JEHOIADA QUINCY "Suska" JEFFERY
Copied from the Izard Co.Historian, Vol.14, Oct. 1983, No. 4 Special Civil War Edition
LAST SUMMER IN ATLANTA By Dale Hanks P.O.Box lO3l, Glen Allen, VA 23060
INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR
The story which follows is based on the facts as they happened during a sweltering summer in Atlanta, Georgia in the year 1864. The story is about a soldier from Mount Olive, Izard County, Arkansas. He was with the Southern army in the great American War Between the States. The soldier and I share the same ancestors who were prominent settlers in the White River Valley of the Ozarks as early as 1816. The soldier was the namesake of his grandfather, Jehoiada Jeffery, founder of Mount Olive, who was also my great, great, great grandfather.
Several years ago while searching Confederate Army files in the National Archives at Washington, D. C., I discovered the military records of this soldier. As I browsed through his record, I became impressed with the long length of dangerous duty for one so short in years. Toward the end of his service something had gone wrong and I wanted to learn more about what happened to this soldier that fateful summer in Atlanta.
Later, I began to read accounts of the war in that area, many of which were eye-witness reports by some who were there. By studying these reports, along with a number of battle maps, together with his personal military record, I was able to trace the movements of this soldier during the Battle of Atlanta.
From 1967 to 1982, 1 also gathered impressions from personal visits to battlefields of the Civil War in Atlanta, Shiloh, Chicamauga, Stone's River, Chattanooga, Seven Pines, Harper's Ferry, Wilson's Creek. Fredericksburg. Chancellorsville, Sharpsburg, The Wilderness, and others. The richest source material was provided by Mr. Lewis Bone, a retired lawyer who lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Mr. Bone loaned me a file of original letters that the soldier wrote home during the war. Most of the letters were to his father, Elijah, with an occasional note to his stepmother. The soldier's real mother, the former Massie Caroline Robertson of Izard County, died when he was ten.
This is not a pretty story because it was not a pretty war, and the struggle for Atlanta was not a pretty sight. The story is written in the "stream of consciousness". style which enabled me to go along with the soldier that last summer and to be able to report to the reader what happened and how the soldier felt.
I was inspired to write this as a memorial to the soldier in honor of his simple grace under incredible pressure. I am certain he personifies a great many other Izard County youth who endured the anguish of hand-to-hand combat and other horrors of that war. To be able to write this through the magic of my sources, I spent from July 19th to July 22nd. 1864 with this soldier. And this is the true story of what I saw that last summer in Atlanta.
LAST SUMMER IN ATLANTA
He was a youthful soldier. Handsome face, blond hair, gray eyes, grey uniform, stretched out on a creek bank a few miles north of Atlanta.
Hot humid Tuesday night, Julv 19. 1864. Bullfrogs and cicadas a perfect summer evening in Georgia leading a symphony of sounds. The soldier thinks of home, Mount Olive. Izard County and the old swimm:ng hole in Pelham Creek. The blue hole, they called it for its depth made it look blue and beautiful. Giant bullfrog in nearby Peachtree Creek has followed soldier to Atlanta from Pelham Creek. Soldier knows the sound. Unmistakable. Frog has come all the way from Pelham Creek to Peachtree Creek, Atlanta to be with the soldier.
The soldier is pleased the frog came. He is less lonely now. Soldier is proud of Company H. Proud of 7th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry. Proud of General Hardee's entire corps. Proud of the whole Southern Army. He wrote his Papa about it. Splendid Southern Army, he said. Though young in years. the soldier is old in war. Veteran of many battles Lordy, many battles. Big battles.
Shiloh....Mumfordsville....Stone's River....Chattanooga....Lookout Mountain..... Chicamauga.... Bell's Buckle....Corinth.... others.
To the north of Peachtree Creek Yankee General William T. Sherman and staff plot strategy to kill youthful Mt. Olive soldier. The soldier knows this. To the south of Peachtree Creek Southern General John B. Hood and staff plot strategy to kill General Sherman. Soldier knows this too. Soldier and Peachtree-Pelham Creek bullfrog in middle of plots. Bullfrog don't know this. Frog sings to heart's content in deep bass voice. Soldier listens to frog's Ozark melody.
The soldier thinks of home and prays. Prayers mixed. One half asking to live for another time. One half thinks, thanks Lord for the miracles. Incredible miracles. Miracles of Shiloh's battle where I was spared. Miracle of Mumfordsville where the Yanks captured me and traded me back to the Southern Armv for some of their folks.
Miracle of Stone's River that I survived. Miracle of Chattanooga where thousands died. Miracle of Chicamauga that I'm still alive. Thanks Lord for the miracles. If it be your will, make your face to shine upon me at Peachtree Creek. And besides, Lord, Papa needs me. Mama needs me. Amen.
Midnight hour, July 19, 1864. General Sherman, comfortable, sound asleep. General Hood, comfortable, sound asleep. Pelham-Peachtree Creek bullfrog still making his bass lullaby. Soldier listens quietly to frog's song. Soldier drowsy, joins Sherman and Hood in sleep.
Dawn, July 20, 1864. Yankee muskets silence frog, wake soldier. Sky still dark but red horizon to the north of Atlanta greets soldier of the splendid Southern Army. Horizon to north bright from Yankee musket fire glowing red in swampy dawn over Peachtree Creek. The soldier is suddenly alert. Takes combat position in Atlanta perimeter defense line. No time for breakfast. No time to pee. Reflex action. Soldier returns fire with other distinguished comrades in General Hardee's Corps of the great Southern Army. Southern boys dug in well. Ideal fortifications. Ideal fields of interlocking fire. Ideal for killing Yankees at Peachtree Creek.
General Sherman's Federal troops try to cross Peachtree Creek. Many die without a sound. Others groan sadly for hours and beg for water from Peachtree Creek. Dug in Mt. Olive soldier blocks out sounds of dying Yankee soldiers across Peachtree Creek. Only hears deep bass voice of Pelham-Peachtree frog in his selective memory to drown out Yankee moans.
Late afternoon, July 20, 1864. Soldier very tired. Many rounds fired today from splendid Southern musket. He has stabbed two Yankees in the belly during their charge with crude homemade knife found on Atlanta street. Yankees lie dead in front of soldier's fortification. Mt. Olive soldier soaked with sweat.
Yankee groans continue across Peachtree Creek. Victims ask each other - where you hit? In the body.... My knee cap's shattered ......My arm is broken. Both of 'em....my leg is gone.
Pelham-Peachtree frog begins to enter the solemn chorus of Yankee moans and groans. Yankee soldier across Peachtree Creek begging to be killed since mid-afternoon.
Can't move.....My face is gone.... No eyes.... No nose.... Legs gone.... Please, someone.... Kill me.
Yankee soldier is serious. Mt. Olive soldier is crying from hearing pleas of wounded Yankee. Mt. Olive soldier confused. He wants to help Yankee soldier. He remembers his all-time favorite horse, Wind, and the time Wind slipped on Flat Rock Landing, broke both front legs and tumbled helplessly into White River. He remembers, as a thirteen-year old youth at the time, how he quickly hammered the long blade of his skinning knife deep into the horse's brain with a limestone rock to put him out of his misery.
The Mt. Olive soldier's decision is made. With tear-filled eyes he stumbles across Peachtree Creek and crawls softly to the Yankee soldier's position.
"I'm Jehoiada," he says, to the blind, mangled Yankee soldier. "Thank you for coming," the Yankee soldier replies.
At that moment. and with all his might, the Southern soldier plunged a blood-stained. home-made, Atlanta street knife through the Yankee's heart.
Sick to his stomach, the Southern soldier wades back across Peachtree Creek to his position. Pelham-Peachtree frog sings slow, mournful funeral march, then suddenly stops.
Once across creek Mt. Olive soldier, still sick to stomach, plunges face forward on ground, exhausted, vomiting. He can't see. Tear-filled eyes still block soldier's vision. Forgive me Lord for what I've done, he pleads. I didn't know what else to do.
Moon almost full beginning to appear on horizon. Soldier very, very tired. Functioning on instinct, training, and reflexes now. Felt sorry for wounded Yankee soldier. Only wanted to help. Two hours sleep in three days. Very, very tired. He wishes night would come fast. Frog is back singing mournful serenade. Soldier does not hear. Does not sleep. Sits dazed. Motionless.
Dusk, July 20, 1864. Sergeant rounds up Hardee boys from defensive positions on Peachtree Creek for briefing. The plan is to fall back about a mile to outer line of Atlanta's defensive perimeter and rest up. Soldier and his comrades in Company H march slowly south toward Atlanta in early darkness for a hot supper of cornbread, bacon, and coffee. Soldier cleans rifle and prepares a place to sleep in the trenches of Atlanta's northern defensive line. He finally goes to sleep but wakes up often and then goes to sleep again.
Dawn, July 21, 1864. Soldier can hear the distant roar of cannon and rifle fire but manages to go back to sleep. His orders are to rest all day for a daring night movement yet to be explained in detail. Soldier and other Hardee boys try to sleep most of the day waiting for 4:00 p.m. briefing on the night movement to come later.
4:00 p.m. briefing on schedule. Supper is at 6:00 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. soldier and the rest of Hardee's corps to pull back through Atlanta as if on retreat to the south. Under cover of darkness, and once south of Atlanta, Hardee boys will turn northeast toward Decatur. The objective is to move in a wide sweep and surprise the Yankee General McPherson from his rear with an attack at daybreak. Southern soldiers face a fifteen mile night march in oppressive July heat through swampy underbrush and its principal inhabitants - cottonmouth moccasin snakes and mosquitoes.
It is dark, July 21, as the Mt. Olive soldier and his column move solemnly down Peachtree Street through the center of deserted Atlanta. He can hear the rumble of ambulances and the groans of Southern wounded soldiers as they pass near Atlanta's depot which has been turned into a field hospital. Peachtree Creek has claimed massive casualties. Exactly 4,796 Southern soldiers either killed, wounded, or missing in the past few days defending Atlanta from the Northern invaders.
Hardee boys take ten-minute break in southern edge of Atlanta while troops from the Southern General Cleburne join the night march to surnrise the Yankees at daybreak. They will circle back around Atlanta going to the northeast and slip in behind the Yankee 16th Army Corps while they sleep the night away. Atlanta civilians peer cautiously from their windows wondering if the Southern troop movement to the south means that the city has been abandoned.
Hardee boys and General Cleburne's troops continue south from Atlanta on to Mobbs and Lewis. Three miles south of Lewis, the column moves northeast to swing back around through Akers and towards Decatur. Column reaches Akers a little past midnight. Only a few hours left before Yankee General McPherson gets surprise visit from Hardee's and Cleburne's boys coming at him from behind.
"Suska. you all right?" asks a voice in the darkness. "You sure awful quiet."
Youthful Mt. Olive soldier is called Suska by friends. Suska is not his real name. All Southern soldiers have two names. Real names and what friends call them. Why Suska? It's so long now that Suska can't remember where the name came from. Besides he's too tired to even think about it. "Yeah - I'm alright I reckon" he says. Hot night. No breeze. Fayetteville Road to Decatur ankle deep in dust now. Suska's mouth tastes like cotton. Canteen empty. Suska feels empty, weary, slogging along with friends in Company H to give General McPherson the surprise of his life.
2:00 a.m. now as the column moves off the Fayetteville Road through thickets and underbrush toward Sugar Creek. Troops stumble in darkness through Georgia swamps as they curse the difficult terrain. Sergeant reminds Suska and his friends got to keep moving. Surprise attack is at dawn. Got to keep moving. Only four more hours and six miles to go. Suska yearns for drink of cool water and sleep. Can't sleep. got to keep moving.
Daybreak, July 22, 1864. Suska and Company H in deep thicket west of Sugar Creek near Terry's Mill. We're lost, soldier thinks. No Yankees in sight or sound. Here we are, he says to himself, lost in a plum thicket. Dawn surprise attack not working. Something's gone wrong, the soldier mumbles aloud.
Suska's cotton mouth is complete now. He can't spit. He thinks of cottonmouth moccasins in swampy underbrush. Can they spit? He wonders. Never mind the moccasins as he makes his way to the edge of Sugar Creek. Soaked in sweat, Suska drinks in gulps from Sugar Creek. Sounds like a horse drinking water he thinks to himself. Soaks entire head in creek to cool off. Wishes it was Pelham Creek in Izard County rather than Sugar Creek in Georgia.
Suska feeling bone-tired now and awful low. He wonders how many Hardee boys still lie dead and wounded at Peachtree Creek after the Corps pulled back. General Johnston would have done better than General Hood, Suska thinks to himself.
I'll be dogged, he thinks - here we are, Company H lost in a plum thicket. Whole regiment floppin' around in Georgia swamps like Mama's chickens with their heads wrung off. Mama. Papa.
Soldier writes home often. Sends Papa most of his army pay. Ain't no place Suska can spend it anyhow. Many months since a letter from home. Suska wonders why in Sam Hill don't I get a letter from home?
Suska gulps more water from Sugar Creek then looks up and down creek for the frog. No frog in sight.
July 22. Three hours past daybreak. What's gone wrong? No dawn surprise for the Yankees after all. Suska is exhausted from many days and nights with little sleep on top of the fifteen-mile night march. Maybe the Yankees left during the night. Maybe there ain't going to be a fight after all. Suska munches on stale cornbread and cool water from Sugar Creek. Hurry up and wait, he thinks. What are we waiting for? We're late already.
Company H commander briefs Suska and his friends. Situation is simple. No maps. Regiment is out of position. Never made it to swing around behind Yankees. Too late now for surprise rear attack. Local civilian guides around Terry's Mill pond were not reliable. Blocked by pond at Terry's Mill, can't get around to Yankee's rear. Hardee boys will attack Yankees left flank instead.
7th Regiment to be redeployed for flank attack at noon. Three more miles through swampy underbrush to assault position. Company H will move out at 10:00 a.m. and attack Yankee positions at noon.
Suska finishes off cornbread, fills canteen from Sugar Creek, looks up and down creek again for sign of Pelham Creek frog. No sign of frog. Suska reckons frog was another casualty at Peachtree Creek after Company H pulled back.
Suska squats low on creek bank, sees reflection in water. Although too young to shave regularly, he figures he needs a shave as he studies himself in the water mirror. Covered with dust and grime from night march. Hands, face, arms, neck scratched from many briar patches in the night. Gray felt hat, gray uniform now a reddish mud color from much dust mixed with sweat.
Suska winces at reflection in water. Thinks, Lordy, what a sight I am. Closes eyes, prays. Lord in two hours I will need your help awful bad again. We will attack then. Give me the courage once more Lord to keep 'a going forward. If'n I'm hit O'Lord don't never let it be in my back. I don't want to run from no Yankees, Lord. Give me the strength to push forward Lord, to be brave in battle.
And if you can see fit to spare me again O'Lord, I'd be mighty grateful. You've showed me miracles before Lord, time and again. But Lord, whenever my time is up - and I'm hit, please don't let me die a slow death on the battlefield with everybody gone and no water. And Lord, don't let me lie wounded and be burned up by a forest fire.
If'n I ever have to go Lord, make it sudden if this is to be my last summer in Atlanta.
And Lord. watch over Papa and Mama. Help 'em with their crop this year since me and Isaac can't be there to work. Thanks Lord for Cuff being able to help Papa with the crop. Where Cuff ploughs Lord, they's going to be corn. Thanks a heap for that. Amen.
10:00 a.m. July 22, 1864. Company H moving out from Sugar Creek to attack position in double column. Skirmish line will form at noon. Briar patches and plum thickets still heavy. Sun is hot, 105 degrees already. Suska drenched in muddy sweat. He plans to save canteen water until skirmish line is formed, then refresh himself with final drink before attack. Suska is jittery. Nervous energy building up too soon he reckons. He needs to relax in column and save nervous energy for skirmish line assault.
Noon, July 22, 1864. Company H now in rendezvous position, deploys in skirmish line. Suska's infantry platoon will be lead unit in attack. Suska drinks whole canieeri of Sugar Creek water in three huge gulps. Feels better. Cotton gone from mouth. Musket ready. Atlanta street knife secure in belt.
Suska's emotions mixed, does not hate Yankee soldiers but will kill them. Why? Pride, he reckons. Pride in Hardee's Corps. Pride in the 7th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry. Pride in Company H. Pride in the whole splendid Southern army, his home going on four years now, ever since he was sixteen years old.
Suska's adrenalin is flowing now. He is keyed up but not jittery. Very determined. Very cool. Ready for the charge! Suska fights for honor, pride, and glory. Is there anything else left in the South to fight for now?
The rumble of death is getting louder now to the northwest. Yankee cannons pour shell after shell into Atlanta. Tons of shells. Yankee artillerymen preparing to bracket in on Suska and Company H from positions on Bold Hill. Sound of musket fire is getting closer now. Sun is blazing down at 110 degrees.
Company H in small clearing near Moreland Road and Flat Shoals Road organizing for skirmish line. Cannon and musket fire getting louder making it harder to hear Company H sergeant bellowing attack instructions. Suska and friends have formed skirmish lines so often, they maneuver as individuals without hearing orders. They know what to do.
Hardee boys now in attack formation to hit Yankee left flank. We'll give them Yankees something to remember their last summer in Atlanta, Suska tells his Confederate friends in Company H.
Moments later 7th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry roars forth a sudden and ferocious reply to Yankee cannon and musketry. Crimson fire and blue smoke pour forth from Hardee boys attack. Southern onslaught toward Yankee positions brings blood-curdling Rebel yells from lead unit, Company H. Troops moving forward at rapid pace leaving trail of blue musket smoke curling skyward from their assault formation.
Suska in center of chaos, very determined. Stumbling forward - firing round after round from rifle with reflex action. Hot blue smoke from battlefield sears Suska's skin, rifle barrel too hot to touch. He keeps stuffing cartridges into muzzle and pounding them with ramrod. Wearing fatigue from night march now completely gone. Suska feels fresh, alert. Adrenalin now flowing freely throughout Suska's body.
Got to keep moving, Suska thinks, matter-of-fact. Got to keep movinq. After fourteen major battles. the Mt. Olive soldier moves instinctively through smoke-filled combat zone in semi-trance. Everything is reflex action now. Just keep 'a moving forward, keep firing. close with the Yankee enemy and destroy him. Root him out of Atlanta. Chase him away from Georgia. Drive him from Dixie.
Intense concentration now by Suska on the objective ahead. We're getting close to their positions now Suska reckons. Will the Yankees run again he wonders. They have run many times he remembers. Maybe again this time if we keep moving forward. Got to keep moving.
Incredible noise pounds Suska's ears from thousands of firing muskets and hundreds of cannons. Southern soldiers yelling, pushing forward towards Yankee defensive positions. Suska can see Yankee soldiers reloading muskets now behind logs and barbed-wire fortifications. Company H rolling now with their final assault maneuver. Suska fires one more round and then charges three Yankee soldiers in hand-to-hand combat with his long-bladed Atlanta Street knife fast before they can reload again.
Suska is now twenty yards away and running full speed toward the Yankees through red rifle flashes and blue smoke with his street knife ready. All of a sudden the soldier feels a jolt and sees a series of blinding flashes like a thousand bolts of lightning striking all at once. Then the lightning bolts disappear and a shower of bright white light engulfs Suska. The musket-cannon sounds of death are getting dimmer now to his ears as he crumbles face forward to the ground - a Yankee musket ball through his forehead. The bright white light slowly gives way to darkness. Now all is dark. The sounds of battle are stilled. Suska's last summer has ended in Atlanta under a blazing noon-day sun, July 22, 1864.
That same day after the 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment had driven the Yankees back to Bold Hill and towards the Atlanta and West Point railroad line, some of Suska's friends from Company H returned to find his body for burial. It was not the custom for Southern troops to bury their dead after big battles. They left the job of battlefield cleanup to the Federal army which had more resources for these purposes. In Suska's case. however, it was different. He had fought too long and too hard with his Southern brothers for them to leave his body in the impersonal hands of the U. S. Army Quartermaster Corps to be dumped in a mass grave.
The detail from Company H found Suska's body late in the afternoon of July 22. He lay undisturbed in the same place where he was shot only a few hours earlier. They buried him under a giant oak tree not far from where they found him. Many years later that place would be identified as a short distance northeast of where Flat Shoals Avenue now crosses Moreland Avenue, which is also Route 23, in southeast Atlanta.
After the soldiers from Company H of the 7th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry had finished covering Suska's grave, they placed a make-shift grave marker there with this inscription:
Beneath This Giant Oak Lies A Splendid Southern Soldier JEHOIADA QUINCY JEFFERY Born August 7, 1844, Mt. Olive, Ark. Dies July 22, 1864, Atlanta, Ga. He was Like The Best In Each Of Us He was Not Yet 20 Years Old.
POSTSCRIPT By Dale Hanks
Jehoiada Quincy "Suska" Jeffery, the subject of the story "Last Summer in Atlanta", was the son of Elijah Jeffery and Massie Caroline Robertson Jeffery of Mt. Olive. He was well educated for a boy of that early date. His numerous letters home to his father and his stepmother were written in a fine Spencerian script. His correspondence showed him to be a religious, intelligent and loving young man. He also showed artistic talent in a self-designed "Coat of Arms".
Jehoiada Quincy Jeffery joined the Confederate Army in July, 1861. He was enlisted by Col. Shaver at Camp Dean, Arkansas near Pocahontas. He was assigned for duty August 21, 1861 to Company H, Captain Deason's company. Most of his Civil War service was in the Army of Tennessee of which his regiment, the 7th Arkansas Infantry was a part. He was captured by the U. S.Army near Mumfordsville, Kentucky in 1861 and later was sent from Louisville, Kentucky to Vicksburg, Mississippi on the steamboat Mary Crane for exchange of Federal prisoners of war held by the Confederacy.
He quickly rejoined the Southern army at Vicksburg and fought his way across Tennessee again and into Georgia until he was killed in the Battle of Atlanta. He resisted a number of efforts by his father, Elijah, to have him transferred to Texas where the war action was relatively light. Jehoiada preferred to remain in the thick of things with his comrades in the 7th Infantry Regiment. The army had become his home and Company H was like his family.
Jehoiada's older brother, Isaac, was also a soldier in the war and was killed at Mt. Olive almost six months to the day after Jehoiada's death in Atlanta. Isaac was home on furlough and was murdered by Colonel Livingston's Nebraska troops sent out from Batesville on January 25. 1865. They left lsaac's body lying where he was shot in Pelham Creek after they had robbed him.
Jehoiada's company commander for a period of time was Captain Baxter Landers. Baxter Landers was married to Mary Jeffery, a cousin of Jehoiada. He was the last person to be buried in the old original Jeffery burial grounds at Mt. Olive in 1908. Captain Lander's uniform is displayed in a museum at Jacksonport, Arkansas.
A memorial service was held at Mount Olive for Jehoiada Quincy and Issac Jeffery. Isaac was a member and ruling elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Mount Olive.
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