A Jim Crow Comb

Georgia Telfair, born into slavery on a Georgia plantation about 1864, was interviewed in 1938 as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration, later renamed Work Projects Administration (WPA).  She talked about African-American folk life in the period after the war. In one passage she mentions how enslaved people cared for their hair,

“Ma combed our hair with a Jim Crow comb, or card, as some folks called ’em. If our hair was bad nappy she put some cotton in the comb to keep it from pulling so bad, ’cause it was awful hard to comb.”  – Georgia Telfair

The most common tool slaves relied on for combing out their hair were the cards used in carding wool. – Reenact This

Wool cards were used by African-Americans to comb out tangled hair. In this use they came to be known as Jim Crow combs. Image source: http://reenactthis.blogspot.com/2013/10/african-american-hair-wrapping-and-hair.html

Wool cards were used by African-Americans to comb out tangled hair. In this use they came to be known as Jim Crow combs. Image source: http://reenactthis.blogspot.com/2013/10/african-american-hair-wrapping-and-hair.html

Historical context and empirical findings on skin tone

In American history, slavery constituted a strict caste system that distinguished Black slaves by their skin tones. Lighter-skinned slaves were usually mixed-raced and favored by White slave-owners. These lighter-skinned slaves were frequently fathered by White slave-owners (typically from nonconsensual sexual relations with female slaves) and were, therefore, privileged (; ); unlike dark slaves, lighter-skinned slaves were spared physically strenuous, outdoor work and instead held domestic indoor jobs like housekeeping in closer contact to Whites. Over time, these privileges in the antebellum period allowed lighter-skinned Blacks to become more educated () and to own more property (). Furthermore, to maintain their elite status and privileges, lighter-skinned men engaged in social practices to exclude darker-skinned Blacks from entering their social circles; these practices included the “Paper Bag Test,” (which banned Blacks from joining fraternities if their skin tones were darker than a brown paper bag), the “Comb test,” (which banned Blacks with coarse, nappy African hair if combs could not glide through it) and the “Blue veins” society (which banned Blacks whose skin tones were too dark to see the blue veins on their arms) (). These findings consistently indicated that light skin tone resulted in clear social and economic advantages.

According to historians Shane White and Graham White,

Interviews with former slaves also frequently describe African American hair-styling practices and reveal something of what those practices meant. African-American women’s hair, though probably shorter than in the previous century, could soon become tangled and unmanageable if uncared for. This problem must have particularly affected field slaves, whose typical labor regime, stretching each day from “can see” to can’t see” and often involving cooking and mending duties as well, made adequate care of the hair difficult, if not impossible. Only on Sundays, their day off, could slaves find the time for grooming and styling, with whatever implements they could locate. Former slave James Williams recalled for his W.P.A. interviewer how the “old folks” used continually to talk about how much harder the life had been before freedom came. “Said the only time the slaves had to comb their hair was on Sunday. They would comb and roll each others hair and the men cut each others hair. That all the time they got. The would roll the children’s hair or keep it cut short.” Removing tangles must have been a painful process. Jane Morgan explained that “we carded our hair ’cause we never had no combs, but the cards they worked better. We used the cards to card wool with also, and we just wet our hair then card it. The cards they had wooden handles and strong steel wire teeth.” (The cards referred to here were implements used to prepare washed fleece for spinning, to make the fibers lie evenly in one direction.) Recalling his childhood on a large South Carolina plantation, Jacob Stroyer told how, before each inspection of the slave children by the plantation owner and his wife, attempts were made “to straighten out our unruly wools with some small cards, or Jim-crows,” as they were called. On one such occasion, and old woman had attempted to comb his hair straight, but “as she hitched the teeth of the instrument in my unyielding wool with her great masculine hand, of course I was jerked flat on my back. This was the common fate of most of my associates.” Aunt Tildy Collins’ account of the preparation of slave children for Sunday school is equally graphic: ” Us children hate to see Sunday come, cause Mammy and Granmammy they wash us and near about rub the skin off getting us clean for Sunday school, and they comb our heads with a jim crow. You ain’t never seed a jim crow? It most like a card what you card wool with. What a card look like? Humph! Missy, where you been raise – ain’t never seed a card? That jim crow sure did hurt, but us had to stand it, and sometimes after all that, mammy she wrap our kinky hair with thread and twist so tight us’s eyes couldn’t hardly shut.” – Stylin’: African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit

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A Log Rolling in Old Lowndes County, GA

When Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte arrived at Franklinville, GA in the fall of 1836, he became perhaps the first surgeon in Lowndes County, GA, which then encompassed a vast area including most of present day Lowndes, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Lanier and Echols counties. Motte was the first of the medical men anywhere in the vicinity of the pioneer homesteaders at the settlement now known as Ray City, GA. Dr. Motte, a U.S. Army surgeon detailed to serve under the command of Major Greenleaf Dearborn, had come to Franklinville, GA at the onset of the Second Seminole War.

1836 map showing relative location of Franklinville, Camp Townsend, Camp Clyatt, Squire Swilley's, Warner's Ferry and other locations. Source: A Journey into Wilderness

1836 map showing relative location of Franklinville, Camp Townsend, Camp Clyatt, Squire Swilley’s, Warner’s Ferry and other locations. Source: A Journey into Wilderness

While encamped at Camp Townsend, Lowndes County, GA in 1836, Dr. Jacob Rhett Motte recorded many details of local folk life, which continued despite the threat of Indian attacks. In the fall of 1836 Dr. Motte  and Major Thomas Staniford were invited to a log rolling event held at the home of an unnamed Lowndes County resident.

A log rolling. Pioneers clearing the land.

A log rolling. Pioneers clearing the land.

Log Rolling was, according to Ward’s History of Coffee County, GA,

When a farmer decided to clear up a piece of land he split every tree on the land that would split into fence rails. The logs that would not split were cut up into pieces twelve or fifteen feet long to be burned at some convenient time in the fall or winter. The farmer gave a “log rolling, quilting and a frolic.” The neighbors were invited to a big dinner and a “log rolling.” The wives and daughters came to sew and to quilt.

As with many southern narratives, historical accounts of log rollings tend to ignore the role of enslaved African-Americans in the settlement of the southern frontier. Dr. Motte’s journal does not acknowledge the presence of slaves.  But slave narratives from Alabama recorded by the Works Project Administration relate, “When they had a log rolling on a plantation, the Negroes from the neighboring plantations came and worked together until all the jobs were completed.” After the log rolling the slaves were given “molasses to make candy and have a big folic.” For slaves, log rolling:

was great times, cause if some of the neighboring plantations wanted to get up a house, they would invite all the slaves, men and women to come with their masters. The women would help with the cooking and you may be sure they had something to cook. They would kill a cow, or three or four hogs, and then have peas, cabbage, and everything that grows on the farm. And if there was any meat or food left they would give that to the slaves to take home, and just before dark the overseer or Ol’ Master would give the slaves all the whiskey they wanted to drink. Sometimes after the days work, they would have a frolic, such as dancing, and old time games.

Cordelia Thomas, born into slavery on a Georgia plantation, shared the following memories of log rolling:

On our place they spent about two whole days cookin’ and gittin’ ready. Master asked everybody from far and nigh, and they always come ’cause they know he was going to give ’em a good old time. The way they rolled them logs was a sight, and the more good corn liquor Master passed ’round, the faster them logs rolled. Come night time, Master had a big bonfire built up and set lots of pitch-pine torches ’round so as there would be plenty of light for ’em to see how to eat that fine supper what had done been set out for ’em. After supper, they danced nigh all the rest of the night. Mammy used to tell us ’bout the frolics next day, ’cause us children was made to go to bed at sundown.

Irving Lowery, born into slavery on Puddin Swamp plantation, South Carolina, described the significance of log rolling in slave life:

A day was set on which the log-rolling was to take place, and then invitations were sent out to the neighboring planters, and each sent a hand. This work was returned when the others had their log-rolling. A log-rolling always meant a good dinner of the best, and lots of fun, as well as a testing of manhood. This testing of manhood was something that everybody was interested in. The masters were concerned, and consequently they selected and sent to the log-rolling their ablest-bodied men; the slave women were concerned: for they wanted their husbands and sweethearts to be considered the best men of the community. Then, too, the men took great pride in the development of their muscles. They took delight in rolling up their shirt sleeves, and displaying the largeness of their arms. In some cases, their muscles presented the appearance of John L. Sullivan–the American pugilist.

The woodlands of the South were covered with a variety of trees and undergrowth. Among the trees, were to be found the majestic pine, the sturdy oak, the sweet maple, the lovely dogwood, and the fruitful and useful hickory. When a piece of woodland was cleared up, and made ready for planting, it was called “new ground.” In clearing up new ground, the undergrowth was grubbed up and burned; the oaks, maples, dogwood, and hickories were cut down, split up, and hauled to the house for firewood; and the pines were belted or cut round, and left to die. After these pines had died and partially decayed, the winter’s storms, from year to year, would blow them down: hence the necessity for the annual log-rolling. These log-rollings usually took place in the spring of the year. They formed an important part of the preparations for the new crop.

On the appointed day, the hands came together at the yard, and all necessary arrangements were made, the most important of which was the pairing or matching of the men for the day’s work. In doing this, regard was had to the height and weight of the men. They were to lift in pairs, therefore, it was necessary that they should be as nearly the same height and weight as possible. The logs have all been cut about twenty feet in length, and several good, strong hand sticks have been made. Now, everything is ready, and away to the fields they go. See them as they put six hand-sticks under a great big log. This means twelve men–one at each end of the hand-stick. It is going to be a mighty testing of manhood. Every man is ordered to his place. The captain gives the order, “Ready,” and every man bows to his burden, with one hand on the end of the handstick, and the other on the log to keep it from rolling. The next command given by the captain is, “Altogether!” and up comes the big log. As they walk and stagger toward the heap, they utter a whoop like what is known as the “Rebel yell.” If one fails to lift his part, he is said to have been “pulled down,” and therefore becomes the butt of ridicule for the balance of the day. When the women folks learn of his misfortune, they forever scorn him as a weakling.

At 12 o’clock the horn blows for dinner, and they all knock off, and go, and enjoy a good dinner. After a rest, for possibly two hours, they go to the field again, and finish up the work for the day. Such was the log-rolling in the “days before the war.”

At a subsequent day the women and children gather up the bark and limbs of these fallen trees and throw or pile them on these log heaps and burn them. When fifty or seventy-five log heaps would be fully ablaze in the deepening of the evening twilight, the glare reflected from the heavens made it appear that the world was on fire. To even the benighted and uneducated slave, the sight was magnificent, and one of awe-inspiring beauty.

As an urbanite, Dr. Motte was unfamiliar with the frontier traditions of log rolling. According to Encyclopedia.Com,

A farmer chopped enough logs for a log rolling only when he had to clear acreage, so chopping frolics and log rollings primarily took place on the frontier. Work frolics derived from similar European and African traditions of communal agricultural labor. An individual, family, or community confronted with a task too large to complete on its own invited neighbors to help them. In return, the host provided refreshments and revelry. Work frolics composed a vital segment of the rural economy in America until the late nineteenth century. For over 200 years, the relatively low cost of renting or owning land in America resulted in a shortage of rural wage laborers. Faced with scarce labor and high wages for the few laborers available, farmers relied on the work frolic as a means for exchanging labor. Attendance at a work frolic granted neighbors the right to call on the host when they needed help. Besides meeting economic realities, work frolics contributed to the formation of communities by tying people into local networks of obligation.

Farmers called work frolics to accomplish a range of tasks, including corn husking, house (or barn) raising, quilting, sewing, apple butter making, chopping wood, log rolling, sugar (or syrup) making, spinning, hunting, and nut cracking. These events required planning and preparation [and followed] seasonal cycles of agriculture…To ensure farmers did not deplete their labor force by planning frolics on the same day, families collaborated to produce a frolic schedule. Hosts also finished preliminary tasks to allow visitors to focus on the large projects that the host family could not complete alone… Competition drove workers to accomplish their tasks quickly… Log-rolling teams strove to move the most wood. Obligatory reciprocity promised hosts that their neighbors would show up, but the party after the work served as a secondary lure. Most workers felt short-changed when hosts did not meet traditional expectations of decent food and alcohol. Entertainment at the parties consisted of music and dancing.

Ward’s History explains how the task was done in a competitive spirit.

The method of rolling logs was to take hand spikes, prize up the log, and put about three hand spikes under the log with two men to each stick, one on each side of the log. Many a contest in strength was made in lifting logs. If the log was very heavy, the men had to be very strong in their arms, legs and backs to lift. If the man at the other end of the stick was not likewise a very strong man, he could not come up with his end of the log and so he became the laughing stock of the crowd. It often happened that a small man was much stronger than a big man. I knew one little man who could lift as heavy a log as any man; the harder he pulled at his hand spike, redder and redder his face got, the veins in his neck bulged larger and larger. When a man claimed he was very much of a man and then wanted the light end of the load he would bluff the crowd by saying, ” I can carry this and then some. Jump on my end of the log and take a ride.”

While the men were busy rolling logs in the fields, the women and girls at home were busy making quilts and cooking dinner. One of the main dishes for dinner was a sixty-gallon sugar boiler full of rice and chicken and backbones. The largest dinner pot was full of greens and dumplings. When the greens were served on the largest dish a boiled ham was placed on top, while sweet potatoes, cracklin bread, potatoes, mudgen [lard] and cakes, two-story biscuits which were served in large quantities. When dinner time comes some one blows a big cow horn loud and long. All hands took a drink and went to dinner. All sorts of dishes are used on the table, broken cups, cracked plates, knives without handles, forks with but one prong, but they all had a good dinner and a bushel of fun while they ate.  When the log rolling and quilting is over and the sun sets into the West, old Bill Mundy, the colored man, came in with his fiddle. A lot of sand was put on the floor and everything is cleared for the dance. The dancers get on the floor with their partners, the fiddler starts up “the One-eyed Gopher,” and the frolic is on. The tune “One-eyed Gopher played by the fiddler was a repetition of the words, “Oh, the one-eyed gopher, he fell down and couldn’t turn over,” etc. He would play it high, play it fast, and play it slow. When the dancing was over, “They got Sandy Moore to beat the strings while he played “Squirrel Gravy,” and thus the frolic ended.

Dr. Motte wrote in his journal about the Lowndes County log rolling, which was held about six miles from Camp Townsend:

“[The host] and candidate for the legislature having given out that on a particular day he intended to have a log-rolling, quilting, and dancing frolic, and having sent an especial message to Major Staniford and myself to attend; our curiosity was excited to witness the originality of such an affair of which we had heard, but never witnessed; so we determined to go.

Thomas Staniford, major of the Regiment stationed near Franklinville, GA in 1836.

Thomas Staniford, major of the Regiment stationed near Franklinville, GA in 1836.

We had to ride six miles and arrived there about sun-set not caring much to participate in the log-rolling part of the entertainment; the [host] was busily engaged erecting a long table out of rough boards in the open air; while his wife was as busily engaged in cooking pork and cabbage in the kitchen, into which we were invited, being informed that it was the reception room. We there found the company assembled, and on entering would have removed our hats, to show our breeding in the presence of the fairer sex; on looking round, however, we noticed that such a procedure would not have been in conformity with the rules or customs of the company, and being decidedly outré would only have exposed us to their ridicule; so quaker-fashion we remained; and the fair angels whose gaze were fixed upon us, seemed by their approving smiles not to take our conduct amiss, – probably liked us the better for appearing to disregard their presence. The pork and cabbage were in due time dispatched, and a few of the gentlemen put to bed, in consideration of not being able to use their legs from a too free use of our host’s whiskey.

Then began preparations for the double-shuffle. There were three fiddlers; but unfortunately for the exercise of their united talents, only one fiddle; and that deficient in some of its strings. The three votaries of Apollo therefore exercised their functions successively upon the cracked instrument, and did not fail to produce such sounds as would have attracted the admiration of even the mighty goddess of Discord herself. Their chief merit seemed to consist in all producing a similar concatenation of sounds, which they persisted in dignifying with the appellation of tune; the name of which, however, was more that the brightest faculties could call.

The Major could not be induced to venture his carcase in the violent exercise of double-shuffle and cross-fling; so I had to support the credit of our camp by my own exertions; and so successfully, that the [host] was in raptures, and made an attempt to exhibit his admiration by embracing me before the whole company; but I could not stand such a flattering display, so bolted.

The intervals of the dance were filled up by the gentlemen handing round in a tumbler, what I thought was whisky and water, but which the Major asserted, from closer in inspection, was unadulterated whiskey; the younger ladies were generally satisfied with one or two mouthfuls from each tumbler, but as the same ceremony was to be gone through with each gentleman in rapid succession, the fairest of creation did not lose their proper allowance. The old ladies, who were veterans in the business, never loosened their grasp of the tumblers until their lips had drained the last drop of the precious liquid. As a necessary consequence it was impossible for them to sit up long, and soon all the beds were occupied by these ancient dames; the gentlemen who afterwards got into a similar predicament were compelled to lie wherever they fell.

At one o’clock fighting commenced, when the Major and myself, not being ambitious of distinguishing ourselves in the pugilistic art, made a retreat; and at two in the morning we were in our tents, after a bitter cold ride.

 

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Ray City Blues

John Guthrie

During the 1920s and 30s in Ray City, GA the emergence of the Blues music genre in the local African-American community reflected its birth in the Mississippi Delta.  Folk musician, John Guthrie (1911-1985), was just a young white kid with a keen interest in music when he developed deep admiration for the talent of black musicians performing in the turpentine “Quarters” of Ray City, GA.

 

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985) , folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985) , folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

According to Allaboutjazz.com, “The Blues has deep roots in American history, particularly African-American history. The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 19th century. Its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves – African-American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields. It’s generally accepted that he music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.

Then, “The African American music combined with the folk music of white European settlers to produce new styles of music.

In a 1977 recording, Guthrie talks of local African-American pioneers of glass slides and crying strings, and plays a brief medley of Rocking Chair Blues, “a traditional oral formular that has been used in any number of songs” according to Brian Hoskin,  and Jimmie Rodgers 1929 “Blue Yodel #6 (Blues Like Midnight).  As a young man during the Great Depression, John Guthrie sometimes impersonated Jimmie Rodgers in hopes of obtaining a free meal.

John Guthrie (recorded 1977

Folks, I’d like to go back a little bit through ages. When I was just a kid and bought my first guitar I used to go down to a place they called the “Quarters.”

Now, I want to explain that a little bit further – the Quarters. We used to have turpentine stills in this part of the country. The man that owned turpentine stills, he would build shacks or shanties down for the black people to live in. Down in those shanties or shacks they would have a little place down there where they sold soda pop…well, the colored people called it ‘soady waters.’

I’d go down there and they’d have a guitar player down there and he’d have a bottle neck on the end of his finger and he’d be playing these old black tunes. There is no white man that can play a tune just like that black man could play one.

At this time I’m going to do the best I can about the way them guys used to play guitar. They’d pull the strings and it would whine and they call it ‘cryin’ strings, now if you know what I mean.

I’m going down to the river
I’m going to take me a rocking chair
I’m going down to the river
I’m going to take me a rocking chair
And if the blues don’t leave me,
Lord I’ll rock on away from here

I got the blues like midnight
Moon shinin’ bright as day
I got the blues like midnight
Moon shinin’ bright as day
I wish a tornado would come
and blow my blues away.

Folk musician Jimmy Rodgers recorded a series of Blue Yodel songs from 1927 to his death in 1933. “Rogers’ background in blackface minstrel shows and as a railroad worker enabled him to develop a unique musical hybridization drawing from both black and white traditions, as exemplified in the Blue Yodel sounds. In his recordings Rodgers and his producer, Ralph Peer, achieved a “vernacular combination of blues, jazz, and traditional folk” to produce a style of music then called ‘hillbilly.” Rodgers’ Blue Yodel #6, also known as Blues Like Midnight, was recorded in 1929 and has been covered by Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Allman Brothers, among others.

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Causton’s Bluff Part 2:  Challenge from Tybee

Causton’s Bluff Part 2:  Challenge from Tybee

In the spring and summer of 1862, the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (Company K after reorganization), 29th Georgia Infantry were garrisoned at stations defending Savannah, GA.  Since mustering into service a year earlier, the Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  had been made along the Georgia coast, with the 13th Regiment at Brunswick,  then at Sapelo Island, and Darien, GA.  By early 1862 The Berrien Minute Men,  having gotten “regulated” into the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment  were sent to the Savannah, GA area to garrison Camp Wilson and Camp Tattnall.

On February 21, 1862 Berrien Minute Men, Company C, were detached to serve on the Savannah River Batteries. In early April 1862 Federal incursions on Whitemarsh Island below Causton’s Bluff would precipitate the transfer of Berrien Minute Men, Company D and other companies of the  29th Georgia Regiment from Camp Tattnall to the bluff to reinforce the Confederate position there.  (Company A, Captain Billopp’s Georgia Foresters, were sent to Hutchinson’s Island. The Alapaha Guards (Company E) and 17th Patriots (Company K) were on picket duty at Screven’s Ferry, SC on the Savannah River just opposite Fort Jackson. On May 14th they captured seven federal soldiers who were released to federal authorities a few days later according to communications in the Savannah Daily Morning News, May 19, 1862.)

  1. Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah
  2. Causton’s Bluff Part 2: Challenge from Tybee
  3. Causton’s Bluff Part 3: War on Whitemarsh Island
  4. Causton’s Bluff Part 4: Arrival of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Prior to the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men at Causton’s Bluff, the position was garrisoned by the 13th Georgia Regiment which experienced frequent night-time alerts.  Some of these were false alarms, but many were in response to Federal incursions on the creeks and islands below the bluff.

Commanding officers of the 46th NY Regiment garrisoned on Tybee Island east of Savannah were well aware that Confederate gun batteries were being placed around the city.

Officers of the 46th New York Infantry Regiment

Officers of the 46th New York Infantry Regiment.  The 46th NY garrisoned Tybee Island, GA in 1862. Image Source: New York State Military Museum

The 46th New York volunteers made the Tybee Light Station their Headquarters and it was “the base of operations for the seige of Fort Pulaski… Temporary barracks were built on the lighthouse grounds and defensive positions were taken up around the Martello Tower, which was refortified with earthwork batteries.” – Tybee Island: The Long Branch of the South.

The Federals on Tybee Island also welcomed escaped enslaved people who managed to find their way to the Island.

Following the capture of Port Royal, SC [and Tybee Island, GA] by Union Naval forces in November of 1861… escaping enslaved people began seeking asylum from naval vessels that were conducting reconnaissance along the coastal islands in March and April of 1862. Not having quarters for those who flocked to the boats, the US Navy established “contraband” camps at Otter Island, South Carolina and at the Naval post for Tybee Island in Georgia. – International African American Museum

1862 enumeration of escaped enslaved peoples living in "contraband" camp on Tybee Island, GA

1862 enumeration of escaped enslaved peoples living in “contraband” camp on Tybee Island, GA

The inventory records of the Union Provost Marshal give the names, age, height, former “occupation,” names, residence and “character” of former masters, date of arrival and present employment of those settled at the contraband camp.  The former slaves were employed as “officers servant,” laborers, boatmen, and oarsmen. These records have been transcribed at the International African American Museum

Tybee Island Light Station circa 1862

Tybee Island Light Station circa 1862

By February, 1862 the 46th NY Regiment was joined on Tybee by seven companies of the 7th Connecticut Regiment, a detachment of New York engineers and two companies of Rhode Island artillery.

Soldiers of the 1st New York Engineers

Soldiers of the 1st New York Engineers

Company F, 1st New York Engineers participated in the bombardment of Fort Pulaski

Company F, 1st New York Engineers participated in the bombardment of Fort Pulaski

Federal soldiers at the Martello Tower, Tybee Island, GA

Federal soldiers at the Martello Tower, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: Boston Athenaeum

The landing of [Federal] troops on Tybee Island greatly excited the Georgians. In a printed address sent out to the people of the State, signed by Howell Cobb, Robert Toombs, Thomass R. R. Cobb and M. J. Crawford, we find the following language:

“The foot of the oppressor is on the soil of Georgia. He comes with lust in his eye, poverty in his purse, and hell in his heart. He comes a robber and a murderer. How shall you meet him? With the sword at the threshold! With death for him and yourself! But more than this – let every woman have a torch, every child a fire-brand – let the loved homes of youth be made ashes, and the fields of our heritage be made desolate. Let blackness and ruin mark your departing steps if depart you must, and let a desert more terrible the Sahara welcome the vandals. Let every city be leveled by the flames and every village be lost in ashes. Let your faithful slaves share your fortune and your crust. Trust wife and children to the sure refuge and protection of God – preferring even for these loved ones the charrnel-house as a home that loathsome vassalage to a nation already sunk below the contempt of the civilized world. This may be your terrible choice, and determine at once and without dissent, as honor and patriotism and duty to God require.

For the Berrien Minute Men, the strengthening Federal positions on Tybee Island would mean re-deployment from their present positions. Captain Thomas S. Wylly’s company of Berrien Minute Men (Company C) on the night of February 21, 1862  were ordered from Camp Wilson to Fort Jackson to relieve the Savannah Republican Blues, and were soon ordered to Lawton Battery on Smith’s Island in the Savannah River.  Berrien Minute Men Company D, under command of Captain Lamb, remained at Camp Tattnall with Major Levi J. Knight, Sr. and the rest of the 29th Georgia Regiment until April of 1862.

On Tybee Island, the Federals prepared gun emplacements to bombard Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, and simultaneously they worked to cut off all supplies to the fort. The last remaining supply route to the fort was by way of Lazaretto Creek, which the Federals blockaded with the USS Montezuma.   The US Navy purchased Montezuma, a former whaling ship, at New London, CT on  November 29, 1861 originally intending to sink her as part of the second “stone fleet” of harbor obstructions on the Confederate coast.  Instead the Navy placed her in Lazaretto Creek, Georgia, in February 1862.

The fleet anchored the old wreck, Montezuma, at a point of three miles south of the fort [Pulaski] in the Lazaretto Creek. The Montezuma had been intended as a barrier to keep out steam ships. But when the traffic continued with small boats, Captain Anton Hinckel received orders to occupy the wreck with three guns and two companies of the 46th New York Infantry. The Montezuma was loaded with stones and had originally been intended to be sunk in the river along with 25 other worn-out ships to block the way to Savannah. Captain Hinckel and his troops spent the next eight weeks on the Montezuma. Regular patrols with row boats guarded the entrances and many of the nightly smugglers were caught. One of them was a slave who showed the Federal soldiers many secret connections to the fort, and thus it was possible to catch three more Rebels on the island of Wilmington. Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

A Federal map created December 31, 1861 showing the relative positions of the USS Montezuma (labeled "Hulk Scow" on Lazaretto Creek, Wilmington Island, Federal batteries on Tybee Island, and Fort Pulaski. To the west of Wilmington Islands are Whitemarsh Island, Oatland Island and Causton's Bluff [not shown].

An 1862 Federal map showing the relative positions of the USS Montezuma (labeled “Hulk Scow”) on Lazaretto Creek, Wilmington Island, Federal batteries on Tybee Island, and Fort Pulaski. To the west of Wilmington Islands are Whitemarsh Island, Oatland Island and Causton’s Bluff [not shown].

On February 17, 1862 Robert E. Lee wrote to Col. Olmestead at Fort Pulaski with recommendations on repositioning the cannon placements and strengthening defenses against cannonfire from Tybee Island. General Lee also advised, “For the present your communication with the city will have to be by light boats over the marsh and through Wilmington Narrows to Causton’s Bluff…”  The obstruction of Lazaretto Creek by the hulk USS Montezuma on February 22, 1862 cut off the last possible resupply route to the Confederate garrison at  Fort Pulaski.  Perhaps as a signal, the Federals also demonstrated against the fort. At Fort Pulaski, Lt. Theodorick W. Montfort, Oglethorpe Light Infantry, wrote the following day,

“On yesterday Morning, [February 22, 1862] the Yankees opened fire on our Garrison & fired several shots, none of which done any harm. On yesterday evening on Dress Parade while our men were formed in the yard they fired a rifle shell, which passed near us. There was considerable merriment at the expense of those who ran or dodged. I did not do either, yet I assure you to hear a large shell or ball whistling through the air which you can hear for three miles is not a very pleasant sound. Yet I find that men will soon become accustomed to danger as they will to any & evry thing else. Yet to us it is all excitement & amusement. It is good we have something to excite & amuse us.”

Coincidentally,  February 22, 1862 was the date that the Constitution of the Confederate States of America went into effect, assuring to white southern citizens the “right of property in negro slaves.”

For a while, couriers on foot were still able to sneak mail in and out of Fort Pulaski, although many were captured by Federal patrols.  “Several of our men & mails have been captured either in getting to or returning from Savannah. They have to select some dark night & walk some five miles through a marsh from one to three feet deep in mud before they pass the Yankees that are spread over the Marsh day & night to watch & capture our men.” On the night of February 25, Federal boats patrolled around Cockspur Island and fired on Confederate pickets causing a general alarm. The garrison was again aroused and under arms on the night of the 26th, when anxious Pulaski pickets mistakenly shot a horse.

Fort Pulaski was expected to hold out for quite some time against a Federal siege, but the Confederates were immediately prompted  to further strengthen the remaining Savannah defenses. The battery at Causton’s Bluff was manned as critical link in the inner chain of Savannah defensive works immediately around the city.

Supervision of the construction of Confederate batteries at Causton’s Bluff and placement of obstructions on St. Augustine Creek  was assigned by General Robert E. Lee to Captain Josiah Tattnall, senior flag officer of the Navy of Georgia.  At the bluff, the gun battery was in a position to protect the back of Fort Lee which was across the marsh on the south bank of the Savannah River. Captain Miller Bond Grant, of the Engineer Corps, had immediate charge of the construction at Causton’s Bluff and also of a considerable portion of the defensive works around Savannah.

Work on construction of fortifications at Causton’s Bluff Battery began in earnest that same month, along with construction of breastworks and batteries near Fort Jackson. At the behest of General Robert E. Lee, the Savannah City Council furnished “from two to three hundred negro laborers ‘for the purpose of throwing up breastworks.'”  The Confederates were already using slave labor to construct and support defenses. At Fort Pulaski, slaves were used to clear out the moat and put the fort in fighting order. There, wrote Charles Olmstead, “[In the summer of 1861] our cooks were all Negroes and it goes without saying that strong measures had to be used to keep them up to the mark. If a kitchen did not meet the requirements of Authority of the Cook was promptly laid over a brass drum and a good paddling administered with a shingle while his associates stood grinning around. The efficaciousness of this plan is shown by the fact that it had to be resorted to only twice that I can remember; it broke no bones but ensured clean kitchens. I recommend the method to housekeepers with inefficient or careless servants.” On December 2, 1861, Edward Clifford Anderson, supervisor of armaments for the river batteries, wrote in his diary, “Four of my negroes from the plantation were drafted by the Engineering Dept and sent to work on Skidaway Island” and on January 3, 1862 Confederate engineer Dr. Cheves was on a small mud island in the Savannah River above Fort Jackson, “with a gang of negroes was at work establishing a foundation, preliminary to throwing up breastworks – This point was known as the “Naval Battery.

Captain Miller Bond Grant received a letter from his cousin Hugh Fraser Grant, rice planter of Elizafield Plantation on the Altamaha River, that Elizafield could provide slaves to work on the Savannah fortifications (Elizafield Plantation Record).

Dear Miller,
Fraser [Grant, Jr] informs me the Govmt is desirous of twenty hands to work on the fortifications about Savh &ct. That they offer $45 per month for each man & to furnish them with food tools & medical attend to & the only expense I am to bear is the clothing. That you are to have them especially under your superintendence & for your care and attention you are to receive $5 per month for each man. All of which I am satisfied with & can furnish 15 or 16 men upon their terms – At present 2 or 3 of the men are hired out by the month & soon as the time is out can be sent on to you.
When Dr. [Daniel H. B.] Troup & my hands were then some time since under the charge of Mr [Landsell?], they were very badly fed . This Mr. [Landsell?] assured me was the case. If my Negroes go on now I wish them to be fed agreeable to the contract. Do you wish a driver for the gang and do you they allow extra for him. Hope I may hear from you this evening whether they require women as I can send a few of them & what price for the women. I should suppose they will require one woman to at least to cook & wash your mess. Does the Govmt furnish transportation both ways?

Carpenter

Grant enslaved some 124 African American people on his Elizafield Plantation. His son-in-law, Daniel H. B. Troup, was a signer of the Georgia Ordinance of Secession, along with John Carroll Lamb, Captain of the Berrien Minute Men.

Over the summer of 1862, military leaders would call for thousands more slaves to build defensive works around Savannah.

The Confederate States Army ran want ads for slaves to build defensive works around Savannah. Slave owners were assured they would be compensated for the work of their slaves and that the slaves would be well cared for.

The Confederate States Army ran want ads for slaves to build defensive works around Savannah. Slave owners were assured they would be compensated for the work of their slaves and that the slaves would be well cared for.

Savannah Republican
July 3, 1862

Negroes Wanted

C. S. Engineer’s Office
Savannah, June 24, 1862

      One Thousand Negroes are wanted for the completion of important works in the neighborhood of Savannah.
      By order of Brigadier General Mercer, commanding, the undersigned appeals to the Planters of Georgia to furnish this force without delay.
      The value of each negro entrusted to this Department will be appraised immediately and recorded. A receipt will be given for the negro, containing his value, certified by the appraisers. Should he in any way fall into the hands of the enemy, his value so appraised will be refunded to the owner or owners.
      The following terms are offered:
      Field Hand – $11.00 per month, with food, quarters, and medical attendance.
      Carpenters – $17.00 per month, with food, quarters, and medical attendance.
      Plantation Drivers – $20.00 per month, with food, quarters and medical attendance.
      Transportation, by railroad, also furnished.
      N. B – Dr. Thomas A. Parsons, of Burke county, Ga., is appointed Agent of this office, to procure laborers, according to the above advertisement.
By order Brig, Gen. Mercer.
                                      JNO. McCRADY
                                     Capt. C.S.P. Engineers, in charge.
***Macon, Augusta, Milledgeville, Thomasville, and Sandersville papers will publish weekly for one month and send bills to this office.

By order of Brigadier General Hugh Weedon Mercer each county was to contribute 20 percent of its slave labor force to build the defenses of Savannah. Only 10 percent of the slaves could be women. For every lot of 100 slaves, the counties could provide their own overseer, to be paid by the Army. The Army would resort to forcible seizure in any county where planters failed to contribute their quota of slaves.

The War in America: Negroes at Work on the Fortifications at Savannah.--From a Sketch by Our Special Artist.; Illustrated London News. vol.42, no.1199, p. 433. April 18, 1863

The War in America: Negroes at Work on the Fortifications at Savannah.–From a Sketch by Our Special Artist.; Illustrated London News. vol.42, no.1199, p. 433. April 18, 1863

“But some close, narrow-minded planters,” wrote Captain Mercer,  “evinced great opposition to this necessary order, denouncing it as tyrannical &c, they would rather subject our white Georgians to hard work in this terrible weather than spare a few of their slaves.”  Mercer, a native of Savannah, was a son of General Hugh Weedon Mercer and great grandson of Cyrus Griffin, who in 1788 was President of the Continental Congress.  Lt. Mercer was educated at Russell Military Academy, New Haven, CT;  took preparatory study under Dr. William T. Feay, a professor of Chemistry and Pharmacy at Oglethorpe Medical College; received a Master of Arts from Princeton College; and studied law at the University of Virginia.  Mercer’s  diary of Civil War experiences also relates his  disgust with profiteering by Confederate civilians: “A greedy desire to get rich seems to pervade all. One of the most agravated cases I have heard of consist in the charge of $3.50 per day for the use of an old Flat not worth $300; this Flat is used by the picket at Causton’s Bluff as a means of crossing the river, and belongs to Dickerson.”

The headquarters at the bluff was in a house that had served as the home of the overseer  of Habersham family’s rice plantation at Causton’s Bluff.  At the time the overseer’s home was built, about 1852, Robert Habersham owned at least 89 slaves who worked the plantation. “The overseer had objected to living all year at the plantation, because the miasma made the summer months unhealthful on rice plantations; so a new house was built for the overseer on the southern extremity of the plantation, some distance from the rice fields under cultivation.”

On February 28, 1862 units of 13th Georgia Regiment from Causton’s Bluff  encountered sentries from the Montezuma  who were patrolling the creeks around Wilmington Island in a small boat.

 A wild shootout followed in which one of the Rebels was killed along with two Union soldiers Johann Müller and Louis Herweg. Corporal Anton Mayer and his entire crew of 18 men were taken prisoner by the Rebels. Some of them had been wounded and Franz Etzold, a soldier, died a week later from his injuries. 

A second Federal patrol boat went undetected by the Confederates.

First Lieutenant Alphons Servière was with the second boat. He and his entire crew had to conceal themselves in the thick underbrush of the island. After two days they managed to return to the Montezuma – Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

 

Another night alert occurred on Tuesday, March 11, 1862 when the Confederate pickets on Whitemarch Island made contact with Federal Scouts. At Battery Beaulieu (pronounced “Bewly”) twelve miles below Savannah on the sea-island cotton plantation of John Schley,  “...at 1 Oclock in the knight we was ordered out on the perade ground and we loded our guns to go to Whitmarsh Island [where] the Yanks made an attack on our men,” wrote Isaiah Smith, a private of Company K, 31st Georgia Regiment, “but we did not get to go before the fight was over so we went to bed again.

Two weeks later, on Tuesday, March 25, 1862 a Federal detail from the Montezuma made another raid on Wilmington Island, taking one civilian prisoner and returning to their base without making any contact with Confederate forces. The captured Georgian was Jacob Dannenfelser who, like the soldiers of the 46th NY Regiment, was a German immigrant.

Dannenfelser told Captain Hinckel of a force of Germans stationed at Fort Pulaski. He noted later that it was a full company of the 1st Georgia Regiment under the command of Captain John H. Stegin. “At that time we were very interested to learn something about the situation over there at the fort,” recalled Captain Horace Porter. “One of our men suggested that the regimental band should play German music. When the Germans at Fort Pulaski hear this, they may want to come over to us. The proposal was quickly accepted. And indeed, on a particularly dark night, the first one came rowing across on a tree trunk. We received a lot of very important information from him.” Colonel Rosa reported this incident to General Sherman. In his letter to the general he wrote, “The defector from Fort Pulaski was named John Hirth. He immediately became a member of the 46th New York Regiment.” – Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

Regimental Band of the 48th NY Infantry

Regimental Band of the 48th NY Infantry

At Fort Pulaski Lt. Theodorick W. Montfort, of the Oglthorpe Light Infantry, wrote, “I think & fear that our heretofore limited means of communication is now effectually cut off. Two men (Germans) from this for Fort deserted …and have doubtless posted the enemy with our ways, means & time of getting a mail.”

The Confederate troops at Causton’s Bluff had their regimental bands as well, although their music was by no means an enticement to deserters from the enemy. Colonel Marcellus Douglass was advertising for “musicians for the Brass Band of Thirteenth Regiment Georgia Volunteers C. S. A., now stationed at Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, Georgia. The Instruments vacant are one Bb Bass Tuba, one Bb Trombone, one Bb Tenor, two Bb Altos, and two Eb Altos.”  Later, Lacey E. Lastinger, of the Berrien Minute Men, would serve as a drummer and musician for the 29th Georgia Regiment at Causton’s Bluff.

About March 27, Confederate pickets from Causton’s Bluff while patrolling Whitemarsh Island encountered the USS Montezuma anchored in Lazaretto Creek  and fired on Captain Hinckel’s men, forcing them to briefly abandon the guns. But the Federals quickly rallied their forces and in the face of superior numbers, the Confederate pickets backed away and withdrew across Whitemarsh Island. The Federals pursued in an armed barge, but were unable to catch up with the Confederate soldiers.

Colonel Rudolph Rosa, post commander at Tybee Island, was ordered to take a detachment from Tybee to the Montezuma reconnoiter the situation on Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands. His purpose was to assess the threat of a Confederate approach to the gun batteries being constructed for the reduction of Fort Pulaski.  Rosa had also learned from the Confederate German Jacob Dannenfelser and a captured African-American that a reward of $12,000 was offered to effect the evacuation of the Confederate soldiers from Fort Pulaski. He speculated, “perhaps an organized great patrol of row-boats lays in Turner’s Creek” for that purpose. Turners Creek divided Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands.

Rosa wrote, “On Sunday I made a reconnaissance on Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands, pushing in both cases out to Thunderbolt and Saint Augustine Creeks, opposite to Thunderbolt and Carston Bluff batteries. Nothing remarkable occurred, excepting that the small stern-wheel steamer did show herself near to our boats left at Gibson’s in the Oatland Creek, which is not spiked, and turned back after receiving three of our musket shots from a point of land.

While Col. Rosa was on this reconnaissance, the Confederate German Jacob Dannenfelser appealed to the lieutenant in command of the Montezuma to allow him to check on his family back on Wilmington Island. In what Rosa called an “unaccountable hallucination” but perhaps seeking Dannenfelser’s collaboration, the Union lieutenant consented; on Sunday morning, March 30, 1862, two Union soldiers were detailed to escort Dannenfelser by boat to visit his home.  But a patrol of Confederate scouts from Causton’s Bluff discovered the Federal party upon the return trip and effected a capture.

The affair was recorded in the official report of Colonel Rudolph Rosa:

MARCH 30-31, 1862.—Affairs on Wilmington and Whitemarsh Islands, Ga.

Report of Col. Rudolph Rosa, Forty-sixth New York Infantry.

Tybee Island, Ga., April 3, 1862.
General: In accordance with your orders I arrived at the swimming battery, Montezuma, near Decent Island, on the evening of March 29, 1862, with a detachment of two commissioned officers and thirty men of the Forty-sixth New York. Shortly after my arrival Lieutenant Serviere, having effected the relief of the men in the guard boat near Hunter’s farm, reported that he had been shot at repeatedly by about thirty rebels near Gibson’s farm, without the shot taking effect. On the following day [Sunday, March 30, 1862], with four commissioned officers and seventy-five men, I made a reconnaissance on Whitemarsh Island, landing at Gibson’s and marching thence on land to Turner’s farm. From there we were recalled by shots, and found that the small stern wheel steamer [probably CSS Ida] had shown herself near to our boats in Oatland Creek, and had returned after being fired at by the boat’s guard. I then went again across the island to MacDonald’s farm, and returned without meeting the enemy. The topographical results will be embodied in a little sketch.

In returning I heard that by the lieutenant left in command of the Montezuma, leave had been given to Dannenfelser and two men to go with a boat to Wilmington Island, that they had been last seen going into Turner’s Creek, and were now missing. The guard boat was left at the usual place opposite Hunter’s farm over night.

At dawn on the 31st the guard were revised and partly relieved by Captain Hinckel, who then made a patrol to Dannenfelser’s house, and was told that Dannenfelser and the two men had been there for half an hour the previous day, and then had departed. Captain Hinckel also captured a negro in the act of entertaining communication between the fort and Savannah. The guard was instructed to keep a sharp lookout along the shore for our missing men. At noon Lieutenant Serviere was sent to relieve the guard, and with the instruction to search at the same time Gibson’s and Screven’s farms for the missing and for interlopers, but not to proceed farther. At 4 o’clock Captain Hinckel went with the captured negro for verifying his description at the cuts used for smuggling. He came back at 8 o’clock and reported that no trace of the guard and relief boats was to be found….

 

On the Confederate side, Lieutenant George Anderson Mercer, Assistant Adjutant General, 1st Georgia Infantry, was impressed with the action.

George Anderson Mercer, son of Hugh W. Mercer, journaled about the 1861-62 time period when the Berrien Minute Men were stationed at coastal defenses near Savannah.  Image source: <a href="https://archive.org/details/universitiesthei04cham/page/105" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Universities and Their Sons, Vol. 4</a>.

George Anderson Mercer, son of Hugh W. Mercer, journaled about the 1861-62 time period when the Berrien Minute Men were stationed at coastal defenses near Savannah.  Image source: Universities and Their Sons, Vol. 4.

 

Pickets from the 13th Regt captured two German soldiers who were carrying off a German Gardener from his place on Wilmington Island. The Yankees were in a boat 700 yards distant; our men fired seven shots with enfield rifles; three passed through the boat and two struck the unfortunate man the enemy were taking off. This was good shooting. – George A Mercer

Excerpt from the Civil War diary of George Anderson Mercer describing actions of 13th GA Infantry Regiment stationed at Causton's Bluff near Savannah, GA

Excerpt from the Civil War diary of George Anderson Mercer describing actions of 13th GA Infantry Regiment stationed at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA

The return of the victorious scouts to Causton’s Bluff with their prisoners and the liberated Dannenfelser in tow was also noted by Private Jenkins  in his diary,

…17 scouts under Adutant [Adjutant] Hill Sent to Whitemarsh Island, who have returned 3, oclock  with two captured prisners yankees and a dutchman citizan of Wilmington Island, who had previously been taken by the yanks, Companies B. C. & G. ordered to prepare immediately under command of Capt Crawford of Co G. -Pvt Cyrus Jenkins

Word of the capture quickly reached Savannah, and the following day a report of events to this point was published in The Savannah Republican of March 31, 1862:

Capture of Yankees.
         Two Yankees, belonging to the Forty-sixth New York Regiment were captured by our pickets yesterday [Sunday, March 30, 1862] under the following circumstances:
        Tuesday last [March 25, 1862] Jacob Dannenfelser, a German, residing on Wilmington Island was at work in his garden, when some thirty Yankees suddenly leaped the fence. He hailed them and asked who they were and what they were about. They replied that they were friends. They had with them a negro man named Sam, the property of Mr. Pinder, whom they released and then laid violent hands on Dannenfelser. They took him to an old hulk lying near Decent Island and there kept him until yesterday. The hulk is armed with a long rifle gun, which the Yankees call their “Field Snake.”
        Yesterday morning Dannenfelser prevailed on his captors to allow him to visit his family with a guard, for the purpose of seeing them and procuring some clothing. He was despatched to Wilmington in a boat with two men. Having procured his clothing, the boat was returning to to the hulk when our pickets on Whitmarsh opened a heavy fire upon the party. The Yankees were unhurt, though their prisoner did not come off so well. He was shot in three places, through the hand, one through the arm above the elbow, and a third across the bridge of the nose, the last mentioned being a very slight one.
         The Yankees, finding the fire rather warm, gave up and rowed to the island in the direction of our pickets, who took them in charge and forwarded them, together with Dannenfelser, to our camp at Causton Bluff. The latter was immediately brought to town to receive medical attention. The prisoners will be brought to town this morning.
        Dannenfelser said that whilst he was on the hulk, a party of Federals were fired upon by our pickets, when they retired and in a short time brought a force of some one hundred men in a barge with a heavy gun in the bow, to attack the pickets. The party were under command of Colonel Rose [Rudolph Rosa], of the 46th New York Regiment. No engagement occurred. The Pickets had retired from Whitmarsh. Being disappointed and not a little aggravated by the annoyance of our pickets, they threatened to burn the houses on Colonel Gibson’s plantation, but retired without executing the threat.

Being alarmed of the presence of Federal patrols on Whitemarsh Island, on that same Sunday afternoon, March 30, 1862, three companies of men were dispatched from Causton’s Bluff; Private Jenkins was among them.

We left the camp about dark, crossed Augustine creek upon oakland Island [Oatland Island], at Caustin Bluff battery. While passing a cross this Island along a narrow path enclosed by thick underwood, all at once all were silent & still as death.! a moment more & the gunlocks began to rattle like fire in a cainbrake! Two seconds & all was again still! A human form was seen! The Capt demanded his countersign. There were two who proved to be pickets for a squad of the 13th left by Adutant Hill [John Dawson Hill] in the evening.

We passed along to the old bridge 2 1/2 miles from Caustins Bluff & crossed the creek on Whitemarsh Island. While here waiting for the other two companies that we had left crossing Augustine creek, A noise was heard in the marsh, mistaken for the tread of human footsteps. All was again hushed. The Capt ordered us to divide on either side of the path that led through the marsh to the high land, & He with two others advanced to the wood. All were now in suspense. I did not like our position. I went to the wood, but before I got there I was releaved by the hissing, & familiar noise of an Alligator.

We now became tired waiting for the rear party & determined to wait no longer. After leaving a picket at our little boat, we proceeded a mile to an old house, but found nothing here. Then from thence to the Gibson place 1 1/2 miles farther with like success, & from thence to the Turner place 2 miles farther. On nearing this place. (It being now 2, oc [o’clock] at night) we perceived that a brillant light in one of the cabins.

The advance guard (of which I was one) had surrounded the house before the party came up. The men on seeing the light smelt a mice, or a yank and began backing scattering out, & cocking their guns. I could not imagine for a time the cause. I first thought they had seen some one in the diriction they were going then I saw their faces & guns all turn to the cabins. I then knew they expected danger from there, I now felt rather in a critical position, for I was near the house & in their full view. I knew I was no yankee but did they know it. I was afraid to speak or move for fear of being fired upon, for a yankee. I stood for a moment & stept cautiously behind the house.

The occupants of the house were negroes left upon the Island. We found no boats here to pass across to Wilmington, & returned to the Gibson Place.

As we neared the place, low depressed coughing was heard. We expected our rear scout, but crept up noiselessly within full view, when Capt demanded who comes there.  A reply came, Friend with the counter sign (all else was perfect silence).  Capt: Advance and give the countersign. All again still for a moment, then rapid cocking of firelocks was heard in every direction, in two seconds more all again silent. Capt again in his usual firm calm voice demanded the countersign. Then a trembling voice: Capt McCallay [James McCauley]. I know your voice, Lieut [William R] Redding Co E [13] th.

We here lay in ambush around the landing untill day (It being now 3, oc [o’clock] ). An hour by sun we, with exception of a small scout party under Adutant  [John Dawson] Hill. went to the Turner place to take our boats for Wilmington, (they were to meet us there).  Just as the boats came Hill sent a messenger for us to go to his assistance, They are coming. We now quicked it back but found when we got there they had turned back.

17 were left under command of Lieut [Bolling H.] Robinson to guard this & the remainder of us went over up on Wilmington. We then started out into two parties, Capt McCallay with, co B, were to go to the Hunter place & from there to the Scriven place & attack the yanks first, while the other party were to go to the Scriven place & there lay in at ambush untill the commencement & then come up in thier rear. But before we had got to the Scriven place we heard sharp firing in the direction. We went double quick (a mile) untill we came in sight, when we saw co G. quickening towards us. Capt [Joel T.] Crawford with his co G. were ordered by Hill back to our fleet of skiffs to prevent being cut off.

He now told Capt McCallay that Hill had ordered him McCalley back. The firing we heard was upon Whitemarsh, between our pickets there & the yanks. After a warm contest wounding one of our m[en] of Co G. they put to water & oarred toward Wilmington near the Scriven place. Company B now doubled quickening back to the boats. We soon after this heard sharp shooting at Scriven place. A few moments more & another volley & all was over. The enemy surrendered 16 in number. One killed three wounded with but two scattering shots from them.

An eight oared barge boat with a six pound field Piece upon its bow, together with their small arms, the prisners were sent on immediately. But some of us were here delayed untill about ten OC  at night when we started for Thunderbolt and after very heavy oaring against the tide we arrived at 3 oc in the morning of Tuesday. (some of the boats however reached Thunderbolt several hours in advance of us).  Here we remained untill morning where I lay upon the ground & Slept untill sun rise, when we again put out for camps and reached them at 9 oc in the morning

The Union account of the engagement was continued in Col. Rosa’s report of the actions of the 46th NY Regiment:

On the evening of the 1st of April we received promptly a re-enforcement of two officers and thirty men of the Forty-sixth New York, and one 6 pounder at the Montezuma. At 10 o’clock in the same night Lieutenants Serviere and Rettig and fifteen men in the relief boat returned and reported as follows: When the relief boat met the guard boat at Hunter’s farm they both proceeded to Gibson’s house, the relief boat in advance, the guard boat (with the small old iron 6-pounder, private property of the subscriber) bringing up the rear. At Gibson’s they saw two men; then Lieutenant Serviere with fifteen men landed and found himself soon engaged in a skirmishing fight with about thirty rebels, whom he successfully drove out of the houses and the farm, killing at least one of them. When the guard boat neared the landing Lieutenant Rettig also jumped ashore, but the helmsman, a canal boatman promoted to a sergeant’s position since two days, suddenly lost his self-possession entirely, backed the boat off, and dropped back with the tide. Lieutenant Serviere then took to the relief boat, which during the time had filled with water, and had to be bailed out, and set afloat again under cover of a chain of skirmishers. They left without any loss, though fired at repeatedly, and then saw in the distance that the guard boat had drifted on the flats between Screven’s and Hunter’s Place; that a fire was opened against it at about fifty paces distance, by, at the least estimation, about sixty men; that the men laid themselves flat on the bottom of the boat and waved their caps as sign of surrender. The relief boat then took to the small creek and swamps between Oatland Creek and Wilmington Narrows, was fast aground over night, and succeeded in coming back late the next evening by way of the narrows and the stockade. The total loss, therefore, consists of eighteen enlisted men, the man Dannenfelser, and about twelve rounds of ammunition. Two boats and one small iron 6-pounder were also lost, being prizes of the Forty-sixth Regiment New York State Volunteers, and not belonging to the United States. There seems to be a determination to keep up at all events the communication to the fort by way of Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands and the very numerous creeks running through McQueen’s marshes. I most respectfully propose to keep a small armed steam-boat there.
Your most obedient servant,
RUDOLPH ROSA,
Colonel, Comdg. Forty-sixth Regiment New York State Vols.
General Q. A. Gillmore, Commanding.

 

Again, Lt. Mercer was impressed with the work of the Georgian’s at Causton’s Bluff.

These Georgians of the 13th are rough fellows, but full of fight and reckless of life; after the taking of the fifteen Yankees volunteers were called for for Picket duty; the whole regiment volunteered. There is no disposition to avoid a fight among our troops; they covet one only too anxiously — sick and all turn out for it. – George A Mercer

Steven Thomas Beasley, Assistant Surgeon, 13th Georgia Regiment, was one of the men scouting Whitemarsh and Wilmington Island.

Shot by his own men.
Steven Thomas Beasley, Assistant Surgeon, 13th Georgia Regiment, was one of the men scouting Whitemarsh and Wilmington Island. Image source: Billie Nichols Bennett

Report of Brigadier General Alexander R. Lawton, Confederate States Army
Headquarters Department, District of Georgia
Savannah, Ga. April 5, 1862

Capt. J. R. Waddy
Assistant Adjutant-General

Captain: I have the honor to report that on two successive nights, March 30 and 31, scouting parties were sent to Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands from the Thirteenth Georgia Regiment, Colonel Douglass, which were entirely successful, killing 1 and capturing 18 of the enemy, 2 of whom have since died. They also captured a barge with a 6-pounder. The scouting party was under the immediate command of Captain Crawford, Thirteenth Georgia Regiment, who conducted it with skill and gallantry, and all the officers and men under his command exhibited the most commendable courage and enterprise.
I regret further to report that on the occasion of a subsequent expedition to Wilmington Island, for the purpose of ascertaining the position of the enemy and attacking him if there, Assistant Surgeon Beasly was shot through the leg by a mistake of our own men and had both bones broken. There is reason to hope, however, that he will recover with as little injury as possible.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. R. Lawton
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

William B. Beasley, Henry Harrison Towns, Steven Thomas Beasley,

William B. Beasley, Henry Harrison Towns, Steven Thomas Beasley,

 

By March 31, 1862 the battery at Causton’s Bluff had been re-fortified.  “There was ferry dock on the river below the fort [Fort Bartow, Causton’s Bluff], since troops crossed the river at this point. This may have been the point where the Confederate ironclads Atlanta and Savannah, and the steamer Ida tied up when they came to Causton’s Bluff.”

The CSS Ida served Fort Pulaski, Fort Jackson, Causton's Bluff and the Savannah River batteries. The Ida made her last trip to Fort Pulaski on February 13, 1862. - <a href="https://www.gutenberg.org/files/47493/47493-h/47493-h.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Fort Pulaski National Monument</a>

The CSS Ida served Fort Pulaski, Fort Jackson, Causton’s Bluff and the Savannah River batteries. The Ida made her last trip to Fort Pulaski on February 13, 1862. – Fort Pulaski National Monument

Also at the bluff was the steamer Leesburg, kept at the disposition of the commanding officer.

On April 5, 1862, Lieutenant William Dixon, of the Republican Blues stationed at Fort Jackson about a mile and a half north of Caustons Bluff, noted in his journal, “Misquitoes and sandflies in abundance…” On the 8th he recorded, “A large rifled gun bursted at Caustins Bluff this afternoon and severely injured 2 men. It is one of three guns made at Richmond all of which have bursted.”

On April 9, 1862 the federal troops on Tybee were further reinforced by the 8th Michigan Infantry, arriving from Port Royal, SC aboard the U.S.S. Benjamin Deford.

USS Benjamin Deford brought the 8th Michigan Infantry to Tybee Island, GA on April 9, 1862

USS Benjamin Deford brought the 8th Michigan Infantry to Tybee Island, GA on April 9, 1862

Finally, on April 10, 1862 the anticipated Federal bombardment of Fort Pulaski commenced.  At Lawton Battery and Camp Tattnall, the Berrien Minute Men were about seven or eight miles from Pulaski, more than close enough for a front row view of the artillery barrage.  Witnessing the thunderous, up close barrage, did the Berrien Minute Men hark back to their time the previous fall on Sapelo Island, when atmospheric conditions caused them to hear the cannons bombarding Port Royal from a distance of 60 miles?  From one tenth the distance, how hellish the shelling of Pulaski must have seemed in comparison.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

Assistant Adjutant General  George A. Mercer observing the bombardment from Skidaway Island about six miles distant, reported the scene.

“The earth shakes with a tremendous cannonade. The bombardment of Fort Pulaski commenced early yesterday morning, and still continues with unabated fury. At half past nine oclock yesterday morning I roade over to Skidaway to witness the grand but terrible scene; I remained until after twelve; again in the afternoon I rode over and returned some time after dark. We were six miles off, but we could distinctly see the heavy columns of white smoke shooting up from the mortars on Tybee, and then see the immense shells bursting over the Fort. The enemy fired four and five times every minute, while the Fort replied slowly and coolly. The flag staff was shot away about noon. At the night the sight was grand. The tongue of flame was seen to leap from the mortars and then the flash of the bursting shell appeared just above the Fort.

During the bombardment all lines of direct communication were cut off with the Confederate garrison stationed  at Pulaski.  But Fort Pulaski was within line of sight of Causton’s Bluff. On the morning of Friday, April 11, the fort tried to get a message out; Commanding officer Colonel Charles H. Olmstead:

attempted to signalize to Causton’s Bluff…but such was the fire that no human being could stand on the ramparts for even a moment. Nearly a thousand shell, of the largest size, were thrown into the fort from the Federal batteries.” -Savannah Republican, April 12, 1862

After 30 hours of bombardment the walls of the fort were breached and Olmstead surrendered Fort Pulaski at 2:30 p.m. on April 11, 1862.

The loss of Fort Pulaski in the spring of that year was so disheartening that Governor Brown issued a proclamation setting apart a certain day for “fasting, humiliation and prayer.”…In Atlanta and in other cities, and towns throughout the state, the citizens assembled in the churches to hear sermons suited to the occasion. All business was suspended and the day was solemnly observed. – The Jackson Argus, December 2, 1898

On April 13, 1862, a portion of the Confederates surrendered at Fort Pulaski were loaded on the USS Ben Deford as prisoners of war for transportation to Fort Columbus, in New York Harbor.  Others of the Confederate garrison, including Colonel Olmstead, the commander of the fort,  were taken away as POWs by the steamship Oriental.

Steamship Oriental transported Colonel Olmstead and other POWs to a federal prison after the capture of Fort Pulaski

Steamship Oriental transported Colonel Olmstead and other POWs to a federal prison after the capture of Fort Pulaski

After the fall of Fort Pulaski, Savannah became more vulnerable to an approach to across Whitemarsh Island and St. Augustine Creek, and an assault on Causton’s Bluff.  In a letter to his father , Lt. Charles C. Jones Jr. [Chatham Artillery at Isle of Hope,] expressed the thoughts on everyone’s mind that April when the news of Fort Pulaski’s fall reached Savannah: “If the heavy masonry walls of Pulaski were of no avail against the concentrated fire of those Parrott guns posted at a distance of more than a mile, what shall we expect from our sand batteries along the river?” – Robert S. Durham

Historian Craig Swain observed“St. Augustine Creek, which connects the Wilmington and Savannah Rivers… also lead back east to the waters behind Tybee Island, in close proximity to Fort Pulaski.” 

Soon the 29th Georgia Regiment would be sent to reinforce the 13th Regiment at Causton’s Bluff.

Related Posts:

Freedmen of Lowndes County: 662 Georgia Militia District

Tax Records of Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA as listed in the 1870 Tax Digest

Freedmen listed in the 1870 Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662 tax digest

Freedmen listed in the 1870 Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662 tax digest

“Emancipation is a small evil compared with that arising from the attempt on the part of Congress to regulate the social, civil and political status of the freedmen in the several states.” – Herschel Vespian Johnson, former Governor of Georgia ~ September 12, 1868

Freedmen of Lowndes County:

  •   658 Georgia Militia District
  •   661 Georgia Militia District
  •   662 Georgia Militia District
  •   663 Georgia Militia District
  • 1246 Georgia Militia District

The 662nd Georgia Militia District, also known as the Clyattville District, occupied the southwest corner of Lowndes County.  Following the Civil War and Emancipation there were 200 African-American freedmen living in this district. Of these, only three had achieved land ownership by 1870; Harvey Pemberton, age 50 ; Buck Jones, age 59; and William Jones. Only 152 white men are listed In the 1870 tax records of 662nd GMD .

Some of the men in these rolls may have been present at the Booby Clift Affair, when a group of young white men attempted to bomb a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.

Several African-American men in this district immigrated with their families to Liberia in 1872, including Andrew Turkett, Jefferson Bracewell, Eli Ponder, Lewis Hart, Henry Jones, Caesar White. Also immigrating to Liberia from the Freedmen of the 658 Georgia Militia District of Lowndes County were Jordan Lemmon, Aaron Miller, London Wright, and Andrew “Anderson” Obey, and their families.

As a finding aid, the tables presented here are organized alphabetically by Name of Freedman. Images of the original pages are provided below.

Name Employer County District
Abe James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Abram H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Alford R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Anderson J. ——– Lowndes 662 GMD
Claborn B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Daniel R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Dennis F. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
Ellic G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
George Studstill Lowndes 662 GMD
Jinks B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Lamb F. M. Gaston Lowndes 662 GMD
Mead R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter A. D. Boon Lowndes 662 GMD
Rufus R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Thomas G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Tim G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Wally James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
James Adams D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Doctor Ameson L. H. G. Hunter Lowndes 662 GMD
Drew Anderson C. F. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Ned Anderson D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isom Austin H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Luke Baker G. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Thomas Banks J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Reuben Bee V. F. Dasher Lowndes 662 GMD
Josh Black G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Prince Blake David Peter Gibson Lowndes 662 GMD
Luke Boring J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Manuel Boston Mrs. M. A. B. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter Boston Mrs. M. A. B. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Bowen J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Bowling D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Scot Boyd B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
James Boykin James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Jefferson Bracewell self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
George Bradwell B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Martin Brown B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Jackson Bryan B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Ennies Burk D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Bob Campbell Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph Carbit T. E. Lanier Lowndes 662 GMD
Lafayet Catching Lowndes 662 GMD
Jerry Clayton S. B. Smith Lowndes 662 GMD
Ned Clemons G. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Iverson Collins D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Cox Dr. J. J. Cox Lowndes 662 GMD
Corbet Crocket self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Stephen Crumned Lowndes 662 GMD
Robert Darsey J. M. ——— Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Davis B. J. Sicinger Lowndes 662 GMD
Milton Davis self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Handy Dawson B. Harvey Lowndes 662 GMD
William Dennard J. N. ——– Lowndes 662 GMD
Nelson Dickson J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
William Elling James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Frank Fillmore R. J. Hinely Lowndes 662 GMD
Harrison Flint E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Ike Floyd M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Fort D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Fort James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Richard Fort G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Gilmore D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Godfrey J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Chick Gordan D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Charles Griffin J. A. Hardie Lowndes 662 GMD
Isom Hall J. N. Strickland Lowndes 662 GMD
David Hamilton B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Robert Harper self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Will Harris J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
C Harrisson A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
William Harrison J. S. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Hart self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Amus Heart D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Tobey Heart F. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
John Henry D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Reuben Horn H. M. Horn Lowndes 662 GMD
Jesse Howell B. L. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Sol Howell J. A. Howell Lowndes 662 GMD
R Irwin A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
John Jackson J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Jackson B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Ben Jinkins R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Jinkins self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Bob Johnson self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Boyd Johnson D. P. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Johnson D. P. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jerry Johnson James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Ned Johnson self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Sam Johnson J. N. Strickland Lowndes 662 GMD
Aaron Jones J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Anthy Jones E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Boston Jones B. J. Sicinger Lowndes 662 GMD
Buck Jones J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Dick Jones J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
Fain Jones J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Handy Jones J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Jones self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Jones J. T. ——– Lowndes 662 GMD
Mud Jones B. J. Sicinger Lowndes 662 GMD
Reddin Jones J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
William Jones J. F. Arnold Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Kee D. P. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Sam King B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
David Kinsley J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Joe Knight M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Lank Knight M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Abe Lambe W. R. Peterson Lowndes 662 GMD
Jim Lee J. S. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
Sesar Lester D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter Manor M. A. Lineberger Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Marell D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Demsey Marshall James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Glasco Marshall R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Handy Marshel F. M. Peacock Lowndes 662 GMD
Solomon Marshel F. M. Peacock Lowndes 662 GMD
Fayett Massey R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph McCraney D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Jacob Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
James Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Ishmal Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Paterson Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Miles McLeod D. McLeod Lowndes 662 GMD
Joe Miller J. F. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter Mincy J. N. ——- Lowndes 662 GMD
Frank Mitchell B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
George Mitchell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isam Mobly D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Chashall Mood self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Sabe Moore R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Monday Morell F. Hinely Lowndes 662 GMD
John Morgan D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Moses D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Kelley Moses A. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Daniel Nelson J. H. —–ey Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Nelson J. F. Arnold Lowndes 662 GMD
Solomon Newton C. W. Stokes Lowndes 662 GMD
George Packick D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
R Paton A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Harvey Pembleton self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Daniel Person D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Eli Ponder self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Jacob Preston B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Lovless Peterson W. R. Peterson Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph Phillips William Phillips Lowndes 662 GMD
Sippio Prichard D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Hamp Reed Lowndes 662 GMD
Stephen Richards James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Aaron Richardson R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Jim Richardson M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Tomb Riley E. A. Thompson Lowndes 662 GMD
John Roe D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Russel D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
C Shanks A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Samuel Shelton E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Andrew Simmons James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
William Simmons L. H. G. Hunter Lowndes 662 GMD
Aurlander Simpson J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Jim Simson B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Jacob Smith H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Wiley Smith M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Nelson Snell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Elbert Spain J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
Elias Spell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
John Spell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
William Stanfild Lowndes 662 GMD
Fayet Staw D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Ely Strickland T. E. Lanier Lowndes 662 GMD
I Terrell A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Allen Thomas D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Berry Thomas R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
George Thomas H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Thomas D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Samuel Thomas D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Ceasar Tison self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
George Townsend self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Andrew Turkett self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
C Vandross A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Warren B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Oren Welch E. A. Thompson Lowndes 662 GMD
Chadwick Wheeler self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Caesar White self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Jeremiah White W. Lineberger Lowndes 662 GMD
Richard White self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Dan Williams D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
William Dickerson self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Edgar Williams E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Fill Williams D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Frank Williams D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
George Williams B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Williams B. Harvey Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph Williams R. J. Hinely Lowndes 662 GMD
Toney Williams W. L. Rogers Lowndes 662 GMD
Ivens Wilson D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jerry Wilson B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Samuel Winters self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Witherspoon A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Sidney Witherspoon D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Larry Zeigler B. L. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Fed Zeigler Mrs. M. A. B. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Andrew Zitterower J. N. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [3 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [3 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [4 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [4 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [5 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [5 of 5]

 

Related Posts:

Freedmen of Lowndes County: 658 Georgia Militia District

Tax Records of Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA as listed in the 1870 Tax Digest

The 1870 Property Tax Digest for Lowndes County, GA was a tax roll of adult male residents. The rolls were organized by militia district.

  •   658 Georgia Militia District
  •   661 Georgia Militia District
  •   662 Georgia Militia District
  •   663 Georgia Militia District
  • 1246 Georgia Militia District

For white citizens, the tax records were organized alphabetically and include fields on taxable professions, dentists, auctioneers, photographers, bowling alleys, billiard tables, game tables, race tracks, children, disabled children, hands employed, real estate, and personal estate.

The tax records of African-American “Freedmen” were segregated from those of whites and placed in the very back pages of the digest. They were organized by ‘Names Of Employer” rather than by “Names Of Freedmen.” The only fields included on the form for Freedmen were for real estate and personal estate. Of the 500 “Colored” men on the 1870 tax rolls of Lowndes County, only 22 were reported with taxable personal property and only 11 owned any real estate.

Some of the men in these rolls were undoubtedly present at the Booby Clift Affair,  which occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.  In Valdosta, a group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively called Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.

Illustration of Freedmen in Georgia, 1866. The South: A Tour of Its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, a Journey Through the Desolated States, and Talks with the People

Illustration of Freedmen in Georgia, 1866. The South: A Tour of Its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, a Journey Through the Desolated States, and Talks with the People

As a finding aid, the tables presented here are organized alphabetically by Name of Freedman. Images of the original pages are provided below.

Several African-American men in this district immigrated with their families to Liberia in 1872, including Jordan Lemmon, Aaron Miller, London Wright, and Andrew “Anderson” Obey.

658 Georgia Militia District, Lowdnes County, GA, 1870

Name of Freedman Name of Employer County District
Ples Alexander T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Baalem James Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Andrew Baily Land owner, Self-employed Lowndes 658 GMD
Evis Baker J. J. Hutchinson Lowndes 658 GMD
Sam Bevill T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Morris Brice R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Alford Brown R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Elick Brown I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Carter W.J. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Moses Davis R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Drayton B. A. Edmondson Lowndes 658 GMD
Daniel Folsome R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Randal Folsome H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Caleb Franklin E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Jacob Gayfield W. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Thomas Godin H. B. Heel Lowndes 658 GMD
Charles Green James Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Berry Hall T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Ike Inman J. T. Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Inman W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Ned Johnson R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Nelson Johnson L. Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Oscar Johnson R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Charles Jones E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Bunch King L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Jef King L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Kirkling L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Umphrey Law E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Jordan Lemons B. Wells Lowndes 658 GMD
Jack Lukas E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Robert Lukas E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Manor John Hodges, Sr. Lowndes 658 GMD
Green Martin I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
William Martin R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Elbert McKennon R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Alexander McLevan W. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Joseph Miley R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Primus Miley R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Miller Land owner, Self-employed Lowndes 658 GMD
Albert Miller R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
John Miller Land owner, Self-employed, Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Sam Mincy R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Wilson Mincy R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Mobley Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Dave Moore R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Jerry Nails L. Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Andrew Obea H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Lorenzo Powers I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Moses Powers M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Rafe B. A. Edmondson Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Roberts Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Bill Rountree W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Josiah Rountree W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
John Scruggs Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Frank Sharp H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Ned Sharp R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Henry Sirmons John Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Jack Smith M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Handy Smith M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Dennis Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Hamp Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Ike Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Joseph Swain L. Cokers, Sr. Lowndes 658 GMD
Ben Syrmans R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
William Thompson B. Wells Lowndes 658 GMD
Daniel Vickers William Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Vickers A. H. Ennis Lowndes 658 GMD
London Wright Eli D. Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Wright T Wright John Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Allen Williams E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Williams G. M. Borrew Lowndes 658 GMD
Lee Williams I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Peter Williams J. F. Barefield Lowndes 658 GMD
Peter Williams J. M. Lewis Lowndes 658 GMD

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [1 of 2]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [1 of 2]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 2]

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

The Clift Affair occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.   Much of what has been written about the incident at Valdosta has minimized what would today undoubtedly be categorized as a terrorist attack.

The Clift Affair occurred just days after the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, probably under the leadership of former Confederate General John B. Gordon, began its reign of political terrorism in this state with the murder of Radical organizer George Ashburn at Columbus, GA. (Georgia would later name its largest military training base of WWI and WWII Camp Gordon in honor of General Gordon).     In Valdosta,  group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively referred to as Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.  Local public outcry over the Clift Affair in Valdosta, condemning equally the actions of the candidate and the bombers, was led by Richard A. Peeples, a prominent Confederate veteran and lawyer of Valdosta, and former Clerk of the Court of Berrien County, GA.

 

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift was born in North Marshfield, Plymouth County, MA. on September 30, 1837. He attended the common schools and Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH. He graduated from the medical school of Harvard University in 1862. He entered the Union Army and was acting surgeon from July 13, 1862, to August 7, 1865, then served in the Army of the Potomac until November 18, 1866. Afterwards he moved to Savannah, GA with his brother, Walter Lovell Clift.  J. W. Clift established a medical practice and Walter L. Clift practiced law.  J. W. Clift joined the Georgia Medical Society and was elected Librarian of the organization in January, 1867. The brothers became activists encouraging freedmen to exercise their right to vote which had been granted in the Sherman Military Bill.  J.W. Clift spoke at a Savannah gathering of several thousand freedmen on March 18, 1867.  On May 25, 1867 the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer announced J. W. Clift  had been appointed to the board of voter registration for the city of Savannah by order of Major General Pope under the Reconstruction Acts. Of the 5,330 voters registered in Savannah that year, 3,061 were African-American. At a meeting for the organization of the Republican Party in Chatham County, J. W. Clift was elected as a delegate to the Republican State Convention to be held July 4, 1867 in Atlanta, GA. Both brothers spoke at the Savannah Republican rally October 21, 1867, attended by about 4000 freedmen according to the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer. W. L. Clift was a delegate to the state constitutional convention.  In early 1868, Dr. J. W. Clift was considered as a Radical candidate for mayor of Savannah, but at a mass meeting of freedmen on March 16. 1868 he was nominated as the Radical candidate for the U. S. Congress.

Hitting the campaign trail, J. W. Clift came to Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA. In Pines and Pioneers, J. Shelton described Cliff’s event here:

A candidate for Congress, J. W. Clift arrived in Valdosta to make a campaign speech. Clift sought the Negro vote, and he scheduled an address for Saturday night, April 4, 1868. Without bothering to secure from the authorities the required permission to speak publicly, Clift began his talk to an audience at the courthouse. There was an explosion, for a group of young Confederate veterans had placed a keg containing a “small modicum of powder” beneath the building. No one was hurt, but the young men succeeded in breaking up the meeting.

Primary sources on the Valdosta bombing attack,  the Valdosta Times and Savannah Daily News and Herald, ensconced the event in a shared language that derides the victims and excuses the perpetrators. language that many references have maintained up to the most recent years.

The political candidate, Dr. J. W. Clift was constantly referred to as a “prowling, sniveling booby,” “vagrant scalawag, ” or “carpet bagger.” The terms scalawag and carpetbagger have sometimes been redefined in the modern narrative as neutral;  scalawags were “southerners who supported Reconstruction” and Carpetbaggers were “northerners who came south after the war to seek their fortune through politics.”  But in 1868, these terms were unquestionably pejorative; carpetbaggers were unscrupulous Yankee profiteers and scalawags were the white southern traitors who collaborated with them and the freedmen.  In a clipping from the South Georgia Times reprinted August 20, 1868 in the Atlanta Constitution, Berrien County bragged that it had no scalawags:   “NO SCALLAWAGS IN BERRIEN! No scalawags in Irwin and Telfair, and that’s the reason no election is ordered for those counties. Y.M.D.C. is organized here, but there is not enough radicalism to keep it lively.” (The Young Men’s Democratic Club was the public political wing of the KKK,) Dr. Clift’s brother, Walter L. Clift, a lawyer and delegate to the state constitutional convention, was referred to as a “little cheese-eyed man” and both the Clift brothers were alternately tagged with the description as “a sour little fellow, with weak, wicked eyes…[and] industrious imbecility.” In an extended tirade, the Thomasville Enterprise referred to Dr. Clift as “a silly, overweening school boy, about to be elevated above his capacity…we were never more astonished at the extreme feebleness and want of prestige and capacity in a candidate for so high an office…Such is the contemptible creature who has the effrontery to ask the colored citizens of this district for their votes to send him to Congress of the United States… an unknown adventurer, destitute of talents, character, courage and every manly attribute – an ignorant, insolent upstart, who in the face of an outraged and indignant community, meanly seeks by falsehood and misrepresentation, by appeals to the prejudices and passions of their newly enfranchised race – by hypocrisy and deceit and every base and contemptible artifice, to obtain a position for which he is neither intellectually, morally, legally or socially qualified. 

White Valdostans asserted that by holding the meeting, Dr. Clift himself precipitated the incident  – that he was acting”illegally” since he did not have the approval of civil authorities, although the entire state was then under military rule and Clift was exercising free speech to address a peaceable assembly.  The Valdosta Times even suggested that J. W. Clift planted the bomb himself, in a diabolical plot to implicate “the poor rebs,”  widen the divide between the “good men” of Lowndes county and the “Negroes,” and create a sensation among his black supporters.

Valdosta Times referred to Clift’s audience as “ a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism,” and the “ignorant and credulous classes.” The Valdosta Times wrote that the gullibility of the freedmen was illustrated in their naive belief of Clift’s statements that “white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children.

The conspirators were just “some of the boys [who] concluded to have a little fun.”  They only “intended to create a ‘big scare’.

The bomb was just a “prank“…“a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.” Further, it couldn’t have been a real bomb because it was preposterous that any white man would have risked accidentally blowing himself up in the company of “negroes.

Subsequent reports suggest that the conspirators and their allies, having failed in the full destructive effects of the explosion, further broke up and dispersed the crowd of freedmen by force of arms, surrounding the Courthouse building and holding it throughout the night. At the time of the bombing on Saturday April 4, 1868, Valdosta and all of Georgia was still under the  federal military occupation of Reconstruction, and Federal officers viewed the civil unrest as a collapse of local authority. Albert B. Clark,  Freeman’s Bureau agent at Quitman,  “quickly reported to military headquarters at Thomasville that a riot had occurred and that local authorities were ‘powerless’ to do anything about it.

By Monday, April 6, newspapers all over the country were mentioning the Clift Affair in Valdosta, many attributing the violence to the KKK.

The Philadelphia Age
April 6, 1868
At a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday night, a disturbance was caused by the discovery of a keg of powder under the speaker’s desk. The meeting dispersed amid general excitement.

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Janesville, Wisconsin Gazette
April 6, 1868

The Tribune’s special Savannah of the 5th says the Republican meeting at Valdosta yesterday was broken up by a band of regulators of Ku klux Klan. Powder was placed under the building in which Dr. J. W. Cliff, the Republican candidate for Congress was to speak.

A New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Reconstruction violence in Georgia notes   “It is impossible to untangle local vigilante violence from political terrorism by the organized Klan, but it is clear that attacks on blacks became common during 1868. Freedmen’s Bureau agents reported 336 cases of murder or assault with intent to kill on freedmen across the state from January 1 through November 15 of 1868.”

At Valdosta, a number of concerned white residents of  met to discuss the bombing and attorney Richard A. Peeples, was called to the Chair.  Peeples was a former Clerk of the Berrien County Courts.  R. T. Myddleton was appointed Secretary. Following a motion by Col. A. J. Little, Peeples appointed a committee to draft a resolution expressing condemnation of the actions.  The committee, consisting of Henry Burroughs Holliday, Col. A. J. Little, B. F. Moseley, G. T. Hammond,  and M. C. Morgan quickly composed the following:

Whereas one J. W. Clift a candidate for Congress came to this place on Saturday last, and without giving to the civil authorities the notice required by military orders – so as to enable said authorities to have a police in readiness to preserve order – did at night hold a meeting composed of a large number of negroes, many of whom were armed and standing as guard around the house.

And whereas, certain irresponsible parties did, in a most irregular and disgraceful manner disperse and break up said meeting – thereby endangering the lives of many persons – much to the regret of all good citizens,

We the citizens in meeting assembled, do hereby, express our condemnation and dissapproval of said riotous conduct.

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On the evening of Monday, April 6, the civil authorities at Valdosta moved to preempt military intervention in the case. The Mayor M. J. Griffin, of Valdosta, ordered the arrest of  five  suspected conspirators in the bombing: A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo.

A slightly more detailed version of the events in Valdosta, highly sympathetic to “the boys,” was published in the Savannah newspapers.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

        Our readers have had rumors of a muss of some sort got up by the vagrant scalawag who aspires to represent the negro constituency of this District in Congress. We have heard various statements in regard to the affair, but nothing authentic until we met the following in the Valdosta Times of the 8th inst. The editor says:
        On Saturday night last there was quite a stir in our town. One Clift, surnamed booby, was here to make a speech, to induce the colored people to vote for him. He went illegally to work, having no fear of the military before his eyes, called his meeting, went to speaking, sans ceremonie, without so much as saying “by your leave, Mr. Mayor.” Having placed himself in the wrong by his lawless course, it is not to be wondered that there was as little sympathy for him as for his cause. Some of the boys concluded to have a little fun, and placed under the building a keg in which it was said there was a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.
        Another version of it is, that it was placed there with the cognizance of the said Clift, surnamed as above, for the purpose of making a finishing stroke to the poor rebs, as thereby and therein they were to be demolished indirectly by the gunpowder, but directly by his masterly strategy. It is idle to suppose that there was any intention on the part of the boys, if they did it, to blow up their friends and relations, some of whom were in the building. They intended a “big scare” and carried out their purpose quite effectively.
        We condemn in the strongest terms we can use, all such proceedings. They are both unlawful and unjustifiable. They tend to harm the cause they would subserve. The negroes will, of course, be inclined to listen to those who will endeavor to persuade them that it was really the intention to blow them up, and thus the breach be widened that good men are endeavoring to close up as far as may be practicable and right. And so far as this goes Clift has been partially successful, if his is the strategy that laid the explosive train.
        Our citizens have had a meeting and condemned this procedure in unqualified terms of disapproval.
        The strong presumption is that this diabolical gunpowder plot was “a weak invention of the enemy” – a resort of the prowling, sniveling Booby to create a sensation and to increase his electioneering capital with his ignorant and credulous classes.
         The idea that the young men of Valdosta would attempt with a handful of powder to blow up such a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism as must have composed Booby’s auditory, is perfectly absurd – especially when it is considered that the Guy Fawkes of the enterprise in exploding the powder, to which no train or fuse was set, must necessarily have blown himself up with the rest. However fearless and self sacrificing the projector of such a plot might be, it is utterly preposterous to suppose that any white man would be willing to be blown to Ballahack or anywhere else, in such company.

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Valdosta Times
April 8, 1868

We are sorry that the Radicals have not sent a man of sense to run as a candidate for Congressional honors in the First Congressional District. The negroes yesterday “damned” Clift “with faint praise.” His speech was a feeble, sickly tirade against somebody or something, or nobody or nothing. Not one of his hearers could tell to-day what he said or what he meant. Some of them seemed to arouse when he said that white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children. The response of one was “Bress God, brodder, let us pray.’’ The more sensible among them know how to estimate such a pretender. They are not quite so senseless as he took them to be.
Valdosta Times April 8th.

About the accused, this much is known:

  • IVERSON L. GRIFFIN
    Eighteen-year-old Iverson L. Griffin was the son of a wealthy planter and merchant of Valdosta. His father, Thomas B. Griffin, had served as a Confederate state senator of Georgia from 1861-1863 and was therefore disallowed from taking the Oath of Allegiance to restore his U.S. citizenship. His father had been the owner of 12 slaves, including 4 mulatto children under the age of 4. It is also noteworthy that the Mayor of Valdosta at the time was M. J. Griffin; the only M. J. Griffin that appears in the Lowndes County census records of that period is Iverson Griffin’s brother, Marcus J. Griffin.
  • JOHN DANIEL CALHOUN
    At the time of the Clift Affair, 24-year-old John Daniel Calhoun was a deputy sheriff of Lowndes County, GA. Census records suggest he may have been orphaned at an early age. His early childhood was in the household of Harmon Sapp. In the 1860 census, he was enumerated as a teenager in the household of William Bradford, working as a laborer. Also in the Bradford household was Richard Ault, who would later serve as blacksmith for the Berrien Minute Men. By the 1880s Calhoun would move to Berrien County, GA where he farmed in the 1145 Georgia Militia District. In 1905 he was serving as Postmaster in Crossland, GA.
  • ALEXANDER H. DARNELL
    Darnell was a young merchant of Valdosta. He was native of Kentucky and the first record of his presence in Lowndes County is his signature on the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, signed October 18, 1867. He was 25 years old at the time of the Clift incident. He died in Lowndes County in October 1869 from an “abscess of the liver”.
  • JOHN JAMES RAMBO
    Rambo, age 17 at the time of the Clift Affair, was an orphan of Confederate veteran Dr. John Rambo and Mary Ark Ryals. According to The Rambo Family Tree, his parents were both born in England and immigrated to Georgia. His father received his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia in Atlanta, graduating in 1847. John J. Rambo was born January 18, 1851 in Perrys Mill, Tatnall County, Georgia. After his mother died of brain fever in 1859, his father married a second time to Maria Clifton.    His father was enumerated in 1860 as the owner of 7 enslaved people. During the Civil War, his father served as a surgeon in the 47th Georgia Infantry Regiment, rising to the rank of Major.  His step-mother died on March 14, 1862 His father left the army on September 17, 1862 because of a physical disability. Some time during or prior to 1863, John J. Rambo came with his father to live in Valdosta, leaving his half-brother William in the custody of his Clifton grandparents.  John’s father died in Valdosta about August 28 1864 at the age of 34.  After the Clift Affair in Valdosta,  John and some of his Ryals relatives kidnapped his younger step-brother, William Rambo, and traveled by boat to New York.  There, John J. Rambo studied to become a doctor and took up medical practice in Brooklyn, NY for the remainder of his life.

Mayor Griffin’s quick action was temporarily effective in preventing military intervention. By the time Lt. Bard and Corporal John Murray arrived in Valdosta with a detail of federal soldiers the five suspects were already in civil custody. For the time being the U. S. soldiers took no action. But a week later, after the alleged bombers were released on bond, the soldiers moved over night to arrest them and transported them to Savannah for confinement in the federal barracks. Valdosta Mayor M. J. Griffin protested the military arrests and Thomas B. Griffin, father of Iverson L. Griffin, traveled to Savannah to visit the accused in jail.  The South Georgia Times report of the arrest was reprinted in the Savannah Daily News and Herald, along with an exchange of telegrams between Mayor Griffin and military authorities.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Military Arrests in Valdosta.
{From the South Georgia Times}
         We are sorry to have to state that Monday night last some of our young men were taken from their beds and immediately hurried off to Savannah by United States troops, we presume to undergo military trial. It is alleged that they were engaged in the gunpowder sport referred to in — last. They have already given bond – the four are under arrest – to appear and answer before the civil tribunals. Our Mayor and Sheriff promptly discharged their duty in the premises. The hardship of the case is, that civil law has but a name. The iron is —ering in into the soil, and liberty and law is fast passing away. These young men are to be tried where perhaps their case is already prejudged, far away from their homes and sympathy and kindness of friends. Time was when such an act would have fired the great heart of the country from one end of is bounds to the other. They should have been tried by their peers of the vicin– — age, and if guilty of the violation of law, punished as that law would punish them, and not at the behest of prejudiced strangers.
        Our Mayor sent the following telegram to Gen. Meade relative to what had been done here. General Meade’s reply is appended. Alas! for the rights for which our fathers fought, and of which we have so much boasted.
         A telegram was received by Mr. M. J. Griffin, at 6 o’clock yesterday, from Mr. T. B. Griffin that “the boys were all comfortably quartered in the barracks, and well cared for.”

Valdosta, April 14, 1868
Major Gen. Meade, Atlanta, Ga.
Sir: – At a late hour last night, without my knowledge, a party of U. S. soldiers arrived here and carried away the following persons, viz. A. H. Darnell, Iverson Griffin, John Calhoun, Ben Smith, John Rambo – who are alleged to have been concerned in a riot at this place on the 4th inst. These men, as Mayor, I had arrested and bound to appear at the Superior Court of this county to answer for the same. I respectfully request to be informed if they were arrested by your order, and if not, that they be released and take their trial before the civil tribunals of the county.
I have the honor to be,
Your Obedient Serv’t
M. J. Griffin,
Mayor Valdosta

Atlanta, GA., April 14th, 1868
M. J. Griffin, Mayor Valdosta:
The persons named in your telegram were arrested by General Meade’s order, and will be held for trial by Military Commission.
R. C. Drum, A. A. G.

In subsequent days state and national newspapers provided additional details.

The Macon Georgia Weekly Telegraph
April 24,1868

The Clift Electioneering Trick At Valdosta.
Yesterday, Lieutenant Bard, United States Army, arrived in this city on the train from Valdosta, having in charge five young men, whom he had arrested there the day previous, on a charge of having been the originators of the disturbance which occurred at that place on last Saturday night week. –
This is the general supposition, as nothing was said by the arresting officer of the why and the wherefore of their being taken into custody. Their names are Alexander H. Darrell, John Calhoun, John Rambo, Benjamin L. Smith and Iverson L. Griffin. They are all young men of good family, and entirely innocent of all blame in the matter. Mr. Calhoun was Deputy Sheriff of Lowndes County, and a faithful and efficient officer.- Mr. Griffin was not present at the Court House on the night in question, and in no way connected with the affair. Thus are innocent men torn from their families and thrust into prison by the strong arm of military power, and made to suffer by the rascality of a Radical carpet-bag adventurer. [Sav. Rep., 15th.

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Indianapolis Journal
April 30, 1868

ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP A REPUBLICAN MEETING – Information has reached the Congressional Committee rooms that on Tuesday last [Saturday, April 4, 1868] an attempt was made to blow up the Court House at Valdosta, Georgia, where a Republican meeting, composed mostly of colored people, was being addressed by Dr. J. W. Clift (white). A keg containing eighteen pounds of powder had been purchased at a store in the place, and a portion take out to make a train, and the remainder of the powder was placed under the Court House. Fortunately the cask was discovered and removed in season, but the train [fuse] was fired, and in an attempt of the persons present to escape, they were fired upon by a gang of white men outside, who had surrounded the building. This party held possession of the place that night, but on the next day they were dispossessed by the military, and the meeting was held.

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Bedford Inquirer
April 17, 1868

Terrorism In The South

      Our Democratic brethern would have the people believe that the South would be a perfect paradise if such men as Meade, Pope, Sickles, Sheridan, &c., were kept away. General Hancock has had several months control of the Southwest trying to carry out a different policy from that of the before-mentioned heroes with what results is indicated in the following article from the Pittsburg Chronicle of a few days ago:
      The dispatches which we published in yesterday’s issue, relative to the brutal murder of Hon. George W. Ashburn, of Columbus, Georgia, by a gang of villains in disguise, and the breaking up of a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, by a band of regulators of the Ku-Klux Klan, come at the heels of much similar information through letters and newspapers, and show that in portions of the South, a reign of terrorism is in actual operation. It verily seems that these ill-fated people are moved by some malignant fatality to thwart all efforts which look towards their gradual restoration to order and prosperous enterprise. Not satisfied with opposing every political measure that has been devised to enable them to get out of the dreadful slough in which they were left upon the suppression of the rebellion, they are actually engaged in the suicidal business of convulsing society so utterly by lawlessness, as to put a complete quietus upon the views and schemes of all those adventurous Northern capitalists, who had begun seriously to meditate risking their families and fortunes in the South…It is not pleasant for us to be compelled to state that at present, in many Southern States, it would he unsafe for a Northern man to buy property and attempt to carry on any farming or manufacturing enterprise. We have never gone out of our way to give added circulation to the prejudicial stories that are periodically current about the South. Whenever we could, consistently with the truth, present the bright side of the picture, we have cheerfully done so .But it is, in our judgment, perfectly clear from the accumulated information which pours in upon us, that, notwithstanding the cheerful fancies of such military optimists as General Hancock, there is an immense amount of crime perpetrated in Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, and portions of Arkansas and Missouri. How far it would be possible to curb these excesses by military power we cannot determine. It is probably impossible to keep perfect order over so wide an area and amongst a population so thoroughly demoralized by a long and unsuccessful war. Years will elapse before anything bearing the faintest semblance to the orderly and regulated institutions of the North will prevail. Then will slowly set in a desirable immigration, and the wasted and cursed South will begin to recover, to get strength,to enjoy the blessings of law, and to reap the fruits of sensibly directed industry.

The citizens of Lowndes county presented a bond for the release of the alleged bombers to the military authorities in Savannah, but this offer was rejected.

STILL IN CUSTODY – The young men who were arrested by the military at Valdosta, because Dr. Clift attempted to blow himself up with gunpowder, for political capital, are still held in custody at the United States Barracks in this city, awaiting the orders of General Mead.

The men were kept incarcerated through the election of 1868, and for a couple of weeks afterward.  After about a month of confinement, the suspects were finally released on bail secured by citizens of Savannah.

May 8, 1868

Release or the Valdosta Prisoners on Bail.
—Yesterday Messrs. A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo, who, it will be remembered, were arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the supposed attempt to blowup a Radical meeting at Valdosta, previous to the election, while one Clift was addressing it, were released on bail in the sum of $10,000 each, to appear for trial when summoned by the military authorities. This was done by order of General Meade. Captain J. L. Moseley brought to the city a bond of $60,000 of the citizens of Lowndes county, which Col. Maloney would not accept, and six citizens of Savannah, representing nearly $200,000, offered themselves as security, were accepted and the prisoners released. The late prisoners requested us to publish the following:

Savannah, Ga., May 8, 1868.
Editors News and Herald: We, the Valdosta prisoners, who have been confined in the United States Barracks at this place, wish, through your paper, to render our thanks to Col. Maurice Maloney and his command, for their kind treatment, both to us and to our friends who visited us.
Yours Respectfully,
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo, Savannah, GA, May 8,1868.

To the Citizens of Savannah: We wish to return our thanks for their kind attention and hospitality while we were in confinement at this place in the United States Barracks, and to the noble-minded merchants who have so generously stood our most unreasonable bail required by the military authorities. We trust we may at some future time be in such a position as to repay the many obligations under which we have been placed.
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo,

The Georgia Election of April, 1868

The election of 1868 was a four day affair which commenced on April 20. Throughout the voting period, the southern newspapers maintained a cacophony of allegations of voter fraud, corruption, official vote rigging, coercion, voter ignorance, and other irregularities.  By 1867, the conditions of Reconstruction required an Oath of Allegiance to the United States in order to be listed in the register of qualified voters.  White southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship were required to swear a new oath of allegiance to the United States in order to have their national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote. Some whites who had held posts in the Confederate government or the governments of Confederate states were disqualified from having their citizenship restored through the oath of allegiance.

The April 1868 election in Georgia was a vote for state officers and U.S. congressmen and a vote on ratification of of a new state constitution.  When the votes were counted, the new constitution  was approved by a vote of 88,172 to 70,200. In the race for governor Rufus Bullock, defeated Confederate General John B. Gordon 83,527 to 76,356. In the elections for state representatives, Radicals won 84 of the 172 House seats (29 of them black) and came within three seats of taking control of the House. In the state senate, however, the Radicals (3 of them black)  carried a solid majority, with 27 seats to the Democrats’ 17 seats. The Radical believed blacks were entitled to the same political rights and opportunities as whites.

Clift Wins Seat in House of Representatives

Under Reconstruction, the results of the election were subject to certification by the military authorities. In the announcement made by General Meade, Dr. J. W. Clift was declared the winner in the First Congressional District of Georgia.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 7, 1868

Headq’rs Third Military District, Department of Ga., Fla. and Ala.,
Atlanta, Ga., June 30, 1868.

General Orders No. 93,

From the returns made to these Headquarters by the Boards of Registration, of the election held in the State of Georgia for civil officers of said State and for members of Congress, under the provisions of General Orders No. 40, (Paragraph III,) issued from these Headquarters, which election commenced on the 20th day of April, 1868, and continued four days, it appears that in said election the following named persons were elected Representatives to the Congress of the United States from the Congressional

Districts to their names respectively attached, viz :
             First District—J. W. Clift.
             Second District—Nelson Tift, Sr.
             Third District—W. P. Edwards.
             Fourth District–Samuel Gove.
             Fifth District—C. H. Prince.
             Sixth District—John H. Christy.
             Seventh District—P. M. B. Young.

By order of Major General Meade.
R. C. Drum,
Assistant Adjutant General.

Following the ratification of the 14th Amendment by the newly elected General Assembly, the US Congress initially readmitted Georgia to the Union in July 1868.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.

Joseph Wales Clift served in the Fortieth U.S. Congress from July 25, 1868, to March 3, 1869.  

Second Valdosta Attack on Representative Clift

Representative Clift did not enjoy a triumphant return to Valdosta. While passing through the “notorious” town in October 1868, he and his brother, Walter Lovell Clift, were again assaulted and their lives threatened.

Manitowoc Tribune
October 8, 1868

      We are informed that about ten days ago Joseph W. Clift, M. C. [Member of Congress] from Southern Georgia, while riding in the cars on the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, with his brother was treated in a manner which shows conclusively that free speech is not tolerated in that section of the country.
     When the train stopped at Valdosta a town of one thousand inhabitants, distant from Savannah about one hundred and twenty miles, a large crowd surrounded the cars, and some fifteen or twenty ruffians, armed with heavy sticks, entered the car with the avowed purpose of taking them out and lynching them.
They were only prevented from doing this by the urgent entreaties of several prominent men, one of whom was an elector on the democratic ticket. The argument of the gentleman was, that the ‘boys mustn’t do it because it would injure the party and town!’ The crowd outside becoming weary of waiting for the sport to commence, hooted and yelled ‘Bring the d—-d Radical out!’ and again the roughs seemed determined to accomplish their purpose but were again met by the same objections on the part of their friends and after heaping all manner of insults on them offensive gentlemen were quietly passing through their town, reluctantly relinquished their purpose and left the train. This town Valdosta enjoys an unenviable notoriety as the scene of a Ku-Klux monstralation last April when a band of forty or fifty armed men first placed eighteen pounds of powder under the Court house where Dr. Clift was about to address a Republican meeting and when by accident the infernal plot was discovered just in season to prevent their drunken tool from firing the train [fuse] and hurling three hundred people into eternity, the meeting was broken up by violence, and the mob took and held the town all night threatening to assassinate prominent Republicans and rendering it necessary to send for military aid before the meeting could proceed.
       Several person prominent actors in the April affair, and now under bonds of $10,000 each for their participation in the same were leaders in the recent attack.

Returning to Washington, DC, Clift presented credentials as a Member-elect to the Forty-first Congress but during the recess period actions in Georgia,  including the expulsion of black legislators from the state Assembly and the Camilla Massacre, had resulting in the re-imposition of Reconstruction and federal military jurisdiction for the state under the command of General Alfred H. Terry.  With Georgia’s return to un-reconstructed status, Clift and the other representatives and senators of  Georgia were not allowed to take their seats in the U.S. Congress.  

Thomas Nast sketch from a montage on Reconstruction violence entitled "Southern Justice," Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867

“Southern Justice,” Thomas Nast sketch of Reconstruction violence, Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867  depicted a scene in Texas but aptly portrayed the events of the Camilla Massacre which occurred September 19, 1868.

In January 1870, General Terry  removed ex-Confederates from the Georgia General Assembly, replaced them with the Radical runners-up, and then reinstated the expelled black legislators. “Terry’s Purge”established a solid Radical majority in the Georgia legislature, which ratified the Fifteenth Amendment  in February 1870 and chose new senators to send to Washington.

 The 15th Amendment to the Constitution established voting rights for African American men by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote

On July 15, 1870, Georgia became the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.

Upon the withdrawal of federal military rule from Georgia, the rise of KKK terrorism quickly suppressed the newly gained civil and political rights of southern blacks.  When the midterm election put white supremacists back in control of the state senate, Governor Bullock resigned and fled the state rather than face impeachment by a hostile legislature.

Speaking from the steps of the Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. on November 29, 1871, Dr. Joseph W. Clift made an impassioned appeal to the Radicals of Georgia, which was printed and circulated in a political leaflet.

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

AN ADDRESS TO THE REPUBLICANS OF GEORGIA.

Governor Bullock having resigned, and the duly elected Representatives of the people having decided by an overwhelming majority that a Governor should be elected for the unexpired term, on the 19th of December, 1871, leaving only twenty days to organize a campaign under peculiar circumstances, and understanding that prominent Republicans, whom I honor and respect, have discussed the advisability of sustaining the veto of Governor Conley, by refusing to nominate or vote for any person for Governor, on that day, thereby letting the election go by default, I am prompted to write this letter and advocate, with such vigor as I may, exactly the opposite course of action.

I admit the arguments of my friends:

First . That there is little time to prepare for such a contest.

Second . That Governor Conley’s action, together with the silence of the Republican Representatives, who apparently acquiesced in it, have some force.

Third . Some minds may also be influenced by the depressing influences which still remain as the result of the election last December; and by the additional reason, that challenging for non-payment of the poll-tax, will prevent many colored Republicans from voting.

It has been said to me, let Governor Conley’s position be legal or illegal, it furnishes the Republican party an excellent excuse for not voting, and being badly beaten, the conditions being so unfavorable to their success in the contest. To many, these reasons, with other reasons, may be conclusive against our party running a candidate, and voting December 19; to my mind, they are not good reasons for such a course of action, and I sincerely hope our friends will immediately reconsider the question , and so far from letting the election “go by default,” make the above reasons alleged as sufficient to deter us from contesting the election with our Democratic friends, reasons for putting forth the most earnest and vigorous efforts to organize the party and meet the old enemies of Equal Rights, and exact justice to the colored man fairly and squarely in the teeth, and do brave battle for some pure-minded, honest Republican, who, if elected, will serve out the term with credit to himself and benefit to the State.

I am thoroughly convinced that this is the very best course for us to pursue. The contrary course seems to my mind neither wise, brave, patriotic, or just. We have as much time to work for the election as our opponents.

Governor Conley’s position is at least of doubtful legality, and even if it were technically correct, the voice of the people, speaking through their Representatives, speaks in thunder tones, and most emphatically—and as I think wisely—construes the language of the Constitution of Georgia to mean that a new Governor must be elected next month.

Neither brief time for preparation, Governor Conley’s position, the result of the last election, or the inability of our friends to pay their taxes, should for one instant shut our ears to this call of the people. It must, will, and ought to be obeyed at any cost.

The wishes of the people are entitled to respect, and the individuals, or party, who fail to heed them when so plainly expressed, and on so important a question as the one pending, will do itself great wrong, and suffer in the end accordingly.

I never did, and do not now believe in shirking a fight with Democracy under any pretext however specious, and circumstances however discouraging.

We ought to be ready and willing to meet them whenever and wherever duty calls, and defend the great principles advocated by our party since ’56, and by many good men long before.

These principles are as good and true to-day as ever they were, and the bitter and relentless warfare waged by our unscrupulous opponents against everything which tends to unshackle the hands of the honest laborer of Georgia—and everywhere else—should only nerve every man of us to “gird up his loins” and fight like heroes for the education and elevation of the masses, and the defeat of the cardinal principles of Democracy.

Instead of giving up the fight, let it be continued, and give them no quarter, till the last stronghold of the greatest foe of Liberty, and Equal Rights in this country, shall be carried, and they shall surrender to the cohorts of Freedom, and to the Civilization of the nineteenth Century.

If we would save our “Common School System,” in Georgia, and preserve the liberties of the people, we must fight it out with them, if we all go to our graves before the cause is finally triumphant. But triumphant it will be, and that at no distant time, as sure as a merciful God exists.

The wrongs of our poor people call loudly for redress, and the cry must be heeded, and responded to by all true hearts.

We must play no cowardly part in this fight, nor bow our neck to the Democratic yoke, otherwise we are not worthy the blessings we seek.

Let them, all the leading Republicans now in Atlanta, take Counsel together immediately, and prevail on Gov. Conley, Hon. J. S. Bigby, Ex-Gov. James Johnson, or one of a half dozen other pure and true Republicans of ability, and prominence, to allow the Party to make an effort to place them in the Gubernatorial chair.

Let Governor Conley reconsider his determination, and contest his right to his position before the PEOPLE, that Mighty Tribunal , higher than all courts.

Let us pay our poll taxes , rapidly organize our party in every county, and poll every vote we can; then , if we are ever so badly beaten, we shall have at least the satisfaction of meeting our old enemy face to face, and doing battle valiantly for the right.

It will put us in harness for the greater battle of ’72, in which the principles of justice will surely triumph over oppression and wrong, and the result be perfect Peace.

JOSEPH W. CLIFT.

Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C., Nov. 29, 1871.

 

Joseph Wales Clift died in Rock City Falls, Saratoga County, NY on May 2, 1908; He was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Clift estate, North Marshfield, MA.

 

Berrien’s Black Doughboys: Camp Gordon Men

Camp Gordon Men from Berrien County, GA

During WWI, Berrien County sent its contingent of black soldiers to join the United States Army. While the Jim Crow Army would relegate many black soldiers to support roles, a few Berrien County men would fight in all-black combat units like the 370th Infantry “Black Devils” and the 367th Infantry “Buffalo Infantry.

Nationwide, more than 2.2 million black men were registered over the course of four draft registration calls, of which nearly 370,000 were drafted for induction into the Army. The draft was a lottery in which numbers written on pieces of paper (in red ink) were pulled from a bowl by the U.S. Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker. Every number represented one registrant from each local board who would be called in for examination and if accepted, would be inducted into service.

In March of 1918, 86 black men in Berrien County received their orders of induction.  The orders instructed the men to report to the local draft board in Nashville, GA on April 2, 1918 for examination.

WWI Order of Induction P. M. G. O. Form 1028

WWI Order of Induction P. M. G. O. Form 1028

Along with the Order of Induction the men received written instructions on what to wear and what to pack. They were informed of the consequences of failing to report – a court-martial and possibly the death penalty.  Dire warnings notwithstanding, some twenty of the Berrien County men failed to report on April 2, 1918 as ordered.  According to WWI Historian Jennifer D. Keene, illiteracy prevented some men from complying with written induction orders.  “In many rural southern regions, the control that white landowners maintained over their black workforce influenced the workings of local draft boards. Some land owners withheld draft notices that arrived in the mail or refused to read them to their workers. When these workers failed to report, the government listed them as deserters. White planters subsequently gained both the advantage of their continued labor and the chance to collect a $50 reward from the government whenever they felt inclined to turn in these so-called deserters.”   A scandal over the reward for capture of deserters led to the dismissal of one Berrien County draft board member.

Form 1028A Instructions to Selected Men

Form 1028A Instructions to Selected Men

Important Notice to all Men Selected for Military Service and Ordered to
Report to a Local Board for Military Duty.

The day and hour specified on the Classification List of this Local Board, and on the order and notice of induction into military service which accompanies this notice for you to report to this Local Board for military duty, is the time that marks your actual obligation as a soldier of the United States.

Failure to report promptly at the hour and on the day named is a grave military offense, for which you may be court-martialed. Willful failure to report, with an intent to evade military service, constitutes desertion from the Army “of the United States, which in time of war is a capital offense.

Upon reporting to your Local Board, you will not need, and you should not bring with you, anything except hand baggage. You will not be permitted to take trunks or boxes with you on the train. You should take only the following articles: A pair of strong, comfortable shoes to relieve your feet from your new regulation marching shoes; not to exceed four extra suits of underclothing; not to exceed six extra pairs of socks; four face and two bath towels; a comb, a brush, a toothbrush, soap, tooth powder, razor, and shaving soap. It will add to your comfort to bring one woolen blanket, preferably of dark or neutral color. This blanket should be tightly rolled, the ends of the roll should be securely bound together, and the loop of the blanket thus formed slung from your left shoulder to your right hip.

You should wear rough, strong clothing and a flannel shirt, preferably an olive-drab shirt of the kind issued to soldiers.

Note.—Local Boards may have prepared, in the form of a rubber stamp, and stamp in below or on the back hereof any special instructions, such as a direction to request permission to eat and spend the last night at home, as it may desire to give.

On April 2, 1918 sixty-six African-American men from Berrien County, GA  reported to the draft board as ordered.  After passing examination, it appears the men were given permission to spend their last night at home.  On April 3, at Nashville, GA they boarded the Georgia & Florida train bound for Camp Gordon, near Atlanta.  The local draft board at Nashville, GA used Form 1029 PMGO, issued  by the Provost Marshall General’s Office, to document the entrainment of newly enlisted soldiers (images below). The forms include the draftee’s name, serial number, order number, date ordered to report, draft board, name of the mobilization camp, and the draftee’s occupation.

Statements from the Local Draft Board, Nashville, Berrien County, GA document African-American soldiers selected for the draft and entrained on April 3, 1918.

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-1

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-2

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-3

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-4

  1. Homer Lee Fordham, Alapaha, GA
  2. Dock Moore, Milltown, GA
  3. Wesley Myers, Bannockburn, GA
  4. John W. Faison, Ray City, GA
  5. Alexander Werkerson, Alapaha, GA
  6. Titus Griffin, Milltown, GA
  7. Willie Mullins, Alapaha, GA
  8. Joe Roberson, Ray City, GA
  9. Ben Cooper, Nashville, GA
  10. Collie Simons [Charlie Simmons?], Tifton, GA
  11. King Cooper, Nashville, GA
  12. Henry Mitchell Vaughn, Nashville, GA
  13. John Cleveland, Adel, GA
  14. Frank Mills, Milltown, GA
  15. Major Wilson, Adel, GA
  16. Charles J. Boggs, Ray City, GA
  17. Mack Leroy Cusack, Nashville, GA
  18. William Clarence, Sparks, GA
  19. Leroy McKinney, Milltow, GA
  20. Hilliard Brock, Nashville, GA
  21. Sam Gaines, Milltown, GA
  22. Marvin McArdle, Milltown, GA
  23. Tarba Bennett, Milltown, GA
  24. Elihu Hooker, Milltown, GA
  25. Joseph Williams, Adel, GA
  26. Garfield Baker, Ray City, GA
  27. Rommie Adams, Alapaha, GA
  28. Will Bell, Alapaha, GA
  29. Tom Sanders, Nashville, GA
  30. Thomas Howard, Ray City, GA
  31. Noah Schofield, Adel, GA
  32. Phane Jackson, Milltown, GA
  33. Elijah Walker, Hahira, GA
  34. Sam Bob, Alapaha, GA
  35. David Genrette, Ray City, GA
  36. Caleb Cooper, Nashville, GA
  37. Ethie Melvin, Milltown, GA
  38. Robert Jones, Ray City, GA
  39. Benjamin Greer, Lenox, GA
  40. Jerry Sheppard, Adel, GA
  41. Beamon Seymore, Adel, GA
  42. Dock Gunn, Nashville, GA
  43. Cleveland Sutton, Enigma, GA
  44. Willie Hutchinson, Adel, GA
  45. James Fullard, Alapaha, GA
  46. Arthur Bradshaw, Milltown, GA
  47. Charles Richerson, Cecil, GA
  48. Frank Jones, Bannockburn, GA
  49. Mose Flournoy, Adel, GA
  50. William Eddie Scruggs, Adel, GA
  51. Charley Stanford, Alapaha, GA
  52. Yancey Cowart, Enigma, GA
  53. Lazarus Burgess, Nashville, GA
  54. John Henry Williams, Alapaha, GA
  55. Grover Cleveland, Cecil, GA
  56. John Morris, Cecil, GA
  57. Isaac Flemming, Alapaha, GA
  58. David Pigford, Adel, GA
  59. Elzie Cooper, Nashville, GA
  60. Ezekiel Lavind, Adel, GA
  61. Snow Williams, Nashville, GA
  62. Peter Jones, Alapaha, GA
  63. Sidney Todd, Milltown, GA
  64. Ed Dupree, Milltown, GA
  65. James Givens, Alapaha, GA
  66. Nathaniel McClinton, Alapaha, GA

 

Camp Gordon historic marker, Dekalb County, GA

Camp Gordon historic marker, Dekalb County, GA

 

African-American troops at Camp Gordon, GA

African-American troops at Camp Gordon, GA

Camp Gordon was named in honor of Confederate General John Brown Gordon. After the war, he was a strong opponent of Reconstruction during the late 1860s. He served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1873 to 1880, and again from 1891 to 1897. He also served as the 53rd Governor of Georgia from 1886 to 1890.  Gordon is cited as a prominent member of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan.

Like all southern military camps, those in Georgia operated under the segregation laws of Jim Crow. Federal prohibitions on black troops in combat meant that African American recruits trained and served in engineer service or labor battalions under white officers. -New Georgia Encyclopedia

Of the African American men who were drafted, 89 percent served in labor battalions or as dockworkers. The 42,000 men who did serve in combat were limited to the only two all-black combat regiments, the Ninety-Second and Ninety-Third Divisions. The camps were also segregated, as were most of the YMCA “Y-huts,” which served as places for leisure activities and often had camp libraries, stocked with the help of the ALA’s Library War Service  – American Library Association

Company_14_4th_Training_Battalion_Camp_Gordon_Georgia_September_18_1918_AfricanAmerican_troops

African-American training battalion with white officers at Camp Gordon, September 18, 1918

Camp Gordon, near Atlanta, was one of the largest training centers for Negro troops in the South, housing over 9,000 Georgia blacks by late 1917…Black troops there suffered the indignities common elsewhere, and the absence of any black commissioned officers increased their problems. Most black recruits were assigned to engineer or labor service battalions, where they were to perform tedious, often back-breaking tasks, loading and unloading cargo on both sides of the Atlantic. Since these battalions would have no black officer above the rank of corporal, Camp Gordon officials recruited a number of white sergeants, “specially and carefully selected as having had actual experience in charge of gangs of colored laborers.”  -John Dittmer, Historian

African-American Recruits receiving instruction from a white officer. Camp Gordon, Georgia., 03/04/1918, Image source: National Archives

African-American Recruits receiving instruction from a white officer. Camp Gordon, Georgia., 03/04/1918, Image source: National Archives

Segregation at the camp extended to recreational facilities, YMCA, library, hostess houses, and the soldiers clubs.  The War Camp Community Service Colored Soldiers’ Club of Atlanta, GA worked to bring books to African-American soldiers. The organization’s Secretary, Mr. Edward K. Nichols, writing to the American Library Association observed, “You are doubtless aware that throughout the South the public libraries are closed to the colored people. Hence every organization having in its power to extend library facilities to the colored people at large or any group of them has the opportunity of rendering a very needed and much appreciated service.” 

Colored Soldiers Club, Atlanta, GA

 

Camp Gordon, GA photo by E. Thompson. His title was "Negro soldier reading to boys who can't read. Camp Gordon, Ga. 1917-18" Library of Congress.

Camp Gordon, GA photo by E. Thompson. His title was “Negro soldier reading to boys who can’t read. Camp Gordon, Ga. 1917-18” Library of Congress.

Related Posts:

Carlos J. Boggs and the Buffalo Infantry of WWI

Charlie Parker was a Splendid Soldier

 

 

Jim Crow Cars on the Georgia & Florida Railroad

The opening of the Georgia and Florida Railroad on October 1, 1908 was a big day for Ray City, GA. For African-Americans, the passenger cars which ran on the Georgia & Florida railroad during the first half of the 20th century reflected the pervasiveness of segregation under  Jim Crow laws.    “Jim Crow legislation extended throughout the South to schools, hotels, restaurants, streetcars, buses, theaters, hospitals, parks, courthouses, and even cemeteries.” Jim Crow laws had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the  Plessy v. Ferguson ruling against a black man who had been arrested for riding a whites-only streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653 provided segregated riding space for white and black passengers.

First Jim Crow Railroad Cars

Segregated “Jim Crow” railroad cars predated the Civil War.

“The term “Jim Crow” originated in 1832 as the name of a character in a song and dance written by Thomas D. Rice, a well-known minstrel of the time. Minstrel shows were popular before the Civil War and featured white performers in black face portraying “musical, lazy, childlike blacks.”  In the 1830s, “Jim Crow Cars” referred to segregated cars on some northern railroad lines. “

When the Boston and Providence Railroad opened its route to New York, the company’s president  stated that “an appreciable number of the despised race demanded transportation. Scenes of riot and violence took place, and in the then existing state of opinion, it seemed to me that the difficulty could best be met by assigning a special car to our colored citizens.”  Massachusetts newspapers in 1838 reported frequent incidents of Negroes refusing to sit in Jim Crow sections and being forcibly removed from the train. Negroes also sought relief through the legislature and white abolitionists encouraged boycotts. As a result, a joint legislative committee recommended a bill to halt discrimination. Negative reaction followed. Fearing increased integration, one state senator declared that “such legislation would not stop at forcing the mixture of Negroes and whites in railroad cars, but would subsequently be applied to hotels, religious societies, and through all ramifications of society.” The act failed to pass. By 1841, intense efforts to end Jim Crow cars began. Black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass refused to move to the Jim Crow car and did so only after being physically removed from their seats.15 In 1842, the black abolitionist Charles Lenox Redmond went before a committee in the Massachusetts legislature to protest his segregation in a “special railway car for negroes.” Touching upon the right to equality and inherent inferiority without it, Redmond stated that “the wrongs inflicted and injuries received on railroads by person of color . . . do not end with the termination of the route, but in effect, tend to discourage, disparage, and depress this class of citizens.” Protests, changing public opinion, and threats of legislative action caused rail companies in Massachusetts to abandon segregation practices in 1843. 

First Jim Crow Laws

The first Jim Crow laws are those of Florida and Mississippi in 1865 and Texas in 1866. The laws of Florida provided: “That if any negro, mulatto or other person of color shall intrude himself into…any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of white people, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be sentence to stand in pillory for one hour, or be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, or both at the discretion of the jury, nor shall it be lawful for any white person to intrude himself into any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of persons of color, under the same penalties” [Laws of Florida, 1865, p. 25].

The law of Mississippi was: “That it shall be unlawful for any officer, station agent, conductor, or employee on any railroad in this State, to allow any freedman, negro or mulatto, to ride in any first-class passenger cars, set apart, or used by, and for white persons; and any person offending against the provisions of this section, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…shall be fined not less than fifty dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars; and shall be imprisoned in the county jail until such fine, and costs of prosecution are paid; Provided that this section, of this act, shall not apply, in the case of negroes or mulattoes, traveling with their mistresses, in the capacity of nurses” [Laws of Mississippi, 1865, pp. 231-232]

Texas simply provided that “every railroad company shall be required to attach to each passenger train run by said company one car for the special accommodation of Freedmen” [Laws of Texas, 1866, p. 97].
-The Separation of the Races in Public Conveyances

In Georgia, however,  following the 1868 rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the expulsion of elected African-American assemblymen from the Georgia legislature, the Camilla Massacre, and rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment, the state remained under military rule imposed by the U.S. Congress.

The African-American legislators were re-seated by the federal government, and briefly led an agenda concentrated on political and civil rights.  “In 1870, the Georgia legislature enacted a statute requiring the railroads in the state to furnish equal accommodations to all, without regard to race, color or previous condition, provided the same fare was charged.” (Georgia railroads had previously only charged half-fare for transportation of slaves.) Subsequently, similar civil rights legislation emerged in the Reconstruction legislatures in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and in some northern states.   But in Georgia, this early civil rights movement  was crushed by the end of 1870 as conservatives used terror, intimidation, and the Ku Klux Klan to “redeem” the state. One quarter of the black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Despite prevailing conditions in Georgia, Jim Crow railroad laws seemed to be at an early end  when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 stating, “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”  Many northern states enacted their own civil rights legislation, adopting or adapting the language of the federal act. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Civil Rights Cases (1883) that the public accommodation sections of the act were unconstitutional.

With little or no effective legislation regulating civil rights in public transportation, the railroads made their own rules for providing white-only transportation, and segregating African-Americans in “Negro cars” or Jim Crow cars.

By the 1890s,  many southern states enacted legislation called Separate Coach Laws specifically mandating the segregation of railroad cars, although the legislation “did scarcely more than legalize an existing and widespread custom.”  An 1888 photograph of the wreck of the Savannah, Florida & Western Fast Mail Train appears to depict a Jim Crow Combine Car among the wreckage. Although the newspaper accounts of the wreck only mention the engine, tender, baggage car and smoker, one coach, the Pullman sleeper, and the private car of railroad president E. P. Wilbur, it seems unlikely that a Georgia train of this era would not include a “negro car” or Jim Crow car, especially since eight unidentified African-American men were among the victims of the wreck.

The SF&W route ran from Savannah through Valdosta, GA to Bainbridge, with connections to all points. The September 10, 1892 Albany Weekly Herald complimented the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad for its segregated arrangement of cars:

The S.F.& W.  passenger is one of the best arranged trains in the State. First comes the mail and express car, then the Negroes’ car, then the baggage car and smoker, and last of all the first class coach. All trains would do well to adopt this arrangement with a car between the Negro and white coaches.

White passengers usually rode in the sections furthest from the smoke and coal ash of the steam engine.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the legality of  the railroad “Jim Crow” laws and entrenched the discriminatory principle of “ separate but equal” accommodations for whites and blacks.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
The case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which supplied the occasion for the court’s landmark decision, had its origins in Louisiana. In 1890, Louisiana passed a law calling for “equal but separate” accommodations on railroads for “whites” and “coloreds.” Protesting this law was a group of Creoles and blacks who formed the Citizens Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law. This group arranged a test case along with the railroad that opposed the law  due to the expense of supplying another car.  An “exceedingly light-skinned Negro” named Homer Plessy agreed to test the law. Plessy was subsequently arrested for sitting in the white car.  In his defense, Plessy contended that the Louisiana statute requiring segregation was unconstitutional. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that if the segregation law was upheld, states could “require separate cars for people with different colors of hair, aliens, or Catholics or Protestants or to require colored people to walk on one side of the street and white people on the other side, or to demand that white men’s homes be painted white and black men’s homes black.”

In 1896, the Supreme Court decided against Plessy. Justice Henry Billings Brown writing for the majority concluded that legislative bodies were “powerless to eradicate racial instincts,” and that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane.” Equal rights did not necessitate the “enforced commingling of the two races.”  In his lone and now famous dissent, Justice John Harlan offered that “Our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”  Thus the notion of “separate but equal” had been judicially sanctioned by the nation’s highest court and Jim Crow had been given a new birth–a new license to “jump up and down.”  State laws mandating racial segregation quickly followed the Plessy ruling ensuring a Jim Crow system in the South. The  most blacks could aspire for was equal accommodations.  – NPS National Historic Landmarks Program

The New Georgia Encyclopedia observes, “These facilities were usually ‘equal’ in name only—in all the states with Jim Crow laws, the facilities that served blacks were almost always inferior to the facilities that served whites.”

Plessy v. Ferguson is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history.[3] – Wikipedia

During the Segregation Era, southern railroads operated segregated trains and depots.

Segregated Train Stations <br /> Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read "Colored Men" and "Colored Waiting Room." Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Segregated Train Stations
Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read “Colored Men” and “Colored Waiting Room.” Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Railroads built “combine” cars with segregated sections. The Georgia & Florida combine car pictured at the top of the post had a central baggage section separating the car into two passenger sections, one for black passengers and one for whites. In typical combine cars, each passenger section had a cast iron stove and a bathroom. Waste from the bathrooms was deposited directly on the rails. On some rail lines white drunks would be placed in the black car instead of one of those reserved for whites.

In a typical segregated railroad car, there were no luggage racks in the “colored” section, requiring travelers to cram their suitcases around their feet, and the “colored” bathroom was smaller and lacked the amenities of the “whites” bathroom.  “There are all these subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that ‘you are not as good as the people in the other section,’” says Spencer Crew, curator for the National Museum for African American Culture and History.

The story of travel segregation was not limited to trains and if you traveled by bus or boat or even airlines, such divisions were strictly enforced.

Pullman porters and coach attendants were key figures in the African-American community. “These were very well-traveled individuals, so they had a lot of experience and perspective to share with people they talked to as they were traveling across the country,” says Crew. “Their prominence and importance is an important part of the story.”

The following letter submitted to a House committee holding hearings in 1954 on legislation to end segregated travel attested to the substandard condition of railroad cars for African-Americans. It describes conditions in a combine car  travelling from Savannah, GA in which half of the car was used for baggage and the other half for African-American passengers.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE,
BRANCH OF THE ORANGES AND MAPLEWOOD, N. J.,
East Orange, N. J., May 10, 1954.

Hon. CHARLES A. WOLVERTON,
House of Congress, Washington, DC

The following matters were referred to the director of the Washington Bureau NAACP, Mr. Clarence Mitchell, who advised me that hearing would begin in the House very soon and that you are chairman of the committee covering such matters.

On or about April 22, 1954, Mrs. A. Cherry who lives at 251 Halsted Street, East Orange, N. J., and Mrs. Gertrude Williams who lives at 17 Winthrop Terrace, East Orange, N. J., traveled to Savannah, Ga., on train named Champion of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. Not knowing their return date no reservations were made for returning.

At the railroad station in Savannah, reservation were made for returning on April 28, 1954, on train named Champion of the Coast Line, car No. 39, seats Nos. 13 and 14.

After getting in this car they found it to be completely segregated, no heat, no water, dirty, being half baggage and a large sign reading “Colored,” which sign was still on the car when they left the train in Newark, N. J.

This we believe to be in violation of Federal laws and we are sure are in violation of the laws of the sovereign State of New Jersey.

Names and addresses of witnesses gladly furnished on request.

Sincerely,

DAVID T. DEGRAFFENREID.

P. S. This letter may be used in evidence if desired. D.T.D

A restored Jim Crow car is now on exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The car belonged to the Southern Railway, parent company of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad which ran from Macon through Valdosta, GA to Palatka, FL.

Despite the institutionalized racism of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling,

the decision itself was never explicitly overruled.[4] However, a series of subsequent decisions, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, severely weakened it to the point that it is usually considered to have been de facto overruled.[1] In Brown, the Supreme Court ruled that Plessys “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional in the context of schools and educational facilities.

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. - New Georgia Encyclopedia

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

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1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

Given the history of slavery and racial discrimination in the United States, researching African-American genealogy can be a challenging puzzle.  Slave names were not often recorded.  Even after Emancipation, civil records of African-American citizens were often neglected. Further complicating matters,  most of the 1890 census records were lost in a fire and through a series of tragic missteps in the record handling. Fortunately, an 1894 record of the Poll Tax collection in the Rays Mill District (now Ray City, GA) helps to document early African-American residents of the town.    Many of these men were born in slavery and became “Freedmen” after the Civil War and Emancipation. A few were born in northern “Free” states.  After the War, they came  to south Georgia, primarily to work in the naval stores industry, collecting turpentine in the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. Some lived in turpentine camps, some rented farms or houses, a few became property owners, business men and employers in their own right.

Poll Taxes

After the Civil War, the poll tax evolved regionally to be a complex legal device to disenfranchise African-Americans. Georgia led the way in 1868 (effective in 1871), and by 1900 in every formerly-Confederate state had poll taxes aimed at preventing black citizens from voting.

According to Today in Georgia History,

The poll tax, a bulwark of the Jim Crow era, was one of many roadblocks thrown up to keep African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. Although the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1870, guaranteed former male slaves the right to vote, the poll tax, which all voters had to pay was designed to prevent voting. Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war. 

Georgia’s “grandfather clause” allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted  prior to the abolition of slavery to vote without paying the tax. Georgia created a cumulative poll tax requirement: men 21 to 60 years of age had to pay a sum of money for every year from the time they had turned 21, or from the time that the law took effect.

Tax Payers
Ray’s Mill District, Colored, 1894

William Adkinson
Dixie Alston

Peter Burges
Thomas Burges
Saul Brown
William Brown, Sr.
John Black
B. B. Brown
Joe Brown

Walter Curt
Jesse Coleman
Len Coleman

James Davis

David Ellison
S. M. Eady
Sam Eady

Brister Hufman

Henry Gowdine
Henry Gilliard
William Grayham
William Gerald

West Kelley

John Livind

Joe Medlay
Carter Moore
William Mathis
Alex McKnight
S. J. Myers
Sandy Murphy
William McGowin
Richard McGowin
Henry McCoy

Preston Richardson
E. L. Rias
Ebb Ross
Randolph Ried
William Smith
Mack Spights
Gilbert Sloan

Wiley Tarrell

A. Vandross

John Wamble
George Williams
Ed Wilson
John Wade
Alex White
James Whitfield
W. D. Williams

SOME NOTES ON THE TAXPAYERS:

DIXIE ALSTON
Dixie Alston was an African-American born during the Civil War, in March of 1862. He was born in South Carolina, as were both his parents.  In 1883 he married Amelia [unknown], also a native of South Carolina.  It appears that Dixie and Amelia moved to south Georgia sometime in the early 1890s.  In 1894, Dixie Alston registered to vote in the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA.  He subsequently appears in the census of 1900, enumerated as Dixie Aulston, in the 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County.  His household in 1900 included his wife Amelia (age 46), and children, Sarah (18), Lillie (17), Dixie (10), James A. (7), William (5), and Orie B (1).  The Alstons were living in a rented house, and Dixie was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Dixie Alston and family were enumerated in the 1157 Georgia Militia District where Dixie continued to work as a turpentine laborer.  Whereabouts of Dixie Alston after 1910 are unknown, but his son Dixie Alston, Jr. later lived in Nashville GA where he worked for the Keefe and Bulloch turpentine operation.

ROBERT B. “BB” BROWN
BB Brown was born in South Carolina about 1856 he married Corinna, a South Carolina woman, about 1875 and they made their home in South Carolina until some time after 1881. By October 1886, the Browns moved to Georgia. BB Brown paid the poll tax in 1894 to vote in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. The census of 1900 shows the Browns owned a farm in the Rays Mill District free and clear of mortgage. They were neighbors of Levi J. Clements, Alfred Hill, and Ben Knight. In 1910 their neighbors on nearby farms were John Miles Clements, Georgia Cooper, Jeff Williams and James W. Williams. The 1920 census shows the Brown farm was situated at Rays Mill on the Willacoochee Road. Their immediate neighbor was Robert E. Lee and his family. Corinna Brown died sometime before 1930. By this time the Brown farm had been cut into Lanier County. The widower Brown continued to work his farm with the assistance of his children.

SOLOMON “SAUL” BROWN
Solomon Brown was born  about 1862 in South Carolina. He apparently came to the Rays Mill, GA area  some time before 1894. The 1910 census shows him in Rays Mill, widowed, living alone in a rented home and working as a farm laborer.

WILLIAM L. BROWN
William L. Brown was a farmer from South Carolina. He was born in May of 1862. About 1882 he married Lessie. They were in Berrien County, GA by the 1890s where William paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District in 1894. The census of 1900 shows he was working a rented farm near the homes of Richard Eady, William Revell, and Frank Gallagher.

PETER BURGES
Peter Burges, or Burgess, was an African-American born in August of 1865 at the conclusion of the Civil War. He was a native of South Carolina, as were both his parents.  By 1894, Peter Burges made his way to  the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA where he was registered to vote. In the census of 1900, he was enumerated in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the “Ray’s Mill” District, Berrien County. He was single, living alone in a rented house, and working as a turpentine laborer. He subsequently appears in the 1144 G.M.D census of 1910 as a farm laborer, and in 1920 he was renting a farm on the Willacoochee Road.

TOM BURGES
Tom Burges was born about 1850 in Georgia. He was enumerated in 1910 in the 1300 Georgia Militia District. At age 60 he was widowed, living alone in a rented house, and working at a sawmill. He was a neighbor of African-American teacher William M. Clark, sawmill employee Burris Hall, turpentine teamster David Story, turpentine employee John Merritt, and washerwoman Sallie Sanders.

JESSE COLEMAN
Jesse Coleman appears in the Berrien County tax records of 1884. His taxable property included $5 worth of livestock and $5 worth of furniture. In 1890 Jesse Coleman paid the poll tax in the 1329 Georgia Militia District, the Connells Mill District just west of Rays Mill. He had $57 in livestock, $15 in furniture, $10 in tools, and $2 in other property.

JOHN L. LAVIND
John L. Lavind was an African-American farmer from South Carolina. He was born in 1868. About 1886 he married Sarah Sloan, a woman from South Carolina. John and Sarah appear in the 1900 Census in Berrien County where they were neighbors of Arch Parrish. The Lavinds were working a rented farm in the 1145 Georgia Militia District, the Adel District. Living with the Lavinds and assisting with the farm labor were Sarah’s siblings, Alicia A Sloan and Davis Sloan. It appears that Sarah Sloan died sometime in the early 1900s. Census records indicate that John Lavind (enumerated as John Lavine) married a second time in 1908 to a widow woman named Kerene. In 1910, he was making payments on a farm at Adel and working as a self-employed farmer. His neighbors were sawmill workers Beacher Ward and Charlie Beland. In 1920, John and Karene were renting a farm on the Adel and Nashville Road which John was working on his own account. The were neighbors of Theresa Devane Hutchinson, widow of James Henry Hutchinson; her son, Vaude McIntyre Hutchinson was a school teacher.

HENRY MELVIN
Henry Melvin was born in North Carolina about 1863. He apparently came to live in the Rays Mill, GA district some time before 1894. In 1900, he was enumerated in the Mud Creek District of Clinch County, GA where he was renting a house and working as a turpentine laborer. On September 14, 1901 Henry Melvin and Delia Jenkins were joined in Holy Matrimony in Clinch County, GA in a ceremony performed by Joseph Powell, Justice of the Peace. The 1910 census shows Henry and Delia were renting a farm in the 586 Militia District of Clinch County, where they raised crops and children. Some time before 1920 Henry Melvin returned to Ray City, bringing his family to live on the Ray City & Willacoochee Road, on a rented farm which he worked on his own account. Henry Melvin died November 1, 1920 in Berrien County, GA. Anna remarried, probably about 1921, to Emanuel Smith. The Smiths rented a farm near Ray City, where they were neighbors of Walter H. Knight, John S. Fender, J. Mancil Ray and James F. Ray, James R. Johnson, and Lucian H. Grissett. Sometime before 1935 the Smiths moved to Lakeland, GA

HENRY MCCOY
Henry McCoy was born in October 1859 in North Carolina. About 1886 he married Anna. Some time before 1894 they came to Rays Mill, GA where Henry rented and worked a farm. Most of the McCoy’s neighbors were turpentine workers including Odum Wiley, D.D. Oxendine, Peter Burges, and Isham Hill. In 1910, Henry and Anna owned a home on North Street in Ray City. Henry worked as a drayman; Anna worked as washerwoman. Among their neighbors were hotelier Wilson W. Fender, merchant Louis Levin, telegraph operator Ralph E. Spear, blacksmith Rollie N. Warr, policeman Henry Hodges, carpenter Gordon J. Knight, and postmaster Charles H. Anderson. Henry McCoy died sometime after 1910. His widow married Sam B. Cooper on April 22, 1918 in Berrien County in a ceremony performed by Justice of the Peace J. W. Moore. Sam Cooper worked in a shop as a tailor and owned a home in Ray City, in the “Negro Quarters” according to 1920 Census records.

RICHARD MCGOWAN
Richard “Dick” McGowan was born a slave in North Carolina in the 1840s. He was brought to Berrien County (then Lowndes) as a young man, and lived most his life near Ray City, GA.  Freed after the Civil War, he continued to live for a while on the plantation of his former owner, Hardeman Sirmans.

JOSEPH MEDLEY
Joseph Medley was born about 1856 in the state of New York. In 1883, he married a Virginia woman named Jane. By 1885 The Medleys had moved from New York to South Carolina, and by 1888 they were in Georgia. Joseph paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA in 1894. The 1900 Census shows the Medley family in the neighboring Georgia Militia District 1300, the Milltown District, where Joseph owned a farm free and clear of mortgage. The census appears to show that the Medleys also rented a farm in addition to the farm they owned. Joseph farmed while Jane worked as a laundress. Both were enumerated as literate. They were neighbors of Joseph Dedge, Edwin Powell, and John Ed Thigpen brother of Robert Silas Thigpen. In 1910, the Medleys continued to farm in the 1300 GMD. Their son, William Medley, worked as a sawmill fireman, and son Aulie Medley assisted with the farm labor. Next door were Elmore Medley and Rainey Medley who were both employed in turpentine production. Other neighbors included John D. Patten and Matthew G. Patten. In 1920, Joe Medley, age 76, was no longer working. The Medleys rented a house at Milltown on the the Nashville Road. Their son William worked as a farm laborer and Henry worked as a truck driver at a cross tie camp.

SAM JULIAN “JIM” MYERS
Sam Julian “Jim” Myers was born October 1870 in South Carolina. By 1894 he came to Berrien County, GA to work as a turpentine chipper. He paid the 1894 poll tax in the Rays Mill District. In 1897 he married Rosa Sloan and they acquired a home on payments in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Rosa’s brother, Sydney Stone, lived with them and also worked as a turpentine chipper. Also boarding in the Myers household was Dr. Ervin Green; the 1900 Census taker added the notation “Quack” by Green’s occupation. By 1910 Jim Myers took up the ministry in the Methodist faith and moved his family to Adel, GA to a home on Maple Street. By 1920, Reverend Myers took his family to Fitzgerald, GA where they lived on Lemon Street.

ELIOTT RIAS
Eliott Rias was an African-American citizen of Rays Mill, GA for 40 years. He was a son of Pompy and Clarender Rias, born about 1863 in South Carolina. After the Civil War and Emancipation, he and his brothers and sisters grew up helping his parents work their farm in Laws Township, near Kingstree, Williamsburg County, SC. Some time after 1880, Eliott left South Carolina and came to Georgia to work as a turpentine laborer. He appears in the property tax digest of Clinch County as a Freedman, paying the poll tax for 1887 in the 586 Georgia Militia District, the Mud Creek District. About 1892, Eliott married a South Carolina woman named Henrietta. By 1900, Eliott and Henrietta were living at Rays Mill with their four children. They were renting a house and Eliott was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Eliott Rias was renting a farm, which he was farming on his own account. Henrietta was keeping house and minding their seven children. Pauline Hodges, an African-American school teacher, was boarding with them. Among Rias’ neighbors were John L. and Cassie Hall, Babe Baldree, Barney Chism, John Whitfield, Tom Burgess and Mack Speights. By 1920, Eliott and Henrietta were working a rented farm at Rays Mill on their own account.  Some time before 1930, Henrietta Rias passed away. All of Eliott’s children were grown and moved away. Eliatt Rias was left alone, living in Rays Mill in a home he rented for $3.00 a month. He worked as a carpenter. He was a neighbor of Sherrod Fender, Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, Perry Guthrie, Herman Guthrie, and Ivory Wright.

EBENEZER ROSS
Ebenezer “Ebb” Ross was an African-American farm laborer born in Georgia about 1857. The 1870 census shows Ebenezer, age 23, and his wife Fannie, age 17, living in Berrien County, Georgia Militia District 1144, the Rays Mill District. Ebenezer Ross had a net worth of $30. In the 1870s and 1880s the Rosses were neighbors of William and Frances Giddens, Mary and Richard Anthony, Jesse and Margaret Carroll, John T. and Catherine Carroll, Peter and Josephine Best, and Nancy Parker. The 1875 Berrien Property Tax Digest shows Ebenezer Ross paid the poll tax, and his entire taxable property was valued at $20.00. The following year the value of his estate had dropped to just $2.00. In 1880, the Rosses home enumerated in the 1300 GMD. Living next door with the Carrolls was mail rider Everet Roberts. The 1890 tax digest shows the Rosses were faring slightly better. Eb was working for J. H. Wright, one of 58 freedmen employed by Wright.

MACK SPEIGHTS
Mack Speights was an African-American turpentine laborer who lived for about 40 years at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA. According to family members, he was born June 14, 1867 in Ridge, Williamsburg County, South Carolina, a son of Elias McBride Speights and Norah Speights. He married Martha Ellen Cooper in South Carolina on August 14, 1889. He apparently brought his young family from South Carolina to Rays Mill about 1893 and appears on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. Like many young African-American men, he came to work in the naval stores industry, turpentining the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. By 1910, Mack Speights was renting a farm at Rays Mill where he and Martha were raising their eight children His oldest sons, Elias and William, worked as farm labor. The Speights were neighbors of Joseph S. Clements, Brodie Shaw, Bruner Shaw, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher. By 1930, Mack and Martha had moved to Gainesville, FL with several of their children and grandchildren.

ABRAHAM L. VANDROSS
Abraham L. Vandross , an African-American turpentine laborer, was born about 1867 in South Carolina. He was on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. About that same time he married a woman named Hannah. By 1900, Abraham and Hannah had moved to the Dry Lake District of Brooks County, GA where they lived in a rented home. By 1910 Hannah and Abraham returned to Berrien County to the 1300 Georgia Militia District, where they acquired a home which they owned free and clear of mortgage. Abraham continued to work for wages as a turpentine worker; Hannah worked as a washerwoman. They also took in a boarder, Albert Johnson, who was a sawmill employee. In 1910, the Vandrosses were neighbors of William M. Clark, an African-American school teacher. The 1920 Census shows Abraham and Hannah’s home was on Oak Street, Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. Their boarder in 1920 was Reverend Jordan R. Gay.

JOHN WAMBLE
John Wamble was a widowed African-American farmer. He was born about 1850 in Georgia.  At the time of the 1900 Census, he was living near Rays Mill, GA with his two teenaged sons. The Wambles were neighbors of Richard Morehead, Benjamin Moorehead, David C. Clements and Rubin Knight.  His son, Horace, married about 1907 and made his home on the Nashville & Valdosta Road near Cat Creek.

JOHN WADE
John Wade was a Freedman living in Rays Mill, GA with his wife, Emma, and their large family. John Wade was born about 1824. The property tax digest of 1887 shows his taxable property consisted of $7 dollars worth of livestock and $20 in household and kitchen furniture. The 1880 census shows the Wades living and farming in Lowndes County, GA.

JAMES WHITFIELD
James Whitfield may have been an African-American farmer who later lived in Grooverville, Brooks County, GA.  He was born about 1868. This James Whitfield cannot be definitively placed in Rays Mill, however, his son, James Whitfield, Jr. lived in Nashville, GA in the 1920s.

GEORGE WILLIAMS
The 1900 census shows George Williams  in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. He was working as a log turner at a sawmill.  He was born in North Carolina about 1858.  In 1900, he was living alone, apparently in housing at the sawmill.

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