James Cooper Nisbet’s experiences in the Confederate Army make this memoir a window to the past, an exciting excursion into times of danger and times of dreary and monotonous camp life. A native of Georgia, James formed a local company and drilled on weekends after his brother went into the Confederate army. Vice- President Stephens used his influence to have Nisbet and his company transferred to Richmond, where they became Company H of the 21st. Georgia Regiment, which became one of the finest fighting units in the Confederate army.
Nisbet was in the Valley Campaign with Stonewall Jackson. He actually took command of the regiment during part of the Seven Days Battles around Richmond. At Second Manassas the regiment ran out of ammunition and used rocks and gun butts for weapons. Promoted to Captain, Nisbet and his unit fought at Harper’s Ferry, Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg. He had occasion to meet with General Lee, and said of him, “He was the only man I ever met who measured up to my conception of Washington.”
Nisbet received permission to return to Georgia and raise another regiment. Jefferson Davis was impressed with the young soldier’s record, and agreed to give him command. The 66th Georgia Regiment saw action around Chattanooga, through North Georgia, and defending Atlanta. Nisbet actually rose to command a brigade during this time. He learned of Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s proposal to enlist slaves to fight in the army, and strongly supported it. Nisbet was captured in the fighting around Atlanta, and spent the remainder of the war in the prison camp at Johnston’s Island.
Nisbet returned to Georgia after the war, resuming his farming activities. He served in the Georgia legislature, He was married twice, and had five children. He moved to Chattanooga at the turn of the century, and was active in the Presbyterian church and United Confederate Veterans.His memoirs are especially interesting as he honestly evaluates various generals. His combat observations are insightful and his comments on camp life and the common soldier paint a valuable picture of what it was like for men far from home.