Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Captain's Courage, Part 2

As mentioned earlier (see July 27, 2012 post in this blog), Captain Samuel Cox of Co.A, 17th Ky. Vol. Inf.  apparently suspended the contributions to his diary while stationed in Pulaski, Tennessee in July of 1862.  Now, approximately one year later, his courage is being challenged in nearby McMinnville. General  Bragg had been driven from their native homeland, but there was little else he could point to as far as progress toward ending the war.  News, when it arrived, from back home was troubling.

John Blackburn's regimental history of the Seventeenth provides the following insight into the psyche  of the regiment and Captain Cox in particular, during the long, hot summer of 1863.

...By this time the men had been away from home a year and a half and the long separation from loved ones was having it's effect in the ranks of the companies.  Even the usually level headed Sam Cox began to feel sorry for himself.  

Sam Cox was a brave soldier and leader of men.  Though his actions in combat do not suggest it, he admitted, on more than one occasion, that he was constantly obsessed with a belief that he would not survive the war.  This was a conviction but not such a fear that he could not perform his duties.  A fear did develop though, and it was such a fear that it might well have affected his capabilities as a leader had there been occasion for conflict with the enemy before he got over the fear.  During the spring of 1863 Sam became convinced that his family, including even his mother, had ceased to be concerned about him!  This belief gnawed at his emotions and he constructed, in his imagination, a black picture.  Letters seemed to have been "too few" lately.  "Perhaps",  thought Sam, "the folks at home are much more concerned about brother Will in the Southern Army".  Sam was of course wrong in his thinking.  Letters had indeed been few but it was because Sam had been so constantly on the move that the mail seldom caught up with him.  The folks at home were concerned, and very much so, both for Sam and for Will, and the loved ones at home lived in dread that news would come of the death or injury of either of them. 

At this unhappy time in Sam's life he did receive a letter.  The letter was from his mother and sister, and it is the type of letter that has been needed for only the soldiers of the Civil War.  In America's other wars mothers and sisters did not have loved ones on opposite sides.  The portion of the letter that the mother wrote said:  "I am much concerned about you Sam, but I am also concerned about Will.  You are both my boys and I love you both to the same extent.  I pray constantly for the welfare of both of you and I pray that you will never meet in battle."  The fear of sons meeting as opponents in battle was constantly in the mind of Mrs. Cox, as it was with many Civil War mothers. Sister Jennie also assured Sam of the concern and love of the family back home.  Jennie said that her children spoke often of "Uncle Sam".  Sam Cox did not learn until much later that in the homes of both his mother and his sister very careful plans had been made for the reception of both Sam and Will in the event either or both came home wounded or sick.*

*  Blackburn, John, A Hundred Miles, A Hundred Heartbreaks, 1972, LOC 72-93774, pages  114-116.

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