Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gettysburg 150 Years Later

150 years ago today Cedar’s Great Grandfather John Edmonds was “lost” (captured) during the battle of Gettysburg.

The connection to Gettysburg, the history, and the fact that he was captured as well as the 150 years of revisionist history that has occurred since, is certainly interesting.

That he fought for states’ rights is not surprising, but what I find most amazing is that John Edmonds and his fellow Southerners grabbed their muskets, signed up with the "Dixie Boys" of Company "A" of the 26th Alabama Infantry Regiment in Tuscumbia and then for the next 21 months walked to Gettysburg, and along the way they marched across our country and fought in the some of the most famous Civil War battles. Names like; Yorktown, Richmond, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, Marven Hill, Boonesboro, Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and finally, Gettysburg.

At the time General Lee remarked about the unit: "The 26th Alabama regiment was always in the battle front and won imperishable renown."

Marker just to the south of Gettysburg.

The inscription of the above marker reads:

Army of Northern Virginia
Ewell's Corps Rodes's Division
O'Neal's Brigade

3rd, 5th, 6th, 12th and 26th Alabama Infantry

July 1. Soon after arriving at this position three regiments attacked the Union flank, the 5th Regiment being ordered to guard the wide interval between the Brigade and Doles's Brigade in the valley on the left and the 3rd Regiment joining Daniel's and afterwards Ramseur's Brigade. The three regiments were repulsed with heavy loss but the entire Brigade took part in the general attack soon made by the Confederates which finally dislodged the Union forces from Seminary Ridge.

July 1st 1863 General Lee's Army takes Seminary Ridge O'Neal's 26th Alabama attacked the left flank.
July 2. The Brigade in position all day in or near the town but not engaged.

July 3. The 5th Regiment lay in the southern borders of the town firing upon the Union artillery with their long range rifles. The other regiments moved to Culp's Hill to reinforce Johnson's Division.

July 4. Moved to Seminary Ridge. At night began the march to Hagerstown.

Present 1794 Killed 73 Wounded 430 Missing 193 Total 696

On July 3rd the dawn came damp and humid and the smoke hung in the air thick and heavy, the smell of battle was of heighten senses, for all visual clues of the battle field were noticeably absent. The early morning artillery of the Union forces fell silent soon after the dawn, as if they had expended all their powder.

July 3, 1863 Rodes's Divison and the 26 Alabama held in reserve.
On General Pickett’s command his troops moved forward towards the Union lines and silent guns.

The Gods were not in favor for when Pickett’s men where only half way to the angle the smoke cleared and sun broke through the given cloud cover. There on the low ground crossing a small creek the confederate troops could clearly see more than 100 Union Cannons at the ready. There was no escape, no turning back.

The field became a slaughter ground.

From the perspective of Rodes’s Division just south of Gettysburg the men of the 26th Alabama held in reserve, had a perfect vantage point to watch the carnage unfold.

John Edmonds was born the son of a farmer in Laurens, in the upstate of South Carolina. He raised sheep and cattle on land too poor to grow cotton with too little water to grow rice. They had no reason to own slaves, rather his father had relied on 11 sons and 3 daughters.

Yet when the call to arms went out he joined the cause without a second thought.

The abolitionists in 1861 found that slavery was a hot button in the North and used it as the rally cry to end a practice that was only 30 years from becoming out dated and inefficient as mechanized farming began to sweep across the nation.

Now 150 years later revisionists continue to create a war that was nothing more than an epic battle to free the black man from the abusive plantation owners. A battle where in the end good triumphed over evil.

As the line between fiction and fact continue to erode, there are those among us who are left to remind those less knowledgeable and more gullible that the war was not about slavery. In fact now to suggest that the war was about anything but slavery is considered politically incorrect. The fact is the war of "northern aggression" came about because the Southern States no longer wanted to be a part of the Union. The reason for their departure was the erosion of states’ rights.

By standing up to the inherently corrupt Northern Bullies the South threatened to upset the Union's balance of trade with Europe. Southerners simply saw a federal government that had overstepped the bounds of sensibility and had infringed on state's rights and the right of self-governance for far too long.

At the end of the war, out of 1,111 known members of the 26th Alabama; 360 are known to have been killed, 93 finished the war in prison or on furlough after being released, 2 escaped from a prisoner of war camp, 10 joined the Union Army, 146 are known to have been discharged or resigned, 39 are known to have deserted and 387 have some partial records.

John Edmonds was one of the ten who were offered enlistment in the Union Army, and given the deplorable conditions at Fort Delaware and later Point Lookout, I would imagine it wasn’t a hard choice.

In October of 1863 he joined Captain George W. Alh's Independent Battery, Delaware Heavy Artillery and was later mustered out of service on July 25, 1865.

In the years after the war he returned to Natural Bridge Alabama where he married the widow of a follow soldier killed in action while a member of 1st Alabama Calvary.

O'Neal's 26th Alabama Old Soldiers Re-union Circa 1900
There he raised a family and often “flagged” his monthly Union Army pension check, making a point to ride his horse by the homes of his brothers waiving his $6.00 a month check and reminding all who would listen that they fought for the wrong side.

John Edmonds died on July 31, 1918 and is buried at Concord Baptist Church Cemetery in Natural Bridge.

Oddly enough my great grandfather and I share the same birthday.


Anonymous said...

Very well written. My great-grandfather fought with the 14th Alabama Infantry, Company K. Believe it or not my other great-grandfather fought with the 1st Alabama Calvary, Company E, which I believe, was a Union regiment made up of Union supporters from northern Alabama.

Anonymous said...

No surprise here, the racist redneck apple didn't fall far from the tree!

Anonymous said...

How is Cedar's comments about his grandfather being racist? He simply points out that his grandfather along with thousands of Southerners who had no stake in the ownership of slaves fought for states rights and not for the continuation of slavery.

Nothing like playing the race card every chance you get huh? 8:08?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your article and it is spot on as far as the facts surrounding the times and today's revisionist history assault on the truth. I was in Gettysburg from June 27th thru July 4th for the 150th Annisversary and took part in Picketts charge on the 3rd. An unbelievable display of Southern Pride and to have been a part of it words can not discribe. Except for some lame efforts at politically correct revisionist history the Park Service did a good job of relating the true facts of the Battle. I saw no display of any racist attitude and did see a half dozen or so blacks in the ranks of Southerners marching across Picketts field,and yes they were giving the Rebel Yell just like the rest of us!
History is absolute, it can not be changed only distorted!
That's my take on it! Ab

Anonymous said...

iI am working on John Edmonds' genealogy for a descendant of Andrew Young Edmonds. All census records I have reviewed indicate that he was born in Georgia but you have indicated South Carolina. Can you direct me to the sources that indicate South Carolina? I would hope to hear from you.