Albert Douglass, 26th Georgia Regiment and the Battle of Brawner’s Farm

Special thanks to Wm Lloyd Harris for contributions to this post.

Albert Douglass, of Berrien County, GA served with the 26th Georgia Regiment after desertion from the Berrien Minute Men.

The 26th Georgia Regiment suffered heavy casualties at Brawner's Farm, August 28, 1862 in the first engagement of the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). Albert Douglass, of Berrien County, GA served with the 26th Georgia Regiment after deserting from the Berrien Minute Men. G.F. Agee, a soldier of the 26th Georgia reported, “We held our fire until within a hundred yards of the enemy. We dropped behind a small rail fence and poured a heavy volley into them. After firing seven or eight rounds, we raised the rebel yell and charged.”

On August 28, 1862 in the first engagement of the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the 26th Georgia Regiment suffered heavy casualties at Brawner’s Farm.  G.F. Agee, a soldier of the 26th Georgia reported, “We held our fire until within a hundred yards of the enemy. We dropped behind a small rail fence and poured a heavy volley into them. After firing seven or eight rounds, we raised the rebel yell and charged.”

 Albert Douglass and the 26th Georgia Regiment

Albert B. Douglass, son of  Seaborn Douglass, came with his father and siblings from Hamilton County, FL to  Lowndes County, GA sometime before 1838.   About 1851 Albert Douglass, then a young man of 19,  married Abigail Shaw,  a daughter of Martin Shaw, Sr.  In the Census of 1860 Albert and Abigail were enumerated in Berrien County, Georgia.  Albert was  28 years old, Abigail was 35.  Their daughter Francenia  Douglass was enumerated as age 6.  Also in the Douglass household was the seven-year-old boy William W. Turner.

The Douglass Family had a tradition of military service. Albert’s father and brothers served in the Indian Wars 1836-1858. Albert and his four brothers all enlisted during the Civil War.  Albert Douglass enlisted with the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (later Co. K), 29th Georgia Regiment.  He soon went absent without leave and was listed as a Confederate deserter from the 29th Regiment while they were stationed in Savannah, GA.  In actuality, he joined the 26th Georgia Regiment and went with them to Virginia in the summer of 1862.   Also serving with the 26th Georgia Regiment were: David Stone, father of Arrilla Stone Cook of Berrien County, GA;  James Brown, father of Creasy Brown Wood of Rays Mill, GA; John Jefferson Beagles served with the unit until May 1862; Benjamin P. Jones, who later opened a bank at Ray Mill, served with the 26th until the regiment departed for Virginia, at which time he hired a substitute to take his place; Andrew Jackson Liles, Adjutant of the Regiment, was a merchant and post master of Milltown, GA, and later practiced law in Valdosta, GA.

Confederate military records show Albert Douglass was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, for dysentery, June 29, 1862 and returned to duty  July 10, 1862. On August 14, he was admitted to Lovingston Hospital, Winchester, VA with a complaint of fever and convulsions.  He returned to duty on August 27, 1862.

The following day, the 26th Georgia Regiment suffered  horrific casualties at the opening of the  Battle of Second Manassas (called the Second Battle of Bull Run by the Union army), when Confederate forces under the command of Stonewall Jackson met Union Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Black Hat Brigade in the late afternoon and evening of August 28, 1862 near Groveton, VA.   Earlier that same afternoon about ten miles to the west, the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment had engaged federal forces, driving them out of  Thoroughfare Gap through the Bull Run mountains, and occupying the position at the gap.

According to a historic marker placed at Groveton, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had  dispatched “Stonewall” Jackson to lure Major General John Pope’s Union army away from the Rappahannock River.  At the same time, Lincoln hoped drawing some of Lee’s troops to northern Virginia to confront Pope would weaken Lee’s position outside Richmond and help the Army of the Potomac.”

On August 28, Jackson’s force concealed itself northeast of here near Groveton atop a wooded ridge on and beyond John Brawner’s farm to await the rest of Lee’s army.  Early in the evening, as Brigadier General Rufus King’s division of Pope’s army marched by in search of Jackson, he attacked, stopping the Federal movement with heavy casualties on both sides.

The 26th Georgia Regiment suffered 74 percent casualties that bloody summer evening in the Battle of Brawner’s Farm. This engagement began the Second Battle of Manassas.

John Brawner’s farm was located on the Warrenton Turnpike, on present day U.S. Highway 29 inside Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Brawner Farm, near Groveton, VA

Brawner Farm, near Groveton, VA

By the morning of August 28, Jackson had deployed his 25,000 men along Stony Ridge, behind the embankments of a railroad grade of the unfinished Manassas Gap Railroad north of the little village of Groveton, near the old First Bull Run battlefield. From there, Jackson could monitor Union activity along the Warrenton Turnpike, a strategic east-west thoroughfare, while awaiting Longstreet’s arrival. Due to the concealment of Jackson’s defensive position, Pope had completely lost track of the Rebels’ movements after the destruction of Manassas Junction on August 27. Stonewall Jackson’s 25,000 soldiers were, in effect, missing as far as the Army of Virginia was concerned.

On the evening of August 28, Gibbon’s brigade of 1,800 Westerners sluggishly marched eastward toward the village of Centreville, where the majority of Pope’s army was massing. The 2nd Wisconsin (the only regiment in the brigade that had previously seen combat, at First Bull Run), the 6th and 7th Wisconsin and the 19th Indiana were getting very close to having a chance to show their mettle in battle. –  from Civil War Trust’s Battle of Brawners Farm

 

The first exchange of fire began about 5:45 pm.  The battle raged ferociously for two hours when General Stonewall Jackson ordered the 26th and 28th Georgia regiments to advance on the Union line.

In a letter to the editor of the Savannah Republican, a soldier of the 26th Georgia Regiment reported the Southern perspective on the battle:

Savannah Republican
September 22, 1862

The Twenty-sixth Georgia in the Battle of the 28th August

          Editor Savannah Republican: – While the opportunity presents itself, I cannot refrain from writing you a few lines commemorative of the gallantry of the 26th Georgia regiment upon the bloody and well contested field of Manassas, on Thursday, the 28th of August, 1862.
Again has Georgia been illustrated by this bravery of her sons, and again is it her lot to clothe herself in the mourning garb, in memory of the gallant dead. As we marched past the graves of the lamented Bartow and of the members of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, of Savannah, little did we think that so many of us through whose veins the warm blood was so freely flowing, would, before the dawn of day, like them, be lying in the cold embrace of death.
Just before dark, on the evening of the 28th, General A. R. Lawton’s brigade, to which the 26th belongs, was drawn up in line of battle in a skirt of woods near the battle field, and at dark was ordered to support General Trimbull’s brigade.  The 26th entered the field under the command of Lieut. Col. E.S. Griffin, Major James S. Blain and Adjutant A. J. Liles. We marched steadily across an open field for four or five hundred yards, through which the balls were flying by thousands, without firing a single shot.  Men were constantly falling from the ranks, but our brave Georgians wavered not; as a man fell, his place was immediately filled by another, and the regiment moved steadily to the front.  Not a word was uttered except the necessary commands given by officers.  As we neared the enemy, General Jackson road up behind the brigade and urged us by the memory of our noble State to one bold stroke, and the day would be ours; and gallantly did the brave men to whom he was speaking obey his orders.  Volley after volley was poured into the ranks of the enemy with terrible effect; still they held their ground and our ranks kept getting thinner and thinner. During the heavy fire, Lieut. Col. Griffin, of the 26th was wounded and the command devolved upon Major J. S. Blain.  After firing several rounds, Gen. Lawton gave orders for the brigade to fix bayonets and charge the enemy. At the command every man bounded over a fence which separated them from the enemy, and with the true Georgia yell rushed upon them.  Then it was that the 26th suffered so terribly.  Men fell from the ranks by dozens still they wavered not.  The color Sergeant fell mortally wounded; but the colors had hardly touched the ground before they were raised by Lieut. Rogers of the color company, and again waved in the advance.- Then it was that a well directed volley from the brigade, at a distance of thirty yards, sent the enemy flying in confusion over the hills to the woods.  The night being very dark no pursuit was attempted; we had accomplished our object and was content to hold the battle field.
It was a heart sickening sight to me as I gazed upon the regiment when formed after the battle.
The 26th Georgia entered the field with eighteen commissioned officers and one hundred and seventy-three non-commissioned officers and privates; and lost twelve commissioned officers and one hundred and twenty-five non-commissioned officers and privates.
I send you a list of the killed and wounded of the 26th Georgia regiment, which I hope you will publish, with the request that the Macon Telegraph and Augusta Constitutionalist copy.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient serv’t,
One of the 26th.

 

Letter from a soldier of the 26th Georgia Regiment describing the Battle of Brawner's Farm, August 28, 1862.

Letter from a soldier of the 26th Georgia Regiment describing the Battle of Brawner’s Farm, August 28, 1862.

The Northern troops had a different perspective on the fight, as described at the  Civil War Trust website on the Battle of Brawners Farm:

Jackson personally ordered Lawton’s Georgia brigade to move forward at 7:45 p.m., but once more only two regiments responded. Jackson led the Georgians toward their parlous undertaking. In the fading sunlight, the 26th and 28th Georgia advanced obliquely toward the 2nd Wisconsin. Their attack was short-lived.

As they advanced, the 7th Wisconsin and the 76th New York wheeled to the left and poured a lethal volley into the Rebels’ flank. Colonel William W. Robinson of the 7th Wisconsin wrote, ‘The evolution was executed with as much precision as they ever executed the movement on drill. This brought us within 30 yards of the enemy.’

One man in the 7th reported, ‘Our fire perfectly annihilated the rebels.’ While the Southerners received fire from their flank, the 2nd Wisconsin poured deadly volleys into the Georgians’ front. ‘No rebel of that column who escaped death will ever forget that volley. It seemed like one gun,’ said one New Yorker.

The 26th Georgia suffered 74 percent casualties in its feckless assault (134 of 181 men). One Wisconsin officer noted: ‘Our boys mowed down their ranks like grass; but they closed up and came steadily on. Our fire was so terrible and certain that after having the colors in front of us shot down twice they broke in confusion and left us in possession of the field. They left their colors upon the field.’  – from Civil War Trust’s Battle of Brawners Farm

 

After the decimation of the 26th Georgia Regiment, the battle raged on through sundown.  The fighting subsided after 8:00pm and at 11:00 the federal troops withdrew toward Manassas Junction.

The Savannah Republican later ran a list of the casualties suffered by the 26th Georgia Regiment.

 

Savannah Republican, September 22, 1862

LIST OF THE KILLED AND WOUNDED OF THE 26th GA. REG’T IN THE BATTLE OF MANASSAS, AUGUST 28th, 1862.

FIELD AND STAFF
Killed: None. Wounded: Lieut. Col. E.S. Griffin, neck and shoulder; Adjutant A.J. Liles, neck and shoulder; Serg’t Major E.H. Crawley, arm and hip.

CO. A    BRUNSWICK RIFLES, LT. N. DIXON, COMMANDING
Killed: None. Wounded: Lt. N. Dixon, shoulder; Orderly Sergeant Urbanus Dart, fore-arm; Serg’t John J. Spears, abdomen; Corp’l John Pacety, in right breast; Privates Patrick Burney, hand; Jas. Barrett, arm; Jas. G. W. Harris, thigh; George Holmes, both legs; Jos. McLemore, hand; Daniel Cronan, arm and shoulder; Jno. Niblo, abdomen; Thos. Cumming, heel; Felix F. McMermott, hand.

CO. B    McINTOSH GUARDS, LIEUT. E. BLOUNT, COM’DG.
Killed: None. Wounded: Sergeant Wm. Flauk, right breast; Serg’t Wm. B. White, arm; Private Jas. Danvergue, shoulder. Missing: Privates Geo. Rowe, Jas. Townson.

CO. C    PISCOLA VOLUNTEERS, LT. J. H. HUNTER, COM’DG.
Killed: Color Sergeant Thos. J. Durham, Orderly Sergeant W. S. Hines; Privates John Alderman, Virgil A S Edwards, John P. Hunter, Mathew Smith, Eli C. Mitchell, Robert A Jackson. Wounded: Lieut. J. H. Hunter, abdomen; Privates John Southern, abdomen; Jas. H. Southern, both thighs and hip; John M. Burch, knee; Zach McLeod, hand; Clayton Herring, thigh; S. Brannan, head and eye.

CO. D   SEABOARD GUARDS, LT. E. L. PEARCE OF THE WIRE GRASS MINUTE MEN, COM’DG.
Killed: Privates W. L. Davis, A. J. McClellan, C. B. Gray. Wounded: Corporal J. T. Cooper, hand; Privates Wesley Rowland, knee; Lewis Perdon, thigh; A. J. Herrin, head. Missing; Private David Kean.

CO. E.    WIRE GRASS MINUTE MEN, CAPT. JOHN LEE, COM’DG.
Killed: Lt. Jas. Riggins; Privates J. B. Riggins, T. S. Trowell, Jos. E. Trowell. Wounded: Capt. John Lee, hand; Lt. E. L. Pearce, arm broken; Serg’t J. A. Hogan, head; Corp’l. Wm. A. Thompson, leg; Privates Joseph E. Harper, knee; Wm. J. Morris, arm, knee, and body; E. A. Elliott, shoulder, breast, leg and hand; R. J. Joiner, arm; A. McSwain, shoulder; Mitchell Sweat, foot; W. J. Murray, hips and legs.

CO. F    WARE GUARDS, CAPT. T. C. LOTT, COM’DG.
Killed: Capt. T. C. Lott, Corp’l Jefferson Goettee, Private Lewis Williams. Wounded: Lt. J. T. Patterson, head, arm and breast; Serg’t R. Sweat, knee; Privates Daniel Patterson, leg; Henry Guess, Knee; Moses Coleman, thigh; A. Goettee, left breast and side; John Sellers, hip; R. B. Phillips, wound unknown.

CO. G.    OKEFENOKEE RIFLES, CAPT. JOHN ARNETT, COM’DG.
Killed: Corp’l A. J. Milton, Wm. Waters. Private Jesse Robinson. Wounded: Capt. J. Arnett, side and arm; Sergt. McD. M. Boothe, arm. Privates E. Johnson, thigh; H. Robinson, hand; Wm. Smith, thigh; Benj. Roach, shoulder and breast; Clemons H. Carter, abdomen; David Stone; abdomen; D. Dougherty, head; Willis McPhearson, face; Eaton Taylor, arm; Peter Spikes, wounded and in the hands of the enemy.

CO. H    BARTOW LIGHT INFANTRY, LIEUT. H. H. SMITH, COM’DG.
Killed: Privates Jennings Johnson, Langdon Turnbull, Lafayette Dees, Willet Yarborough, Madison Walker, Irwin Moore. Wounded: Lieut. H. H. Smith, arm. Privates John H. Dasher, hip and abdomen; Richard Moore, leg broken; Wm. C. Wilkinson, through the shoulder and arm broken; S. Cunningham, hand; Lawrence Lawson, leg; Toby Hewett, heel; James Allen, body; George Carter, arm; Jesse More, head; Jesse Adams, ear; Martin Knight, shoulder; Gus. Strickland, hand; W. Hunt, arm.

CO. I    FAULK INVINCIBLES, LIEUT. D. N. NELSON, COM’DG.
Killed: Sergt. Benj. Radford, Corp’l John Hammock, Privates Micajah Paulk, Thomas Saunders. Wounded: Privates Wm. Lamb, arm and thigh; R. McConnell, knee; Benj. Vincent, hand; Patrick Nolan, leg; Wm. Crawford, hip; Noell Hills, lower part of abdomen; J. P. Rickerson, thigh and arm; H. A. Pruett, leg; H. H. Manning, shoulder.

CO. K    FORREST RANGERS, LIEUT. VINCENT A. HODGES, COM’DG.
Killed: Lieut. V. A. Hodges, Sergt. Mark C. Chauncey. Privates Joel Spikes, John Griffins, John Summerlin, Thomas M. Bennett.
Wounded: Sergt. L. T. Morgan, left breast; Corp’l Wm. Smith, left breast. Privates Benj. Smith, in the leg; Wm. B. Booth, thight; J. B. Mills, neck; C. H. Hall, thigh; Wm. S. Ginn, right breast; Thompson Harris, head; J. N. McQuaig, arm and abdomen; Wm. Agu, hand; Jesse G. Booth, hand; D. H. Smith, hip; John Sweat, foot.

 

26th Georgia Regiment casualties at the Battle of Brawner's Farm

26th Georgia Regiment casualties at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm

The Battle of Brawner’s Farm was the opening engagement of the  Second Battle of Manassas, August 29-30.

During the battle, on August 29, 1862  both  the 26th GA and the 50th GA regiments were in positions at Groveton, VA.    A number of men serving with the 50th were from the Ray City area including Green Bullard, Fisher J. Gaskins, Lemuel Elam Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins,  John Jasper Cook and John Martin Griner.

The 26th GA Regiment was present the following month with Lawton’s Brigade at the Battle of Antietam, where they again suffered heavy casualties on September 17, 1862.

On October 19, 1862  Albert Douglass was admitted to 1st Division, General Hospital Camp Winder and transferred to Hod Hospital on December 23, 1862. He was back on the morning report of Winder Hospital on December 24, and then transferred to Ridge Hospital. While he was in the hospital  in December 1862, the 26th Georgia Regiment participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg.

In May, 1863 the 26th Georgia Regiment was at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Albert Douglass was admitted to Receiving and Wayside Hospital (General Hospital No. 9)  on June 4, 1863 and the following day he was discharged from the Confederate States Army.

Douglas later served with the Florida Militia and the Union Navy.

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Benjamin Thomas Cook in Postbellum Berrien County

Benjamin Thomas Cook (1842-1924) Berrien County,  GA

Benjamin Thomas Cook came to Berrien County, GA after the Civil War and settled on land near Empire Church, not far distant from the grist mill Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight had established on Beaver Dam Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek in southern Berrien County. Cook was a veteran who had been a prisoner of war, and came to Berrien to join others of the Cook family connection.

Benjamin Thomas Cook was born in Georgia in 1842, a son of Martha Knight and John  Cook.  His parents were married  December 5, 1841, in Wilkinson County, and Ben was  first enumerated at eight years old on his father’s farm in the  1850 census  of  the county.

1850-census-benjamin-t-cook

1850 Census enumeration of Benjamin Cook in the household of his parents, Martha Knight and John Cook, Wilkinson County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/7thcensus0067unix#page/n602/mode/1up

By the time of the 1860 census, John Cook had moved his family to Milledgeville, Baldwin County, GA.  John Cook was a miller and Benjamin Thomas Cook was employed as a “common laborer.”

"1860

Milledgeville was then capitol of the State of Georgia, also the site of the state arsenal, penitentiary, lunatic asylum, and Oglethorpe University.  Milledgeville was a bustling city, with a cosmopolitan flair.  The Cook residence was near the Milledgeville Hotel, and the neighbors of the Cooks included not only doctors, pharmacists, craftsmen, politicians and state administrators,  but also professionals such as editors and engineers from New York, fencing masters from France, merchants from many states and countries, attorneys from Scotland, watchmakers from Ireland, daguerreotype artists from Germany, and many others who simply gave their occupation as “gentleman.”

Western view of the State House and other buildings in Milledgeville. The view is from near the residence of R. M. Orme, Esg.; the State House is seen on the right; the Milledgevill and McComb's Hotels on the left. The Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches appear in the central part.

Milledgeville, GA, 1861.

Western view of the State House and other buildings in Milledgeville.
The view is from near the residence of R. M. Orme, Esg.; the State House is seen on the right; the Milledgeville and McComb’s Hotels on the left. The Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches appear in the central part. Barber, J. W., & Howe, H. (1861). Our whole country; or, The past and present of the United States, historical and descriptive. Cincinnati: H. Howe. https://books.google.com/books?id=dpzRlpLAGnwC&q

At the age of 20, Benjamin Thomas Cook was a resident of Milledgeville, Georgia, of florid complexion, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and 5 ft, 3 3/4 inches tall. When the Civil War got underway Benjamin and his brother, Henry Cook, joined the Confederate cause. He enlisted May 1, 1862,  at Macon,  GA  with Company A, 1st Confederate Georgia Regiment, according to the Confederate Pension application he later filed. He appears in the National Park Service database of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors as a private of Company A, 1st Georgia Reserves. There were over thirty Georgia battle units incorporating the “First Georgia” title, so Benjamin’s unit service record remains unclear.

Georgia Ordinances of 1861 required that “every free white person, who shall be engaged in actual service, military or naval, of the State, and shall take an oath of his intention to continue in such service for at least three months, unless sooner discharged honorably, and, also, the oath of allegiance below prescribed.”

“That the oath of allegiance to this State shall be in the following form, to wit: ‘I do swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and true allegiance bear to the State of Georgia so long as I may continue a citizen thereof.”

Those who were residents of Georgia at the time the Ordinance of Secession was passed were implicitly no longer citizens of the United States, but citizens of the State of Georgia. After the passage of Secession, anyone who came from a Union state to reside in Georgia  was required to take the Oath of Abjuration, an explicit statement renouncing their American citizenship.

“The oath of abjuration shall be in the following form, to wit: ‘I do swear (or affirm) that I do renounce and forever abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every prince, potentate, State or sovereignity whatsover, except the State of Georgia.’

While in Confederate service, Benjamin Cook was captured at Milledgeville, GA.  The Roll of Prisoners of War at Point Lookout, MD shows he was captured November 23, 1864, and held as a POW at the federal prison there at Point  Lookout, MD. His brother, Henry Cook, was also among the POWs at Point Lookout, as were John A. Gaskins, John T. Ray, Benjamin Harmon Crum and Aaron Mattox of Berrien County, GA.

Point Lookout had been hastily constructed in 1863 to confine Confederate prisoners of war captured at Gettysburg.

At the end of August 1863, Point Lookout’s stockade held more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers.  The prison population swelled to 9,000 by the end of the year. During the summer of 1864, the prison population grew to 15,500, well more than the stockade’s designed capacity, and reached 20,000 in June 1865. Conditions for the prisoners severely worsened as the population exploded.  The military did not construct barracks or other permanent housing; instead, tents provided inadequate shelter from the sweltering summer heat and brutal winters.  Contaminated water, meager rations, malaria and typhoid fever, and exposure to the elements led to a high death rate in the camp.  Approximately 4,000 of the total 50,000 Point Lookout prisoners died while  incarcerated. National Park Service

Following the Confederate surrender, B.T. Cook swore an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and was released from Point Lookout on June 10, 1865.

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

It appears from the Point Lookout records that B.T. Cook  was transported to Hilton Head, SC arriving on July 1, 1865.

After the War, Ben and his brother, Henry, came to Berrien  County, GA. In doing so, Ben and Henry were joining  about a dozen or so families originating from Wilkinson county who had made the move to the newly established Berrien County some ten years earlier. These included  the families of Ben’s cousins Elijah, Tabitha, and Piety Cook. Tabitha married Daniel Avera and Piety married Nicholas Lewis, both of these couples moving to Berrien.  Dawson Webb, father of Elijah’s first wife, had also moved to Berrien around 1856, and Webb’s daughter Louisa Eliza Webb and son-in-law Moses G. Sutton came to Lowndes County (now Berrien) a few years prior.

In Berrien County on 14 December 1865, Ben married Samantha  Jane “Mantha” Taylor. Jane was the daughter of blacksmith William Jackson Taylor and his wife, Samantha Jane Rogers, originally from Marion County, SC. The marriage ceremony was performed by Jane’s brother, Thomas L. Taylor, Justice of the Peace. 1865-benjamin-thomas-cook-marriage-cert

Back from the war,  Benjamin Cook endured the conditions of Reconstruction in Berrien County, GA. “It was also a time when the entire nation, but especially the South, was forced to come to grips with the legacy of slavery and the consequences of emancipation.” -National Park Service

Congress passed the Reconstruction Act in 1867 requiring the former Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment,  which “defined all persons born in the United States as national citizens, who were to enjoy equality before the law.”  States were compelled to adopt new state constitutions, providing “equal protection of the laws” to all national citizens, black and white.  Southern states which continued to deny the vote to black men would lose representation in Congress.

W. H. Griffin, Jr.,  who was born during the Civil War, described the post-war perspective of ex-Confederates in Berrien County:

“Georgia had been placed under military rule, Union soldiers stood guard everywhere, indignities were piled upon the citizens of Berrien county by scalawags and carpet baggers who subjected war worn soldiers to almost brutal treatment in order to force them to take the oath of allegiance.” – The unpublished papers of W.H. Griffin Jr., (1863-1932) 

In July 28, 1866 The Albany Patriot wrote:

“Unjust and discriminating taxes are heaped upon us, and we are allowed no voice or representation in the councils of the Government. We are invited to degrade ourselves on a level with the most miserable and debauched class of people known among us.  With our oaths of allegiance staring us in the face, we are baselessly charged with disloyalty and our motives impugned.”

By 1867, white Georgia voters were required to complete the Oath of Allegiance in order to be listed in the register of qualified voters. White southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship were required to swear a new oath of allegiance to the United States in order to have their national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote. Some whites who had held posts in the Confederate government or the governments of Confederate states were disqualified from having their citizenship restored through the oath of allegiance.

Like many other men of Berrien County, Benjamin Thomas Cook swore to this new Oath of Allegiance, signifying his acceptance on the written oath by making his x mark over his printed name:

I, B. T. Cook do solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a citizen of the State of Georgia; that I have resided in said State for 24 months next preceding this day, and now reside in the County of Berrien in said State; that I am 21 years old; that I have not been disenfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States, nor for felony committed against the laws of any State or the United States; that I have never been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any executive or judicial office in any state, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof, that I will faithfully support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, encourage others so to do. So help me, God”

Benjamin Thomas Cook,1867 Oath of Allegiance, Berrien County, GA

Benjamin Thomas Cook,1867 Oath of Allegiance, Berrien County, GA

The 1870 census records show Benjamin T. Cook took up farming next door to his brother-in-law, Thomas L. Taylor, and cousin, Elijah Cook, in the 1148th Georgia Militia District. Ben owned $50 in real estate and $85 in personal property. Benjamin T. Cook was undoubtedly a cousin of Elijah Cook, although the exact relationship is not known. Like B. T. Cook, Elijah was a native of Wilkinson County, GA.

1870 Census enumeration of Benjamin T. Cook and family, 1148th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1870 Census enumeration of Benjamin T. Cook and family, 1148th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n437/mode/1up

Around 1874 Benjamin Thomas Cook acquired 65 acres of Berrien County land on Lot 219 in the 10th Land District. About that time, Elijah Cook let go of his land on Lot 217, and acquired Lot 198 which was just to the north.  In 1879, Benjamin T. Cook had 40 acres on lot 217, and Elijah Cook held 680 acres along Five Mile Creek,  on Lots 217 and 198.

In 1880, Benjamin and  Samantha Jane “Mantha” Cook were enumerated by L. E. Lastinger in the 1148th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Children in the Cook household were William (13), Fannie (11), Mary (9), Henry (5) and James (3). William and Mary attended school.  The 1880 census also recorded sickness or disability on the day of enumeration;  11-year-old Fannie Cook was enumerated as at home, suffering from “rheumatism” that left her classified in the census as “maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled.”

Next door to the Cooks  was the family of  Samantha’s sister, Emaline Taylor Lewis, and her husband, Joseph Lewis.  Joseph Lewis was Ben’s  cousin, a son of  Piety Cook and Nicholas Lewis. Two of the sons of Joseph Lewis and Emaline Taylor Lewis, 14-year-old Thomas Lewis and  4-year-old William Lewis, also suffered from debilitating “rheumatism.”

1880 census enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1880 census enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n393/mode/1up

The 1880 population census also shows that three of the children of  Ben’s cousin Elijah Cook and his wife Arinda Chandler Cook were also disabled.  These Cook daughters were Juda, Amanda, and Sarah. These girls were known locally as the “alligator children,” and apparently presented a rare, debilitating form of the genetic skin condition ichthyosis. Two of the grandchildren of Elijah Cook also suffered from ichthyosis, and Ben’s nephew Andrew Cook, son of Henry Cook, was also disabled (When Henry Cook went to prison for manslaughter in 1907, an application was submitted on behalf of Andrew to receive his father’s Indigent Soldiers pension as a dependent.)

Benjamin T. Cook in 1880 had 390 acres on Lot 215. In 1884 Benjamin gave up 160 acres on Lot 215, retaining 130 acres there.

Children of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor include:

  1. William Jackson “Jack” Cook – born March 13, 1867; married 1st Annie Laura Mathis (1871-1910), September 25, 1887; married 2nd, Nancy Barker; married 3rd, Carrie E. Sullivan (1878-1942); died February 1, 1951; Jack, Laura, and Carrie are buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  2. Francis “Fannie” Cook – born April 3, 1868; married Enoch “Bud” Benefield, August 18, 1887, Berrien County GA;
  3. Mary Elizabeth Cook – born December 31, 1878; married James Elijah Benefield March 24, 1891 in Berrien County, GA; died May 22, 1947; buried Poplar Springs Cemetery, Berrien County, GA
  4. Henry Cook – born abt 1875; married Fannie Giddens
  5. James Lewis Cook – born February 7, 1876; married Elizabeth Virginia “Lizzie” Duren, August 24, 1899, Berrien County, GA; died May 31, 1945; buried Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA
  6. Elijah “Lige” Cook – born December 10, 1881 in Berrien County, GA; married Eva Studstill, February 9, 1905; died October 19, 1963; buried Union Hill Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA
  7. Martha Cook – born abt 1884; married Charlie S. Tucker, December 10, 1909 in Berrien County, GA; buried Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook died on Thursday, June 7, 1888.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Samantha Jane

Grave of Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook, first wife of Benjamin Thomas Cook. Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Just seven weeks  after the death of Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook, Benjamin T. Cook married his second wife, Arrilla “Sis” Stone. They were married on Thursday, July 26, 1888, in Berrien County, GA,  the bride’s name appearing on the Marriage license as “Gurila” Stone.  The marriage ceremony was performed by J.P. Patten, Notary Public. Arrilla was a daughter of Elizabeth Harris (1840-1929) and David Stone (1838-1899). The groom was 46 and the bride was 21; she was born in March of 1867. Her father, a Confederate veteran, served with the Okefenokee Rifles,  Company G, 26th Georgia Infantry and was wounded in the abdomen at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm.

1888-benjamin-thomas-cook-marriage-cert

Marriage certificate of Benjamin Cook and Arrilla Stone, July 26, 1888, Berrien County, GA

On January 29, 1898, Ben was enrolled into the Berrien County Confederate Veterans Association in Nashville, GA. Ben and Arrilla Cook appear in the 1900 Census in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA.  In their household were four children: David (7), Elizabeth (5), Nancy (2), Leonard (1).  Also living in the Cook home was Fannie Taylor; the census taker recorder her relationship to Ben as “Grandmother” but she was actually the sister of his first wife, Samantha Jane Taylor. Around their farm were the farms of their son, Lewis Cook, and  their sons-in-law,  Enoch Benefield and James Elijah Benefield.

1900 census enumeration of Benajmin T. Cook and other of the Cook family connection in Berrien County, GA

1900 census enumeration of Benajmin T. Cook and other of the Cook family connection in Berrien County, GA

In the 1910 census records Benjamin T. Cook and Arrilla Cook  appeared in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA; Arrilla was enumerated under the name “Gorilla.” Ben owned his farm, free and clear of mortgage. Ben and Arrilla were listed as parents of seven children: David (16), Elizabeth (15), Nancy 14), Leonard (10), William Harrison (8), and Celia Samantha (2).

1910 census enumeration of the families of Benajmin T. Cook, and his sons Lewis and Elijah

1910 census enumeration of the families of Benajmin T. Cook, and his sons Lewis and Elijah “Lige” Cook in Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n902/mode/1up

Some time between 1910 and 1920, Benjamin Cook became a widower for the second time.  Arrinda Stone Cook was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA, near the grave of Benjamin Cook’s first wife, Mantha J. Taylor Cook. The date death came for Arrinda Stone Cook is not known; the marker for her grave bears only her date of birth.

Children of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Arrinda “Sis” Stone include:

  1. David”Dave” Cook – born June 22, 1891;  married  Lou Annie Gray6/22/1891; died April 1, 1957;  buried at Empire Cemetery.
  2. Elizabeth Cook – born September 1894
  3. Nancy Cook – born October 1897; married Isaac Gray
  4. Leonard Cook – born February 1899; moved to Alabama
  5. William Harrison Cook- born September 13, 1902;  married Mineola Smith (b.3/10/1904); Died February 1, 1967. both are buried at Empire.
  6. Celia Samantha Cook- born June 5, 1907; married Eddie Gray November 11, 1922 in Berrien County (Separated and resumed her maiden name.); died December 1, 1997; buried at Empire Cemetery

By 1918, B.T. Cook was 75 years old. He deeded 30 acres of his land on Lot 309 to his son, James Lewis Cook, and four .

1918-b-t-cook-deed

Quit Claim Deed, B.T. Cook to J.L. Cook, Lot #309 in the 10th District, Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Warranty Deed, B.T. Cook to Elizabeth Cook, #308 in the 10th District, State of Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Warranty Deed, B.T. Cook to Elizabeth Cook, #308 in the 10th District, State of Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Benjamin T. Cook applied for a Confederate Veteran’s pension in  1919. His application for a pension was  accepted, and he was awarded $6.00 a month.

By 1920, Benjamin Cook was 77 years old. He was residing in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Benefield and daughter Mary Cook Benefield. The Benefield  place was situated on the Milltown & Willacoochee Road. Elijah was engaged in general farming with the assistance of his eldest sons, Willie and Eddie Benefield. Just down the Milltown & Willacoochee Road were the farm places of William J. Cook and Elijah Cook.

1920 enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 77, in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Cook.

1920 enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 77, in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Cook. https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n479/mode/1up

Ben  died  at  home on October 5, 1924. The certificate of death, filed in Berrien County, GA, gave his cause of death as “old age & heart trouble.”  His daughter, Mary Benefield, was the informant and R. N. Mathis was the local registrar.  There was no doctor in attendance to sign the death certificate or undertaker to handle funeral arrangements.

1924 death certificate of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Berrien County, GA

1924 death certificate of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Berrien County, GA

Family members who remember Ben recall a man with a temper, who  enjoyed family get-togethers, such as barbecues. He  was  a man who walked with a limp, which was the result of his breaking his  leg when he fell from a barn roof. He rebroke it before  it healed, thus the limp.

Ben  died  at  his home in the 10th district  of  the  newly formed  Lanier County sometime in the early part of 1924.  He  is buried  between his two wives at Empire Cemetery. His home  still stands  as a reminder of the industrious man who came to  Berrien County  and carved a home for himself and his large family  after the Civil War.

Grave of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Grave of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Special thanks to Linda Ward Meadows for contributions of content and images to this article, and for the following selected sources : Tombstones Empire Cemetery; GA Census records 1850  Wilkinson, Co., 1860 Baldwin Co., 1870-1910 Berrien  Co.; Interviews with Grandchildren of Ben & Jane Cook; Pension Records from GA  Archives; Berrien Co. and Wilkinson Co.  marriage  records; Interview with Celia Samantha Cook and her  sister-in-law, Mineola  Smith  Cook, at their home on  10/13/1990;  Cook  family Bibles. Mineola  Smith Cook and Celia Samantha Cook went to  the Berrien County, GA nursing home shortly after my visit with them in 1990. Both are deceased; GA Death Certificate Berrien Co, GA.: Linda Ward Meadows is a great-great granddaughter of Benjamin  Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor Cook. (9088  Val-Del  Road, Adel, GA, 31620. Ph 912-896-3591) lmeadowsz4@windstream.net