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John H. Worsham
One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry: His Experience and what He Saw During the War 1861-1865, Including a History of "F Company," Richmond, Va., 21st Regiment Virginia Infantry, Second Brigade, Jackson's Division, Second Corps, A. N. Va.
New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912.

Summary

John Henry Worsham, born to Clark Godin Worsham and Richard Worsham, joined "F Company" of the Virginia Volunteers in Richmond on April 21, 1861, at the age of twenty-one. He served the Confederate cause until he was wounded at the Battle of Winchester, Virginia, in 1864. After the war, Worsham worked in the milling business in Scottsville, Virginia, and operated a line of boats along the James River until the Kanawha canal was purchased by the Richmond and Alleghany railroad. Worsham then moved to Richmond, where he was in insurance. He married Mary Bell Pilcher and the couple had four children: Bell, Jessie, George Gibson, and Natalie.

In his book, One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry: His Experience and What He Saw During the War 1861-1865, Including a History of "F Company," Richmond, Va., 21st Regiment Virginia Infantry, Second Brigade, Jackson's Division, Second Corps, A. N. Va., Worsham describes joining Company F, Virginia Volunteer Troops after the Confederate siege of Fort Sumter and traces his war experience and the fate of Company F through Lee's surrender at Appomattox. The narrative also serves as a general company history, so it includes many detailed lists of vital information about members of the company.

Worsham's account of the early war years is light-hearted and filled with anecdotes about life in camp, with special detail given to the food and apparel of the soldiers. The changing appearance of the confederate soldiers over the war years is illustrated throughout the narrative with sketches representing each year. The decline in both clothing and supplies is evident as the illustrations progress. By 1863, the uniform of the representative confederate soldier is ripped and patched, and there are few supplies to carry. Worsham's preoccupation with food and clothing reflects the basic hardships faced by soldiers. Hunger and poverty became as much a concern at the end of the war as the actual battles.

Worsham's narrative, written many decades after the Civil War, is told from the perspective of a man who can reflect upon his youthful inexperience from the vantage point of an experienced soldier. He recounts the story of his fellow soldiers' indignation when General William Loring claims they could not be called soldiers until they had experienced the hardships of snow and ice. But time and experience proved the indignation of the men ill-founded: "Alas, for our judgment! It was not many months before we were of the same opinion as Gen. Loring . . ." (p. 41). Worsham is particularly admiring of General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, who leads Company F in the Battle of Romney, Virginia, and many other major battles. Worsham devotes a chapter to Jackson's untimely death at Chancellorsville and the grief of his men over losing "Old Jack" (p.165).

Worsham also recounts his experiences in the Battles of Bath, Kernstown, Cedar Mountain, Bull Run (Second Manassas), Fredericksburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Monocacy, and others. In addition to his many battle stories, Worsham tells of the occasional detentes between North and South, when both sides could swap stories and newspapers on one day and resume fighting the next. Despite the countless deaths Worsham witnessed on the battlefield, it is the memory of a military execution that makes the deepest impression on the young soldier: "This was the only execution I witnessed, and, if I live a thousand years, I will never be willing to see another" (p. 192).

Though the hardships increased as the war progressed, and Worsham was shoeless by the time of the Battle of Lynchburg, he was promoted to Acting Adjutant of his regiment in September of 1864. Shortly thereafter, Worsham was shot in the knee during the Battle of Winchester. His experience while injured shows the chaos of medical attention during battle. A steward gives him apple brandy to diminish the pain, and then Worsham is put on a mule-driven ambulance. Once at the "hospital," the first surgeon Worsham encounters refuses to help him, as he does not belong to the surgeon's unit. Only after further travel and many more painful hours does Worsham receive proper medical attention. His wound results in permanent disability, and the portrait of Worsham at the conclusion of the text shows him on crutches in 1865.

Though Worsham's active military service concludes at Winchester, he follows the fate of his company until the end of the war. As the Union army settles into the South, Worsham notes the marked contrast between Union supplies and those of the Confederates. In a hospital in Richmond when the city was evacuated, Worsham tells of the fires and looting that plague the city. Though the locals fear the Yankee occupation, Worsham makes friends with the Union soldiers who visit the hospital.

The end of the war brings its own hardships. The soldiers return home to find desolation, and farming becomes a means of survival. Worsham writes, "Poverty is a great leveler, and all were on the same footing now" (p. 292). He also devotes a chapter to the women of the confederacy, praising them for their contribution and sacrifice during the war. The final chapters reflect on General Lee, the individual fates of the members of Company F, and the treatment of prisoners of war in the South versus the North. Worsham concludes his narrative by comparing the sacrifice of Confederate soldiers to ancient warriors, and the final lines are a poem reflecting on the heroism of the men who "grow taller" in memory as the years pass (p. 342).

Works Consulted: Tyler, Lyon Gardiner, "George Gibson Worsham" in Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, vol. 5., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915: 799-800.

Amanda M. Page

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