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The Story Behind James Kennedy’s Desertion


James Kennedy, husband of Jane Hilton was born about 1830 in Georgia. He and Jane married sometime after the 1850 census. They and their children are enumerated in the Paulding County, Georgia 1860 census. They are believed to have moved to Alabama shortly after this census.  Alabama Civil War records show that James Kennedy joined the CSA 48th Alabama in Gadsden, Alabama in 1862 and deserted in February of 1864. We know from J. J. Atwood’s 1864 letter that James bought land in Alabama and moved his family their sometime before joining the Confederacy. The 1870 census shows James and his family (Jane, Elizabeth, John, and James Jr.) back in Paulding County, Georgia. His Alabama land was apparently confiscated and after the war they went back to Paulding County where he may have had family.


The story as to why James deserted the Confederacy was told to me by a lady in Alabama who has researched the genealogy of William Franklin Battles (James’s brother-in-law). Also, a GG nephew of Lewis Deerman told me a similar story that has been passed down through Lewis Deerman’s descendants. The story has been verified as much as possible through war records.


Before the story let me explain the kinship between Peter Hammond’s family of Cass/Bartow County and the families involved in the story. Peter Hammond (10/3/1821 - 3/19/1906) married Miss Elizabeth Hilton, daughter of Emsley Hilton and Cassandra Atwood Hilton. Emsley and Cassandra Hilton had eight children, one boy and seven girls. The girls married as follows:


As stated, Elizabeth married Peter Hammond.

Jane married James Kennedy, the subject of this story.

Mary married William Columbus Peugh. (not involved in the story)

The other four Hilton girls married Battles brothers, so Emsley and Cassandra had one Hammond son-in-law, one Peugh son-in-law, one Kennedy son-in-law, and four Battles son-in-laws.


These Battles families lived somewhere in and around St. Clair County, Alabama. They were friends/neighbors with one or more Deerman families. Civil War records are sometimes inaccurate or incomplete but available records show that Franklin Battles, James Battles, and other Battles men joined the 19th Alabama Infantry. James Kennedy joined the 48th Alabama Infantry. Lewis Deerman joined the 18th Alabama Infantry.


The Story


As the Civil War raged on the Confederate army was finding it more and more difficult to provide rations for the troops. In late 1863 the Confederates were going through the St. Clair County Alabama area confiscating all the livestock they could get their hands on. When Thomas Battles (family kinship unknown to me), who was believed to be home on leave, heard of this he and a Deerman neighbor took their livestock to Chandler Mountain and hid them in Horse Pens Forty. The Confederates found out, located them, and killed them both. The Confederates would not let other family men go up to retrieve the bodies. The women had to take mules up to get them. This was family and things went bad.  In a revengeful response William F. Battles, James M. Battles, Isaac Battles, Lewis Deerman, and other men (not sure of exact number) deserted the Confederacy, rode their horses to Nashville Tennessee, and joined the Tennessee 3rd Calvary Regiment (USA).


Based on this story one can only conclude that James Kennedy, hearing of the killings and the actions of his brother-in-laws, left his regiment and went home to take care of Jane and their children. This explains the information in J. J. Atwood’s 1864 letter regarding Kennedy’s desertion and the two Battles son-in-laws (William F. and James M.) being in Tennessee.



The 3rd Tenn. Calvary Roster shows William F. Battles, James M. Battles, Isaac Battles, Lewis Deerman, Solomon Deerman, and William Deerman as soldiers in Company K. William Deerman and Solomon Deerman were Captured at a battle in Athens, Alabama on September 24th, 1864. William Battles, Isaac Battles, and Lewis Deerman were captured at the Battle of Sulphur Branch Trestle, about eight miles from Athens, on September 25th, 1864.  They all spent the remainder of the war in Cahaba prison. After the war William Battles, Isaac Battles, Solomon Deerman, and Lewis Deerman were sent north on the ship Sultana for discharge. The Sultana exploded on the Mississippi River north of Memphis on April 27th, 1865. William Battles and Lewis Deerman survived the explosion. Isaac Battles and Solomon Deerman were killed. William Deerman was never able to return home. He died in Jackson Mississippi shortly after being released in March 1865. The traditional Battles’s story includes James Monroe Battles in the capture and imprisonment at Cahaba but records have not been found to support this. James Monroe was not on the Sultana. He was, however, mustered out with the other men in June 1865. There is no record of James Kennedy ever joining the union army.


The 1870 Census shows that after the war James Monroe Battles and William Franklin Battles lived with their families for a while in Bartow County Georgia before returning to Alabama. The 1870 Census also shows Emsley and Cassandra Hilton living in Bartow County along with Peter and Elizabeth Hammond.  J. J. Atwood, Cassandra Atwood Hilton’s brother, was killed in 1864 sometime during the siege of Atlanta.


For the James Kennedy family three things happened after the 1870 census. The family moved from Paulding County, Georgia to Wood County, Texas. James Sr. presumably died in either Georgia or Texas and Jane married William Knight. The 1880 census for Wood County, Texas shows William Knight, wife Jane Knight, and son James Kennedy (James Jr.). James Kennedy Jr. lived over fifty years in Quitman, Texas and raised a large family. The 1900 and 1910 census shows Jane living with James and his family. The 1920 census shows Jane 88 years of age and living with her daughter Elizabeth Whitworth. James Jr. died in 1933 and is buried in Myrtle Springs Cemetery in Quitman, Texas. His death certificate shows his parents as James Kennedy and Jane Hilton.


Finally, think about this. William Franklin Battles fought for the CSA, fought for the USA, was captured by the CSA, survived Cahaba Prison, survived the explosion of the Sultana, went on to be discharged, and  when he finally returned to family members he was still in his twenties.  Amazing.


Alabama records show the following for these three Battles men:


James Monroe’s pension application was dated Dec 8, 1882 – application #666.619 cert #485.940  K3 Tenn. Calv.


Isaac’s pension application by his widow Millissa J. Battles in 1866 and for Malissa J. Panther, Gdn. On May 1 1877 K3 Tenn. Calv.


William F. pension application on Feb 19 1883.  appl 472.981  cert 370482


Related Links:

Hammond Genealogy:


Deerman Family Version of the Horse Pens Forty Killing:


Joseph Thomas Hammond Jr. (2012)

 (Updated 2015)