14th Georgia Infantry Regiment
Pvt. John Oliver Andrews, Co. I
Realizing the importance of every ex-soldier who served in any war leaving a record of his service in that war by him gives information that perhaps in the distant future might be useful and appreciated by his posterity, I herein write a short sketch of the little part I took in the War between the States.
In the first place, I will start back in my early life and sketch at random some incidents which come up in my memory. I realize that I am a poor writer, but what I write is facts (no fiction).
The house I was born and raised in is still standing on the hill on the road leading from Jackson to Start (Georgia) now owned by old Uncle Billy Saunders, who is 94 years old and lives at Jenkinsburg. I was brought up on a farm, worked hard and enjoyed as well as the average boy, I suppose. I attended school after crops were laid by for a few weeks till fodder was ready to pull and those few weeks each year were all the school privileges I ever had. At the age of 16 I went to the war; hence, I failed to get an education, which is the best legacy that can be given a boy. If he misses that it's a hard pull for him to got along through this life. When a boy, I thought little of the necessity of an education, my only thought being to have a good time hunting and fishing. My brother James, who was four years older than I, and I kept good dogs and spent a lot of time hunting in a large body of woodland nearby that abounded with game. In season we hunted for o'possums. catching a lot of them and occasionally a coon, wild cats, etc. Shooting squirrels was fine sport and the woods was full of them. There was no shooting of quail in those days but we caught many with out nets and traps. It was a great delight to me to trap birds. I can think back now of the little incidents that come up fresh in my mind and could write a book about them. I was brought up by pious Christian parents who saw that I knew my Sabbath School lesson and required my prompt attendance every Sunday, which I thought at that time was pretty hard on a boy. Later on in life I realized that they were right and have ever cherished the memory of such dutiful parents.
I will now move on the the War between the States. When war was declared there was a rush to arms. My three older brothers enlisted immediately. The two oldest, William and Allen, enlisted in the 30th Georgia Infantry and while in camp below Savannah contracted fever and died, William in May and Allen in November, 1862. Brother James enlisted in the 14th Georgia Regiment and went to Virginia. I was so anxious to go with him for we had always been inseparable companions, but being under age I had to stay at home. My father thought three was enough for him to furnish, so that settled the question so far as my going.
My father and a few others put up a salt works on the coast below Savannah and made salt to supply the people of our county (Butts). I will state here that salt couldn't be bought at scarce any price during the war, so it had to be made someway. A good many works were put up on the coast and it was made in a crude way. A lot of people, principally women, with the help of the negro slaves would dig the dirt from their smoke houses, putting some in hoppers and drip the salt water from it, boil down and make a pretty good quality of salt in that way. I worked at the salt works near Savannah three months, my job being to haul salt to the depot at Savannah, a distance of twelve miles. A trip would be made nearly every day, and I drive a pair of good black mules. I looked upon it as a pretty hard job and wanted to go home for it was the first time I was ever away from home. I would try to get sick for an excuse to go home. One day I did feel sick just a little, so I told Mr. Harold Beyers, the boss, I was sick and wanted to go home. He was a good kind-hearted old man and let me off. He sent a hand with me on a load to the depot to drive the team back, so I boarded the first train for home. I was glad to get back to my dear old Mother, but I wasn't satisfied at home.
I wanted to go to Virginia where brother James was located, but my Father didn't want me to go to the war for he had already lost two sons and the other one was badly wounded. Therefore, he managed to get me on the Provost Guard in Atlanta in Captain Longino's Battalion and I was on duty in and around Atlanta four months. I got tired of that job and decided to make an effort to get to Virginia. I was on duty at Oakland Cemetery, coming off duty at twelve o'clock at night, and I wrote a pass for twenty-four hours to go home and see a sick mother, signing Captain Longino's name to it. I fixed up a little bundle of my clothes and slipped out, went the old car shed, boarded the first train and was soon on my way to join the army in Virginia. I landed in Richmond in due time, but had a lot of trouble finding out where the Command my brother was in was located. I finally learned that they were at Fredricksburg on the Rappahannock River. I at once enlisted on the 16th of March 1863. On Captain Carter's (T.M.) command, Co. I, 14th Georgia Regiment, Thomas Brigade, T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson's Division. Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863, and died, two days later. We were then assigned to General Wilcox's Division in A. P. Hill's Corps. The following morning just at daylight we charged the Federal line of battle in our front commanded by General Hooker. We broke their line, got them stampeded and ran them across the river. My brother was wounded, having his left eye shot out. He was sent back to Richmond, given a furlough and was gone six months. He rejoined his command with one eye and was finally killed at Petersburg, Va.
The next battle I was in was at Gettysburg, Pa., July 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I was wounded the afternoon of the 3rd in Pickett's charge, laid on the battlefield in a wheat field until 11 o'clock that night and was carried by Alex. Holsenback (now living in Jasper County) to the field hospital. I laid there on the ground with no blanket or anything in the way of cover until one of my company, Yelverton Thaxton, split his blanket open and put half of it over me. A deed of this kind can never be forgotten.
Early the next morning, July 4th, orders came to load all the wounded in ambulances, wagons etc., and start back to cross the Potomac River into Virginia. I was placed in an ambulance on my back and had to lie there for two days and nights, it requiring that time to get back to Winchester, Va., where we were taken out and placed in a hospital. The good ladies of that city gave every attention possible, but we were there only three days, when we were placed in fruit cars and sent to Richmond, Va. They kept us there in Winder Hospital until September 17th, when I was given a sixty day furlough home. I was sure glad to got back home where my dear Mother was prayerfully waiting my return. It seemed that the next sixty days was the happiest time of my life and the shortest.
At the expiration of my sixty day furlough I was about well, so I returned to my command which was in camp near Harrisburg in North-western Virginia.
A few days after my return our Brigade was ordered to move to Orange Court House. a distance of eighty miles. The ground was covered with snow and we had to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains, a very rough country. I gave out the first day as my wounded leg gave me so much trouble and I had to ask our Lieut. Col. W. L. Goldsmith, who was in command, for a pass to fall out of ranks. He did so, telling me to follow the army as best I could and take my time. I then sat down by a pine tree and was in shape where I couldn't walk at all; hence, I stayed by that tree until the next morning with only one blanket and no fire. I nearly froze that horrible night as the snow fell to a depth of several inches and the trees were bent with ice. I have often wondered how it was possible to live through such a night on the side of that mountain, but I can now think back over my past life and call to mind many close calls I have passed through, realizing at the same time that it was the hand of a merciful God that protected me.
The next morning I started on the best I could and soon met three others that had to pull out of ranks. We wended our way slowly, passing over the Blue Ridge Mountains and lived by foraging on the few people that lived on our route. The invading armies had already taken practically all of their food and they could give us very little to eat, but that little was given cheerfully. Within a week we reached our Command which was in camp at Orange Court House.
The spring campaign opened the first of May and I was in the Battle of the Wilderness the 5th and 6th of May. Our Col. Folsom was killed in the battle of the 6th, falling within a few feet of me. I made an effort to raise him up but saw that he was dead, a ball having gone through his heart. He was certainly a fine officer.
The next battle I was in was on the 12th at Spotsylvania Court House where we lost most of our company, either killed, wounded or made prisoners. Shortly afterwards we were in a hard battle at Hanover Junction, where two of our company, Henry Collins and Jim Evins were killed. H. P. Dodson and Mat Harris were captured. I missed that fight on account of being left to guard the company's baggage. The battle opened late in the afternoon of June 22nd and lasted until during the night. I laid on the pile of baggage and had a good night rest and sleep. The roar of the cannon and the rattle of musketry nearby didn't disturb me at all. The next morning some of our cavalry were passing and asked me what I was doing there, I told them just guarding the baggage. At the request I told what command I belonged to and they informed me that the Command had left early in the night after fighting had ceased, going back in the direction of Orange Court House, and if I remained there I would soon be taken prisoner as the Yankees were nearby. Therefore, I left all the boy's baggage and struck out down the road in the direction I was told they went. I met a lone Yank slightly wounded in the foot. He said "Halt there and surrender." I said “No, sir, you consider your self my prisoner for you are wounded and I am not. You will go with me." He said, ''Well, if I must go with you it will be very slow for it hurts me to walk and I am sure you will soon be a prisoner as our men are nearby." I readily saw the situation, so I told him to give me the cup that was tied to his belt and he could go his way. He never said a word but just handed me the cup. I said, ''Farewel1, Yank" and he said "goodby, Johnnie". I wasn't long making distance between me and those Yanks. Late in the afternoon I reach command.
The next battle I was in was June 25th on the Weldon Road, south of Petersburg, where I went through some exciting and dangerous experiences. Jim Neal, who was in my company, and I were on the Pickett line when the Federal line of battle advanced. Our orders were to fire on them and fall back to our line. They opened a volley on our lines, and our line opened fire on them; hence, we were between the two lines. We saved ourselves by jumping in a hole where a big oak tree had blown down and the clay roots gave us protection. Another man we didn't know jumping in behind us was struck by a grape shot and killed.
My next battle was on the 2nd of April, 1865 at Fort Gregg, near Petersburg. I was in the fort which the Yankees surrounded and I was taken prisoner. Our Lieut. Gen. A.P. Hill was killed. Also my brother James was killed outside the fort and I didn't know it until I got home from prison six months later.
After being captured at Fort Gregg I was sent to Pt. Lookout Prison, where we were allowed no communication with the outside world. While in prison I went through some of the hardest experiences I had during the entire war. We were half fed, had bad water, treated cruelly by negro guards, and exposed to bad weather. We had only a little fly tent and had to lay on the hard ground. On the 12th of May I was lined up and marched to headquarters where I had to draw for my life. They wanted twenty men to face the firing squad in retaliation for some Yankee prisoners they claimed our men killed in North Carolina. I drew blank for which I have always felt thankful, but I was scared almost to death. No battle I was ever in excited me as that did. Prison life is horrible.
On the 26th of June, 1865, I was released from prison, given transportation to Savannah, and secured passage on Steamer New York. I was four days making the trip and landed at Savannah on July 1st. Sherman's army had destroyed the railroads leading out of Savannah, so I had to walk to Waynesboro, a distance of 130 miles. Four others and I made the trip in six days. At Waynesboro we boarded a train and got to Covington about dark. We walked from there home that night a distance of twenty-four miles, arriving home at sunrise on the 8th day of July. I was greeted by fond parents who had thought me dead. I was grief stricken at not finding my brother James there for General Lee surrendered his army a few days after I was captured. I saw brother James a few minutes before that time for the last time. I well remember my Father saying to Mother, "Well, this boy is all the war has left us".
When the war started we were a happy family of eight children and when it ended four were gone, three brothers and one sister, Amanda, beautiful girl of nineteen years dying the same year that my brothers died.
After returning from the war I wanted to go to school, but there was no school for several years that I could attend. Hence, I missed an education. Our home was in Sherman's path and his army took all of my father's stock and destroyed everything else. Nothing was left but the land, so I had to go to work to make a living and it was a hard pull to get along during the years of reconstruction. But I must say that the Lord has been good to me, permitting me to live to a ripe old age (75) with fairly good health and the pleasure of raising a family of seven sweet dutiful children, for which I am proud. Another thing I am thankful for is that I have gone through life in peace with everybody, never had a case in court and never a known enemy. Therefore, I feel at peace with the world and when my pilgrimage is ended I will feel that I can leave the world bearing a brotherly love for everyone.
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