Honorable Northern Boys in Southern Armies
It was not unusual to find Northern men fighting for the cause of independence for the American South, and Capt. Frank Graves below of Massachusetts devoted himself to his adopted homeland. As one of the “Immortal 600” Southern officers held in a Morris Island stockade in front of Northern cannons bombarding civilians in Charleston in 1864, he was nearly starved by his Northern captors for three months. After this ill-treatment, he certainly knew he had chosen the right side in the conflict.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Honorable Northern Boys in Southern Armies:
“When the Southern States seceded there were thousands of young men in the South of Northern parentage, and many of them were born on Northern soil. It is an historical truth that this class of young men were among the bravest sons of the South and showed patriotic devotion to the land of their adoption.
In the fall of 1859 there came to Lumpkin, Georgia, a stout, compactly-built Northern lad not quite grown and fresh from Massachusetts, who instantly became popular. He came merely on a visit of recreation, expecting to return again to his New England home, but before the term of this vacation expired his life was totally recast. He became a Southerner, enlisted as a private in a Confederate company; was soon promoted to Captaincy, fought for the side he had chosen, was captured, and imprisoned with unusual hardships until June, 1865, and then returned to his Georgia home to renew the struggle for a living. This soldier was Captain Frank N. Graves, Sixty-First Georgia Regiment.
In a letter to me he says: “Just thirty-six years ago I first met you in Stewart County…You and I, with some of the other boys, went down to Savannah to be mustered in. Well, during the past year I went to Savannah for the first time since the war, and at sunrise went out to the old barracks where we were enlisted, but found the new DeSoto Hotel instead. In the open court is the spot where we stood a third of a century ago and took the oath to support the CSA as enlisted soldiers.”
Of [the battle at Spottsylvania] and his own capture Captain Graves says: “….General Lee, I well remember, called us himself. He touched me with his scabbard and remarked, “We need you.” We were soon in a charge and retook the works, but in the dense fog the enemy came upon us again from various directions and in great numbers, when parts of my company and regiment were enveloped and compelled to surrender. As I retired through the army of the enemy I found that they had thirteen solid columns of troops massed in our front. We, the prisoners, stood up all the following night without rations and were closely guarded.
During the time Captain Graves was imprisoned and, suffering all these hardships, he had the offer of relief at any time by merely taking an oath by which he would abandon the Confederate cause. As might be expected, his kindred at the North pressed the issue upon him, but he would not yield; he held his honor above all price. He had stood shoulder to shoulder with his Southern comrades in battle and now, in prison as a hostage exposed to new hardships and dangers, his noble fidelity won for him the admiration of all men.”
(Sketch of Capt. F.N. Graves, by Gen. C.A. Evans, Confederate Veteran Magazine, January 1897, page 5-6)