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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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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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 2

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

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service
William W. Knight wrote home from Camp Spalding, Sapelo Island, GA.

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

The  Berrien Minute Men were two companies of infantry that went forth from Berrien County, GA during the Civil War. From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made on the coast of McIntosh County 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 in early October and were stationed on the island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.

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

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

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

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

Thomas Spalding’s South End Mansion on Sapelo Island had been inherited by his son, Randolph Spalding.  Randolp Spalding and his five siblings had received the  slaves from their father’s estate, as well. In Sapelo’s People: A Long Walk to Freedom, William S. McFeely writes,

Randolph Spalding, unlike his scientific father, better fit the popular image of the Southern plantation grandee; in his thirties as the war approached he liked fast horses and big house parties.” Among the tidewater plantation owners, “fears were great of a ‘plundering expedition’ aimed at the huge population of slaves along the coast.”

In McIntosh county 78 percent of the population was enslaved. In neighboring Glynn county 86 percent were slaves and the enslaved populations of the coastal Georgia counties were nearly as great: 67 percent in Camden county, 74 percent in Liberty, and 71 percent in Chatham.

1861 Harpers map of Georgia Slavery - detail of coastal counties.

1861 Harpers map of Georgia Slavery – detail of the Georgia coast showing the percentage of enslaved population in Chatham, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn, and Camden counties.

“Charles Spalding, Randolph’s brother, wrote to an official of the Georgia militia on February 11, 1861 ‘that there are on the Island of Sapelo…about five hundred negroes which might be swept off any day unless protected by a small detachment of infantry on the island.” Spalding feared not only slave raiders, but the slaves themselves: ‘there are on.. [the nearby Altamaha rice plantations] some four thousand negroes, whose owners will continue to feel very insecure until some naval defenders are placed upon these waters.'”

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

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

Sapelo Island, Ga.
Oct. 11, 61

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measles would spread among the regiment  in the coming months at Camp Spalding.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 1

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

Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island

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

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

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

From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River. Darien was about 55 miles south of Savannah and 20 miles north of Brunswick, GA.  The environment of Darien, the sea islands and the Altamaha River basin were ideal for the cultivation of rice and long staple Sea Island cotton, and the agricultural economy of the southern tidewater was strategically important to the fledgling Confederate States.

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

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

Slaves working in the rice fields.

Slaves working in the rice fields.

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

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

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

After a number of the men on Blackbeard Island were reported sick, rumors circulated back at home that the regiment was stricken with Yellow Fever. The families of the Berrien Minute Men had reason to fear.  In 1854, a yellow fever outbreak had killed thousands of people on the southeastern coast, including as many as 400 victims at Darien, GA.  But in his letters home, Private John W. Hagan of Berrien county wrote, “as to the reports which was going the roundes in Lowndes in regard to yellow feavor that is all faulce. Some of the men of Blackbeard did not take care of themselves & by exposure and exerting too mutch they became bilious.”  Hagan knew something about yellow fever. His father, John Fletcher Hagan, had died of yellow fever in 1853.

The Berrien County men may have just been unacclimatized to the muggy heat of the coast, or the men may have contracted malaria  in the coastal marshes.  Levi J. Knight, Jr. later wrote that one of the Berrien Minute Men, Private Enos J. Connell, became “unfit for duty, rendered so by a protracted illness contracted on Blackbeard Island… the disease when first contracted was said by his physician to have been Billious fever.” Enos J. Connell never entirely recovered and was eventually discharged in June 1862. Private Thomas N. Connell, died at Blackbeard Island on October 2, 1861, the cause of death being given in his service record as “bilious fever.” Bilious fever,  a now obsolete medical diagnosis, was often used for any fever that exhibited the symptom of nausea or vomiting in addition to an increase in internal body temperature and strong diarrhea. Bilious fever (Latin bilis, “bile”) refers to fever associated with excessive bile or bilirubin in the blood stream and tissues, causing jaundice (a yellow color in the skin or sclera of the eye). The most common cause was malaria.  What treatment the sick men may have received on Sapelo Island is not described, but one known remedy for intermittent fever was quinine derived from the Georgia Fever Bark tree, which grew in the Altamaha River Valley.

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

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

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

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

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

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Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick ~ July, 1861

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 31, 1861

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Robert Hamilton Harris:

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

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Grand Rally at Milltown

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, May 1861

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

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

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

About the Illustration

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

Setting and Attendees Described in Newspaper Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 17, 1861

A Grand Military Rally in Mill Town, Berrien County.

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

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

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

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