During 1862, Colonel William H. Jackson’s 1st (later 7th) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment served in West Tennessee and Mississippi. Lieutenant John W. Somervell of Mason continued to serve as Jackson’s Adjutant. Together, they were in combats at Union City; Lockridge’s Mill; evacuation of Fort Pillow; LaFayette Station (Rossville) on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad; Medon, Britton’s Lane and Corinth, Coffeeville and Holly Springs, Miss.
Jackson was promoted Brigadier General Dec. 29 commanding the Second Division, First Cavalry Corps.
In January 1863, Jackson sought a captain’s commission for Adjutant Somervell: “He is sober and energetic and well qualified for the position.”
Generals’ Joseph E. Johnston and Leonidas Polk endorsed Jackson’s recommendation.
In early 1863, Jackson’s Division served in actions at Franklin, Thompson’s Station, Spring Hill and Columbia, Tenn. Ordered to central Mississippi in May, Jackson’s cavalry was conspicuous in the Vicksburg, Jackson and Meridian campaigns.
On April 29, 1864 Jackson requested permission for Adjutant Somervell to go to Richmond on official business. In May Jackson’s Cavalry joined the Army of Tennessee at Resaca, Georgia.
At Marietta on June 23, Captain Somervell received a severe gunshot wound. W. F. Westmoreland, Surgeon in charge of the Medical Hospital at Atlanta reported Somervell’s death on June 25, 1864. Captain Thomas B. Sykes, of Jackson’s staff, wrote the following:
Headquarters Jackson’s Cavalry Division
June 27, 1864
Dr. (T.W.) Roane, Surgeon, 51st Tennessee Regt., Wright’s Brigade, Cheatham’s Division, Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee
My Dear Sir,
I suppose you have learned the sad news of the death of our highly esteemed and much beloved friend and brother soldier, Capt. J. W. Somervell. While with us, my servant waited upon him and when he was carried to the hospital, he left his effects in the care of the servant. He carried with him the most of his clothes. There is here now, one fine over coat, one shirt, summer coat, a fine sash, one pair of splendid blankets, a carpet, a mattress and one horse and saddle equipments. There are also quite a number of papers and books and some little things in his box. He left in Columbus (Miss.), as we were coming through there a brown horse with Mr. James Sykes….I understand that his money…is in the hands of Mrs. Carey of Atlanta. I think he had about $100.00 in gold. If he had any Confederate money, it was a small amount.
You are the only relative or connection of his who we know that is near here, and this is written after consultation with Gen. Jackson and the staff. We desire you to come over examine his affects and do with them as you see proper.
His death has cast a gloom and shade over all who knew him. Those who knew him best loved him most. Always kind, gentle, and pleasant, he was a universal favorite. His clear head and sound judgment made him sought…I think he was one of the purest Christians I ever knew. He was a jewel in his family and a chivalrous officer. His family has the deepest sympathy of Gen. Jackson and his staff…
Dr. Roane’s note to Adjutant Somervell’s mother reads thus:
“I send you this note from Col. Sykes, John’s friend and mess mate; also a few sprigs from the funeral wreath made by the kind ladies who attended his corps to the grave. I know you will cherish these.
Colonel John U. Green recalled the gallantry of Captain Somervell on Memorial Day 1892 at Mt. Carmel: “I knew him well, an accomplished gentleman…none surpassed him in patriotic fervor or brave endeavor.
The family of Captain Somervell never learned of his place of burial.
Correction: In last week’s article, Captain Somervell’s younger brother was mistakenly reported as Joseph Richard; his name should have read “James Richard Somervell.”
This series, which has been published since 2011 in celebration of the war’s sesquicentennial, will continue next week.