Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Death of John Baker Thompson, brother of Caroline, Eleanor, and Alice (Carter) Thompson, All Married to Carroll men

Historical Background: John Baker Thompson was born on April 6, 1836 at Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Judge Lucas Powell Thompson and his wife, Susan Caroline Tapscott. A young man of singular brilliance, he was accepted into the University at age 16 and two years later had earned the degree of master of arts, with specialities in Mathematics, German, and Spanish. After graduation, he taught at the Baptist Female Institute in Charlottesville then was made Professor of Mathematics at Kenyon College, Ohio before being elected president of St. John's College in Little Rock, Arkansas, a college established by the Freemasons in 1850. In June 1858, he married Alice Powers, but she died shortly after the couple moved to Arkansas. Like his father, Judge Thompson, he opposed disunion, but when Virginia left the Union, he resigned as president and offered his services to the state of Virginia. "I was opposed to secession," he explained to one who reproached him for inconsistancy, "but when it comes to a fight, every man must 'shinny on his own side.' He raised a company recruited from the boys of his college, age 14 to 19, and entered the Confederate Army as a major. By the time the Battle of Shiloh took place on April 6-7, 1862, Thompson had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the First Arkansas Infantry. After Thompson's death, J. W. Colquitt became lieutenant-colonel and the regiment came to be known as Colquitt's Arkansas Infantry. Thompson was killed leading a charge upon a fortified Union position. He was buried on the field of battle, and his remains were removed after the war with those of his wife to the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, where his inscription reads: "Lt.-Col. John Baker Thompson, First ARkansas Regiment, fell while gallantly contesting the field of Shiloh. 'He giveth his beloved sleep.'"

His obituary appeared in the Richmond Dispatch: "John Baker Thompson, son of Judge Lucas Powell Thompson, of Staunton, Va., and lietuenant-colonel of the First Arkansas Regiment, fell while gallantly contesting the field of Shiloh. A nobler sacrifice has not been laid on Freedom's altar."

For the Spectator

Tribute of Respect

To the memory of Lieutenant Colonel John Baker Thompson, who fell at the battle of Shiloh, pierced by seven bullets.

He died a martyr in a sacred cause,

He fell an earl victim in the strife—

He lov’d his country and revered her laws,

And on her altar offered up his life:

If his proud form has perish’d on the Plain,

This truth survives, he did not live in vain.

A braver Leader never led a band—

A truer spirit never grasp’d a Blad;

His lofty soul was cradled to command,

His followers loved him, trusted & obeyed:

The envious Fate who snatch’d him to the skies,

To Freedom gave her noblest sacrifice.

When raged the conflict at its fiercest height—

Where thickest flew the deadly shot & shell:

There press’d he—first and foremost in the fight,

“Forward,” “Forward,” was his expiring cry

His soldiers heard, and rushed to Victory.

A Scipio’s spirit burned within his breast,

A great ambition guiltless of a crime;

The fire of genius his ev’ry look express’d

But genius temper’d by a Faith sublime:

The simple faith of Christ—that type of beauty,

Which makes it sweet to die, when death’s a duty.

He answered the first tap of the drum,

And drew his sword, a ready volunteer:

The peace and comforts of a happy home

He gladly gave and sought the ranks of war:--

Brief were his days—but bright and full of glory,

And sweet the moral of his simple story.

Death reaped a bloody harvest at Shiloh,

And thousands sank before his fatal scythe;

And though dismay did spread among the foe,

Success was bought with many a briny eye;

Amid the general joy and exultation,

To countless hearts it carried desolation.

Such is the fate of war and such the price

At which we purchase Freedom’s precious boon;

The young, the brave, must prove the sacrifice,

And leave to others what their valor won:

But better far a soldier’s faithful grave,

Than t’live a century and be a slave.

So thought the youthful Hero whom we mourn,

For honor was an instinct of his soul;

His country’s wrongs he freely made his own,

And in her cause Death seemed a welcome goal:

Where fell the bravest in that bloody fight,

His form was bowed—his spirit wing’d its flight.

‘Tis sweet to drop the honest tear of grief

Upon the coffin-lid of one we love;

‘Tis sweet to know that sorrow feels relief

In tears, for friends whose Faith is fixed above:

And when the Christian soldier nobly dies,

‘Tis sweet to hope he lives beyond the skies.

And He, the young, the gifted, and the true,

Whose mortal sun hath early set in blood,

Has won e’er now his bright reward—how due!

And dwells in peace among the just and good:

A proud example hath he left on earth

Of Christian virtues and manly worth.

Adieu, my Friend! Though never more we meet

There is an aching heart will feel for thee—

And sadden when the war drums cease to beat,

That though saw’st not thy bleeding Country fee:

But yet ‘twill soothe him when such memories pain

To feel this truth—thou didn’st not live in vain.

Staunton, Va. Jan. 20, 1863 ISLE-HAM

Published in the Staunton Spectator and General Record, January 27, 1862, p. 1.

(Note: Though the author is not identified , Isleham is a village in the county of Cambridge, England.)



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