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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

491 Days

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Civil War enthusiasts, especially rare book collectors, know that William Williston Heartsill's Fourteen Hundred And Ninety-One Days In The Confederate Army is among the rarest and most valuable reminiscences of the era. This is true because of Heartsill's accuracy and insight and also because of the way the book was presented.

Heartsill was born in Louisville, Tennessee, in 1839, and later operated as a traveling salesman for a wholesale merchandising firm throughout Tennessee until he moved to Marshall, Texas, in 1859, to become a clerk in a store. He enlisted in Company A, Second Texas Cavalry when the Civil War began and served under legendary leaders Walter Paye Lane and John Selden "RIP" Ford on the frontier and in Arkansas until captured in January 1863.

Heartsill was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Camp Butler, Illinois, until exchanged three months later, when he was enrolled in a company assigned to a Confederate army commanded by General Braxton Bragg.

After participating in the successful Battle of Chickamauga, fought in northwestern Georgia near the Tennessee border, Heartsill left Bragg's command to rejoin the Second Cavalry in Texas. Among other duties, Heartsill guarded Federal prisoners-of-war at Camp Ford, the largest such facility in the Confederacy located west of the Mississippi River.

When the war ended, Heartsill returned to Marshall and opened a store to sell groceries and leather goods. When not busy with store work, between 1874 and 1876 Heartsill printed his wartime journals, a single page at a time, and pasted in illustrations, again, one page and one copy at a time. When he completed the project, Heartsill vowed never to repeat it.

Needless to say, original copies of Fourteen Hundred And Ninety-One Days In The Confederate Army, few in number from the beginning, remain rare and constantly increase in value among collectors. Even copies of a reprint, edited by Bell I. Wiley and issued in 1954, sell for several hundred dollars when available.

Heartsill served as an alderman and mayor of Marshall and also as an officer of the Marshall and Northwestern Railway Company. He died in 1916 and is buried in Marshall.
© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
>
April 9, 2007 column
A syndicated column in 70 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.

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This page last modified: April 9, 2007