Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Paroled at Vicksburg

Posted in Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on July 5, 2010

Sunday marked the 147th anniversary of the end of the siege of Vicksburg. One of the Confederate soldiers taken prisoner that day was 26-year-old William C. Denman (1836-1906), a private in Company B, 30th Alabama Infantry. William Denman grew up with four younger siblings in Calhoun County, Alabama, where his widower father, Blake Denman, was a well-to-do farmer. The elder Denman was a slaveholder. William enlisted in the 30th Alabama on March 5, 1862. The regiment served in the western theater and, as part of S. D. Lee’s Brigade, saw action in several skirmishes. It suffered heavy casualties at Champion’s Hill (May 16, 1863), where it suffered 229 killed, wounded and missing — roughly half its numbers. Retreating in the face of Union General Grant’s army, Confederate forces including the 30th Alabama withdrew into Vicksburg, where they were quickly trapped between the Federal army to the east and the Federal Navy on the Mississippi. As part of S. D. Lee’s brigade, the 30th Alabama was assigned the defense of the Railroad Redoubt, one of the strong points in the Vicksburg defenses. The fort was overrun in a bloody assault on May 22, but eventually recaptured after Confederate troops regrouped and counterattacked.

After a hard siege lasting several weeks, the Confederate general commanding at Vicksburg, John C. Pembeton, surrendered his force to Grant on July 4. Private Denman, along with about 18,000 other Confederate soldiers, was paroled a few days later.Grant described this process in his memoir:

Pemberton and his army were kept in Vicksburg until the whole could be paroled. The paroles were in duplicate, by organization (one copy for each, Federals and Confederates), and signed by the commanding officers of the companies or regiments. Duplicates were also made for each soldier and signed by each individually, one to be retained by the soldier signing and one to be retained by us. Several hundred refused to sign their paroles, preferring to be sent to the North as prisoners to being sent back to fight again. Others again kept out of the way, hoping to escape either alternative. . . .

As soon as our troops took possession of the city guards were established along the whole line of parapet, from the river above to the river below. The prisoners were allowed to occupy their old camps behind the intrenchments. No restraint was put upon them, except by their own commanders. They were rationed about as our own men, and from our supplies. The men of the two armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same cause. When they passed out of the works they had so long and so gallantly defended, between lines of their late antagonists, not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give pain. Really, I believe there was a feeling of sadness just then in the breasts of most of the Union soldiers at seeing the dejection of their late antagonists.

The 30th Alabama, like several other surrendered units from Vicksburg, was reorganized a short while later, and it appears that Denman continued with this reconstituted regiment. (The reorganization of these units using men who had been paroled became a subject of dispute between Union and Confederate forces, which the following year caused the Union to suspend almost all parole for captured Confederate soldiers.) In January 1864, Denman transferred to a cavalry regiment, in which he remained to the end of the war.

After the war Denman married Sarah Crankfield (1847-1932), of South Carolina. They lived in Alabama and Louisiana before settling in Marion County, Florida in 1875. There they farmed and, in their later years, operated a boarding house. They had ten children together, but only two survived to adulthood. In 1900 Denman applied for a pension based on injuries received in the war, claiming he was “incapacitated for manual labor” as a result of eating pea bread, an ersatz bread made of ground stock peas and cornmeal, during the siege of Vicksburg. It resulted, Denman claimed, in chronic gastritis and bilious dyspepsia. He died in 1906.


21 Responses

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  1. Tim from Alabama said, on July 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Just happened upon this thread while being limited by this mobile site and apparent email prompt limitations also.

    My yahoo address is a tribute to a former member of the 30th. My father’s mother’s mother was the daughter of a member of the that regiment in Vicksburg.

    He was born in Fayette County and died in Tallapoosa County in 1912 of tuberculosis. I have a picture of him seated in a chair as an old man with his son and others standing with their hand on his shoulder behind him.

    I have seen an original document confirming his history of which I now own a copy. The original having been promised to an aunt by my grandmother prior to her passing. There are also military records in the library archives confirming it.

    A record of his signed and witnessed parole form being most prominent.

    It is good to read more details of the movements of his unit prior to July 4. Champions Hill will be an interesting point of research for future study of the western army.

    His wife told my grandmother he was sitting at the dining room table when she heard the sound of metal bounce and roll on the hardwood floor. A wound had healed on his hip without having ever had the ball extracted. She was giving him a bath afterward and put her finger in the healed cavity created by the ball over the years. This is a true story. He also sat my grandmother on his knee as a child and told her a story about blood pudding. It seems they were determined not to waste any food. After slaughtering a cow they would wait for the blood to cool in the cold winter air and have pudding for desert.

    Pemberton seemed to be a favorite of Davis as Bragg was also. When Davis went to northwest Georgia to mediate the dispute between Bragg and his high command he seemed to try to get Pemberton a field command but failed to do so. Longstreet might have taken Chattanooga before Grant could reenforce it, in my opinion. Forrest would have no doubt been “all in” on such an endeavor by Old Pete.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 2, 2011 at 9:30 am

      William C. Denman, profiled here, was my g-g-grandfather.

      • Pam Kincaid said, on September 4, 2011 at 9:49 am

        Andy, I am connected to William C Denman through his sister Sabra who married James Harvey Murphy who was killed at the battle of New Hope Church. Sabra and her children lived close enough to hear the cannons. I would like to share info and would like to know what other history you have on Blake.

        • Andy Hall said, on September 4, 2011 at 10:35 am

          Pam, thanks for inquiring. William C. Denman was my g-g-grandfather. I’m afraid I don’t have any knowledge of Sabra at all — his siblings that I’m aware of were Wilburn, John, Blake and Mary, all (as far as I know) half-siblings with Blake’s second wife. Sabra must have been a good bit older than William because (as I see now) she married Murphy in 1845, when William would have been seven. Good luck in your searches.

  2. Pam Kincaid said, on September 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    What name are you calling his second wife? All info we have is Neaty Sevier Elston who died in 1852.

  3. Debra Denman said, on December 7, 2011 at 8:21 am

    William C. Denman is my gg-grandfather through his son, Vernon Winters Denman, & grandson, Leon C. Denman. My father used to take me over to visit their old place in Flemington, Florida, where William & Sallie are buried along with a couple of other family members (Willie D[enman] Brown, age 20 at death; & an infant daughter of Lillie V. & Isaiah Cranfield Denman). The land there was still very rural, back when I was a young girl.

    • Andy Hall said, on December 7, 2011 at 8:43 am

      Ms. Denman:

      Thanks for your comment. William C. Denman is my g-g-grandfather, too, by way of his daughter, Septa Pauline Denman, and her son, Henry Theron Hall. I didn’t know about Vernon. I hope to visit that area some day.

      • Debra Denman said, on December 7, 2011 at 9:52 am

        Glad to meet you; Dad also used to show me the store in Lowell, Florida, where I believe Septa & her husband did business long ago? My apologies however, Vernon is actually William & Sallie’s ~grandson~ (his father was Isaiah Cranfield Denman). Shirley & Forest were Vernon’s siblings.

    • Terri Tidwell Downing said, on August 10, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      Debra, I’m so glad to meet you! William C. Denman is also my g-g-grandfather through his son, Isaiah Cranfield Denman and his granddaughter, Shirley Virginia Denman. Vernon was her older brother. She married and one of her sons, William Tidwell, is my dad. He took me to that cemetery when I was much younger. I remember back in the 1970s it was still really rural. I kind of remember two frame houses and we had to ask permission from one of the houses before we went out back to the cemetery. Also, Thank you for the info on the Sevier link to the family. I am so excited about the cool connections our family has to the past.

      • Debra Denman said, on August 11, 2016 at 6:05 pm

        Awesome to think other family members were and continue to be interested in Denman history too. The Mixson family published photos of the cemetery, and I’m told it is now property of a Flemington church. Our g-grandparents, Lillie V. and Isaiah C. Denman are buried at Millwood cemetery in Reddick, FL (Vernon too).

        I found this old newspaper clipping, along with several others, with little tidbits of family history:
        Elizabeth (Denman) Stokes Brooks (born in Habersham county, GA), and B. H. Denman of Jacksonville, Alabama, are certainly siblings or cousins of Wm. C. — Blake and Neaty are buried in Jacksonville AL.

        Septa, Sallie, Isaiah (“Isaac” or I. C.), Forest, and Vernon, along with other family members, are mentioned frequently in the old issues of Ocala Banner and Ocala Evening Star. All good reading.

        One person I’ve had trouble finding information on, is Willie D(enman) Brown, age 20 at time of death. Her marker appears to be a memorial. She was probably named after William, and I think may have been his daughter.

        • Terri Tidwell Downing said, on August 12, 2016 at 3:44 pm

          Debra, thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to look at the newspaper clippings over the next few days! You probably know this already, but I found the Cely Rath family tree on, and it has all of our family on it. It does list a W.M. Denman (b. 1882) as William C.’s daughter. I’ve just started to explore that family tree, and I found the Sevier connection you spoke about on it. I can’t remember exactly where I saw it, but I saw some Virginia Randolphs and Eppes on that family tree. I’m thinking that could be some kind of a Thomas Jefferson connection. It is so fascinating!

          Here’s a question for you: Did you ever hear of a Pocahontas connection? My grandmother, Shirley Denman, used to tell us that we were direct descendants of Pocahontas. Have you heard about that connection? I know Pocahontas married John Rolfe and she died in England when their son, Thomas, was still a baby.

          My grandma’s and your grandfather’s cousin, Amy Hall, had done a lot of research. I had a copy of it years and years ago, but I can’t locate it now. I remember that she had researched back to a Rolfe who I think was a Lieutenant in the American Revolution. Does that sound familiar to you?

          My grandmother moved to Tampa sometime prior to 1938 when she married, and that’s where my dad and I were raised, but I am now living in North Carolina. Are you still in the Ocala area?

          • jeff ward said, on August 14, 2016 at 7:01 pm

            The group of Pochantas descendants were quite small. None were named Rolfe. Most were Bollings.

            • Terri Tidwell Downing said, on August 21, 2016 at 7:12 am

              Jeff, you are right. I’m finding lots of Bollings, but there are other names that are in the family tree. It might take me a while to find a connection, if there is one!

          • Debra Denman said, on August 15, 2016 at 10:31 am

            Hi Terri, yes it’s a small world and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were related to Pocahontas, perhaps through the Tidwell family? I have Cherokee on my maternal side but have often wondered if some Indian blood didn’t somehow sneak in through the paternal lineage too. If so, I haven’t discovered it yet.

            Cely is my youngest daughter, and she’s been doing her own independent research after I sparked her interest. I maintain a family tree on Geni (I think it’s public, but I’ll check to be sure). I have a lot on there, but I know it needs some correcting and updating. I also have a tree on Family which I’m sure is in equal need of sprucing up. I haven’t worked on it in quite a while, although not due to disinterest (just busy, etc.).

            My father’s sister, Pat Barker (Patricia Kay Denman), did her own research too. She was the first person who told me about Wm. C. If your grandmother Shirley was living in Tampa, that must have been where Dad took me to meet her. I spent 20 years living and raising my children in Wyoming, but recently came back to Ocala to be near my mother and the rest of the family. This is home, and I really love it.

            With ‘public’ records so difficult to find and often costly to see, genealogy can get a little frustrating sometimes. But I am pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve been able to discover about our family history, without going broke. 🙂

            • Terri Tidwell Downing said, on August 21, 2016 at 7:37 am

              Debra, I’m trying to find a Pocahontas link, but I’m not sure what side it’s on. My grandmother, Shirley, would tell us that we were direct descendants, but she was known to have gotten things a bit mixed up, sometimes. If I find the connection, I’ll let you know. What I’ve found so far shows some of the same surnames in Cely’s family tree, but I haven’t found the connection yet. By the way, Cely did an A+ job on the family tree!

              I haven’t had time to check out the other family trees yet…The school year is about to begin, and I have been working in my classroom. I have been trying to find images of the original military records for both William C. and John Elston Denman for a project for my fourth graders, but it looks like my only option is to use Fold3. Have you used it before?

              I met your Aunt Pat before I left Florida, but it was many years ago. I’m going to say it again – it’s a small world! I can’t believe you lived in Wyoming! Where did you live? I lived in Worland from 1989-1994. My husband was born and raised there, and our daughter was born in Thermopolis! His two sisters live in Casper, and we were back a few weeks ago for a visit.

              I’m having a great time, doing the research! I’m definitely a history geek, and just love finding out about my family! Have a great day!

  4. Debra Denman said, on December 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Andy, one more thing which I learned fairly recently: Did you know that our gg-grandfather, William C. Denman, was the gg-grandson of Revolutionary Colonel and later General, John Sevier (also first Governor of Tennessee)? It seems that Blake Denman Sr.’s wife, Neaty Elston, was Sevier’s g-granddaughter. (I believe Blake and Neaty are buried in Alabama.)

    Neaty was descended from Sevier’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth Hawkins Sevier, who married William H. Clark. Their daughter, Elizabeth Clark, then married John Elston.

    Also, maybe you already know that Blake Sr.’s father, James Denman, was also a Revolutionary War veteran. I believe his father, Daniel Denman was also somehow involved in that war; both of them, although from New Jersey, fought in Georgia against the British, where James later obtained land through the post-war lottery.

    Here’s something else of interest: The property in New Jersey where Daniel and James were born, provided at least some of the wood which was used to build the great Navy ship, US CONSTITUTION (aka “Old Ironsides”), which helped to defeat the British during the War of 1812.

    Click to access pg_0022.pdf

    John Denman, the man who homesteaded that 100 acres in NJ, was William C. Denman’s direct paternal ancestor. I believe it was his sons, particularly Christopher, who sold or donated the wood for the Navy warship. By then, Daniel and James were already in Georgia to stay.

    Our most distant American Denman ancestor, John Denman, at age 14 sailed from England to Boston on the ship, Dorset (Capt. John Flower), in 1635, with his twice-widowed mother, Judith Stoughton Denman Smead (the Stoughtons are very prominent in early Massachussetts history), his younger sister Mary (who married Maxfield Clement in Salem Colony, Mass), and half-brother, William Smead. John later married Sarah Hollander in Long Island (or maybe Staten Island) NY, and was the grandfather of the New Jersey John Denman.

    The Denmans also once had property on Long Island, NY (which was at the time called New Netherlands), which they sold to the Hallett family before relocating to NJ. Daniel Denman married Deborah Scudder. His mother was Mary Elizabeth Williams (of Welsh descent); and his grandmother was Mary Gano (a French Huguenot).

  5. Jeff Ward said, on March 23, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    The conventional historical explanation of the suspension of paroles by the Union is that paroles stopped because the Confederacy refused to parole African American prisoners. That was no doubt a factor, but the large number of Confederates captured and paroled at Vicksburg who rejoined reconstituted units no doubt played a major role in the decision by the union to cancel paroles. Many of the parolees from Vicksburg were made prisoners again during the Atlanta campaign and spent the rest of the war,in places like the Union prison at Camp Douglas in Chicago.

  6. Terri Tidwell Downing said, on August 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Andy and Debra, thank you for posting! This has given me a great jumping off point for research. My g-g-grandfather is also W.C. Denman. His son, isaiah Cranfield Denman, married Lillie Virginia Bassett. Their daughter, Shirley Virginia Denman, is my grandmother. (Her older brothers were Vernon and Forrest.) She married Seaburn Robinson Tidwell and had three boys: Bobby Forrest, William Seaburn (my dad) and Virgil Wesley Tidwell. Can you tell me – Is John C. Denman the brother of W. C. Denman? I have found John C. Denman as part of the 5th Battalion. His unit was at Gettysburg. He was reported missing on July 3rd. His unit was assigned the task of cleaning the union soldiers off Cemetery Ridge and then they were part of Pickett’s Charge on July 3. Is he W. C.’s brother?

    • Debra Denman said, on August 11, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      I’m so excited to meet you Terri. My father often spoke kindly of his “aunt Shirley”, and might have taken me over to meet her once or twice, in Ocala (if I remember correctly). Perhaps Andy can answer your questions about John C. Denman, as I’m not sure. Census records would be a good place to check. I’ve seen a few of them including ones listing Blake and Neaty (Wm. C.’s parents), but can’t remember all the siblings, etc.

      The National Park Service keeps a log of soldiers, too.

      Since John C. Elston was Neaty’s father (Wm. C.’s maternal grandfather), it’s possible one of his siblings was named after their ancestor.

      I think this makes us first cousins.

      • Jeff Ward said, on August 11, 2016 at 6:31 pm

        The historical reason cited for the discontinuation of prisoner exchanges was the reluctace of the South to exchange northern black prisoners for southern prisoners. A more practical and more likeky scenario is that the North tired of southern prisoners who swore an oath not to take arms agaisnt the United States who later took up arms and were captured a second time. I am referring specifically to men who were captured at the fall of Vicksburg in July of 1863 and paroled who were captured again in 1864 in the Union drive toward Atlanta.

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