Pvt. Calvin Pruitt - Co. B

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GA 38TH – CO B

Until approximately 25 years ago I was not aware of my gg-gf, Calvin Pruitt, except for some dim family legend of a gg-gf who served in the Confederacy. With no more starting info that I possessed, I feel that I have been extremely “lucky” in tracking down Calvin’s Civil War saga. It is an extremely complicated for a “thirtysomething” private infantryman who was illiterate. I am very pleased that I have been able to piece together what I have though there remains more to uncover.

Calvin was born in 1829 in Greenville Co., SC; the oldest son of William Pruitt. In the early 1840’s William moved his family to the Hickory Flat section of Cherokee County. This was north of Alpharetta and south of Canton. There, Calvin grew up and in 1850 married Susannah Elizabeth Rainwater. By the outbreak of the Civil War they had 2 sons and 2 daughters. His youngest son, John Wesley Pruitt, was my g-gf. Calvin enlisted in the Milton Guards in with October 1861 or February 1862 (Muster Rolls show both dates). Originally, this unit was Company F for the GA 38th (Wrights Legion) but was changed to Company B of the GA 38th (Milton Guards). Calvin had a younger brother, Zilman, who was also in the same unit. Another younger brother who had moved further west in Georgia. This was Tillman Pruitt, who may have been a twin of Zilman. He was in the 40th GA, Co C (Floyd County, GA) Army of Tennessee.

Now, a little background on “Old” Milton Co., GA. If one looks at a current map of Fulton Co., GA, it has a very distinct head. This is Old Milton. Milton Co. was created in 1857 from portions of Cobb, Cherokee and Forsyth Co, GA. The county ceased to exist in 1931 during the Great Depression and was incorporated into Fulton County (Atlanta). Owing to the depressed economy and the associated negligence future researchers have been frustrated owing to the disappearance of vital records forever.

Now, rejoining Calvin. It appears that he was wounded at Antietam or in action leading up to that strategic battle for he was in the hospital on a surgeon’s leave. Eventually, he returned home in late 1862 and remained for much of 1863 when a third daughter was born. He rejoins the 38th GA in late 1863, eventually finding himself in the battles around Spotsylvania Court House. Being in Gordon’s Division, he is in a supporting role at the Battle of the Muleshoe (or The Salient) on May 12, 1864 near Spotsylvania CH. From McPherson’s description, I am sure he was near when General Lee rode out to personally lead a counter-surge against the Union breakthrough at the Salient. As a Confederate sergeant grabbed the reins of Traveler, General John Gordon admonished Lee telling him to go back to the rear. He noted, “These are Georgians and Virginians, Sir. They have never let you down, they will not now”. The soldiers shouted. “To the rear, General Lee”. Of course, the Confederates proceeded to retake the Mule Shoe. This victory came just after 1100 Confederate soldiers (including General Ed Johnson) had been captured.

General Lee and General Grant continued to skirmish in this area for a week trying to outflank the other. Finally, on May 19 General Lee made a serious mistake by sending General Ewell with a large portion of Gordon and Rodes’ troops on a circular reconnaissance toward the north crossing the Ny River near the Armstrong House. As Ewell’s troops began to return to their original lines, they became lost and in the night time stumbled into the flank of Warren’s and Burnsides Divisions on Grant’s flank. Ewell lost over 900 men as prisoners among these were many from the 38th GA, including Pvt. Calvin Pruitt. This engagement was pointless and the intelligence could have been obtained by a cavalry squad or infantry platoon. Once again, Ewell had committed a devastating blunder.

As with thousands of others over the past week, these CSA prisoners were assembled by the Union Army at Belle Plains on the Potomac River. After several days of being out in the open, they were transferred to and detained at Point Lookout, MD. On July 3, 1864 the Union Army began transferring Confederates to a new Union POW Camp at Elmira, NY. Pvt. Calvin was among the first group of 400 placed on a steamer to the Jersey City, NJ area and hence by rail car to Elmira, NY. On July 7, Calvin was among the first 400 prisoners to occupy Elmira POW Camp. From my research I believe this first group was responsible for the only successful escape from Elmira. They were all veterans of over two years of rugged fighting and in early August, 10 CSA POW’s were successful in escaping before the break out was uncovered. Calvin was not one of these; however, by late August his name did appear on a list of those willing to pledge allegiance to the Union and be assigned to the 161st NY Engineers. However, by this time Grant had ceased to approve such action.

Bruce Catton, noted Civil War author, called Elmira, “The Andersonville of the North”. It had been constructed hastily and later researchers found that it had many of the same water drainage problems that existed at Andersonville, GA. Hence, smallpox, measles, dysentery and pneumonia decimated the eventual 12,000 prisoners who occupied Elmira. From some recent research, I have found a group from the GA 38th, Co B who were all captured May 19, 1864, possible as a unit. They were aside from Calvin as follows:

Sgt. A. J. Eidson
3rd Sgt. William D. Stewart – died 16 Sept 1864 (grave #173)
Pvt. Alfred Reece – paroled March 2, 1865
Pvt. William T. Sayer – paroled March 2, 1865
Pvt. John R. (or K) Butler – released 14 June 1865
Pvt. John A. Adams
Pvt. W. R. Dix – released 14 June 1865
Pvt. James McCurry – released 20 June 1865

It was May 29, 1865, a year plus 10 days since his capture at Spotsylvania CH. Pvt. Calvin Pruitt was taken to the Elmira, NY Depot and placed on a train bound for Washington, DC for repatriation. Those released at this time were most probably in very bad health. I have been unable to find what happened as he never returned home to Milton Co, GA.

Bio courtsey of Mr. Donald Pruitt.

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