James Drury Flowers Civil War Story   

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Houston County, Alabama, Heritage

James Drury Flowers Civil War Story
This is only a part of the pages transcribed by Ila Flowers Lewis and her mother Beryl Hart Flowers of Ila's grandfather's memories.  This part pertains to his actions in the War Between the States.  Much of the rest is about his conversion and Christian convictions.  It is well worth reading. 
See Also:  A Tribute to William Hampton Flowers, James Drury Flowers' father.

James Drury Flowers Civil War Story
Elkanah Burson's Speech on Memorial day 
First Alabama Muster Roll
The Confederate Soldiers with Houston County ties
Wilcox County True Blues

"After hauling logs 1 year, I was put to firing the engine at $1 a day and from that I went to sorting head blocks at $1.25 per day. 

This was 1860 when the war broke out, then I had traveled into my 17th year and the conscript law got me.  I had never been 10 miles from home and had never ridden on a train but one time and that was only 6 miles.

I was mustered into service of the confederate States for war duty in April 1861 in the 2nd Alabama Calvary.  Dick Carter was Captain, a man by the name of Birch and Lt. Jeff Beeland was there.  His men went from Greenville to Montgomery.  We were in camps there about 6 months.  While there I had measles and they thought I would die, my father came and got me and carried me home.  I gave it to all the family for not one had had it except father and mother.  I had a sister, that died from the disease.  (Sarah Thames 1848-1862)

I left Montgomery and went to Bluff Springs, Florida.  I stayed there about 6 months and after the Vicksburg seize went to Okolona, Mississippi.  there I did my first fighting and lost my horse and was transferred to the 17th Alabama Infantry then stationed at Mobile.

I had been away from home quite awhile and I changed the figures on my transfer papers and went home for 10 days then reported to my Company C 17th Alabama Infantry.  John Bolling was Captain and john Powell of Greenville 1st Lt., John Harris 2nd Lt. and Jeff Beeland 3rd Lt.  These men were all good, kind officers and treated their men well.

When we left Mobile we went to Brocks Gap, Georgia.  Here one entered the war for good.  Here we met Sherman with a well equipped army and there Sherman commenced his great drive through Georgia, this was in June 1862.  Crops were in a fine fix especially where wheat had just begun to turn.  The two armies swept everything, crops, and timber rails about the plantations, stock and all.  Families that were able to move went and the poor ones had nothing to do but stay.

I shall never forget the night we fell back from Kennesaw Mountain.  I being on picket duty was among the last to leave.  Marietta was at the foot of the mountains and the rear guard crossed through the town just as day was breaking and such weeping and crying of the women and children I have never heard.

I wonder if this will be the case on Judgement Day...so many without protection, will we not long for the hills and mountains to fall on us and hide us from His presence? 

After we left the mountains, the next stand we made was after we crossed the Chattahoochee River.  Here to my surprise Father came to see me, but the firing was so heavy he did not spend but one night with me.

The next place we made a stop was the city of Atlanta.  Here we had hard fighting right on the ground of my childhood, the hill side ditch that I plowed once when I was ten years old was our breastworks.  Sherman knew what he was talking about when he said war was hell.

I shall never forget the night we evacuated Atlanta.  I was among the last ones to leave the city.  The big fight was going on at Jonesboro.  We marched all night in the rain. 

In a few weeks we flanked Sherman and turned the whole state of Georgia over to him and his armies.  We hit the railroad at Big Shanty, Georgia and started back to Nashville to try to retake the country that Bragg had given up with a well fed and clothed army and we had neither food nor armament.  I thought then as I know now, this was poor generalship.  this was a very devastated country, our armies treated Tennessee about like Sherman treated Georgia.

By this time the dead of winter was upon us.  We had bad weather, cold, rainy, snow and sleet every day and quite a lot of the soldiers barefooted.  I had not had shoes to my feet in six weeks when I was captured.  This battle of Nashville closed the war as 2/3 of the Southern army was taken prisoners.

Where I surrendered, after I got from under the firing line, I would not have gone back even if I had had the chance.  I was truly glad I was out of the hardships I had gone through. 

I was taken from Nashville to the city of Chicago and kept until the war was over.  I was turned loose on the 20th day of June and made my way back to our little home in southeast Alabama. 

I had transportation from prison to Dalton, Georgia.  There we found the railroad torn up and the country devastated.  I do not remember how or what we had to eat.  The thoughts of getting home so overwhelmed me I forgot everything else. 

I remember getting home between midnight and day.  When my sweet mother awoke and found out that it was her soldier boy, how she did rejoice!  I was poor, lousy, ragged and my hair long and tangled, my mouth was ulcerated, my teeth loose from scurry, this caused from salt meat.  How could my sweet mother touch me?  I reckon no one but my sweet mother and our divine Lord would have put their hands on me. 

Just before I close the paragraph I will say, I have no stone to throw at Jefferson Davis, but when he stood on the banks of the Tennessee River and reviewed the Southern army crossing over to retake the ground that Bragg had given up with a well disciplined army and the bunch we had at that time and said the South was nearer her independence than we had ever been, I wondered if the great general believed it or was he trying to make a way for his escape.  I did not believe him then even if he was the President of the Confederacy. 

This was about the middle of November that we crossed the Tennessee River at Tuscumbia, Alabama and took our line of march for Nashville.  The winter was beginning to get very bad and cold.  The army was demoralized and they very soon began to struggle and fall out of line and make their way through woods and plantations, sleeping in outhouses, barns and church pews.

Very soon after we crossed the river, rations got very short and the country, not having gotten over Braggs devastation of the state, we did not get much from this source.  All we got was from what we could pick up from the farms.  We got so far from the base of supply tents it was impossible to get it from there.  The army mules that pulled the wagons were very poor and weak, the roads very bad.

We were nothing but a small army until we got to Franklin, Tennessee.  here with a very small army, half clad and half fed and demoralized, this putting it mildly, here we met General Thomas's army, well fed and clothed and in fine spirits.  They were fighters for we had met them on every battle field from Dalton, Georgia to Atlanta to Jonesborough, Tennessee. 

Hood was in command, Johnson having  been removed.  The Franklin battle was the bloodiest battle fought during the whole war, taking into account the number engaged.  Here we lost some of our best generals.  Pat Clayborne and General Lowery, both of these men had their horses shot from under them on the breastworks.  Some of the very flower of the South wee killed in this fight.  Our men were three and four deep but we did not break the Yankee line.  This was one of the saddest sights to look on of the whole war; the entire length of the line of battle not over 1/2 mile long.

The night following the battle the Yankees had crossed Duck River making their way to Nashville.  Next day we crossed over the river and went on to Nashville.  About six miles from the city we went into camp, with our army worst demoralized than I saw during the whole war.

General Lowery was a local Methodist preacher and he preached to his men every chance he had.  His men all loved him very much and when he said "come on boys' all went with a yell.

General Clayborne was an Irishman and he would frequently dismount and give his horse to a sick soldier and his men loved him very much and would follow him like General Lowery's men followed him.

General Hood was a great fighter but a poor general.  He did not know how to take care of his men and make them love him.

I do not remember the date of the Franklin fight but the next day was very cold and we spent the day burying the dead and putting our pontoon bridges over Duck River.

There was a young man-whose name I do not remember-enlisted at Franklin, Tennessee and went through the war up to this time without a wound.  During the charge he undertook to find shelter in the cellar of his home and was shot down as he entered the cellar door and was buried where he fell.

After crossing Duck River, the army began to struggle.  I think that the deaths of General Lowery and General Clayborne had demoralized the men. 

I was barefooted and nearly naked and was not in line any more until I was captured.  I do not remember the day we reached Nashville.  We went into camp and commenced building our fortifications.  The Yankees did not seem to pay much attention to us until the afternoon of December 15th.  Hooker's corps, known as the star corps, came against us in three lines of Battle . 

After driving in the pickets, they marched over us without taking their guns from "right shoulder shift."  Our men were fortified in a rock levee and we never fired a gun.  I think they captured 3/4 of the army.

The Yankees were well dressed and well fed while we were almost naked and had not had enough to eat in six months.  All our officers and the men who had shoes threw their guns down and ran.

The prisoners were marched to Nashville six miles away over the shell road and when we reached there our feet were cut to pieces by the shells.

I stayed in Nashville until the 18th December and they loaded us in box cars and started us to Chicago.  My recollection is that we reached Louisville, Kentucky on the afternoon of the 20th.  We were put in some barracks and slept on beds without mattresses and covered with wet blankets-- of course we did not sleep much.

Next morning we crossed the river to Jeffersonville, loaded in box cars and started for Chicago.  Just before day on the 23rd we reached Chicago.  The train was stopped by heavy snow and we were unloaded and marched three miles to barracks.

Nearly all of us had frost bitten feet, hands and ears--some toes and fingers had to be amputated.  Such surgery I have never seen.  The doctors doing the work were young and inexperienced.  Poverty of words prevents me describing their work.  They were getting their experience on the prisoners.  I thought we would freeze to death before day.

My father in, in talking to me when I was a small boy, told me that a man got very sleepy just before he froze to death.  I got very sleepy and when I thought of this I got up and walked and stamped my feet.  I believe that if I had gone to sleep I would have frozen.

We were taken from the barracks next morning and registered and then put into Libby prison.

I think that the officers over us wanted to treat us humanely, but the privates under them were "warf rats" and were very cruel to us.

We had a very long soldier whom we called Prairy Bull guarding us and he would kick us around unmercifully, and he could kick a poor prisoner about as far as a school boy could kick a football.  There was another man over us named Wilcox and he was very kind to us and never mistreated any of us.  It was my good fortune to be under him. 

I do not know anything of Wilcox's history, but I am sure he had a good Christian mother while Prairy Bull had no home nor raising.  After 76 years I have never seen a man, with a Christian mother, rough to those under him.

A Major came to the prison one day hunting a cook and I eagerly accepted and agreed to remain six months after the war had ended, this being the conditions under which I was given the place.

He was a perfect gentleman and had a lady for a wife.  They treated us well as servants.  They gave us their sympathy and did not show any animosity toward us.  He had a little girl about twelve years old who seemed fond of being with us and asking us questions.  After staying with us sometime one day and asking questions as children will, she asked me my name and then she turned to the other servant and asked his name.  He was Paul Whitehead from Texas.  Her mother came in and the little girl said, "Mother, I think we ought to be mighty good because they had James and Paul both with them."

I stayed six long months in prison.  We had preaching on Sunday afternoons by ministers in the city.  We had no church so we all stood but we always gave him a good audience.  We stayed there until June 20th when we took the oath of allegiance and were turned loose.

The thoughts of being free and home made me forget my promise to the Major so I started for home.

When we got to the depot the church members were there and fed us.  A man never gets too far away from home nor too low for the church to look after him.  Some of the men ate so much that they died on their way home.

I never disobeyed orders knowingly but got kicked several times.  I left Chicago on June 20th and got home on July 1st just before day.

I walked most of the way from Dalton, Georgia home.  From Dalton to Atlanta was a devastated country as both armies had passed over it the year before.  We were under guard until we reached Dalton.

I walked to the Chattahoochee River and rode into Atlanta on a work train.  I went to my grandfather Thomas's house near Atlanta and spent the night.  I started next morning to walk home and went to East Point and happened to strike a work train which was pretty well loaded with soldiers going home.  I rode this to West Point, Georgia.

I do not remember very much about my trip from West Point to Montgomery.  I got to Montgomery Saturday morning, June 30, 1865.  I was tired, my feet were blistered, and I was lousy and hungry.  I had no friends nor money and I was 45 miles from home.

I sat down on the curb to rest, as I had walked nearly all night Friday night, and made my calculation how long it would take me to get home and I figured that I could make it by Sunday afternoon.  I thought I would go down the Alabama and Florida Railroad as I did not know the roads and I did not want to lose time by going out of my way.

When I got down to the railroad, I saw an old dilapidated engine switching some cars and I inquired of a negro and learned that the train was going to Poland to carry supplies to the railroad building crew at that place.  I asked the name of the conductor and he told me Mr. Lige Winn and I asked him to point Winn out to me. 

I walked up to Winn and this is the speech I made to him.  "Conductor, I am a confederate soldier getting home from a Yankee prison.  I am tired, my feet are blistered, as I have walked most of the way from Dalton, Georgia and I have no money and nothing to eat.  I have some papers they gave me when I was turned loose and if you will take me home on them, if you cannot collect my fare on them I will work and get some money and pay it."  He asked my name and when I told him, he asked if I was related to the mill man and when he learned that it was my father we were talking of, he told me to go crawl up in his caboose.  I got on and was soon on my way home and I said to myself I will not have to walk any more.

We rolled up to Letohatchee and stopped and the conductor was standing in the cab door.  He called me to come to him and I did not know but that he was going to put me off.  He pointed down the train and asked me," Do you know that man yonder?  It was Father!

I got down and started towards him and at first he did not see me.  I was poor and very weak from the starvation in prison and the long walk.  He soon saw me and as I approached him he started to meet me.  When he got to me he was crying.  He put his arms around me and drew me up to him.  That has been 55 years ago and I can still feel his arms around me.  It was some time before he could talk and I began to ask about mother and home and whether my brother Will and my brother-in-law Gus had gotten home and about Az who had kept out of the war. 

After this meeting we got on the train and started to our home in Butler County.  We got home about 3 o'clock in the morning.  This little station that we got of the train at was called Milner, about 100 yards up the hill to where we lived.

My sweet mother hadn't heard of me in over twelve months.  didn't know whether I was dead or living.  When I blundered in at the gate, tired, sore feet from my long walk from Dalton, Georgia to Atlanta and from West Point to Montgomery, I awakened her.  She put her head out of the big window and said:  "Who is there?" and I remarked, "Mother, it is I," and she recognized my voice. 

I was poor, had the itch, mouth full of ulcers from prison life, eyes blurred and hair long.  Hadn't had a shave in twelve months, but being a green country boy I didn't have much of a beard.  I don't see how my mother could hug and kiss me.  I often say nobody but a sweet mother and my great Father in heaven would have touched me. 

I shall never forget the breakfast that she prepared for me the next morning.  The prodigal had gotten home and the fatted calf was killed.  My mother told me after that, that she was afraid I would kill myself eating.  I said, "Oh, mother, why didn't you stop me?"  She said she didn't know how.

My sweet mother was a great weaver.  She had gotten some wool, carded and spun and dyed and woven me a suit of clothes provided I ever got home.  She said to my oldest sister, "I don't know whether he will get here or not, but if he does I want to give him a suit of clothes, for I know he will be bare," and I was.  She took my measurements next morning and made me this suit of clothes, while my father managed to cut my hair and shave me, and in less than a day I was dressed up.  I had never been dressed finer before nor since.

I then had to go under the treatment of a doctor, mouth full of ulcers, teeth all loose, sore feet from a long walk and weak from my seven months in prison.  My recollection is I was about six months getting back to my normal condition.

I then tried to go to school and learn to read, and I was so far behind that I got hacked and quit and went to work at a saw mill for $1.25 a day.  I worked at that position for four months, when I quit there and I took another place at better wages.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster