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Company K, First Alabama Regiment: Three Years in the Confederate Service

211 pages
Library of Alexandria
In February, 1862, John F. Whitfield, Esq., obtained the authority to recruit one of the three companies necessary to complete the reorganization of the First Alabama Regiment, C. S. A., serving at that time as heavy artillery at Pensacola, Fla. Meeting with Merrill E. Pratt, Esq., of Prattville, he proposed to that gentleman to raise one-half the company, he himself expecting to bring thirty or forty men into the field. Mr. Pratt was thinking, at this time, of joining another regiment with a small squad of men, who desired to be with him in the army, but, seeing now a wider field for usefulness, he accepted the proposal. In a few days, through his personal influence and popularity, he enrolled the names of nearly fifty volunteers, including some of the best men in Autauga county, and, had he not been restricted by the terms of his agreement with Capt. Whitfield, he could, without difficulty, have recruited a full company. On the 7th of March, Lieut. Pratt and his men proceeded to Montgomery, and, on the following day, were mustered into the service of the Confederacy, styling themselves, in honor of the Governor of the State, the “John Gill Shorter Artillery.” John F. Whitfield was elected Captain; M. E. Pratt, First Lieutenant; Dixon S. Hall, Second Lieutenant, Jr.; and Charles E. Tuttle, Orderly Sergeant. The second lieutenancy was left vacant, to be filled by the squad of men Capt. Whitfield still expected to secure. For the failure of these men to report, Capt. Whitfield was in no manner responsible, he acting throughout in good faith. No officer had more the confidence and affection of his men than Capt. Whitfield, and this esteem he retained from first to last. While in Montgomery, enameled cloth knapsacks and haversacks, and cedar canteens, were issued to the men, but they provided their own uniforms, no two of which were alike. When enrolled the men expected to go to Pensacola, but upon arriving in Montgomery, it was learned that the regiment had left that place for New Madrid, Mo., a fortified post on the Mississippi River. As this change in destination, from a warm to a cold climate, and from garrison to field duty, necessitated a change in clothing, leave of absence for two days was given the members of the company to return home and make needed preparations. There was a general cutting down in the amount of impedimenta, though most of the men loaded themselves with twice the amount that could be carried on a march. On the morning of March 10th, the company reassembled in Montgomery, and, under the command of Lieut. Hall, started for Memphis. Monday night they camped at Atlanta, not being able to proceed farther on account of the crowded trains. It was not till Wednesday noon that the company reached Memphis. The regiment was just leaving the city by the boat, and could not wait for the company to join; Lieut. Hall, however, reported, and received orders to proceed by the steamer “Republic,” which left the next day at 5 P. M. Thursday night the boat reached Fort Pillow, where it was learned that New Madrid had been evacuated, and that the First Alabama had been ordered to Island No. 10. Friday evening the “Republic” arrived at Tiptonville, and the men disembarked; but, the boat being detained, they slept on board that night. Saturday they again landed, and marched across from Tiptonville to Island No. 10, a distance of six miles. The regiment was found encamped without tents in a newly-cleared field, and the company, thus early in its service, began roughing it. It was not till the 18th that they received any tents; they then were moved into a wood, some three-quarters of a mile from the river. On the 25th the camp was again moved, and tents pitched in regulation order in an open field in the rear of Batteries Nos. 5 and 6; a camp guard was detailed, and the military routine of guard-mounting, drill and dress-parade began.