1861: Meredith Kendrick to Plum

 

This letter was written by Capt. Meredith Kendrick (1834-1864), the son of James Cornelius Kendrick (1801-1884) and Mary Butler (1804-1877). Meredith was commissioned a Captain in Co. C, 3rd Georgia Infantry Battalion on 11 June 1861 and was promoted to Major on 1 August 1863. He mustered out of that regiment in May 1863 and transferred to Co. I, 37th Georgia where he served until he was killed at Kennesaw Mountain on 14 June 1864.

Meredith was married on 23 December 1855 to Emily E. Jones whom I infer he called “Plum” as a term of endearment. In 1860, Meredith and Emily resided in Newnan, Coweta county, Georgia, where he practiced law and operated a plantation with the assistance of 26 slaves managed by John W. McCollom, his overseer. A biographical sketch follows:

“In 1860, Meredith Kendrick, a prominent young member of the Newnan bar, was elected Solicitor-General of the Tallaposa (now Coweta) circuit. He filled this position with marked ability until the inauguration of the Lincoln administration in 1861, which event threatened the peace of our beloved Southland, when the gallant Kendrick laid down all civic honors and raised a company from the counties of Coweta, Campbell and Carroll and in June following, went into camp at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), Cobb County, for drill. It being the policy of the Confederate authorities to receive no troops for a less term of service than “three years or the war”, caused his company to disband, leaving Capt. Kendrick but a remnant of his first enlistment. But, undiscouraged, he went to Atlanta where he found Capt. S. C. Rose with a like number of men, whom he induced to return with him, and they were mustered into service as Co. C. 3rd Battalion Georgia Volunteers, with M. Kendrick as Captain, S.C. Rose, 1st Lieutenant, Thos. D. Wright 2nd Lieutenant, and Jesse D. Gilbert as 3rd Lieutenant. After a short drill service, all troops at this camp were ordered to Lynchburg, Va., thence to Richmond and from there quite a number were sent to Goldsboro, N.C. From here the 3rd Georgia Battalion was ordered to Greenville, Tenn., and in the early part of 1862 joined the command of Gen. James E. Rains at Cumberland Gap who was commandant of this important post. Gen. Rains and Capt. Kendrick being of the same profession in civilian life, lawyers, and holding the same position, a mutual admiration soon sprang up between them which lasted during life.

After Gen. Bragg’s invation of Kentucky, the Army returned in the Fall of 1862 to Middle Tennessee where it fought the great battle of Murfreesboro on Dec. 31st and where the dashing Rains was killed and the gallant Kendrick severely wounded [in the thigh]. After the fall of Rains, Gen. W.B. Bates, afterwards Gov. of Tennessee) succeeded to the command of the brigade. He, too, soon learned the worth of the chivalrie Kendrick had as will hereafter be seen.

After the battle of Murfreesboro the 3rd and 9th Georgia battalions were consolidated, making the 37th Georgia Regiment. Col. M.A. Stovall of the 3rd battalion was promoted to Brigadier and assigned to a brigade in the Mississippi army; Maj. A.F. Rudler was made Colonel, Lt. Col. Joe Smith of the 9th Georgia batallion was made Lieutenent Colonel of the 37th Georgia Regiment, Capt. Kendrick of Co. C became Major and Lieut. Thos. D. Wright was made Capt. of Co. I., a new regiment. Resigning soon after, Lieut. Wm.  Hutcheson became captain of Co. I., 37th Georgia regiment and was mortally wounded in the battle of Jonesboro, Ga., on Aug. 31st, dying at Barnesville on Nov. 23, 1864.

The battle of Hoover’s Gap came next, followed by the great battle of Chickamauga on the 19th and 20th of Sept. 1863 and in Nov. came the battle of Missionary Ridge after which our Army established winter quarters at Dalton, until the Johnston-Sherman campaign began in May 1864. Gen. Bragg having been called to Richmond for service in the War Dept., when he took leave of the Army for Richmond. Gen. Bates accompanied him, carrying with him the name of Major Kendrick for promotion to Brigadier-General.

But, alas! On the morning of the 14th of June 1864, while in command of the brigade picket line near Lost Mountain, Cobb county, Ga., very near the place and in the same county where he had enlisted in the service about three years before, he fell mortally wounded. He was borne into camp to the regiment surgeon’s tents. Dr. Calloway made a hasty examination of the wound but his sad face and hesitating manner only brought a shadow of gloom over the handsome face of the heroic sufferer and the hearts of devoted friends and comrades around him.

An ambulance was brought and the matchless Kendrick was sent to the vacated home of a Mr. Hardage, where, after intense suffering of mind and body until about midnight of June 15, 1864, and within about three miles of Marietta, the gallant soul of Major Kendrick went home to the God who gave it and his magnificent form to his home in Newnan, where in waiting, was one of the deepest sorrows ever poured forth from a crushed and bleeding heart over the handsome and beloved form of an idolized and devoted husband.

After the sad homecoming and the solemn rites were over, all that was mortal of the brilliant and matchless Kendrick was laid to rest in the family cemetery there, to await the last roll call of the countless dead.” [Jos. Hutcheson, Decatur, Ga., April 11th, 1910]

This letter was written from the Confederate training camp at Camp Davis, some 30 miles from Savannah, Georgia, where the Georgia Relief & Hospital Association operated a hospital. I’ve included a letter written by M. Kendrick to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown on 28 April 1861 in which he offered the service of a company of “hardy farmer boys” he had raised that could do “good work on the borders of Virginia…” Clearly the signatures of both letters were penned by the same officer.

Comparison of signatures between Letters


TRANSCRIPTION

Camp Davis [30 miles from Savannah, Georgia]
October 21st 1861

Dear Plum,

I have nothing to say except that we are still here without orders. I am well and have not received a line from you since your Liberty letter. Had I known that we would have been here till now, I certainly should have insisted upon your remaining, to which I know you would have readily assented.

Since you left here I have been doing fine in every respect except that I have been slightly troubled with my old disease (strangury). I have my tent nicely floored some 8 inches above ground. It closes up perfectly and keeps me dry and warm. Should I at any time find that we will be quartered here for the winter, unless I can go home, I want you to come and stay with me. Although I got my consent to forego the pleasure of your presence before entering the service, yet when an opportunity is presented, I would not deny myself such happiness from any considerations of pecuniary economy or personal inconvenience.

I received a letter from father a few days ago; all well there. He says that [my brother] Ben ¹ had written me several letters explaining the reasons for his not returning but I never received one of them. When he got home from this place, the people of his county had organized a company for coast defense and elected him captain. Of course he did right to choose the position of captain & remain in his own state rather than go as private out of it.

I have just been reading the address of Mr. Breckinridge to the people of Kentucky & am perfectly inflamed with a mixture of enthusiasm, anger, and indignation. It is the finest document of the age and I believe will find its way to the minds & hearts of the sensible, brave, & patriotic portion of the people of that state. I have the utmost confidence in the final redemption of Kentucky from under the tyranny & oppression of Lincoln and his miserable [meagre wisdoms?] — and when I think of the outrageous treatment of ex-Gov. [Charles Slaughter] Morehead & his compatriots whose hands are manacled & whose hearts are bleeding under the wounds of tyranny & oppression, I feel a desire irrepressible to aid the true gallant sons of Kentucky in defending their homes & liberties and in avenging the wrongs of their unoffending brethren.

Yet here we remain, cooking, eating, sleeping, or toasting our skins over fires, drawing pay from the government for which we render no service whatever save to guard the various hospitals of the sick. Winter is fast approaching & will necessarily close the campaign in the N. W. with the enemy still on our soil. Maryland is down trodden, Missouri nobly struggling with the waves of tyranny that beat against her proud crest, Kentucky contending almost unaided against the force of vastly superior numbers, while our grand [Confederate] Army of the Potomac has actually retreated several miles. Oh that some great Napoleon would arise to push forward this conflict to its inevitable & glorious destiny and thus end this accursed warfare. By a course of delay and in action, the brilliant achievements of Bethel, Manassas, Lexington, & Springfield have all been lost to the South, yet I never for one moment doubt the final success of our arms, but sincerely desire that that glorious finality be brought about by the shortest method possible. Such a method — although the destruction would be more rapid & glaring — would prove a great saving of human life. During all this long delay, our troops have died by hundred. The inroads of the enemy are nothing to the ravages of disease.

But pardon me for burdening you with my views of military affairs. Write me often for not more than half of your letters will ever reach me. I will go home about Christmas if possible. Tell ma I want to see her very bad. I have never before known the extent of my affections for her & for pa.

As ever yours, — M. Kendrick


¹ Benjamin R. Kendrick (1837-1862) first entered the Confederate service in October 1861 and was commissoned a Captain of Co. E, 55th Georgia, in May 1862. He was killed on 12 September 1862 at Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Meredith Kendrick’s letter to Gov. Joseph E. Brown, 28 April 1861

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