The Hudsons in Culpeper’s Battery
During America’s Civil War
by: Alfred Bennie Hudson, Jr.
On April 28, 1862, John Wesley Hudson age 24, and his brother George Washington Hudson age 16, were mustered into South Carolina’s 3rd Palmetto Battalion, Light Artillery, Company "C" at Camp Minotts Bluff on James Island near Charleston, SC. Their unit was known as "Culpeper’s Battery" named for its commander, Captain James F. Culpeper, who was from Darlington, SC as were George and John and many others in the Battery. Culpeper’s Battery was designated as "light artillery" and the unit was placed in various positions in defense of Charleston and the vicinity. Except for a brief assignment close to Wilmington, NC, George and John with Culpeper’s Battery were stationed near Charleston until May of 1863.
Confederate forces at Vicksburg, MS were facing a superior force under the command of federal General Ulysses S. Grant. Culpeper’s Battery and additional troops from South Carolina were selected to aid General Pemberton at Vicksburg. George and John Hudson departed Charleston on May 17, 1863 and traveled by railroad some 700 miles to Jackson, MS, arriving May 24th. On July 5, 1863, Culpeper’s Battery reached the Big Black River located 25 miles north of Jackson. There they learned that Vicksburg had surrendered to General U.S. Grant the day before on July 4th. With a large federal force approaching the Confederate troops, Culpeper’s Battery returned to Jackson and set up defenses for the city. After eight days of constant bombardment by General William T. Sherman’s federal artillery, the confederate army, including Culpeper’s Battery, retreated to Brandon, MS.
As if the South wasn’t having enough problems with the enemy in the Mississippi, General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee had also been chased out of Chattanooga to Lafayette, Georgia by union General William S. Rosecrans. Culpeper’s Battery having been attached to General Evander McNairs’ Brigade, was sent to support General Bragg at Ringgold, Georgia. Arriving in Ringgold on September 17th, McNair was placed in General Bushrod Johnson’s Division and prepared to engage the enemy on the 18th, 19th and 20th for the confederacy’s greatest victory at the Battle of Chickamauga. At 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 20, 1863, Culpeper’s Battery and McNair’s Brigade under the command of General James S. Longstreet, initiated a massive assault that severed the center of the federal Army and forced General Rosecrans’ troops to retreat toward Chattanooga. The victorious confederate troops were elated because with an immediate pursuit and an attack on the demoralized and broken union army, the prospect for ending the war seemed imminent. However, a "truce" to end the war would not follow since General Braxton Bragg failed to pursue General Rosecran’s defeated union army, much to the disbelief of his generals and troops. General Bragg’s failure enabled General Ulysses S. Grant to defeat the confederate army near Chattanooga at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge later in November of 1863.
George and John Hudson with Culpeper’s Battery had left the Chickamauga Battlefield on September 23rd and had reluctantly returned to Mississippi to confront General William T. Sherman’s army, which was at that time in route from Vicksburg to Jackson and Meridian, MS. While General Sherman’s troops were destroying the town of Meridian, Culpeper’s Battery was reassigned to Mobile, AL. After arriving in Mobile, Culpeper’s Battery patrolled with cavalry units confronting union troops throughout 1864 and into early 1865. George and John Hudson also made excursions into Florida and probably into Mississippi as well to face the ever-growing union army.
In the final days of the war Culpeper’s Battery was stationed at Fort Blakeley, AL., located in the upper eastern corner of Mobile Bay along the Blakeley and Tensaw Rivers. On April 9, 1865 at 5:30 p.m., 4,000 confederate troops at Fort Blakeley surrendered to a union force of 16,000 men. Three hours earlier Lee had surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox. Although the soldiers of Culpeper’s had surrendered, the union army continued to fire upon them, consequently killing a few men in the Battery. Among those killed was their commander Lt. Joshua L. Moses of Sumter, SC. Lying mortally wounded, his last words were "For God’s sake, save my men they have surrendered". Confederate prisoners from Blakeley, including John and George Hudson, were loaded on cattle boats and taken from Mobile Bay to Ship Island, MS. in the Gulf of Mexico. While on Ship Island the prisoners received physical abuse at the hands of union negro troops. After a few weeks John and George with other soldiers of Culpeper’s Battery were taken by cattle boat to New Orleans and from there up the Mississippi River to Vicksburg. On May 9, 1865, George and John Hudson were paroled from the war at Camp Townsend near Vicksburg.
After their release the Hudsons began their long arduous journey home to South Carolina. They traveled mostly by foot. Upon their arrival George and John witnessed the destruction of their state and hometowns. Their family in Darlington had suffered tremendously and had lost nearly everything. Many decades would pass before the "southern society" would recover. Around 1869 George and John with their parents and siblings relocated to Providence, Sumter County. John Hudson had a farm nearby in the community of Rafting Creek and received a confederate pension in 1919. John died on October 9, 1924 at the age of 87 and was buried at Beulah United Methodist Church Cemetery near Camden, South Carolina.
George Hudson owned a farm in Providence, but around 1890 he moved to the city of Sumter where he opened a grocery store. He later moved to Orangeburg, SC in 1907 where he died March 06, 1908. George was buried at Sunnyside Cemetery in the city of Orangeburg as was his friend Richard Jennings. Both men had been comrades in Culpeper’s Battery and had remained close friends until their deaths.
Following the war fellow confederate veterans along with many South Carolinians continued to offer memorials and tributes in honor of the great sacrifices made by their fallen southern heroes. "The War for Southern Independence" was more than just a "cause for our southern society". The war brought forth from the soul of southern men and women a spirituality and a dedication to protect and defend their country, state and neighbors with honor. The "golden age" of the grand "Ole’ South" with its southern chivalry ended with that fateful war and would forever leave its people wondering what might have been.