"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.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Mysterious Major Thompson

The Thompson Family plot in Oakland Cemetery.
George Harvey is on the left, and the tall monument in the middle
is for his father, Dr. Joseph Thompson.

While in Atlanta during my trip down to Georgia, I visited Oakland Cemetery in search of answers to a minor mystery. I recently found out that George Harvey Thompson, first major and later lieutenant colonel of the First Georgia, was buried in Oakland. During my research I was able to fairly well document Thompson’s activities before the war and during his term with the First, but after that the records get very skimpy.

George Harvey Thompson was born January 16, 1838, in Atlanta to Dr. Joseph Thompson and his wife, the former Mary Ann Tomlinson Young. Born in South Carolina, Dr. Thompson was one of Atlanta’s founding citizens and the owner/operator of the Atlanta Hotel.

Frequently known by his middle name of Harvey, Thompson attended the Georgia Military Institute, though his grades were not the best. When the Gate City Guard was incorporated in 1859, Thompson was elected the company’s first captain. In February, 1861, as Governor Joseph E. Brown began assembling his Georgia State Army, he offered Thompson a captain’s commission. Thompson was elected as major of Ramsey’s First Georgia Volunteer Infantry on April 3, 1861. During his service with the First, Thompson led the detachment of six companies which was lost in the Allegheny Mountains for several days following the retreat of the Army of the Northwest from Laurel Hill. Later, with Lt. Colonel James O. Clarke on detached service in Staunton, Thompson commanded the First at the Battle of Greenbrier River, after Colonel Ramsey was cut off from the army. In November, Lt. Col. Clarke resigned his commission and returned to Georgia. An election was held on December 3, with Thompson winning election to lieutenant colonel over Captain George M. Hanvey of the Newnan Guards. During General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Romney campaign, Thompson, along with over three-quarters of the regiment, was incapacitated by disease. Struck down by the freezing weather and hardships of the campaign, Harvey was confined to a bed in Winchester.

After the First Georgia mustered out in Augusta on March 10, 1862, Thompson returned to his father’s hotel, probably to rest, and to await his next adventure. The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer of March 13, 1862 says “We hope that promotion will follow all the field officers of the regiment—and especially that it will soon overtake Lieut. Col. Thompson of this city, than whom none more deserves it, and but few as well qualified to lead a regiment in the field.”  It is certain that Thompson planned to reenter the service as soon as possible - an advertisement in the Atlanta Southern Confederacy for May 11, 1862 reads:

Two Companies Wanted - I WANT two full Companies to complete a regiment, now being organized by authority of the War Department.  Address GEORGE HARVEY THOMPSON, or D. S. PRINTUP, Atlanta, Ga. 

Here is where we begin to lose track of Harvey.

There are some business records which place Thompson in Atlanta from June 1863 through April of 1864. According to a couple of the papers, in late December of 1863 he sold a pair of horses to the 20th Alabama Artillery Battalion in Columbus, receiving the sum of $2400.

It is known that George Harvey died on December 18, 1864. An article in the November 5, 1905, Atlanta Constitution says that he “died in service,” but gives no specifics. Thompson’s monument over his grave in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery is likewise silent on his service, simply saying: “Died December 18th 1864 Our Son GEORGE HARVEY In the 26th year of his age.” There is some other lettering below this but it has weathered to the point of being unreadable.

If anyone has more information that might shed light on which unit George Harvey served in, please leave a comment. It would be very much appreciated.

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