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42nd Georgia


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Armisteads in the 42nd Georgia

By James C. Shellnutt and Sydney Davis

© 2000, James C. Shellnutt


Two of the Georgia Armisteads who served in the 42nd were Thomas Macon Armistead, and his younger brother, Zachariah Jabez Armistead, of Alcovy, Newton County. Both enlisted on March 4, 1862, as Privates in Capt. J.T Mitchell’s Company, which became Company H (Walton Tigers). Both were teenagers at the time of their enlistment – Tom was 17 and Zach was 15. Although Companies were being formed in their home county of Newton, the boys had to enlist at Monroe in Walton County (the next county over), since they were both under the minimum age for Confederate service. Each boy received a $50 bounty for a three-year enlistment. Company H also contained James M. Armistead, who was a first cousin to Tom and Zach.

 The three boys served through the siege of Vicksburg, and surrendered with the rest of Gen. Pemberton's forces on July 4, 1863. At the time of the surrender, both Tom and Zach were so sick that they required hospitalization. The boys signed their paroles on July 7. They were shipped down the Mississippi (now completely Union controlled) on the Steamer St. Maurice on July 30, arriving at Mobile, Alabama, via New Orleans. After a 30-day furlough, all three Armistead boys rejoined the 42nd Georgia when it was reformed in Decatur, Georgia, in the Fall of 1863.

By the time of the surrender of Vicksburg, Tom Armistead had achieved the rank of Third Sergeant in Company H; he was only 19 years old at this time. At the Battle of Resaca on May 15, 1864, he was struck in the left hip by a minie ball, and captured. He was operated upon in a Union field hospital, without anesthesia. Then he was put in a wagon with other wounded prisoners, and driven towards Atlanta.

Somehow, Tom got word to a close friend, a Mr. Lyon, who was able, by unknown means, to help Tom slip off the wagon and make his escape. Tom and his friend made their way to Conyers, just east of Atlanta, to the home of Tom’s oldest sister, Mary Keziah (Armistead) Shipley and her husband John Spinks Shipley. At their Conyers home, the Shipley family kept Tom in an upstairs room for many months, while he recuperated from his terrible wound. The drainage from his hip wound is said to have ruined three mattresses.

In November of 1864, the eastern wing of Sherman's Union forces passed through Conyers, Georgia, on their way to Savannah. On a Sunday, the Yankees arrived at the Shipley’s yard, just as the family was sitting down to eat. Although they were under orders not to enter private homes, the soldiers entered the Shipley house, and demanded that the family give up their places at the table. The Yankees wanted to eat the Sunday dinner. Having little choice in the matter, all the family complied, except for little Mary Elizabeth Shipley, age 4, younger of the family's two daughters. Mary Elizabeth pitched a fit when they tried to pick her up and move her from the table. She was hungry, and there were apple dumplings (or maybe pie) for dessert.

They may have been battle hardened veterans, but these Yankees were not willing to incur the wrath of a 4 year old Southern girl. So they relented, and allowed Mary Elizabeth to remain at the table. During the course of the meal, the family was horrified when little Mary Elizabeth brightly informed the men in blue that she had a nice uncle who was upstairs, recovering from a wound he had received in the War.

Because Tom was an escaped prisoner, the family knew that he, and they, could be in grave danger if his presence were discovered. The soldier in charge of this detail (his rank is not known) went upstairs to investigate. The Yankee remained upstairs for quite some time, sitting at Tom's bedside and chatting with him. Apparently this Yankee had been at Resaca too, and they were swapping war stories. Seeing that the wounded Tom was no threat, the soldiers left him and the family unharmed. The Yankee soldiers finished up the food, and left Conyers for good, on their way to the sea.

Tom Armistead eventually recovered from his wound, although he walked with a limp and a cane for the rest of his life. He became the first Tax Collector of Rockdale County, Georgia, when that County was formed in 1870. Later in life, he moved to Atlanta, where he was the Fulton County Tax Receiver for 34 years. He married Annie Huson, and fathered five children. Tom died of the flu on March 18, 1922, at the age of 80.

While his brother, Tom, was recuperating in Conyers, Zachariah Armistead remained in service with the 42nd Georgia. He had been promoted to Fourth Corporal of Company H on October 14, 1863. He fought at the Battle of Kennesaw. Two letters that he wrote during this time are preserved in the Georgia State Archives

Zach was captured on August 7, 1864, during the siege of Atlanta. He was sent as a POW to Nashville, Tennessee, and then to Military Prison, Louisville, Kentucky. From Louisville, Zach was transferred to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he remained for over six months until March 18, 1865. Finally, he was sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, for exchange, along with 1087 other enlisted men and 30 officers. These men were received by the Confederate authorities at Boulware’s Wharf on the James River in Virginia on March 27, 1865.

After his parole, Zach returned home to Newton County. He became an engineer on the Georgia railroad, married, and fathered two children. Zachariah Armistead, after surviving numerous battles, disease, and other hazards in the deadliest of all American wars, was killed in a train wreck at Union Point, Greene County, Georgia, in 1877, at the age of 30.

James M. Armistead rose to the rank of 5th Sergeant of Company H. In early October of 1863, he contracted smallpox and was hospitalized in Atlanta. James was a patient in the Empire Hotel Hospital through March and April of ’64. He remained attached to the 42nd Georgia until July of 1864. After his recovery, he was deemed unfit for further military service and was detailed to rebuild the telegraph lines, until the close of the War. He is known to have attended reunions of the 42nd Georgia, along with his surviving cousin Tom Armistead, as late as 1901, in Alcovy. James died around 1910, in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Although the Armisteads of Georgia were only “men in the ranks”, and will never be renowned for what they did during the War, their service is no less significant. Like their famous namesake, General Armistead, they fought and suffered for a cause they believed in. Unlike the General, they were fortunate enough to survive the War, and to contribute to the rebuilding of their home state.

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(REVISED Friday, June 23, 2000 )

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