Marrying Cousins: Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens

Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens were cousins who lived in the Ray City, GA vicinity prior to the Civil War.

Letitia “Lettie” Giddens was the daughter of Sarah Smith and John Giddens, born July 14, 1832 in Randolph County, GA.  Her mother died in 1845, when Lettie was about seven years old.  Her father was remarried about two years later on April 11, 1847 to Nancy Smith in Randolph County.  Lettie was enumerated there at age 18 in 1850 in the household of her father and stepmother.

About 1851 Letitia Giddens married her cousin John Mathis Giddens.  He was born 1832 in Lowndes County, GA the eldest son of Civility Mathis and Duncan Giddens, and grew up on the family farm near the Cat Creek community, about ten miles southeast of Ray City, GA.  His father, Duncan Giddens,  served with Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1838. His grandfather, Thomas Giddens, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  His brother, Jasper Giddens, was a subject of earlier posts (see Jasper Giddens ‘Settles’ Knife Fight).

According to Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia Vol 1, John M. Giddens’ father, Duncan Giddens, and uncle Thomas Giddens, came south around 1827-28 to settle in that part of Lowndes county later cut into Berrien county.  Around 1855, Duncan Giddens moved to Clinch County where he served as Justice of the Inferior Court.

In the Census of 1860, John M and Letitia Giddens were enumerated in  Berrien County, where John was a farmer with $850 in real estate and $900 in his personal estate. Census records place them in the neighborhood of James M. Baskin, William Washington Knight, John Knight,Sr. and other early settlers of the Ray City, GA area. According to Huxford, after marriage, Lettie and John M. Giddens made their home in Berrien County near her parents.

Around the start of the Civil War John and Lettie moved to Clinch County and settled in Lot 240, 7th Land District on land  given to them by John’s father, Duncan Giddens. After the outbreak of hostilities John M. Giddens went to Waresboro, GA  to Battery Walker where he enlisted as a private  “for 3 years or war.”  He was mustered into the 50th Georgia Infantry, Company B under Captain Bedford.

John M. Giddens soon learned that soldiers in the confederate camps were under risk of more than battle. His Civil War service records show that from April 30, 1862  he was “absent, sick in hospital.”  By June 1862 he was “sent to hospital in Savannah.”  In July, letters home from the Berrien county soldiers were telling of rampant disease spreading throughout the confederate camps: chills and fever, mumps, diarrhea and typhoid fever. That month, John was “sent 17th of July to Convalescent Camp located near Whitesville, Ga,” about twenty miles south of Savannah.

The confederate facility at Whitesville, GA was Guyton Hospital, subject of earlier posts.  Guyton Hospital had been established just two months earlier. In Surgical Memoirs of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, issued 1871, Guyton Hospital was described as one of the better  hospitals in Confederate Georgia.

On the same day that John M. Giddens arrived at Guyton Hospital, July 17, 1862 his cousin Isbin T. Giddens died there of “brain fever.”  Until his illness, Isbin had been serving as 2nd Sergeant in the Berrien Minute Men,  Company G, 29th Georgia Regiment.

Later company records of the 50th Georgia Regiment show John M. Giddens was “absent sick not known where.”  The Company muster roll, for November and December 1864 observed that he was “absent – sent to Hospital in November 1862 – not heard from since – supposed to be dead.”

John M. Giddens, Company B, 50th Georgia Regiment.  Company Muster Rolls show he was presumed dead since 1862, after he never returned from the hospital at Whitesville, GA.

John M. Giddens, Company B, 50th Georgia Regiment. Company Muster Rolls show he was presumed dead since 1862, after he never returned from the hospital at Whitesville, GA.

According to Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, John M. Giddens died at a military hospital in late November or December 1864, but it seems unlikely that he would have survived that long given the other known facts of his service.  It seems more probable that he died in 1862, shortly after becoming ill.  The location of his burial is not known at the time of this writing.

At home in Clinch County, Lettie Giddens waited for the husband who would never return.  After the war, she moved back to Berrien County with her two children, Virgil A. and Lavinia, and remained there for the rest of her days.  Her father, John Giddens, died in Berrien County in 1866.  Lettie lived on a farm valued at $330 near the home of her step-mother, Nancy Smith Giddens.

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