John English Autry

John English Autry's grave stone.

J. E. Autry was Richard White's great great grandfather.

J. E. (John English) Autry was my mother's mother's mother's father.  I chose to qualify for membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans on his Confederate service record.

Within the family, J. E. Autry was apparently called "English" to distinguish him from a number of relatives by the same first name, including an almost 20 year older half-brother by his father's first marriage to Betsie Rory, and another half-brother from his mother's first marriage to James Murphy, John Murphy.  John English Autry was the oldest son of John Autry by his second wife (the widow of James Murphy),  Barbara ("Bubby") Rebecca McMillan, and was born in Sumter County, Georgia, on 29 August 1820.  The Autry family holdings in Sumter County were in the vicinity of Freeman Road, about 4 1/2 miles south of the town of Andersonville and just about the same distance from the place where Camp Sumter Prisoner of War Camp, commonly known as Andersonville Prison, was to be created by the Confederate government in late 1863.

J. E. Autry was the grandson of  John Autry, who served with a brother Alexander Autry, both of them captains in the Wilkes County, Georgia Militia, in the American Revolution.  They served under General Elijah Clarke, "Georgia's most illustrious partisan-militia leader in the Revolutionary War".  After remaining neutral for years and being starved of needed trade goods by both sides, the Creeks finally came partly into the Revolution on the side of the British just as the British lost.  As a result, they were required to cede more lands to the state of Georgia and an uneasy peace ensued.  Generally, settlers were required to remain north and east of the Oconee River.  Clarke "attempted to expand Georgia's territory at the expense of the CREEK INDIANS."  Eventually Clarke "established the TRANS-OCONEE REPUBLIC in 1794 in defiance of Georgia and the United States."  But some six years before that, on 2 February 1788, Captain John Autry was killed and scalped by the Creeks on Richland Creek near Scull Shoals on the Oconee River.  He was buried on the spot where he was killed.  Elijah Clarke reported John Autry's death in a letter to the governor of Georgia dated 8 February 1788. (The preceding quotations concerning General Elijah Clarke are from the Encyclopedia of Southern History, David C. Roller and Robert W. Twyman, editors, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge and London, 1979, page 235.  The information about Captain John Autry is from The Family and Descendants of Captain John Autry by Mahan Blair Autry, self-published, Corsica, Texas, 1964 and various other sources, especially Georgians in the Revolution: At Kettle Creek (Wilkes Co.) and Burke County by Robert Scott Davis, Jr., Southern Historical Press, Inc., Easley, South Carolina, 1986.)

On 5 April 1863, at 43 years of age, J. E. Autry was mustered into Company G, 64th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Macon, Georgia. His brothers James and David Autry also served with the 64th Georgia Infantry, the various companies of which were mustered at towns in South Georgia and brought together at Quincy, Florida, in February 1863.  The raising of the 64th Georgia and its posting to Florida were part of an initiative by Governor James Milton of Florida in 1862, to draw resources from nearby parts of south Georgia and Alabama, to aid in the defense of Florida.  The Confederate government cooperated in that effort by attaching certain specific Georgia counties extending north to Sumter County, Georgia, to the existing Department of Middle Florida of the Confederate Army, making it the Department of Middle Florida and South Georgia, and by suspending the Conscription Act as it would have applied to units raised in that area, thus apparently making volunteers in new units raised in the area eligible for an enlistment bounty.

After brief stays at Camp Cobb near  Quincy and at Camp Leon beside the railroad just a few miles south of Tallahassee,  by April the 64th Georgia Infantry was bivouacked further south on the same railroad, at Camp Randolph, which the 64th Georgia Infantry built  at Wakulla (sometimes known erroneously as "Wakulla Station"), in Wakulla County, Florida. The 64th Georgia Infantry spent until August 1863 at Camp Randolph training and serving as an element in the defense of the coastal area of North Florida and the railroad from St. Marks to Tallahassee.  Then it moved to Savannah, Georgia.

The 64th Georgia came back to Florida and participated in the Battle of Olustee (also known as the Battle of Ocean Pond) on 20 February 1864.  At Olustee, the 64th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was a component of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan's Army of East Florida, and of Colonel George P. Harrison's 2d Brigade of that Army along with the First Florida Infantry Battalion, 32d Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 1st Georgia Regular Infantry Regiment, and 28th Georgia Artillery Battalion.  Though far from the main centers of the conflict and one of the smallest major battles of the Civil War, Olustee was also one of the bloodiest for the number of troops involved. The 64th Georgia was the first unit engaged at Olustee, and it remained engaged throughout the battle.  At Olustee the 64th Georgia Infantry lost 107 of its approximately 800 men (17 dead, 88 wounded, and 2 missing... approximately 13% casualties).  At the height of the battle, which occurred in a virgin pine forest on open and level terrain and was conducted without benefit of prepared positions, several Confederate units stood their places in the line without ammunition for a time.

The Sixty-fourth Georgia experienced its first combat at Olustee. Sent out from the Olustee defenses early in the afternoon to skirmish with the advancing Federals, the regiment played a prominent role throughout the battle. Its official casualties were listed at seventeen dead, eighty-eight wounded, and two missing. Included among the casualties was its commander, Colonel John W. Evans, and Major Walter Weems, who were wounded, and Lieutenant Colonel James Barrow, who was killed. After the death or wounding of the unit's field officers, Captain Charles S. Jenkins "conducted the regiment throughout the most fearful periods of the fight." (Confederate Roll of Honor: Southern Casualties at the Battle of Olustee, p. 48)
J. E. Autry appears to have incurred a minor wound in the battle at Olustee.  He was hospitalized in the General Hospital in Guyton, Georgia on 24 February 1864.  (Guyton is a small town slightly to the northwest of Savannah.)  No reason for this hospitalization was recorded, but the date and record of subsequent hospitalizations imply a puncture wound to the left leg.  The Battle of Olustee was fought at close range in a thick virgin pine forest and swamp.  I waded through that swamp myself for several hours in February of 1997, so I know how cold and miserable that can be!   Both Union and Confederate artillery were deployed at close range at Olustee.  The Union artillery was deployed so close to Confederate positions that most of the artillerymen and horses were killed by Confederate musket fire.  Because of the unusually close deployment and insufficient depression of the barrels of the pieces, artillery fire by both sides was said to be ineffective in this battle and almost all casualties to have been caused by rifle/musket fire.  Although it is just a theory on my part, with no specific information available, I suspect that John English Autry  may have been hit by a pine splinter thrown by the high artillery fire at Olustee.   Although he is not listed as a casualty at Olustee in the recently published Confederate Roll of Honor: Southern Casualties at the Battle of Olustee, the hospitalization at Guyton was on the same day as many Confederates who were known to be wounded at Olustee were admitted there and the Roll of Honor is considered by its authors to be potentially incomplete... although its totals are a greater number than the totals given shortly after the battle.  I have applied to the compilers of the Roll of Honor to add J. E. Autry's name to future editions.

After the Battle of Olustee the 64th Georgia returned to Savannah for awhile, then in early May of 1864 the regiment joined the Army of Northern Virginia in its final campaign, the defense of Petersburg.  The 64th Georgia had major involvement in the defense of Battery 16 during Grant's attempt to flank the Army of Northern Virginia by landing Beast Butler and troops under his command at Bermuda 100 on the James River, and in the Battle of the Crater after the Union Army's engineers exploded a huge mine under a salient on the Confederate defenses on 30 July 1864.  The 64th Georgia was one of the Confederate units closest to the Crater.

J. E. Autry was admitted to Wayside and Receiving Hospital or General Hospital No. 9, Richmond, Virginia, on 30 September 1864 and was sent on to 1st Division Jackson Hospital in Richmond, Virginia on 1 October 1864.  Admission records show that the diagnosis was "Ulcer, L. Leg", most likely an unhealed wound that had festered under the conditions of trench warfare in the Confederate lines at Petersburg.  He remained in Jackson Hospital until 17 February 1865 (4 1/2 months) at which time he was furloughed for 60 days.  The Army of Northern Virginia surrendered before his furlough was over.  There is no record that J. E. Autry surrendered anywhere.  Apparently he somehow avoided parole and taking of an oath of loyalty to the government of the United States...

Mary McQueen Autry's grave stoneJ. E. Autry had married Mary McQueen on 11 June 1855.  They moved near Whigham in Decatur County (now Grady County), Georgia in 1869... the same year that their daughter who became my great grandmother, Forest Autry, was born.  Family legends refer to tax bills and land grabbing Carpetbaggers as the reason for the move.

On 7 February 1877 John English Autry died of consumption (tuberculosis) that he contracted while serving in the Confederate Army.  He was buried with several other Confederate veterans, all in unmarked graves, at Antioch Church in Decatur County, Georgia.  Years later his widow went with her granddaughter... my grandmother... to place a stone on his grave.  Unable to identify the specific grave, they returned to the farm and unloaded the grave stone from the wagon to the barn.  It was still there when I was a child.  Later the barn tumbled down and was demolished.  The last time I saw it... some 25 years ago... the grave stone was lying on its back in the grass behind a second cousin's mobile home, near the site of the old barn... chipped around the edges from being hit by a lawn mower blade.  The inscription includes the phrase, "Gone but not forgotten."  I believe that is true, and will do my part to see that it remains so, no matter where the grave stone lies.

Mary McQueen Autry never remarried.  She raised four children as a widow, and reputedly was known among local merchants as a very hard-bargainer.  My mother said that some would close their stores when they saw her coming...  From 1893 to 1905 she collected a Confederate widow's pension from the State of Georgia in Decatur County.   Under an act of the 1905 Georgia legislature, effective 1 January 1906, Grady County was created from the eastern part of Decatur County and the western part of Thomas County.  The Autry place was in this new county, near its western boundary.  Mary McQueen Autry collected the pension in Grady County in 1906 and 1907, but over the years her once firm signature quavered then turned to an "X" as she lost the ability to sign her name.  I believe that she suffered, as did my mother and grandmother, from Alzheimer's disease.  After 1907 apparently her health declined to the point that she no longer collected the pension.   She died in 1920, some 43 years after her husband, and is buried in Butler Cemetery, about half-way between Whigham and Calvary in Grady County, Georgia, beneath a grave stone that matches in style, the one that was never placed over her husband's grave.

Going by directions from my grandmother, then in Ft. Myers, Florida, relayed by my mother, then in Tampa, I looked for Antioch Church several times over the years without success.   I found it just over the county line in Climax, to the northwest of Calvary in current day Decatur County, on 11 October 1997.  There are no signs of burials having occurred prior to about 1910 in the small graveyard to the northwest of the church.   I spoke to the preacher's wife and found that the congregation dates to 1857.  There is oral history that the church site was a few hundred yards to the north at one time... in a location now occupied by tree farming.  The date of the move and whether it included constructing a new building or moving the existing structure are unknown; however, the church building appears to me to easily have been built prior to 1877.  The preacher's wife indicated that as a little girl she was told not to play near the southwest corner of the area now enclosed by the cemetery fence because of unmarked burials in that vicinity.  With that, I take it that at long last I have probably come as close as I ever will, to finding John English Autry's final resting place.

RELATED LINKS:
 

A Note on Sources for this Page

Battle of Olustee Index PageAutry Family Association Logo

Battle of Olustee Battle History

64th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Unit History

Company G, 64th Georgia Unit Roster

National Park Service

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Private Joseph Thomas Stansell Gleaton

The Autry Family Association

Micajah Autry at the Alamo
 
 

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This page was created by Richard White on 11 April 1997.
Changes to this page were last made by Richard White on  10 August 2000.