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February 24, 2013

Civil War anniversary: John and Thomas Holsomback, A pioneer family of Northwest Georgia

John Holsomback and his older brother Thomas came to Georgia in 1830. John was born in 1808 in Person County, N.C. Person County is in the North Carolina Piedmont region about 20 miles southeast of Danville, Va.

The first recorded Holsomback in that area was in 1762 when Derrick Holsonbeck was awarded a land grant for 700 acres by the English proprietor Lord Granville in what was then Orange County, N.C. At that time the area was part of the western frontier of the colonies.

John and Thomas arrived in Gwinnett County just in time to be recorded in the 1830 census. Thomas had brought a wife and two small children with him while 22-year-old John and his 17-year-old wife Mary were still childless at that time.

In 1832 the Cherokee Land Lottery opened up most of Northwest Georgia to settlement by the white men. Pension records show that John served in the Georgia Militia as part of Capt. Water’s Highland Battalion in 1836 and again in 1838 during the Cherokee Removal.

Neither Holsomback won land in the lottery but they made land purchases in the area with Thomas buying land in Cass County (renamed Bartow in the Civil War) and John made purchases in Floyd County near the Oostanaula River and later on at present-day Everett Springs Road south of the Pocket Picnic area on John’s Creek, which is also at the foot of John’s Mountain.

John and his first wife had four daughters and four boys who survived to adulthood.

Thomas died prior to the 1850 census and his two young sons went to Arkansas, but the oldest one, named William A. Holsomback, later came back and settled near his uncle John.

Sons fight for Confederacy

The Civil War started on April 12, 1861. John was 53 years old at the time and didn’t enlist, but three out of four of his sons served in the Confederate Army. The three were oldest son William Henry Holsomback, Thomas Holsomback and John Lewis Holsomback. Also John’s nephew (we’ll refer to him as Capt. William) William A. Holsomback served.

The nephew, William A., enlisted in Co. C of the 8th Battalion Georgia Infantry on Oct. 11, 1861, at Calhoun. The 8th was part of Gist’s Brigade, Cheatham’s Division of Hardee’s Corps of the Army of Tennessee. William A. was elected second lieutenant on Sept. 22, 1861, and then captain on May 5, 1862. William’s cousin Thomas (John’s son) was in this same company along with son-in-law Thomas Fitzpatrick, who had married John’s daughter Mary. Because of William’s rank, the Georgia State Archives has a substantial file of his war records. Included are supply requisitions that give a person a lot of insight on the war. Pay slips indicate he made $80 per month as a second lieutenant.

 In September 1863, the 8th was involved in its first major action at the Battle of Chickamauga. Thomas Fitzpatrick was mortally wounded there. The Battle of Chattanooga was next, and then the Confederates retreated to Dalton for the winter as part of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army.

Capt. Holsomback made several supply requests while at Dalton. For example, on Jan. 31, 1864, he received 13 hats, 37 shirts, 35 pairs of drawers, three mess pans, one tin cup, three pairs of pants and eight pairs of socks. Not a lot for a company that usually showed a headcount of about 60 men.  

May 7-13, 1864, the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge marked the start of Union Gen. William Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. The 8th Battalion was involved in all of the action including Resaca on May 13-15, New Hope Church on May 25-26 and Kennesaw Mountain on June 27.

Then on July 22, 1864, the Battle of Atlanta occurred on the east side of Atlanta. Gen. Hardee’s Corps including the 8th Georgia Battalion marched 15 miles to fake a retreat and swing around the Union’s left flank to hit them from the rear while Gen. Cheatham’s Corps made a frontal assault at the same time. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, Union Gen. McPherson asked Sherman to proceed cautiously due to reports of Confederate troop movements to the south. After running behind schedule, Hardee turned north too soon and instead of hitting the Union in the rear, he ran directly into their lines at about noon. Heavy fighting continued until dark but at the end of the day both armies were still in their original positions.

During this battle Capt. Holsomback was captured. On Aug. 4, 1864, he was reported on the roll of POWs in the Union prison at Louisville, Ky., and in the process of transferring to Johnson’s Island, Ohio, where he finished out the war and was paroled on June 14, 1865.

Thomas Holsomback’s records also indicate that he was wounded and disabled at some point in the war.

John’s oldest son, William Henry Holsomback, enlisted Aug. 30, 1861, when he was 30 years old, and third son John Lewis Holsomback joined him, later enlisting on Dec. 22, 1863, after William had been home on a 30-day leave. Both served in Company C of the 23rd Georgia Infantry known as the Floyd Spring Guards which was part of Colquitt’s Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The unit saw extensive battle action including the Seven Days Battle from June 25 through July 1, 1862, South Mountain, Md., Antietam, Md., and Chancellorsville, Va. In 1864, five months after enlisting, John Lewis was admitted to the Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond with a gunshot wound to the hip. He returned to duty 12 days later. A few months later the 23rd was part of the Confederate garrison at Fort Harrison, Va., just outside of Richmond. The fort was overrun by a vastly larger Union force on Sept. 29, 1864. William Henry Holsomback was killed in action and John Lewis was wounded in the face and admitted to the Jackson Hospital in Richmond the next day. He remained there for eight weeks. John Lewis returned to action and was with Johnson’s Confederate Army when it surrendered at the war’s end on April 26, 1865, at Greensboro, N.C.

The final impact of the war on the elder John Holsomback occurred at Vicksburg, Miss., when Alvin Tarvin of the 39th Georgia Infantry was killed in action. John Holsomback’s first wife Mary died in 1865 and he then married Tarvin’s young widow Mahala Davis Tarvin. Prior to his death in 1870, John and Mahala produced two sons, Harrison and Samuel Abraham Holsomback. Samuel is the great-grandfather of the author so Alvin’s misfortune was the author’s good fortune.

Following the war the Holsomback descendants spread out all over Northwest Georgia as well as Louisiana and Texas.

This article is part of a series of stories about Dalton and life in Dalton during the Civil War. The stories run on Sunday and are provided by the Dalton-Whitfield Civil War 150th Commission. To find out more about the commission, go to www.dalton150th.com. If you have material that you would like to contribute for a future article, contact Robert Jenkins at (706) 259-4626 or robert.jenkins@robertdjenkins.com.

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