35th Georgia Infantry Regiment

Jesse Stanley Ford was 34 years old when he joined Company A, 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment with his brothers George W. Ford and William Follett Ford, March 4, 1862.  (See 6th Georgia)  They joined in Buchanan, Haralson County, west of Atlanta on the Alabama border.  According to a 1918 family letter, George W. Ford was discharged because of a disability that would not let him march.  A private’s pay was $11 per month.  Jesse received a $50 bounty for joining and $10.26 for transportation from Buchanan to Atlanta.

Jesse and Bill went by train to Richmond, Virginia, and then by train to Fredericksburg where they joined the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment in camp.  Jesse was promoted from private to fifer April 1, 1862.  This indicates that Jesse could play a musical instrument.  They fought in the Peninsula Campaign under General Magruder when Union Forces invaded Virginia a second time.  Three of the Ford brothers participated in the “Seven Days' Battle” in June 1862.  Two were in the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment and one in the 18th Georgia Infantry Regiment.

The Peninsula Campaign began when Union General McClellan began moving troops from Washington, DC to Fort Monroe, at the peninsula formed where the York and James Rivers enter the Chesapeake Bay.  From there, McClellan planned to march to Richmond, Virginia, and take the capital of the Confederacy.

By April 12, 1862, there were 30,000 Confederates facing 100,000 Union troops at the Siege of Yorktown, but infantry fighting was light.  It rained much of the month of April 1862, and conditions were miserable.  Artillery bombardment of Yorktown was relentless.  McClellan was content to start a siege against Yorktown and shell the Confederates rather than to attack.  Although he commanded a far superior number of troops, he did not believe that.

Magruder marched his men back and forth between the two rivers, making a lot of noise, to fool McClellan to think he had many more men than he really had.  The theatrics worked for almost three weeks.  Jesse and William Ford got their fill of walking and noise making.

In April 1862, Jesse acquired a book belonging to a Union soldier named Jordan Presley.  How Jesse got the book is not known.  It is presumed that he took it off of Presley’s body.  The title of the book was, SAFE HOME or The Last Days and Happy Death of Fannie Kenyon, by Mrs. Stoddard, and published in 1859 by Gould and Lincoln, Boston, Massachusetts.  Jesse wrote by his own hand on the inside cover, “Safe Home by J. S. Ford in Virginia & sent to his little daughter in Georgia.”

The soldiers were troubled with what was called Camp diarrhea.  There was no known cure, except the first taste of battle when the affliction left them and affected a cure.  There were plenty of rations, but few fresh vegetables except wild onions.  A heavy meal of boiled bacon and wild onions will “...satisfy one's craving for vegetables for sometime.”

Lice were a major problem.  The men lacked any chance to bath or change clothing for three weeks.  When the lice got so thick a man could not bear it, he would make a small fire of straw or leaves and hold his garment over the blaze.  The heat would cause the lice to drop off and be burned.  If one were covered with really big ones, they would pop like popcorn in the fire.

Understanding of sanitation needs was lacking.  Cooks would prepare food in the same large pots used to wash clothes after which it would be covered with a soap film.  Soldiers did not know the need to boil swamp water before drinking it.  As a result, more soldiers were lost to sickness than to battle.

 The Confederates, facing overwhelming numbers, bombardment by giant siege guns, and a threat from more Union forces on the Rappahannock River to the north of Richmond, withdrew from Yorktown up the peninsula on Saturday, May 3, 1862. They were gone before McClellan could mount a major attack or even knew what happened.

Jesse and William marched through mud and swamps, averaging one mile a day.  They would march two minutes and wait for ten because of the clogged wet roads.

On 7 May 1862, McClellan moved two infantry divisions, by boat, up the James River behind the retreating Confederates to block their way to Richmond.  Two brigades, one of whom contained David Ford, the brother of Jesse and William, cleared the way for the Confederate counter attack.

Jesse and Bill, with the 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment, drew back up the peninsula with the Confederate Army to where they fought in the “Battle of Williamsburg.”  They were the rear guard facing the Union advance on Richmond.  Jesse and Bill Ford participated in the “Battle of Seven Pines” near Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31.  The battle was inconclusive.  Three of Perley's sons were in that one battle.

Robert E. Lee was appointed commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia after General Joseph E. Johnston was seriously wounded at the “Battle of Seven Pines”  May 31, 1862.

During the next seven days of fighting, many Confederates were able to get food only by taking supplies left behind by the retreating Union troops. Jesse literally fought for his supper. Much of it was hardtack (crackers) and fat meat.  It also rained most of the time, making conditions very bad. Jesse began to get sick. The 35th Infantry Regiment fought at the “Battle of Frayser's Farm” on Monday, June 30, also known as the “Battle of White Oaks Swamp.” 

McClellan’s men got far enough to see Richmond and to hear the church bells, but they could not take the city.  So, they withdrew toward the protection of their gunboats on the James River.  They occupied and fortified the crest of a hill known as Malvern Hill.  The attack of the hill was given to General Magruder.  The plan was, “...to hurl about fifteen thousand men against these batteries and this infantry, to follow up any success they might obtain; and if unable to drive the enemy from his strong position to continue the fight in front, by pouring in fresh troops, and in case they were repulsed, to hold strongly the line of battle where we stood.”  The 35th Regiment fought in the middle of the battle line in the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, which ended the Seven Days' Battle.

At about five in the afternoon, the order was given to move out of the cover of the woods and to charge the hill.  The sons of the South rushed into an open field below the hill.  They moved at a full run.  The Federals concentrated murderous fire of cannons loaded with grape and canister shot.  Men were cut down by the hundreds, but the line moved forward until they had covered about two-thirds of the distance across the open field.  Cut to pieces, the line fell back to the cover of the woods. The attack on the retreating Federals was to be a combined operation with Stonewall Jackson's Army, but Jackson was delayed.  Magruder and D. H. Hill, with 30,000 men, half of Lee's Army were completely crushed and routed in disorder with the loss of more than 5,000.  Union forces did not press their advantage and continued to withdraw.

The Seven Days' Battle was disastrous for the Fords and their in-laws.  Bill had 23 bullet holes shot through his clothing without touching him, in the charge up Malvern Hill.  He went to the Hospital in Richmond, Virginia where he died, according to the doctor, of “pour homesickness.”  David Ford was wounded, and Ben Richey, David’s future brother-in-law, was so severely wounded in the hand he was disabled for life and discharged.

For Jesse the fighting for seven days in the swamps took its toll and made him very sick.  The fighting and forced marching in the rain and swamps, with little food, poor water, and no rest, caused Jesse to contract diarrhea so severely that he was furloughed July 9, 1862, for 60 days, to recover at home.  He went to Georgia to his wife and children.

He was much improved by the end of July. Sarah cooked him a big meal, including roasting ears (corn-on-the-cob) from her garden. Jesse got sick again from the meal and died on August 1, 1862.  The 1918 letter said:

“...in the summer of 62, Uncle Stanley was furloughed home to get well of Army diarrhea-got apparently well and was ready to go back, ate dinner of roasting ears from his wife's own planting and died in 48 hours.”

George Washington Ford, Jesse’s brother, and Sarah (Farmer) Ford, his wife, wrote letters to the Secretary of War, Confederate States of America in 1862, advising of Jesse's death and requesting the $33.36 back pay due him, for his widow.  A friend wrote a letter as well.  The letters are on file in the National Archives, Washington, DC, in Confederate war documents.  The back pay of $33.36 was sent to Jesse's wife, under Claim Certificate number 4036 in the spring of 1863.