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Beasley recounts battle at Lookout Mountain

Story Kevin McKinley | All Things Southern

Following their parole from the Vicksburg campaign, Henry Beasley and the rest of the 23rd headed off to rejoin their compatriots in the field. Under the beloved Colonel Franklin Beck, the men marched back into the war, which had grown deadlier every day since their surrender at Vicksburg.

Beck was the kind of commander that soldiers would follow into the fires of hell itself. Noble, chivalrous and more concerned for his men than himself, he would have struck a gallant silhouette against the late afternoon sky as the men marched towards sunset across the corn and cotton fields of Alabama’s Black Belt while in route to Tennessee.

Beck’s men, and the rest of Bragg’s command had won a great victory at the Battle of Chickamauga, although Bragg himself had squandered their gains by besieging Chattanooga instead of attempting to push his gains further.

Beasley, years later recounted what happened after Chickamauga, “Lookout Mountain was a peculiar battle, as ‘er fought with rocks part of the time by rolling them down the mountain side on the Yanks. The next engagement was at Missionary Ridge. This was a bloody battle and the yanks outdone the “Rebs.” At this time, the 23rd Ala. Regiment was in E.W. Pettus’ brigade all the way until the surrender at the end of the war.”

“In a charge near Marietta, Georgia, one of my brothers was killed, and at Rasaca we lost our colonel, F.K. Beck.” The men of Beasley’s regiment suffered heavily at Rasaca but there was much heavy fighting awaiting just over the hills ahead of them.

The Atlanta battles were so intense that many of the men fell. Captain A.C. Roberts, who was later promoted to the rank of Major and mentioned in last week’s article, was killed at the Battle of New Hope, Georgia, he was from Marengo County. Majors Felix Tait of Wilcox County, and John J. Longmire of Monroe County, resigned. Captain F. Rutherford, of Macon County was killed at Jonesboro, Georgia. Captain F. Butterfield of Choctaw County was killed at Atlanta.   

These are just the officers killed in the Atlanta campaign. The nameless, faceless masses of thousands of enlisted men lay in lifeless clusters across the fields and hills of North Georgia as silent sentinels guarding the road to the after-life. Beasley himself was wounded at New Hope Church.

“All through Northern Georgia, I saw plenty of Sherman’s monuments in the shape of lone chimneys and blackened spots where he had burned the houses. I saw women and children left without shelter or anything to eat and no prospect for the future.,” said Beasley of the Union March to the Sea.

Following the Atlanta campaign, Beasley was at the battles of Franklin and Nashville, where volumes have been written about the carnage and courage exhibited there in late 1864.

The young soldier Beasley returned home and lived a full life in the Conecuh county area. He recounted these events after the 20th century had arrived. He went on to add the following:

“I am proud to say that I am an old Confederate Veteran.”

“After the war, we came home and found everything in a ruined condition. We went to work with the determination to build up all our country and the result has been marvelous.”

He also mentioned the passage of time. “The old boys are passing away and in a few more years there will be no more.”

Beasley, later in life, sought out comrades he had not seen in decades. “At the State Reunion in Montgomery in 1907, I was going along looking into the faces of the old boys seeing if I could recognize any of them when I noticed an old man looking about in the crowd like myself.

“I took him by the hand and ask him ‘What regiment?’

“He replied, ‘23rd Alabama, Company H.’

“And I said, ‘Bill Siggar.” To which he replied; “Henry Beasley!” and then everything was forgotten in our happiness.

Beasley also attended the Birmingham Reunion in 1908 where he met up with the drummer boy he had not seen since the surrender. Beasley noted, “We sat down on the grass at the court house and chatted a long time about our war experiences.”

Beasley’s last words to the interviewer was, “Since the war, it has been a pleasure to me to meet our old comrades. They seem like brothers. I know the hardships they endured for the Lost Cause.”

“Time will fail me to tell of all the courage and fortitude of the private soldiers who endured the cold, the hunger and the strife following their leaders to the end.”

On February 10, 1915, the Evergreen Courant carried Beasley’s obituary. The obit read: “The Courant sincerely regrets to chronicle the death of Henry J. Beasley, which occurred on Saturday night last at his home at Brownsville, near Owassa. Mr. Beasley was taken sick suddenly and died within a couple of days.”

The writer went on to add, “Mr. Beasley was one of the best men the writer ever knew. He was esteemed in his community for his upright character and in the circle of his personal friends he was greatly beloved. In every position in life he sought to perform his duty with fidelity. A Christian by profession he was a Christian in practice every day. Such a blameless life as his was an example indeed to old and young alike.

Today the memory of the Confederate Veteran is scorned and disparaged by the politically correct, some of whom make their fortunes as they look for causes to profit from. Mention the subject among most politicians and they run like scalded dogs. Others care little about the deeds of the past, done by poor farm boys in tattered clothes and empty stomachs. Yet for those of us who know their stories, it is an honor to shed light on their history.

A special thanks to Terry Bailey for providing this information which was provided to him from James H. Wood of North Carolina.