Thursday, October 11, 2012

Colonel Thomas Jefferson Warthen of the Georgia 28th Infantry Regiment and the Battle of Malvern Hill

Colonel Thomas Jefferson Warthen is not a blood relative.   His wife, Sarah Faulk Wicker is my 3rd cousin 5x removed.  Sarah's grandfather Robert Hester Wicker, my 1st cousin 7x removed, was a Patriot in the American Revolution.  Sarah was born in Washington, Georgia on October 19, 1810.  At the age of 17 she married Thomas Jefferson Warthen.  The two were married on March 27, 1828.  Seven out of their eight children survived into adulthood.   A daughter, Elizabeth was born in 1849 and died sometime before the 1860 census. 

Thomas Jefferson Warthen was born in Washington, Georgia on March 18, 1804.  On September 10, 1861 he was elected Captain of Company B, Georgia 28th Infantry regiment.   Warthen's leadership skills must have been identified early.  Sometime in the Autumn of 1861, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 8th Georgia Battalion.   On November 13, 1861, Warthen was promoted to Colonel of the 28th Georgia Infantry Regiment. 

Thomas Jefferson Warthen's promotion to Colonel

The 28th Georgia Infantry Regiment was organized at Big Shanty, Georgia in the Summer of 1861.  By August, the organization was complete.   It's members were recruited from Irwin, Sumter, Washington, Crawford, Cherokee, Stewart, Toombs, Jefferson, and Emanuel Counties.  After it's organization, the unit was ordered to Virginia.  In April of 1862, the unit totaled 518 effectives. 

The Battle of Fair Oaks by Currier & Ives

Once in Virginia, the 28th Georgia participated in the Peninsula Campaign.  The unit saw action at the Battle of Seven Pines, also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks on May 31 - June 1, 1862.  At Seven Pines, the 28th Georgia was assigned to Colonel George B. Anderson's Special Brigade, along with the 27th Georgia, The 4th North Carolina, and the 49thVirginia Regiments.  The unit had 370 officers and enlisted men for the Battle of Seven Pines.  Companies H and I had been detached for other duties.  They entered the battle to the right of the Palmetto Sharpshooters.  The Regiment advanced toward the York River Railroad.  The unit was under constant fire from the enemy and remained on the field of battle for nearly four hours until their ammunition was fully exhausted.  The casualties for the 28th Georgia numbered 24 killed and 95 wounded. 

Following the Battle of Seven Pines, the 28th Georgia participated in the Seven Days Battles from June 25 - July 1, 1862.  On July 1st, the Regiment was engaged at the Battle of Malvern Hill. 

An intersting side note,  Malvern Hill is located in Henrico County, Virginia and is named after my 10th Great Grandfather, Thomas Cocke's Plantation, also named Malvern Hill. 

Historical Marker for Malvern Hill Plantation

Malvern Hill, first constructed by Thomas Cocke and rebuilt entirely of brick around 1690 - 1700. Later sold to the Nelson family, the house burned in 1905.

Sketch of Malvern Hill sometime after the Civil War

Picture of Malvern Hill taken sometime before 1905

Malvern Hill was first owned by Richard Cocke, who settled at Point Bremo, which is now part of the Curles Neck Farm. Cocke acquired a great deal of land in Henrico County and one such tract of land was Malvern Hill. He gave Malvern Hill, which he named because it reminded him of the Malvern Hills in England, to his son, Colonel Thomas Cocke. The ruins of a house on Malvern Hill today are said to be the last remnant of the house that Thomas Cocke built there." The Marquis de Lafayette camped at Malvern Hill in July-August 1781. During the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee attacked Major General George B. McClellen's Union Army of the Potomac at Malvern Hill as it retreated to the James River from the gates of Richmond. The Malvern Hill House survived the battle as a Federal headquarters, but burned down in 1905. Only the ruins of the chimney and foundation are left today. Richard Cocke's son Col. Thomas Cocke left the Malvern Hill plantation to his son, Capt. Thomas Cocke (c.1662-1707), the father of Brazure Cocke.

All that remains of Malvern Hill today

Here's my relation to Thomas Cocke:

Thomas Cocke (1638 - 1697)
is your 10th great grandfather
Capt Thomas Cocke (1664 - 1707)
Son of Thomas
Brazure Cocke (1694 - 1770)
Son of Capt Thomas
William Cocke (1715 - 1797)
Son of Brazure
Sarah Cocke (1730 - 1785)
Daughter of William
Nancy Ann Daniel (1776 - 1843)
Daughter of Sarah
Benjamin Lucious Moss (1792 - 1847)
Son of Nancy Ann
James C. Moss (1824 - 1891)
Son of Benjamin Lucious
William Allen Moss (1859 - 1931)
Son of James C.
Valeria Lee Moss (1890 - 1968)
Daughter of William Allen
Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis (1918 - 1977)
Daughter of Valeria Lee
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Phebe Teresa
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce

The Battle of Malvern Hill by Currier & Ives

The Battle of Malvern Hill was the final battle of the Seven Days Campaign.  It was also the first battle of the Campaign in which the Union Army occupied favorable ground.  The previous six days had found the Union Army retreating to the safety of the James River.  General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had been in vicious pursuit.  Until this point, the battles of the Seven Days Campaign had largely been inconclusive.  Union General George McClellan was demoralized by Lee's fierce, continuous attacks and was convinced he was exceedingly outnumber, when in reality the two armies were roughly equal strength. 

McClellan had amassed his troops at the crest of Malvern Hill, just two miles north of the James River.  Malvern Hill offered a good observation and artillery positions.  McClellan himself was not present on the field, having preceded his army to Harrison's Landing on the James, which was the retreat point for the Union Army.  Brigadier General Fitz John Porter was the Union's senior officer on the field.  McClellan's Chief of Artillery, Colonel Henry J. Hunt had placed 250 pieces of artillery on the ridge.  A clear view and a few hundred guns meant trouble for the pursuing Confederates.  A total of about 18,000 Union Infantry troops occupied the position.  15,000 additional Union Infantry troops remained in reserve.

Below are a series of pictures I took on the weekend of September 30, 2012:

Malvern Hill Battlefield

Union Artillery Position at Malvern Hill

Union Position on Malvern Cliffs

On the morning of July 1st, Lee met with his Generals at his headquarters near Willis Church Road.   There they discussed the potential for a renewed attack.  Lee was frustrated by his army's failure to trap and destroy McClellan's army at Glendale.  He was anxious to renew the fighting and wanted to deliver a final blow to the Federals before they could retreat safely to Harrison's Landing.

Battle of Glendale Historical Marker

Lee ordered two large artillery batteries to be located on either side of Carter's Mill Road.  These batteries were to bombard and weaken the Federal artillery position along the ridge.  This was a tactic Lee would use the following year at Gettysburg with Picket's Charge. 

Confederate Artillery Line at Malvern Hill

Following the Confederate Artillery bombardment, Lee had instructed Generals Magruder and Jackson to simultaneously attack the Federal position.  

General D. H. Hill's Division of Jackson's command was ordered to attack from the woods, while General Benjamin Huger was ordered to drive General Fitz John Porter's left flank along the Malvern Cliffs.  General Theophilus Holmes was to guard Lee's flank along the River Road.  Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hills divisions were ordered to stay in reserve.

Unfortunately for Lee, his orders were vague and poorly communicated.  Confusion with the local maps also plagued the Confederate command.  To add to the frustration, General Magruder's force arrived late.  Lee's vision for the two large Confederate artillery batteries failed to materialize.  Confusion over the signal for the infantry attack led to a poorly coordinated attack.  Jackson and A.P. Hill's men were called up to lead a piecemeal advance on the Union position. 

Marker Showing Federal and Confederate Artillery positions

The Federal Artillery position proved too strong for the advancing Confederates.  Row after row of Confederate troops were mowed down by the big guns.  Despite the carnage, the persistent Confederates came to within 20 or 30 feet of the Federal line.  Fierce hand to hand combat ensued.  Federal reserves were called up to deal with the advancing Confederates.  By nightfall, the Confederate command called off the assault.  General D.H. Hill surveyed the field of battle and remarked "it was not war, it was murder".

Location of 2 former Confederate Burial sites

The casualty reports were staggering.  5,650 Confederates had been killed or wounded compared to 2,100 killed or wounded Federals.  Colonel Thomas Jefferson Warthen was one of the many Confederates wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill.  His son, Private William Henry Harrison Warthen, was a member of Company B, Georgia 28th Infantry Regiment.  William is my 4th cousin, 4x removed.  William's service record doesn't indicate if he was present for the battle that claimed his father's life.  William was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865.

Register showing Colonel Warthen died from wounds sustained at the Battle of Malvern Hill

Colonel Thomas Jefferson Warthen was wounded on July 1, 1862.  He died two days later on July 3, 1862 in a Confederate Hospital in Richmond, Virgina.  He is buried in the Forrest Grove Graveyard in Washington County, Georgia.

Colonel Warthen's grave

The inscription on his grave reads:

Generous, honorable, brave and determined, he entered the Spiritual world, amidst his country's troubles, and the tears of affectionate, kindred and sorrowing friends. Erected by the hand of affection. In love for one who, vainly brave, Died for a cause he could not save.

Here's my relation to Thomas Jefferson Warthen:

Thomas Jefferson Warthen (1804 - 1862)
relationship to you: husband of 3rd cousin 5x removed
Sarah Faulk Wicker (1810 - 1891)
Wife of Thomas Jefferson
Nathaniel Holley Wicker (1774 - 1820)
Father of Sarah Faulk
Robert Hester Wicker (1738 - 1821)
Father of Nathaniel Holley
Thomas Oscar Wicker Sr. (1717 - 1784)
Father of Robert Hester
Benjamin Wicker (1695 - 1773)
Father of Thomas Oscar
Jemima Wicker (1739 - 1826)
Daughter of Benjamin
Abigail Crews (1775 - 1822)
Daughter of Jemima
L. Chesley Daniel (1806 - 1882)
Son of Abigail
William Henry "Buck" Daniel (1827 - 1896)
Son of L. Chesley
Phebe Lucy Daniel (1862 - 1946)
Daughter of William Henry "Buck"
Valeria Lee Moss (1890 - 1968)
Daughter of Phebe Lucy
Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis (1918 - 1977)
Daughter of Valeria Lee
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Phebe Teresa
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce


  1. I found this via a link on Thomas Jefferson Warthen is my 4th great grandfather. It is so great to be able to have this history to share with my father, my sister, and my two children (when they're old enough to care, that is)! Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. My pleasure. I'm glad you ran across the blog!


  2. Great blog, Chip! I copied the sketch of Malvern Hill to be used as an illustration on my Ancestry page for my ancestor Thomas Cocke. I did give you credit. Hope it brings more people to your blog. Someday I'm going to have to visit Malvern Hill myself. I'm more of a Trans-Mississippi enthusiast myself but with all the ancestors I have in Virginia it's time I started looking East.