Colonel Jeptha Edwards CSA [Biography]
by Fred Nicholson
In the fall of 1861 in what was then DeKalb, now Etowah County, Dux (now Ducks) Springs planter Jeptha Edwards, along with his friend and neighbor W.B. Beason, organized what became Company O of the 31st Alabama Volunteer Infantry. (This unit became the 49th Alabama in May, 1862, but continued to be referred to as the 31st by many.). Included in the regiment were companies from DeKalb (2), Jackson (2), Calhoun (1), Marshall (1) and Madison (1) counties. When the unit was mustered on January 12, 1862, in Nashville, Tennessee, Jeptha Edwards, the 34- year-old veteran of the Mexican War, was elected Captain.
The first battle of this regiment was at Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh), April 6 and 7, 1862, where it did "efficient service." This unit was in the charge that broke the enemy's line, causing General Prentiss to surrender his two thousand troops. The unit was praised for its gallantry.
On May 8, 1862, Jeptha Edwards was elected Colonel. The unit was at Corinth, Mississippi at this time. The Confederate Army was camped in a swampy area, and in the six weeks following the Battle of Shiloh, there were more men lost to disease than had been killed in battle.
Colonel Edwards is "mentioned" in a report of General Van Dorn on the defense of Vicksburg in July 1862.
The 49th was in the Battle of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the occupation of Port Hudson, Mississippi from July 27 to August 4.
The unit was with Van Dorn in the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, August 30 through October 12, 1862.
The 31th/49th was back in Louisiana in January, 1862, where, because of heavy loses, the 27th and the 6th Alabama Battalions were consolidated with the 49th Alabama, with Colonel Edwards commanding the regiment.
At Port Hudson, Mississippi, the 49th was subject to the fifty-three day siege. They subsisted on dried peas, parched corn, and mule meat. When Vicksburg fell, Port Hudson had served its purpose, and the unit surrendered on July 7, 1863. The enlisted men were paroled because General Grant did not wish to commit the transportation to ship them North.
The officers, including Colonel Edwards, were shipped to Johnson Island, Ohio's P.O.W. camp aboard the steamer Planet, on July 16, 1863. The winters on Lake Erie were most severe. The two-story buildings were made of rough, verticle boards, with one stove for eighty men. Many of the Southern men died of exposure. Colonel Edwards stayed there two winters until March 24, 1865. He was then sent to Fort Delaware via Point Lookout, Maryland. He signed his oath of allegiance and was released July 15, 1865.
The released P.O.W.s were half starved, ill clothed and without money as they started home. It was about 1,000 miles for Colonel Edwards. The men walked, worked for food, and finally got home.
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