Otranto Doctor Writes of Ship’s Final Hours

Otranto Doctor Writes of Ship’s Final Hours

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

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

 

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

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

     

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

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

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

 

Akron Beacon Journal
November 30, 1918

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

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

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

 

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Otranto Survivor Describes Disaster

Otranto Survivor Describes Disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allentown Morning Call
February 3, 1919

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

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

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Death of Mack Talley Bradford

Death of Mack Talley Bradford (1874-1919)

Mack Talley Bradford was a son of Thomas Bradford and Martha Connell. His father was a native of Lowndes County, GA but as a young man had moved to Sumter County, Florida.  After serving in the Florida Cavalry in the Civil War, his father returned to Berrien County, GA where Mack Talley Bradford was born on July 7, 1874.

Mack Talley Bradford grew up on his father’s one-horse farm in the 1157th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA. As a man, he was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and black hair.

On September 29, 1901, Mack Talley Bradford married Maggie R. Gaskins in Berrien County, GA. She was a daughter of Fisher H. Gaskins.  The marriage was performed by H. B. Peeples.

Mack Talley Bradford and Maggie R. Gaskins marriage certificate, September 29, 1901, Berrien County, GA

Mack Talley Bradford and Maggie R. Gaskins marriage certificate, September 29, 1901, Berrien County, GA

Mack and Maggie Bradford made their home on a farm in Connells Mill District on the Nashville & Valdosta Road, not far from the farms of Flemming B. Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins.

Children of Mack Talley Bradford and Margaret R. “Maggie” Gaskins

  1. James Albert Bradford (1902 – 1990)
  2. Leon Bradford (1905 – 1962)
  3. Cora Bradford Strawder (1907 – 1994)
  4. Perry E. Bradford (1910 – 1936)
  5. W Henry Bradford (1912 – 1913)
  6. Olan Jackson Bradford (1914 – 1962)

Mack served as a traverse juror at spring ad-term, 1905, Berrien superior court, which met on the second Monday in June.  M.T. Bradford was a member of Woodmen of the World, a Mason, and a  southern Baptist. In 1909 Mack Talley Bradford attended the Program Union Meeting of the Southern District Mell Baptist Association held at Staunton church, January 29-31. The Saturday morning sermon at that meeting was delivered by Reverend Perry Thomas Knight. Mack Talley Bradford delivered the Sunday morning Devotional.

M.T. Bradford  was among the Ray City investors who received a State Bank Charter  to open the Bank of Ray’s Mill. The bank opened for business on August 14, 1911.  The principal bankers were Benjamin Perry Jones, President of the Valdosta Bank and Trust, and Vice President Clarence L. Smith.  The other investors were J.S. Swindle, J.H. Swindle,  W.H.E. Terry, Riley M. Green, and J. F. Sutton, all of Berrien county, and Charles Lee Jones and  J.B. Griffin, of Lowndes county. The Bank of Ray’s Mill  would later be known as the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

On September 12, 1918, Mack Bradford registered for the draft in Nashville, GA.  He gave his address as RFD Route #2, Ray City, GA.

Mack Talley Bradford, WWI draft registration, Berrien County, GA

Mack Talley Bradford, WWI draft registration, Berrien County, GA

 

Tifton Gazette August 29, 1919 reports death of Mack Talley Bradford.

Tifton Gazette August 29, 1919 reports death of Mack Talley Bradford.

Tifton Gazette
August 29, 1919

Fall From Ladder Kills Berrien Farmer

Mack Bradford a young Berrien county farmer is dead from injuries that he received a day or so ago when he fell from a ladder. Mr. Bradford did not know his injuries were serious and in a short time after the accident he walked out into a field where he had some men at work. Later he complained of feeling badly and sat down to rest. Not feeling any better he sen his small boy who was with him to a nearby branch for some water. When the boy returned he found his father in a dying condition and before he could summon help Mr. Bradford was dead.

Grave of Mack Talley Bradford (1874-1919), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of Mack Talley Bradford (1874-1919), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

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Joshua Berrien Lastinger

Joshua Berrien Lastinger

Joshua Berrien Lastinger. Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Joshua Berrien Lastinger. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

 

Joshua Berrien Lastinger was born February 22, 1847 at the community then known as Allapaha, but later renamed Milltown and today known as Lakeland, GA. He was  a son of William Lastinger and Louisa English. In 1848 his father made a deal with Joshua Lee to acquire approximately 2225 acres of land to the west of the town with a large millpond partly on the lands, gin and gristmills operated by water power, and several farms and dwellings. To these William Lastinger added a sawmill, also powered by water. The mills became know as Lastinger’s Mills.

Joshua and his siblings grew up in a life of privilege at Stony Hill, the plantation his father established about six miles from the town. It is said that William Lastinger was the largest land owner, largest taxpayer and largest slaveholder in Berrien and Lowndes counties, owning over 100 slaves who worked on the Stony Hill plantation. The plantation house was a big two-story affair, and there was also an office building where Joshua’s father managed his agricultural interests.

According to William Green Avera, Stony Hill was on the road from Milltown [now Lakeland] to Tyson Ferry  where Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River.  This road, one of the earliest in the county, passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County. Stony Hill was later the residence of Moses C. Lee.

In 1862, Joshua’s father traded the Lastinger holdings to Henry Banks, of Atlanta, in exchange for 252 bales of cotton, 100 of which he sold for Confederate currency. Acquiring a new farm at Cat Creek, his father purchased more slaves to raise cotton. Thus, with their assets in slaves, cotton and Confederate currency, the Lastingers were fully invested in the future of the Confederate States of America. At the outbreak of the Civil War, all five of Joshua’s brothers joined the Berrien Minute Men and became enlisted in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Joshua, being the youngest, joined the 5th Georgia Reserves. His sister, Elizabeth Lastinger, took up a collection for the Berrien Minute Men at a Grand Military Rally held at Milltown (now Lakeland) in May, 1861.

According to an article in the Highland County News-Sun:

Joshua Berrien Lastinger moved his family to Florida after the War Between the States. Their covered wagon, pulled by a team of oxen, carried Lastinger’s wife, Louisa, six daughters and necessities along with a few nursery trees to plant. After camping in tents a few nights along the way they stayed temporarily in the small settlement of Owens near Arcadia. Their stove was unloaded from the wagon and set up with the stovepipe tied to a tree.
Lastinger traveled inland on a hunting trip to an area near present Lake Placid. Upon his return to his family in Owens, he announced to his wife that he had found the garden spot of the world. So they packed up the girls and the wagon and headed out.
As they made their way through Henscratch en route to their new homesite, Lastinger noticed a sawmill. This sawmill would later provide the lumber for him to build a raft that he would use to float lumber across the lake for the construction of the family home. Before the home was completed they fought off mosquitoes by draping netting from tree to tree over their bedding.
By 1891, they were homesteading 160 acres in the area of the northeast shore of Lake Stearns, now called Lake June. This homesite is still known as Lastinger Cove and some of the trees he planted are still living near the lake.He was able to donate a sizable strip of land for the railroad right of way in 1916 when the Atlantic Coast Line was extended from Sebring, FL. Lastinger was born February 27, 1847, in Ware County, GA. He served in the 5th Georgia Infantry Reserves and was discharged in May 1865.
Joshua Berrien Lastinger died in Arcadia, FL October 15, 1931. He is buried in Mt Ephram Baptist Cemetery  [also known as Owen Cemetery] in Arcadia.

 

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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William Lastinger Family Reunions started at Cat Creek

William McDonald and Jane Lastinger McDonald, hosts of the first Lastinger Family Reunion, were the parents of Lacy McDonald.  Lacy McDonald later moved to Ray City, GA where he served as the mailman. His brother, Arthur Walton McDonald, was also connected with Ray City and a friend of Ray City Mayor, Dr. Charles X. Jones.

All six of Jane Lastingers brothers served in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War; five of them served in the Berrien Minute Men.

The Lastinger Family Reunions were held at Lacy McDonald’s home in Ray City in 1945, 1950 and 1953.

Children of Louisa English and William Lastinger. FRONT ROW (L to R): Henry Andrew Lastinger, Annis Lastinger Elliot, Elizabeth Lastinger Wilkerson, Peter Cornelius Lastinger. BACK ROW (L to R) Nebraska Lastinger, Kansas Lastinger, Joshua Lastiner, Arizona Lastinger, Lacy Elias Lastinger, William Hiram Lastinger, Jane Lastinger McDonald. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Children of Louisa English and William Lastinger. FRONT ROW (L to R): Henry Andrew Lastinger, Annis Lastinger Elliot, Elizabeth Lastinger Wilkerson, Peter Cornelius Lastinger. BACK ROW (L to R) Nebraska Lastinger, Kansas Lastinger, Joshua B. Lastinger, Arizona Lastinger, Lacy Elias Lastinger, William Hiram Lastinger, Jane Lastinger McDonald. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Excerpted from the Lastinger Book:

The Lastinger Family Reunions

“In the early part of the year 1904, Mrs. Annis Elliot was visiting in the home of her sister, Mrs. Jane McDonald, at Cat Creek, (Lowndes County), Georgia, and they expressed the wish to have their brothers and sisters meet there for a family reunion.  Later, Mrs. Arizona Turner (another sister), was visiting her brother, Joshua B. Lastinger in Arcadia, Florida, when she made this wish known to him. It was fully decided that all the brothers and sisters meet on their father’s one hundredth birthday, which was October 1st, 1904. All were delighted to enter into this arrangement.  Thus the movement began with the first meeting being held at the home of William McDonald at Cat Creek in Lowndes County near the old home of William Lastinger, their father, who was born October 1, 1804 and departed this life in February of 1893 and who would have been one hundred years old at the day of this meeting.

“At this first gathering, there were present ten of the twelve children that had reached maturity. One child, Seaborn, lost his life in the Civil War, and William who lived in Texas was unable to be present. In addition there were present many grandchildren and great grandchildren, numbering more than one hundred. In a beautiful pine grove in front of the McDonald home a long table was spread and loaded with good things to eat for which South Georgia is noted.

“Henry being the oldest child was placed at the head of the table and in choice words, humbly thanked God for the happiness brought them on this occasion, and for God’s love and protection for having brought them thus far.  It was then that Cat Creek became the Ebenezer of the Lastinger Clan.  The afternoon was spent in social intercourse and at night a religious service was conducted by Henry, and ordained minister of the gospel. With a few exceptions, these reunions have been held annually and largely attended by the descendants of William Lastinger.

“All of the children of William Lastinger have ascended and live anew in the glorious world of God beyond the skies with the exception of Aunt Scrap, 84 years of age, still lives to bless nieces and nephews and spread joy and happiness wherever she goes, and to receive their love and homage.”

Thus is recorded the first Lastinger family reunion on pages one and two of the minutes book still in use (1960). Since the 1942 reunion minutes follow, this was evidently written up in that year.

Children of Louisa English and William Lastinger

  1. Henry Andrew Lastinger, born November 20, 1832, Lowndes County, GA; enlisted August 1, 1861, Berrien Minute Men, Company C,  29th GA Regiment; married Emma J. Sinquefield on April 11, 1867; died December 28, 1906; buried Bold Springs Cemetery, Cairo, GA
  2. Peter Cornelius Lastinger, born November 8, 1834, Lowndes County, GA; enlisted Octber 1, 1861 in Berrien Minute Men, Company D, 29th GA Regiment; married Joe Anna Sylvanah Isom on May 16, 1858 in Lowndes County, GA; died July 17, 1920 at Walkersville, Pierce County, GA; buried Ramah Cemetery, Pierce County, GA
  3. Seaborn James Lastinger, born May 3, 1837, Lowndes County, GA; enlisted August 1, 1861 in  Berrien Minute Men, Company C,  29th GA Regiment; died September 15, 1863 at Charleston, SC; buried Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA
  4. Annis Lastinger, born September 6, 1839; married Robert Allen Elliot, June 24, 1855; neighbors of Thomas M. Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill; died June 8, 1913
  5. Elizabeth Lastinger, born September 28, 1841; present May, 1861 at Grand Military Rally for Berrien Minute Men; married May 12, 1861 to William J. Wilkerson, son of William D. Wilkerson; died January 11, 1935 at Cat Creek, GA; buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA
  6. Lacy Elias Lastinger, born August 3, 1843; enlisted Berrien Minute Men, Company D (later Co. K), 29th GA Regiment; married Sophronia J. Williams; died December 4, 1936; buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Adel, GA
  7. William Hiram Lastinger, born April 23, 1845; served in Berrien Minute Men, Company C (later Company G, 29th GA Regiment); married Georgia Augusta Jones, December 13, 1866; later moved to Waco, TX. Died December 23, 1918. Buried Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, TX
  8. Joshua Berrien Lastinger, born February 22, 1847; said to have served with the 5th Georgia Reserves; married Louisa Bowden, December 25, 1870; later moved to Florida; died October 15, 1931, at Arcadia, FL; buried Owens Cemetery, Arcadia, FL.
  9. Jane Lastinger, born October 11, 1849; married William C. McDonald; died April 1, 1918; buried Cat Creek Cemetery.
  10. Kansas Lastinger, born September 19, 1855; married Francis Marion Smith; died January 28, 1907 at Fitzgerald, GA; buried Brushy Creek Church.
  11. Arizona Lastinger, born November 27, 1859; married 1) Robert K. Turner, on January 24, 1900, 2) William C. McDonald, on July 27, 1919; died February 15, 1954; buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.
  12. Nebraska Lastinger; born October 6, 1857; married Dr. Joseph Gustavus Edie on December 13, 1888; died 1940; buried Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA.

Related Posts:

Obituary of Mable Virginia McDonald Roberson

Billy McDonald at the University of Arizona

Grand Rally at Milltown

 

Ray City Band Celebrates 4th of July

In 1917, the Nashville Herald noted that Ray City observed Independence Day with a musical celebration.

The Nashville Herald

Neighborhood News Items
July 6, 1917

Ray City celebrated the Fourth of July this year with a basket picnic. There were amusements of various kinds during the day. The Ray City Band furnished music for the occasion.

 

band at unknown site

Unknown band probably at Mayhaw Lake, Lucy Lake, or Dixie Lake resort area. Identification and verifications needed. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga. com

Residents of the Wiregrass section which is home to Ray City, GA have been celebrating Independence Day since at least the 1830s.

Related Posts

1922 Spring Fever Hits Ray City

Mary Ann Knight and William A. Jones

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

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

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

John Lindsey Ordy

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

William A Knight, O.M.

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

The Estate of Green Bullard

Green Bullard

 

Obituary of Algerine D. “Al” Garner

Al Garner was a son of Asa Duggan Garner and Bessie Yopp Garner. In 1940 the Garners lived on Old Valdosta Road west of Ray City, but later moved closer to town on what is now known as Garner Road. Al’s father was a contractor who worked in heavy construction. His younger sister, Marjorie Garner, attended the Ray City School where she performed with the Glee Club. His brothers, Wendell and Carlton, attended high school in Nashville.

A.D. “Al” Garner attended Berry College in Rome, GA. After college he entered Officer Training and served in the Navy as a Lieutenant JG in the South Pacific during WWII.

 

A.D. “Al” Garner
Wednesday, July 11. 2012

A.D. “Al” Garner, 92, passed away Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at Appling Healthcare System. Garner was born in Laurens County, and resided in Berrien County before entering school at Berry College in Rome, where he graduated in January, 1944. He completed officer’s training school at Columbia University in New York City and entered the U.S. Navy, serving in the South Pacific in World War II. He was employed as the Farm Superintendent at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home Baxley Campus for thirty years, retiring in 1985. Garner was active in civic organizations over the years and was recognized and awarded for his agricultural and farming achievements, including being named Appling County Farmer of the Year. He was a member of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church where he served as a deacon and taught Sunday School for sixty years, having retired from teaching the Joy Group Class. He sang in the choir, led singing, rendered many solos, served as church treasurer, chairman of the deacons and in numerous other church positions.
Garner was preceded in death by a son, Stephen Thomas Garner; a daughter, Barbara Carol Garner; five sisters, Louise Snipes, Frances Griffin, Jeanette Myers, Belle Calhoun and Marjorie Gaskins, one brother, William A. Garner; and long-time friend H.G. “Pap” Dennis.

He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Georgia Camilla Garner of Baxley; one son, Roger Garner and wife, Yolonda “Tootsie” Hires Garner, of Baxley; two daughters, Jane Coleman and husband, David Coleman, of Baxley, and Bonnie Coleman and husband, Steve Coleman, of Baxley; ten grandchildren: Heather (Stephen) Hale, Sam (Cindy) Coleman, Luke (Sail) Coleman, Jim (Faith) Coleman; Matt (Jennifer) Coleman, Anna Garner, Sarah (Travis) Crosby, Rebecca (Daniel) Carter, Asa (Tonya) Garner, and John (Kristy) Garner; 20 great-grandchildren; one sister, Betty Shaw of Rockledge, Florida; one brother, Wendell Garner of Orlando, Florida; and numerous nieces, nephews and other family.

Funeral services were held at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 29, at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, with visitation held from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. prior to the service. Officiating at the services were the Rev. Darrell Quinn, Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, and Dr. Paul Dennis, Pastor of Royal Baptist Church, Newnan.

Active pallbearers were grandsons: Sam Coleman, Luke Coleman, Jim Coleman, Matt Coleman, Asa Garner and John Garner.

Honorary pallbearers were the Mt. Vernon Joy Group and Encouragers Sunday School Classes.

Musical selections were presented by Jonathan and Anslee Hickox, Rick and Ann Herndon, Tammy Anderson, pianist, and granddaughter Heather Hale.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Georgia Special Olympics at specialolympicsga.org or Gracewood State Hospital, Augusta, Georgia.

Al Garner’s family wishes to thank everyone for your prayers, love and support, and to quote from a note received from niece and journalist Suzanne Comer Bell upon hearing of his death, words which express our thoughts and feelings so well…. “My world tilts a little today, as we lost a giant in our family last night (June 26, 2012), my beloved Uncle Al Garner. He was my oldest living uncle on my father’s side, one of six boys (counting blood and married uncles) who went to war in the forties from the Comer family. Such a gentle man, a champion farmer, cowboy, devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He joins many who live in our memories, and leaves many to hold each other in our tears today.”

Arrangements were under the direction of David E. Miles Funeral Home.

William C. Zeigler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fort Screven in 1917

Fort Screven in 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

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

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

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

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

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

The divorce case was reported in the Valdosta Times:

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

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

Tifton Gazette
April 4, 1919

Unusual Divorce In Berrien.

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

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

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

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

(Syllabus by the Court.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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