Our prized family heirloom is a small leather pouch, the “wallet” that my great-grandfather, Stephen Albert Smith, carried in the Civil War. It now holds a piece of red, white, and blue-striped ribbon that came from the wreath placed by the Daughters of the Confederacy at his funeral. In truth, it is a Climax chewing tobacco pouch, minus the snap that once held it closed, and reinforced by stitching around the edges.
Family lore had Stephen carrying his little coin purse, with only a few “coppers” in it, through the entire war, 1861-1865, taking part in several major battles. The truth is, at age 17 he enlisted on 11 March 1864 in the last year of the war. He can be found as S.A. Smith on muster rolls of Company A, 33rd Alabama Infantry. (I don’t understand the 19th century’s fascination with initials; in the 21st century they have given me no end of trouble finding my relatives!) On Footnote (now Fold3) I found the requisition for a coat ($14.00) for S.A. Smith, Private, Company A, 33rd Alabama Infantry, on March 16, 1864.
While Union veterans applied to the federal government for pension benefits deriving from service in the Civil War, Confederate veterans applied to the state in which they lived. The information about my great-grandfather’s Civil War service mostly comes from his application for benefits from the state of Oklahoma. He declared that he enlisted on 11 March 1864 in Elba, Alabama; that he joined Company A of the 33rd Alabama Infantry; that his officers were “Colonel Adams, Brigadier General Lowrey, Clayborne (Cleburne), Owesson, Hardee Corps, Joe E. Johnston’s Army”; that he was a prisoner of war, paroled about the last of April 1865 from Macon, Georgia; that he was not wounded in battle.
Stephen’s brothers, Alexander Jackson and Minor Jefferson, are both listed on a muster roll dated 11 March 1862. Alexander was 21 and Minor J. was 19. Alexander applied for a pension in Alabama at age 74, stating that he had been wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (June 19-July 2, 1864). A register of patients at Ocmulgee Hospital, Macon, Georgia, shows that Alex J. Smith was admitted on July 8, 1864, and transferred on July 22, 1864. For “Disease,” the register shows “vul sclopet,” which means gunshot wound. (What did we do without the Internet?) Eliza S. Smith, widow of Jefferson Smith, Company A, 33rd Alabama, filed a claim on 14 October 1862 in Coffee County. We think this is our Minor Jefferson. In any case, he does not show up on censuses after 1860.
I have found no records that indicate when or where S.A. Smith was captured but as he was paroled from Macon, I suspect that he became a prisoner of war sometime during the Atlanta Campaign. I found out when I visited Franklin, Tennessee, that the 33rd Alabama was practically wiped out there in November 1864. I hope Alexander and Stephen were out of the fighting by then.