Your Weekly Civil War Conundrum

25 Jul

Each week I present an actual event in the lives of those who resided in or came to Franklin, Tennessee during the Civil War. The region serves as a microcosm of the nation (as well as the focus of my dissertation), and these events ask of you – what would you have done in their place?… 

This week you are Private Jesse K. Hay. You were just 19 years old in May of 1861 when you joined the Confederate “Marion Rifles” in your hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. In doing so, you left behind your mother, four sisters, and two brothers. Your company became part of the 20th Tennessee Infantry.

Combat and camp life were brutal for your regiment. Between 1862 and 1863, your unit fought in several costly engagements, including the battles of Fishing Creek, Shiloh, Stones River, Hoover’s Gap, and Chickamauga. At Chickamauga alone, your regiment suffered almost 50 percent casualties.

It is now February 1864. Things are looking bleak as you are about to defend Atlanta against a growing foe. You know that your hometown is now under Union occupation, and now you are fighting for the state of Georgia, a place you have never seen before. What do you do? 

What did Private Jesse K. Hay do? Actually, you tell me. According to William J. McMurray’s History of the Twentieth Tennessee Regiment (1904), Hay died in 1862. According to Michael Cotten’s Williamson County Confederates (1996), Hay deserted on February 23, 1864. You have (hopefully) done some moral searching on what you would have done if you were in his place. Take this opportunity to do some forensic searching to find out the true fate of the beleaguered Private Hay, and share your findings.

Thanks in advance,

Thomas Flagel

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