took their turns on
picket duty and William’s was no different, they had gone on picket duty in mid-August and were due back on the 14th
Not long after William’s regiment returned from picket duty, they were ordered to march
out of the Richmond area in a northwesterly direction; they weren’t told where they were going. Theirs was one of the
last Divisions to leave Richmond, their wagons trailed behind them for miles. This march would take them through Gordonsville
then up to Orange Court House Virginia where they stopped about the 19th.
The Yankees had been in that settlement and had a little fight in the town and one in ten miles
two days prior and another one 21 miles of, it seemed that they were falling back from that section. The Yankee prisoners
that were taken in the last mentioned fight told many tales. They said they were fighting for the Stars and Stripes and said
a good deal about Abe rail splitting and were as tired of the war as we were and wondered why the Rebels don’t come
on their soil so they could fight them as hard again.
There were about eight thousand troops camped in that town and William and his regiment stayed
for a few days as well then continued their march toward the northeast.
William had seen pretty hard times, but was getting use to them, he carried in his haversack
3 days rations, made up of crackers and a pound of fat bacon, his gun and equipment weighed 35 to 40 pounds and sometimes
had to tote it 20 miles and sometimes marched all night, when it rained the regiment took to marching and they never knew
in one hour, where they would be the next, when they were “Sortie Stationed” they had some tents to use.
After a few days of marching, they crossed over the Manassas Battlefield, a hard fight had just
taken place a couple days before on August 30th, and William saw the most awful site of wounded and dead Yankee’s yet
He marched further north about another twenty miles until his regiment reached Leesburg, where
they waded the Potomac River on the night of September 5th at Cheek’s Ford, at the mouth of Monocacy River, south side,
it is about here where they became the rear of Lee’s army. They were assigned to protect the wagon and artillery trains.
The march from Richmond to Maryland was a long one, taking about three weeks, and they were all
footsore and weary.
William’s regiment continued into Maryland another ten or twelve miles from the river and
stopped about four or five miles from Fredrick, the weather was fine and warm and this was the first rest they had in about
two weeks and still didn’t know where they were going or how they were going to come out, on September 8th they started
on the move again, part of their forces had advanced 16 or 20 miles into the state. The people of Maryland generally received
them very cordially.
The regiment continued their march to Hagerstown where they went into camp on Saturday the 13th.
At the beginning of September 1862, after Lee’s victory at “2nd Manassas”,
the union army retreated. Lee thought this was a good time to carry the war into the north, and to try to convince Marylanders
to join their ranks and to take advantage of virtually untouched resources to supply and feed their army.
Next morning, Sunday the 14th, William’s regiment marched back a few miles to South Mountain,
formed line of battle and waited the coming of the enemy’s advance. About 3 o' clock in the evening the pickets began
firing, it held a very important position on the turnpike, where it winds through a pass in the mountains, the position of
William’s regiment was about half way down the mountain to the left of the road. William’s company C, was one
of seven companies which were behind a rock fence in a channel worn by water down the mountainside and the other three companies
B, D, & E, were exposed.
Earlier in the day a detachment of companies B, D, & E went up to the top of the mountain
to support a gun battery where they laid down fifteen yards away until enemy fire made them scatter ranks and they were ordered
back down the mountain to rejoin the regiment.
The Yankees advanced in great force, and seemingly with much assurance. For a while these three
companies made it as warm as possible for them, but soon they were shot out. B company were lying side by side looking at
the blaze of fire from the men behind the rock fence, where William was, and listened to the hurrahs of the Yankees who made
charge after charge.
Against very heavy odds, William’s regiment inflicted heavy loss upon the enemy. They were
lying flat on the ground and upon their knees to shoot. This position was held in the face of an overpowering foe, when their
ammunition was so nearly exhausted that they could only keep up a show of fight by an irregular, scattering fire.
The regiments behind the rock fence were about out of ammunition, and fortunately about this
time the Yankees ceased firing.
Their troops away to the right were giving away and word was passed up the line to quietly slip
away which the men did, and the regiment escaped capture. This battle, much of it, was at night, as late as 9 o' clock.
The enemy, who were wounded and captured, said the Yankees loss in front of the rock wall was
about 300 killed.
All that Sunday night Williams’s weary regiment marched, passing through the village of
Sharpsburg and went into camps on the banks of the Potomac. They remained in this camp until Tuesday morning when they went
back towards Sharpsburg and took up their position in line of battle.
All day long the armies were gathering in position and there we stood until about 4 o' clock
in the evening, when there was a little skirmishing all along the line at places, but no serious fighting. As night came on,
the regiment fell back a 100 yards from the brow of the hill upon which we had stood and lay down in an old road. They all
knew and felt there was bloody work for the next day.
William seen action once again at the “Battle of Boonsboro” or “Anteitam”,
Colquitt’s brigade was placed in Gen D. H. Hill’s division under Stonewall Jackson’s command. Just after
sunrise, Colquitt’s brigade formed in a line of battle, southwest of “Mumma’s House”, in support of
Trimble and Ripley’s units. The brigade followed Ripley’s confederates across the Smoketown Road and formed on
his right after a severe engagement, involving heavy losses, they retired to the west end of the “Bloody Lane”
they assisted in checking the advance of French’s division of the second corps. Later in the day, portions of the brigade
acted with Evans’ brigade in checking the federal advance on “Boonsboro Pike”.
Both armies ready just at the break of day the battle commenced.
Our regiment was hurried a little way to our left, passing a burning barn and in the yard were
dead men, hogs, turkeys, and so on, killed in a skirmish in the evening before; the sight was awful.
William’s regiment crossed a high fence, formed and advanced. In a hurry, double quick,
a little farther on they were fronted towards the enemy and were ordered to charge. With their faces to the enemy and the
rebel yell they went for them, three columns deep to their one, they halted, and started again.
An order to advance was given. The regiment advanced about one hundred yards after this, and
was engaged for about a half hour then fell back.
The regiment was advancing when the right had moved on with the colors having moved more rapidly
having got about seventy five yards farther ahead than the left, there was some little confusion and it was here when we halted
The regiment was in a cornfield, the fire of the enemy was very heavy, a good many of the men
lying down, some of them engaged and firing
At this time Col. Barclay walked up to the left and called to the left “Forward men, forward”,
and they moved up and came in line with the right wing.
An officer, of some other Regiment passed near the left just before they advanced to support
the right; and asked “What is the manor that the left is not following the colors”. It was there that Col. Barclay
gave the order mentioned. There was right “smart confusion in the regiment”.
At every discharge of the guns they could see great gaps in the enemy’s lines, but they
would close up. It was terrible fighting.
When in about thirty steps of their lines, their men began to waver. It was more than mortal
man could stand and they were at least three to one.
It was just then that Sergeant Roberts of Floyd County cried out the Colonel was killed. By this
time the men were falling back, turning occasionally and shooting.
Sergeant Roberts caught hold of his shoulders and Lt. Hugh Barclay his feet to bring him out,
when Lt. Prichett came to their relief and caught hold with Roberts when a bullet went through Col Barclay’s dead body
and wounded Prichett.
After a while William’s regiment fell back about a mile, and then reformed and Capt. Boston,
Senior Captain present took Command of the regiment.
The Yankees all about, the men ran to keep from being captured, the enemy drove them back that
day some distance, next day, Thursday, September 18th, William stood all day in line of battle, both armies confronting each
other, seemingly having enough; Lee in the meantime, getting his trains across the Potomac.
William’s regimental loss in this battle was very heavy; Captains came out in command of
regiments and Sergeants in command of companies. As evidence of the heat of the engagement, the loss of this regiment, out
of three hundred carried into action amounted to ninety men killed and wounded, including William’s regimental Colonel
killed and two more high ranking officers wounded.
The next morning there were only about thirty some men that could be got together as the Regiment,
Capt. W.J. Boston of Co. A took command of them that morning; no one had been in command from the time of the fight to that
All of these officers having been wounded, the command of the regiment devolved upon a captain
for several months, during which time the regiment marched with the army from the Potomac near Shepherdstown, to Fredericksburg,
the men suffering extraordinary privations upon the march, which was almost equal to the horrid retreat from Yorktown. Many
of the men without a murmur, walked barefoot through the snow for days, until they were ordered by General D.H. Hill to make
and wear raw hide moccasins, to which however they were very much opposed, as they were exceedingly uncomfortable
William’s regiment had more stragglers here then they had in all the war before. It had
been a constant march and fight since leaving Richmond, many were barefooted and ragged, while all were worn out, dirty and
lousy, yet they laughed. Their miserable condition seemed to furnish a source of amusement. Lt. Barclay contributed no little
to the fun. He had a pair of shoes from which the soles had taken their departure and walking along, the uppers would climb
up his legs and at this they would laugh and make remarks. Anything out of the ordinary that would make them laugh was a blessing,
and there was always some fellow that had ready the appropriate word to show it up in the right way.
William crossed over into Virginia at Shepardstown about 2 o'clock Friday morning September 19th
and the water of the Potomac was rather cool to be pleasant, the boys clothes would freeze in a moment after they were out.
The Yankees followed in the morning. Capt. Paschal Ferguson was tired of wading out the rivers, when he gave a man a dollar
to carry him over and the man fell with him.
One night on the march, Gen. Hill issued an order that the sergeants of the various companies
should go and get their compliment of hides, that the barefoot men should make their shoes and if any soldier was found out
of his place next day and not in line, the commanding officer would be put under arrest.
The weather was cold, the ground frozen, the men not too well clothed, and many of them barefoot.
It was awful.
It was late at night when William went into camp, and the men without eating, fell upon the ground
and were soon asleep. A sergeant went for the hides and after his return, proceeded to awake the boys, which was found to
be a difficult matter. One or two got up and worked all night at the job. Strips for strings were cut from the hide, when
enough of the hides was cut out to cover the foot, the hairy side inside, and then sewed up. Next morning standing by the
fire, the hide would commence to draw up, and there was more fun. The new kind of shoe was a signal failure, when in contact
with water or fire. The next day when one of these wet would fall from the foot, the soldiers bowing their heads, would pass
it around and bawl like you have seen cattle when one of their number was slain. It was lots of fun and while the shoes were
of no account, it was really a benefit.
The army, after Sharpsburg rested a while near Winchester, William cleaned up as much as he could,
and the boys supplied their numerous wants as much as possible. Someone in his regiment got a pair of boots from a returned
soldier for whom he paid $50.00, but many of the men were as good as shoeless.
November 16th found them near Strausburg, Va. They had been running round and round all the time,
it took nearly all they could do to keep going they couldn’t draw enough provisions to live on, the rest they had to
Gen. Hill had his aids at different points along the road, and when a man was found not in his
place, his name, company and regiment was demanded. Officers were told to march in rear of their companies until further orders.
In a few days they were at Fredericksburg, the Yankees about the same time, but who went into camps among the hills across
the river from the city.
William’s Regiment went into camp near Hamilton’s Crossing, they called this camp,
“Camp Collquitt” about four miles from south of Fredericksburg, this place became the Confederates supply station
because it was out of range of the enemy’s cannons that overlooked the rail line as came into Fredericksburg.
In the battle of the 13th of December, the “Battle of Fredericksburg” the enemy’s
right wing was almost annihilated. The regiment was on the right of the army, a hard days fighting was done though William’s
regiment was not engaged; On the fourteenth, the next day after the battle, all day long William and his regiment confronted
Union Gen Franklins corps who stood in line, but not a gun was fired, they were on the front line Monday morning the 15th
just when a general attack was expected to be made.
At day light it was found that the Yankees had nearly all crossed over on their side of the Rappahannock
river; they did not intend to give battle there; William’s regiment were ready, the boys were all at their posts; and
had determined to meet the enemy boldly, but didn’t get in the fight, the Yankees ran before they got there, they had
had a hard time, marched day and night cold and hot and when they did stop they lie like dogs around their fires, the weather
was mighty cold and they had rite smart ground there and had been for several days.
William was still at Camp Colquitt near Hamilton’s Crossroads, he had a very dull Christmas;
they were on picket duty that day, though he got paid seven dollars bounty. Where the enemy would try to cross the river above
or below the city was always the question and all that winter they had pickets up and down the river for miles, here the regiment
staid until May.
William’s Regiment made themselves as comfortable as they could for the winter, drilled
some, stood camp guard, made details to watch the Yankees and played snowball patiently awaiting the coming of warm weather,
and the drying up of the roads.
The Confederate Army at this place was posted on a line of defense 28 miles in length from Port
Royal to Culpepper along the Rappahannock River.
William was well clothed at this time and also received a reasonable allotment of rations, his
regiment was generally in good health and all in the finest of spirits and willing to meet the enemy at any time when they
were called upon to do so, but there was one thing they lacked which was badly needed and that was tents, the weather was
cold and disagreeable and they had to take it “soldier fashion” they could build large fires and stand around
them when they were not on active duty. There was only a narrow stream off 150 to 200 yards wide which separated them from
the enemy who were strongly entrenched on the opposite bank of the river but there was no picket firing going on and they
were permitted to talk to their enemies at their leisure, the enemy’s force at this place was much stronger than theirs.
The 23rd Georgia was in the battle of Fredericksburg, which took place on December 13, 1862,
but was not heavily engaged. Their losses were 5 men killed and wounded. The battle resulted in a confederate victory. After
the battle of Fredericksburg, there was a lull for several months.
The union army retreated to the north side of the Rappahannock River across from Fredericksburg,
where they remained for the winter months. The army of northern Virginia, and the 23rd Georgia also went into winter quarters
in the hills behind Fredericksburg, where they kept an eye on the enemy all the time. It was very common for armies of that
era to fight during the warmer months and as soon as winter hit they would go in winter quarters. The snow and bad weather
made it almost impossible to move large armies. This must have been a welcome reprieve for William. He’d seen a lot
of action, endured very hard marches, lack of clothes and food, all within the first eight months of his service.
On January 20th 1863 the Yankee balloon was raised for the first time since the Fredericksburg
fight which caused them to suspect an engagement was soon to take place. William’s regimental Quarter Master, having
awakened to his duty, brought in their money and William drew 6 months wages on the 21st, they all having money plenty and
nothing to do they spent a great portion of their time in foraging through the country and going to Guinea Station which was
the nearest market and in a few days were all out of money.
Five days later, cannonading was heard very heavy at a distance off. Continual skirmishing was
going on among the Cavalry and the Yankees had been selecting a place to lay a pontoon bridge which made William and the boys
think they had something on hand to do; they cooked up rations but no fight.
In mid-February, cannons were heard roaring over on the river and the regiment felt they may
have to go there soon to meet the enemy, they feared the chance was good for a fight they had been still too long and doing
The snow melted fast. Some rain and mud, William’s Regiment having got tired of cooking
out of doors and coming to the conclusion that the best was as good as any, they built little chimneys to their tents which
proved to be a cash piece of work
The 22nd brought the deepest snow ever witnessed at dark. It averaged 2 feet deep. The Yankees
were now near all gone from there some gone to Washington City, and others to Suffolk below Richmond, some hoped the Yankees
would remain quiet another month as the weather was to bad to think of marching then. The next day the boys had a snow fight
with Gen Rodes Brigade, two of the 19th Ga. got their arms broke, several eyes were put out. The rest of the month they had
bad weather and nothing of interest transpired
The beginning of March the regiment was experiencing beautiful weather over head, and they went
out on picket duty. On the fourth one of the guys bought a load of sweet cakes and carried them to the regiment while they
were still on picket.
All was quiet and peaceable, both in front and rear, so they relaxed enough to experience a fine
time sitting around the fire parching corn and telling lies. On the eleventh, they drew two months wages.
Mid-March still having fine weather, William had camp inspection, and a monthly report made,
Brigade Drills were regular. They heard of a brisk skirmish up the river on the seventeenth, but the Yankees were forced back
with heavy loss
The twentieth brought another day of snow, and the next day was William’s regiments turn
to go out on picket again. A week later the conditions of the weather very much resembled spring. They heard heavy cannonading
a long ways off in the direction of the ocean.
March twenty-seventh was set apart by the President of the Confederate States for past time,
humiliation and prayer. All military duty was suspended with an all sermon was preached by Parson Alexander M Thigpen of the
6th Ga. Regt. The ice was now broken and desertion became regular.
During the last part of March and first week of April, William was still in camp near Fredericksburg,
and was in the midst of some bad unsettled weather, his regiment was expecting a fight when the weather broke, but didn’t
know when or if that would be, it had been raining and had rained a heap for a while, but it was bad on the Yankees as well.
It was hard to keep warm and rations to hand. Nothing of any degree of importance had transpired during this time, except
another six inches of snow
The regiment branded their knapsacks on the eighth, they were still at the same place near Fredericksburg,
they had a problem with desertion, and men ran away every night or two, four runaway two weeks before and two the night of
The rest of April passed all quiet with no strange happenings; the weather became so intensely
cold that sitting by the fire was generally preferable to the boys than any kind of duty. Except for the 23rd there were very
strong indications of an early engagement that began to manifest themselves. Couriers were seen sailing at the rate of speed
from one headquarters to another.
Arms were inspected and fixed in order and forty rounds of ammunition were issued to William
and every other man, but nothing came.
Everything progressed as usual, and all went to church on the twenty sixth, the weather dried
off very much, and it was getting close to the time to have at the Yankees.
Early on the morning of the 28th before day the Yankees were crossing the river near Hamilton’s
Crossings below Fredericksburg and by 9 o clock they had landed 20 thousand troops, over with their pontoon bridges they gave
way and let them cross, some cannonading was carried on.
The Battle so long looked for now opened on the 29th , William’s regiment were all placed
in position and by 8 o clock the show was opened. The fight began about Port Royal and ascended up the river. The Yankees
had landed a large force below Culpepper near Wilderness Tavern thinking to flank the Rebels, but they were wide awake as
you will soon see. Night left them on the Battle Field
On May 2nd 1863, about nine or ten o’clock in the morning, Major Gen. J.E.B. Stuart gave
Major Best of the Twenty-third Georgia orders to detach from the brigade to protect the 2nd Army Corps wagon train, while
the army was making a flank movement.
William’s regiment was with Gen. Jackson until they arrived at a certain point on the march
when they were left and ordered to deploy as skirmishers, the wagons in the meantime following the movement, deploying as
skirmishers some eight feet apart the boys moved through the woods some half mile or more when they struck Siegel’s
There was a plank road held by the enemy moving about to a road over which Gen. Jackson’s
Army Corps (to which they belonged) was firing. These roads were about a mile and a half or possibly two miles apart and there
was a neighborhood road extending from the one to the other. The wagon trains of the 2nd Army Corps was passing on the road
along which the corps itself was moving.
Gen. Stuart had placed William’s regiment in the position which the regiment first took
about a quarter or half mile from the road on which the corps was passing and between that and the plank road. His orders
were not to bring on an attack, but if the enemy advanced to engage him, they were to guard the neighborhood road against
any advances of the enemy. He directed, if the enemy advanced to deploy the regiment and hold the enemy in check, and to send
for reinforcements if needed.
William’s company was detached as skirmishers in the regiment’s front, along with
some dismounted cavalry picket’s. The regiment’s Colonel advanced the regiment from the road by the “Furnace”,
and formed it in line of battle and threw out skirmishers, on the front and flank, some two hours after they had been in position
about 12 or 1 o’clock in the day, they received information from a cavalry picket that the enemy was forming lines in
their front. The enemy advanced on them. William’s company had been firing on the right. Some of the skirmishers had
fallen back to within some fifteen or twenty paces on their right. The Yankees had previously been shelling the wagon trains.
There were about three companies deployed as skirmishers along the front, William among them.
On the first advance of the enemy, the skirmishers engaged them but very little time, they fell
back pretty quick. When the order fall back was given, the skirmishers had not come in.
The men were in line of battle in the woods, they fell back before the Yankees advanced on them,
the regiment fell back a half or three quarters of a mile, to a place called “Catherine’s Furnace” where
there were stacks of pig iron,
They formed in line of battle and advanced to a fence, which was about fifty yards. After the
regiment fell back the enemy could be seen deploying in a piece of road opposite their right. The men were ordered to advance
and give the enemy a flanking fire. They fired a few rounds and moved them to retire. There were no other troops with the
regiment; they were detached to take charge of the wagon train. The regiment formed up on the hill near the “Furnace”,
this was near the road on which the train of wagons was then passing, the regiment had reformed.
The fire of the enemy before the regiment fell back was pretty tolerably heavy on the right,
about one hundred and fifty yards from them, here William fought quite a while. The regiment fell back just about the time
the skirmishers on their left got back.
The enemy maneuvered to capture the wagon train, but after considerable skirmishing, pending
which the wagon train escaped.
There was no orders to the regiment to fire, but it had before that been ordered to fire, if
the enemy advanced on them. A few men did fire, before the retreat commenced. The regiment had none killed or wounded.
Afterwards at the “Furnace” where they established another line they had one killed
and two wounded, this is where Maj. Ballinger and fifty men were captured.
At the Furnace they had a pretty brisk skirmish. They fought there “a right smart while”.
It was the same force of the enemy that had advanced on them at first. From that place the boys fell back about a half a mile,
to a railroad cut which ran across the main road about a half mile in rear of their position at the Furnace. As they fell
back the cut was on the right of the road and did not reach quite to it. On the left of the road as they fell back, there
was a considerable bank, some seven or eight feet deep just in front of them, as they were formed in the cut, the men dug
holes in the bank with their bayonets to get footing, so they could fire at the enemy. There was an open space for about a
hundred yards, then there was a creek, and the ground near the creek was muddy.
The enemy followed the regiment to the railroad cut, and then they opened on them, the Yankees
were in front and on either side of them.
The boys kept up their fire on the enemy about a quarter or half hour after that. Portions of
nine companies of the regiment were captured. Some of the men went out of the cut, after they had surrendered, that is they
escaped. The colors were carried out rolled by the color bearer, down in his hand.
The number captured was about 250; these same were exchanged about three weeks afterward and
returned to the regiment.
William’s company, “C” had about forty men present and was detached as skirmishers
and was not with the Regiment and hence was not captured.
During the day the regiment lost but one killed and some four or five wounded. These casualties
were received in the skirmish near the Furnace, except one in that case a man was wounded on the left of the cut. It was an
hour “by sun” or more when the regiment surrendered. They left the force that captured us at the cut.
The men were lying down, having orders to do so.
May 4th both armies began the morning with renewed vigor and it appeared that both sides were
in good earnest and that each one was determined to hold the field or die.
The dim of the small arms were not diminished in the least not even for a moment, from the Dawn
of Day until 4 o clock in the evening when the Yankees began to get their eyes wide enough opened to see which side of their
bread was buttered on and all of a sudden their lines gave way and they retreated.
The Yankees having recovered their presence of mind rallied and come back fool like to try again
the morning of the 5th. They soon got them to going towards the river.
At night they had the enemy hemmed in on the bank of the river and their lines extended from
the rear below the river above them, night alone prevented the Rebels from capturing the enemy. They kept cannonading all
The next day at dawn the enemy made a desperate charge upon William’s lines but they found
that the Southern Boys were awake early; the Yankees were re crossing the river as fast as they could on their Pontoon Bridges,
The Rebels pushed forward their artillery and captured the enemy detachment that covered their retreat, destroyed two of the
pontoon bridges and made some close passes at the 3rd bridge, they captured many wagons and pieces of artillery, thus ending
the fight about 2 o clock in the morning.
They stood and looked for the enemy as long as they remained in sight and continued to shell
them for the next two hours when the cannonading ceased and the joyful news spread over the camp that the battle was over
and the victory was theirs, there were thousands of cheers and shouts of joy assembled from every brigade, they now felt perfectly
content to return to their camp having been cut for 8 days fighting the most of the time not eating nor sleeping but very
They had taken several pieces of artillery, thousands of stands of small arms and many other
equipment’s, such as blankets, oil cloths, clothing of all kinds and a large amount of medical commissary and ordinance
They felt like they done a good weeks work, they now loaded themselves with such things they
desired and on May 7th started marching from daylight until 12 o clock, they arrived at Camp Colquitt the place where they
had been encamped for some considerable time before the fight. William and the boys all felt like resting a few days and they
all felt assured that they were in no danger, they were not in good shape for traveling, they went all the way back over the
battle field, it was mostly pine woods and the leaves being dry, the artillery had fired the woods and burned up thousands
of men leaving and their parched bones and entrails to mark the fatal spot on which they fell while many poor fellows were
wounded laying in the field had their eyes burned out their hair singed off and they were yet alive. All appeared as calm
as at a camp meeting.
The next day there were only four officers of the regiment present, every man done just as he
chose. There had been a detachment down at the rail road guarding prisoners, they came in.
William was living very hard at this time, but they were getting some fine fish there on the
river. On the tenth, General Stonewall Jackson died at Guinea Station, a depot on the Railroad. He took his wounds at Chancellorsville,
but didn’t die for several days after; his death cast a gloom over the entire Confederacy for a time.
Chancellorsville would prove to be Colquitt's worst fight in command of his brigade. As part
of Jackson's famous flank attack, Colquitt advanced with caution believing that there was a large force of Union infantry
on his flank. His men did fight but this caution would cause Colquitt to be subject to harsh criticisms. In this fight, he
lost 422 men from his brigade. Just before Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, Colquitt was transferred, along with his brigade,
to Charleston, South Carolina. If Colquitt would have fought differently at Chancellorsville, William would have participated
in the Battle of Gettysburg.
It was all quiet in camps since most of the regiment had been captured at Chancellorsville, they
had preaching on Sunday. The regiment had been well assured that they would soon be leaving that section of the country.
There was a General Review on the 18th, by the Commander in Chief of the Confederate Army everybody
was anxious to see old Bob Lee and his two daughters ride by in their hack.
William was enjoying very fine weather, intensely hot for the season though. The health of the
men was generally good and provisions were plenty, clothing was abundant and duty was light, every man his own officer.
On May 20th, orders came to go to Kinston, North Carolina. Rations were cooked tents struck.
Knapsacks packed and everything made ready for the march, William and his regiment took the cars at Guinea Station on the
21st and rolled out for their place of abode a place unknown to them.
They changed cars at Danville Junction in Virginia on the 22nd, the next day they passed through
Richmond, Va., and continued their ride through Petersburg where they met with some of the regiment patrolled, they got to
Goldsboro, North Carolina on the 24th and went to Kinston that night and taken up camps. The following three days found William
and the boys regulating camps, digging wells, and fixing it for living. The men at Chancellorsville that had been captured
and trotted around through Yankeedom, were coming in very fast, after being held for three weeks, and being exchanged at City
Point, Va., all that were well got in by this time.
All was calm and nothing of note transpired. They were well pleased with their station, the weather
was very hot and fishing was the order of the day.
The first week or more of June, William and his regiment were making heavy details throwing up
breastworks along the river, falling timber and erecting batteries.
The 10th through the 12th they had wet bad weather.
The area they were now in was a low swampy country and had bad water; they thought they may all
get sick but were satisfied with the swap from where they were.
William didn’t draw much to eat from the government so he and the boys had to forage around
in these swamps gathering huckleberries and anything else that they could find.
Vegetables were coming in and at the highest kind of prices, they could only buy a little, one
dollar a gallon for milk, $1.50 per pound for butter, $1.50 for a dozen eggs and everything else in proportion.
The regiment had an order to furlough for twenty days one man from every 25 present for duty
provided there were none absent from the company without leave
On the thirteenth, William and the boys went out on advance picket for a tour of ten days during
which time they had a fine time among the fist and fruit but had to keep a close watch for the enemy, the Cavalry had been
engaging them at this place a few days previous. William returned off picket duty on the twenty third, the day after they
experienced more of North Carolinas very wet disagreeable weather, the last of June was all quiet and the rain continued into
July without ceasing day and night for the past twenty one days.
On July 2nd, William’s regiment received orders to go back to Richmond Virginia to repel
a raid of the enemy’s cavalry. At 10 am the next day, they mounted the Iron Horse and were soon traveling, they reached
Weldon, N.C. on the forth, where they had to lay over till the sixth as there was a raid of Yankees advancing on that place.
July 7th, they started for Richmond again, after a while but the boiler of a passenger train burst seven miles from the city,
they were just behind it and they had to get off their train and march 14 miles and after travelling about 190 miles they
camped, where they laid for the next two days.
After spending a few days at Richmond, the regiment was ordered to Wilmington, North Carolina,
on July tenth they mounted the cars all at a dash, got to Weldon on the eleventh, where they cooked two days rations and rolled
on by Goldsborough and 12 o clock, William arrived on the twelfth in Wilmington at the Salt Works, distance 247 miles. They
regressed themselves for a while then marched out 5 miles and camped, the next day they marched down the Pike Road 7 miles
farther and taken regular camps at a place called Scott Hill about twelve miles north of Wilmington.
From the 14th to the 28th everything remained quiet they had but little duty to do, but had a
combustible time sporting on the beach as they were near the ocean and fish were plenty. July 31st they moved again, this
time they to Camp Davis seven miles east of the Citizen Top Sail Inlet, where they had dull times in the very hot weather
the following week.
While the rest of the regiment stayed at camp, a detachment of men were sent down below Wilmington
where they were assigned to guard a number of boats brought to this particular place by the planters along the sound to keep
their slaves from going to the Yankees, whose gun boats were generally in sight.
They did very well, they were nearly rite on the coast 12 miles from Wilmington at Writesville
and the boys didn’t think they would have any fighting to do but word was getting around that they are to go to S.C.
After staying a few weeks at Camp Davis, William and the boys were ordered to Charleston, South
Carolina and on August 8th at 9 am William left for Charleston, changed cars that evening at Florence and refreshed themselves
for two hours and then resumed their ride.
August 9th at sunrise William landed in Charleston. Laid over until dark and then went into camps
on James Island and were stationed on the east lines of that place whole distance traveled by rail road 647 miles.
It was very hot down there, and the Union had been bombarding, and was still going on, on the
Some of the boys feared that they had got to a bad place, now they knew they would have to fight,
their pickets had been fighting all the time nearly, and the night before last they fought all night and some feared they
would have a bad time before they get out of there.
William got to James Island night of the August 9th and they hadn’t done anything since
they arrived, all the fighting that was happening was going on at Morris Island, and when troops go there, they went by regiment
and they were transported at night so the Yankees couldn’t see them, they didn’t know when they would have to
go, and when they did, they stayed for 4 days and nights and fare very bad.
August 15th not much was happening at this time except occasional cannonading which could be
heard at intervals during the day and night. But little damage was done at this time
William’s regiment had learned that some 25 or 30 gunboats were lying off around Morris
Island and that Forts Sumpter and Moultrie, could throw a shell a great distance, the confederate battery on Morris Island
was still holding out and was said to be stronger than when the siege commenced, they expected that an attack may be made
at any day.
The health of the regiment was as good as at any time since they left Virginia.
The weather had been very hot since William had been there, but was more pleasant, a light rain
had fell cooling things off a little, the water was not good they got their drinking water from a pump, about one mile from
camps, which was very fair, his rations were not so good there as he had been accustomed to, he got beef instead of bacon,
rice sometimes instead of flour or meal. The boys charged when they got rice in place of flour or meal, they got no flour
there, and not much bacon.
The boys felt a brotherhood with each other, they had been with each other for two long years
so closely allied, Boys who had borne hardships, toils, and privations by each other’s side, men who would stand up
and die for each other upon the battlefield if necessary
The sixteenth brought a heavy cannonade that was kept up all day and night by every gun that
could be brought in position on either side. There were 1786 cannon shots struck Sumter’s walls.
The regiment wasn’t getting letters from the Office Register for the Mail at this time.
William had nothing to do on James Island, the cannons were roaring all the time day and night
and they were near but on another island. He expected he would have to go on that island soon, most of the firing was on Morris
Island, others that had been there said that is was a mighty bad place.
William was receiving eleven dollars per month
The week of the 17th thru the 20th roared the cannons hot and heavy, from the confederate’s
ports and the enemy’s gun boats. On Sunday, the batteries held their peach at being a day of “humiliation and
prayer”. On the 22nd Union General Gilmore ordered a surrender of the confederate’s works which was refused so
the incessant firing continued. The 23rd, all non-combatants were ordered from Charleston.
Went on duty on Morris Island Aug 23th and remained there 7 days, all the time under fire of
the enemy. It was not a pleasant change for men who had been marching and fighting with the Army of Northern Virginia to be
cooped up on a little sandy island of not more than fifteen or twenty acres of land almost surrounded by a fleet of from fifty
to sixty armed vessels carrying guns of the heaviest caliber, pouring their deadly missiles on them, and supported by land
batteries of heavy artillery and mortars, to say nothing of their sharpshooters, who were ready and willing to pick them off
if they ventured to show a hand above the fortification
During the day they would knock down so much of the fornications, principally of built of sand,
that it would require almost the entire force at the garrison to repair it through the night.
The walls were fifteen feet high and from twelve to fourteen feet thick, but their mortar batteries
would throw their shells over in thier midst doing great damage.
On dark nights the lighted fuses to these shells would look like falling stars, and they would
come sometimes in showers as to appear that all the stars were falling at once.
William was wounded in the thigh here at Battery Wagner on August 29th during one of the bombardments,
there were other casualties as well during their stay, William’s regiment lost two killed and seven others wounded
The regiment was relieved on the morning of the 31st, and boarded the C.S. Steamer Sumter to
go to Fort Johnson; this was a side wheel paddle steamer transport ship, referred to then as a “flat”. The tide
was out, this forced the steamer to have to reroute back to Charleston, however, the man in charge of the vessel never sent
word ahead to Fort Sumpter or Fort Moultrie to inform them of this change in route. The new route took them in the normal
shipping lanes, right in front of Fort Moultrie, which was a confederate fort, across the harbor from where they had been.
Although it was night, it was not dark, as the sky was moonlit, obscured by clouds with a slight fog.
As the steamer slipped in front of Fort Moultrie, the alarms were sounded. The tide being low
they could not go the usual course, but steamed off in the direction of Sullivan’s Island. The watch at Moultrie supposing
it to be a Yankee Monitor, awakened the gunners, when they opened a spirited fire on the defenseless vessel. Every means possible,
were employed to signal to them, both from Fort Sumter and the boat, but they recognized no signal.
The third and fourth shots sunk the boat, yet they kept firing until a small boat was sent to
tell them who we were. This was about 3 o’clock a.m. The men were panic struck, everybody expected to die in a short
time and leaped off into the water by fifties and hundreds, and it seemed for a while that nearly all would be either killed
or drowned, a sand bar on the left of the boat, covered by some four or five feet of water, saved them from a watery grave.
Guns, blankets, oil cloths, haversacks, canteens, boots and shoes, and in fact all kinds of clothing, were left upon the rugged
Fortunately, the channel was shallow at this point and the tide was out, which left the upper
deck out of water, and they hung on to it through the night, some of them threw off all of their clothes and came to Fort
Sumter without a rag of clothes and some of them just with their chest and drawers.
It was about 5:00 a.m. several trips were made from the steamer to Fort Sumpter and as the enemies
batteries had begun to open on the fort, the troops rescued from the steamer were transferred from Fort Sumpter to Sullivan’s
Island. It was then about 8:00 a.m. The steamer was a perfect wreck, with about four feet of water on the lower deck.
After the steamer incident, William was finally taken to a hospital in Charleston for his wounded
thigh. He spent about 8 days there and when he was recovered enough, he was furloughed home for 30 days for further convalescing.
William left Charleston, bound for home on September 8th, arriving there after a few days, most likely by rail; to catch up
on some much needed rest and visitation with his loved ones. He sure had a lot of stories to tell his family as he had been
through pure hell.
It doesn’t look like William had been home since he left for the service seventeen months
before, in which case this trip home would have been the first time he’d seen his youngest son Marcus, who was born
on April 9th 1862 and was now sixteen months old, this is the child that Catherine was eight months pregnant with when William
enlisted. Undoubtedly, it would have been hard for William to leave his family, but he had to return to his command on James
Island in Charleston, by October 8th, this is when his furlough ended. Records show that on November 24th, William received
nine dollars and ninety cents for “commutation of rations” or cash for his meals for his trip home on furlough.
This was signed by his captain; Henry Kennon and authorized by lt. Col. Marcus Ballenger, commander of his regiment at that
While William was gone on furlough, his regiment moved from camp on the east line on James
Island to the camp on the west lines on the same island on Sep 10th.
On the same day that William was due back from his furlough, they moved once again from camp
on the west line to camp near the Stono River on Oct 8th, still on James Island.
Discipline among the men was fair.
During the fall, at this time the regiment was taken its turns doing duty in Fort Sumpter,
in detachments of about 40 to 45 men at a time. To get there they went to Charleston where sailors in long row boats would
take the detachment within one fourth a mile of the fort when they would stop and the boats would rock on the water.
The Yankees at that time were firing every five minutes with the regularity of the clock 300
pound shells at an angle of the Fort from Morris Island. As soon as the gun fired, the sailors, with all their might, would
pull for the landing and it was in a great hurry they got inside. A number of men were killed first and last right there,
being too slow. Inside the fort they went into the casements on the side next to Charleston and where it was about twilight
all the time.
About 150 well-armed men were kept in the fort all the time and their principal duty was to
put out at night something like ladders with long rounds on the side, next the enemy if so attacked by boats running into
these the alarm would be given. They kept their picket but on that side also, while its walls were knocked down, not a gun
left, only a huge pile of brick.
Some detachments would go in there one week without any trouble, but there was one detail that
had quite a fight. The enemy attacked in small boats ran against their ladders and the alarm was given, the men rushed out
of the casements and the fight began.
118 of the Yankees were captured and the confederate batteries from Fort Moultrie and James
Island having the range the next morning little boats were bobbing up and down all over the water and it was not known how
many were killed.
It was here all of the detachment had a gill of whiskey every morning, it was the only whiskey
regularly issued during the war.
On November 6th William and the boys had just returned from a three days tour of picket duty,
some two miles from their camp. The picket line runs in the direction of the Stono River and is the south boundary of James
The Yankees could be seen at some points of the line, their drums had been heard very distinctly
for several mornings and evenings until one morning no drums could be heard, the impression was that they may be leaving there.
At this time the boys were nearly done building their winter quarters, most of them have split
log cabins covered with new pine boards and brick chimneys, the weather was fine and warm almost like summer.
The bombardment for the last two days and nights of the 5th and 6th had been very heavy.
In November, the regiment was still sending detachments of men to Fort Sumpter to do Garrison
duty there, some felt if the siege continued, that they would all have to go there and put in their time on the detachments,
occasionally the commander of the detachment would send a telegram reporting on the condition of the men.
On Saturday November 28th, the regiment went on picket duty.
Regiment moved from camp near Brigade Head Quarters Dec 2, 1863 to camp at Presbyterian Church
where the regiment was then stationed.
William and his regiment spent the winter of 1863/4 on James Island, they spent their days,
as one soldier put it, drilling and more drilling, and when they were done with drilling, they would drill some more, they
also did guard and picket duty, trying to keep warm, and fighting off the boredom, and all the monotonous duties that went
with civil war life in winter quarters.
The last week of January the weather was clear and pleasant, on the 26th, William was on fatigue
duty with his regiment at Secessionville, where they had 5 shells thrown at them by the enemy with no damage done. The 27th
they were at Fort Pringle on picket duty when orders were issued for every man to be issued 100 cartridges and then they were
placed in “light marching order”, they only did this kind of marching when they were expecting action, and they
only carried their guns, haversacks and canteens so they could move quick.
The next day cartridges returned, all but 40 to the man, the light marching order countermanded.
William would spend the next week or so doing picket duty, during clear warm weather, either at Fort Pringle on the Stono
River on James Island or up and down the Stono River.
February 6th William was back in camp, and the next day his regiment had camp inspection
The 8th William and the boys were out on a general review, all the troops on James Island.
Gen Beauregard present. Gen Colquitt ordered to cook 2 days rations at 10 o clock at night, the weather was fair and pleasant.
The next day William was at camp packing up with orders to start for Savannah then the orders were countermanded in the pm,
and the regiment instead marched to Fort Pringle on picket duty. The weather was fair & cool.
The 10th the regiment returned to camp about 12 o clock and received orders to march to Savannah
Depot, then 9 miles more to Rantow Station and camped about 9 o clock, where they laid until morning.
William and his regiment struck the line of march for John’s Island on the eleventh arrived
there at 4 o clock the enemy opened fire on them, they turned on the left in the swamp and formed line of battle and laid
all night, the weather was still fair & cool.
The next day they marched around the island and found the enemy had left, they then struck
the line of march for Rantow Station, they got there about 10 o clock, and camped in an old field, cooked rations and rested,
the weather was clear & pleasant.
Immediately after this little affair, the regiment with the brigade composed of the Sixth,
Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiments, was ordered to report to General Finnegan, who
commanded the Floridians, at Olustee in the state of Florida.
On Saturday the 13th, during a very warm and dry day, William boarded a train with his regiment
and left for Savannah, Georgia at 11 am, William and the boys were tired but ok; they arrived at Savannah at 10 o’ clock
that evening where they stayed all day and night.
The regiment left Savannah and from there to the terminus of what was then called the Gulf
Railroad. They boarded the train in the pm of the 15th and arrived in Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia that night where they
stayed until the next morning where it rained. William struck the line of march for Madison Fl. at 2 am on the 16th in very
cool weather marching 18 miles and camped on the Withlacoochee River. That first night, camping in the pine woods, as yet
almost undisturbed by the hand of man, the reflection from the lights from the camp fires of the whole brigade upon the trees
and tree tops was very beautiful.
The regiment boarded a train of flat cars at Madison where the ladies came out to see them
take the train, they travelled 60 miles down to Lake City, where they struck up camp and remained all night, where a regular
old confederate soldier was somewhat of a sight.
February 18th found William still at Lake City expecting to go the front, and the finally took
the train for Olustee Station arriving there about night in the cool weather and camped. Still in camp the following day,
camp drilling and skirmish drilling, the regiment was ordered to cook three days rations.
Union General Seymour landed at Jacksonville, Florida, at the head of several thousand men,
had marched almost uninterrupted into the interior of Florida on his way to Tallahassee. They were trying to cut Florida off
from the Confederacy and deny it all the resources it had to offer in an effort to shorten the war.
Still in camps William’s regiment marched out about 10 o clock & formed Line of Battle
on the right of the rail road, they prepared for battle, their left wing reaching Ocean Pond Lake, the right extended across
the railroad and awaited the coming of the Yankees.
The regiment lay until 2 o clock, when the Yankees were reported advancing and were in a few
miles of their line, when they were ordered down the railroad double quick some 3 or 4 miles. Confederate pickets began firing
and soon it was general along the whole line, while the enemy opened their batteries on William’s brigade, the brigade
filed to the left and charged the enemy and drove them a short distance when they took a stand and fought bravely for about
2 or 3 hours confederates falling in every direction.
The Yankees never advanced a foot from their first formation; William’s brigade charged
and broke the enemies lines, the Yankees fell into confusion, broke and fled, they had been completely routed, they threw
away guns, knapsacks, accoutrements, and everything which could impede a retreat and they drove them some 3 miles, capturing
their artillery, one of William’s regiment jumped and threw his legs over one of the captured brass cannons and he yelled
for joy, when the agony for it had been felt as the cannon had been shot so much that it was hot and burned the skin on his
There were three colored regiments among the enemy and they suffered severely.
William’s brigade followed until dark, capturing and killing many. Night closed in and
they halted, on their way to returning to their camp, they hunting over the field for their boys but found none, learned they
had all been removed
They returned to camps about 12 at night
A lieutenant in William’s regiment saved the life of a colored soldier that night. The
lieutenant and another man were moving through the pines in pursuit when they had almost passed a colored soldier whose leg
was broken, he was leaning against a tree for support, when the man with the lieutenant had a fixed bayonet and was going
to pin him to the tree, and the lieutenant stopped him.
Next day a train of cars came down, ran out on the battle field, and collected the wounded,
the Unions colored soldiers were handled with little ceremony.
William’s regimental loss was considered light in the way of killed and wounded, out
of three hundred of the regiment engaged, sixty six had been killed or wounded. Gen. Colquitt was afterwards called the hero
of Ocean Pond.
February 21st William is in camps, gathering up the wounded, dead and prisoners, the Yankees
were falling back, last reported, they were 18 miles off in the am.
They received orders this evening to cook two days rations and be ready to move at sun rise.
Weather was fair and cool.
Started at 7 am on the 22nd, struck the line of march in pursuit of the enemy down the Jackson
& Fla. railroad 8 or 10 miles to Sanderson Station, arrived there about 3 pm and pitched camps. They didn’t know
whether they would remain there long or not. The railroad was torn up down there. The train ran down as far as here with their
baggage, William remained here all night. Weather was fair and cool.
Morning of the 23rd, left camp at 8 am and marched for miles down the railroad and camped at
St. Mary’s River, river a very small shed up here. Weather was fair and cool.
Next day William and the boys left their camps on St. Mary’s River at 12 pm and marched
to Baldwin 10 miles and camped. Yankees reported still falling back towards Jacksonville, Weather was fair and warm. Marched
back 3 ½ miles on the 25th to the rear and camped for the night.
The 26th left camp and marched to Baldwin took the Jacksonville road and marched down near
camp Finnegan and camped, they called this place “Camp Milton”. Enemy reported just ahead, they were now some
20 miles below Olustee, weather was fine. It was some 10 or 11 miles to Jacksonville, all was very quiet, and very unlike
war, finally. Weather was fair and pleasant.
The 27th still in camps this morning, all quiet, no appearance of an enemy, though they are
reported 3 miles in front. Doesn’t look much like it here, the day is fine, and the sun shines pleasant and bright in
the pine forest.
A detachment was ordered out to a rail road cut to guard it, Weather was fair, they were still
in camps the next day, with no sign of hostilities, everything still and quiet. There wasn’t a word of news from the
enemy, some felt the enemy could were entrenched only a short distance in front.
The 29th brought not a word of news, weather was warm and clear, it was reported that the cavalry
had been six miles to the front and found no appearance of the enemy, but supposed that to be a haversack dispatch.
March 1st still in camp, they heard cannonading in front, but it soon ceased. William’s
regiment got orders to be ready to move at any moment, there was no word of news from the front, or from anywhere else.
There was fine weather and a pleasant breeze, a pleasant opening of spring down forth. All
packed and rolled up and ready to move, it was thought the Yankees were not in force on their side of Jacksonville.
William had to unpack again didn’t suppose he would leave so fast. It was said that their
cavalry had a sharp fight with the enemy below and were driving him back towards Jacksonville.
March 2nd brought some dreaded news for many members of the regiment. They had received a report
that said a fight in north Georgia was imminent. Many of these men had families who lived in north Georgia which must have
made William feel frantic for the safety of his family who was about to be in the middle of a war-zone. It had rained last
night and was still raining a little.
William’s regiment was experiencing some cold rainy weather at this time, on the 4th
some cannonading was heard off in the direction of Jacksonville. The next day the detachment that was still out guarding the
railroad cut, received orders to cook three days rations and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. That same evening
the rest of the regiment got the same orders to be ready to meet the enemy, but by the sixth there had no more developments
or no news from the front.
William and the regiment stayed about Jacksonville quite a while and enjoyed their rest very
much, on several occasions at night they would divide into regiments and with those large pine cone oceans would fight battles,
and it was a pretty sight.
The 7th was all quiet, the 17th Ga. band serenaded Generals Colquitt & Beauregard and each
William and the boys started moving about on the 9th, the detachment that had been guarding
the railroad cut had come in and they all marched back to Baldwin, 7 miles to the rear of their camps near Camp Finnegan,
for the purpose of throwing up breastworks, around Baldwin, the weather was getting bad with rain, wind and thunder all night,
the bad weather continued thru the 10th and 11th, the water ways were leg deep, the rain having ceased now a chill in the
air, the regiment worked after 12 m today on fatigue loading and unloading cars, weather turned fair and warm. Several members
of William’s regiment deserted this night.
On the 12th, the regiment went on fatigue duty at 7 am building breastworks, weather was fair
and warm. The next day the regiment was back on fatigue duty doing the same as the day before, the weather had been fair and
warm the past couple days.
On the 14th a portion of the railroad between Lake City and Madison had been washed away, and
more desertions from the regiment. Everything continued to be quiet in the front. Nothing reliable had been heard from the
They had been there several days working on fortifications and expected to return to the brigade
soon, their camp was six or seven miles away. The weather had turned very nice for them now; the days were very warm for the
William’s regiment finally were done building fortifications on the 17th, and moved back
to their camps near Camp Finnegan, on the south side of the railroad.
The last part of March, William experienced dull times and more bad weather, they drilled.
It rained so hard the night of the 21st, that the camps were afloat the next morning and they had to move to a drier camp,
and spent their time cleaning up. There was no news from the enemy, drills were ordered every day, one of William’s
comrades put this period of time like this; most detestably dull, I believe I will die with Ennui, if I don’t kill time,
time will kill me.
Officers Brig Guard on the 26th, weather was fine and warm, dull times. There was a rumor that
the regiment might go to Dalton soon, an order was read allowing furloughs.
They were living hard now and they had a lot of duty to do, rations were very scarce, the weather
was very hot during the day and the nights were cool.
They came off guard morning of the 27th there was preaching by 27th Ga. Chaplain at dress parade,
a few of the men left on furlough for Rome, Ga. on the 28th.
In April another man of the regiment left on furlough, the regiment did fatigue duty. The order
for furloughs was countermanded for the present time on the sixth, and the boys had camp inspection.
Some of the men who deserted the regiment in March were taken in Atlanta and put under guard
and weren’t allowed to talk to no one or be spoken to.
The weather was getting warm now and the regiment had orders on the 13th to cook three days
rations and be ready to move at any moment, but no orders came for them to march.
Everything remained quiet on the front lines, Yankee deserters were coming in almost every
The 15th, the right wing of the regiment had orders to go to the front, they marched to Camp
Finnegan by midnight, next morning they marched on four or five miles farther until they reached the extreme front, but all
Regiment marched from Camp Milton Fl. on Apr 19th, and marched in four and a half days to #9
Station in Tebeauville, Ga. on the AA Rail Road a distance of about 80 miles. From #9 came by railroad to Savannah, Ga. 96
miles. They travelled from Savannah by railroad to Charleston SC arriving at James Island SC. Apr 28th distance 104 miles
and marched from St. Andrews Depot to camp near Fort Johnson, where they went the camps of the 7th Voll S.C. on the morning
of the 29th. Where they were stationed. Whole distance traveled 280 miles.
After remaining but a few days in Charleston, we were ordered to return to Virginia.
A note regarding the murders of colored soldiers after the battle at
Of the union regiments that were engaged at Olustee, three of them were colored. They were
the 35th U.S.C.V. (United States Colored Volunteers), the 8th U.S.C.V. and remnants of the 54th Massachusetts. These regiments
were heavily engaged. After the union retreat, several wounded men were left behind or became separated from their units in
Union brig. Gen. John P. Hatch commander of the coast division, received reports that wounded
black troops were murdered on the field. Hatch’s report to Gen E.A. Hitchcock states that “soon after the battle
of Olustee in Florida, a list of wounded and prisoners in the hands of the enemy was forwarded to our lines by the commander
of the rebel army.
The very small number of colored prisoners attracted immediate attention, as it was well known
that the number left on the field was large. It is known that most of the colored men were murdered on the field. These outrages
were perpetrated, so far as I can ascertain, by the Georgia regulars and the Georgia volunteers from Colquitt’s Brigade.
As many of these troops are now in our hands as prisoners, an investigation of the circumstances might easily be made. All
accounts represent the Florida troops as not engaged in the murders”.
Very respectfully your obedient servant
Jno p. Hatch commanding
There were several other accounts as well: before the battle, Lawrence Jackson, a cofederate
with the 2nd Florida Cavalry reminisced that before the battle, his Col. Abner McCormick delivered the following address:
Comrades and soldiers of the 2nd Fl. Cavalry, we are going into this fight to win. Although
we are fighting five or six to one, we will die but never surrender.
General Seymour’s army is made up of largely negroes from Georgia and South Carolina,
who have come to steal, pillage, run over the state, murder, kill, and rape our wife’s, daughters, and sweethearts,
lets teach them a lesson. I shall not take any negro prisoners in this fight.
Sergeant Henry Lang, of the 48th New York infantry, recalled how he was left wounded on the
Lang remembered hearing confederate soldiers cursing, as they were ill-treating wounded black
soldiers. An anonymous soldier, also of the 48th new york inf., was also wounded and left on the field. He stated he hid in
some bushes, and he could see the rebels come to our wounded and take their money, watches, and whatever else they found on
their persons; while they stripped the dead altogether. The wounded negroes they bayonetted without mercy.
William Penniman, a confederate with the 4th Georgia Cavalry, said that he was riding over
the field after the battle, he heard firing in every direction, frequent enough at times to resemble skirmish fire, these
sounds confused him until he came across a confederate officer and asked him what was happening, the officer replied “his
men were shooting niggers sir”, he also said, “he tried to stop them, but, he couldn’t control them”.
The officer also told Penniman that when he asked one of his soldiers why he was doing that, he replied, “the soldier
over yonder had a brother that was killed by “niggers” at fort pillow, and that he had already killed nineteen
of them, and just four more of them would even the score”, the officer told him to “go ahead and finish the job
Penniman also mentions that he rode over the battlefield again the next day, and says that
wounded black soldiers that were crawling from place to place the day before were now all dead. If a black soldier had a wound
in the shin, he was more than likely to have a hole in his head as well.
Another account from a Georgian soldier, Joab Roach, from the 27th Ga. inf. Who was present
at the Olustee battle, had this to say, “the Yankees brought their negroes out to fight us. We killed a great many of
them and after the battle the boys went over the battlefield and knocked the most of the wounded negroes in the head with
lightwood pine knots”.
It might also be noted that; the 1st Georgia regulars were located just to the left the 23rd
Georgia inf. According to the “confederate order of battle” at Olustee.
This doesn’t mean that William participated in these atrocities, the fact of the matter
is we’ll never know for sure
After the battle of Olustee, the 23rd marched off to Sanderson on February 22nd; on the 23rd
they were off to st. Mary’s and camped for the night. Then they marched to Baldwinville on the 24th where they finally
camped at camp Milton, Florida, where they stayed for sometime
Furloughs were granted starting
March 26th not long after the Battle of Olustee and continued until they were put on hold April 6th, until further notice,
members of the regiment were furloughed at this time, usually a couple men at a time from each company, this is where I believe
William received a furlough and went home to visit and look after his family, it’s also where William and the 23rd Georgia
parted ways. His wife and children lived in northwest Georgia where it was reported that a fight in north Georgia was imminent.
Around this same period of time,
Union General William T Sherman had been massing his troops in the area of Chattanooga, Tennessee, just north of William’s
home a few miles away. Sherman’s’ troops consisted of three armies totaling over 110,000 men, in preparation to
invade Georgia and start the Atlanta campaign.
Not long after Sherman’s’
forces entered Georgia; they started testing confederate General Joseph E Johnston defenses at Resaca. Earlier Johnston tried
to gather up as many troops as he could in the area to stop Sherman’s’ advance and protect his supply line from
Atlanta. William, while home on furlough, joined up with Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, as did several other members
of the 23rd Georgia Infantry, to do what they could to help the confederates stop Sherman at the “Battle of Resaca”,
heavy fighting ensued that lasted for two days, May 14th and 15th, until Sherman sent a force across the Oostanaula River,
at Lay’s Ferry, towards Johnston’s railroad supply line.
Unable to halt this Union movement,
Johnston was forced to retire under the cover of darkness to another line of defense farther south. When this was discovered,
Union General Thomas’ forces were sent in pursuit, as Thomas’ forces neared Calhoun, Ga. on Wednesday, May 18,
1864; his troops caught up to and captured William and several others there while they were retreating south.
William was held in Kingston, Ga.
until about May 20th when him and a number of others totaling about 50 from various commands, were put in the charge of a
union Missouri brigade and were placed on railroad cars and sent to Resaca, Georgia, they stayed until the next day. Then
they were loaded onto railroad cars again and were moved towards Chattanooga, Tennessee.
A diarist A.P. Adamson, a member
of the same group of men that was captured at the time William was, wrote, “on the route between Resaca and Chattanooga,
the ravages and destruction of property, which always follows the presence of a large army, are plainly visible”.
They arrived at Chattanooga on the
night of May 21st, which is where they stayed until the evening of the 22nd. They then boarded and took the railroad cars
to Nashville, Tennessee. They arrived there on the night of the 23rd, where they were then put into the enclosure around the
state penitentiary. This is where they remained until the morning of the 24th, when they started out for Louisville, Kentucky.
They arrived there that same evening, “passing through some very beautiful country” as Adamson put it.
They stayed at Louisville for the
night and the next morning they crossed the Ohio river into Indiana at Jeffersonville. They did not leave there until late
in the evening of the 25th, and arrived in Indianapolis on the morning of the 26th, where they remained nearly all day.
They started out again the next
morning and kept going until they reached Michigan City which is situated on Lake Michigan. They arrived there early on the
morning of the 27th, where they stayed only a short time before continuing on to rock island prison war camp. They arrived
at Rock Island Military Prison Camp for the confederate detainees the evening of that same day.
ROCK ISLAND PRISON WAS SITUATED
ON AN ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER; THE ISLAND IS ABOUT THREE MILES LONG AND HALF A MILE WIDE. THE PRISON
ITSELF WAS LOCATED ON THE MIDDLE NORTH SIDE OF THE ISLAND. IT WAS APROXIMATELY 1250 FEET IN LENGTH AND 878 FEET IN WIDTH,
ENCLOSING TWENTY FIVE ACRES AND CONSISTED OF EIGHTY FOUR BARRACKS SUROUNDED BY A ROUGH BOARD FENCE TWELVE FEET HIGH. EACH
BARRACK WAS 100 FEET LONG, 22 FEET WIDE, AND 12 FEET HIGH WITH THE FLOOR THREE FEET OFF THE GROUND, IT HAD 12 WINDOWS AND
2 DOORS, AND 2 ROOF VENTILATORS. AT THE WEST END OF EACH BUILDING WAS A KITCHEN OR COOKHOUSE 18 FEET LONG WHICH INCLUDED A
WAS ARRANGED IN SIX NORTH TO SOUTH ROWS OF FOURTEEN BUILDINGS EACH AND WERE BUILT THIRTY FEET APART FACING 100-FOOT WIDE STREETS.
ALL EXCEPT THE FOUTH ROW THAT FRONTED A 130 FOOT WIDE AVENUE, ONE OF TWO THAT BISECTED THE PRISON.
STOCKADE FENCE ENCLOSING THE SITE WAS 12 FEET HIGH WITH A BOARD WALKWAY ALONG THE OUTSIDE, FOUR FEET FROM THE TOP, WITH SENTRY
BOXES EVERY 100 FEET. DOUBLE GATE SALLY PORTS WERE CONSTRUCTED TO THE EAST AND WEST ENDS OF PRISON AND WERE THE ONLY OPENINGS
INTO THE FACILITY. GUARD HOUSES WERE BUILT OUTSIDE THE FENCE AT EACH GATE. TWENTY-FIVE FEET FROM THE BARRACKS AND TWENTY-FIVE
FEET FROM THE STOCKADE FENCE WAS THE “DEAD LINE”. ANY PRISONER CROSSING THAT LINE WOULD BE SHOT. THE SINKS WERE
FIRST BUILT IN THE CENTER OF THE STREETS. (SINKS ARE WHERE THE PRISONERS WENT TO WASH UP, BATHE AND DO THEIR BUSINESS), BUT
AFTERWARDS THEY WERE BUILT ON THE DEAD LINE. THERE BEING NO SEWERAGE, TUBS WERE USED, AND DETAILS OF PRISONERS EVERY MORNING
CARRIED THE TUBS TO THE RIVER, A MOST DIGUSTING DUTY. AT NIGHT THERE WERE LAMPS WITH REFLECTIVE BACKS HUNG ON POSTS NEAR THE
DEAD LINE, AS SO ANY PRISONERS COULD BE SEEN APROACHING THE SINKS AT THE DEAD LINE, BUT THE SENTINAL ON THE PARAPIT COULD
NOT BE SEEN, THIS MADE IT A VERY UNNERVING EXPERIENCE FOR THE PRISONERS.
ENTERING THE PRISON, WILLIAM AND HIS GROUP WERE DRAWN UP IN A LINE AND SEARCHED. AFTER THIS, THEY WERE TAKEN TO THEIR BARRACKS
AND SEARCHED AGAIN. THIS TIME THEY WOULD TAKE AWAY ANY SMALL CHANGE THEY HAD WITH THEM AND IT WOULD BE PLACED TO THEIR CREDIT
WITH AN OFFICER CALLED THE COMMISARY OF PRISONERS. THE PRISON REGULATIONS WERE THEN READ TO THEM AND THEY WERE DISMISSED.
EACH BARRACK WAS IN THE CHARGE OF A PRISONER APPOINTED BY THE PROVOST MARSHALL, CALLED THE “ORDERLY OF THE BARRACK”.
THE PROVOST MARSHAL COMMUNICATED ALL ORDERS CONCERNING THE PRISONERS THROUGH THESE ORDERLIES. THE ROLL WAS TAKEN THREE TIMES
A DAY, AND THE BARRACK INSPECTED EVERY MORNING. ONE LETTER ONLY COULD BE WRITTEN EACH WEEK, NOT TO EXCEED ONE PAGE, AND NO
SUBJECT CONCERNING THE PRISON OR IT’S REGULATIONS COULD BE REFERRED TO. NEWSPAPERS WERE PROHIBITED. THE LAST TWO PRECAUTIONS
WERE, FREQUENTLY EVADED.
AND HIS PARTY NOW NUMBERED ABOUT 300 AND WERE DIVIDED UP INTO COMPANIES OF ABOUT 100 EACH AND WERE ASSIGNED TO QUARTERS. EACH
COMPANY OCCUPIED A BARRACK, EACH BARRACK CONTAINED THREE ROWS OF BUNKS MADE OF ROUGH PLANKS, WITH 60 ON EACH SIDE FOR SLEEPING,
THESE BUNKS CONTAINED STRAW BEDDING AND ONE GRAY BLANKET EACH. A MAN BY THE NAME OF A. P. ADAMSON, MENTIONED EARLIER, A MEMBER
OF THE 30TH GEORGIA INFANTRY, KEPT TRACK OF THE TRIP NORTH FROM GEORGIA AFTER HIS CAPTURE. WILLIAM WAS WITH HIS TINY GROUP
OF PRISONERS WHEN THEY ARRIVED AT THE PRISON, WHICH MAKES IT LIKELY THAT HE WAS WITH ADAMSON IN THE SAME BARRACKS, WHICH WOULD
HAVE BEEN BARRACK #79 WHEN THEY FIRST GOT THERE. THEY MOVED TO BARRACK #25 SOMETIME BETWEEN MAY 31ST AND JUNE 25TH 1864. THERE
IS HOWEVER, IN THE RECORDS OF THE PRISON ITSELF, THAT AT ONE POINT WILLIAM WAS PART OF COMPANY “71”. IT’S
LIKELY THAT THIS WAS ALSO BARRACK # 71 AS HE WAS LISTED WITH SEVERAL OTHER MEN FROM VARIOUS REGIMENTS THAT WERE CAPTURED AT
ABOUT THE SAME TIME AND PLACE AS HIM.
STAY AT THIS HELL HOLE HAD ONLY JUST BEGUN. FOR THE FIRST THREE DAYS THEY WERE ON FULL RATIONS, BUT ON JUNE 1ST 1864, SECRETARY
OF WAR EDWARD STANTON ORDERED’ “CUT THE RATIONS”. THIS WAS IN PROTEST TO HOW BADLY UNION SOLDIERS IN THE
CONFEDERATE PRISON OF ANDERSONVILLE WERE BEING TREATED.
FIRST FEW DAYS FOR WILLIAM WERE A LITTLE LIKE THIS: IT WAS SAID BY OTHER PRISONERS, “THAT THE DAYS PASSED BY SO SLOWLY,
THAT THE HOURS SEEMED LIKE DAYS”. I’M SURE HIS SPIRITS SUNK TO AN ALL TIME LOW, WITH THOUGHTS OF FAMILY BACK HOME
PASSING THROUGH HIS MIND AND DEALING WITH HIS NEW CONFINEMENT. IT HAD TO BE HARD GETTING USED TO PRISON LIFE AND IT WASN’T
GOING TO GET ANY EASIER.
THERE IS NO KNOWN DIARY OF WILLIAM WILLIAMS THAT EXISTS, THEREFORE I’VE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT SEVERAL SOURCES TO TRY TO
PIECE TOGETHER THE HAPPENINGS IN ROCK ISLAND PRISON, FOR THE TIME THAT HE WAS THERE, TO TRY TO GIVE A GOOD ACCOUNTING OF WHAT
HE EXPERIENCED AND WHAT WENT ON AROUND HIM.
FOR ALL THE PRISONERS WAS UNDOUBTEBLY VERY BORING AND MONOTANOUS. SOME OF THE WAYS THEY WOULD PASS THE TIME WAS TO ATTEND
CHURCH SERVICES. THIS WOULD AT LEAST DISTINGUISH SUNDAY FROM THE REST OF THE WEEK. OTHER WAYS WAS CARVING AND MAKING TRINKETS
OUT OF SEA SHELLS TO SELL FOR WHATEVER THEY COULD GET. THEY WERE ALSO ALLOWED TO HOLD JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS. TRYING CRIMES
SUCH AS THEFT, THE BARRACKS LAWYERS OFTEN MADE THESE ENTERTAINING. THEY WOULD ALSO LISTEN TO MUSIC MADE FROM IMPROVISED FIDDLES
AND THEY WOULD PLAY GAMES AND LISTEN TO STORIES FROM EACH OTHER. THEN OF COURSE THERE WAS THE CONSTANT RUMORS OF EXCHANGE
AND THE PROGRESSION OF THE WAR, FED BY NEWSPAPERS SMUGGLED INTO THE CAMP THAT WENT DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY.
FRI MAY 27TH, ON THE DAY THAT WILLIAM
ARRIVED, THERE WAS AN INCIDENT WHERE ONE PRISONER WAS KILLED AND ANOTHER WAS WOUNDED IN THE LEG, THERE ARE NO DETAILS.
SAT MAY 28TH, A LAFAYETTE ROGAN
MENTIONS IN HIS DIARY THAT ABOUT 300 PRISONERS ARRIVED, (THIS IS WILLIAMS GROUP)
TUE MAY 31ST, THE NEWSPAPER, THE
ROCK ISLAND ARGUS, TELLS HOW TWO MEN, A MAN NAMED ISAAC MORRIS AND WILLIAM TIPPET, MADE THEIR ESCAPE BY WAY OF A DRAIN.
WED JUNE 1ST THERE WAS AN ESCAPE
THIS AFTERNOON AND THERE’S A REDUCTION IN RATIONS. REFERING TO WHEN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT REDUCED THE RATIONS IN RETALLIATION
TO THE TREATMENT OF THE U.S. PRISONERS AT ANDERSONVILLE, GEORGIA. THE REDUCTION IN RATIONS LED A LOT OF THE MEN TO DO DESPARATE
THINGS, SUCH AS TRAPPING RATS AND MICE TO EAT, IT HAS ALSO BEEN KNOW THAT SOME OF THE DOGS THAT ACCOMPANIED THE SUTTLER’S
TEAMS AS THEY ENTERED THE PRISON TO SELL THEIR GOODS, WOULD COME UP MISSING, CAN YOU GUESS WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM.
IS A PRISONERS STORY RELATING TO JUST THAT:
WERE EAGERLY HUNTED, AND IN OUR BARRACK ALL POINTS OF EGRESS FROM UNDER OUR BARRACK WERE CAREFULLY BLOCKED, LEAVING ONLY ONE
EXIT BENEATH EACH WINDOW, AND THEN MEN WOULD STATION THEMSELVES AT THE WINDOW WITH A “GIG;” AND IF A RAT STUCK
HIS HEAD OUT, THE GIG WOULD DECEND LIKE A FLASH OF LIGHTNING, AND- WELL SOMETIMES OVEREAGERNESS WOULD CAUSE THE HUNTER TO
MISS, AND THEN NO RAT STEW FOR HIM.
HELPED “HIDE” TWO DOGS – ONE AN OLD LONG EARED HOUND, THE OTHER WAS DART’S (DART WAS THE NAME OF THE
SUTLER WHO BROUGHT GOODS INTO THE PRISON TO SELL) FAITHFULL AND EVER WATCHFULL BULLDOG, WHOSE ROUND HEAD DID DUTY AFTERWARDS
AS A FOOTBALL, AND IN THAT CAPACITY TRAVELED OVER A LARGE PART OF THE PRISON, FINALLY BY AN AWKWARD KICK BEING SENT ACROSS
THE DEAD LINE, WHERE NONE DARED VENTURE, AND THAT RECALLED THE HARDEST PART OF THE TALE.
ANOTHER PRISONER DESCRIBED THE RATIONS
SOMETIME AFTER THE JUNE 1ST RATION CUT:
OUNCES ON AN AVERAGE PER DAY, IT WAS NEVER MORE THEN 14 OUNCES AND SOMETIMES AS LOW AS 8 AND 9 OUNCES, BUT THEY WILL AVERAGE
11 OR 12 OUNCES—OUR MEAT REMAINS THE SAME: WHEN COOKED 4 OR 5 OUNCES OF FRESH OR 6 OR 7 OUNCES OF PICKLED BEEF THREE
DAYS IN EVERY TEN—WE WILL HAVE 1 ½ PTS. HOMINY OR RICE FOR DINNER, THIS IS OUR WHOLE AMOUNT OF RATIONS, LESS THEN HALF
SUFFICIENT FOR US, I MYSELF AM TRULY WEAK FROM HUNGER, MY RATIONS MAKE ME ONE SMALL MEAL PER DAY, I REMAIN HUNGRY ALL THE
BREAD WE RECEIVED WAS MADE OF CORN MEAL, IN LOAVES SHAPED LIKE BRICKS, AND ABOUT AS HARD. THE SALT BEEF HAD A MOST OFFENCIVE
ODOR TO A DEGREE AND SOMETIMES GREEN WITH AGE. THE BACON SUPPLIED, REMARKED ANOTHER PRISONER, WAS STRONG ENUOGH TO STAND ALONE.
JUNE 1ST, ALL BOXES THAT ARRIVED CONTAINING EDIBLES WERE OPENED AND THE CONTENTS SENT TO THE HOSPITAL. SO THE SAID. BUT BOXES
CONTAINING CLOTHING WERE ADMITTED. THE PRISON AUTHORITIES STOPED THE SUTTLER FROM COMING INTO THE PRISON AND SELLING EDIBLES.
DEPRIVING THE PRISONERS OF SUCH FROM FRIENDS OUTSIDE THE PRISON AND FURTHER DEPRIVING THEM OF THE RIGHT TO BUY EDIBLES FROM
MAKE MATTERS WORSE, JUST AT THE BEGINNING OF SUMMER 1864. THE RIVER WAS AT ITS LOWEST STAGE AND DECLINING RAPIDLY UNDER THE
BROILING SUMMER SUN. TWO LARGE CISTERN TANKS THAT THEY FILLED WITH WATER FROM THE RIVER FOR THEIR WATER SUPPLY. SANK INTO
THE GROUND IN THE MAIN AVENUE OF THE PRISON. THE WATER WAS TURNING FROM A CLEAR TO A MUDDY GREEN. AND LATTER ON IN JULY AND
AUGUST THE WATER BECAME UNFIT TO DRINK.
ORDER FOR THE RATION CUT ALSO RESULTED IN SCURVY AND MALNUTRITION AND ULTIMATELY CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEATHS ON THE ISLAND.
THU JUNE 2ND, 262 MORE PRISONERS
HAVE ARRIVED AT THE ISLAND FROM THE BATTLES IN GEORGIA.
SUN JUNE 5TH, THE 37TH IOWA, 100
DAYS MEN, ALSO CALLED “THE GREYBEARDS”, WHO WERE GUARDING THE PRISONERS THERE AT ROCK ISLAND LEFT FOR MEMPHIS
THIS DAY AND WAS REPLACED BY THE 133RD ILL. WHO ARRIVED THE SAME DAY AND WERE PUT INTO QUARTERS ON THE ISLAND.
MON JUNE 6TH, 139 MORE PRISONERS
ARRIVED TODAY FROM MORE OF THE BATTLES IN GEORGIA.
WED JUNE 8TH, A SENTINEL KILLED
GEORGE W. ROSS, A PRIVATE FROM THE 1ST ARKANSAS.
THU JUNE 9TH, PRISONER KILLED LAST
NIGHT FOR ASKING TO GO TO THE PRIVI, A MAN BY THE NAME OF FRANKS FROM THE FOURTH ALA CAVALRY, SHOT IN FRONT OF BARRACK # TWELVE.
ANOTHER SHOT TODAY. NO CIRCUMSTANCES WARRANT SUCH A LINE OF CONDUCT TOWARDS US.
FRI JUNE 10TH, ANOTHER 150 TO 200
PRISONERS ARRIVED TODAY TAKEN IN GA., 200 PRISONERS JOINED THE U.S. NAVY.
IN JANUARY OF 1864, U.S. SECRETARY
OF THE NAVY, GIDEON WELLS, AUTHORIZED ASSISSTANT SECRETARY JOHN D HARTY TO GO TO ROCK ISLAND AND TO TRY TO ENLIST THE SERVICES
OF CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS THEIR TO FILL THE RANKS, TO WHICH THEY WERE OFFERED TO BE PAID A 100 DOLLAR BOUNTY FOR JOINING AND
THEY WOULD IMMEDIATELY BE TAKEN OUT OF THE REGULAR PRISON POPULATION AND GIVEN FULL RATIONS. THOSE WHO WERE REJECTED BY THE
SURGEON WOULD SIMPLY BE RELEASED. THE “GALVANIZED YANKEES” AS THEY WERE CALLED, AFTER ENLISTING WERE PUT IN WHAT
WAS KNOWN AS THE “CALF PEN.”
WAS MADE UP OF EIGHTEEN BARRACKS IN THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF THE PRISON, WHICH WERE FENCED OFF FROM THE REST OF THE PRISON,
OR OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE “BULL PEN”.
GATES TO THE “CALF PEN” WOULD BE OPEN ALL NIGHT FOR ANY PRISONER WISHING TO JOIN, ALL THEY WOULD HAVE TO DO IS
APPROACH THE GATES.
WAS ACCUSATIONS MADE BY SOME OF THE CONFEDERATE P.O.W.’S THAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WAS PURPOSELY STARVING THEM INTO JOINING
THEIR RANKS WITH THE PROMISE OF MORE RATIONS, BUT THE SIMPLE TRUTH OF THE MATTER WAS PRISONERS IN THOSE KIND OF DIAR CONDITIONS
WOULD TAKE ANY KIND OF OATH IF IT MEANT SURVIVING, AND STILL OTHERS REALIZED THAT THE END FOR THE CONFEDERACY WAS NEAR, WHATEVER
THE REASON WAS, BY WARS END SOME 1077 JOINED THE U.S. NAVY AND STILL ANOTHER 1797 JOINED THE U.S. ARMY FOR FRONTIER SERVICE.
TUE JUNE 14TH, TEN PRISONERS TUNNELLED
OUT FROM BENIETH THEIR BARRACKS AND ESCAPED UNDER THE SOUTH WALL, THE LAST TWO TO EMERG FROM THE HOLE WERE CAPTURED BY THE
SENTRY, WHO QUICKLY GAVE THE ALARM. GUARDS SPREAD OUT IN ALL DIRECTIONS OVER THE ISLAND, AND ANOTHER THREE WERE CAPTURED ON
THE ISLAND WHILE A FOURTH DROWNED ATTEMTING TO SWIM THE FOUR HUNDRED FOOT CHANNEL OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER, FOUR MORE WERE
LATER CAPTURED NEAR ROCK ISLAND ILL.
THU JUNE 16TH, 150 MORE PRISONERS
SAT/SUN JUNE 18TH & 19TH, IT
WED JUNE 22ND, TWO PRISONERS SHOT
TODAY WITHOUT THE LEAST BIT OF PROVOCATION. ONE DEAD.
FRI JUNE 24TH, SEVEN HUNDRED MORE
PRISONERS ARRIVE TODAY FROM JOHNSON AND MORGAN (BOTH ARE CONFEDERATE GENERALS)
SAT JUNE 25TH, DECRIPTIVE ROLLS
WERE TAKEN OF THE NEW PRISONERS TODAY.
SUN JUNE 26TH, PLEASANT WEATHER,
GOOD SHADE WITH EVERYTHING VERY GREEN. MORE PRISONERS.
SUN JULY 3RD, A YANK KILLED LAST
NIGHT IN A FRAY WITH ANOTHER YANK.
MON JULY 4TH, THE YANKEES ACROSS THE RIVER
IN DAVENPORT HAD A CELEBRATION AND AT NIGHT HAD A DISPLAY OF FIREWORKS. RUMORS OF EXCHANGE ARE AGAIN AFLOAT. THEY ARE WITHOUT
FOUNDATION EXCEPT FOR THE CALL OF MEN WHO DON’T WANT TO BE EXCHANGED.
WED JULY 6TH, SIXTY FOUR PRISONERS ENLISTED IN THE
U.S. NAVY AND WERE SHIPPED OUT EAST TO THEIR ASSIGHNED VESSELS.
THERE WAS NO OTHER MENTIONS OF NAVY ENLISTMENTS UNTILL
SEPTEMBER OF 1864, THIS IS WHY I BELIEVE WILLIAM ENLISTED IN THE U.S. NAVY HERE ON JULY 6TH, MOST LIKELY FOR THE REASONS STATED
ABOVE. SOME OF THE MEN WOULD DO ANYTHING TO GET OUT OF THOSE WRETCHED CONDITIONS, AND FOR WILLIAM HE HAD ANOTHER REASON TO
CHOSE LIFE RATHER THEN PINING AWAY FOR A DIEING CAUSE, HIS WIFE AND YOUNG CHILDREN AT HOME.
SAT JULY 9TH, THERE WAS A SEVERE STORM LAST NIGHT AT
ABOUT 10:00 P. M.
WED JULY 13TH, STILL RAINING
SUN JULY 17TH, INTENSLY HOT TODAY.
TUE/WED JULY 19TH & 20TH, PLEASANT WEATHER TODAY
THU JULY 21ST, ONE PRISONER KILLS ANOTHER TODAY WITHOUT
PROVOCATION. STILL COOL AND PLEASANT.
FRI JULY 22ND, ALMOST COLD ENOUGH FOR FROST THIS MORNING.
TUE JULY 26TH, WILLIAM IS IN THE HOSPITAL WITH CHRONIC
DIARRHEA, AND HAD PROBABLY BEEN THERE FOR SEVERAL DAYS PRIOR. HE MORE THAN LIKELY HAD MOST, IF NOT ALL OF THE SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED
WITH THIS DISEASE, WHICH CONSISTED OF FEVER, NAUSEA, VOMITING AND ABDOMINAL PAIN. ALL OF THIS RESULTED IN DEHYDRATION, WEIGHT
LOSS AND MALNUTRITION.
DEVELOPS WHEN THE BODY DOES NOT GET THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF VITAMINS, MINERALS AND OTHER NUTRIENTS IT NEEDS TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY
TISSUES AND ORGANS, AND IF NOT TREATED PROPERLY, CAN LEAD TO A WEAKENED HEART AND EVENTUALLY HEART FAILURE. HE UNDOUBTEDLY
REACHED AN EMACIATED CONDITION. THIS RESULTS FROM THE SLOW STARVATION OF HIS BODY. THIS CONDITION WAS NOT UNCOMMON FOR CIVIL
WAR ERA PRISONERS OF WAR.
IS WHAT CAUSED WILLIAM TO EXPIRE ON THIS DAY. HE MUST HAVE ENDURED IT FOR SOME TIME, UNDOUBTEDLY FROM THE CUT RATIONS AND
LOUSY DIET HE WAS FORCED TO LIVEON. HE BECAME ONE OF THE 476 MEN WHO DIED FROM THIS DISEASE ALONE ON THE ISLAND AND ONE OF
THE SEVETY THREE PRISONER DEATHS THAT OCCURRED DURING THE MONTH OF JULY 1864.
.....HAD WILLIAM REGAINED
HIS HEALTH HE WOULD HAVE BEEN SENT EAST TO HIS ASSIGHNED VESSEL OR HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN TURNED DOWN FOR THE SERVICE BY THE SURGEON
OF WHICH CASE HE THEN WOULD HAVE SIMPLY BEEN RELEASED, AS SO MANY OTHERS WERE.
.....WILLIAM WAS LAID
TO REST IN THE CONFEDERATE CEMETERY ON ROCK ISLAND IN GRAVE #1344. HE’S THERE WITH 1960 OTHER SOLDIER’S OF THE
CONFEDERACY. A LARGE AMERICAN FLAG NOW FLIES OVER THE CEMETERY. TO SOME THIS IS AN INSULT TO BE BURIED BENEATH THE VERY FLAG
THEY FOUGHT AGAINST, BUT I PREFER TO LOOK AT THE WAY THE MUSEUM DIRECTOR ON ROCK ISLAND PUT IT,;
“THEY ARE ALSO AMERICANS AND WE CLAIM THEM AS
EVERY MEMORIAL DAY, CONFEDERATE FLAGS ARE PLACED
ON EACH GRAVE AND THEN “TAPS” IS PLAYED OVER THEM TO HONOR THEIR MEMORY.