Saturday, December 8, 2012

Uncle Joe Askew and Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry Escort

Joseph H. Askew (Known as Uncle Joe) was born on 2 December 1846 in North Carolina.  He first enlisted in the 11th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (Perrin's Cavalry) during September 1863 and on May 8, 1864 he joined A Troop, 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment which he remained with until the end of the American Civil War when he was paroled in May 1865.  He was only 16 years old when he first enlisted in the Cavalry.  Family folklore had stated that Uncle Joe was a member of Nathan Bedford Forest's escort company and while serving in Forrest's escort he lost a leg late in the war.  Fortunately, we found the following announcement in the “Confederate Veteran”, Volume XIV, p.155, dated April 1906 as an announcement for the sixteenth annual Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, which confirmed his service as a member of Forrest’s escort.

“The general commanding announces for the New Orleans Reunion as sponsor for the South Miss Josephine Hamilton Nicholls, of New Orleans, and for her maids of honor Miss Mary Sharp Askew of Columbus, Miss., and Miss Sarah Ruth Frazier, of Chattanooga, Tenn.  These young ladies can boast Confederate ancestry equal to any in the South.  Brig. Gen. Francis T. Nicholls, whom the people of Louisiana delight to honor and twice made Governor of the State, attested his loyalty on many a hard-fought field and came out of the Confederate army deprived of one arm and one leg; Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Sharp, grandfather of Miss Askew, won his promotion by gallant conduct on various occasions, being particularly conspicuous at the battle of Franklin, while her father as a member of Forrest’s escort left a leg on one of the last battlefields of the war; Capt. S.J.A. Frazier was in command of a company of the 19th Tennessee, and came home at the close of hostilities with numerous wounds, not to mention his fearful prison experience.”

Confederate Veteran Announcement Referencing Joe Askew
Mary Sharp Askew was the daughter of Joseph H. Askew, younger brother to George Washington Askew, my GGGrandfather.  It is also well known that Forrest’s personal escort was frequently selected from A Troop, 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Regiment.  Searching Joe Askew’s service records, I found that Joseph H. Askew was a Prisoner of War in May 1865. This must be when he lost his leg during the last months of the war.  The record states the following, “Roll of POW record … of detached, detailed men, a men unavoidingly left off of surrendered by LTG R. Taylor to MG Canby May 1865 … dated Columbus, MS May 19, 1865.”

Joe Askew Service Record

Original Parole Record for Joe Askew
After the Civil War, Joseph was a member of the Mississippi State Legislature and served as a Railroad Commissioner.  He served as a State Legislature for Oktibbeha County, Mississippi in the years 1886 and 1888. He married Willie Sharp, the daughter of Gen. Jacob H. Sharp (Also mentioned in the Confederate Veteran Announcement).  Willie Sharp was from Columbus, Mississippi.  Joseph died in 1895 and is buried in the Askew Family plot at the Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi.  His family lived in the Askew Family Home, near Starkville, Mississippi built by his father David Outlaw Askew.  It is believed that the Askew family home was destroyed by fire in the early 1900's.  I have previously written of Joe Askew’s Post War life in a blog post entitled Railroads and Reconstruction.

Headstone for Joe Askew and Willie Sharp
Since Uncle Joe, while only 17 years old, served in Forrest’s Cavalry during the last year of the war, it is very probable that he participated in some of the key battles in North Mississippi.  Recently, I had the opportunity to visit two of those battlefields.

Brice's Crossroads – Undoubtedly, Forrest's greatest victory came on June 10, 1864, when his 3,500-man force clashed with 8,500 men commanded by Union BG Samuel D. Sturgis at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads. Here, his mobility of force and superior tactics led to victory. He swept the Union forces from a large expanse of southwest Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Forrest set up a position for an attack to repulse a pursuing force commanded by Sturgis, who had been sent to impede Forrest from destroying Union supplies and fortifications. When Sturgis's Federal army came upon the crossroad, they collided with Forrest's cavalry. Sturgis ordered his infantry to advance to the front line to counteract the cavalry. The infantry, tired and weary and suffering under the heat, were quickly broken and sent into mass retreat. Forrest sent a full charge after the retreating army and captured 16 artillery pieces, 176 wagons and 1,500 stands of small arms. In all, the maneuver cost Forrest 96 men killed and 396 wounded. The day was worse for Union troops, which suffered 223 killed, 394 wounded and 1,623 men missing. (Wikipedia)

Marker at Battle of Brice's Crossroads

Monument at Battle of Brice's Crossroads

Battle of Tupelo - One month later, Forrest's first major tactical defeat came at the Battle of Tupelo in 1864. Concerned about Union supply lines, MG William T. Sherman sent a force under the command of MG Andrew J. Smith to deal with Forrest. The Union forces drove the Confederates from the field and Forrest was wounded in the foot, but his forces were not wholly destroyed. He continued to oppose Union efforts in the West for the remainder of the war. (Wikipedia)

Monument at the Battle of Tupelo

Marker at the Battle of Tupelo

During the trip we stumbled upon a great little museum commemorating the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, it was very well organized, great artifact displays, and very informative as to the events of the battle.  For more information … visit the website Brice’s Crossroads Visitor’s Center.   

Brice's Crossroads Visitor's Center

It is highly probable the ‘Uncle Joe’ participated in the later battles at Spring Hill, Franklin, Nashville, and Selma. Hopefully we will visit these battlefields in the future.

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