Colonel James Fowler Pressley, CSA    Colonel James Fowler Pressley, M. D.--A Hero Remembered 10th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Battle Flag   
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Col James F. Pressley, M. D., Warrior, Healer, Public Servant

Atlanta, July 21, 1864, late evening. As 30 year old Col. James F. Pressley strode back from the meeting with General Manigault, a cooling breeze finally started sweeping the woods of the day’s intense heat. The regiment’s flickering fires had turned to embers, and men were taking to their bedrolls. A few stalwarts still huddled around the fire, still singing the sacred songs that had seen them through many a battle before. John Pressley, the Colonel’s faithful servant, handed him a cooling drink, while Major C. I. Walker slipped away to gather the company commanders. It was time to set the battle plan.

Tomorrow would see the Battle of Atlanta, a fight that would lead to the destruction of a city and, ultimately, a society. Colonel Pressley and his men would lead the only advance of that day by the Confederates, a “furious charge against the Federal batteries on the Georgia Railroad”1 still be to seen and experienced today, captured forever at the Atlanta Cyclorama.

They would make their attack at a terrible cost to life and limb. "Among the many who fall in the struggle is the gallant Pressley, who is borne from the top of the enemy’s fortifications severely wounded in the shoulder."2

Col. Pressley would live for the next fourteen years in fragile health until finally succumbing to tuberculosis, contracted while caring for the poor and indigent of his community.

close-up of Battle of Atlanta
Col. Pressley and his men fighting at Battle of Atlanta
(click the image for expanded view)

For the past year, I have followed the footsteps of Col. Pressley, my great grandfather, across the South he loved. James F. Pressley was a man of contraditions. He was a professional soldier, dedicated to the taking of life. He was at the same time a doctor, dedicated to the saving of life.

In his heart burned the fierce fire of freedom. He and his countrymen threw off the yoke of Northern oppression when it threatened their most precious right—the freedom to own slaves. These were the same slaves--or "servants, as he called them--he treated with care, respect, and even friendship, ministering to their ills with the same care as he gave his own family, a paradox to those of us born in the North, but familiar to those from the South.

He was also a man of constant honor. He was brave beyond all modern measure, both in war and beyond. The experiences of all the warriors of that great civil conflict are beyond the imagination of those of us in the modern world, where major wars are fought and won with the loss of 100 to 200 American lives. In just one battle on one single day of the Civil War, 50,000 brave Americans met their death, and the rest went on to continue the fight.

I hope, as this website expands in the coming months, it will offer a glimpse of how these brave Americans, on both sides of that terrible struggle, lived, fought, and died.

  1. Brief Pressley Biography from Confederate Military History, Vol. VI, South Carolina
  2. Rolls and Historical Sketch of the Tenth Regiment, SC Volunteers, C. Irvine Walker.

Copyright 2003-2005 Bruce Tognazzini. You may feel free to link to any of these pages. You may also copy materials from them as long as proper attribution is made.

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