“I Went Supporting a Good and Holy Cause”

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The Confederate defenses on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On August 6, 1864, the men of Colonel Hiram M. Bledsoe’s Missouri Battery and the Army of Tennessee were defending the key Confederate strategic center of Atlanta, Georgia. Just days prior, the Missourians had been heavily engaged at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where the battery lost four killed, twenty-four wounded, and one missing. Now, as the men defended Atlanta, with combat along the Utoy Creek raging, 29-year-old Callaway County, Missouri resident and Rebel soldier Cpl. Jesse Everhart penned a letter to his 22-year-old sister, Sue, describing his experiences and reassuring her of his safety.

“You may have some uneasiness about me but I have so far escaped unhurt. So much for luck. I have often thought I was born lucky, and I think it is a good thing or I would have had my head shot off ere this. But this thing of Battle, there is certainly something magic about it. To see the escapes a man can make convinces me that a man will live untill [sic] his time comes, under any and all circumstances, and should it be the fate of me, for mine, to come before this cruel war is over, (and I am returned) to my friends, I hope you will think, I went supporting a good and holy cause.”

Though both armies were heavily engaged throughout the entire summer of 1864, by August, they were in gridlock. Foodstuffs for the Rebels were hard to come by, yet, men like Cpl. Everhart stayed positive and felt assured that the short rations were soon to be over.

[The Rations] are ruff, consisting, off [sic] cornbread, Beef & Bacon, and plenty of that, (which the army has got this Summer) is good enough for a Reb to fight, on, and we have been blessed in northern, G, to have the finest spring water in the world, the whole country abounds with fine springs. Our day of short rations, I think is past.”

Before ending his letter to his sister, Cpl. Everhart discussed his frustrations with the pro-Unionists and Federal soldiers in Missouri and fellow Border States. From his combat fatigue and loss of comrades, it must have been difficult to make sense of the sacrifice and bloodshed in Georgia.

“But they thought more of good eating and the  Women, than they did of the cause of their Bleeding country. They have no state or national pride about them. And was not for the Ladies and old men of Missouri, I would like to see those fellows equalized or governed by the negroes […] When Missouri exiles shall return, to join their friends around the old familiar hearthsone. What a day of rejoicing that will be over this happy and contented country. I expect to remain in the Confederate Army.”[1]

Jesse was right about his luck — he survived the war and surrendered at Augusta, Georgia on May 1, 1865 following the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. Two weeks after he surrendered, the Rebel veteran took the Oath of Allegiance at Augusta, Georgia. He returned home to Callaway County, resumed farming like his father, married the love of his life Sarah, and had a son named Ermit in 1867. Jesse died in 1892.


Sources:
1. Letter from Jesse Everhart to Sue Woodlan, August 6, 1864, Digital Manuscripts, State Historical Society of Missouri.


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