Captain J. D. Evans was Skulking and Hiding Out

Desertion of J. D. Evans

Johnathan D. Evans before the Civil War was residing at Nashville, GA. In the Census of 1860  he was enumerated there as a mechanic and slave owner. At the outbreak of the war, he became Captain of one of the four companies of Confederate soldiers that went forth from Berrien County, GA.

J. D. Evans’ name appears on a March 1862 list of Berrien County men subject to do military duty. He enlisted with other men of Berrien County and was mustered into Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment Volunteer Infantry March 4, 1862. On May 6, 1862, J. D. Evans was elected Captain of Company E. Among other Berrien County men serving in Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment were Jehu and James Patten, George Washington Knight , Matthew Hodge Albritton, James Lee, Jesse Lee, John LeeGeorge Washington KnightJames Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell NixStephen Willis AveraWilliam J. Lamb, Thomas L. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie,  William Henry Outlaw, John Webb, Jordan Webb and Benjamin Sirmans, Jeremiah MayRufus Ray, and Samuel SandersDr. Hamilton M. Talley was Evans’ second in command.

But after a year of service, J. D. Evans deserted his post.

According to the New Georgia Encylopedia, ”

Desertion plagued Georgia regiments during the Civil War (1861-65) and, in addition to other factors, debilitated the Confederate war effort. Deserters were not merely cowards or ne’er-do-wells; some were seasoned veterans from battle-hardened regiments….   Whereas the sixty-three plantation-belt counties in the lowlands provided more than 50 percent of the volunteer infantry companies, desertion rates among soldiers hailing from this region were among the lowest in the state…This phenomenon may be partially accounted for by the fact that Confederate social and military authority remained reasonably intact in the lowlands for most of the war, making it perilous for would-be deserters from the area to flee home…The economic structure of the plantation belt and the widespread use of slave labor also allowed lowland Georgians to remain in the Confederate army without worries for the safety of their homes and families. [Furthermore] wealthy plantation owners in the lowlands were able to apply for exemptions. While 3,368 Georgians deserted to Union lines throughout the war, approximately 11,000 affluent Georgia men received exemptions and were able to remain in their communities and maintain social and economic stability. 
Berrien County men, like J. D. Evans, did desert, though. Men deserted from  Company E (Berrien County), 54th GA Regiment, from the Berrien Minute Men (companies G & K, 29th GA regiment),  and from the Berrien Light Infantry (Company I, 50th GA Regiment).
Companies routinely sent patrols back to their home counties to round up deserters and stragglers who had overstayed their leaves.  Sergeant William W. Williams was sent in 1864 to hunt skulkers in Lowndes and Berrien County, GA. N. M. McNabb, a soldier of Company D, 12th Georgia Regiment, was pressed into service hunting fugitive deserters in Berrien County in September 1864.
It was not unusual for Confederate soldiers to go absent without having been granted leave.  John W. Hagan, sergeant of the Berrien Minute Men, wrote about having to “run the blockade”  – to slip past sentries and sneak out of camp for a few hours when he didn’t have a pass.  Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a soldier of the 31st Georgia Regiment, wrote from Camp Wilson about his regiment being called to formation in the middle of the night to catch out those men who were absent without leave.  The men returned before dawn, but  “There was quite a delegation from each company to march up to headquarters that morning to receive, as they thought, a very severe penalty for their misconduct. Our good old colonel stood up before his tent and lectured the men, while others stood armed grinning and laughing at their plight; but to the surprise and joy of the guilty, he dismissed them all without punishment after they had promised him never to run away from camp again.”
The men sometimes gave themselves unofficial leave for more than just a night on the town – French leave, they called it.
Desertion was common from the beginning of the war, but, until early in 1862, it was not always defined as such. When the war unexpectedly lasted past the first summer and fall, … recruits began taking what many called “French leave” by absenting themselves for a few days or longer in order to visit friends and family (the term comes from an eighteenth-century French custom of leaving a reception without saying a formal good bye to the host or hostess). Officers pursued these men with varying degrees of diligence, but because most returned in time for the spring campaigns, few were formally charged with and punished for desertion. – Encyclopedia Virginia
In July 1862 a number of men from the 29th Georgia Regiment were detached to Camp Anderson, near Savannah, for the formation of a new sharpshooter battalion. Desertion became a problem; by the end of the year 29 men would desert from Camp Anderson.  At least one deserter killed himself rather than be captured and returned to Camp Anderson. Another, after firing a shot at Major Anderson, was court-martialed and executed by firing squad. Three more deserters were sentenced to death but were released and returned to duty under a general amnesty and pardon issued by Jefferson Davis.
In October 1862 Elbert J. “Yaller” Chapman took  “French leave” when the Berrien Minute Men were returning by train from a deployment in Florida:
“Yaller” stepped off the train at the station on the Savannah, Florida, and Western  [Atlantic & Gulf] railroad nearest his home — probably Naylor, and went to see his family. He was reported “absent without leave,” and when he returned to his command at Savannah, he was placed in the guard tent and charges were preferred against him. It was from the guard tent that he deserted and went home the second time. After staying home a short while he joined a cavalry command and went west.  It is said that he was in several engagements and fought bravely.  
Albert Douglas left the Berrien Minute Men “absent without leave” in December 1862 and was marked “deserted.”  Actually Douglas enlisted in the 26th Georgia Infantry and went to Virginia, where his unit was engaged in the Battle of Brawners Farm. He subsequently served in a number of units before deserting and surrendering to the U. S. Army.  He was inducted into the U. S. Navy, but deserted that position in March 1865.

Deserter Benjamin S. Garrett was later shot for being a spy.

By the spring of 1863 when the 29th Georgia Regiment was stationed at Camp Young near Savannah, GA, twenty men were reported as deserters. Four of the deserters were from Company K, the Berrien Minute Men, including  Albert Douglas, Benjamin S. Garrett, J. P. Ponder and Elbert J. Chapman,. Colonel William J. Young offered a reward of $30 for each Confederate deserter apprehended, $600 for the bunch.  From the weeks and months the reward was advertised, one can judge these were not men who just sneaked off to Savannah,  but were long gone.

When the 29th Georgia Regiment and the Berrien Minute Men, Company K were sent to Mississippi in May of 1863 they encountered deserter Elbert J. Chapman serving in another regiment. The case became one of the most notorious of the war.  [Chapman’s] desertion  consisted in his leaving [the Berrien Minute Men,] Wilson’s Infantry Regiment, then stationed on the coast of Georgia, and joining a Cavalry Regiment at the front—a “desertion” of a soldier from inactive service in the rear to fighting at the front.  Although Chapman was fighting with another company in Mississippi, he was charged with desertion from the 29th Georgia Regiment and court-martialed.  Despite appeals by his commanding officers Chapman was executed by firing squad. After the war, his indigent wife was denied a Confederate pension.
While Berrien Minute Men Company G was detached at the Savannah River Batteries, the papers of commanding officer Col. Edward C. Anderson indicate desertions from the Savannah defenses were a common occurrence.

It was in July 1863 that Captain J. D. Evans deserted from Company E, 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  Given that the 54th Georgia Infantry was engaged in repelling Federal assaults on the defenses of Charleston, his punishment was remarkably light.

Just a few days after J. D. Evans went absent without leave,  Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, issued a general pardon to deserters.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

His proclamation, issued on August 1, 1863, admitted Confederate defeats, the horrific death toll, and the pending invasion of Georgia by overwhelming U.S. forces. Davis claimed the goal of the U.S. government is a slave revolt and the genocide or enslavement of Southern whites. He assuaged the guilt of deserters and asserted that Confederate victory could still be pulled from defeat, if all the Confederate deserters would but return to their camps. Finally, Davis “conjures” the women of Georgia not to shelter deserters from disgrace.

Jefferson Davis’ proclamation of pardon and amnesty for Confederate deserters was published in newspapers all over the South.

TO THE SOLDIERS OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES.
After more than two years of a warfare scarcely equaled in the number, magnitude and fearful carnage of its battles; a warfare in which your courage and fortitude have illustrated your country and attracted not only gratitude at home but admiration abroad, your enemies continue a struggle in which our final triumph must be inevitable. Unduly elated with their recent successes they imagine that temporary reverses can quell your spirit or shake your determination, and they are now gathering heavy masses for a general invasion, in the vain hope that by a desperate effort success may at length be reached.
You know too well, my countrymen, what they mean by success. Their malignant rage aims at nothing less than the extermination of yourselves, your wives and children. They seek to destroy what they cannot plunder. They propose as the spoils of victory that your homes shall be partitioned among the wretches whose atrocious cruelties have stamped infamy on their Government. The design to incite servile insurrection and light the fires of incendiarism whenever they can reach your homes, and they debauch the inferior race hitherto docile and contented, by promising indulgence of the vilest passions, as the price of treachery. Conscious of their inability to prevail by legitimate warfare, not daring to make peace lest they should be hurled from their seats of power, the men who now rule in Washington refuse even to confer on the subject of putting an end to outrages which disgrace our age, or to listen to a suggestion for conducting the war according to the usages of civilization. Fellow citizens, no alternative is left you but victory, or subjugation, slavery and the utter ruin of yourselves, your families and your country. The victory is within your reach. You need but stretch forth your hands to grasp it. For this and all that is necessary is that those who are called to the field by every motive that can move the human heart, should promptly repair to the post of duty, should stand by their comrades now in front of the foe, and thus so strengthen the armies of the Confederacy as to ensure success. The men now absent from their posts would, if present in the field, suffice to create numerical equality between our force and that of the invaders— and when, with any approach to such equality, have we failed to be victorious? I believe that but few of those absent are actuated by unwillingness to serve their country; but that many have found it difficult to resist the temptation of a visit to their homes and the loved ones from whom they have been so long separated; that others have left for temporary attention to their affairs with the intention of returning and then have shrunk from the consequences of their violation of duty; that others again have left their post from mere restlessness and desire of change, each quieting the upbraidings of his conscience, by persuading himself that his individual services could have no influence on the general result.
These and other causes (although far less disgraceful than the desire to avoid danger, or to escape from the sacrifices required by patriotism, are, nevertheless, grievous faults, and place the cause of our beloved country, and of everything we hold dear, in imminent peril. I repeat that the men who now owe duty to their country, who have been called out and have not yet reported for duty, or who have absented themselves from their posts, are sufficient in number to secure us victory in the struggle now pending.
I call on you, then, my countrymen, to hasten to your camps, in obedience to the dictates of honor and of duty, and summon, those who have absented themselves without leave, or who have remained absent beyond the period allowed by their furloughs, to repair without delay to their respective commands, and I do hereby declare that I grant a general pardon and amnesty to all officers and men within the Confederacy, now absent without leave, who shall, with the least possible delay, return to their proper posts of duty, but no excuse will be received for any deserter beyond twenty days after the first publication of this proclamation in the State in which the absentee may be at the date of the publication. This amnesty and pardon shall extend to all who have been accused, or who have been convicted and are undergoing sentence for absence without leave or desertion, excepting only those who have been twice convicted of desertion.
Finally, I conjure my countrywomen —the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the Confederacy— to use their all-powerful influence in aid of this call, to add one crowning sacrifice to those which their patriotism has so freely and constantly offered on their country’s alter, and to take care that none who owe service in the field shall be sheltered at home from the disgrace of having deserted their duty to their families, to their country, and to their God.
Given under my band, and the Seal of the Confederate States, at Richmond, this 1st day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three.

JEFFERSON DAVIS.
By the President:
J. P. Benjamin, Sec’ry of State.

Johnathan D. Evans did not return to his post, however.  On Oct 23, 1863, his Colonel wrote to General Samuel Cooper that Evans was a skulker and hiding from duty. (Cooper was the highest ranking officer of the Confederate States Army, outranking Robert E. Lee and all other officers of the Confederacy.)

Hed. Qrs. 54th Ga. Infantry
James Island, S.C.
Oct. 20th, 1863

Gen’l S. Cooper
Adj’t Insp’r Gen’l
Richmond,

Gen’l
I have the honor to request that you will drop in disgrace from the Army rolls, the name of Captain J. D. Evans of Company “E” 54th Ga. Infantry.
This officer has been absent from his command for a period of sixty days without leave. On the 27th day of July last, the Regiment being ordered to Morris Island, Capt Evans reported sick, and at his own request was sent, by the Surgeon, to the hospital in Charleston. He was subsequently transferred to Columbus, S.C., and thence to Augusta, Ga., since which time he has never reported.
I regret to state that all the circumstances surrounding this case indicate, but too clearly, that he never intends to rejoin his command – at least while it is in active service; (nor from all the reports which reach me) can I be induced to believe that he is sick – on the contrary, I am forced unwillingly to think that he is skulking and hiding from duty. If a more charitable construction could be placed upon his conduct, I should be the last one to suggest so harsh a proceeding in his case.
Where he is – what he is doing – when he intends to return – and where to reach him with an order are questions which no one can answer.
Verbal reports reach me that he is at home with his family – that he is engaged in a Government workshop – but all parties report him well. His influence with his command is lost. For the good of the service, and as a proper example to deter others from adopting a similar course, I earnestly recommend that his name be dropped from the Army Rolls.

I have the honor to be, Gen’l,
Very Respectfully,
Yr Ob’t Sv’t
Charlton H. Way

Col. Charlton H. Way letter of October 10, 1863 requesting Capt. J. D. Evans be dropped in disgrace from Army rolls.

Col. Charlton H. Way letter of October 10, 1863 requesting Capt. J. D. Evans be dropped in disgrace from Army rolls.

 

Col. Charlton H. Way letter of October 10, 1863 requesting Capt. J. D. Evans be dropped in disgrace from Army rolls.

Evans never did return to his unit. He was dropped from the rolls of Confederate officers for desertion.

The most significant wave of desertion among Georgia soldiers began in late 1863 following the Battle of Chickamauga,…the biggest battle ever fought in Georgia, which took place on September 18-20, 1863.  With 34,000 casualties, Chickamauga is generally accepted as the second bloodiest engagement of the war; only the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, with 51,000 casualties, was deadlier.

Lt. H. M. Talley assumed command of Company E, 54th GA Regiment.  By the spring of 1864, Company E and the rest of the 54th Georgia Regiment were back at Savannah, GA serving on river defenses under the command of Edward C. Anderson. Anderson’s command also included the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Regiment. Col. E. C. Anderson’s frustrations with Confederate desertion included the embarrassment of having his personal boat stolen by three deserters from the Confederate tugboat CSS Resolute on the night of April 15, 1864.

By the summer of 1864, the Confederate States Army was again in pursuit of skulkers.  Colonel Elijah C. Morgan of the  Georgia Militia, wrote from Valdosta, GA to his superior officer requesting a guard to conduct skulkers back to their units. Col. E. C. Morgan had served as Captain of the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th GA regiment  from the formation of the company in 1862  until April 14, 1863 when he resigned because of tuberculosis; before the war he had been a Berrien County, GA attorney.

Colonel Elijah C. Morgan requests a guard to conduct skulkers from Valdosta, GA back to their Confederate units, August 16, 1864.

Colonel Elijah C. Morgan requests a guard to conduct skulkers from Valdosta, GA back to their Confederate units, August 16, 1864.

Valdosta, Ga   Aug 16th 1864

General,

I again urge the necessity of sending Sergt Wm W Williams back to use as a guard in sending forward skulkers who will not do to trust without a guard.

E. C. Morgan
Col. & ADG
6th Dist GM

According to historian Ella Lonn, of the approximately 103,400 enlisted men who deserted the Confederacy by war’s end, 6,797 were from Georgia.

After the war, J. D. Evans became a Baptist preacher. In 1874 he came to Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City) where he was instrumental in organizing a missionary Baptist Church.

 

Related Posts:

Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863

Civil War Service of James Madison Baskin

Regimental Feud at Camp Wilson Near Savannah, GA

“Sin and wickedness prevails…

In January of 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were made at Camp Wilson near Savannah, GA.  This camp was initially established by  then Colonel Claudius Charles Wilson’s 25th Regiment of Georgia Volunteers, and was used by 25th, 27th (31st) and 29th Regiments.   After the arrival of the 29th Regiment a verbal feud erupted between certain officers of the 29th and officers of the 25th Georgia Regiment then stationed at Camp Wilson. The cause of the contention was an allegation of rampant gambling in the encampment of the 25th Regiment, condoned if not endorsed by officers of the regiment.  It was first alleged the men of the 25th Regiment were gambling at cards, but later clarified that they were playing a game of chance called “chuckaluck.”

Now a story circulated that General Robert E. Lee, while opposed to gambling, was somewhat somewhat naive about games of chance.

A good joke on the General is this: He had been trying to suppress gambling in the army, when news came to him about a strange game. “Major Marshall,” said he, in his strong grave voice, “what is this new game I hear of –‘Chickabuck,’ I think they call it.” Major Marshall could not say. “Captain Latham,” said the General, addressing another member of his staff, “perhaps you can inform us.” — There was a general laugh, as the Captain explained, that he had heard at race courses of a game called “chuck-a-luck,” which was played, he believed with cards and dice, and sometimes called “sweat-cloth;” but, as for “chickabuck,” that was a profound mystery to him.

Chuckaluck was a popular game around both Confederate and Union campfires. The rules were straightforward and simple. The chuckaluck dealer would have a strip of oil cloth with figures 1 to 6 on it, dice and a dice box. You place your money on your favorite figure and the dealer chucks the dice. Maybe you’ll win and maybe you lose.

Chuck-a-luck was gambling game of dice popular around both Confederate and Union campfires.

Chuck-a-luck was gambling game of dice popular around both Confederate and Union campfires.

An old Chuck-a-luck banker’s proposition to “chuck” players went:

All young men disposed to gamble,
Chuckaluck’s a game that’s easy to handle;
The more you put down less you take up,
And that’s the game they call chuckaluck.

By November 1862, Robert E. Lee  would issue a General Order prohibiting gambling.

“The general commanding is pained to learn that the vice of gambling exists, and is becoming common in this army. The regulations expressly prohibit one class of officers from indulging in this evil practice, and it was not supposed that a habit so pernicious and demoralizing would be found among men engaged in a cause, of all others, demanding the highest virtue and purest morality in its supporters. He regards it as wholly inconsistent with the character of a Southern soldier and subversive of good order and discipline in the army. All officers are earnestly enjoined to use every effort to suppress this vice, and the assistance of every soldier having the true interests of the army and of the country at heart is invoked to put an end to a practice which cannot fail to produce those deplorable results which have ever attended its indulgence in any society..”

But historian Bell I. Wiley observed, “If Lee was just then discovering this propensity of his troops he was far behind time, for that evil had flourished in the Army of Northern Virginia, as elsewhere, long before he assumed command.” Dice, cards and lotteries were among the most common games of chance. But soldiers would bet on anything; horse racing, lice racing, any sort of racing, contest, fight, or chance.

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a private in the 31st Georgia Regiment stationed at Camp Wilson, wrote,

“Young and inexperienced when I enlisted, I was surprised to find so many gamblers among my comrades. It seemed that as soon as they entered the service and found themselves free from civil law, they resorted for pastime between all duty in camp, and a great part of the night was spent in that way until our field officers ordered all lights out after a certain hour. But this did not quite put a stop to it, for during the day, when there was any leisure, there were many games of chance which could be indulged in despite our duties.”

Writing from Camp Wilson to the Rome Courier on January 1, 1862, a soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment reported:

          Sin and wickedness prevails to a great extent in this camp. It is enough to make any Georgian blush to learn that there is two or three faro banks in Col. Wilson’s Regiment, in full blast, nearly every night, and what makes the picture still darker, the officers not only permit it, but several patronize them. How can we reasonably expect God to bless such Regiments on the battlefield? When officers set such examples, what may we expect of the privates, especially the young men who are just entering the threshold of manhood.
          A great many young men who, when they first came into camp, did not know one card from another, are now playing, and many for gain. I am proud to say there is very little of it, either in our Regiment, or Col. [Pleasant J. ] Phillip’s. The officers of our Regiment are all opposed to any of their men playing cards, and what little there may be, is done slyly.
         There is no Regiment that has a better set of officers than the 29th. They are all high toned, honorable gentlemen, and all attentive to their duties. The Regiment is fast filling up. Those that have been absent on sick furloughs are returning, and bringing new recruits with them. We would like to receive a few more of the right sort from
FLOYD.

Rebutting these allegations was Lieutenant Colonel William Percy Mortimer Ashley of the 25th Georgia Regiment, who was so devoted to the rebellion that at the conclusion of the war he would refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance.  Taking personal offense to Perry’s public allegations, Ashley with a letter to the Daily Morning News in Savannah:

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 21, 1862

Camp Wilson, January 20th, 1862.

        “Sin and wickedness prevails to a great extent in this camp. It is enough to make any Georgian blush to learn that there is two or three Faro banks in Col. Wilson’s Regiment in full blast nearly every night, and what make the picture still darker, the officers not only permit it, but several patronize them.”
         The above is an extract from a communication published in the Rome Courier, which we pronounce a base calumny upon the officers and privates of the 25th Regiment. Our desire to disabuse the public mind and set at ease the hearts of those fathers and mothers who have sons in our Regiment, is the sole cause of our noticing the above vile slander in this public manner. The author is known to me, and proper steps are being taken to bring him to account before the proper tribunal.
Wm. Percy M. Ashley
Lieut. Col. 25th Regiment G.V.

Replying in the Daily Morning News, Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry repeated and clarified his allegation.

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA

January 23, 1862

Camp Wilson, (Near Savannah, Ga.,)
January 21st, 1862.

Lieut. Col. W.P.W. Ashley, 25th Regiment Georgia Volunteers:

       Dear Sir – You say “the above extract is a base calumny upon the officers and privates of the 25th Regiment, and that you know the author, and that proper steps are being taken to bring him to an account before the proper tribunal.” In reply, permit me to say, I am more than willing and fully prepared to meet you and the Regiment in the investigation of the charge, for “the truth is mighty and must prevail.”
         As I stated in my letter to you on Saturday last, I may have been in error to say “Faro banks;” perhaps I should have said “Chuckaluck banks.” You dare not deny their existence in the 25th at the time I wrote the communication and since then, and you know the tendency and evil is the same in their “damning influence” upon those you suffer to participate in them, for there is merely a distinction without a difference; and I would here remark that I am truly sorry to see a gentleman who holds so high a position quibble about such a small thing. You seem to try to make the impression that I include the privates as being responsible for the existence of those “Chuckaluck banks.” I deny it. The officers are alone responsible for their existence, and all the evils that naturally follow, for if you all had done your duty they would not have been there, and this difficulty would have been obviated.
         I am aware there are some officers in the 25th who I know to be opposed to those games, but it is to be regretted that they will stand with their arms akimbo, apparently indifferent to their duty and trust reposed in them, and see the youth in their charge traveling the downward road to ruin and not try to rescue them by either word or act.
       Why did you not publish the correspondence between us? Why did you not have the fairness to acknowledge in your letter that I acknowledged to you, and to three of the officers of the 25th on the first inquiry, that I was the author of the communications? It appears that you wish the impression to go out that you obtained the information from some other source.
      The riotous conduct of a portion of your regiment on last Saturday night in marching out of the 25th and into and across the 29th Regiment with a lantern hoisted on a pole, was the natural fruits of those “chuckaluck banks.” In justice to you I will here state that you came immediately and ordered them back, and apologized to Col. [Thomas W. ] Alexander, and assured him the insult was not intended for him or the regiment, and at the same time stated that it was done without the knowledge or consent of any of the commissioned officers. I hope such was the case; but it looks very unreasonable for so many to get up such a move and march out without the knowledge of some officer. It looks so unreasonable I am forced to the conclusion that there was a “power behind the throne greater than the throne itself.”
      According to my view of things, it little becomes a superior to insult an inferior officer when the former knows the latter’s hands are tied firm and fast by army regulations, wisely made by the guardians of our young Confederacy. Let these restraints be removed, and then I will in earnest Christian feeling hurl back the lie so boldly given in your communication.
      To all those who love peace and good order I will say I regret that this matter has taken the course it has, but you will, no doubt, justify me in replying through the press, as justice to myself and cause of truth demands it.
     What I have done I did with a conscientious belief that it was not only my duty to my country, but the cause of morality and religion; and here express the hope that if anything more is said or done it be before the proper tribunal. I am ready. I shall say nothing more unless duty requires it of me.
Yours, &c.,
Thos. J. Perry
Lieutenant Berry Infantry

A few days later, the 29th Georgia Regiment left their bivouac at Camp Wilson, and moved to a new camp about a mile distant and by April 16, 1862, the 29th Regiment was stationed at Causton’s Bluff.

But Lieutenant W.P.M. Ashley and the 25th Regiment pressed the point. Perry was hauled before a military tribunal and court martial.

Rome Weekly Courier
May 16, 1862

Our Savannah Correspondence.

Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
May 8, 1862

Dear Courier; I have at last heard the result of my Court Martial case. I was relieved of duty one week, and to be reprimanded by the Colonel, for “writing the communication and not notifying Col. Wilson of the gaming.” It was read out at dress parade on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday evening we re-organized our company, which put an end to it. Capt. Turner was re-elected Captain; T. F. Hooper, 1st Lieut.; T. J. Perry, 2nd do.; Jas M. Carney, 3d do. Capt. Turner declined accepting the Captaincy.
     Our Regiment is on picket duty on Oakland and Whitmarsh Island, in connection with the 13th Regiment and 11th Battalion. We have had no fighting yet, though we are sometimes in shooting distance of the Yankees.
     Lieut. Hooper arrived to-day. No one was ever received with a more hearty welcome.  Henry J. Blakeman died yesterday at the Augusta Hospital.  He was a good soldier and very popular in the company.  There are no prospects of a fight here soon.
     Capt Cameron, as you well know, is a good fellow, and attends to his own business, and thinks every body else ought to do the same. He is regarded at Headquarters in the service.  Our commissary, W. H. Stark, is a model officer also. They give perfect satisfaction to all concerned – so you may imagine we fare well.
    The weather is remarkably pleasant. Days moderately warm and nights cool. The sea breeze is delightful.
    There is but a few cases of sickness in our company.  It is much more healthy here than our up country friends would suppose. We have good water, but not so good as you have in Floyd.

As a final note on this episode, the First Baptist Church of Savannah supported the actions of Thomas J. Perry in shedding light of the prevalence of “sin and wickedness” in the Confederate camps about Savannah.  A committee of the church expressed their support with a letter to Perry’s home town newspaper.

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
August 21, 1862

Thomas J. Perry

      A special committee appointed to examine the case of brother Thomas J. Perry, who is under the watch care of this Church, (First Baptist Church, of Savannah) who has been court-martialed and censured by the Twenty-fifth Georgia Regiment, for writing and publishing an article exposing the injurious practice of gambling playing of cards, &c. in their midst – beg leave to report:
      We have read the article and the particular paragraphs upon which the charge or charges were based and in our Judgement no blame attaches to brother Perry. The publication of the article referred to may be an infraction of military rule; but certainly no violation of any known moral and religious duty. And so far from imputing guilt to him, we cordially state that we believe he was in the discharge of a high christian duty, in thus grappling with this fascinating sin in its comparative incipiency in their midst. Brother Perry, with us, enjoys the full confidence of his brethren.
       We suggest that a copy of this report be transmitted to the Church at Rome, of which he is a member.
All of which is respectfully submitted.

Geo. W. Davis
W.W. Wash,
Committee

  • George W. Davis, “an anti-slavery man” was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, and treasurer of the City of Savannah. His son, George Whitefield Davis,  fled Georgia in 1861 after being arrested as northern spy. He joined the U.S. Army and fought with the 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry at South Mountain and Antietam. Over a 42 year army career he rose to the rank of Major General, and served in positions as president of the board of publication of the “Rebellion Records,” military governor of Puerto Rico, commander of the Division of the Philipines, and a member of the Panama Canal Commission.
  • William W. Wash was a teacher, planter, and trustee of First Bryan Baptist Church, which today is the oldest continuous African-American Baptist Church in the United States.
  • William H. Stark, Commissary Officer of the 29th Georgia Regiment, was also a member of the First Baptist Church of Savannah]

About the protagonists:

Thomas J. Perry (1824-1878)

Thomas J. Perry was born on August 28, 1824, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He married Mary E Fulton on September 3, 1857, in Floyd, Georgia. They had two children during their marriage. Before the Civil War, Thomas J. Perry was in partnership with G.W.F. Lamkin in the firm of Perry & Lamkin, Grocery Merchants located at No. 4 Choice Hotel, said partnership being dissolved when Perry was in service with the Berry Infantry at Savannah. His residence was in the Etowah Division of the city of Rome, near the Rome Railroad track and the Etowah River. His offices in the 1870s were at 77 Broad Street, Rome, GA, opposite May’s Livery Stable, near the post office.   Merchant, Lawyer, Mason, Baptist, Judge, he was a tireless promoter of his home town, Rome, GA.  He died on September 28, 1878, in Rome, Georgia, at the age of 54. Upon his death, Reverend Gustavus Alonzo Nunnally delivered the following during a Grand Masonic Procession to Perry’s grave on Myrtle Hill:

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
May 24, 1879

Thomas J. Perry

He was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and at an early age removed with his parents to Gwinnett county, Georgia.  At the age of twelve he was left an orphan.  A helpless lad in the midst of difficulties; a child without kin or patrimony; a waif thrown upon the tide to be drifted at the mercy of careless waves, his prospects were not at all flattering.  In accordance with the laws of the land he was bound out to Mr. – Lamkin, to whom he rendered, during his minority, faithful service, and from whom he received those aspirations for a true manhood, and those truths of a noble life which were exemplified in the history of their ward. Having reached his majority he started West.  He reached Kingston, Ga., without funds or friends, kith or kin – with no commendation but his open face, with no resources but his fertile mind and brawny arm, and with no purpose but to do his duty and be an honest man. He manfully took the pick and shovel and worked upon the railroad which was being constructed at that place. After staying on the works a while he proceeded upon his journey. And in company with another gentleman he reached Rome in a few days in about the same condition as when he arrived at Kingston. Here began the development of the noble traits of character which commended the principles he had imbibed in the home of his orphanage and which were prophetic of the station to which he afterward attained.

1. With him all needful labor was honorable. This maxim he illustrated the next day after he reached Rome. In company with his friend he went from house to house seeking employment; he finally was told by a citizen that he had only one job that needed to be done.  It was to clean up his stable and cart the manure into his garden. Perry’s companion, who had more pride, but less sense, stood up proudly and refused with expressions of disdain and contempt such menial service. But the noble-hearted orphan, Tom Perry, said, “Give me the tools and I am ready for the work.” He did the work satisfactorily and cheerfully. It was the beginning of his success.  He won the confidence of the wealthy citizen, proved his usefulness, and was entreated to make Rome his home. He never forgot the maxim “that all needful work was honorable,” and while he observed it himself he encouraged others to do the same. The hard palm of the son of toil always received from him the warm grasp of sympathy and the sunburnt brow of the laborer was always cheered by the smile of recognition which fell from Perry’s face.

2. He always had a due appreciation of a favor.  He never forgot a kindness shown him, and he never cherished a wrong committed against him.  His Sabbath evening pilgrimages to the neat little home of his foster parents, over the Etowah, showed how he regarded the kindness and love they had manifested toward him in his young orphanage. Never was son more devoted to his natural parents than he to them.

3. He was always ready to recognize merit in others. He aimed at equality with others – even the best and noblest – but he determined to reach it – not by dragging them down but by climbing to their high position. He spoke evil of no man, but rather whispered good counsel in his ear and braced himself to support a falling brother.

4. He was fully conscious of all the claims which the public had upon him. Some may say that he had a thirst for office, but it was only that he felt he owed much to the public that always made him willing to take another office. He was indefatigable in his official labors. He was seen quite exhausted and worn down one day by overwork, with a physician feeling of his pulse in one hand and prescribing for his disease while in the other he held his pen and was busily executing some of the papers connected with his court.
While with a broad heart he took in all mankind yet Rome was the place of his labors, the subject of his benefactions, the center of his attachments and the idol of his life.
He understood fully the language of the old English poet:

“There is a land, of every land the pride,
Beloved by Heaven, o’er all the world beside,
Where brighter suns dispense serener light,
And milder moons emparadise the night;
In every clime, the magnet of the soul.
Touched by remembrance, trembles to that pole;
For in this land of Heaven’s peculiar grace,
The heritage of natures noblest race,
There is a spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
Art thou a man? -a patriot? -look around;
O! thou shalt find, howe’er thy footsteps roam;
That land thy country, and that spot thy home!”

To every letter he wrote there was a postscript in favor of Rome – in every conversation with strangers there was a parenthetic expression commending the city of Rome, and every stake he set up in business – every scheme and project – all pointed towards Rome.

5. He had a due regard for the future. He lived not alone for the present. There was no selfishness in his purpose, there was no limits to the bearing of his projects. He planted tree beneath whose shade other generations souls rest and from off whose weighted boughs other children would pluck the ripened fruit when the hand that dropped the seed was paralyzed in death and the foot that covered them was charred in the tomb.

6. He was suggestive without being a visionary. He was full of suggestions. He was always thinking, meditating, cogitating something that promised good. “Has any one any thing to offer for the good of the order?” always brought Tom Perry to his feet and upon his lips there would be spoken softly the name of a widow in distress, or an orphan in want or some brother in misfortune.

7. He was progressive, yet he was conservative.

“He was not the last to lay the old aside
Nor yet the first by whom the new was tried.”

The old plans and cherished expedients were readily thrown aside by him when a better plan had been presented.

8. He was aggressive, but not destructive. He would correct the wrong yet save the wrong-doer. He would crush the crime with the iron heel of the law but he would press the criminal to the warm bosom of sympathy and love. The justice of his court room was not vindictive, but compassionate, his sentences were not punitive but reformatory and his executions were not intended to immolate the evil doer but to rescue and passify the victim of lawlessness.
But he sleeps. He has been summoned to grand assize. He is happy in having the same judgement measured out to him which he dispensed when here among men.
No truer friend molds in the dust of Myrtle Hill, and no nobler heart beats in the bosom of the living. Let the precious memories of his manly virtues hang around his name like the rich fragrance of this boquet over the sod beneath which his remains repose.  And let his faults be buried in the vault and lost in the ruins of the tomb where his remains decay.

“The lodge, the school-room – the church – and State
Sustain in thee an equal loss,
But who would call thee from thy weight
Of glory, back to dear life’s cross!
Thy faith was kept, thy course was run,
Thy good fight finished; hence the word,
Well done, oh! Faithful child , well done,
Taste then the mercies of thy Lord.”

Among Thomas J. Perry’s civic accomplishments:

Vice Grand of Loyal Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 40, 1860; High Priest of Royal Arch Chapter, No. 26;  Alderman, Rome City Council, 1865-1870;  Agent for Johnson’s Union Washing Machine, 1865;  Grand Juror, January 1866 term of Floyd County, Superior Court; Deputy Tax Collector, 1866; Stamp Agent, 1866; Rome Board of Trade, 1866;  Secretary and Stockholder of the Oostananaula Steamboat Company, 1866; President, Schley Council, Good Samaritans, 1866; Agent for the Anchor Line Steamship Company, 1868;  Director and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Cherokee Masonic Life Insurance Company (Cherokee Masonic Aid Association), 1869; Justice of the Peace, 1869; Incorporator of the Memphis Branch Railroad, 1869; Deacon of the Rome Baptist Church, 1869;  Attorney, 1869; Right Illustrious Hiram of Tyre, Grand Council of Royal and Selected Masters, 1870;  Scribe Ezra and Grand Master 3rd Vail, of Rome, GA, 1870; Agent for Tilton’s Journal of Horticulture, 1871;  Judge, 1870-1874; Committee of Arrangements and Reception, August 1871 Convention of the Georgia State Agricultural Society at Rome, GA; Agent of the Commission for the Monument to the Confederate Dead of Georgia, 1872; Candidate for Justice of the Peace for 919th Georgia Militia District, 1872; appointed  Grand Master 3rd Vail at the Grand Chapter and Council of Masons of the State of Georgia, 1873; Secretary of the Rome Fair Association, 1873; Clerk of the Floyd County Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenue, 1873; Secretary and stockholder Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association of the Cherokee Country of Georgia and Alabama, 1873; Local Agent for the St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga Railroad Line, 1873; Agent for New Orleans Mutual Insurance Company, 1873; Agent for the Old Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York; Emigrant Agent for Western & Atlantic Railroad, 1873; Agent for The Household magazine, 1873;  Commissioner of Deeds, 1873; Notary Public, 1873; Secretary of the Bee Keepers’ Convention of Alabama and Georgia, 1873; Local Agent for Irwin & Thurmond’s Southern Nursery of Atlanta, 1873; Agent for the Georgia Real Estate and Immigration Company, 1874; Board Member, Mary Carter Steamboat Company, Rome, GA, 1874; instrumental in securing Congressional appropriation for the clearing of the Oostanula River, 1874; juror on the Coroner’s inquest in the death of Rome policeman J.P. Mooney;  honored with the christening of the steamboat the Thomas J. Perry, 1874; Secretary for the North Georgia and East Tennessee Steamboat Company, Rome, GA, 1874;    Appointed by Rome Citizens Committee to promote Rome, GA as location of a federal armory,  1874;    appointed Grand H. T., Royal Arch Masons,  1875; Past Dictator, Knights of Honor, Hill City Lodge, Rome, GA, 1875; Thrice Illustrious Master, Etowah Council Cryptic Masonry Lodge No. 12; organizer of the River Convention at Rome, GA, 1975; appointed by the Governor to represent Georgia at the Chicago Convention of Trade and Transportation, 1875; Grand Master of the 1st Veil; Committee member for a Cotton Factory at Rome, GA;  published Perry’s Church Register, a copyrighted ledger for the use of Baptist churches’ recording of baptisms and memberships, 1876; De bonis non administratis for the estate of N. J. Omberg, 1876; Secretary of the Soldier’s Monument Fair Association, 1876;   elected High Priest of the Rome Royal Arch Masonic Chapter  No. 26, 1876; elected Senior Warden, Cherokee Lodge No. 66; member of Tilden, Hendricks and Dabney Club of Rome, GA, 1876; Local Agent for Atlanta Nurseries, Rome, GA, 1876; elected Illustrious Deputy Grand Master in the grand Council of Georgia;

William Percy Mortimer Ashley (1825-1888)

William P. M. Ashley was born in Camden County, Georgia, May 14, 1825, and died in the same county January 2, 1888. At the opening of the war between the states he was, like many others, in affluent circumstances, and, as he believed the Confederate cause was right, he dedicated himself, his professional knowledge as a civil engineer, and a large part of his fortune, to the cause. Not content with this, he raised a company for the state defense, which was known as the Altamaha Scouts, of which he became captain, and subsequently, as the war continued, he was called to still higher office, becoming colonel of the Third Georgia Volunteers and as such commanded his regiment at the dread Battle of Chickamauga. There he was so severely wounded that continued service in the field was no longer possible, therefore his professional knowledge was utilized in detail duty. At the close of the war he was with General Johnston’s army in the surrender. There were many noble men of that period who in their course had pursued a path which seemed to them right and could never, under any circumstances, change their convictions, hence, at no time could they be brought to take the oath of allegiance. They had proved their faith in their convictions by fighting and suffering for them and could not deny that faith.

The Ashley family in America are direct descendants of William Lordawick Ashley, a native of England and evidently a man of station there in the days of Queen Anne, for it was that sovereign who gave him a grant of land situated in the new world, between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, near Charleston, South Carolina. In that section the Ashleys prospered and increased in numbers and importance and when the Revolutionary struggle came on, one Nathaniel Ashley was found in the ranks as a soldier. Immediately after the close of the Revolutionary war, Lordawick Ashley, son of Nathaniel, removed from South Carolina to Georgia and settled in Telfair County.  William A. Ashley, a son of Lordawick Ashley, was the father of  Col. W. P. M. Ashley . William A. Ashley was born in Telfair County, Georgia, in 1799, and was a planter and slaveholder. In 1821, at Princeton, New Jersey, he was married to Mary Jane Morford, and then located in Camden County, Georgia, where Mrs. Ashley died in 1830. She was born at Princeton, New Jersey, in 1800.

Col. W. P. M. Ashley was united in marriage on February 14, 1846, to Miss Fannie Baisden Dunham. She was born in Liberty County, Georgia, in 1826, and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Dunwoody Jones, at Atlanta, in 1897. Her parents were Rev. Dr. Jacob and Sarah (Baisden) Dunham, and many members of the Baisden family reside at Live Oak, Florida. Rev. – Dr. Jacob Dunham was a minister in the Baptist Church. He was a son of John and Sarah (Clancy) Dunham, both of whom were born in England and were brought to America in youth, crossing the ocean on the same vessel with General Oglethorpe, in 1733. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Dunham settled at Eagle Neck, in McIntosh County, Georgia, where George Dunham became a rice planter. His will, recorded in Book A, of the colonial records of the state, shows him to have been a man of large estate, his possessions including lands and slaves. To William P. M. Ashley and wife a family of eight children was born, but two of these surviving: Claude L., and Mrs. Dunwoody Jones, of Atlanta. Claude L. Ashley attended the public schools in Liberty County but moved to Atlanta in 1888. He was a man of scholarly tastes and took much pleasure in his library, his tastes in reading being largely along the line of history. He showed much interest in local affairs, particularly in civic government serving in the general city council, representing the Fourth Ward. In many ways and on many occasions he displayed qualities of leadership in this body and his good judgment and good citizenship was universally recognized. On October 27, 1892, Mr. Ashley was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth Miller, a daughter of Capt. Hiram Miller, a veteran of the Federal army, who, during the war between the states, like the late Colonel Ashley of the Confederate army, was severely wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga. 

Related Posts:

 

Georgia Gossip about Hardeman Giddens

Hardeman Giddens (1843- 1910) led an active life that often caught the attention of citizens in Berrien County and beyond. In March of 1884, the Georgia Gossip was about the horse racing at Alapaha, GA, and whether Hardeman’s black stallion was as fast as he believed.  The Challengers were W.N. Fiveash, Dr. Fogle, and Mr. Henley.  William Newton Fiveash, a young man of Magnolia, GA and later of Ocilla, GA entered his bay pony.  Dr. James A. Fogle, a surgeon trained during the Civil War, put his sorrel horse into the race. (Fogle was the original proprietor of the Alapaha hotel later known as the Schockley Hotel)  The winner for the evening was Mr. Henley’s sorrel mare.

The Atlanta Constitution 25 Mar 1884, pg 2 Alapaha is now engaged in the pleasures of the turf. In a recent race — half mile heat – between Mr. W. N. Fiveash’s bay pony and Mr. Hart Gidden’s black horse, the bay came under the string two lengths ahead. The next race was between Dr. Fogles’s sorrel horse and Mr. Henley’s sorrel mare. The horse was beaten by a neck. Then, Mr. Giddens still believing in his black, a race was arranged between the black and Dr. Fogle’s sorrel. The sorrel was again the winner. The last race of the evening was between Fogle’s sorrel horse and Henley’s sorrel mare. Henley’s mare came under the string ahead, but it was claimed that if a good start had been obtained the horse would have won. The races were quite exciting and proved that Alapaha contains some good horseflesh.

Hardeman Giddens, born MAR 1844 in Lowndes (nka Berrien) County, Georgia , was a son of Jacob Giddens and Sarah Ann “Annie” Sirmans.  The 1860 Census shows he was a resident of Berrien County at the time, Berrien having been cut out of Lowndes in 1856. During the Civil War, Hardeman Giddens joined the 29th Georgia Regiment, Company D,  the Berrien Minutemen, enlisting for  12 months. He mustered in at Sapelo Island, GA on 4 November 1861 as a private in Captain John C. Lamb’s Company D (later Company K) .  Records show in 1862 he was on duty at Camp Young, near Savannah, GA.   In October he was  on extra duty there as a mail carrier. He was documented on payroll record rolls for  April 1862, December 1862, and January – March 1863 at a rate of 25 cents.  In September 1863, Hardeman Giddens was at the Battle of Chickamauga. His war experience and amazing good fortune in battle were the subject of a previous post:  Civil War Bullet Dodger Hardeman Giddens Finally Catches One in 1887

Georgia 29th Infantry, monument at Chicamauga battle field.

Georgia 29th Infantry, monument at Chickamauga battle field.

After the war, Hardeman Giddens returned to Berrien County, GA.  On the day before Valentines Day, February 13,  1870 he married Martha J. Gaskins.  She was a daughter of Harmon Gaskins & Malissa Rowland Rouse,  born on February 16,  1838 in Lowdnes Co, GA.   Martha had been widowed twice.  Her first husband was Thomas N. Connell, who died in the Civil War; her second was William Parrish. After marriage, the Giddens made their home in the 1148th Georgia Militia District, where Hardeman was farming land valued at $225 dollars. His father Jacob Giddens, age 68, lived in Hardy’s household and assisted with farm labor. In the census of 1880, Hardeman Giddens was enumerated in Georgia Militia District 1148 with his wife Martha, and sons James and Lyman. In 1900, Hardeman Giddens and  Martha, now his wife of 30 years, were living on the family farm near Ray City, GA. The Giddens owned the farm free and clear, and their two sons, Lyman and William, lived with them and helped their father work the farm.  It seems Martha Giddens must have had a hard life. She birthed 9 children, only four of whom were living in 1900. Martha J. Gaskins died in Berrien Co, GA on 26 February 1910 at age 72. The 1910 Census shows in that year Hardeman Giddens was living with his eldest son, Lyman F. Giddens, who was a prominent citizen, barber, and (later) mayor of Ray City, GA.    Hardeman Giddens died later that year on October 2, 1910 and was buried in the Harmon Gaskins Family Cemetery, Berrien County, Georgia. Related Posts: