Payday and a prisoner’s deception

Pay had been sporadic for some time when, on Thursday, August 13, 1863, the 13th Regiment, along with the rest of the brigade, finally received its wages.

“We were paid off yesterday to include the 30th of June,” Lieutenant Robert A. Moore of the 17th Regiment wrote in his diary on Friday.

Saturday was clear and warm when Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill wrote of a letter making the rounds of the regiment from a man who had been captured at Gettysburg—one of twenty-five men listed as captured there by independent regimental historian Jess N. McLean.

The writer, Hill recorded, “stated that Capt. Robert Topp [of the Spartan Band] was a prisoner in Fort Delaware, is well and passing himself [off] as a Sgt., which if not detected, will enable him to be exchanged sooner. The enemy are not exchanging commissioned officers….”

McLean, however, found that Topp’s real rank was discovered on Aug. 18 by prison authorities, and he was sent to Johnson’s Island, in Lake Erie, which held mainly Confederate officers.

Topp, according to H. Grady Howell, Jr., had joined the regiment as a private, and was promoted to second sergeant and eventually to captain and quartermaster of the 13th.

According to McLean, Topp was a 22-year-old clerk living in Columbus, MS, when he enlisted on March 23, 1861 and was assigned as assistant quartermaster. Although apparently not owning slaves himself, Topp seems to have had relatives elsewhere in the state who did, according to the Federal Census of 1860.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, H. Grady Howell Jr., Jess N. McLean, The Spartan Band, William H. Hill Diary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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