Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment at the Battle of Port Royal

The Berry Infantry of Floyd County, GA, along with the Berrien Minute Men of Berrien County, GA, were among the companies forming the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment in the Civil War…

Eight months after the Confederate capture of Fort Sumter the US fleet struck back, attacking Port Royal, SC.  To make the attack, the fleet of some sixty ships sailed from New York through the Expedition Hurricane of 1861, while the Berrien Minute Men weathered the storm on Sapelo Island sixty miles south of Port Royal.  The Federal naval assault came on November 7, 1861; on Sapelo Island the Berrien Minute Men could hear the sounds of the Battle at Port Royal. The untested men on Sapelo were impatient for battle and lamented that they were stuck in a backwater of the war. Not so, their future regimental mates, the Berry Infantry of Rome, GA who were hurriedly dispatched from their station at Camp Lawton near Savannah to Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island overlooking Port Royal Sound, SC.    The Berrien Minute Men and other Confederate companies on Sapelo would have gone, too, it was said, but for the Colonel commanding being too drunk to take the men into battle.  Had the men on Sapelo known what the Berry Infantry were facing, they would perhaps not have been so eager to go.

The destination of the Berry Infantry was Fort Walker, a Confederate earthworks fortification hastily built of sand in the summer of 1861 using the labor of enslaved African-Americans owned by the planters of Hilton Head Island. Construction continued through the summer with the slaves hauling palmetto logs, digging trenches, erecting a powder magazine, and constructing gun emplacements. But the fort was not complete when the Federal fleet commenced the attack on the morning of November 7, 1861.

A soldier of the Berry Infantry, upon returning to Savannah, wrote a series of reports to the Rome Weekly Courier under the pen name “Floyd” describing their experience at the Battle of Port Royal. The writer was probably Thomas J. Perry of Floyd County, GA, a lieutenant of the Berry Infantry, who was known to have written the Courier under this name. In composing these passages, the writer freely confessed, “I have had to write amidst confusion, and under the most unfavorable circumstances. We are hourly expecting to hear of the approach of the enemy. News came last night that they had landed at White Bluff, eight miles below here [Savannah, GA]. I have given you the points though much disconnected.” The narrative has been reorganized here, to present events in chronological order:

Our Savannah Correspondence

Camp Lawton, near Savannah, Ga., November 12th, 1861.

Dear Courier:

There are some facts connected with our departure to Hilton Head Island, that are worthy of notice, The night we first started [Nov 5, 1861,] H. W. Berryhill, H. C. Smith, G. W. Freeman and W. H. Mitchell, had got furloughs to go home, and were getting ready to start, when orders came at 8 o’clock,

Lt. Henry W. Dean, Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment

Lt. Henry W. Dean, Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment

for us to be at the Charleston Wharf at 9. Berryhill and Smith abandoned the idea of going home, and at once informed their Captain that they would go with him. B. had just recovered from a spell of sickness, and was not able to do duty. Smith had been sick in his tent for two days. The Captain objected to their going, but they begged so hard that he consented, and they went to the boat with us, and would have gone, if the orders had not been countermanded. Freeman was not able to go, having been sick for the last three weeks; so he and Mitchell left. Lieut. H. W. Dean, who was just recovering from the measles and had just came into the camps that day, got ready to go with us but was ordered to remain. He insisted on going, but the company refused, and ordered him to remain. We left, but on reaching the boat, we found him there, armed and equipped.

The next morning [Nov 6, 1861] when we left, again, the Captain found it necessary to detail one man to stay and take care of the sick. H.C. Smith was by this time broken out with the measles. The Captain asked if there was any one that would stay, and no one responded. He then said, “I must make some one stay.” All spoke and said they wanted to go, and voted for Dean or Berryhill to stay, but they refused, and go they would.  R. Dollar [Reuben Dollar] was then requested to stay, but he refused, although he had just recovered from a hard spell of sickness. Finally James McGinnis was left.

Our Savannah Correspondence.
Camp Lawton, Nov. 9, 1861.

Twenty-six-year-old Lt. Col. Thomas James Berry, CSA, led a Regiment of Georgia troops, including the Berry Infantry, at the Battle of Port Royal. He was a graduate of West Point, class of 1857.

Twenty-six-year-old Lt. Col. Thomas James Berry, CSA, led a Regiment of Georgia troops, including the Berry Infantry, at the Battle of Port Royal. He was a graduate of West Point, class of 1857.

Dear Courier—Our Regiment left here on Wednesday  morning [Nov 6, 1861] at 9 1/2 o’clock, on board the steamer St. Marys, under the command of Lieut. Colonel Thos. J. Berry, for Hilton Head Island, on the South Carolina coast, and arrived there at 1 o’clock, p. m., and then took up the line of march to Port Royal, five miles distance, and arrived there about dark, and spent the night in some old barns.

Next morning [Nov 7, 1861] at 8, we were ordered out, and formed in a line of battle about one mile from the beach, and in the rear of the sand Battery [Fort Walker]… There was no fort, only a sand battery with 13 guns, and only two large ones, and all exposed… At half past 8, the fleet came up, and opened fire on the battery of 13 guns.

Battle of Port Royal. The Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment were at Fort Walker during the bombardment.

Battle of Port Royal. The Berry Infantry, Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment was at Fort Walker during the bombardment.

The fire was returned, and soon became general.

It was soon announced that one vessel had passed the battery. We were then ordered to advance within a half mile of the beach—we did so, and were ordered to lie down—the enemy discovered our position, and turned loose a shower of shot and shell on us. We lay there for about one hour, the balls and shells fell thick and fast around and about us.

 Bombardment of Fort Walker, Hilton Head, Port Royal Harbor, SC by United States Fleet, November 7, 1861. The Berry Infantry (later Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment) was among Georgia companies sent to defend the island. Image source: Campfire and Battlefield


Bombardment of Fort Walker, Hilton Head, Port Royal Harbor, SC by United States Fleet, November 7, 1861. The Berry Infantry (later Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment) was among Georgia companies sent to defend the island. Image source: Campfire and Battlefield

[At Fort Walker] The largest [gun] was dismounted at the first shot, the next at the 2d fire, so there was only 11 small ones, and Capt. Ried’s [Capt. Jacob Reed, Company D, 1st GA Regulars] two brass pieces to contend against over 500 guns, and they on steel and iron clad vessels.

Cameron [John D. Cameron] went with us, and the evening we arrived there [Nov 6, 1861], he said he would spend the next day in hunting oysters for us, but when morning came he saw that a fight was on hand, and went into the Hospital, where he could have a good view of what was going on, thinking, of course, that he was in a secure place; but the fun had not lasted long before a ball passed through the top of the house; the second soon came along, and then others in such rapid succession that he thought he had got into the wrong pew, and left in double quick, and dodged behind a pine stump, and would occasionally peep around, and could see the balls falling and hear them whizzing bye, and presently he saw a ball strike a tree and tear it to pieces. The thought struck him, that the stump was but little protection, and double-quicked it a little farther. This is his own story. In justice to him I will say he stuck closer to the Berry Infantry, all day, than it could have been expected of him, as he was not allowed to come near our ranks, while in line of battle, as he held no position in the Regiment as yet, not having received his commission. Night came but Cameron had found no oysters, at least he said nothing about them….

General Thomas F. Drayton was in charge of the overall defenses of Port Royal Sound

General Thomas F. Drayton was in charge of the overall defenses of Port Royal Sound

[On the beach] The Captains of the several companies requested Gen. [Thomas F.] Drayton, under whose command we were placed on reaching there, to let us fall back, but he refused. The Captains not being willing to see their men murdered up, took the command of their companies, and ordered them to fall back out of the reach of the guns, until the enemy landed. They accordingly did so. The General soon ordered them back near the beach. The fleet turned loose on us again, with about five hundred guns. We stood there, not being able to return a shot with any success. About 1 o’clock, we were ordered to Reid’s Battery of two guns, near the sand Battery. We remained there until half past two, amid the shower of shot, grape and shell…

There was a continuous roar for five and a half hours. No one could count the reports, and at times could not distinguish the guns.

 

Capt. [John W. ] Turner, Lieuts. [Thomas F.] Hooper and [Henry W.] Dean acted well their parts, perfectly cool all day; in fact there was no fault to be found of any, under all the circumstances.

Our ammunition gave out…

Capt. Reid gave orders for us to leave, as he had lost 15 of his men, killed and wounded.

The men retired calmly, much more so than could be expected…  We [left] all our knapsacks, blankets and clothing.

Those that were with the wounded were left. … There were some left of the South Carolinians wounded. The dead were left on the ground. I heard of no arrangements made by General Drayton to have them buried.

No pen can describe the scene. The fences and houses and Hospital were torn to pieces—men falling in all directions. Some with their heads off, some arms and legs off, and some with their bodies torn to atoms. The balls tearing up the ground in holes deep enough to bury a man. It is impossible to say how many there were killed and wounded.

Gen. Drayton gave orders to fall back with the South Carolina troops in front, and the Georgians to bring up the rear.

The South Carolina troops were the first to leave the field, half an hour before the rest.  Stiles’  [William H. Styles] Regiment next, ours were the last, and our company the last of the Regiment, and Sargeant W. H. H. Camp [William H. H. Camp] the color bearer, the last man to leave. The balls, grape shot and shells falling and passing as thick as hail, as the fleet had ceased firing on the battery and had all their guns were bearing on us, said to be about 500, and we in half a mile of the beach. They continued to fire at us as long as we were in reach of them. I am aware that some will think that this is a strange tale, nevertheless it is true. Our military men men say it was the most terrific bombardment on record.

He [Drayton] marched off, and said nothing about leaving the Island til we got some distance. We all thought when we left the scene of action, we were only going to the woods, to prepare for the enemy when they landed, but to our utter astonishment, we found that the General was making for the boats,

1861 map of Hilton Head Island showing locations of Fort Walker, the woods, Skull creek, and ferry. Distance from Fort Walker to the Ferry landing was about 7 miles.

1861 map of Hilton Head Island showing locations of Fort Walker, the woods, Skull creek, and ferry. Distance from Fort Walker to the Ferry landing was about 7 miles.

We lost all our knapsacks, blankets and clothing….If [Drayton] had let us know he was going to evacuate the Island, we would have brought all our things.

Retreat of the Confederate garrison commanded by General Drayton from Fort Walker to Bluffton, during the bombardment by the Federal fleet, on the afternoon of November 7, 1861. - Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War. Image source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/38263.

Retreat of the Confederate garrison commanded by General Drayton from Fort Walker to Bluffton, during the bombardment by the Federal fleet, on the afternoon of November 7, 1861. – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated History of the Civil War. Image source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/38263.

On reaching the coast we found that the General had succeeded in getting himself and [the South Carolinia] men off before sundown.

He got himself and [the South Carolina] men off the Island first, and leave us [Georgians] to shift for ourselves, exposed to the enemy’s cavalry.

Colonels Stiles and Berry were very indignant at the General’s conduct—they went to work and made arrangements to get us off about 9 o’clock. It was low tide, and we had to wade some distance to get to flat boats, and then some distance to the steamer St Johns. 

Those that were [left at Fort Walker] with the wounded [had] remained some half hour after the regiments left and as soon as they found the condition of things, they picked up the wounded and made for the boats, and succeeded in getting there in time.It was about 11 o’clock before we got on board. We then run out about 4 miles and cast anchor, and remained there until daylight [November 8, 1861], and then set sail for Savannah, all the time on the look out for the fleet to pursue us, but Providence protected us…

Providence alone protected us. The wonderful escape of our soldiers on that occasion should be a sufficient evidence to all God’s people, that he is a prayers-hearing God and will grant their requests when asked in faith. Prayer is greater than steel or iron, or fleets with all their guns, and skill to man them. For trees,

houses, and fences to be torn to peices, the air full of dust from balls striking the ground, and an array of men walking along, and comparatively few hurt, looks too unreasonable to tell, but prayer availeth much. So we are taught in tho Book of Books and a few of us have realized it. A very wicked young man, who has pious parents, remarked to me the evening of the battle, “I have often heard Pa talk about Providence protecting us, and never could under stand it, but I now comprehend his meaning, for if Providence did not protect us to-day, l am at a loss to know what did.” Tears came into his eyes and he seemed deeply impressed.

The Boat was so crowded that there was no room to set or lie down, so we had to stand up, perfectly exhausted, having had nothing to eat since Wednesday morning, but some cold broad, and but little at that, and no water that was fit for horse to drink, feet and legs wet and no means of drying them.

We arrived safely here [Savannah] at 9 1/2 o’clock, We lost all our knapsacks, blankets and clothing. We are all in rather a bad condition,- most of our boys are not able  to change clothing, and all on account of General Drayton’s conduct…

Col. Thomas W. Alexander, once Mayor of Rome, in the uniform he wore as a Confederate Army officer. Image source: A history of Rome and Floyd County.

Col. Thomas W. Alexander, once Mayor of Rome, in the uniform he wore as a Confederate Army officer. Image source: A history of Rome and Floyd County.

On returning [to Savannah] we found Lt. Col. Alex- [Thomas W. Alexander] and Lt. J. E. Berry [James E. Berry] had arrived, and were preparing to join us.

There is several distinguished military men here, among whom is Gov. Brown.  The troops have been moved off all the Islands, and quite a number stationed near here. Gen. Lawton has had a large vessel sunk in Skull Creek, and one anchored at the Oyster Bed, ready to sink, as soon as the news reaches the city that the enemy has taken possession of the Island.

More than half the citizens [of Savannah] commenced packing up their furniture and goods, and having them drayed to the several depots. The Mayor [Thomas Pilkington Purse, Sr.] was soon

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1842, Alexander Robert Lawton lived in Savannah, Georgia where he was involved in state politics and railroad administration. Lawton was Colonel of the 1st Georgia when that unit overtook Fort Pulaski in January of 1861, and by mid-April he was a Brigadier General in charge of Georgia's coastal defenses. - National Park Service

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1842, Alexander Robert Lawton lived in Savannah, Georgia where he was involved in state politics and railroad administration. Lawton was Colonel of the 1st Georgia when that unit overtook Fort Pulaski in January of 1861, and by mid-April he was a Brigadier General in charge of Georgia’s coastal defenses. – National Park Service

informed that a great many men were leaving also. He issued his Proclamation, forbidding any to leave under 45, and laid an Embargo on all goods being shipped off, and in that way kept some from deserting the city. He let the women and children go. The cars has been crowded for several days going up the country. Some of these ladies had said that they would never leave their homes, unless it was to stand by the side of their husbands, fathers or brothers in repelling the foe, and that they put their trust in God, but as the time drew for them to make good their promises, they put their trust in the Railroad cars.

Yours, Floyd. 

The account in the Savannah papers are very imperfect. We had two wounded in our company. Joseph S. Ayers, slightly wounded in the foot, W. H.  [William H.] Perkinson in the hand.— We have Ayers at a private home. There never was a greater outrage perpetrated upon any set of men, than Gen. Drayton, of South Carolina, did upon the Georgia troops sent to his assistance. He acted more like a mad-man than a General. It looked like he wanted to have us slaughtered, by marching us up under the fire of over five hundred guns, and where we could not defend ourselves.

I hope he will never be in command of any more Georgia troops for he is not the man for a General. 

In the first place, the island was not sufficiently fortified.

And if South Carolinians want help she should first do her duty, and prepare for the worst. She has been boasting that she was ready—she now sees to what extent she was prepared.

Battle of Port Royal headlines, Savannah Daily Morning News, November 9, 1861

Battle of Port Royal headlines, Savannah Daily Morning News, November 9, 1861

Battle of Port Royal
Terrific Cannonading!
Evacuation of the Batteries by the Confederates!
The Forts In Possession Of The Enemy.

About half past one o’clock yesterday morning we received the dispatch published in our morning edition, announcing the evacuation of Fort Walker by our troops and their retreat towards Bluffton. This astounding news was only the precursor of teh more disatrous accounts which reached the city this morning by the boats from the scene of the action which arrived here early this morning.
In the confusion of statements of persons engaged in the action, it is impossible, in the time allowed us to obtain a very connected or circumstantial account of the fight. From various sources we have gathered the following.
As stated in our paper yesterday, the firing between Fort Walker and the fleet commenced about nine o’clock, the fleet giving the most of their attention to Fort Walker. Before ten o’clock seven of the largest steamers of the fleet had passed the batteries, and when the St. Marys left, from whose passengers we obtained our account of the first part of the action, a most terrific cannonading was going on. The fight continued until the departure of the Emma, at twelve o’clock, and when the Savannah left, at 2 o’clock, the firing was unabated, except at the Bay Point battery, which had been silenced between eleven and twelve o’clock. At this time a tremendous cannoading was kept up by the fleet, consisting of some thirty odd steamers and gun boats, which was returned by Fort Walker, the battery on Hilton Head.
The Fort Walker armament consisted of sixteen guns, nine of which bore upon the shipping, the balance being in position on the land side. Five or six of these guns, among them the 24 pound rifle cannon and one ten inch Columbiad, were disabled during the forenoon.- Thus disabled and their ammunition exhausted, the garrison evacuated Fort Walker between three and four o’clock, retiring in the direcgtion of Bluffton, leaving the guns in position and unspiked, have no spikes for that purpose.

In the course of the morning and previous night, considerable reinforcements of infantry and artillery from Georgia and Carolina had arrived at Hilton Head, and were stationed in or in the vicinity of the batteries, but we are unable at present to ascertain the number of troops engaged in the battle.

Capt. Jacob Reed’s artillery corps of the First Georgia Regiment of Regulars arrived at the scene of action on Wendesday night, and, on yesterday bore a gallan part in the fight. Four or five of his men were killed early in the action. The corps lost two of their guns and several horses.
Col. Randolph Spaulding, Georgia Volunteer Regiment, commanded by Capt. Berry were also in the engagement. THey were marched to the beach where they received a galling fire of round shot and shell from the fleet, which, however, they were unable to return with their muskets. Of the Floyd county Berry Infantry, Jas. S. Ayres and Second Surgeon Wm H. Perkinson, received slight wounds.
Col. Wm. H. Styles’ Volunteer Georgia Regiment reached the scene of action at 11 o’clock, havng marched from Skidaway, seven and a half miles distanct, at the double-quick. But they were also unable to fire on the fleet, which was out of the range of their guns. The Regiment had several killed and wounded by shells from the fleet. Our informant states the Col. Styles had two horses shot under him, and in the fall of one of them received a slight injury in the shoulder. The Colonel and his Regiment was at one time exposed to a terrific shelling from the ships, and it is only surprising that more of them were not killed and wounded.

Col. Randolph Spaulding, not bein in command of his Regiment, joined a corps belonging to another Regiment, and engaged in the fight, as far as it was possible for the infantry to participate in it, with his musket on his shoulder

Between 11 and 12 o’clock, twelve vessels engaged the forts, five of them first class steam frigates, the other seven were second class steamers, with a tug leading. The tug opened fire on our infantry stationed some distance from the beach. One of the frigates, the Minnesota, at a distance of two miles, also threw shot and shell at the infantry.
Our informant assures us that seven Dahlgren guns from one of the frigates fired many shots on the hospital containing our wounded, hitting the building several times, notwithstanding the yellow flag was flying. The Surgeons were compelled by this barbarous act to have our wounded moved further into the interior.
The Minnesota is reported to have been on fire three times from hot shot thrown from the batteries.
Col. Spalding’s regiment lost all its baggage, blankets, &c., but saved all their arms.
In the hurry of preparing our noon edition it is impossible to obtain reliable accounts of much that we hear by rumor. We understand that the loss on our side is about twelve killed and forty wounded. Among the latter is Capt. J. A. Yates of Charleston, who was seriously injured by the bursting of a shell. Dr. [Edwin Somers] Buist, of Greenville, South Carolina, was instantly killed by a shell striking him in the head.
We have no positive information from Bay Point battery, farther than it was silcenced at 11 o’clock. We hear that it suffered serious loss. It is reported that garrison retired in safety toward Beaufort.
Of Col. DeSaussure’s regiment, stationed at Fort Walker, four were killed at the battery and twenty wounded.
We understand that the Confederates lost no prisoners, except, perhaps, one or two from Col. DeSaussure’s regiment.
The killed were covered with blankets and left. The wounded were all placed on board of steamers, and will arrive in Savannah today.
The abandon batteries were taken possession by the enemy and the United States flag waived over them as our troops retired.
Thus ends the first act in the grand drama of invasion and subjegation on our Southern coast.
We have no time for comments, and can only say, important as it is, let it not dishearten or discourage, but rather let it stimulate our entire people, every man, woman and child, to determined and unconquerable resistance.

 

Return to Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 5

 

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Benjamin Thomas Allen

Benjamin Thomas Allen  was born February 23, 1852 at the Metcalfe community, near Thomasville, GA. He grew up during the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1861 his father enlisted in a company from Thomasville known as the “Dixie Boys,” Company A, 57th GA Regiment and was sent to Savannah, GA but was discharged with pneumonia and came home sick in 1862.  His father then secured a job as railroad section master which, as work essential to the war effort, exempted him from further military service.

In 1864, the family was at Johnson Station, now Ludowici, GA,  where the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad had a stop referred to as “Four and a Half.”  General Levi J. Knight, of Ray City, GA had been one of the original board members of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.

By the late 1860s,  Benjamin Thomas Allen and his family were residing in Berrien County on the Nashville & Milltown road about a mile east of Nashville, where he was likely attending the McPherson Academy.  His older brother, Samuel D. Allen, was attending the Valdosta Institute in Valdosta, GA where he may have been a classmate of Matthew F. Giddens and John Henry “Doc” Holiday, who attended the Valdosta Institute during the same general time period.  Some time before 1870, the Allen family moved to Valdosta, and B. T. Allen, called “Bee Tree” by his friends, followed his brother in attending the Valdosta Institute.

He also attended the Fletcher Institute of Thomasville, GA, a  Methodist boarding school and then one of the most prestigious high schools in Wiregrass Georgia. Hamilton W. Sharpe was one of the Lay Trustees for the school, which offered a “Course of Study [in] Orthography, Reading, writing, and Arithmetic,… with the higher branches of an English Education, embracing Natural, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric Logic, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Bookkeeping, and Political Economy,…Latin, Greek, French, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, etc —the object of which is to accommodate young men, who do not wish to go through College, with such a course as will enable them to enter upon any of the learned professions of this country.”

In Valdosta, B.T.’s father and brother worked for the Railroad, James Allen working as a Railroad overseer and Sam Allen working as a clerk. B. T. Allen was employed as a type setter, probably for the South Georgia Times newspaper owned by Philip Coleman Pendleton.  The Lowndes Historical Society notes, “In later writings B.T. Allen mentions his experience with the Pendleton’s and the Valdosta newspaper. In 1875 he played on Valdosta’s first baseball team.

In August of 1877, B. T. Allen was appointed City Clerk of Valdosta,  Joseph J. Goldwire having resigned the position.

In the 1880 census [B.T. Allen] is living in Quitman and is listed as a printer.

In the 1890’s B. T. Allen was editor of the Tifton Gazette.

In the 1900 and after censuses he is living Pearson, Georgia with the occupation showing lawyer or lawyer/editor.”

As editor of the Pearson Tribune in the 1920’s Benjamin Thomas Allen wrote a series of stories about growing up in Wiregrass Georgia. He published a memoir of the Reconstruction in Berrien County, GA on May 21, 1920.

PEARSON, GEORGIA, FRIDAY, MAY 21,1920
MEMORIES OF THE LONG AGO.
Nashville Young People Attend Milltown School Closing.

Monday the editor goes to the Press meeting at Nashville and Tuesday to the fish dinner at Milltown. These events, so near at hand, awakens in his memory afresh events of more than half a century ago. To be precise, it was in the Spring of 1867. In these events both Nashville and Milltown had a part.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr was principal of the Milltown School, (Lakeland, GA) in 1867.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr was principal of the Milltown School, (Lakeland, GA) in 1867.

At that time Milltown had a most excellent educational institution presided over by Elder O. C. Pope, who came to Milltown from Sandersville, Washington county, to be the pastor of the Baptist church and also principal of the School. He was a young benedict, of polished manner and thoroughly educated. He was a most competent instructor and created quite an admirable reputation for the Milltown school. His sister, Miss Virginia, was his capable assistant.

It was in the springtime, the latter part of May, the school was to have special closing exercises. The people of Milltown were putting forth every effort to make it, an event to be long remembered — I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Invitations had been sent to the young people of Nashville to attend this school closing. So arrangements were made whereby a number of Nashville’s girls and boys could go, among them my brother, Sam, [and] myself. My brother was just home from school at Valdosta and ready for an outing. But there was a dark obstacle in the way of brother and I going. Mother was practically an invalid at that time/a laundress could not be secured to put our underwear in condition for us to wear, and brother had about given up the trip and made his supposed disappointment known by his ill humor. This editor confesses he wasn’t as sweet as a peach over the prospects.

It was Wednesday morning prior to the eventful day, mother called me to her and said: “Son, I am sad over your apparent disappointment and want to suggest a way to overcome the obstacles. You’ve played the part of cook and housemaid all the year, suppose you try your hand at laundering. I believe you, with my instructions, can do the laundering all right.”

That afternoon I got busy; selected all the necessary pieces for brother and I, gave them a thorough washing and rinsing. The next morning, under the direction of mother I prepared the starch and starched the clothes and put them out to dry. That afternoon I dampened and ironed them. Mother all the while, was near at hand to explain every detail of the task. [Boys, never for get your mothers; they are your dearest friends on earth.]

To the average boy laundering does not appeal as a manly task, but I was proud of my first experience. Mother approved it as a real neat job. I was proud of it because it drove away disappointment and would please brother Sam, who was not wise to the effort I was making to overcome the obstacle in the way of the Milltown trip. Early Friday morning we were ready, looking just as trim and neat as any of the boys who made the trip.

Our home was about a mile east of Nashville and on the then Milltown road, and we were to be picked up on the way. There was three two horse wagons, furnished by Judges James F. Goodman, H. T. Peeples and E. J. Lamb, and when brother and I got aboard there was no room to spare. As I remember the party, the ladies were Mrs. McDonald, the widowed daughter of Judge Peeples, and her step daughter, Miss Virginia McDonald, Misses Helen, Carrie and Annie Byrd, Poena Goodman, Victoria Dobson, Lula and Mary Morgan, and Miss Simpson whose given name have escaped me; the gentlemen were Dr. H. M. Talley, Silas Tygart, John Goodman, Henry Peeples, W. H. Griffin, William Slater, Arthur and John Luke, brother and myself. It, was a jolly party, sure enough!

The party reached Milltown about 10 o’clock. The way we had to go it was seventeen miles from Nashville to Milltown. The school was housed in a large two story frame building, erected conjointly for a Masonic Lodge and School. The exercises had begun and the building or school room crowded to its utmost capacity.

At noon, a bountiful and splendid basket dinner was served on a lawn under some wide spreading oaks.

Very few of the country folks who lived closed by remained for the exhibition at night, so there was plenty of room in the auditorium and everybody got a seat. It was too far for the Nashville party to go home, they remained for the exhibition and were entertained for the night in the hospitable homes of Milltown. Brother and myself spent the night at the home of Elder Pope. Milltown, at that time, was an important trading point and had been for years. The people of the town and adjacent country were well to-do—-some of them wealthy —refined and cultured, and it was a delight to mingle with them. It was on this, my first visit to Milltown, I formed the acquaintance of Judge Lacy E. Lastinger, who has just celebrated his golden wedding anniversary; he was single then. Judge Lastinger’s father, William Lastinger, built the original Banks’ mill and created the mill pond from the waters of which the fish for the Editors’ dinner is to be caught. At the time of which I write he had already sold the property to Henry Banks, a wealthy North Georgian, and it is still the property of his estate according to my best information.

Related Posts:

Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Lowndes Immigration Society, 1867

Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts

Matthew F. Giddens ~ Teacher, Businessman, Public Administrator

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

General Levi J. Knight ~ Railroad Tycoon

Joshua Berrien Lastinger

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Reconstruction Teaching and Preaching

Owen Clinton Pope (1842-1901) came to Berrien County, GA during Reconstruction. He was a Confederate veteran who before the War was a rising pastor in the Baptist ministry. He may have come to Berrien County because of his acquaintance with Philip Coleman Pendleton or with Mercer University classmate Edwin B. Carroll. A graduate of Mercer, Pope was highly qualified to teach in country schools of Wiregrass Georgia and took jobs at the schools at Milltown, GA and Ocean Pond, GA.

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr.

Owen Clinton Pope was born February 15, 1842, in Washington County, Georgia.

His father, Owen Clinton Pope, Sr.,  was a farmer and newspaper man for 30 years associated with the Milledgeville Southern Recorder.   O.C. Pope Sr. became a business associate of Philip Coleman Pendleton and together they purchased and operated the Central Georgian newspaper at Sandersville, GA. Census records show Pope, Sr had a three-horse farm, with 300 acres of improved land in addition to large tracts of undeveloped land.  In 1860 O. C. Pope, Sr owned 20 enslaved African-Americans ranging from infants to 25 years in age. The age and gender distribution of the people enslaved by O. C. Pope, Sr. from 1850 to 1860 suggests that he may have been raising slaves for the slave market.

His mother, Sarah Sinquefield Pope, died in 1843 when Owen Jr was but one year old. His father remarried on Owen’s second birthday, February 15, 1844, to Nancy Miller Hunt in Washington County, GA.

At the age of 16, O. C. Pope, Jr. entered Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, graduating in 1860 with a bachelor of divinity degree.

Shortly after graduation from Mercer, at barely 18 years of age, he married Mollie Sinquefield of Jefferson County, Georgia, and was also called to pastor the Baptist church of Linville, Georgia. He was ordained to the ministry in 1861.

He was married December 18, 1860 to Miss Mollie W. Sinquefield, daughter of Hon. William Sinquefield, of Jefferson County, GA, a young lady who was educated at Monroe Female College, and who, as a wife, like ‘the holy women in the old time’ has always been ‘a crown to her husband'”

Marriage Certificate of Owen Clinton Pope, December 18, 1860

Marriage Certificate of Owen Clinton Pope and Mary “Mollie” Sinquefield. The ceremony was performed by Asa Duggan, Minister of God, December 18, 1860 in Washington County, GA

In January 1861, the newlyweds O. C. and Mollie Pope took charge of the Railroad Academy at Sandersville, GA.

When O.C.’s father died of paralysis on September 10, 1861 leaving an estate of nearly 1,500 acres, O. C. Pope, Jr. was still regarded by law as a minor. A bill was introduced in the Georgia Legislature, “to authorize Owen C. Pope, a minor, of the county of Washington, to probate and qualify as Executor of the last will and testament of Owen C. Pope, senior,” passing in the house of representatives but failing in the senate. His step mother, Nancy Miller Pope was appointed Adminstratrix.

In December 1861, O.C. Pope became principal of  the newly incorporated Mount Vernon Institute at Riddleville, GA, a co-educational high school of the Mount Vernon Association of Churches. While teaching, he continued to preach in local churches.

These positions as pastor and teacher he resigned at the call of his country, enlisted as a private in the Confederate army.

He enlisted on May 16, 1862 at Washington County, GA for twelve months service as a private in Company E, 1st Regiment of Florida Cavalry. He provided his own horse and uniform. Pope wrote that he was “attached to first regiment of Florida Cavalry; not because he was ashamed of his native state, for the valor of her sons and the hospitality of her inhabitants are proverbial throughout the confederacy,”

He rendered military service on the staff of Gen. W.G.M. Davis in the Tennessee and Kentucky campaigns.

In June of 1862, Pope left his bride and work behind and made his way “by personal conveyance” to the camp of the 1st Florida Cavalry regiment on the banks of the Tennessee River, some 265 miles northeast of his home at Sandersville, GA.

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ARMY CORRESPONDENCE
Of the Central Georgian.

Camp Kerby Smith, 22 Miles West of
Chattanooga, June 28, 1862

Dear Georgian – As war is the all absorbing topic which occupies every mans thoughts, I have have concluded that it would not be amiss to give a few items of its progress in East Tennessee, through your columns to old friends in Washington. I am at present attached to first regiment of Florida Cavalry; not because I was ashamed of my native state, for the valor of her sons and the hospitality of her inhabitants are proverbial throughout the Confederacy, but having some intimate friends in it, and on account of its destination to a healthy climate and active field I was induced to cast my humble lot as a soldier with it.
Having traveled by private conveyance through Georgia to Chattanooga, I had ample opportunity to inform myself with reference to the wheat crops. I regret to say that I have seen but few fields which promised anything like an average crop, and in this portion of Tennessee, wheat is almost an entire failure. Corn however, looks very fine and if seasons continue, we have reason to hope that we will make bread enough to feed our army until a peace is conquered or another crop comes on. Considerable damage has been wrought upon the farming interest on the opposite side of the river, by the predatory habits of our would be conquerors. The Tennessee river, upon the banks of which we are now stationed, appears to be the dividing line between us, but we occasionally cross over in scouting parties and bring over a few prisoners.
The position which we have is one of natural strength, consisting as the country does of mountains with only here and there a narrow pass. There is quite a contrast between the level piny woods of Washington, and the mountainous rocky regions around here. Near our encampment is Knickajack cave [Nickajack Cave], is almost two hundred feet in width, with an altitude of about one hundred feet, the walls being composed of massive rock in regular strata, varying from six to ten feet in thickness. From it emerges a beautiful stream navigable with canoes for many miles underground. This place is rendered important by the manufacture of Saltpetre, carried on by the government. The work was suspended about six weeks ago by the appearance of a band of Yankees who frightened away the laborers and destroyed the utensils; it has, however, been renewed since the appearance of our force in this vicinity.
The mountains around contain coal, considerable quantities of which are excavated and sold to the government for foundry purposes. I was favorably impressed with the novelty of a coal mine, and should renew my visits often were it not for the high position of the miners, which requires considerable effort for one not accustomed to their ways to attain.
It is important therefore to the Confederacy that the enemy should not obtain possession of this side of the river while the blockade is closed against saltpeter and coal. But it is much more important in a military view, as their occupation of this part of ——— would place Chattanooga in a more critical position, and subject Georgia to invasion, as we are now only four or five miles from the line. Some Georgians may be surprised to hear, that I, with a detachment of twenty-six others, withstood the enemies shell from two pieces for six hours within 1 1/2 miles of Georgia soil. Georgians must rally to the rescue, strengthen our forces, and beat back the enemy, or the time may soon come when her farms shall be desolated and her citizens carried away prisoners by the ruthless invader who is attempting to crush us beneath the iron heel of tyranny. I have seen those who were compelled to forsake their homes, even gray haired fathers, and as they recounted the bitter wrongs they had suffered, I’ve heard them swear deep and eternal vengeance against the foe. May high heaven grant that such may not be the lot of any who call themselves Georgians.
The skirmish I alluded to above, took place at a little place called Shellmound, a railroad depot. Myself, Charlie and Lawson G. Davis, were detailed with a few others of our regiment, to accompany a detachment of Artillery of two pieces from Macon, to take position on the river that we might prevent an armed steamboat from passing up the river to set troops across near Chattanooga. Our pieces were arranged on the bank of the river during the night, but on the morning our position being discovered, we were opened upon by a regiment of infantry, and two pieces of artillery from the opposite bank of the river. As we were unsupported by infantry, we were compelled to fall back behind the railroad embankment, a few yards off, which answered as a breastwork of protection. We could not use our pieces but few times before the successive volleys of minnie balls rendered it prudent for us to use only a few Enfields and Manards, which we happened to have along, with which we returned the fire in regular guerrilla style. If they had been aware of our force, (only 27) they might easily have crossed the river and captured our pieces. We remained with them however, until night, carrying them off, having killed three and wounded five, without having a single man hurt on our side.
We have made several excursions across the river capturing several prisoners. Last Saturday our regiment killed a Captain and Lieutenant, and wounding several, bringing off four prisoners without any injury to our party.
It is rumored in camp that the Confederacy is recognized by France. Many a stout heart would rejoice if the invader could be checked and driven back. I know not how long we remain here. I would be well please if you will send the Georgian, direct to Chattanooga, care of Capt. Cone. 1st Florida Cavalry. As I may be irksome I will close promising that if anything of interest transpires to write again and commending of country and her cause to the God of Sabbath.
Respectfully
O. C. Pope

Harpers Weekly illustration of Nickajack Cave, Feb 6. 1864. Owen C. Pope's regiment was encamped near the cave in 1861. <br>  <em>The "Nick-a-Jack" Cave near Chattanooga is one of the main sources from which the Confederates have derived the saltpeter required for the manufacture of powder.</em> <em>The cave is situated at the base of Raccoon Mountain, which rises abruptly to the height of twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the low grounds. In the face of a perpendicular cliff appeared the yawning mouth of Nick-a-Jack Cave. It is not arched as these caves usually are, but spanned by horizontal strata resting on square abutments at the sides, like the massive entablature of an Egyptian or Etruscan temple. From the opening issues a considerable stream, of bright green color, and of sufficient volume to turn a saw-mill near at hand. The height of the cliff is about 70 feet, that of the opening 40 feet, and about 100 in width immediately at the entrance, and of this the stream occupies about one-third. The roof of the cave is square and smooth, like the ceiling of a room, but below, the passage is rough and irregular, with heaps of earth and huge angular masses of rock, making exploration both difficult and dangerous.</em>

Harpers Weekly illustration of Nickajack Cave, Feb 6. 1864. Owen C. Pope’s regiment was encamped near the cave in 1861.
  The “Nick-a-Jack” Cave near Chattanooga is one of the main sources from which the Confederates have derived the saltpeter required for the manufacture of powder. The cave is situated at the base of Raccoon Mountain, which rises abruptly to the height of twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the low grounds. In the face of a perpendicular cliff appeared the yawning mouth of Nick-a-Jack Cave. It is not arched as these caves usually are, but spanned by horizontal strata resting on square abutments at the sides, like the massive entablature of an Egyptian or Etruscan temple. From the opening issues a considerable stream, of bright green color, and of sufficient volume to turn a saw-mill near at hand. The height of the cliff is about 70 feet, that of the opening 40 feet, and about 100 in width immediately at the entrance, and of this the stream occupies about one-third. The roof of the cave is square and smooth, like the ceiling of a room, but below, the passage is rough and irregular, with heaps of earth and huge angular masses of rock, making exploration both difficult and dangerous.

During Pope’s service in the Confederate Army, he preached nightly to the troops. He was discharged November 15, 1862 “by reason of the Conscript Act approved April 21st, 1862.” Pope suffered ill health throughout the balance of his life due to his time of service in the Civil War.

At the the expiration of his term of service, he returned home… he found few churches could support a full-time minister, 

He moved to Lee County, GA, taught at Smithville and Sumterville, and preached to country churches till the close of the war… When peace was restored, disorganized churches and the desolate country made extreme poverty the inevitable lot of those who, previous to the war, had depended upon ministerial charges for support…Pope found his property swept away and his health impaired.

Virginia Rhodes Pope, sister of Owen Clinton Pope, assisted him with teaching at Milltown School (Lakeland, GA) in 1867. She later returned to Washington County, GA and married James Berrien Stephens.

Virginia Rhodes Pope, half-sister of Owen Clinton Pope, assisted him with teaching at Milltown School (Lakeland, GA) in 1867. She later returned to Washington County, GA and married James Berrien Stephens.

About 1866, Pope relocated to south Georgia, perhaps because his father’s old business partner, Philip Coleman Pendleton, had opened the South Georgia Times newspaper at Valdosta, GA.  Or perhaps Pope was influenced by former Mercer classmate Edwin Benajah Carroll who was preaching and teaching at Milltown. Like Pope, Carroll was a Confederate veteran, having served as Captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Regiment.

In any case, Pope found work in Berrien and Lowndes County, “giving the week to the school-room at Ocean Pond [Lake Park, GA] and Milltown [Lakeland, GA], and the Sabbath to the pulpits of Milltown, Stockton and Cat Creek churches.

O. C. Pope with the assistance of his 13-year old sister, Virginia R. Pope, took charge of the Milltown School. “He was a most competent instructor and created quite an admirable reputation for the Milltown school.”   The prestige of the school grew during these years. At the close of the school year in 1867, students from all the surrounding country schools were invited to the commencement ceremony to view the accomplishments that had been made that year.

By 1870, O.C. Pope had moved to Jefferson County, GA to preach and to teach at academies there. He moved to churches in Tennessee and took up publication of several Baptist periodicals. He moved to Texas and added missionary and fundraising to his interests. He moved to New York to work for the Church Edifice Fund for the American Baptist Home Mission Society. In 1898, at age 55, Pope accepted the position as president of Simmons College, Abilene, TX.

 

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr. taught at the Milltown , GA (now Lakeland) school in 1867.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr. taught at the Milltown, GA (now Lakeland) school in 1867.  Owen Clinton Pope later went on to become president of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), a Baptist college in Abilene, Texas.

O. C. Pope biographical material compiled in part from The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography., Hardin-Simmons University Website, History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia, and The Portal to Texas History

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Nashville’s Whiskey Distillery

Just days before the passage of the National Prohibition Act, a writer to the Pearson Tribune reminisced about a whiskey distillery that once operated in Nashville, GA.

The National Prohibition Act was enacted October 28, 1919 by Congressional override of President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. The Act, known informally as the Volstead Act, was enacted to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment (ratified January 1919), which established prohibition in the United States. The Anti-Saloon League‘s Wayne Wheeler conceived and drafted the bill, which was named for Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who managed the legislation.

But in 1908, Georgia already had already enacted a state prohibition, that legislation having been vigorously promoted by Jonathan Perry Knight, a native of Ray City, GA.  Knight’s legislation was in opposition to longstanding pioneer tradition; alcohol was widely produced in Wiregrass Georgia. Pioneers brewed their own farm beverages – wine, buck, cane beer, or liquor. On court days, liquor was an expected stapleNumerous toasts were drunk at social events. In the days of old Lowndes County, before Berrien County was formed, the county seat at Troupville was considered a wild and wicked town…with much drinking.  Licenses for legal, market production of liquor were issued by the state.  In the late 1870s even Nashville, GA had its own, licensed  whiskey distillery.

Anonymous memoir on 1876 whiskey distillery at Nashville, GA appeared in the Pearson Tribune, October 24,1919.

Anonymous memoir on 1876 whiskey distillery at Nashville, GA appeared in the Pearson Tribune, October 24,1919.

PEARSON, GEORGIA, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1919

MEMORIES OF THE LONG AGO.
Nashville’s Whiskey Distillery, Paulk’s High License Law.

One of the industries of Nashville in 1876 was a full-fledged, licensed, distillery. It was located on the lot now [1919] occupied by the First Bank of Nashville. A man by the name of John Tucker was the owner and John Carey was the distiller.
Various grades of the “Ardent” were manufactured here, but the principal product was corn whiskey. Some grape wine and brandy, blackberry wine and brandy, small quantities of peach and apple brandy, and rum from cane skimmings. The products of the plant were absolutely pure, and it was strange that only a small quantity of it was sold locally. The greater portion was shipped to Savannah.
Mr. Tucker became indebted to my father for supplies and finally turned the plant and the land over to him in liquidation.
My father did not attempt to operate the distillery. He sold the plant and fixtures to parties who moved it away from Nashville. The title to the land was disputed, an ejectment suit followed and resulted in my father losing the land two years later. He was represented by Messrs. Peeples & Whittington. He got enough out of the plant to reimburse him for the advances he had made Mr. Tucker.
The most remarkable fact about the presence of this distillery at Nashville: There was no apparent increase of drunkenness, the old topers would take their occasional sprees as had been their custom. It was there in plenty, there was no embargo on it, and anyone could get some who wanted it. No one seemed to care anything about it.
The plant was sent away; the government, in its effort to tax the non-essentials for the payment of the war debt, assessed a heavy revenue tax on distilled spirits, made it high-priced, scarce and hard to get. it was then the mania for liquor in Berrien county —and else where —had its origin. A few years later Berrien county was represented in the legislature by Hon. Thomas Paulk, father of Dr. George A. Paulk, of Alapaha. He saw the tendency of the times was toward drunkenness and debauchery, and set himself to the task of finding a remedy for the situation. As a result of his quest, he drafted and procured the pass age of the first high-license law ever placed on the statute books of Georgia. If provided for the payment of a license tax of $10,000 before a person could engage in retailing ardent spirits in Berrien county.
The example was soon followed by representatives of other counties; they adopted and placed their counties under the prohibitive tax law. It put the retail dealers out of business in every one of the counties adopting the measure.
The writer wants to make this observation, in passing, that not a single one of his young men associates at Nashville, embracing W. H. Griffin, H. B. Peeples, Wm. Slater, John Parramore, Silas Tygart, R. K. Turner, J. J. Goodman, Arthur and John Luke, W. H. Morris, W. Henry Griffin, Alfred Simpson, John Connell and Lott Sirmans, were addicted to drinking whiskey, and if they acquired the habit of getting drunk they did so after the good year 1867 [typo? 1876?] Some of them chewed tobacco. I attempted to acquire the habit but did not succeed. It made me deathly sick, the first quid, and I have never taken the second. Tobacco chewing is an evil hardly second to whiskey.

 

Prohibition didn’t stop drinking of Demon Alcohol in Ray City. There were plenty of “blind tigers” running moonshine stills and selling liquor in Berrien County, despite the efforts of lawmen like Jim Griner, Bruner Shaw and Cauley Shaw.   In 1919,  reports of drunkenness and lawlessness in Ray City were making newspapers throughout the section.

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Drive-In For Nashville

Drive-In For Nashville

In the 1920s, 30s and 40s many small towns like Ray City, GA had their own movie theater. There were plans to open a theater in Ray City in 1929.  The Ilex Theater in Quitman, GA  built around that same time was designed by Valdosta architect Lloyd Greer, who also designed the Ray City School.  Greer is also credited with designing the Lyric Theater in Waycross, GA and many other south Georgia buildings. Nashville, GA had the Majestic Theater on the courthouse square.

In 1949, a drive-in movie theater was constructed between Nashville and Ray City.

Notice in Boxoffice magazine, July 2, 1949. Drive-In theater coming to Nashville, GA

Notice in Boxoffice magazine, July 2, 1949. Drive-In theater coming to Nashville, GA

Drive-In for Nashville
NASHVILLE, GA. – A drive-in is being erected two miles south of the city on the Ray City highway by Billy Tygart, local business man. Plans are to open the new theatre within the next few months.

The Midway Drive-In held 200 cars and was later purchased by Stein Theatres  of Jacksonville, FL.

For a time in the 1950s Berrien County residents could enjoy movies at both the Majestic Theater and the Midway Drive-in Theater, where the motto was

A 1956 advertisement for the Midway Drive-in listed the week’s movie lineup:  Friday and Saturday, the western Red Sundown, and Teenage Crime Wave;  Sunday and Monday, The Revolt of Mamie Stover and the 1954 western The Command; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, An Annapolis Story, and The Crooked Web.

Midway Drive-In Theater, Nashville, GA

1956 advertisement for the Midway Drive-In Theater, Nashville, GA.

 

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