Diary of a Virginia Confederate soldier

larry_cockerham

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#1
This posting is inspired by Ms. Cats and is meager by comparison but does relate the thoughts of another young man caught up in the largest event of his life. This soldier, private Calvin Livesay of the 63rd VA infantry was in the western theatre. He was from Independence, Virginia in Grayson County. He apparently faced Confederate courts martial at some point, but I don't have the particulars.

My reference is this: Our ancestor Whitfield Monroe Parker was a member of Company B in the 63rd Virginia Infantry Regiment during the "late unpleasantness" as the mountain folks later referred to the war between the states, the American Civil War of 1861-65. We know a great deal about Whit's experience in the war from his pension application and from various muster roll listings and published regimental histories. A member of Company C of that same regiment, one Calvin Livesay of Grayson County, Virginia wrote the following account of his experience in the war. His document is dated July 5, 1913 some forty eight years after the end of the war. It is quite likely that Whit Parker may have been very close to Calvin during his service. The transcription presented herein has been supplied courtesy of cousin Jeff Weaver and can be found on the Internet via his New River Valley website.
 

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larry_cockerham

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The Civil War Experiences of Calvin Livesay - Company C, 63rd Virginia Infantry

Written July 5, 1913

On August 2, 1862, I, with Frank Stamper, enlisted in Company C, 63rd Virginia Regiment, at the Narrows of the New River. Colonel [John J.] McMahon had charge of the regiment. Colonel [James] Milt[on] French was there also. We intended to enlist in the Grayson Cavalry [Company C, 8th Virginia Cavalry] but, that being filled, we sere obliged to go to the infantry. [John] Echols was the Brigadier General in command.

When I arrived at Narrows I found Bryam Livesay, Joe Roberts, Preston Parks ( who was with me throughout the whole war), William and Tim Young; these, with Isaac Parks (when he was not sick), made up our mess to start out on the campaign.

We remained in Narrows until about October 1st drilling and getting ready for war and scouting occasionally. We made one raid down to Crump's Bottom not accomplishing much, but returned to Narrows, and on October 1st started for Kanawha Valley.
 

larry_cockerham

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We had several fights around Charleston after driving the enemy from Fayette. We stayed there only a short time. Find the enemy about to cut us off, we retraced our steps to Narrows. In the fight at Fayette, which was the first fight we were in, Joe Cox was killed, and Dr. Dickinson wounded. Joe Cox was taking Dr. Dickinson from the field when he was shot in the head with a grape shot and died at once.

We now went into winter quarters at Narrows, but were allowed to stay only a short while. The order came for us to go to Southampton County, camping as we went at Petersburg for a short time. We were now in Roger A. Pryor's Brigade after leaving Petersburg. We soon came to Blackwater, Southampton County [Virginia]. Here we were out on a foraging expedition and came near being captured near Bethel Church. Colonel Poage and Orville Perkins were killed. We had gone across the Blackwater River into Northampton County [North Carolina]. While in camp during the night, the enemy captured our pickets and sent a shell whizzing across our camp and this was evidence of a lively time ahead. The enemy had their artillery in close range to us before we ever had an idea of any danger near. I think this was poor management for a general of skill. We had an artillery duel from then till day dawned. At daylight we fell back to our camp on the Blackwater. What the object for taking us [the 63rd, 64th, 50th and 29th Regiments] to this part of the state I could never imagine. The enemy followed us for awhile and came near cutting us off before we crossed the river.
 

larry_cockerham

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We remained in camp for a short while and then came back to Saltville. It was March when we arrived here [Saltville]. The frogs were singing when we left Southampton, and when we reached Southwest Virginia the snow was blowing and a blizzard was raging -- quite a contrast.

It was here some of our friends came to visit us. Some of our wives and sisters took the opportunity of seeing their soldier husbands and brothers. Mrs. Livesay and her father came to see me. Joe Roberts' wife came to see him and Jacob Hackler and my father came also. It was an interesting occasion for us. This was the month of April [1863].

We stayed at this place till September when General [Alexander Welch] Reynolds became our commander for Pryor had been arrested for taking us where he had and had deserted to the Yankees. [Not entirely true.] There were no regular battles in the vicinity of Saltville.
 

larry_cockerham

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We left there enroute to Knoxville and did not experience any regular battles on the way. We remained here only a short time till we were taken by way of Athens, Tennessee, to Chattanooga. While we were here the Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought. This was a somewhat drawn battle. Our army under General [Joseph E.] Johnston went to [Dalton], Georgia, into winter quarters and spent the winters of '63 and '64 there. Our fare here was of the poorest kind:, viz: stale bread and tat bacon and sometimes not much of that.
 

larry_cockerham

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Early in the spring of '64 we began to move toward Atlanta fighting more or less all the way. We had quite a battle at Resaca. Breast works were thrown up and we had a lively time. Here Johnston was driven back. Barnie Parks was killed and General Reynolds wounded. We were now put in Brown's Brigade of Tennesseans. We never saw General Reynolds any more.

The Battle of Kenesaw Mountain soon followed. Before this battle I was taken sick [on June 22nd, 1864] and sent to a hospital in Eufaula, Alabama. Here I stayed for four or five weeks (but was away from the command for over two months]. Later I was sent to division hospital in Marietta, Georgia. While I was here the bloody battle of Kenesaw Mountain was fought. I could see the smoke of the cannon from my window. In this hospital my fare was somewhat improved. Soon after I arrived there the wounded began to come from Kenesaw Mountain. I remember especially a man from Arkansas by the name of Reynolds. I never saw him afterward. I have often wished I might meet him again. I was promoted to the dignity of officer's nurse and ha a good home. There was with me a Virginian from Floyd County of the 54th Virginia, but he was not able to be of any service, so I lost sight of him. One officer I remember was shot through the thigh. I poured water on his wound for hours. He was a Mississippian. These officers had many friends who visited them an I showed these visitors to the rooms. I had a very easy time here for a soldier. Special favors where shown us by an old Negro mammy who had lived in Richmond, Virginia. She gave us plenty to eat of as good as could be had. She kept saying, "If we had flour like we had last year my boys should have plenty." She called us here boys and seemed devoted to us.
 

larry_cockerham

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I was not started to the army after being away several weeks, but Stoneman made a raid on Macon, where he was captured, and this caused plans to change and I was sent to the Convalescent Camp at Macon, Georgia and stayed five weeks. Here we had varied experiences. We would go out foraging, crossing the Okmulgee River. We would gather peas, roasting ears, occasionally a chicken, and once in a while a stray porker would be carefully brought into camp. This was blackberry season and we would make good use of these berries for there was an abundance of them.
 

larry_cockerham

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We were now, after a stay of five weeks, sent to the army near Atlanta and reached it the day Hood started for Tennessee. The day of our arrival a battle was fought and Ephraim Hampton, cousin of Tom, was killed. About this time there was an armistice for ten days for the purpose of Commissioners meeting to try for terms of peace. Hood was marching three months before he reached Nashville. He was moving pontoon bridges on wagons, seventy in number. At Florence [Alabama] he put his bridges to cross the river. There was no fighting going on, only a little skirmishing.
 

larry_cockerham

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In the winter of '64 we reached Nashville. About seven days after the crossing of the Tennessee the Battle of Franklin was fought. Our brigade [was] not in this battle, having been detailed to guard the wagon train. [This quirk of fate probably saved the life of Whit Parker and his descendants. Whit had been wounded in Atlanta and was probably not too quick on his feet at this point.] We were in hearing of the battle. We knew there was severe fighting going on, for I had never heard such cannonading. I was on the battlefield the morning after the battle and saw many of the dead and wounded, both Yankee and Confederate. This was one of Hood's rash moves, not caring how many men he sacrificed. He was a born general, but inhumanly heartless when it came to the battlefield. They told me the ground was covered with dead men so thickly that you could step from one to another. Those who saw this battle say for the time it lasted it was the severest of the war. Luckily, my regiment escaped or we might not have been spared to tell the story. I failed to tell of the Yankee fortification t Franklin. In front of the army was a picket line, fortified. After this was an abatis of trees cut, felled and sharpened, pointing toward the approach. (This was cut all to pieces after the battle by shot and shell.) Behind this were the two lines of breast works. These Hood charged but did not dislodge the enemy from any except one. The next morning the Yankees were gone, having retreated toward Nashville. [This was a trek of fourteen miles. Today it can be made in less than fifteen minutes via Interstate 65]
 

larry_cockerham

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Soon after this battle we resumed our march to Nashville. When we were near the city our brigade was put on picket behind a stone wall. The next day another brigade relieved us, to our surprise. The reason for this was soon made plain for General Forrest started with us to Murfreesboro. We were at this place for a short time when we had a battle of little importance. This was in December, 1864. We crossed the Duck River on Christmas Day. [Actually they crossed the Duck on December 18.]
 

larry_cockerham

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[The Battle of Nashville was fought December 15, 16 and 17 at the expense of several thousand Confederate and Union lives. Private James Patterson Cockerham was on duty as a farrior with the Union horses of Gen. Edward Hatch in reserve for the attack on Shy's Hill. Private Whitfield Monroe Parker avoided the action near Traveller's Rest, the home of John Overton located just a few hundred yards from my old house in Nashville's Crieve Hall community, since he was near Murfreesboro with Palmer’s Brigade at that time. Traveler’s Rest served as the Confederate command post during much of the battle of Nashville. Today the house and grounds are owned and cared for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Sometimes I can imagine great-great grandfather Cockerham chasing great-great grandfather Parker down the trail from Columbia to Pulaski, the Confederate escape route toward Alabama. A monument to General Nathan Bedford Forrest, mounted with sword drawn, in front of an array of Confederate flags, easily seen from I-65, still raises considerable turmoil among the local liberal press.]
 

larry_cockerham

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We were now falling back toward Florence again. General Forrest was waiting before attacking again till he knew the result of the battle at Nashville. We could hear the roar of the cannon all day and in the night a courier came telling us to get out for Hood was beaten at Nashville and for us to meet the main army at Duck River. When we arrived there most of the army was across. We crossed this by ford. General S.D. Lee was wounded in retreat. He was our corps commander. Hood was now in full retreat to Florence, Alabama. Major General [Carter L.] Stevenson was now in command of our corps. None of my old mess was with me except Preston Parks. What had become of the rest I did not know. The enemy followed us until Christmas Day. This was the last fight of the retreat. Negroes were put in front and charged our lines. What a slaughter of them! They were filled with liquor and then charged. At one place I saw a German charge overt the breast works. He would not surrender and was shot down, drunk as a bear. They were hired substitutes for the North. General Forrest was doing much fighting, having his cavalry dismount and fight as infantry. I saw a number of mules mired and shot.
 

larry_cockerham

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We arrived at the Tennessee River and crossed on the pontoon bridge. How we got the bridge there I do not know. We stayed in Florence for some time. It was while there that we, hungry as ever, started for a pea field. Preston Parks, Mike LaRue, and I were in the party. We got the peas, started back and then got lost. We would travel and return to the same field - again and again the same results. A cavalryman told us where the railroad was, contrary to what we thought. We met a guard coming to guard the pea field but we went on with the peas, unmolested.
 

larry_cockerham

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Now sixteen of us were left at Florence, all barefooted. The army started for Shiloh. The train came and, it being full, we could not get on. We then started, barefooted, to find the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. This we struck at Tupelo, Mississippi. We were then ahead of the army. We saw a train coming but it stopped. Our squad went to it when it stopped 300 yards from the depot. We climbed on the train and it did not stop at the station. We went to Egypt, Mississippi, got off and stayed about a week there. Our squad was there. There came a car of clothing. Of this, we got our share.
 

larry_cockerham

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We were then taken to Mobile, Alabama, where we stayed for a while. There they put us on a boat and landed us on the edge of Florida. From there we were marched, footsore and hungry, to Montgomery, Alabama, and Milledgeville, Georgia. There we made only a short stop. The we went to Augusta, Georgia. There had been a powerful flood there. Signs showed the city had been under water. About 200 deserters were run out of cellars and caught. They had been reported dead. [The bulk of the regiment apparently traveled by train from *******n, Mississippi to Selma, Demopolis and Montgomery, Alabama rather than making the circuit through Mobile as per the Official Record.] [The 'little censor' still has a thing for the fair city of M-e-r-i-d-i-a-n, southern prejudice, I guess?]
 

larry_cockerham

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We went from Augusta to Columbia, South Carolina, where we stayed only a few days. Before reaching Columbia, we had a battle at Orangeburg. Here William Young was captured, never having left the fortifications. We went on to Columbia. There the bridge was burned by our forces after crossing but the Yankees could be seen on the other side of the river. They began shelling the city. I saw a shell hit the State House. The mark is probably still on it if the building still stands. We were hidden in cross streets but we left at night for the mouth of the Brook River. There a picket battle occurred. On the other side of the river we saw an old field just blue with Yankees. They were showing themselves. We now left the picket line expecting to find the army and a big battle awaiting us but it was half a day before we found the army.
 

larry_cockerham

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From Charlotte we started for Raleigh and from there we went to Salisbury stopping there only a few days. There was a big distillery at this place. A guard was put around it at once to keep the men from appropriating its juices. From Salisbury we marched to Goldsboro. Near here we met the enemy and Captain Hampton was killed and Lieutenant Nels Ingoldsby was wounded, losing a leg. This was a drawn battle. Here we rested for a few days, reorganized, and put the Virginia troops in Pettus' Brigade. This brigade was sent back to the Yadkin River to guard the bridges as General Johnston who was put back in command after the Battle of Nashville, now had charge of the army. While we were at this bridge President Davis and his cabinet crossed it and spent the night in Salisbury. They crossed on the Railroad bridge on horseback and in carriages. They were going south.
 

larry_cockerham

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#18
This was about the time of Lee's surrender. Johnston surrendered at Greensboro in about a week.

We were ordered to Salisbury. Here Captain Waugh told us he was going home and we could do as we pleased. Someone said he wanted water and Major Anderson said he knew of some fine springs in Grayson [County] and with one accord we started for home.

There came home with me Captain Waugh, the Records, Lieutenant Sheffey, and of the old mess, only Preston Parks. Others in our group returning home were Mike Delp, and some of the Collins boys, the Captain of the Company H from Wythe, and others I could mention. [Wish he had!] As we came we met General [William] Terry who was going south. He talked with us a while.

We came to Randall Collins' and spent the night. There they sent Preston Parks and myself across the river on horseback. None of the boys from the upper end of the county were with us. I arrived home on Sunday April 23, 1865 with only such feelings as a tired, hungry and beaten soldier could have. I was glad the war was over and glad to see home and loved ones again, but sorry the enemy had overcome us. I was conscious of the fact that we had battled for the right and that our cause was just, wondering what was in store for us for we were in the hands of a heartless government now that Stevens, Staunton, Bill Chandler and Charles Sumner had the reins.
 



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