Isbin Giddens (1788-1853), Pioneer Settler of Old Berrien

Isbin Giddens (1788-1853)

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 Isbin (or Isben) Giddens brought his wife, Keziah Knight Giddens, and their two young children,  William and Moses Giddens from Wayne County, GA to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the present day Ray City, GA. They came along with Keziah’s brother William Cone Knight, her parents, and their minor children John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Jonathan Knight. Also making the move to Lowndes was Keziah’s uncle Samuel Knight, his wife Fannie, and their children Fatima, Moses, Aaron, Jesse, Thomas, and Joel.

Isbin Giddens was born in Blounts Creek, Beaufort County, North Carolina on November 4, 1788 just a few months after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the son of Moses Giddens and Catherine Jones.

Some time before 1816, “when he was about grown,” Isbin  Giddens moved from North Carolina to Wayne County, Georgia .  He served as lieutenant of the 334th District Militia, Wayne County, from 1816 to 1820. It was probably during that time period that he became acquainted with the family of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone Knight. William A. Knight was then serving as a Justice of Peace in the 334th District. William’s son, Jonathan Knight, was a captain in the Wayne County militia; another son, Levi J. Knight, served as a private.

Giddens became good friends with the Knights, and on Wednesday, April 7, 1819 just before Easter, Isbin married William A. Knight’s 17-year-old daughter, Keziah Knight (born November 25, 1801).

IsbinGiddens served as a grand juror the October, 1822  term of the Superior Court of Wayne County, and at other times also served on both petit and grand juries in the county.

About 1823 Isbin and Keziah Giddens were baptised into Kettle Creek Church in present day Ware County. Fannie Knight, wife of Samuel Knight, was a member of this church, as were Keziah’s parents, William and Sarah Knight.

Over the winter of 1824-25 Isbin and Keziah departed Wayne county along with her parents and brothers to settle in parts of present day Lanier County.  Isben Giddens made his farm along what is now the Ray City-Lakeland public road. The following year, his brother-in-law, Levi J. Knight, joined the family and became the first to settle on land along  Beaverdam creek at the present day location of Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

On February 10, 1827 Isbin and Keziah moved their letters from Kettle Creek Church to Union Primitive Baptist Church.  Keziah’s father had been instrumental in the organization of Union Church, it being the first Baptist Church in this section. The church organization took place October 1, 1825, at Carter’s Meeting house,  located on the west bank of the Alapaha River.  Mr. Knight was the first clerk of the new church and later became its pastor.

For the 1827 Georgia Land Lottery, Isbin Giddens registered in the 10th District of Lowndes County.  On the 33rd Day’s Drawing – April 13, 1827, he was the fortunate drawer of Lot 248 in the 13th District of of the newly formed Lee County.

In the Census of 1830, Isbin Giddens is enumerated along with early Berrien County settlers like Joshua Lee, William A. Knight and John Knight. He served on the Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833 which was convened at Franklinville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County.

In the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, Isbin Giddens and his sons, William and  Moses served under the command of  now  Captain Levi J. Knight,  in the Lowndes County Militia.  The Giddens were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Spouse & Children

Keziah Knight 1801 – 1861

  1. William Moses Giddens 1820 – 1899
  2. Moses H Giddens 1821 – 1906
  3. Matilda Giddens 1826 – 1887
  4. Sarah Giddens 1828 – 1918
  5. Aaron L. Giddens 1831 – 1862, married Mary Smith
  6. Keziah Ann Giddens 1836 – 1904
  7. Mary M Giddens 1838 – 1901
  8. Isbin T. Giddens 1840 – July 17, 1862
  9. Matthew O Giddens 1844 – 1865
Isben Giddens died on his farm October 21, 1853. He was buried at  Union Church Cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA. He died with a legally valid will, and his three sons WilliamMoses, and Aaron served as executors of his estate.

In 1855 Kizziah Knight Giddens married the widower Allen Jones.  She died in 1861 and was buried at Union Church, Lanier County GA.

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GAGrave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Isben Giddens’ sons, Isbin T. Giddens and Matthew O. Giddens, served in the Civil War.  On August 1, 1861 they joined the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Neither would survive the war.  Mathew 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. His brother, Isbin T. Giddens, died of brain fever at Guyton Hospital in Georgia.

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William Devane

William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane (1838-1909), planter of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, GA. His brother, Benjamin Mitchell DeVane (1835-1912), was a notary public and an alderman in the city government of Adel, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane was born in Lowndes, now Berrien County, March 30, 1838, and was a son of Francis DeVane. His grandfather, Captain John DeVane, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. William’s father and uncles Benjamin (1795-1879) and William Devane (1786-1870) had come to Lowndes County from Bulloch County, GA about 1831 along with  others of the DeVane family connection.

The 1850 census places William DeVane in his father’s Lowndes County household, along with his older siblings Benjamin and Patrick who worked as laborers. William, age 12, apparently was not yet assisting with the farm work, although records do not indicate that he was attending school at that time, either.   William’s brother Thomas was working the farm next door.  Some of the neighbors included Samuel Connell, William Parrish, Ansel Parrish, Absolom Parrish, James Parrish, James J. Fountain and Thomas Futch.

At the time of the 1860 census, William and Benjamin DeVane were still living in their father’s household and working at farming. The census records indicate William, age 23, attended school that year. Patrick DeVane and Thomas DeVane had farms nearby. Some of the neighbors were Nathaniel Cooper, William B. Turner, Henry J. Bostick, Fredrick M. Giddens, John A. Money, and Ansel Parrish.

During the Civil War, William and his three brothers all joined the army. William was the first to join, enlisting in Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment  as a private  on March 4, 1862 at Nashville, GA.  Benjamin DeVane enlisted in the same company May 9, 1862 at Nashville, GA. He was later elected 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, 50th GA Regiment and served to the end of the war. Patrick joined Company I on August 14, 1862 at Calhoun, GA. He fell out sick at Culpepper, VA on November 18, 1862 and died in a Confederate hospital on December 13, 1862; his estate was administered by William Giddens. William Devane’s brother Thomas Devane enlisted in Company H, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment on 21 Dec 1862.

The 50th Georgia Regiment was sent to the defenses around Savannah.  Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish, son of the DeVane’s neighbor James Parrish, wrote home on April 23, 1862 describing their encampment situated near Savannah:

“about one or one and a half miles east of the city where we can have a fair view of the church steeples and the nearest part of the town…Our camps are very disagreeable now in consequence of the dryness of the weather, the ground being sandy and loose and the winds high. it keeps ones eyes full of sand almost all the time which is not a very good remedy…It is about one mile or little over to the river from our camps. We can see the steamboats passing almost constantly…Our camps are situated near extensive earthworks or entrenchments for the protection of our troops should the enemy attempt to attack the city by land. Fort Boggs [is] on the river below town about 1/2 miles below…it commands the river tolerable well. the marsh between the channel and the fort is about 1/4 of a mile wide and the fort is on a high bluff at the edge of the marsh and is covered from the view of the river by a strand of thick bushes on the hillside…Captain Lamb‘s Company [Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment] has moved from Camp Tatnall to a place on the river below fort Jackson and about one mile and a half from Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.

The 50th Georgia Regiment went on station at Fort Brown. Fort Brown was situated at the Catholic Cemetery at what is now the intersection of Skidaway Road and Gwinette Street.

Fort Brown was one of the anchors of an extensive earthworks protecting Savannah.

A line of formidable earthworks, within easy range of each other, in many places connected by curtains, and armed with siege and field guns, was thrown up for the immediate protection of Savannah. Commencing at Fort Boggs on the Savannah River and thence extending south and west in a semi-circular form, enveloping the at distances varying from one to two and a quarter miles, it terminated at the Springfield plantation swamp. The principal fortifications in this line were Fort Boggs, mounting fourteen guns, some of them quite heavy and commanding the Savannah River – Fort Brown, near the Catholic Cemetery, armed with eleven guns – and Fort Mercer, having a battery of nine guns. Between Springfield plantation swamp – where the right of the line rested just beyond Laurel Grove cemetery – and Fort Mercer, were eighteen lunettes, mounting in the aggregate twenty guns. Connecting Fort Mercer with Fort Brown was a cremaillere line with nine salients, mounting in the aggregate eight guns. Between Fort Brown and Fort Boggs were seven lunettes armed with eight guns. These works were well supplied with magazines. It will be noted that the armaments of these city lines consisted of seventy pieces of artillery of various calibers, among which 32,24,18, 12, and 6 pounder guns predominated. A considerable supply of ammunition was kept on hand in the magazines. – Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 17

 

On May 18, 1862 Ezekiel Parrish wrote from “Savannah, Ga Camps near Fort Brown”:

We are living very hard here now for the soldiers rations of bacon have been reduced to so small a portion that we are pretty hard {illegible} for something to grease with. Several of our last ration of bacon has been less than one pound to the man for four May’s rations, but of the other kinds of provisions we draw plenty to do well though the pickel beef is so poor and salt and strong that it is not very good and in fact some will do without before they will eat it. Occasionally we get some fresh beef but it is very poor without any grease to go with it…The water here is very bad and brackish and a continual use of it is enough to make anybody sick.

William DeVane, 24 years of age,  would serve only a short time before providing a substitute. Substitution was a form of Civil War draft evasion available to those who could afford it.

Substitution
With war a reality, the Confederate legislature passed a law in October 1861 declaring that all able-bodied white men were obligated to serve in the military. This statute allowed substitutions for men who had ‘volunteered’ for the militia. It also permitted those not required by law to enlist in the military to serve as substitutes. However, by the Spring of 1862, after a year of fighting and hardship, the flow of new volunteers became a trickle, which forced the 
Confederacy to pass the first American conscription law. In April 1862 the legislature authorized a draft of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years. This law also allowed substitutes to be used. Later that year, in September 1862, the legislature extended the maximum draft-eligible age to forty-five years. The revision specifically stated that only those who were not eligible for the draft presumably those too old, too young, or foreign citizens – could serve as substitutes.  – Mary L. Wilson, 2005, Profiles in Evasion

The market price of a soldier, it is said, soon mounted to from $1500 to $3000. …To employ a substitute or to accept services as one was regarded by many, and almost universally so in army circles, as highly reprehensible.  – A. B. Moore, 1924, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

After just over three months of service and without engaging in any action, DeVane secured a discharge from the army June 18, 1862, by furnishing a substitute. According to company rolls, John R. Croley  enlisted that same day at Fort Brown, Savannah, GA as a substitute in DeVane’s stead.   The 47-year-old Croley (also Crowley or Crawley) was himself exempt from military service. Croley had brought his family from Sumter County to Berrien County in 1860.

Shortly after assuming DeVane’s place, Croley and the rest of the 50th Georgia Regiment were sent to Camp Lee in Virginia. Croley was to have a rough time of it. Soon sick, he was left behind at the camp when the regiment pulled out on August 21, 1862. In February 1863 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, Richmond, VA with Rheumatism. On March 12, he was admitted to the the C.S.A. General Hospital at Farmville, VA with diarrhea.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Croley returned to duty April 29.  He was with his unit when the 50th GA Regiment entered the Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863. Severely wounded and taken prisoner of war, he was sent to one of the Union hospitals in and about Gettysburg.  His arm was amputated, but he did not recover. He died of wounds July 31, 1863.  The location of his burial is not known, presumably in the vicinity of Gettysburg.  A monument in his memory marks an empty grave at Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Croley left behind a widow and four children in Berrien County. William DeVane sat out the rest of the war.

DeVane was married on May 10 1865 in Dooly County, GA to Miss Sarah Jane “Sallie” Butler of that county. She was born February 12, 1842, a daughter of Ezekiel and Eliza Butler.

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Born to William and Sallie were eleven children:

  1. Emma Lorena DeVane, born February 18, 1866, married George W. Marsh of Sumter County, FL.
  2. Marcus LaFayette DeVane, born April 25, 1867, died September 15, 1889.
  3. Columbus Clark DeVane, born February 11, 1869, never married.
  4. Ada Belle DeVane, born April 10, 1870, married William J. Hodges of Lowndes County, GA
  5. Ezekiel H. DeVane, born December 4, 1872, married Beulah Parrish, daughter of Elbert Parrish.
  6. William E. Pemberton DeVane, born November 8, 1875, married Mary McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland
  7. John F. DeVane, born August 2, 1877; died October 1878.
  8. Benjamin Robert DeVane, born October 15, 1879; married Bessie Whitehurst, daughter of Nehemiah Whitehurst
  9. Caulie Augustus DeVane, born September 15, 1882; married Alma Albritton, daughter of Matthew Hodge Albritton
  10. Connard Cleveland DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married Nellie Mae Coppage, daughter of Jehu Coppage
  11. Onnie Lee DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married John W. Strickland, son of William J. Strickland of Clinch County.

The homeplace of William DeVane was about four and half miles west of Ray City on the Nashville-Valdosta Road. It was situated on the north half of lot 457, 10th district. Possum Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek, crosses the northeast corner of this land. The place was given to William by his father before the elder DeVane’s death in 1868. William DeVane had received no deed however, and title was vested in him March 1870, by arbitration proceedings agreed to by all the heirs.

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

The 1870 Census enumeration shows that William DeVane’s household then included his wife, Sarah Jane, and children, Emma, Marcus, Columbus, and Ada, as well as an African-American boy, Rufus Prine, who at age 11 was working as farm labor.

Berrien County Tax records also document that after the War, William DeVane worked his farm with the help of freedman Joseph Prine. The relationship between Joseph and Rufus is not known.  Joseph Prine was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1816. The 1872 tax records show DeVane employed seven hands between the ages of 12 and 65. This count matches exactly with the 1870 Census enumeration of the Joseph Prine household, which then included Joe Prine (56), Jane Prine (54), Samuel Prine (22), Chaney Prine (33), Elza Prine (17), Jasper Prine (14), and George Prine (11), as well as the younger Prine children, Jinnie (8), Huldy (7), Eliza (5), and Philip(2).

In 1872, the William DeVane farm consisted of 508 acres on portions of lots 457 and 418 in the 10th Land District. To the north was Mary DeVane with 755 acres on Lots 418 and 412. Benjamin Mitchell DeVane also owned portions of Lot 418 and 419. John Baker had 122 acres on Lot 419. William H. Outlaw had 245 acres on Lot 419. To the south, John W. Hagan owned 356 acres on lots 503 and 504. J.S. Roberts also had some acreage on 503 and 504.  To the east, the Reverend John G. Taylor, Sr. had 400 acres on Lot 456.  By 1877 John Webb had acquired a 1470 acre tract just to the northeast of the William DeVane place.

 

William DeVane developed one of the finest plantations in Berrien County, containing 935 acres. It was situated on a public road and Possum Creek. The main house was six-rooms, and there was also a three-room house and a tenant house on the place. The six-horse farm of over 100 cultivated acres was said to produce a bale of cotton to the acre. Devane kept 120 head of stock on a fine stock range. His equipment included farm implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle, two wagons, and two buggies.

Sallie Butler DeVane died June 15, 1896.  A death announcement appeared in the Tifton Gazette.

Tifton Gazette
July 10, 1896

Mrs. Sallie Devane, of this county, wife of Mr. William Devane, died on Tuesday of last week.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

 

William DeVane died March 8, 1909.

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

 

A series of legal advertisements regarding the estate of William DeVane appeared in the local papers:

Valdosta Times
March 27, 1909

Notice to Debtors and Creditors All parties having claims against the estate of the late Wm. Devane, are requested to present them properly made out, to the undersigned. Those indebted to his estate will please make settlement at once.
The deceased at the time of his death was not indebted to any of the heirs.
C. C. Devane,
Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. 5.

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Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1909

Notice of Sale.

We will sell to the highest bidder for cash, on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county, at the Wm. Devane estate, the following property: 935 acres of land; one farm containing 150, the other 785 acres; 175 in cultivation, 120 head of stock. Farming implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle; two wagons; two buggies; 350 bushels of corn; six tons of cotton seed. Heirs of Wm. DeVane.

Valdosta Times
November 20, 1909

Public Sale

We will sell to the highest bidder, for cash on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county at the Wm. DeVane place, the following property: 2 farms containing 935 acres, 150 in one, 785 acres in the other; 111 acres in cultivation; fair Improvements—timber is fine; 120 head of stock and farming Implements. C. C. Devane, Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. No. 5.

**********************

Valdosta Times
August 14, 1912

FOR SALE—A fine plantation, One of the best in Berrien county, containing 935 acres, within 4 1/2 miles of Georgia and Florida railroad. Nearest station, Ray’s Mill. 6-horse farm in state of cultivation. Soil very productive, will produce bale of cotton to the acre, other crops in proportion. One six-room dwelling, one three-room and a tenant house on the place. Good water. Near schools and churches. Fine stock range. River runs through edge of land. Public road through farm. Will sell on account of division between heirs. If desired stock, mules, hogs, cattle, goats and farm implements can be bought at reasonable prices. C. C. DeVane, Hahira, Ga., R.F.D.

 

29th Georgia Regiment at Camp Wilson near Savannah, GA

Berrien County, GA sent forth in the Civil War two companies of men known as the Berrien Minute Men.  In the early months of the war, the Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  made along the Georgia coast, at BrunswickSapelo Island, and Darien, GA.  By early 1862 The Berrien Minute Men,  having gotten “regulated” into the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment ,  were sent to Camp Wilson, near Savannah.
Camp Wilson had been established more than a year prior to the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men. Other Regiments encamped there were the 25th Regiment, 27th Regiment, and 31st Regiment.
The camp was located two or three  miles below Savannah, on White Bluff Road some distance beyond the Atlantic & Georgia Railroad [Atlantic & Gulf?]. White Bluff Road was the Shell road which was then an extension of Whitaker Street.  Camp Wilson was two miles from Camp Lawton and one mile from the soon to be established Camp Tatnall.
Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a soldier of the 31st Georgia Regiment, described  Camp Wilson as a large, level field.  It had room enough for four regiments and their equipment, officers horses, a parade ground, and a place for religious meetings and services.

The locale of Camp Wilson was said to be beautiful but, at least in the earlier days, soldiers found life there quite hard. Private Bradwell wrote in a memoir,

We had not been in these camps many days before we were invaded by measles the dread enemy of all new soldiers, and many of our men died or were rendered unfit for further service. Other diseases thinned our ranks, and for a while few recruits came to take their places. We were under very strict discipline all the time, but some men disregarded the military regulations and suffered the consequences…” 

Of camp food, Bradwell wrote,

The rations were ample, and consisted of flour, corn meal, and bacon. To these afterwards were added, rice, pickled beef, peas, sugar, coffee, sometimes vegetables, and always hard-tack. This was a kind of cracker prepared for the army sometime previous to the outbreak of the war, and it was as hard as wood. No salt, shortening, soda, or other leven whatever was used in its preparation, and it could be eaten only by those who had good sound teeth; but we found out later that it could be soaked with hot water and grease in an oven and be made quite palatable. In its original state, I suppose it would keep indefinitely in any climate. Each cracker was about six inches in diameter and about an inch thick. When broken with a hatchet, or other instrument, the edges of the fragments were shiny and showed it solid composition.

Some soldiers thought the camp provisions were less than satisfactory.   Lieutenant Theodorick W. Montfort, of the 25th Georgia Regiment, in a letter from Camp Wilson to his wife  wrote on January 14, 1861 : “We have poor beef & fresh shoat meat cost us 18 cts per lb.” Montfort requested food be sent from home, “some back bones, spare-ribs, sausages, butter & eggs…,”  assuring his wife that the Confederate government would pay the freight on such shipments.

Soldiers could purchase their own food, but prices were high. Soldiers supplemented their Army rations as best they could. Lieutenant Montfort’s letters from Camp Wilson reveal that one food available to the soldiers there was shad, a delectable fish that runs in the Savannah river delta and other rivers of coastal Georgia from late December to late March. The Shad season was just getting underway when the Berrien Minute Men arrived at Camp Wilson in the winter of 1861-62.  (In a court case concerning shad fishing on the Ocmulgee River, the attorney for the defense was Thaddeus G. Holt,  who also served as the first Superior Court judge in Lowndes County, GA). Shad were also the subject of a diary entry written in early 1862 by  John Thomas Whately, an Englishman conscript with the 13th Georgia Regiment who was stationed at the camps around Savannah:

I had the good fortune of coming on two shad which were made mine by paying $1.25. While on my way home through the streets of Savannah, I was teased nearly to death about my fine shad. After we had arrived in camps and partaken of supper, I and my friend H_ went to Capt. Hill’s tent and W_ was not there. I went back to the fire, and was trying to think where my friend W_ could be. While I was thus engaged in thinking, I heard a kind of smacking of lips in the direction of a small tent off to the left: I walked up and what a busy crowd! There were my friends who had teased me, busily engaged in completing the destruction of one of my shad. I walked in just time enough to get a nice piece and the last piece of my devoured shad. We laughed it off and each one of us retired to our respective tents. [Continuing the following day,] I arrose this morning at the tap of the drum, and after I had answered my name and washed my face, I partook heartily of my remaining shad, who was now without a mate as the other had been unceremoniously devoured by the devilish mouths of my friends last night.

(Whatley later deserted, joined the Union Army, served with the 3rd Maryland Cavalry, then deserted again)

On January 1, 1862 in a letter to the Rome Courier, Thomas J. Perry of the Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment, wrote:

The Federal fleet keeps at a respectful distance, though it is thought that Gen. Sherman will be forced to make a forward movement soon. Ten or twelve of his large war steamers can be seen occasionally, near some of the Islands, but they never stay at one place long at a time. Gen. Lee is in the city to-day. Of course his mission is not generally known.

Recalling events which occurred at Camp Wilson just about the time of the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men in January, 1862, Private Bradwell wrote,

“A little incident which happened while we were here served to break the monotony of camp life very effectually for a short while. At midnight,, when all well-behaved soldiers, except those on guard, were sound asleep, the long roll, that never-to-be-forgotten rattle that wakes a soldier to do or die, was sounded. The voice of our orderly sergeant was heard calling out “Fall in! Fall in!” In the darkness and confusion, we grabbed our clothes and got into them as quickly as possible, and seizing our guns, we took our place in ranks. While this was going on, some of our men were so dazed by the suddenness of this rude awakening that they acted like madmen. One fellow snatched up a blanket for his trousers, but could not get into it. Our old French bandmaster rushed up and down the street, shouting all the time, “Where de capitan? Where de capitan? I die by de Capitan!” We were soon trotted off to the parade ground to take our place in the ranks of the regiment there drawn up, to meet the enemy we thought. Casting our eyes in every direction, we could not see the flashing of the enemy’s guns or hear any noise of battle. Here we stood for quite a while in uncertainty, when finally Colonel Phillips appeared. Walking slowly down the line, he asked each orderly sergeant as he passed whether all the men were present, and to send all absentees up to his headquarters the next morning at 8 o’clock. We were then marched back to our quarters and dismissed for the night. The next morning at daybreak the delinquents stepped into ranks to answer their names, ignorant of had happened during the night. There was quiet 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.”

Union forces had captured Tybee Island on November 24, 1861, and the men at Camp Wilson were taking measures for the defense of the city. A soldier at Camp Wilson in February, 1862, described their work:

…we are…now engaged in throwing up batteries at different points and in cutting down trees on all the roads leading from the coast to Savannah, that is not across them but every tree on each of the road to the swamp – the object of this is to prevent the Yankees from flanking us on either side with their artillery or cavalry, but compell them to keep the road, by this means they can bring but few men into action at any one time and with our Batteries we can sweep the roads – the cause of this unusual excitement is daily increase of the Yankee Fleet on our Coast.

Despite the proximity of the Federal forces, in some ways the familiar routines continued within the line of defenses ringing Savannah. While at Camp Wilson, soldiers of the 29th Georgia Regiment complained that the Savannah post office would not allow the men in service to mail or receive letters until after noon, prioritizing morning mail for the benefit of civilians.

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 8, 1862

       Mr. Editor: I desire a place for the benefit of the soldiers and their friends who are here in defence of this city.
      Why cannot soldiers receive communications through the post office as soon as the citizens here? By order of the postmaster, at 12 M. is as soon as they can recieve or transmit any communication through this office, while citizens receive their mail matter by 10 A. M. Besides, we are threatened that upon a requisition to change this order from a colonel of a regiment, 2 P.M. for up-country soldiers will be as soon as the mail will be delivered at office, for no regimental box will be rented, but the mail matter will be thrown into the general delivery.
      Soldiers that have abandoned the pleasures and comforts of their homes – have borne the fatigues and fortunes of the camp – yea, and of the field, certainly are entitled to equal courtesies with citizens. Further, soldiers DEMAND of civilians equal rights, equal privileges. We are here in Savannah for its defence -for the defence of Georgia – for the maintenance of the Constitution of the Southern Confederacy – for the protection of women and children, property, freedom of opinion, and every thing that freemen hold sacred and dear| For this, though soldiers, yea, privates, are we to be ordered to stand aside, while courtesies are shewn to citizen civilians. We own much, and will pay, occasion offering, to the citizens (especially the women) of Savannah for kindness to our sick brethren in arms; but we have left our loved and dear ones at home, from whom a letter is an angel’s voice against temptations and vices of camp – as sweet, soft music to the anguished soul – as savory ointment to the wounded spirit – and yet, when calling for this the only true solace a soldier has for his labors, he is met with “Wait till 12 M., or you shall not receive your mail matter before 2 P. M.,” an hour that were a man’s wife dying, and wishing to receive her last breathing sigh, ‘twould be too late to get to her death bed, by army regulations properly made at headquarters here.
Citizens of Savannah, cannot you remedy this? If this office will not pay for a sufficient number of clerks to arrange business sooner, is there no patriotic man who will take the position and relieve this burden on any citizen (if it be one.)
      Soldiers will complain, and we think properly.

W. B. Fordum
Private Berry Infantry
29th Reg. Ga. Volunteers
Camp Wilson

Men of the 29th Georgia Regiment also organized for religious services. Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry, of the Berry Infantry reported from Camp Wilson on January 1, 1862:

     Last Sabbath a week ago, we organized a Sabbath school in our Regiment and appointed the Rev. Mr. Harroll Superintendent, and Thoms. J. Perry Secretary and Libarian. We have built us a Bush Arbor, in the rear of our camps, about 200 yards distant. We have also agreed to hold prayer meeting every Tuesday and Thursday nights, and have preaching every Sabbath at 11 A.M., 3 P.M., and again at night, and have invited the other two Regiments to join us. Quite a number of Col. Phillip’s Regiment have accepted the invitation, and gone to work with a hearty good will.
      Prof. P. H. Mell preached for us last Sabbath at 11 A. M., and again at 3 P. M., and at night gave us a talk upon the subject of prayer.

But, Lieutenant Perry went on to report, “Sin and wickedness prevails…”

To be continued…

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John W. Hagan Encounters the Georgia Melish

The Civil War letters of John William Hagan document in part the actions of the Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate infantry raised in Berrien County, GA by Ray City settler, General Levi J. Knight. In his letter of July 7, 1864, Hagan writes about the retreat of the Confederate States Army towards Atlanta.  On July 5, the CSA made a brief stand at “Johnston’s River Line,” a defensive line  on the north side of the Chattahoochee River which included earth and log works known as  “shoupades,” after Confederate engineer Brig. General Francis A. Shoup.

About the time the Berrien Minute Men were taking up positions on the River Line the regular Confederate States Army troops were reinforced by Georgia Militia state troops  which Hagan’s letter optimistically describes as “10,000 effective men.”  

Gustavus Woodson Smith,  major general of the Georgia state militia,  considered his troops creditable but unseasoned.

Albany Patriot
July 14, 1864

JOE BROWN’S PETS UNDER FIRE

          The Atlanta Appeal is permitted to make the following extract from a letter from Gen. G. W. Smith to a gentleman in this city. Gen. Smith is not given to adjectives and adverbs, and means always what he says.
         “The enemy ran up square against my State troops yesterday about 5 p. m. The cavalry were forced back and passed through our lines and the yankees cam on us right strong. Some misapprehension of orders caused a little confusion for a few moments only upon the left of our line, and perhaps twenty men left the trenches, but were back in a few minutes. The militia behaved very creditably; they stood their ground and stopped the advance of the enemy. We had only six men wounded and two missing, the dirt they had thrown up saving them from much loss, and enabled them to hold their ground against superior forces. They have rendered a good service to the army and the country, and have found out that every ball fired by the enemy didn’t kill a man. The militia will do. I watched them closely, and consider them all right – not yet veterans – but they will fight.

After the Battle of Atlanta, the Georgia Militia was praised in the press.

Augusta Chronicle & Sentinel
July 31, 1864

Our gallant militia officers have fairly won their spurs…They have been styled “Gov. Brown’s pets,” but are now, also, the pets of the army and the people. They have done infinite credit to their patron; and neither he nor they will ever be ashamed of the sobriquet. He has given them a rough handling, for pets, but it has been all the more glorious and advantageous for them. He has been unusually careful of their military education, and they have not failed to profit by their training in the school to which he sent them.

But others would be less complimentary of the state troops.

W. G. Lewis, an Arkansas soldier with the regular Confederate States Army,  encountered the volunteer soldiers of the Georgia militia near a pontoon bridge the Confederates had built across the Chattahoochee at Paces Ferry.  The skirmish at Paces Ferry, fought July 5, 1864,  after which the Confederate forces retreated across the river and attempted to cut loose the pontoon bridge.

The disdain of  regular CSA troops for the state militia, or “Melish” in the soldiers’ derisive vernacular,  is apparent in Lewis’ reflections, published in the Sunny South newspaper January 21, 1899:

        Many stories have been written for this page about the old veteran soldiers, and I hope many more will find their way to these columns ere the old soldiers are numbered with the things of the past.
        There is a time in every individual’s life when we love to live in the past. “Days that are gone seem the brightest” was said by some poet long ago, and this adage, it seems to me, is applicable to nearly every phase of life. From the most exalted to the lowest walks of life, we all love to think of the days that have long since passed away. The old soldier has arrived at that period when he loves to look back and live over again those turbulent scenes he was once an actor in. Then let us tell our stories while we may, for there will come a time when this page will be devoted to another class of literature than that of stories from the old soldiers, for there will soon be none left to write them.
        Some of these stories have been pathetic, some humorous, while others told of heroic deeds of this or that command or individual soldier.  I do not remember of ever seeing anything on this page about the Georgia militia. They took part in the campaign around Atlanta, and I thought a brief sketch of the militia as I saw them upon one occasion, together with a humorous incident which befell them shortly afterwards, might be interesting to those who love to read this page. Although the main features of this sketch or matter-of-fact story that I here present to the reader are humorous, and I might say ludicrous when viewed from a military standpoint, it will be borne in mind that it is not the intention of the writer to cast an odium upon the fair state which these men represented or any of her soldiers, for the incident here related is nothing more than what would happen to any body of untrained soldiers.
        The historian as well as the old veteran who fought side by side with the Georgians knows their courage as soldiers cannot be questioned.
        But war with all its grim realities has its humorous as well as its dark side sometimes; and there is not a company or regiment of soldiers who participated in the civil war but at some time or other has not seen the “funny side.” The Georgia militia was no exception to this rule: though what was fun for our boys in this instance was “death to the frogs,” as the old saying goes.
        So with this explanation I hope that if kind providence has spared even one or more of these good old men who form the of this sketch, and if he should read these lines that he will forgive the writer and join in a laugh over the inevitable which happened so long ago.
         But a sad thought intrudes upon my memory here, when I reflect that in all probability there is not one of them left to tell the story, for most of them were then past the meridian of life.
          It was on one beautiful evening, the 4th of July ’64 if I remember correctly, late in the afternoon, when Johnston’s rear guard reached the pontoon bridge which crossed the Chattahoochee river, on his retreat to Atlanta. This rear guard was composed of the brigade of cavalry to which I was attached.
         A desultory artillery fire was being kept up o us from a distant battery, so far away, though, that their shots were spent by the time the reached us, and would come rumbling over the bluff where we were waiting our turn to cross the river. They could be plainly seen before they struck the ground, ricochetting in the air, and giving the boys time in one instance to get out of the way. They had the exact range of our bridge, though, and had their shots been shells, might have done considerable damage; but they were solid shot and did but little execution. An amusing incident happened while we waited at the bridge. A darky seeing one of these spent balls come turning end over end, and lighting near where he stood, ran over and picked it up, when he dropped it quicker than you would a red-hot poker and ran like a good fellow. “What’s the matter?” asked some one. “That thing’s hotter than h—” shouted the darky as the boys roared with laughter. There was only one casualty from these balls in our brigade. A trooper in the First Mississippi cavalry had one of these cannon balls to strike his hand as he held his carbine, cutting his hand off and killing his horse.
        This is distressing somewhat, but we will come to the militia now pretty soon. As we crossed the pontoon and ascended the eastern bank the sun was casting his farewell rays for the day just over the tree tops that stood on the western bluff.
         Away to our left across an open field, I saw a body of soldiers marching in columns of fours.  As our respective lines of march converged, we were soon in speaking distance and near enough to see who they were. A glance at their clean, new looking uniforms, their superfluous trappings and plethoric haversacks, their snow-white beards in many instances, told us without an introduction, that this was the veritable Georgia militia, of which we had so often heard.
        No sooner were we in speaking distance than such another tirade of jests and gibes that they were greeted with from our boys I had seldom ever heard before, and their very odd appearance amused them very much. It is proper to state here that several of the southern states had given nicknames to their soldiers, which they went by till the end of the war. The North Carolinians, for instance, were called the “Tarheels,” the Floridians “Sand Diggers,” Alabamians “Yellow Hammers,” while the Georgians were called “Goober Grabbers.” Hence the reader will understand what our boys meant by their mock earnestness concerning the Georgians’ peanut crop.
        So the militia were greeted with such gibes as these: “Here’s your Georgia goober grabbers!” “Here’s your melish!” and “Lay down melish, I am going to bust a cap,” and “I say, old man, how is your peanut crop this year?” One tall, lank old fellow, who carried a pack that looked more like the pack that belongs to a pack mule, was accosted by one of our boys thus: “I say, my friend, what state are you moving to?” “Why do you ask?” said the unsuspecting Georgian. “I see you have all your household goods. What did you do with the furniture?”
      In this way we exchanged jokes as long as we were in sight of each other, the Georgian taking it all in the very best of humor, and giving our boys back as good as they sent.
        Away back in my rear as far as I could see down that long line of cavalry, the boys were still having their fun with the militia, and every now and then a shout of laughter would go up, telling that some one had been the butt of a joke.
        These men were as robust and fine looking a body of men as I ever saw. The commander in particular was as fine a military looking man as I ever saw. He was tall and handsome, with a fine gray uniform: he was the finest looking officer I had seen during the war.  He did not seem to be an old man, and I am sorry that I can’t remember his name at present.
        We soon passed out of sight of the militia, and I had almost ceased to think anything more about them in the many shifting scenes of soldier life for the next week or so,  when the next time I saw them—well,  I didn’t see them. I only saw where they had been a few minutes before.
General Johnston, the good old economical general. I called him, because when an article is scarce, then it’s time to be economical, this was General Johnston. He knew that Confederate soldiers were scarce. He, therefore, never rushed his men over breastworks continually to have them shot down, but instead husbanded his troops, and never fought unless he had the advantage. Well, as I was going to say, this wise old general, after we had crossed the Chattahoochee, knew we needed a rest, after our arduous campaign around Kennesaw, in all that rain and mud, and we were completely worn out.  So, to give us rest and at the same time season the militia who had never been under fire, he placed them on picket duty instead of the regular soldiers. That, of course, helped us considerably. The militia was camped on or near the river, while the main army rested some distance back from the river. One day while the army, I might with propriety say, “lay peacefully dreaming” (even if it was day time), a terrific cannonading opened from the opposite side of the river. We were somewhat surprised at this and some one said they thought the Federals were going to force a passage of the river nearly in our front, but the enemy had no such idea. Pretty soon a detachment of cavalry from our brigade was galloping to the front, to see what was up. When we arrived on the scene of action, that which which met our sight caused us to laugh, even in the midst of danger. It was the militia camp, but not a sign of militia could be seen. Their camps had been hurriedly deserted, while their baggage, rations and everything else lay in profusion about the camp. There were turkeys and chickens tied to trees, old country hams hung conveniently from overhanging limbs, butter and eggs in the camp, and even pickles, preserves and all the delicacies of home life. They left blankets, and their quilts that their good old dames bad supplied them in some cases with, and some of the boys said they found a feather bed in the camp, but I did not see this. Well, you should have seen the boys loot that camp in less time than I can tell it. Did the officers control them? Well, I guess not. There, amid an occasional bursting of a shell, they set about feasting, as they had not for many a day. The Federals had silently masked their batteries on the opposite bank of the river and without the least warning, had suddenly poured in upon them a shower of shells which was so sudden and unexpected that the militia, at once sought safety in flight. It has always been a puzzle to me whether the Yankees had been informed by some deserter of the location of the militia camp, and who they were or whether they had looked through their field glasses and saw how sumptuously they fared, and had envied them to that extent that they concluded to shell them out for spite. Be that as it may, this was one time when to the victor belonged the spoils was reversed, for while the Federals had the satisfaction of routing the militia, our boys had the pleasure of appropriating the spoils to themselves. The shells soon ceased, while our boys took the place of the militia and order was again restored.
         A short time after this incident I was very much amused at a story I heard one of our infantry tell on a militiaman. This soldier went out to relieve him from picket duty, when he found the old gentleman sitting at the foot of a tree, his gun across his lap, smoking his pipe, despite the strict army regulations prohibiting smoking while on duty. As the old man straightened up the soldier noticed he had no cartridge box. “Where is your cartridge box, my friend?” observed the soldier. “Oh,” said the militiaman, “the pesky thing chafes me and I threw it away. I carry my cartridges here,” and the old man went down in the coat tail pockets of his long, civilians’ coat that struck him about the heels, and produced a handful of cartridges. “This is where I carry them,” said he, with an air of indifference.
Months went by and the militiaman was transferred to some distant part of the line in the siege of Atlanta, where no doubt he served his country with honor, as there was plenty of fighting all along the line, and I never heard anything more from him until after the fall of Atlanta, when Governor Brown issued a proclamation disbanding the Georgia militia in order that they might go home and cut their crop of sorghum cane. No doubt some of the old soldiers who were in the Georgia campaign remember how the soldiers joked and commented upon this. All the southern papers had something to say about it, and one of the papers in commenting wound up with a verse of doggerel poetry, which ran something like this:

“Three cheers for Governor Brown
And his sweet proclamation.
Likewise the “Georgia Militia,”
With their cane knives raised on high:
For they will drive away starvation.
In the sweet by and by.
When they cut the Georgia sugar cane,”
They will suck sorghum till they die.”

W. G. LEWIS
Co. K. Ballentine’s Reg. Cav., C. S. A. Hope. Ark.

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Berrien Minute Men and the Shoupades

During the summer of 1864, the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia volunteer Regiment participated in the last defense of Atlanta following the retreat from Kennesaw Mountain. On July 4, 1864 they were in the line of battle at Marietta, GA. After withdrawing in the middle of the night ,  the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men were made on July 5 at a new defensive line on the the Chattahoochee River.

The actions of the Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate infantry raised in Berrien County, GA by Ray City settler, General Levi J. Knight, are documented in part in the Civil War letters of John William Hagan.  In a lettter to his wife, Hagan wrote about the Confederate retreat to the Chattahoochee and his confidence in the defensive works of General Joseph E. Johnston’s River Line.   These earthwork fortifications along the north bank of the Chattahoochee, some of the most elaborate field fortifications of the Civil War, were constructed under the direction of Artillery Commander, Brig. General Francis A. Shoup.

 

Battle Field near Chattahoochee River Ga
July 7th 1864

My Dear Amanda
I this morning write you a short letter in answer to yours jest receved dated July 2nd. This leaves E. W. and myself in fair health. I have nothing of enterest to write you. We are now in line of battle near the river I recon we are about 13 miles from Atlanta. I wrote to James on the morning of the 4th & at 1 or 2 Oclock on the night of the 4th we retreated to this place. Here we have got splendid works & can make a splended fight, if the yanks will only attack us in our works I do not know wheather Gen Johnston intends to make this a perminint stand. Our lines runs to the river on the left & across the river on the right. I do not know how long the line is but it is tolerabley lenghtty. I am told that we will have some reinforcements in a few days & according to the yankee accounts we can handle them much better than we could have handled them at Dalton. The yankees acknowledge a loss of 45 thousand in kiled wounded missing & sickened & sent away since the left Dalton & by puting our loss at high figurs our loss in evry way will not exceed ten thousand, so you see they are weaker 45,000 & we are weaker only 10,000, & since we reached this place we have got the malistia of Ga which is 10,000 effective men & Ala is ordered to send her malitia forward at once which will add to our strength 8 or 10 thousand more. So I think we will be able to handle them very well &c. We are glad to know you are going to send us something to eat not that we are suffering but we want something besides cornbread & bacon. You must send us a bottle or two of syrup & be careful to pack the box well & stop the bottles well also. You must not send us any cloths. Jest send us a box of something to eat by D. P. McDowell if you get this in time to do so. You must make us some rich cakes & if you have any honey we would like to have a little bottle of it. Cousin D. P. McDowell to bring the box through as soon as posable so that the tricks will not spoil. You must have the box well bound & nailed up well. You must excuse this short letter & write us a long one. Nothing more E.W. sends his love to all. I am as ever yours affectsionately

J. W. H.

Remnants of the Confederate earthworks at the Chattahoochee River Line  still exist today and can be viewed at Shoupade Park.  “Shoupade” was a term coined by Gustavus Woodson Smith,  Major General of the Georgia state militia, who remarked that the design would make Shoup famous.

 

Shoupade

Shoupade

According to the Civil War Trust,

On the night of July 4-5, the Confederates marched back to a line that once again had already been prepared. Two weeks earlier, when the army was at Kennesaw, work had begun under the direction of Joseph E. Johnston’s chief of artillery, Brig. Gen. Francis A. Shoup. According to Shoup, Johnston had told him “it was but a question of time, and that a short time” before the army would retreat across the Chattahoochee River. Chagrined, Shoup asked whether he might supervise construction of fortifications on the north bank of the river at the railroad bridge. Johnston, eager for anything that would delay his inevitable retreat across the Chattahoochee, agreed. Thereupon Shoup directed the army’s engineers and hundreds of slaves in tree-cutting, digging, building log-and-earth infantry forts. There were some three dozen of these “Shoupades” (Gen. G.W. Smith’s term), which were connected by log palisades for more infantry and studded with artillery redans, all arced in an almost six-mile line around where the Western & Atlantic Railroad bridge crossed the river near Peachtree Creek. During the night of July 4-5, Johnston’s troops marched into these defenses.

Each shoupade was a log-and-earth fort shaped like an arrowhead pointed at the enemy. The outside walls were almost vertical, built with logs laid horizontally up to a height of sixteen feet. Dirt ten to twelve feet thick was packed in between the outer and inner log walls. Inside was a banquette, or firing platform, for infantry. Each fort was intended to be manned by 80 riflemen. The 36 shoupades were built 60 to 175 yards apart. Between them was constructed earthen redans for artillery, two guns in each. Log stockades eight feet high connected shoupades and redans. The key defensive element, to Shoup, was that shoupades and redans were placed so that troops in each position could pour enfilading fire toward the next, all the way down the line.

 

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 6

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

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

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

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

Head Quarters, Dept of Geo

Savannah Jany 14th 1862

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Berrien Minute Men On the Square

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

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

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

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

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA

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

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

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

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

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

A Brave Band of Men.

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

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

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

 

About the Courthouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tifton Gazette
September 20, 1901

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

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

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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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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 4

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 4: Berrien Minute Men and the Election of Officers

Randolph Spalding, first Colonel of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment, elected November, 1861

Randolph Spalding, first Colonel of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment, elected October, 1861

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

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

The two companies of Berrien Minute Men arrived on Sapelo Island without knowing who their regimental officers would be, or even which regiment they were in. The other companies in the no-name regiment on Sapelo were the Thomasville Guards and the Ocklocknee Light infantry, companies from Thomas County that had served with the Berrien Minute Men in the briefly constituted 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, GA. Two other companies of the new regiment were still in Savannah.

The custom among the volunteer regiments of that time was that field officers were elected by popular vote of the troops, with the appointments officially made after confirmation by Army command. It was during the first few weeks on Sapelo Island, that the regiment held elections for the field officers. Among the candidates for Colonel were: Captain William H. Echols, a graduate of West Point and captain in the Engineering Corps of the Confederate Army; Cary Wentworth Styles who had commanded the 13th Regiment at Brunswick, and who, after the War founded the Atlanta Constitution;  and Randolph Spalding (1822-1862), who was master of the South-end Mansion on Sapelo Island and a son of Sapelo plantation founder Thomas Spalding.

 

William Holding Echols, a Captain of Engineers in the Confederate States Army, was a candidate for Colonel of the 29th GA Regiment.

William Holding Echols, a Captain of Engineers in the Confederate States Army, was a candidate for Colonel of the 29th GA Regiment.

The Berrien Minute Men and the Thomas county companies had experienced the leadership of Colonel Styles when they served with the 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, and William W. Knight was of the opinion that they would never accept Styles as Colonel of the regiment.  The companies in Savannah preferred Echols, but the majority of the Regiment on Sapelo Island favored Randolph Spalding. The election was held on October 22, 1861.

October 23, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

October 23, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Savannah Republican
October 23, 1861

Election of Officers. – An election for field officers of a new regiment to be composed of companies now in camp at our Parade Ground and on Sapelo Island, took place yesterday.  The vote of the Companies in this city [Savannah] show a majority of 20 votes for Echols over Spalding for Colonel.  Alexander received a large majority for Lieutenant Colonel, and L. J. Knight the same for Major. The vote from Sapelo has not been received.

October 24, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

October 24, 1861 Savannah Republican reports election of Levi J. Knight as Major of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Savannah Republican
October 24, 1861

Military Election. – The election of field officers for the new regiment now encamped here and at Sapelo, resulted in the choice of Randolph Spalding Colonel by a majority of 20 votes. ——- Alexander was chosen Lieutenant Colonel, and Levi J. Knight, Major.

Randolph Spalding was chosen as Colonel, perhaps due to the home field advantage. He was a successful planter on the mainland and on Sapelo Island where he was master of the Spalding’s South End mansion. In addition, he was a Representative from McIntosh County for several terms. He later served on the staff of General William H.T. Walker. (He would die in camp at Savannah in March of 1862.)

Thomas Williamson Alexander was elected Lieutenant Colonel.

Thomas Williamson Alexander was elected Lt. Colonel of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Thomas Williamson Alexander was elected Lt. Colonel of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Levi J. Knight advanced to Major of the newly formed Regiment.   Thomas Spalding Wylly, a nephew of Colonel Randolph Spalding and grandson of Thomas Spalding,  became Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company C.  Wylly was educated and experienced traveler, having joined an expedition to California in 1849. (Wylly later transferred to Clinch’s 4th GA Cavalry.) John C. Lamb was elected Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company D.

Thomas Spalding Wylly succeeded Levi J. Knight as captain of the Berrien Minute Men

Thomas Spalding Wylly succeeded Levi J. Knight as captain of the Berrien Minute Men. Image source: Wendy Wylly

 

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

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 3

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

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

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

About Robert Harris:

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

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