John W. Hagan Married for Third Time

John W. Hagan (1836-1918) lived in the Cat Creek community near Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He served during the Indian Wars in 1857 with Captain E.T. Kendrick’s Company of Florida Mounted Volunteers. In the Civil War, he served  with the Berrien Minute Men and wrote a number of  Confederate letters from Civil War battlefields to his first wife, Amanda Armstrong Roberts (1843-1872).  Following her death, Hagan was married in 1874 to Mary Smith, daughter of Owen Smith; she was the widow of Aaron L. Giddens and daughter-in-law of Isbin Giddens and Kiziah Knight.  Third, Hagan married Mrs. Martha Lawson Hodge, widow of Thomas B. Hodge and Lewis M. Ayers.

John W. Hagan was a prominent citizen, who served as chairman of the Lowndes County board of commissioners, representative in the Georgia legislature, leader in the Populist party, board of directors of the Alliance Warehouse Company, and was one of the incorporators of the Valdosta and Fort Valley Railroad Company along with William Roberts, James W. Roberts, W.B. Folks, Henry B. Holliday (father of Doc Holliday), Joseph Ousley, and W. G. McAdoo, and others in 1873, although it is not clear that there was ever any material construction of this line.

John W. Hagan married for a third time in 1909.

John W. Hagan married for a third time in 1909.

Valdosta Times
January 23, 1909

Hodge-Hagan Marriage

Don Quixote, or some other observant person, remarked on one occasion that “Love like Death is no respector of person, age or clime. It enters the palace of the rich as well as the poor. It goes forth to conquer in the morning, at noonday and in the decline.  It strikes in spring, summer and autumn – the buoyant youth, those of maturer age, and even those who have passed the summer of life.”
    There is some truth in this statement is proven by a matrimonial event in Valdosta yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Martha D. Hodge, the widow of the late Thomas B. Hodge.  The contracting parties were Hon. John W. Hagan and Mrs. Hodge.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. M. A. Morgan and was witnessed by quite a number of the relatives and a few intimate friends of the contracting parties.
     Much interest was attached to the marriage because of the prominence of the contracting parties as well as because of the fact that both of them had passed the meridian of life, though both are still young.  The groom is about seventy-three and the bride eleven years his junior.
     The marriage came as a surprise to many of the friends of the couple as nothing had been said about it to their friends.  It was rumored on the streets yesterday morning, but a rumor was all there was to it.  The relatives were notified a short while before it occurred and were invited to be present.
     The groom is chairman of the board of county commissioners, an ex-legislator and has been prominent in the county for many years.  The Bride was the widow of the late Tom Hodge and previous to her marriage to Mr. Hodge was the widow of the late L. M. Ayers, of Hahira.  Both parties are well fixed in this world’s goods, and the bride has property valued at from fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars.
     They have many friends who hope that their last days may be their best and that happiness will attend them on their journey down the evening of life.

The Tifton Gazette also announced the marriage, with some embellishments:

1909 John W. Hagan married Mrs. Martha A. Hodges

1909 John W. Hagan married Mrs. Martha A. Hodges

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

John W. Hagan and Mrs. T. B. Hodge were united in marriage at Valdosta last week by Rev. M. A. Morgan. No announcement had been made of the approaching nuptials, and the news came as a surprise to their friends. The groom is 74 years of age and the bride about the same. It is the third venture of the groom and the fourth of the bride. Both are prominent. The groom is chairman of the county commissioners of Lowndes county, and an ex-legislator. He was the leader of the populist party there twelve years ago. Both are well-to-do, the bride have $75,000 worth of property in Valdosta.

1909 marriage license for John W. Hagan and Mrs. Martha D. Hodges, Lowndes County, GA

1909 marriage license for John W. Hagan and Mrs. Martha D. Hodges, Lowndes County, GA

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John W. Hagan Witnessed “Unholy War” and the Execution of Elbert J. Chapman

John W. Hagan

John W. Hagan of Berrien County, GA

John W. Hagan of Berrien County, GA

John William Hagan, born October 10, 1836 in Jefferson County, FL, was a son of John Fletcher Hagan and Elizabeth Dayton. He came to Berrien County, GA around 1858 when he married Amanda Armstrong Roberts. She was the 15 year-old daughter of Reubin Roberts (1807-1874)  and Elizabeth A. Clements (1815-1862), and a niece of Bryant J. Roberts (see Bryan J. Roberts ~ Lowndes Pioneer  and Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County).

With the outbreak of the Civil War John W. Hagan enlisted for service in the Confederate States Army, mustering into the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company D, the Berrien Minute Men, in the fall of 1861.  Hagan had prior military experience, having served in 1856-1858 as a private in the Florida Mounted Volunteers, in Captain Edward T. Kendrick’s Company, in actions against the Seminole Indians.  Perhaps because of his education and prior experience , albeit limited,  he was elected on October 1, 1861 to serve as 3rd Sergeant of Company D (Company K after reorganization) of the 29th GA Regiment.

Initially, the 29th Regiment was engaged at advanced batteries providing coastal  defense for Savannah, GA.  In the spring of 1863, the regiment was sent to Charleston, NC, but was quickly dispatched from there to Mississippi in a futile attempt to shore up the defenses of Vicksburg against the advances of federal forces under Ulysses S. Grant.

John W. Hagan wrote regularly from field camps and battle lines to his wife and family back in Berrien County. His letters frequently contain mention his relatives and colleagues in the Berrien Minute Men, including Bryant J. RobertsLevi J. Knight, Jonathan D. Knight, William Washington Knight, Henry Harrison KnightJames Fender  and many others.   In all there are 43 confederate letters of John W. Hagan.

In his letter of July 23, 1863 Hagan,  after two years  of war, was obviously disgusted with the looting and destruction the Confederate Army visited upon its own citizens. Writing to his wife, he stated ” I beleave our troops are doing as much harm in this country as the yankees would do with the exception of burning houses.”

While Hagan was with the 29th Regiment in Mississippi deserter Elbert J. Chapman, a private known to the company as “Old Yaller“, was captured and returned to his unit. Chapman, while absent without leave from the Berrien Minute Men, was still acting the part of a soldier fighting with a Texas Cavalry unit.

John W. Hagan in a letter to his wife dated  May 29, 1863 posted from “Camp near Deaconsville, Miss”    included the following:

“Amanda, I have some news to write you. One of our deserters was arrested yesterdy & brought to camp. E. J. Chapman was taken at Canton City. He was a member of a cavelry company in Canton & arrested & brought to camp by one of the Sharp Shooters. He says he has bin in service in this State 5 months, but we do not know what to beleave about him. He also says B. S. Garrett was taken up in this state & shot as a Yankee spye.  If  such is the case I am satisfide with his death but I am sorry he did not get his deserts from the proper hands.  I do not know what will be done with Chapman.  We are going to carry him to Canton City to day or tomorrow, turn him over to the military authority to be  dealt with according to the nature of his offence.”  -May 29, 1863

A month later Hagan, obviously weary of the death and destruction of war, wrote of the court martial and execution of Chapman.

Camp near Forrest City , Miss     July 23rd, 1863

My Dear Wife, I this evening seat myself in this benighted reagen [region] to write you a short letter which leaves Thomas & myself in fine health &ct. I have no news to write cience [since] our retreat from Jackson.  We fought the Yankees 8 days but was forced to retreat for want of  more force.  When we first arrived in Jackson after retreating from Big Black [river] I was confident we could stand our ground & give the Federals a decent whiping. But the longer we stayed and fought them the more reinforcements they got & if we had have stayed & fought a few days longer I fear we would have suffered, for our lines was so long we did not have men to fill the entrenchments & support our batteries.  So we retreated in good order & we had a trying time when we made the retreat. Our Regt was left on the field to hold the enemy in check while the other portion of our Brigade made there escape. The projic [project] was not made known to but few of the men and offercers of the Regt & when we went to leave the field it was suppose by the most of the men that we was only changing our position & they did not know we was retreating until we was all out of danger.  The retreat was well conducted & we lost no men or property on the retreat. We are now stationed near the rail road & expect in a few days to be shiped to some place.  Some think we will go to Tennessee & some think we will go to Charleston or Savannah, but I have but little hope of going to either Savannah or Charleston.  But I beleave we will go to Tennessee or to Mobile.  The fact is, this army is too small to do anything in this country & I think will it will be divided & some sent to Savannah & Charleston & some to Mobile & the rest will be sent to Gen Bragg in Tennessee.  Gen Johnston has given up command to Gen Hardee & has gone on to assist Gen Bragg. We are now waiting for transportation & as soon as transportation can be furnished we will leave for some place we cannot say whear to.  We have had some hard fighting cience [since] we have bin out hear, but our Regt has suffered the least of any Regt in our Brigade or divission. We only lost 9 in killed & wounded while other Regts lost 3 times that number.  I would give you a ful account of the fight & the causilties but I wrote a letter to James & Ezekiel & give them a list of the killed & wounded & requested them to send the letter to you. I did not know then but we would march on to some other place whear I would not have an opportunity of writing to you.

I also give them a tolerable fair account of the fight.

Amanda, I never new [knew] how mean and army could do in a country.  I beleave our troops are doing as much harm in this country as the yankees would do with the exception of burning houses.  But our men steal all the fruit, kill all the hogs & burn all the fence and eat all the mutton corn they can camp in reach of.  Our army have destroyed as much as 200 acres of corn in one night. We carry a head of us all the cattle we find & at night they are turned into some of the finest fields of corn I ever saw & in fact wheare this army goes the people is ruined.  I am disgusted with such conduct & feel that we will never be successful while our troups are so ungrateful.  I dread to see our State invaded but I hope this war will cease soon, but I havent grounds to build my hopes upon. But I & every Southern Soldier should be like the rebbel blume which plumed more & shinned briter the more it was trampled on, & I beleave this siantific war fear [scientific warfare] will have to ceace,  & we will have to fight like Washington did, but I hope our people will never be reduced to distress  & poverty as the people of that day was, but if nothing else will give us our liberties I am willing for the time to come. I am truely tyerd of this unholy war.  Amanda, you must use your own pleasure about fattening the hogs, but I think you had better fatten all the hogs that you think you can make weight 100 lbs by keeping them up until January or Febuary for pork will bring a good price, & in case our portion of the State is invaded that much will be saved, & if our troops should pass through there & are as distructive of as army is, we would have nothing, & if such a thing should happen I want you to turn every thing in to money & leave for some other place. But I hope such a thing will never happen, but if Charlston should fall Savannah is shure to fall, & then our country will be over run by troops. This country is now in a glumy state, but the dark part of the night is allways jest before day, so we may be nearer peace than we think.

We had a hard cien [scene] to witness on the 22nd.  E. J. Chapman was shot to death by sentance of a cort martial.  It was a hard thing to witness, but I beleav he was a fit subject for an example, for he confessed being guilty of everything that was mean. & if you write you must direct to Forrest City & I will write again soon. I do not have any eyedia [idea] of having an opportunity of goine [going] home until the war is ended but if times gets no better than at at present I shal not want to leave the field. But if times gets esy you know I would be proud to see you & my little boy.  I have so far ben verry lucky & I hope I shal continue so. Tom [Roberts] sends his love to you all & says you must not look for him nor be uneasey about him for he isn’t far the way. I must close I must close as I have to write on my knee.

I remain as ever yours affectsionately

John W. Hagan

Of course, the execution of E. J. Chapman, CSA for desertion was hardly an isolated event. So many soldiers deserted, the Confederate States Army eventually developed an amnesty policy in an attempt to return them to duty. But before that, many deserters were executed. On March 2, 1863 John W. Gaskins of the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment wrote home to his family that three men in the Regiment had been shot for desertion. Two of his company mates from Berrien County, Absolom B. Dixon and Irvin Hendley, had served on the firing squad that shot Private Isaac Morgan, Company B, 50th Georgia Regiment.

About the post war period, historian Bell I. Wiley reported,

After release from military service Hagan returned to Berrien County where he lived until 1881.  He then moved to Lowndes County where he acquired a large tract of land and was a successful farmer.  He changed his residence to Valdosta in 1896 and entered the livestock business in partnership with Jessie Carter.

Hagan became engaged in politics and was a local leader of the Populist Party

He represented Lowndes County in the Georgia House of Representatives for two terms (1886-87, 1890-91) and beginning in 1904 was for four terms a member of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners, during two of which he served as chairman. He died in Valdosta on May 17, 1918 at eighty-one and was buried at Union Church Cemetery (then called Burnt Church) near Lakeland, Georgia.

Children of John William Hagan and Amanda Armstrong Roberts:

  1. Susan E. Hagan, born March 30, 1860, Lowndes County, GA; died August 25, 1860, Lowndes County, GA
  2. Reubin Columbus Hagan, born May 21, 1861, Lowndes County, GA; married Laura Roberts
  3. Georgia Hagan, born March 17, 1866, Berrien County, GA; married  James John Bradford, November 14, 1888
  4. Emma Tallulah Hagan, born June 08, 1867, Berrien County, GA; married J. A. Smith
  5. Fannie Ellen Hagan, born October 27, 1868, Berrien County, GA; married James Baskin
  6. Ida Ann Hagan, born August 16, 1870, Berrien County, GA; married John T. Smith
  7. Amanda Josephine Hagan, born March 05, 1872, Berrien County, GA; married Frank Arnold

Child of John William Hagan and Mary “Pollie” Smith Giddens (widow of Aaron Giddens):

  1. Texas Hagan, born June 19, 1875

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Matthew O. Giddens ~ Confederate POW

Matthew O. Giddens, youngest son of Isbin Giddens, was born 1844 in that part of Lowndes County, GA later cut into Berrien County.

When Matthew was about nine years old his father died, on October 21, 1853.  Isbin Giddens was buried at  Union Church Cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA.  Matthew’s older brothers, William, Moses, and Aaron served as executors of his father’s estate.  Two years later in 1855  Matthew’s mother, Kizziah Knight Giddens married the widower Allen Cone Jones.  Matthew and his minor siblings were taken into their step-father’s household. Matthew, his brother Isbin T., and sister Mary all appear in the Jones household in the census of 1860.  Matthew’s mother died in November 1861 and  she was buried at Union Church, Lanier County GA.

Matthew and his brother Isbin T. Giddens  served in the Civil War.  On August 1, 1861 they went to Milltown (nka Lakeland), GA where they joined the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry, a unit formed by their uncle General Levi J. Knight.  Neither brother would survive the war.  Matthew O. Giddens was taken prisoner on December 16, 1864 near Nashville, TN.  He was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio where three months later, on Feb 8, 1865, he died of pneumonia.  The circumstances of Isbin T. Giddens’ death are not known.

Federal records of deaths of Confederate prisoners of war show that M. O. Giddens, 29th GA Infantry, died of pneumonia on February 7, 1865 at Camp Chase, OH. Reel 0012 – SELECTED RECORDS OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT RELATING TO CONFEDERATE PRISONERS OF WAR 1861-65 – 21-South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, 1862-65

Camp Chase, OH ca. 1861-1865, federal prison camp for confederate soldiers. Photographer, Manfred M. Griswold. The conditions at Camp Chase were deplorable, some say nearly as bad as the prison operated by the Confederates at Andersonville, GA.

Camp Chase, OH ca. 1861-1865, federal prison camp for confederate soldiers. Photographer, Manfred M. Griswold. The conditions at Camp Chase were deplorable, some say nearly as bad as the prison operated by the Confederates at Andersonville, GA.

Gravemarker of M.O. Giddens, 29th GA Regiment, one of 2260 confederate graves at Camp Chase Cemetery.

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