Capt James Lile Lemon,Co.A,18th Ga.Inf.Regt.-CSA. One of the "Immortal 600".
James Lile Lemon was the son of James Lemon and Mary Brown Telford. He was a dark-haired, blue-eyed man of light complexion, standing approximately six-feet in height. He was of Irish descent and was born in Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia on October 27, 1835.
The Lemon family were prosperous pioneer settlers of DeKalb County. James Lemon, James Lile's father, was a merchant, farmer, state representative of DeKalb County in the Georgia legislature, and justice of the inferior court. The Lemons lived near Decatur until 1843 when they relocated to Marietta, then near Acworth.
On October 19, 1856, James Lile Lemon married Eliza Jane Davenport, daughter of Thomas and Clara Pierce Davenport; the Davenport's were a prosperous Cobb County family. James and Eliza were married near Marietta and eventually made their home in Acworth where James prospered as a merchant and farmer. Abruptly, in 1861, life as the Lemon family knew it took a tragic detour. Upon ratification of the Confederate Constitution on March 16, 1861, Georgia became a legitimate state in the Confederate States of America, after existing for approximately two months as a de facto republic. For the Lemon family, secession confirmed that Georgia would bow no more to the will of the Union. Obviously, throughout the South, the tyranny of northern aggression had become unbearable.
In mystical response, the demons of war began to flex their sinewy muscles, and soon the "battle cry of freedom" sounded throughout the land. Once again, the bloody and terrible carnage of war would lend its eerie vibrations to the land of the free, and for the second time in less than a century, American soil would become stained with the life-blood of its patriots. The second American revolution - - - the "War of Secession", began.
As was the case with many of the sons of the South, the blood surging through the body of James Lile Lemon was rich in the ancestral traits of honor, courage, and patriotism. These attributes were inspired and cultivated in him from the moment of his birth; whereas, his father, James Lemon, fought in the War of 1812, and his grandfather Robert Lemmon, as well as his great-grandfather, James Lemant, fought against the tyranny of the British Empire in the American Revolution. Afresh, the Lemon name arose once more to the drums of battle, and in the footsteps of his lineage, James was compelled to do his duty and wage war against the tyrannical aggression of the Union.
In late April or early June 1861, James enlisted in the Army of the Confederate States at Camp McDonald which was situated at a locale then known as Big Shanty (Kennesaw) Georgia. Subsequently, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in Company A (Acworth Infantry), First Regiment, Fourth Brigade. Following a period of training and upon the regiment's arrival in Virginia, the First Regiment was designated the Eighteenth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A. The regiment was commanded by Col. William Tatum Wofford of neighboring Bartow County (then Cass County), Georgia. During the early years of the war, James' regiment was part of General John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade. Hood's Texas Brigade was considered the best "shock" troops in the Army of the Confederate States.
As a part of this famed brigade, James fought in such renowned battles as Seven Pines, Seven Days, Second Manassas (Bull Run), and Sharpsburg (Antietam). On August 29, 1862, during the Battle of Second Manassas, James' regiment captured the colors of the 24th New York. The following day paralleled the previous when the regiment captured the colors of the 10th New York Zouaves on the plains of Manassas. On or about September 3, 1862, Colonel Wofford penned a letter to the Governor of Georgia, Joseph Brown:
I present to the state of Georgia two stands of colors captured by my regiment in the battles
of the 29 & 30 August. The plain one belonging to the 24th N.Y. Regiment was taken by T.H.
Northcutt of Capt O'Neill's Co from Cobb [County] (Here Col. Wofford is speaking of the
Acworth Infantry). The other belonging to the 10th NY Zouaves by Wm Key of Capt. Ropers
Co. from Bartow Co. My regiment took a battery of four splendid brass pieces on the 30th.
Consequently, a historical dilemma exists as to whether T.H. Northcutt actually captured the battle flag of the 24th New York regiment. The memoirs of J.J. O'Neill, also of Cobb County, claims that he (O'Neill) instead of Northcutt captured the colors of the New York regiment. O'Neill's memoirs go on to stipulate that Northcutt was recovering from a wound at the time the colors were captured. In response to their deeds on the battlefield of Manassas, on December 16, 1862, the Georgia General Assembly issued a proclamation commending the Eighteenth Georgia for their "intrepid valor, cool courage, and heroic daring" displayed on the Manassas battlefield.
On September 17, 1862, during the bloody battle of Sharpsburg, James' regiment attacked the "Yanks" in the Cornfield near the old Dunker church with 176 officers and men. The bloody carnage was such that when the last shot was fired the regiment had experienced 101 casualties. Following the battle and up to that stage of the war, James' regiment claimed the ambiguous distinction of possessing the highest proportion of casualties at a major engagement of any military unit. Soon after the Battle of Sharpsburg, the Confederate Army began a process of reorganization in which James' regiment was transferred into a brigade made up entirely of Georgia troops and commanded by a fellow Georgian, General Thomas R.R. Cobb.
On December 13, 1862, James and the Eighteenth Regiment made history during the Battle of Fredericksburg with their courageous stand near the foot of Marye's Heights at the famous "Stone Wall" and "Sunken Road." General Cobb was killed during the battle and command of the brigade went to the regimental commander of the Eighteenth Georgia, newly promoted Gen. William Tatum Wofford. Soon after the victory at Fredericksburg, James Lile Lemon was promoted from first lieutenant to captain, and, thereby company commander of the Acworth Infantry (Company A).
Following the battle at Fredericksburg, Captain Lemon and the Eighteenth Regiment followed Wofford through the battlefields of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. At Chancellorsville, James' regiment engaged the "Yanks" near the Chancellorsville Heights. Among other things, James had this to say about the Battle of Chancellorsville: "The noise was deafening & the loudest I have ever heard."
At Gettysburg, the Eighteenth Georgia engaged their foe at such renowned locations as the "Peach Orchard," the "Wheatfield," and "Little Round Top." On August 22, 1863, while reflecting on the Gettysburg campaign, Captain Lemon wrote in his diary:
The campaign we have just passed through has been the hardest of the war & the battle
was the most bloody one I think we have been through & though we fought well and
whipped the yanks on the 2nd ultimo I fear we got the worst of it on the 3rd but our regt.
was not bested. The yanks have not seen our backs in battle.
Following the South's defeat at Gettysburg, Capt. Lemon and the Eighteenth Regiment followed General James Longstreet to eastern Tennessee for the ill-fated Knoxville Campaign. During this campaign, Capt. Lemon's military career would come to a violent, tragic conclusion. On November 29, 1863, near Knoxville, Tennessee, the Eighteenth Georgia was part of an assigned force that attacked a near impregnable Union position known as Fort Sanders (Loudon). It was here, in the neighboring state of Captain Lemon's beloved Georgia, that he further distinguished himself as a brave and daring soldier of the Southern Confederacy, as is evidenced by his posthumous Medal of Honor citation:
Fully recognizing the desperate nature of the early morning attack against the enemy's
works, Captain Lemon nevertheless led his company with great determination across an
open field of fire, crisscrossed by wire and blocked by abatis. Charging into a hailstorm
of musketry and canister, the Confederates pushed their attack to the very walls of the
fort only to falter in the deep ditch surrounding the works. Realizing that the men would
be slaughtered if they did not carry the parapet, Captain Lemon took his sword and began
digging steps in the frozen, slippery clay of the fortifications. Despite point blank musketry
and exploding shells lobbed by the enemy from the works, Captain Lemon safely reached
the slope of the parapet. Although alone and perilously exposed in this dangerous position,
he heroically assisted a number of others in getting out of the trench. Seeing his brigade
commander killed, Captain Lemon courageously led the men with him to the top of the
parapet and into the fort where he fell severely wounded, a prisoner of war.
In his diary dated December 26, 1863, Capt. Lemon described the events surrounding his injury:
We then were just below the parapet & at once moved quickly over the top of the works
& were face to face with them in an instant. The yanks met us with a withering volley
which I think killed & wounded many of us. I had left my sword in the mud & had drawn
my pistol & moved up firing as fast as I could when I suddenly felt a tremendous blow to
my head & lost consciousness.
When finally the Confederate retreat was ordered, the South had encountered a stunning defeat; whereas the attacking Confederates had suffered approximately 800 casualties in twenty minutes of fighting, the federal casualties amounted to a mere 15. Upon gaining consciousness, Capt. James Lile Lemon found himself in a precarious situation: He was severely wounded and a prisoner of war. His brigade commander (at the time), Lt. Col. Solon Z. Ruff, was killed during the battle.
After spending several weeks in the federal prison hospital at Nashville, Tennessee, James was transferred to the Union prisoner of war camp at Camp Chase, Ohio. Capt. Lemon was soon transferred to another prisoner of war camp at Fort Delaware, Delaware. At Fort Delaware, Capt. Lemon spent much of the balance of the war; however, in August 1864, Capt. Lemon became one of 600 Confederate officers shipped to Charleston, South Carolina and held before the walls and under the guns of Fort Wagner, also known as "Battery Wagner."
According to an article written by Capt. Lemon in 1893, he and other members of the Confederate officer corps were fed pickles and refuse corn meal, and on a daily basis suffered humiliation and degradation. An excerpt from Capt. Lemon's diary dated March 19, 1864, elaborates on the treatment of the Confederate officers at the hands of the Union soldiers:
We have recently returned to this place after a most brutal & cowardly outrage against
humanity. I cannot now speak of the sufferings & depravations & humiliations we were
subjected to. Many among us are now dead from starvation, disease, shot or beaten to
death. . . and the rest of us are about used up from the shameful journey forced upon
us by the yanks.
History now remembers these brave 600 Confederate officers as the "Immortal Six-Hundred." Two months after the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, Capt. James Lile Lemon took the dreaded Oath of Allegiance to the United States government. In his diary, dated June 12, 1865, Capt. Lemon reflected on his anguish surrounding his decision: "I have done the unspeakable, but I am now paroled & to day set out for home. My duty to my country is done, mine to my family remains."
Upon his release from Fort Delaware, he returned home to his family in Acworth where he led a prosperous life as a banker, farmer, and merchant. Furthermore, he and Eliza went on to have a total of 11 children. One of the most ironic aspects of James Lile Lemon's military career was that, seemingly, he never fired a hostile shot on his native soil of Georgia. All of the battles in which he fought were in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. As is truly evident, James Lile Lemon fought not only for Georgia but for his country as well. In returning to civilian life, James Lile Lemon proved almost as valuable an asset to his neighbors as he was to his country, helping guide his fellow countrymen through the difficult period of Reconstruction. Later, James Lile Lemon was instrumental in the incorporation of the city of Acworth, Georgia and in the founding of the Acworth Presbyterian Church.
On June 12, 1907, exactly 42 years after his release from the Union prisoner of war camp at Fort Delaware, James Lile Lemon, . . . one of the "Immortal Six- Hundred" . . . succumbed to death. His faithful companion, Eliza, died on April 18, 1916. They are buried, side-by-side, in the Mars Hill Cemetery in Acworth, Cobb County, Georgia. Unfortunately, over a century lapsed before Captain James Lile Lemon of the Eighteenth Georgia Volunteer Infantry was officially recognized for his distinguishing acts during the battle of Fort Sanders, Tennessee. Nevertheless, on July 27, 1995, his bravery and sacrifice during the Battle of Fort Sanders (Loudon) were forever immortalized, whereas the Sons of Confederate Veterans awarded him the Confederate Medal of Honor. The citation and medal, along with a photograph of Captain Lemon taken while a prisoner at Fort Delaware, a painting of the battle of Fort Sanders, and a proclamation by the governor of Georgia are on display at the National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The "war time" diary of Captain James Lile Lemon is in the possession of Mr. Mark Lemon, another of one of Captain Lemon's great-great grandsons. The Lemon House is still in the Lemon family and is located on Willis Street in Acworth, Georgia.
The following story comes from J.L. Lemon, of Acworth, Ga., who says he thinks the story has never been published:
Doubtless you will offer your columns as a medium for recording interesting historical incidents connected with the war. My experience while a prisoner was thrilling and tragic in many respects, and varied as the winds.
I was in Gen. Longstreet's command in his movement to take Knoxville, in November 1863, and was severely wounded and taken prisoner. Some time later I was removed to the penitentiary at Nashville, then to Camp Chase, and from there to Fort Delaware, where two thousand five hundred or more Confederate officers were confined. On our way from Camp Chase to Fort Delaware we passed through Columbus, Ohio, where I had a view (?) of the Ohio penitentiary.
In the summer of 1864, six hundred of the officers were taken from the pen at Fort Delaware and put aboard the steamer 'Crescent' and carried to Morris Island, victims of retaliation for some alleged wrong to the Federal prisoners at the hands of the Confederate authorities. On the way we planned an escape, the crew in charge of us being Confederate sympathizers. We were to land at Georgetown, overpower our guards and the guards of the town and escape. The steamer, on nearing the shore, struck a bar and prevented its possibility.
When we were awaiting to be taken upon the island and we were without water, and suffered tortures from the heat in our crowded condition. We were taken in charge on the island by a negro regiment, who were instructed to take all U.S. blankets, clothing, canteens, and all other trinkets marked U.S., which they did, leaving some of our men nearly bare. We were kept under range of the Confederate batteries on Sullivan and James' Islands and battery wagons for forty-two days. We obtained the water we drank while on the island by digging holes in the sand for the water to accumulate in; this, you perceive, was fine (?) water in August! Our negro guards treated us roughly for awhile. Issuing our scanty rations to us, they poured the hardtack and thin slices of meat into the tent on the sand. By and by, through persuasion, we gained their sympathy and they were kinder to us, stealing for us extra rations and paying us most extravagant prices for our horn, bone, and wood rings, and other trinkets fashioned in our leisure.
We were removed to Fort Pulaski and Hilton head. Some parties had escaped from Andersonville, and said they were fed on sour sorghum and corn bread; in retaliation we were given pickles and refuse corn meal, the result of which had almost completely broken down our six hundred, none of whom were scarcely able to drag themselves along.
This awful affair has never been printed before, so far as I know.
I am very respectfully, Joseph [sic] [James] L. Lemon.
Taken from the Confederate Veteran magazine, Volume I, Number 2, February 1893.
Posted by James Lemon's Great Great Grandson, Michael L. Sealy, 2020
Eliza Jane Davenport Lemon
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