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The Twelfth Georgia Infantry.

Papers, chiefly relating to that command.

[With the following papers numbered 1-13, inclusive, the Editor has been favored by Dr. Francis T. Willis, now of Richmond, Va., late of Georgia.

They are from among papers left by his lamented son, Colonel Edward Willis, Twelfth Georgia Infantry.

This gallant and accomplished young officer was born August 10th, 1840, in Washington, Ga.; entered West Point Military Academy in June, 1857; left there to accept a commission as second lieutenant in the First Georgia State Infantry, February 1st, 1861; was appointed March 30th, 1861, second lieutenant Confederate States Army, and assigned to duty as recruiting officer at Fort Pulaski; he subsequently served, with zeal and efficiency, as adjutant of the Twelfth Georgia regiment of infantry; as Captain and Chief of Staff to General Edward Johnson; as Acting Chief of Artillery on the Staff of General Thomas Jonathan (‘Stonewall’) Jackson, and, finally, as Colonel Commandant of the Twelfth Georgia Infantry. His ability and judgment commanded confidence, respect, and regard with superior and subordinate.

His heart was warmed with the ardor of the generous Southern clime; he was nerved by a heritage of self-reliance and of affectionate Providence; he had all the pride of the inborn warrior; he had been under martial training, which made him the more, a disciplinarian.

Paramount to circumstance or education, he had intuition; discretion.

In any environment he would have risen in a chosen profession. Nay, more, with the insight given by his written expressions, and verified in the sphere vouchsafed him—he was possessed with the impulse which would have made him useful to his kind in whatever arena he might have been cast.

During the winter of 1863-‘64, he was detached, with his command, by General Lee, in trusted service, in the Valley of Virginia. Of his conduct therein, Colonel Charles S. Venable, acting adjutant-general of the Army of Northern Virginia, wrote him, March 3d, 1864: * * * ‘He [General Lee] directs me to say to you that he is much gratified with your success and with the manner in which you have conducted your operations.’ In estimate further of the value [161] in which General Lee held the qualities of Colonel Willis, Colonel Venable continues, ‘He wishes you to finish them [the operations] as soon as practicable so as to be able to report to your brigade in time for active operations.’

The premature death of Colonel Willis, at the battle of Mechanicsville, at the head of his regiment, May 31st, 1864, deprived the army of an admirable and intrepid officer, when his services were claimed in a higher station, a commission of brigadier-general having been filled for him upon the recommendation of General Lee and others, his commanders.

His conspicuous gallantry in the battles of Alleghany, McDowell, Port Republic, Gaines' Mill, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, Boteler's Mill, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg is noted in the personal reports of his several commanders.]

[I] from the Georgia Twelfth regiment. (correspondence of the Savannah Republican.)

Camp Alleghany, Pocahontas county, Va., 28 July, 1861.
Mr. Editor: Knowing that the people of Georgia feel a deep interest in the condition and movements of the soldiers that represent that State in the service of the Southern Confederacy, and that among your readers are many of the friends and kindred—the parents and children, brothers, sisters and wives—of those attached to the same command with myself, I respectfully ask the privilege of publishing in your columns such items of intelligence, facts, incidents and speculations connected with our own regiment, or the general cause, as may likely interest or instruct the reader.

The Twelfth regiment of Georgia volunteers was organized in Richmond, Va., on the 3d day of July, under the following officers: Edward Johnson, colonel; Z. T. Conner, lieutenant-colonel; Abner Smeade, major; Edward Willis, adjutant; Dr. H. K. Green, surgeon; Robert J. Lightfoot, quartermaster, and Richmond A. Reid, commissary.

The following companies compose the regiment, viz:

‘Muckalee Guards,’ Sumter county, Captain Hawkins.

‘Davis Guards,’ Dooly county, Captain Brown.

‘Calhoun Rifles,’ Calhoun county, Captain Furlow.

‘Lowndes Volunteers,’ Lowndes county, Captain Patterson.

‘Davis Rifles,’ Macon county, Captain McMillan. [162]

Central City Blues,’ Bibb county, Captain Rodgers.

‘Muscogee Rifles,’ Muscogee county, Captain Scott.

‘Marion Guards,’ Marion county, Captain Blandford.

Putnam Light Infantry,’ Putnam county, Captain Davis.

‘Jones Volunteers,’ Jones county, Captain Pitts.

On the day of our organization we received orders to march to Laurel Hill to unite with General Garnett's command at that place, and on Sunday, the 7th July, left Richmond, by railroad, to Staunton. Reaching this latter place a little before day Monday morning, we remained encamped there until Tuesday morning, when the order came to strike our tents and take up the line of march for Laurel Hill, distant about one hundred and twenty-five miles. Unaccustomed, as most of us were, to long pedestrian exercises, this was no very cheering prospect, and we could not exactly understand the good sense of selecting as a seat of war a point not accessible by railroad. (I trust the powers that be will remember this hint in any future orders they may issue to our regiment!) But good sense or otherwise, the order came, and we had but to obey.

Soon all was in motion, and the regiment, followed by its long train of wagons, began slowly to file along the tortuous turnpike. To many of us who had never before seen an army on the march it was an imposing spectacle. The long line of soldiers winding slowly along the mountain sides, with their varied uniforms and bright guns glistening in the sun, the heavy, monotonous tramp of feet upon the rock-paved road, and the confused hum of a thousand voices were novel sights and sounds, and seemed to bring us nearer to the realities of actual war. Our daily stages were from twelve to fifteen miles, and were usually accomplished early enough in the afternoon to allow us ample time to pitch our tents, procure wood, provide our suppers, and make the necessary arrangements for the security of the camp. These marches were more or less fatiguing to many of our men, yet they performed them with a spirit and courage that deserves praise and shows them equal to the privations and hardships that lie along the soldier's pathway.

Thus we marched for five days, accomplishing about seventy-two miles, when, on Saturday evening, at Greenbrier Creek, near the foot of Cheat Mountain, we received intelligence of the fight at Rich Mountain, the retreat of General Garnett and the probable occupation by General McClellan of Beverley, and his probable advance to the top of Cheat Mountain, on the road between us and Beverley, a point so fortified by nature that a small force could hold it against [163] greatly superior odds. Here also we met a Virginia regiment under the command of Colonel Scott retreating from Rich Mountain.

It being thus rendered impossible for us to join General Garnett's command, and not having a force with which we could hope to occupy the country in the face of the enemy's greatly superior numbers, we had no alternative but to retreat. Humiliating as was this movement, it seemed obviously the dictate of sound policy.

The details of the fight at Rich Mountain and Laurel Hill, and of the retreat of General Garnett's command have already been published through so many channels (and more fully than I could furnish them) that I will not encumber your columns with a repetition of them.

After a brief rest and supper we began our retreat a little after dark Saturday night, and continued through that night and all the next day, encamping Sunday night at Monterey, about forty-five miles from Staunton. Long will we remember this retreat. Two days and a night of continuous marching was rather a severe ordeal for soldiers as young as we; and, though feeling it perhaps as keenly as any, having been on guard duty the night preceding, I could not withhold the sympathising tear as I saw my companions, some of them delicate and weakly, weary and foot-sore, painfully measuring these almost endless miles of mountain road. When we reached our camp at Monterey we needed no soothing opiates to lull us to rest. The earth, rugged and damp as it was, with stones or canteens for pillows furnished a most inviting couch; and never have we enjoyed sounder, more refreshing sleep than on that evening with only these accommodations. Here we remained two or three days, and had the pleasure of greeting many of General Garnett's command who had made good their escape through the mountains, though suffering many privations and hardships in their flight. Among them also we met several members of the First Georgia regiment who were with General Garnett, and were glad to learn from them that that regiment had not suffered so severely as we had at first heard.

On Thursday, the 18th, we were ordered to return and occupy this place (which I have called Camp Alleghany, as it has no other name and is on the top of the Alleghany mountains), where we are still encamped. How long we are to remain or to what point we may be ordered I cannot tell. At present we occupy the advance position in this direction, the enemy's camp being distant about twenty miles by the road, though perhaps not exceeding twelve on an air line. We occupy the summit of the Alleghany, they of Cheat Mountain, and their tents are in full view from several points around our camp. [164]

I have thus given you a sort of chronicle of our movements up to this time and our present position. I might intersperse it with many little incidents, personal and otherwise, of camp life, but they would make this letter too long and perhaps hardly repay the general reader for his pains. They are treasured, however, in our memories, and their recital will serve to enliven many an hour in the future when we shall have driven our invaders away and returned to our fondly remembered homes.

The country through which we have passed deserves some notice, possessing as it does many striking and interesting features. Making much of the travel from Richmond to Staunton in the night we, of course, had but limited opportunities to observe anything. One thing, however, we must record for the honor of the Virginia ladies (and we will not restrict it to the Virginia ladies, for the same thing met us at every step of our way from our homes in Georgia to Staunton), and that is the enthusiastic and graceful welcomes and greetings and Godspeeds they showered upon us from the doors and windows, and even house-tops along the road. Old women and young women, girls and even babies (so young that it must have been an instinct with them), waved their handkerchiefs, or bonnets, or aprons, or something, in token of their enthusiasm whenever we passed them. If there is anything that will stimulate faltering courage to the fighting point it certainly is the cheering of the fair, and our boys seemed fully to appreciate it.

Staunton is pleasantly located in the midst of towering hills that overlook it on every side, and is a place of frequent resort during the summer for its healthfulness and pleasant surroundings. It is also the site of the insane asylum and the institution for the deaf, dumb and blind—two institutions under State patronage.

The road from Staunton to Laurel Hill (as far as we travelled it) is a turnpike cut into the sides and over the tops of the mountains. So tortuous is its course that you may travel for miles without gaining in actual distance more than a few hundred yards, and sometimes the extremes of our column, stretching out a mile or nearly so in length, would be within a stone's throw of each other.

These mountain heights over which we passed sometimes discovered to us the most magnificent views that ever greeted the eye of man. Stretching almost infinitely on either hand are alternations of valleys with their teeming fields of grain, and mountains with clouds hanging gracefully on their sides and floating lazily about their tops. But these have been so often described that I shall not [165] attempt it. The soil, even upon the tops of the mountains, from its appearance and products, seems to be of the richest character, more like the low lands in Georgia than mountain soil. Vegetation that we are accustomed to see only upon ‘bottoms’ grows here in rich luxuriance upon the highest points.

The agricultural products are mainly small grain, though corn is grown in the valleys, and they are most abundant.

The population is confined chiefly to the valleys, the winter cold being too severe upon the mountains. Even now, in the latter part of July, we have to sit much by the fire and with overcoats on.

Our regiment has suffered some from the diseases usual in camp, though not more perhaps than was to be expected.

We are cheerful .and in good spirits and prepared for any service that may be required of us. Of the progress of the war we know but little, our mail facilities being very limited. We are just now getting the details of the great battle of Manassas, fought a week ago within one hundred and fifty miles of us. What its results may be upon our enemies or the future history of the war we cannot tell, but are sure it will convince them that the subjugation of the South will not be the work of a holiday. History hardly furnishes a parallel to that battle, but if the North desire it we will seek to furnish more of the same sort.

R. T. D.

[2] operations in Cheat Mountain, etc. Orders of Gen. R. E. Lee.

Special order No.—.

headquarters Valley Mountain, 8th September, 1861.
The forward movement announced to the Army of the Northwest in Special Orders No. 28, from its headquarters, of this date, gives the commanding general the opportunity of exhorting the troops to keep steadily in view the great principles for which they contend, and to manifest to the world their determination to maintain them. The eyes of the country are upon you. The safety of your homes, the lives of all you hold dear depend upon your courage and exertions. Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right of selfgovernment, [166] liberty and peace shall in him find a defender. The progress of the army must then be forward.


R. E. Lee, General Commanding. Gen. Henry R. Jackson, Monterey Line, furnished through Gen. Loring.

Official: Garnett Andrews, Lt. and A. A. A. G.


Special order No.—.

Headquarters, Camp on Valley River, 14th September. 1861.
The forced reconnoissance of the enemy's position, both at Cheat Mountain Pass and on Valley river, having been completed, and the character of the natural approaches and nature of the artificial defences exposed, the Army of the Northwest will resume its former position at such time and in such manner as General Loring shall direct, and continue its preparations for further operations.

The commanding general experienced much gratification at the cheerfulness and alacrity displayed by the troops in this arduous operation. The promptitude with which they surmounted every difficulty, driving in and capturing the enemy's pickets on the fronts examined, and exhibiting that readiness for attack which gives assurance of victory when a fit opportunity offers.


R. E. Lee, General Commanding. Gen. H. R. Jackson, Monterey Line, through Gen. Loring.

Official: Garnett Andrews, A. A. A. G.

[4] order from Gen. H. R. Jackson to Col. E. Johnson.

Special order no. 119.

headquarters Monterey line, N. W. A., Greenbrier river, September 10, 1861.
1. Colonel E. Johnson will take command of the troops now at this point, and, after detailing a sufficient guard for the camp, will [167] proceed with the remainder along the turnpike in the direction of Huttonsville, leaving the camp in sufficient time to reach the eastern summit of Cheat by break of day on Thursday, the 12th inst. In making this movement he will exercise extreme caution in approaching the enemy's pickets, so as to cause no alarm before hearing firing in his front. So soon as such firing shall be heard he will press as rapidly forward as possible without too much exposure to his command.

2. The troops of Colonel Johnson's advancing column will carry with them a full supply of ammunition and two days rations of cooked provisions.

By command of

[5] reorganization of the Army of the Northwest. (Va.) order of Gen. W. W. Loring. General order no. 20.

headquarters Army of the Northwest, Camp near Winchester, Va., December 31, 1861.
The following reorganization of the Army of the Northwest is published for the information of all concerned:

First brigade, Brigadier-General S. R. Anderson.

1st regiment Tennessee volunteers.

7th regiment Tennessee volunteers.

14th regiment Tennessee volunteers.

Danville artillery.

Second brigade, Brigadier-General E. Johnson.

12th regiment Georgia volunteers, Hansborough's battery.

25th regiment Virginia volunteers, Major George Jackson's cavalry

31st regiment Virginia volunteers, Captain Alexander's Tennessee cavalry.

44th regiment Virginia volunteers, Bath cavalry.

52d regiment Virginia volunteers, Anderson's battery.

58th regiment Virginia volunteers, Rice's battery.


Third brigade, Colonel William Gilham.

21st regiment Virginia volunteers.

42d regiment Virginia volunteers.

48th regiment Virginia volunteers.

1st battalion Provisional army.

Hampden artillery.

Fourth brigade, Colonel [ W. B.] Taliaferro.

1st regiment Georgia volunteers.

3d regiment Arkansas volunteers.

23d regiment Virginia volunteers.

37th regiment Virginia volunteers.

Returns for the month of December will be made agreeably to this organization.

By command of

headquarters Second Artillery Battalion, 17th October, 1862.
E. Willis, Acting Chief of Artillery:

The guns under Colonel Brown's command at present are as follows:

1. Captain Hupp's battery, consisting of two 6-pounders and two 12-pound howitzers (field).

2. Captain Dance has one 3-inch rifle, one 6-pounder and two 12-pound field howitzers.

3. Captain Brooks has two 6-pounders, one Napoleon and one 12-pound field howitzer.

4. Captain Poague has two 10-pound Parrott guns and two 20-pound Parrot guns (only twenty rounds to each of the latter guns).

5. Captain Smith has two 10-pound Parrott guns and two 12-pound heavy howitzers (Dahlgren).

6. Captain Watson has two 10-pound Parrott guns, one 12-pound heavy howitzer (Dahlgren), and one brass rifle (calibre 2 6-10). [169]

Captain Smith's two Parrott guns and Captain Watson's brass rifle and one Parrott gun were on picket at Charlestown on yesterday.

J. Thompson Brown, Colonel, &c., &c.

[6] loss of C. S. A. Stores at Huntersville, Va.

Huntersville, January 16th, 1862.

I enclose reports of loss of commissary and quartermaster's stores by the recent raid of the enemy, viz:

Commissary,$10,227 75
Quartermaster,2,063 66
$12,291 41
Add estimated loss of buildings owned by private individuals,3,000 00
$15,291 41

The whole loss cannot exceed the above amount, and will be reduced by the return of some of the stores.

I have now nothing of interest to communicate, and am very busy organizing the posts and restoring discipline, &c.


Communication from Col. Wm. L. Jackson to Gen. Ed. Johnson.

Huntersville, January 18th, 1862.

I enclose the monthly return of Captain Alexander for December, the best he can do. Upon my arrival here I found that General Davis, of Greenbrier county, had advertised that he would address the people of this county at this place on Thursday, the 16th inst., with the view of arousing them to resent Northern invasion. A [170] number of the substantial citizens assembled, but the General failed to appear, and I made them a speech. I think I took the right ground with a view to your instructions, and the meeting adjourned after adopting a resolution recommending the formation in every neighborhood of companies to assist at a moment's warning in repelling any invasion. I am promised such assistance, but as the county is sparsely settled, with two volunteer companies in the service, I do not expect much assistance from that source, except in conveying information of the approach of the enemy. There may be forty men raised in the Little Levels, who will render efficient aid. I now scout to the blockade, and this company from the Little Levels, when organized, promises to scout beyond. I have adopted vigorous measures to bring in the absentees, and expect to have them all in in a few days. The two cavalry companies number seventy-two men fit for duty. The two infantry companies number forty-one men fit for duty. In all, I have now one hundred and thirteen men fit for for duty. I suppose the two companies from Colonel Goode's regiment will increase my force one hundred. When the absentees fit for duty are in I will have about forty more. My force then will be about two hundred and fifty. This force I regard insufficient for complete defense and to restore confidence. Although this county is one of those included in the bogus government, I do not expect the enemy to attempt any permanent occupation this winter, as they would be too far from their supplies. Yet they may, if a small force is left here, send enough force to rout us and then return to their strongholds. We have reliable information that at Beverley there is Colonel Ford's 32d Ohio regiment, numbering 700—no artillery. At Huttonsville, Colonel Jones' 25th Ohio regiment, 800 men—two pieces of artillery. At Crouch's, 2d Virginia regiment, Colonel Moss, six companies, 400 men—one piece of artillery. The other companies of the regiment are on an expedition having in view the rout of guerrilla parties. At Cheat, 9th Indiana, General Milroy, 700 men—two or three pieces of artillery. There is no account of the return of the Yankees at Elk since the recent raid. Scouts have returned who were as far as Marshall's Store, five miles beyond Valley Mountain. On the retreat of the Yankees they burned the houses in the region of Big Springs. This position cannot be sustained successfully with a small force unless there is a force at the bridge, seven miles from here. There is a necessity for a force here to protect the stores and the rear of a force at the bridge. Two hundred men with one piece of artillery at the bridge, to be reinforced [171] from this point, is necessary to prevent the enemy from making inroads. There should be at least two hundred men at this point, as well as that number at the bridge for the reasons above stated. There is considerable disloyalty in the county. The report was in circulation that the Confederate government was willing to treat for peace with the loss of Northwestern Virginia. This I stigmatized as false in the speech which I made. But the fear, while it makes some neutral, makes others false. By some means heretofore, every transaction in the camp has been communicated to the enemy. In the course of my speech I announced that no one except on particular business should come into my lines, and as I had the names of the suspected, none such should return if found inside. I allowed the meeting, as that was necessary, but since, I am enforcing rigid rules. The cavalry here cannot be dispensed with, as that is part of the force to fight. If I had more infantry one of the cavalry companies could be sent back. With the force now here, and the two companies marching to reinforce, I will be compelled to quarter them here in town, and have made all necessary arrangements. To quarter them elsewhere would scatter them too much, and they would not be available in a fight at any particular point. All applications for furlough I refer to you. I now enclose one. The applicant has shown me a letter referring to the destitution of his children. This is a common, and perhaps true, complaint, but it is an incident of the war in which we are engaged.

I understand that traitors in Northwest Virginia are disheartening the sound men by the wicked and false report that the Confederate States are willing to abandon them. This should be contradicted if possible. In the few minutes' conversation I had with you before I left for this post, the subject of the re-enlistment of our men at the expiration of this term was mentioned. That is a subject of difficulty and of very grave importance, and one giving me much anxiety. I travelled a few miles with a man by the name of Taylor, who has a wounded brother in my regiment. He informed me that the disposition on the part of my men was not to re enlist, but to return home and fight as guerrillas. This I had learned from other sources. To change this determination is my desire, and to exert myself for the object I should be present with the regiment. Owing to the peculiar relation I have always borne to the regiment, I believe I can do more to procure the re-enlistment desired than anyone else. If you agree with me I should be relieved and ordered back to my regiment. I do not wish to be understood as shirking the performance [172] of any duty; on the contrary, I feel complimented that you deemed me capable to command this post. I feel, however, I can do more good in the command of my regiment than at this post. There is an officer in your command better adapted for this position than I am. I allude to Major [A. C.] Jones, of the 44th Virginia regiment. He is from Northwest Virginia, a graduate of the Institute, a good disciplinarian, of good address and very ambitious, and is somewhat dissatisfied with his subordinate position in his regiment. I respectfully suggest that you give the command of this post to Major Jones. His command will be firm, conciliatory, and will give satisfaction. Major Jones knows nothing of this suggestion, and the conviction of his fitness alone has induced me to make it. Whatever your determination may be will be agreeable to me.

In the conversation with Taylor he expressed strong suspicion of a Mr. Kerr living near your camp. I feel it my duty to call your attention to Mr. Kerr. Taylor thinks he and Slaten are too intimate.

With the force now here and on the way, if the enemy advance, I will have to give them the main fight at the pass two miles beyond this. With a force at the bridge, there are several points at which stands can be made. If you send Major Jones here I would advise that you reinforce him by two companies from the 44th Virginia regiment.

This letter appears long, because the only paper here is on half sheets, and I put but a few words on a line. I would advise the establishment of an express line between here and Monterey.

Respectfully, &c.,

William L. Jackson, Colonel Commanding.

[8] the prisoner's Guard reversed. Extract from a letter of Capt. Edward Willis to his mother

Camp near Port Republic, June 14, 1862.
On Saturday, the 7th inst., I was seized with a chill followed by high fever, when, about dusk, a courier arrived with a note saying: ‘The enemy are advancing in force on our left!’

General Jackson immediately ordered his horse, and each of his staff did likewise, and I with the rest, contrary to the advice of Dr. McGuire, medical director, and of all of the staff. [173]

But I could not bear the thought of missing a fight, so I went. We were out riding late in the night air, and as the enemy would not attack us, we all returned to headquarters, I feeling much worse.

The next morning I heard that the fight was about to commence, but I very sensibly determined not to go. After the general and his staff had gone I lay in bed with my breakfast near me, thinking about the matter, when I heard the thundering of the artillery not a half a mile off. I could stand it no longer, so jumped up (although I was so weak I could hardly stand), dressed and ordered my horse. Whilst the boy was getting him I was talking to a little girl on the porch, and among other things I asked her: ‘Which she would rather see a prisoner, General Jackson or myself?’ Little did I think whilst uttering these idle words that I would be taken prisoner in less than ten minutes. Well, my horse was brought forth, I mounted him and started for the battle-field.

Port Republic was on my way, and in passing through it I met our cavalry retreating, followed by men, women and children. I ordered the cavalry to halt and tried to rally them, but all in vain. I was so disgusted that I rode on, and, as I saw more cavalry coming, I thought that I would draw my pistol and rally them by force. I rode on rapidly, the cavalry coming closer and closer, cheering, firing pistols, etc., etc. When right upon them (within thirty steps) I discovered that they were the enemy's cavalry. I was surprised that they did not fire on me, so I turned and tried to join them in the charge, thinking thus to deceive them. But they knew by my gray coat that I was a ‘Rebel,’ and I was soon surrounded by them. A Yankee with a sabre above my head ordered me to surrender. I knew that he was a private and refused. I had my hand on my pistol and my spurs to my horse, and I knew that he dared not cut, for I could have shot him easily and would have done so. He therefore allowed his sabre to fall harmless by his side.

A very gentlemanly fellow now rode up and said ‘Sir, I am a commissioned officer, hand me your arms.’ As I was surrounded by a regiment of Virginia (bogus) and Rhode Island cavalry, and seeing that resistance or even hesitation was folly, I, yes I, with all my love for the South and my contempt for the Yankees, handed him my pistol. It was the one Willie gave me and which I have shot at many a Yankee. That, I told him, was all the arms I had. I was then a prisoner, and I bore on with them in the charge. Our Confederate cavalry corps made a stand and drove us (Yankees) back, to my delight, though the balls whistled in rather close proximity to my [174] head, and many a Yankee bit the dust. After this I was taken before the colonel, who, to my great joy and surprise, was an old friend-Sprigg Carroll, of Washington, D. C. He was very glad to see me, and his delight when I told him I was a member of Stonewall's staff was uncontrollable. He offered me a drink, which, by the way, I declined, and, after many friendly questions, he said: ‘Willis, if you will give me your word of honor that you will not try to escape you can go anywhere you please and I will relieve the guard which is over you.’ As I was being exposed to a very heavy fire, and as that fire was from our own men, I accepted the offer.

Just then our cavalry (Rebel) pressed down on the town; a regiment of our infantry opened a galling fire, and a stampede among my captors took place. They made for the river, and I saw that I could easily escape, as I was left comparatively alone. But it was too late, I had given my word, so, with a firm spirit but a sorrowing heart, I dashed into the river with the Yankee cavalry. A perfect sheet of fire blazed in my face; saddles were emptied; dead, dying and wounded men and horses were floating or sinking as we swam that beautiful stream. I expected every minute would be my last, but I put my trust in Him, who, in the darkest hour, has never deserted me, and who, I believe, will carry me safely through the war. If I should fall, 'tis His will, and no one should complain.

Reaching the opposite bank we entered a thick wood, which the Confederates shelled to such an extent that we were forced to leave it and join the main body of Shields' army. To do this we had to cross an open corn-field exposed to the musketry and artillery of the Confederates.

I advised the Yankees to run the gauntlet, which we did at railroad speed, and, as the saying is, ‘I worked in the lead,’ taking good care to try and keep a Yankee or two to my left so as to protect me as much as possible. We cleared the field and I passed the whole Yankee army in battle array. It was a splendid sight. They called me ‘Rebel,’ ‘Secesh,’ etc., etc., and one fellow hallooed out as I passed the ‘stars and stripes’ gaily floating in the breeze, ‘I suppose you see the flag still floats?’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and another waves across the river still.’ They asked me hundreds of questions, none of which, of course, I answered satisfactorily.

In the confusion I lost sight of Carroll, and I was then put under charge of a guard, which, of course, absolved me from my parole given to Carroll. From that moment I began to try to make my escape. I was carried about seven miles to a nice house, the residence [175] of the widow Ergenbright. I determined, as I was a little sick, I would take that cue as a basis for escape, and, as the result shows, it worked well.

I knew I was in a secession house from the following incident: I was walking up and down the room with my hand to my head telling my guard how inhuman it was for them to keep me up when I was so sick, when I heard a sweet voice say: ‘Never mind, you will all pay for it.’ I turned and saw a handsome young lady with flashing eyes, addressing herself thus to my guard. I knew that she was my friend, and she so proved herself. In a few minutes old Mrs. Ergenbright came to me and said, ‘I can get you a bed,’ and asked my guard if I could use it. They said I could. I had a long, pleasant sleep; dreamed I had escaped and was in the Southern army again. When I awoke my heart almost sank within me. Different members of the family would come and cheer me up, but my guard was by me all the time. Miss Ergenbright was to help me escape by drawing for me a map of the country. The Federals brought wounded Yankees into the house, and some of them into my room. Miss Ergenbright protested that she had nothing for them to eat, although she brought me every luxury. My guard accused her of trying to get me to escape, but she answered them defiantly, and among things said she had two brothers in the 6th Virginia cavalry, Southern Army, and I had a great mind to say, ‘and a lover, too,’ but I did not.

Well, that night my window was closed, the door fastened, and two men slept right against it. I had no arms. After thinking of my lot for some time I dropped into a profound sleep, from which I was awakened early the next morning by the distant booming of artillery.

I knew Jackson had whipped Fremont the day before, and that today he was trying Shields. Upon the issue of this last fight my captivity and destiny depended.

I saw at once that my safety depended on this issue. If I could play my cards so as to remain at this house, and Jackson should whip Shields and pursue him beyond the house in which I was, I would be recaptured. Thus my escape rested on Jackson's success, and his distance of pursuit depended on himself and his men. My staying at the house depended on myself.

I was accordingly much worse. Oh! I got very much worse! I sent for a Yankee surgeon, had a lotion prepared, and the old lady put a horseradish poultice on my throat. All this time the artillery [176] was heard in the distance; the young lady bringing me news from time to time. Finally she came up and told me (in fact I heard them) that the Yankee wagons were coming back. She said (and I thought, too,) that the Yankees were beaten.

I listened, and it seemed that the artillery then were getting further off. My spirits fell, but it was momentary only, for the wind varied around again, and I saw that they were nearer.

Then confusion began. Wounded Yankees were being brought in. Ambulances were rolling to and fro and I could see from the expression of the faces of the attendant guard that something was wrong. They would, too, occasionally say, ‘They are too strong for us,’ etc., etc.

Just about this time a Yankee surgeon came in and examined me—groaning terribly—and he pronounced me unfit to be moved.

They then tried to make me take the parole ‘not to take up arms against the United States until duly exchanged.’ This I refused very feebly to do. My refusal exasperated them, and they said that I should go if it killed me. But they were warned by the artillery, which was thundering ‘nearer, clearer, deadlier than before.’ A dismounted dragoon rushed in and announced their troops beaten and the Rebels in hot pursuit. They all rushed headlong from the room. The rattle of the musketry for the first time could be heard, and directly the Yankees began retreating by. A regular Manassas stampede followed. My guard, paralyzed with fear, was afraid to go out—afraid to stay. I still played my role, grunting and groaning, but awaiting the auspicious moment to seize him.

Miss Ergenbright rushed up and told me that Colonel Carroll, with the Federal cavalry covering the retreat, was now opposite the house and that he would come up and tell me ‘good bye.’ Whilst I was waiting for him, Miss Ergenbright came in again, and with joy in every lineament of her face cried, ‘Our cavalry are here, right out at mother's garden! Get up, you are safe! Safe!’

A terrible fire from our cavalry carbines verified the truth of her assertion—the balls whistled by the windows, and I jumped up and dressed. Carroll hallooed out, ‘Tell Willis his cavalry is too close, I can't come up. Good bye!’ Poor fellow! He was wounded a minute afterwards, and was rapidly carried off by two of his troopers.

I ran out, took my guard prisoner, and found that an adjutant of an Ohio regiment, who had pretended to be my friend the night before, had taken my three-hundred-dollar horse, with my saddle, bridle, shawl, etc., etc. [177]

I took the horse of my Yankee prisoner and made the latter get up behind me and rode back to our lines.

I soon met General Jackson, who was glad to see me, saying with a smile, ‘I guess you will stay in bed next time you are sick.’ I said I would; told him everything I knew, and went on with my prisoner, now as his guard.

When I met the Twelfth Georgia regiment such a cheer greeted me as I never heard before. They were in the advance, and said they were coming after me.

The Thirty-first and other regiments all cheered, to my delight and to the chagrin of my prisoner. I rode on. Everybody in the army seemed to know that I had been captured, congratulated me on my escape, and asked me an hundred questions.

I finally turned over my prisoner, who said to me: ‘I treated you well, now you do the same to me, will you?’ I instructed the guard under whom he was placed to treat him well, rode off with his horse and equipments and joined the army, if not ‘a wiser or better,’ certainly a more experienced man.

I am in splendid health and spirits, and will not get caught again. I will be more careful in everything.

[9] Chancellorsville campaign. Report of Colonel Edward Willis, Twelfth Georgia Infantry.

headquarters Twelfth Georgia regiment, May 8th, 1863.

I have the honor to make the following statement of the part performed by the Twelfth Georgia regiment in the recent operations made to meet the enemy's advance on the south side of the Rappahannock:

I left the encampment of the Twelfth Georgia regiment near the Dickerson House about 8 o'clock A. M., April 29th, 1863, with about four hundred aggregate; reached Hamilton's Crossing, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac railroad, about noon, and remained there until about 3 o'clock on the morning of the 30th, when a line of battle was formed through the bottom, and at right angles to the railroad, my left resting about two hundred yards from the depot. [178] A slight protection was hastily constructed, and we remained there during that day and night. About 3 1/2 o'clock on the morning of the 1st of May we were set in motion upon the road leading westerly towards Chancellorsville. About 2 o'clock P. M. we formed a line of battle and advanced through the woods, our skirmishers coming upon those of the enemy. After an irregular and wearisome march of about an hour we returned to the road, having captured four prisoners, a few shelter tents, knapsacks, oilcloths, haversacks, &c., and the enemy's skirmishers having disappeared.

About sunset we again moved, and bivouacked on the left hand side of the plank road, about two miles from the scene of the day's skirmish. About 7 o'clock A. M. on the morning of the 2d of May we were again set in motion, my regiment leading the brigade, and after about one mile's advance, left the plank road, and following the head of the column, made a detour to the left; and about 1 o'clock P. M. took a dirt road leading, in an easterly direction from the Sims' House, towards Chancellorsville, upon which, after advancing about three-fourths of a mile, a line of battle was formed, at an angle of about 90°, and the left of the brigade resting on the road. About 5 o'clock P. M., May 2d, 1863, the line being formed, it was advanced for the attack. So rapid and irregular was the march, and such the topography of the ground, that it was almost impossible to preserve the continuity of the line, and my left became temporarily detached from Colonel Mercer's right. I made a very rapid and oblique march towards the left to fill up the interval, which was not done until the charge through the thicket. As we emerged from the woods into the open field, we were greeted with heavy discharges of grape, but the gallant regiment advanced unfalteringly. I now discovered for the first time that General Colquitt's brigade was not on my right. I received instructions from General Doles, under these circumstances, to guard carefully my right flank. I continued to advance rapidly, and threw my left forward, in order to protect my right. Not seeing any enemy, and deeming the right secure—at least for a time—I determined to advance and fall in upon the flank of the battery which was still firing.

To do this I advanced my right, retired the left, formed an oblique line of battle, and ordered a charge. Most gallantly did the regiment move forward, and as I reached the summit of the hill the enemy had abandoned his guns and position, and General Doles ordered me through the thicket to push the now flying enemy. I moved forward through the dense undergrowth about half a mile, [179] not hearing the command ‘halt,’ which had previously been given, and finding I had advanced ahead of the line, and my right and left were unsupported, and night coming on, I determined to withdraw; the enemy, not knowing how small was my force, did not advance his infantry, but we were subjected to a most terrific shelling, when we were almost under the guns of the battery, and I selected a comparatively good position, and as we were over-shot, only a few men were injured. I will here state that I was almost under the guns of a Federal battery, and had a regiment (of General Trimble's division, I think,) gone with me, as I exhorted them to do, we could have captured another battery. I protected my men until the cessation of the shelling, which was truly terrific. About dark I quietly moved out by the left flank, and in about an hour had reported to General Doles, and resumed my position on the right of the brigade. About 6 o'clock A. M. on the morning of the 3d of May line of battle was again formed, and an advance ordered. In marching through the thick wood and over the uneven ground, Major Glover reported to me that he was cut off with four companies. I assumed command of the whole, and instructed Major Hardeman to take command of the regiment. I then halted, reformed the line, and went forward to find General Doles, which I soon did. He returned, took command, and I returned to my regiment. We continued to advance under a heavy musketry fire until we arrived at the breastworks, behind which McGowan's brigade was fighting. Here we remained until the command ‘charge,’ when we pushed forward, and passed the troops behind the works, and marching through the woods and up the hill. As we debouched I again found my right unprotected, but I had flanked the enemy and poured in a cross-fire, which he did not even return, but ran away in utter confusion. Had a brigade moved forward I could have marched by the right flank and cut off large numbers of prisoners in the woods. They held up their guns and hands to surrender, but there was actually nobody to take them.

Having reached the crest of the hill and finding the enemy utterly routed, I commenced to close in to the left and reform. I was then ordered to retire, which was done, and ammunition replenished, and the troops rested the remainder of the afternoon, except a part of the time when acting as provost guard.

About sunset we were again set in motion down the plank road towards Chancellorsville, marched about 1 1/2 miles when we were halted and a line of battle formed upon the right hand side of the road. That night and the morning of the 4th May, 1863, was spent [180] in constructing a slight field work to protect the troops. We remained in this position until about 3 o'clock P. M., when I left the regiment, being detailed for a special purpose.

Major Hardeman then assumed command. I returned about 3 o'clock P. M. May 5th, and found that the regiment had been moved off by the left flank and now occupied a partially entrenched position, at about 90° with its former position, though contiguous to it.

We remained here until about 3 o'clock P. M. May 6th, when we were ordered to move back towards our original encampment, near the Dickinson House, which was reached upon the 6th and 7th of May.

I deem it proper to state that great disadvantages were labored under in these battles, as I carried my men into action inverted and faced by the rear rank. A manoeuvre, I believe, almost unprecedented.

The night march back to camp on the 6th was calculated, in my opinion, to subvert discipline and utterly demoralize troops. Not one-half of the men could keep up, and complete disorganization, disregard for authority, and perfect exhaustion were the inevitable results.

I think it right to mention for good conduct Lieutenants T. W. Harris and W. F. Lowe, Sergeant N. M. Howard, company ‘F,’ and Privates Clark, company ‘F’; Bullard, company ‘G.’ Also Corporal George W. Oliver, company ‘D,’ who lost his leg in the last charge.

I enclose Major Hardeman's report, marked ‘Exhibit A,’ until 3 o'clock P. M. May 5th, 1863.

I append, marked ‘Exhibit B,’ a list of the casualties.

I am, captain, respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Edward Willis, Colonel Twelfth Georgia Regiment. Capt. F. T. Snead, A. A. General.
Endorsed: ‘Edward Willis, Colonel Twelfth Georgia regiment, Second army corps, near Fredericksburg, May 8, 1863. Report and list of casualties in the Twelfth Georgia regiment in the battles of Spotsylvania county, Va.


[10] list of the casualties in the Twelfth Georgia regiment.

Company A.

Private J. M. Taylor, killed.

J. Livingston, severely wounded.

H. Edwards, slightly wounded.

C. Redding, slightly wounded.

W. A. Pryor, slightly wounded.

R. Crawford, mortally wounded.

Company B.

Private D. Stripling, seriously wounded.

A. Middlebrooks, slightly wounded.

T. Brown, slightly wounded.

A. Russan, slightly wounded.

J. A. Jackson, slightly wounded.

Company C.

Private J. T. Coogle, killed.

C. C. Solomon, killed.

1st Lieut. T. W. Harris, slightly wounded.

Private W. A. J. Hall, slightly wounded.

D. W. Children, slightly wounded.

J. W. Brantley, slightly wounded.

T. C. Turner, slightly wounded.

Company D.

Private D. W. Dorsey, mortally wounded.

Corporal G. W. Oliver, severely wounded.

Private W. W. Forrester, severely wounded.

A. D. Ingram, severely wounded.

W. T. Jones, severely wounded.

N. D. Harris, slightly wounded.

James Godwin, slightly wounded.

Thomas Little, missing.

J. C. B. Clinton, missing.

Company E.

Second Lieutenant J. R. Simmons, slightly wounded. [182]

Sergeant J. W. Holmes, slightly wounded.

James Dawson, severely wounded.

Corporal J. H. Brooks, slightly wounded.

Private W. Smith, severely wounded.

Company F.

Sergeant J. H. Varnadow, killed.

Private James Clark, killed.

J. T. Redding, killed.

Sergeant H. L. Adams, slightly wounded.

Private E. Walton, slightly wounded.

J. R. Rogers, slightly wounded.

J. E. Butler, slightly wounded.

J. Sumner, slightly wounded.

Company G.

Private W. T. Pearman, killed.

Corporal T. A. Maddox, severely wounded.

Private J. N. Buldowd, severely wounded.

S. Batchelor, severely wounded.

D. D. McLeroy, severely wounded.

C. Batchelor, slightly wounded.

L. H. Thomas, slightly wounded.

R. Young, slightly wounded.

L. F. Luther, slightly wounded.

J. Davis, slightly wounded.

Company H.

Private James Conner, killed.

Corporal G. A. Browden, severely wounded.

J. P. Ross, slightly wounded.

Private J. McCarthy, slightly wounded.

J. V. Schrampoliver, slightly wounded.

Company I.

Private J. B. Harpe, killed.

Captain J. M. Briggs, severely wounded.

First Lieutenant A. Graham, slightly wounded. [183]

Private G. W. Boyd, slightly wounded.

J. T. Hester, slightly wounded.

W. D. Hardie, slightly wounded.

D. Fletcher, slightly wounded.

P. Shannon, slightly wounded.

G. W. Lewis, slightly wounded.

W. Jordan, mortally wounded.

Company K.

Second Lieutenant J. W. Cantrell, killed.

Private J. Ennis, killed.

G. W. Murphy, killed.

Sergeant J. H. Park, mortally wounded.

R. H. Peacock, slightly wounded.

Private J. L. Bruce, slightly wounded.

E. French, slightly wounded.



Respectfully submitted,

Edward Willis, Colonel Twelfth Georgia Regiment. Capt. F. T. Snead, A. A. General.

[11] report of Major Isaac Hardeman.

headquarters Twelfth Georgia regiment, May 9, 1863.

I have the honor to report that at 3 o'clock P. M., May 4th, 1863, Colonel Willis being detailed for other duty, I assumed command of the regiment then occupying a position on the south side of the plank road near Chancellorsville. About 5 o'clock P. M. of that day, I was ordered by General Doles to move the regiment to a position in the wood opposite, contiguous to, and at right angles to the position we then held, and to construct works for the protection of the men, as an attack by the enemy was momentarily expected. [184] On this line the Fourth Georgia was on my right and the Twenty-first Georgia regiment on my left.

With but one or two axes, and bayonets, I succeeded, in a very short time, in erecting a sufficient defense of logs and planks to protect from any attack from infantry. Later in the evening, being furnished with a few picks and spades, I improved the work so as to make it comparatively secure against artillery. A little after 6 o'clock P. M. I was ordered to detail a captain and forty men to act as skirmishers in front of the regiment.

Captain J. N. Beale, of Co. ‘B.,’ a gallant and efficient officer, was detailed for this duty, and assumed command of the entire line of skirmishers from this brigade. He was ordered forward at sunset, and held the advanced position assigned him until next morning about 8 o'clock, when the entire line of skirmishers was ordered forward. He advanced under a heavy fire of grape and musketry to within two hundred yards of the enemy's entrenched position when, being unable to advance further, or hold that point, he retired, having ascertained that the enemy was in great numbers, and strongly defended. In this skirmish Private W. W. Pearman, Co. ‘G,’ was killed, and Private W. Jordan, Co. ‘I,’ severely wounded. I occupied the position behind my hastily constructed works until 3 o'clock P. M. May 5th, when Colonel Willis returned and assumed command.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Isaac Hardeman, Major Twelfth Georgia Regiment. Captain F. T. Snead, A. A. General.

[12] battle of Gettysburg. Report of Col. Edward Willis, Twelfth Georgia Infantry, Doles' brigade.

headquarters Twelfth Georgia regiment, near Darkesville, Va., July 19th, 1863.

Upon Wednesday, July 1st, 1863, after an extremely fatiguing and rapid march, I formed my regiment in line of battle upon the extreme [185] left of the brigade in a wheat field, on the right hand side of the Middletown road, and about 1 1/4 miles from Gettysburg, Penn. After shifting positions from time to time, a charge was ordered, and the troops moved up gallantly, driving the enemy from every position to and through the town. During the advance a portion of the enemy's troops overlapped, and I thought hardly pressed the right of the brigade. I moved my regiment by the right flank, and assisting the Forty-fourth and Twenty-first Georgia regiments, the enemy was soon dislodged with heavy slaughter. The enemy, being now in full retreat, were followed closely through the town, many prisoners being captured. Upon reaching the southern edge of the town a halt was ordered, and we remained in this position until about sunset upon the evening of the 2d. We then moved to the night attack upon the enemy's works, which superior officers saw fit to abandon, and a retrograde movement was made to a hill on the southwest side of the town and about equally distant between the seminary and the cemetery. A slight protection was constructed, and here the troops remained until the entire army fell back to the western and adjacent heights. Whilst in this position my regiment was shelled by our own artillery, and the officer in command should be made to pay the penalty for his criminal conduct. I do not know positively which batteries they were, so I mention no names, but I believe the general officers might ascertain.

The regiment acted throughout the entire engagement with its accustomed gallantry. Both officers and men deserve great praise. Major Hardeman was among the first to enter the town, as was Adjutant Thomas. Captain J. T. Carson and Lieutenants Crittenden and Waterman did their duty well and were of assistance to me. I append a list of casualties.

I am, Captain, respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Edward Willis, Colonel Twelfth Georgia Regiment. Captain F. T. Snead, A. A. General, Doles' Brigade.

List of casualties in the Twelfth Georgia regiment in the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863.

Co. A.—Wounded: John Brown, mortally; Joseph Batty, slightly in the leg; Charles S. Darby, severely; Corporal J. E. Glune, slightly. [186]

Co. B—Killed: Corporal Julius J. Card. Wounded: Sergeant James B. Gantt, severely; Privates James Green and Francis Green, severely. Missing: Private R. C. Franks.

Co. C.—Wounded: Sergeant G. C. Smith, slightly; Private J. C. Bryan, slightly; Privates J. J. Easterlin and Wm. H. Killabrew, severely. Missing: Privates Wm. A. Bryan, B. H. Mathews, A. W. Shealey.

Co. D.—Wounded: Corporal James N. Robertson, severely; Privates W. A. Beckcom and Enoch Eubank, severely; Private W. J. Keel, slightly. Missing: James Godwin.

Co. E.—Killed: Private Jesse Quick. Wounded: Corporal W. H. Miller, severely; Privates J. W. H. Suthum, A. J. Autney, and R. E. Coulton, severely. Missing: Private G. W. Blankenship.

Co. F.—Wounded: Captain James Everett, severely; Lieutenants W. U. Thompson, James M. Brown, slightly; Sergeants H. J. Paul, H. L. Adams, severely; Corporal M. W. Brett, slightly; Private H. F. Penney, seriously; Private G. H. Rains, severely; Private G. W. Lewis, slightly.

Co. G.—Killed: Private James H. Beale. Wounded: Sergeant A. W. Gooley, severely; Private W. H. Winchern, severely. Missing: Sergeant H. H. Marshall, Corporal W. H. Waller.

Co. H.—Wounded: Privates Eli Brown, Eli W. Brooks, Joseph Johnson, severely. Missing: Privates Wm. T. Blanchard, Christopher Martin.

Co. I.—Killed: Private R. P. Rowland. Wounded: Sergeant N. J. Zeigler, severely.



[13] letter from Gen. R. E. Lee to Col. Edward Willis.


Headquarters, 11th March, 1864.

Your letter of the 10th rec'd this eve'g. I think well of the enterprize you propose! I am only doubtful how far your infantry could [187] keep pace with the cav'y. At this time there is no danger from the East. Get all information & be guided by events.

Rosser has halted at Gordonsville, awaiting, for the present, the developments of Kilpatrick's movements. As, already advised, I desire you to rejoin your brigade at the commencement of active operations, & hope you will be able to have completed by that time the business that has occupied you during the winter.

Very resp'y,

Your ob't serv't,

R. E. Lee, General. Col. Edward Willis, 12. Geo. Regiment.

Envelope superscribed ‘Confidential.’ in left hand corner; franked ‘R. E. Lee, General,’ in right hand corner, and addressed ‘Col. Edward Willis, Command'g 12. Geo. Regiment.’ Letter and superscription entirely in the handwriting of General Lee.

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