Major A.R. Tomlinson

    APRIL 12, 1932
    A feature story, appearing in a recent issue of the Arkansas Democrat, records an 
    interview with Major A.R. Tomlinson of Benton, Arkansas, a native of Harmony, N.C. 
    and a Confederate veteran—member of Company H, 4th N.C. Regiment.  Major 
    Tomlinson gives a stirring account of the Battle of Spottsylvania Court House as 
    well as numerous other remembrances of the Civil War days.
    The copy of the newspaper article containing the article was sent to Major Tomlinson’s 
    kinswoman, Mrs. J.F. Tomlinson of Harmony and the following excerpts from it will be 
    of local interest.
    “Major A. R. Tomlinson, Benton’s Old Major, was born at Harmony, N.C., February 1, 
    1844.  He came to Benton in 1866 to visit his brother, who lived in Calhoun County.  
    He became a resident in 1869.  
    The title “major” was given to Tomlinson by Governor Dan W. Jones (Arkansas) 
    in 1897, just prior to the Spanish-American War, at which time the Tomlinson Rifles 
    were organized but did not go into service.
    During the Civil War, Tomlinson was a member of Company H, 4th N.C. Regiment, in 
    which he enlisted March 2, 1862.  He was with Ramseur’s Brigade, Lee’s Army of 
    Northern Virginia.  ‘The best friend and comrade I ever had was Gurney Powell’ said 
    Major Tomlinson.  ‘I was going to school with him when the war broke out.  The last 
    day of the school, four of  us boys made a pond of water at the school.  During the 
    night it froze.  We nailed a note to the school house door:  Treat us to apples and 
    candy.  If you don’t, we will duck you in the ice water.  When Professor Powell arrived, 
    he hung up his coat and said:  I will not treat.  Duck me if you can.  We didn’t duck 
    him because we knew if we ducked him, we would get ducked too.  However he did 
    treat us to apples and candy in the afternoon, which was a great treat for us boys.”
    “Gurney was wounded six times during the war.  He and I, at the Battle of Fredericksburg, 
    were sitting together in line of battle, when his head was hit by a musket ball and he fell 
    over into my lap, bleeding profusely.  He was carried off the field but was back on duty 
    the next day.  Both of us were seriously wounded at the Battle of Spottsylvania Court 
    House on May 12, 1864.”
    Major Tomlinson then gives his recollections of that battle.  His friend, Professor Powell, 
    died in a field hospital and was buried at Spottsylvania, though his remains were carried 
    back to Iredell for burial two years later.  Young Tomlinson was moved from the hospital 
    to Camp Winder, Richmond, and when able to travel, was given a furlough home.  He 
    said:  “I had a big time visiting my friends and kinfolk.  They would give me the biggest 
    and fattest beds in their homes but I never touched them.  I took a quilt and pillow and 
    laid them on the floor, on which I slept.  A soldier who had not seen a bed for several 
    years, could not sleep on one.”
    Among his other recollections of the war, he remembers the best dinner he ever ate:  “After 
    the Battle of Fredericksburg, we followed the Yankees into Virginia where they were 
    retreating, burning houses, devastating furniture, cutting up pianos for firewood, and 
    ripping featherbeds open, feathers flying.  One day in the valley we surprised the Yankees 
    and ran them away from their dinner table.  They had delicacies I never heard of and we 
    had a great feast.”
    But usually, food was not so abundant in the army.  The veteran continues:  “When the 
    wild vegetables came in the spring—onions, garlic, lamb’s quarter, poke and duck, we 
    cooked all these greens together and added in our bread.  “
    The major said that before the Battle of Gettysburg, the army marched up the Cumberland 
    valley to Carlisle, and from thence to Gettysburg.  The valley was filled with Dutch ovens 
    as the inhabitants were Dutch. We found ripe cherries, apples, and fresh vegetables galore.  
    In every fence corner for miles we found a cherry tree laden with fruit.  The command was 
    frequently given:  “Halt!  Stack Arms!  Cherries! Charge!”
    In his remembrances there is a reference to Governor Vance of North Carolina.  He said:  
    “General Lee invited Governor Vance to speak to his army.  One night he spoke to my army 
    and among other things said ‘You boys whip the Yankees and go home to your sweethearts 
    and if there is a fellow here who hasn’t got a sweetheart, give me his name and I will see 
    that the legislature provides one for him.’”
    Transcribed by Christine Spencer, June 2008

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