When I was fourteen, I was poking through a dusty bookshelf in my grandfather’s farm, when I made an amazing discovery…
But, before I get to that, I think a little family history is needed. The first McCullough of my line came to America in the late 1700s. This man, the ‘original’ Joseph A. McCullough as he’s known in my family, bought a farm in South Carolina and became famous for breeding horses. By the time the Civil War broke out, that farm had become a small plantation, complete with little shacks where the slaves slept. My great (x3) grandfather, James McCullough, who owned the farm, joined the Confederate Army. For most of the war, he was a colonel in command of the 16th South Carolina Volunteers, part of States Rights Gist’s Brigade. He led the regiment in several battles, most notably around Atlanta in 1864. Soon after that, however, he left the Army and returned home. No one in my family seems to know the reason for this, but it probably saved his life. The army next fought at the Battle of Franklin, where the Confederates suffered one of the most devastating and complete defeats of the entire war. States Rights Gist was killed, and every officer in his Brigade above the rank of Captain was either killed or wounded.
After the war, the farm fell into disuse, and my grandfathers instead embarked on careers in law, politics, and the military. That is until my grandfather (also Joseph A. McCullough) came back from World War II and decided to give farming another go. My father was born and raised on that farm, and every summer when I was a kid, we would go there to see the family and roam through endless acres of South Carolina forests and fields.
One day, I was poking through a dusty book shelf in my grandfather’s house and saw an old battered book with ‘Army Regulations’ on the spine. Opening the book to the title page, I saw that it was ‘Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States…published in New Orleans in 1861’. I think my heart actually skipped a beat!
Flipping back to the inside cover, I examined the book more carefully.
On the inside front cover is a book plate which declared the book belonged to the ‘Hon. Joseph A. McCullough’ and was deposited as a part of a collection with Furman University in 1918. (Just because there aren’t enough Joes in the story, this one is actually my grandfather’s grandfather, generally called ‘the Judge’ to avoid confusion).
But, what is more astounding than this book plate, is the inscription opposite it. It reads ‘Lt. Col. James McCullough, 16th Regiment SCV, Adams Run, April 1862’. Thanks to the Complete Records of the Civil War, I have been able to confirm that the 16th S.C.V was stationed at Adams Run in April of 1862. On the next page spread, which contains no printing, the book has been signed again, in the same hand, ‘James McCullough, Lt. Col. 16th S.C.V’. Both of these signatures were done in brown ink that has soaked through the page.
The book itself is pretty dry, as you would expect from an army manual, but also filled with interesting historical details, such as a Rank and Command list – who knew that Hospital Stewards held the same rank as an Ordnance Sergeant? Instructions on how to organize the troops, write down orders, issue ammunition, fight battles, organize wagon convoys, the proper style of uniforms, and finally a section of blank forms for all kinds of things including forms for pay and discharges.
It’s not until we get to the last very last page that we, once again, encounter my ancestor. On this last page, he has signed the book twice, once in ink and once in pencil. This time, in both instances, he is ‘Col. James McCullough’. There is also an extremely fine, and faint, bit written in pencil at the top of the page. Despite several attempts, the only thing I might be able to make out is the name at the end, which might be ‘Col. Ellery’.
The book is in poor shape these days. I’m not sure how much longer the cover will remain attached, and the pages are all slightly warped from moisture. Still, they made books to last in those days, and I have little doubt, that baring outside damage, it will still be around when I am gone.
Back when I found the book, I took it to my grandfather. He seemed surprised that it existed, and after a quick flip through, he handed it to me and said something to the effect of ‘I think you’d better take care of this…’
I have tried to. It is my prize possession – a direct link to my ancestor and to a horrendous yet compelling war.
My grandfather’s farm was divided amongst his children after his death. My father owns a part. My uncle (yup, Joseph A. McCullough) owns the part that contains the family graveyard. In the midst of that graveyard, under a small monument, lies Col. James McCullough. I hope he is at peace.