John Alfred Lax 1840-?
What happened to my 2nd great-grandfather through my Dad’s maternal side?
Family lore version 1:
Around 1873 John Alfred left his wife and children to search for his brothers children, supposedly taken in the Orphan Train. He never returned. I am not sure the timeline on this works. Needs more research. Can we find anything about the children he may have gone search for? Maybe there are DNA connections there we could use?
Family lore version 2:
Around 1873 John Alfred left his family to follow another woman to the Indian Territories, and never returned. Rumor has it that he left (possibly) with the Gulledge family. This also needs more research. Dad found this the most valid scenario.
Both these stories have merit. Possibly a little of each is true. His true motives for leaving are a mystery. With modern eyes it is easy to think that his time as a soldier in the Civil War war affected him so greatly that he chose to leave. PTSD or other issues? Or maybe he was madly in love with another woman? Or maybe he genuinely wanted to find his lost nieces and nephews? Or maybe he just didn’t like being a farmer and decided to seek his fortune elsewhere? His death and burial dates would shed some light on where he ended up but are (currently) unknown.
My Dad tried many years to solve the mystery of where he went and why. I am hoping with all the new online search tools I will have better luck solving the mystery. Researching this time period on the internet can lead you to sites with political views of all kinds. My research is specifically for locating and understanding family history and not for making any kind of statement. I have tried to provide research links that are fact based and useful and that do not push an agenda.
This post deals with the time period of 1861 to 1865. Many years before he disappeared, but the events of that period feel very relevant to who he was and why he may have acted as he did later. I like a nice timeline so one of the first things I did was try to map out all the places he was stationed or fought during the war. I also plotted all those locations on a map to think about the logistics.
My source material on the 46th Infantry Regiment is from various internet sources that I am trying to cross-reference. Source material and links will be updated as I go. The timeline and mapping of where he was made me realize how amazing it was that he survived given the statistics in the Regiment, especially after Atlanta. A trip to the Archives to research his unit is definitely in order.
Timeline & Notes
Need to find photos/paintings of some of the locations were he fought/camped
Dates below where I have muster rolls and John is specifically mentioned are in bold. Other dates pertain to the movement of the 46th which was the unit most men from Henry County Tennessee served within and that I am tracking for other family connections. (Future post on Shiloh) Many questions remain, but hoping that additional research will help clarify.
- 12 April 1861 War begins
- November 1861 46th Infantry Regiment completed its organization at Paris, Tennessee
- 29 November 1861 John Alfred enters service as a Private in Company A of 46 Reg Tennessee Infantry under Col. Dawson
- 16 December 1861 46th Regiment went into camp at Union City. Later it moved to Island No. 10 where many of its members suffered from an outbreak of measles
- 22 January 1862 Bombardment of Fort Henry, Tennessee by USS Lexington
- 6 February 1862 Surrender of Fort Henry, Tennessee
- 14 February 1862 Union ironclad gunboats attack Fort Donelson, Tennessee
- 28 February 8 April 1862 The Battle of New Madrid and Island No. 10
- 28 February 1862 The 46th was reported, not brigaded, in Major General John P. McCown’s command at Madrid Bend.
- 17 March 1862 the forces at Madrid Bend were reported as Stewart’s Battery, Hudson’s and Wheeler’s Cavalry Companies, 1st Alabama-Mississippi~Tennessee, 11th, 12th Arkansas, 1st Alabama, 40th, 46th, and 55th (Brown’s) Tennessee Infantry Regiments and Terry’s Arkansas Battalion. On the Kentucky shore were the 11th and 12th Arkansas, and 40th and 46th Tennessee Regiments.
- 1 April 1862 Brigadier General W. W. Mackall, who had just arrived at Madrid Bend to take command, reporting on the condition of his command, stated the 46th had only two companies armed, 400 present for duty, 160 armed. Also present were the 4th Arkansas Battalion, 11th Arkansas Regiment, 40th, and 55th Tennessee Infantry Regiments, and two companies of cavalry. General Mackall stated “One good regiment would be better than the force I have. It never had any discipline. It is disheartened and apathetic. So report my best officers.” Here at Island Number 10 and Madrid Bend, began an association between the 46th and 55th Tennessee Regiments which was to last throughout the war
- 4 April 1862 Federal ironclad gunboat runs the batteries at Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River
- 8 April 1862 The 46th, along with the other troops at this point was surrendered at Tiptonville. Many who were unarmed built rude rafts of logs and loose lumber, escaped across Reelfoot Lake, and returned to their homes. Some of them were rounded up and returned to the regiment after it was released on parole. The enlisted men from the 46th were sent to prison at Camp Douglas, Illinois, the officers to Johnson’s Island. Nine of the ten companies were captured. Was he captured at Island 10 and sent to Camp Douglas or was he one who escaped? Are there records for Camp Douglas? Prisoner exchange? Info on 46th from here although link is specific to company K and John was in A and F. Family search website info on the 46th
- 23 September 1862 The 46th regiment released/exchanged on parole at Vicksburg, Mississippi. It moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where it was reorganized. The unit is assigned to S.B. Maxey’s and later Quarles’ Brigade
- 26 October 1862 Major General Sterling Price, commanding the Army of the West, ordered “From General Maury’s Division: 49th/55th, 42nd, 53rd, 46th Tennessee Regiments, 9th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion, 1st Mississippi, 27th Alabama Infantry Regiments to report for duty at Meridian, Mississippi
- 7 January 1863 The 46th regiment moved to Port Hudson, Louisiana, where on January 7, 1863, it was reported in the forces commanded by Major General Frank Gardner, in Brigadier General Samuel B. Maxey’s Brigade, composed of the 42nd, 46th, 48th (Voorhies), 53rd Tennessee Regiments, and 9th Battalion consolidated under Colonel W. A. Quarles, Miles’ Legion, the 49th/50th Tennessee/7th Texas, 4th, 30th Louisiana Infantry Regiments, and three batteries. From this time on it remained in the same brigade with Colonel Quarles’ 42nd Tennessee Regiment, first in Maxey’s Brigade, and later in Quarles’ Brigade. See the history of the 42nd Tennessee Regiment for changes in brigade composition and assignments.While at Port Hudson, the 46th and 55th Tennessee Regiments were permanently consolidated into one field unit, although separate muster rolls were maintained. The 46th/55th was first commanded by Colonel A. I. Brown, of the 55th, and later by Colonel Robert A. Owens of the 46th
- 7 May 1863 46th Regiment left Port Hudson for Crystal Springs, Mississippi; thence to Jackson, Mississippi, and was with General Joseph E. Johnston in his campaign outside Vicksburg until the fall of that city on July 4, 1863. It fell back to Jackson, Mississippi; from there to Enterprise, Mississippi, where it was camped for about three weeks
- 14 May 1863 Engagement at Jackson, Mississippi
- 19 May 1863 First assault on Vicksburg, Mississippi
- 22 May 1863 Second assault on Vicksburg, Mississippi
- 4 July 1863 Confederates surrender Vicksburg, Mississippi. Making assumption here that after the prisoner exchange he was with the company for its time in Mississippi and Louisiana, and was present for all the battles.
- 30 August 1863 46th moved to Mobile, Alabama, and remained at Camp Cummings, near Mobile, until late in November, 1863, when it was ordered to join the Army of Tennessee near Chattanooga
- 24 October 1863 Company Muster Roll shows J A Lax in Camp Cummings near Mobile Alabama. Company A was consolidated with Company F
- 25 November 1863 46th arrives at Ringgold, Georgia, while the Battle of Missionary Ridge is in progress
- 27 November 1863 46th falls back to Dalton, Georgia
- 14 December 1863 46th/55th reported 959 effectives out of 270 present, 386 present and absent, with 230 arms
- 19 January 1864 From Dalton, the 46th was ordered back to Mobile; remained at Mobile until May 21
- 7 May 1864 Sherman begins his Atlanta campaign
- 21 May 1864 46th ordered back to the Army of Tennessee with Hood, joining that army at New Hope, Georgia. It was engaged in the daily marching and skirmishing of the Atlanta Campaign without suffering any heavy loss until the engagement on July 28 at Lickskillet Road. The 46th/55th contained 270 men and 230 arms in December, 1863, and lost sixty percent of the 250 engaged at Lickskillet Road on July 28, 1864
- 25 May 1864 Battle of New Hope Church, Georgia
- 11 June 1864 Skirmish at Pine Mountain, Georgia
- 22 June 1864 Battle of Kolb’s Farm (Culp’s Farm), Georgia
- 27 June 1864 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia
- 20 July 1864 Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia
- 22 July 1864 Battle of Atlanta, Georgia— This is possibly the battle where John deserted? Possibly surrendered or was captured? (This battle was fought near our Kirkwood house in Atlanta where we lived 8 years. I went on a Battle of Atlanta walking tour a few years ago, but didn’t realize I had a relative in the battle. Need to dig into local records about battles in this area.)
- 26 July 1864 J A Lax listed as a deserter from the enemy received by Wm. W. Wright Lieut. Comdg at the Military Prison in Chattanooga, TN. Dates are confusing. Says he deserted in Atlanta and listed as a Private. Was received on July 26, deserted on Aug 12, oath administered on Aug 26. Based on dates he would have deserted prior to battle at Lickskillet Road. Service records on www.fold3.com. He is listed as a deserter, but was he an actual deserter or was he captured, administered the oath, and then considered a deserter? Or did he surrender?
- 28 July 1864 Battle at Lickskillet Road (Also called Battle of Ezra Church, Georgia). The 46th/55th lost about 150 men out of 250 engaged in about a half hour’s time. Here Lieutenant Colonel Wilson was wounded and captured. If John didn’t desert until Aug 12 then he would have been present for this battle in which most of his remaining until members were killed
- 31 August 1864 The 46th was not engaged at Jonesboro, but as part of Major General E. C. Walthall’s Division, it returned with General Hood to Tennessee. The 46th/55th, along with other troops, captured a blockhouse and a freight train loaded with grain at Big Shanty, Georgia, on this march back
- 1 September 1964 Confederates evacuate Atlanta, Georgia
- 4 September 1864 John A Lax appears as Deserter from Rebel Army in KY. Listed as a Sergeant. Told to stay north of the Ohio River for rest of war.
- 7 September 1864 Evacuation of Atlanta citizens ordered by Union General William T. Sherman
- 26 September 1864 J A Lax took Oath of Allegiance in Louisville KY. Sent from the Dept of the Cumberland to be released north of the Ohio River. Took from July to September for him to appear in Louisville. Where was he during that time? Would like info on transportation. If railways were destroyed at end of war, was he marched from Atlanta to Louisville? Or was he making his way home and then recaptured?
- 30 September 1864 The 46th was reported in Maney’s Brigade, in consolidation with the 34th Tennessee Infantry, but this was evidently a clerical error, for on the same date it was reported as the 46th/55th in Quarles’ Brigade, where it properly belonged
- May- September 1864 (Atlanta Campaign) It was reported that Companies D and E entered the Atlanta Campaign with 72 men but after the Battle of Nashville had only 1 officer and 2 men. The regiment was included in the surrender on April 26, 1865. Its commanders were Colonels John M. Clark, Jonathan S. Dawson, and R.A. Owens; Lieutenant Colonels John W. Johnson and Joseph D. Wilson; and Majors James S. Brown and Sylvester C. Cooper
- 15 November 1864 William T. Sherman departs Atlanta on the March to the Sea, leaving Atlanta in ruins
- 30 November 1864 The 46th was in the first line of assault troops at the Battle of Franklin, and suffered terrible loss. Here Major Cooper was wounded, and Edwin H. Rennolds, in his History of Henry County Commands, stated that Major Cooper told him the regiment went into battle with 125 men and came out with 25.
- 15 December 1864 Battle of Nashville, Tennessee begins. What was left of the 46th regiment took part in the Battle of Nashville, December 15, 1863, and, with Walthall’s Division, formed part of the rear guard for Hood’s Army on its retreat into Mississippi. Again quoting Rennolds “As an example of the depletion of the regiment during the campaign of 1864, it is related by Lieutenant M. V. B. Valentine that Companies “D” and “E” entered the campaign at New Hope, Georgia in May with 72 men, and came out of it at Nashville, in December, with only two men and one officer fit for duty”
- 31 March 1865 The 46th moved to North Carolina to join General Joseph E. Johnston, and participated in Bentonville, North Carolina. On March 31, 1865, in the order of battle for Johnston’s Army, the 46th was again listed in error in Palmer’s Brigade, and in the same report in Quarles’ Brigade, commanded by Captain Sol Jones, consisting of the lst/l7th/29th Alabama Regiments and the 42nd/46th/48th/ 49th/53rd/55th Tennessee Regiments with the Tennessee Regiments commanded by Captain Joseph Love
- 9 April 1865 Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House
- 9 April 1865 The Tennessee Regiments in Quarles’ Brigade were not accounted for in the final reorganization of Johnston’s Army on April 9, 1865, but a comparison of the names on the muster rolls shows that the remnant of the 46th Regiment was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina May 1, 1865 as part of the Fourth Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Anderson Searcy
- 29 May 1865 President Andrew Johnson proclaims amnesty for most ex-Confederates