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Seed cover of the Confederacy. From the Jackson clarion-ledger, December, 1907.

The famous boy Company of Richmond, commanded by Captain W. W. Parker—the Confederate Women— their encouragement and efforts were behind the movements of the men in the field.

In the Great War Between the States, from 1861 to 1865, the Confederate States, because of the great odds in numbers and resources of every kind, including recruits from Europe entering the armies of the Union, had to have in the Confederate armies every musket available in its defense. It was a common remark during the war that the South was ‘robbing the cradle if not the grave,’ and this was nearer true than is commonly believed, when we consider what is generally recognized as the ‘arms-bearing population of the country,’ from eighteen to forty or forty-five years of age, even when in extremity the greatest drafts are made to fill the ranks of armies in wars. The Confederate armies had in its ranks many boys from fourteen to sixteen, and men as old as sixty-five in great numbers before the close of the war.

This condition of affairs necessarily brings out the fact that the women of the South were so patriotic that their encouragement, and indeed, their efforts, was behind such movements in ours, the most bloody and costly war of the centuries. In my reading of history I learn that in all great and patriotic upheavals ‘women have always risen to the highest ideals of courage and devotion,’ and perform their duty and part in equal earnestness and sacrifice as the men who fill the ranks of the armies of war. This was the case in ancient Judea, in Sparta, in the Netherlands, in Spain and Germany, in our own Revolutionary War, and, in fact, with women all over the world. Their courage and moral heroism generally surpasses that which animated the soldiers in the front; but none in any age, in no [103] country, surpassed the patriotism, sufferings, sacrifice, devotion and long suffering of the women of the South during the Civil War. These splendid traits were more conspicuous immediately after the war, amid the ruin, desolation and despoiling legislation which followed its close.

Old acquaintances.

At the recent reunion at Richmond, Va., of the United Confederate Vetrans, the writer had vividly recalled to his memory and met many of the young Confederate soldiers, whose heads were just beginning to grow gray, belonging to a company of artillery from Richmond, composed nearly entirely of beardless boys from fourteen to eighteen years of age. The company was known as the ‘Parker Battery,’ commanded by Captain W. W. Parker, a very religious member of one of the leading Methodist Churches of Richmond, Va. It was also known as the ‘boy company’ because only the officers were of age, and possibly a few other members. It was organized in the late spring or summer of 1862, when General McClellan with the Union Army was hammering at the very gates of the city. At the time the conscript law was being agitated, and parents could scarcely hold the boys in hand. To meet the situation several churches asked Dr. Parker to form a company of boys, and when he consented nearly every boy who could, or felt he could, be a soldier tried to enlist, and this, too, generally with the consent of their parents, for otherwise the boys would have been likely to have run off and enlisted anyway. The company was a pretty green one, including the captain, lieutenants, drivers and all the members of the battery; they had had little or no experience in drilling, in caring for the horses attached to the guns, and in every respect was a very crude organization.

After General Lee had driven General McClellan from the gates of Richmond and began to move towards Maryland in the first campaign of invasion across the Potomac, the ‘boy company’ reported to Colonel S. D. Lee, who had a battalion of three batteries of artillery, all of whom had seen service in battle. When on the march towards the battlefield of Second Manassas the ‘boy company’ reported to make the fourth battery of the [104] battalion. When the battery reported Colonel Lee was shocked that such a company of immature boys should be sent to him while on the march against the enemy. He, however, took the situation in at once, took hold of the company and drilled and disciplined it in season and out of season, nearly exhausting officers, men, drivers and horses in whipping them into shape for service. The strictest discipline was continuously enforced, and the colonel soon saw he was not very popular with the new company—in fact, he saw he was greatly condemned by officers and the entire company; but there was no let — up in his effort to prepare the company for the battle to take place in the near future. In ten or twelve days after the ‘boy company’ joined the battalion it was facing the army of General Pope on the battlefield of Second Manassas, but the strenuous attention given the company had fitted them by drill in the handling of their guns. The colonel nursed them all the time; his post of duty was with them as much as he could spare the time. On August 30, 1862, the battalion of artillery was in the centre of the Confederate line of battle, General Longstreet's corps being on its right and General Jackson's on the left. The eighteen guns were all together during the battle, and the ‘boy company’ was carried by the colonel close up to the enemy, firing on the flank of the troops attacking General Jackson in the famous railroad cut. The company of boys acted splendidly and did as well as any veteran battery in General Lee's army, but only a few of them were wounded in the battle.

Captain Parker's Piety.

As stated, Captain Parker was a very religious man, and he often held prayer-meeting in the camp at night after a day's march. In the great roar of the battle of Second Manassas, when every gun on both sides, artillery and infantry, were being fired rapidly by the contending forces, the columns of the enemy upon which the battalion of artillery was playing began to waver, and to retreat, and finally were driven routed off the field. As the enemy broke, a little fourteen-year-old boy in the ‘boy company’ was in the act of ramming a shell down his gun. The sight of the fleeing enemy was too much for him; he stopped pushing [105] the cartridge home, and ran up to Captain Parker exclaiming: ‘Captain, the Yankees are running, let us give thanks.’ The Captain replied: ‘No, ram that shell down and let 'em have it, and we will thank God after awhile.’ The colonel, who was near the gun, and who was at that time a religious man, went up to the Captain and putting his hand on the Captain's shoulder said, ‘Captain,, was not that remark rather disrespectful to God?’ He replied, ‘You wicked man, I would rather have had any man in the Southern Confederacy have heard me make that remark than you.’ I was proud of my ‘boy company,’ but did not relax in my drilling or discipline on the march; and while I could see a partial change toward their commander, I could see that I still had their dislike and that they thought I was too partial to their company, and would prefer that I would be more attentive to the other three batteries of the battalion. President Davis said of Colonel Lee in this battle: ‘I have reason to believe that at the last great conflict on the field of Manassas, he served to turn the tide of battle and consumate the victory.’ It was not of Colonel Lee, but his splendid battalion of artillery, including the ‘boy company,’ that turned the tide of battle.

Not long after the battle of the Second Manassas came Sharpsburg, for one day the bloodiest battle of the entire war. Here, as at the battle of the Second Manassas, the battalion of artillery was in the thickest of the battle, near the Dunker Church, close to the bloody cornfield and the ‘bloody angle.’ The artillery was in the open field, and besides facing the battle of the enemy in front, was enfiladed by heavy Parrott guns far across Antietam Creek. The battalion of five batteries was almost wrecked on the bloody field, fully one-third of the men and horses were killed and wounded; over 85 men and 100 horses lying around the guns. The ‘boy company’ were real heroes; notwithstanding 30 of their number were dead or wounded around their guns, they never flinched. With difficulty the battalion of artillery was relieved early in the morning of September 17th, and moved a short distance to the rear to refit and replenish with ammunition. While refitting, my heart went out to the brave boys, whose nerves I could see could not be otherwise than shocked and rattled; after refitting I found that only two guns out of the four carried into battle in the morning could [106] be carried into battle again. I addressed the ‘boy company’ as follows: ‘You are boys, but you have this day been where men only dare to go! Some of your company have been killed and many have been wounded, but recollect, that it is a soldier's fate to die! Now, every man of you who is willing to return to the field, step two paces to the front!’ The brave boys responded at once, described by another as follows: ‘Weak, almost dazed by the scenes of horror through which we had passed, stern duty calls and we obey. The significant “two paces” is stepped and a volunteer section, led by Lieutenant J. Thompson Brown, return and moves to confront the now exultant enemy.’

Tasting ties.

After the bloody battle of Sharpsburg, Colonel Lee let up on the ‘boy company.’ He and they were ever afterwards friends. The little fellows loved their commander, and never failed to divide with him anything they had gathered in foraging which they might have on hand; he was the recipient of fruit, eggs, and even more substantial luxuries when there was any among the boys of Parker's Battery. Now he treasures the precious memory of that noble company of boys, and the survivors love him, and he also loves them as only men can love each other who have been through the scenes in battle of a great war. Recently at the Richmond reunion he met six or eight of the ‘boy company,’ who live in Richmond, and he was deeply touched as they came around him, and put their hands and arms about him and recalled the scenes and incidents of the great battles of Second Manassas and Sharpsburg. Not long after this Colonel Lee was promoted and moved for service to the West. He was assigned to duty at Vicksburg in November, 1862, but he ever afterward followed with pride the gallant and true ‘boy company’ (Parker's Battery) which served to the close of the war and surrendered at the general collapse at Appomattox.

The ‘boy company’ (Parker's Battery) was but one of many such companies of boys organized during the great war, and I will now mention one company, composed entirely of Mississippi boys, the captain of which was Captain W. A. Montgomery, now of Edwards, Miss., who was only about eighteen years of [107] age. This company, after the fall of Vicksburg, served under my command for a long time. Captain Montgomery had about thirty dare-devil boys who lived almost all the time inside of the lines of the enemy. They were invaluable as scouts. The only trouble with them was that they were always too anxious to fight and follow their dare-devil captain in a charge. They never counted the odds as a rule, but were as reckless as reckless boys could be. During the war I learned to trust boys as soldiers as reliantly as men in battle. In fact, there was scarcely a regiment or company in the Confederate Army towards the close of the war that did not have nearly a score of boys under eighteen years of age in their ranks. I glory in the boys of our Southland, for I learned this during the great war, and they stand only second to my love and veneration for the women of the South. Our splendid Southern women, Confederate women and their daughters, never tire in their patriotism. They are now all over the territory of the ex-Confederate States, placing monuments at every county seat to commemorate the valor, patriotism and sacrifice of the Confederate soldier. In overcoming almost insurmountable difficulties they have erected and have lately unveiled the splendid monument in Richmond to our beloved President Davis. It did my heart good when the veterans of Mississippi recently in reunion at Meridian passed a resolution to ask the Legislature of Mississippi to erect a monument to commemorate the unsurpassed patriotism of the Confederate women during the bloody Civil War.

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