Hundreds of my relatives served as soldiers during the Civil War, but one had an especially interesting connection to Charleston. He is Pvt. Joshua Richard Goodwin Jr. of Company A, 21st Alabama Infantry Regiment.
Joshua wasn't an officer, he had no leadership responsibilities and perhaps he sometimes was an unwilling recruit at the start of his military career. But he witnessed and participated in a significant event: Joshua was present and serving as an enlisted man with his unit while it was charged with the security and oversight of the construction of the Confederate submarine Hunley during the spring and summer of 1863 in Alabama.
Joshua's military records indicate he was conscripted Sept. 21, 1862, in Jefferson County, Ala., and was present on the 21st company's muster rolls dated Dec. 31, 1862, to April 30, 1863, at Mobile and May-June 1863, during which time his commanders and company were involved in overseeing work on the famous experimental submarine and guarding it at the Thomas Park and Thomas Lyons Machine Shop.
The underwater vessel's inventors and builders first launched it for sea trials in July 1863 in Mobile Bay and shipped it the following month to Charleston for Confederate naval service.
Lt. George E. Dixon, an officer in Joshua's company and unit, was one of the soldiers who accompanied the Hunley when it was sent to the coast. Unfortunately, he also was one of the eight crew members who perished when the submarine later sank in Charleston waters in 1864. It is unknown if Joshua or other members of his unit accompanied the Confederacy's hand-crank-powered 'Fish Boat' to the East Coast or if they knew about its initial success and sudden mysterious fate. No muster roll is on file for July and August 1863, but regimental records indicate Joshua's unit was generally stationed at Point Clear, Ala., during that time.
Of course, we know and Joshua's unit must have known from historical and news accounts and word of mouth that the Hunley created a sensation in Charleston on Feb. 17, 1864, after sinking the heavily armed U.S. steam war sloop Housatonic, which was anchored at the entrance to Charleston Harbor as part of the Union port blockade. Also well known is the story of how the 'Fish Torpedo Boat' and its crew of eight heroic adventurers suddenly disappeared in offshore waters shortly after the daring nighttime attack.
After the Hunley group left Alabama, Joshua, who continued to serve with his company there, was hospitalized in Mobile on Jan. 24, 1864, with a fever from which he recovered. He was later captured with his unit at Fort Morgan on August 23 of that year and held for about a year as a prisoner of war. He took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States at Elmira, N.Y., on July 7, 1865, and was released. A biographical note: Census records indicate Joshua lived with his parents, Sarah 'Sallie' Farrar and Joshua Richard Goodwin Sr., and siblings in Jefferson County, Ala., in 1850 and 1860, and headed his own family, including his wife, Cynthia Matilda Glover, and two children there in 1870. They eventually had 10 children. Joshua died at age 65 in his native county and was buried there in Old Blue Creek Baptist Church Cemetery with a grave marker inscribed with the following: 'Joshua R. Goodwin 1840 1905 Pvt Co A 21 Rgt Ala Inf Confederate States Army.'
Horace Lawson Hunley, the submarine's chief designer, who lost his life testing his experimental metal contraption in Charleston Harbor on Oct. 15, 1863, and several other crew members are buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.
As a postscript, I mention two other relatives who served as soldiers during the 'Late Unpleasantness' also were laid to rest near Mr. Hunley in Magnolia Cemetery: Pvt. William H. Bramlette of the 6th Regiment South Carolina Cavalry Volunteers, a son of Nancy Childress and Larkin Bramblett, and Pvt. Reuben W. Burditt of the South Carolina State Troops, son of Janie Stone and Nathan Bramlett Burditt. Both soldiers died of disease in Charleston hospitals in the spring and autumn, respectively, of 1864 — the former before the Hunley arrived in town and the latter after it disappeared into the sea. Their war service is noted on their inscribed tombstones in the cemetery's Confederate Section.
Addendum from Deborah G. Dennis submitted 1/3/2011
The three soldiers featured in the above story and their parents all descend from distinguished old families of American Colonial and Revolutionary antecedents who lived in Virginia and South Carolina during the 18th century.
In fact, while Joshua Richard Goodwin Jr. of the Twenty-First Alabama Infantry was a native of Alabama and a conscripted Confederate soldier there when the CSS H. L. Hunley was being built in Mobile, his connection to South Carolina goes far beyond guarding and perhaps traveling with the “Fish Boat” in 1863 when it was shipped by rail to Charleston to join the Confederate service. Joshua’s other interesting connection to the Palmetto State involves close family ties to ancestors who were South Carolina natives. Joshua is the son of Sarah "Sallie" Farrar/Farrow and Joshua Richard Goodwin Sr. and a grandson of Nancy Bramlett and Theophilus Goodwin who were born in and married in South Carolina and later moved their families to Jefferson County, Alabama. Many of the Goodwin descendants later served as soldiers from that state and other places during the Civil War/War Between the States.
Note: I have not been able to document the parents of Nancy Bramlett Goodwin but believe she descends in some way from Henry Bramlett Sr. of Prince William (later Fauquier) County, Virginia.
Mr. Hunley and the submarine’s creators, developers and crew members, in addition to our relative Joshua Richard Goodwin and his fellow soldiers from the Twenty-First Alabama Regiment, all played a relatively small part in military operations of the vast dramatic panorama of the four-year war. Nevertheless, they all share a legacy and a larger role in history by contributing to the development of our national naval warfare. Their magnificent "Fish Boat" is distinctive in history for its amazing achievement as the first combat submarine in America and the world to sink an enemy warship.
Additionally, William H. Bramlette, the Confederate soldier who died of cholera in a Charleston hospital in 1864 during the war and is buried here in Magnolia Cemetery, also is a native of the Palmetto State. He is the son of Nancy Childress and Larkin Bramblet, also natives of South Carolina, and the grandson of Mary and Newton Bramlett of Virginia and Laurens County, South Carolina. Newton’s parents, Elizabeth and William Bramlett, who are also Private William H. Bramlette’s great-grandparents, moved to South Carolina from Fauquier County, Va., before the American Revolution. They settled in 1773 on a 300-acre royal William Bull land grant from King George III in Cravens District, now present-day Laurens County. Existing Land Memorials record William’s subsequent trips to Charleston to pay his annual taxes. A few of William and Elizabeth’s descendants served as soldiers during the American Revolution from South Carolina and many later served as soldiers from various states during the Civil War/War Between the States.
Reuben W. Burditt, the third Confederate soldier mentioned in the news story, who also died of disease in 1864 in a Charleston hospital and rests in peace here in Magnolia Cemetery, also is a native of South Carolina and has close extended family ties to the Palmetto State. He is the son of Janie Stone and Nathan Bramlett Burditt and the grandson of Elizabeth Bramlett and Reuben Frederick Burditt of Laurens County. His paternal great-grandparents, Marianne Bramlett and Frederick Burditt/Burdette, also moved from Virginia before the American Revolution to settle in Laurens County by 1775. At least fifteen of the latter couple’s descendants served as soldiers from the Palmetto State in the Civil War/War Between the States.
Revolutionary War Notes: Frederick Burditt/Burdette, believed to be a native of Amsterdam, and his brother-in-law Henry Bramlett III both served as soldiers in the Revolution from South Carolina. Henry Bramlett III’s brother Reuben, my direct ancestor, who also served in the Revolution but from Fauquier County, Va., was stationed at a fort on the Indian Line in the Upstate of South Carolina during his second tour of duty before returning to Virginia. He later married Elizabeth Brown and moved his family to Laurens County where two or three of his children were born. They then moved on to Kentucky and settled in 1818 in southern Illinois where he applied for and received a pension based on his war service in 1832 and later died in 1844.