I thought it was time for a little 58th NCT update. I finished writing about the battle of Jonesboro, GA, the day before yesterday. I thought yesterday I could breeze through most of September, since the Army of Tennessee did little, at least until the end of the month. But, once again, I appear to be stymied. All of the secondary sources (Connelly, Horn, Castel, etc.) write that Lee’s corps was charged with holding the McDonough Road open so the rest of the Confederates could evacuate out of Atlanta. That is pretty much the extent of their comments, no real ideas as to where exactly Lee was, or how he deployed his divisions, or how many times he made contact with the Federals. I was happy with just having Lee’s corps on the McDonough Road. However, the regiment sustained several wounded and captured on September 1: two captured and four wounded. There were another four captured on September 2, including one man that was wounded. So I have gone back to the Official Records, and I am trying to figure out just what Federals were nearby (Schofield’s corps and some cavalry) and if they wrote anything definitive about their actions. So far, nothing.
But I did come across this clue in the Official Records: On September 1, Lee laid out his order of march: Clayton’s division, Stevenson’s division, and Johnson’s division. On September 2, he was ordered to leave a brigade behind to cover the rear of his column. I surely wish I knew what brigade he chose...
I was fortunate, not long ago, to receive copies of letters written home by Drum Major John C. Blair, of Caldwell County. Blair, for the battle of Jonesboro, records 27 killed and wounded. He mentions two killed: Maj. Alfred T. Stewart, regimental command, and “Lt. Estes of Co. E.” Stewart’s death is recorded in the NC Troop book that covers the 58th NCT. “Lt. Estes” is not. I believe that Blair is referring to Brevet 3rd Lieutenant Doctor W. T. Estes, “Doctor” being his given name. Estes last appears on the records of the 58th NCT on July 11, 1864. I looked carefully to find any mention of him after the war (like on census records), but I could not.
Cenantua has been prodding me to examine the records of the 58th NCT who joined the Federal army. Out of the hundreds (maybe 1000+) deserters from the 58th NCT, I have 135 who joined the Federal army. Almost all of these joined either the 13th Tennessee Cavalry or the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry. I do have eight who joined an organization called the United States Volunteers. There were six regiments of the United States Volunteers, which were composed of former Confederates who took the oath and volunteered for service. These regiments were largely assigned to do duty out west, thereby relieving regular troops for service back east. Apparently, five of the eight former members of the 58th NCT who joined the US Volunteers did not much care for that organization. Here is the breakdown:
Eastridge, Barnabas Co. G, 6th USV, deserted May 20, 1865, from Golden Gate
Elliott, Stephen Co. H, 3rd USV, discharged Nov. 29, 1865
Fletcher, Thomas Co. C, 6th USV, deserted 26 Sept. 1865, from Ft. Kearny
Higgins, Amos Co. I, 2nd USV, (I could not find his record)
Howell, James H. Co. F, 5th USV, deserted 27 Aug. 1866, from Camp Collins.
Hughes, William J. Co. C., 6th UCV, deserted 4 May, 186, from Chicago, IL
Thomas, Hezekiah Co. C, 6th USV, deserted 21 Sept. 1865, from Ft. Kearny
Watson, Noah Co. G, 6th USV, mustered out on 10 Oct. 1866.
For anyone who thinks that the hundred, nay thousands of former Confederates who enlisted in the Federal army were doing so for noble, or “patriotic” reasons, the above list should help enlighten a little. Need further proof? Check out the words of one of the above, Hezekiah Thomas. He was captured at Jonesboro, Georgia on September 5, 1864, and soon found himself at Camp Douglas. He joined the Federal army on May 5, 1865, probably not knowing that the war was all but over. Thomas wrote after the war that he and “thousands more” were taking the oath and joining the Federal army because “we were all about to starve to death.” He was taken to Nebraska, “to make hay for the Government and while there some of the Government horses was stolen…” Thomas and another man were detailed to go and “hunt for the horses; so we followed the horses about 400 miles, and after we got there we decided to come home and we never went back to get our discharge. “