CAPT. B. F. EDDINS-- A TRIBUTE
BY J. D. LELAND, GILMER, TEX.
| Benjamin Farrar Eddins was born in Ninety-Six,
S.C., March 21, 1813, of sturdy Revolutionary stock, his grandfather, for
whom he was named, serving with the South Carolina troops and subsequently
under General Jackson against the Seminoles in Florida. As First
Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 41st Alabama Regiment, in which Captain
Eddins commanded a company, I desire in this brief shetch to commemorate
the virtues and perpetuate the memory of this truly loyal, gallant, and
unselfish patriot, who at the close of the struggle, gave up his life,
a martyr to the cause he loved so well and served so faithfully.
Captain Eddins was a planter in the ante-bellum days, residing about two miles from Tuscaloosa, Ala., famous for the culture and refinement of its citizens, the seat of the State University and a number of flourishing female colleges, and justly styled the Athens of Alabama. Amid such environment, this typical Southern gentleman of the old school lived and reared a large family, who enjoyed all the advantages of schools and churches in the old city of Tuscaloosa. Captain Eddins and I were warm personal friends through life, and I often enjoyed the hospitality of the Eddins home with his boyhood and later army comrade, Alexander M. Eddins, the soldier son, who now sleeps by the side of his soldier father. Captain Eddins was a prominent and consistent member of the First Baptist Church, was a true Christian, and exemplified it in his daily walk, his splendid, useful life. A man without guile or falsehood himself, he found none in his fellow-men, but was ever charitable to the faults and shortcomings in others.
As a friend, he was always loyal and true; as a citizen, he took deep interest in all matters looking to the advancement of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County's welfare, and none stood higher in the love and confidence of his fellow-citizens. In fact, "the elements were so mixed in him that all the world stood up and said 'This was a man!'" As a father and husband, he was loving, kind, considerate, unselfish, and was idolized by his family. During my army career, when sadly in need of a guiding hand and wise counsel, I was fortunate enough toenjoy the closest intimact and friendship of this sterling, concientious Christian gentleman and soldier, and none had a better opportunity to study his character from every viewpoint and to recognize its true worth, the granduer of the man's life, his lofty ideals, his spotless honor and integrity. To the weak and erring, he was a friend to lean upon and trust implicitly. In his daily life he exemplified all the virtues of the citizen, husband and father, and true, unselfish patriot.
The 41st Alabama Regiment, Volunteers, was organized at Tuscaloosa, in March, 1862, with Dr. Henry Tolbird, President of Howard College, as Colonel; Col. James T. Murphree, Commandant Alabama Corps of Cadets, as Lieutenant Colonel; Judge Martin L. Stancel, of Pickens County, Major; and the writer, who was in Virginia in Rodes' Brigade, Fifth Alabama Regiment, was commisioned by the War Department as First Lieutenant and ordered to report to the Regiment for duty. Captain Eddins, though not liable to military duty by reason of age, but, his heart throbbing with patriotic feeling for his beloved Southland, and fired by the blood of his ancestors, raised a company of volunteers for this Regiment and was unanimously elected Captain. The Alabama Brigades in the Western Army having their full quota, the 41st was attached to the Texas Brigade, commanded by Gen. Sam Bell Maxey, upon its being ordered to join Bragg's army in Tennessee. Later the 41st Alabama was attached to the famous old Kentucky Brigade, better known as Buckner's, consisting of four as splendid regiments as the South produced, and our gallant 41st Alabama, commanded by those superb soldiers, Gens. Roger Hanson, Ben Hardin Helm (who was a brother-in-law to Abraham Lincoln), and Trabue, all three of whom were mortally wounded within the space of one year. This splendid brigade was in every sanguinary engagement in the West and covered itself with glory. In all the engagements, Captain Eddins led his company with distinguished gallantry, winning the commendation of his superior officers by his coolness and soldiery conduct under fire. In the battle of Murphreesboro, or Stone River, as it was more generally known, Captain Eddins and the writer were captured. The prisoners were put in a pen, or ring, and guarded. The Federal General summoned the highest officers captured up to that time, and Captain Eddins and I were sent. He questioned us in regard to the number of Confederates engaged in the battle, future plans, etc. Captain Eddins hesitated, saying, "I'm no traitor, and I will die before I will give you any information that would hurt my country," but he said he did not know the strength of the army. General Rosencrans replied, "If you do not know officially, say what you think." Upon his replying as best he could, the General straightened himself up and said, "You are a liar, Sir. Such a small number could not have whipped my army in such a manner." For it was a badly whipped army at that time.
After an imprisonment of several months at Camp Chase, Ohio, and Fort Deleware, near Philadelphia, we were exchanged at Fortress Monroe, and returned to our command. Camp Chase was very crowded at that time, and, in order to make room, it was the custom each morning to line the prisoners up, count them, and then shoot the tenth man. At one time, Captain Eddins was next in line to the man who was shot, thus escaping death by a hair's breadth. It has been rightly said that no place on earth so quickly and surely brings out the "yellow streak," and all that is mean, selfish, and despicable in a human being as a prison filled with a heterogeneous collection of humanity. Amid these enviornments with hunger and other worse suffering staring us in the face, did the true nobility of soul of Captain Eddins shine with transcendent brilliance, and irradiated everything and everybody within the sphere of his influence and example. Courteous, kind, considerate, unselfish, and with a heart of gold, he won the love and admiration and fellowship of his fellow-prisoners, but also by his personal magnetism won the respect and confidence of every prison official with whom he came in contact. None were insensible to the charm of character of this fine, true, Christian and soldier.
On account of ill health, due partly to his long imprisonment, Captain Eddins tendered his resignation, which was reluctantly accepted, and returned home to remain with his family, but not in idle activity. Captain Eddins sacrificed all for his country and himself until no longer fit for active service, and his son, the late Alexander M. Eddins, than whom was no more gallant, faithful soldier in the ranks of the Southern army. Though not in active service, Captain Eddins' heart and soul were still in the cause of his beloved Southland, and opportunity found him ever ready and responsive to the interest of the cause and its heroic defenders in the field.
And now we approach the last crowning act of his life, the last in the drama, his heroic life going out in a blaze of glory when almost the last shot had been fired. Thus he gave his life to the cause he had loved so long and served so faithfully and gallantly. News of approach of Croxton's raiders, April, 1865, spread like wildfire throughout the otherwise quiet old City of Oaks, and quick preparations were made to defend it and check the invaders. Captain Eddins and other leading citizens begain gathering together a handful of citizen soldiery and cadets, to meet the vandal horde. In the memorable engagement at the bridge over the Warrior River, April 3, 1865, this noble son of the South fell mortally wounded, shot by the Yankee to whom he had surrendered his gun; and seven days later, April 10, the knightly old hero, Christian soldier and gentleman, one of the dauntless host who followed the Starry Cross through the bloody years of the memorable struggle, crossed over to the land where heroes bask in eternal light devine. At the last reville and the last call of the Gray Hosts above, no braver, truer spirit will respond to name. No citizen of long ago is more deeply enshrined in the hearts of Tuscaloosa than Benjamin Farrar Eddins.
Photo of Capt. Eddins courtesy of Rosemary Isbell Holdredge, great great granddaughter of Capt. Eddins.