AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF OLIVER G THOMPSON|
23 Nov. 1843 --4 Sep. 1932
I am not impressed
with the feeling that I have achieved something out of the ordinary. That I should be held in remembrance
by my country, that I am writing. An aversion to writing of myself is partly the cause of putting off
this little work that my children asked of me several years ago. Now, on that account and move by the
thought that it seems well for one, no matter how humble, to leave some message for his children, I begin
the task. With the hope that for them, it will never lose it's interest or grow old. Lest we forget,
lest we forget. Of necessity it must be brief and fragmentary. You must not expect anything further than
an imperfect outline. For something of my service in the great American War of the sixties, I must refer
you to the history of that struggle, the history of the 3rd SC regiment, Kershaw's Brigade, McLaw's Division,
Longstreet's corps, Army of Northern Virginia, from Northern Virginia to Appomattox.
It was my lot
to have been in the most of all the great battles where our losses were the heaviest. I had a horror
of the carnage of battle, but can say in all truth that I always went in resolved to go as far as any
and fight to the finish.
Impartial history will tell you of how the South fought. For four long years
against vastly superior numbers and inexhaustible resources; how she won great victories and yielded
only when she no longer had men nor means to fight. It will tell you how timing thousands of flower of
the young manhood of your country went down in the deadly breach, or languished and died in the far-off
prison pens of the North. And it will tell you the doleful story of the sacrifices and sufferings of
the widows and orphan and the reign of terror when, for twelve long years following the surrender of
the armies, aliens and Negroes harassed our people and ate at our substance. And then another story of
how our people of the south arose and threw off this yoke, and how poor people bearing a greater burden
than those in the ranks, the noble women who toiled while they wept, were and enduring inspiration,
greatest battle that ever was fought,
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world
you will find it not,
It was fought by the mothers of men.
know very little of our ancestors on either side. My grandfather, Henry Thompson, came from Virginia
in the early days of the 19th century and settled in the part of Lauren's district now known as Young's
Township section, on the Enoree River, He married the daughter of Jonathan Wallace. The Wallace name
was common in that section a hundred years ago. Henry Thompson was a slave-holder in those days. A number
of slaves were sold at the sale after his death. I recall being at the sale (1859) Then 15 years old.
By the first marriage there were seven sons, Mike, Franklin, Gabriel, Jessie, Ellis, Wallace, and Oliver
and two daughters, Evaline, and Millie. By the second marriage, one son Waddy and one daughter, Jane.
Mike went to Washington, DC, Frank to Mississippi, Jesse to Tennessee, Gabriel to Texas, Oliver to California,
Evaline Fowler moved to Texas, Waddy was killed in battle (1862) Three daughters of Millie Owings, Mrs.
Orlando Ropp, Laura Thomason, and Emma Franks are living at Gray Court, Laurens County in prosperous
condition. Children of Wallace Thompson are living in this and adjacent counties, in prosperous circumstances.
The oldest, Mike Thompson, a lawyer of some distinction, and spoken of as the Chesterfield of the Washington
bar, practiced in Washington. DC for a number of years. He went to Washington in the early forties. I
remember correspondence between him and our father. His only child, Percy Wallace Thompson, is now a
retired captain of the Revenue Cutter Dexter an arm of the Navy, now living in Piedmont, California.
The Wallace race, the Young's Store neighborhood are of the Jonathan Wallace branch, who lived there.
Gen. Dan Wallace lived in the Durbin Creek section, three miles west of the Young's store. W.H. Wallace,
son of Dan Wallace, Brigadier General in the Confederate Army and presiding officer of the famous Wallace
House, of 1876 was born on Durbin Creek where the original Wallace burying ground is on lands now owned
by the children of the late J.S. Drummond, and deeded to the grandfather Thos. M. Young by Dan Wallace,
about 1840. The grandfather of the writer, Henry Thompson and grandmother, Mary Wallace Thompson, sister
of Dan Wallace buried there.
My mother died in November 23, 1883. My father in 1893. At the close
of eighty years, infancy and childhood, and the long drawn-out years intervening, are like a dream, and
one shrinks at the effort to tell of it. It is true that it is an experience that is common to the aged,
to recall the things of the long ago, and for the recent things we must battle with a treacherous memory,
but when we begin to write about those old things they flare up in a fragmentary way and before we can
pen them, they flit away to the dens and caves.
My early years were spent on the farm, from infancy
tot to the age of seventeen. This was during the long period that a seeming indifference to schools and
education held sway in our country. The truth is, condition here, in those early days, required a vast
amount of labor. Everybody was dependent on he farm for existence. Forest were cut down, low lands to
drain, fields to fence, farm implements, wagons and carts to make; there were no labor saving devices.
Our methods were not far removed from the primitive. Imported implements or machinery were a rare thing.
With the landless, it was a struggle for existence, and with those of medium circumstances, it required
unremitting industry and economy. At our home we could not attend school in crop times as a rule, but
after laying-by-time. It was work, work, work, from morning to Saturday evening. Well, we had our little
picnics, and holidays and went to see our friends. Neighbors helped each other. It was a law-abiding
period. It was a rare thing for us to be arraigned for a grave crime. The sole case near us in those
days came when one of two drunken men killed the other. All in all that was a glorious period, a grand
generation, that had many virtues that appeal to us for emulation. We, that were young would, of course
frolic some but never carried disobedience or trouble home to our parents. While I never gave them trouble,
yet I look back through the years with regret that I failed to give them greater evidence of love and
It can be seen at a glance that upon reaching manhood we were not educated. Our crowd had
enough of school to enable us to pick up in after years. At the age of seventeen, I, with brother Henry,
and Waddy Thompson (half-uncle), volunteered under the first call for troops. Gov. Pickens in the Great
American War Between the States. 1861-1865. The war began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter,
Charleston Harbor. It fell on Saturday. April 13th, 1861. Our company had organized with R.P. Todd, captain.
With about 100 men, had been drilling from the 15th of January and was known as the "Laurens Briars".
Brother Henry age 20, I, 17. Half Uncle Waddy Thompson, 16, were of Todd's Company Our company with three
others, The State Guards, Captain C. Garlington; Wadsworth Guards, Captain B.S. Jones; four full companies
known in the organization of the 3rd S.C. Regiment as Garlington's Co. A Walkers Co; Co F; Co Gaurens
Briars), Jones' Co I.
Upon attack of Fort Sumter at 4 A.M. April 12, 1861 an emergency call was sent
out for these companies to assemble at Columbia. The State Guards, nearly all of whom were residents,
of or adjacent to the village of Laurens, went down on Sunday the 14th. The other three companies scattered
over the district, it took all of Sunday to get together. We spent Sunday night as the guest of the splendid
citizenship of the village (Laurens) of that period. The whole country was aflame with patriotic ardor.
We went down Monday morning: 15th went into camp seven miles north of the city of Columbia and drilled
to the 15th of June. When we left camp for Virginia. We went through Richmond, on to Manassas and beyond
to near Washington. Our regiment (the 3rd), Colonel Williams was brigaded with 2nd, 7th, and 8th S.C.
Regiments, Commanded the first year by Gen. Milledge L. Bonham, but known in history as Kershaw's Brigade;
McLaw's Division, Longstreet's Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. Our brigade reached Fairfax Courthouse,
twenty-five miles from Washington about the 25th of June, and held the outpost when the Union Army advanced.
We fell back to Bull Run (Virginia calls it Run in place of Creek near Manassas Junction, to the line
chosen by Gen. Beauregard for the impending battle. Which came when the Federals advanced on the 21st
of July. A severely contested battle, in which the enemy was beaten. Our regiment was under heavy artillery
fire, but had no causalities. It was at Savage Station, near Richmond, the 29th of June year (1862) that
the 3rd Regiment had it's first baptism of fire, where we had seven killed in Co. G and a large number
of wounded. Amongst the killed was Waddy Thompson, 17 years, nearly six feet handsome, intellectual,
and exceedingly well informed. He said before going in the battle that he would be killed. (We had a
number of instances of a presentiment of death on going into battle.) Along with three other of the company
with his ashes remain on this field, I and Waddy were as dear to each other as brother or sister ever
get. His death crushed me. It grieves me yet. I had a slight wound in this battle. Brother Henry was
severely wounded and disabled in a skirmish near Savage Station eleven days before.
Now I will try
to run over the three years following. Our brigade was not in the 2nd battle of Manassas, the 29th and
30th of August following the battles before Richmond in June and July 1862, but was in the battles of
Maryland Heights and Sharpsburg" September 14th and 17th, 1862. The "Briars" lost heavily at both places.
Ten at Fredericksburg, VA Dec 13, 1862 on of the great battles of the war, our regiment was cut up terribly
on Marye's Hill". The Briars Company went in with twenty five men and came out with 3 unhurt. I was among
the three unhurt. Of the 22, seven were killed: Of course 15 wounded most all would get well. Of the
seven killed; Jim and John Dorroh brothers, were among them. Noble boys! Following this May 1st to 3rd,
1863, the battle of Chancellorsville, our company had no loses. Then at Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd, and
3rd, 1863 the Briars lost John Fairburn, killed (I overlooked mention of Pinckney Henry and Pinckney
Grumble killed in Maryland Heights and young McNeely and William Franklin at Sharpsburg.)
Gettysburg, our corps (Longstreet's) was sent to Tennessee, and took part in the great battle of Chickamauga,
Sept 20, 1863 we won the battle but our losses were terrible. The Briars went in, as we did at Fredericksburg,
with 25 men and came out with only 3 unhurt, Once more I escaped as one of the three, but the dead only
numbered 3. Amongst the dead, gray-haired Uncle Johnnie Owings, with musket and finger on the trigger,
clenched in death's cold embrace.
From Chickamauga the great Union Army was driven back to Chattanooga,
before which place we were camped to November, when Longstreet's Corps was ordered to Knoxville, where
we had some fighting. Lost Rich Robertson of Co. "G" (Briars), killed while being aloft the ole flag
you see in the probate Judges office in Laurens where it has been ever since 1877, when Col. A.W. Burnside
(who was one of the original Briars) brought it there upon assuming that office, to which he had been
elected in the famous Hampton campaign of 1876.
After an unsuccessful assault on a strong fort at
Knoxville, of the enemy, Longstreet withdrew his force to the vicinity of Bean Station, where we had
a little fight the 15th of December 1863 and drove the Union forces back. Then crossing the Holstein
this boy helped to ferry the weapons over that dark cold night), went into our pinepole, mud daubed huts,
to go through that Long cold dreary winter, poorly clad many nearly and quite barefooted. (The writer,
with many others wore rawhide moccasins made of fresh cow skins.) We were poorly fed. The valleys over
there normally abound with feed for man and beast, but were forever overrun by one or the other of the
There was a plenty that winter, at Russellville, carrying wood on your back wading
snow a mile, to remind you of Valley Forge. At that place, on the 17th day of February, 1864, now 60
years ago, I got my first furlough after leaving home the 15th of April 1861. While at home I met Miss
Harriet Howard were married the 11th day of March 1864. She is the daughter of Stewart Howard and Mollie
Howard, of Greenville County. It's now just three score years. I must say that in all that time during
which we were reared, to maturity, twelve children, the youngest now 31, Harriet, the wife and mother,
neither claimed nor had respite from domestic and filial duties, nor one relaxed in her love and devotion
for the home circle, and friendship for her neighbors. She is now so broken in health as to arouse grave
concern amongst us all. We pray that an ever merciful Providence may be restore her to health once more.
And knowing the uncertainty of her earthly existence, I pray that, in the event that I should precede
her to our eternal home, my dear children may care for her and others of the family whose condition may
require it with that tenderness that I would endeavor to bestow if here.
Of the twelve children, Samuel
died in July 1862. Goldsmith in October 1904, and Walter A. August 31, 1923. These like all our children
have always been were obedient, devoted, and loyal to parents and to each other.
Stewart Howard left
at Death, the wife, who died many years ago, and five children, viz. Nancy, Harriet, Augustus, Mathew,
and Mattie. Two Harriet and Mattie are living.
Young, a soldier of Capt. Babb's company the 16th South
Carolina Regiment, was killed in battle around Atlanta, in the Sherman-Johnstone campaign-- Dalton to
Atlanta, 1864 (while I was home on furlough with wounds from Spotsylvania).
This was a family noted
for industry and economy, law abiding, an had the respect and confidence of their neighbors.
close of my East Tennessee furlough of February 17, 1864, I returned to camp In the meantime, Longstreet's
Corps had gone to Virginia. I found our boys at Gordonsville, VA our old tramping ground on the Rapidan.
It was now the last days of March 1864. The two great armies, of the opposing belligerents, facing each
other, only the narrow stream between them. Each in all that bustle and stir of marching squadrons, the
shrill bugle call, the rumble of artillery, incident "wars dread clamor. All of it foreshadowed the awful
clash on the dark and bloody grounds of the historic "Wilderness", which came a month later. The opening
of the last death struggle, which was to end eleven months later, with the tragedy of Petersburg.
is the fourth year of war. Everything pointed to a grapple of awful intensity and slaughter, the sequel
justified the prognostication.
The fourth of May came. Grant's great army was crossing the river:
Longstreet had orders to march for the Wilderness to meet him. Our march was begun on the fifth. The
two corps of Ewell and A.P. Hill, being much nearer the field, reached it and had severe fighting on
the fifth. Our Corps marched till nightfall, halted and slept a few hours. Resumed the march at 2 o'clock
a.m. and reached the field at sunrise to find our lines broken up. In restoring them we had severe fighting
and won the battle. Company G had one mortally wounded, James Dorroh, (of other Jim Dorroh had been killed
at Fredericksburg.) Our Colonel Nance was killed here, pierced by six musket balls. Co. "G" lost two,
Andrew Rogers and Mart Bryant, captured. At the close of two days awful fighting there were thousands
of dead and wounded. In the same jungle of tangled forest (over a hundred square miles in extent) where
two miles east, is the battlefield of Chancellorsville (a great Confederate victory). And where Jackson
fell just a year before. All day of the seventh the two great armies lay, as if paralyzed, facing each
other, doing nothing further than burying the dead and caring for the wounded. On the night of the seventh
in an effort to put his army between Lee and Richmond, Grant marched by his left flank toward Spotsylvania
Court House. At 11 o'clock that night our corps marched to meet this move of the enemy. Marching the
rest of the night, and to eight or nine in the morning on Sunday, the 8th, the latter part of it a forward
march, and finally at double time quickly, our Brigade met and defeated two divisions of Grants army
and held the field until more help came, General Steward, with his cavalry, had been holding them in
check during the night, and had made a pretty good breast work of rails. We reached this just before
the enemy, dropped behind it, and poured withering fire into them, and then held it. This was the first
breastworks we had ever fought behind and here at the first fire, I received a severe wound through the
face and a painful wound of the hand. As soon as I regained my senses, I managed to crawl off, and helped
on a horse and carried to a farm house a mile from the field. Late in the evening my wounds were dressed,
while beside that old work-bench (operating table) there was a pile of legs and arms from amputations.
I remained in the field hospital until the next Sunday, the fifteenth, when I, with many others, having
become able to move, were carried by railroad, to Richmond, VA. Where I was in Jackson Hospital nearly
a week, then left for home. In this Sunday morning battle, of short duration but bloody, the Briars lost
one killed, Land Bryant. Grand ole Stuart helped us make this fight. Three days afterward he received
a wound at the Yellow Tavern and died in Richmond on the 12th.
On all trains, those days you would
see many wounded, shot in all sorts of ways. On reaching Laurens we found that old depot lot covered
with people representing every section of the district. Some one or more, from every section would meet
the Lauren Newberry train every day. This was about the 26th of May. The fighting began on the 5th. Virginia
was a long way off in that day, with wretched railroad service. On many days the old Laurens train failed
to run. It was the forth year of the war, an there was comparatively few homes where there was not one
or more dead, died on the battle field, in the fever ward, or the far-off prison pens of the north. Many
homes lost two, three and four One home near ours-- Aunt Rachel Stewarts our of eight sons that went
to the war (out of nine) five lost their lives in battle or with disease.
It was eleven months from
the battle of Spotsylvania Court House until the surrender of the armies, but I think that our company
had only two killed after I did my last service on that field (Spotsylvania Court House), John Townsend
killed near Richmond and Wiley Simpson at Petersburg. Both a short while after Spotsylvania.
at home from May to October 1864. During my stay, Young Howard was killed during the bloody battles at
Atlanta, in July 1864. He was a fine young man, held in high esteem by all.
I returned to the army
the first days of October, 1864, wounds having healed but being disabled for the field, was sent to a
hospital at Charlottesville, VA and did light work until the end came, with the surrender of the armies.
I made my way home, most of it on foot, reaching her on 30th day of April 1865. Kershaw's brigade, to
which the 3rd Regiment belonged, was transferred to South Carolina in he last days of the Confederacy
to fight Sherman, and did not surrender with Lee at Appomattox, but surrendered with Jos. E. Johnstone,
at Greensboro, NC April 26, 1865.
Upon reaching home, at the close of the war, I, as nearly all soldiers
had to do, took up the plow to earn some bread. I worked on the farm twenty-five years. In 1878 I was
elected, in a primary election, Magistrate for Young's township. Holding this position from 1888, was
elected County Auditor, and re-elected in 1890, and 1892, in 1894 elected Probate Judge, and re-elected
in 1898, 1902, 1906, 1914, 1918, and 1922, the present term expires with the year 1926.
The good people
have been indulgent and kind to me, and I feel incurred obligations to them in the long time I have been
in office (forty-five years), while exerting myself in my efforts to serve, I have not been able to pay.
Of the Laurens Briars (March 1924), there is living Melmoth Fleming, Thos Y. Henderson, Simeon R. Thackston,
O.G. Thompson and Jasper Phillips. First and last the company numbered one hundred and forty seven (147),
we lost, by disease and battle eighty 80) and sixty-seven (67), reached home.
Survivors of the
Briars have been honored by Laurens County, Capt. R.P. Todd, State Senator; Hugh Farley. Adjutant and
Inspector General; W.A. McClintock member of the House of Representatives; A.W. Burnside, Probate Judge;
O.G. Thompson, Auditor and Probate Judge; B.W. Landford, Sheriff; John W. Watts, Sheriff; A.S. Owings,
County Commissioner; A.Y. Thompson, County Commissioner.
The Confederate soldiers surrendered as the
brave surrenderer. His surrender meant peace and conciliation. With no humble apologies, nor unmanly
servility; no petty spite, no sullen treachery, he is a cheerful, frank citizen of the United States,
accepting the present, trusting the future and proud of the past.
Then let the Confederate historian
be like his model- the Confederate soldier. He must be patriotic, for he is representing the cause of
He must be candid, for the partisan work will not live in history, and will not convince
the world. He must be eloquent, for he is dealing with a lofty theme- the most gigantic internal struggle
which history records- the grandest contribution the nineteenth Century has made to human greatness,
America's proudest title to martial glory, he is painting for further ages the picture of that eventful
epoch, whose memories are the joint heritage of all Americans. " Lee, Johnstone, Jackson, Longstreet,
Fort, Stuart, and Hampton, princes among men, were but exalted types of the Confederate soldier, representatives
of the men whose privations, suffering and immolation in the deadly breach, with the sacrifices of those
who "strove wile they wept," and who has been said: "the tragedy of the Confederacy may be forgotten,
but the fruits of the South are our perpetual heritage".
Duty said General Lee, is the sublimes word
in our language, it comprehends all of our relations with God and man.
He that ever following
On with toil of knees and hands,
Through the long gorge to the far light, has won.
His path upward and prevailed.
Shall find the toppling crags of duty scaled,
Are close upon the
shining table lands,
To which our God himself is moon and sun."
Many thousands of our brave men
and boys perished in battle or languished and died in hospitals, or in the far off prison pens of the
Sweet mother's boy with dimples on your cheek,
They could not tell her how you passed away.
O! Prison weary, gray-beard, as you died.
Your stalwart sons fought for your South that day."
Only a corporal's guard remains. Sharing the sentiments of every survivor, we have felt of late an
extraordinary impelling force that seemed to draw us into nearer and dearer comradeship. As our ranks
become more thinned we are unconsciously drawn towards each other.
" A lessening line each lessening
Each lessening hour more dear."
We feel that the time is drawing near when the last one of
that mighty host that for four long years carried upon it's bayonets the mightiest revolt of history,
will have joined their comrades, who have preceded them to the eternal camping ground. May so live that
we may be permitted to strike hands with our dead comrades, our dear kindred and friends in that countless
throng that is forever freed from war, sickness, and suffering, where there will be no more cruel partings,
no more death, where the Prince of Peace is King of Kings and Lord of all.
He is not dead,
Whose good life's labor liveth evermore;
He is not sped
to join the noble spirits gone before.
He is not dead
What man calls death
Is but a passing sleep in man's great life.
It is the sleep of Peace at the close of strife,
There is no death.
Lost is no soul
That nobly suffered, labored, loved, and lived,
That made it's goal.
The great mysterious light
its heart received,
No lost that soul.
There is no death,
The mind and body but a span endure,
Man's spirit sayeth;
My living spirit highest thought is sure;
There is no death."