Recollections of War Times

by W. A. McClendon


Recollections of War Times by W. A. McClendon - Alabama 15th Infantry Regiment

Recollections of War Times has long been recognized among the rarest books by any veteran of the Army of Northern Virginia.

"Gus" McClendon joined the 15th Alabama Infantry Regiment, and served in many of the Eastern Theater engagements. More than fifty years later, he sent down his reminiscences, still an unreconstructed Southern patriot, although able to look back with some amusement on his younger self.

The following review is from Civil War News

Few veterans' memoirs I have read are as charmingly composed as Gus McClendon's Recollections. Written between 1901 and 1909 when he was in his 60s, and privately printed in only 25 copies, McClendon's book was intended to be "a fireside conversation with an old Veteran."

The author succeeds admirably; his text is so warm and conversational that I wanted to read it aloud - as if to hear old Gus speaking to me.

William Augustus McClendon was 16, son of a south Alabama farmer, when he enlisted in the Confederate army in July 1861. His company became part of the 15th Alabama, which fought in Virginia the entire war.

Proud to be one of Stonewall Jackson's "foot cavalry," McClendon participated in the Valley Campaign, the Seven Days and Second Manassas. In his first combat at Front Royal, McClendon was candid about the experience: "the hair on my head seemed to rise and was sorter like the quills of a fretful porcupine."

It's always fun to see what a veteran remembers. After Jackson's men captured John Pope's supply base at Manassas Junction, Confederates helped themselves to everything they could carry.

Gus filled a Yankee haversack with a 25-pound side of bacon plus coffee and sugar; his buddy Barnett Cody chose 20 pounds of crackers (they left behind rice and beans - there wasn't time to cook).

At Sharpsburg, hearing the fierce firing on the left of Jackson's front, Gus figured that "somebody's children were being hurt." Near the Dunker Church, nearly out of ammunition, the 15th was forced back by Joe Hooker's attack.

Separated from his unit, McClendon fell in with a stragglers' brigade, refilled his cartridge box, got an officer to write out a certificate of presence and detention, and then went back into the fight at Burnside's Bridge.

After Fredericksburg, the 15th Alabama was transferred to James Longstreet's corps. McClendon missed Chancellorsville (at Suffolk), Gettysburg (sick and in hospital) and Chickamauga (furlough). Gus and his regiment followed Longstreet into east Tennessee in September 1863, wintered there, and rejoined Robert E. Lee's army in 1864.

Of the bloody repulse of the Yankee charge at Cold Harbor, McClendon attested, "I never in all the bloody conflicts that I had been in, saw such a destruction of human lives." Gus received his only (slight) wound of the war at Fussell's Mill, in August 1864 when a spent ball bruised his jaw.

A conscientious soldier, McClendon rose in rank to corporal, sergeant and lieutenant and stayed with his unit till the very end at Appomattox. There he chanced upon General Lee.

After the surrender "a score of us ran up to the road and bid him farewell. He acknowledged by pulling off his hat, and with tears trickling down his cheeks bowed his head."

In his preface the author self-effacingly states that "I am uneducated, and that I make no claim to correct English." Actually McClendon was a bright, witty and observant commentator on his Confederate service.

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