I have a friend at work who is retired Navy and now working as a homicide detective. He and I have bonded over genealogy and the military. I know, I have never been truly a military buff, but as I have delved into my genealogy and realize what a presence the military has in my family, I have grown more familiar. With this in mind, I began thinking about George Wiley Whitehead and the miracle that happened in Savannah, Georgia.
I wrote about him in 2013. You can read about him here:
What I didn’t know at the time was how his company, The Echols Artillery, was a part of a book that recalled their involvement in the War of Northern Aggression, or The War Between the States.
The book, This They Remembered, written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Oglethorpe County Chapter, documents four companies who fought in that war. I have two relatives that are documented in this book, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Wiley Whitehead both which whom served in the Echols Artillery, and both of whom are my second great grandfathers.
Below is a short timeline as described in the book.
1 March 1862 Echols Artillery organized and mustered in.
19 August 1862 Company ordered to Atlanta, Georgia
6 January 1863 Company received orders to report to General Howell Cobb at Quincy, Florida.
Mid March 1863 Company left Quincy, marching through Tallahassee to Camp Leon then to Brokaw. (Comprised of a six-gun battery; G.W. Whitehead, 1st Gunner), Private C.A. Stevens among many soldiers).
27 May 1863 Company ordered to Ft. Gadsden and Battery Cobbs, both on the Apalachicola River. Conditions here were poor, due to swamp conditions.
January 1864 Company reunited back at Camp Leon.
“In the short space of six months the company had been transformed from the finest and robust body in the service to a company of weak and sallow invalids. Twelve had already died and many more were stricken never to recover (page 122).”
9 February 1864 One section ordered to Mosely Hall. Glanders disease, is a contagious, acute or chronic, usually fatal disease of Equidae broke out among the horses.
1 June 1864 Company ordered to Tallahassee. The enemy was in Jacksonville.
Late November 1864 Ordered to Savannah, Georgia
“Sherman was approaching Milledgeville on his famous march to the sea (p. 123).”
17 December 1864 G.W. Wounded in Action (G.W. Whitehead Pension Papers)
“The Echols Artillery was in charge of a siege battery on the Augusta road, where, during the ten days siege they were engaged in firing shot and shell and in return received close attention from the enemy’s sharp-shooters, but so well protected was the battery that the casualties were few, G. W. Whitehead seriously wounded (p. 123). It is unknown what happened to G.W. Whitehead after he was wounded. Family lore suggests he was captured by the Union.
This is what Chloe Adams Whitehead wrote for the North Georgia Life in 1965:
“Wounded and left for dead on the battlefield, George regained consciousness to find a Yankee officer standing over him. He gave the Masonic sign which the office returned. The Blue Coat carried his wounded Masonic brother to his own camp where he was given medical attention and as soon as George was able to travel, he was exchanged for a Yankee prisoner. George returned to Oglethorpe and married Cena in 1866 (North Georgia Life, 1965, p.6)”
21 December 1864 Company was withdrawn from Savannah. The company boarded a train to Pocataligo, Georgia. For those unfamiliar, this is located very close to Oglethorpe County, where the Echols Artillery formed.
1 January 1865 Company ordered to James Island, Fort Jackson (near Charleston, SC).
17 February 1865 “All the works around Charleston were evacuated, the Echols Artillery going out with the rest, marching all night and encamping at Monk’s Corner (p. 124)”.
Unknown 1865 Company marched from Monk’s Corner to Kingstree to Cheraw, they faced the enemy there, and had to withdraw and marched via Rockingham to Fayettsville, NC. They then marched in the direction of Raleigh.
16 March 1865 Company along with General Hardee made a stand; however losing a few.
19 March 1865 Company joined General Johnson’s forces at the Battle of Bentonville. The Union won this battle.
21 March 1865 Company along with General Johnson moved to Smithfield, NC. The Echols Artillery had been reduced to 43 men. The effects of two years in Florida made them weak and frail.
10 April 1865 Company was sent in the direction of Raleigh however, they continued westward to Greensboro where a surrender took place.
26 April 1865 Confederate Troops surrender.
27 April 1865 C.A. Stevens was present at last call, but G.W. Whitehead was not.
The important thing is that George came home from the war and married Cena Ann Mathews. In 1889, he completed an application for pension due to his injury in the war. He was granted $50 per month. In 1990, the effects of his head injury had left him partially paralyzed and he reapplied for pension and received $100. In the pension application, his physician wrote in part:
“I hereby certify that one George W. Whitehead was wounded in top of head during the war between the states and at the time he received said wound he complained of a numbness through his whole system. Which has recurred periodically ever since until about a year ago when this numbness became permanent and brought about a partial paralysis. He has since that time been entirely helpless and most of the time bedridden (Confederate Pension Applications).”
George Wiley Whitehead died 31 May 1891. He was 62 years old. He left behind his wife and 7 children. The youngest child at the time of his death was Theordoric, who was only 8 years old. If he hadn’t survived the war, I wouldn’t be here today.
When I write about my ancestors, I feel closer to them. I believe in telling their stories, our lives are enriched. Coming home from a war wounded he married a sweet girl, 16 years younger than him. I wonder what Cena’s parents, Raleigh and Mary Mathews, thought. Did they approve? Did he prove to them that although he was wounded he was worthy of her hand in marriage? In addition to farming, George became a county surveyor, as well as a County Commissioner. We do know that he ended up with lots of land. In his will, he mentions 270 acres that the Home Place is on; as well as 450 acres that he and Obadiah Stevens; however, it also states some is to be sold to pay off some debts. The Home Place is still owned by the family. My Cousin Sara has taken on the huge responsibility of two of our families homes, one in Carlton and the Homeplace in Oglethorpe County. To her, I am most grateful.
United Daughters of the Confederacy. (1986). This they remembered: The history of the four companies and those in other companies, who went from Oglethorpe County to serve in the War Between the States : the Gilmer Blues, the Oglethorpe Rifles, the Tom Cobb Infantry, the Echols Artillery. Columbus, Ga: Brentwood University Press.
North Georgia Life, The Oglethorpe Echo, February 17, 1965, “The Whitehead Homeplace recalls Rural Life of Yesterday.”
Confederate Pension Applications. Ancestry.com. Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.