Thursday, May 23, 2019

"An Incident"

On August 25, 1864, the Richmond Daily Dispatch ran a story gained from the Petersburg Express. It notes, "An Incident," that occurred during the Battle of Weldon Railroad (aka Globe Tavern, August 18-21).

In this brief story, two privates from the 12th Virginia Infantry incorporate a degree of guile to capture two Union officers (a captain and a lieutenant) and 25 privates. The article claims that the two Confederates marched their captives in "double file to a stronger guard." Apparently the more numerous prisoners were chagrined at the turn of events and at being tricked by their two captors.

There is little doubt this event actually happened. The existence of the 12th Virginia privates that are mentioned, "George W. May, company A, and _____ Miles, company B" are corroborated with their extant service records. May had been a prisoner of war himself, captured in the fighting the first day of Chancellorsville. Perhaps he learned something from his experience as a prisoner. "______ Miles" looks to be Alexander M. Miles of Company B. Before the Overland Campaign, Miles served on detached duty with the provost guard at Orange Courthouse, Virginia, so perhaps, he too knew something about the world of prisoners.

When the war began it was often mentioned (sometimes by both sides), but especially by the Confederates, that "one Southern man could whip 10 Yankees." Was the newspaper's purpose in publishing this positive-news story meant to boost Confederate morale and provide evidence of the old claim? Or was it just a positive-new story space filler?

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