The bursting of shells over Fort Sumpter in April, 1861, had signaled the start of the Great Rebellion. It was to be America’s greatest watershed event, the Civil War. The North had awakened suddenly to the realization that war was a certainty. Throughout the land there had been a deep feeling of indignation at the traitors who were willing to ruin their country that slavery might be secure. The call to arms had been met with great enthusiasm. President Lincoln’s initial call for 75,000 men had soon been met. Many more calls were to follow, eventually totaling over 1.5 million Northern or Union men. And opposing them were over 1 million southern Confederate forces.
Appanoose County had at that time less than 12,000 inhabitants. With a population mainly devoted to agriculture, they knew nothing of war except by history and tradition. The response had been prompt from all parts of the state, and from none more hearty than from Appanoose County. The patriotic county had poured forth for its country’s services a continuous procession of volunteers.
In all nearly 1,200 enlistments were credited to Appanoose County, or about 10 percent of the population and 30 percent of the voting strength. The cost to Appanoose County had been staggering indeed. And after three years of war, the losses had been great. Now it was the spring of 1864.
The first company raised had been Company D, Sixth Infantry Regiment in 1861 with 112 men from Appanoose County under the leadership of their Centerville schoolmaster, Madison Matthew Walden. Already there had been many killed, wounded or disabled at the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Corinth, Miss., Gen. Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign and the siege and battle of Vicksburg in 1863. They had gone on to fight at Chattanooga, Tenn. and Ringgold, Ga. and the Battle of Missionary Ridge in Tennessee late in 1863. By the spring of 1864, those remaining were prepared to participate in Gen. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign and march through Georgia. Capt. Walden had been disabled by a lung hemorrhage.