Saturday, January 3, 2015

Civil War Soldier Finds North Carolina Lieutenant Who Helped Him at Gettysburg, 1914

“A Letter from Mr. H.A. Davis of Sands, R.F.D.,” in the Jan. 8, 1914, issue of the Watauga Democrat, Boone, N.C.

I am writing you to tender my thanks for your favor in assisting me in my search for the North Carolina Lieutenant who so generously assisted the wounded Federal soldier J.L. Balsley upon the battle field of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.

It is with much pleasure that I announce to you that we have been eminently successful, and not the least of the pleasure comes from the fact that the man who performed this noble act was one of our own county men, and a member of our Confederate Camp, Camp Nimrod Triplett.

When we asked you to help us locate the man, it was more than we dared to hope, to find him so near home, but I am in receipt of the communications from Mr. Balsley in answer to my statements of the oft-repeated statements remembered by Mrs. Hannah Brown, widow of the late J. Milton Brown, having heard her husband relate, in which Mr. Balsley says, “I am fully satisfied that Mr. Brown is the man.” So it is with pleasure that I announce to his old friends and comrades that the late J. Milton Brown of Blowing Rock is the Lieutenant for whom we have been hunting. All who had the pleasure of his acquaintance will not wonder at his deeds of mercy, for it was very characteristic of the man.

The following clipping from the Connellsville (Pa.,) Daily News gives some of the details of the conversation on the field of battle.

“One of the main objects of J.R. Balsley’s trip to Gettysberg last July, to attend the exercises in connection with the 50th anniversary of the great battle, was to locate, if possible, the Confederate lieutenant from North Carolina who befriended him after he was injured in the first day’s fighting. Mr. Balsley’s efforts were successful, as the contents of a letter mailed by H.A. Davis of Sands, N.C., to Mr. Balsley under the date of December 8 will indicate.

“Mr. Balsley met Mr. Davis at the battlefield and they discussed the incident. Upon returning home Mr. Davis inserted a short statement of the facts in his country papers. In a short time the widow of the late J.M. Brown of Blowing Rock, N.C., sent Mr. Davis word that the recognized every detail of the statement as corresponding with that she had often heard her husband relate, with one exception. She does not recall anything concerning an extra blanket, but the water incident and the conversation, especially about the desertion of the flag, Mrs. Brown remembered.

“’This incident about the flag,” wrote Mr. Davis, “is all convincing.  There was nothing in the article published concerning any conversation between you.’”

“Brown was a lieutenant in the 37th North Carolina troops. He was a member of Camp Nimrod Triplett, No. 1273, until his death five years ago. Mr. Davis and Mrs. Brown were life-long friends and acquaintances.

“On the first day of July, 1863, while trying to secure the flag of his regiment, that had dropped from the hands of a smitten comrade, Mr. Balsley was stricken down by two bullets. Three lines of soldiers passed over him as they drove the Union soldier columns back, and he was with the enemy. Late that afternoon a lieutenant of the Confederate army approached Mr. Balsley and stopped to have a talk. He was very jubilant over their success and went on to tell how they were going on the next day from Gettysburg to Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington and would wind up the war. After talking in this manner for some time, he said:

“Sergeant, what did you come out to fight against us for anyhow?” Mr. Balsley’s reply was: “Lieutenant, I thought it right to fight for the old flag.” At the mention of the flag his countenance dropped and he walked away a few steps. Then he came back and said: Well, sergeant, never desert the old flag.” Then calling one of his me he bade him get Mr. Balsley a canteen of water, and he himself procured a blanket and fixing him as comfortably as possible said: “God bless you,” and went on.”

Again thanking you for your kindness, I am, Respectfully yours,
--H.A. Davis, Sands, Dec. 29, 1913

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