Lagrange Military College
Lagrange College in Franklin County, Alabama (now Colbert, County, Alabama), was known as the West Point of the South. Young men from all over the country came here for a military education. In March, 1862, the 35th Alabama Infantry Regiment was formed at the school. The majority of the officer corps and a good deal of the enlisted men came from the student body. A lot of local farmers also enlisted with the regiment.
The regiment would go on to see action at the battles of Baton Rouge, Port Hudson, Corinth, Champions Hill, Jackson and throughout the Atlanta Campaign. Company B would march into Tennessee with General Hood with only twenty-one men.
At Franklin, the 35th Alabama Regiment served under General Scott, William Loring’s Division and Alexander Peter Stewart’s Corps. They would advance on the far right near the Carnton Plantation and charged the Osage Orange abates in front of the Federal breastworks.
Captain Samuel D. Stewart led these men. The boy was from near Mobile, Alabama and was only 21 years old. Stewart was elated at the thought of charging across two miles of open fields and hitting the Federal lines. He may have just been trying to keep his men’s spirits up. Most men knew that few of them would come out of this battle unscathed.
Captain Samuel D. Stewart
Stewart said, “With this open field, we’ll be able to see who gets the farthest. I know Company B will not be behind and will continue to hold their high standing in the regiment.”
The regiment marched to within seventy-five yards of the Federal line before the enemy infantry opened fire. The men charged forward and reaching the Osage Orange found that they couldn’t fight their way through the man made barrier.
Captain Stewart was right there with his men, hacking at the tree limbs with his sword. A bullet soon struck him in the abdomen, he crashed forward into the abatis and rolled out on the ground. His men thought he was dead, but he soon rose again only to have his left ear shot off. He was carried back to the McGavock House where he suffered tremendously. Some reports state he had four bullet wounds. He would die sometime during the night.
Of the twenty-one men who went into action at Franklin, four would be killed, thirteen wounded and out of action, two would be slightly wounded and only two came out unscathed. Besides Captain Stewart, Fourth Sergeant Tom Peebles, Private William Bradley and Color Bearer Robert Wheeler would die.
Joseph Thompson and Richard D. Beaumont would both be wounded by the same cannonball. Joe Thompson would have his leg amputated at the field hospital near the McGavock House. Second Sergeant Daniel Downs and Private’s William Woodford, James O. Murphy, A. Waddy Mosely, and J.P. Cooper would all be wounded. Steve Harmon would make it on to Nashville where he would be captured. The rest of the company present at Franklin haven’t been identified yet.
Joe Thompson wrote following the war how the entire town of Franklin within four miles of the battlefield had opened their doors and taken in the wounded. He had nothing but the highest compliments for the people of Franklin, Tennessee.
Today, Lagrange College no longer exists. On April 28, 1863, the Federal Army under Colonel Florence M. Cornyn burned the college down. The brave color bearer Robert Wheeler would be brought home to Tuscumbia, Alabama where he rests in Oakwood Cemetery, not far from the grave of Brigadier General James Deshler. Captain Samuel Stewart still rests today in the McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee.
Grave of Captain Samuel D. Stewart