Private in Company “H” of the 5th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. Enlisted 20 May 1861 on the courthouse lawn in Paris, Henry County, Tennessee along with his brother Francis “Dock” Speight and 2,500 other volunteers. He was commanded by Col. William Travis and Capt. J. D. Dumas.
Born on 3 January 1841 in Como (near Cottage Grove), Tennessee. 4th of 8 children born to William Thomas Speight (1813-1899) and Frances Fields Speight (1809-1871). After the Civil War (war accounts are desribed in detail in next paragraph) he returned to Como and joined the Masonic Lodge in 1865. He then married local girl Virginia Albertine Carter (1844-1911) in 1866. He and his family moved to Round Rock Texas in 1882. They then moved to Eldorado, Oklahoma in 1899 during the Land Rush. He was elected the first adjutant and “Captain” of the Eldorado United Confederate Veterans Camp No. 1709. He walked twice a day to town and back (a distance of one mile) until his death at “high noon” on 7 October 1937 at the age of 96. He was the second oldest Mason in the United States and oldest in Oklahoma when he died.
Seth Speight was wounded during the Battle of Franklin on 30 November 1864 and captured on 18 December in the hospital by the returning Union Forces. He was most likely hospitalized at the Franklin Courthouse since most of Brown’s division were cared for there. He was then shipped to Louisville Kentucky before finally being held prisoner in Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio. He was paroled in February 1865 and transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland for exchange. He finally reached home in May 1865.
Seth Speight’s accounts of his action at the Battle of Franklin from his interview in the August 25, 1935 “The Altus Times-Democrat”, Altus, Oklahoma:
“Yankee soldiers were lying all about as were the Confederates, making it almost impossible to determine friend from foe in the melee.
I was lying there enjoying the fight as best I could, when I happened to glance at a man lying in front of me. I saw he was wearing the blue of the Yankee so I pushed my rifle into his side and told him to just lay his gun aside and roll over to me.
We crawled on a little farther and I saw another blue uniform. I repeated the stick-up set again and another victim was added to my life of captures.
This went on until I had gathered about nine Yankees. They were crawling along in front of me without their rifles and I was bringing up the rear, herding them toward out lines when the most burning and searing agony I have ever known tore through my shoulder, barely missing vital spots. The agony was caused by a minnie ball about the size of the end of a man’s thumb. It had passed through my shoulder, not quite coming out the back.
As for the Yanks I had captured, I don’t suppose I shall ever know what became of them. My major worry at the time had no place for the Yank at all. I was simply interested in doing something to stop the severe pain that was shooting through my whole uppoer body.
One of my comrades came along about that time and applied a tourniquet, which is probably the one thing that prevented my bleeding to death right there on the field of battle.”
Other Civil War Info:
Seth Speight’s first major battle was the Battle of Shiloh Church in April 1862. He fought with Stewart’s Brigade and was hit in the stomach by a spent musket ball during the battle but it did not break the skin. After Shiloh the regiment retired to Corinth, Mississippi where no drinking water was available except for scum-covered creeks. Seth and a good portion of the regiment fell victim to Typhoid and Dysentery. Col. Travis was compelled to retire from command due to his illness. Seth was sent to the hospital where he was captured while lying helpless by the Union Forces during the Confederate retreat. The Federalists thought he had no chance to live so he was paroled and sent home to Tennessee to die. After a year Seth was fully recuperated and returned to his regiment in Shelbyville, Tennessee in May 1863.
In April 1864 Seth Speight was assigned to General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry to take Fort Pillow, later called a “massacre” by the Union. Seth Speight reported in a later interview that he ran into a black Union soldier and his officer during the melee whereupon he jerked his gun up and without realizing it shot the black soldier dead. He took the white officer prisoner.
In May 1864 Seth Speight spent the next 3 months fighting General Sherman’s Forces from Dalton to the siege of Atlanta to the Battle of Jonesboro, Georgia. He told family and friends over the years gruesome stories about Sherman’s campaign and about the continuous fighting, day and night, taking 90 days to cover 90 miles. During the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on 5 July 1864 Seth Speight was ambushed and shot while bathing in the Chattahoochie River. The wound was not critical and Seth refused the offer of discharge from his commander. His next battle would be Franklin (described above).
I am the Great-Grandson of Seth Speight, through Seth’s son Wesley Benedict Speight (1887-1966) and my father Donald John Speight (1918-2000). I am Daniel John Speight and am 59 years old. I have a younger brother who is 48 and I would bet he might be the youngest Great-grandson of a Civil War vet.
Seth Speight is buried in the Eldorado Cemetary in Eldorado, Oklahoma.
I am attaching 2 pictures of Seth Speight. One is a head/portrait photo taken in McGregor, Texas circa 1884. The other is a photo taken in downtown Eldorado, Oklahoma during the mid-1930’s shortly before his death.
I am attaching the 1935 newspaper article, his newspaper obituary, his memorial service pamphet and all other civil war documents I have scanned.
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