|Col. Franklin King Beck|
One historical magazine that I read from front to back every time it comes out is the Alabama Confederate, which is published four times a year by the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The latest issue arrived at my house a week or so ago, and, while flipping through it, a short item about a former Camden resident caught my eye. At the bottom of Page 7, the magazine carried a photo of Confederate Col. Franklin King Beck and a description of his service with the 23rd Alabama Infantry Regiment. The brief item about Beck read as follows:
“Colonel Beck was born in 1814. He was a graduate of Yale Law School, before settling in Camden, Alabama. He led the 23rd Alabama in battles at Chickasaw Bayou, Port Gibson, Baker’s Creek, Big Black River Bridge and during the siege of Vicksburg. He suffered a broken leg and was absent from the army until the fall of 1864. At the Battle of Resaca, Beck was reconnoitering enemy positions when an artillery round stuck the tree he was under. Either the cannonball or a tree limb fell, crushing the colonel’s leg and wounding his horse, which fell and rolled over him. Colonel Beck was killed instantly, according to one account. He was 50 years old. He rests in the Confederate Cemetery in Resaca, Georgia with his men.”
There is no doubt that Beck was one of the most remarkable men to come out of antebellum Wilcox County. According to “Alabama: Her History, Resources, War Record and Public Men From 1540 to 1872” by Willis Brewer, Beck was born in Duplin County, N.C. on May 21, 1814 and moved to Wilcox County just five years later. Beck grew up in Wilcox County and went on to study at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa before going on to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Beck graduated from Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn. in 1837, received his law license in 1841 and returned to Camden to begin life as a lawyer, planter and politician. He was elected solicitor (what we now call district attorney) in 1843 and then served as a state legislator in 1851 and 1855. When Alabama seceded from the Union on Jan. 11, 1861, Beck represented Wilcox County at the 1861 Constitutional Convention in Montgomery.
Beck was later elected colonel of the 23rd Alabama, which was organized on Nov. 19, 1861 in Montgomery. He participated in all of the battles mentioned above, and Brewer’s book adds that Beck’s leg was broken at Vicksburg “by the kick of a horse” shortly after he was captured and exchanged by Federal forces. Brewer’s book also says that later, at the Battle of Resaca, Beck was killed when a cannonball struck the limb of a tree, glanced downward, passed through his thigh and killed his horse. Beck fell, his horse rolled over on the leg that was broken at Vicksburg, and Beck died a “few moments” later.
Today, you can visit Beck’s grave at Resaca Confederate Cemetery in Gordon County, Ga. and you will also find a large memorial to him in the Camden Cemetery in Camden. Also, Beck’s old antebellum home, commonly known as River Bluff House, still stands off Highway 28 near Canton Bend. It was built around 1847 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 21, 1993, which, as chance would have it, was the 179th anniversary of Beck’s birth.
Space keeps me from saying much more, but it is an understatement to say that there is a lot more to Beck’s story and to the story of his prominent family and descendants. In the end, if anyone in the reading audience knows more about Beck, especially his Civil War exploits, I’d be interested in hearing from you.