Robert O. Rouse Sought Confederate Pension

Robert O. Rouse (1842-1908)

In 1903, Confederate veteran Robert O. Rouse, of Ray’s Mill, GA, wrote to Pension Commissioner J. W. Lindsey, for help with his Confederate Pension application. In the Civil War, Rouse fought with the 50th Georgia Regiment, Company I, the Berrien Light Infantry. Rouse was horribly wounded in combat, captured by federal forces and held as a prisoner of war at Rock Island, MD.  Despite his service and sacrifice, his pension application was denied by Georgia authorities.

robert-rouse-envelope

1903-robert-rouse-letter

Rays Mill, Berrien County, GA
March 24, 1903
Hon J W Lindsy
will you plese let me now all about my pension. I weant of in war and stade till hit stopt in Macon Ga at Lee SoRender. i was shot and not abel to work.  plese help me in need i  have lade on  fros ind land til my life is short or me  excuse bad riten.

Robert Rouse
Rays Mill Ga

Robert O. Rouse, a son of Alfred Rouse and Elizabeth J. “Betty” Dixon, was born in Duplin County, NC and came to Berrien County, GA at a young age. His grave marker at Empire Cemetery, near Ray City, gives his birth date as November 1, 1842, but  his 1903 application for a Confederate Pension states he was born March 2, 1843.

Robert’s father, Alfred Rouse, died about 1848 or 1849; the estate of Alfred Rouse was probated in Duplin County, NC in 1849.  Nine-year-old Robert was enumerated on August 8, 1850 in his widowed mother’s household in the south district of Duplin County, NC. His siblings were enumerated as David W. Rouse (age 10), Mary S. Rouse (8), Bryan J. Rouse (7), Sarah J. Rouse (6), and Barbara C. Rouse (6).

1850 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse, Duplin County, NC.

1850 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse, Duplin County, NC. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0629unix#page/n110/mode/1up

In the 1850s, Robert O. Rouse came with some of his Dixon relatives to settle a few miles east of  present day Ray City GA. According to Wiregrass historian Folks Huxford , about that time a number of families “moved to what was then Lowndes County…from their home community in Duplin County, N. C. Among these families were those of William J. Lamb, James Carroll, Jesse Carroll, William Godfrey, Andrew J. Liles, William Best, James W. Dixon and others. These all settled in or around the village then called Alapaha but now named Lakeland, Lanier County.”  In 1850, James Dobson moved his family and slaves from Duplin County, NC to Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA, settling on land lot 333 of the 10th District, just west of Ten Mile Creek in what is now Lanier County; Peter McGowan and Richard McGowan are believed to be two of the slaves Dobson brought from North Carolina.  William Hill Boyett, John Bostick, Treasy Boyett Bostick and Mary C. Bostick came from Duplin to Berrien in the mid-century, and A few years later, Jessie Bostick also removed from Duplin County to the area. James M. and Martha Gordon Sloan made their way From Duplin, NC to Berrien in 1874, via Mississippi and Echols County, GA.

The census of 1860 places Robert Rouse, enumerated as “Robert Rose,” in Berrien County in the household of James W. Dixon. James Rouse was also residing in the Dixon household. James W. Dixon was a farmer and a neighbor of George A. Peeples, William J. Hill, James Patten and General Levi J. Knight.

1860 census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse in the household of James W. Dixon.

1860 census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse in the household of James W. Dixon. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n363/mode/1up

When the Civil War broke out Robert Rouse joined a local militia unit, the Berrien Light Infantry, enlisting on April 1, 1862.  He was officially mustered into Company I, 50th Georgia Volunteer Infantry on August 23, 1862  at Calhoun, GA.  William H. Boyett, James I. G. Connell, William Evander Connell, J.W.T. Crum were other Berrien County men who mustered in to Company I, 50th GA Regiment on August 22-23.

Rouse  and the other men were was sent to join the 50th Regiment which by then had been deployed to Richmond, VA.  Among the men from the Ray City area serving with this unit were Green Bullard, Fisher J. Gaskins, Lemuel Elam Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins,  John Jasper Cook and John Martin Griner.

Muster roles show Robert Rouse was present with his unit in Virginia by August 31, 1862.  As the last weeks of summer slipped into fall the 50th Georgia Regiment fought through some of the bloodiest battles of the war. At Fox’s Gap, South Mountain, MD on September 14, 1862 the 50th Georgia Regiment suffered a casualty rate of 86 percent. William Guthrie was one of six men of Company I (Berrien Light Infantry) killed that day. Another was mortally wounded and 4 more suffered non-fatal wounds. Lemuel Gaskins was wounded, captured and sent to Fort Delaware, MD as a POW. As terrible as the Confederate losses were at South Mountain, they were just a “bloody prelude” to the Battle of Antietam fought three days later September 17, 1862 at Sharpsburg,MD. Almost every surviving soldier in the 50th Regiment was wounded.  On October 2, 1862 Rouse was sent to Winchester Hospital where  thousands of Confederate wounded had been taken. Virtually the entire town of  Winchester, VA was a hospital, with wounded laid up in every home.

Muster Rolls for January and February 1863 show Robert Rouse was absent “at hospital.” On April 16, 1863 he was admitted to the General Hospital at Stanton, VA with pneumonia. In July, Rouse was at the 1st Division General Hospital, Camp Winder, Richmond VA.

By November 1863 Robert Rouse was recovered and was back fighting with the 50th Regiment in Tennessee when Confederate forces under the command of Major General James Longstreet attempted to dislodge the Union occupation of Knoxville. On the approach to Knoxville Rouse’s unit saw relatively little action.   But in the final days of November, the 50th Georgia participated in a disastrous assault on Fort Sanders, a part of the Union’s ring of earthwork defenses around Knoxville.  A week into the siege of Knoxville,  the Confederates determined Fort Sanders was the most vulnerable point of attack. In reality, Union engineers had employed supreme effort and ingenuity in fortifying Fort Sanders.

The Confederate assault on Fort Sanders, conducted on November 29, 1863, was poorly planned and executed. Longstreet discounted the difficulties of the physical obstacles his infantrymen would face. He had witnessed, through field glasses, a Union soldier walking across a 12 foot wide defensive ditch that surrounded the bastioned earthworks Fort Sanders  and, not realizing that the man had crossed on a plank, believed that the ditch was very shallow. Longstreet also believed that the steep walls of the earthworks could be negotiated by digging footholds, rather than requiring scaling ladders.

The Confederates moved to within 120-150 yards of the salient during the night of freezing rain and snow and waited for the order to attack. Their attack on the dawn of November 29th has been described as “cruel and gruesome by 19th century standards.” The advancing Confederate troops were initially confronted by telegraph wire that had been strung between tree stumps at knee height, possibly the first use of such wire entanglements in the Civil War, and many men were shot as they tried to disentangle themselves. When they reached the ditch, they found the vertical wall to be almost insurmountable, frozen and slippery. Union soldiers rained murderous fire into the masses of men, including musketry, canister, and artillery shells thrown as hand grenades. Unable to dig footholds, men climbed upon each other’s shoulders to attempt to reach the top. A succession of color bearers were shot down as they planted their flags on the fort.

For one brief moment the flag of the 50th Georgia Regiment flew atop Fort Sanders’ bastion, planted by Sergeant James S. Bailey, of Company B, before he was captured. Also among the captured was Private John Woods Smith, Company G, who would later become a resident of Ray’s Mill, GA.

In  James W. Parrish’s documentary on the history of 50th Georgia Regiment,  he wrote,

” Although the Southerners fought gallantly, devastating enemy fire forced them to retreat. The ditch trapped many soldiers who were killed, wounded or captured.”

Re-created depiction of Confederate dead at Fort Sanders. 2008 Photo by Wendell Decker http://www.battleoffortsanders.com/Site/Albums/Pages/Wendell_Decker.html#0

Re-enacted depiction of Confederate dead at Fort Sanders.  Photographed by Wendell Decker with Civil War period equipment, 2008.  http://www.battleoffortsanders.com/Site/Albums/Pages/Wendell_Decker.html#0

“After only twenty minutes, Longstreet mercifully called off the assault.”

“As the Rebel offensive collapsed, the retreat proved as deadly as the attack.  Enemy musketry and canister raked the men as they ran back across the open field toward the cover of the wooded ravine.  Lieutenant [William F. “Billie”] Pendleton reported on his narrow escape: ‘We jumped up and dashed down the hill, then cannon opened up on us.  I was caught up in the telegraph wire and forward down the hill.’ ” (Pendleton was eighteen years old).

“The Confederates suffered 813 casualties, including 129 killed, 458 wounded, and 226 captured. Federal losses in the fort were only 13. The attack had been an unmitigated disaster.”

In the bloodbath at Fort Sanders, Robert Rouse was horribly wounded in the face. Both cheek bones were broken and his vision was impaired. Captured by Union forces on January 5, 1864, he was sent to a hospital. He was held at Nashville, TN until January 17, then sent to a military prison at Louisville, KY. On January 23, 1864 he was transferred to Rock Island Prison, Illinois.

Rock Island Prison, Rock Island, IL. Federal guards stand in the foreground; in the background confederate POWs turn out for roll call, December 3, 1863.

Rock Island Prison, Rock Island, IL. Federal guards stand in the foreground; in the background confederate POWs turn out for roll call, December 3, 1863.

Construction of the Rock Island Prison Barracks began in August 1863, with the first 488 confederate POWs arriving on December 3, 1863 before construction was completed. Within weeks the prison population swelled to over 5000 confederate soldiers.

“The prison, rectangular in shape, covered  approximately twelve acres of land. Eighty four wooden-framed barracks, 22 x 100 feet in size, arranged in six rows of fourteen barracks each, comprised the containment area. Each barracks had a kitchen, with a stove and a forty gallon kettle for cooking, located at the west end of the building. Captain Reynolds built enough bunks in each barracks to accommodate 120 prisoners. A main avenue running east to west divided the camp and led to the two main gates. The barracks were enclosed by a twelve foot high rough board fence. A guard platform built four feet from the top of the stockade fence, on the exterior side, had a sentry box every 100 feet. Trenches maintained inside the fence served as a warning line. Sentries were ordered to fire at prisoners venturing beyond this point. The “dead line” supposedly deterred prisoners from tunneling under the stockade. In addition, the closeness of bedrock to the surface prevented tunneling near the southern side of the stockade”

The first few weeks of the camp’s operation were particularly hellish. It was bitterly cold weather, the southern soldiers were ill clothed, there was a shortage of blankets, and disease was rampant.  Some men died from the cold, others from small pox.

By the time of Rouse’s arrival at Rock Island Barracks in January, 1864, 329 prisoners and 4 guards had died of small pox.  The prison had no hospital and inadequate medical supplies or equipment. Prisoners with contagious diseases were housed among the general prison population. The prison grounds were a mudpit, as the site was situated on low ground near a marsh causing water to drain into the compound rather than out. Conditions were unsanitary with no provision for the disposal of garbage or wash water, which were dumped on the ground near the barracks. The water supply was inadequate and prisoners disposed of privy waste in the river that flowed through the camp. Cornbread fed to the prisoners was rancid and made men sick.

In Rouse’s first month at Rock Island, small pox killed another 350 confederates and 10 guards. On March 4, 1864 420 more small pox cases were reported and 644 were sick with undiagnosed diseases.   Although conditions at Rock Island significantly improved over time, 1,964 prisoners and 171 guards died there by the War’s end. Robert Rouse survived Rock Island Barracks and was released March 27, 1865.

Federal parole of Robert O. Rouse, Confederate Prisoner of War, March 27, 1865.

Federal parole of Robert O. Rouse, Confederate Prisoner of War, March 27, 1865.

Headquarters Department of Richmond
Richmond, Va. March 27th 1865

           In obedience to instructions from the Secretary of War, the following named men (paroled prisoners) are granted leaves of indulgence for 30 days (unless sooner exchanged ) at the expiration of which time, those belonging to commands serving north of the Southern boundary line  of North Carolina, and in East Tennessee, will report immediately to them, if exchanged; other wise they will report to Camp of Paroled Prisoners, Richmond, Va.  All other paroled prisoners, except those whose commands are serving  within the limits above mentioned, will also report, at expiration of their furloughs, to Camp of Paroled Prisoners, Richmond, Va.

Priv. R. Rouse Co. I 50 Ga Inf

Quartermaster will furnish Transportation

By order of Lt. General R. S. Ewell

After release from Rock Island Barracks, Robert Rouse was sent to Boulware and Cox’s Wharves, James River, VA for exchange. Bouleware’s Wharf  was described as “the Graveyard” by Colonel Robert Ould, Confederate Agent of Exchange in Richmond, in a letter to Ulysses S. Grant dated December 27, 1864.

Boulware’s Wharf was located on the James River, about 10 miles below Richmond, where Osborne Turnpike intersects Kingsland Road. Cox’s Wharf was located just down river.  By the time of Rouse’s parole, the James River up to and including Cox’s Wharf was under the control of federal forces.  Boulware’s Wharf was under the eye of Fort Brady held by Federal troops at Cox’s Wharf, and also in the shadow of the Confederate Fort Hoke located about two miles up stream.  Under a flag of truce Bouleware’s Wharf for a time became the point where Confederate prisoners were exchanged for Union POWs.

The Confederate POWs would be brought by steamboat to Aiken’s Landing, at the point where the Varina Road reaches the James River.

According to the testimony of Colonel Ould, “It is simply impossible, owing to the relative positions of the military lines, to the conditions of the roads, and the deficiency of transportation, to convey in vehicles even the sick (returning Confederates) from Varina (Aiken’s Landing) to Richmond, a distance by way of Boulware’s of some fourteen miles. The Federal steam-boats which bring our prisoners stop at Varina. This point is some four miles from our lines, and the prisoners are either marched or transported to Boulware’s Wharf, which is nearly on the dividing line of the opposing armies, and about four miles distant from Varina.”

With the war ended, Robert Rouse was furloughed. On April 10, 1865 his furlough was extended for 30 days at Macon, GA.  Rouse returned to Berrien County, GA to the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill District.  County tax records confirm his presence there in 1867.

On December 9, 1869 Robert O. Rouse married Nancy Kisiah Parrish in Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Robert O. Rouse and Mary K. Parrish

Marriage certificate of Robert O. Rouse and Nancy K. Parrish, Berrien County, GA.

Kisiah’s father, Matthew A. Parrish, had also enlisted with Company I, 50th GA Regiment during the Civil War, but had been detailed as a carpenter to help construct Guyton Hospital at Whitesville, GA three months before Rouse joined the unit. It appears that her father was furloughed home and died in Berrien County in October 1862.

Robert and Kiziah Rouse took up married life in the farm house of Robert’s uncle, William Dixon. Robert assisted his uncle with farm labor and Kisiah kept house.

1870 Census enumeration of Nancy Kisiah Parrish and Robert Rouse in the household of William Dixon, Berrien County, GA.

1870 Census enumeration of Nancy Kisiah Parrish and Robert Rouse in the household of William Dixon, Berrien County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n468/mode/1up

From Ray’s Mill, the William Dixon place  was out the road now known as the Sam I. Watson Highway, on the northeast bank of Ten Mile Creek (formerly known as Alapacoochee Creek).

About 1875 William Dixon  and the Rouses moved across Ten Mile Creek to Lot 333 which had been acquired by Dixon.  The 1880 census shows Robert Rouse enumerated next door to his uncle, William Dixon. It appears Robert had his own domicile, but still on his uncle’s property. By this time, Robert’s household included his wife and their children: Sally, age 7; Alfred, age 5; James, age 4; and William, age 2.  They were neighbors of Rhoda and George Washington Knight, and John C. Sirmans.

Robert O. Rouse 1880 Census

1880 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n411/mode/1up

In 1883 a fifth child, Josie Rouse, was born to Robert and Nancy Kisiah Rouse.

On Sunday, October 19, 1884 tragedy struck the family, with the death of little James Rouse. The  boy was laid to rest at Empire Cemetery.

Grave of James Rouse (1874-1884), son of Robert O. Rouse. Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of James Rouse (1874-1884), son of Robert O. Rouse. Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Robert and Nancy Kisiah Rouse were enumerated in the Census of 1900 still on the farm on Ten Mile Creek near Empire Church, which they had acquired from Robert’s uncle William Dixon. In their household were sons William Rouse and Josie Rouse, who helped work the farm. Also boarding with the family was Will Dias, who was employed as a teamster. Their son, Alfred L. Rouse,  and his wife, Mary Jones Rouse, were living in an adjacent home; boarding with them was uncle William Dixon, now retired.  Daughter Sarah J. “Sallie” Rouse had married D. Edwin Griner and the couple owned a nearby farm. Still residing next door to the Rouses were George Washington Knight and Rhoda Futch Knight.

1900 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse and family, Berrien County, GA

1900 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse and family, Berrien County, GA  https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n769/mode/1up

From 1900 to 1903, Robert Rouse, now in his 60’s, tried in vain to qualify for a  Invalid Soldier Pension from the State of Georgia.

Georgia Invalid Soldier's Pension Application submitted by Robert O. Rouse, Berrien County, GA.

Georgia Invalid Soldier’s Pension Application submitted by Robert O. Rouse, Berrien County, GA.

Rouse’s pension application was supported by a letter from Alexander W. Patterson, Ordinary of Berrien County, GA.

robert-rouse-letter-from-berrien-ordinary

Office of Ordinary
A. W. Patterson, Ordinary
Nashville,GA., Berrien County

This is to certify that R O Rouse is still in life and entitled to any benefits that may be due him as an Invalid Confederate Soldier.
    Given under my hand and Seal of the County Ordinary, This 22” day July 1902

A W Patterson
Ordinary

Rouse was examined by Dr. L. A. Carter and Dr. W. B. Goodman who attested, “We find applicant almost blind. We believe it was caused by a wound in the face, the missile entered on the left side behind the molar and came out in front of the right molar. Said wound is so near the eyes that it caused iritis which left the eyes permanently injured.”

Three witnesses confirmed Robert O. Rouse’s service with the 50th GA Regiment, that he was wounded in action and permanently disabled; John Page Bennett, John Woods Smith, and Timothy W. Stallings. John Page Bennett, a private in Company G, 50th GA Regiment was wounded by a shell fragment in the Battle of Fredricksburg and permanently lost the use of his left arm. He received a disability discharge on April 27, 1863. John Woods Smith, a corporal in 50th GA Regiment, Company G, the Clinch Volunteers was captured November 29th, 1863 at the battle of Fort Sanders, the same battle where Robert Rouse was shot in the face.  After the War, John Woods Smith married Mary Jane Whitehurst and moved to the Rays Mill District of Berrien County; In 1900 he was living in Rays Mill, GA. Timothy W. Stallings was a private in Company K, 50th GA Regiment; in 1900 he was living in Nashville, GA.

Rouse’s pension application was denied. In June 1901, the Office of the Commissioner of Pensions, State of Georgia, noted, “The statements and proofs submitted does not show blindness, and that his condition was result of service. Physician must state in what way injury could have injured the eyes.  It is probably that present condition of eyes is result of old age and not of the wound or service.”  In 1902 the further notation was added by J. W. Lindsey, Commissioner of Pensions, “No pension allowed from partial blinding. Disapprove file.”

Robert O. Rouse died March 22, 1908.  He was buried at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of Robert O. Rouse, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Robert O. Rouse, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

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Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men

Levi J. Knight, original pioneer settler of Ray City, was the military leader of the community. He served as a captain of the local militia company in the Indian Wars, and as a general in the state militia.

Almost immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln,  Levi J. Knight formed a company of 103 volunteers, the Berrien Minute Men.

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men, passed December 10, 1860 at Nashville, GA

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men, passed December 10, 1860 at Nashville, GA

Georgia
Berrien County

At a meeting of the Company of Berrien Minute Men at Nashville this 10th day of December 1860, the following resolutions were offered by Capt. Levi J. Knight.
    Resolved that we the Berrien Minute Men, adopt the following uniform, viz, Blue Gray Cloth, turned up with black flat-plate buttons, gray caps, with a black leather band, and plate buckle in front.
   Resolved that  we hold ourselves in readinefs to march at a minute warning, under orders from his excellency  the Governor, to any place in this state or out of it, that his excellency’s orders may designate.
   Resolved that we prefer the Minnie Rifle, and Sword Bayonet, and request our officers to apply for them, as our first choice.
      On Motion, the above resolutions were unanimously adopted.

Although Civil War was imminent,  long months of preparation passed. A few of these original Minute Men would drop out and new recruits take their places before Captain Knight’s Company finally made their way to Savannah in the summer of 1861.

1860 Muster Roll of the Berrien Minute Men

1860 Muster Roll of the Berrien Minute Men

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berrien-minute-men-MusterRolls1860-99

Muster Roll of Capt. Levi J. Knight’s Company of Volunteers Styled, The Berrien Minute Men Enrolled 28 Nov. 1860
Levi J. Knight Capt.
Thos. S. Wylley 1st Lieut
William Giddens 2nd Lieut
William Y. Hill 3rd Lieut
1 Arch. McCranie 1st Sergt
2 Jno. R. Langdale 2nd Sergt
3 Wm H. Overstreet 3rd Sergt
4 Sirman W. Nash 4th Sergt
5 Moses Giddens 1st Corp.
6 John Knight 2nd Corp.
7 Wm C. Giddens 3rd Corp.
8 Jasper M. Luke 4th Corp.
9 Dr. H. M. Talley Surgeon
10 F. H. Rooks Private
11 Moses H. Giddens Private
12 Abraham J. Luke Private
13 David P. Luke Private
14 H. W. McCranie Private
15 Jacob B. Griffin Private
16 James M. Williams Private
17 John P. Griffin Private
18 Sion D. Griffin Private
19 John L. Hall Private
20 Berrien Hendly Private
21 David M. Luke Private
22 James H. Kirby Private
23 John F. Kirby Private
24 Joel J. Parrish Private
25 Jacob Davis Private
26 Thos N. Connell Private
27 Wm Bradley Private
28 Alex D. Patterson Private
29 Wm Dickson Private
30 Wm J. Lamb Private
31 Johnson M. Richardson Private
32 John M. J. McCranie Private
33 A. L. Parrish Private
34 David D. Mahon Private
35 Matthew O. Giddens Private
36 Jas L. ONeal Private
37 B. M. James Private
38 John Tison Private
39 D. P. McDonald Private
40 Danl. M. Patterson Private
41 Jno. W. Griffin Private
42 Irvin Jones Private
43 John F. Parrish Private
44 Levi T. Smith Private
45 Wm M. Kirby Private
46 Wm Anderson Private
47 Richard G. McCranie Private
48 Andrew Dobson Private
49 Solomon Griffin Private
50 Wm. W. Rutherford Private
51 Jackson M. Handcock Private
52 Jas M. Hall Private
53 Jas A. Hall Private
54 William B. Bradford Private
55 John C. Lamb Private
56 Martin Griner Private
57 Isbin T. Giddens Private
58 Saml Jefcoat Private
59 John P. Weekly Private
60 Jarrad Johnson Private
61 Wm Richardson Private
62 Jas Hendley Private
63 Wm Patten Private
64 John M. Handcock Private
65 John D. Handcock Private
66 Newton M. McCutchin Private
67 Patrick Nolon Private
68 John Studstill Private
69 Saml Gaskins Private
70 W. D. Williams Private
71 Isaac Goodman Private
72 Howell B Dobson Private
73 Thos D. Lindsey Private
74 Danl. McNabb Private
75 Robt McNabb Private
76 Jas McNabb Private
77 Boney Roe Private
78 Joseph S. Morris Private
79 Ed Maloy Private
80 John Giddens Private
81 Geo M. L Wilson Private
82 Danl. W. McCranie Private
83 John Lindsey Jr. Private
84 Lovic M. Young Private
85 Gideon Gaskins Private
86 Ashley Newbern Private
87 Elbert Mathis Private
88 Jas Mathis Private
89 Joseph Newbern Private
90 Joel G. Young Private
91 Wm Luke Private
92 Wm J. Watson Private
93 Joseph Gaskins Private
94 Wm Branch Private
95 John J. Young Private
96 George W. Flowers Private
97 Newit Ward Private
98 Robt. H. Goodman Private
99 John C. Clements Private

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John Gaskins, Pioneer of Old Berrien

John Gaskins (1802 – 1865)

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

 John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distant from today’s Ray City, GA location, settling there about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek.

John Gaskins was born June 29, 1802 in Warren County, GA. He was the eldest child of Fisher Gaskins and Rhoda Rowe, and a grandson of Thomas Gaskins, Revolutionary Soldier.  When John was around four or five years old, his parents  and grandparents  moved  the family back to Beaufort District, South Carolina, from whence they had originated.  The family appears there in Beaufort District in the Census of 1810. By the time of the 1810 enumeration, John Gaskins’ parents had given him four siblings – two brothers and two sisters.

But immediately following the birth of her fifth child, John’s mother died.  He was eight years old at the time.  His widowed father packed up the five young children and moved the family back to Warren County, GA.  There, on January 17, 1811 his father married Mary Lacy. Her father, Archibald Lacy, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and her brother was the Reverend John B. Lacy, who would later become a prominent  Primitive Baptist Minister.  Around this time John’s father was expanding his livestock business and began looking for good grazing land for his growing herds of cattle.

By 1812, John Gaskins’ father moved the family to Telfair County, GA where he acquired good grazing land for his cattle. His father and his uncle, David Gaskins, were very successful in the cattle business and soon had large herds, not only in Telfair County where they were enumerated in 1820, but also in Walton and other surrounding counties where good natural pasturage could be had.

Around 1821, the Gaskins again moved their families and cattle herds to the south, crossing the Ocmulgee River at Mobley’s Bluff and pushing into the new frontier of Appling County,GA.  John, now a young man of 17 or 18 years old, made the move with his family.  His uncle, David Gaskins, halted in an area of Appling County known as “The Roundabout”, situated in present day Atkinson County, where he found good range land for his cattle. John’s father took his herd across the Alapaha River into then Irwin County at a location that for many years was known as the John Ford.

The Fisher Gaskins clan, John’s father and his brothers, settled west of the Alapaha River a little south of present day Bannockburn, GA near the site of Riverside Church. On April 14, 1825  John Gaskins married Mary Pollie Barrow in Irwin County, GA.      This was about 15 miles north of the area where the Knights and Clements were settling their families above Grand Bay, near present day Ray City, GA.  John and Mary Gaskins established their homestead just to the north of his father’s place. By the end of 1825, the Georgia Legislature divided Irwin County and from the southern portion formed the new county of Lowndes.

On August 11, 1826 Mary Gaskins delivered to John his first son, Gideon Gaskins. A second son arrived on February 16, 1828, whom they named Fisher Jackson Gaskins; Fisher – after his paternal grandfather, and Jackson perhaps after Andrew Jackson, the Hero of New Orleans who would be elected President that year.

John Gaskins appeared as a head of household in Lowndes County in the Census of 1830, as did his father, Fisher Gaskins.  About 1829 or 1830, John’s father moved his cattle across the county and settled on Lot 91 of the 9th Land District, which was subsequently known as the Chambliss place, and later became the home of George D. Griffin.

About 1831 a contagious disease struck Fisher Gaskins’ herd, killing off several hundred head of cattle and inciting the elder Gaskins to seek new pastures yet again. With the help of hired hands, among them a young John G. Taylor, he drove his remaining cattle into North Florida to settle in the area of Alachua County, FL.   John and Mary stayed behind in Lowndes County (now Berrien), as well as John’s brothers,  William and Harmon.

“When he moved to Florida, he [Fisher Gaskins] left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

Cattlemen like John Gaskins sold their Berrien County livestock at points like Savannah, GA or  Centerville on the St. Mary’s River, or Jacksonville, Florida.

John Gaskins fought in the Indian War 1836-1838, serving in Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company.   Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote,  “His home was visited  by the savages on one occasion while the family was absent, and a good deal of vandalism and theft was committed.”   John Gaskins and his brother William 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.

At age 38, John Gaskins and family were enumerated in the Census of 1840, still living in the northeast area of old Lowndes county now known as Berrien County. His brother, William, was living next door, and nearby were the homesteads of David Clements and William Clements, and other early settlers.

In 1850 the Gaskins remained in  Lowndes County.  Enumerated nearby the Gaskins home place were the residences of General Levi J. Knight, William Patten, Hardeman Sirmans, David Clements, Moses C. Lee, and other early settlers. John Gaskins was a farmer, with $600 in real estate.

Around 1855 the Gaskins were involved in some sort of public disturbance in Lowndes county.  Hardeman Sirmons, Benjamin S. Garrett, Drewry Garrett, Will Garrett, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Gideon Gaskins, and Lemuel Gaskins were all brought before the Lowndes Superior Court for their involvement in a riot.  In 1856, however, the Gaskins and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and placed in the new county of Berrien. The defendants were able to have their case  transferred to Berrien County in June of 1856, and apparently escaped serious consequences.

In the Census of 1860 John Gaskins appeared on the enumeration sheets listed next to Thomas M. Ray, who would begin construction of Ray’s Millpond just a few years later.

From 1858 to 1861, John Gaskins served as a Justice of the Peace in Berrien County.

During the Civil War five of his sons joined Georgia Volunteer Infantry regiments: Fisher J. Gaskins, William Gaskins, Lemuel Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Harris Gaskins, .

Children of John Gaskins and Mary Pollie Barrow:

  1. Gideon Gaskins, born 1826, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Knight (July 17, 1831 – February 03, 1902); buried Riverside Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.
  2. Fisher J. Gaskins, Sr., born February 16, 1828, Berrien County, GA; married Elizabeth Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died November 14, 1908, Berrien County, GA; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  3. John Gaskins, Jr., born January 16, 1830, Berrien County, GA; married Catherine Calder; died May 6, 1886.
  4. Emily Gaskins, born 1832, Berrien County, GA; married Joseph Newbern.
  5. William Gaskins, born March 5, 1833; married Elizabeth Clements, daughter of David G. Clements; served in Company I, 54th GA Regiment; died August 27, 1910; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  6. Lemuel Elam Gaskins, born 1836, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Ann Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment;  died October 26, 1862, Richmond, VA; buried Richmond VA, memorial marker at Riverside Baptist Church.
  7. Joseph Gaskins, born April 28, 1840, Berrien County, GA; married Harriet Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died February 4, 1911; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  8. Harmon Gaskins, born 1842, Berrien County, GA; died young.
  9. Harrison  “Harris” Gaskins, born April 5, 1842, Berrien County, GA.; married Roxanna “Roxie” Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans, on April 17, 1862; served in Company K, 29th GA Regiment; died January 7, 1926; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church
  10. Bryant Gaskins, born 1846, Berrien County, GA

Clinch County News
April 23, 1937

John Gaskins – 1802-1865

Oldest son of Fisher Gaskins by his first wife. Came to Berrien while a youth, grew to manhood here. His wife was a daughter of Joseph Barrow… Immediately after their marriage John Gaskins and his wife settled on the Alapaha River a short distance north of the old home of his father and near where Bannockburn now is, and there they spent their entire married life together.   The death of John Gaskins occurred at this home July 18, 1865; and 23 years later, January 6, 1888 his widow joined her husband in the spirit-land, at the age of 83.  Both are buried at Riverside Cemetery and their graves are substantially marked. They were the parents of a large family of sons and daughters and their living descendants in this county to-day are very numerous.

John Gaskins was a man who spent his life at home and gave his time and attention to his avocation.  The farm was made self-sustaining; work was the rule and grim want never came to stare the inmates of this farm-home in the face.  Food for family and stock was well and abundantly supplied and the excellence of the range went a long way in helping him to provide meat for family and lay up money from the sales of beef-cattle.  Deer and turkeys were plentiful and could be taken at any time. Fish abounded in the river and with all of these good things around life on the frontier was not so bad after all.  Hogs grew almost wild in the hammocks and only required a few weeks’ finishing off with corn or field crops to be ready for slaughter. Cattle were let to go at large all the time except they were penned regularly for about six weeks during the months of April and May so that they may be marked and branded and kept under control; and the annual sale of these beef-cattle brought the gold in their homes against the rainy-day and old age.

John Gaskins took part in driving the last of the wandering bands of Indians from Georgia soil, and one of the last engagements with the redskins fought on Berrien county soil took place near the home of this old pioneer.  His home suffered from Indian predations to the extent that the feather beds were taken out, the ticks ripped open, the feathers emptied and scattered and the ticks carried away with some other articles of the household.  Some of these articles were recovered, among which was a beautiful pitcher which had been treasured as an heirloom for many years.  The place where the pitcher was recovered after it had been cast aside by the Indians in their flight across the Alapaha River, is known to this day among the local inhabitants as “Pitcher Slough.”

Following the death of John Gaskins in 1865 his sons Fisher J. and John, Jr. served as the administrators of his estate.

Milledgeville Federal Union
August 21, 1866 — page 4

Georgia, Berrien County.
Two months after date application will be made to the Court of Ordinary of said county for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John Gaskins, Sen., deceased, for the benefit of the heirs and creditors of said deceased.
F. J. Gaskins,
John Gaskins, Jr.   Adm’r’s.
July 2d, 1866.        WEC       50 9c

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