Monday, April 28, 2014

Colonel John Edmunds Brown: He knew no fear

Tombstone of John Edmunds Brown

       John Edmunds Brown was born on August 30, 1830 in Caswell County, North Carolina. Following college, he became an attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. He married Laura Morrison, the sister of Stonewall Jackson's second wife. When the Civil War began, he was made lieutenant in the 7th North Carolina Infantry and was promoted to adjutant three months later. 

       In April of 1862, he became lieutenant colonel of the 42nd North Carolina Infantry. He would be promoted to colonel of the regiment in January of 1864. The 42nd North Carolina spent most of this time in service near Wilmington, North Carolina. They saw action at Cold Harbor and in the battles around Petersburg. On May 20, 1864, at the Battle of Bermuda Hundred, he was shot in the head. He was left on the field for dead, but his body servant Dave Brown (a colored man) went onto the field to retrieve his body and found him alive. Colonel Brown would never forget his body servant for saving him and he supported Dave for the rest of his life. 

       Following the war, he again practiced law in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was eventually elected to the state legislature, serving one term. The head wound seemed to have affected him for the remainder of his life. On January 28, 1896, Colonel Brown sat at the desk in his law office and put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He would linger in his office, never regaining consciousness until 8:40 the next morning when he died. 

       An autopsy was performed and it was found the bullet had entered two inches behind the right ear and passing downward had stopped an inch from the opposite side of the skull. The surgeons found his brain had grown to the coverings of the skull, a probable result of his being shot in the head in Virginia in 1864. Brown was then buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, North Carolina. 

       His obituary called him "a good soldier. He knew no fear, and never flinched when danger was nigh." He was just another example of a man who survived the war, but in the end, died as a result of that horrible war. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Civil Wargasm #4

Timmy at Sam Davis's Grave

       Last weekend was a great weekend for me, my son Timmy, and three of my good friends. Stacie's girls had a lads to leaders convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Of course it was a chance for me to see the Civil War sights again. We went up on Friday and Timmy was excited because I told him it would be just me and him that day. With two girls and two boys, it gets difficult at times to have just one on one time. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the Opryland Hotel, unpacked and back to the car, we were running short on time. 

       Timmy and I headed south to Smyrna, Tennessee and arrived about thirty minutes before closing time and too late to take a tour of Sam Davis's home. I had told Timmy the story about Sam Davis, the "Boy Hero of the Confederacy" while we were driving. The story really interested him and he couldn't believe that the Federal troops could be so cruel. He has a lot to learn about war. Timmy is only six. 

Sam Davis's Home

       The fellow running the museum did allow us to walk around the grounds and visit the grave of Sam Davis. This also gave Timmy a chance to run off some of that energy that had been building all day in the van. Next I took Timmy to the rock and tree where Sam had hidden his horse during his last visit home. The tree he tied his horse to, still stands there today beside the rock Sam hid his horse behind. 

Rock and tree where Sam hid his horse

       The next day, Jerry and Lance came up and we were gonna tour Mount Olivet Cemetery and the Old City Cemetery. We prowled around Mount Olivet and I helped Jerry find a couple of general's graves he had missed on his lone visit last year. It was Lance's first visit to Mount Olivet and we would later learn why. 

       After spending a good hour at Mount Olivet, I learned that Jerry had never been to the Tennessee State Museum which houses a good deal of Civil War memorabilia. We left the cemetery and decided to eat at McDonalds before heading to the Tennessee capital. Of course, Lance has to use the bathroom before we leave and upon exiting the restaurant he opened the emergency exit. This seemed to have upset the manager as she gave him a look that seared his very soul. Jerry, Timmy, and I were of course, laughing.

       We spent most of the morning hunting a place to park, finally gave up and paid ten dollars to park for one hour. Jerry said, "I would love to own a spot of ground here. It would earn you a living just letting people park their cars at ten bucks an hour." We entered the state museum and headed past all the exhibits to the Civil War section. Now, I'm aware of a lot of Lance's fears. He is terrified of spiders and most other insects. He has a fear of most all animals at some level or other. He once beat himself mercilessly with an umbrella because a spider fell in his lap while driving down the highway at sixty miles an hour. A neighbors ostrich attempted to attack him through a fence while he mowed his grass. The list of animal encounters goes on and on. And then there's the story about the dragonfly that he swears had rabies, but that's another story entirely.

       I had no idea that he was afraid of death until reaching the museum. In order to get to the bottom floor, one must walk past a mummy that has been embalmed since at least 1200 B.C. I thought nothing of it since I've been past that mummy at least ten times over the past few years. 

3000 year old mummy at the Tennessee State Museum

       We enter the room with the mummy and I walk right past giving it not a second glance. Jerry and Timmy immediately become infatuated with the dead man lying in the glass case. Lance walks over and bends over the glass and peers inside. Suddenly, he realizes that this thing is a real person and almost panics. He races to the edge of the room and stares from a distance. Jerry says, "Lance, come look at his lips." "Unnh Unnh," Lance shakes his head and takes a step toward the exit. "Lance, you gotta see his eyes," Jerry repeats. "Unnh Unnh," Lance repeats and takes another step toward the exit. Soon Lance races past me as if he is in a haunted attraction on Halloween. 

       We go on down the stairs to the Civil War section. Jerry catches up and asks, "Lance haven't you ever touched anything dead before?" Lance thinks a moment and says, "I touched a dead squirrel once. It was cracking on a power line and then both died." When Jerry attempts to reason with Lance that there is nothing wrong with viewing a dead body, Lance attempts to argue back. He said, "Yeah, but, but..." That was about all the argument he could think of at the moment. 

Flag of the CSS Alabama

       In the Civil War section, we viewed the flag that flew aboard the CSS Alabama during its raids on the high seas. We saw items that belonged to Generals Cleburne, John Adams, Zollicoffer, John Hunt Morgan, and James Rains. The collection is enormous. We stayed an hour and barely had time to view just the Civil War collection. Then came time to exit the museum. I told Jerry that it would be interesting to watch Lance have to walk back past the mummy. Lance immediately asked, "You mean we have to walk back past that thing?"

       Jerry went ahead of us because he had an evil plan up his sleeve. When Lance walked into the room, Jerry jumped from behind the door and attempted to push Lance over to the mummy. Lance is six foot, two inches and weighs about 270. There is no pushing Lance where Lance doesn't want to go. I asked Lance what would have happened had Jerry pushed him over there and they both fell across the glass, overturning the mummy, and landing on it in the floor. Lance said, "Mummy parts would go flying everywhere. I just don't like those things."

       We left the museum and I had left a message earlier with another good Civil War buddy, Doctor Rick Price. He'd wanted to visit another museum that I cannot name here at present. (I will get to that part of the story in a moment.) "Doc" as I call him was late. Jerry, Lance, Timmy, and I go to the place and begin talking with a tour guide there. By the time Doc arrives, she understands how passionate we are about the war. 

Jerry and Doc

       Doc shows up with an Auburn shirt on and I tell him I will not take him to anymore Civil War sites if he continues to wear such ugly clothing. The tour guide decides to give us an abbreviated tour since we are only interested in the Civil War part. Suddenly, she looks at me and asks, "Would ya'll like to hold Forrest's sword?"

       We all answer, "Sure." That is what I was thinking at the moment, was sure, I bet, right. There is no way in this world I am gonna get to hold the sword of Nathan Bedford Forrest. But, she says follow me. En route to the location of this treasure, she says, "It's not the one he carried in battle, but a presentation sword. It belonged to him just the same." My hands began to shake as I began to realize how serious she was. We arrived at the scene and she hands the sword to me first. Shelby Foote once said that the proudest moment of his life was when Forrest's granddaughter allowed him to swing Forrest's sword over his head. Well, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. I made sure Timmy held the sword and explained to him that this was one of those once in a lifetime achievements and he'd most likely never get the opportunity again. Timmy and I both decided that we'd never wash our hand again. Each of us held the sword with the promise that we would not mention the guides name nor where we held the sword. 

       We left the place all smiles. Especially Jerry, since Forrest is his greatest hero. Doc said he will never turn down another trip with me anywhere. (It seems every time Doc takes a trip with me, something neat happens.) I told him not to expect this every trip. I took a trip two weeks ago to Cleburne's grave in Helena, Arkansas and thought I had accomplished something just taking rocks off his grave, so you can imagine how excited I was holding the sword of the Wizard of the Saddle. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Tragic End of Colonel Benjamin Beck

Flag of the 9th Georgia Infantry

       Benjamin Beck was born in North Carolina in 1827. He served in the artillery during the Mexican War and was a merchant in Georgia when the war began. Beck began the Civil War as captain of Company F, 9th Georgia Infantry. He was promoted to colonel two months later. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Second Manassas and was forced to resign his commission due to disability in early 1864. 

       He returned to Georgia and was captured during Stoneman's Raid as he helped to stop the raiders. He would spend his post war years working as a farmer, teacher and as a preacher. Beck had married Angeline Stubbs, the widow of James Stubbs. Following the war, Angeline died, and Colonel Beck, his son, and stepson's all lived on the same plantation. 

       Colonel Beck was called a gallant Confederate officer and well liked man. He and his son were called peaceable and law abiding men. Beck and his son would die a horrific death on Sunday, November 16, 1884. 

       Colonel Beck, his son Benjamin Beck, Jr., and James Beck, along with the two Beck boy's half-brothers all farmed the same land. Each had their own plots that they farmed. The Beck's had a patch of corn growing between two patches of corn grown by the Stubbs boys. The Stubbs fed their livestock from the Beck's corn on Friday, November 14th. A quarrel resulted and on Sunday morning, Colonel Beck sent his son James Beck to obtain an arrest warrant from the sheriff.

       Colonel Beck told the two Stubbs brothers that they were not to leave the premises as he was expecting an officer to arrive and arrest them both. An argument ensued between the Stubbs and Becks. James Stubbs told his brother Stephen to go back into the house and get their guns. Stephen returned with two pistols and a double-barreled shotguns. Colonel Beck and Benjamin Beck, Jr. both begged for their lives. Colonel Beck was shot in the left side and struck in the right side by buckshot. 

       Colonel Beck fell to the ground face first. The Stubbs brothers then callously bent over and shot him in the back of the head with two pistol shots. They also shot their half-brother Benjamin seven times, five in the side, twice in the arm, and one bullet passed through the stomach and into the spine. He did not die right away, but lived long enough to tell what had happened to the doctors attending to him. Neither of the Beck's were armed at the time. 

       The Stubbs brothers then entered their home as if nothing had occurred. Stephen Stubbs wife went out and assisted the younger Beck. The sheriff arrived about noon and then the Stubbs brothers decided to make their escape. It was too late and they were both arrested. Following the trial, both Stubbs brothers received ten years sentences. The reason given for such a light sentence was because James Stubbs wife and small children came to court each day and the young children caused members of the jury to take pity on the Stubbs brothers. 

       It was a sad end to such a brave man who had faced enemy soldiers in battle and being wounded once at Second Manassas. Shot down by two cowards who had been stealing from him. The Stubbs brothers even went so far as to shoot their half-brother, Benjamin. Colonel Beck was 57 years old. History will remember Colonel Beck for his bravery, but what will be remembered about his step-sons?