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Bracewellfamily.com is undergoing a full restoration over the next year. I will be moving all the documents from the old site to their new home here.
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FOREWORD JOE F. TAYLOR
We are indebted to James Stephens for doing the research necessary to piece together this chronicle on Joseph Marion Bracewell's Civil War service. Joseph Marion apparently chose not to remember the war years and never discussed his war experiences with his family. This history was gathered by tracing Joseph Marion's unit movements through numerous documents at a number of different locations. It has been said that this country was not built by great men doing a few great deeds, but rather by many average men doing average deeds. It may be equally true that the Southern victories in the War between the States my not have been as much due to the great leadership in the conflict, as to the extraordinary men who served in the ranks. Joseph Marion Bracewell was in those ranks throughout the war. His story deserves to be told and now, thanks to James Stephens, it has been.
My thanks to Charles Heath (1919-1983) who presented an article in the 1978 issue of the Bracewell Family Reunion entitled "JMB's Confederate Service Documented." This information provides us a solid foundation for this present research. I would also like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Joe Taylor, family historian; Mike E. Pilgram, Military Researcher for the National Archives - Military Division in Washington D.C., and to Philip Brasfield for his editorial assistance and critical suggestions for the body of this work. Philip is the author of numerous articles and most recently, Deathman Pass Me By (Borgo Press, 1983) and is currently working on a second novel. Many people have assisted me in various ways throughout this research and I would, therefore, like to thank my friends, old and new, who offered their help and hospitality along the way. J.W. Stephens May, 1984.
JOSEPH MARION BRACEWELL,
A MILITARY HISTORY
by J. W. STEPHENS
We are pleased to announce that the history of Joseph Marion Bracewell and his military service in the Confederate States Army has been documented from his enlistment on May 13, 1862, until the surrender of all Confederate Forces under General Joseph E. Johnston to Union General William T. Sherman at Greensboro, North Carolina in April, 1865. Joseph Marion Bracewell was the ninth child of William Bracewell and Elizabeth (Stephens) Bracewell, born January 13, 1834, in Laurens County, Georgia. He married Martha Emiline James on September 6, 1861, in Dale County, Alabama.
Joseph Marion Bracewell joined the Confederate States Army on May 13, 1862, at Lawrenceville, Alabama. (See: 1978 Issue, Bracewell Family Reunion: "JMB's Confederate Service Documented," by Charles Heath. Also, Muster Roll Number 642, dated May 14, 1862). Private Joseph Marion Bracewell was then taken to Opelika, Alabama where he was assigned to Captain T.Q. Stanford's 39th Alabama Infantry. (See: Muster Roll Number 655 and 655c, dated May 15, 1862.) This regiment was immediately taken to Tepelo, Mississippi, where it was brigaded under General Edward Frank Gardner along with the 19th, 22nd and 26th Alabama Regiments. (See: Muster Room Number 642b dated May 14 - June 30, 1862). With Gardner's Brigade, the 39th Alabama Infantry (JMB's regiment) participated in the Weary March into Kentucky, joining tile Army of the Department of Tennessee under General Brixton Bragg at Chattanooga, Tennessee in late August, 1862. After Gardner's Brigade combined its forces with Bragg's they began an immediate invasion of Kentucky on August 28, 1862.
The Battle of Perryville, Kentucky was apparently Private Bracewell's first military engagement. The battle began at 2:00 p.m. on October 8, 1862, against Union General Don Carlos Buell's Army of Ohio. The battle was severe, bloody and indecisive with the Union Army losing 800 killed and 2,800 more wounded. The Confederate casualties were somewhat lighter with 500 killed and 2,600 wounded. (See Livermore, p. 95). Neither side could count the "Battle of Blunders" at Perryville as a clear-cut victory although the advantage then lay with the North. Although Union Forces failed to crush General Bragg's army, the Confederates were compelled to abandon Kentucky in their retreat through the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee. General Buell apparently felt inferior to the Confederate Army and repaired to Nashville. For this blunder General Buell was supplanted by General William S. Rosecrans and the Army of Ohio became known as the "Army of the Cumberland."
General Bragg stationed his army at Murfeesboro, Tennessee, where several officers and enlisted men were given furlough and requested to return with horses, men and supplies for the Confederate Army. It is obvious that Private Joseph Marion Bracewell wasted no time in taking advantage of this only opportunity to visit his wife and family at home for a few days. He returned to his military duties just in time for one of the most devastating battles of the year at Stone River.
MURFREESBORO, TENN. (STONES RIVER)
Union General Rosecrans moved his forces from Nashville on December 26, 1862, in order to strike at the Confederate compliment near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The battle started on December 31, 1862 and lasted three days. The 39th Alabama Infantry gained much credit for repulsing an enemy attack in this engagement, yet they suffered severe losses. Captain T.Q. Stanford was killed in action, replaced by Captain Joseph C. Clayton, who was also killed, and replaced by Captain Lee A. Jennings, who was seriously wounded and forced into retirement from the service. It is, therefore, unknown at this time just who in particular assumed the command of the 39th Infantry Of Alabama. Confederate forces losses numbered 1,294 killed in action with 7,915 wounded, while the Union Army suffered 1,677 killed and 7,543 wounded. (See: Livermore, p. 97). The Battle of Stones River (also known as the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee) has been claimed as a Union victory since it resulted in General Bragg's evacuation of Murfreesboro and his retirement from central Tennessee as well. However, the Union Army that achieved this "victory" was unable to fight again for nearly nine months. General Bragg retreated to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was reinforced by General Simon B. Buckner's Division from Knoxville, TN. After months of inactivity, the Union Army moved out of Murfreesboro in June 1863 and by September 9, 1863 the City of Chattanooga was abandoned by Bragg without a battle. Alarmed by the loss of Chattanooga, Confederate President Jefferson Davis rushed in 11,000 troops under General James A. Longstreet from General Robert E. Lee's Army in Virginia. Meanwhile, Union forces under Rosecrans occupied Chatanooga and on September 19-20, 1863 the two armies met on the field of Chickamauga Creek.
Although General Longstreet's troops carried most of the fighting, the 39th Alabama Infantry (JMB's regiment) once again suffered severe losses of its soldiers. (See: Muster Roll Number 642b, dated September and October 1863). "This Company (the 39th) was last mustered at Chickamauga Creek on the 31st day of August, 1863, from which place it marched to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and took post guard duty a few days. It was then marched to Lafayette, Georgia, and back to Chickamauga on Sunday, the 20th day of September. It had nine men wounded in the fight, two of whom have since died. After the battle it was marched to Tynero Station where it remained a few days. From there to Missionary Ridge in front of Chattanooga at which place it now is." (Role 642b - D.K. Sargent). In this battle, Lieutenant General John B. Hood was seriously wounded, resulting in the loss of a leg. As for Gardner's Brigade, which included JMB's regiment, five color-bearers were lost and 175 men were killed. General Edward Frank Gardner was supplanted by General Zech C. Deas of Mobile, promoted from Colonel of the 22nd Alabama Infantry. The Battle of Chickamahga was a barren victory for the Confederate Army. Union General Edward M. McCook, Thomas L. Crittenden and William S. Rosecrans were forced to retreat to Chattanooga while General George H. Thomas of the Union Army, unaware of the retreat, made his gallant stand which earned him the nickname of "The Rock of Chickamauga." I will not detail this campaign since Randall gives full account of all these battles. (See also, Commager p. 244- 245, 249). Union casualties numbered 1,600 killed and 16,000 in all, including killed, wounded and missing. The Confederate forces lost nearly 18,000 men with 2,300 killed in action. (See: Livermore, 105-106). Note: The Union Army remained trapped in Chattanooga until Grant and Sherman attacked. After the Battle of Chickamauga Creek, the 39th Alabama Infantry (JMB's regiment) was stationed at the north end of Missionary Ridge (See: Muster Roll Number 642b for September- October 1863).
Union General William T. Sherman worked his way down from Memphis, Tennessee, crossed the Tennessee River at Brown's Ferry and attacked the Confederate right at the north end of Missionary Ridge, November 23-25, 1863. The 39th Alabama Infantry recorded only one casualty with the death of Private W.A. Hall (See: Muster Roll Number 642b, for November-December 1863, near Dalton, Georgia). General U.S. Grant of the Union Army directed General Joseph Hooker to attach the Confederate left on Lookout Mountain the "Battle Above the Clouds", at the same time General Sherman launched his attacked at Missionary Ridge. The main engagement occured at 3:30 p.m. on November 25, 1863. Two of General Thomas's Divisions, those of Philip H. Sheridan and Thomas J. Wood attempted to assist General Sherman by attacking the rifle pits at the foot of the Ridge. But the Union Soldiers pushed their way to the top without orders and took the crest of Missionary Ridge, forcing the entire Confederate contingent into a wild retreat. The broken columns raced all the way to Dalton, Georgia where the impact of the colossal failure became fully known. Chattanooga, and the rest of Tennessee, was lost and the Confederate Army of the Department of Tennessee suffered invariable humiliation and defeat. The three days of fighting cost General Bragg's Army 6,667 casualties, including 4,146 who were taken prisoner during the retreat. Union casualties were 5,616 in all. General Bragg, at his own request, was replaced by General Joseph E. Johnston and the Army of the Department of Tennessee wintered at Dalton, Georgia. Union General U.S. Grant left Chattanooga and the task of "mopping up operations in the West" to General William T. Sherman.
RESACA, ADAINSVILLE, NEWHOPE CHURCH PINE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA
At the beginning of May, 1864, while General Grant moved South from the Rapidan River in Virginia against General Robert E. Lee, General Sherman moved against General Joseph E. Johnston' s Army of the Department of Tennessee at Dalton, Georgia. From Dalton to Atlanta, the 39th Alabama Infantry was a conspicuous actor in all the fighting, and often suffered severely for its' action. General Johnston knew the tactical withdrawals and the limited engagements would not bring him and his men victory, but he also knew that careless exposure would only bring them defeat. Therefore, using his masterfully executed fabian tactics, General Johnston's army of 60,000 fought a number of decisive battles against General Sherman's 100,000 troops, drawing blood from both sides at Resaca during that May 13 - 15 encounter; in Adiansville on May 19; at the New Hope Church during the May 25 - 28 foray and at Pine Mountain, June 14th.
At the Battle of Kenessaw Mountain, June 27, 1864, General Sherman attempted a direct frontal attack against General Johnston's army, resulting in 2,000 Union casualties compared to the 270 casualties suffered by the Confederacy.
By mid-July, General Johnston's troops were safely in their trenches of Atlanta, Georgia. During the ensuing days, his troops gave General Sherman's army increasing draughts of grief as the Atlanta campaign wore on he became ready to "fight the Yankees on terms of advantage," while they were divided in crossing Peachtree Creek. (See: Mathews, McCook-Stoneman Raid, the entire book is a detailed account of the Atlanta Campaign by Bryon H. Mathews). Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who did not personally like General Johnston, relieved him of command on July 17, 1864. His successor was the battle-proven Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, commissioned to the temporary rank of General by the laws of the Confederate Congress. Hood was a brave man, but less skillful and cautious than Johnston. What Hood lacked most of all was the independent experience of command -- and he demonstrated this all too quickly in the Battle of Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864. General Hood ordered his army from their trenches and formed a gauntlet between Union General George H. Thomas and General John M. Schofield's Divisions. The Confederate losses were extremely high. The 39th Alabama Infantry's ranks were sadly thinned by the heavy casualties of these desperate battles in and around Atlanta and the enlisted men suffered loss of over half of their regiment. Captain C.H. Mathews was killed at Peachtree Creek, July 20, 1864, and replaced by Captain Willis Banks. But he, too, was killed a few days later near Atlanta as the losses mounted staggeringly. General Hood directed Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee to withdraw the Divisions of Major General John C. Brown and Major General Henry D. Clayton's 39th Alabama Infantry from the trenches of Northeast Atlanta and move them West unnoticed during the night to Ezra Church, near the settlement of Lickskillet.
The Battle of Ezra Church began at 11:30 a.m., July 28, 1864, against Union Major General John A. Logan's 15th Army Corps and the Union Army of Tennessee under General Oliver O. Howard. The Confederate Troops attacked, retreated and attacked again, but each time they were met and driven back with severe losses. In the Battle of Jonesboro, Major J. D. Smith of the 39th Alabama Infantry was killed in action and the 39th once again suffered heavy losses. In all, General Hood lost over 20,000 men in the Atlanta Campaign, including over half of the 39th Alabama Infantry. After the Battle of Jonesboro, General Hood was forced to abandon Atlanta to save his army and the next day, September 2, 1864, General Sherman occupied the city. The Confederate Army remained at Lovejoy a few weeks and under a flag of truce the two armies exchanged prisoners at the Rough-n-Ready Railroad station just South of Atlanta. General Hood believed that if he threatened the Union Supply lines, General Sherman would be forced to pursue him North (See: The American Nation, a History of the United States. 4th Ed., p. 388 by John A. Garraty). But General Sherman, convinced that "No single Army could catch Hood", assigned General George H. Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga", and the Army of the Cumberland the task of pursuing the Confederate Army. By mid-November, General Hood's army was in pursuit of General Thomas, although a clear record has not been located at this time, I believe Union General Thomas was forced to retreat from Columbia, Tennessee, after a brief engagement there.
General Hood then attacked Union General John M. Schofield at Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864, with severe loss of men numbering well over 6,000 casualties. General Schofield lost 2,000 men in all. Hood's army then numbered at 33,730 strong and with them he attacked the combined Union forces of General Schofield and General Thomas on December 15 - 16, 1864, in the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee. The battle all but extinguished General Hood's army, despite the magnificent valor of the Confederate soldiers, the net result was a disastrous defeat for General Hood where casualties were extremely high and he suffered difficulty in making his escape with the sorry remnant of the once-fine army with which General Johnston had left him in Atlanta, Georgia. The Confederate Army lost 5,500 killed and wounded. Union casualties were 1,200 in all. General Hood's army, the ragged, bloody, barefoot band representing the Department of Tennessee, now numbered less than 28,230 men without food and without hope. They somehow made their way across the Tennessee River with the 23rd, 38th and "JMB's Regiment". The 39th Infantries, in the rear of the retreat, skirmishing with the advance of Union General Thomas's army. After having crossed the Tennessee River, the remaining army of the Department of Tennessee rallied to the call of General Joseph E. Johnston in the Carolinas. All except for the 38th Alabama Infantry, they were placed in the defense of Mobile, Alabama. As for John Bell Hood, history has not recorded much about the semi-sadistic General after the destruction of his army from Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee.
BRANCHVILLE & KINSTON, NORTH CAROLINA
April 9, 1865, at Smithville, North Carolina, the 39th Alabama Infantry then numbered only ten men in all. It was consolidated with the 22nd, the 25th and the 50th Alabama Infantries with Captain Henry B. Taulmein as Brigade Commander. JMB's new regiment, the 22nd Alabama Infantry, fought at Branchville and Kinston, North Carolina with very few casualties. Captain Roberts, one of the remaining ten survivors from the shredded 39th Alabama Infantry was killed in action, thus leaving the following nine men from that regiment, Fourth Sergeant Andrew J. Owens, First Corporal William L. McGee, Private Joseph Marion Bracewell, Private Frediek Carter, Private John R. Colling, Private John S. Espy, Private Brient Griffin, Private Stephen B. Ray, and Private William W. Searcy. Confederate President Jefferson Davis met with General Joseph E. Johnston and P.G. Beauregard at Greensboro, North Carolina to discuss future military operations but to this General Johnston told the Confederate President that the Southern people were tired of war, that his men were deserting at an alarming and rapid rate and that the true course of the war's action was to consult with General Sherman as to the terms of surrender. This resulted in a meeting between Generals Johnston and Sherman on April 13 - 18, 1865, but the first agreement of surrender was denied by President Andrew Johnston and his Cabinet of the United States Government.
BENTONVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
The 22nd Alabama Infantry (JMB"s Regiment), was engaged in the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina on March 19 - 20, 1865, with few casualties. This was, apparently, Private Bracewell's last military engagement. General Johnston met with General Sherman again at the Bennet House near Durham Station, North Carolina on April 26, 1865, where the final terms of surrender were hammered out. A few days later, Private Joseph Marion Bracewell was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865. First Lieutenant Walter S. White of the 22nd Alabama Infantry (See Role "Chart" 31), officers and men of the 22nd Alabama Infantry), was obviously well admired by ex-Private Bracewell. I believe, in fact, he named his fourth son, Walter White Bracewell (born on November 27, 1870), in honor of the Lieutenant.
THE RETURN HOME TO ALABAMA
Once released on parole, Joseph Marion Bracewell, returned home to his wife and family in Dale County, Alabama. The family then moved to Skipperville, Alabama and worked an 80 acre farm during the hard years of the Reconstruction period until 1872 when they moved to Texas. Before leaving Alabama, the following children were born to Joseph Marion Bracewell and Marth Emiline (James) Bracewell. William Barto Bracewell October 22, 1861 Joseph Benjamin Bracewell July 27, 1863 Andrew Calvin Bracewell November 17, 1867 Walter White Bracewell November 27, 1870 In 1872, the Bracewell family first settled in Grimes County at Appleonia, Texas, where Uriah Clark Bracewell was born on February 14, 1873. Later that same year the Bracewells moved to Bedias, Texas and settled at a place four miles East of town. There, at this new home, the following children were born: Edgar Frank Bracewell September 23, 1877 Emma C. Bracewell August 24, 1879 Elbert Lee Bracewell September 1, 1881 Ida Abbie Bracewell February 23, 1884 All of the children married and raised large families living in and around Bedias most of their lives. (See back issues of "The Reunion", available at the Bracewell Family Reunion, each year). Joseph Marion Bracewell suffered a great deal during the Civil War. The blight of the December frost at Nashville, and swimming the cold and icy waters of the Tennessee River upon retreat combined with the lack of sufficient food, adequate clothing and shelter played an important role in his health's destruction, yet he never broke. He was plagued by asthma in his later years until his death at the age of 72 on June 13, 1906. He is buried at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery near Bedias, Texas.
SUGGESTED READING - BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. The Civil War & Reconstruction, 2nd. Ed. by J.G. Randall and David Donald.
2. Numbers & Losses of the Civil War: pp. 95, 97, 105-106 by Thomas L. Livermore.
3. Illustrated History of the Civil War, pp. 244-245, 249, edited by Henry Steele Commanger.
4. The McCook - Stonesman Raid: A Complete Account of the Atlanta Campaign by Bryon H. Mathews.
5. Reflections of the Civil War by Bruce Cotton.
6. Alabama: Her History, Resources, War Record and Public Men From 1540 to 1862 by Willis Brewstet. (This gives a detailed account of the 39th Alabama Infantry on pp. 648-649). 1JTSA
(C) The Bracewell Reunion Bedias, Texas May, 1986
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