Monday, July 13, 2020

Confederate Pvt. David Holt's Capture Experience at Globe Tavern

Last week I shared the story of 1st Sgt. James Johnson Kirkpatrick of the 16th Mississippi Infantry, who was captured during the Battle of Globe Tavern (aka Weldon Railroad) and held briefly in the Union "Bull Ring" at City Point. The 16th Mississippi was almost captured in whole during the fighting on August 21, 1864. Pvt. David Holt, another member of the regiment also left an account of his capture. However, unlike Kirkpatirck, who left a contemporary record, Holt penned his many years after the war while writing his memoirs. They were published in 1995 as A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia: The Civil War Memoirs of Private David Holt. Despite the passage of years, Holt's account of event seem to ring true and are corroborated with other source material.

Holt claims that on the morning of August 21, 1864, Company K only mustered 21 soldiers. The 16th marched to the front from their camp without a breakfast and in the rear of their brigade. Supported by artillery, the brigade formed into a battleline and gathered momentum for their assault on the Union earthworks now protecting the severed railroad.

Painting a picture of the charge Holt wrote, "We fired and loaded as we ran. A man appeared on my left, running at a slight angle to me. With his red hair I thought he was Bob Gerald." It was not Bob Gerald, as Bob, like Holt would become a prisoner that day too. Holt continued, "As we touched shoulders, a missile of some sort struck his head on the side next to me and knocked his brains into my face. He plunged forward, and I ran on without looking back, wiping his blood off with my sleeve."

The Confederates stopped short of the Union earthworks by about 100 feet and piled into a farm ditch. Here, "Sam Wall, who was next to me, fell, shot through the groin, just as we reached it. We pulled him into the drain, where he lay displaying great fortitude. Colonel [Edward] Counsel [Councell] received a mortal wound, and we pulled him into the drain also," Holt remembered.

In this position the Mississippians fired at any Union soldiers who dared to show their heads above their earthworks. Holt though, explained, "Our ammunition was beginning to give out. After a man had fired his last shot, he would curl up under the bank and lay low." The wounded Col. Councell asked the men if reserves were coming up. They were not. He advised to "Raise the white flag."

Holt said that "One of the men possessed a pair of drawers that had a faint semblance to white. Placing them on the muzzle of his gun, he raised it up. Instantly all firing ceased, and the Yanks came pouring over the breastworks. I pulled off my accouterments and laid them down with my gun in the mud and trampled all [of them] out of sight, just as the Yankees reached us."

A Union soldier asked Holt where his gun was and Holt fibbed and said he did not have one, that he borrowed one from a comrade. The Yank then invited Holt to have breakfast with him behind the safety of the Union earthworks. At that time a kerfuffle broke out when Company K's 2nd Lt. James Bryan refused to surrender his sword to a private. A Union captain arrived and broke the tension and accepted the sword, and sword belt, which Bryan initially refused to give up but finally did by defiantly throwing it balled up into the captain's face. Fortunately, another Union officer stepped in and prevented Bryan's on the spot execution.

Holt and his newfound Union friend had their breakfast of salt pork, hardtack, and coffee. While eating the Confederate artillery opened up on the Union earthwork line causing friendly fire casualties among the prisoners. Holt looked over the pile of dirt and saw another wave of Confederate attackers coming, so he jumped up on the parapet and cheered them for a few seconds until he was urged back down by his Union captor. "On, on, on came the Confederates over a clear pasture beside the cornfield, but as they came, their line seemed to melt away. Every cannon and every rifle in that rainbow of fire [poured] as stream of death into their ranks. Soon a few remained standing, and my Yank ceased firing," Holt remembered.

Soon, Maj. Gen. Gouverneour K. Warren, commander of the defending V Corps, rode up and exclaimed "Move those prisoners quickly to the right from under the fire of their own guns." The prisoners moved off further behind Union lines and laid down on the ground in front of a unit held in reserve. While waiting to move again, Holt got into an argument with a Union soldier who offended him when commenting on his youthful appearance. The soldier, apparently trying to make amends offered Holt $5.00, which was refused. This brief altercation was broken up when a Union officer hailed, "Form the prisoners into line, and group men of the same company together." When completed, Holt and his comrades "moved on toward City Point between a double line of guard."


  1. As always, a very interesting first person account. War is a terrible and interesting thing. One minute you are wiping brains off your face, then a bit later you are eating breakfast with your enemy.

  2. Thank you for reading! Indeed, war creates strange situations, as well as have ripple effects that can last for centuries.