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Antebellum Warriors

One of the “Master Spirits” of the War

The first real indication that Micah Jenkins was destined for military greatness came not on the battlefield, but inside the classroom.

As a Citadel cadet, the South Carolinian rose to the top of his class and graduated with honors in 1854. Jenkins sat with an air of confidence for this daguerreotype portrait, opposite, during those halcyon years. His intense gaze is offset by the slightest hint of a smile spread across his youthful countenance.

Sixth-plate daguerreotype by an anonymous photographer. Richard Ferry Collection.
Sixth-plate daguerreotype by an anonymous photographer. Richard Ferry Collection.

The following year, he and a fellow graduate founded King’s Mountain Military School in Yorkville, S.C. Jenkins, according to the Charleston Mercury, “At once exhibited that singular aptitude for command which his after career so highly illustrated. By a happy blending of firmness in discipline, and a frank and cordial sympathy with all who sought his counsel or aid, he obtained an early and lasting hold upon the respect and affections of his pupils, and his success as an instructor was complete.”

As the clouds of war descended over the country, Jenkins recruited a militia company in Yorkville that came to be known as the Jasper Light Infantry. When war did come, the company went on to form part of the 5th South Carolina Infantry. The regiment elected Jenkins as its colonel. He appears below wearing the Confederate uniform consistent with this rank. The Mercury observed, “He had no fondness for the bloody arena of war as a pastime or a profession; but realizing deeply the necessity of a knowledge of arms to a people who would keep their freedom, he devoted his life to this vocation.”

Over the next three years, he served with distinction at numerous battles, including Second Manassas, where he was severely wounded, and advanced to brigadier general and brigade command. A Southern writer described him as “An officer who has been one of the master spirits of this war in the sphere where he has operated.”

Quarter-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Richard Ferry Collection.
Quarter-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Richard Ferry Collection.

In the spring of 1864, his sphere included The Wilderness battlefield, where, on May 6, he was killed by friendly fire. The Mercury noted that Jenkins “fell at the early age of 28 years, near the same spot, by the same fatal accident and the self-same hands which, just one year ago, inflicted on us the irreparable loss of Stonewall Jackson.”

The newspaper waxed romantic about the death of Jenkins, seeking to put a brave face on the tragedy. “Asking his troops to encounter no danger which he did not share, he led his impetuous battalions in a score of fights, and fell at last, as a soldier might well wish to fall, with sword in hand, at the close of a well-stricken field, the light of the setting sun crimsoning his victorious bayonets, and the shouts of triumph ringing in his ears.”

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