1863: Smith G. Homan to Amelia McCorkle

How Smith might have looked

How Smith might have looked

This letter was written by Smith G. Homan of Co. F, 29th Georgia Infantry. Early in the war, Homans served as an artillerist in the Savannah area. At the time this letter was written in July 1863, Pvt. Homan was detailed as a quartermaster clerk in the brigade headquarters at Morton, Mississippi. The regiment had just marched there from Jackson, Mississippi, being the last Confederate troops to pull out of the trenches after the week-long siege (10-16 July 1863) that resulted in Joseph E. Johnston’s decision to retreat before Sherman’s army.

One of Homan’s service records indicates that he was born in “Suffolk County, North Carolina.” Another records states that he died on 29 October 1863 of a “congestive chill” at Savannah, Georgia. He is buried in the Old Cemetery at Thomasville, Thomas County, Georgia.

The 29th Georgia Infantry was organized at Big Shanty, Georgia, during the summer of 1861. The regiment contained men from Thomas, Berrien, Tift, Stephens, and Dougherty counties. For a time Companies A and G served as heavy artillerists in the Savannah area and the rest of the command was at Charleston. It then was assigned to General Wilson’s, C.H. Stevens’, and H.R. Jackson’s Brigade, and in September, 1863, was consolidated with the 30th Regiment.

Homan wrote the letter to Amelia McCorkle of Starkville, Georgia. I have not been able to connect her to Homan but I notice a James M. McCorkle of Starkville, Lee County, Georgia who had a brother named A. P. McCorkle, of Port Gibson, Mississippi. Perhaps these brothers are relatives.

1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Miss Amelia McCorkle, Starkville, Lee County, Georgia

Head Quarters Wilson’s Brigade
Morton, Mississippi
July 21, 1863

Dear Sister Dick,

You have probably got more of the news of the doings here from the papers than from any letters I have written you. My last was from Jackson while our men were in the trenches in front of the enemy. After nine days spent in artillery dueling and heavy skirmishing, the order came to retire in the direction of Brandon.

Our train which was about three miles in the rear moved at 4 o’clock P. M. and we were all the night in the road reaching Brandon — a distance of only 12 miles — in the morning at day break, That day and the next we were on the road reaching this place where we have now lain four days questioning and wondering which way we go next. The retreat was not without the usual disastrous effects. The marching was severe — many of the troops being without rations much of the time. The heat was oppressive and water on the route very scarce. Many have straggled, some deserted who have homes now in the possession of the Yankees, and others in the confusion fallen into the hands of the merciless foe. Our regiment was very fortunate notwithstanding they were out as skirmishers the last evening and were the last to leave the field. None were killed or wounded that I now think of with whom you were acquainted.

I had the pleasure on the next evening after reaching this place of receiving a call from your brother William. I had made arrangements with Gus to ride out to hunt him that same evening. He is looking extremely well and says he has enjoyed good health since leaving home. Has written several times to you and wonders you have received none of his letters. But it’s not much of a wonder considering that there is not any regular mail arrangements made in most of the brigades & many of the letters, if even they reach a post office, find it so crowded with mail matter that it is thrown in a corner there to rest. We smoked together the pipe of peace and even some on as intimate terms as old acquaintances. In fact, from the first he never seemed like a stranger to me but more as a brother. I trust we may meet often and be better acquainted before the war closes. He was in the fight and at times much exposed and says his usual good luck attended him, carrying him through safe. His division is now several miles ahead of us but we will be with them in a few days again.

Our boys are mighty sick of Mississippi and the war. Savannah is a paradise compared to this. ‘Tis nothing here but march and countermarch & that on short rations. Corn meal & beef is the standard ration. Once in a while — say every ten days — bacon is circulated in very small quantities and that with the few wasting ears that they are able to gather in the fields on the roadside is all that can be had for the inner man. By keeping a nigger out buying for us & by reason of having the Brigade Commissary in our mess, we manage to have biscuit chickens and once in awhile a peach pie on our cloth.

I sincerely wish all might fare as well and although I have not to suffer with the troops in their marching and fatigues, still my heartfelt sympathies are with them and even if in my power, I would put a stop to all this suffering quick.

I have not heard a word from Savannah since I left. Received a letter from Cousin Sade yesterday which is the only one I have received in Mississippi. Much love to Sister Lottie & Mary and to all the friends. Please write me a good long letter. Direct to Jackson. Wilsons Brigade. Walker’s Division.

I am as ever very affectionately yours, — S. G. Homan


Harper’s Illustration of the Siege at Jackson, Mississippi in July 1863


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