By Joshua Price
Sports Editor/News Writer
United Daughters of the Confederacy Camp 1620 and the Turkeytown Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans held a memorial service on March 11 at Pilgrims’ Rest Cemetery in Southside.
The quiet, tranquil cemetery is the final resting place of many of our nation’s veterans, including 18 Confederate soldiers.
Among the soldiers honored was Private Elihu H. Griffin of the Fifth Alabama (Infantry) Battalion.
Griffin was a native of the Smokeneck community, known today as Southside. In August 1861, Griffin enlisted in the Fifth Alabama (Infantry) Battalion, and was placed in Company B, nicknamed the “Calhoun Sharpshooters.”
Prior to the Gettysburg campaign in June-July 1863, the Fifth Alabama Battalion was placed in James Archer’s brigade of A.P. Hill’s corps, Army of Northern Virginia.
Archer’s brigade, comprised of the Fifth Alabama Battalion, the 13th Alabama Infantry and the 1st, 7th and 14th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, marched from Cashtown, Pennsylvania toward Gettysburg on July 1.
The brigade encountered a detachment of John Buford’s Federal cavalry northwest of Gettysburg in mid-afternoon.
The Federals concentrated their fire on the center of the Archer’s brigade, which was anchored by the Fifth Alabama Battalion.
Griffin fell after the first Union volley, wounded in the shoulder.
Griffin survived his wound at Gettysburg. He returned to the Fifth Alabama Battalion in late-1864 and was wounded at Petersburg in March 1865. Griffin recovered from his wound at Petersburg at a nearby Confederate hospital and surrendered to Union cavalry at the hospital on July 17, 1865 – three months after Robert E. Lee surrendered the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.
Griffin died at his home in Smokeneck on Saturday, June 20, 1914 at the age of 76 and was given a Mason’s funeral.
Years ago, Gettysburg historians confirmed that Griffin was one of the first of three Confederates wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Recent research suggests that Griffin was the first Confederate wounded in the decisive three-day engagement.
The local Civil War Round Table group recently placed an historical marker beside Griffin’s tombstone, officially recognizing him as the first Confederate soldier wounded at Gettysburg.
Approximately 50 people gathered for the event. Each Confederate grave was decorated with the 1863 battle flag. The bright sun illuminated the colors of the flags as they fluttered in the breeze.
Guests listened to inspirational speeches by local Civil War author Bob Lankford and SCV Northeast Central Brigade Commander Dan Williams.
Lankford, author of On Jordan’s Stormy Banks, encouraged the crowd to be proud of their Confederate heritage.
A talented orator, Williams challenged the crowd to remember the sacrifices of those of the Confederate generation.
A group of Confederate re-enactors honored the soldiers by firing a three-round volley in memoriam – a custom of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.