A Federal Pursuit Of A Rebel Continues 25 Years After the Civil War

On July 4th, 1864, the Battle of Ruff’s Mill took place during Johnston’s retreat from Kennesaw Mountain. This little-known battle was brief, but intense, resulting in over 140 Union casualties and an unreported number of Confederates. 25 years later, some interesting events took place related to one of these wounded. In late October of 1889, the editor of the Marietta Journal received a letter from a nostalgic Ohian, Thomas E. Scroggy, and published it on November 7th, under the heading “A Federal in Search Of A Rebel”:

A Federal in Search Of A Rebel

Xenia, Ohio, Oct 26th, 1889. Ed. Journal.

In 1861, I enlisted in the 39th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On the 4th of July, 1864, in an assault made by our brigade on the Confederate works near Ruff’s Mill, on Nickajack creek, I was wounded and taken to the hospital at Marietta. I was shot through the right lung and reported “mortally wounded.” A few days after being taken to the hospital a young Confederate soldier was brought there and occupied a cot next to me. He had been shot through both feet and taken prisoner while on picket duty. My impression is that he belonged to a cavalry regiment. I think an Alabama regiment, at any rate his home was somewhere in Alabama.

He had an aunt then living in Marietta who had obtained authority to visit him. The first visit she made she brought such “dainties” as we seldom saw in those days. She tendered me a portion but I declined it, not on the ground that I was too feeble to partake of food, as she no doubt thought, but on the real ground that she was a rebel and I was, on that account, “suspicious” of her dainties. I had been educated an abolitionist. After her first visit, however, I became “reconciled.” Her tender sympathy led me to believe her to be a kind and noble hearted woman. I partook of the luxuries she brought and finally became warmly attached to both Confederate and his aunt. My friend and I, notwithstanding our suffering and pains, and differences of opinion, constructed many costly and valuable castles (in the air); planned elaborately for the future, and were to correspond with, and visit each other “when the cruel war was over.” I had his name and address.

Suddenly and unexpectedly to me I was removed from Marietta to Nashville. It was the intention, I believe, to take me home, but my condition was such that I could not stand the journey, and was taken to the hospital at Nashville, where my knapsack containing the name and address of the young Confederate, with all my trophies and keepsakes, was lost or stolen. Subsequently I was taken home where for nearly six months I was confined to my bed. The ordeal through which I had passed caused me to forget the name and address of my Confederate friend, as well as the name of his aunt in Marietta. I have never since been able to recall the name of either. They, no doubt, if living, think me dead. None of my friends thought it possible for me to recover.

I have often thought of making an effort to ascertain whether my Confederate friend or his aunt, is living, and where. But singular as it may seem I have neglected it until now. The young Confederate was then, I think, about 18 years of age; of medium size had, as I remember red hair. I know of no better method than the publication of this incident in your paper to obtain information concerning the persons herein referred to. Any information by which I may learn the name of my Confederate friend, and whether he is living and where, will be cordially received and duly appreciated.

Very respectfully,

Thomas E. Scroggy

Hospital Scene from 1864, Library of Congress

When published in the paper, this letter quickly got Marietta citizens on the case, and the mystery was solved by the following week when a follow-up article was published:

Last week we published a letter from Mr. Thomas E. Scroggy, an attorney of Xenia, Ohio, inquiring about a Confederate soldier who was wounded and occupied an adjoining cot in the hospital at Marietta, he being also wounded. He also referred to an aunt in Marietta who brought dainties, etc, which were shared by the Confederate soldier with his wounded Federal friend. We have ascertained that the Confederate soldier referred to was Albert Pilgrim, now dead, whose father lives near Cumming, Ga. The aunt who visited him was Mrs. W. B. Pilgrim, who still resides in Marietta.

Thomas Scroggy was no doubt disappointed to learn that his enemy-turned-friend (19th century frenemy?) had passed away, but was excited to hear that Mrs. W. B. Pilgrim, also known as Rebecca L. Pilgrim, was alive and well, probably still making delicious “dainties”. Thomas began making preparations to visit Marietta, and Ruff’s Mill where he was “mortally” wounded. The Marietta Journal records his return to the south four months later on March 13, 1890:

An Ohioan — Resurrects A Pleasant Incident Of The War.

Mr. T. E. Scroggy, a prominent lawyer of Zenia, Ohio, was in the city Saturday until Tuesday. During the war he was badly wounded and lay in a hospital, at Marietta, one of our churches being used for that purpose. In the hospital was a wounded Confederate soldier named Albert Pilgrim. A strong attachment sprung up between the two, and they promised to write to each other when the war ended if the recovered, which looked doubtful to both of them, as their wounds were of a serious nature. Mrs. W. B. Pilgrim, of this place, an aunt of the wounded Confederate, visited him every day carrying him some dainty morsel. She likewise gave the same attention to the Federal soldier. After these many years, Mr. Scroggy a few months ago published a letter in the Marietta Journal making enquiries about his wounded Confederate friend. This brought him a response from Mrs. W. B. Pilgrim, telling him of the existence of his friend. Mr. Scroggy’s visit to Georgia, with the Ohio excursionists last week, gave him the desired opportunity of meeting Mrs. Pilgrim and family, who were so kind to him when he was wounded. The meeting was very pleasant and will doubtless be cherished with the kindest of feelings

While in the city, Mr. Scroggy visited the battle grounds around Marietta, Kennesaw mountain and Concord. At the latter place, during the war, was where the murdeous minnie came near terminating his career. After a quarter of a century it was hard to locate the spot where he fell, but it is thought he identified the place.

Mr. Scroggy is a gentleman of culture and winning manners. Besides being a successful lawyer at home, he is president of a canning factory. During his visit to Georgia he made arrangements to establish a canning factory at Macon. He was delighted with our climate and well pleased with the cordial greeting given him by our people.

Thomas E. Scroggy, from the Library of Congress

Thomas Scroggy returned to Ohio and continued his law practice and cannery operations. I am not sure whether he ever opened up the cannery in Macon, but his legal career continued to blossom. He later became a judge, and was elected as a Republican to the 59th Congress. He retired in 1907 and returned to Ohio.

The “Biographical Congressional Directory with an Outline History of the National Congress, 1774-1911” offers the following biography of life of T. E. Scroggy:

Mr. Scroggy passed away on March 6, 1915, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Xenia, Ohio. If you have time for a quick read, the Greene County, Ohio Courthouse recently came across some historical documents detailing an encounter between our friend Mr. Scroggy and the town drunk of Xenia in 1885. You can read about this incident here: (https://www.co.greene.oh.us/Blog.aspx?IID=92).

Albert’s aunt, the gracious Rebecca L. Pilgrim, contributed to society in Marietta for most of the rest of her life. After her husband’s death in 1890, she resided with her daughters in Marietta. Mrs. Pilgrim was 93 years of age when she passed away in February, 1916, having just moved to West End following her daughter’s family.

The Marietta Journal and Courier interviewed Rebecca Pilgrim in 1910, and offered this further glimpse into her character in an article on March 4:

I cannot locate definitive information on Mr. Scroggy’s Confederate friend, Albert Pilgrim, to substantiate that he died from war wounds before 1889–and newspapers quite often get the facts backwards. I believe rather that he was still “in existence” as Rebecca’s letter indicated. There is an Albert Newton Pilgrim, veteran of the Civil War, who was 18 in 1864, from Cumming, Georgia. This Albert Pilgrim lived to the age of 80. The Find-a-grave website has photographs of his grave here, and his family’s application for this tombstone can be seen here. This Albert N. Pilgrim was reported to be captured on July 2, 1864 at Sweetwater Factory, which fits the necessary time frame perfectly. Could this be the same Albert Pilgrim?

There is also an Albert H Pilgrim recorded in Fayette County, Alabama in the 1850 census. He is 4 years of age, living with Hiram and Mary A Pilgrim. The family is in Nashoba county, Mississippi in the 1860 census. This Albert Pilgrim also survives the war, appearing on the 1870 and 1880 census. But I think the balance of evidence points to Albert Newton Pilgrim as our Confederate.

It is interesting to imagine the veteran from Ohio visiting his unlikely friend, the Aunt, and the battlefield of Ruff’s Mill in 1890, and finding the area so changed he hardly recognized anything. What would he think of the area today? Perhaps, though, he might still recognize some of the antebellum structures preserved today around the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District.

What do you think? If you have a comment on this article, or can contribute additional information, please let me know via the comment page.


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