An Alabama Farmer Goes to War Members of the Independent Blues of Selma, Alabama, later known as Company D of the 8th Alabama. Alabama Department of Archives and History.

William H. P. Ivey was born in 1841 to a white, lower-middle class family in Georgia. His father, Henry, was from South Carolina and his mother, Mary, was from North Carolina. William was the middle child and had an older sister, Milly, and a younger brother, Hinton. At some point after the birth of Hinton, the Ivey family moved from Georgia to Alabama. According to the 1860 census, the Iveys lived in Radfordsville, Alabama. Radfordsville had a population of approximately 1,100, almost half of which were enslaved. Mainly home to small farmers, Radfordsville did contain a few large plantations. At the age of 19, William still lived at home and, according to the census, worked as a laborer. Most likely, William would have worked for his father, who was a farmer, and potentially helped out neighbors on adjoining farms. His father, Henry, did not own any slaves, but rather relied on the labor of his two sons. However, like most lower to middle class white families in the South, the Iveys would have aspired to become slave owners. Slaves were a status symbol and producer of wealth, which elevated the owner to a higher socio-political stature as well. Despite the fact that the majority of southerners did not personally own slaves, many were connected in some way, through family or friendship, to a slaveholding family. Southern whites supported the “peculiar institution” for a host of additional reasons: It elevated the labor and social status of even the poorest whites, as slavery ensured the preservation of white supremacy; it provided valuable labor to poorer whites through the “hiring out” system; and it ensured that black men would be “safely supervised” so as not to intermingle inappropriately with white women. Essentially, slavery formed the social, political, economic, and cultural foundations upon which the entire Confederacy rested—a fact of which all of the Iveys would have been keenly aware.

After the firing on Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861, William Ivey, now 20 years old, was quick to volunteer his services to the newly formed Confederate States of America. Ivey joined the 8th Alabama on May 8, 1861 in Marion, Alabama. The 8th Alabama was officially mustered into Confederate service on May 21, 1861 in Montgomery, where William’s younger brother, Hinton, also joined the regiment. Both William and Hinton were mustered in as privates. At the time of enlistment, Hinton was only 16 years old. The tightly knit Ivey brothers were quick to join the Confederate cause both because they wanted to protect their family from Yankee invaders and to protect their family’s stake in the institution of slavery. Also, they probably thought the war was going to be a fun adventure that they did not want to miss out on it. Going to war would have also proved that the Ivey brothers were honorable men, not willing to back down in the face of the enemy. With both of his sons off to war, Henry was left to tend the farm by himself. This void in labor certainly took a physical toll on Henry, but he would have had the help of his wife and daughter, as well as friends and neighbors, or even a few hired-out slaves. The Ivey brothers likely reassured their family that they would only be gone a short while because they believed, like most others did, that the war was going to end quickly.

The 8th Alabama had the distinction of being the first regiment mustered into Confederate service for the duration of the war. On June 10, 1861, the regiment arrived in Richmond, Virginia from Montgomery under the command of Colonel John Anthony Winston. The trip to Richmond was likely the first time the Ivey brothers were a long distance from home and their first time in a large city. They were probably homesick, but in awe of such a large and cosmopolitan city. With Henry staying on the farm, Ivey became the father figure and likely felt the need to protect his little brother from not only the vices of city and camp life, but also from the Yankees. Just three days after their arrival in Richmond, the 8th Alabama was sent to Yorktown, Virginia and assigned to the fifth brigade of the Army of the Peninsula, an army then commanded by Major General John B. Magruder. There, the regiment performed various guard duties and were drilled endlessly in the tactics of marching and fighting. The monotony of these early-war training days surely wore on the Iveys, who likely had far different and more romantic expectations of soldier life. It would not be until the fighting at Yorktown the next spring that William and his comrades would receive their baptism of fire.

Lasting from April 5th through May 3rd, 1862, the Siege of Yorktown was the beginning of Union General George McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. During this campaign, McClellan attempted to take Richmond from the south and east by marching straight up the Virginia peninsula rather than marching south from Washington, D.C., as his predecessors had attempted. Though an ultimate Confederate rout, the Siege of Yorktown provided the men with valuable fighting experience as well as an exercise in mental composure under fire, which would serve them well in future battles, such as Gaines’ Mill, Antietam, and Gettysburg.

On May 3rd, the 8th Alabama joined the main Confederate Army, which was now under the command of General Joseph Johnston, on a retreat up the Peninsula to Williamsburg, Virginia. The Confederates planned to make a stand at Williamsburg and stave off their Union foe from pursuing them further northward toward the Confederate capital. In the battle that ensued on May 5th and 6th, the 8th Alabama sustained its first casualties. Among those 100 casualties was William Ivey himself. Ivey was reportedly shot in the groin during the battle and was left on the battlefield, as the advancing Union forces did not allow the 8th Alabama time to recover Ivey from the fray. This was undoubtedly a traumatizing experience for Ivey as he lay on the battlefield, surrounded by enemy troops. He likely pondered his fate, and may have wondered if leaving small, comfortable Radfordsville and the family farm had been the right thing to do. Would he survive, let alone make it back home to his family? He likely also worried about Hinton, who, unbeknownst to him, survived the battle unscarred.

Captured on May 5th by Union forces, William was admitted to the Mill Creek U.S.A. General Hospital, near Fort Monroe, Virginia, on May 11th. Prior to his admission to the Mill Creek General Hospital, Ivey would have likely been cared for in a crude field hospital at Williamsburg. On June 16th, 1862, Ivey was transferred from the Mill Creek facility to the Chesapeake U.S.A. General Hospital, which was also located in the Fort Monroe area. Ivey’s hospital experiences doubtless tried both his physical and mental stamina. Writhing in pain and in uncertainty over his own wound, he would have been surrounded by the death and gore emanating from scores of other wounded men, and would have constantly heard their gut-wrenching moans and cries. Throughout his recovery, Ivey’s thoughts likely still dwelled on his family, his own anxieties about his personal fate under enemy hands, as well as his regiment and what they were going through on the battlefield without him. When Ivey joined the 8th Alabama in 1861, he did so in part to prove his own masculinity and out of a sense of honor, but now his lot as a wounded POW was chipping away at both his pride and his masculine honor. As the days went by, Ivey undoubtedly became more eager for an opportunity to once more prove himself to his family, his comrades, and the Confederate nation. Anxious, scared, yet thankful that he was cared for and able to live another day, Ivey likely would have spent his time reading or writing home to update his family on his unfortunate wounding, all the while praying for a swift recovery.

Following his release from the Chesapeake Hospital on July 15th, 1862, William was sent to Fort Delaware as a prisoner of war. Alone in yet another new place, behind enemy lines, Ivey likely felt a mix of fear, anxiety, and sheer frustration over being removed from his comrades on the front line for so long, as well as the anger and sense of shame that often accompanied prisoners’ incarceration. Early in the war, Civil War prisons were not the nightmarish places they were late in the war because food and supplies were more prevalent, and prisoners were regularly exchanged and not forced to spend months on end in prisons. The prisoner exchange often occurred on a “one-for-one” basis. Fortunately for William, he would only have to wait one month before his exchange at Aikens Landing, Virginia on August 5th. Nevertheless, while imprisoned at Fort Delaware, Ivey missed out on several major engagements in which his regiment fought tenaciously, such as Seven Pines and the Seven Days battles of Gaines’ Mill, and Glendale, fought on the outskirts of Richmond in June of 1862, as well as the Battle of Second Manassas, fought that August. Likely hearing tidbits about these battles from prison guards, William certainly worried about Hinton as well as his other comrades, and felt all the more anxious to return to his regiment. Ivey finally rejoined the ranks of the 8th Alabama prior to the September 17th Battle of Antietam. After over a year’s absence, Ivey would see his brother and once more be able to serve as the protector he set out to be when they enlisted together. The brothers undoubtedly spent countless hours around the campfire exchanging stories from the previous year about home, the horrors each had seen, and of the battles yet to come.

That September, Ivey’s veteran comrades in the 8th Alabama would have headed into the fighting at Antietam as a veteran regiment with a fair amount of confidence; however, due to personal misfortunes, Ivey was still a relatively “green” soldier – a fact that likely weighed heavily in his mind. Nevertheless, William would have used his own limited experience from the Battle of Williamsburg and fed off of his comrades’ courage in the heat of battle during the terrible fighting of September 17th. During battle, comrades would often inspire each other with acts of bravery, fighting tenaciously for both cause and comrades, and desperate to prove their martial masculinity throughout dutiful and honorable acts on the battlefield. During the Battle of Antietam, Ivey likely wanted to prove to himself and his comrades that he was just as courageous, dutiful, and masculine as they were, despite having missed a majority of the regiment’s battles where he could have showcased such bravery sooner. At Antietam, the 8th Alabama fought along the notoriously deadly Sunken Road and suffered 67 casualties while fighting the 63rd and 88th New York. After a determined stand, the 8th, along with the rest of the Confederate forces in the Sunken Road finally retreated in the face of an overwhelming foe. Although the Battle of Antietam ended in a draw, it provided the Ivey brothers with an important lesson about the terrible carnage they would again see at Gettysburg.

Confederate dead in the Sunken Road after the Battle of Antietam. Library of Congress.

The result of this battle most certainly would have lowered the morale of the Ivey brothers and their southern comrades. The Union turned the Battle of Antietam into a political victory with the ensuing signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which dramatically shifted the war aims of the Union. What the Ivey brothers thought of the Emancipation Proclamation itself will never be known. They may have hoped that the proclamation would alienate the border states and finally bring them into the Confederacy, or they may have feared that the proclamation would ultimately lend a death blow to the Confederacy by declaring abolition an official Union war aim and infusing the war with a higher moral purpose.

Following Antietam, the regiment would fight on with the Army of Northern Virginia in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville – Confederate victories which, though physically taxing, certainly would have strengthened Ivey’s resolve to keep on fighting and boosted his confidence in Confederate victory. With these Confederate victories arriving in the months following the issuing and enactment of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Confederate morale was sky high as southerners were convinced that Confederate victory – and the assurance of slavery’s future – were imminent. The Ivey brothers and their comrades would have now found a new resolve to keep pressing for a complete victory over their Yankee foes. Still glowing from their role in the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, the 8th Alabama proudly joined Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia on its ill-fated northerly journey into southern Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg: Where Death Waited "The Charge – The First Minnesota Regiment and Wilcox's Alabama Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863." Dave Geister.

At the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign, the 8th Alabama formed part of General Cadmus Wilcox’s brigade of General Richard Anderson’s division, one of the several divisions in General A.P. Hill’s Third Corps. Hill’s corps served as the rearguard for the Army of Northern Virginia on their march to Pennsylvania, but Hill’s men, and specifically those in the division led by General Henry Heth, would be the first Confederates to reach the fields of Gettysburg. Being the rearguard meant that Hill’s men were to protect the rear of the army from a Union attack, but also meant that they were the last troops to march into Pennsylvania. However, because Hill’s corps was last in line, they became head of the column when Lee ordered his army to suddenly change direction from its northerly march and head south and west toward Gettysburg. Lee changed direction because he had received reports of Union forces in the area and he wanted to consolidate his forces to meet the Yankee threat. However, despite arriving in Gettysburg before the bulk of Lee’s army, the 8th Alabama ironically would not see any fighting on the first day of the battle because they were not called into action. The first day’s fighting ended with the Confederates cracking the Federal lines along Seminary Ridge and pushing the Union forces back south through town, onto the critical high ground of Cemetery Hill. The Ivey brothers likely heard stories from their fellow comrades about both the horrors and heroes of the first day’s fight, which made them both anxious and eager to follow up on the victory the next day.

On July 2, Wilcox’s brigade played a critical role in General James Longstreet’s attack against the Union left flank. General Lee planned to attack both flanks of the Union position in order to roll up the Union line against Cemetery Hill and ultimately force them to retreat. He ordered Longstreet’s corps in particular to swing around to the south and attack up the Emmitsburg Road, en echelon, swinging like a door. Wilcox’s brigade was ordered to move into position next to William Barksdale’s brigade, northwest of Joseph Sherfy’s farm. Upon arriving at this position around noon, however, the Alabamians encountered the 1st United States Sharpshooters and the 3rd Maine Infantry. These Union troops were probing the Confederate position to find out where exactly they were and the size of their force. The 10th Alabama was principally engaged, but the 8th Alabama came to the support of the 10th. Ultimately, the Alabamians were able to drive away their Union foe, but received 56 casualties in the process. This was a precursor of their main engagements on both July 2nd and July 3rd. The Ivey brothers and their comrades saw this bloodletting and knew that they were in for a hard fight. With morale still high after Chancellorsville, Lee’s army felt like they could conquer the world and were not going to let anything get between them and a total victory. However, they knew they were fighting on enemy soil and that the Yankees would put up a determined fight.

Following the morning’s skirmish, Wilcox’s brigade proceeded to move once more into its assigned line with Barksdale’s brigade on its right, in the area of the Peach Orchard, and David Lang’s brigade of Floridians on its left, in the area of Peter Rogers’s house. From their position near the Sherfy house, the men of Wilcox’s brigade anxiously awaited the order to advance toward Cemetery Ridge. The ground they would be forced to march over was largely open in several places, which exposed them to Union artillery fire. Its several, gently rolling hills would have offered occasional, merciful protection along their advance, but also would have blocked their view from what they would encounter as they advanced. Despite the daunting ground standing that lay in front of them, the Alabamians had confidence that their comrades on their flanks would likewise fulfill their own duties under fire, advancing bravely and steadily in concert with the Alabamians, which would make the impending march more manageable and success more attainable.  

At around 6 pm, that long awaited order to advance finally came. Moving forward across the Emmitsburg Road, the 8th Alabama and the rest of Wilcox’s brigade attacked New York and New Jersey troops under the command of Colonel William Brewster. With the help of Barksdale’s brigade, the Union line along the Emmitsburg road began to crumble. However, during the chaos and confusion of the battle, the 8th Alabama got separated from the rest of Wilcox’s brigade and found themselves mingled with Barksdale’s brigade. Given the fierceness of battle and the omnipresent “fog of war,” the 8th Alabama may not have known right away they were separated from the rest of their brigade. Upon making this realization, panic and chaos threatened to overwhelm the ranks. Fortunately, the Alabamians happened to notice the Confederate forces in front of them successfully pushing the Union troops back toward Cemetery Ridge. Anxious to join the fight and capitalize on their comrades’ success, the Ivey brothers and their comrades surged forward to linkup with their brigade.

It was around 7 pm that the regiment finally reformed its lines and began the march to rejoin the rest of their brigade in its assault against the main Union lines atop Cemetery Ridge. As the 8th Alabama raced to catch up with their comrades, they proudly captured four guns from the 3rd U.S. Artillery before reaching the other elements of Wilcox’s brigade along Plum Run. Due to heavy losses and a forced retreat, hasty retreat, the 3rd U.S. Artillery had been forced to leave some of its guns on the field, leaving an impressive prize for their attackers. As the Alabamians continued to press the center of the Union line, Union forces were horrified to discover a gaping hole in their center, located directly in front of the oncoming Alabamians. When General Daniel Sickles had advanced his III corps from its originally assigned location along the ridgeline up to the Peach Orchard, he had carelessly left dangerous gaps in the Union position. Desperate to plug this hole until Union reinforcements could arrive, General Winfield Scott Hancock ordered a single regiment – the 1st Minnesota – to charge through the gap. Ivey and the 8th Alabama reached the rest of Wilcox’s brigade just in time to help blunt the famed sacrificial attack of the 1st Minnesota; however, in doing so, the Alabamians exposed themselves to flanking fire from the 111th New York as well as heavy artillery fire from the 4th U. S. Artillery. Crippled by the galling storm of iron lead, Wilcox finally ordered his brigade to withdraw.

By 10 pm, Wilcox’s brigade fell back to the Sherfy farm, thus ending the Alabamians’ hard fighting on July 2nd. Throughout the day’s brutal battle, the 8th Alabama had received many casualties, but they also inflicted notable casualties on their enemy. It is unclear as to the exact number of casualties the 8th Alabama sustained on July 2nd; however, Col. Herbert of the 8th Alabama said of the July 2nd fighting, “It is the opinion of the officers that our regiment never slaughtered more of the enemy than on this day.” Ivey survived to fight another day; however, his brother, Hinton, was wounded and captured on July 2nd. Hinton’s fate likely would have weighed heavily upon Ivey as he would not have known if his brother’s wound was survivable, or what Hinton’s future would be in Union hands. That night, Ivey may have begun to pen a letter to his parents back in Radfordsville to tell them of the unfortunate news of Hinton’s capture, while perhaps guiltily wondering how he himself had survived the day’s melee unscathed, yet Hinton had not. The day’s widespread death and carnage, coupled with Confederate defeat, likely weighed heavily on Ivey; however, like many other survivors of the assault, he also saw how close the Confederates had come to cracking the Federal line, and took great pride in the regiment’s hard-fought contributions to the day’s fighting. More than likely, he held out a cautious hope for the next day’s attacks.  

The following day, July 3rd, would be just as tough as July 2nd for the men of the 8th Alabama. By noon, Wilcox’s brigade found itself supporting the Confederate batteries that participated in the cannonade prior to the infamous “Pickett’s Charge.” The 8th Alabama was positioned along the Emmitsburg Road, in front of Pickett’s division. By 2 p.m., Pickett’s forces were marching their way across the open fields and with nearly every step they took beyond the road itself, another life was lost. A lack of reinforcements, coupled with failed coordination of the charge with General Richard Ewell’s assault on the Union left flank at Culp’s Hill, as well as unrelenting Union fire-power caused the attack to fail. Around 3 p.m., Pickett’s depleted ranks began hobbling their way back to Seminary Ridge after being repulsed at the infamous copse of trees atop Cemetery Ridge. Wilcox’s brigade and Lang’s brigade were ordered to advance toward Cemetery Ridge to protect the right flank of Pickett’s forces and to cover their retreat. However, amidst the chaos of the scene, coupled with the thick smoke of battle that obscured the fields in front of them, Wilcox and Lang were unable to even locate Pickett’s men. Regardless, duty-bound to execute their orders, Wilcox and Lang advanced into the thick, choking smoke.

Crossing the Emmitsburg Road, the Alabamians covered much of the same ground that they did the day prior. Ivey and his comrades doubtless hoped for a better result than the previous day, but the sight of the mangled bodies and other battlefield carnage from the July 2nd fight likely weighed heavily on their minds. Advancing to Plum Run, the Alabamians and Floridians met stiff resistance from the 16th and 14th Vermont as well as from Union artillerists. Ultimately failing to locate Pickett’s right flank, and floundering without reinforcements to help combat the still active Yankee guns, the Alabamians were forced to retreat across the Emmitsburg Road. The retreat would be the 8th Alabama’s final action at Gettysburg. The regiment’s casualties for both July 2nd and 3rd totaled 262 of 420 engaged – a causality rate of 62%. The high-spirited and seemingly indestructible Confederates who had entered Pennsylvania just days before were now filled with overwhelming grief after seeing so many close friends and family members fall before their eyes in grim and grisly scenes. Their grief was likely compounded by sheer frustration and disappointment over the fact that they sacrificed so much in those two days of fighting, so far from home, and yet were still unable to gain the ultimate victory for which they had all hoped. How much longer, many wondered, would they be subjected to such horrific bloodletting? How much more, they worried, could they possibly give to their cause?

Two of those 262 names that filled out the 8th’s long casualty lists were the Ivey brothers themselves. Hinton, who had received a gunshot wound to the right leg on July 2nd, survived but spent the next year in various northern POW camps. He ultimately survived the war and returned to Radfordsville, Alabama. William was not so lucky. All that is known about William’s fate is that he was mortally wounded on July 3rd and later died on July 12th. He received treatment for his wounds at Adam Butt’s farm, on Herr’s Ridge, just west of town, which was used as a hospital for wounded Confederates from Wilcox’s and Wright’s brigades. As Ivey lay within the hospital, he likely had flashbacks to his first wound, and hoped to similarly overcome this injury; however, fate would ultimately have other plans. William’s mind likely pondered the possibility of death, and wondered if his body would ever make it back to Alabama. When soldiers went to fight in the Civil War, they expected to receive the “Good Death” if they met an untimely end. This “Good Death” would allow soldiers to proclaim their honorable deeds, declare their faith in God, pass surrounded by family members, with resolute confidence in their preparedness for the afterlife. Ivey would have expected such an end, but he was never able to achieve it. He was hundreds of miles away from his family in Alabama and he was separated from his brother, which left him to die alone on an unfamiliar Pennsylvania farm. Such was the case for many Civil War soldiers, and the pain of separation from loved ones only added to a soldier’s sufferings and anxieties as he neared his final hour.

Ivey also likely worried for his little brother, and wondered if either of them would live to be reunited with their family. Had he done everything he could to protect him from harm during the vicious fighting on July 2nd? Had he performed his duties to both family and nation with the honor and dedication which his father and mother expected of him, especially after spending so much time away from the front and hospitals? As his thoughts strayed to family, William must have anxiously contemplated how his parents and sister would survive on the farm if he and his brother both did not survive the war. Worse yet, he may also have wondered if the sacrifice of so many comrades’ lives, in addition to his own, were even worth it, considering the battle’s disastrous outcome for the Confederacy. Was he regretful of his eagerness to enlist in the army? It is impossible to know for sure, but it was likely with these kinds of conflicting thoughts in his mind that William succumbed to his wounds on July 12th.

He was buried on the west side of Adam Butt’s house, next to the road, in the corner of a woodlot – a likely affront to the Butt family itself, but a common practice in the wake of the great battle. Ivey’s family did not have enough money to bring his body home to Alabama and he was denied access to the National Cemetery because he was a Confederate. This unfortunately meant that his body had to remain on the Butt farm for nearly a decade. On June 13, 1872, William’s remains were disinterred and moved to his final resting place in Hollywood Cemetery, in Richmond, Virginia.

Confederate memorial at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond,Virginia. Wikimedia Commons.

Ivey is buried in an unmarked grave with other Confederate dead from Gettysburg. This now famous section of the cemetery was created and dedicated in large part by Richmond women from the Hollywood Memorial Association who worked tirelessly to provide a final, more honorable and pastoral final resting place for their southern sons that families could visit, from near and far, to take comfort and pride in their loved one’s patriotic sacrifices. In helping to create this special section of the cemetery, the men and women of Richmond were able to restore to the interred, including William Ivey, a critical component of the “Good Death” that they had been denied on the battlefield and in most field hospitals.

The Mourning and Memory of a Common Confederate Soldier The Alabama state monument at Gettysburg. Photo by Author.

William’s death would have had a major impact on his family. Being the oldest son, he contributed significantly to the survival of the family farm — the Ivey family’s livelihood. Now his father, Henry, would be forced to farm without him. The Iveys were a small, tightly knit family and William’s death surely caused them much grief. This grief only would have been exacerbated when the family learned of Hinton’s wounding and capture by the Yankees. The Iveys certainly felt anxiety over the uncertainty of Hinton’s fate.

The impact of William’s death would spread beyond his family, into the small community of Radfordsville, who would lose so many sons during the course of the war, and into the lives of neighbors and friends who not only watched William grow up, but had also benefited from his labor. Though tragic in its own right, William’s death also highlights one of the primary challenges that middle and lower class farm families faced in the Deep South: Without slave labor to assist them on their farms and in their small business endeavors, these families faced a staggering labor shortage of young men. This shortage would force older men like Henry and women like William’s mother and sister to have to dedicate more of their lives to manual labor rather than household work, simply to ensure the survival of the farm. The Iveys were especially short on labor given that their only other son, Hinton, would spend so much time away in a northern POW camp. The war’s unraveling of gender conventions – the ways in which it threatened to chip away at white women’s feminine privilege and respectability, and the ways in which it emasculated men who no longer could care for their women as they once had been able to – clearly played out in the Ivey household. Additionally, with William gone and emancipation a postwar reality, it was up to Henry and Hinton alone to protect William’s mother and sister from what many southerners believed would be an impending tide of marauding free blacks terrorizing white females and turning the racial and social order of the South on its head.

The death of William, and so many other comrades, would have also weighed heavily on the minds of the survivors from his regiment. William likely would have known these men since childhood and developed close bonds with them over the course of the war. The staggering death tolls and Confederate defeat at Gettysburg deeply demoralized many of these men, some of whom may have contemplated desertion. However, for other Alabamians, the tragic losses at the hands of the Yankees at Gettysburg made the survivors all the more determined to fight, with the hopes of extracting revenge on their enemy. The story of William Ivey shows how the death of a common, small-town soldier had far-reaching impacts not only on family, but also on entire communities, as well as comrades who would live to fight another day.

Today, the 8th Alabama is remembered on the Gettysburg battlefield by a humble plaque dedicated to Wilcox’s brigade and also by a collective monument to the entire state of Alabama. Located along Confederate Avenue between the Florida monument and the James Longstreet monument, the plaque to Wilcox’s brigade lists the fighting in which the brigade participated on July 2nd-4th and describes the fighting on July 3rd as “useless.” Although the fighting on July 3rd may seem “useless” now, it was not “useless” for Ivey and the 8th Alabama on that hot summer day. Ivey was fighting to protect his family, his home, and a way of life, namely slavery. Advancing into Gettysburg, southern morale was sky-high and Confederates felt that if they could win a battle on northern soil, they could win the war. For them, their entire world was at stake on the afternoons of July 2nd and July 3rd and Ivey and the other Confederate soldiers were willing to do whatever it took and make whatever sacrifices were necessary to gain a victory. On July 3rd when Ivey and the 8th Alabama were ordered to advance on Cemetery Ridge, they went forward with purpose, determination, and hope. They were willing to walk straight into the jaws of death, if it meant they would be victorious. Despite its outcome, Ivey and his comrades would have described the fighting on July 3rd as anything but “useless;” rather, for them, it was a necessary sacrifice in an even more necessary attempt at helping to preserve the world as they knew it and thought it should be.

The Alabama monument is dedicated to all the Alabama troops that fought at Gettysburg and portrays a woman, the “Spirit of Alabama,” pointing the way forward with two soldiers engaged in battle. The monument represents Alabama’s determination to continue fighting, no matter the odds, and stands a tangible reminder of what the Alabamians were fighting for: The woman directing the two soldiers can be interpreted as a mother – indeed, the embodiment of “republican motherhood” – instructing her two sons to be honorable men, and go do their patriotic duty and fight. These two common soldiers, just like William and Hinton, were fighting to protect their women, their home, and a way of life, rooted in that “peculiar institution” that for them was hardly peculiar at all. Even though they lost this battle, Alabamians wanted to be remembered for their personal honor in their strong devotion to protect their families, their homes, and their country. This monument is not just representative of Ivey and his fellow Alabamians, but of all common soldiers who, though each brought his own story and reasons for fighting to the battlefield, all collectively fought for an independent South.


“Alabama Civil War Service Database.”Alabama Department of Archives and History. Last updated July 19,2013. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT,USA: Ancestory.comOperations, Inc., 2009. 1860 United States Federal Census – Slave Schedules [databaseon-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestory.comOperations, Inc., 2009.

Busey, John, and Travis Busey. Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg: A Comprehensive Record. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2017. 

Complied Service Records. William P. Ivey. Accessed through Fold3 by Ancestry.

Edling, Richard. “Gettysburg, a VirtualTour.” 2016.

Gallagher, Gary W. The Confederate War. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Hawks, Steve. “8th Alabama Infantry Regiment.” Steve A. Hawks. 2018.

Herbert, Hilary. A Short History of the 8th Ala Regiment. Accessed through Gettysburg National Military Park Library.

Laino, Philip. Gettysburg Campaign Atlas. Gettysburg: Gettysburg Publishing, 2009.

McPherson, James M. What They Fought For: 1861-1865. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

Narrative and map created by Isaac Shoop, Gettysburg College.