Death Lurked in the North Channel

November 11 is Armistice Day commemorating the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. (Armistice Day Memorial to Soldiers from Berrien County, GA Killed During WWI )

Death Lurked in the North Channel

When the HMS Otranto troopship sank  during the closing days of World War I, men of Berrien County, GA were among the victims and survivors.   The Otranto broke apart on the rocks off the coast of Islay, Scotland after being rammed by the HMS Kashmir.  The two vessels were among 13 troopships in Convoy HX50 which departed New York harbor in September 1918.  Hundreds of men perished in the Otranto sinking.  Five Berrien County men survived the ordeal:  James Marvin DeLoach,  James Grady Wright, Henry Elmo DeLaney,  Ange Wetherington and  Early Steward.     The Kashmir was damaged in the collision, but made it to port at the Firth of Clyde.   On the fifth anniversary of the loss of the Otranto, John Hedrick McCarroll, a Davenport, IA soldier who witnessed the collision from the deck of the HMS Kashmir, wrote about his experience. McCarroll was a newspaper reporter for the Davenport Daily Times which published his story, transcribed below.

 

John Hedrick McCarroll, of Davenport, IA was aboard the HMS Kashmir when she collided with the HMS Otranto on October 6, 1918. Image source: villageplanter1

John Hedrick McCarroll, of Davenport, IA was aboard the HMS Kashmir when she collided with the HMS Otranto on October 6, 1918. Image source: villageplanter1

ROLL CALL OF THE OTRANTO DEAD FROM BERRIEN COUNTY, GEORGIA

 

[ Note: The article below reflects the institutionalized prejudice that existed in the U.S. Army during WWI. Despite the fact that units such as the Buffalo Soldiers fought with valor and distinction, African-American soldiers were rarely allowed any opportunity to participate in combat roles. Most of the 350,000 African-American WWI soldiers were assigned to support roles in segregated units.  The commander of the American Expeditionary Force, General John J. Pershing, said privately,We must not eat with them, must not shake hands with them, seek to talk to them or to meet with them outside the requirements of military service. We must not commend too highly these troops, especially in front of white Americans.”   The 600 African-American soldiers aboard the Kashmir were bound  for stevedore duty at the American Army docks, with two white officers “in charge of the negroes.”   While the white soldiers’ response  to the emergency was described as “assembled in platoon formation…inspiring, almost heroic…standing stiffly at attention”, the article characterizes the “negro soldiers in panic…fear crazed,” confused and on the verge of mutiny. ]

An American soldier on board the troopship Kashmir when it collided with and wrecked the troopship Otranto off the coast of Northern Scotland on October 6, 1918, furnished a description of the rescue of troops from the Otranto by the destroyer HMS Mounsey

An American soldier on board the troopship Kashmir when it collided with and wrecked the troopship Otranto off the coast of Northern Scotland on October 6, 1918, furnished a description of the rescue of troops from the Otranto by the destroyer HMS Mounsey

Davenport Daily Times
October 6, 1923

Death Lurked in North Channel for Davenport Men

Troopship Carrying Them To France in Crash Off Rocky Coast of Scotland

        Today is the fifth anniversary of the collision of the troopships Kashmir and Otranto of the British navy, engaged in carrying American troops to France, off the coast of Northern Scotland. To a large number of Davenport men, the memories of five years ago are not entirely agreeable although they still quicken the pulse of the several hundred Davenporters whose lot it was to be passengers on the Kashmir. They were members of the 126th Field Artillery of the 34th division. Some were in Battery B, others in Battery D and a score or more in the supply company. All three units were originally organized in Davenport as part of the First Iowa Field Artillery, which became the 126th Field Artillery upon its mobilization at Camp Cody, New Mexico.
        The following story of the collision and wrecking of the Otranto, as viewed from the Kashmir, was written by a Times reporter who was a member of the 126th Field Artillery.

 

 

BY JOHN H. M’CARROLL

          Five years ago this morning, and the waters of the North Channel running wild.
         A fog, impenetrable and heavy as a blanket, hung about us, while a furious inferno of waves tossed our little ship, the H.M.S. Kashmir, about like a winter gale whipping a falling leaf. Somewhere off to starboard and aft were the other twelve boats in our convoy – we knew that from the sound of their fog horns as they felt their bewildered way through the murk: now heard plainly as one or the other came close and now faintly as they shied away from our own screeching horn.
         Thirteen days out from Hoboken and rumor rampant above and below deck that this was the day we were due in Liverpool, brought all who could move to the upper deck with the coming of the day, keenly awaiting the first sight of anticipated land. Christopher Columbus’ mutinous crew could not have sought more anxiously for sight of land which they did not know nor yet believe lay ahead of them, than did the two thousand or more land-born and land-loving soldiers who made up the cargo of that glorified cattle boat, thirteen long days and nights out of the port of New York.
         Then, suddenly, off to the east, the fog lifted enough to give us who were anxiously watching, a fleeting view of land. Far from inviting, it is true, was that brief sight of the wave-washed and forbidding shore of Northern Scotland, but to men, the vast majority of whom were experiencing their first ocean voyage, it might have been a glimpse of Paradise itself!
         Someone shouted. Quickly the port rail was a crowding, seething mass of khaki. The valiant troopship, regardless of what might and had been said about it by weary and seasick soldiers in the long days and nights of that frightful trip, accomplished something of a miracle by resisting what must have been a mighty impulse to turn over on her side and dump us all into the sea. She likely listed to port with the added weight so quickly rushed to her portside, but it is a certainty that if she did, there was a wave waiting to meet her sufficiently to send her tilting back to a starboard list.

The Fog Descends

          The fog descended to the water again and shut off the sight of land. We stood around on deck for a while, waiting in vain for the curtain to lift, then trooped jubilantly below deck for our breakfast rations.
          At long tables, placed sidewise of the boat, we ate our meals as best we could, juggling food and mess kits on a surface similar in many respects to a roller coaster, as a playful sea bandied the vessel about. Some of us – no, most of us, were strangely destitute of appetite or taste for food. Both had disappeared with the fading skyline of New York and the coming of the rough water of the open sea, our first day out, and had not as yet been recovered. A few hardy souls, though, never knew a day of seasickness on the entire trip and while the rations were aplenty, they generally managed to take advantage of the proferred food of less fortunate and genuinely miserable fellow passengers.
         In the midst of the meal, with the boat rocking from side to side, as it had rocked from the first day, there came a new and mysterious plunge of the ship. It came suddenly – a thrump! – and a jar that shook us from our seats.
         “That was the wrong kind of a wave,” laughingly remarked a sergeant, picking himself up from the floor, while the smile froze on his face as from afar off came the six short whistle blasts – the dreading warning of a submarine attack, a warning in which we had been repeatedly schools since shortly after coming on the boat.
         The guards, stationed at the bulkhead openings took up the alarm with their whistles and it traveled rapidly back to the stern and the sick bay where we were quartered with some 600 or more seasick and flu-stricken soldiers.

Guards Close Doors

          With the blasts came the grinding and crashing of heavy steel doors as the guards, in compliance with orders, made haste to convert the vessel into a series of watertight compartments – their first duty in the event of a submarine alarm.
         We in the sick bay had our instructions also. At the sounding of the alarm we rushed to previously assigned patients and as rapidly as possible hurried them into life-belts.
         The boat was still rocking but there was a weird silence, broken only by the groans and moans of the sick men and the voices of the hospital corps men, urging their patients to assist in getting the life-belts on. No one stopped to analyze the silence – not until sometime later did we realize that the engines had been stopped.
         Their awkward lifebelts strapped on the three or four patients to whom I had been assigned, my curiosity overcame whatever timidity I might have felt, and I ventured up on deck.
         What I saw when I reached there, and gazed forward, gave me something to remember always – and gave me too, an assortment of varied emotions never before or since experienced.
         The fog had lifted slightly. I saw a huge ship, instantly recognized as the Otranto of our own convoy, to all appearances lying directly on top of the bow of our own ship. We had rammed it squarely amidship, in the fog!
         Then a great rushing mountain of a wave struck us and the Otranto was carried away from her right-angled perch on the bow of our boat.
         Another mountain of water came rushing on, struck the floundering ships and the Otranto swung around to our port side, revealing for the first time, the wicked damage of our own knife-like steel bow. As easily as a butcher knife cutting into butter, our bow had pierced the heavy armor of the ship, tearing and shattering its way through the steel and timber of the decks and frame and leaving a great gaping wound from which, at the water line, clouds of steam were rolling up as the chilled waters flooded the boiler and engine rooms of the boat.

Troops Crowd Rails

          Panic-stricken passengers, the kahki of the American soldier and the blue of the British sailor, were crowding the rails or rushing about on the upper decks. The bodies of those unfortunates caught below deck as the knife-like thrust of our bow cut into the heart of the the troopship, were falling through the fissure in its heavy armor and sinking as rapidly as they struck the tempestuous sea. A few bodies, lifebelts on, were held aloft on the crest of the waves and were rapidly washing out to sea.
          As wave after wave struck the stricken liner, listing badly to port and sinking rapidly, it drifted further away from our own boat, in the direction of the rocky shore, now more plainly visible with the lifting of the fog. At a time when it seemed as though the boat must break in two and go down, it was caught on the crest of a tremendous wave and plunged, bow first, onto the ragged ledge of rocks extending out from the coast.
         And as it crashed onto that forbidding shore, from afar off, skipping over the violent seas as lightly and quickly as a gull, came a little destroyer, flying high up on its mast, the Union Jack of the British navy. Never hesitating for a minute, the gallant little warship swung close to the wrecked liner. There was a fleeting glimpse of bodies hurling themselves from the towering rails onto the decks of the speeding destroyer and of still others failing to estimate the jump and dropping like leaden pellets into the sea, struggling for a few tragic seconds and then disappearing below the surface of the raging waters. Like a flash the destroyer swung about and headed back through the waves again for the rapidly sinking troopship. Again it swung close, as close as the turbulent sea would permit, and agin desperate passengers jumped for its decks in a last attempt to stave off the hovering spectre of death.

         Ignoring the peril to itself and crew, the doughty little destroyer made repeated trips to the doomed transport and as our own vessel drifted out of the range of vision, it was still at its heroic task.

          In the meantime, on our own boat, a strange silence prevailed. Forward on the three decks, the troops were assembled in platoon formation at the lifeboat stations. There was something inspiring, almost heroic in the sight of those khaki-clad men, standing stiffly at attention and looking out on a vast expanse of churning water in which all must have realized there was little hope for life should the boat go down.

Soliders in Panic

          Further aft, there was more confusion, on that portion of the deck assigned to some six hundred negro soldiers, going abroad for stevedore duty at the American army docks. The two white officers in charge of the negroes were experiencing difficulty in keeping them in formation and were only partially succeeding in avoiding a panic by freely displaying their automatics.
          One giant of a man, dodging from the ranks, slipped over to the rail of the deck and with a pocket knife was severing the ropes holding a cylindrical life preserver to the rail.
          An officer spied him.
          “Get back, you!” he roared and brandished his automatic in the startled, fear-crazed negro’s face. Dropping the knife, the giant slunk back into line. A few of the poor devil’s were praying, their mutterings and mumblings sounding above the roar of the waves beating against the boat.
           Still further aft, on the poop deck, at the entrance to the stairway leading to the sick bay, a small group had gathered. The regimental chaplain was there, after fighting his way back from the soldiers’ mess where he was breakfasting when the crash came.
            Beside him stood the regimental surgeon in the uniform of a major. There was a haggard, drawn look on the face of both men, the result of constant administering to the sick and dying during the crossing voyage, coupled with this new and graver danger which threatened well men together with sick.
           A few of the crew, a tough, uncouth and hardened lot, hovered about the wheel house, all watching with strained eyes the plight of the doomed transport off to our port side.
           After what seemed like hours of waiting, but which was in reality only half an hour if not less, an orderly came struggling aft, pushing his way through the disordered ranks of negroes and clambering rapidly up the narrow steel stairway leading to the poop deck and entrance to the sick bay.
          He stopped in front of the major, saluted stiffly, and in a few hasty words reported that the boat would stay afloat, then saluted again, turned on his heel and treaded his way back toward the forward decks.

Joy Greets Report

          A hospital orderly, standing near the major, heard the message and let out a joyous shout, which was taken up by others and was soon traveling the length and breadth of the boat. It was a great shout of relief and of suppressed excitement.
          In a few minutes the engines were again grumbling and soon the transport began moving ahead. The other boats of the convoy had disappeared, but in their place were a half dozen or more destroyers, out to meet and escort us into harbor.
           All day long we sailed down the coast of Scotland, past little white lighthouses, glistening in the sunlight from their precarious positions atop protruding rocks, past Ailsa Crag, jutting up in the sea like a sand dune on the desert, and past quaint little villages ad hamlets nestled in the rocky shores. As twilight descended, we dropped anchor in the unruffled waters of the Firth of Clyde. To the wearied, nervous and excited men aboard the ship, the twinkling lights on shore were as the lights of home, on the night of that tumultuous day.
          Early next morning a tugboat steamed out to our anchored boat, fastened its steel cable to the shattered bow and towed us down the Clyde river. At nightfall we tied up at the Glasgow dock where we unloaded and marched to waiting troop trains which carried us speedily to camp in the southern part of England.
          It was a week later when we learned, for the first time, of the fate of those aboard the Otranto. Of the twelve hundred men who had sailed from Hoboken, six hundred or more of whom were British sailors and marines composing the crew of the vessel, an auxiliary cruiser of the British navy, less than half were taken off by the valiant British destroyer, the Mounsey, as the boat pounded itself to pieces off the coast of Scotland. A very few, cast into the seas as the boat finally broke in two and sank, were washed ashore and lived to tell about it, but on the rocky shore near where the catastrophe occurred, tenderhearted natives spent days in recovering and burying the bodies of the victims of the ill-fated crash.
           They were laid away side by side and the plot of ground was for several years known as the Otranto cemetery, until the removal of most of the bodies of Americans to their native land, led to the abandonment of the burying ground.
          American tourists who have visited the spot in Northern Scotland in recent years report only a few scattered graves remaining, those of British sailors and marines, unclaimed by relatives or friends.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 6

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 6: In Regular Service

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.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time on the tidewater, fighting boredom and disease…Finally, the 29th Regiment was reported ready for service.

On January 14, 1862, Brigadier General Alexander Robert Lawton informed Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper that the regiment had been properly mustered in as the 29th GA Volunteer Infantry.

Head Quarters, Dept of Geo

Savannah Jany 14th 1862

General S. Cooper
Adjt Inspector General
             Richmond
                               General
                                             I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a letter of the 10th inst from the Ajt General’s Office, inquiring if Col R Spalding’s 29th Geo Regiment has been properly mustered in or not.
                                            In reply I beg leave to say that it is a full regiment and has been for some months regularly in service
                                           I have the honor to be, very Respy
                                                                         Your Obdt Servt
                                                                          A R Lawton
                                                                         Brig Genl Comg

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 to Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry.  (In 1864, General Cooper stayed the execution of Confederate deserter Burrell Douglass. Cooper is credited for the preservation of Confederate service records after the war).

A Regimental Surgeon, William P. Clower, was finally appointed on January 18, 1862. Surgeon Clower’s brother, John T. Clower, would later serve as the doctor in Ray’s Mill (now Ray City, GA). The surgeon was a welcome addition, but the health conditions of the Regiment did not immediately improve.  James Madison Harrell was sent home sick.  Alfred B. Finley, who joined the Berrien Minute Men at Darien, contracted measles and lost an eye to complications; despite that disability he would continue to serve with the 29th Regiment.  Hiram F. Harrell contracted measles and died at Darien, GA.  Edward Morris contracted measles and “camp fever” and never recovered; he died a few weeks later at Savannah, GA.

The 29th Regiment’s tenure on Sapelo would soon be over.  Before the end of January, the 29th GA regiment would be called up to the coastal defenses at Savannah.  When the regiment finally left Darien, John Lindsey, William Hall, and James Newman and John R. Langdale were left behind, sick. William Anderson, who had been on sick leave in October, had a relapse and was also left in Darien.  Thomas J. Lindsey, David D. Mahon and Robert H. Goodman were detailed to Darien as  nurses. John W. McClellan was also detailed to remain at Darien. Malcolm McCranie died of measles at Darien on February 2, 1862 and Ellis H. Hogan  died February 25, 1862. In the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, George Harlan was disabled and discharged at Darien on February 17, 1862 and Francis M. Dixon died of typhoid pneumonia at Darien the following day.

The defense of Georgia’s sea islands quickly proved untenable against the strength of the Union Navy. By early December 1861 U.S. forces had occupied Tybee Island off the coast of Savannah, and were landing ordnance and constructing batteries there.  By the end of January, 1862 U.S. Navy vessel  were maneuvering to enter the Savannah River, and threatened to cut off Fort Pulaski from Savannah. On the South Carolina side, U.S. troops occupied Daufuskie Island and constructed batteries on Bird Island and at Venus Point on Jones Island.
General Lee was desperate to shore up Confederate artillery defending Savannah, Georgia’s chief seaport. To strengthen the Savannah defenses, General Lee instructed General Mercer at Brunswick to remove the  batteries on St. Simon’s and Jekyll islands if the defense of those positions became untenable, and to forward the artillery to Savannah.  By this time the sea island planters had moved their property inland, and the residents of Brunswick had abandoned the city. By February 16, 1862 General Mercer reported the guns had been removed from Jekyll and St. Simons and shipped to Savannah and Fernandina. At the retreat of the 4th Georgia Battalion and Colonel Cary W. Styles 26th Georgia Regiment from Brunswick, General Mercer wanted to burn the city as a show of determination not to be occupied by U.S. forces.
With the withdrawal of the 29th Georgia Regiment from Sapelo Island, the Confederates abandoned the defense of Darien altogether. Indeed, the Savannah Republican newspaper of June 27, 1862 reported “two Yankee gunboats had passed Darien some four or five miles up the river, seemingly to destroy the railroad bridges across the Altamaha… A gunboat had been up the river as far as Champion’s Island – Nightingale’s Plantation…she was seen lying at Barrett’s Island, about three miles from the town, having in charge a two mast schooner that had been hid up the river.”  The schooner was believed to have been loaded with rice. The coast around St. Simon’s, Doboy, Sapelo and St. Catherines was said to be infested with Yankee steamers. The coastal inhabitants feared that crops in fields bordering the rivers would be destroyed by the Union forces;  “They have already stolen a goodly number of our slaves, thus curtailing our provisions crops…” 
Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Company G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Companies G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

 

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Berrien Minute Men On the Square

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

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

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

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

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA

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

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

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

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

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

A Brave Band of Men.

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

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

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

 

About the Courthouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tifton Gazette
September 20, 1901

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

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

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An Otranto Funeral in Belfast

An Otranto Funeral in Belfast

Perhaps no county paid a greater toll in WWI than Berrien County, Georgia. Twenty-three of her young men perished in the sinking of the H.M. S. Otranto just weeks before the war ended.

When survivors of the Otranto shipwreck  were ferried by the H.M.S. Mounsey to Belfast, Ireland  the American Red Cross was there waiting for their arrival.  James Marvin DeLoach,  with many Ray City GA, connections, and James Grady Wright of Adel, GA, Henry Elmo DeLaney of Nashville, GA and Ange Wetherington  were among nearly 450 men who had managed to leap from the rails of the Otranto to the deck of the rescue ship Mounsey and were landed in Belfast.

A hundred and fifty of the survivors  had been badly injured in the jump, the injuries ranging from split skulls to broken ribs, broken legs and the like.  On the decks of the dangerously overloaded Mounsey, the men clung for their lives to whatever handholds they could grab.  Many suffered from exposure on the trip to Belfast, some perished. Others contracted pneumonia and died after reaching Belfast.

Most of the hundreds of soldiers who were left behind on the Otranto perished in the sea. A scant 17 managed to survive the swim to the rocky coast of Islay, Scotland, among them Early Stewart of Berrien County, GA. For the hundreds of dead who washed ashore, two funerals were held on Islay.

A Third funeral for American soldiers from the Otranto occurred at Belfast, Ireland on October 11, 1918. Seventeen of the men of the Otranto were interred in the city cemetery in Belfast, victims of the Otranto Disaster and men who had died from Pneumonia after reaching Belfast.   Belfast stopped in respect as the funeral procession passed from the Victoria barracks, through Royal Ave, to the City Cemetery. Everywhere the streets were crowded with people who gathered to pay tribute to the honored dead. The flag-draped coffins were carried on open hearses, two on each conveyance, with a guard of honor composed of British soldiers marching alongside.  There were many floral wreaths, sent by the American Red Cross, the Belfast Care Committee, and other Belfast civic organizations. The band of mourners who marched behind the coffins included the Lord Mayor of Belfast, the American Consul, and representatives of the American and British army and navy,  the Red Cross, and various local civic organizations.

An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, a public funeral was held in Belfast for twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto disaster, and men who died from pneumonia after being landed in Ireland from a troopship. The march through the city, from the Victoria barracks to the City Cemetary. Everywhere the streets were crowded with people who had gathered to pay tribute to the honored dead. The coffins were carried on open hearses, two on each conveyance, with a guard of honor composed of British soldiers, marching beside the coffins, each of which was covered with an American flag http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10185a

An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, twelve American soldier victims of the Otranto Disaster and men who had died from Pneumonia after being landed from a troopship were buried in the City Cemetery. The photograph shows the funeral procession passing through Royal Ave. The wreaths shown in the picture were chiefly gifts of the Belfast Care Committee of the American Red Cross http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10185a

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An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, a public funeral was held in Belfast for twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto disaster, and men who died from pneumonia after being landed in Ireland from a troopship. The march through the city, from the Victoria barracks to the City Cemetary. Everywhere the streets were crowded with people who had gathered to pay tribute to the honored dead. The coffins were carried on open hearses, two on each conveyance, with a guard of honor composed of British soldiers, marching beside the coffins, each of which was covered with an American flag http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10184a

An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, a public funeral was held in Belfast for twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto disaster, and men who died from pneumonia after being landed in Ireland. The march through the city, from the Victoria barracks to the City Cemetery. Everywhere the streets were crowded with people who had gathered to pay tribute to the honored dead. The coffins were carried on open hearses, two on each conveyance, with a guard of honor composed of British soldiers, marching beside the coffins, each of which was covered with an American flag
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10184a

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British soldiers escorting American flag draped coffins http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01511a

British soldiers escorting American flag draped coffins
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01511a

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An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto and also several pneumonia cases, were buried in the City Cemetery. The band of mourners who marched behind the coffins included representatives of the American and British army and navy, of the Red Cross, and various local civic organizations. There was also the Lord Mayor, the American Consul and others<br /> http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10186a

An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto and also several pneumonia cases, were buried in the City Cemetery. The band of mourners who marched behind the coffins included representatives of the American and British army and navy, of the Red Cross, and various local civic organizations. There was also the Lord Mayor, the American Consul and others
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10186a

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An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto and also several pneumonia cases, were buried in the City Cemetery. British soldiers formed the guard of honor for the coffins, as they were carried through the principal streets of Belfast. The photograph shows the procession entering the gates of the cemetery http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10187a

An American military funeral in Belfast, Ireland. On Oct. 11, twelve American soldiers, victims of the Otranto and also several pneumonia cases, were buried in the City Cemetery. British soldiers formed the guard of honor for the coffins, as they were carried through the principal streets of Belfast. The photograph shows the procession entering the gates of the cemetery
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10187a

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<br /> An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. Reading the funeral service for twelve American soldiers in the City Cemetery. The officiating clergymen were the Rev. William Maguire and the Rev. Father O'Kelly, CC. Eight of the soldiers belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, three to the Methodist church, one to the Baptist. American and British army officers and American Red Cross officers were the official chief mourners<br /> http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10188a


An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. Reading the funeral service for twelve American soldiers in the City Cemetery. The officiating clergymen were the Rev. William Maguire and the Rev. Father O’Kelly, CC. Eight of the soldiers belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, three to the Methodist church, one to the Baptist. American and British army officers and American Red Cross officers were the official chief mourners
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10188a

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An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. Burying a Coffin. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01512

An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. Burying a Coffin. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01512

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An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. The buglers sound the last salute to the dead. The graves are those of twelve American soldiers, part of them victims of the Otranto disaster, the remainder, men who died of pneumonia, in Belfast hospitals, after being landed from a troop ship http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10189a

An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. The buglers sound the last salute to the dead. The graves are those of American soldiers from the sinking troopship HMS Otranto who died of injuries received in the rescue, or of pneumonia in Belfast hospitals, after being landed.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10189a

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An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. Firing squad from the British army (Northumberland Fusiliers) fires the last salute at the graveside. The funeral was of twenty American soldiers on Oct. 11. Part of the men were victims of the Otranto disaster, others were men who died of pneumonia in Belfast hospitals shortly after arriving in Europe http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10190a

An American military funeral at Belfast, Ireland. Firing squad from the British army (Northumberland Fusiliers) fires the last salute at the graveside. The funeral was of twenty American soldiers on Oct. 11. Part of the men were victims of the Otranto disaster, others were men who died of pneumonia in Belfast hospitals shortly after arriving in Europe http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10190a

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A Third funeral for American soldiers from the Otranto occurred at Belfast, Ireland. The men interred in the city cemetery in Belfast, there were many floral wreaths, sent by the Red Cross and by Belfast civic organizations. On this occasion, one of the finest was inscribed “A token of esteem and sympathy from their comrades of the British army” http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10121a

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Graves in Belfast, Ireland, of American soldiers who died of Pneumonia after being rescued from the ill-fated troopship Otranto. Seventeen of the men of the Otranto are buried in this plot in the City Cemetery, Belfast. The officers are shown in front of the graves are Lieut. Horace O'Higgins of New York and Lieut. R.E. Condon of Kansas City, two of the most indefatigable workers in the task of relief and recovery after the disaster<br /> http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10120a

Graves in Belfast, Ireland, of American soldiers who died of Pneumonia after being rescued from the ill-fated troopship Otranto. Seventeen of the men of the Otranto are buried in this plot in the City Cemetery, Belfast. The officers are shown in front of the graves are Lieut. Horace O’Higgins of New York and Lieut. R.E. Condon of Kansas City, two of the most indefatigable workers in the task of relief and recovery after the disaster
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.10120a

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City Cemetery, Belfast, Ireland; American soldiers graves http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01521a

City Cemetery, Belfast, Ireland; American soldiers graves
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.01521a

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General Biddle thanks Belfast for honors paid to victims of the Otranto Disaster

General Biddle thanks Belfast for honors paid to victims of the Otranto Disaster

New York Times
October 29, 1918

BIDDLE THANKS BELFAST.

General Acknowledges the Funeral Honors to Otranto Victims.

Special Cable to the New York Times.

Belfast, Oct. 28 – Major Gen Biddle, writing to the Secretary of the Belfast Chamber of Trade, has expressed deep appreciation for the many kindly acts shown by Belfast citizens to American survivors of the Otranto. The letter says:

“Reports reaching us of the splendid funeral honors accorded to our dead soldiers in Belfast indicate that your authorities and citizens have been more than kind. Thanks also are due to those Belfst ladies and others who sent floral tributes and in other ways showed such a generous and sympathetic spirit.”

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Otranto Doctor Writes of Ship’s Final Hours

Otranto Doctor Writes of Ship’s Final Hours

In November, 1918, a few weeks after the  Otranto disaster in the closing months of WWI, survivor Dr. Charles A. Dixon, a Captain of the U.S. Medical Corps from Akron, OH, wrote a letter home to his wife describing the voyage of the ill-fated vessel.

Dr. Dixon’s harrowing escape from the doomed Otranto mirrors that of Berrien county men James Marvin DeLoach,  James Grady Wright, Henry Elmo DeLaney,  and Ange Wetherington.  Early Steward of Nashville, GA was among the very few who went into the sea and survived the swim to the rocky coast of Islay.   Almost two dozen Berrien County men  were among the hundreds of soldiers who perished in the sinking, including  Ralph Knight and Shellie Webb, of Ray City, GA.

 

Dr. Charles A. Dixon sailed on the ill-fated Otranto.

Dr. Charles A. Dixon sailed on the ill-fated Otranto.

     

In a daring rescue the H.M.S. Mounsey, pulled alongside the Otranto allowing men to jump from the sinking ship to  the deck of the  destroyer. The Mounsey carried the survivors to Belfast, Ireland where the American Red Cross was  waiting for their arrival.  Some of the rescued succumbed to exposure or mortal injuries and were buried in Belfast, Ireland.

Many, many bodies washed ashore on Islay, Scotland. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead  were Benjamin F. McCranieJim Melvin BoyettJohn Guy CoppageHiram Marcus BennettLafayett Gaskins,  William C. Zeigler and other men.  The lost Georgian soldiers were buried in mass graves  would later be honored in the Georgia WWI Memorial Book, (SEE Also Ray City, GA Veterans of World War I), and Berrien County, GA would commission the first monument to commemorate American soldiers killed in the Great War. and .

Dr. Charles A. Dixon  had boarded the Otranto at the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, NJ with the Berrien County men and other replacement recruits from Fort Screven, Georgia.  The Embarkation Service reported the steamship Otranto had sailed for England from New York, NY on September 25, 1918 at 12:40 PM with 699 military passengers. The Otranto joined Convoy HX50 transporting troops across the Atlantic to the war in Europe. But on the trip over, the HMS Kashmir collided with the Otranto, resulting in the sinking of the latter.  Charles Vogt’s harrowing story was published February 3, 1919 in the Allentown Morning Call:

 

Akron Beacon Journal
November 30, 1918

Dr. C. A. Dixon, Akron Physician Writes
Detailed Story of Sinking of H.M.S. Otranto
Off Irish Coast

         Dr. Charles A. Dixon, Akron captain of the United States Medical Corps, one of the hundreds who passed through the thrills and dangers of the sinking on Oct. 6 of the British naval vessel Otranto as a result of a collision at sea with the Kashmir, another vessel of the same convoy party, has written a long letter to his wife, residing at 143 Lods St., in which he gives some of the intimate details of the disaster from which he escaped so fortunately.
        Opening his letter with an account of the early days of the trip, during which he was very busy with an outbreak on board of the flu, he comes down to the morning of the disaster. He continues:

        “I had breakfast at 8:30 and I guess because it was Sunday, I didn’t go right into C hold as I usually did, but went up on B deck, in the officers smoking room, and was smoking a cigar and talking to the naval paymaster, when one of our army lieutenants ran from port deck into the smoking room door and yelled for us to “look out,” and sprinted away.
        “We ran to the smoking room door, which was open, and through which we could see outside on B deck, and there about a hundred yards away was the Kashmir (next boat on our port side) headed straight toward us, and looked as if it was going to hit right where we stood. The paymaster let out a yell and ran to to the starboard side deck and grabbed a stanchion, me following a close second. The crash came a moment later and did not seem to jar us greatly; in fact, so little that I sort of smiled at the way we ran.
       Then I walked around to the port side and met one of the ship’s crew who told me how badly we were damaged. It had cut us from B deck clear down to the water line, about 30 feet, anywhere from ten to 20 feet wide. Cut right into the after boiler room in such a way that the boilers were out of commission inside of ten minutes. Those who were in the stoke hold were either killed or drowned. One of our soldiers had his right foot mashed clear off at the ankle, and three non-commissioned officers in a state room were all killed. In ten minutes all lights were out, but I had rushed to my stateroom, secured my overseas orders and my life belt and got back to B deck. (My stateroom was down on D deck).
         “I then gave the soldier with the smashed foot a hypodermic and first dressing. (I forgot to say that before the collision we sighted land off starboard bow; we thought it was Tory Island on the northeast coast of Ireland.) By this time the ship had lost steerage and was wallowing in the trough of those mountain high billows. The deck was such a slant that we could not walk, except as we hung on. At the time of the collision our captain signaled the convoy to move on, as per rules of convoys. The Kashmir, with her bow all stove in, had drifted out of sight.
         The weather was so thick that we could not see very far, but it was estimated that we were six miles off shore when in collision and now we were only two miles from shore. (It sure was a rocky one.)
         The sea was so rough that it was impossible for a boat to live in it or to even launch one.  One roll of the the ship and our starboard deck at ‘B would be about ten feet from the sea, and when she rolled the other way, it was at least 50 feet. At 10:20 (the collision was about 9:20) we saw a little torpedo boat destroyer off port side, and the first leftenant came to the smoking room window and called out, “Abandon ship, every man to his boat or raft station.
          “I never hated to do anything so badly in my life as to go to C deck for my boat position (Boat No. 5) for I knew we never could launch them in that awful sea, but I thought we were all bound to swim anyhow, so went. When we got to our stations we were ordered to get out of our overcoats and take off our shoes, which we did. By that time, the crew were lowering boats on A deck and by the time they were down even with B deck they would swing out 15 feet or more when our side rolled down.  Then I saw the torpedo boat coming up on the starboard side, about 150 feet away.
         And then I thought we were to jump into the sea and she would try to throw the line out and haul us on board, but no, that daredevil of a commander had signaled to us to lower life boats to act as a buffer and he came right up to us and yelled for us to jump. Life boats were splintered like egg shells, but saved the torpedo boat’s side as she bumped. Well believe me we jumped as we got the chance. Sometimes way up forward of me then perhaps way back aft, for you must know every time she bumped, the impact with the high seas would throw the two vessels apart, and then he would either reverse his engines or go ahead and steer her back against us.
         “About the fourth time we bumped together it was favorable to our position and I had an easy leap for life. But while I was waiting for my chance I saw many leap too late or too early – either fall into the sea between the two vessels and later be crushed, or dash themselves on a rising deck from such a distance they were killed or maimed. Then again after reaching the deck of the Moundsy [HMS Mounsey], every sea was washing clear over her and many were washed off her decks into the sea and lost that way.
         After reaching the Moundsy deck, I passed aft on Starboard side, hanging on with others to anything stable enough to be safe and was repeatedly submerged by waves that would have washed me overboard had I not hung on like grim death. Our position became so crowded that we were finally shown the way into the inside of the destroyer. Manholes about the size of a sewer opening were raised up and they crowded us down into these holes as thick as we could stand, in our compartment in an engine room that seemed to be some kind of an auxiliary, anyhow, neither the boilers or engine were working, but the seas when they broke overhead would run streams down over us after taking up grease or oil from the pipes until we were sights to behold. “But it was warmer than above decks and we fared infinitely better than those on the decks who were not only wet to the skin like ourselves, but were being submerged regularly and exposed to the cold gale. Of
course, after going below we knew nothing of what went on above, but they told us that she stood by until the poor old Otranto bit the reefs and then staggered away, loaded far past the limits of safety, trying to make three different havens, but on account of the high seas could not do so and finally brought us clear to Belfast, about 140 miles distance. We landed there soon after 8 o’clock in the evening about nine hours after taking us off. The Moundsy was in command of Lieutenant Craven who is a perfect daredevil.
       “The rescue is one of the most thrilling known to the marine world and what makes it more remarkable is the fact
that our commander (Captain Davidson, who went down with his ship), ordered him not to attempt the rescue as he considered it would only mean the foundering of the Moundsy, which, by the way, was badly damaged and had to go into dry docks for repairs. Her plates were only three-eights inch steel and were loosened up so that it took three pumps all the time to keep her from filling up. Three hundred and ten soldiers and officers and about 200 of the crew were rescued, making a loss of life of a little over 600.
        “The storm held with unabating fury until Tuesday, and when boats were able to land on Isley (pronounced Iley) off the coast of Scotland they found the natives had rescued but 20 alive (17 soldiers and three sailors.) They say the Otranto had all broken up and disappeared by Monday morning, and the shore covered with wreckage 20 feet high. About 200 dead bodies were recovered, the rest were carried to sea by the tides which run very swiftly between Scotland and Ireland.
          “I lost everything, even my shoes, but have no regrets as I consider that I am indeed very lucky to be alive to enjoy the damnable weather which prevails here. I had my money belt on and so am able to buy things as I need them, except uniform, I am still wearing that greasy and dirty. When I am relieved, will no doubt be allowed to re-equip in either Liverpool or London. At each place we have quartermaster stores, and then I can draw my pay which I still have coming for September.
          “Everybody is mighty nice to me here and in a way will be sorry to leave Belfast (which by the frequency of the name leads me to suspect, must be the home of my ancestors), but I am anxious to get on to France before our victorious armies have the boches all killed or captured.
             “I did not even take a cold from my exposure, lost all my remedies and my dear little high potency case, so have not taken a dose of any kind of medicine since the collision. Never felt better in my life and now after all I have been through I do not believe I will have any more bad luck.
           “The ‘subs’ got the Irish mail steamer between Dublin and Kingstown a week ago today with a large loss of life, mostly due to high seas though, and I find that the popular idea at home that our convoys have all come through unscathed is all bunk. They have been getting some right along but no serious losses yet. War news makes very good reading these days and maybe we are licking them but I cannot believe the war is anywhere near over.
          “This letter started last night has run over into another day. It is now Saturday morning and I have to be chief mourner for another funeral which I think will be our last one as the rest are doing nicely. This makes 20 burials here (one a captain of artillery from Nebraska) and each one makes a three mile march at slow time to the cemetery.
          “I might say here that the steamer Kashmir, who rammed us, finally made port at Glascow and she was very bad with pneumonia; had signalled us Sunday morning before the collision that she had six dead on board and I hear she buried about 50 in Glascow. We think the accident was due to her having some sort of trouble with her steering gear, but I do not know.
        “But I must close and get this down to the city to the man who says he will carry it across to you.”

 

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Otranto Survivor Describes Disaster

Otranto Survivor Describes Disaster

When the troopship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918 near the end of World War I,  Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll.  Ralph Knight and Shellie Webb, of Ray City, GA were among the Berrien County men who were drowned.

Before she broke up on the rocks many men were taken off the sinking Otranto  in a daring rescue by the H.M.S. Mounsey, Lt. Francis Craven commanding.  James Marvin DeLoach,  with many Ray City connections, James Grady Wright of Adel, GA, Henry Elmo DeLaney of Nashville, GA and Ange Wetherington  were among nearly 600 men who attempted the leap from the rails of the Otranto to the deck of the rescue ship.

Survivors were ferried by the Mounsey to Belfast, Ireland where the American Red Cross was  waiting for their arrival. Not knowing when or where the disaster would come, The American Red Cross had prepared in advance for disaster.  Of those who succeeded in leaping to the deck of Mounsey, some perished from injuries or exposure and were buried in Belfast, Ireland.

Many, many bodies washed ashore on Islay, Scotland and were buried in mass graves. Berrien men among the hundreds of Otranto dead  included  Benjamin F. McCranieJim Melvin BoyettJohn Guy CoppageHiram Marcus BennettLafayett Gaskins,  William C. Zeigler and other men.  Early Steward of Nashville, GA was among the very few who washed up on the rocky coast of Islay still living.   The lost Georgian soldiers would later be honored in the Georgia WWI Memorial Book, (SEE Also Ray City, GA Veterans of World War I), and Berrien County, GA would commission the first monument to commemorate American soldiers killed in the Great War.

In the U.S., the first news of the Otranto Disaster broke in the New York Times,  in page after page of reporting.  For weeks official news of the disaster trickled in, until finally in early 1919, returning Otranto survivors were able to tell their own stories.

Charles Vogt, a soldier from Allentown, PA  had boarded the steamship Otranto at the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, NJ with the Berrien County men and other replacement recruits from Fort Screven, Georgia.  The Embarkation Service reported the steamship Otranto had sailed for England from New York, NY on September 25, 1918 at 12:40 PM with 699 military passengers. The Otranto joined Convoy HX50 transporting troops across the Atlantic to the war in Europe. But on the trip over, the HMS Kashmir collided with the Otranto, resulting in the sinking of the latter.  Charles Vogt’s harrowing story was published February 3, 1919 in the Allentown Morning Call:

Allentown Morning Call
February 3, 1919

Allentown Soldier Home After Having Seen Hard Service. Was on the Otranto.

      Now that the boys of the 57th Field Artillery are home little by little some of the experiences they have gone thru are coming to earth. Charles Vogt, son of C. C. Vogt, the jeweler, who returned with the other Allentown boys who were members of the 57th F. A. told a Morning Call reporter of the story of his trip across on the ill-fated Otranto.
      He did not leave this country with the members of the 57th Field Artillery but left this country late in September of 1917 with replacement troops from Fort Screven. On the trip across there were two troop ships, the Otranto and the Casmir [HMS Kashmir], and the convoy [HX50]. The trip across had been without incident of notice until within twelve miles of the coast of Ireland, when they were caught in the worst storm in nineteen years.
     The Casmir which was to the left of the Otranto suddenly turned about at 8:40 a. m. in the heavy sea and bore down upon the Otranto. It was lifted to the crest of a huge roller and then descended on the Otranto, catching it aft of midships on the port side and ripping the Otranto from the B-deck to below the water line, cutting a hole in the Otranto below the water line thru which a large sized touring car could be driven without trouble. The water poured into the Otranto and silenced its engines. At the same time the convoy seemed to have been swallowed in the storm and nothing was heard of it until after the storm had calmed.
      The calmness with which the Americans took things was remarkable. None of the men on board was seized with fear but calmly stood by and waited for orders. Few of the soldiers realized the serious position they were in. All imagined that a large number of boats would set out from shore and come to the rescue immediately.
      Sixteen coast destroyers set out from shore to help the damaged ship. But owing to the heavy sea only one of them was able to get within reach where she could lend assistance. That was the H.M.S.G.I.A. Mouncy [ HMS Mounsey G1A] in command of Lt. Commander Craven. Thru the semaphore system the condition of the Otranto was made known to the commander of the destroyer. He ordered that the lifeboats on the starboard side of the Otranto be lowered so that they might act as fenders and he would draw close to the Otranto. The Otranto’s commander replied that such a course would be foolhardy. The destroyer’s commander said that it was the only chance. And they took it.
The boats were lowered, strung out along the starboard side of the Otranto. The destroyer neared to a distance of one hundred feet and then caught by the tide was thrown hard against the Otranto’s side crashing the life boats. With the striking of the side of the boats the sailors of the Otranto set the example for the soldiers aboard by leaping to the deck of the destroyer. This leap was made from heights ranging from twenty to fifty feet. Many of the men missed the deck of the destroyer and went into the sea.
        The shock lasted but a short space of time when the destroyer was caught by the tide and drawn away from the Otranto’s side. The Otranto was going down rapidly and was in the trough of the waves. This was at 10:30 a. m. It was again caught by the tide and sent against the side of the Otranto and more men leaped, among them Vogt. This bumping against the side of the Otranto happened four times during which six hundred of the eleven hundred aboard the Otranto made the leap of which one hundred and fifty were killed in the leap and one hundred and fifty badly injured, the injuries ranging from split skulls to broken ribs, broken legs and the like.
        During the excitement of the leaping for life Vogt saw many horrifying sight. One man who had missed the deck of the destroyer was holding on to a rope ladder on the side of the Otranto when the destroyer crashed against the side of the boat and crushed him as a fly is crushed by a finger. Another who was holding to the rail of the destroyer had his head caught in a wire and when the destroyer was washed from the side of the Otranto his head was torn from his shoulders. Shortly before his leap, Vogt saw John Geiger, of this city [Allentown, PA], who was lost in the sea. Geiger was formerly employed by the Lehigh Portland Cement Company in its office.
         At eleven a. m. the destroyer was not in condition to stand another trip to the side of the Otranto and pulled away. The men who boarded here from the Otranto were sent below to prevent the destroyer from capsizing. The funnels filled with water and the boat many times rode at an angle of forty-five degrees. The men in the hold sat for ten hours in water three feet deep and when the ship would lunge would almost be submerged. One man was dragged for three hours in the sea hanging to a rope from the destroyer. Many who were afraid of going below lashed themselves to the deck of the destroyer and suffered from exposure, some dying from it. While the destroyer was within sight of the Otranto the latter was washed upon a reef and split in two, the five hundred who had remained aboard being cast into the sea.
        Of the five hundred who remained aboard the Otranto only seventeen reached shore alive and only sixteen survived. One of the men surviving was Sgt. MacDonald who had been chased from deck to deck as the boat gradually listed and who with three others got hold of a piece of wreckage and started on their journey. During the trip the three companions were washed away and he continued alone. He was washed into a cleft in the rocks after four hours of drifting but was carried out again by the tide. He then evidently lost consciousness for when he opened his eyes he was on the top of the rocks looking into the faces of a group of Irish peasants.
         The destroyer docked at Belfast, Ireland at 8:55 p. m. Before the men were allowed to leave the boat the boat was lifted out of the water. So bad was her condition that ten miles more of sea would have finished her. The people of Belfast were well prepared to meet the issue. The men who were a sorry shoeless lot, were put into every kind of vehicle that could be pressed into service and taken to the Victoria barracks. Many of the men were forced to walk the five miles to the barracks as the supply of taxis and the like was inadequate.
        The men were here divided into two sections some sleeping in the chapel, others in the gym. The American Red Cross supplied the men with clean underwear and socks and bedding while the British troops saw that they had plenty to eat, sacrificing bread and eating hard tack in order that the Americans might be fed. The society folk and the Lord Mayor of the city gave them everything and anything that was necessary that was in the city.
        During the night, the storm continued without showing signs of abating. The men were nervous wrecks. The least sound or noise such as the breaking of the limbs of a tree near the barracks would cause them to jump from their beds shouting while many of the men repeated in nightmare the incidents which meant the saving of their lives.
       The commander of the destroyer which managed to make one of the most memorable rescues in the history of the world was loudly praised and cited by the British government for bravery as was his crew. Owing to the fact that it was not done in the face of enemy fire he was not awarded the much coveted cross. After the boat had set off from the Otranto he had to be carried below where for thirty-five minutes his men worked on him to bring him back to his senses, so hard had been the nervous strain during action.
        Howard Strohm, Vogt and Geiger were the only Lehigh county boys aboard. Strohm, hails from Emaus. He and Vogt were saved while Geiger was lost and buried with the first two hundred who were found dead among the wreckage of the ship.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 5

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

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

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sergeant Mitchell’s letter also reported that Colonel Spalding had gotten “shamefully drunk.” That fact was known to Spalding’s fellow plantation owners as well.  Charles C. Jones, who was Mayor of Savannah until August, 1861, wrote  in a letter to his father on November 9, 1861, that Colonel Spalding was supposed to have taken the regiment to South Carolina to participate in the defense of Port Royal, but it was rumored he was too drunk to do so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most of the men recovered from the measles. Some didn’t. Nathan B. Stephens of the Thomasville Guards died of measles on December 11, 1861, at Darien. Henry C. McCrary died of measles on Christmas Day.  On New Year’s Eve, John C. Clements was put on sick leave.  Sergeant Lewis E. Cumby of the Thomas County Volunteers was sent home with measles and pneumonia and died on New Year’s Day, 1862.  Elbert J. Chapman, known to the Berrien Minute Men as “Old Yaller,” was furloughed. Chapman later deserted the Berrien Minute Men, joined another unit, was court martialed and executed for the desertion. John A. Parrish and John M. Griffin were absent on sick leave; Griffin never returned. E. Q. Bryant of the Thomas County Volunteers was at home sick.   Harrison Jones of the Berrien Minute Men was discharged with a disability January 12, 1862. Stephen N. Roberts and James S. Roberts, kinsmen of John W. Hagan, went home sick.  James returned to the regiment by February, 1862, but Stephen never recovered; he finally succumbed to pneumonia in Lowndes County, on January 6, 1863.

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

About Robert Goodwin Mitchell:

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

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Albert Douglass, 26th Georgia Regiment and the Battle of Brawner’s Farm

Special thanks to Wm Lloyd Harris for contributions to this post.

Albert Douglass, of Berrien County, GA served with the 26th Georgia Regiment after desertion from the Berrien Minute Men.

The 26th Georgia Regiment suffered heavy casualties at Brawner's Farm, August 28, 1862 in the first engagement of the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). Albert Douglass, of Berrien County, GA served with the 26th Georgia Regiment after deserting from the Berrien Minute Men. G.F. Agee, a soldier of the 26th Georgia reported, “We held our fire until within a hundred yards of the enemy. We dropped behind a small rail fence and poured a heavy volley into them. After firing seven or eight rounds, we raised the rebel yell and charged.”

On August 28, 1862 in the first engagement of the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the 26th Georgia Regiment suffered heavy casualties at Brawner’s Farm.  G.F. Agee, a soldier of the 26th Georgia reported, “We held our fire until within a hundred yards of the enemy. We dropped behind a small rail fence and poured a heavy volley into them. After firing seven or eight rounds, we raised the rebel yell and charged.”

 Albert Douglass and the 26th Georgia Regiment

Albert B. Douglass, son of  Seaborn Douglass, came with his father and siblings from Hamilton County, FL to  Lowndes County, GA sometime before 1838.   About 1851 Albert Douglass, then a young man of 19,  married Abigail Shaw,  a daughter of Martin Shaw, Sr.  In the Census of 1860 Albert and Abigail were enumerated in Berrien County, Georgia.  Albert was  28 years old, Abigail was 35.  Their daughter Francenia  Douglass was enumerated as age 6.  Also in the Douglass household was the seven-year-old boy William W. Turner.

The Douglass Family had a tradition of military service. Albert’s father and brothers served in the Indian Wars 1836-1858. Albert and his four brothers all enlisted during the Civil War.  Albert Douglass enlisted with the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (later Co. K), 29th Georgia Regiment.  He soon went absent without leave and was listed as a Confederate deserter from the 29th Regiment while they were stationed in Savannah, GA.  In actuality, he joined the 26th Georgia Regiment and went with them to Virginia in the summer of 1862.   Also serving with the 26th Georgia Regiment were: David Stone, father of Arrilla Stone Cook of Berrien County, GA;  James Brown, father of Creasy Brown Wood of Rays Mill, GA; John Jefferson Beagles served with the unit until May 1862; Benjamin P. Jones, who later opened a bank at Ray Mill, served with the 26th until the regiment departed for Virginia, at which time he hired a substitute to take his place; Andrew Jackson Liles, Adjutant of the Regiment, was a merchant and post master of Milltown, GA, and later practiced law in Valdosta, GA.

Confederate military records show Albert Douglass was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, for dysentery, June 29, 1862 and returned to duty  July 10, 1862. On August 14, he was admitted to Lovingston Hospital, Winchester, VA with a complaint of fever and convulsions.  He returned to duty on August 27, 1862.

The following day, the 26th Georgia Regiment suffered  horrific casualties at the opening of the  Battle of Second Manassas (called the Second Battle of Bull Run by the Union army), when Confederate forces under the command of Stonewall Jackson met Union Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Black Hat Brigade in the late afternoon and evening of August 28, 1862 near Groveton, VA.   Earlier that same afternoon about ten miles to the west, the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment had engaged federal forces, driving them out of  Thoroughfare Gap through the Bull Run mountains, and occupying the position at the gap.

According to a historic marker placed at Groveton, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had  dispatched “Stonewall” Jackson to lure Major General John Pope’s Union army away from the Rappahannock River.  At the same time, Lincoln hoped drawing some of Lee’s troops to northern Virginia to confront Pope would weaken Lee’s position outside Richmond and help the Army of the Potomac.”

On August 28, Jackson’s force concealed itself northeast of here near Groveton atop a wooded ridge on and beyond John Brawner’s farm to await the rest of Lee’s army.  Early in the evening, as Brigadier General Rufus King’s division of Pope’s army marched by in search of Jackson, he attacked, stopping the Federal movement with heavy casualties on both sides.

The 26th Georgia Regiment suffered 74 percent casualties that bloody summer evening in the Battle of Brawner’s Farm. This engagement began the Second Battle of Manassas.

John Brawner’s farm was located on the Warrenton Turnpike, on present day U.S. Highway 29 inside Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Brawner Farm, near Groveton, VA

Brawner Farm, near Groveton, VA

By the morning of August 28, Jackson had deployed his 25,000 men along Stony Ridge, behind the embankments of a railroad grade of the unfinished Manassas Gap Railroad north of the little village of Groveton, near the old First Bull Run battlefield. From there, Jackson could monitor Union activity along the Warrenton Turnpike, a strategic east-west thoroughfare, while awaiting Longstreet’s arrival. Due to the concealment of Jackson’s defensive position, Pope had completely lost track of the Rebels’ movements after the destruction of Manassas Junction on August 27. Stonewall Jackson’s 25,000 soldiers were, in effect, missing as far as the Army of Virginia was concerned.

On the evening of August 28, Gibbon’s brigade of 1,800 Westerners sluggishly marched eastward toward the village of Centreville, where the majority of Pope’s army was massing. The 2nd Wisconsin (the only regiment in the brigade that had previously seen combat, at First Bull Run), the 6th and 7th Wisconsin and the 19th Indiana were getting very close to having a chance to show their mettle in battle. –  from Civil War Trust’s Battle of Brawners Farm

 

The first exchange of fire began about 5:45 pm.  The battle raged ferociously for two hours when General Stonewall Jackson ordered the 26th and 28th Georgia regiments to advance on the Union line.

In a letter to the editor of the Savannah Republican, a soldier of the 26th Georgia Regiment reported the Southern perspective on the battle:

Savannah Republican
September 22, 1862

The Twenty-sixth Georgia in the Battle of the 28th August

          Editor Savannah Republican: – While the opportunity presents itself, I cannot refrain from writing you a few lines commemorative of the gallantry of the 26th Georgia regiment upon the bloody and well contested field of Manassas, on Thursday, the 28th of August, 1862.
Again has Georgia been illustrated by this bravery of her sons, and again is it her lot to clothe herself in the mourning garb, in memory of the gallant dead. As we marched past the graves of the lamented Bartow and of the members of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, of Savannah, little did we think that so many of us through whose veins the warm blood was so freely flowing, would, before the dawn of day, like them, be lying in the cold embrace of death.
Just before dark, on the evening of the 28th, General A. R. Lawton’s brigade, to which the 26th belongs, was drawn up in line of battle in a skirt of woods near the battle field, and at dark was ordered to support General Trimbull’s brigade.  The 26th entered the field under the command of Lieut. Col. E.S. Griffin, Major James S. Blain and Adjutant A. J. Liles. We marched steadily across an open field for four or five hundred yards, through which the balls were flying by thousands, without firing a single shot.  Men were constantly falling from the ranks, but our brave Georgians wavered not; as a man fell, his place was immediately filled by another, and the regiment moved steadily to the front.  Not a word was uttered except the necessary commands given by officers.  As we neared the enemy, General Jackson road up behind the brigade and urged us by the memory of our noble State to one bold stroke, and the day would be ours; and gallantly did the brave men to whom he was speaking obey his orders.  Volley after volley was poured into the ranks of the enemy with terrible effect; still they held their ground and our ranks kept getting thinner and thinner. During the heavy fire, Lieut. Col. Griffin, of the 26th was wounded and the command devolved upon Major J. S. Blain.  After firing several rounds, Gen. Lawton gave orders for the brigade to fix bayonets and charge the enemy. At the command every man bounded over a fence which separated them from the enemy, and with the true Georgia yell rushed upon them.  Then it was that the 26th suffered so terribly.  Men fell from the ranks by dozens still they wavered not.  The color Sergeant fell mortally wounded; but the colors had hardly touched the ground before they were raised by Lieut. Rogers of the color company, and again waved in the advance.- Then it was that a well directed volley from the brigade, at a distance of thirty yards, sent the enemy flying in confusion over the hills to the woods.  The night being very dark no pursuit was attempted; we had accomplished our object and was content to hold the battle field.
It was a heart sickening sight to me as I gazed upon the regiment when formed after the battle.
The 26th Georgia entered the field with eighteen commissioned officers and one hundred and seventy-three non-commissioned officers and privates; and lost twelve commissioned officers and one hundred and twenty-five non-commissioned officers and privates.
I send you a list of the killed and wounded of the 26th Georgia regiment, which I hope you will publish, with the request that the Macon Telegraph and Augusta Constitutionalist copy.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient serv’t,
One of the 26th.

 

Letter from a soldier of the 26th Georgia Regiment describing the Battle of Brawner's Farm, August 28, 1862.

Letter from a soldier of the 26th Georgia Regiment describing the Battle of Brawner’s Farm, August 28, 1862.

The Northern troops had a different perspective on the fight, as described at the  Civil War Trust website on the Battle of Brawners Farm:

Jackson personally ordered Lawton’s Georgia brigade to move forward at 7:45 p.m., but once more only two regiments responded. Jackson led the Georgians toward their parlous undertaking. In the fading sunlight, the 26th and 28th Georgia advanced obliquely toward the 2nd Wisconsin. Their attack was short-lived.

As they advanced, the 7th Wisconsin and the 76th New York wheeled to the left and poured a lethal volley into the Rebels’ flank. Colonel William W. Robinson of the 7th Wisconsin wrote, ‘The evolution was executed with as much precision as they ever executed the movement on drill. This brought us within 30 yards of the enemy.’

One man in the 7th reported, ‘Our fire perfectly annihilated the rebels.’ While the Southerners received fire from their flank, the 2nd Wisconsin poured deadly volleys into the Georgians’ front. ‘No rebel of that column who escaped death will ever forget that volley. It seemed like one gun,’ said one New Yorker.

The 26th Georgia suffered 74 percent casualties in its feckless assault (134 of 181 men). One Wisconsin officer noted: ‘Our boys mowed down their ranks like grass; but they closed up and came steadily on. Our fire was so terrible and certain that after having the colors in front of us shot down twice they broke in confusion and left us in possession of the field. They left their colors upon the field.’  – from Civil War Trust’s Battle of Brawners Farm

 

After the decimation of the 26th Georgia Regiment, the battle raged on through sundown.  The fighting subsided after 8:00pm and at 11:00 the federal troops withdrew toward Manassas Junction.

The Savannah Republican later ran a list of the casualties suffered by the 26th Georgia Regiment.

 

Savannah Republican, September 22, 1862

LIST OF THE KILLED AND WOUNDED OF THE 26th GA. REG’T IN THE BATTLE OF MANASSAS, AUGUST 28th, 1862.

FIELD AND STAFF
Killed: None. Wounded: Lieut. Col. E.S. Griffin, neck and shoulder; Adjutant A.J. Liles, neck and shoulder; Serg’t Major E.H. Crawley, arm and hip.

CO. A    BRUNSWICK RIFLES, LT. N. DIXON, COMMANDING
Killed: None. Wounded: Lt. N. Dixon, shoulder; Orderly Sergeant Urbanus Dart, fore-arm; Serg’t John J. Spears, abdomen; Corp’l John Pacety, in right breast; Privates Patrick Burney, hand; Jas. Barrett, arm; Jas. G. W. Harris, thigh; George Holmes, both legs; Jos. McLemore, hand; Daniel Cronan, arm and shoulder; Jno. Niblo, abdomen; Thos. Cumming, heel; Felix F. McMermott, hand.

CO. B    McINTOSH GUARDS, LIEUT. E. BLOUNT, COM’DG.
Killed: None. Wounded: Sergeant Wm. Flauk, right breast; Serg’t Wm. B. White, arm; Private Jas. Danvergue, shoulder. Missing: Privates Geo. Rowe, Jas. Townson.

CO. C    PISCOLA VOLUNTEERS, LT. J. H. HUNTER, COM’DG.
Killed: Color Sergeant Thos. J. Durham, Orderly Sergeant W. S. Hines; Privates John Alderman, Virgil A S Edwards, John P. Hunter, Mathew Smith, Eli C. Mitchell, Robert A Jackson. Wounded: Lieut. J. H. Hunter, abdomen; Privates John Southern, abdomen; Jas. H. Southern, both thighs and hip; John M. Burch, knee; Zach McLeod, hand; Clayton Herring, thigh; S. Brannan, head and eye.

CO. D   SEABOARD GUARDS, LT. E. L. PEARCE OF THE WIRE GRASS MINUTE MEN, COM’DG.
Killed: Privates W. L. Davis, A. J. McClellan, C. B. Gray. Wounded: Corporal J. T. Cooper, hand; Privates Wesley Rowland, knee; Lewis Perdon, thigh; A. J. Herrin, head. Missing; Private David Kean.

CO. E.    WIRE GRASS MINUTE MEN, CAPT. JOHN LEE, COM’DG.
Killed: Lt. Jas. Riggins; Privates J. B. Riggins, T. S. Trowell, Jos. E. Trowell. Wounded: Capt. John Lee, hand; Lt. E. L. Pearce, arm broken; Serg’t J. A. Hogan, head; Corp’l. Wm. A. Thompson, leg; Privates Joseph E. Harper, knee; Wm. J. Morris, arm, knee, and body; E. A. Elliott, shoulder, breast, leg and hand; R. J. Joiner, arm; A. McSwain, shoulder; Mitchell Sweat, foot; W. J. Murray, hips and legs.

CO. F    WARE GUARDS, CAPT. T. C. LOTT, COM’DG.
Killed: Capt. T. C. Lott, Corp’l Jefferson Goettee, Private Lewis Williams. Wounded: Lt. J. T. Patterson, head, arm and breast; Serg’t R. Sweat, knee; Privates Daniel Patterson, leg; Henry Guess, Knee; Moses Coleman, thigh; A. Goettee, left breast and side; John Sellers, hip; R. B. Phillips, wound unknown.

CO. G.    OKEFENOKEE RIFLES, CAPT. JOHN ARNETT, COM’DG.
Killed: Corp’l A. J. Milton, Wm. Waters. Private Jesse Robinson. Wounded: Capt. J. Arnett, side and arm; Sergt. McD. M. Boothe, arm. Privates E. Johnson, thigh; H. Robinson, hand; Wm. Smith, thigh; Benj. Roach, shoulder and breast; Clemons H. Carter, abdomen; David Stone; abdomen; D. Dougherty, head; Willis McPhearson, face; Eaton Taylor, arm; Peter Spikes, wounded and in the hands of the enemy.

CO. H    BARTOW LIGHT INFANTRY, LIEUT. H. H. SMITH, COM’DG.
Killed: Privates Jennings Johnson, Langdon Turnbull, Lafayette Dees, Willet Yarborough, Madison Walker, Irwin Moore. Wounded: Lieut. H. H. Smith, arm. Privates John H. Dasher, hip and abdomen; Richard Moore, leg broken; Wm. C. Wilkinson, through the shoulder and arm broken; S. Cunningham, hand; Lawrence Lawson, leg; Toby Hewett, heel; James Allen, body; George Carter, arm; Jesse More, head; Jesse Adams, ear; Martin Knight, shoulder; Gus. Strickland, hand; W. Hunt, arm.

CO. I    FAULK INVINCIBLES, LIEUT. D. N. NELSON, COM’DG.
Killed: Sergt. Benj. Radford, Corp’l John Hammock, Privates Micajah Paulk, Thomas Saunders. Wounded: Privates Wm. Lamb, arm and thigh; R. McConnell, knee; Benj. Vincent, hand; Patrick Nolan, leg; Wm. Crawford, hip; Noell Hills, lower part of abdomen; J. P. Rickerson, thigh and arm; H. A. Pruett, leg; H. H. Manning, shoulder.

CO. K    FORREST RANGERS, LIEUT. VINCENT A. HODGES, COM’DG.
Killed: Lieut. V. A. Hodges, Sergt. Mark C. Chauncey. Privates Joel Spikes, John Griffins, John Summerlin, Thomas M. Bennett.
Wounded: Sergt. L. T. Morgan, left breast; Corp’l Wm. Smith, left breast. Privates Benj. Smith, in the leg; Wm. B. Booth, thight; J. B. Mills, neck; C. H. Hall, thigh; Wm. S. Ginn, right breast; Thompson Harris, head; J. N. McQuaig, arm and abdomen; Wm. Agu, hand; Jesse G. Booth, hand; D. H. Smith, hip; John Sweat, foot.

 

26th Georgia Regiment casualties at the Battle of Brawner's Farm

26th Georgia Regiment casualties at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm

The Battle of Brawner’s Farm was the opening engagement of the  Second Battle of Manassas, August 29-30.

During the battle, on August 29, 1862  both  the 26th GA and the 50th GA regiments were in positions at Groveton, VA.    A number of men serving with the 50th were from the Ray City area including Green Bullard, Fisher J. Gaskins, Lemuel Elam Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins,  John Jasper Cook and John Martin Griner.

The 26th GA Regiment was present the following month with Lawton’s Brigade at the Battle of Antietam, where they again suffered heavy casualties on September 17, 1862.

On October 19, 1862  Albert Douglass was admitted to 1st Division, General Hospital Camp Winder and transferred to Hod Hospital on December 23, 1862. He was back on the morning report of Winder Hospital on December 24, and then transferred to Ridge Hospital. While he was in the hospital  in December 1862, the 26th Georgia Regiment participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg.

In May, 1863 the 26th Georgia Regiment was at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Albert Douglass was admitted to Receiving and Wayside Hospital (General Hospital No. 9)  on June 4, 1863 and the following day he was discharged from the Confederate States Army.

Douglas later served with the Florida Militia and the Union Navy.

Related Posts:

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

 

With the election of officers, the Berrien Minute Men and the other companies on Sapelo were another step closer to completing the organization of the regiment. Over the next few months the worst foes the regiment would face in their backwater post were low morale, boredom, and disease.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 3

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

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

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

About Robert Harris:

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

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