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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

November 15, 1861

Letter Told of Friendly Fire

A Georgia soldier in Virginia wrote home to his wife, telling her of an unhappy confrontation between two groups of Confederate soldiers who fired on each other, thinking the others were Yankees. He also mentioned the fast day, being observed throughout the South on this date.

“…I will tell you of a most melancholy occurrence which took place last Wednesday…We marched about six miles to a dark swamp and remained deathly still ‘till about daybreak. We then went on furhter ‘till we had gone three or four miles and then halted. The distance we marched in mud and water over ankle deep. … The guide led us in the wrong road. We had loaded but a few moments when two pickets of ours rode up and inquired of us who we were. We told them we were Cobb’s Legion and asked them who they were. They said they were Cumberland Cavalry, and, thinking all was right, they wheeled on their horses to leave. Just then someone said, ‘They are Yankees!’ … And the infantry companies fired, those on the right first. We were on the left and thought we were in an ambush when we heard the righthand companies fire. The boys got behind trees. I squatted in a tree top. Major Bagley and Captain Morris of Burke County were out in front of the battalion. Major Bagley was killed and fell from his horse. Colonel Garnett’s horse was crippled, and Captain Morris’s hand was shot and his horse killed. Captain Morris had one of his men shot in the leg, which was amputated. There were no Yankees there, but our men thought so and fired… Today is fast day, and we observe it by not doing anything. If it was not for fast day today, I could not have got time to write. …” Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), p. 86.