The soldier that fascinates me lately is one James Monroe Purser. Known as "Jim," he was born in Georgia on June 10, 1843, to Richard William Purser, of North Carolina, and Elizabeth Scott Bentley Purser, of Tallapoosa, Georgia. He had four brothers and one sister. When Jim was a child, his family moved to Alabama, where they farmed. His father died sometime between the 1850 and 1860 US censuses.
On February 4, 1862, at at Murphee's Crossroads in Blount County, Alabama, Jim enlisted in the Confederate army to fight the Union in the Civil War. His brothers, Richard and Moses, also enlisted and fought in the war. Jim was promoted from Private to 2nd Corporal in the 28th Alabama Infantry, Company B, but his service in the Confederate army wasn't without its trials and tribulations. As you can see in the army documents, below, Jim became ill within just a couple of months of enlisting, and ended up in the hospital at Shelby Springs, Alabama, for a time. Shortly after that, he somehow managed to lose his "gun and accoutrements" somewhere near Tupelo, Mississippi.
Jim's most serious trial, however, came during a defining battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Chattanooga in Tennessee. From the end of September through October 1863, General Braxton Bragg’s focus was on cutting off supplies to the Union army. On October 17, Major General Ulysses S. Grant took over the Western armies and moved to reinforce Chattanooga and establish a new supply line for the Union. When Major General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived with his divisions in mid-November, the Union began its offensive at Chattanooga.
|Battle of Chattanooga as reported in Harper's Weekly|
|A scene at Rock Island, painted by fellow prisoner, John F. Gisch|
Rock Island hadn't even been completed when it started taking in more than 5,000 Confederate prisoners that December. The water supply and drainage were sub par, creating a sanitation problem; the temperature was well below zero degrees; and a smallpox epidemic sickened thousands and killed more than 600 within three months. During the Civil War, more than 12,000 men were imprisoned at Rock Island, and nearly 2,000 prisoners died there.
Both Jim and Richard Purser lived through their imprisonment, and were released in March 1865 as part of a P.O.W. exchange program with the Union army. All three Purser brothers who fought in the war lived for several decades after the war, raising families and, hopefully, enjoying their lives.
|Inscription reads: "Beloved One, Farewell"|
James Monroe Purser was buried at Non Cemetery in Non, Oklahoma.