Thursday, February 23, 2017

Evergreen's Edmund W. Martin was wounded at the First Battle of Dalton in Georgia

Grave of Edmund W. Martin
This coming Saturday – Feb. 25 – will mark the passage of 153 years since Edmund W. Martin, one of the most accomplished men to ever walk the streets of Evergreen, was severely wounded while leading troops during the First Battle of Dalton in Whitfield County, Ga. That battle was fought in late February 1864.

At the time, Martin was a 42-year-old major in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, which was led by famous Confederate general, Joseph E. Johnston. In this five-day engagement, Johnston’s army of around 40,000 defeated a force of 25,000 soldiers led by Union General George H. Thomas. The end result was a Confederate victory as Thomas eventually decided to withdraw his troops when it became apparent that continued attacks against Johnston’s army would be fruitless.

Even though the Rebels won, it didn’t come without a cost. Casualties and losses on both sides were relatively light with the Union losing around 300 men to 140 on the Confederate side. However, among those Confederate casualties was Martin, who was severely wounded and knocked out of the battle when he was wounded by a shell fragment. As you’ll see, his story doesn’t end there.

According to B.F. Riley’s book, “The History of Conecuh County,” Martin was born near Montgomery on Dec. 15, 1821 and through the help of friend and relative, Senator Dixon H. Lewis, Martin received an appointment to West Point Military Academy. Martin later graduated from West Point, and he returned home to Alabama, where he became a lawyer in Hayneville around 1843.

When the Mexican-American War began in 1846, Martin raised a “gallant company” called the “Lowndes County Volunteers,” and Martin served as the company’s captain, according to Riley’s book. This relatively short war ended in February 1848 and after the war, in 1849, the 27-year-old Martin moved to Sparta, which was then the county seat of Conecuh County. Martin made “quite a reputation for himself” as a lawyer, Riley wrote, and his fellow lawyers regarded him as a “close, calm reasoner, dignified and keenly conscientious with regard to all questions of ethics.”

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Martin raised a company of volunteers, and he served as the unit’s captain. When that company was attached to a regiment, Martin was promoted to regimental major. He apparently served throughout the war until his wounding at the First Battle of Dalton.

Union soldiers burned Sparta near the end of the war, which is what likely prompted Martin to move to Evergreen, the county’s new county seat. Martin became active in the Democratic party and he was elected to the Alabama Senate in 1872, representing a district that was made up of Conecuh and Butler counties. Later, The Montgomery Advertiser described Martin as “an able and watchful Senator,” who possessed to the “fullest extent, the confidence and esteem of his associates.” Martin sought the Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor in 1874 and for U.S. Congress in 1878, but he came up short in both conventions.

Martin died relatively young, passing away on Oct. 22, 1878 at the age of 56, and one is left to wonder if the wounds he received at the First Battle of Dalton may have contributed to his death at such a young age. Today, Martin’s grave can be found beside that of his wife, Mary Virginia Sophia Hunley Martin, in the Old Evergreen Cemetery.

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