Crittenden remembered for Confederate service

Published 2:24 am Saturday, November 24, 2018

For the past two weeks, the Crittenden family of Oakey Streak has been reviewed in this column. Today, a descendant, John H. Crittenden, who lost his life during the War Between the States will be featured. John faithfully wrote letters home to his family describing his life during the most challenging period. Tragically, he died little more than a year after his enlistment. It is fortunate that his letters have been preserved and makes this story possible.

John H. Crittenden was born on March 26, 1840, in Loachapoka, Lee County, Ala. He was the oldest child of John Hiram “Jack” Crittenden and Caroline Elizabeth Greenway Stoneham. The family later moved to the southern area of Butler County, Ala., circa 1853, where several additional children were born. They eventually settled on land near Oakey Streak where the Crittenden Plantation would develop.

John H. attended area schools and later enrolled at A & M. College at Auburn. John has been described as having a ruddy complexion, dark red hair and being very athletic. For instance, he would often run and jump over a fence rather than opening the gate. When the War Between the States broke out, he felt the call to duty, so he left school and enlisted for service in the Confederate Army. He became a private in Company G, Jeff Davis Rangers, 9th. Regiment, Alabama Volunteers. John wrote his first letter home to his parents on June 19, 1861, from Richmond, Va.

“Dear Father and Mother,” I have taken this opportunity to give you a short Epistle to let you know that I am well and hoping that these few lines may find you enjoying the same good blessings and the rest of the family.

“I did not leave Greenville by one day as soon as I expected. We left on Wednesday at 8 o’clock, arrived in Montgomery 11 o’clock the same day. We lay over there until Friday morning. We left again for this place at 8 o’clock and traveling both night and day until we landed which was yesterday at 11 o’clock.

“We are encamped about two miles from the business part of town on the west side. We had to leave J.L. Files at Wilmington sick but nothing very serious. Cone Wagnon is along with us. He has his Bible along with him and also Maloy Roberson’s shoe peddler.

“The first thing I saw after I arrived at Camp Grounds one Company has one of their. . .tied down and gaged for drinking and cursing his Captain. When I saw it I felt like I had rather be at home. As I passed through Loachapoka I saw Uncle Sanford, Joel Phillips, Bob Cadenhead and when I got to Auburn I saw Oliver and at West Point I saw Mr. Todd.

If you wish to know how much money I have I give you an account of give me and how spent. You give me $25; my uniform cost me $7.50; and one hat $2.50. And besides that I had to feed myself nearly all the way. We had provisions cooked up but spoilt before we landed here. The reason why I had to buy a hat mine blowed off while I was riding on the cars from Greenville, to Montgomery and need not expect that I won’t have no use for money for it will cost as much as if I was at Boarding School.

“It will take a pair of shoes every 2 weeks and the Captain has never given me one thing but a cap. I had to buy My own blankets and every thing that I have had any use for.

“They had a fight at Bethel Church the other day. The Confederate Men whipped the abolitionist. Jeff Davis rode by our camp yesterday evening. I have a great deal of new to write but have space nor time. Tell Mr. Vanpelt that I will write to him the first opportunity. Give my respects to both of the Drs., Mr. Sanford, Bud and George and also Mrs. Hall and as far Ma I would give anything in the world to see her. If you wish to write to me back I will give you a sample how to back your letters. Private J.H. Crittenden, Company G, Jeff Davis Rangers, Richmond, Va., Care of Capt. E.G. Hill. Your affectionate Son, John H. Crittenden. You need not feel uneasy about my drinking for I have not touched a drop since I have landed and don’t intend to.”

John Crittenden fought bravely in all the following battles: Manassas, Fredericksburg, Bull Run, Richmond and others throughout Virginia and Maryland.  It was in the Battle of Sharpsburg, Md., or “Antietam? That he lost his life on September 17, 1862. It was one of the hardest fought battles of the war. The following is a copy of his last letter to his father and mother, which he wrote on September 2, 1862, from Camp North of Centerville, Va.

“Dear Father, I have taken the opportunity of addressing you a few lines to let you know where I am and that I am well.

“I reckon you have been thinking that I did not intend to write to you again but this is the first opportunity of writing since we left Richmond. We have been traveling every day since we left.

“We left Richmond the 10th of August and have had several Pitch Battles with the Yankees. We had a battle on the same battlefield that they fought on the 21st of July 1861 and defeated them just about as bad again.

“We had only one man in the company wounded and none killed. His name was Churchill.

“I have a notion of sending Frank (Negro slave) back home. He is so dissatisfied. Such a fool. When he heard a bomb he nearly run himself to death. The first time he heard a cannon he ran five miles before he stopped and then threw away everything he had.

“We have stopped at this place just long enough to cook up two days ration. I don’t know where we are going from here.

“We have but very little to eat since we left Richmond but green corn and apples. We left our knapsacks behind in the wagons and we have not a change of clothing.

“We have been on the march and I don’t know when we will again.

“Give my respects to all inquiring friends and love to the family and accept a portion for yourself. Your affectionate son, John H. Crittenden.

P.S. Tell Mr. Sanford I will write to him the first opportunity, Yours, J.H.C.”

On September 24, 1862, The Montgomery Advertiser printed the following on the battle in which John H. Crittenden was killed. “The accounts of the Battle of Sharpsburg are meager and somewhat contradictory but agree in representing it to have been the most bloody and desperately contested engagement of the war. The Confederate Army, though apposed by large superior numbers, again illustrated its valor and invincibility by successfully repelling the repeated onsets of the enemy. Officers have arrived here who state that they went over the battlefield on Thursday and they assert that the advantage remained on our side. The enemy haven fallen back.

“The City papers this morning report, on the authority of passengers who arrived last night, that General Lee recrossed the Potomac on Friday, at Shepherdstown.”

Inscription on Confederate Memorial in Arlington Cemetery: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all and died.”

John ‘s brother, Joseph T. Crittenden, also died as a Confederate soldier in City Hall, Macon, Ga., on September 2, 1864 and was buried there. Resenting the death of his brother in the war, he enlisted at 16 years of age. He was not in service for very long before he contracted some type fever, which resulted in his death. His father was able to visit him shortly before this additional family tragedy.

The sources for today’s story include Fern S. Nix’s book, Oakey Streak—A Historic Landmark, and copies of the letters written by John H. Crittenden, which were shared by David Floyd.

Anyone who may find an error in the above is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email:


The Covington Historical Society will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Guests and prospective members are encouraged to attend. John Vick will be presenting the program.