The West Point Guards, a militia company from West Point, Georgia, entered Confederate service in 1861. Many such companies, North and South, responded to their government’s call that spring on the outbreak of hostilities.
When the Guards entered Confederate service, they became Company “D” of the 4th Georgia Infantry Regiment. The company formed parts of different brigades during the war, but after the battle of Antietam, its service took place in the Doles-Cook Brigade.
The National Archives published the “Compiled Service Records of Confederate Solders” from Georgia. Here we get a glimpse of Monk Reese.
Milton E. Reese appears in the records as a private soldier born about 1840 who enlisted August 21, 1861. That makes him the same age as William C. Cherry, also born in 1840.
Army musters took place regularly. M. E. Reese appears on three muster rolls for Company D, reproduced below:
The second muster shows Private Reese’s release from the Army based on a surgeon’s report. For reasons not reported, the surgeon found him unfit for military duty.
The HISTORY OF THE DOLES-COOK BRIGADE, by Henry W. Thomas (Atlanta, Franklin Printing & Publishing Co. 1903), confirms the muster roll:
REESE, MILTON E. —
Private, April 26, 1861. Discharged account [of] disability August 10, 1861 (p. 133).
Monk and Crab were cousins who enlisted on the same day.
The envelope is postmarked New York, August 23, 1864, and addressed to:
Lt. William B. [sic] Cherry
Prisoner of War
Care of Capt. Ahl
But the Union Army selected 600 Confederate officers from Fort Delaware to become hostages in Charleston Harbor for “retaliation” on August 20, 1864. Monk’s second letter addressed to Crab in 1864 at Fort Delaware’s Union prison would have arrived after the hostages had embarked on the Federal steamer.
On the eighth inst[ant]. I sent you a box of provisions, in the care of the Committee of Prisoners as I was directed here to do here by persons knowing best. On yesterday a gentleman (who had at the same time had [ill.] sent his brother a box) handed me a notice taken from the “New York Tribune“ which you will find enclosed [not saved]. So you see “Eatables“ are “contraband[.]” I enclosed you in the box a letter containing $10 — as you requested — $10. The box I guess will not be allowed to reach you – but feel assured the money will — you can mention the fact of Capt. Ahl, he will no doubt attend to it. I received a letter from Harry Bedell & [ill.] it. Remember me to the boys. I thought I would have returned to Canada before that – but I have been prevailed on to stay & go to Chicago to the Convention this August. Several Montgomery and Chambers County fellows are here & going.
Write soon & direct your letter to care of Edwin W Hutchings, No. 5 Sudlow Place, West Houston Street, New York City.
The convention Monk mentions was the Democratic National Convention that nominated for President General George B. McClellan of New Jersey – Lincoln’s first commander of the Army of the Potomac.
It’s hard to imagine a former Confederate soldier wandering through the hostile North in 1864. You would think the Union’s intelligence services would have read Monk’s mail before delivery to Crab and marked him and his friend Edward Hutchings of Sudlow Place as enemy agents.
Perhaps they did, and we have not discovered the report.
Reese’s $10 was not a paltry gift. According to the website of Ian Webster, an engineer and data expert based in San Mateo, California, a $10 bill in 1864 would be worth $164.40 today. That money would have eased life in prison, where Crab languished until June 1865.
Whether Crab ever got the money we do not know. Crab was a hostage by the time of this letter.
On August 20, 1864, the prison guards had marched their captives on to a New York City ferry for a grueling trip to South Carolina. For details, see my blog post “Victims of revenge,” Jan. 25, 2015.
Where Crab was going for the next six months he needed far more than money.