Levi J. Knight, Jr on List of Incompetent Confederate Officers

In the organization and command of the Berrien Minute Men it is noted that Levi J. Knight, Jr. was a nephew of Major Levi J. Knight who originally organized the Berrien Minute Men at Nashville, GA. Levi J. Knight, Jr. also served as an officer in the outfit; In  1861, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant.

In May 1862, Levi J. Knight, Jr was elected Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company C (later Company G), 29th Georgia Regiment. His election followed the resignation of Captain Thomas. S. Wylly. Wylly may have resigned under financial pressure. The Savannah Daily Morning News reported May 19, 1862 that the State of Georgia had filed suit against him for collection of back taxes.

Captain Knight, Jr was detailed to take Company C to Battery Lawton , where they joined the Brunswick Rifles manning artillery defenses of the city. The Berrien Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles had encamped together at Brunswick.  (Berrien Minute Men Company D was manning the battery at Causton’s Bluff and other posts around the city.)

Lawton Battery was part of the complex of Advance River Batteries supporting Fort Jackson on the Savannah River. The battery site had been selected by General Robert E. Lee while on an inspection trip with Col. Edward C. Anderson on December 8, 1861. Anderson noted foundations for a gun Battery were already being constructed with slave labor on a mud island above Fort Jackson. The other sites included Smith’s Island and Huchinsons Island, and “at both which points the General ordered batteries to be erected.” Smith’s Island became the site of Lawton Battery.

1864 map showing relative positions of Savannah, Battery Lawton, Fort Jackson, Fort Lee, Causton's Bluff, Oatland Island and Whitemarsh Island.

1864 map showing relative positions of Savannah, Battery Lawton, Fort Jackson, Fort Lee, and Causton’s Bluff.

Lawton Battery consisted of one 32-pounder rifle gun, one 42-pounder smooth bore, two 8-inch and two 10-inch columbiad guns. The battery was built on low-lying land of Smith’s Island (Barnwell Island, SC) on the Savannah River  opposite Battery Lee.

Lawton Battery, Fort Jackson and the other Advance River Batteries were under the command of Edward C. Anderson. Anderson was educated at a Massachusetts prep school, a former mayor of Savannah and a former officer of the United States Navy. He had participated in numerous naval and amphibious operations in the Mexican-American War.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Anderson was sent to Richmond by Governor Joseph E. Brown, to purchase ordinance from the Tredegar Iron Works for the State of Georgia. Soon after, Anderson was personally summoned to Montgomery, AL by the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, who commissioned him a major in the Corps of Artillery. He was ordered at once to set sail for Europe, as a confidential agent to buy war material for the Confederacy, arranging for its transfer to the Confederate States, through the Union blockade by way of blockade runners. In England, he was stalked continually by spies hired by the United States Consul General, Charles Francis Adams. Anderson described his position as the Secretary of War in England. He and fellow Georgian James D. Bulloch negotiated with the British for the sale of warships and blockade runners to the South. Upon learning of the Southern victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, Anderson raised a Confederate Flag upon the rooftop of a friend’s house in Liverpool. Their success in both exporting arms, and running the blockade prompted other British firms to begin blockade-running efforts. Returning home in November 1861, aboard the newly purchased Merchant Steamship Fingal with Bulloch, they delivered much needed arms and ammunition. Fingal was later converted to the iron-clad CSS Atlanta. Anderson was promoted, and served as “Commander of the River Batteries” as a part of General Robert E. Lee’s staff. At this time, Anderson was placed in command of Fort James Jackson (Old Fort Jackson), becoming the Confederate Headquarters for River Defenses, including the Confederate Navy. He was a member of the Confederate high command at Savannah until the end of the war.

On the 1st of May 1862, a soldier of Battery Lawton staunchly defended the pride, commitment, professionalism and patriotism of the men stationed at the battery.

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 3, 1862

COMMUNICATED
Smith’s Island, May 1st, 1862.

Mr. Editor: Please make room in your valuable paper for the following. In the Republican of yesterday, is to be seen in one of its paragraphs, under the head of “Savannah Never to be Surrendered”

“One thing more remains to be done, and then we shall be ready to measure arms with the enemy. Let the commanders of our various batteries call together their respective garrisons and swear them never to abandon a gun so long as it sets on its carriage, and a soldier is left to man it.”

A soldier takes the liberty here to inform the editor of the Republican (if he is not aware of it,; that we are volunteer.i from Georgia, absent from respectable and comfortable homes, and come without consulting Mr. Republic and, to defend our homes and country at large, and expect to do it to the last. We need no oaths to make us fight for all that is near and dear lo us. Prompted by a sense of duly and a spirit of patriotism, we expect to accomplish all that can be done by human hands. Any one who can’t fight without taking an oath, can’t fight with. No one need be sworn to fight except those who would have others sworn. But God help the country whose battles are to be fought by such men, or the prattling tongues of editors. We are ready and daily expecting the enemy, and have been for weeks, and it has just now transpired that there is one thing more to be done before “we are ready to measure arms with the enemy,” (not so much of the “we,”) and that as set forth in his paragraph. I confess that I am ashamed even to let our enemies know that we have men—or a man in our midst—that would either publicly or privately express such an idea. I confess, also, that I thought the people whose homes are but a few miles above our batteries, and which we are shortly to enter into a life and death struggle for, had more confidence in the soldiers whose lots are cast at batteries amid sand flies, mosquitoes, marsh mud, swamp fever, &c. Georgians never have disgraced themselves on the battle field or elsewhere, neither have they given any cause for any one to suppose they would. If the said Editor wishes to make a display of his patriotism, I would advise him to lay down his air-gun and take a musket. But that he will not do; he prefers remaining In his office amusing himself by abusing Gov. Brown, dictating for wiser men than himself and making himself conspicuous, as well as ridiculous, in various other ways. But the whole trouble with said Editor is this, if “we” are defeated below, the Republican office falls into the hands of the enemy; and I am constrained to believe that he would see it, with all Savannah, laid in ruins before he would for a moment expose his breast to the galling fire of the enemy, and, from his editorial, would conclude that he would have us (hundreds) sacrifice our lives to save his ‘‘little all.” I hope God will save his office, protect his person, and take a liking to his principles. I can’t do either, and more especially the latter. I have my hands full fighting for the Confederacy.

In the spring, men at Smith’s Island may have taken their station with pride, but in warmer weather the conditions at the river batteries were nearly intolerable. At Fort Pulaski, on April 6, Lt. Montfort wrote about the pests:

We are terribly annoyed with sand flies & soon will be musquitoes. Yet we have the consolation of knowing that “Afflictions though they seem severe, are often mercy sent.” While we are annoyed by them we are assured by those acquainted with the paces occupies by Yankee Soldiers & Batteries on the River between here & Savannah, that they are a hundred times worse than here. The places now occupied by them between here & Savannah on the river, are the places on the river where heavy vessels heretofore have had to stop to unload & load & so annoying are the musquitoes & sand flies & the places so sickly that I am informed frequently they have been unable to employ men at one dollar an hour to go there to assist in unloading & loading. And while we have abandoned all idea of assistantance from the Government we put our trust in God, ourselves, the musquitoes & sand flies. If these fail us we are gone.

Lawton Battery

Captain George A Mercer, after visiting Smith’s Island and Fort Jackson on Sunday, June 22, 1862, wrote of the miserable experience.

“Sunday was intensely hot, and I could not but feel how much our brave soldiers were enduring in their present position. Fort Jackson, and the adjacent batteries, are located in low swampy fields, where the insects are terrible the air close and fetid and full of miasma and death. Capt. Blain’s men, on Smith’s Island, are particularly uncomfortable; their tents are pitched on the muddy ground, beneath the blazing sky; not a dry spot of earth, not a shade tree is near; the tide frequently rises above the platforms of their tents, soaks their bedding and washes away all they have; they have positively been obliged to anchor their cooking utensils to prevent their being carried away. And yet these brave fellows must stay — and do stay cheerfully in this dreadful spot, where every comfort is denied them, and sickness and death must add their horrors to the scene. I spent a miserable night last night; I lay down at the Fort but not to sleep; hundreds of fleas ran over me stinging me into a fever; I did not secure one moment’s sleep, but lay tossing in misery, counting the weary hours till morning; had I left the bed and gone outside the net the mosquitoes would have been as bad as the fleas. Indeed a sad necessity is imposed upon our troops; they must garrison spots where a white man can hardly live.

Captain Mercer noted that in August and September 1862, “The River Batteries [were] guarded only by small detachments of ten or twelve men each; the deadly miasma in the vicinity has rendered them uninhabitable.” Regimental returns show Captain Levi J. Knight, Jr was at Camp Debtford in July; Camp Debtford was on the Debtford plantation adjacent to Causton’s Bluff.  In August,  Knight was sent to Camp Anderson.  Other men of the 29th Regiment detailed to Camp Anderson included First Lieutenant Willis Clary, 2nd Lt Henry Clary and Pvt Hines H. Grey of the Georgia Foresters; Stephen D. Chitwood, Fountain Nally, Thomas Mills and John F. C. Mills of the Stephens Volunteers; Elijah W. Bryant, Thomasville Guards; John H. Elkins, John R. Griffin, Jonas Johnson, Peter Madden, George C. Maddox and Hines Holt Grey, 17th Patriots; Isiah Goff, Allen D. Smith, William D. Warren  and R. M. Simpson, Thomas Volunteers.

Camp Anderson was where Major Robert Houston Anderson was forming a “select battalion of sharpshooters” from highly qualified volunteers and select officers and men from the existing regiments around Savannah.  “By Special Order No. 259, District of Georgia, dated July 30, 1862, men were chosen from the regiments manning the defenses of the city to fill up the other companies of the new battalion.” Company D of the new sharpshooter battalion was composed of men selected from the 29th, 30th, 47th, and 13th Georgia Regiments and the 8th Georgia Battalion.  According to Russel K. Brown, “Camp Anderson was situated on Wildhorn Plantation, 12 miles below Savannah on the west bank of the Groves or Little Ogeechee River and near the line of the Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad. William Moody described the camp to his wife thus, ‘We are camped about 1 1/2 miles from Number 1 station and in 1/4 mile from the little Ogechee River on a very high pleasant place tho I exspect it is a sickly place. The sand files is very bad.'” 

Circumstances at Camp Anderson may have been better than at Lawton Battery, but only marginally. As at other Savannah garrisons, health conditions were problematic from the first encampment at Camp Anderson. Men died of typhoid, typhoid fever and typhoid pneumonia, bowel disorders, chronic diarrhea, congestion. Many more went on sick rolls. Desertion became a problem; by the end of the year 29 men would desert from Camp Anderson.  At least one deserter killed himself rather than be captured and returned to Camp Anderson. Another, after firing a shot at Major Anderson, was court-martialed and executed by firing squad. Three more deserters were sentenced to death but were released and returned to duty under a general amnesty and pardon issued by Jefferson Davis.

Levi J. Knight, Jr was not at Camp Anderson for long; After August 29, 1862, he was reported on regimental returns as absent sick.  Willis Clary, suffering with a lung impaired by pneumonia and a congenital short leg, resigned at Camp Anderson on August 22.   Henry Clary was sick in a Savannah hospital; he died September 4, 1862.

 

Regimental return for September 1862 showing Levi J. Knight, Jr. absent from post at Camp Anderson.

Regimental return for September 1862 showing Levi J. Knight, Jr. absent from post at Camp Anderson.

But in October Captain Knight returned to Battery Lawton on Smith’s Island. Also detailed to Battery Lawton was Lt. William Pendarvis, of the Georgia Foresters, Company A, 29th Regiment. In October Pendarvis was “in arrest.” Pendarvis tendered his resignation November 20, 1862 which was endorsed by Col. Anderson. The Colonel had previously busted Pendarvis from rank for “disreputable conduct,” and Pendarvis had been subsequently elected lieutenant while Anderson was away from the post. Anderson pronounced him totally incompetent, and he would have been court-martialed had he not resigned.

It appears that an animosity also developed between Captain Knight and Col. Anderson. The situation culminated on November 28, 1862, when Knight’s insolent behavior drove the Colonel to place him “in arrest” and to make charges against Knight in a letter to Brigadier General Beauregard;

Savannah River Batteries
28th Novb 1862

Capt Geo A Mercer
AAG

Captain
I regret to have to bring to the notice of the Brig Genl Comdg. the total inefficiency of Captain Levi J. Knight, Co G 29th Regt Ga Vols. This officer commands one of the finest companies in the service in point of materiel. Yet from inattention and want of care they have lapsed into a condition o negligence not just to so fine a body of men & very far from creditable to the officers whose duty it was to have encouraged and instructed them. There is a familiarity between the captain & the private soldiers that is hurtful to the service. The men have free access to his tent even to taking possession of his bed and loafing there. As evidence of the detrimental tendency of this system of free intercourse I have to inform you that on the occasion of my exercising the companies today at the great guns Captain Knight’s men failed to come forward at the long roll & only appeared after repeated calls & by my sending up the commanding officer of the port to enforce the order. Captain Knight had been duly notified of my intention to drill the men. He did not accompany his detachments, but after the lapse of half an hour came strolling leisurely down by the longest & most circuitous route & being informed that I had ordered him under arrest for his conduct, excused himself upon the plea of not feeling well. Upon another occasion when reported to me for failing to attend the School of Instruction ordered by you & for leaving the Island without notice to his commanding officers, the same excuse was made & thus it has been again & again. I have been unwilling to suppose that an officer would lightly avail himself of the plea of indisposition to evade his duty & hence have refrained from bringing the matter to your notice heretofore.Candor compels one today that Captain Knight is not fitted for the responsible trust confided to him & that – in the event of any mishap to the officers in command of the Battery – I do not regard him as qualified to fill his place. I should regret to lose his company. Under a different Captain they could be made a credit to the service, but under existing auspices the forces of evil example will demoralize & cripple them.

I am Captain Very Respectfully
Your Obbt

Ed. C. Anderson

By December 1862, Levi J. Knight, Jr was relieved of his command.  Regimental records show Captain Levi J. Knight, Jr was “in suspension,” for insubordinate behavior. On December 4, 1862 he was brought before an Officers Examining Board and he was “suspended from rank and commission by order of General Beauregard. His rank was reduced to private.  On May 28, 1863 his name was on a published “list of officers of different grades who have been dropped from the rolls of the army, in accordance with the provisions of the act for ‘ridding the army of ignorant, disabled and incompetent officers,’ by orders from Adjutant and Inspector General’s office.”

After being stripped of his rank, Knight continued to serve with the Berrien Minute Men. In 1863 he was elected by the company to the rank of Jr 2nd Lieutenant, but the election was set aside by Col. Anderson.

A year later, Knight’s new commanding officer, Captain Edwin B. Carroll,  again put him up for an officers position.

Camp 29th Ga. Regt
July 14th 1864

Capt J. W. Turner
Comdg 29th Ga Regt

Captain
I respectfully make the following statement in the case of private Levi J . Knight Co G 29th Ga Vols. He was elected Jr 2nd Lieut. in Co G on the 28th day of September 1863 but the election return was disapproved by Col. E. C. Anderson — Comdg on the grounds that Knight had been dropped from the rolls and could in consequence hold no position. Knight was detailed by Col. Anderson and sent to Charleston with another company and another election was ordered. While in Charleston he made a fresh statement of his case to Genl Beauregard and thereupon was ordered before the Board of Examiners that he might prove whether or not he should be put on duty as an officer. The decision of the Board is that he is competent for discharge the duties that may devolve upon him. I think he is entitled to the position and hope that he will be ordered on duty as an officer in the Company

Very Respectfully
Your Obt Svt
E. B. Carroll
Capt Comdg Co G
29th Regt

*************************************

Head Qrs Stevens Brigade
July 15, 1864

The enclosed paper is reply returned with the following statement. Co. G. 29 Regt has been on detached duty in Savannah until very recently. Some of the records are accessible in this case now. The facts are that L. J. Knight was Captain of Co G was brought before a Board of Examiners for incompetency. On their recommendation his name was dropped from the rolls by the War department and he became a private in the same company. Upon the occasion of a vacancy he was elected 2 Lt but on some cause his election was set aside by then Comdg Officer Col E. C. Anderson and a new election ordered at Smith [Island]. J. L. Hall was elected, examined and announced in orders and has filled the position ever since. Upon a transfer to duty in some other command Knight appears to have appeared before a Board of Examiners, the findings of which are herewith enclosed – I would Resply ask what action should be taken in the case.
Resply
H. S. Stevens
Brig Genl

 

Confederate States of America
War Department
Adjutant and Inspector Genls Office
Richmond, Va., April 28th, 1864

Genl
I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you that the proceedings and findings of the Examining Boards in the following case, have been confirmed by the War Department.

Sergt. Levi J. Knight, Co. “G”, 29th Ga. Vols.
Decision- “The Board pronounce him qualified for promotion.”

You will please issue the necessary orders.

Very Respectfully, General
Your Obedient Servt

Saml M. Melton
Maj.

By 1864, Levi J. Knight had regained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was captured with the Berrien Minute Men near Nashville, TN on December 16, 1864. He was held as a prisoner of war until June 16, 1865 when he was released after swearing an Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

 

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Isbin Giddens (1788-1853), Pioneer Settler of Old Berrien

Isbin Giddens (1788-1853)

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 Isbin (or Isben) Giddens brought his wife, Keziah Knight Giddens, and their two young children,  William and Moses Giddens from Wayne County, GA to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the present day Ray City, GA. They came along with Keziah’s brother William Cone Knight, her parents, and their minor children John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Jonathan Knight. Also making the move to Lowndes was Keziah’s uncle Samuel Knight, his wife Fannie, and their children Fatima, Moses, Aaron, Jesse, Thomas, and Joel.

Isbin Giddens was born in Blounts Creek, Beaufort County, North Carolina on November 4, 1788 just a few months after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the son of Moses Giddens and Catherine Jones.

Some time before 1816, “when he was about grown,” Isbin  Giddens moved from North Carolina to Wayne County, Georgia .  He served as lieutenant of the 334th District Militia, Wayne County, from 1816 to 1820. It was probably during that time period that he became acquainted with the family of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone Knight. William A. Knight was then serving as a Justice of Peace in the 334th District. William’s son, Jonathan Knight, was a captain in the Wayne County militia; another son, Levi J. Knight, served as a private.

Giddens became good friends with the Knights, and on Wednesday, April 7, 1819 just before Easter, Isbin married William A. Knight’s 17-year-old daughter, Keziah Knight (born November 25, 1801).

Isbin Giddens served as a grand juror the October, 1822  term of the Superior Court of Wayne County, and at other times also served on both petit and grand juries in the county.

About 1823 Isbin and Keziah Giddens were baptised into Kettle Creek Church in present day Ware County. Fannie Knight, wife of Samuel Knight, was a member of this church, as were Keziah’s parents, William and Sarah Knight.

Over the winter of 1824-25 Isbin and Keziah departed Wayne county along with her parents and brothers to settle in parts of present day Lanier County.  Isben Giddens made his farm along what is now the Ray City-Lakeland public road. The following year, his brother-in-law, Levi J. Knight, joined the family and became the first to settle on land along  Beaverdam creek at the present day location of Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

On February 10, 1827 Isbin and Keziah moved their letters from Kettle Creek Church to Union Primitive Baptist Church.  Keziah’s father had been instrumental in the organization of Union Church, it being the first Baptist Church in this section. The church organization took place October 1, 1825, at Carter’s Meeting house,  located on the west bank of the Alapaha River.  Mr. Knight was the first clerk of the new church and later became its pastor.

For the 1827 Georgia Land Lottery, Isbin Giddens registered in the 10th District of Lowndes County.  On the 33rd Day’s Drawing – April 13, 1827, he was the fortunate drawer of Lot 248 in the 13th District of of the newly formed Lee County.

In the Census of 1830, Isbin Giddens is enumerated along with early Berrien County settlers like Joshua Lee, William A. Knight and John Knight. He served on the Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833 which was convened at Franklinville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County.

In the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, Isbin Giddens and his sons, William and  Moses served under the command of  now  Captain Levi J. Knight,  in the Lowndes County Militia.  The Giddens were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Spouse & Children

Keziah Knight 1801 – 1861

  1. William Moses Giddens 1820 – 1899
  2. Moses H Giddens 1821 – 1906
  3. Matilda Giddens 1826 – 1887
  4. Sarah Giddens 1828 – 1918
  5. Aaron L. Giddens 1831 – 1862, married Mary Smith
  6. Keziah Ann Giddens 1836 – 1904
  7. Mary M Giddens 1838 – 1901
  8. Isbin T. Giddens 1840 – July 17, 1862
  9. Matthew O Giddens 1844 – 1865
Isben Giddens died on his farm October 21, 1853. He was buried at  Union Church Cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA. He died with a legally valid will, and his three sons WilliamMoses, and Aaron served as executors of his estate.

In 1855 Kizziah Knight Giddens married the widower Allen Jones.  She died in 1861 and was buried at Union Church, Lanier County GA.

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GAGrave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Isben Giddens’ sons, Isbin T. Giddens and Matthew O. Giddens, served in the Civil War.  On August 1, 1861 they joined the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Neither would survive the war.  Mathew O. Giddens was taken prisoner on December 16, 1864 near Nashville, TN. He was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio where three months later, on Feb 8, 1865, he died of pneumonia. His brother, Isbin T. Giddens, died of brain fever at Guyton Hospital in Georgia.

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Henry Harrison Knight Wrote City Charter for Nashville, GA

Henry Harrison Knight with wife Mary Susan Ray and their son Levi Jackson Knight circa 1896. The Knight home was at Ray City, GA. Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Henry Harrison Knight with wife Mary Susan Ray and their son Levi Jackson Knight circa 1896. The Knight home was at Ray City, GA. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Henry Harrison Knight, author of the original city charter of Nashville, GA, was a resident of Ray City. He served in the state Legislature as Representative of Berrien County and as a member of the Board of  County Commissioners  through several terms. In 1885,  The Official Register of the United States listed  H.H. Knight   as Post Master of “Ray’s Mills”, Berrien County, Georgia.

As a part of the Bicentennial Celebration in Nashville on the 4th of July, 1976, his grandson, Jack Knight, presented Nashville Mayor Bobby Carroll with a copy of the charter.

Nashville, GA city charter, 1892

Copy of original city charter presented by Jack Knight to the mayor of Nashville, GA July 4, 1976

Nashville Herald
July 8, 1976

Copy Original City Charter Presented by W. D. Knight

        A highlight of the bicentennial festivities in Nashville Sunday, July 4, was a presentation of a copy of the original city charter from W. D. ‘Jack’ Knight.
        The charter was drawn up by H. H. ‘Henry’ Knight of Ray City, father of E. M. ‘Hun’ Knight, and grandfather of Jack.  He served as representative from Berrien County in 1892-93.
        Passed in 1892 and signed by the governor on Dec. 20 of that same year, the charter stated the city limits extended one-half mile in all directions from the courthouse. Also. W. L. Swindle was elected the first mayor, along with five councilmen.
        Mr. Knight, who was born in 1840, owned one of the first stores in Ray City, and served as commissioner of Berrien County for three years. He also served in the Confederate Army where he was wounded on two different occasions. 
        Mr. Knight was married to the daughter of T. M. Ray for whom Ray City was named. He died in 1899 and is buried with his wife in Beaver Dam Cemetery in Ray City.

WD Knight presents Nashville, GA City Charter to Mayor Bobby Carroll during Bicentennial Celebration, July 4, 1976. Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

WD Knight presents Nashville, GA City Charter to Mayor Bobby Carroll during Bicentennial Celebration, July 4, 1976. Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

Berrien Minute Men On the Square

Before the Civil War, some 32 percent of the population of Lowndes and Berrien County, Georgia were enslaved African-Americans.  In neighboring Thomas County, 51 percent of the people were enslaved. These numbers paled in comparison with the slave population of the coastal counties, where as much as 86 percent of the population toiled in bondage on the sea island cotton and rice plantations of Georgia’s tidewater.  In all, the State of Georgia estimated its citizens owned  three billion dollars worth of slaves.

Almost immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln,  Levi J. Knight formed the Berrien Minute Men, a company of 103 volunteer infantrymen. Levi J. Knight, original pioneer settler of Ray City, GA was the military leader of the community and a slave owner. He had served as a captain of the local militia company in the Indian Wars, and as a general in the state militia.

The Berrien Minute Men drilled and paraded in the local communities before being called up for deployment. By May, 1861 newspapers reported, “the county is alive with volunteers, and all eager for a fight with the Abolitionists. Our citizens have liberally contributed funds to equip and prepare for service the poor men connected with the companies, and also to supply with provisions and clothing the destitute families of those who shall enter the service.

In 1888 a visitor to Nashville, GA met with surviving veterans of the Berrien Minute Men. A brief passage on their reminiscences was printed in the Atlanta Constitution.

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA
About the Illustration: The Berrien Minute Men of the Georgia 29th Regiment in an 1861 pre-deployment ceremony at the Nashville, Georgia courthouse square. The mounted officer depicts Captain Levi J. Knight (1803-1870) a prominent leader in the area and retired major general of the Georgia militia. The building in the background represents the Berrien County Courthouse, the only known structure from Civil War era Nashville, GA which is documented in photographs. The balcony shown on the courthouse was actually not present until the building was converted to a hotel in 1898. Illustrator: Alan H. Archambault. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

The writer of the 1888 news clipping recalled the company of men in their uniforms on the courthouse square.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

Atlanta Constitution
Friday April 6, 1888. Pg. 2.

A Brave Band of Men.

Berrien Correspondence Quitman, Ga., Herald.  May the brain that dictates and the hand that indites this sentence be paralyzed if we ever forget our friends and comrades in the days that tried men’s souls. From this county went forth the “Berrien Minute Men” to battle for the lost cause. They were the finest body of men we ever saw in line, and they belonged to the old Twenty-ninth Georgia. Twenty-five or thirty of them on the right of the company were over six feet high. They wore a grey uniform, cut on the claw-hammer style, with a black breast, and trimmed with large gilt buttons. They were a dangerous looking set, and truer, braver, manlier hearts never beat beneath the confederate grey.

Where are these stalwart forms now? We did not see them on the courthouse square at Nashville, where they once mustered so bravely.

Alas! nearly all of this gallant band have passed over the river and are resting under the shade of the trees. We met Henry Knight, John Knight, Lacy Lastinger, Jim Roberts, Jack Parrish, Frank Parrish, and a few others that we knew in the long ago, and we were welcomed, aye, thrice welcomed.

 

About the Courthouse

According to the Berrien Historical Foundation, the Berrien Courthouse was a two-story wooden structure that served the county’s judicial needs from 1858 until around 1897.  The courthouse occupied the square in Nashville, on lands purchased from pioneer, Daniel Griner, and chosen by a commission appointed by the Judge of the Inferior Court.

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

When the present brick courthouse was to be constructed, the two story wood structure was purchased by Dr. William Bryan Goodman, who moved it to the northeast side of the square and converted it into a hotel.

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

Tifton Gazette
September 20, 1901

At the entertainment given by Dr. and Mrs. W. B. Goodman in Nashville Thursday evening last, at which a voting contest for a name for the new Nashville hotel was held, about $20 was realized for the Nashville Methodist church fund. The name “Hotel Hansell,” was selected, in honor of the Southern circuit’s veteran judge.

October 25, 1901 Tifton Gazette reports Hotel Hansell under new management.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 5

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 5:  Tidewater Time

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time, fighting boredom and disease…

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

The soldiers of the 29th Georgia Regiment lamented their defensive position so far from the action of the war.   William J. Lamb and Thomas L. Lamb left the Berrien Minute Men in October to join Company E, 54th GA Regiment. Moses Giddens and John F. Parrish  left camp by the end of October. Parrish was a miller and took an exemption from military duty for service essential to the war effort; he later served as a judge in Berrien County. William Anderson, Enos J. Connell and Newton A. Carter left sick, but later returned to the regiment on Sapelo.

While languishing on the tidewater, the closest the 29th Regiment came to an enemy engagement was listening to the sounds of the Battle of Port Royal on November 7, 1861. Some 60 miles from the men on Sapelo Island, cannonade sounds from Port Royal may have carried over the distance due to an acoustic refraction caused by atmospheric conditions.  In the right combination, wind direction, wind shear, and temperature inversions in the atmosphere may cause sound waves to refract upwards then be bent back towards the ground many miles away. Numerous cases of acoustic refraction and acoustic shadows in Civil War battles have been documented.

Sounds of the Battle of Port Royal were heard sixty miles away by the Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island, GA.

Sounds of the Battle of Port Royal were heard sixty miles away by the Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island, GA.

The Battle of Port Royal was one of the earliest amphibious operations of the Civil War, in which a US Navy fleet under Commodore Samuel Francis Dupont and US Army expeditionary force of 15,000 troops under General Thomas West Sherman captured Port Royal and Beaufort,  South Carolina. The Confederate forces  defending the harbor at Fort Walker on Hilton Head and Fort Beauregard in Bay Point were completely routed  after a four hour naval bombardment.

Sergeant Robert Goodwin “Bobbie” Mitchell, of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Company E, 29th Georgia Infantry wrote  to his sweetheart, Amaretta “Nettie” Fondren in a letter home dated November 11, 1861, “How bad did it make me feel to remain here and listen to the booming of the cannon and not knowing but what every shot was sending death to some noble Georgian’s heart…How my blood boiled to be there.”

Sergeant Mitchell’s letter also reported that Colonel Spalding had gotten “shamefully drunk.” That fact was known to Spalding’s fellow plantation owners as well.  Charles C. Jones, who was Mayor of Savannah until August, 1861, wrote  in a letter to his father on November 9, 1861, that Colonel Spalding was supposed to have taken the regiment to South Carolina to participate in the defense of Port Royal, but it was rumored he was too drunk to do so. Jones was 1st Lieutenant of the Chatham Artillery, which in the summer of 1862 would share a station at Causton’s Bluff with the Berrien Minute Men defending approaches to Savannah, GA.

The Battle of Port Royal dramatically exposed the vulnerability of the Confederate coast, ultimately leading to the abandonment of the Georgia sea islands.

 “The attack on Port Royal had a major impact on General Robert E. Lee, who took command of the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida on November 8, 1861. As a result of his observations of the potential of the Union naval forces, Lee determined that the dispersed garrisons and forts that protected the widely scattered inlets and rivers could not be strengthened enough to defeat Union naval forces. Accordingly, he concentrated the South’s coastal guns at Charleston and Savannah. Making use of the Confederacy’s interior lines of communication, Lee developed quick-reaction forces that could move along the coastal railroads to prevent a Union breakthrough.” – HistoryNet

For a while after the fall of Port Royal, time continued to drag for the Berrien soldiers on the Georgia tidewater. The sick roll continued to grow. Isaac Baldree, John M. Bonds, John W. Beaty, James Crawford, William W. Foster, John P. Griffin, John L. Hall, George H. Harrell, Burrell H. Howell, Bedford Mitchell James, James S. Lewis, Thomas J. Lindsey, Edward Maloy, Newton McCutcheon, Samuel Palin,Thomas Palin, A.D. Patterson, John W. Powell, William J. Powell, James S. Roberts, Jason Sapp, Sidney M. Sykes, Levi T. Smith, Charles N. Talley, James B. White  and Thomas W. Beaty of Captain Wyllys’ company of Berrien Minute Men were absent on sick leave. Hyram F. Harrell, of Captain Lamb’s Company, left sick; he died on February 4, 1862.  On November 27, Hansell H. Seward and James A. Slater of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry were discharged from service at Darien, GA.

On Sunday, December 1, 1861,  Pvt. William Washington Knight wrote his wife that the weather was unseasonably warm.  William and his brother John were recuperating from severe colds.  Several of the men in camp on Sapelo Island were sick, and measles was spreading among the men.   William and his father, Major Levi J. Knight, were  up the river at Darien, GA, where they attended church together.  The town was later described by Union officer Luis F. Emilio, “Darien, the New Inverness of early days, was a most beautiful town…A broad street extended along the river, with others running into it, all shaded with mulberry and oak trees of great size and beauty. Storehouses and mills along the river-bank held quantities of rice and resin. There might have been from seventy-five to one hundred residences in the place. There were three churches, a market-house, jail, clerk’s office, court-house, and an academy.”   Wharves and docks were along the river.

Hugh E. Benton of the Thomas County Volunteers deserted the regiment on December 4, 1861. By this time, Sergeant Mitchell was frustrated and disgusted with the long inactivity of the 29th GA Regiment on Sapelo Island.  In his letter of December 9, 1861, from Sapelo, Mitchell complained of boredom in the camp.  Historian Lesley J. Gordan summarized Mitchell’s  despondence:

Far from the front, he found himself doing “nothing exciting or encouraging.”  The army seemed “cruel and despotic in its nature,” and he grew annoyed with the antics of his fellow soldiers, whom he deemed “rough and unrefined.”  

By mid-December, Berrien Minute Men Company D were on station at Camp Security.  Little is known about this camp except that it was “near Darien, GA” which would seem to place it on the mainland, rather than on the islands. Another soldier’s letter written from Camp Security and postmarked at Darien describes Camp Security as “one of the most abominable places on earth.”

Measles were soon rampant among the men. On December 18, Pvt. William Washington Knight wrote  from Camp Security, “Nearly all of our company have the measles.     Capt [John C.] Lamb has it.   We have eighteen privates fit for duty.    Reddin B. Parrish of our company son of Ezekiel Parrish died yesterday evening at sundown.     He was one of the best steadyest young men in our company.   Capt Lamb sent him home last night to be buried.”  The body of Redding Byrd Parrish was returned to Berrien County, GA.  The internment was at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

Grave of Redding Byrd Parrish, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Parrish died of measles December 17, 1861 while serving with the Berrien Minute Men at Camp Security, McIntosh County, GA. Image source: Terrell Anderson.

Grave of Redding Byrd Parrish, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Parrish died of measles December 17, 1861, while serving with the Berrien Minute Men at Camp Security, McIntosh County, GA. Image source: Terrell Anderson.

There were some sixty men of the regiment sick with measles including John Knight, Ed Lamb, J.S. Roberts, Jasper M. Roberts, John Clemants, and John W. McClellan among others.

On December 14, 1861, Colonel Randolph Spaulding resigned his position for unknown reasons. In a new election, Captain William H Echols, was elected Colonel of the regiment. But the Confederate War Department declined to permit Echols to accept the position, and he remained in his position with the Confederate Corps of Engineers.  Another election was then ordered and William J. Young was elected and commissioned as Colonel of the Regiment.

Most of the men recovered from the measles. Some didn’t. Nathan B. Stephens of the Thomasville Guards died of measles on December 11, 1861, at Camp Security.

Henry C. McCrary died of measles on Christmas Day.  On New Year’s Eve, John C. Clements was put on sick leave.  Sergeant Lewis E. Cumby of the Thomas County Volunteers was sent home with measles and pneumonia and died on New Year’s Day, 1862.  Elbert J. Chapman, known to the Berrien Minute Men as “Old Yaller,” was furloughed. Chapman later deserted the Berrien Minute Men, joined another unit, was court martialed and executed for the desertion. John A. Parrish and John M. Griffin were absent on sick leave; Griffin never returned. E. Q. Bryant of the Thomas County Volunteers was at home sick.   Harrison Jones of the Berrien Minute Men was discharged with a disability January 12, 1862. Stephen N. Roberts and James S. Roberts, kinsmen of John W. Hagan, went home sick.  James returned to the regiment by February, 1862, but Stephen never recovered; he finally succumbed to pneumonia in Lowndes County, on January 6, 1863.

On January 1, and again on January 4, 1862,  Sergeant Mitchell wrote that there was drinking and fighting among the men.   The conditions of camp life had taken their toll on the morale of the men, but soon the 29th Georgia Regiment would be reported ready for action.

About Robert Goodwin Mitchell:

Robert Goodwin Mitchell was born on a plantation in Thomas county, Georgia, July 15, 1843, a son of Richard Mitchell and Sophronia Dickey. His father had served as a state representative from Pulaski County, before settling in Thomas. After some preliminary work in the neighborhood schools, Robert Goodwin Mitchell attended Fletcher Institute, at Thomasville, and later he was a student in the preparatory department of Mercer University for one term. When but eighteen years old, he volunteered for the Confederate service at Thomasville, and was mustered in Savannah in July, 1861, as color bearer, in Company E of the 29th Regiment. Mitchell had the natural countenance of a leader; He stood 6′ 2″, with blonde hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion. He was soon  appointed sergeant and at the re-organization in 1862, was made second lieutenant. When Gen. C. C. Wilson, of the 21st Regiment, was put in command of the brigade, including the 29th Georgia Infantry, Mitchell was appointed to the General’s staff as aide-de-camp. He married Amaretta Fondren on January 21, 1864. Mitchell was serving in the trenches under fire in the battle at Atlanta on July 22, 1864, and was severely wounded on the line southwest of the city, August 9, 1864. It was while Robert G. Mitchell was disabled from the wound he received in the war that he began the study of law. In 1865, he established a home south of Thomasville which grew to be a 2000 acre plantation. He went into a law partnership with his brother for a while before being appointed Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit. He was elected a state representative, then a state senator.   After serving his term as senator, Mitchell resumed his law practice until 1903, when he was elected judge of the superior court of the southern circuit of Georgia, to succeed Judge Augustin HansellThe letters of Robert Goodwin Mitchell are part of the Robert Goodwin Mitchell Papers, Hargrett Rare Books & Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 3

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 3: Berrien Minute Men at Camp Spalding

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived on Sapelo Island in early October.

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

Despite conditions of camp life that drove some men away, the sea islands held a strange beauty for the Wiregrass farmers turned soldiers. While stationed at Camp Spaulding, Pvt. William W. Knight wrote, “we are camp on as pretty a place as I have seen. it is a high live oak grove one side open to the Atlantic its never ceasing roar about three quarters of a mile from camp.”  William W. Knight was a son of  Levi J. Knight, Captain of the Berrien Minute Men and original settler of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

Private Robert Hamilton Harris of the Thomasville Guards, Company A, 29th Georgia Regiment, also found the island enchanting. These were the idyllic first days of Confederacy, when the Georgia volunteers still anticipated glorious battle and before they experienced “unholy war.”   Private Harris wrote to Martha (Mattie) Love, his girl back home,

Inside you will find a sort of map of our position and neighboring places. I think it is near enough correct to give you some idea of things about us. On the Atlantic side is a fine beach of firm white sand, with a good many shells scattered over it, not many of which are very fine however. When the winter gales begin to blow many nice ones will wash up, and then I will make a collection. Mattie, I wish you could stroll along our beach, or wander among the delightful groves of the Island, you would enjoy it so.
       If you would like to have some shells and other curiosities I can bring them to you when I go home, or send them to you if I do not go.

Harris’ correspondence is part of a collection of Civil War letters of Robert Hamilton Harris, housed in the Digital Library of Georgia.

1861 map of Confederate positions on and near Sapelo Island, GA including Sapelo Lighthouse, Sapelo gun batteries, encampment of the 29th Georgia Regiment (Camp Spaulding), Wolf Beacon, and the position of Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regiment on Blackbeard Island, GA

1861 map of Confederate positions on and near Sapelo Island, GA including Sapelo Lighthouse, Sapelo gun batteries, encampment of the 29th Georgia Regiment (Camp Spaulding), Wolf Beacon, and the position of Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regiment on Blackbeard Island, GA

 

Harris’ map shows the location of the camp of the 29th Georgia Regiment situated on the south end of Sapelo Island, on a bluff north of Lighthouse Creek.   The position of the Sapelo Island Lighthouse and the lighthouse causeway are shown, as well as the position of Spalding [Sapelo] Battery and masked batteries near Dean Creek.  Today, Sapelo Lighthouse is one of five remaining lighthouses in Georgia, and one of three open to the general public, advises Sherpa Guides.

Apparently represented but unlabeled on Harris’ map are Little Sapelo Island, Queens Island, and Wolf Island. Little Sapelo Island lies to the west of Sapelo, separated by the marshes around Duplin Creek. Doboy Island/Commodore Island, Queens Island, and Wolf Island lie to the south of Sapelo Island, across Doboy Sound.

The relative locations of the neighboring creeks and islands are somewhat distorted. Harris’ map identifies Dubois [Doboy] Island and Wolf Beacon. Wolf Beacon was a lighthouse at the northern end of Wolf Island. The Georgia Legislature had ceded jurisdiction of Wolf Island to the United States in 1819 for the purpose of building the 55-foot high beacon light to complement the lighthouse across Doboy Sound on Sapelo Island. The beacon was constructed by the U.S. Coast Guard  along with a keeper’s house and was in operation by summer 1822. Confederate forces eventually  blew up the Wolf Beacon light to eliminate its navigational aid to the Union Navy.

Harris’ map shows Captain Knight’s Company, the Berrien Minute Men, stationed at a battery defending the south end of Blackbeard. True enough, but it appears Harris mistakenly labeled St. Catherines Island to the north as Blackbeard Island.  His depiction of Sapelo Island is actually the combined Sapelo and Blackbeard islands. Harris’ combined Sapelo/Blackbeard clearly shows the prominent Northeast Point on Blackbeard Island, but failed to indicate the belt of marsh and the narrow Blackbeard Creek which diagonally separates Blackbeard from Sapelo. Captain Knight’s camp would have been at the inlet to Blackbeard Creek on the southernmost point of Blackbeard Island, on a dune and tree covered finger of land some 1400 yards wide lying between the seashore on the east and the creek on the west.

With their encampment established,  the companies on Sapelo turned their attention to the organization of the regimental command. By the first of November the Regiment held elections for  its officers.

About Robert Harris:

Robert Hamilton Harris (April 19, 1842-April 29, 1929) of Thomasville, Georgia, was the stepson of Rev. Robert Fleming. During the United States Civil War Harris served in Company A, 29th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, reaching the rank of captain. For nearly twelve years after the Civil War, he studied and practiced law. During this period he served as Solicitor of the County Court in Thomas county, railroad attorney, and Mayor of Thomasville. Harris became an ordained minister in 1878. He served as a circuit preacher in rural southern Georgia and as a pastor of Baptist churches in Columbus and Cairo, Georgia, as well as Troy, Alabama. In 1900, he accepted a professorship at Cox Seminary in College Park, Georgia, where he remained until his retirement in the 1920s. On October 13, 1863, Robert Harris married Martha (Mattie) Love (March 5, 1845-December 28, 1900). Martha Love was the daughter of Peter Early Love (1818-1866) of Thomasville (Love served in the U.S. Congress, 1859-1861).

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Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick ~ July, 1861

Berrien County in the Civil War
Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick, July, 1861

Civil War letter of Robert Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Civil War letter of Robert Hamilton Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Even before the secession of Georgia, Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, had gathered a company of men, styled the Berrien Minute Men, to serve as volunteer infantry.   Knight, an old Indian fighter, politicianrailroad investor, developer and social leader of south Georgia, anticipated of the formation of the Confederate States Army.  In the winter of 1860, he convened a meeting at Nashville, GA, seat of Berrien County which then included present day Lanier, Atkinson, Cook and Tift counties, as well as present day Berrien, where the company endorsed the Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men.  In the spring of 1861, the Berrien Minute Men encamped and drilled at Nashville, GA.  On May 17, a Grand Military Rally was held at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA on behalf of the Berrien Minute Men.

The following month, Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men was ordered to  report for muster into the Thirteenth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers.

 

<em>Savannah Daily Morning News</em>, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

Savannah Daily Morning News, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

 

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 24, 1861
        The following named companies will compose the Thirteenth Regiment Georgia Volunteers, which will take the place of Colonel Semmes’ regiment, now under orders for Virginia, viz:
        Wiregrass Minute Men, Capt. C. W. Styles,
        Brunswick Riflemen, Captain B. F. Harris, Brunswick.
        Lowndes Volunteers, Capt. G. T. Hammond, Valdosta.
        Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Captain W. J. Young, Thomasville.
        St. Mary’s Volunteers, Capt. A. B. Dufour, Darien.
        Seaboard Guards, Captain John C. Nichols, Waynesville.
        Berrien Minute Men, Captain Levi J. Knight, Nashville.
        Piscola Volunteers, Captain William A. Lane, Quitman. –Atlanta Intelligencer, July 21st.

Per orders,  Captain L. J. Knight took his company of Berrien Minute Men to the Georgia coast where  they and other volunteer companies from south Georgia counties were garrisoned at Camp Semmes for the defense of the port at Brunswick, GA.  Camp Semmes, south of the city, had been established by Colonel Paul J. Semmes, commanding officer of  the 2nd Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The defense of Brunswick had been the responsibility of the 2nd Regiment until that unit was ordered to Virginia.

Around mid-June, General Lafayette McLaws, Brigadier General A. R. Lawton, and Captain William W. Echols  had visited Brunswick to inspect the troops at Camp Semmes.  Colonel Semmes and the 2nd Regiment had established security checkpoints for all vessels entering the port of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

Savannah Republican
July 8, 1861
CAMP SEMMES.
Brunswick, GA., 4th July, 1861.
Public attention is respectfully directed to the annexed circular, and notice given that all boats are expected to conform to its requirements.  Passengers are ordered not to take passage in any boat until assured by its master of his intention not to disregard the same; and in order to avoid accidents or detention to themselves, to compel, if need be, his compliance therewith.
PAUL J. SEMMES,
Col. 2d Reg’t G.V., comd’g Camp Semmes
and the adjacent coast.
Circular.
HEAD-QUARTERS 2D REG’T G.V.,
CAMP SEMMES, BRUNSWICK, GA., June 25, 1861.
         I. On and after this day, all boats or vessels of any description, passing up or down the river, will be required to set their colors, or, if they have none, to heave to and report themselves to the officer of the day, at Camp Semmes, during the day.
        After sun-down every vessel will heave to and reply to the questions of the sentinel or officer of the day.  One shot will be fired across the bow of any vessel attempting to pass without heaving to, when ordered, and if, after one shot, she attempts to proceed, she will be fired into.
         II. The sentinels on the posts facing the river will be instructed to hail all vessels passing up or down the river which do not set their colors, during the day, and to hail all vessels or boats after sun-down as follows: Steamer, or schooner, or boat, ahoy! (as the case may be,) heave to! The sentinel will then call for the corporal of the guard, who will in turn call for the officer of the day or officer of the guard. The officer of the day will inquire, “What boat (or other craft) is that? – where are you from? – Where are you bound? -have you anything to communicate?” &c.  If the replies be satisfactory, the officer of the day will permit the vessel to pass on.  If any vessel, after a fair challenge attempt to pass, the sentinel will fire across her bow, and call – “The Guard:”
By order of
Col. Paul J. Semmes
W. G. Clemons, 2d Lieut. Co. G.,
Acting Adjutant.

Among the companies replacing the 2nd Regiment at Brunswick   were the Berrien Minute Men with the Thomasville Guards,  Piscola Volunteers, Seaboard Guards, Brunswick Rifles,  Glynn Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men.

It is a noble thing to fight for our country, and glorious to die in her cause…O, who wants not be a soldier! ~ Robert Hamilton Harris, Thomasville Guards, July, 1861

While encamped there, Robert Hamilton Harris, of the  Thomasville Guards, described the camp and his experiences in a letter to Martha (Mattie) Love, his girl back home in Thomas County, GA. She was a daughter of Peter Early Love,  U. S. Congressman and  former Solicitor General serving old Lowndes County, GA.

A portion of this correspondence has been preserved and scanned in the collection of Civil War letters of Robert Hamilton Harris, housed in the Digital Library of Georgia. Unfortunately, the extant portion of  this letter is not dated. However, we can surmise from contemporaneous events described by Harris that it was written about mid-July 1861.

The partial letter begins in mid-sentence with the description of a ship:

the prize (a boat) before she reaches Savannah. Our men will probably blow her up should any U. S. vessel attack them. She is laden with near $40000 worth of sugar, and was captured by the Jeff Davis on the coast of Newfoundland.

This “prize” was the Yankee brig John Welsh which was captured by the Confederate privateer C.S.S. Jeff Davis  at about 6:00 A. M. on Saturday, July 6, 1861.  This event was widely reported in Confederate and Union newspapers. According the Civil War Naval Encyclopedia, privateers were privately owned vessels sailing under special commissions from their governments in time of war that authorized them to capture ships of an enemy power, be they warships or merchant vessels.  The privateer Jeff Davis was reconnoitering off Delaware when she discovered the  merchantman John Welsh. The John Welsh had departed Trinidad, Cuba, on the 22nd of June for Falmouth, England, having on board a cargo of 300 hogsheads  and 475 boxes of sugar.  She was owned by John Welsh, esq., of Philadelphia. The value of the ship and cargo was estimated at $75,000.  The officers and crew of the John Welsh were taken aboard the Jeff Davis as prisoners and a prize crew was installed. They sailed the John Welsh to Savannah where she was to be condemned as a prize and sold at auction.  Although Robert Harris’s letter made no mention of it, the following day, July 7,  the privateer Jeff Davis captured the schooner S. J. Waring and detailed a prize master and crew  to take her to Beaufort, SC. Three of the original crew, two seamen and the African-American cook, William Tillman, were left on board. Tillman, however, managed to retake command of the ship, killing the Confederate prize master, first mate and second mate.  For his successful action in retaking the ship and sailing her back to New York, William Tillman became the first African-American hero of the Civil War, and received a reward of $6000.00

Harris’ letter goes on to describe  the volunteer infantry companies at the Brunswick rendezvous, and the camp life of the men. This gathering of the companies was prior to their official mustering in to the Confederate States Army:

There are seven companies now encamped in Brunswick, viz. the Thomasville companies, the Berrien Minute Men, Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Riflemen, Seaboard Guards, and the Wiregrass Minute Men, all of them very fine companies. We will soon be ready for double our number of Federals, and then we will feel easier.
    Our boys seem to enjoy themselves, and I know I do.  We have very hard fare, and have to endure a great many hardships, but we are healthy and have fine bathing facilities. Some of us are in the water nearly all the time. I plunge in regularly every morning at daylight, and spend half an hour or so in the delightful exercise of swimming, after which I don’t go in again during the day. I think this is the best plan.  A very large shark showed himself in our bathing place this morning, but we all went in as soon as he left, for we can’t forego this healthful pleasure because we happen to see a shark in the neighborhood.

Four of these companies, the Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Rifles, Seaboard Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men, would later be reorganized into the 26th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, along with companies from Lowndes, Ware, Clinch, McIntosh, Pierce and Twiggs  counties.

Harris’ letter mentions that one man of his company, John Bernard, had attempted suicide by cutting his throat. But Dr. [Edwin A.] Jelks of the Piscola Volunteers [Brooks County, GA] was able to suture the wound and keep the man alive, at least temporarily. Jelks, who was a relative of  Harris’ intended, went on to become Surgeon of the 26th GA Regiment.  The 26th Georgia was also the regiment Albert Douglass would join after deserting the Berrien Minute Men in 1862.

Harris also included with his letter a sketch of Brunswick, showing the position of the regimental camp south of the city.

1861 map of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight's company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

Robert Hamilton Harris’ 1861 sketch of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight’s company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

The camp was situated south of the city on the bank of the Turtle River, with  the river front on the west, cedar groves to the north and south, and woods to the east. The Berrien Minute Men (marked B.M.M.) were positioned on the northeast corner of the regimental grounds with the rest of the companies on the north side and on the riverfront. The regiment kept a picket guard on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The marsh on the east side of the peninsula Harris incorrectly labeled “Bloody Marsh” -the actual Bloody Marsh is on the east side of St. Simons Island. Brunswick’s wharves on the Turtle River are shown, as well as Oak Grove Cemetery, the Darien Road, the Waynesville Road.

Harris’ map also depicts a “prize” ship anchored off the Brunswick wharf.  This may have been a U.S. vessel captured by the privateer schooner Triton, of Brunswick, GA.  The Triton was the very first privateer to be commissioned by the Confederate government.  Confederate president Jefferson Davis had authorized privateers on April 17, 1861 and the Triton was commissioned on May 10, 1861, the  day the orders were published. The Triton was a small, 30-ton schooner, armed with a single six-pounder gun.

The railroad shown on Harris’ map would have been the shortline Brunswick & Florida Railroad, which connected at Glenmore, GA with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The Atlantic & Gulf was intended to serve as a “Main Trunk” for the two coastal railroads, and it was planned to stretch across south Georgia to steamboat docks on the Flint River at Bainbridge , creating a passenger and freight connection to the Gulf of Mexico.  By 1860, the Atlantic and Gulf had reached the site of Valdosta, GA, bypassing the Lowndes County seat at Troupville, GA.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running from Yankee Town (now Waycross), GA to Brunswick, GA - Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running to Brunswick, GA – Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

The captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Levi J. Knight,  was an investor in both the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The state of Georgia had also invested half a million dollars in Brunswick & Florida stock because of the railroad’s perceived strategic value.  An advantage of  these connections, it was said, was that the railroad could move men and materials from ports on the Gulf of Mexico to the Brunswick port on the Atlantic in 24 hours “in case of war between this country and a foreign nation.”   The B&F connection to the Savannah, Albany & Gulf also provided convenient transportation between Brunswick and Savannah, GA.

The Savannah newspapers noted that the Berrien Minute Men and the rest of the 13th Regiment arrived in Savannah on July 30, 1861 via railroad. At that time, they received equipment issued by the Confederate army.

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 31, 1861

Arrival of Troops
The Berrien Minute Men and Piscola Volunteers (Brooks county) arrived yesterday afternoon by the Albany and Gulf Railroad, and are encamped, together with the other companies belonging to the 13th Georgia regiment, on the parade ground. The following is a list of the officers of the former:
Captain – Levy J. Knight
1st Lieutenant – Thomas S. Wylly
2nd Lieutenant – Wm. Giddens
3rd Lieutenant – John C. Lamb
Ensign – Wm. Y. Hill
They number some eighty-five men, rank and file.
Those of the latter are:
Captain – Wm. A. Lane
1st Lieutenant – J. D. Morton
2nd Lieutenant – M. J. Culpepper
3rd Lieutenant – J. M. Rushin
This corps numbers some seventy men.

In August, the seven companies Harris noted at Camp Semmes were joined by the Camden Rifles and the Glynn Guards. On Saturday, August 19, 1861 these nine companies were formally mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment, under the command of Colonel Cary W. Styles, of Ware county.

It appears that the Lowndes Volunteers and St. Mary’s Volunteers were late for reporting at Camp Semmes, and were not mustered into the 13th GA Regiment. The Lowndes Volunteers later mustered into the 26th GA Regiment.  Another Lowndes company (Company I, 12th Georgia Regiment) under the command of Captain James W. Patterson was already in Virginia.  General McLaws encountered them June 21, 1861 at Branchville, VA.

In a letter written from Petersburg, VA McLaws described traveling with the Captain Patterson’s company of Lowndes company over the period from about June 21 to June 24.

We succeeded in starting [from Weldon, NC] about 8 P.M. in an extra train consisting of twenty freight cars and one passenger car. I have said we, because on arriving at Branchville, from Augusta a company of 116 Volunteers from Lowndes County Ga got into the train, and from that time, there was an end to all individuality. I managed to preserve my seat entire, by piling my overcoat, pillow & carpet bag beside me. But they were all around me, in all various attitudes conceivable, and dressed and undressed as suited their humor or degree of heat, artificial or natural, they had steamed up to at the time – one person, the wit of the party, said that if any body would give him a dollar he would sit in his shirt tail, and for an additional half would then pull off his shirt. Most of them pulled off their shoes, some had socks and others none and many were only partially provided. As the heat increased the fetid odor was tremendous – which added to the insane idea peculiar to volunteers that it was the patriotic duty of each and every one to hurrah and yell on passing through any settlement,made the time pass remarkably slow. And whenever we stopped a moment there was a general rush out in search of water, and then when the conductor shouted “get aboard” various fellows would say “I cant find a board but can get a shingle if you want one!” – all of which added to the general hilarity and made the night rather a sleepless one. When the crowd was put into the baggage cars, the noise was none the less but it was further off, so that second night passed more quiet. But today the passenger car was crowded with them again, and the odors and the singing and the patriotic yelling was truly remarkable. The Lowndes company, however, are a very fine looking body of men and in fact are remarkably well behaved, and have a Captain who has them under complete control by the mere force of his personal influence, his name is Patterson and I have no doubt he will do credit to his state.

Unfortunately, through a lack of coordination there was some duplication in the numbering of the Georgia regiments, and as it happened, there was already a 13th GA Regiment in service in Virginia.  In a short time Col. Styles regiment was reorganized, with the majority of the companies remaining at Brunswick to form the nucleus of the 26th GA Regiment while the Berrien Minute Men, Thomasville Guards, and Ocklocknee Light Infantry were ordered on to Savannah, GA to be mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.

About Robert Hamilton Harris:

Robert Hamilton Harris (April 19, 1842-April 29, 1929) of Thomasville, Georgia, was the stepson of Rev. Robert Fleming. During the United States Civil War Harris served in Company A, 29th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, reaching the rank of captain. For nearly twelve years after the Civil War, he studied and practiced law. During this period he served as Solicitor of the County Court in Thomas county, railroad attorney, and Mayor of Thomasville. Harris became an ordained minister in 1878. He served as a circuit preacher in rural southern Georgia and as a pastor of Baptist churches in Columbus and Cairo, Georgia, as well as Troy, Alabama. In 1900, he accepted a professorship at Cox Seminary in College Park, Georgia, where he remained until his retirement in the 1920s. On October 13, 1863, Robert Harris married Martha (Mattie) Love (March 5, 1845-December 28, 1900). Martha Love was the daughter of Peter Early Love (1818-1866) of Thomasville (Love served in the U.S. Congress, 1859-1861) [In the 1840s, Love was Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit of Georgia, and served at the Lowndes Superior Court of 1845 which convened in Troupville, GA.]

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Mary Ann Knight and William A. Jones

Mary Ann Knight was born  July 1, 1838 near Beaverdam Creek,  the present day site of  Ray City, GA  Her parents, John Knight and Sarah Sally Moore were pioneer settlers of the area, then situated in Lowndes County, Georgia but cut into Berrien County in 1856.

Mary Ann Knight Jones married William A.  Jones On November 5, 1856 in Berrien County, Georgia in a ceremony performed by the bride’s grandfather, Elder William A. Knight. The Berrien County Marriage Records of 1956 include the following hand written entry:

 Go any ordained minister of the gospel Judge of the Superior Justice of the Inferior Court Justice of the peace or any person by the Laws of this State authorised to Celibrate  these are to authorise and permit you to join in the Venerable State of matrimony this William, A. Jones of the one part and this Mary Ann Knight of the other part according to the constitution and laws of this state and according to the rites of your church provided there be no lawful cause to obstruct the same and this shall be your authority for so doing given under my hand and seal this the 1st day of November 1856.

John Lindsey Ordy

Thereby Certify that William A. Jones and Miss Mary Ann Knight were duly joined in matrimony by me this fifth day of Nov 1856

William A Knight, O.M.

Mary Ann and W.A. Jones settled on a farm next to her brother, William Washington Knight in the new county of Berrien, in the vicinity of present day Ray City, GA. Other nearby neighbors included James A. Knight, Reverend Nathan Talley, William R. Brandon, and James M. Baskin. The farm of Allen Jones and Kiziah Knight Giddens Jones was in the same area.

In 1861 Mary Ann and William had a son, William Malachi Jones.

When the Civil War got underway,  William A Jones joined the Berrien Minute Men, along with Mary Ann’s brothers and other men of Berrien County. This was a company of volunteer infantry organized by Mary Ann’s father, Levi J Knight.  The Berrien Minute Men were mustered in as Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry, and William A. Jones was enlisted as a private on August 1, 1861 at Savannah, GA. Four months later the company muster rolls note that he was “absent with leave.” Later service records show that he died of measles in Berrien County on January 18, 1862. The location of his grave is unknown.

Mary had two children by William A. Jones, the youngest, Adam, apparently born after his father’s death.  Adam Jones was deaf and dumb, birth defects with a high probability for a baby whose mother is infected with measles in the early weeks of pregnancy.

For five years, the widow Jones raised her children as a single parent. On March 25, 1866 she married Green Bullard  in Berrien County, GA.

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The Estate of Green Bullard

Green Bullard

 

A note on the Estate of William Anderson Knight

William Anderson Knight

William Anderson Knight, forefather of the large and influential Knight family of Wiregrass Georgia,  was among the earliest settlers of Lowndes County, GA and the first to settle at Grand Bay near the present day town of Ray City, GA. He and his wife, Sarah Cone Knight, were constituting members of the primitive baptist Union Church which became the mother church of all the primitive baptist congregations in this section of Georgia. He served as a state senator in the Georgia Assembly, and was the father of General Levi J. Knight. William Anderson Knight  died December 8, 1859, the settlement of his estate extending into the years of the Civil War.

Grave of William Anderson Knight, Union Church cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of William Anderson Knight, Union Church cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Allen Jones,  husband of Keziah Knight and son-in-law of William A. Knight,  secured a judgement against lands owned by Dr. John W. Turner to satisfy debts owed to the estate.

Savannah Daily Morning News, December 6, 1862. Transactions on the estate of William Anderson Knight.

Savannah Daily Morning News, December 6, 1862. Legal advertisement for property seizure to satisfy debts owed to the estate of William Anderson Knight.

Savannah Daily Morning News
December 6, 1862

Berrien Sheriff’s Sale

Will be sold, before the Court House door, in Nashville, Berrien county, on the first TUESDAY in January, within the legal hours of sale, the following property, to wit: Lots of Land No. 517, 496 and 497, in the Tenth District of said Berrien county, levied on as the property of John W. Turner, to satisfy a fi. fa. issued from the Superior Court of Clinch county, in favor of Allen Jones, who sues for the use of himself and the heirs of William A Knight, deceased. This November 12, 1862.  

nov 17         JOHN M. FUTCH, Sheriff

The land lots referenced in the legal advertisement were of 490 acres each.   Dr. Turner’s property was seized during the Civil War while he was serving as a private with the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.  At the time of the seizure, Turner was in Virginia in a hospital with smallpox.

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Old Ray’s Mill in 1978

Ray’s Mill Founders Day, November 7, 1863
Ray City, Berrien County, GA

The gristmill at Beaverdam Creek commenced operation on November 7, 1863.  Then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill, the construction was a collaboration between Thomas M. Ray and his father-in-law, Levi J. Knight.

1978 photograph of Ray's Mill, Ray City, GA

1978 photograph of Ray’s Mill, Ray City, GA. Kids used roof of Ray’s Mill to slide into pond.

 

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