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Colonel James Gregory Hodges.

Address By Judge James F. Crocker, Before Stonewall Camp, Confederate Veterans, Portsmouth, Va., June 18th, 1909.
James Gregory Hodges was born in Portsmouth, Va., on the 25th day of December, 1828. His father was Gen. John Hodges. Gen. Hodges was one of the most noted citizens of Norfolk county for his high character, intelligence, wealth, social position and for his public services. For a number of years he was a member of the county court. He served in the General Assembly of Virginia. In the war of 1812 he, as captain, commanded a company attached to the Thirtieth regiment of the third requisition for the State of Virginia, commanded by Maj. Dempsey Veale, and mustered into the service of the United States on the 26th of April, 1813, at the camp near Fort Nelson, situated on what is known as the Naval Hospital Point. This regiment was engaged in the battle of Craney Island. He subsequently held the commission of colonel of the Seventh regiment of Virginia in militia and later was elected on joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly a brigadier general of the Ninth brigade in the fourth division of the militia of the Commonwealth and commissioned by Gov. John Tyler on the 7th day of January, 1826.

The mother of James Gregory Hodges was Jane Adelaide Gregory. She was a descendant of the colonial clergyman, John Gregorie, who was rector of Nansemond county parish in 1680. Her grandfather was James Gregory, who married Patience Godwin, the daughter of Thomas Godwin and Mary Godwin, his wife. This Thomas Godwin was a descendant of Capt. Thomas Godwin, the original settler and ancestor of the Godwins of Nansemond county, who was a member of the House of Burgesses and the presiding justice of the county court of Nansemond county for many years. James Gregory was a vestryman of the upper parish, and afterwards, by a change of the boundaries of the parish, a vestryman of the Suffolk parish of Nansemond. [185] His son, James Gregory, the father of Mrs. Hodges, married Mary Wynns, the daughter of Col. Benjamin Wynns, of the Revolution, and Margaret Pugh, the daughter of Francis Pugh and Pherebee Savage.

James Gregory Hodges was educated at the once famous Literary, Scientific and Military Academy of Portsmouth, of which Capt. Alden Partridge, A M., of New England, was superintendent. His associate professors were: William L. Lee, A. B., professor of mathematics, natural philosophy and civil engineering; William H. H. Davis, A. B., professor of mathematics, topographical drawing, military instructor and teacher of fencing; Lucius D. Pierce, A. B., professor of ancient languages; Moses Jean Odend'hal, professor of modern languages, and H. Myers, instructor of martial music. To show the high character of this school, I beg to mention the names of the gentlemen who composed the board of trustees, and who are remembered as among the most honorable citizens of Portsmouth: Gen. John Hodges, president; Holt Wilson, Dr. Joseph Schoolfield, Capt. James Thompson, Col. M. Cooke, John A. Chandler, Dr. R. R. Butt, Dr. A. R. Smith, Dr. William Collins, William H. Wilson, Maj. Gwynn. This school had a large number of cadets. Of these cadets James Gregory Hodges, of the senior department, and John Collins Woodley, the brother of the late Dr. Joseph R. Woodley, of the junior department, were by common consent elected to decide all disputes that arose among the cadets; and such was the cadets' great admiration and respect for their high character and judgment that all readily acquiesced in their decisions.

He chose medicine as his profession and graduated at the University of Pennsylvania. He gained great success and eminence in his profession. During the yellow fever in 1855 he gave untiring and faithful devotion to the sick day and night from the beginning to the end of the epidemic.

He was elected mayor of the city of Portsmouth April, 1856, and again in April 1857.

The Third regiment of Virginia volunteers of this city was organized in 1856, and Dr. James Gregory Hodges was elected colonel; David J. Godwin, lieutenant colonel; William C. Wingfield, [186] major; John W. H. Wrenn, adjutant; C. W. Murdaugh, commissary; John Hobday, quartermaster; Dr. H. F. Butt, surgeon, and Dr. V. B. Bilisoly, assistant surgeon. At the time of the organization of the regiment it was composed of the following companies: Portsmouth Rifle Company, Capt. John C. Owens; Old Dominion Guard, Capt. Edward Kearn; the National Grays, Capt. John E. Deans; the Marion Rifles, Capt. Johannis Watson; the Union Guard, Capt. Nathaniel Edwards, and the Dismal Swamp Rangers, Capt. James C. Choat. On Saturday, the 20th day of April, 1861, when the regiment was ordered by Gov. Letcher into the service of the State, it consisted of the same companies except the Union Guard, which had been disbanded the year before.

The twentieth of April, eighteen hundred and sixty-onememorable day!. On this day commenced in Virginia an unproclaimed war. The ordinance of secession had been passed on the 17th, day of April, 1861. The proclamation of President Lincoln calling on Virginia for her quota of military forces to wage war against her sister States of the South brought all Virginians of true loyalty together. War was the inevitable result of national and State action. Gov. Letcher had sent down Gen. William B. Taliaferro to take charge of the organized forces of this section when called into the service of the State. At noon the United States authorities closed the doors of the navy yard and began the destruction of its buildings, its ships and stores. It was an act of war and was so regarded by all. At 2 P. M. the volunteer companies of the city were called into the service of the State. At that hour the long roll sounded summoning our local military to arms. All who survive remember the profound interest and emotion of that hour. It stifled all light feelings and gave to each brow a thoughtful aspect, and to each eye a depth of light which arises only when the heart is weighted with great moving concern. Men pressed in silence each others hands and spoke in tones subdued by the solemnity and intensity of their inexpressable feelings. All knew that when the long roll once sounded, it would thrill the land, and that it would not cease to be heard, day or night, until silenced in victory or defeat. Our military responded to the roll call with a unanimity and with a patriotic devotion unsurpassed. [187]

Near sunset of the 20th of April the Pawnee passed the foot of High Street on her way to the navy yard. I see her now as vividly as I did at that hour. Her officers at their posts—her men at their loaded-guns and upwards of 400 marines and soldiers at quarters—all standing ready, on the least provocation, to give and to receive the order to fire. She moved with a firm steadiness and the silent majesty of authority. She seemed a living thing—with a heart beating to stirred emotions and sharing the hostile feelings and defiance of those whom she bore. Her power and readiness to do harm inspired a kind of terror in every breast. On her arrival at the yard the work of destruction received a new impetus. On every side were heard the vulcan sounds of destruction; on every side were seen the flames of burning buildings and blazing ships. Our forces were not sufficient to interfere and there seemed to be a mutual understanding on both sides—the result of weakness on our side and ignorace on that of the enemy—that the Pawnee, with the Cumberland in tow, at the end of the destruction of the yard, might leave without molestation.

The enemy left early in the morning of the 21st, and Col. Hodges, under the order of Gen. Taliaferro, entered the navy yard to take charge, to restore order and to protect what was left and to turn the yard over to the civil and naval officers of the State. This was done, and leaving one of his companies in the yard as a guard he took the other companies of his regiment to the naval hospital grounds and there threw up breastworks for protection against any United States vessel that should attempt to re-enter the harbor. It was a Sunday morning. We all remember the work of throwing up the breastworks. It was done with a will—with patriotic devotion. I did some spading on that work, citizens also helped, and the mothers and daughters of our city came down and cheered us in our work. All apprehension soon left us and we were exuberantly cheerful and happy. Troops from every quarter came pouring into our midst. Batteries were thrown up at every point of defense. We soon felt that the enemy could never again come into our harbor by land or water against our will. [188]

Very soon after matters bad become well ordered at the naval hospital grounds Gov. Letcher appointed and assigned to the, Third regiment, Virginia volunteers, Col. Roger A. Pryor, and his field officers and assigned Col. James Gregory Hodges, Lieut. Col. David J. Godwin and Maj. William White to the Fourteenth Virginia regiment. This was done on the alleged policy that it is better for a colonel to command a regiment of strangers than a regiment of his personal friends. Maj. William C. Wingfield and the other staff officers of the old Third Virginia regiment resigned and afterwards did distinguished service under other commands.

Col. Hodges with his regiment was ordered to take command of Jamestown Island, and we find that on the 31st day of May, 1861, he was there in command not only of his own regiment of ten companies but also of five companies of artillery and two additional companies of infantry. His adjutant at this time was Lieut. Evans.

This assignment of Col. Hodges to the Fourteenth Virginia regiment and to the command of Jamestown Island took him from his home—from the companionship of his wife and two infant boys. On the 11th day of August, 1853, he married Sarah A. F. Wilson, the daughter of William H. Wilson and Ellen Keeling. His son, William Wilson Hodges, was born on the 29th of April, 1854, and his son, John Nelson Hodges, was born on the 3rd of May, when he was in command at the Naval Hospital grounds, and he gave to his little baby son the name of Nelson, after Fort Nelson, erected on those grounds in the revolution. To him and to his wife it was a most painful separation, yet bravely and cheerfully borne in the spirit of patriotic duty to their country. His letters to his wife were ever full of the most devoted love to her and of the keenest, tenderest interest in his two infant children, whom he calls so dearly ‘my boys.’ There was an ever intense longing to be with his wife and children and always the firm recognition of his duty to be ever with his regiment.

On August 1, 1861, Gen. Magruder ordered Col. Hodges to take six companies of his regiment and to join him in the lower part of the Peninsula. Gen. Magruder with 5,000 men, made a [189] demonstration of a regular line of battle before Newport News with the purpose of drawing out the enemy at that place, but the enemy failed to appear. He afterwards made a like demonstration near Hampton to draw the enemy from Old Point to make an attact, but the enemy failed to appear. On the 7th of August Gen. Magruder ordered Col. Hodges to report to him at Newmarket bridge. Col. Hodges reached there about 9 o'clock P. M. when Gen. Magruder ordered to his command two other infantry companies and two companies of cavalry, and directed him to proceed to Hampton and destroy the town. He reached Hampton about 11 P. M. He found everything there as still as death, and not a sound to be heard excepting the sound of the horses feet and occasionally the clanking of a sabre. He marched his men to St. John's Church yard, dismounted his cavalry and sent a picket guard to the bridge leading to Old Point. Here the enemy's picket guard opened fire, and for some time there was an active firing, but no serious harm was done and the enemy withdrew. Then the work of destroying the town commenced. Col. Hodges, in his account of his expedition to his wife, says:

‘It grieved me sorely to have to destroy the town, but I believe it is all for the best, as it embarrasses the enemy very much and takes from them elegant winter quarters whilst our troops will have to suffer in log huts and tents. I went into many houses which formerly had been well taken care of; the furniture was broken to pieces and scattered all through the houses. They were filled with filth of every description, and most obscene expressions written all over the walls. If I had lived and owned a house there I would willingly have applied the torch to it rather than have had it desecrated in the way the whole town had been.’

The regiment was afterwards stationed for a while at Mulberry Island, and also at Lands End. In May, 1862, it was ordered to Suffolk and was there made a part of Armistead's brigade. On the reorganization of regiments in the spring of 1862 Adjutant Evans was made Lieutenant Colonel and C. W. Finley was made Adjutant of the Fourteenth Virginia regiment; and Lieutenant Colonel David J. Godwin was made Colonel of the Ninth Virginia regiment. The brigade now marched to [190] Petersburg, where the Ninth Virginia was made a part of it. It then moved to Richmond, and then to a camp on the Williamsburg road below Richmond. It was at Seven Pines, but only slightly engaged on the second day of the battle. The brigade was at Malvern Hill and engaged in that memorable charge. Col. Hodges thus speaks of it:

‘The battle of Tuesday, July 1, was the most terrific that can be conceived of. My imagination never pictured anything to equal it. I lost in killed and wounded on that day about one-fourth of my regiment. They all acted nobly. Men never fought better. The battle flag of the regiment which we carried into the fight has forty-seven shot holes in it; and every man in my color guard wounded. During a charge a shell burst near me, killing two of my men, wounding Capt. Bruce so severely that he only survived twenty-four hours, wounded several others, knocked me down and burnt all of the beard off the right side of my face, scorched the sleeve of my coat from my hand up. The shock was so great that I did not recover from it for several hours.’

From this description you can form some idea of that terrible battle in which our forces attempted to dislodge the enemy from the crown of Malvern Hill, defended by fifty pieces of artillery and compact lines of infantry, raking an open field of three-fourths of a mile. Brave men of this city, of my own regiment, the Ninth Virginia, poured out on the battlefield that rich blood which even at this late day brings sorrow to hearts still beating.

The Fourteenth regiment remained in the neighborhood of Shirley until Gen. McClellan embarked his forces and left for Washington. It then went to Hanover Junction, then through Louisa county and on to join Lee's army, which it did on the upper Rappahannock. It was at Second Manassas and was in the Maryland campaign.

The battle of Sharpsburg was fought on Wednesday, the 17th of September, 1862, from 3 A. M. to night. The two armies held their respective positions all the next day without firing a gun. Lee crossed the Potomac into Virginia early on the morning of the 19th. Col. Hodges writing on the 22nd of September, says that General Armistead was wounded early on the morning [191] of the 17th and that he took command of the brigade and that he was still in command, but expected Gen. Armistead to be able to return to duty in a few days. Gen. Early in his official report of the battle says: ‘Shortly after the repulse of the enemy Col. Hodges, in command of Armistead's brigade, reported to me, and I placed it in line in the position occupied by my brigade and placed the latter in line on the edge of the plateau which has been mentioned and parallel to the Hagerstown road under cover.’ This battle was the most destructive battle of the war for the time engaged.

In his letter last mentioned Col. Hodges says: ‘We have had a very hard time since we left Richmond. I have not slept In a tent since leaving there and have only been in three houses. We eat whatever we can get and sometimes the quality is anything but good and the supply scanty. This army has accomplished wonders and undergone the greatest amount of fatigue.’

On the 15th of October, 1862, Armistead's brigade was encamped near Winchester, Va. On that day Col. Hodges writes: ‘On Monday last we had a grand review of our division, by Gen. Longstreet, who commands our corps d'armie. There were two members of the British Parliament present. We had about ten thousand men in line, and the whole passed off very well. It was quite an imposing sight. I suppose the Englishmen did not know what to make of such a dirty, ragged set of fellows. The orders forbade the barefooted men from going out. I think they ought to have let our army be seen just as it is. I have now some eighty men without shoes, notwithstanding that I have within the past ten days issued to my regiment one hundred pairs.’

Burnside had superseded Gen. McClellan in the command of the Union army, and was now moving towards Fredericksburg. When this intention manifested itself, our forces concentrated in the neighborhood of Culpeper Courthouse. Our brigade was ordered thitherward. I remember the first day's long, severe march. The first day's march is always trying to soldiers who have been in camp for weeks. Speaking of the shoeless condition of the army, I remember an incident that occurred under my very eyes. I beg to mention it. Moses Young, a member of my regiment from this city, as he marched along the road, saw a [192] discarded old pair of shoes. He stopped and looked at them an then at his own shoes. He took them up, turned them over, and then looked again at the old shoes he had on. It was evidently with him a close question at to which pair had the advantage. He finally shook off his old shoes and put on the pair which a preceding comrade had discarded as worthless. The wearer of these old shoes was a patriotic and gallant soldier.

When our brigade arrived at Culpeper Courthouse, it was in Gen. Anderson's division. It was here on November 7, 1862, that Armistead's brigade was placed in the new formed division of Gen. Pickett and all the Virginia regiments in Anderson's division were taken from it and Southern regiments substituted in their place. It was here that John S. Jenkins, of this city, on the 17th of November, 1862, entered on his duties as adjutant of the Fourteenth Virginia, appointed in the place of Adjutant G. W. Finley, who resigned to go home to attend to the affairs of his father, who had recently died. He subsequently joined Garnett's brigade and was at Gettysburg and there captured. He afterwards became a distinguished Presbyterian minister and held the title of D. D. On the 21st of November, 1862, Armistead's brigade left Culpeper Courthouse, and reached camp near Fredericksburg on the 23rd. The brigade was in line of battle on the 13th of December, 1862, when Burnside crossed the Rappahannock and attacked our forces, but it was not actively engaged. It wintered at Guinea Station on the Richmond and Fredericksburg road. In the spring it was ordered to Suffolk, from there it was ordered to join Lee's army, then ready to commence its march into Pennsylvania.

Col. Hodges, writing on the 9th of June, 1863, from Spotsylvania county, says: ‘We left Hanover Junction yesterday morning and have proceeded forty miles on our way to join Gen. Lee, either in Culpeper county or beyond if he has crossed the upper Rappahannock. We have now been marching every day for a week, averaging a full day's march of seventeen or eighteen miles every day. My men are in excellent condition, and I know will perform their whole duty should they be required to meet the enemy. So you may expect to hear a grand account of the regiment and I am proud to say that it has always done well, and in some instances far excelled those they were thrown with.’ [193]

Pickett's division pushed hurriedly on to catch up with Lee's advancing army. The division was at Chambersburg on the 1st day of July engaged in ordinary camp drill, while Lee's advancing forces were engaged in severe battle at Gettysburg. It left the next morning for Gettysburg, and arriving in the afternoon at a camping ground between Cashtown and Gettysburg. Only three brigades of the division were present, Kemper's, Garnett's and Armistead's. The field officers of the Fourteenth Virginia were, at this time, Col. James Gregory Hodges, Lieut. Col. William White, Major Robert Poore, and Adjutant John S. Jenkins. Early on the morning of July 3 these brigades were taken to the battle line. I will not undertake here to describe Pickett's charge. This was done in an address delivered before this camp on November 7, 1894, published in the Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 33, p. 18.

The charge of Pickett's division, made up entirely of Virginian's, is recognized the world over as unsurpassed in all the annals of history for steadiness of march, unwavering courage, and for the patriotic, calm determination to do all that was possible to be done to win victory at any sacrifice of life. All know the awful fatality among the officers and men of the division. Of its generals, Garnett was killed, Armistead fatally wounded, and Kemper desperately wounded. Of its colonels of regiments six were killed outright on the field: Hodges, Edmonds, Magruder, Williams, Patton, Allen, and Owens and Stuart were mortally wounded. Three lieutenant-colonels were killed: Calcott, Wade and Ellis. Five colonels, Hunton, Terry, Garnett, Mayo and Aylett were wounded, and four lieutenant-colonels, commanding regiments, Carrington, Otey, Richardson and Martin, were wounded. Of the whole complement of field officers in fifteen regiments one only, Lieut. Col. Joseph C. Cabell, escaped unhurt. Of the field officers of the Fourteenth Virginia, Col. Hodges, Maj. Poore and Adjutant John S. Jenkins were killed, and Lieut. Col. William White was wounded.

Col. Hodges led his regiment in this memorial charge with conspicious courage and gallantry. He was an able and experienced officer. His devotion to his official duties was never surpassed. [194] His regiment was never in the presence of the enemy without his being there in command. His officers and men were devoted to him. He fully enjoyed their admiration, esteem and confidence. Many letters to him in life and after his death to his widow, convey unqualified appreciation of him as a man and a commander. His family made every effort to ascertain where his body was buried, but all in vain. He sleeps in the trenches with those who made that charge of Pickett's division immortal. He was the idol of his family, admired and loved by them with an affection and devotion which words fail to convey. For their sake and for the sake of those survivors here who knew him, I make as a part of this address a touching incident of the reunion of the association of Pickett's division at Gettysburg on the 3rd of July, 1887, as published at the time in the Landmark:

Adjutant J. F. Crocker, of the Ninth Virginia, in the course of his remarks, in receiving from Col. Andrew Cowan, of Cowan's Battery, the sword of the unknown Confederate officer who fell within a few feet of the guns of the battery, while giving the order: ‘Men! take these guns,’ alluded to the sad memories awakened by the scenes of the day. In this connection, and as illustrative of them, he had come to the battlefield of Gettysburg bearing a sacred request from the invalid widow of a gallant Confederate officer who was killed in the charge of Pickett's division, asking him to make a prayer at the spot where her dear husband fell, for his long sorrowing widow and orphan sons, with the hope that God, in some way, would bless the prayer to their good. That gallant officer was Col. James Gregory Hodges, of the Fourteenth Virginia regiment, the brother of the speaker's wife. He stated that early and careful but unavailing efforts had been made to find the place of his burial and he now desired to find and have identified the spot where he fell. The simple story brought tears to many who stood around. When the speaker closed his address, General H. J. Hunt, chief of artillery of the Union army, in whom kindness and courage are equal virtues, came promptly forward and gave his hand warmly to Adjutant Crocker and in sympathetic tones said, ‘I can tell you something of Colonel Hodges, of the Fourteenth Virginia; I can carry you to [195] the very spot where he fell.’ The general said that immediately after the battle, hearing that General Garnett, whom he knew in the old army, had been killed, he went out to look for him and when he came to the stone wall a long line of Confederate dead and wounded, lying along the wall, met his view, but his attention was arrested by the manly and handsome form of an officer lying dead on his back across other dead. He thought he had seen the face before, and on inquiry was told that it was Col. Hodges of the Fourteenth Virginia, whom he remembered to have seen in social circles before the war. The spot where Col. Hodges fell was identified by General Hunt and others, and is at the stone wall near the monument of the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania. With General Hunt and other Union officers and men standing around, uncovered, a brief prayer was made that God would remember and bless the widow and sons of the brave officer who fell at this spot, but now rests in an unknown grave. It was a sad, solemn scene, full of touching pathos. The sun was sinking beyond Seminary Ridge, with its slanting rays mellowing the sheen of the grain waving fields, while here and there were groups of Union and Confederate veterans, mingling in peaceful, heartfelt and fraternal accord.

There is another incident, which I must here relate.

In October, 1903, Senator John W. Daniel, who knew my relation to Colonel Hodges and that he was killed in Pickett's charge, was in the National Library at Washington, engaged in getting official information for a future paper on ‘The Virginians at Gettysburg,’ and seeing in the library a man whose appearance attracted him, he said to himself—that man is a Northern man and was an officer in the war and I will speak to him, and he approached him. His conjecture was right. It was Capt. John D. S. Cook, of the Eightieth New York regiment of volunteers, known, however, in the service as the twentieth New York State Militia. He informed Senator Daniel that Col. Hodges fell at the stone fence, within less than one hundred and fifty feet of the Federal line, directly in front of the said New York regiment, that after the struggle was ended his body was discovered and identified as Col. James Gregory Hodges, of the Fourteenth [196] Virginia regiment, by some papers found upon it. His sword and scabbard had been destroyed by a shot, but a soldier detached his sword belt and handed it to him and that he had kept it as a treasured relic of the battle to be an heirloom in his family. He stated to Senator Daniel that if any of the family of Col. Hodges still survived he would gladly send it to them. Senator Daniel at once wrote me, giving me an account of this interview with Capt. Cook and his address at Kansas City, Mo. I wrote him, informing him that Mrs. Sarah A. F. Hodges, the widow of Col. Hodges, was living and that she would ever appreciate his kind offer. Capt. Cook sent at once to her the sword belt with a letter of noble sentiments and sympathy. This sword belt is the same that Col. Hodges wore when his picture was taken, which now hangs in Mrs. Hodges' room. The noble act of Capt Cook is tenderly appreciated by every member of the family. A correspondence with Capt. Cook has given me a high estimate of his character and ability. He moved from New York to Kansas City after the war, where he has practiced law with eminent success and distinction.

Col. Hodges was handsome and manly in appearance. He had dark hair, bright dark eyes, and a highly intellectual face. He was gentle in manners, and he ever bore himself with kindness to others. He had a generous and noble nature, and he enjoyed, in a high degree, the esteem and confidence of the community. His leading characteristic to the public was his high sense of duty and his strict observance of it. He illustrated this in his conduct as colonel of his regiment. Under trying temptations, which involved the tenderest feelings of his heart, he still held that to be with his regiment was his supreme duty—a duty which he recognized as due to his position and to his country. He was ardently patriotic and his whole being, convictions and feelings were with the Confederate cause.

But the fairest, sweetest phase of his character was found in his domestic life. No one can read those letters he wrote in every camp, on every march, before and after every battle—written to a tender, loving wife whom he idolized and about his darling little boys, without realizing that all his highest happiness and [197] interest centered in these loved ones. His son, John Nelson Hodges, died on the 21st day of July, 1890, and his son, William Wilson Hodges, died on the 26th day of April, 1893, unmarried —thus leaving their widowed mother now childless—an added grief, which, like that other, is ever presant in the heart, but bravely borne with that resignation which comes from the sanctifying faith that God does all things well.

Again I commend to the keeping of Heaven, as I did on the battlefield of Gettysburg that saintly wife and mother, whose sorrows and piety have made her a priestess, and her room to all who know her well, a sanctuary of God.

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