With the sympathy of a mother….

Sarah Jackson Powell Smith Elliott house Nansemond VA

Suffolk, Virginia and Habersham County, Georgia are separated by nearly 500 miles, and yet, they are connected. It was on March 27, 1862, in this Suffolk house, that Sarah J. Elliott sat down to write a letter to an anxious father in Georgia. The letter began, “It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son, John.” Many such letters were written during the war, but this one was written “with the sympathy of a mother.”

Suffolk, Virginia
March 27, 1862

Mr. Dawkins,
It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son, John. He remained in the Hospital a week or ten days before I knew he was sick, and though a stranger to me, I sent for him to my dwelling, where he departed this life this morning, at 10 o’clock. He often spoke of his absent parents, and expressed a great wish to see them. He died without the least struggle. He will be buried here, and I will have his grave marked. Enclosed you will find a piece of his hair. His brother was with him part of the time, but was ordered to Goldsboro, N.C., a few days ago, consequently had to leave him. I assure you that he had all the attention that I was capable of giving him.

With the sympathy of a mother, I remain, yours, respectfully,
Sarah J. Elliott​

John Dawkins Co E 16th GA Obit

John Dawkins, age nineteen, “attached himself to Captain Styles’ [sic] company 16th Ga. Regiment.” The company of Capt. Benjamin Edward Stiles was raised in Habersham County and became Co E “aka Cobb Infantry” of Howell Cobb’s 16th Georgia Regiment.

Lillian Henderson’s Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia includes the following brief entry:
Dawkins, John – private July 24, 1861. [according to the carded record below, the date should be February 13, 1862.]

The files of the 16th Georgia Infantry contain only one carded record for “John Dockins” Pvt. Co. E, who is recorded on Regimental Return dated February 1862 as “Recruit. Feb 13, 1862.”

John Dawkins Co E card

There are no other records for John Dawkins in the file of the 16th Georgia Infantry – nothing to record his illness or his death, which occurred just six weeks after he arrived as a “recruit.”

But what about the woman who provided care for John Dawkins? Sarah J. Elliott was born March 13, 1808 as Sarah Jackson Powell. She married Major Robert Riddick Smith (b. 10 Jan 1808) who was a State Legislator, a Major for Nansemond County, and the 3rd generation of his family operating the Somerton Ordinary (also known as the “Somerton Inn” now located at 8443 Arthur Drive, Suffolk.) His father built for the couple, a fine home, which was located just across from the Inn and known as the Robert R. Smith house. (See house in photo atop this post.)

Robert and Sarah soon had two boys, Washington C. Smith (b. 1840) and Henning Ezekiel (b. 1843) but tragedy struck in 1845, when Robert was stabbed to death on the front porch of the Washington Hotel in Suffolk by a man named Henry Hill. At the time of Robert’s death, Sarah was expecting a third child, Robert Riddick Jr., born three months after his father’s death. (…with the sympathy of a mother.)

Sarah later remarried Dr. John Richard Elliott, and is found as Sarah J. Elliott in the 1860 US census for Nansemond, VA and confirmed by Bible records. Sarah’s first husband was buried in the Smith Family Cemetery located just behind the Robert R. Smith house. It is probable that John Dawkins was also buried there. (He will be buried here, and I will have his grave marked.)

So, you may ask, why post here about a young man who had only 6 week’s service in the 16th Georgia Infantry and probably did not participate in a single skirmish or battle? Perhaps, some day, a member of John Dawkins’ family – maybe a descendant of his brother, Alfred M. Dawkins – will wonder what ever happened to John. Since only this newspaper article records his fate, I am hopeful that those descendants will find this post and know what happened to John Dawkins, age 19. And know that a kind woman cared for him, where he died, and where he was laid to rest. Rest in peace, John Dawkins.


1. Image of the residence of Sarah Jackson Powell Smith Elliott, above, from Google maps. The house is located at 8441 Arthur Drive, Suffolk, Va.
2. Transcription of letter and obituary from Athens, Georgia, Southern Watchman, Aug. 20, 1862, page 3.
3. A Guide to Virginia Militia Units in the War of 1812. Stuart Lee Butler, page 147
4. A Record of Farms and Their Owners in Lower Part of Nansemond County. William Turner Jordan, unnumbered pages.
5. Bible Records of Suffolk and Nansemond County, Virginia Together with Other Statistical Data. Fillmore Norfleet, Genealogical Publishing Com, 2009, p. 175.
6. Smith Family Cemetery

Experiences of Asst. Surgeon Robert Pooler Myers

During the civil war, 40 surgeons and assistant surgeons were killed and 73 were wounded while attending to their duties on the battlefield. Medical officers seldom took an active part in battle, but surgeons and assistant surgeons of both sides were still exposed to a variety of dangers. Regimental surgeons were required to be on the field in order to render timely aid. When the regiment was assigned to picket duty, the regimental surgeon went along. The brigade surgeon was usually waiting nearby at some farm house or barn that had been temporarily converted to a field hospital. When the lines of battle moved, as they often did, the field hospitals and the surgeons therein were exposed to serious dangers including flying bullets, exploding shells, and capture.

Below are a few accounts from Assistant Surgeon Robert P Myers of the 16th Georgia Infantry detailing some of his interesting experiences. (All entries are transcribed as written, including abbreviations and misspelled words.)

About keeping a diary….

June 15, 1863 Culpeper Court House
“….and then again they may be lost, or I get tired & discontinue my notes, or I may be captured for such a thing is possible as I have heard of several Asst Surgeons being taken prisoners in this war – and it fact some being wounded & killed – but as I am very careful of my dear self I have hardly any such fear, and put a good deal of trust in kind Providence….”

Bands play Yankee Doodle & Dixie….

October 5, 1863 Chattanooga
“…..About 1 oc’ am our batteries open’d fire 20 Yds from where we are, we have nine (9) Howetzers upon skids firing slowly. Commanding along the whole line, Maj Porter Alexander commanding all the Artillery – no Infantry engaged – a few were wounded. relieved from the front by 51st Ga. Col Ball of Bryan’s Brig’d, a few shells were thrown at night – while on the advance picket line I heard plainly both the “Yankee” & our Bands playing one ‘Dixie’ the other ‘Yankee Doodle‘”

Wounded as he slept…..

July 10, 1864 near Petersburg
“Last night while sleeping under my blanket I woke with a curious sensation all over me. I felt as if I had been beat over the head. Just then my friend Jas H F who was on my right exclaimed – Dr I am shot! In a few moments I recovered myself & examined his wound then attempted to rise, but fell back quite sick & not until then knew I was shot also.A minie ball having passed through Field’s thigh, about the middle [&] inflicting a severe contused wound of the [knee] joint on myself.

Suffering on the march…..

October 1, 1864 Mt. Sidney Va.
“….we did not start until 8 am just as we moved out it commenced to rain & it pour’d all day until we bivouaced for the night about 3 miles from Mt Sidney – wh[ich]: village we passed thro at 3pm – The river and creeks were much swollen from the heavy rains – the men waided them – there being no foot logs or bridges – I was drenched by the time I got into Camp overcoat wet through – boots filled with water – not a dry stitch on me -“

Encamped near the lines….

March 10, 1865 Fort Gilmer near Richmond
“About the 4th recd orders to move to the right and occupy breastworks at and around Fort Gilmer- the distance between our pickets and the Yankees is about 200 yards they are quite friendly- conversing and exchanging papers – deserters are coming and going almost daily- both sides desert- My hut is so near the lines I can easily hear the pickets talking at night-

Source: Diary of Asst. Surgeon Robert Pooler Myers, Eleanor S. Brockenbrough Library, The Museum of the Confederacy.

The Companies and the Captains

Company A – organized in Madison County, GA; also known as “Madison Greys” and “Madison County Greys.”

James S. Gholston was elected Captain effective July 11, 1861. He was elected Major February 21, 1862; promoted to Lieutenant Colonel August 16, 1864; retired to invalid corps Aug 24, 1864. He was captured and paroled at Athens, GA May 8, 1865. He died March 14, 1892 and is buried in Shelby County, TX.

Company B – organized in Jackson County, GA; also known as “Center Hill Guards.” The men were recruited by Abner Monroe Reynolds. Reynolds was the Master of the local Masonic Lodge and the whole lodge joined the army one night and went off to war. Reynolds was elected Captain July 17, 1861 and Henry Hosch, a 50 year old farmer, became his Lieutenant.

Abner Maddison Monroe Reynolds Cleaned upCaptain Abner Monroe Reynolds

Reynolds would command Company B until Sept 14, 1862 when he was killed at Cramptons Gap (South Mountain) near Burkittsville, Md. He was succeeded by Capt John M. Venable.

Company C – organized in Hart County, GA; also known as “Hartwell Infantry.”

John Hamilton Skelton was elected Captain July 13, 1861. He was elected Major October 1, 1863; captured at Guard Hill, Front Royal, Va. Aug. 20, 1864; released from Fort Delaware prison July 24, 1865. He would return to Georgia, and on March 26, 1867 marry Mary Lavinia Richardson in Hart County, Georgia. Together, the couple would have at least ten children. He died Sept 21, 1893 and is buried in Hart County, GA.

Company D – organized at Madison County, GA; also known as “Danielsville Guards.”

John Newton Montgomery was elected Captain August 5, 1861. He was captured at Gettysburg July 2, 1863. He would remain imprisoned until his release at Cox’s Wharf, James River, Va., March 22, 1865. After his release, Montgomery would return to his wife and family in Georgia. He died April 14, 1887 and was buried in Ila, Madison County, GA.

Company E – organized at Habersham County, GA; also known as “Cobb Infantry.”

Benjamin Edward Stiles was elected Captain July 24, 1861. He was elected Major May 18, 1863 and Lieutenant Colonel November 29, 1863. He was killed in action at the Battle of Guard Hill near Front Royal, VA August 16, 1864. A marker for Stiles is located in the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery, Winchester, VA.

LTC Benjamin Edward Stiles

Company F – organized at Walton County, GA; also known as “Joe Brown Rough and Ready” and “McRae’s Rough and Ready.

John Henry Duncan McRae elected Captain July 19, 1861. Promoted to Colonel of the Regiment in 1864; captured at Saylor’s Creek, VA on April 6, 1865 and imprisoned at Johnson’s Island Ohio until his release June 19, 1865.

J H D McRae Captain John Henry Duncan McRae

After the war, JHD McRae was a Methodist minister. He died Nov 5, 1911 and is buried in Jacksonville, Duval County, FL.

Company G – organized in Jackson County, GA; also known as “Oconee Vols” and “Jackson Rifles.”

Augustus Columbus Thompson was elected Captain July 20, 1861. He was wounded at Crampton’s Gap, MD (near Burkittsville) Sept. 14, 1862. He resigned as a result of his wounds effective August 1, 1863; approved Sept. 9, 1863. He was succeeded by Thomas LaFayette Ross.

Augustus Columbus ThompsonCaptain A C Thompson

On September 14, 1862, Thompson was shot through the left hip during the Battle of Crampton’s Gap. The ball was cut out of his left groin. Thompson was “discharged at Crampton’s Gap, Maryland and went home to recover.” Source: Confederate Widows Pension Application. Application number A12385.

Between 1880 and 1881 the family  moved to Lakeland, Polk County, Florida. On February 1, 1882, A. C. Thompson was employed to take charge of Polk County’s first poor farm. He died Aug 9, 1905 and is buried in Polk County, FL.

Company H – organized at Gwinnett County, GA. Also known as “Flint Hill Greys.”

Moses Richardson was elected Captain August 11, 1861. He resigned September 3, 1861 due to illness. He was succeeded by J M Liddell. Richardson would later receive a medical appointment and serve as a surgeon for the Confederacy for the rest of the war. He returned to Georgia and resumed his medical practice. He died March 15, 1905 and is buried in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Company I – organized at Gwinnett County, GA. Also known as “Hutchins Guards.”

Nathaniel Louis Hutchins, Jr. elected Captain March 6, 1861. The Company was uniformed and equipped by his father, the elder Judge Hutchins. Captain Hutchins was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters on April 1863 (upon the formation of the Sharpshooter Regiment.) Succeeded by William E Simmons as Captain; Simmons would also transfer to the Sharpshooter Regiment as a Captain June 8, 1863. Hutchins was Captured at Saylor’s Creek, VA on April 6, 1865. He was imprisoned at Johnson’s Island, Ohio until his release July 25, 1865.

Nathan Louis Hutchins, IICaptain Nathaniel Louis Hutchins

Hutchins returned to Georgia where he resumed the practice of law and married Carrie Orr in 1866. Together they reared a number of children. He was elected to the general assembly and, in 1882, became a Judge. He died June 8, 1905 and is buried in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, GA.

Company K – organized at Columbia County GA; also known as “Ramsey Vols.

Robert Joshua Boyd was elected Captain July 25, 1861.  Captain Robert J Boyd was killed at Malvern Hill, VA on July 1, 1862. According to a letter from the officers and men of Company K, he was killed “while gallantly leading his company in the charge of the first instant (July 1, 1862), and encouraging them by his noble and fearless example.” He was succeeded by R. A. Lansdell July 28, 1861.