Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Company F, Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment: 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Columbus Harris, my 2nd cousin 5x removed

Flag of the Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment

The Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment was organized in Courtland, Lawrence County, Alabama on August 6, 1861.  Following the unit's organization, they were ordered to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they were attached to Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer's Brigade.  

Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer

My 1st cousin 6x removed, Governor of Tennessee Isham Green Harris had appointed Zollicoffer to the rank of Brigadier General on May 9, 1861.  On July 26, 1861, prior to the attachment of the Alabama 16th Infanty to Zollicoffer's Brigade, Harris had ordered Zollicoffer and 4,000 raw recruits to Knoxville to suppress resistance to secession in East Tennessee.  For his actions, Zollicoffer was appointed to command the District of East Tennessee.

On September 17, 1861, General Zollicoffer led a force of 5,400 men through the Cumberland Gap along the Wilderness Road to seize eastern Kentucky.  Kentucky's neutrality had been violated in 1861 by both Union forces (setting up recruitment camps in the state) and Confederates (Major General Leonidas Polk's invasion in Western Kentucky in early September).  A minor Battle took place in Barbourville, Knox County, Kentucky on September 19th.  For much of the summer of 1861, Federal sympathizers in Kentucky had been organizing and training Federal recruits at Camp Andrew Johnson, near Barbourville. Zollicoffer's aim was to seize the camp and eliminate the threat. 

As the early morning fog rolled in, Zollicoffer ordered 800 men under the command of Colonel Joel A. Battle to advance toward the Federal camps. Camp Johnson had largely been vacated, with the recruits moved to nearby Camp Dick Robinson, where several thousand Federal troops were gathered.  As Colonel Battle's men approached the Federal camp, they encountered a force of 300 pro-Union "Home Guards" under Captain Isaac J. Black.  Captain Black's men removed the planking from the bridge to prevent the Confederate force from crossing it.  Sharp skirmishing broke out, but Battle's superior numbers prevailed and Zollicoffer's men claimed victory.  The Confederates seized the camp, destroyed the buildings and captured the arms and equipment left behind by the retreating Federal recruits. Black reported his casualties as 1 man killed, 1 wounded, and 13 captured. The Confederates lost 7 men killed in the encounter. 

The Confederate victory caused concern for Union Brigadier General George H. Thomas, commander of Federal forces in Kentucky.   Thomas sent a detachment under Colonel Theophilus T. Garrard to secure the ford on the Rockcastle River, establish a camp at the heavily forested Wildcat Mountain, and obstruct Confederates on the Wilderness Road from passing through the area.  Colonel Garrard informed Thomas that if he did not receive reinforcements, he would have to retreat because he was outnumbered 7 - 1. Thomas sent Brigadier General Albin F. Schoepf,  with what amounted to a brigade of men to Colonel Garrard, bringing the total force to about 7,000.  The now prepared Federals waited for the Confederate troops to pass through the stronghold that would allow them to proceed into Central Kentucky.

The opposing forces clashed in a brisk battle in the late afternoon of October 20, 1861.  On the morning of October 21st, soon after Schoepf's reinforcements had arrived, some of his men advanced forward and encountered Confederate forces.  An intense firefight commenced.  The Federals repelled repeated attacks from the Confederates.  The Confederates withdrew during the night and continued their retreat to Cumberland Ford, which they reached on October 26.  A tactical victory was claimed for the Federals.  General Schoepf reported 4 Union soldiers killed and 18 wounded. General Zollicoffer reported 11 Confederates killed and 42 wounded or missing.  Zollicoffer's victory from one month earlier was now nulified by the Confederate retreat. 

Zollicoffer was killed in the Battle of Mill Springs, also known as the Battle of Fishing Creek, on January 19, 1862.  This was the first Union victory of the war.   It would soon be overshadowed by General Grant's decisive victories at Forts Donelson and Henry.  The Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment reported 64 casualties at the Battle of Mill Springs.  Following the death of their Brigadier General, the Alabama 16th was transferred to another field of operations and placed in the Brigade of General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood, which also included the 33rd Alabama, 44th Tennessee, and 32nd and 33rd Mississippi.

Brigadier General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood

The Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment was attached to Wood's Brigade during the bloody Battle of Shiloh, which took place in Hardin County, Tennessee between April 6 - 7, 1862.  

Battle of Shiloh by Thure de Thulstrup.

During the Battle, Wood's Brigade was attached to Major General William J. Hardee's Corps, which was also comprised of Brigadier General Thomas C. Hindman's Brigade and Brigadier General Patrick Cleburne's Brigade. 

On the morning of April 6, 1862, the Confederate Army of Tennessee under the command of General Albert Sidney Johnston, was deployed for battle along the Cornith Road.  The entire Confederate force had spent the night just 2 miles from the Union encampment.  Their early morning approach achieved almost total strategic and tactical surprise.  The Union camps lacked the appropriate scouting patrols due to the Union Army's belief that Confederate forces were not close enough to be deemed a threat.

General Albert Sidney Johnston

Unfortunately, due to poor planning on the part of the Confederate command, the confusing alignment of the Confederate troops helped to reduce the effectiveness of the attack since Johnston and Beauregard had no unified battle plan.  Johnston and Beauregard had two different visions for the attack.  Johnston had telegraphed Confederate President Jefferson Davis that the attack would proceed as: "Polk the left, Bragg the center, Hardee the right, and Breckinridge in reserve."  His strategy was to emphasize the attack on the right flank to prevent the Union Army from reaching the Tennessee River, which was its supply line and avenue of retreat.  Johnston instructed Beauregard to stay in the rear and direct men and supplies as needed, while he rode to the front to lead the men on the battle line.  This effectively ceded control of the battle to Beauregard, who's plan was simply to attack in three waves and push the Union Army straight eastward into the Tennessee River. 

The Corps of Hardee and Bragg began the assault with their divisions in one line, which extended almost 3 miles wide.   The units became intermingled as they advanced, making them harder to control.  The commanders attacked in lines of battle with no reserves. Without fresh troops to fight, the men became tired and confused.  As they attacked with a single, linear formation, the men lacked both the depth and weight needed for a successful charge.  Although the Confederate assault contained several shortcomings, it was still quite ferocious.  Some Union forces fled to the safety of the Tennessee River, others attempted to make stands and take up new defensive positions. 

The piecemeal Confederate attack pressed on.  Union troops slowly lost ground and fell back to a position behind Shiloh Church.  There they waited eagerly for reinforcements.  General Grant was about ten miles down river near Savannah, Tennessee when he heard the sharp sound of artillery fire.  Unable to walk without the assistance of crutches due to his horse falling on him on April 4th, Grant raced to the battlefield via steamboat.  Grant's Union troops took up and held a position nicknamed the "Hornet's Nest" in a field along a road now popularly referred to as the "Sunken Road".  Rather than maneuvering around the "Hornet's Nest", Confederate forces assaulted the position for several hours, where they took heavy casualties.  Historians estimate that the Confederates made between 8 - 14 separate charges against the "Hornet's Nest". 

The Confederate charges seemed all in vain until a contingent of Confederates, led by Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles, assembled over 50 cannons into "Ruggles's Battery" to blast the "Hornet's Nest" at close range.  Then they were able to surround the position, after Federal troops held out for seven hours. Surrounded on three sides, Union General Prentiss surrendered himself and the remains of his Division to the Confederates.  A large portion of the Union survivors, were captured, but their sacrifice bought time for Grant to establish a final defense line near Pittsburg Landing.

During the attempt to rid the "Hornet's Nest" of Union occupation, the Confederates suffered their greatest loss.  General Albert Sidney Johnston was mortally wounded at about 2:15 p.m., while leading attacks on the Union left, when he was shot in his left leg.  Johnston deemed the leg wound insignificant, and sent his personal surgeon away to care for some wounded captured Union soldiers.  Governor Isham Green Harris served as General Johnston's Aide-de-Camp.  Harris was the first to notice Johnston slumping in his saddle.  Harris asked, "General, are you wounded?"  to which the General replied, "Yes, I fear gravely so".  In his Doctor's absence, he bled to death within an hour.   Johnston was the highest ranking casualty on either side of the conflict. 

General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

With Johnston killed in action, Beauregard now assumed command.  He ordered Johnston's body shrouded for secrecy to avoid damaging morale in the Confederate Army and then resumed attacks against the Hornet's Nest.  Grant concentrated his defenses near Pittsburg Landing.  Confederate attacks pressed on to little avail.   Instead of pushing the Union troops back to a poorly defensible position to the west in the swamps, they had pushed Grant east to an easily defensible position on the river. 

Following the day's action on April 6th, Beauregard sent a telegram to Confederate President Davis announcing "a complete victory".  Beauregard thought he had forced Grant into a position that would be easy to defeat the following morning.  This was not so.  Union reinforcements began to arrive in droves.  15,000 men from Don Carlos Buell's Army began to arrive that evening.   With the Union reinforcements on the scene, a significant Union surprise attack was launched.  The Union force now totaled around 45,000 men compared to the Confederate force of roughly 20,000 men.  Beauregard was unaware that he was now severely outnumbered and planned to continue the attack and drive Grant into the river.  To his dismay, Union forces started moving forward in a massive counterattack at dawn.

Beauregard now realized that he had lost the initiative.  His men were low on ammunition and food and had suffered over 10,000 casualties, killed, wounded, or missing.  The Confederate forces withdrew beyond Shiloh Church, massing Confederate Batteries at the church and on the ridge south of Shiloh Branch.  Beauregard used these forces kept the Union forces at bay on the Corinth Road until 5:00 p.m., when the Confederates began an orderly withdrawal back to Corinth.   The bloody Battle of Shiloh was over.  The official casualty numbers included 13,047 Union casualties (1,754 killed, 8,404 wounded, 2,885 captured or missing) and 10,699 Confederate casualties (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, 959 captured or missing).  Although the casualty count was similar, the Union claimed a tactical victory, partially due to Beauregard's failure to continue the original Confederate attack on the night of April 6, 1862.  The Alabama 16th Infantry regiment lost 162 men during the Battle of Shiloh. 

The Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment also took part in the Battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Dalton, Atlanta, Georgia, and Franklin, Tennessee.

Christopher Columbus Harris

Christopher Columbus Harris was born near Mount Hope, Lawrence County, Alabama on January 28, 1842.  He is my 2nd cousin 5x removed.  He was educated both in the local school and by private tutors.   On August 10, 1861, Christopher enlisted as a Private in Company F, Alabama 16th Infantry Regiment.

1st Muster for Christopher Columbus Harris

He was promoted to Full Ordnance Sergeant sometime before March of 1862.

Muster Roll showing promotion to Full Ordnance Sergeant

Sometime after 1862, Christopher Columbus Harris was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant.  He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee on December 17, 1864.

POW Roll showing Christopher's capture at the Battle of Franklin

Following his capture he was confined to Camp Chase, Ohio. He was then sent to a Federal Prison in Louisville, Kentucky on March 27, 1865.

POW Roll showing transfer to Louisville

Christopher was paroled on May 11, 1865.

Parole of Honor for Christopher Columbus Harris

He was released after taking the Oath of Allegiance on June 14, 1865.

Oath of Allegiance for Christopher Columbus Harris

Following the war, Christopher served as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Lawrence County from 1865-1867.  Following his clerkship, he studied law and was admitted to the Bar, where he commenced practice in Moulton, Alabama in 1868.  Christopher and his family moved to Decatur, Alabama in 1872 where he continued his law practice. In 1887 he assisted in organizing the First National Bank of Decatur, where he served as President until January of 1913.  He then organized the Bank of Commerce in 1913 and became its President.

Christopher Columbus Harris later in life

Christopher was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-third Congress, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Congressman William Richardson.  His tenure of service spanned from May 11, 1914, to March 3, 1915.   In 1914 he became President of the City National Bank of Decatur, Alabama.  Harris was elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors on January 10, 1928.  Christopher Columbus Harris lived an additional 70 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died in Decatur, Alabama on December 28, 1935 and was buried in the Decatur Cemetery.

Grave of Christopher Columbus Harris

Here's my relation to Christopher:

Christopher Columbus Harris (1842 - 1935)
is your 2nd cousin 5x removed
Nancy Louise Luisa Stovall (1814 - 1869)
Mother of Christopher Columbus
William Stovall (1780 - 1865)
Father of Nancy Louise Luisa
Josiah Stovall Sr. (1749 - 1798)
Father of William
Rebecca Stovall (1772 - 1852)
Daughter of Josiah
Phoebe Blackwell (1812 - 1860)
Daughter of Rebecca
Martha Anne Currin (1834 - 1917)
Daughter of Phoebe
Phebe Lucy Daniel (1862 - 1946)
Daughter of Martha Anne
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. Chip: I'm very interested in your account of CC Harris here. He was my husband's g-grandfather, through his daughter Nell Chapman Harris. Can you tell me where you found his CSA records? This is the first time I've seen his parole record -- so cool. He was a very interesting person.

    I have some additional information on CC, if you're interested.

    1. I'd love any additional info you have! I've got a fold3.com account and got CC's C.S.A record there. If you shoot me your email, I'll download and send you all the pages from the record.

      Chip Stokes


  2. Thanks for all this incredible research! Really enjoyed reading it. My wife is a direct descendant of CC Harris...she is is great,great grand-daughter (Cc Harris- AJ Harris-Julian Harris-Noel Harris Shinn- Elisabeth Shinn(now Heinisch). I too,would like the link for the images of the CSA info and pictures,please. My email: donheinisch@Mac.com. Thanks again!------Don