Major Joseph Palmer
Soldier, Physician, & Christian Gentleman
Maria Palmer Hertwig
My father, Joseph Palmer, (and he would have fought a duel, I am
sure, with anyone who called him Palmer) was born in the uplands of South Carolina at a
place called Pineville, July 10th, 1835.....
Joseph Palmer's growing up years were spent in Charleston where he received his
education. After graduating from The Citadel, he decided that he wanted to be a doctor,
and in preparation for this he took two courses of lectures at the Medical College in
Charleston, then attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and had his
internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York. When he came back home, in 1858, he showed
that he was a man of vision by migrating to Georgia, where he bought several hundred acres
of land in Houston County, about where Clinchfield is now.
There he built a house and he called his place Marl Crest ....
Two years after he came to Georgia, to quote the old records, "Dr. Palmer,
as a South Carolinian, early became impatient of Northern interference with the South, and
having had military training, was one of the first to begin active preparation for the
In the fall of 1860, he helped to organize the Southern Rights Guards, which
company became a part of the First Georgia Volunteers and of which he was First
Lieutenant. On the organization of the regiment in March, 1861, he was made Adjutant in
which position he served until April, 1862. The regiment was accepted into service by Gov.
Joseph E. Brown on March 18, 1861. They reported to Camp Oglethorpe in Macon, the first
day of April 1861, and from there they were ordered to Pensacola, Florida. On June
1st, the regiment was ordered to Richmond, Virginia, where it was assigned to General
Garnett's command then stationed at Laurel Hill, where they remained until July 11th,
1861, when they evacuated their position and retreated through Maryland, arriving at
Monterey, Virginia July 29th, having marched 218 miles. At Monterey they were assigned to
Gen. Henry H. Jackson's Brigade, with whom they fought the battle of Green Brier, Oct.
From there they were ordered to Winchester, VA, where they reported to Gen.
Stonewall Jackson on December 1st, 1861. They stayed in winter quarters until February
1st, 1862, during which time they were getting ready to participate in Jackson's famous
Valley Campaign, when they were ordered back to Georgia by Gov. Brown.
For some obscure reason they had enlisted for a year, their year was up, and
Gov. Brown refused the request of the Army of Virginia to let them continue there, and
they came back to Georgia via Augusta, where they were disbanded, March 14th, 1862.
As the Confederate Government needed artillery badly, Joseph Palmer and many
others, organized a new company, the Southern Rights Battery which became Company A of the
14th Georgia Battalion Light Artillery. Joseph Palmer was elected captain of this company
and the Battalion was ordered to join Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army in Chattanooga, Tenn. At
the battle of Perryville, Ky., Capt. Palmer was promoted to Major and helped organize
Bragg's Reserve Artillery which served under Generals Breckinridge, Cheatham, Hindman, and
Hardee. With this brigade, he was with Gen. John Morgan in his thrilling raid into the
Yankee lines, capturing and paroling 3,000 prisoners, destroying the railroad to within
seventeen miles of Louisville, and reaching McMinnville, Tenn. in safety.
During that famous raid, they fought nine battles and traveled 1,000 miles in fifteen
At the battle of Elizabethtown, Ky., Gen. Morgan presented Major Palmer with a
sword captured from a
Col. Smith, a Federal officer........
Later, when Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was put in command, Maj. Palmer commanded
Johnston's Reserve Artillery in the campaign from Dalton to Atlanta, and they were engaged
in the battles of Mill Creek Gap, Resaca, New Hope Church, Pine Mountain, Kennesaw
Mountain, Pea Ridge, Atlanta, and Jonesboro. The latter battles were fought under Gen.
Hood's orders, but when Gen. Johnston was restored to command, my father as senior
artillery officer was sent with the Army of Tenn. to Bentonville, N. C., in the attempt to
cut Sherman off from his effort to join Grant.
From Bentonville they were ordered to Danville, Va., which they held until
Johnston could bring his forces up from Raleigh, N. C., when they were ordered to
Greensboro, where they were with Johnston when he surrendered to Sherman.
All of them had to sign the oath of allegiance, which took about a week, and
each of the defeated veterans was given ten days rations, and each was allowed to keep his
horse, if any, and his side arms. It was not until May 3rd that the Army of Tennessee
started its homeward march.
...the Georgia veterans marched through Charlotte, N. C., York, Union, and
Huntersville in S. C., and on to Lincolnton, Camak, Sparta, and Milledgeville to Macon, in
Georgia. The line of march was found in a small notebook carried in Major Palmer's
My father returned to Marl Crest in Houston County and to his family there, for
he had married Mary Lewis of Forsyth in 1864. She died in 1880, leaving three
He was a much needed doctor in the community and was ever a friend of humanity,
never failing to answer to the call of the sick and the suffering. He believed it the duty
of every man to serve his community in politics and in every way for the best interest of
the people. Because of his activities in national and local politics, he was elected
chairman of the Democratic Executive committee of Houston County, Georgia, when it was
organized after the war, which postion he held by unanimous vote until his death. He
organized the Camp of Confederate Veterans in Houston County and was elected Commander and
held this position until his death.
One of the best things that he did was to organize the Idle Wylde Club, a
social and agricultural club near Wellston, where they built a large two story club house
on land donated by Mr. Henry S. Fagin......
He helped to raise the funds for the Confederate Monument, which was erected
after his death when the work of raising the funds was taken over by the Clinton C. Duncan
Chapter of the U. D. C.
He married my mother, Florine Hill, daughter of Maria Goode Holt and James
Augustus Hill of Perry, March 26th, 1887. He was twenty-one years older than she, a
widower with three children, and she wanted to be nobody's stepmother, but she loved him,
and as he used to tell her, after wearing out six buggies and three horses courting her,
she finally consented to marry him, and they went to Marl Crest to live.
In 1892, a group of citizens from Perry and other parts of the country (sic)
came and begged him to run for ordinary of the county, which position had been held for
years by a right, and they felt that he would be the only person with enough popular appeal
as well as ability and character to defeat the incumbents. He finally consented,
was elected by a big majority, and we moved to Perry just in time for me to go to school.
He was re-elected in 1896, and was ordinary until he died July 1st, 1898, nine days
before his sixty-third birthday.
The Perry Home Journal had this to say about my father:
'As a citizen, physician, soldier, public officer, husband, and friend, he was true and
faithful under all circumstances and conditions. A consistent member of the Episcopal
Church, his deportment was in accord with his profession. As a moneygetter and a money
keeper, he was not a success, but as an honest man, a gentleman whose heart and conscience
were ever true to the noble dictates of a lofty humanity, he was incomparably a success.
The world is better that Dr. Palmer lived in it.'
He was a devout Christian and a loyal Episcopalian, but in Perry there was no
Episcopal Church, so he joined the Methodist (Church) with my mother (Extracting from her
a promise, however, that if she ever lived where there was an Episcopal Church, she would
bring their children up in it). In- spite of this loyalty, he supported the
Methodist Church with all the energy and zeal of his nature, just as though it were the
church of his choice.
He believed with all his heart in the righteousness of the cause for which he
fought, but when the end came, he immediately settled back in the community and with all
the charm of his personality and his great ability as a leader, he did all that he could
to make the adjustments of his community to changing conditions as smooth as possible.
Maria Palmer Hertwig