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Collection Title: Culpepper (John Wesley) Journal
Dates: May 22-August 4, 1861
Volume: 1 folder (101 pages)
John Wesley Culpepper was born in 1836 in Meriwether County, Georgia, some 45 miles southwest of Atlanta. John was the second son of George W. Culpepper and his wife Paulinna; John grew up on the family farm just east of the community of Lone Oak in northwestern Meriwether County. The 1860 Federal Census reports the family estate to be valued at $2,000. The Census also reports the family as consisting of the parents, their seven children aged 8 to 26, and the new wife of James D. Culpepper, the eldest son.
John attended the Union Springs Academy in Oak Ridge, a community some eight miles south of Lone Oak. He was a twenty-five year-old teacher at the school in the spring of 1861, when Georgia joined the Confederacy and began to prepare for war with the rest of the United States. John and his younger brother, eighteen year-old Simeon Fletcher Culpepper, enlisted as private soldiers in the Echols Guards on May 18, 1861.
John and Simeon remained throughout the war with the Echols Guards, which became Company D of the Eighth Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. As part of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Eighth Georgia saw action from First Manassas to Appomattox. John was elected Second Lieutenant on January 25, 1862; he was elected First Lieutenant in August 1863. Simeon was appointed Fifth Sergeant, despite his being wounded at Gettysburg in July 1863.
In the summer of 1864, the Army of Northern Virginia manned the defenses of Petersburg and Richmond, as the Union Army of the Potomac laid siege to those cities. From August 13 through August 20, 1864, Northern forces were landed on the north bank of the James River to demonstrate against the Richmond defenses. The heaviest fighting took place around Deep Bottom on August 16, where John was killed.
Simeon survived the ten-month siege and subsequent retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia to surrender with it at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. He returned to Meriwether County, where he played a prominent role in
local politics. He and his son, W.C. Culpepper, wrote the first history of the Lone Oak area. Several of Simeon's children became prominent attorneys in the region, including Nathan F. and John W. Culpepper. A number of Simeon's descendants still reside in northwest Meriwether County.
This two-volume diary by John Wesley Culpepper of Meriwether County, Georgia contains a more-or-less continuous narrative of his experiences as a private in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia between May 22, 1861 and August 4, 1861. Entries were made irregularly, and covered several days at a time. The volumes were addressed to Culpepper's parents, and the entries for the most part are addressed to them. Despite some genteel forms and irregular spellings, the diarist's style is clear, straightforward, and easy to read. There are also some unrelated notes, mathematical calculations, and bits of poetry at the end of the first volume.
Private Culpepper and his brother Simeon joined the Echols Guards (Company D of the Eighth Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment) in May 1861. The regiment moved by rail to Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, where it trained for about a month. Deployed to the northern Shenandoah Valley, the regiment maneuvered around Winchester, Virginia, but saw no action. The Eighth Georgia was one of the units moved by rail to the Manassas battlefield on July 20-21, 1861, the first such military use of railroads in history. The regiment was badly scattered in heavy fighting at Manassas, and John finished the battle with the Seventh Georgia, where he had friends.
Of special interest here are the everyday incidents of a private soldier's life during the first months of the Civil War. What and where the soldiers ate is a dominant theme in this diary. Private Culpepper also gives a great deal of detail regarding the countryside; he describes the towns and the landscapes his unit passes through, from western Georgia to the banks of the Potomac River. He relates some of the colorful people and incidents encountered on the way to the front, including a New Orleans man with a trained bear. He also reports some conversations with young ladies at various places. Other events of interest are recorded here, including a pro-Union protest at a train station in Tennessee, visits to the Confederate Capitol in Richmond, and the aftermath of the battle at Manassas.
Dates: Transcribed in 1999
Volume: 3 items
Immediate Source of Acquisition: Given by C. C. "Chip" Culpepper
Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).
Form of Material:
Typescripts of three documents which were transcribed and edited by C. Conley Culpepper, II, in 1999:
1. The Civil War journal of John Wesley Culpepper from May 22 - July 15, 1861. Of considerable interest are copious endnotes compiled by the transcriber, which identify various individuals mentioned in the journal.
2. Excerpts from the memoirs of John C. Reed regarding circumstances of John Wesley Culpepper's death on August 16, 1864.
3. A letter to Bob Adair from John Wesley Culpepper (February 14, 1864).