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Monday, March 23, 2015

Uncle Quince and the Civil War

My 2-great grandfather Solomon Whittenton was too old to go to war when the Confederate States of America were born in December 1860 and when his home state of Tennessee seceded in June 1861. Fort Sumter was attacked in April 1861, and the Civil War had begun, setting afire the young men of Madison County.

Solomon’s younger brother Quince Tilian Whitington waited a month and then joined the Confederate Army 6th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry Volunteers, Company B, on May 22, 1861, under Captain John J. Brooks. These were “The Golden Zouaves”—all men from Madison County, named after the elite Zouave battalion of the French Army in Algiers in the 1830s. The regiment moved to Union City until they had nearly 900 troops, and then they were moved to Camp Blythe, near New Madrid, Missouri, and joined with the 9th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. That brigade was a part of Brigadier General Benjamin F. Cheatham’s Division. From August to November 1861, Quince was employed by the regiment as a teamster. In November 1861 they were at the Battle of Belmont near Columbus, Kentucky, but not actively engaged. After that battle they moved to Corinth, Mississippi, close to the Tennessee border. The 6th Regiment fought with the rest of their brigade most notably at the devastating Battle of Shiloh on 6 – 7 April 1862, losing almost 500 men from the one brigade alone. (About 23,000 total were killed at Shiloh.) Quince was wounded at Shiloh and sent home to recuperate. He was discharged from the Army on July 22, 1862.

The discharge papers gave a personal picture of Quince, “born in Johnston Co., in the State of NC, aged forty years, five feet, eight inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, dark hair, and by profession a farmer . . . .” His shaky signature reads, Q. T. Whitington.

While he was between enlistments, he married Delilah Owen on October 11, 1862. The couple had no children.

Quince next appeared as a corporal in the 19th/20th Consolidated Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry, under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was in Company B, under Captain J. A. Shane. He was very likely drafted in 1864, but on February 28, 1865, he appeared on a “Report of absentees and deserters from the 19th and 20th Tennessee Cavalry Regiments.” The report was made at Verona, Mississippi (on the south edge of Tupelo) and notes that his residence was Madison Co., Tennessee, and his probable whereabouts “Maddison Co Tenn.” The living conditions were terrible for the Confederates by this point in the war. Reports from men in this regiment stated repeatedly that they slept on the hard ground, had no tents to keep off the rain or snow, had few clothes, and little to eat besides a small amount of hard tack and either pickled, jerked, or raw meat when they could get any at all. Quince, a middle-aged man, could probably see the Cause was lost and was through with it all.

I do not agree with the Southern Cause, but even if I did, I would not call Quince Tilian Whitington a coward, nor can I blame him one bit for calling a personal halt to the madness. In the midst of the Vietnam War during my youth, I remember a lot of my contemporaries urging people to stop wars, to give peace a chance. It is something that has resonated with me for decades. Peace.

Rest in peace, Uncle Quince.

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