Civil War Service of James Madison Baskin

James M. Baskin, early settler of the Ray City area, fought in the Civil War.  He owned many slaves who worked at his farm, cotton gin and other enterprises.  At the start of the war he was about 32 years of age, and like other able-bodied southern men he joined the Confederate army.  He left behind his wife, Frances Bell Knox Baskin, to care for their young family and to administer the Baskin farm and business interests.

On May 6, 1862 he enlisted at Nashville, GA and was first mustered into the 5th Georgia Infantry along with other recruits. This unit became the 54th Georgia Volunteer Infantry at Savannah, Georgia on June 5.   James Baskin was enlisted a private in Company E, the Berrien Light Infantry, under the command of Captains J. H. Evans and H. M. Tally.  Other soldiers in the Berrien Light Infantry included John Lee, George Washington Knight,  William Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie, Matthew Albritton, Littleton Albritton, William Henry Outlaw, and Benjamin Sirmans. Jehu Patten, of the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA, served as 4th Sergeant of  Company E.

The regiment served for some time in the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Confederate service records show in November and December, 1862  Pvt. James M. Baskin was on extra duty as a “Boatman.” Baskin’s service records for the first half of 1863 are missing, but during January and February, 1863 Company E was stationed at Coffee Bluff south of Savannah.  The orders from March 1863 show Company E was among the units assigned to the Savannah River Batteries and other  defenses. 

James M. Baskin may have returned home some time around June of 1863 as his wife, Frances, delivered the couple’s first son, James B. Baskin, on February 9, 1864. Or perhaps Frances traveled to Savannah to visit James that summer of 1863.  Martha Guthrie and other housewives of Berrien County are known to have made this trip to see their husbands the following year.

Pvt. Baskin was recorded on extra duty at Savannah from July 1, 1863 to April 1864, Baskin was serving as a mechanic.

Meanwhile, in July of 1863, Company E and other infantry units of the 54th Regiment were moved up to the Charleston area, where they were involved in numerous engagements.  On July 10 and 11, 1863. U. S. Army forces had made an assault against Battery Wagner on Morris Island, know as the First Battle of Fort Wagner.  The construction engineer of Battery Wagner was Langdon Cheves; he was killed by one of the first shells thrown into the Battery, but the  attack was repulsed. From mid-July to September 1863 the 54th GA Regiment was involved in the defense of Charleston Harbor at Battery Wagner.  On July 16th, they fought in the engagement near Grimball’s Landing, James Island, South Carolina.     A second assault was made on Battery Wagner July 18, but was also repulsed (Second Battle of Fort Wagner).

The 54th Georgia Regiment was reconstituted on April 22, 1864. The regiment moved to Dalton, GA arriving on May 2, 1864 and went into action in the Atlanta Campaign. They fought almost daily engagements: from May 7-13 demonstrations at Rocky Face Ridge; May 14-15 actions at Lay’s Ferry, Oostenaula River, GA.; May 17 engagement at Adairsville,Ga.;  May 19 combat near Cassville,GA.; May 25-26 Battle of New Hope Church.

On May 25-June 5  the 54th Regiment was participating in operations on the line of Pumpkin Vine Creek, Paulding County, just north of the town of Dallas, GA.

On June 10-July 3 Operations about Marietta and the Pine Mountain-Lost Mountain line; June 27 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain;  July 5-July 17 Operations on the line of the Chattahoochee River; July 20 Battle of Peachtree Creek.

During the Battle of Atlanta, on July 22, 1864 , James M. Baskin was wounded in the hip – one of 83 casualties the Regiment suffered in that engagement.

“He lay all night on the ground. The next day he heard a rustling in the grass and called out.  He was rescued by a Yankee soldier.”

He spent time in  hospital in Lagrange, GA until in April 1865 he was furloughed ‘wounded’  and returned to his home to Berrien County.  While James was away, Frances ran the Baskin farm and cotton gin.   With the end of the war, James Baskin returned to farm life.  After the Baskin’s slaves were freed, most made their homes on the farm and lived out their lives there.

While working in the gin Frances had contracted a form of tuberculosis. She died on June 3, 1885 in Rays Mill (now known as Ray City), Berrien County, Georgia.

The widower James Baskin, with minor children still at home, decided to re-marry.  On December 30, 1885 he married Mary Ann Harrell of Lowndes County.  This union produced six children.

In his old age, James M. Baskin applied for and received an annual Indigent Soldier’s pension.  His applications stated that he applied on account of “age and poverty.” He was in bad physical condition and suffered from rheumatism. His application stated his wife owned a small farm where they lived with five children, and up until that time he was “trying to farm” and “made a scant living.’