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The Elberton Star, February 2, 1889; Elberton, GA

The Elberton Star, February 2, 1889; Elberton, GA



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A Gallant Deed of Daring

By Elbert Boys.

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Jep Campbell Spins a


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History of the First Day's Fight.

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Elbert county furnished some of the most gallant soldiers that did battle for the Southern cause, and THE STAR intends to devote considerable space to their adventures and deeds of daring.


Company H, 38th Georgia Regiment, Gordon's brigade, was formed of Elbert county soldiers, known as the "Wool Hat Boys," and braver or truer men, too, never shouldered their muskets.  As we intend to shortly write the history of this company, from their departure from home to the surrender, we will at this time touch only on one incident in their career, at the battle of Gettysburg, and the truth of which is vouched for not only by the participants in this courageous act, but also by all the members of the company.


On the first day of July 1864, (NOTE: THE STAR printed a correction in the next issue stating that they intended to print 1863) at Gettysburg, Gordon's brigade fought the enemy on the north side of the town, and after a severe battle the Yankees retreated, Gordon's brigade advancing on them and formed a line of battle in rear of the county asylum.  In front of that building was a large three-story brick barn, in which a large number of Federal troops had taken refuge.  A call was made for men to volunteer as skirmishers, as the position was a most dangerous one and required soldiers of steady nerves and clear heads.  J. E. Campbell, Green Seymore, William Kirby, John King, Jasper Harbin and Phil W. Alexander, all Elbert boys and members of company H, stepped forward and announced their readiness to undertake the dangerous service.  They were told to go on picket duty and take all prisoners who wished to surrender, penetrating the enemy's lines as far as possible.  The brick barn described was bout 250 yards from the Confederate line of battle, and directly in the path of the gallant party of skirmishers.  Campbell and Kirby went directly to the barn, and entered its door.  They were surprised to find the building filled with Yankee soldiers, and it didn't take the boys long to discover that they were in a mighty close place.  Kirby, who knew not the meaning of the word fear, began to curse and abuse the Yankees for everything he could think of.  Jep Campbell says he decided on a different and more conciliatory policy, and explaining to the soldiers that Kirby was drunk and not responsible for what he said, called on them to surrender, stating that the barn was surrounded by Confederates, and the building would be riddled by shells unless they gave themselves up.  The soldiers, who were badly demoralized by the defeat of the day, believed all that Campbell told them, and consented to lay down their arms and surrender.  So as not to let them know that the enemy who surrounded them were only two in number, Campbell made them march from the rear door of the barn by pairs, laying down their arms as they did so.  Thus 280 Federal soldiers surrendered to and at the order of only two Elbert county boys, and were marched back and turned over to the command.  This was one of the most remarkable captures made during the war and shows what nerve and daring can accomplish.  In the meantime, the other skirmishers had not been idle.  Seymour and King went above the barn, around a garden, where they opened fire on a large squad of Yankees stationed there, forcing them to vacate their position and fall back into the town.  Phil Alexander went below the garden and walking toward a Federal battery, ordered it to cease firing.  They seeing only one person, commanded him to surrender.  This the brave soldier refused to do and he was cut down by a sword and taken prisoner.  Campbell, Seymour, King, Kirby and Harben all then united and went over into the town of Gettysburg and mingled freely with the Yankee troops, who were too much demoralized to molest them. 


They visited the Federal hospitals and saw the wounded men treated, walking around as freely in the Federal camp as the Yankees themselves.  Mr. Campbell says the Confederates could have easily taken the heights that evening as the Federal troops were so badly confused and demoralized.  Gen. Gordon wanted to go on, but he was forbidden to do so.  Had this movement been made, the result of this great battle and probably of the war also, would have been changed.


It will be remembered that the first day's battle our troops drove the Federals back and won the fight.  At night the Yankees fortfied on Seminary Ridge, on the east side of the town.  During the second day's fight Gordon's brigade advanced through the town at first dark, under a hot fire from a Federal battery, that tore great gaps in its ranks; but they gallantly went on to the rescue of another brigade that was in danger of capture.  Of the brave men who figured in the above daring deed, they are all still alive.  J. E. Campbell is the well-known peddler of our county; Green Seymore is farming in Webbsboro district; John King lives in Texas; John Harbin, who is the son of a Methodist minister once stationed in Elberton, lives in New York City; William Kirby resides not far from Bowman, in this county, and Phil W. Alexander was in Albany, Ga., the last time heard from.  Every member of this little band is a hero and deserves a place in history.

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