Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Civil War Anniversary - 150 years ago today, April 12, 2011

Read about the hardships of Franklin Branscome, Confederate Soldier from Carroll County, Virginia. He and his 3 brothers walked to Dugspur and volunteered on September 16, 1861. Two brothers died because of the Civil War. Read more. Abraham Lincoln's State of Kentucky joined the Union even though it was a slave-holding state. read the story on Franklin Branscome, Recollections of a Confederate Soldier
Civil War - 1861-1865 Franklin Branscome - Confederate Soldier

Franklin Branscome, Recollections of a Confederate Soldier Snake Creek Section of Carroll County, Virginia, September 16, 1861

By Betty Dotson-Lewis

The Civil War was a military conflict between the United States of America (the Union) and the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy) from 1861 to 1865. The main reason for the war, slavery. Southern states depended on slavery to support their economy. Slavery was illegal in the Northern states and only a small portion actively opposed it. The main debate on the eve of the war was whether slavery should be permitted in the Western Territories recently acquired during the Mexican War.

- January 1861 following the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, a known opponent of slavery, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed.

- February 1861 the seven seceding states created the Confederate Constitution. Jefferson Davis was named provisional president of the Confederacy until elections could be held. - February 1861 President Buchanan, Lincoln’s predecessor, refused to turn over southern federal forts to the seceding states, southern state troops seized them.

- March 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. Lincoln said he had no plans to end slavery in those states where it already exist, however, he would not accept secession.

- April 1861 President Lincoln in an effort to avoid hostilities alerted South Carolina that supplies were being sent to Fort Sumter. South Carolina feared a trick so Robert Anderson, commander of the fort was asked to surrender immediately. Anderson offered surrender after supplies were exhausted. His offer was rejected and on April 12, the Civil War began with shots fired on Fort Sumter which was eventually surrendered to South Carolina.

- April 1861, the Fort Sumter attack prompted four more states to join the Confederacy, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. Richmond, Virginia was named the Confederate capitol.

Five months after Virginia’s secession from the Union, Franklin Branscome and his three brothers answered the call of duty to the Confederacy Army. Franklin lived to tell his story. A rough, low estimate of 620,000 soldiers including two of his brothers, never made it back home. Franklin’s brother, Robert, a wagoneer died in 1862. He’s buried in the Confederate cemetery at Emory & Henry where the hospital was located and John, the baby brother, captured at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee on November 25, 1863 was shipped to Rock Island, Illinois, Union Prisoner of War camp. There, he came down with Typhoid Fever and died on January 7, 1864. As far as anyone knows he was buried in the swampy land next to the prison along with hundreds of other prisoners.

Today, Franklin Branscome rests six feet under on the hillside of his farm on Little Snake Creek of Carroll County, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia between Fancy Gap and Hillsville. There, his descendants bicker, guard, and care for the memory of their Confederate soldier who lived to tell the story.

Location: Franklin’s grave

Franklin’s voice -

“Y’all back to visit so soon? Good. I like company. Sure do appreciate the nice sturdy fence you’ve put up on top of my underground home. Keeps the animals from walking around on my stomach and head. Must have paid a lot out for this fancy headstone you got for me and your great grandmother. She always liked fancy things.

Oh, I see you’ve brought a stranger up the hill to visit my grave. Say she’s interested in my past- not the moonshine making past, but my Confederate soldier past. I appreciate the interest. I don’t care to tell a little of what I recollect. That was awhile back about-150 years ago since the north and south fought-brother against brother. I proudly served as a Confederate Officer, 1st Lieutenant with the 54th and later Sgt. with the 25th Calvary.

Pertinent information about me is carved deep in the granite marking my grave. Right here with me in this pine box is my sword (a long hunting knife), belt and what was left of my coat that I brought back from the war. Put to rest with me by my kinfolk.

Franklin Branscome 1st LIEUT CO G 54 VA INF CONFEDERTE STATES ARMY Mar 14, 1837 July 12 1927

Recollection - Enlistment

When I was 24, me and my three brothers, Robert (1839), Isaac (1841), and John (1842) left our farms and our families here on Little Snake Creek in Carroll County, Virginia, and walked the eight or ten miles to Dugspur to volunteer in the Confederate Army. We got mustered in on September 16, 1861 with the 54th Virginia Infantry, Company G. I was the eldest of the four brothers.

It was early fall but our crops were harvested with plenty put up for our women and children until we got back from the war. I raised corn and made moonshine.

In Southwest Virginia, slaves, small in number, worked at jobs whites didn’t want as field hands for planters and for big farmers. Some worked as servants looking after rich folks. They cleaned their houses, cooked their meals, washed their clothes and was nanny for their children. Slaves kept the hot springs running, cooking, butchering meat, waiting tables and playing music. As one farmer said any white person willing to work as a servant was deemed worthless. Slaves worked in the area’s iron. lead, and salt mines and factories.

Recollection – 54th Virginia Infantry, Company G, outfitted for battle

Captain George Hylton Turman’s Company G was made up mostly from Carroll County and bordering Floyd County, Virginia men. Captain Turman convinced 78 men to enlist in the Southern cause on the day we volunteered, September 16, 1861. That was the first muster roll. The second muster roll for the 54th is the period from July 9, 1863 to December 31, 1863.

Company G went to Christiansburg to Camp Hall to get outfitted for battle. Standard Confederate uniforms were gray with a wool hat. Soldiers lucky enough to have a pair of shoes that fit would often nail horseshoes to them to prevent the soles from wearing down. My rifle was a Confederate Springfield-a flint-lock with my ammunition in a cartridge box attached to the right of my belt. Each soldier was given a small blanket rolled up, a haversack, cloth-covered canteen, tin cup and small frying pan.

Recollection – 54th Ordered to advance the Southern Cause in President Abe Lincoln’s Union

Kentucky The 54th was ordered to Kentucky after leaving Christiansburg, Virginia where we engaged in battle in Floyd County, Kentucky on Christmas day in 1861. The Union took one P.O.W. Kentucky, birthplace of President Abe Lincoln, joined the Union even though it was a slave-holding state.

Kentuckians had ties to both the North and South. Tobacco, whiskey, snuff and flour produced in Kentucky was shipped to Southern states and across the ocean by way of the Mississippi and north by railroad. Rich plantation owners stood to lose a lot of money if they lost their slaves and slave trade through abolition.

By law, Kentucky was one of the five slave states that sided with Union but many Kentuckians, especially from the rich bluegrass horse region, joined the Confederate army. Battles fought in Floyd County pitted brother against brother. Families were split forever over abolition.

President Abe Lincoln could not afford to have his birth state of Kentucky go Confederate. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy was also a Kentucky son. The outcomes of the battles fought in Eastern Kentucky determined Eastern Kentucky’s course in history. The Battle of Middle Creek has been called the most significant Civil War battle in Eastern Kentucky.

On January 10th, 1862, Confederate and Union troops met in hand-to-hand combat fighting for control of the border state. Fighting began at 4 a.m. Combat lasted 12 hours when our Confederate General Humphrey Marshall took troops still alive and left.

After a piecemeal Union attack slowly forced our soldiers up the steep hill as the sun was sinking over the mountains, the fighting eased. Marshall, commanding the Confederates, feared his hungry men would desert him in droves if they stayed in their position any longer. He burned the heaviest wagons and started his retreat southward traveling down the left fork of the Middle Creek towards the Joseph Gearhart Farm where he knew food for his men and forage for the horses waited.

The Confederates never regained the advantage they surrendered at the Battle of Middle Creek. Confederate Captain Marshall left our 10 Confederate dead soldiers lying on the battlefield. Battle of Middle Creek was initiated under the leadership President Lincoln as part of an overall strategy designed to keep his native state within the Union fold.

In 1861 and 1862, Kentucky saw a number of battles and skirmishes but after the battle of Perryville, Confederate forces retreated from the bluegrass state. The destruction was not over as the war wore on and supplies grew thin, Confederates began raids on Union supply depots, bridges, county courthouses and people’s personal property. As an Officer, one of my duties was to feed, clothe, and provide much-needed medical supplies to our soldiers. At night I would sneak into the Yankees camps and steal their horses and supplies, whatever was needed I could get my hands on.

After about 6 months, our shoes got so worn, we wrapped old feedsacks around our feet because the terrain was so rough it wore out the soles of our shoes. Our feet bled. Our pants, shirts and coats were torn to sheds by briar thickets. We were not too proud to take a Yankee’s shirt or pants.

Recollection—54th Company G changes in command

Captain George Hylton Turman served until February 16, 1862 then, resigned his post because of illness. Jeremiah Spence was elected to the post until he resigned on November 23, 1863. Eli Spangler, the errant 1st lieutenant of the company, was rehabilitated and promoted to Captain of Company G. Later the unit was assigned to Trigg's, Reynolds', Brown's and Reynolds' Consolidated, and Palmer's Brigade, Army of Tennessee.

Company G’s postwar roster is thought to be the least informative or all postwar rosters/records.

Recollection – Battle of Chickamauga

Legend holds that the word "Chickamauga" means "River of Death" in an old Indian language. It is an appropriate legend considering the brutal and deadly fighting that took place along the creek of that name during the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia.

The Battle of Chickamauga was one of the most stunning Confederate victories of the Civil War. It was also one of the most costly. More than 34,000 men in the two armies were reported killed, wounded or missing. This campaign which started three months earlier in Murfreesboro, Tennessee finally came to a head on September 19 on Chickamauga Creek, “the River of Death.”

Gen. Rosecrans, Union Army (60,000) occupied Murfreesboro after the Battle of Stones River. The Army of Tennessee (43,000) was dug in 20 miles away at Tullahoma under the command of Gen. Bragg. Both armies had their eye on Chattanooga. By early September, Rosecrans had moved his Yankee troops south around Chattanooga and over Lookout Mountain into Georgia. Confederates countered this move by leaving Chattanooga and pulling back into Lafayette. Gen. Bragg took the offensive when he learned troops under the command of Gen. James Longstreet from Northern Virginia were on their way to reinforce the attack on the Yankees. On September 18th, we were moved forward to a position along Chickamauga Creek and formed a line that stretched for miles from Reed’s Bridge to close to Lee and Gordon’s Mill.

Fighting broke out on the morning of September 19, 1864 when we collided with Yankee soldiers. The battle spread more than four miles-more Blue, more Gray was fed to the battle line by the Generals. Visibility was limited along the heavy wooded creek beds of the Chickamauga. Neither commander wanted to fight there.

The day's fighting was fierce and bloody, with the men often fighting hand to hand in thick underbrush and woods. The first day of battle finally sputtered to a close when the Confederates forced the Union line of battle back to the LaFayette Road a mile from where the combat began. Moans and screams of thousands of wounded cut through the night. Woods burned tragically killing the wounded left on the ground and unable to crawl or walk away.

The night was time for reorganization of their lines by both armies. The Confederates planned on taking the offensive with Gen. Polk in command of the right wing and Gen. Longstreet in command of the left wing. Polk would start the attack and the rest of the army would follow with hammer-like blows to the Union troops but the attack was slow getting started.

As the morning progressed the Battle of Chickamauga once again flared to life. A hard fight by Union Gen. George Thomas held back the assaults by southern troops. Even though the attack spread down the line as ordered by Bragg, the Union held their line. Gen. Longstreet held back his main assault realizing the battle was behind schedule. Union Rosecrans shifted his units to reinforce Thomas since he was not facing an attack on his right. A hole was created by this maneuver. Gen. John Bell Hood’s command struck the gap and pierced the Union line.

Longstreek immediately backed up Hood poured in troops and moved his forces to begin rolling up the Union line. The Union troops became confused where Hood broke the line and began to crumble and retreat. Gen. Rosecrans was swept from the field by a mass of running soldiers. Gen. Thomas, Union commander, dubbed the “Rock of Chickamauga” was the only part of the Union army to hold off southern troops.

Thomas held out until sundown when Rosecrans ordered him to withdraw. He fell back to Missionary Ridge. . The next day the Union Army retreated into the fortifications of Chattanooga. More than 34,000 men were reported killed, wounded or missing at Chickamauga.

Recollection – My baby brother John captured during the Battle of Missionary Ridge

The Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought November 25, 1863, as part of the Chattanooga Campaign. Following the Union victory at Lookout Mountain Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Missionary Ridge defeating the Confederate Army of Tennessee under the command of Gen. Braxton Bragg. . My brother John was captured at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee on November 25, 1863 and sent to the largest and most notorious Union Prison camp at Rock Island, Illinois. He came down with Typhoid fever and died on January 7, 1864.

On December 3, 1863, when temperatures were 32 below zero 5,000 Confederate prisoners were delivered to Rock Island before the facility was ready. Brother John was one of those prisoners. The camp was located in the middle of the Mississippi River on a solid bed of limestone. The first groups of prisoners were from Camp Douglas and captured Confederates from battles at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge where my brother John was captured.

The prison had 84 barracks, mere shanties, each 100-feet long, 22-feet wide, 12-feet high with 12 windows, 2 doors and 2 roof ventilators, mere shanties, surrounded by a rough board fence. A 18-feet long cookhouse was at the west end. The rest of the barrack was sleeping/living quarters for the prisoners. Guard boxes were built every 100 feet with double-gate sally ports, the only openings in the prison, where guardhouses were built.

“Pesthouses” were built to house prisoners who got smallpox or typhoid. At the onset, lack of a proper water supply and poor drainage created a sanitation problem. A smallpox epidemic brokeout immediately and prisoners contracted typhoid. Thousands got sick and more than 600 were killed within 3 months. That is where John Branscome died.

Recollection – Hard times

As the war continued, at times we almost starved. During the summer you could survive on berries, bark and greens out in the fields and stealing produce and vegetables. The winter was different it got so bad I would hurry up to be the first in line to march behind the mules and horses to pick the corn kernels out of the manure and save them so that when we got enough kernels we would boil them and eat them just to have food.

I remember one time during early winter we came upon an apple orchard and the trees still had a few apples and some half rotten ones on the ground. I ate until I got the “scours.” I had to march mile after mile suffering.

Recollection – Union Commanders evaluate Southerners

Frank H. Mason of the 42nd Ohio Infantry, serving with Garfield along the Virginia-Kentucky border, wrote of "primeval barbarism," condemned mountaineers as ignorant and crude, and compared them unfavorably to "the happy barbarians of the Pacific Isles." Crook dismissed the natives in his theater as "counterfeiters and cut-throats."

Recollection – End of the Civil War

Our Confederate regiment moved from Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge, then to Atlanta to catch up with Sherman on his march to the sea. From there we marched to Bentonville, North Carolina. Sherman reached the Atlantic at Savannah in December 1864. We’re told Sherman's army was followed by thousands of freed slaves.

There were no major battles along the March. Sherman turned north through South Carolina and North Carolina to approach the Confederate Virginia lines from the south. Confederate Gen. Lee's army, thinned by desertion and casualties, was now much smaller than Grant's.

Union forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, forcing Lee to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. The Confederate capital fell.

After the defeat at Sayler’s Creek it became clear to Lee that continued fighting against the United States was both tactically and logistically impossible. On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered at the McLean House (Appomattox Court House).

As a sign of Grant's respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller.

President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, a Southern sympathizer. Lincoln died early the next morning, and Andrew Johnson became president. Meanwhile, Confederate forces across the South surrendered as news of Lee's surrender reached them.

Most consider Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865 the end of the Civil War but there were still Confederate Forces in the field until June. Confederate General Stand Watie surrendered on June 23, 1865 when the last major fighting occurred.

I was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina. From there I returned to my home on Little Snake Creek, Carroll County, Virginia to rejoin my family and community and take up farming and caring for 300 acres of Blue Ridge property and timber.

Recollections – Engagements

Floyd Co., Ky (12/25/1861)
Middle Creek, Ky (1/10/1862)
Bourbon Co., Ky (4/15/1862)
Mercer-Princeton, WVa (5/17-18/1862)
Rocky Gap, Va (8/30/1862)
Prestonsburg, Ky (9/20/1862)
Lexington, Ky (10/13-14/1862)
Lancaster Co., Ky (10/15/1862)
Kentucky (10/20/1862)
Bowling Green, Ky (1862)
Lafayetteville, Ky (1862)
Kentucky (1862)
Kelly’s Store, Va (1/30/1863)
Jonesboro, Tenn (1863)
Lenoir Station, Tenn (6/19/1863)
Tullahoma, Tenn (7/1/1863)
Elk River, Tenn (7/2-4/1863)
Winchester, Tenn (7/3/1863)
Bell’s Bridge, Tenn (8/15/1863)
Chickamauga, Ga (9/19-20/1863)
Missionary Ridge, Tenn (11/24-25/1863)
Ringgold Gap, Ga 11/27/1863)
Stony Side Mtn. Ga (2/25/1864)
Dalton/Resace, Ga (5/10-15/1864)
Cassville, Ga (5/19-21/1864)
New Hope Church, Ga (5/24-25/1864)
Dallas, Ga 5/28-30/1864)
Mt. Zion Church, Ga (6/22-23/1864)
Marietta, Ga (7/1-10/1864)
Atlanta, Ga. (7/11/1864)
Atlanta, Ga. (7/20-22/1864)
Ezra Church, Ga. (7/27-28/1864)
Siege of Atlanta, Ga. (8/1-31/1864)
Jonesboro, Ga. ((9/1/1864-9/10/1864)
Saltville, Va. (10/2/1864)
Franklin, Tenn. (11/30/1864)
Murfreesboro, Tenn. (12/7/1864)
Nashville, Tenn. (12/10/1864-12/17/1864)
Egypt Station, Miss. (12/28/1864)
Itawaiba Co., Miss. (1/1/1865)
Nolensville, Tenn. (1/8/1865)
Stoney Creek, N.C. (3/3/1865)
Bentonville, N.C. (3/17/1865 – 3/19/1865)
Final Days in N.C. (3/20/1865-5/1/1865)