Rev. John Harvey Mashburn – 36th GA Regt Chaplain

In 1851, John Harvey MASHBURN became a fully ordained Methodist minister in the Georgia Conference and was assigned to ride the circuit. It was highly unusual for men of his age to become circuit riders (most men who became circuit riders were in their twenties) and is an indicator of the strength of his calling. During the next ten years, he served, as was the custom, two years in a circuit before being transferred to another one; thus he became well known throughout north Georgia. In 1860, he was assigned to Decatur and happened to be near his younger brother Elisha J., a carpenter who had moved closer to Atlanta because of the pre-war building boom.

When war broke out, Augustus R. WRIGHT, a north Georgia judge whose judicial appointments roughly paralleled John Harvey MASHBURN’s church appointments, organized a body of troops called Wright’s Legion. Wright’s Legion was sent to a training camp outside Decatur. After training and induction into state’s service, it was designated as the 38th Georgia Volunteer Regiment.

Since their professional paths crossed so many times, Colonel WRIGHT and John Harvey undoubtedly knew each other, and this probably led to John Harvey’s appointment as the regimental chaplain. Mary GAY in her book Life in Dixie (a main source for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind) describes the ceremony in which John Harvey accepts a flag that her sister made for one of the regiments’ companies. She also lists Arron MASHBURN, the son of Elisha J., in the roster of one of the companies from DeKalb County.

After their training, the 38th Regiment was sent to guard Savannah and was stationed on Skidaway Island overlooking the sea. After several months of inactivity, the Savannah commander, General Lawton asked the government for permission to take his best regiments to Virginia to fight with General Lee. About this time, the Confederate Congress passed a law permitting men over 60 to resign from service and passed a law reducing the chaplain’s salary. Whether because the regiment was going to Virginia, or because of his age or because of the salary reduction (or all three), John Harvey MASHBURN resigned from service and returned home to Forsyth County. His son John Wesley MASHBURN filled his place in the regiment and was assigned to Company I. John’s brothers and his male cousins of age were already serving the Confederacy.

As part of the Lawton-Evans-Gordon Brigade in General “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps, the 38th Regiment was engaged in most all of the important battles in Virginia. John Wesley MASHBURN was captured at the Battle of Fredericksburg – probably on the charge that the below testimony refers to:

J. William Jones, D.D. “The Morale of General Lee’s Army”, Annals of the War (1988: Morningside House, Inc. Dayton, OH). p. 201

I could fill a volume with incidents of individual heroism on the part of private soldiers in that army… At first Fredericksburg, just after Lawton’s Georgia Brigade (under the command of Colonel Atkinson) had driven the enemy out of the woods on Early’s front, and made their gallant dash across the plain (the men growling loudly at being ordered back, saying, “If it had been those Virginia fellows that made the charge, Old Jubal would have let them drive the Yankees into the river”), a Georgia boy, who seemed to be not over sixteen, rushed up to me with his two fingers shattered, and exclaimed (mistaking me for a surgeon), “Doctor, I want you, please, to cut off these fingers and tie them up as soon as you can. The boys are going into another charge directly, and I want to be with them.” I procured him a surgeon, the wound was dressed, and the brave boy hurried back to the front again.

John Wesley Mashburn was exchanged after a couple of days of being captured at Fredericksburg. Later Col. Evans (who became a Methodist bishop after the war) replaced Gen. Lawton and then John Gordon (who became the governor of Georgia) replaced Col. Evans as commander of the brigade.

The following speaks of the religious fervor that occurred in the Lawton-Evans-Gordon Brigade:

Jones, William J., D.D. Christ in the Camp (1887: B.F. Johnson & Co.)

p. 371 Camp of Gordon’s Georgia Brigade, March 21 [1863]
The Lord is with us. For about two weeks past we have been rejoicing in His presence and His blessing. There is a deep religious interest pervading this whole brigade. Scores are nightly inquiring the way of life, and a goodly number profess to have found it. It was my happy privilege on yesterday, in the presence of a large congregation “to bury” sixteen “by baptism”. Oh, may this interest not subside while the war last- nay, may it continue even when it shall have closed; and may these Christ-loving soldiers go home to be as holy firebrands in our churches!
A.B. Woodfin,
Chaplain, 61st Georgia

p.373 Chaplain’s Association, A. N. VA, Orange Courthouse. March 23 [1863]
…A protracted meeting of unabated interest was reported from Gordon’s Brigade, in Early’s Division. Thirty were praising God’s free grace that snatched them from the jaws of death, and made them cling to and rejoice in the Cross, and large numbers were pressing forward and asking to see Jesus. How good is God! How blessed are such reports from men soon to march with martial tread to deal and receive fatal shot on the bloody fields! How cheering is the thought that our liberties are defended by such soldiers!…
L.C. Vass, Permament Clerk

p. 374 Camp at Gordon’s Georgia Brigade, April 23 [1863]
Under the date of March 21, I wrote to you that we were enjoying a season of revival from the presence of the Lord. I write again, to say that since that time the gracious work has been steadily progressing among us. Our nightly meetings are still kept up, with most encouraging results. Almost every day witnesses the joyful conversion of some precious souls, and many are still anxiously asking, “What must I do to be saved?” Since our meeting commenced, we have baptized fifty, and on tomorrow we expect to baptize about ten others. About one hundred of the brigade have professed faith in Christ, we would render all praise unto Him to whom belongeth salvation.
A.B. Woodfin
Chaplain 61st GA

pp. 397-398 In Gordon’s Georgia Brigade (in a meeting conducted by my friend and brother, Dr. A.B. Woodfin, who was one of our most efficient chaplains and was greatly blessed in his work) there professed conversion one night a captain, who was known as one of the “bravest of the brave” in that brigade of heroes, and at the same time as one of the most wicked men in the army. After the meeting was over he went back to his quarters rejoicing in his new-found hope, called his company around him, and with deep emotion made them a little talk to this effect: “Men, I have led you into battle, and you have followed me like men. Alas! I have led you into all manner of wickedness and vice, and you have followed me in this too. I have now resolved to change my course. I have gone to Christ in sincere repentance and simple faith. I have enlisted under the banner of the Cross, and mean, by God’s help, to prove a faithful soldier of Jesus as I have been a true soldier of my country.
“I call upon you, my brave boys, to follow me as I shall try to follow “the Captain of our salvation,” and I want all who are willing to do so to come, here and now, and give me their hands and let me pray
for them.”
It is hardly necessary to add the effect was electrical. The men crowded around their loved captain, tears flowed freely. Earnest prayers were offered, and the brave fellow continued his personal efforts until nearly every member of his company had found Jesus, and those former ringleaders in every species of vice had become a center of powerful influence for the religious good of their regiment and brigade.

p. 498 Eighteen men [mostly from Gordon’s Brigade] were baptized in the Rapidan, in the presence of the enemy’s pickets. Several of them sat on a fence in full view of us, and within range, with their guns across their laps, and witnessed the ceremony.

p. 522 Chaplain’s Association, A. N. VA, Orange Courthouse
May 5, 1863
Brother Smith of 60th Georgia remarked that the work goes bravely on in his brigade. Some fifty came forward as penitents on Saturday previous. He had obtained some four or five hundred Testaments for his brigade on Sunday. Thirty-odd names were put in a hat on slips of paper asking for prayers. Several who had fallen back into the world had come out and taken their former positions.
L.C. Vass, Permanent Clerk

In the winter of 1863-64, General LEE ordered that all men who have not yet been home since the war to furloughed. We know that John Wesley MASHBURN was one of these men because (1) a December letter by A.B.MARTIN of Company I, 38th GA asks his family to send him socks via John MASHBURN when John returns to the regiment, and (2) John Wesley Junior was born 9 months later!

At the Battle of Spotsylvania, John Wesley MASHBURN was captured (probably while trying to save his colonel who had been surrounded by the Yankees in hand-to-hand combat. John Wesley was sent to the rear of the Federal lines to a natural depression in the land called the “Punch Bowl”. Gardner, the famous Civil War photographer, happened to come along and took photographs. Photographs of Confederates in the field are very, very rare.

After being held for a while in the Punchbowl, the prisoners were marched across Belle Plain to the river where they were load on boats and sent to the prisons up north. John Wesley MASHBURN was sent to Fort Delaware where he spent ten months on a low swampy island in the middle of the Delaware Bay without decent food or clothing

After Lee’s surrender, John Wesley MASHBURN accepted parole but before the Federals could ship them off the island a terrible disease passed through the prison. Many prisoners died while they were crossing the river to the main land. John Wesley MASHBURN was able to make it back to Forsyth County but died of the disease within several weeks after he had arrived home. He was buried in the Ebenezer Church cemetery. Of the five sons of Rev. John Harvey MASHBURN, John Wesley was the only one who had died during the war. It is very sad because Lee had already surrendered and the war was practically over.

After the war, Rev. John Mashburn went back to preaching and died in 1876. The Atlanta Constitution and the Christian Advocate (the Methodist Church magazine) both printed obituaries.

John Wesley’s widow Mary M. COGBURN took her family to live with her sister in Dawsonville. Later her sons George, Harvey, William Eli and John Wesley Jr. moved their families to the Calhoun-Adairsville area between Gordon and Bartow Counties. Much later, John Wesley MASHBURN Jr. took his mother with him to Alabama. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Springville, AL.

An interesting sideline of MASHBURN Civil War history is that a northern magazine decided to promote the fiftieth anniversary of the Andrew’s Raiders (the great train chase between the General and the Texas locomotives). The magazine wanted to locate Andrews’s body and entomb it with the other Medal of Honor recipients. John H. MASHBURN, a son of Elisha J., (and namesake of his uncle Rev. John Harvey MASHBURN) showed the committee where James Andrew’s gravesite was located. During the Civil War, his family had lived in the neighborhood where the body had been buried. The body was dug up and reburied it in Chattanooga with the other Andrew Raiders.