Regimental Feud at Camp Wilson Near Savannah, GA

“Sin and wickedness prevails…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 21, 1862

Camp Wilson, January 20th, 1862.

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

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

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA

January 23, 1862

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

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

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

A few days later, the 29th Georgia Regiment left their bivouac at Camp Wilson, and moved to a new camp about a mile distant. But Lieutenant W.P.M. Ashley and the 25th Regiment pressed the point. Perry was hauled before a military tribunal and court martialed.

Rome Weekly Courier
May 16, 1862

Our Savannah Correspondence.

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

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

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

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
August 21, 1862

Thomas J. Perry

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

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

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

About the protagonists:

Thomas J. Perry (1824-1878)

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

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
May 24, 1879

Thomas J. Perry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. He was progressive, yet he was conservative.

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

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

8. He was aggressive, but not destructive. He would correct the wrong yet save the wrong-doer. He would crush the crime with the iron heel of the law but he would press the criminal to the warm bosom of sympathy and love. The justice of his court room was not vindictive, but compassionate, his sentences were not punitive but reformatory and his executions were not intended to immolate the evil doer but to rescue and passify the victim of lawlessness.
But he sleeps. He has been summoned to grand assize. He is happy in having the same judgement measured out to him which he dispensed when here among men.
No truer friend molds in the dust of Myrtle Hill, and no nobler heart beats in the bosom of the living. Let the precious memories of his manly virtues hang around his name like the rich fragrance of this boquet over the sod beneath which his remains repose.  And let his faults be buried in the vault and lost in the ruins of the tomb where his remains decay.
“The lodge, the school-room – the church – and State
Sustain in thee an equal loss,
But who would call thee from thy weight
Of glory, back to dear life’s cross!
Thy faith was kept, thy course was run,
Thy good fight finished; hence the word,
Well done, oh! Faithful child , well done,
Taste then the mercies of thy Lord.”

Among Thomas J. Perry’s civic accomplishments:

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

 

William Percy Mortimer Ashley (1825-1888)

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

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

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

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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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