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The Yorktown election and reorganization.

April 28th, 1862, orders were received from the War Department, at Richmond, permitting and directing the re-organization of all the twelve-months companies which had enlisted for the war. This order created a great deal of excitement and intense interest among the soldiers, particularly the Twelfth Alabama, nearly every company in which had enlisted for only twelve months.

Colonel Robert T. Jones, of Marion, Ala., a native of Richmond, Va., a graduate of West Point, and a very accomplished soldier, who had been a captain in the United States army, was a candidate for re-election, and opposed by Captain A. Stikes of Company C, from Mobile.

Captain R. H. Keeling, of Company F, was a candidate for lieutenant-colonel, and opposed by Captain L. D. Patterson of Company E. Captain Keeling was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and had as his schoolmates General R. E. Rodes, General R. E. Colston and other distinguished officers.

Captain B. B. Gayle, of Company H, who had had military training at Portsmouth, Va., and had been teaching in Morgan county, Ala., was a candidate for major.

The result of the election was the choice of R. T. Jones for colonel, L. D. Patterson for lieutenant-colonel, and B. B. Gayle for major.

The defeat of Captain Keeling for lieutenant-colonel by Captain Patterson, who was an excellent soldier, having been promoted from private in his company to captain, and who was a teacher of good repute in North Alabama, greatly surprised the officers and many of the men in the regiment, as there was no doubt of the superior qualifications of Captain Keeling for the position. Colonel Jones was so disturbed and indignant that he refused to recommend Captain Patterson for the position of lieutenant-colonel, and the consequence was that Captain Patterson declined to contest for the place and resigned from his company and regiment. This caused another election and B. B. Gayle was elected lieutenant-colonel, and Adjutant S. B. Pickens was elected major. [214]

The day before the election, Captain Keeling came to my tent, where I was sitting in conversation with Orderly Sergeant John W. McNeely, my mess-mate, and astonished me by asking me why I did not run for second lieutenant. I replied that I was a Georgian, in an Alabama regiment, and had not entertained the thought of such an aspiration. He replied: ‘You can be easily elected, for I have been talking among the men about it.’ He then informed me that the understanding was that Captain R. F. Ligon, who had been elected to the Alabama Senate, would decline a re-election to the captaincy, and that he himself would be elected captain without opposition; that Sergeant McNeely would be elected first lieutenant, and that it was believed that neither Lieutenant Zuber nor Lieutenant Jones would be candidates for re-election, and that the company were undecided as to who should be elected second and third lieutenants.

Encouraged by this conversation, and advice, I acted upon Lieutenant Keeling's suggestion and visited each one of the occupants of the nine tents used by members of Company F.

The first tent, or number one, fortunately, had its members sitting down ready for dinner, and I recall that there were present Sergeant M. A. Flournoy, of Opelika, Corporal E. P. Hendree, of Tuskegee, later promoted to first lieutenant in the Sixty-first Alabama regiment, and killed at the Wilderness on the 5th of May. Private James W. Fannin, of Tuskegee, afterwards captain in the Sixty-first Alabama. Private A. Fuller Henderson, son of the distinguished Baptist minister, Rev. Samuel Henderson, D. D., of Tuskegee, and who afterwards became editor and proprietor of the Tuskegee News, and who killed himself, whether intentionally or accidentally, is unknown, in 1867. Private Robert F. Hall, of Auburn, afterwards first sergeant, and who was wounded in the foot at Chancellorsville and retired from service, becoming foreman of the Montgomery Advertiser, being an accomplished printer. Private Robert W. Drake, now of Laneville, Ala., and perhaps two or three others.

In response to my statement that I would be a candidate for second lieutenant at the election the following day, the boys instantly spoke up and told me that they would vote for me.

I then visited the second tent in which were equally as good friends, and some of them former college mates at Auburn, as in the first tent, among them being Private Thomas H. Clower, of [215] Auburn, afterwards orderly sergeant of Company F, and recommended during the latter days of the war for a commission as second lieutenant, and who has recently been the popular mayor of Opelika, and is one of her most esteemed and highly respected citizens, a thorough gentleman and a brave and intrepid soldier. Private S. B. Brewer, of Tuskegee, afterwards regimental sutler. Private J. B. Fletcher, afterwards elected third lieutenant, and killed at Sharpsburg, Md. Private R. H. Stafford, afterwards the color sergeant of the regiment, and killed at Cedar Creek, Va., October 19, 1864. Corporal A. G. Howard, afterwards desperately wounded and promoted to ordnance sergeant of the regiment, and who died in Atlanta, Ga., where he had become a prominent and wealthy merchant, a few years ago. He had risen to the position of Grand Chief Templar of the Grand Commandery of Knight Templars of Georgia, and one of Georgia's most excellent citizens.

Upon making known my purpose to these young friends, they responded as did tent number one, and promised their cordial support.

I then visited the other seven tents in the line and spoke, among others, to James M. Lester, who was killed near Appomattox C. H., just before the surrender. Private W. F. Moore, who died recently in Texas; Private William Mimms, who was killed at Cedar Creek, Va., October 19th, 1864; Walter O. Nicholson, who was later discharged, under age; Dick Nobles who died at Elmira, N. Y., a prisoner, in 1865; Dan Oswalt who died since the war; John Preeskitt, who was killed at Gettysburg July 1st, 1863; Nat Richardson, who was discharged soon after for being over age, and died in 1904; A. P. Reid, afterwards second sergeant of the company and died in Texas three or four years ago; Ben F. Smith, the best fiddler I believe in the Army of Northern Virginia, an old bachelor, who died a few years since; Nathan R. Simmons of Opelika, who became a sergeant and died in Opelika, holding the position of superintendent of public works, in December, 1904; Dr. H. R. Thorpe, of Auburn, who later was promoted to assistant-surgeon of a North Carolina regiment; J. W. Wright, who was elected third lieutenant next day, but left the company and the confederacy very soon after; George W. Wright, who was afterwards elected second lieutenant and retired on account of wound received in the head at Gettysburg, and died afterwards at Loachapoka, Ala.; George Pierce Ware, of Auburn, Ala., the brave, Christian soldier [216] who was often wounded but is now living, a highly respected citizen, six miles from Auburn, Ala.; W. B. (Tobe) Ward, who was killed near Appomattox, Va.; Corporal Archy Wilkerson, who was badly wounded in the mouth, and died in Arkansas since the war, and the two gallant brothers, Walter P. and Fletcher Zachry. The latter is now living, a respected citizen of Tyler, Texas. Moses W. Wright, of Tuskegee, who died later during the war, and the two brave brothers, John U. and Ben. F. Ingram.

John was killed at Seven Pines May 31, 1862, just one month later, and Ben died at Garrison, Tex., in 1903.

Among all of these comrades I met a cordial reception, except at the hands of Corp. Wilkerson, who, speaking for his tent number 9, replied: ‘We have no objection to you, but if Lieutenant Zuber, who comes from our settlement, is a candidate, our mess will have to vote for him.’ I replied that the men in the other eight tents were unanimous for me and that I did not feel any concern if the lieutenant did decide to become a candidate.

The next day's result of the election in Company F was:

Robert H. Keeling, captain; John W. McNeely, first lieutenant; Robert E. Park, second lieutenant—all unanimously; John W. Wright elected third lieutanant over Sergeant M. A. Flournoy, A. S. Grigg and R. Flewellen.

The election of field officers, and the prompt refusal of Colonel Jones to endorse Captain Patterson as lieutenant colonel caused intense excitement, but it soon wore away.

The second day after my election I was detailed to act as officer of the guard, and reported in my private's uniform, with a borrowed sword, to Colonel Jones. The colonel glanced up and looked at me from head to foot, and from foot to head, and quaintly said, ‘I am glad, Lieutenant, that you were elected a commissioned officer, but I advise you to get a new uniform as soon as possible.’ He then quietly gave me instructions as to my new duties. It is a source of regret that I could not preserve a photograph or ambrotype of myself as I appeared when I reported to Colonel Jones. I was something over seventeen years of age. I had grown considerably and my round-a-bout gray coat had become too short and did not meet my pants, nor could it be buttoned in front. The end of the sleeves was fully six inches from my hand. The pants had been scorched in the rear, on the calf of the leg, and were a mass of dark strings. The bottom of the [217] trousers was fully four inches above my worn-out, soleless shoes. My soft wool hat was battered and torn until it didn't deserve to be dignified by the name of hat. It was scarcely a head covering.

A few days after this election we began our retreat between the York and James rivers to Chickahominy swamp, via Williamsburg, and in passing the 14th North Carolina I overheard this remark loudly spoken by one ‘Tar Heel’ to another: ‘Look there, boys, see that uniform? there goes your new election.’ I was trudging along by the side of my company in the same uniform in which I had saluted Col. Jones, and with the borrowed sword buckled around me. The dillapidated condition of the whole regiment was a constant source of humorous remarks, not only by those who composed but by all who saw it. But they were not alone in this particular. The army at Yorktown was one clothed in rags.

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