As many Americans of Scots-Irish or German heritage, I have ancestors who fought in the
War of Northern Aggression American Civil War. And like many of my fellow Southerners, I take great interest in my great grandfathers and great uncles who fought for the Confederate States of America. But unlike most of my fellow Southerners, I have ancestors who fought for the Union, and interestingly enough, fought against my Souther ancestors. My father’s side of the family hail from Pennsylvania and Indiana. Those from Pennsylvania served as officers in the Pennsylvania cavalry at Gettysburg; but I’ll reserve the tales of my Yankee ancestry for another day.
Instead, during the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, I would rather tell the tale of my ancestors who wore the Confederate Gray. Though I was born in Chicago and grew up in Los Angeles, I have been traveling back to the ancestral homeland of my mother’s family in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, since I was but a small babe. As such, I have always felt a deep connection to my Southern heritage and the Southern cause. Those feelings were only intensified by my attending that most quintessential of Southern schools. Because of this, I’ve cultivated a keen interest in the exploits of my family throughout American history, specifically those who went to war to defend the homeland they loved and performed their duty, as they understood it. This interest has turned up some very interesting stories throughout the years as I research my lineage.
None of these stories are quite as interesting or tragic as that of my Great-Great-Great-Uncle Ozniah R. Brumley, Captain, B Company, 20th North Carolina Infantry, CSA. Captain Brumley enlisted on 21 April 1961 along with his two brothers at the ripe, old age of twenty-two. He was made a sergeant in B Company of the 20th North Carolina Infantry, the Cabarrus Guards. Unfortunately, tragedy would follow the Brumleys throughout their campaigning under the command of Robert Edward Lee as only the man who later became my great-great-great-grandfather would live to return to his native soil. One of his brothers would die in a hospital in Richmond of causes unknown and his other brother, Ozniah, would meet death as a prisoner of war.
Ozniah served honorably in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. He must have been at least a decent soldier as he received a battlefield commission on 26 April 1862, barely a year after his enlistment. He was even promoted to 1st Lieutenant and later Captain. Sadly, fate would strike a cruel blow on 1 July 1863 as that was the day that Ozniah was captured at Gettysburg. As a prisoner, he would spend the rest of the war being starved and tortured by Yankees bent on vengeance for purported war crimes committed against Union prisoners at Confederate prisons at Andersonville and Salisbury.
Though his existence was hellish, it was in captivity that Captain Brumley would leave his mark upon American history. It was in captivity that he would serve as a member of the Immortal 600.
On 20 August 1864, Ozniah was moved to Morris Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Here, he and 599 other Confederate soldiers would be used as human shields by the Union in an attempt to silence the Confederate batteries at Fort Sumter. Here, he would endure forty-five days of Confederate shelling and starvation rations. After suffering in Charleston, the Immortal 600 were shipped to Fort Pulaski in Georgia to spend the Winter of 1864-1865 in the cold, cramped casements of the fort. They were also starved, subsisting on a ration of cornmeal and pickles. It was here at Fort Pulaski that my Great-Great-Great-Uncle took his final post, finally succumbing to disease and starvation on 4 March 1865, only a month before the end of the war. He is buried somewhere on the grounds of Fort Pulaski, alongside his other countrymen who did their duty, as they understood it, to last.