Private William Britt
Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry
A Gift from Ireland is Prepared for Britt's Grave
Private William Britt was an Irish immigrant who settled in Paris, Tennessee. At the age of thirty-eight, he enlisted on October 1, 1862 in Company M of the Fifth Iowa Cavalry. Britt did his share of the fighting and was wounded and taken prisoner on July 30, 1864, in the encounter at Chehaw, Alabama.
The information in the Official Records related to Britt's service is rather confused. It states he was injured on the date cited above. However, the skirmish at Chehaw was actually fought on July 18th. Thus, the first date is in error. This is the only explanation, since Private Britt tragically died from his wounds. The Official Records indicate that he died on July 25, 1864 at Chehaw, Alabama. However, additional research has suggested that he and seven other troopers wounded at Chehaw were hospitalized at Notasulga where he perished the first week of August.
An additional mistake in the records appears with the statement that he transferred with the rest of the regiment into the Fifth Iowa Consolidated Cavalry on August 8, 1864. It is likely that since his circumstances were uncertain at the time of the formation of the Consolidated regiment, the records reflected his presumed transfer. Presumably the records were never amended after the regiment learned of his death.
Britt was buried at the Marietta National Cemetery, but his grave was not identified with certainty. It was left to David Evans, author of Sherman's Horsemen: Union Cavalry Operations in the Atlanta Campaign, to positively identify his final resting place. Once that was accomplished, the military made preparations to provide the grave with an appropriate marker. The ceremony was made all the more meaningful by the fact that the members of the Irish parish where he was baptized in 1824 sent a piece of sod from his ancestral gravesite to be placed upon his grave in the "new world" where he had made his home… and for which he had offered his life.