'In the bonds of the Old South'
Civil War re-enactor takes on persona of Confederate ancestor
Dec 28, 2012
MURFREESBORO — Freezing rain and bitter cold had turned the landscape of Middle Tennessee into a mud-soaked mess 150 years ago today. The date — Dec. 30, 1862 — was the day before one of the most important battles in the Civil War would begin.
The Battle of Stones River, also known as the Battle of Murfreesboro, took place Dec. 31, 1862, through Jan. 2, 1863. Archibald James Patterson, the great-great-great-grandfather of James G. Patterson of Murfreesboro, was there.
“He was held in reserve close to where the (city) golf course is today,” explains Patterson, adjutant of Murfreesboro Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp No. 33. But on Jan. 2, 1963, Patterson’s ancestor was pulled into battle for the Confederate charge on the Union Army.
Patterson’s ancestor survived the battle, but many weren’t that lucky. In fact, Battle of Stones River was one of the bloodiest in the Civil War. Out of more than 80,000 troops, approximately one-third were killed, wounded or captured, according to the National Parks Service website.
The landscape that was once littered with thousands of dead bodies that were literally frozen to the ground 150 years ago is now home to major thoroughfares, subdivisions and a large shopping center. Gone are the historic battle landmarks such as the log cabin headquarters of Union Maj. Gen. Williams S. Rosecrans, Patterson says.
But Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp No. 33 members haven’t forgotten the soldiers who fought during those days of fierce fighting 150 years ago. Today at 2 p.m., SCV Camp No. 33 will hold a special 150th anniversary of the Battle of Stones River memorial service at Confederate Circle at Evergreen Cemetery, located at the corner of Greenland Drive and Highland Avenue.
Approximately 1,300 Confederate soldiers are buried at the circle. At one time, Confederates were buried on the battlefield. By 1867, a group had the Confederate soldiers’ graves moved to a special cemetery located near what is now the Co-op. After that small plot fell into disrepair, the bodies were moved into a mass grave at what is now known as Confederate Circle. Thirteen columns denote the states of the Confederacy.
Patterson says he discovered his own personal connection to the Civil War when he stumbled upon a marker for Archibald James Patterson while decorating headstones of his grandparents for Christmas.
“That started my interest in the Civil War,” says Patterson, explaining that he really didn’t appreciate the impact of the war until he found a personal connection. Patterson found service records in the archives and later discovered his mother’s family had Confederate soldiers in their lineage.
He says he was curious and wanted to know the reason why a farmer from Cainesville Pike area would want to don a uniform, take up arms and fight. Essentially, most men took up arms because they didn’t want to fight their own neighbors. Most people like Archibald James Patterson didn’t even own slaves, but instead, worked their own farms. Patterson also believes most Southerners didn’t want big government.
Another big reason to fight was because the enemy was in their own backyard. Even at the end of the war when it was fairly clear the Confederates were going to lose, “they still had the fight in them.” In fact, Archibald Patterson escaped as a prisoner of war several times, only to head back into battle.
“It was their home and their home had been invaded. it was a lot more personal when the fight got brought home,” Patterson says.
Patterson’s speech he often presents during his re-enactments as Archibald James Patterson: “Today we find our liberties once again infringed upon. We see the South paying higher taxes than our Northern neighbors, tariffs which protect Northern manufacturing profits have caused economic difficulties in the South. Because of these tariffs, Southerners have had to pay much higher prices for imported manufacturing goods. The recession in the South during the 1820s was because of this country’s tariff policies. We see principles of the Constitution being neglected. Some of our citizens are concerned about taxes, others about slavery, and many of 8us just mad that Lincoln has called for troops to invade the sovereign states that form this union. The union is precious, and second only to liberty. I was born into a voluntary union, and I aim to stop Lincoln from making it a compulsory union. When the Yankees march South to make war on my kin and home, I will stand and fight as my ancestors before me did.”
Patterson also signs all his emails, “In the bonds of the Old South” as a remembrance of his ancestor’s involvement in the Civil War.
SCV Camp No. 33 does a lot of re-enactments throughout the year, including many living history demonstrations at Oaklands Historic House Museum as well as other area historical events.
As a Confederate private, Patterson’s role would have been on the front lines of the infantry — basically low man on the totem pole. In December 1862, he would have been sleeping in a meager tent, eating food his family had packed up for him while he visited home for Christmas, and would have been wearing his cotton-wool-blend uniform for days on end. Cold, wind and mud would have been unwelcome partners to the soldiers. Even today, Patterson says he’s used to doing re-enactments in cold weather, but he doesn’t really mind.
He is even willing to help others research lineage to Civil War soldiers — even if there’s a Union connection. Forming ties to ancestry is that important to him.
To get in contact with James G. Patterson, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit tennessee-scv.org/Camp33/ or the group’s Facebook site for Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp # 33.