The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

James Madison Jennings’ Civil War Story

By Matt Jennings
Edited By Maxine Jennings
Submitted By Maude Jennings © 1983

Issue: November, 1983

[Editor's Note - The following is a copy of a history of the army life of Matt Jennings, son of James Jennings; written for Maud Jennings for the United Daughters of the Confederacy of Virginia. It is a very un-glorified account of the way war really is; something none of us should ever forget.]

james madison jenningsJames Madison (Matt) Jennings and his wife Caroline Banks Jennings.“I belonged to Company I, 45 Regiment and I was in different battles in West Virginia and Tennessee and I never failed to perform the duties that was encumbered on me as a soldier at the time. I entered service at Cloyd’s Farm near Dublin, Virginia, by a severe wound thru left knee.”

“First engagement I was in was at Dry Creek or Sulfur Springs after forced march of about nine days, part of the time without supplies or sleep. The battle began with heavy artillery engagement. My Regiment had made for themselves a kind of temporary breastworks of fence rails in the bottom. Our cannons were on a knoll to our left and I being much amused with cannoning and feeling that I was in no danger, I crawled up on the breastworks where I could see the engagement. At that time Col. Brown passed by and ordered me to get down when a cannon ball passed over me and struck ground behind our works. His orders came probably to me in time to save my life.

My regiment was once ordered to a kind of ridge in the woods to take their position which proved to be a good one. Col. Brown ordered Lieut. Goad to take ten men of Company I and advanced slowly to a hollow in the woods to the rear of our Regiment for about ten Yankees had been seen and with care they might be captured.

Myself, Brother I.B., and T.J. Jennings, Ambers Caudle and others formed with about the same number of Company C of Grayson County, a skirmish line and moved forward. When we reached near the hollow, I was passing a tree when I was shot at in person from the brush and my eyes were filled with bark from the tree. I wanted the next shot and got behind a tree to look for (the) man and eyes was filled with bark from the tree again and when my brother called to me to get behind the line. These shots at me brought our skirmishes to a halt. Behind trees a skirmisher of Company C soon discovered a column of Yankees on hillside beyond the hollow and a gun fired and the answer was given by a Yankee hollering. Our twenty men on skirmish line, concealed by trees, wounded quite a number of the enemy and drove them from the hillside. Their wounded suffering from wounds and thirst for water began to beg us to come to them and give them water, telling us that their men was all gone. Lt. sent the message to Col. to know if we must answer the call of our wounded enemy. Answer I am not supposed to advise but exercise your best judgment with great caution. We could not resist their cries for water and went to them with our canteens and gave them water and went forward to top of the ridge in the road, being in line, and making a halt when a man stepped in road above us and called Amber Caudle what regiment he belonged to. His answer, 45th Virginia. The man hastily raised his gun and shot him through the chest. Then like a flash of lightening, a column of Yankees raised out of brush in about five steps from the road. Caudle turned back and ran to our old position and fell. I followed him; I sat down placing his head on my knees and turning him on his side in order that blood might run out of him. But in a few minutes, this column made a charge and Caudle rose to his feet saying, “Matt, we must get out. They will capture us.” He ran out past our Regiment and fell. Heavy firing at this period, I being then between the two lines of engagement, lay down on the earth that bullets from the two lines might pass over me. When firing ceased, I walked out, meeting one of my Company in search for me. As Caudle thought when I fell on my face I was shot. It was hard to get my brother to believe I was not shot as I was bloody as could be from Caudle’s bleeding. The engagement was severe until night. After night I was placed by Lt. C.C. World on picket between the two lines in darkness by myself. I lay in some leaves in a kind of a sink and it was cold and I could hear my teeth chatter and being but a few steps from the enemy, I feared they could hear and I would be captured. Next morning the battle was renewed with vigor, lasting during the morning. The enemy began a hasty retreat. Our boys pursued them hastily with yells and firing until we reached the main battleground where a mansion the day before was struck with our shells and set on fire and burned. Their dead men lay with their clothes burned off of them and they lay so thick on the ground we could scarcely find places for our feet. We could yell no more.”

(This was copied 10/24/1956 by Maxine Jennings. It was not punctuated and spaced somewhat. Punctuation was added to aid in reading.)

Matt Jennings was James Madison Jennings, son of James and Laura Barnard Jennings of Snake’s Creek, Virginia. He was born Nov. 23, 1844, married Caroline Banks, August 21, 1882, entered service Jan. 1, 1863, muster roll shows present April 1864, and he died April 13, 1929. The brother, I.B. referred to was Issac B. Jennings.