The Alabama in the Civil War Message Board

5th Alabama Infantry Regiment -Appomattox

This is the final installment in the history of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment. For those that are interested in further information, or can provide some information on a member of the regiment, you can contact me at milez@rogers.com. I would like to thank members of this board for their feedback, but most importantly, I would like to thank Jim Martin for providing this forum for the exchange of information. It has been a valuable asset to all of us for many years. So without further ado, I offer the following as a conclusion to the history of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

General Lee ordered the immediate evacuation of the Petersburg trenches. The forces were to rendezvous and reform about thirty miles to the west, at Amelia Court House, on the Richmond & Danville Railroad. In order to do so, the troops would have to cross the Appomattox River at three points where there were to be bridges. Upon arrival at the crossings, one bridge was found to be impassable due to high water, and the pontoons for a second bridge failed to arrive. Consequently, almost the whole Confederate Army had to cross at just one point, Goode’s Bridge. By the time the army’s wagon trains approached, the pontoon bridge was in place and another portion of the army succeeded in crossing on the Richmond & Danville Railroad bridge after laying planks across the rails. There were to be rations available to the army at Amelia Court House forty miles to the west. The remnants of Battle's Brigade evacuated Petersburg that night, crossing the Appomattox River on the pontoon bridge at Goodes, joining the line of retreat that stretched for twenty miles. They would tramp on without any food or sleep for the next day and a half.

The men of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment that were captured the previous day, had started their eight mile march to City Point early that morning. They had arrived there at about ten o’clock in the morning and boarded the steamer John Brooks. The steamer left the dock with twelve hundred prisoners aboard and remained just off shore until after dark. It then began the voyage down river, passing quite a host of transports and ships of war. They were issued rations after dark, the first food they had since being captured. Sometime during the night, they stopped in the lower river, continuing early in the morning. They passed Fort Monroe at about 8:00 A.M. and landed at Point Lookout, Maryland, at about two or three o’clock on the afternoon of April 4, 1865. They were then divided into Companies of about one hundred men each, their names were taken, they were searched, and then marched into an enclosure of about twenty acres, with a fifteen foot high plank fence. Their tents, oilcloths, blankets, and any other possessions were taken, including ten gold pieces that one of the men in Company H had. Of course, knives, spoons, paper money, etc. were hidden in socks, hat linings etc., so not everything was lost.

When the first Confederate troops arrived at Amelia Court House and open the boxcars at the siding, they found munitions, not rations. Due to some miscommunication, the 350,000 rations from Richmond that General Lee had expected to find were never sent! On April 4, 1865, General Lee issued a proclamation to the citizens of Amelia County appealing to their generosity, charity and patriotism. The Army Quartermasters were soon travelling the county collecting all that the local citizenry could spare. Unfortunately, four years of war had left little available for Lee’s hungry men and the forage wagons came back empty. Many of the soldiers became frantic and started eating anything they could find. Cow hooves, tree bark, raw bacon, and hog and cattle feed, became the first meal in two days for those lucky enough to find them.

With the return of the unfilled commissary wagons on April 5, 1865, General Lee knew he had to keep his army moving to stay ahead of General Grant’s pursuing forces, and so, as a cold rain fell, he had his army moved off towards Danville along the railroad tracks. There were allegedly over one million rations waiting in Danville, but it was one hundred miles away! Just seven miles into the march, at Jetersville, they found Union General Sheridan’s Cavalry supported by a strong contingent of infantry, entrenched across their path. General Lee decided to avoid confronting the Federals and that night, turned north past their left flank and headed west toward Farmville. Word had been received by General Lee, that eighty thousand rations had been rushed to the town which was just nineteen miles away. From there it was just a short march to High Bridge and escape from the Federal forces pursuing them.

The men trudged on through the darkness, fording Flat Creek and then passing through Amelia Springs. The Confederate Second Corps, under General John B. Gordon, which included the Alabama Brigade, was serving as the rear guard. As dawn broke on April 6, 1865, elements of the Federal II Corps spotted the Confederates and immediately moved in pursuit in a hard, pouring, rain. At Holt’s Corner, about a mile northeast of the crossing for Little Sailor Creek, the Confederate wagons were advanced towards the crossing under the protection of General Gordon’s Second Corps. The wagon trains became bogged down at the double bridge crossing over the confluence of Big and Little Sailor’s Creek. Gordon deployed his men on the high ground of Lockett’s Farm in an effort to protect the trains and their valuable cargo. Just before dusk, the Union II Corps under General H. Humphries appeared and made their attack, Union Cavalry capturing and burning many of the wagons at the double bridges. As the teamsters panicked at this onslaught and ran off into the woods, the Confederate Infantry stood shoulder to shoulder in front of the burning wagons and awaited the Federal attack. To the left of the four thousand man Confederate force was the Appomattox River. In front of them were almost ten thousand advancing Union Infantry. At first the Confederate line held, but under a withering artillery fire the men began to fall back. It was a mile long retreat over open ground that offered almost no cover. The Federal Infantry gradually pushed the Confederates back into the low ground near the creek. The Rebel Infantry toppled the wagons that had made it across the double bridges and used them as an impromptu breast works. Behind the barricades, Gordon’s men fought desperately. Only when a Federal flanking column was seen crossing further to the north by Perkinson’s sawmill, did the Southerners retreat up the opposite slope. The Federals captured more than 200 wagons and 1700 men before nightfall brought the fighting to an end. Unbeknownst to General Gordon, was that most of the troops under Generals Ewell and Anderson, had been surrendered and captured earlier. The Union troops had forced the surrender of about eight thousand men.

Once again General Lee was forced to make a night march in an attempt to outdistance the pursuing Federals. He sent half of his remaining troops directly towards Farmville, while the other half was ordered to cross the Appomattox River at the Southside Railroad’s High Bridge, fire the bridge, and then proceed to Farmville. The remnants of General Gordon’s Second Corps would march on to High Bridge.

High Bridge was an engineering marvel made of stone and felled trees that stretched a half mile, from the bluff outside of Farmville to the Prince Edward Court House bluff at the opposite end. Twenty, one hundred and twenty-five foot tall brick columns supported the wood superstructure. The men of the 5th Alabama Infantry along with the rest of General Gordon’s troops crossed the bridge and then as ordered, fired the bridge. However, the bridge would not burn sufficiently to prevent the pursuing Federals from crossing as well and extinguishing the flames.

Those troops that had moved directly to Farmville were receiving rations there on the morning of April 7, 1865, when they heard gun shots to the east. Before long, the Federal Cavalry appeared on the heights near town. A hasty retreat was made by these Confederates to the north side of the Appomattox River and the two bridges in town were put to the torch. Hoping to continue his march to Appomattox Station where he anticipated finding supplies, General Lee soon realized that by crossing the river he had inadvertently lengthened the distance his army had to march. The Federal forces had them squeezed onto a peninsula between the James and Appomattox Rivers and there was but one route to escape which would take them through Appomattox Court House. It was apparent that the Union forces had the shortest route to the Court House, so he sent most of his remaining troops to build defences around Cumberland Church, about three miles north of Farmville. The rest of his men, he sent on to Appomattox Court House. They arrived there on the afternoon of April 8, 1865. It was just a couple of miles more to the railway station where trains were waiting to take the men to Lynchburg. However, as the lead elements of Lee’s Army awaited the rest of the troops, the van of the Union Cavalry under George Custer arrived and took control of the trains. The noose was tightening.

By the evening of April 8, 1865, General Lee had his army encamped a few miles northeast of Appomattox, along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road. He decided to a attempt a breakout towards Lynchburg the next morning, believing he had only Yankee cavalry on his front. The remnants of General Gordon’s Corps formed a line of battle between Appomattox Court House and the river. At dawn, the Confederates advanced. Utterly unable to withstand the onset, Union General Sheridan hastened in person to hurry up the ‘Army of the James,’ while General Gordon drove his ‘invincible troopers’ more than a mile, and captured and brought off two pieces of artillery and a large number of prisoners. However, the Confederates only drove back the cavalry to find themselves confronted by the Army of the James and the road blocked by ten times their numbers. The end had come.

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army. Confederate General Gordon continues. “General Longstreet’s forces and mine at Appomattox, numbered, together, less than 8000 men; but every man able to bear arms was still resolute and ready for battle. There were present three times that many enrolled Confederates; but two thirds of them were so enfeebled by hunger, so wasted by sickness, and so foot-sore from constant marching that it was difficult for them to keep up with the army. They were wholly unfit for duty. It is important to note this fact as explaining the great difference in the number of those who fought and those who were to be fed. At the final meeting between General Lee and General Grant rations were ordered by General Grant for 25,000 Confederates.
Marked consideration and courtesy were exhibited at Appomattox by the victorious Federals, from the commanding generals to the privates in the ranks. Some of the scenes on the field, immediately after the cessation of hostilities and prior to the formal surrender, illustrate the same magnanimous spirit, and were peculiarly impressive and thrilling. As my command, in worn-out shoes and ragged uniforms, but with proud mien, moved to the designated point to stack their arms and surrender their cherished battle-flags, they challenged the admiration of the brave victors. One of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal army, General Joshua L. Chamberlain of Maine, who afterward served with distinction as governor of his State, called his troops into line, and as my men marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes -- a token of respect from Americans to Americans, a final and fitting tribute from Northern to Southern chivalry.
General Chamberlain describes this incident in the following words:
"At the sound of that machine-like snap of arms, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse, facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and, as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse's head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword-point to his toe in salutation.
By word of mouth the general sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell.
Bayonets were affixed to muskets, arms stacked, and cartridge-boxes unslung and hung upon the stacks. Then, slowly and with a reluctance that was appealingly pathetic, the torn and tattered battle-flags were either leaned against the stacks or laid upon the ground. The emotion of the conquered soldiery was really sad to witness. Some of the men who had carried and followed those ragged standards through the four long years of strife rushed, regardless of all discipline, from the ranks, bent about their old flags, and pressed them to their lips.
And it can well be imagined, too, that there was no lack of emotion on our side, but the Union men were held steady in their lines, without the least show of demonstration by word or by motion. There was, though, a twitching of the muscles of their faces, and, be it said, their battle-bronzed cheeks were not altogether dry. Our men felt the import of the occasion, and realized fully how they would have been affected if defeat and surrender had been their lot after such a fearful struggle."
When the proud and sensitive sons of Dixie came to a full realization of the truth that the Confederacy was overthrown and their leader had been compelled to surrender his once invincible army, they could no longer control their emotions, and tears ran like water down their shrunken faces. The flags which they still carried were objects of undisguised affection. These Southern banners had gone down before overwhelming numbers; and torn by shells, riddled by bullets, and laden with the powder and smoke of battle, they aroused intense emotion in the men who had so often followed them to victory. Yielding to overpowering sentiment, these high-mettled men began to tear the flags from the staffs and hide them in their bosoms, as they wet them with burning tears.
The Confederate officers faithfully endeavored to check this exhibition of loyalty and love for the old flags. A great majority of them were duly surrendered; but many were secretly carried by devoted veterans to their homes, and will be cherished forever as honored heirlooms.
There was nothing unnatural or censurable in all this. The Confederates who clung to those pieces of battered bunting knew they would never again wave as martial ensigns above embattled hosts; but they wanted to keep them, just as they wanted to keep the old canteen with a bullet-hole through it, or the rusty gray jacket that had been torn by canister. They loved those flags, and will love them forever, as mementoes of the unparalleled struggle. They cherish them because they represent the consecration and courage not only of Lee's army but of all the Southern armies, because they symbolize the bloodshed and the glory of nearly a thousand battles.

The 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment would surrender 64 men at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Colonel Edwin L. Hobson was in command of the Brigade, and Captain Thomas M. Riley of Company C was in command of the regiment.

List of the men of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment that surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.

Name Rank Company:
Edwin Lafayette Hobson Colonel Brigade Commander
Thomas M. Riley Captain Co. C Regimental Commander
John Patrick Mushat Assistant Surgeon
Basil M. Hanks Ensign
Solon L. Sherard Musician
George A. Thomas 1st Lieutenant A
William M. Bell Private A
Willey Johnson Private A
Perry A. Jones Private A
John M. T. Caldwell Sergeant B
Samuel Thomas Strickland Sergeant B
George W. Golden Private B
Daniel Jones Private B
Alexander O’Quinn Private B
James Gilliam Watts Private B
John Daniel Waters Private B
Frank Stanley Bondurant Private C
Robert W. McCants Private C
Mills Baker Rogers Private C
John N. Sailors Private C
John W. Wynne Sergeant D
James L. Boardman Private D
Benjamin A. Carter Private D
Hiram J. Geddie Private D
Walton N. Glover Private D
Peter Hagins Private D
Edward T. Hutchinson Private D
Edwin Young Idom Private D
John F. Jackson Private D
William H. McCrary Private D
Thomas G. Moore Private D
James D. Sellers Private D
Abner C. Waddell Private D
John H. Warren Private D
Davis G. Williams Private D
Daniel W. Woodruff Private D
Albert B. Brasher Private E
John Jackson Private E
Trench McClure Private E
Charles A. Reid Private E
John M. Vail Private E
Thomas Chisholm Private F
L. D. Willett Private F
Reuben A. Meridith Sergeant G
John A. Austin Private G
Mayback Du Bose Private G
Aaron Henry Childes Private G
Thomas B. Hand Private G
William J. Rawls Private G
Charles C. Heineman Sergeant H
Chesley D. Cummings Private H
Benjamin F. Jones Private H
Lewis T. Lang Private H
Andrew W. Parting Private H
William J. Waters Private H
Aaron P. Woolbright Private H
Alfred Y. Bettis Sergeant I
George E. Hall Private I
Sydney W. Hearon Private I
Barnaby Pope Private I
Morgan C. Woodard Private I
Christopher B. Dishler Corporal K
Reddon R. Alford Private K
John W. Steele Private K

The United States of America had been intrinsically transformed by the ravages of this tragic war. An entire generation of men had been decimated, traumatized, and shattered, by events that had taken place over the last four years. For the South, the bewildering events would continue for many more years, as the social fabric of their antebellum world would never be repaired. Families on both sides had suffered great loss. The Southern armies had fought gallantly for the freedom of their country, but to no avail. It would take more than one hundred years for the wounds to begin to heal. As time went on, the mystique surrounding so many events outgrew the traumatized memory of the individual until only a romanticized caricature endured for most Americans. However, perhaps this is understandable, for even during the war one of the Confederate leaders made the following comment when describing his soldiers: “The rank and file were seasoned troops….they could live on a daily ration of a pound of corn meal and one-third of a pound of bacon: could sleep without tents or shelter….could wade rivers or be drenched in rain without being….seriously disturbed: and in battle could load and fire with aim and without agitation and flurry; could keep alignment over broken ground; were resigned to whatever may happen, and ever ready to jump to gayety upon the slightest provocation; above all, they had swelled the rebel yell of defiance, and of victory! A finer body of men never gathered for battle.”

Hopefully, some light has been shed on the experiences of the individuals that made up the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment and a renewed respect has been summoned for those men that were willing to sacrifice all for their principles. For when the tocsin sounded, men of wealth and position, merchants and farmhands, left everything and hurried to join their nations’ standard. Brave youths, in the first flush of early manhood, whose future was bright with promise, eagerly enlisted and marched away to yield up their lives on the battlefield. The heart swells as their names are recalled and their deeds arise before us from the shadows of vanished years. Many now have been forgotten, but their smiles and laughter, sadness and sorrow, lingers in the consciousness of the nation. The heroic effort of these men should not be allowed to dissipate over time although they need us not. For men forever more shall think themselves accurs'd they were not there, and hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks of those that fought with them, fought amongst the bravest of the brave.