With the passing of 1919 there also passed away two old Confederates who had been landmarks in the history of Jackson County, Ark., two men who in the heyday of youth had gone out with willing step and hearts unafraid to defend the hearths and homes they loved. These men were John A. Cathey and John R. Loftin, members of the "Jackson Guards," the first military company to leave Jackson County at the outbreak of the War between the States.
Neither of these men was a native-born Arkansan. John Cathey was born at Raleigh, Tenn., while John Loftin was born near Murfreesboro. Both came to Jacksonport, Jackson County, Ark., the former in 1859, the latter in 1849. At the close of the war both returned to Jackson County and did their best to hold together the remanants of a ruined land and remake it for the future.
John Cathey married and was for over forty years an active business man in the little town which bore his name, Catheytown. John Loftin married twice. His first wife was Miss Bettie West, and to this union were born four children-John R. Loftin, Jr., Sam Loftin, Mrs. W. D. Williams, of Newport and Mrs. Tom Shaver, of Little Rock. His second wife was Miss Mollie Leach, and the child of this union, Miss Bennie Loftin, also lives in Little Rock. Both John Cathey and John Loftin were well known throughout Jackson County, the latter having been sheriff for ten years. In social and political life they played their parts well; but to men who were with Johnston at Shiloh and with Hood at Atlanta the point of paramount interest is: What part did these men play in the military history of their country from 1861 to 1865?
An outline of the activities of the Jackson Guards, Company G, 1st Arkansas Infantry, will be the story of where they fought and what they endured for the sake of their beloved Southern cause.
The Jackson Gurads was a company composed of the leading young men of Jackson County, Ark., organized in May, 1861, by A. C. Pickett, a prominent lawyer and a Mexican War veteran, who was elected captain. L. C. Gause was elected first lieutenant; L. L. Moore, second lieutenant; and George Paine, third lieutenant, These officers served until 1862, when Pickett became colonel of Steen's Regiment of Missouri Infantry, L. C. Gause colonel of the 32d Arkansas Infantry, and Paine and Moore resigned. Sam Shoup was then elected captain to succeed Picket; Allie Walthall, first lieutenant; Clay Lowe, second lieutenant; and John R. Loftin, third lieutenant. These served throughout the war with courage and honor.
The company left Jacksonport on May 5, 1861, on the steamer Mary Patterson, commanded by Capt. Morgan Bateman. We went first to Memphis, where we joined other companies under command of Col. James P. Fagan. From there we were ordered to Richmond, where we camped for two weeks and were often reviewed by President Davis. From Richmond we went to Brooks Station and from Brooks Station to Manassas, where we had our first taste of war. After a double-quick for over eight miles through the most intense heat, we were thrown into line of battle. We could see in front of us the enemy with glistening bayonets, forward-marching, line after line of them. When our batteries opened up, it looked like harvesters mowing wheat. The Federals couldn't stand the fire. They broke and ran. In the beginning we were shy of ammunition, but before the battle was over we had all the guns and ammunition we could handle. The Yankees did not want to be hampered with any heavy weights while the Black Horse Cavalry was in their rear.
After Manassas we were transferred to the Western Army and struck Shiloh. In this battle our army captured one whole division of Federals, but sustained fearful losses. In our regiment alone our colonel, Thompson, and two hundred and seventy men were killed, wounded and captured. John Cathey and John Loftin were both wounded, not so badly but that the battle of Corinth found them at their posts again.
In the battle of Perryville our regiment was on the extreme left and was not called into action till late in the day. Men were dying for water, consequently the heaviest fighting was on our right, where a spring lay halfway between the lines. Both sides fought stubbornly, but finally we had to give up the struggle and evacuate the town.
Stones River was another hard-fought battle in which the boys of old Company G took part. It was bitter cold, sleeting and raining, and to watch the old year out and the new year in with no tents over your head and Rosecran's army in front of you was not the most desirable thing in the world. The struggle was a bitter one, fought with grim determination on each side. Finally a fierce onslaught scattered our forces, and the day was lost. In twenty minutes two thousand of our men went down.
Our next hard fighting came at Chickamauga. Our corps was listed as a reserve, but the Yankees started in on the wrong end of the line for our division, and Cleburne ordered us forward at quick step. Soon thereafter we heard the roar of cannon, no unfamiliar sound to us by then. When we reached the Chickamauga Creek, Cleburne was there urging us on: "Boys, go through the river. We can't wait." On we hurried and were soon in the midst of the fight. Night came, and we camped on the battle line, ready at daybreak to resume the conflict. For two days the fighting was intense, resulting in a hard-won victory for us; but O how many of our brave boys had bitten the dust!
In the hard fighting at Chattanooga our division was on the extreme right, with Cleburne in command. We held in spite of the most stubborn assaults, but the line at the foot of the mountain broke, and we too had to fall back. we made our next stand at Ringgold Gap, where we were assinged the hazardous task of checking the enemy while our army reached a temporary zone of safety.
Cleburne with his Arkansas and Texas brigades, massed his men at the railroad gap and commanded them not to fire till the Yankees, marching seven columns deep, were almost upon us. He talked to us and told us that we were there to save our army, five miles away; that our task was one of great danger, requiring nerve and skill, but he knew he could depend on us to a man. We thought he would never give the signal to fire; but when he did, so well did he know the art of war that for deadliness our work was not surpassed during the entire four years of the conflict.
It is not inappropriate to mention here and incident of the fight at Ringgold Gap, for three members of Company G were the active participants therein.
In front of our troops, fighting at a decided disadvantage, was the 76th Ohio. In the hottest of the fray they lost their flag. It was picked up by John Cathey, John Loftin, and Lon Stedman and carried to Cleburne's headquarters. About two years ago ten members of the old 1st Arkansas Regiment, among whom were John Cathey and Lon Stedman, returned this flag to the few survivors of the 76th Ohio. the presentation was made at Newark, Ohio, by our late Comrade Gibbons and was the occasion of great rejoicing and celebration by the populace of that city.
Company G was in all the battles of Joseph E. Johnston, from Dalton to Atlanta, seventy-four days of almost continuous fighting. At Peach Tree Creek on July 20 Clay Lowe and John Loftin were the only two commissioned officers the company had left. By the time we reached Macon only one, John Loftin, was left.
What is probably an unparalled incident in the annals of war transpired in front of our division at Kenesaw Mountain. Dry leaves and undergrowth caught fire from gun wadding and shells. There were not less than a thousand dead and wounded Federals in front of our line. Lieutenant Colonel Martin, of the 1st Arkansas Regiment, climbed the breastworks and called to the Federals that as an act of humanity his men would suspend to hostilities till they could come and carry off their dead and wounded.
In the battle of Atlanta Hood questioned the morale of his army. As for Company G, it went into action as loyally under Hood as it ever done under Johnston. After that most disastrous defeat, we marched back into Tennessee and did our part in the awful battle of Franklin. Here Hood commanded his men to charge impregnable breastworks across an open field. All the generals protested. Forrest begged him to change his plans. To send soldiers against such a position was nothing short of suicide. Against every protest Hood ordered the advance. Cleburne's last words to his faithful soldiers were: "Boys, we are ordered to charge the works. I don't think we can take them, but we can try. Forward!" The men who had never failed to follow their great leader followed him now, but it was his last charge. Seven generals and ten thousand men went down! The bravest blood of the South was sacrificed. The Confedercy was lost.
Shortly after Franklin came the end. Of the hundred and twenty boys, members of the Jackson Guards, who left Jacksonport in May 1861, one commissioned officer, Capt. Sam Shoup, Lieut. Clay Lowe, John R. Loftin and twenty-six men, John Cathey among the number, came back. In the years which have passed since then these too, one at a time, with two single exceptions, have gone to join those comrades by whose sides they stood at Manassas, at Shiloh, at Atlanta, and at Franklin.
"On Fame's eternal caping ground
[W. E. Bevens, Newport, Ark.]
SOURCE: Confederate Veteran Magazine, February, 1920
Promote Your Page Too