Marlboro County, SC
Biographies - Donald Macdiarmid MacLEOD

 

by Joanne Harley.

Donald Macdiarmid MacLEOD, born December 18, 1823, the son of Daniel MacLeod (1765-1833) and his wife, Catherine Evans ((1785-1849) grew up in the Blenheim section of Marlboro Co.,SC.  He was named for a neighbor of the Macleod's, a Scottish gentleman, named Donald MacDiarmid, who was a bachelor, and had no children.  Mr. MacDiarmid offered to leave enough money in his will to give the young man a college education if he was given his name. 

Young Donald MacDiarmid Macleod grew up, went off to the SC College in Columbia, and returned to teach school in Bennettsville, SC .  He went to board with Mr.David Spears and his wife, Margaret McRae Spears.  The Spears had no children, but had taken in young Margaret Catherine Alford, and her sister when their mother had died, both neices of Margaret Spears.  A real love match bloomed between Donald MacDiarmid MacLeod and Margaret Catherine Alford, and they were soon married.  Three children were born to this pair.  Donald MacDiarmid, Jr., Catherine Ellen and John Kemper.  When the Civil War broke out, MacLeod enlisted.  This is the story of what happened.

 I have read two excerpts of his last days on this earth and this is close to emcompassing both stories: 

 Major Donald M. McLeod, 8th South Carolina Infantry, Kershaw's Brigade, McLaw's Division, Longstreet's Corps.


  " It would have seemed most unlikely to a passing traveler, especially for anyone not expecting it, to come suddenly upon the grave of a Confederate officer all alone in the quiet countryside of rural Pennsylvania.  But had the person stopped for water at the farm of Mr. Jeremiah W. George, on the road from Gettysburg to New Franklin, between July 4, 1863, and April 20, 1866, the grave would have been impossible to miss.  For there, "buried close by the well in a beautiful grove...marked by a headboard bearing his initials," was the resting place of Major McLeod, formerly of Hunt's Bluff, on the Pee Dee River in eastern South Carolina.
    A descendent of Scots ancestors who came to America in 1775, McLeod was 37 when he first entered the war.  In 1843 he had earned a degree from South Carolina College which enabled him to teach school; this he did until he began farming sometime before the war.  When succession split the country, Donald McLeod was the first in the Marlboro District to raise troops for the state. The six foot, four inch tall officer was described as "of commanding presence...erect, active, and alert, beloved by his company, (who) when the test came proved himself worthy of their love and confidence".  Within a very short time, due to the reorganization of the 8th, McLeod left Company K to accept the post of regimental major, a rank he held at Gettysburg.  More than half a dozen battles had already tested McLeod, and on those past fields he had "exhibited undaunted courage," and was "faithful to every trust".
     On July 2, Kershaw's Brigade took a prominent role in General John Hood's collision with the Union left flank, which stretched in a jagged line from Little Round Top to the Emmitsburg Road at Sherfty's peach orchard.  More than an hour after the assaults began, Kershaw's and then Barksdale's regiments charged toward the Peach Orchard, with Major McLeod and the 8th South Carolina on the left of his brigade.  Within minutes, even as this sudden movement dislodged the Federals, the major and over 100 of the 8th were hit by gunfire.  Although several later writers reported McLeod as killed outright, he was in fact alive but severly wounded.  His brigade commander remembered that McLeod acted  that day as "a gallant and estimable oficer."
     It is unclear where Major McLeod was taken for medical treatment, but it was probably to Francis Bream's "Black Horse Tavern" on the Fairfield Road.  Since many of the ambulances were collected along this thoroughfare at the start of Lee's retreat, it seems certain that the major was put aboard one of these converyances to be carried to Virginia.  It was not Donald McLeod's fortune, however, to make it very far.  Once through Fairfield, the train of wounded crossed South Mountain and then turned off toward Greencastle.  When not too distant from New Franklin, a halt was made at the aforementioned Mr. George's.  There, several Confederates who had died along the torturous route were buried. Among those deceased was Major McLeod, who was interred by his servant at J.W. George's.
      According to Jacob B. Snyder, a neighboring farmer, the death of the major caused his wife, Margaret C. Alford McLeod, to partially lose her mind.  Therefore, in the spring of 1866, to ease her burden, Mrs. McLeod's brother and a friend, with McLeod's former servant as a guide, made the trip from South Carolina to recover the body.  Mr. Snyder, telling the story in 1886, said:
          (They) followed up the way of the disastrous retreat until they came to Mr. George's, where the guide at once recognized the place and took them to the grave. The remains were taken up , carried to a place near my spring, and there prepared and enclosed in a box and taken along. 

        The former servant , who showed the family where the body had been buried was Bill Rials, a free black man who lived in the Blenheim area near the Macleods and had gone with MacLeod as his body servant during the years of the war.  When Bill Rials returned home after burying MacLeod, it is said he could not bear having to tell the widow of her husband's death, and instead, went to the home of John W. Macleod, the brother of the desceased, and asked him to convey the sad news.

 
            I'se gwine back to Dixie,
      For I hear the children calling,
           I see the sad tears falling,
    My heart's turned back to Dixie,
        And I must go."

SOURCES:

  1. History of Kershaw's Brigade, by Dickert, page 251
  2. "CONFEDERATES KILLED IN ACTION AT GETTYSBURG".  by Gregory A. Coco.  Page 59..."IN A BEAUTIFUL GROVE"... Major Donald M. McLeod, 8th South Carolina 
  3. THE MACLEODS- THE GENEALOGY OF A CLAN, Section 3, by Clan MacLeod Society, page 70
  4. Personal research
  5. Recent trip to Gettysburg, Pa. by descendant, Heather Ann Harley, who followed the trail of the wounded and located the farm of the George family as well as the Black Horse Tavern where the wounded were taken. 
  6. Oral family history

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