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Collection Number: 05205

Collection Title: W. B. W. Heartsill, A Confederate Desperado

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the microfilming of this collection.

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Size 1 items
Abstract W. B. W. Heartsill was born in 1841 near Louisville, Tenn., southwest of Knoxville, Tenn. He served in the Army of the Confederate States of America in many positions, including captain and Chief of Police for East Tennessee. He later served as a spy and a scout with Osborne's Scouts, an independent company of Tennessee scouts. After the war ended, Heartsill moved to Arkansas. The collection consists of a handwritten manuscript entitled A Confederate Desperado by W. B. W. Heartsill. The manuscript tells the story of J. J. Cox (or Jo. J. Cox), a lieutenant in the Confederate States of America Army who deserted his post while serving with the 1st Louisiana Infantry Regiment in 1862. The narrative begins with Cox's arrest and imprisonment in the Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond, Va. The narrative details Cox's escape from prison and his many subsequent escapes from military custody. After Cox's escape from military guard in Bristol, Tenn., W. B. W. Heartsill was charged with investigating the escape and with finding Cox. Upon his recapture, Cox was sent to Heartsill's office in Bristol, and Heartsill worked to secure Cox's release as part of the general amnesty offered to Confederate deserters by Jefferson Davis on 1 August 1863. Heartsill went on to advocate on Cox's behalf in two subsequent incidents: once when Cox was arrested on a theft charge, and again when Cox was arrested on the old desertion charge. Meanwhile, Heartsill left his position as Chief of Police in March 1864 and became a scout, eventually joining Osborne's Scouts in May of that year. The narrative details various missions and engagements with Federal forces undertaken by Heartsill, sometimes accompanied by Cox. The narrative ends with the conclusion of the war and a brief account of Cox's life after the war, ending with his death in a cholera epidemic in 1866. Heartsill's opinion of Cox throughout the book was very positive; he lauded Cox's courage, good humor, and resourcefulness, and sought to disavow his reputation as a "desperate character."
Creator Heartsill, W. B. W., b. 1841.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in W. B. W. Heartsill, A Confederate Desperado, #5205-z, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy (filmed 2005-2006) available.
  • Reel 1: Entire collection
Acquisitions Information
Received from Dorothy Sloan Rare Books of Austin, Tex., in May 2005 (Acc. 100050)
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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W. B. W. Heartsill was born in 1841 near Louisville, Tenn., southwest of Knoxville, Tenn. He enlisted in the Army of the Confederate States of America on 8 February 1861 as a private in Captain John Paxton's Company E of the 19th Tennessee Regiment, then was appointed lieutenant in the Tennesse State Service. On 12 August 1861, he was mustered into service with Company E of the 5th Tenessee Cavalry Battalion. In 1862, Heartsill was promoted to the rank of captain and was serving as the Chief of Police for East Tennessee when he met J. J. Cox. Heartsill later served as a spy and a scout with Osborne's Scouts, an independent company of Tennessee scouts. When the war ended, he moved to Arkansas, where he apparently spent the rest of his life. It seems likely that W. B. W. Heartsill was related in some way to William Williston Heartsill, author of the published journal Fourteen Hundred and 91 Days in the Confederate Army.

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The collection consists of a handwritten manuscript entitled A Confederate Desperado by W. B. W. Heartsill. The manuscript tells the story of J. J. Cox (or Jo. J. Cox), a lieutenant in the Confederate States of America Army who deserted his post while serving with the 1st Louisiana Infantry Regiment in 1862. The narrative begins with Cox's arrest and imprisonment in the Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond, Va. The narrative details Cox's escape from prison and his many subsequent escapes from military custody. After Cox's escape from military guard in Bristol, Tenn., W. B. W. Heartsill was charged with investigating the escape and with finding Cox. Upon his recapture, Cox was sent to Heartsill's office in Bristol, and Heartsill worked to secure Cox's release as part of the general amnesty offered to Confederate deserters by Jefferson Davis on 1 August 1863. Heartsill went on to advocate on Cox's behalf in two subsequent incidents: once when Cox was arrested on a theft charge, and again when Cox was arrested on the old desertion charge. Meanwhile, Heartsill left his position as Chief of Police in March 1864 and became a scout, eventually joining Osborne's Scouts in May of that year. The narrative details various missions and engagements with Federal forces undertaken by Heartsill, sometimes accompanied by Cox. The narrative ends with the conclusion of the Civil War and a brief account of Cox's life after the war, ending with his death in a cholera epidemic in 1866. Heartsill's opinion of Cox throughout the book was very positive; he lauded Cox's courage, good humor, and resourcefulness, and sought to disavow his reputation as a "desperate character."

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse A Confederate Desperado, undated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jesse Brown, June 2005

Encoded by: Jesse Brown, June 2005

Funding from the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., supported the microfilming of this collection.

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