Sergeant John Forsythe Vardaman              Previous  Next

10th Alabama Cavalry CSA 


Descendants of John Forsythe Vardaman



Sergeant, Co. G, 2nd Engineer Regiment,

Army of Northern Virginia


Jesse H. (Jack) Vardaman, Jr.

July 11, 1998

Revised February 28, 2008

The lone survivor of the three sons of Edwy L. Vardaman of Tallapoosa County, AL, who had marched off to the War Between The States, John Forsythe Vardaman, pioneer settler of Coosa County, AL, and first school teacher in the town of Goodwater, AL, returned home from four years of service in the Confederate States Army on May 17, 1865.

He first volunteered at the age of 25 at Rockford in Coosa County, AL, as a 12-months soldier when the War began in 1861.  Later, on May 8, 1862, at nearby Pinckneyville in Tallapoosa County, he enlisted in Captain Martin M. Slaughter's Cavalry Company of Hilliard's Legion, Alabama Volunteers.  This Company became Company E of the 5th Cavalry Battalion of Hilliard's Legion.  On December 30th, 1862, it became Company C when the 5th Battalion of Hilliard's Legion combined with the 19th Battalion, Georgia Cavalry, to form the 10th Confederate Cavalry Regiment. 

John F. Vardaman served variously as scribe, secretary, bookkeeper and recruiting officer and was a courier during Gen. Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky.  In the fall of 1862 he took part in the siege of Cumberland Gap while serving with General Bragg's Army of East Tennessee.  He spent the winter of 1862-63 in Kentucky and east Tennessee where he became a Sergeant.  He later saw service in Tennessee at the battles of Chickamauga (August and September 1863), Knoxville (November 1863) and Bean Station (December 1863).

In August 1864, prior to the beginning of the Georgia Campaign, he was ordered to Virginia and to Captain John Howard's Company in the 2nd Engineer Regiment of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  Here he saw action at Strawberry Plains (also called Deep Bottom Run) during the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia, in August 1864.  He was paroled at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865, on the occasion of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender of Confederate forces to Gen. U. S. Grant.

John F. Vardaman was the sole survivor of three brothers, sons of Edwy L. Vardaman of Tallapoosa County, AL, who served in the C.S.A.  One brother, William Sanford Vardaman, who enlisted Sept. 5, 1861, died early in the war, on May 5, 1862, during the Battle of Williamsburg (VA).  He was not yet 22 years old at his death.  The younger brother, James Mathis Vardaman, who also enlisted in Capt. Slaughter's Cavalry Company, probably at the same time as his brother, John Forsythe Vardaman, died at the age of 23 while on picket duty during the siege of Petersburg (VA) on March 30, 1865.  Sadly, his death came only 10 days before the end of the war.  It is presumed that both brothers who died while in service are buried in military cemeteries in the areas of Virginia where they died.

John F. Vardaman brought home many war documents, among them a copy, in his own handwriting, of General Lee's farewell address (General Order No. 9) to his troops.  This copy is preserved in the Coosa County Historical Society Museum at Rockford, AL.  Since Vardaman often worked as a Scribe, he may have been one of those who made copies of “The Order” for distribution to the Confederate troops at Appomattox.

He is pictured wearing a homemade plaid shirt.  Over his left shoulder he wears a wide-strap leather satchel, possibly his courier pouch.  Over his right shoulder is a saber strap which was used to counterbalance the weight of the sword.  A canteen strap is also over his right shoulder.  His sword resembles a U. S. Model 1840 artillery saber but could be an European import.  The Bible that he is holding in his left hand is still in the family and is in the care and possession of his great-grandson John McDonald Gwin of Las Cruces, New Mexico

This picture of John F. Vardaman was included in a 1978 Confederate Calendar prepared and published by Lawrence T. Jones, III, of Greeneville, TX.  The Calendar was designed as a record of the Confederacy showing activities of the Confederacy on every day of the year.  Each month contains a picture copied from old photos of those who served in the Army of the Confederate States of America.  The picture of John F. Vardaman was for the month of March and was accompanied by the brief narrative in the preceding paragraph describing the picture.  This narrative was written by James Bassett Gwin, a grandson of John F. Vardaman.  Both the original ambrotype (picture) and a copy of the calendar together with many, many other documents including some from his Civil War tenure are preserved in the John F. Vardaman Memorial Cabinet in the Coosa County Historical Society Museum at Rockford, AL. 

Recently, while showing this picture to an acquaintance, a remark was made concerning the seeming paradox of the saber, a symbol of war, in one hand and the Bible, a symbol of peace, in the other hand.  My response was that it has ever been true that one must always be prepared to stand and fight to defend and preserve the freedom of one’s beliefs.


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