Berrien Readied for Civil War, May, 1861

In May of 1861, Wiregrass Georgia prepared for the coming Civil War.  In Berrien County,GA General Levi J. Knight drilled his company of Berrien Minute Men.   The Brooks County Rifles assembled under the command of Captain John Clark Mounger, and in Lowndes County, the Lowndes Volunteers were led first by Captain George T. Hammond, then by Captain James Patterson.

On May 28, 1861, the Savannah Republican published a letter from Valdosta, GA with a report on the crops and military matters of South Georgia.

1861-may-28

1861-may-28

Savannah Republican
May 28, 1861

Crops and Military Matters in Southern Georgia.

Valdosta, Lowndes county Ga.,
May 23d, 1861

Mr. Editor: Thinking that it would be of some interest to your readers to hear of the condition of the crops and of the military preparations of Southern Georgia, I have concluded to furnish them, through the columns of your valuable paper, with the necessary information.
First, in regard to the crops: they are very promising. Corn looks well, and the oat crop was never better. Potatoes, sugar cane, and cotton, notwithstanding the backwardness of the spring, are growing off finely, and everything up to the present time, as we have had fine seasons of rain, indicates a heavy yield to the husbandman in harvest time.
As to military preparations, the county is alive with volunteers, and all eager for a fight with the Abolitionists. Our citizens have liberally contributed funds to equip and prepare for service the poor men connected with the companies, and also to supply with provisions and clothing the destitute families of those who shall enter the service. And I would say to Governor Brown, as an humble citizen not presuming to dictate to him his duty, while he stands at the helm of State, if he wishes to sustain the reputation of the Empire State of the South for bravery and skill in marksmanship during the present campaign, by all means select as many companies as possible from Southern Georgia, for the men of this portion of the State are accustomed to handle the plow and the rifle. They can toil and shoot with great accuracy, and, as an evident fact, it is said on good authority, that there is not a man in Gen Knight’s company of volunteers,in Berrien county, numbering eighty, rank and file, but who can kill a deer one hundred yards with rifle running. The men composing the company are tall, active and efficient – the men for the camp and the battle field – and all they ask is a showing. There is also the Lowndes Volunteers, composed mostly of active and brave young men, commanded by Captain Patterson, their former Captain, George T. Hammond, having resigned. This company is now in camp, drilling and preparing themselves for the field; also, the Brooks Rifles, commanded by Captain Mounger, and others that might be mentioned; but suffice it, Mr. Editor, Southern Georgia is ready and prepared for any emergency, and if old Abe or any of his hirelings should attempt to invade our shores they will be swept off like the Egyptian flies before the winds of the Sahara.

Lowndes.

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Ray City Remembers WWII

J.B. Mitchell Sirmans and the Wheaton Victory

During WWII, J.B. Mitchell Sirmans, of Ray City,GA. served as a crewman on the American armed merchantman SS Wheaton Victory. J.B. Mitchell Sirmans was a son of Jay Sirmans and Rachel Allifar Smith.

SS Wheaton Victory. <br> J.B. Mitchell Sirmans, of Rays Mill, GA was a crew member on the SS Wheaton Victory during the 1940s post-WWII

SS Wheaton Victory.
J.B. Mitchell Sirmans, of Rays Mill, GA was a crew member on the SS Wheaton Victory during the 1940s post-WWII

In the post-WWII period J.B. Mitchell Sirmans made several Atlantic crossings as a crew member of the SS Wheaton Victory.  The Wheaton Victory was one of 414 Victory ships built in 1944-45.

According to the Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, the Victory Ships were an improvement on the Liberty Ships which were built earlier in the war. Men of Ray City, GA, like others across the nation, participated in the construction of these merchant vessels, and served aboard them. Another Ray City merchant marine, Hyman Hardeman Sirmans, served on the WWII Liberty Ships.

By the time the Victory ships were being designed, it was clear the Allies were winning the war, so these ships were constructed to be of use for post-war commercial service.  Construction standards were higher, and the Victory ships were safer and faster than the earlier Liberty Ships. They were also armed with general purpose and anti-aircraft deck guns.

The Victory Ship design was controversial. There was some feeling among the shipbuilders that switching from Liberty to Victory Ships would slow production, but the Maritime Commission countered that the limited supply of steel favored construction of faster ships that could move more

In 1942-45, WPB supervised the production of $183 billion worth of weapons and supplies, about 40% of the world output of munitions. Britain, the USSR and other allies produced an addition 30%, while the Axis produced only 30%. One fourth of the US output was warplanes; one fourth was warships.

In 1942-45, WPB supervised the production of $183 billion worth of weapons and supplies, about 40% of the world output of munitions. Britain, the USSR and other allies produced an addition 30%, while the Axis produced only 30%. One fourth of the US output was warplanes; one fourth was warships.

tonnage for a given investment of steel. The Controller of Shipbuilding on the War Production Board, William F. Gibbs, preferred to see construction of a single fast cargo ship. The Army and Navy were also interested in faster shipping for use as auxiliaries. The British had already begun construction of fast cargo ships and it was feared the U.S. merchant marine would be put at a considerable disadvantage in the postwar world. The debate over construction of Victory Ships vs Liberty Ships took long enough to resolve that the program was delayed by many months, and none of the Victory ships were completed before early 1944.

The Victory Ship design was largely based on the Liberty Ship, and design changes were deliberately kept to an absolute minimum to reduce the disruption in production. However, modifications were accepted to allow greater deck loads, and the cargo handling facilities were improved…. Decks for packaged goods were added.  Because there was some uncertainty about the engines that would be available, the design made compromises to permit efficient operation over a range of powers.

Because the ships were designed and constructed in wartime, virtually all were completed as armed merchantmen. The complement and armament shown are typically of those Victory Ships serving as armed merchantmen in forward areas of the Pacific.

U.S. Customs Service records show Jay B Sirmans joined the merchant marines about 1942. He was 36 years old, 6’1″ and 160 pounds.  In 1945-46 he was sailing on the S.S. Wheaton Victory as a Junior Engineer. At that time the Wheaton Victory was busily shuttling troops from Europe back to the States.

Record of Atlantic crossings by the SS Wheaton Victory from 1945-1946 newspaper reports:

  • July 22, 1945 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York.
  • November 25, 1945 Wheaton Victory arrived at Newport News, VA with 1,915 troops including chemical salvaged company; headquarters and headquarters company, 75th Infantry Division; 2nd battalion, 289th infantry; 3rd battalion, 289th infantry.
  • December 27, 1945 Wheaton Victory arrived at Boston from Antwerp, Belgium with 1,544 troops including the 539th Field Artillery Observation Battalion with medics, 8th field artillery observation battalion with medics, and the 759th tank battalion with medics.
  • January 26, 1946 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York from Le Havre, France with 1,518 troops including 602nd antiaircraft artillery battalion and the 196th general hospital.
  • March 8, 1946 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York from Antwerp with 1,501 troops, including 559th anti-arcraft artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and the 825th Medical Detachment.
  • April 10, 1946 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York from Antwerp with 931 troops, including 465th and 958th Quarter Masters companies.
  • May 16, 1946 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York from Le Havre with 710 troops.
  • June 25th, 1946 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York from Bremen.
  • August 3, 1946 Wheaton Victory arrived at New York from Bremerhaven with 1,372 army troops.
  • August 15, 1946 Wheaton Victory departed New York bound for the Panama Canal.
<strong>SS Wheaton Victory in New York Harbor</strong> <br />  The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship in New York Harbor,  August 3, 1946, full of American troops returning to the U.S.A. after World War II. The Wheaton Victory is being maneuvered into port by the tug <a title="Tug Boat Information" href="http://www.tugboatinformation.com/tug.cfm?id=4790" target="_blank">Card Boys</a> and other tugboats of Card Towing company. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

SS Wheaton Victory in New York Harbor
The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship in New York Harbor, August 3, 1946, full of American troops returning to the U.S.A. after World War II. The Wheaton Victory is being maneuvered into port by the tug Card Boys and other tugboats of Card Towing company. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

 

Returning WWII Troops aboard the SS Wheaton Victory in New York Harbor<br> After the war, The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship was pressed into service as a troop transport ferrying returning service personnel back to the States. The troops crowed the decks as the ship arrived at the docks in New York Harbor sometime in late July 1946 or early August 1946.  In the crowd can be seen servicemen and officers, service women, and African American soldiers. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

Returning WWII Troops aboard the SS Wheaton Victory in New York Harbor
After the war, The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship was pressed into service as a troop transport ferrying returning service personnel back to the States. The troops crowed the decks as the ship arrived at the docks in New York Harbor sometime in late July 1946 or early August 1946. In the crowd can be seen servicemen and officers, service women, and African American soldiers. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

<strong>Returning WWII Troops arriving at New York aboard the SS Wheaton Victory </strong><br />  After the war, The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship served as a troop transport, returning 900-1900 service personnel back to the States per trip. The troops lined the decks as the ship arrived at the docks in New York Harbor on August 2, 1946. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

Returning WWII Troops arriving at New York aboard the SS Wheaton Victory
After the war, The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship served as a troop transport, returning 900-1900 service personnel back to the States per trip. The troops lined the decks as the ship arrived at the docks in New York Harbor on August 2, 1946. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

<strong>SS Wheaton Victory arriving at New York August 3, 1946 </strong><br />  Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

SS Wheaton Victory arriving at New York August 3, 1946
Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

August 3, 1946,  Arrival of the SS Wheaton Victory<br> Wheaton Victory arriving at New York from Bremerhaven, Germany with 1,372 army troops on board. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

Arrival of the SS Wheaton Victory, August 3, 1946
Wheaton Victory arriving at New York from Bremerhaven, Germany with 1,372 army troops on board. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

SS Wheaton Victory in New York Harbor  The Wheaton Victory merchant marine ship in New York Harbor, August 3, 1946, full of American troops returning to the U.S.A. after World War II. The brigdge of the tug Card Boys,  of Card Towing company, is seen in the foreground. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

SS Wheaton Victory in New York Harbor
The Wheaton Victory
merchant marine ship in New York Harbor, August 3, 1946, full of American troops returning to the U.S.A. after World War II. The bridge of the tug Card Boys, of Card Towing company, is seen in the foreground. Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

Returning WWII Troops arriving at New York aboard the SS Wheaton Victory

Returning WWII Troops arriving at New York aboard the SS Wheaton Victory, August 3, 1946
Image courtesy of Colin Smith.

The Merchant Marine served in World War II as a Military Auxiliary. Of the nearly quarter million volunteer merchant mariners who served during World War II, over 9,000 died. Merchant Sailors suffered a greater percentage of fatalities (3.9%) than any branch of the armed forces.

Despite reaping the praise of both President Eisenhower and General Douglas McArthur following the war, many consider the men that served aboard these important vessels the forgotten Sailors of WWII, as those who returned home were denied benefits for injuries and often over-looked in Victory celebrations. In recent years, maritime and naval historians have begun to shed light on the significant contribution of the Liberty Ships [and Victory Ships] and their builders and Sailors. Their contribution to the war effort was tremendous–they were responsible for carrying 2/3 of all cargo leaving U.S. ports in support of the Allies over-seas. This achievement is matched by their contribution to the advancement of shipbuilding technology.

Wheaton Victory_0001

Strange Story from Sharpe’s Store

Sharpe’s Store

In 1852, a strange medical story from Sharpe’s Store, GA was circulated in state newspapers.

Sharpes’ Store was at a center of commerce located on the Coffee Road about two miles above the present day town  of  Morven, GA.  The store had been founded in 1826 when Hamilton W. Sharpe came down the Coffee Road and decided to settle near the home and traveler’s inn of Sion Hall in Lowndes County.  Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near Sion Hall’s place.    Thus, Hall’s Inn and Sharpe’s Store  were situated approximately 25 miles southwest of present day  Ray City, GAthe site where  the Knight family first settled in the winter of 1826. In 1828, Hamilton W. Sharpe obtained the establishment of a U. S. Post Office at his store, for  which he was appointed Postmaster.  The Sharpe’s Store Post Office served Wiregrass Pioneers for almost 25 years.

The medical mystery in 1852 concerned a son of Berrien County resident Ashley Lawson, who resided in the area of Troupville, GA and who was a veteran of the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek. The story was reported by James R. Folsom, who was a teacher in Berrien County, and later, Postmaster at Cecil, GA.

It began when the Lawson boy choked on a chinquapin nut in 1845…

1852-may-11-milledgevill-southern-recorder_sharpes-store.bmp

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 11, 1852

Sharp’s Store, Lowndes Co, Ga.
May 2, 1852.

Gentlemen: – I wish to give you the particulars of a strange circumstance which has taken place in this neighborhood a few days since.- In the year 1845, a little boy the son of Mr. Ashley Lawson, got strangled in trying to swallow a chinquepin, and from that time he has been troubled with a cough similar to croupe every winter. This spring his parents thought he would die, (being worse off than ususal) but he coughed up the chinquepin. On examination it had a bony covering about one sixteenth of an inch thick on it. On removing the osseous substance, the chinquepin was found to be perfectly sound, the marks were on it where he had scraped it with his knife before trying to swallow it.
He is now in good health and is free from the cough, with which he has been troubled so long. In conclusion I would say, that there are many respectable persons who will vouch for the truth of the above statement. Respectfully yours,

Jas. R. Folsom.

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Rema Lee died of Blood Poisoning

Rema Lee (1893-1901)

Rema Lee was born May 1, 1893, a son of Amanda Clements and Moses Lee who lived east of Ray City, GA.   His father was a prominent farmer of Berrien County. His older brother was Bill Lee,  who built a mail-order home from the Sears Catalog near Ray City.   Tragically, Rema died at the age of eight after injuring his foot with a garden hoe.

Rema Lee, son of Moses Lee and Amanda Clements, died of blood poisoning in 1901.

Rema Lee, son of Moses Lee and Amanda Clements, died of blood poisoning in 1901.

Tifton Gazette
May 10, 1901

The eight-year-old son of Mr. Mose Lee, living in the Milltown district of Berrien county, died on Sunday, after an illness of about a week.  The lad’s death was due to blood poisoning caused from a wound he received a week previous to his death while chopping weeds with a hoe in the yard.  – Times

 

According to the Standard Medical Manual 1901 edition, blood poisoning or “septicemia”  is

“an infective disease caused by the presence in the blood of septic bacteria or their products. The term is usually restricted to the disease resulting from the presence of streptococci or staphylococci or their toxins in the blood. The germs may gain access to the blood through infection of wounds, or by ware of sores, erosions or abrasions of the skin or mucous membranes.  In true septicemia the symptoms are intense and overwhelming. They usually make their appearance within two or three days after infection. There is a severe chill and the temperature goes up with a bound. Within a few hours it is 104° to 105° F. The pulse is very rapid and soon becomes feeble and thready.  Respiration is hurried and shallow. There is severe  headache, loss of appetite, frequently vomiting and diarrhea.  The face becomes drawn, sharpened and anxious, the patient soon lapses into a condition of mental stupor, later there is mild delirium. Prostration is profound. The fever continues high, there is profuse perspiration, the mouth becomes dry and the tongue brown and tremulous. Death frequently takes place within four or five days.”

Grave of Rema Lee, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County GA

Grave of Rema Lee, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County GA

Ray City Girls and Boys at Camp Wilkins

Ray City School students were among the girls and boys who attended 1931 summer courses at Camp Wilkins in Athens, GA. Camp Wilkins was built in 1924 as the first state 4-H camp in the nation.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia,

 “The roots of the Georgia 4-H Club began in 1904 in Newton County as a countywide boys’ corn club. Statewide corn- and cotton-growing contests were held in 1906. Chicken and pig contests were held in 1908. In that same year the program was also extended to black youngsters. Club work for girls began in Hancock County in 1906 and consisted of garden clubs, tomato clubs, and canning clubs. By 1911 more than 1,500 girls were active in the pre-4-H Club activities.  In 1924 the nation’s first state 4-H camp, Camp Wilkins, was built on the University of Georgia campus.”
1925-camp-wilkins

Cooking breakfast at Camp Wilkins, a part of Georgia State College of Agriculture, after a nature hike. Circa 1925-1932. Image source: Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.

 In  the summer of 1931 a number of local Ray City youth and adults attended Camp Wilkins, the first 4-H camp in Georgia.  Camp Wilkins offered  summer course programs June 14 through August 13 through the Georgia State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts in Athens, GA, at the University of Georgia.

“BOYS’ AND GIRLS’ SHORT COURSES AT CAMP WILKINS

A short course of nine weeks is given every summer for the boys and girls who have won scholarships in the different agricultural and home economics clubs of the state. This course is also open to boys and girls who do not win scholarships.

Scholarships in the short courses are given by fair associations, chambers of commerce, women’s clubs, banks, and other public-spirited organizations and individuals who are interested in stimulating education in agriculture and home economics among boys and girls.

Every year more than 2,000 boys and girls take advantage of the elementary instruction which is made very practical indeed and is visualized as far as possible by application and illustration.”

Among the boys attending from Ray City were Bernard Johnson (RCHS 1930), Brown King (RCHS 1930),  Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, Billy McDonald,  James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936). The girls were Clyde Carter (RCHS 1936), Margaret Carter  (RCHS 1930), Mabel McDonald (RCHS 1930), Clyde Moore, Doris Swindle  (RCHS 1930), and Grace Swindle, and Beth Terry (RCHS 1930).  Ray City adults Chloe Gardener Johnson   and Carrie McDonald were also at Camp Wilkins, attending a summer course for farm women.   The 4-H activities in Berrien County were coordinated by County Agricultural Agent Donald L. Branyon, and the Home Demonstration Agent was Mary Nell Davis.  In Georgia, there were also Negro Boys’ clubs, Negro Home Demonstration Clubs, Negro Agricultural Agents and Negro Home Demonstration Agents, but none serving Berrien County.  The black division of 4-H was headquartered at Savannah State College (now Savannah State University), and separate events were held for its members in Dublin, GA.
Announcement of the Georgia State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts for the session 1932-1933 with Register of Officers and Students for the Session 1931-1932, Athens, Georgia

Announcement of the Georgia State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts for the session 1932-1933 with Register of Officers and Students for the Session 1931-1932, Athens, Georgia

Camp Wilkins, Athens, GA

Camp Wilkins, Athens, GA, 1925

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Camp Wilkins

Club girls at Camp Wilkins studying home foundation plantings and shrubbery, 1925.  The building is Barrow Hall on the UGA campus.

Horticulture class at Camp Wilkins, Athens, GA

Horticulture class at Camp Wilkins, Athens, GA, 1925

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Athens, June 17-22, 1929. Farm women's camp, Georgia home demonstration council.

Athens, June 17-22, 1929. Farm women’s camp, Georgia home demonstration council.

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Portrait of Jimmy Grissett, Jr.

James Arthur Grissett, Jr. (1932-2010)

 

Jimmy Grissett, 1949 Class President, Ray City School

Jimmy Grissett, 1949 Class President, Ray City School

 

Jimmy Grissett, 1948 Ray City School photo.

Jimmy Grissett, 1948 Ray City School photo.

Jimmy Grissett, born December 1, 1932, was one of five children born to James and Lily Crum Grissett. James Grisset, Sr. was a mail carrier serving the Ray City area, and for some time he served as a U.S. Postmaster.  The Crum family had an automotive business in Lakeland. Lily Grisset was known throughout the community for her kindness and assistance to those less fortunate. For years, she played the organ at Ray City Baptist Church.

The Grissetts owned a large farm at Ray City, GA situated between Beaverdam Creek and Johnson Street.  This land also had some frontage on Pauline Street and on Main Street. The house located on Pauline Street across from the Beaverdam Cemetery was owned by the Grissetts, although they never lived there. The house may have been occupied by tennant farmers who rented some of the Grissett land.

As young people, Jimmy Grisset, Anna Martha (sister), Diane Miley, Carroll Brown Guthrie, Herman Knight Guthrie,  and some of the Knight cousins spent summers working at the tobacco barn on Paul Knight’s farm out on Clabberville Road (aka Johnson Street), southeast of Ray City.  At the time this land was being farmed by Herman Guthrie, son-in-law of Paul Knight.

Following graduation from Ray City High School, Jimmy Grissett went on to study at North Georgia College and Georgia Institute of Technology where he received a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1958.

Image:  The Cyclops of 1951, Published by the Cadets and Coeds of North Georgia College, Dahlonega, Georgia.

Image: The Cyclops of 1951, Published by the Cadets and Coeds of North Georgia College, Dahlonega, Georgia.

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James A. Grissett, 1953,  Corps of Cadets, North Georgia College

James A. Grissett, 1952, Corps of Cadets, North Georgia College http://www.archive.org/stream/cyclops45nort#page/37/mode/1up/

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  Image: James A. Grissett, Jr., Blue Print, 1954: Georgia Institute of Technology Yearbook

Image: James A. Grissett, Jr., Blue Print, 1954: Georgia Institute of Technology Yearbook

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Image: James A. Grissett, Jr., Blue Print, 1957: Georgia Institute of Technology Yearbook

Image: James A. Grissett, Jr., Blue Print, 1957: Georgia Institute of Technology Yearbook

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Image: James Arthur Grissett, Jr. Blue Print,1958: Georgia Institute of Technology Yearbook

Image: James Arthur Grissett, Jr. Blue Print,1958: Georgia Institute of Technology Yearbook

Clements Brothers at Georgia Teachers College

Mason and Keith Clements of Ray City, GA, were sons of James Irwin Clements and Annie Mae Carter Clements.

Mason and Keith Clements attended Georgia Teachers College, now Georgia Southern University, in 1948.

Mason and Keith Clements attended Georgia Teachers College, now Georgia Southern University, in 1948.

Keith graduated from Ray City High School with the RCHS Class of 1942 and Mason graduated with the RCHS Class of 1943. Their older brother, J.I.Clements graduated with the RCHS class of 1938. All three entered the service during WWII, and after the war all three made their way to Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University),  Statesboro, GA.  In 1948, Mason and Keith were undergraduates while J.I. Clements had already started his long career coaching and teaching physical education for the college.

The Nashville Herald
March 30, 1950, front page,

Ray City Men to Play with G.T.C. Baseball Team

COLLEGEBORO, Ga. – The new baseball season will receive a four-day initiation at Georgia Teachers College this week.

The Teacher nine will entertain Erskine College Wednesday and Thursday and North Georgia College Friday and Saturday. They will oppose Mercer University April 4 and Presbyterian College April 6 before making their first trip.

With eight lettermen and five promising pitching recruits, the Professors are in for a good season, Coach J.I. Clement, Jr., says.

Old hands who will retain positions are Mason Clements and Keith Clements of Ray City, the coach’s brothers, in the outfield; W.G. (Red) Bullock, Jr., of Valdosta, at first base; Roger Parsons of Harlan, Ky., at second base or in the outfield; Joe Middlebrooks of Warwick, catcher; and F.M. (Sonny) Clements of Rhine, unbeaten as a freshman pitcher last season.

Keith married Joan Griffin,  Georgia Teachers College Class of 1953, and went on to a career with a pharmaceutical company. Mason married Fay Joyner, Class of 1951, and  went into the wholesale grocery business with his father-in-law in Augusta, GA.

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