James M. Baskin, early settler of the Ray City area, fought in the Civil War. He owned many slaves who worked at his farm, cotton gin and other enterprises. At the start of the war he was about 32 years of age, and like other able-bodied southern men he joined the Confederate army. He left behind his wife, Frances Bell Knox Baskin, to care for their young family and to administer the Baskin farm and business interests.
On May 6, 1862 he enlisted at Nashville, GA and was organized along with other recruits into the 54th Georgia Volunteer Infantry at Savannah, Georgia on June 5. James Baskin became a private in Company E, a company of men from Berrien County under the command of Captains J. H. Evans and H. M. Tally. The regiment served for some time in the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. From January-February, 1863 they were south of Savannah, with Company E stationed at Coffee Bluff. The orders from March 1863 show they were among the troops assigned to the Savannah River Batteries and other defenses. In July of 1863, Company E and other infantry units of the 54th Regiment were moved up to the Charleston area, where they were involved in numerous engagements. On July 16th, they fought in the engagement near Grimball’s Landing, James Island, South Carolina. From mid-July to September 1863 they were involved in the defense of Charleston Harbor at Battery Wagner on Morris Island.
James M. Baskin may have returned home some time around June of 1863 as his wife, Frances, delivered the couple’s first son, James B. Baskin, on February 9, 1864. Or perhaps Frances traveled to Savannah to visit him that summer of 1863. Martha Guthrie and other housewives of Berrien County are known to have made this trip to see their husbands the following year.
The 54th Georgia Regiment was reconstituted on April 22, 1864. They moved to Dalton, GA arriving on May 2, 1864 and went into action in the Atlanta Campaign. They fought almost daily engagements: from May 7-13 demonstrations at Rocky Face Ridge; May 14-15 actions at Lay’s Ferry, Oostenaula River, GA.; May 17 engagement at Adairesville,Ga.; May 19 combat near Cassville,GA.; May 25-26 Battle of New Hope Church.
On May 25-June 5 the 54th Regiment was participating in operations on the line of Pumpkin Vine Creek, Paulding County, just north of the town of Dallas, GA.
On June 10-July 3 Operations about Marietta and the Pine Mountain-Lost Mountain line; June 27 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain; July 5-July 17 Operations on the line of the Chattahoochee River; July 20 Battle of Peachtree Creek.
During the Battle of Atlanta, on July 22, 1864 , James M. Baskin was wounded in the hip – one of 83 casualties the Regiment suffered in that engagement.
“He lay all night on the ground. The next day he heard a rustling in the grass and called out. He was rescued by a Yankee soldier.”
He spent time in hospital in Lagrange, GA until in April 1865 he was furloughed ’wounded’ and returned to his home to Berrien County. While James was away, Frances ran the Baskin farm and cotton gin. With the end of the war, James Baskin returned to farm life. After the Baskin’s slaves were freed, most made their homes on the farm and lived out their lives there
While working in the gin Frances had contracted a form of tuberculosis. She died on June 3, 1885 in Rays Mill (now known as Ray City), Berrien County, Georgia.
The widower James Baskin, with minor children still at home, decided to re-marry. On December 30, 1885 he married Mary Ann Harrell of Lowndes County. This union produced six children.
In his old age, James M. Baskin applied for and received an annual Indigent Soldier’s pension. His applications stated that he applied on account of “age and poverty.” He was in bad physical condition and suffered from rheumatism. His application stated his wife owned a small farm where they lived with five children, and up until that time he was “trying to farm” and “made a scant living.’
- James Madison Baskin Settled at Beaver Dam Creek. (raycityhistory.wordpress.com)