One Day Nearer His Home or His Grave
Shortly after being drafted into the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, First Lieutenant Willis Lee Scott and his brother Private William Thomas Scott both fell ill with typhoid fever, a bacterial infection caused by poor hygiene and unsanitary conditions, risk factors that were prominent in nearly every aspect of field militia service. Willis and William were admitted to Charlottesville General Hospital in Virginia on 21 July 1862. A third brother, Sergeant John Henry Scott, remained with their unit, Company I of the 48th Alabama Infantry Regiment. All were fighting for their lives.
William lost his fight with typhoid fever four days after being admitted to the hospital (See part two). It must have been devastating for Willis to be in the same hospital and ravaged by the same infection that killed his brother. Would his fate also be the same?
On 9 August, John was part of the Confederate forces that marched into Culpeper County, Virginia in an effort to halt a Union advance into the central part of the state. The Battle of Cedar Run was a victory for the Confederates. Did John know that William had died?
Willis suffered at the hospital, from the grief of his brother’s death and from the symptoms of typhoid: splitting headaches; burning fever; diarrhea; endless coughing; intestinal bleeding. Finally, he had his own victory. His fever broke, the symptoms retreated. On 26 August, Surgeon J. S. Davis cleared Willis to return to duty.
Before daybreak on 26 August, Confederate Major General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wing of the Army of Northern Virginia captured and destroyed a massive Union supply depot located at Manassas Junction, then dug in for the anticipated Union counterattack. This was familiar ground for General Jackson. It was the first battle here the year prior that earned him the nickname “Stonewall.” The 48th Alabama was under Jackson’s division commanded by Brigadier General William Taliaferro, who wrote, “In this fight there was no maneuvering and very little tactics. It was a question of endurance and both endured.” The battle was fought on and off for three days, with severe numbers of casualties on both sides. Sergeant John Scott was wounded on the last day of the battle, having been shot in the right leg below the knee. The Second Battle of Manassas was a significant victory for the Confederates but its scars would stay with John for the rest of his life.
Though Willis Scott was discharged from Charlottesville General, he did not rejoin Company I. He was marked on the company roll as absent sick from Second Manassas and all subsequent battles. The typhoid had damaged his body and the loss of William weighed on his his soul. For two weeks Willis pondered his future in the service. Finally, he wrote a letter of resignation and had it affirmed by the 48th Alabama’s surgeon, Dr. James Penn.
To the Hon. Secretary of War I do hearby tender to you my resignation as first Lieutenant in Company I of the 48 Regt Ala Vol. inf on the grounds of my very Bad health. I inlisted as a Lieut. on the 26th day of April 1862, and I have bin unfit for millitary duty ever Since the 20th of July last and Still continue unfit for duty, and I thearfore aske to be releast from the Millitary Service of the Confedret States Threw an honarbel and a Millitary chanell. Given under my hand and Seal this 16th Day of Sept. AD 1862 Willis L. Scott First Lieut. in Co I. 48 Regt Ala Val
I certify that I have carefully examined Lieut William L Scott and find him incapable of performing the duties of an officer because of disease of the Kidneys and liver. James Penn Surg 48th Ala Regt
Captain John Wigginton, commander of Company I, approved Willis’ resignation and it was noted in the company muster roll effective 6 October 1862. Six months after being drafted, Willis’ part in the war was over.
The service wasn’t quite done with Sergeant John Scott despite his serious injury at Second Manassas. It isn’t clear where John’s wound was initially treated or for how long he was a patient. News traveled slow and was often disrupted. Company I’s muster rolls only recorded his status as absent wounded from September 1862 to June 1863. Then he is recorded as absent without leave as of 29 June 1863. On 1 August he was reduced in rank to private due to being AWOL, and still reported that way for September and October 1863. Throughout this period, John had yet to draw pay from the Confederate Army.
On 19 November 1863, John was admitted as a patient to Buckner Hospital in Newnan, Coweta County, Georgia. He was apparently still suffering from the wound in his leg from the year before. The hospital muster roll recorded his rank as sergeant — news of his reduction hadn’t reached him yet. Finally, John was paid while at the hospital.
On 25 March 1864, John was issued a receipt for clothing at General Hospital No. 3 in Lynchburg, Virginia.
After August 1864, Company I reported John’s status as retired and that he “reports at Newnan” since 11 April.
On 13 April, John was officially retired and transferred to the Invalid Corps. His military station on the Invalid Corps register was given as the post office in Kemp’s Creek, but he was assigned to amend the military post at Selma, Alabama effective 25 November pursuant to Special Order 280. Selma was home to the South’s main military manufacturing center, the Selma Ordinance and Naval Foundry. The foundry produced supplies, ammunition and even ships for the Confederacy. It’s unknown if John ever reported for duty at Selma.
By 1865, Abraham Lincoln had been re-elected President, the Union Army was spreading across Alabama and the Confederates had all but lost the war. In May, the Union ordered Brevet Brigadier General Morgan Henry Chrysler to occupy Talladega, Alabama and to repair the railroad between Talladega and Selma. Chrysler’s unit, the Second New York Veteran Calvary, departed for Talladega on 10 May. Chrysler recounted his arrival at Talladega on the fifteenth in a telegraph, reporting no fighting along the way and no resistance at the Confederate post. “…[T]he office is overrun with men asking to be paroled,” he reported. One of those men was John Henry Scott.
Parole could be seen as a way to escape the war, if only for a short while. Once a captured soldier was paroled, he swore an oath to refrain from further military service until officially swapped in a prisoner exchange. If the soldier violated their oath, they faced execution if captured. Usually, the paroled soldier returned home to sit out the war until an exchange could occur.
Private John Henry Scott was paroled at Talladega on 29 May 1865. Finally, the war was over for all three Scott brothers.
Willis and William’s service records are mixed together at Fold3 and other repositories due to the similarity of their names. Even the creators of the records mixed up their names. For example, Willis’ resignation letter included an affidavit from a surgeon who called him William. Researchers can generally tell the two apart by their rank, Willis a first lieutenant and William a private.
Ancestry.com. Alabama Civil War Muster Rolls, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Muster rolls of Alabama Civil War Units. SG025006-25100. Company: Company I. Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama Department of Archives & History.
Fold3.com. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Alabama (Alabama, United States of America, The National Archives, 1903-1927), Publication Number: M311; Publisher: NARA; Record Group: 109; State: Alabama; Roll: 0436.
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Wikipedia contributors. “Stonewall Brigade.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Feb. 2020. Web. 25 May. 2020.
Wikipedia contributors. “Second Bull Run Confederate order of battle.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Jul. 2019. Web. 25 May. 2020.
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“Civil War Soldier Wrote Home, Tired of Snow and Military Life.” GeorgiaInfo, georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/thisday/ownwords/02/22/civil-war-soldier-wrote-home-tired-of-snow-and-military-life.
“The 48th Alabama Infantry Civil War Rosters.” Edited by Linda Ayers, USGenWeb Archives, 31 Mar. 2005, files.usgwarchives.net/al/statewide/military/civilwar/rosters/the48tha82gmt.txt.
Pickenpaugh, Roger. “Prisoner Exchange and Parole.” Essential Civil War Curriculum, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech, http://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/prisoner-exchange-and-parole.html.
Darroch, Richard. “What Happened to captured Civil War soldiers when they were paroled?” Quora, 23 April 2017, http://www.quora.com/What-happened-to-captured-Civil-War-soldiers-when-they-were-paroled
“The War of the Rebellion: Formal Reports, Both Union and Confederate, of the First Seizures of United States Property in the Southern States (53 v. in 111).” Edited by Robert Nicholson Scott, Google Books, Google, 19 Sept. 2008, books.google.com/books?id=Qat3AAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0.