Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Next Book Idea: Company B, 35th Alabama Infantry: The LaGrange Cadets

LaGrange College

       I recently got the idea of writing a book about Company B, 35th Alabama Infantry which was organized out of the younger LaGrange Military Academy Cadets. The older cadets had left as soon as the war began to join other units. So far I have counted 114 members of Company B. Of those 36 were cadets, the superintendent of the college became the captain, and the fifer was a slave that was owned by the college. One was a student of 16 years old, one was a saddle maker, one a plasterer, one a steam boat pilot, and the rest were farmers.
       This regiment first saw action at the Battle of Corinth where they were severely cut up on the first day along the railroad a mile west of town. The next day they were engaged near Battery Robinette alongside the 2nd Texas Infantry. They were engaged at Baton Rouge, Champion's Hill, and saw action during the Vicksburg Campaign. During the Atlanta Campaign they heroically charged the enemy at Peachtree Creek and engaged a Federal regiment in hand to hand combat. They fought at Decatur, lost heavily at Franklin, Nashville, and then Bentonville.

Rick Reeves Print of Company B Charging at Peachtree Creek

       The records are far from complete making research very difficult, but I have learned a great deal about this company. The roster shows only 8 of the 114 to be killed in action which is a very low number for the severe action they saw. It shows 25 wounded, 14 captured, 11 deserted, 16 died of unknown causes, 5 were transferred, and 2 discharged. This would make the total of 81 casualties out of 114. This we know is inaccurate because of a letter written by Corporal Joseph Nicholas Thompson that stated there were 24 present at Decatur and the unit suffered 22 casualties in the battle. They moved on to Nashville with 6 men, the 2 not wounded and the 4 slightly wounded but able to remain in the ranks. One of these men was wounded at Nashville and 3 were captured. 
       This was truly a tragic company with many sad stories to tell. Not to give away too much of the book I will give a few brief examples. Dee Green was the color bearer in the painting above by Rick Reeves. He was shot in the knee during the action and lost his leg. He had married Bob Wheeler's sister shortly before this battle. Bob was immediately elected to carry the colors now that his brother-in-law was disabled. Bob went to Franklin and was killed. Bob's father and Dee traveled to Franklin following the war and brought Bob and the other members of Company B back to Tuscumbia and buried them in Oakwood Cemetery. Can you imagine going and retrieving the body of your son in a wagon and bringing it home over a hundred miles.
       Sam Stewart was the captain of Company B at Franklin and was killed at the age of 23. He rests in the Confederate Cemetery there today. I have a grandfather and uncle on my dad's side that was in the regiment. The uncle died in service of unknown causes. I have a uncle on my mom's side that deserted to the Federal army and was ordered to remain north of the Ohio River. I thought it a horrible thing that he deserted his country, but then I learned he had a club foot. I can't imagine a man with a club foot serving in an infantry regiment. One volunteer that served was 14 year old Felix Sherrod. One soldier died of chronic diarrhea and sadly he had a brother too young to fight that died of disease while at home. The stories go on and on and hopefully I can do a descent job bringing their memories back to life.

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