Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 4

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 4: Berrien Minute Men and the Election of Officers

Randolph Spalding, first Colonel of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment, elected November, 1861

Randolph Spalding, first Colonel of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment, elected October, 1861

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  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.

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 two companies of Berrien Minute Men arrived on Sapelo Island without knowing who their regimental officers would be, or even which regiment they were in. The other companies in the no-name regiment on Sapelo were the Thomasville Guards and the Ocklocknee Light infantry, companies from Thomas County that had served with the Berrien Minute Men in the briefly constituted 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, GA. Two other companies of the new regiment were still in Savannah.

The custom among the volunteer regiments of that time was that field officers were elected by popular vote of the troops, with the appointments officially made after confirmation by Army command. It was during the first few weeks on Sapelo Island, that the regiment held elections for the field officers. Among the candidates for Colonel were: Captain William H. Echols, a graduate of West Point and captain in the Engineering Corps of the Confederate Army; Cary Wentworth Styles who had commanded the 13th Regiment at Brunswick, and who, after the War founded the Atlanta Constitution;  and Randolph Spalding (1822-1862), who was master of the South-end Mansion on Sapelo Island and a son of Sapelo plantation founder Thomas Spalding.

 

William Holding Echols, a Captain of Engineers in the Confederate States Army, was a candidate for Colonel of the 29th GA Regiment.

William Holding Echols, a Captain of Engineers in the Confederate States Army, was a candidate for Colonel of the 29th GA Regiment.

The Berrien Minute Men and the Thomas county companies had experienced the leadership of Colonel Styles when they served with the 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, and William W. Knight was of the opinion that they would never accept Styles as Colonel of the regiment.  The companies in Savannah preferred Echols, but the majority of the Regiment on Sapelo Island favored Randolph Spalding. The election was held on October 22, 1861.

October 23, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

October 23, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Savannah Republican
October 23, 1861

Election of Officers. – An election for field officers of a new regiment to be composed of companies now in camp at our Parade Ground and on Sapelo Island, took place yesterday.  The vote of the Companies in this city [Savannah] show a majority of 20 votes for Echols over Spalding for Colonel.  Alexander received a large majority for Lieutenant Colonel, and L. J. Knight the same for Major. The vote from Sapelo has not been received.

October 24, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

October 24, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Savannah Republican
October 24, 1861

Military Election. – The election of field officers for the new regiment now encamped here and at Sapelo, resulted in the choice of Randolph Spalding Colonel by a majority of 20 votes. ——- Alexander was chosen Lieutenant Colonel, and Levi J. Knight, Major.

Randolph Spalding was chosen as Colonel, perhaps due to the home field advantage. He was a successful planter on the mainland and on Sapelo Island where he was master of the Spalding’s South End mansion. In addition, he was a Representative from McIntosh County for several terms. He later served on the staff of General William H.T. Walker. (He would die in camp at Savannah in March of 1862.)

Thomas Williamson Alexander was elected Lieutenant Colonel.

Thomas Williamson Alexander was elected Lt. Colonel of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Thomas Williamson Alexander was elected Lt. Colonel of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Levi J. Knight advanced to Major of the newly formed Regiment.   Thomas Spalding Wylly, a nephew of Colonel Randolph Spalding and grandson of Thomas Spalding,  became Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company C.  Wylly was educated and experienced traveler, having joined an expedition to California in 1849. (Wylly later transferred to Clinch’s 4th GA Cavalry.) John C. Lamb was elected Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company D.

Thomas Spalding Wylly succeeded Levi J. Knight as captain of the Berrien Minute Men

Thomas Spalding Wylly succeeded Levi J. Knight as captain of the Berrien Minute Men. Image source: Wendy Wylly

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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 on Island 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 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.

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 on Sapelo Island: Part 2

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 2: Place of Encampment

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
William W. Knight wrote home from Camp Spalding, Sapelo Island, GA.

William W. Knight wrote home from Camp Spalding, Sapelo Island, GA.

The  Berrien Minute Men were two companies of infantry that went forth from Berrien County, GA during the Civil War. 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.

The regimental encampment on Sapelo was Camp Spalding, on the 4000 acre Sapelo Island plantation which had been established by Thomas Spalding. According to New Georgia Encyclopedia,

“Thomas Spalding (1774-1851), noted antebellum planter of Sapelo Island, was one of the most influential agriculturists and political figures of his day in Georgia…He cultivated Sea Island cotton, introduced the manufacture of sugar to Georgia, and promoted Darien and the coastal area as the economic center of the state…Spalding was an influential Democrat and a pro-Union advocate.  As the sectional crisis worsened in the late 1840s he was instrumental in ensuring the support of Georgia for the Compromise of 1850…Despite his ownership of more than 350 slaves, Spalding had considerable misgivings about the institution of slavery, exemplified by his reputation as a liberal and humane master. He utilized the task system of labor, which allowed his workers to have free time for personal pursuits. Slaves were supervised not by the typical white overseers but by black managers, the most prominent of whom was Bu Allah (or Bilali), a Muslim and Spalding’s second-in-command on Sapelo.” 

The Muslim community at Sapelo Island was among the earliest in America, and some scholars believe the ruins on Sapelo include the foundations of one of the first mosques in the country.  Descendants of the 400 enslaved men, women and children who lived on Thomas Spalding’s antebellum plantation still reside on Sapelo Island in the Hog Hammock community. In the description of Sherpa Guides,

“The Gullah village, with its unique cultural, artistic, and linguistic traditions, is without a doubt the most unusual community in Georgia. Old timers speak geechee, a colorful creole that blends English with a number of African languages, primarily from the western coast. Hog Hammock was created in the early 1940s when R.J. Reynolds, who owned most of the island, consolidated the scattered black land holdings around the island. Blacks exchanged their holdings in Raccoon Bluff, Shell Hammock, and other communities for property and small houses with indoor plumbing in Hog Hammock.”

Thomas Spalding’s South End Mansion on Sapelo Island had been inherited by his son, Randolph Spalding.  Randolp Spalding and his five siblings had received the  slaves from their father’s estate, as well. In Sapelo’s People: A Long Walk to Freedom, William S. McFeely writes,  “Randolph Spalding, unlike his scientific father, better fit the popular image of the Southern plantation grandee; in his thirties as the war approached he liked fast horses and big house parties.” Among the tidewater plantation owners, “fears were great of a ‘plundering expedition’ aimed at the huge population of slaves along the coast. Charles Spalding, Randolph’s brother, wrote to an official of the Georgia militia on February 11, 1861 ‘that there are on the Island of Sapelo…about five hundred negroes which might be swept off any day unless protected by a small detachment of infantry on the island.” Spalding feared not only slave raiders, but the slaves themselves: there are on.. [the nearby Altamaha rice plantations] some four thousand negroes, whose owners will continue to feel very insecure until some naval defenders are placed upon these waters.'”

That responsibility fell for a while on the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment. On Sapelo Island, the 29th  had duty manning Sapelo Battery  near Sapelo Lighthouse as well as additional gun batteries near Dean Creek.  A gun battery on Blackbeard Island at the Atlantic Inlet to Blackbeard Creek was the site of Captain Knight’s encampment. These positions were important in defending the northern delta of the Altamaha River and the port at Darien, GA from intrusion by Union forces.

A number of Civil War letters of John W. Hagan document the experiences of the Berrien Minute Men. Writing from Sapelo Island on October 11, 1861, Hagan gave his wife, Amanda Roberts Hagan, an update on her brothers Ezekiel W. Roberts and James S. Roberts, cousin Stephen N. Roberts, and the other soldiers of the Berrien Minute Men.

Sapelo Island, Ga.
Oct. 11, 61

My Dear Amanda,
I have imbraced the present opportunity of writing you a short letter which leaves my self and all the company in good health with a few exceptions. We landed in Savannah on Monday night at 8 Oclk and taken the Steamer on Tuesday eavening for our place of encampment which is on Sapelo Island. We landed on Sapelo on Wednesday morning & the same eavening Capt. L. J. Knight’s compny was removed to Sapelo all so and I found Ezeakle & James in good health & in good spearet. There is four companies stasioned hear now the Thomasvill guards & the Oclocknee light infantry & Capt Knights company and the company I came with. The health of the men on this Island is verry good and as to the reports which was going the roundes in Lowndes in regard to yellow feavor that is all faulce. Some of the men of Blackbeard did not take care of themselves, & by exposure and exerting too much they became bilious & I was realy surprised when I found all the boys in so fine health. As to James, Ezeakle & Stephen you would hardly know them. Ther is but four or five on sick report at this time and nothing is the matter with but colds & risings &c. Ezeakle will I think go home on the first boat & he will give moor satisfaction in regard to our fair than I can by writing. We have drew rashings but havent elected any of our offiscers for the company yet. We feel assured that John C. Lamb of Milltown will be our Capt but we know not who will be our Leutenants. All the boys was glad to see us and I think we will get along as well as any solders could expect. Capt Knights company has not drew any money yet but is to draw as soon as the Capt gets abble to go to Savannah. He has the Bloody Piles and is not able at present to travel. We have on this Island five canon mounted. The largest carries 16 lbs balls. The others are smaler & we calculate to mount moor as soon as posable. I do not apprehend any danger heare at present. There was a blockade came in sight here yesterday & we thought we should have a fight. The 3 companies was marched to the Battery or a detachment of the three companies. The cannon was uncovered & loaded & nessery arrangements was made for a fight when all at once the ship taken a tack in a different directsion. We do not now realy whether it was a blockade or an Inglish ship expected & last night at 11 Oclk a small steamer started out so that in case it should be an Inglish vessel they could convey her in.

Amanda, we are not regulated yet & I can not give you a full deatail but in my next letter I hope I shall be able to write something interresting. Some of the boyes are writing, some singing, some fiddleing, some dancing, some cooking, some play cardes & some are at work cleaning off our perade ground & places to pitch our tents. Cience I have bin hear I have seen several of the Thomas county boys. 2 of the old Allen Hagans boys from Thomas is heare. I feel satisfide that we will be healthey & fair as well as we could wish &c.

Amanda, Old man Crofford seemed to be in the nosion to buy my land when I saw him at Nailor. He said he would give me $1500 for my place if he traded with your father providing I would give him two payments from next January. Tel your father to make any trade with Crofford that he thinks proper, but if he wants time he must pay interrest on the payments. I must close for this time & I hope you wil write soon  & I think we had better change our Post office to Nailor because you can send evry Satterday or every other Satterday & get your mail shure & where we send too at present it is unsirtin when you get it. When you write you must derect it as I derect you nothing moor. yours affectsionate husband Til Death. John W. Hagan

N.B. address your letters to
John W. Hagan
Sapalo Island Ga
in care Capt Knight

N.B. Kiss Reubin for me
J. W. H.

By mid-October, 1861 the sick of the regiment on Sapelo Island were more or less recovering from their initial illness.  William Washington Knight wrote on October 12, “There is fourteen on the sick list but none of them very bad all able to be up some little.” Ten days later, William Washington Knight was himself sick with a “bowel complaint.” Of the Berrien Minute Men, he added, “father [Captain Levi. J. Knight] has been very sick but he is getting better so as to be about and attend to his businefs.    There are several of the recruits sick,   five that tolerable bad off although I do not think any are dangerous.    Some of the old company (Company C) are sick yet,    three pretty low.”  But by the end of October, a number of men had given up the regiment. Of the Thomas County Guards, James M. Blackshear provided a substitute and left.  Sixteen-year-old Elias Beall and W. R Pringle apparently went back home.    William A Jones left the Berrien Minute Men and went home on leave to Berrien County, never to return. Jones died of measles in Berrien County on January 18, 1862, leaving behind a pregnant wife  and a young son.

Measles would spread among the regiment on Sapelo in the coming months.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 1

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 1: Arrival on Sapelo

Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island

1863 Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island. near Sapelo Lighthouse,Doboy Sound, Georgia. Fron a reconnaissance made, under direction of C. O. Boutelle, Assistant U.S.C.S., by Eugene Willenbucher, Draughtman C. S. January 1863

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

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men. The first company, organized by Captain Levi J. Knight served temporarily with the 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, GA, before going on to join in a new regiment being formed at Savannah,  GA.  The second company of Berrien Minute Men rendezvoused with Captain Knight’s company at Savannah and was also enjoined  in the formation of the new  regiment. The two companies were mustered in as Companies C and D of the as yet unnamed Regiment.  After brief training in the Camp of Instruction at Savannah and in coastal batteries defending the city, the companies were detailed for duty.

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. Darien was about 55 miles south of Savannah and 20 miles north of Brunswick, GA.  The environment of Darien, the sea islands and the Altamaha River basin were ideal for the cultivation of rice and long staple Sea Island cotton, and the agricultural economy of the southern tidewater was strategically important to the fledgling Confederate States.

According to historian Buddy Sullivan, “The soils of the Altamaha delta were extremely fertile, both for the production of cotton and sugar cane, but most especially for that of rice.” In the peak decade of the 1850s, the Altamaha delta produced over 12 million pounds of cleaned, hulled rice; “Darien was the center of some of the most extensive rice cultivation on the southeastern tidewater.”  The tidewater agriculture was particularly labor intensive and “paralleled by the prevalence of malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases  and their connectivity with  tidal marshes, mud and water attendant to  the breeding of mosquitoes…Slaves toiled in the wet, marshy rice fields under harsh, demanding conditions.”

“Captain Basil Hall, an English travel writer who visited the Altamaha district in 1828, observed that the growing of rice was ‘the most unhealthy work in which the slaves were employed, and that in spite of every care, they sank in great numbers.  The causes of this dreadful mortality are the constant moisture and heat of the atmosphere, together with the alternating flooding and drying of fields on which the Negroes are perpetually at work, often ankle deep in mud, with their bare heads exposed to the fierce rays of the sun.'”

Slaves working in the rice fields.

Slaves working in the rice fields.

When mosquito swarms peaked in the summer and early fall, the white plantation families of the Altamaha district left the care of the crops to their slaves and migrated to the drier Georgia uplands; they returned to their low country plantations with the first frosts.  Although the proliferation of mosquitoes in the summer months coincided with the incidence of malaria and yellow fever, no connection was made between the events. Instead the common belief was that the tropical diseases were “caused by the “miasma,” a noxious effluvium that supposedly emanated from the putrescent matter in the swamps and tidal marshes, and thought to float in the night air, especially in the night mists as a fog.”

It is perhaps no accident that the deployment of the Berrien Minute Men to Sapelo Island coincided with the waning of the fever season. It appears Captain Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men (Company C, later reorganized as Company G) embarked from Savannah in September  and had arrived on Sapelo and taken up station on Blackbeard Island by the first of October, 1861.  Sapelo and Blackbeard islands are adjacent, being separated only by Blackbeard creek and a narrow band of marsh.

The Confederate soldiers on the islands had access, albeit limited and inconvenient, to the post office at Darien, GA on the mainland about  10 miles up the Altamaha River. A handful of surviving letters written by the men on Sapelo paint a picture of Confederate camp life on Georgia’s sea islands, including correspondence from William Washington Knight and John W. Hagan of the Berrien Minute Men, Robert Hamilton Harris and Peter Dekle of the Thomasville Guards, and Robert Goodwin Mitchell of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry.

After a number of the men on Blackbeard Island were reported sick, rumors circulated back at home that the regiment was stricken with Yellow Fever. The families of the Berrien Minute Men had reason to fear.  In 1854, a yellow fever outbreak had killed thousands of people on the southeastern coast, including as many as 400 victims at Darien, GA.  But in his letters home, Private John W. Hagan of Berrien county wrote, “as to the reports which was going the roundes in Lowndes in regard to yellow feavor that is all faulce. Some of the men of Blackbeard did not take care of themselves & by exposure and exerting too mutch they became bilious.” The Berrien County men may have just been unacclimatized to the muggy heat of the coast, or the men may have contracted malaria  in the coastal marshes.  Levi J. Knight, Jr. later wrote that one of the Berrien Minute Men, Private Enos J. Connell, became “unfit for duty, rendered so by a protracted illness contracted on Blackbeard Island… the disease when first contracted was said by his physician to have been Billious fever.” Enos J. Connell never entirely recovered and was eventually discharged in June 1862. Private Thomas N. Connell, died at Blackbeard Island on October 2, 1861, the cause of death being given in his service record as “bilious fever.” Bilious fever,  a now obsolete medical diagnosis, was often used for any fever that exhibited the symptom of nausea or vomiting in addition to an increase in internal body temperature and strong diarrhea. Bilious fever (Latin bilis, “bile”) refers to fever associated with excessive bile or bilirubin in the blood stream and tissues, causing jaundice (a yellow color in the skin or sclera of the eye). The most common cause was malaria.  What treatment the sick men may have received on Sapelo Island is not described, but one known remedy for intermittent fever was quinine derived from the Georgia Fever Bark tree, which grew in the Altamaha River Valley.

Company D of the Berrien Minute Men  (later reorganized as Company K) arrived on Sapelo Island in early October. Company D steamed from Savannah late Tuesday evening, October 8, 1861. Among the men of Company D were privates John W. Hagan, William A. Jones, and William Washington Knight, a son of Captain Levi J. Knight.  There was a wharf on the north end of Sapelo at the Chocolate Plantation, then owned by the Spalding family. But the steamboat landed Company D on the south end of Sapelo perhaps at the Spalding’s South End mansion. Company D disembarked at daybreak on Wednesday, October 9, 1861 and then proceeded to encamp at Camp Spalding.

Visiting the camp hospital, Private William W. Knight found of the Berrien men, “only three that were sick much. Several had been sick but were able to wait on themselves.”   William A. Jones was crippled with a severe infection on his knee.   Captain Levi J. Knight had been among the sickest, but was somewhat recovered. Assistant Surgeon William H. Way, of Thomas County, GA, was the only medical officer with the Regiment at the time.  William P. Clower would later serve as Surgeon of the Regiment.

Within an hour of landing at South End on Sapelo , Private Knight started the eight to ten mile trek to the camp of his father’s company on Blackbeard Island. He was accompanied by Sergeant John Isom, who was returning to Company C.

At the bivouac on Blackbeard island, Private Knight found his father still convalescing.  “Father looks very bad, but he is gaining strength very quickly,” he wrote.  No sooner had Pvt. Knight and Sgt. Isom arrived at the camp on Blackbeard, than Captain Knight’s company packed up and  marched back to Camp Spalding on the south end of Sapelo.  Pvt. Knight described the round trip as “seventeen miles, part of it the roughest country on this globe.”

The soldiers would spend the coming weeks establishing their camp and the routine of regimental life on their sea island outpost.

Related Posts:

 

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.]

Related Posts:

Virdie Futch and the National Elastic Shortage

A World War II Story
During the war,  there was a critical need for rubber as a war materiél. On the home front in Ray City and everywhere in the country, the national shortage of rubber meant people had to make do.  One consequence of the shortage was consumer goods incorporating elastic became unobtainable.

In 1942, the War Production Board circulated posters urging citizens to conserve and recycle critical war materials. A poster entitled America needs your scrap rubber was produced by in 1942. The poster dramatically illustrated the need for rubber in producing military equipment: A Gas Mask requires 1.11 pounds of rubber; A Life Raft requires 17 to 100 pounds of rubber; A Scout Car requires 306 pounds of rubber; A Heavy Bomber requires 1,825 pounds of rubber.

In 1942, the War Production Board circulated posters urging citizens to conserve and recycle critical war materials. A poster entitled America needs your scrap rubber was produced in 1942. The poster dramatically illustrated the need for rubber in producing military equipment: A Gas Mask requires 1.11 pounds of rubber; A Life Raft requires 17 to 100 pounds of rubber; A Scout Car requires 306 pounds of rubber; A Heavy Bomber requires 1,825 pounds of rubber.

 

According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education, “Most of the world’s supply of natural rubber came from rubber tree plantations in Southeast Asia, which were quickly occupied by the Japanese in the first months of 1942. Factories converting to military production needed every scrap of rubber they could find, and citizens were asked to turn in old tires, raincoats, gloves, garden hoses, and rubber shoes for recycling. New tires became almost impossible to buy…”

No rubber meant no elastic for the waistbands of women’s underwear.  Instead, for many women, underwear was to be fastened around the waist with a button, or with a draw string for the duration of the war.  But these fasteners provided a less than reliable suspension for female undergarments, and it was not uncommon for young girls to suddenly lose their underwear while walking.

It may have been less patriotic than collecting rubber for the war effort, but Granny Virdie Futch, of Ray City, GA recycled old inner tubes  by cutting them into thin strips and sewing them into underwear.  She also made the waistbands of the children’s pants and pull up pants for the toddlers.

Virdie was born May 26, 1874 in Lowndes County, GA, a daughter of John W. Cowart and Sarah A. “Sallie” Bradford. Her father was a laborer in the 1157 District of Berrien County. In 1899 he moved his family to the former residence of B. P. Peeples in Nashville, GA where he worked as a house carpenter.  Her parents later moved to Ray City, GA, some time before 1920, where they rented a farm on the Valdosta Road near the farms of Mallie Shaw, Jack Terry, and Lewis W. Register.

On January 15, 1896 Virdie married Arren D. Futch in Lowndes County, GA. The ceremony was performed by C. W. Stallings. Later that same year, her sister, Sallie Cowart, died at age 14.

 

Marriage license of Francis "Verdie" Cowart and A. D. Futch. January 15, 1896, Lowndes County, GA

Marriage license of Francis “Vurdie” Cowart and A. D. Futch. January 15, 1896, Lowndes County, GA

The young Futch couple first made their home at Cecil, GA where Arren bought some property and took up farming. The 1910 census shows they owned a farm on the Adel and Valdosta road.

Children of Verdie Cowart and Arren D. Futch:

  • Johnnie Marcus Futch (1897-1965)
  • Caulie Elie Futch(1898-1977)
  • Rossie Dasher Futch (1899-1967)
  • Homer P. Futch (1900-1902)

By 1920 Virdie and Arren Futch had acquired a place on the Valdosta and Ray City Road just southwest of Ray City. Their sons, Caulie and Rossie, worked adjacent farms. The 1940 Census shows Virdie and Arren had moved to a place on Cat Creek Road next to their son, Rossie Futch.

By 1950,  Virdie and Arren moved into town, residing in a small house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA.

In 1950, Arren and Verdie Futch were living in this home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA, with their son, Rossie Futch, his wife, Lessie Guthrie Futch, and step-son, David Miley.

In 1950, Arren and Verdie Futch were living in this home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA, with their son, Rossie Futch, his wife, Lessie Guthrie Futch, and step-son, David Miley.

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William C. Zeigler

William Charles Zeigler, a resident of Berrien County, GA, was among the victims of the Otranto tragedy in the closing days of World War I.

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William C. Zeigler grew up in Lowndes and Berrien county Georgia. It appears that he had a difficult boyhood. He was a son of Jesse William “Jake” Zeigler and Lula Tyson, born October 25, 1889 at Blanton, Lowndes County, GA.   His mother suffered from mental illness and allegedly mentally and physically abused his father before abandoning the family.

For the 1900 Census, the family was enumerated in Berrien County, GA in the 1487 Georgia Militia District, the Sparks district.  William was then ten years old .

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler.  https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu180unit#page/n190/mode/1up

Although court testimony later assert that Lula Tyson Zeigler was institutionalized about 1898,  it appears from the census records that she was still with her family in 1900 and was sent to the Georgia State Sanitarium at Milledgeville, GA shortly thereafter. 

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

After the institutionalization of his mother, William C. Zeigler continued to live with his father and siblings near Lenox in Berrien County. They were enumerated at Lenox, GA in the Census of 1910. Lenox is situated about 7 miles north of Sparks, GA on the route of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father's household at Lenox, GA.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father’s household at Lenox, GA. https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n774/mode/1up

At the time of the draft for World War I, William Charlie Zeigler  was 27 years old. He gave his home address as Sparks, GA,. He was still unmarried and listed his occupation as farming in the employment of his father. He registered for the draft for WWI on June 5, 1917.  His physical description was medium height, slender build, with grey eyes and light hair.

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

On  July 16, 1918 William Charlie Zeigler was inducted into the Army, along with other Berrien county men at Nashville, GA.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

The men boarded a train at Nashville, GA.  William C. Zeigler along with Early Stewart, Benjamin F. McCranie, Jim Melvin Boyett, John Guy Coppage, Shelley L. Webb, Hiram Marcus Bennett, Lafayett Gaskins, Ralph Knight, James Grady Wright, James M. Deloach and other men of Berrien County were bound for training camp at Fort Screven, GA.

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

Colonel Archibald Campbell confirmed the arrival of the men at Ft. Screven, GA on July 19, 1918.  Fort Screven, on Tybee Island, GA was a part of the U.S. Atlantic coastal defense system and served as a training camp. The fort’s six batteries of coastal artillery defended the port of Savannah, GA.

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven in 1917

Fort Screven in 1917

After training, the men were sent to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, N.J.  The Embarkation Service reported the steamship Otranto sailed for England from New York, N.Y. on September 25, 1918 at 12:40 P.M. with 699 military passengers, including the men and officers from Fort Screven, GA.

But the troop ship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918  off the coast of Islay, Scotland after a collision with the SS Kashmir. The Army could not immediately produce a list of the soldiers who were on board. It was not until October 18, that a passenger list for the Otranto was finally cabled to General Harbord in Europe.  The name of Zeigler, William C. 2595855 Pvt. was on the list.

Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll in the disaster. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead were dozens of soldiers from Berrien.  For weeks news of the disaster trickled into American newspapers. Facts were sketchy at best –  In some cases, soldiers who perished in the sinking were incorrectly reported as survivors. It would nearly two months before the names of the lost were known to the folks at home…

A number of soldiers, including James Deloach were rescued by the heroic efforts of the HMS Mounsey, first to arrive on the scene.  Many others went into the sea and were lost forever. Only a slim few who went into the water survived the swim to the Isle of Islay, Scotland. The bodies of 489 soldiers washed up on the coast  where the ship went down.

William C. Zeigler, of Berrien County, GA was among the dead recovered at Islay. He and the other American dead from the Otranto were buried in the little churchyard at Kilchoman in wide graves accommodating twenty bodies each.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims,Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occured October 6, 1918. Among the dead were two soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims, Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occurred October 6, 1918. Among the dead were soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight, and William C. Zeigler of Sparks, GA.

William C. Zeigler and the other Otranto victims lay in the Bivouac of the Dead at Islay for nearly two years.  In June 1920, the Graves Registration Service made the decision to bring the bodies home, and exhumation began on July 1, 1920.

William’s body was transported on the U.S.A.T. Antigone arriving at Hoboken, August 7, 1920, from Southhampton, Brest and Liverpool.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

According to the New York Times, Antigone carried the largest number of coffins brought home on one ship, 1,575 dead soldiers. “The dead were landed at Pier 4, Hoboken, where preparations were completed to forward the bodies to their last resting places in home cemeteries, as has been the custom with all returned dead soldiers.”  There was no ceremony or funeral observance at the pier, as that detail of honor was rendered when the bodies were consigned to their temporary graves in foreign lands.

William’s father elected to have his son’s final interment at Arlington National Cemetery.  The body was accompanied by a guard of honor on the final journey.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

The re-internment of William C. Zeigler occurred August 20, 1920 at Arlington National Cemetery.  In 1934, a headstone of marble from Tate, GA was ordered for his grave.

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as “O”) Image source: Paul Hays.

†††

After William C. Zeigler died, his father finally filed for divorce from his mentally ill mother. By this time she had been institutionalized for nearly 20 years.  It was an unusual case; as a mental patient, Lula Zeigler was  deemed not responsible for her actions.  Therefore, any cause brought for divorce  could only be valid if it occurred prior to the time her mental capacity was diminished.

The divorce case was reported in the Valdosta Times:

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

Tifton Gazette
April 4, 1919

Unusual Divorce In Berrien.

Husband Asks Separation From Wife Who is Inmate of the State Sanitarium

        Most unusual grounds are given as a reason for securing a divorce in a suit which has been filed in Berrien county.  It is believed that no similar case has ever been filed in the state says the Valdosta Times.
        Mr. Jake Zeigler has filed papers asking for a total divorce from his wife,  Mrs. Lula Zeigler, charging that she treated him in a cruel manner some years ago.  The unusual part of it is that Mrs. Zeigler is now an inmate of the state sanitarium at Milledgeville and has been there for several years, with the prospect that she is a permanent inmate.  It is charged in the petition for divorce  that the cruel treatment occurred before she became an inmate of the sanitarium.
         When the case came before Judge Thomas last week, it being so unusual he passed it until this week.  Judge Thomas designated Solicitor C E Hay to act as attorney for the defendant in the case and also named Rev. L L Barr, pastor of the Nashville Methodist church, and Rev. Jackson H Harris, pastor of the Nashville Baptist church, to act as representatives of Mrs. Zeigler, who could not appear for herself in the hearing.  The designation of these representatives by the court is for the purpose of seeing that the defendant, unable to help herself, may have a fair and impartial consideration of the case from every standpoint.
        Later:  The demurrer prepared by Solicitor Hay in the divorce case of Zeigler vs. Zeigler was sustained, and the case will go to the Supreme Court, says the Nashville Herald.

The case of Zeigler v. Zeigler et al was referred to the Georgia Supreme Court:

Zeigler v. Zeigler et al. (No. 1384.)
(Supreme Court of Georgia. Nov. 14, 1919.)

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Divorce  27(18), 37(5) – Pleading; Cruel Treatment; Desertion.

In the petition for divorce it is alleged: Petitioner and defendant were married in 1889.  Defendant was adjudged to be insane, and was committed to the Georgia State Sanitarium for insane persons in 1898, where she has since been confined as an insane person. In September 1899, defendant struck petitioner, thereby inflicting a serious wound upon his person.  “From October 1, 1897, until May 1, 1898 defendant continued in a constant state of quarreling and cruelly treating petitioner until such conduct became unbearable; and defendant, without cause on the part of the petitioner, left him and remained away until she became insane.”  Petitioner was without fault during the time he and his wife lived together. “Petitioner did not directly or indirectly condone the treatment of his wife, nor did the relation of husband and wife ever exist after she became in the rage and left him without cause.”  Held, that no cause for a divorce was set forth in the petition, either on the grounds of cruel treatment (Ring v. Ring, 18 Ga. 183, 44 S. E. 861, 62 L.R.A. 878; Stoner v. Stoner, 134 Ga. 368, 67 S. E. 1030; Black v. Black, 101 S. E. 182, this day decided), or on the ground of desertion (Civil Code 1910, 2945), as it appears from the petition that defendant was adjudged to be insane within less time after the desertion than three years, and has since remained insane, and therefore not responsible for her acts during that time.  Accordingly, the court did not err in dismissing the petition on general demurrer.

Error from Superior Court, Berrien County; W. E. Thomas, Judge.

Suit for divorce by J. W. Zeigler against L. M. Zeigler. Petition dismissed on general demurrer, and plaintiff brings error. Affirmed.

J. D. Lovett and Story & Story, all of Nashville, of plaintiff in error.
Clifford E. Hay, Sol. Gen, of Thomasville, for defendant in error.

FISH, C.J. Judgement Affirmed, All the Justices concur, except ATKINSON, J., absent.

Jesse William Zeigler, father of William C. Zeigler, died June 6, 1924. He was buried at Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Lula Tyson Zeigler, mother of William C. Zeigler, died August 22, 1958 at Central State Hospital (Formerly Georgia State Sanitarium) at Milledgeville, GA.   During her time at Central State Hospital, the institution became known as the “world’s largest insane asylum,” housing some 13,000 patients with mental illness. According to an article in Atlanta Magazine, “Doctors wielded the psychiatric tools of the times—lobotomies, insulin shock, and early electroshock therapy—along with far less sophisticated techniques: Children were confined to metal cages; adults were forced to take steam baths and cold showers, confined in straitjackets, and treated with douches or ‘nauseants.‘ …The thousands of patients were served by only 48 doctors, none a psychiatrist. Indeed, some of the “doctors” had been hired off the mental wards.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the hospital grounds, including patient Lula Tyson Zeigler. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the Central State Hospital grounds, patient Lula Tyson Zeigler among them. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

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Grand Rally at Milltown

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, May 1861

Special thanks to Jim Griffin for sharing contributions and illustration for this post.

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

About the Illustration

The illustration above, commissioned and contributed by reader Jim Griffin, depicts the scene of the Grand Military Rally held in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA in mid-May, 1861 to honor the Berrien Minute Men.  The illustration is based on reports published in Savannah, GA newspapers, transcribed below. Illustration by Alan H. Archambault.

Setting and Attendees Described in Newspaper Accounts

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA, received the ceremonial flag presented at the Grand Rally. He was a “large, raw-boned man,” and a social, political and military leader of Berrien County, which then included Milltown (now Lakeland),  GA and all of present day Lanier County, GA. A veteran of the Indian Wars, he organized the Berrien Minute Men in 1860, and  served as their first Captain. He took his company to Brunswick, GA where the Berrien Minute Men first served with the 13th Georgia Regiment. After reorganization they were mustered into the 29th GA Regiment of Volunteer Infantry; L.J. Knight served as Major of this  Regiment before retiring on account of age and health.

The Baptist Church at Milltown, depicted in the background, was where the association of the ladies of Milltown convened prior to the Grand Military Rally of May, 1861. The Baptist Church was constructed about 1857.  Its organization was instigated by the families of James and Jesse Carroll, brothers who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County, GA.

“In 1857 Daniel B. Carroll (James’ son) and James S. Harris (James Carroll’s son-in-law) deeded land for a Missionary Baptist Church. Trustees to whom the deed was made were James Carroll, James Dobson, James’ sons John T. and James H., and James S. Harris.  Rev. Caswell Howell, who had recently settled here, is said to have been its first pastor. [Rev. Howell was a brother of Barney Howell, who was a mail carrier on the Troupville route.] The church, directly north of today’s courthouse [present day site of Mathis Law office, 64 W. Church Street Lakeland, GA], was built of hand-split lumber with hand-hewn sills, and put together with wooden pegs. The ten-inch-wide ceiling boards were planed by hand.” – Nell Roquemore, in Roots, Rocks and Recollections

The Methodist Episcopal Church, shown on the right,  was organized by the Talley family and built in 1856 on the present day site of the Lakeland City Cemetery, on  E. Church Street.  The pastor of this church, Reverend Nathan Talley,  led the invocation and hymns for the convening of the ladies association at the Baptist Church.

Not depicted is a school that sat in between the Baptist and Methodist churches.  The school supposedly sat back off Church Street.

Mrs. Jas. S. Harris, who made the motion for a chair to be called, was Elizabeth Ann Carroll Harris, wife of Milltown merchant and postmaster James Simpson Harris. As a civil servant, the 48 year-old Mr. Harris was exempt from Confederate military service.   The Harrises were neighbors of Milltown merchant Abraham Leffler and of Dr. James W. Talley, son of Reverend Nathan Talley.

Mrs. Susan A. Dawson served as Chair of the Ladies Association.

Miss E. Brannon,  appointed secretary of the Ladies Association, was Emily Elizabeth Brandon. She was a daughter of William R. Brandon.  She would marry Jonathan D. Knight, of the Berrien Minute Men, on August 10, 1862 in South Carolina.

Mrs. E. J. G. Crawford, who was selected to present the flag to the Berrien Minute Men, was Ellen Jeane Grey Lee, wife of Cornelius Whitfield Crawford. The Crawfords were residents of Magnolia, GA and later moved to Texas.

Mr. Wiley E. Baxter was  a school teacher for John T. Carroll, a neighbor of Captain Levi J. Knight.  Baxter was one of Captain L. J. Knight’s company of men; He appeared on the 1860 roster of Berrien Minute Men.  He would go with Captain Knight’s Company to Savannah, GA to enlist in the Georgia volunteer infantry. He eventually served in the 29th Georgia Regiment with both Company A (C & G) and Company B (D & K) of the Berrien Minute Men, and would achieve the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before being killed at the Battle of Atlanta, 1864.

Daniel B. McDonald, who also took up the collection from the men, was the twin brother of Dougal P. McDonald of the Berrien Minute Men.  The twins married sisters Elizabeth and Ann Lamb, who were siblings of William J. Lamb and John Carroll Lamb.  Dougal P. McDonald was excused from military duty to serve in the Confederate Georgia legislature.  Daniel McDonald later served as a Captain with the Georgia reserve Coast Guard at Jonesville near Riceboro, GA.

Elizabeth Lastinger was a daughter of William Lastinger, who owned Lastinger Mill. On May 12, 1861 Elizabeth Lastinger married William J. Wilkerson, son of William D. Wilkerson (or Wilkinson). Five of her brothers served in the Berrien Minute Men. One brother, Pvt. Seaborn J. Lastinger, was killed September 15, 1863 in a magazine explosion at James Island, SC. Her youngest brother, Joshua Berrien Lastinger, served with the 4th Georgia Reserves.

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 17, 1861

A Grand Military Rally in Mill Town, Berrien County.

A mass meeting of the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity convened in the Baptist Church in the above mentioned village.
   The Rev. Mr. Talley, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the meeting with singing and prayer, after which on motion of Mrs. JAS. S. HARRIS, Mrs. SUSAN A DAWSON was called to the Chair, and Miss E. BRANNON requested to act as Secretary.
     The object of the meeting was then explained from the Chair, which was —
     1st. The presentation of a beautiful flag representing the flag of the Confederate States.
     2d. The forming of themselves into an association of ladies for the purpose of preparing necessary articles of clothing, bandages, lints, &c., for the volunteer company, the Berrien Minute Men, while in camp or battle field.
     3d. For the purpose of taking up contributions for the benefit of the company, and for other purposes.
     The association being formed, on motion of Mrs. C. W. CRAWFORD, the Chair was requested to appoint two ladies and two gentlemen to take up a collection.  Miss E. LASTINGER and Mrs. HARRIS were appointed to take up a collection among the ladies; Mr WILEY E. BAXTER and Mr. DANIEL B. McDONALD to take collection from the gentlemen.
      It was, on motion, suggested that the Chair appoint some lady to present the flag to the company in behalf of the ladies of Berrien.
      The Chair suggested the name of Mrs. E. J. G. CRAWFORD, who accepted the appointment.
      Upon motion, the meeting adjourned; and a messenger despatched to the company (who were on parade in the streets) to inform the Captain that the ladies were ready to present the flag.  The Captain marched his company up in front of the Church. Capt. KNIGHT and his officers formed six paces in front, and announced themselves ready; when Mrs. CRAWFORD advanced with flag-staff in hand, at the top of which floated to the breeze the beautiful flag of the Confederate States, and addressed the Captain as follows:
        Captain Levi J. Knight and Gentlemen of the Berrien Minute Men: We, the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity, present you this flag, wishing you to present it to your ensign in our behalf. Brave volunteers! may you march forth under its stars to defend your country’s cause. The tocsin of war is resounding through our land.  From James’ and Sullivan’s Islands its first peals were heard, saying “We no longer submit to Northern aggression.”  Numbers of our brave countrymen are already in the field, firmly and proudly bearing arms defensive of our rights and our soil against the hostile invaders. Others are rushing on to the rescue.  For freedom they fight – for freedom will die.  Brothers! go join them. Rally for truth, for liberty, and our own happy South.
        This bright sunny land of our birth, and our homes inherited from our fathers, the brave old patriots of ’76, let their spirits inspire your souls to preserve that freedom for which they fought and bled.  Spread this fair flag to the breeze of Heaven; long and proudly may it float to the gaze.
       In every conflict with the foe, remember this flag waves over you. Those bars and seven stars represent our Southern Confederate flag, recently formed for our protection. Guard them with distinguished care, and never, oh! never let them fall to the dust in dishonor.
       Your trial, your toils, your hardships in this warfare may be many, very many; but be firm and unyielding, courageous and brave, true be each man to his post, dealing out death to foe, fighting for freedom, our rights, our homes, and the South.  Each heart will grow bolder, each arm will grow stronger, each eye will be brightened in view of success. Think not of those you leave behind you, but press onward to the glory in battle.  Our hearts, though riven with anguish, will ever be with you, and our prayers continually ascending to Him who defendeth our cause.  Then, brave soldiers, with God on your side and our prayers in your behalf, be sure you will conquer at last. Let your watch-word be triumph, or die in the ranks of the foe.
        Many were the tears that trickled down thousands of fair cheeks that composed the vast assembly that surrounded the fair and eloquent speaker. She advanced silently and presented the flag to Capt. Knight.  Upon receiving it he advanced two paces and replied as follows:
Fair lady accept our thanks for yourself and those you represent, for this beautiful and highly appreciated banner. When the aggressions of the North became so oppressive, we no longer could bear them without degradation; we withdrew from the old Confederacy, and assumed the right which the God of Nature has bestowed on every free and patriotic people – the formation of a government that will best accure to them the blessings and protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; but we are now threatened with subjugation; yea, the fiat has gone forth from the Black Republic President, that we must be subjugated, and is now arming his minions to force us to submit.  That the fair of our land should feel indignant, is but natural; but for you, fair Lady, and your associates, have been prompted by a nobler and loftier patriotism, felt only by the virtuous and intelligent.

        This beautiful flag, to which you have so happily allude and so delicately presented, will, I trust, stimulate every member of this Company to do his whole duty to his country and to you. May your generosity, confidence, labors, and anticipations be not in vain. May we ever merit that confidence; and should we meet the enemy, which there is now every possibility we will, I trust this beautiful flag will be the beacon that will guide this Company to noble deeds. – Though its beauty may be tarnished and soiled with the hardships of the camp; through its beautiful folds may be purforated with the enemy’s bullets, I trust it will never trail in disgrace. – While you fair lady, and the fair of this community, manifest such a noble spirit of patriotism, you can never want stout hearts and strong arms to defend and protect you.
        In behalf of the members of this Company, I tender to you our grateful acknowledgements.
        Notice was then given to the Captain, that a sumptuous dinner had been prepared at the Hotel by the ladies. The Company was then marched up in the front of the Hotel; orders were given to stack arms, which was done in beautiful order, and orders given to repair to the table – about 100 feet in length, and weighted down with many, very many, of the goodly things of our sunny South.
        Permit me, further, to state, Mr. Editor, that the Company numbers 80 as brave, patriotic and fine looking men as the Southern Confederacy can produce – well uniformed, with the first quality of muskets and sword bayonets. There is another volunteer company being bade up in our county, which I think will be complete in a few days – all brave as Sparters.

Soon Captain Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men would be bound for Brunswick, GA.  There, they would join the Thomasville Guards, Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Seaboard Guards, Piscola Volunteers, Wiregrass Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles in the defense of the port of Brunswick. In August, 1861, these companies and others would be mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment. (In a later reorganization, the Berrien Minute Men would be transferred to Savannah and mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.)

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Fred Manning Cersey

Fred Manning Cersey

Fred Manning Cersey. Image source: Parkjoann1

Fred Manning Cersey. Image source: Parkjoann1

Fred Manning Cersey  was a son of Manning Andrew Cersey and  Lula M. Goodin, of Ray City, GA. He was born November 27, 1923, just three weeks after the death of his older brother Jewel Cersey (1916- November 7, 1923).  Fred M. Cersey was a grandson of Henry Thomas Cersey and Missouri “Louannie” Whitely.  His grandfather was a primitive Baptist and a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City, GA.

Fred’s father did not have a farm of his own.  As a young man, his father rented and worked as a farm laborer. In 1917, he was working as a farm laborer for Thomas Futch.   In the 1920s, Fred’s father was one of the sawmill fireman at the big Clements Sawmill at Ray City, GA on the line of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  The Cersey family lived in the company settlement in a rented home.  Another fireman at the sawmill plant was J. D.  Melvin.

In the 1930 Census, Fred lived in Militia District 1157, Berrien County, GA with his father Manning Cersey (42), mother Lula Goodin Cersey (35), and siblings Clinton (17), Pauline (10), and Clifford (2 1/2).  His father was then self-employed as a farmer.

Fred Cersey was educated through the 4th grade, and afterwards went to work as a cook.  By 1835, the Cerseys were living in the lower 10th district of Berrien County, GA on the Lakeland and Willacoochee Road.  Fred was enumerated in his parents’ household there in 1940.

By 1941, Fred had moved to Jacksonville, FL where he was working for Swift & Co. as a “refiner.”  Swift and Co. was a long-running American meat processing company.  The company was a national brand emerging out of the Chicago meat packing industry.

Fred M. Cersey married Ruby E. Williams on March 7, 1942.

Ruby Estelle Williams and Fred Manning Cersery. Image Source: parkjoann1

Ruby Estelle Williams and Fred Manning Cersery. Image Source: parkjoann1

On May 19, 1943, Fred M. Cersey enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, FL.  Camp Blanding was the largest training base in Florida. Housing some 60,000, it was the fourth largest city in Florida; During World War II, approximately one million men received basic training here.

Soldiers at attention on Company Street at Camp Blanding - Starke, Florida. 1942. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31681>.

Soldiers at attention on Company Street at Camp Blanding – Starke, Florida. 1942. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31681&gt;.

After the war, the couple made their home in Jacksonville, FL.  The 1946 Polk’s City Directory for Jacksonville, FL shows they were living at 2371 McQuade street.  Fred and his brother, Clifford, worked for National Container Corp.

Later, Cersey worked for the Jefferson Smurfit Paper Company.

Fred Manning Cersey died April 7, 2002.  Burial: New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, Union County, Florida, USA

CERSEY – Fred Manning Cersey, a long time resident of Clay County passed away April 7, 2002 following a lengthy illness. He was born November 27, 1923 in Ray City, GA, the son of Manning Andrew Cersey and Lula Goodin Cersey. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army having served in WWII. He retired from Jefferson Smurfit Paper Company following 40 years of dedicated service. Fred was a happy and loving family man who enjoyed sports, music, singing, fishing and the outdoors. He was a High Priest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where he Served in many leadership roles. Surviving are his devoted and loving wife of 60 years, Ruby Williams Cersey; his daughters Patricia Ann Best (Michael), and Sheron Elaine Merrill (Roger); his son Fred DeWayne Cersey (Lana); 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren; his brothers Clinton and Clifford Cersey; half brother Thomas and half sisters Dorothy and Latrelle. He was predeceased by his first daughter Ruby Marlin Cersey. Funeral services in celebration of his life will be held 11:00 AM Wednesday April 10, 2002 at Middleburg Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 4342 Highway 218, Middleburg, FL with Elder James F. Wheeler officiating. Mr. Cersey will be laid to rest with his daughter in New Zion Cemetery following services. Family members and friends will gather on Tuesday evening (TONIGHT) from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM at JACKSONVILLE MEMORY GARDENS FUNERAL HOME, 111 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park.

Grave of Fred Manning Cersey and Ruby L. Williams. New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, FL

Grave of Fred Manning Cersey and Ruby L. Williams. New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, FL

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Indian War Service of the Douglass Family

Special thanks to Wm Lloyd Harris for sharing research and contributing portions of this post.

In 1862, Albert Benjamin Douglass appeared as one of the deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Infantry.   He actually had a quite colorful record of service, prompting reader Wm Lloyd Harris to write with additional details relating  “the rest of the story.”   Harris is a great great grandson of Albert B. Douglass.

Military service was something of a tradition in the Douglass family.  Albert’s father and four brothers served in the Indian Wars in Florida between 1836 and 1858.

American Soldier, 1839. Depicted in winter and summer garb.

American Soldier, 1839, with an Indian guide. Depicted in winter and summer garb. Print by H. Charles McBarron.

Albert Benjamin Douglass was born in 1833, probably in Hamilton County, FL. His father, Seaborn Douglass, was born in Montgomery County, GA about 1800 and came to  Hamilton County, FL in the late 1820s. Seaborn Douglass and his family appear in the 1830 census of  Hamilton County.  The Douglass place in Hamilton County, FL was apparently located about eight miles from the home of Captain Archibald McRae.

Douglass Family  in the Indian Wars

Albert Douglass’  four brothers, Allen D. Douglass, Burrell Douglass, William Douglass, and Robert Douglass, and his father, Seaborn Douglass,  all served in  the  Indian Wars 1835-1858.

In 1836, Seaborn Douglass and his son Allen Douglass mustered into Captain Peter W. Law’s Company of the 13th Regiment, First Brigade of the Florida Militia.  Captain Law was the proprietor and post master of Law’s Store in Hamilton County (exact location unknown).  Miltary records of  the 13th regiment note that Seaborn Douglass was on foot. The company was ordered into service on June 15, 1836 at Camp Collins, Middle Florida.  This was just one month before the Indian raid on William Parker’s place and the Battle of Brushy Creek in Lowndes County, just across the state line in Georgia.  The enlistment was for six months, ending October 15, 1836.

On January 27, 1837 Seaborn Douglass mustered in at Fort Reed for six months service in  Captain Francis J. Ross’ Company of the 1st Regiment, 2nd Brigade of Florida Mounted Militia (“Old Greys”).   The fort was situated near present day Speer Grove Park, Sanford, FL according to a “Fort Reid” historic marker placed at the site. The marker indicates Fort Reid was established in 1840, but Florida Militia service records indicate a Fort Reed existed as early as 1837.  There has been much debate over the name of Fort Reed, it being alternately known as Fort Read, and Fort Reid.

“The long-gone stockade dates to the days when the Army established Camp Monroe (later Fort Mellon) as the first of a string of forts that stretched to the gulf as part of the military’s effort to drive the Seminoles out of Florida and capture runaway slaves. Fort Reid was the nearest satellite stockade, just a few miles south. It was used as a commissary and soldiers camp along a portion of the mule team trail (Mellonville Avenue) that Gen. Zachary Taylor laid out to haul supplies to soldiers at Fort Maitland, Fort Gatlin (Orlando) and Fort Brook (Tampa).

Eight two-story frame homes were erected near Fort Reid. From a cupola at one of the larger homes, settlers sent signals to the fort if they saw Seminoles.

Whitner’s history of Mellonville, though, says the settlers sometimes considered the soldiers – many of them uncouth, rough militiamen – as much a menace as the Indians.

”The soldiers depredated the farms, turning their horses into the fields, killed cattle, exterminated poultry, robbed beehives, then overturned and destroyed them,” writes Whitner.

The soldiers also amused themselves by laying out race tracks west of Mellonville Avenue.”

On June 16, 1837, Seaborn Douglass and his son Allen D. Douglass, traveled the eight miles from their home to  the place of Captain Archibald McRae (or McRay) where they were mustered into “Captain A. McRae’s Mounted Company of the 2nd Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2nd Brigade Florida Militia commanded by Col. William J. Mills.  This unit entered into the service of the United States on the requisition of Major Thomas S. Jesup to serve for six months, unless sooner discharged.” The company was enrolled at Mineral Springs, FL and was reorganized July 20, 1837 into two companies, Seaborn and Allen Douglass  being placed into Captain George W. Smith’s Company.   Men of the Mounted Volunteers provided their own horses, and Seaborn’s mount was a Bay horse. Apparently, Seaborn’s horse died on December 13, days before the company mustered out at Fort Gilliland, FL.  On December 18, 1837, Major S. Churchhill inspected the company of East Florida Mounted Volunteers at Fort Gilliland, “who are hereby honorably discharged from the service of the United States.”

In 1838, Allen Douglass was mustered back into service in Captain G. W. Smith’s Company of the Battalion of Middle Florida Mounted Volunteers, Major John L.Taylor commanding, from March 22, 1838 to September 23, 1838.  The company was mustered in March 22, 1838 at Hamilton County, FL. Records note Allen Douglas was among those men absent at first muster and subsequent musters.

In 1839 the father, Seaborn Douglass, was mustered back into service in Captain Allen G. Johnson’s Company of Mounted Florida Volunteers Militia ordered into the service of the United States by General Zachary Taylor from September 6, 1839 to January 9, 1840.  A. G. Johnson’s company mustered in at Camp Bailey, Jefferson County, FL, and mustered out at the same location on January 6, 1840.

Burrell Douglass also served in this unit from September 6 until November 30, 1839, according to the sworn affadavits of Captain Allen G. Johnson; of Lieutenant Hansford R. Alford; and of Private James Lee.  Lt. Hansford R. Alford attested that Burrell Douglass rendered all service required, was well armed and mounted, and was discharged because there were more men in service than were authorized. Captain Johnson stated in 1846 that, contrary to his wishes,  Burrell Douglass was discharged.  Johnson reported that Douglass rendered good and efficient service and that he was discharged without pay.

In 1856, Allen D. Douglass and William Douglass went into  Captain William H. Kendrick’s Independent Company of Mounted Florida Volunteers Militia ordered into the service of the United States for a term of six months on December 6, 1856 at Fort Broome and marched 40 miles to station at Fort Brooke, FL. At enlistment, William’s horse was appraised at $150 with $5 worth of equipment; Allen’s horse was a $75 dollar animal with $20 tack.

In 1857, Robert Douglass served in Captain Lucius A. Hardee’s Company, 1st Regiment of Florida Mounted Volunteers. The company was organized at Jacksonville, East Florida, in July 1857 and marched from there to Ocala, FL, the place of General Rendezvous.

William Douglas mustered into Captain Edward T. Kendrick’s Company of Florida Mounted Volunteers at Fort Brooke, FL, February 16, 1858. William deserted April 25, 1858.

∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫·∫

By 1838, Seaborn Douglass had moved his family to Lowndes County, GA. County tax records show Seaborn Douglass was late to pay his poll tax that year, although no taxes were assessed for any land holdings or slaves in Lowndes County. Seaborn Douglass appeared in the 1840 Lowndes County census with his children;   no spouse is found in his household.

Children of Seaborn Douglass:

  1. unknown daughter (b. 1821)
  2. Allen Dickerson Douglass (1822 – 1919)
  3. Burrell Douglass (1825 – September 8, 1884)
  4. William Riley Douglass (1830 – ca. 1895)
  5. Robert Douglass (1833-1862)
  6. Albert Benjamin Douglass (1835 – )
  7. Rose or Rosean  Douglass (1839 – 1905),
  8. unknown daughter (b. 1840)

Seaborn Douglass is believed to have died about 1843 in Lowndes County, Georgia.

 

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