Remembering Our Ancestors: Azariah Martin Denny

This cousin of ours lost his life in the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.

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On Monday, 8 April 2019, our 3rd (and 4th) cousin Azariah Martin would have celebrated his 175th birthday.  But alas!, he died almost 155 years ago.

Azariah M. Denny
Azariah M. Denny, cir 1862. This photo is on display at the Cold Harbor Battlefield office.

When Azariah Martin Denny was born on 8 April 1844, in Surry, North Carolina, his father, Joel, was 30 and his mother, Nancy Jones, was 25.  Azariah was the fourth child and third son of his parents, and named after his paternal grandfather.  He had four brothers and three sisters altogether.

Azariah became a Confederate Soldier in the American Civil War at the age of 18.  He enlisted on 14 August 1862 as a Private, and mustered into “C” Co. NC 21st Infantry.
During his short time as a soldier he was listed as a POW on 3 May 1863 in Chancellorsville, VA and confined first in the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, DC (on 5 May 1863 ) and then at Fort Delaware, DE (on 7 May 1863).  He arrived in City Point, VA for exchange on 23 May 1863 and was paroled.

Almost exactly a year later, he found himself on the battlefield in Virginia, in the Battle of Cold Harbor, to be precise, where he was killed on 6 June 1864 at the age of 20.  Giles Whitaker, a neighbor of the Denny family and a chaplain in the Confederate Army, wrote Joel, Azariah’s father, a letter, appropriately edged in black, about the tragedy.  This letter was kept for many years in the David Denny family after Joel died.  Whitaker’s account revealed that Azariah had attempted to make a dash from one fence-rail barricade to another, but was shot down before he reached safety.  This information is from the “Surry County Heritage Book, Vol. 1”.

Of course, Azariah was not the only soldier to die near Mechanicsville, Virginia between 31 March and 12 June of 1864.  In fact, this battle is remembered as one of American history’s bloodiest battle in which around 11 thousand Union soldiers were killed or wounded in a frontal assault against the fortified positions of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army.  On the Confederate side, just over 4 thousand soldiers suffered the same fate.  It didn’t help those 15,000 that Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union army’s attack, later said of the battle, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. … No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”

Azariah Martin Denny’s body was brought home and buried in the Joel Denny Cemetery in Shoals, Surry Co., North Carolina, one of the many Denny cemeteries in that county.  In this he was lucky, for many a soldier who fell in that battle, and especially in the swamp attack of 6 June 1864, was buried where he fell and his body was never retrieved.  A decent burial has been important, in fact, essential in many cultures for many centuries, so we are thankful his family was able to lay him to rest properly.

Rest in Peace, Azariah.

azariah martin denny tombstone

The inscription reads:

Pvt.
Azariah Denny

Co. C.
21st Regiment
CSA

Apr 8, 1844
Jun 6, 1864

Featured image:  “Battle of Cold Harbor” by Kurz and Allison, 1888

1 comments on “Remembering Our Ancestors: Azariah Martin Denny”

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