NELSON ADAIR CRESAP
Nelson Adair Cresap was born on Sept 18, 1841 near Huntsville, Alabama while his family was moving west from Maryland to West Tennessee. His family arrived in Gibson County, Tennessee when he was six years old. His life was molded by his ancestor’s example of protecting their home and freedom. These examples included early settling of the west, fighting in the French and Indian War, and participating in the War for American Independence.
He joined the Confederate army on November 30, 1861, and was organized into the 47th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He remained with this regiment throughout the war. For most of the war, the regiment fought with Cheatham’s Division assigned to the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
He participated in the following major engagements: Shiloh, Kirby Smith’s invasion of Kentucky, Richmond Ky., Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Dead Angle at Kennasaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Franklin, and Nashville. Nelson received a promotion to Sergeant after the battle of Shiloh, to Second Lieutenant after Chickamauga and First Lieutenant after the Atlanta campaign.
Nelson Cresap told his family that during the battle of Shiloh, he was present at the Peach Orchard and was in the area where General Albert Sidney Johnson died. As an officer he was offered a horse to ride but he turned down the offer because if you had a horse you had to eat what the horse ate.
During the regiment’s re-enlistment in Jan 1864, General Hindman said “The spirit, in which these brave men enlisted, is an eloquent rebuke to the despondent. With men who thus prefer duty to ease, nothing is impossible in war.” In the final reorganization of the Army of Tennessee, there were to many officers for the number of enlisted men. During this reorganization, Nelson Cresap volunteered to “Return to the ranks and take up a gun again." He surrendered with the Southern Army at Greensboro, North Carolina in April 1865. The 47th Regiment started the war with about 1000 men, but at the surrender Nelson Cresap was one of 13 members still under arms.
After the Army’s surrender, he left Greensboro with a dollar and a quarter in his pocket and returned home to West Tennessee. During his journey, he used the quarter for the ferry fare across the Tennessee River. The dollar got a very special job in raising his family. All of his children, all of his grandchildren, and many of his great grand children (including me) used this very special dollar for teething.
After the war, he became a banker and farmer in Humboldt, Tennessee and was active in veteran affairs. He married Martha Alice Love in 1875 and they raised 6 children. He was a member of Humboldt Lodge No. 202 F. and A. M. for 63 years and was an elder of the Humboldt Presbyterian Church. During April, he took his grandchildren to the Shiloh battlefield for a tour of the battle and always assured that they understood his zeal for the cause of Southern Independence.
At the age of 94, he died on December 19, 1935, in Humboldt, Tennessee. His grave is in Shiloh cemetery in Gibson County, Tennessee. At his death, he was the oldest Confederate veteran in Gibson County, Tennessee.
I am proud of my Confederate ancestors and all the men and women who gave their all to drive invaders from their country. To remember Nelson Cresap, I have his war records, his picture in his uniform; his “D” handle Bowie knife is in the family , and the knowledge that his courageous blood flows through my veins. There are times when I feel timid to stand up for what is right. During these situations, I picture my ancestor with the Army of Tennessee assaulting the fortified works at the battle of Franklin and I know that I have the courage to do what is right.