|Colonel Edmund N. Atkinson,
b. November 14, 1834, d. June 17, 1884, is the grandson
of Nathan Atkinson, the first Atkinson
to come to Camden County, Georgia.
Eulogy and History of Colonel Edmund N. Atkinson delivered by Judge Ben Smith on May 29, 1994 at Lott Cemetery in Waycross, Georgia at the CSA Dedication of Memorial of Colonel Edmund N. Atkinson.
EULOGY FOR COLONEL EDMUND N. ATKINSON
In the year 1835 a little boy was born at Homeward his father's plantation in Camden County, Georgia. He was the second son of his father and bore his name, Edmund. Although the Atkinson's were primarily a family of lawyers and jurists this young man would win his fame as a soldier. The Atkinson's were a distinguished family and the people they married were also the best blood to be found in the colonies. The Atkinsons came to Virginia and settled in Northampton County, which was between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean or what is called the Eastern Shore. The first Atkinson, Shadrach, married a Miss Burwell also of Virginia and there has been a Burwell in every generation since even down to the present day. Eventually they came to Black Hammock in Camden County, Georgia.
Edmund N. Atkinson had a distinguished father and mother. His mother was daughter of the President of the University of Georgia. His father took first honors at the University and became a lawyer and planter. He represented his county in the legislature and eventually amassed a large estate.
Edmund was sent to the Georgia Military Institute for military training and graduated in 1856 at the .age of 21. This education made him one of the few people in his part of the state who knew how to drill raw troops or move a military unit from one point to another.
Consequently when War broke out in 1861, despite his youth, he became Adjutant of the 13th Georgia Regiment made up of militia companies from Southeastern Georgia Counties. Upon its reorganization the regiment was designated the 26th Georgia Regiment and Edmund was elected its Colonel. He was 26 years old and his Colonel's commission dated from May 10, 1862.
We have no portrait of him but his prison records indicate that he had dark hair, gray eyes, and dark complexion and he was about 5 ft. 9 inches tall. Edmund Pedrick said that there was a portrait of him, owned by two maiden ladies who were relatives, which portrayed him in his Confederate uniform. It is a sad thing that this replica of the gallant Colonel is probably no longer in existence.
The regiment remained on the Georgia coast for about a year and then was sent by rail to Virginia where they joined Robert E. Lee's Army. The 26th was first engaged in action at Gaine's Mill one of the 7 days Battles around Richmond where the huge Federal Army under Gen. George McClellan was defeated and forced to retreat. The Gaine's Mill action was fought on June 27, 1862.
The 26th Georgia was first assigned to
A. R. Lawton's Brigade in the Second Corps (Stonewall Jackson) of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Brigade was the largest in the army.
Lee next turned his attention to Gen. Edwin Pope who was marauding in the Manassas area of Virginia. Here in a stand-up fight with the Iron Brigade of Wisconsin, the 26th Georgia was decimated. This first day's battle was August 28. Pope was routed in the ensuing engagements and was removed from Command.
In September 1862, Lee invaded Maryland and captured Harper's Ferry with its garrison of 15,000 men and huge stores. Lee was brought to bay at Sharpsburg (Antietam) and though outnumbered three to one fought his adversary McCleIlan to a standstill. In this battle, which took place September 17, 1862, 23,500 men were casualties. Lawton's Brigade and the 26th Georgia were positioned at the south of the infamous "cornfield." They bore the brunt of Hooker's early morning attack. In a short time half of the Brigade's soldiers were casualties. Here Colonel Atkinson received the first of many wounds he would get in the war. It was a severe one.
He had returned to his regiment in time to participate in the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. He was put in command of Lawton's Brigade immediately before the engagement although a brigade commander was usually a brigadier general. When Meade"s troops (Federal) penetrated a swampy area which had been left undefended on the Confederate right, Colonel Atkinson led a riveting counter-attack that drove the Yankees out of the salient and routed them. Atkinson outdistanced his troops and was wounded and captured. He was paroled and exchanged within a few days of his capture.
We have a humorous story about Colonel Atkinson in the Gettysburg campaign. On the retreat from Gettysburg the 26th Georgia was the extreme rearguard because of its dependability. It was hard-pressed by the following Federals. Atkinson laid an ambush in a beautiful grove of trees. When the over-eager Yankees came up the 26th charged them and fired several volleys as they were fleeing. They brought up artillery and shelled the grove for half a day killing no one but destroying the farmer's beautiful grove. The 26th was already miles away.
In the Spotsylvania battle of May 12, 1864, Col. Atkinson was in the forefront of Gordon's counter-attack that was successful in restoring the Confederate line. He was in the thick of the fight, yelling and waving his men on with his sword.
The gallant Colonel was captured again at the Confederate defeat at Fisher's Hill on September 22, 1864, in the Shenandoah Valley. This time Atkinson was out of the war for good. He was sent to Fort Delaware prison on September 25, 1864. He was finally released on July 24, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance.
He came home to a part of the Southland that had not been ravaged by war but most of the coastal planters were ruined and bankrupt by the defeat and subsequent reconstruction.
Colonel Atkinson was one of those who tried to rebuild his country. He ran for the Legislature, like his father before him, and was elected in 1866. It must have been a trying time for anyone in government who was a former Confederate.
There is little information about his life in the post-war era. Those who could
tell us about it are long since dead. We don't know when he came to Waycross, but a large number of his old Confederate friends had settled here. There were Capt. Thomas J. Ivey, Captain E. H. Crawley, Capt. John Knox, Capt. Cuyler Hilliard and Lt. Col. William A. McDonald, all of who were former members of his regiment. There were also many soldiers who served under him who were not officers. They all loved the intrepid colonel.
He seemed to bear a charmed life for although: he was always in the thick of the fighting he survived the war. He was in every battle of the Army of Northern Virginia until he was captured in 1864. He died in 1879 when he was only 44 years old. Perhaps the years of hard campaigning had ruined his health as it did many others.
There are many persons who have wanted to properly, memorialize this great Georgian and, at last, our dreams have come true. These Confederates were a special breed. We don't have men like them anymore. Colonel Atkinson was of the finest blood to be found in the South and blood will tell.
It is heartening to see so many here today who have the spirit of the Old South and love and cherish the gallant deeds of our Forebears. No one can convince us that they were not the finest Americans who ever lived. There are many here who had ancestors in the 26th Georgia. They were the finest soldiers in the Confederacy, and they were led by exceptional men. Out of the 1200 men who started the war, only 78 men of the 26th were at Appomattox.
I take great pride in the memorialization of this gallant soldier and I know that you do. He would be proud too to know that he has not been forgotten. We cherish the memory of this man and all those like him. Peace to his ashes and may his
slumber be undisturbed.