The War Between The States


This page contains a history of the Southern Rights / Havis's Battery as related by William R. (Billie) Talley, Pvt., Havis's Battery, Company "A" , 14th Battalion, Georgia Light Artillery, Army of Tennessee.

Organized as the Southern Rights Battery in Houston Co., Georgia in March of 1862, this battery would later become known as "Palmer's Battery" and then as “Havis's Battery”. Most of the officers and sergeants were recently discharged veterans of “Southern Rights Guards”, company C, 1st Georgia Infantry (Ramsey's) who had seen service in Virginia.

“On March 4th, 1862 the whole militia of Houston County was ordered to meet in Perry to get a company of 100 men...
....... the call was made for volunteers for the artillery company to step two paces to the front and about eighty stepped to the front. We formed in column of twos and the Perry Brass Band stepped in front and a lot of young ladies and girls stepped up just behind the band and we followed behind the girls and marched up and down the line in front of the regiment and begged the men to go with us. the girls plead for us and now and then a man would step out and join us. We got up to one hundred and twenty enrolled. So we marched in the court house and organized and elected officers.”

April 26, 1862, the battery was mustered into the Army of the Confederate States of America by Captain Joseph T. Montgomery at Perry. The unit then went to camps of instruction at Griffin and at Calhoun. As the best drilled battery in the battalion, Southern Rights Battery was selected to join Gen. Braxton Bragg's army in the invasion of Kentucky.

“About this time Gen. Bragg was concentrating his army in Chattanooga, preparing for his Kentucky campaign. One day an officer came to our camp from Chattanooga to Major Montgomery’s headquarters and soon “Boots & Saddles’ was blown and all four batteries were ordered out on parade We went through the manual of the piece and the field drill. Our battery was well drilled so the officers selected our battery to go to the Army at Chattanooga, as Bragg needed one more battery. We were assigned to Brown’s Brigade, Anderson’s Division, Corp.”

The battery received its baptism of fire in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862.

“....we headed for Perryville and two or three days after, on the 7th of October, we passed through Perryville and camped that night in the edge of Harrodsburg. About 10 o’clock boots and saddles were sounded and we hitched up and went about half way to Perryville and turned into a beautiful woods. The battle of Perryville had begun and our brigade was held in reserve. The infantry had camped in this wood and had left a lot of old clothing that they had thrown away and our boys found the first body lice that we had ever seen. Gen. Brown found that there was a gap in our lines and was ordered to fill the gap with his brigade so away we went at double quick through the woods and soon came into the range of the enemy’s shell. The first shells I ever heard passing over my head. I tell you they sounded terrible to me. We went out of the woods into a field on the side of a hill where the corn had been cut down and shocked. We stopped on the brow of the hill and could see the battle across on hills beyond. While lying there the 1st and 3rd Florida regiments of our brigade were on our right, and in a meadow near a fence as I was looking that way, I saw a man fall - the first man I ever saw shot down.”

Mounted as horse artillery and now known as Palmer's Georgia Battery, they accompanied Gen. J.H. Morgan and his famous Morgan's Raiders on his Christmas Raid, distinguishing themselves at Elizabethtown, December 27, 1862.

“...Morgan was a fine man and all of his men loved him. We were ordered to Estelle Springs back to the infantry,. We hated to leave Morgan but we only took the place of Burn’s battery while they recruited. They were from Ky. At Estelle Springs we were formed into a battalion of reserve artillery. Gen. Bragg wanted artillery of his own so as not to trouble the batteries of the brigades. We camped at Estelle Springs about four or six months. Our Cpt. Palmer had been promoted to major of Artillery and was placed in command of the Reserve Battalion of artillery. This was in January, 1863. 1st Lt. Havis was promoted to captain and our battery thereafter was Havis’s Battery.”

The gallant Palmer was later promoted again to Assistant Chief of Artillery on Gen. Bragg’s staff. Relinquishing their cannoneer's mounts and with reassignment to Cheatham's Corps, Havis’s Battery reunited with their old mates from the 14th, Anderson's Battery, and, along with Lumsden's Alabama Battery became the Artillery Reserve of the Army of Tennessee, under Major (later Brigadier-General) Felix H. Robertson. ( Though Mr. Talley states that Capt. Robinson of a Texas battery was Palmer's replacement, it was actually Felix Robertson who was a Texan but was a commander of the Florida Battery and not a Texas Battery).

“Our good luck lasted for two months when Gen. Bragg made Major Palmer Assistant Chief of Artillery on his staff and promoted Capt. Felix Robinson of a Texas battery to Major and placed him in command of the Battalion of Reserve artillery. He very soon let us find out that he was in command. He was very strict in military tactics and would punish the boys severely for the least infringement of military law - such as digging up stumps, toting a heavy log for an hour or two. He even tied some boys up by the thumbs till they’d almost faint. I heard a number of boys say “Wait till we get in a fight and I’ll kill him if I can get hold of a musket”. ”

In addition to the Tullahoma Campaign, the Reserve Artillery saw action in the battle at Chickamauga, the Siege of Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and all the battles of the Atlanta Campaign. As one wag put it, " we are called Reserve Artillery because we are never in reserve."

“Sept. 20th 1863 was the great day of the Chicamauga battle. the morning was very foggy which prevented the opening of the battle before 9 A. M. The Infantry began to advance at abut 9 AM and soon the rattle of musket fire right in our front. As our infantry was charging the enemy there was no chance to use artillery so we had to advance in the rear of the line of battle, sometimes near enough to see our line and sometimes farther behind. Major Robinson would not expose us unnecessarily but would ride up and down the battle line watching for the enemy to make a stand so as to place our battery in action, for artillery could not be used when the infantry were charging. The boys who had threatened to kill Major Robinson when they saw how he exposed himself and took care of us said “We can’t kill a man that takes care of us like he does”. There was a rain of shot and shell all about us but under the providence of God not a man was struck. About 11 o’clock we crossed a thick swamp on our right and a fence on our left. We could see the flashes of the muskets not over one hundred yards in front of the swamp and I think there was the thickest rain of shot and shell I ever experienced. We cannoneers fell to the ground and I was scared, there is no doubt about that.”


“We lay on the battle field that night and the next morning we began to follow the retreating Yanks.....We followed the Yanks to Chattanooga and then formed a line around it - from Lookout Mountain to the Tennessee River. It happened that our battery camped at the foot of Lookout Mt. near the place we had camped before the battle of Chicamauga.”


“As dark came on I saw the most beautiful sight of camp fires. Our little line of fires along the foot of the Ridge looked so insignificant while toward Chattanooga, all over the plains were fires of the enemy, line after line and as far as we could see were lines of fires.”


“Not long afterwards the Yanks began to advance. We were ordered on top of the Ridge and the plains were alive with moving Yanks. Bragg thought the Yanks were concentrating on his right and moved most of his army to the right. The troops passed us nearly all day. About night we got orders to go to the Chicamauga River near the station and lay down but a courier came with orders to go back to the place we had left where the road crossed the River near Bragg’s headquarters. The Florida brigade supported us and they were deployed on man eight feet apart. At Bragg’s HQ. the
5th Co. of Washington Artillery from N. O. was stationed and the brigade who was to support them failed to get there and the Yanks charged with three lines of battle but the Florida boys, even if they were only one man every eight feet apart, held the line till the Yanks got to the place where we did not have a man and came on the flank on the Washington Artillery and captured every one of their guns. Our lines broke just north of us and the Yanks turned down our line from there and Bragg’s HQ. and had the Fla. brigade and our battery between three fires and we were ordered to retreat and we got. Bragg wanted to make a stand on the next ridge and our battery was ordered to go up that ridge. We got about half way and ‘twas so steep and rugged we had to turn back. One wheel horse fell as the place was so steep and ran the wheel behind a tree so orders were given to cut loose and leave the gun, so we lost it. When we got in the little narrow valley, the Yanks with three lines of battle were coming down Missionary Ridge far enough apart so that they could shoot over the heads of those in front. We struck the little road and made for the gap where the road went to Chicamauga Station, in full view of those three lines of battle and all three lines shot at us all they could but strange to say they did not hit a man or horse so we got out and made for Chicamauga Station. The next day we started the retreat for Dalton, where we arrived in safety, and went into Winter Quarters.”

In the spring of 1864 Major Palmer returned to take command of the Reserve Artillery, shortly thereafter began the Atlanta Campaign. Sherman's diabolical
"March To The Sea" began on May 5 at Tunnel Hill in northern Georgia. A force of 100,000 well fed and equiped aggressors faced Confederate defenders of 65,000 who lacked in all but their determination to protect their country, their homes and loved-ones.

“......the Yanks came again and we were sent on top of the lower Rocky Face just below Mill Creek Gap, where we had a fine view of the territory occupied by the Yanks and would have had a good time but every time a fellow showed his head about a dozen Yanks would take a crack at it and about a mile away a Yankee battery would shoot at us and the shell would scrape the ground about us. After some days Gen. Johnston was informed that Sherman was flanking him so he fell back. Nothing of interest happened till we got to Resaca where there was a considerable fight but we were not in it.”


“It was a rainy spell when we left New Hope Church for Lost Mt. Red clay hills with gulleys 4 to 8 feet deep and a lot of boys fell in the gulleys and we were the muddiest boys you ever saw. Night was dark and we’d fall down in the mud. At last, after midnight, we turned out to the left and camped in the edge of an old field, right in the old hedgerow. We camped there for several days. By the way, we found Lost Mountain, standing some few miles from our camp. A little mountain away off to itself and it looked like it was lost. We left camp one evening and went to Marietta where we were ordered to go to the right of our line in the trenches. We were protected by woods so that the Yanks could not see us but they kept feeling for us with shells and minnie balls. Ben Parker was wounded there. Lt. Gen. Polk was killed about half a mile west of our battery on Pine Mountain.”

Following Pine Mountain and Kennesaw, the Battery was positioned in a fort at Oakland Cemetery when the Army of Tennessee went into the trenches around Atlanta,. From that point they fired on Degress’ Illinois Battery at the Troup Hurt house in the Battle of Atlanta.

About the 20th of July we were moved from the river to the east of Atlanta near the cemetery about one quarter of a mile south of the cemetery and placed in the breastworks at a house. On the 22nd there was considerable firing of artillery north of us. The enemy’s line made a right angle turn towards Decatur and in the corner facing the cemetery they had a battery that shot at the fort just back of the southeast corner of the cemetery and there was an open space from the cemetery towards the place our battery was stationed, abut 100 yards across, and this Yankee battery kept this open space almost combed with shells. Barrett’s Mo. battery was in the fort back of the cemetery and kept up a steady fire in reply. Barrett had 20 lb. Parrot guns but their shells were defective, having flaws in them, and the fire would go through these flaws and explode the shells and had wounded some of our pickets in front, so we were ordered to take their place with our two 18 lb. Wiard guns. I dreaded to pass that open space but we always obeyed orders and away we went. When we got to the open space we went across at double quick and strange to say that battery did not fire a shot at us till we got inside the fort. As piece No. 3 was turning their gun around to run it up to the embrasure a shell bursted about 3 feet above the boys’ heads and didn’t hurt a man. A piece of the shell struck one of the boys on his pants pocket and cut the end of his pocket knife below the jaws. Just as we ran our gun No. 4 into the embrasure a shell exploded just above our heads in the dirt on top of the breastworks. It threw dirt all over us but didn’t hurt a man. We got our guns ready and began firing,. We began shooting at the enemy’s gun farthest on our right and soon it quit firing. we then began on the next gun and soon it quit and so taking them one at a time, they all quit firing. Whether we shot them to a finish we never knew, but one thing certain they quit shooting at us and we (were) out of danger of shells bursting all about us.

As the Yankee line of breastworks made a square turn and ran towards Decatur and our guns would shoot right down their line we were ordered to give them the ricochet, that is to shoot on the level and let the shell strike the ground and bounce along down in the line of breastworks. We learned that the Yanks had a (battery) in a yard about a mile away and facing Hardee’s line. We could see the treetops around the house so we shot several times at the trees.. This battery is shown in the Cyclorama at Grants Park after it was captured by the 42nd Ga. Regiment.....”


“The evening that Atlanta was begun to be evacuated our battery had half a barrel of whiskey issued to us. Sam Rice, my bunkmate and I went up to draw our part and found out that every man took his tin cup and helped himself. Sam and I dipped up our cups full and went back to our guns by which we bunked.....late in the evening we were ordered out.”

After the fall of Atlanta most of Hood's artillery was sent to Macon, while the rest of the Army of Tennessee marched off to their ill-fated meeting with Thomas at Franklin and Nashville.

“We retreated through McDonough on down to Griffin. While camped about Griffin Gen. Hood planned to (get) behind Sherman, cut off his supplies and force him to retreat out of Ga. Hood had more artillery than he wanted to take along so sent twelve batteries down to Macon and to our good fortune our battery was one of them.......Sherman did not pass through Macon but went on the east side of the river and from the heights fired shells on the defenseless women and children of the city.”

In the spring of 1865 Havis's Battery marched to North Carolina to rejoin the shattered remnants of the army, surrendering with Joe Johnston at Greensboro, N.C. April 26, 1865, three years to the day after mustering in on the steps of the Houston County courthouse.

“A day or tow after we got to Danville Gen. Lee surrendered and President Davis came to Danville and occupied a house two or three hundred yards from our camp.....”


“We were ordered down to Greensboro, N. C. Soon after getting there, rumors that Gen. Johnston was going to surrender and consternation filled our hearts. We were surrendered on the 26th of April 1865 in Greensboro, N. C. Our Capt. one morning, I think it was the 27th of April, had the bugle to blow the assembly call as if we were to march. The cannoneers of each gun fell in just in front of the horses and the roll was called as usual. Then the Capt. stepped in front and read the order of surrender. Then he address(ed) us about like this “Men, at the sound of the bugle, I will give the usual order ‘By piece from the right forward march’ but first ‘Cannoneers to your post march’ you cannoneers will take your positions at your guns and at the command of march you will get to the wheels and as usual help the horses to start and then stand to your position and let the guns go on to town.” The command to your post march and we boys marched to our posts the last time. The command “By piece from the right forward march”. I saw the 1st piece go and the cannoneers stand in their places. It looked terrible. The 2nd piece went, then the 3rd piece, then the 4th, my gun. We pushed and away the gun went and we stood in our places. That was the first time in three years that our gun had gone and I was not to go with it and as I watched that gun roll away I felt a loneliness and grief down in my heart and the tears streamed from my eyes. I was sad and sorrowed as if I had lost a loved one. We did love our guns. They had been our companions for three years and we would have died in their defense. ‘ Twas a sad day in our camp that day.”


The exerts are from the An Autobiography of Rev. William Ralston Talley with a Condensed History of The Talley Family. This manuscript is available at the National Archives, Atlanta, Georgia as well as the Washington Memorial Library in Macon, Georgia.

The Ben Parker mentioned is my gg-grandfather.

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