In the fall of 1862…
It was the first day of June 1874, and Anna (Jacobs) Battles was trying to push forward with her late husband’s claim for property she said had been taken by the Union Army when it came through their land in Cherokee County, Alabama, ten years earlier.
But there was one answer to one question posed by the examiners of the Southern Claims Commission that proved an insurmountable sticking point.
We had six sons — and every one of them at sometime or other was in the Confederate Army.1
A disqualifying statement, in answer to that question.
And oh the pain behind that statement.
The truth behind that statement was something very different to Anna Battles than it may have appeared on the surface.
The facts behind that statement meant so much more than the loss of the property she and William said had been taken by the officers and soldiers of the Army of General Sherman in October 1864. Two horses. Some 16 hogs. Some fodder and corn. Some dried fruit and some bacon. Syrup and meal. Total value of $809.20.2
The reality behind that statement was that two of those six sons never came home.
One of them — Guilford Battles — is listed in the Alabama records as having enlisted as a 32-year-old in August of 1862 and then having deserted his unit in March of 1864.3
Though that may be part of Guilford’s story, it’s undeniable that he never made it home, leaving his widow and children to fend for themselves the rest of their days.4
And the other — Azariah Battles — was lost, to illness or wounds, 155 years ago yesterday.
There’s not a lot known about this Battles son, who first appears by name in the records on the 1850 U.S. census with a typically Southern quirk: his name is phonetically presented by the enumerator as “Aserier.”5
He’s probably the blacksmith shown as “Arna Battles” on the 1860 census of Cherokee County, Alabama,6, and he joined Company A of the 31st Alabama Infantry on May 5, 1862.7 That’s the same company in which most of his brothers saw service.8
The 31st Alabama’s history began in April 1862:
This regiment was organized at Talladega, in April 1862, and reported to Gen. Leadbetter at Chattanooga shortly after. It then moved up to Knoxville, where it was brigaded under Gen. Barton, Stevenson’s division. The regiment was at the investment of Cumberland Gap (June 18, 1962), and took part in the fight at Tazewell (August 6, 1862). With Gen. E.K. Smith’s column it was in the Kentucky campaign, without coming up with the enemy. When the forces came back, it was permanently brigaded with the Twentieth, Twenty-third, Thirtieth, and Forty-sixth Alabama, and under Gen. Tracy of Madison. In December, the Thirty-first accompanied Stevenson’s division to Vicksburg. In May 1863 it was initiated into the sternest duties of war at Port Gibson (May 1, 1863), where the regiment suffered severely. It fought at Baker’s Creek (May 16, 1863), and the loss was very heavy. As part of the garrison of Vicksburg (May 22, 1863-July 1, 1863), the regiment shared in the dangers and privations of that siege, and, after losing a number killed and wounded, was surrendered with the fortress.
Placed in parole camp at Demopolis, Alabama the Thirty-first was soon exchanged. With Gen. Pettus in command of the brigade, the regiment joined the army of Tennessee, and was engaged with slight loss at Mission Ridge (November 25, 1863). It wintered at Dalton, and in the memorable campaign from Dalton to Atlanta (May – September 1864) it bore a full share in the dangers and hardships which have made it a bloody but proud page in Southern annals. It followed Gen. Hood into Tennessee, and after sustaining severe losses at Columbia (November 24–29, 1864) and Nashville (December 15–16, 1864), was the rear-guard of the retreating army. Transferred to North Carolina, the regiment was hotly engaged at Bentonville (March 19–21, 1865), and a fragment of the 1100 with which it entered the service stacked arms at Greensboro (April 26, 1865), as part of Pettus’ brigade.9
Azariah enlisted, the records say, in May of 1862. So he could have seen action at the Battle of the Cumberland Gap in June 1862 — “a Union victory during the American Civil War leading to Union occupation of the Cumberland Gap for three months.”10 Perhaps he was in the thick of things at Tazewell, Tennesee, in August.11
But he did not make it to the terrible battles of 1863 — at Port Gibson, Mississippi, where the 31st surrendered at the end of the siege of Vicksburg.
His records say, simply: “Date of Death: 1862/11/03.”12
There is no cause of death indicated.
No circumstances shown.
No indication of when or where he was buried.
Nothing to indicate how the news made it back to his mother back in Cherokee County, Alabama.
No, there’s not a lot known about Azariah Battles.
Except that he was lost, 155 years ago yesterday…
And that his loss would have been devastating to his mother… my fourth great grandmother.
Image: 31st Alabama Infantry battle flag, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Battle Flag Project.
- Deposition of Mrs. Anna Battles, 1 June 1874; William Battles, dec’d, v. United States, Court of Claims, Dec. term 1887–1888, Case No. 967-Congressional; Congressional Jurisdiction Case Records; Records of the United States Court of Claims, Record Group 123; National Archives, Washington, D.C. ↩
- Ibid., petition of William Battles, 20 April 1871. ↩
- “Alabama Civil War Service Database,” index entry for Guilford Battles, 31st Alabama Infantry, Company A; Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery (http://archives.state.al.us/ : accessed 3 Nov 2017), citing Record Roll made by Adjutant General Brewer 1866. ↩
- Guilford married Anna Keener in 1854. DeKalb County, Alabama, Marriage Book 3:306, Guilford Battles-Elizabeth Ann Kenner (1854); Probate Court Clerk, Fort Payne. By 1860, they had three children. 1860 U.S. census, De Kalb County County, Duck Spring, population schedule, p. 228 (stamped), dwelling 274, family 228, Gilford “Battes”; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Nov 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 9. ↩
- 1850 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, 27th District, population schedule, p. 270 (penned), dwelling/family 1052, Aserier Battles; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Nov 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 3. ↩
- 1860 U.S. census, Cherokee County, Alabama, 3rd District, population schedule, p. 97 (stamped), dwelling/family 64, Arna Battles; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Nov 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 5. ↩
- “Alabama Civil War Service Database,” index entry for Azariah Battles, 31st Alabama Infantry, Company A; Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery (http://archives.state.al.us/ : accessed 3 Nov 2017), citing Record Roll made by Adjutant General Brewer 1866. ↩
- Ibid., entries for Guilford, J.F., L.A. and W.M. Battles. The sixth son, George, served from Georgia. See Muster Roll, Catoosa County, Georgia, 4 March 1862, “Georgia, Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1864,” entry for G W Battles; database and images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 4 Nov 2017), citing Muster Rolls—Men Subject to Military Duty from 1860–1864; Georgia State Archives, Morrow. ↩
- “Brief History of the 31st Alabama Infantry Regiment,” 31st Alabama Infantry (http://www.31stalabama.com/ : accessed 4 Nov 2017). ↩
- Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.com), “Battle of the Cumberland Gap (June 1862),” rev. 22 Sep 2017. ↩
- See Marlitta H. Perkins, “The Battle of Tazewell,” 14th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Website (http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~us14thkyinfantry/ : accessed 4 Nov 2017). ↩
- “Alabama Civil War Service Database,” index entry for Azariah Battles. ↩