Source: Carl Woodrow Thurman, Jr. Collection #15.1.a
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Description: James T. Thurman, aged 72, and still suffering from a Civil War wound to his thigh, “weak lungs” and a “chronic cough”, submitted this pension application, on 18 June 1913, to the Adjutant General’s Office, in Jefferson City, Missouri. After a long life of physical labor, he could do no more. His physical condition, he said, made it impossible for him “to do manual labor” any more and he needed financial assistance. Like many Confederate soldiers, Thurman was illiterate and required the assistance of Notary Public Hemmit Dale to complete the application form. His “mark” is visible between the J. and T. of his “signature.” The application is marked “approved & service papers returned” and dated 9 July 1913. Thurman’s pension application is accompanied by two documents: a “Memorandum of Service” and an Adjutant General’s certificate authenticating his Civil War service. The documents indicate that Thurman was a resident of Bloomington, Macon County, Missouri and had enlisted as a private in Company B, 5th Missouri Regiment Infantry Volunteers in Springfield, Missouri, on 11 January 1862. Thurman had previously served in Company F, 4th Regiment, 3rd Division of the Missouri National Guard.
The document may be more significant for what is doesn’t say. It doesn’t say how Thurman served honorably throughout the war until he was paroled after the surrender in April 1865. The 5th Regiment, under the command of Col. James McCown, Lt. Col. Robert S. Bevier, and Maj. Owen A. Waddell, was involved in nearly continuous combat during the war. It fought at Iuka (19 Sept. 1862) and Corinth, Mississippi (3-4 Oct. 1862), Lexington, Tennessee (18 Dec. 1862) and at Pea Ridge [Elkhorn Tavern] Arkansas (7-8 Mar. 1862), where it was part of Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen’s command. Thurman got his thigh wound from a shell fragment at Pea Ridge. It participated in the simultaneous battles of Grand Gulf (29 April, 3 May 1863) and Port Gibson, Mississippi (30 April – 1 May 1863) while defending Vicksburg. A few weeks later the regiment fought at Champion’s Hall, also known as Baker’s Creek (16 May 1863). The 5th was captured en masse, on 4 July 1863, when Vicksburg fell to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s forces and spent several months as prisoners of war. The harshness of the siege and subsequent captivity can only be guessed. Gen. Bowen never recovered from the effects and died on 13 July 1863. After an exchange of prisoners, the understrength 5th joined Brig. Gen. Francis M. Cockrell’s Brigade and was consolidated with the 3rd Regiment, and served with General John Bell Hood’s army in Tennessee (Nov. 1864-Jan. 1865) and during the Atlanta Campaign (1 May – 8 Sept. 1864) where it fought at Allatoona (5 Oct. 1864). Transferred to to the defense of Mobile (17 Mar. – 12 April 1865) it participated in the Battle of Fort Blakely, Alabama (1-9 April 1865).
The 5th, which mustered 476 men in May 1862, suffered staggering casualties during the war. It lost 6 killed, 62 wounded, and 19 missing at Corinth; 4 killed, 49 wounded and 37 missing at Champion’s Hill; 20 killed and 52 wounded during the siege of Vicksburg; the combined 5th/3rd Regiment lost a total of 128 casualties (killed and wounded) during the Atlanta Campaign (18 May – 5 September 1864) alone. It lost hundreds more by disease and desertion. By the end of the war there were few left to surrender. The survivors of the bloodbath, including James T. Thurman, then faded from history.