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In Their Own Words

August 06, 1864

Death of Son Sadly Recorded in Diary

John Banks of Columbus, Georgia had seven sons who fought for the Confederacy, three of whom were killed in Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. In his journal for this day, Banks sadly recorded the death of one his sons.

“Now I have a painful duty to record in my diary. On the 28th of July, the enemy was pressing us at Atlanta. The brigade of my son (Captain Willis D.. Banks) was ordered to take the breastworks of the enemy near Atlanta, skirmishing for a time, going on. The order was impracticable. General Johnston had been relieved for retreating so often and General Hood succeeded him. Hood felt that it would not do for him to retreat under such circumstances. Willis at all times ready to make a charge when ordered. In the effort to carry out the order was badly wounded, shot in the breast with a Minie ball and taken out of the way. Mon son, George was with him soon as he could get to him. As he approached dear Willis said, ‘George, I am glad to see you.” George said to him, ‘Are you badly wounded?’ ‘Yes, mortally, the doctors say. I have but one death to die and am prepared now as well as at any time.’ He asked George to get him his pocket-book, papers and cash. He then told George that some of his men had left money with him to keep for them and called over the amounts to George and named some amounts due him, and requested George to have it all settled up. He said to George that he was prepared to meet death and did not fear it, that he would like to get home and see the family and die there. George soon made arrangements and got him to an ambulance, thence to the cars, and he started home. The cars had not gone far before they found the enemy had torn up the railroad and the cars went back to Atlanta. When George heard of it, he was soon with him again. Willis expressed regret that they had to return and said that he wanted to Ma and die at home. Several ministers call to see him and had full and free conversation with him of his future prospects. He seemed willing and desirous to talk with them upon the subject. He said that long ago he had had the matter under consideration and felt a change and a determination to do right for the future, that he had not done wrong since that time that he knew of. That he was prepared to die and did not fear death. The Rev. Mr. Wynn was with him and wrote me fully of his interview with him, which was to him satisfactory, and that he had full confidence of his prospects for Heaven. Willis lived from Thursday till 2 o’clock Monday, A.M. and died giving all who conversed with him upon his future prospect, full confidence that he was gone to Heaven. On the Wednesday following, his corpse arrived filling the hearts with sorrow and eyes with tears. That evening he was buried at the Columbus graveyard, had him placed by the side of dear Troup, who had, as the writer believes, preceded him to Heaven. This is the earthly end of dear Willis. He was a good man and much beloved by those who knew him. Sunday, the 14th, is the time fixed upon for his funeral, together with dear Eugene, who was killed on the 15th of May, as recorded in this book.”

Source: John Banks, Autobiography of John Banks, 1797 - 1870 (Austell, Ga.: privately printed by Elberta Leonard, 1936), pp. 32-33.