In 1891 Mary A. Chapman, widow of “Old Yaller” Elbert J. Chapman , was destitute and applied for a Conderate Widow’s Pension from the State of Georgia. The pension was denied on the grounds that Chapman was a deserter.
Born Mary Ann Boyd in Lowndes County in the year 1836, she was a daughter of Aden Boyd and Nancy Sykes. Her parents were neighbors of Dred Newbern and Jonathan Sirmans. County deed records show that on February 22, 1839, Aden Boyd purchased land from Levi J. Knight. This land was a part of lot 356, 10th district of what was then Lowndes but now Berrien County. Her parents were Primitive Baptists, and her father donated the land for Empire Church, which was originally known as Boyd’s Meeting House.
Mary Ann Boyd married Elbert J. Chapman in June of 1859.
Mary A. Chapman’s application for a Confederate Widow’s Pension was based on his service in Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men, but across the cover of the application was scrawled in large letters and underlined for emphasis – “Refused.” Further notations included, “husband shot for desertion.”
The application included an Affidavit made by the Widow Chapman.
According to Mary Chapman’s sworn statement, E. J. Chapman enlisted in the Berrien Minute Men in mid-September, 1861. “Some time during the war he was killed by his on men for deserting one company and going to another company of our own Army, and to the best of applicants knowledge, he was killed in North Ga in the year 1863.
This statement was corroborated by Harris Gaskins, Jesse Hodges, and Joseph S. Morris.
The three witnesses stated, “He was on or about the 15th day of Oct. 1863 killed by his own men for leaving his own company & joining the Artillery in the Western Army. he was brought back from Jackson Mississippi and shot by Court Martial in Northern Georgia witnesses state further, that E. J. Chapman was in a cavalry co in Mississippi when he was brought back, court martialed and killed.”
Later newspaper accounts of Old Yaller, Elbert J. Chapman, added the following:
“During the administration of Governor Atkinson Hon. F. M. Shaw, who was a member of the Legislature, saw in person the Governor and our Pension Commissioner, Mr. Lindsey, in regard to Mrs. Chapman drawing a pension, which had been rejected because her husband was a deserter. The fact that he only quit one command and went to another, that he had, in fact, deserted neither his flag nor his country, but was serving both faithfully and well when found in Canton, did not change the conclusion reached by the Pension Commissioner, and Mr. Shaw’s efforts to secure her a pension were in vain. She was an invalid and living in poverty.”
NOTE: The F.M. Shaw referred to above is usually known as F.M. Shaw, Jr. to distinguish him from the Francis Marion Shaw who lived at Ray City. F.M. Shaw, Jr. was from the Adel community:
“Francis Marion Shaw, Jr. owned large tracts of land east of Adel, much of which was later deeded to his children. He served in various civic positions, including that of Chairman of the Berrien County Board of Education, County Commissioner for several terms, and state Representative, the latter an office to which he was elected in 1894.”