"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Worst Is Over

Wednesday, July 17, 1861.—All start early on our march. Being sick myself, caused by eating raw beef, without bread, I cannot march, and keep up with my companions. My friends S. A. Howard and H. W. Williams conclude not to leave me. Slept at night under a large sugar maple tree on the roadside.

Thursday, July 18, 1861.—I feel better to-day. Myself and my two companions left the maple tree at daylight. March all day; slept at the house of Mr. Range.

Friday, July 19, 1861.—We are passing through a valley inhabited by clever people. We meet with good treatment.

As nothing unusual occurred on my journey form this place to Monterey and McDowell, I will only say that I arrived there on Monday, July 22d, and found the 1st Georgia Regiment scattered “hither and yon.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Ordeal Continues

Monday, July 15, 1861.—Started on our dreary march through the mountainous wilderness of laurel at daylight this morning. All weak and tottering from hunger. We have marched through this wilderness for thirty-six hours, without discovering any mark or sign to indicate that man had ever trod the soil before; and I have not idea that this region was ever before penetrated by any man living. For nearly two days we have marched without so much as hearing a bird. No game! Nothing in this region for game to live on. The growth consists of laurel, laurel, laurel, with occasional spruce-pine and birch. The boys are eating birch-bark—some are eating spruce-pine bark. As for myself, I cannot bear to look at them as they eat it. I ate it freely yesterday, but to-day I am sick—sick, I suppose, from eating it yesterday. We are marching in profound silence, no man having strength or energy to converse with his companion. Many of the boys are throwing away their guns, &c., not being able to carry them. Early in the morning we crossed a creek, and are passing on the side of a mountain, the surface of which is covered with laurel. At 11 o’clock, A. M. the word is passed from rear to front, that we are overtaken by a mountaineer, named James R. Parsons, accompanied by a young named John B. Irons, who says it is impossible for us to pass through the mountains in the direction we are going. A halt is ordered. A consultation is held. Although many are unwilling to return, looking upon the old gentleman who has tracked us from the battle field, with suspicion, we are ordered to follow our new friends, who say they will take us to a point on the creek we have crossed, in which beeves can be driven and killed, thus saving us from starvation, which is at this moment staring us in the face, in its most hideous and distressing form. We return to the creek, and travel down the stream all day, with our new guides in front. Some are becoming almost desperate. Many times during the day halts are made by different Captains and Lieutenants, who almost determine to return with their commands; declaring Mr. Parsons and young Irons to be traitors, taking us into the hands of the enemy. Some said they had suspicioned them from the time we were overtaken in the morning, and now, late in the afternoon, their suspicions are confirmed by their conduct and conversation—that we will be taken by traitors to the enemy’s camp and annihilated.

Capt. Crump boldly, openly and fearlessly defends the accused. Should he and a few others concur with the murmurers and accusers, no doubt the whole band would have returned to our old route, with Parsons and Irons prisoners, and all probably die of starvation in the mountains—not one being left to tell the tale.

Myself and many others having implicit confidence in Capt. Crump’s knowledge of human nature, and good judgment, feel encouraged and keep on down the rocky stream. Just before dark we came to a little opening in the woods. Here we are halted by our guides, where we build the first fires we have had since the morning of the battle. Our guides, with some members of our company go in search of cattle. By the fires we lie down to sleep, perfectly exhausted from hunger and the rough road over which we have been travelling. We sleep till morning.

Tuesday, July 16.—We awake at day light—have scarcely enough strength or energy to move. One of our boys who accompanied the guides has just arrived with a small cake of corn bread, which he offers to Captain Crump. Although the Captain has not eaten anything for four or five days, and is so near exhausted that he can scarcely walk, he says, “excuse me, I will not eat a mouthful until my company are supplied with food; if my men eat nothing, I will eat nothing myself.” The magnanimous conduct of Captain Crump, throughout our journey, has won for him the love and esteem of the whole band. For the past few days we have been looking to him for consolation, as a child in early youth looks to its father in time of trouble. He is a noble Captain. This is the exclamation of all.

About eight o’clock, three fine, large beeves are driven up from across the mountains. I will not attempt a description of the manifestations of joy from that band of three hundred starving Georgians. The beeves are killed, roasted and eaten in short order, and without ceremony; and we are started on our march down the creek. Late in the evening we come to a bridle-path. We receive new consolation and encouragement by the sight of a path which has signs of being travelled before. The Walker Light Infantry, with their Captain, stop a little after dark, build up a fire, and lie down to sleep, the rain falling hard and heavy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Diary Continues

Saturday, July 13th, 1861.—At daylight this morning, our “rear guard” arose, almost shivering with cold, caused by the rain which had been steadily falling on us during the night. After a march of a mile and a half, or two miles, we came up with the brigade, and found many of the boys eating parched corn, with a relishing and greedy appetite, most of our provision wagons being upset in the mountains during the previous night. Here, I was reminded of the march of the children of Israel, under the command of Moses and Aaron, when the children began to murmur for bread, &c., &c. Every exertion was made by Capt. Crump and Lieut. Wheeler, (who came to the camp the night previous,) to procure something for their company to eat, but with little success.

After the three Virginia regiments of infantry were placed in front, and the 1st Georgia regiment bringing up the rear, we started on our weary march, the rain still pouring in torrents, and every man as wet as water could make him. We had marched but a short distance, when the Lincoln army came up in the rear, and gave us battle. The fighting continued until evening, during which we lost our commanding General. A braver or more noble and worthy man never fell on the field of battle. That he was brave and daring, we need no better proof than his conduct during this engagement. During this battle, a portion of the Georgian regiment was cut off from the main body of the army, and being among that number myself, I can speak in my future notes, only of that unfortunate squad, which consisted of Maj. Thompson, of the Field Staff, Capt. Crump and Lieut. Russell of the Walker Light Infantry, with about half their company; Capt. Pinckard, of the Quitman Guards, Capt. Jones of the Washington Rifles; Capt. Evans, of the Bainbridge Independents, and Capt. Ezzard of the Gate City Guards, together with a portion of every company in the regiment, numbering in all about three hundred. Late in the evening after we had retired some distance from the battlefield, on the side of the mountain, a council was held by the commissioned officers present to come to some determination as to our mode of getting out of the mountains, and joining our comrades. It was here determined to make our way across the mountains, through the wilderness, in search of the turn-pike leading to Staunton—Capt. Crump and Lieut. Russell, of the Walker Light Infantry, only, voting to return and fight our way through a desperate foe to our boys, being ignorant of their fate. As to the relative strength of the two armies here, I will only say that the Lincolnites out-numbered us, two to one. Maj. Thompson taking the bridle, saddle, &c., off his horse, throwing them in the bushes and turning the horse loose, we crossed the mountains, and slept during the night in a glade some two or three miles from the battle field, not, however, out of hearing of the guns of the enemy.

Sunday, July 14, 1861.—This morning at day light we started on our march through the hills, weak from hunger, and somewhat discouraged with the gloomy prospect of finding food to-day. It is thought by those of our company having maps in their possession that we are within twelve miles of the turn pike, and that we will reach it this evening. Marching through a laurel range of mountains, almost impassable, nearly all day, we halted in the afternoon, and ate freely of birch bark, and a kind of grass of week called “sheep-sorrel.” It will be remembered that a large number of our company have had nothing to eat since Thursday morning, and have been on a tedious and tiresome march since that time.

After a brief rest, we renew our gloomy march, eating bark and grass as we journey. Night finds us in a rough, rocky ravine near one of the many small, swift mountain streams that course their way through the laurel forests of this cold, dismal, and uninhabited portion of the mountains of northern Virginia. It is raining. Who can imagine our condition? our feelings? We are only kept from suffering severely from the cold, during the day by the most active exercise; and now night is upon us, and such a night! Nothing heard except the falling of the rain drops, the running of the aforesaid brook, and the croaking of a raven in some hollow tree farther up the mountains. Here we must rest for the night. We cannot move, or we might pitch from the top of a precipice into eternity. How shall we sleep? We have no blankets! We have divested ourselves of everything except what we wear, and many have had their clothes nearly torn from them by the brush in passing through the laurel thicket.

What would our mothers and sisters think, and say, if they knew our condition? I have just heard a member of the Walker Light Infantry say that he would not have his wife know of his present sufferings for a million of dollars; another said he would not have his mother made acquainted with his present situation for twice that amount. I feel around in the dark for a place to sleep. I prop myself against a tree to prevent my rolling down the mountain, and soon I am asleep. I dream—but not of HOME. Here I shiver with cold, half sleep, and half awake, until morning.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Diary of a Soldier

151 years ago, the First Georgia Volunteers were experiencing defeat and retreat in the Allegheny Mountains of Western Virginia.  One soldier, Corporal Nathan Pugh of the Walker Light Infantry, noted the events in his diary.
Thursday, July 11th, 1861.—In the afternoon, General Garnett received information, rendering it absolutely necessary that we should evacuate Laurel Hill; consequently, orders were issued to prepare to march.

The Walker Light Infantry, besides several other companies of our regiment, were on duty some distance from the camp, and knew nothing of the orders until dark. On returning to camp at night, we packed up, and prepared to leave, not having time to at supper, and notwithstanding many of us had nothing to eat during the day. We left just after dark, and marched all night through the rain and mud with heavy knapsacks and muskets.

Friday, July 12, 1861.—This morning, at seven o’clock, we arrived within three miles of Beverly, when we found the road blockaded, and supposing it to have been done by the enemy, who, from the blockade and other causes, it was thought had possession of Beverly. Here the General ordered us to countermarch, and take a wagon road leading in a Northeasterly direction, towards St. George, in Tucker county.

Leaving the turnpike, we marched all day, without food, and with but little rest. During the day, an immense quantity of clothing and blankets were thrown away, together with camp equipage of every description. The rain having ceased to fall early in the morning, we marched beneath the scorching rays of a July’s sun until late in the afternoon, when the rain again commence falling in torrents. It continued to rain during the evening and night, making the mountainous road almost impassable. As our company (the Walker Light Infantry) was in the rear of a very long train of horses and wagons, we were made to wade through mud and water, at times nearly knee-deep.

In this condition we reached a hollow or swamp about 2 o’clock at night. Here, in this dark and dismal ravine of mud and water, between the mountains, Lieut. W. D. Russell and myself, with several members of our company, concluded to remain during the night, not knowing how far in advance the main body of the brigade were camping. We slept on the road side, muddy and wet, weary with the fatigue of the twenty-four hour’s march, and hungry from a thirty-six hours fast.
To Be Continued . . .