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John Gourdin Gaillard papers

Two manuscripts, 1855 and 1895, of Pineville native John Gourdin Gaillard (1833-1898) relate to his studies at Harvard and subsequent military experiences. This younger son of the twice-married James Gaillard of Walnut Grove plantation, St. John Berkeley Parish, received his education at Mt. Zion Institute, South Carolina College, and Harvard University's Lawrence Scientific School. He planted cotton, served in the Confederate army, and served as a two-term member of the South Carolina House of Representatives during Reconstruction.

Gaillard studied civil engineering at Harvard but for some reason he left before finishing. An affidavit Harvard gave him in lieu of a degree, dated 24 December 1855, is one of two items recently acquired. Henry Lawrence Eustis (1819-1885), the West Point-educated head of Harvard's new engineering department, stated in the affidavit, "Mr. Gaillard has completed the course of study...as prescribed for the pupils in the [department]....Nothing but the necessity of leaving before the close of the term prevents my presenting him as a candidate for a degree, and I have not the slightest doubt that he would have passed his examination with distinction."

The other item is a six-page Civil War memoir Gaillard wrote in 1895 for a cousin who was collecting family history. In a cover letter, Gaillard describes his service as so short and uneventful that he would not have thought of writing of it even for his own children. His reticence probably arose from the knowledge that Lt. Col. Cornelius Irvine Walker had already published an official history of his unit, the Tenth Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers. Moreover, because Gaillard had resigned due to illness, he had not taken part in the battles of Chickamauga and Atlanta, where great numbers of his regiment had been killed in action.

In the summer of 1861, Gaillard had joined Co. K ("Eutaw Volunteers"), commanded by his brother-in-law, Capt. Julius T. Porcher. The company organized at St. Stephens Depot and elected Gaillard second lieutenant. Early experiences included drilling at Bulls Island under a West Point cadet and station duty around the fort on South Island guarding Winyah Bay. Then, in the spring of 1862, the regiment suddenly transferred to northern Mississippi, arriving a few weeks after the battle of Shiloh.

The most interesting passages in Gaillard's account describe the situation at Corinth, Miss., and the hoax that P.G.T. Beauregard perpetrated on both the enemy and his own troops: "Gen. Beauregard fell back to Corinth & the[re] held the Ennemy in check for some weeks. This location was very unhealthy, the water supply...was drying away in the heat & poisoned by the refuse of camps & stables on the steep hill side. The whole army seemed diseased. The Ennemy were being heavily enforced. This condition of affairs could not last and preparations were ostensibly made for a desperate Battle. The infamous New-Orleans Order of Gen. Butler was read at all dress Parades to the whole Army to rouse the anger of the Soldiers. A celebrated Divine preached a stirring battle sermon to an enormous gathering. All the sick & feeble were sent to the rear....Gen. Beauregard by completely decieving his own Army, decieved the ennemy & the appointed day of Battle found him, after a rapid & severe night march some 30 miles away with all his Stores & equipments on the road to a stronger & more healthy location."

The "infamous" order was a reference to Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler's General Order No. 28: "As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans...it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall by word, gesture or movement insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation."

There follows a brief description of camp life at Tupelo, Miss., and of Gen. Braxton Bragg's Kentucky campaign. During Bragg's retreat, the army went hungry as it passed through a countryside that had been stripped of provisions. When they reached Knoxville, bad health caused Gaillard to be sent home, and he never returned to active service. "Towards the end of the War I went to Columbia S.C. into an Office," he explained, "where I remained until the End." The office was that of chief quartermaster Maj. Roland Rhett, and the "end" would have been the Confederate evacuation of Columbia. Perhaps Gaillard could have described the panic on the night of 16 February 1865, when Rhett's staff tried and failed to transport vital Confederate ordnance supplies out of the path of Sherman's army. But he may not have wanted to recall it even for posterity's sake.

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