"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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Murder in Virginia

As the First Georgia marched westward to join General Garnett's Army of the Northwest, many soldiers broke ranks, looking for handouts from homes and liquor from taverns.  On June 16, one such foray resulted in tragedy.  The following is an account published in the Atlanta Southern Confederacy:


Yesterday Mr. W. B. Wood, A. J. Slattings and S. Haas, members of the Newnan Guards, passed through this city with the remains of Mr. Bh. [Bernard] H. Meyer, en route to Newnan, his late home for interment. The circumstances of his death are these: Whilst on guard at Shaw’s Gap, in Virginia, on Sunday night last, a member of the Quitman Guards, named Stokes, attempted to pass the line. Young Meyer demanded the pass-word. Stokes refused to give it, and insisted on passing, which Meyer sternly, yet politely refused.—Stokes returned to his own tent, deliberately loaded his gun, and returned and coolly shot the sentinel dead. His company, or some members of it, had on the previous afternoon bought a barrel of whisky: hence this horrible murder. We sincerely sympathize with young Meyer’s parents and friends. Below we give the letters from his Colonel and Captain, accompanying his remains:

VIRGINIA, June 17, 1861.
My Dear Sir and Madam:

It becomes my painful duty, as Commander of the 1st Regiment, to inform you of the death of your son. He was shot last night, while in the faithful discharge of his duty, as one of my sentinels. From the information I have been enabled to pick up in reference to the affair, you son was shot without any cause—simply for doing his duty. I will see that justice is done the offender.

I know this news will come with crushing effect upon your feelings, but console yourselves with the reflection that he fell at his post, and had conducted himself so as to merit and receive the high approval of his officers. I saw him soon after he was wounded; his sufferings were short. I send him back to you for burial, hoping God may give you fortitude to bear this heavy affliction. It is the great sacrifice you have made for your country.

Respectfully, J. N. RAMSAY,
Col. Commanding 1st Reg. Ga. Vol.

Shaw’s Pass, Va., June 17, 1861.
Mr. Meyer:

It is with feelings of deep regret that I have to communicate the sad intelligence of the unfortunate death of your son. He was brutally murdered last night, whilst in the discharge of his duty as sentinel. The nature of this thing can be more fully explained to you by the soldiers who have been detailed to accompany his remains home. Your son had always borne himself in the most high-toned manner, and no one in the Regiment had more reputation as a soldier—prompt in the discharge of his duties. It is needless on this occasion for my to undertake more to console you for a loss so entirely irreparable.

Hoping you may become resigned to the loss, I remain, sincerely, your friend and sympathizer,

Captain Newnan Guards.

Stokes was arrested and held in jail, but was never arraigned for the murder.  He was eventually released and returned to Georgia, where he died in 1867.


  1. I found a version of this article in Athen's Southern Confederacy but it did include copies of the letters. I can't find Bernard H. Meyer in the Coweta county 1860 census where he would presumably be. Nor is there a grave listed for him the county's cemetery book which also seems a bit odd. Where did you find out the information about the history of Stokes being released, retuning to Georgia and dying in 1867?

    1. Thomas,
      Thanks for visiting. T. B. Cabiness, who was a private in the Quitman Guards, and then later Captain of the Dahlonega Volunteers, wrote a letter to Lavendar Ray in 1884 stating that James J. Stokes of Co. K was a farmer when he enlisted, that he was never tried but imprisoned and released about the time of Seven Pines. Cabiness stated that Stokes died Oct. 1867 in Monroe County, and was insane at the time he killed Meyer. Cabiness also stated that Stokes had a daughter who had been committed to the Lunatic Asylum in Milledgeville. This letter is in the George Hanvey collection held at the Hargett Library, University of Georgia.

  2. George:
    Thanks for the reply. I didn’t quite clue in when reading the blog that you were the George W. Martin, the author of, “I Will Give Them One More Shot”. I enjoyed you book immensely. Thank you for writing it.

    I live in Coweta County, fact right next door to John B. Goodwyn’s house. I became familiar with John B. while researching the John Bailey (7th GA) family whose house I live in next door to Goodwyns. And then I discovered the Ray boys in the 1st GA, Lavendar and John D. Ray Jr. during a national register nomination I did for a school in this county that John D. Ray Jr. provided the land for in 1909.

    Interesting about the murder. I haven’t found the grave of Meyer in Coweta county listed in the cemetery book. Perhaps he was from another close by county? I’ll look around and check other sources. Unfortunately, there are very few newspapers from Newnan during the War to follow up on a very intresting but sad story human interest story.