|Wilcox County grave of Thomas E. Robbins.|
This coming Tuesday – June 27 - marks the 155th anniversary of one of the bloodiest days of the Civil War for the Confederate military unit from Conecuh County.
On June 27, 1862, Confederate forces under the command of Robert E. Lee clashed with U.S. forces under the command of George B. McClellan and Fitz John Porter at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill in Hanover County, Va. This battle resulted in a Confederate victory but was costly for Co. E of the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Also known as the “Conecuh Guards,” this unit was organized at Sparta on April 1, 1861.
At the Battle of Gaine’s Mill, which is sometimes called the First Battle of Cold Harbor, a total of 2,377 men on both sides of the fight were killed and another 9,509 were wounded. Many members of the Conecuh Guards were among those numbers.
According to B.F. Riley’s 1881 book, “The History of Conecuh County, Alabama,” seven members of the Conecuh Guards were killed at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill - Jerre Downs, Caleb Garner, John Garner, John Gaff, Fielding Lynch, Julius A. Mertins and Thomas Elijah Robbins.
Of the men listed above, I’ve been unable to find any record of where they were buried, that is, except for Robbins, who was a 20-year-old Confederate private when he was killed in action at Gaine’s Mill. Born on Nov. 22, 1841, Robbins’ remains were brought back to Alabama and were laid to rest in the Ebenezer Methodist Cemetery in Wilcox County. His grave marker bears the date of Aug. 9, 1862, which may have been the date that he was actually buried.
Sixteen other members of the Conecuh Guards were wounded at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill, and some of them would survive the war while others would not. Among the wounded were Capt. William Lee, 1st Lt. James W. Darby, 2nd Lt. John G. Guice, Sgt. William D. Clarke, Charles Floyd, Francis M. Grice, William Hodges, John D. Hyde, William Horton, William W. Johnson, John Myers, William Quinley, Henry C. Stearns, Nick Stallworth, Mitchell B. Salter and Evans Sheffield.
Lee, who’d been promoted to captain only about two months before, would go on to be wounded about a year later at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, and he died from his wounds the following day.
Darby would survive the war and live to old age. In fact, 45 years after the Battle of Gaine’s Mill, on Nov. 22, 1907, Darby and Col. Pinckney D. Bowles would present the Conecuh Guards flag to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, where it remains today.
Almost two months later, Guice, who’d been wounded earlier at the Battle of First Manassas, would be wounded again in two places at the Battle of Second Manassas, losing one of his legs and receiving an honorable discharge.
Grice, not to be confused with Guice, lost his left arm at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill, but he didn’t go home. Instead, he became what’s known as a “sutler” for the 4th Alabama Infantry. In the old days, a sutler was a peddler who followed an army around to sell goods and food to soldiers. Grice survived the war, returned home and eventually moved to Escambia County.
Hodges would be taken prisoner at the Battle of Lookout Mountain on Nov. 24, 1863, and he died near Washington, Ga. in 1865. Horton was wounded in the shoulder and leg at Gaine’s Mill, and he moved to Butler County when he returned home after the war.
Johnson was disabled by the wounds he received at Gaine’s Mill, and he received an honorable discharge before returning home to Conecuh County.
Myers may have been the most mysterious of the group. Wounded at Gaine’s Mill, he was dropped from the unit’s roll in 1863, and according to Riley’s book, Myers was killed in Butler County after the war.
Quinley would go on to be wounded at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, and according to Riley, Quinley deserted to U.S. forces in 1865. Stearns survived the war and returned to Conecuh County when it was all over.
Stallworth may have been the most colorful character in the unit. Stallworth was born in Evergreen on Aug. 9, 1845 and became the youngest member of the 4th Alabama Infantry when he enlisted at the age of 15. He would later be wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor near Mechanicsville, Va. in May 1864.
He returned to Conecuh County and became a farmer, lawyer, state legislator and solicitor for the 11th Judicial Circuit. Early on the morning of June 7, 1909, Stallworth passed away at the age of 64 at his home on Evergreen’s Main Street after a long illness.
Salter, who was 23 years old at the time of Gaine’s Mill, would be wounded later at the Battle of Chickamauga (some sources say Gettysburg), and his arm had to be amputated. Salter died on Nov. 8, 1920 at the ripe, old age of 81, and he’s buried in the Old Evergreen Cemetery. However, the bone from his arm that was amputated at Chickamauga is currently on display in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Sheffield would also be wounded later at the Battle of Gettysburg, and he returned to Conecuh County after the war. Bizarrely, according to Riley’s book, Sheffield was later killed by a falling tree.
Floyd apparently survived the war, but Riley’s book indicates that Floyd moved to Texas after the war. Also, unfortunately, I don’t have any other information about what happened to Clarke and Hyde.
In the end, if you’ve got any other information about the men mentioned above, I’d like to hear about it.