Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:00 AM
Just weeks after General George Pickett's heroic and historic frontal attack on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863, two of the Neshoba Rifles' wounded warriors wrote home to worried family and friends.
Private Wiley Heflin, who earlier, "had been making my brags to the boys that I was bomb proof," wrote of his trip to Fort Delaware, after he was wounded in the left hip, ankle and foot and captured: "I remained in the field hospital two weeks before I was able to be moved. Treated well by the citizens and soldiers. I, with others, was then transported from Gettysburg to Baltimore. About dusk we arrived at Hanover Junction where we met a train of citizens going to see the battle field... The two trains pulled up opposite each other and stopped. I was in a box car right in front of the door. A gentleman on the platform of the passenger train seemed to want to burlesque and make fun of us.
"Asked me if we were specimens of the rebel army. I told him it was a few of us wounded rebels and that he could term us as he pleased... a lady put her head out of a window of the coach and told him to ask me if we were whipped at Gettysburg. He paused a moment and then asked: "Were you whipped at Gettysburg?"
"I replied: "Oh, no. We just changed our base of operations like McClellan did before Richmond." He turned away and replied that I was not among my own folds, that I must recollect that I was among ladies and gentlemen. The guard over me upbraided me for my answer to him. I put it down then, that that man has never fired a gun during the war."
Private Charles Ridout penned his first letter home from the U.S.A. General Hospital at Chester, Pennsylvania: "I was wounded in the battle at Gettysburg on the 3rd of July, shot through the right leg just below the knee. The bone is fractured, but I am in hopes I will be able to walk in a few weeks. I expect my leg will be too stiff to do any more infantry service, so I will be either discharged or defered [sic] to cavalry."
On August 3, 1863, Ridout again updated his family from his bed in the Chester hospital: "I am recovering as rapidly as could be reasonably expected but do not think I will ever be able to march again, as the bones are fractured in my leg and I do not think I will ever be able to straighten it. I have received very kind attention from the Yankees, have good medical attention and a plenty wholesome food to eat... keep in good spirits as I expect to get a furlough as soon as I get to Richmond."
Private Heflin's odyssey continued: "After I arrived there [Fort Delaware] the wound in my hip came near getting crysipelas [gangrene] in it and an order came from the surgeon at Chester, Penn., to send 600 of his worst cases to that place. There was no accommodation for the sick and wounded at the Fort. I was an awful wicked fellow and a few days previous a lady had come around giving us Testaments.
"I concluded I would read my Testament and quit cursing, and I would ever remember where I began a better life... When we arrived the surgeon there told the surgeon in charge of us to put off 200 of his worst cases, as he had accommodation for that many. So when he got off something near 200, I was trotting around after him like I was very bad off. He would tell me, 'I will see you directly.' When about 196 or 197 were off I was still begging him to put me off. When he told me that he thought there were worse cases on there than I, the thought of going back to the Fort was almost death to me. So I forgot my little Testament and began to use profane words as fast as I could speak.
"A few days after we got back to the Fort the same doctor came around and asked me how I would like to go home. I answered that I would like it mighty well. He took out his little book, said, 'I believe I'll send you home.' I did not say any bad words to that. So... were passed across the line on the James River opposite Petersburg, August 1. We went to Petersburg, thence to Richmond in the parole camps."
Civil War Veterans
Williamson, Hardy, Jr. - Private; enlisted March 1, 1862, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age eighteen; farmer; Muster Roll, May-June 1862: "Absent Sick;" probably wounded at Freeman's Ford, August 22, 1862; hospitalized with a gunshot wound in the right hip at General Hospital #7 at Richmond, Virginia, August 22 to September 15, 1862.
Furloughed from there for forty days; wounded in the right leg at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; right leg amputated at the middle third, July 5, 1863; hospitalized at the U.S.A. General Hospital at Chester, Pennsylvania, July 1863; transferred and admitted to the U.S.A. Hammond General Hospital at Point Lookout, Maryland, October 4, 1863; assigned to ward 10, bed 17 at the Hammond Hospital.
Died with diarrhea in the Hammond Hospital, February 18, 1864; final benefits of $205.63 paid to Hardy Williamson, Sr., March 15, 1865; buried in the prisoner of war grave yard (Confederate Cemetery) at Point Lookout; "A fine good-natured boy to whom we were all attached - in fact, we might with truth say of him, 'We could better have spared a better man;'" described as five feet six inches tall, dark complexion, black eyes and dark hair.
World War II Veterans
Williamson, Wilbon Adam - Private to Private First Class; enlisted in July 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty-four; nick-named "Buddy;" served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, and Camp Phillips, Kansas.
Served also in the European Theatre of Operations with the 79th Infantry "Cross of Lorraine" Division, Seventh United States Army, April 1944 to January 1945; participated in the Invasion of Normandy and the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe.
Killed in action in France, January 13, 1945; awarded the Purple Heart; buried in the Mars Hill United Methodist Church Cemetery, Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday