Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 6

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

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

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

According to Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States “An officer may draw subsistence stores, paying cash for them at contract or cost prices, without including cost of transportation, on his certificate that they are for his own use and the use of his family.” The officers of the 29th GA Regiment were authorized to purchase provisions at Darien GA. Records of the Subsistence Department show Major Levi J. Knight signed for  59 pounds pork, 195 lbs flour, 112 lbs meal, 299 lbs rice, 46 lbs coffee, 162 lbs sugar, 2 lbs candles, 12 1/4 lbs soap, 16 quarts salt for his officers and their families during the month of January, 1862.

 

Finally, the 29th Regiment was reported ready for service.

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

Head Quarters, Dept of Geo

Savannah Jany 14th 1862

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Thomas R. Cox and The Bank of Willacoochee

Thomas R. Cox grew up at Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City) and later returned as a resident. He was only educated through the 8th grade, but made a successful career in bookkeeping.  In the early 1900s he went to Willacoochee, GA to live with his uncle Gid Gasksins and to work  in Gaskin’s general merchandise store as a salesman.

Within a few years Thomas secured a situation as Bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. The Bank of Willacoochee was chartered in 1900 with $25,000 capital investment. The Cashier of the bank was George F. McCranie, son of Malcolm McCranie who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek.

All seemed well until the morning of Thursday, May 4, 1916 when Thomas R. Cox failed to show up for work at the bank.  With Cox’s unexplained disappearance Cashier George F. McCranie suspected the worst, and the bank was closed pending an investigation by the state bank examiner.

Over the next two months some details unfolded, not only in local newspapers, but in papers  as far away as Honolulu.

1916-may-12-tg-bank-of-willacoochee

Tifton Gazette
May 12, 1916

Bank of Willacoochee

Closed Pending Examination of the Books by Authorities

    Willacoochee, Ga., May 9. –  The doors of the Bank of Willacoochee of this place were closed Monday and the institution is in the hands of the state bank examiner.
     T. R. Cox, who was bookkeeper, has been missing since last Thursday. Soon after his departure, it was reported that George F. McCranie, cashier, discovered that errors had been made in keeping the books, and immediately wired for experts to examin into the affairs of the bank. The examination has continued through yesterday and today.
     Later reports say the errors in the books are not as great as reported and that the bank is in good shape.

—–♦—–

1916-may-17-ATL-thomas-r-cox

Thomas R. Cox of Willacoochee, GA sought by police. Atlanta Constitution, May 17, 1916

 

Atlanta Constitution
May 17, 1916

Police Asked to Find Missing Bookkeeper

________________

    Police Chief W. M. Mayo was requested to have his men be on the lookout for Thomas R. Cox, former bookkeeper of the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., who was reported to have embezzled the bank of several thousand dollars.
    George F. McCranie, cashier of the institution, called at the police station and told Chief Mayo that the officials of the bank offered a reward of $500 for the former bookkeeper’s arrest.

 

Honolulu Star-Bulleting reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 19, 1916

Charged with the embezzlement of $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., Thomas R. Cox, aged 28, was recently arrested in New York.

 

 

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette
May 26 1916

COX CAUGHT IN NEW YORK

New York, May 25, — Thomas R. Cox, Age 28, was arrested here today charged with embezzling $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, of Willacoochee, Ga.

     The Bank of Willacoochee, considered one of the soundest financial institutions in that section of the state, was closed May 8th following the disappearance of the Bookkeeper, Thomas R. Cox.
    It was at first stated that the shortage amounted to $30,000 but later there were reports that the defalcation was not so great, an error of the adding machine being in part responsible.
    Cox’s home was formerly at Ray City, in Berrien County.

1916-may-27-atlc-thomas-cox

Atlanta Constitution
May 27, 1916

Coffee Sheriff Holds Thos. Cox in New York

Willacoochee, Ga., May 26. — (Special.) — A telegram was received from Sheriff David Ricketson, of this county, last night stating that Thomas R. Cox, who is charged with wrecking the Bank of Willacoochee, was held by him in New York city and requisition papers have been forwarded to the governor of Georgia for his signature. The state bank examiner is still in charge of the institution and the amount of shortage is not known, though it is estimated at several thousand dollars.

1916-june-23-tg-bank-of-willacoochee

Tifton Gazette
June 23,1916

BANK OF WILLACOOCHEE

From the Willacoochee Record.
      At a meeting of the stockholders of the Bank of Willacoochee Tuesday, the stockholders present representing 231 of the 250 shares of the bank, voted unanimously in favor of an assessment sufficient to bring the impaired capital stock up to its par value and resume business.
      This will make the institution as sound as it ever was. Besides a plan has been proposed by depositors are to be insured and new officers for the institution will be elected if the plan of reorganization is successful. It is understood that the present depositors will co-operate with the stockholders for the payment of their claims as it will assure the reorganization and at the same time protect themselves as depositors.

1916-jul-7-atlc-bank-of-willacoochee-reopens

Atlanta Constitution, July 7, 1916 reports that the Bank of Willacoochee has reopened for business

Despite all the reported allegations of embezzlement by Thomas R. Cox, the available newspapers never reported that the Bank Examiners had any findings against him or that he was ever charged with any crime. He later worked as a book keeper in Ray City, GA.

 

Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County

Bryan J. Roberts, and his brothers Nathan and John, were among Levi J. Knight’s company of men who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.  Many published accounts of the pioneer skirmishes with Native Americans at  William Parker’s place on the Alapaha River and at Brushy Creek have been related on the Ray City History Blog.

Here is the story the way it was told by B. J. Roberts 50 years after the event:

The Valdosta Times
May 14, 1887

INDIAN FIGHTERS

A Brief Account of the Fighting In This Section In 1836.

Mr. Bryan J. Roberts, father of Mr. W. K. Roberts of this place, is one of the pioneers of Lowndes, and has seen service as an Indian fighter in this and Clinch counties.  He is now in his 78th year and is spending the evening of his life very happily among his devoted children, having a few years ago divided a fine property among them, reserving for himself a sufficiency for his simple needs.  His children are all prospering and he is happy in seeing them happy.

In 1836 the rumors of depredations and murders by Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for the protection of their families and property.  Capt. Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged.

This company was on duty one hundred and five days, and during that time engaged in two bloody fights with the red skins.

In August, 1835, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown.  They carried his feather beds out into the yard; cut them open, emptied the feathers, cut and carried the ticks with them.  They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and $208.25 in money.

Capt. Knight’s company was soon on the trail of this squad and in a short time overtook them near the Alapaha river, not far from the Gaskins mill pond.  The sun was just rising when the gallant company opened fire on the savages. A lively fight ensued, but it soon terminated in the complete routing of the Indians, who threw their guns and plunder into the river and jumped in after them.  A few were killed and a number wounded.  One Indian was armed with a fine shot gun.  This he threw into the river and tried to throw a shot bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and was suspended over the water.  This bag contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which he recovered as well as all the other property taken from his house. The fine gun was fished out of the river and, afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.  In the fight Mr. Peters was shot with this same gun.  One buck-shot struck him just above the waist-band of his pants, passed through and lodged under the skin near the backbone. He was also struck by two shot in the left side, which made only slight wounds.  The Indian was not more than thirty yards distant when he shot him.  Mr. Peters recovered from his wounds in less than twelve months.

Having driven the Indians into the dense swamp beyond the river, Capt. Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy creek, in the Southwestern portion of the county.  When they arrived near that place, they heard a volley of small arms, and on arrival found that the battle had been fought and that the volley they heard was the last tribute of respect over the grave of their brave comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom.  Edwin Shanks and a man named Ferrell were also shot dead in the fight.  Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield.  Mr. Robert Parrish, Sr., who lives near Adel, had his arm broken by a bullet in this fight. The Indians lost 27 killed and a number wounded.  We have no account of any prisoners being taken.  The battle of Brushy Creek was fought in a low, marshy swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against the invincible courage of the Anglo-Saxon, and in five minutes after the fight opened there was not a live red skin to be seen.

From this place Capt. Knight marched his company to what is now Clinch county.  He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement took place, resulting in the killing of three and the taking of five prisoners. Mr. Brazelius Staten was dangerously wounded in this fight but finally recovered.

This ended the Indian fighting in which Capt. Knight’s company were engaged. Half a century has passed since then.  Nearly all the actors in that brief but bloody drama are at rest beyond the stars. A few of them are still among us, the valiant pioneers of this country, who bared their breasts to the bullets of the savages in order that their descendants might possess this fair land in peace.

The following is a list, as near as can now be ascertained, of the living and dead of Capt. Knight’s company.  The company numbered 120 men, many of whom came from neighboring counties, whose names cannot now be recalled.

LIVING–Bryan J. Roberts, Moses Giddens, John Studstill, Jonathan Studstill, Aaron Knight, Guilford Register, Echols county.) David Clements, William Giddens, John and Nathan Roberts, Fla.) (Zeke Parrish, Lowndes county,) John McMillain, John McDermid and Robert Parrish.

DEAD–George Henedge, Jeremiah Shaw, Daniel Sloan, John Lee, Moses Lee, James Patten, William J. Roberts, Isben Giddens, Jacob Giddens, Elbert Peterson, John Knight, Thomas Giddens, Harmon Gaskins, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Sam Lee, Frederick Giddens, James Parrish, Martin Shaw, Archie McCranie, Daniel McCranie, Malcom McCranie, Alexander Patterson, James Edmondson, David Mathis, Thomas Mathis, Levi Shaw, William Peters, Jonathan Knight, Levi J. Knight and Brazelias Staten.

The Indians who passed through here belonged to the Creek Nation and were on their way from Roanoke to Florida to join the Seminoles.  They were first discovered in this county by Samuel Mattox, at Poplar Head, near where Mr. Tom Futch now lives.  Mattox was afterward hanged for murdering the fifteen-year-old son of Mr. Moses Slaughter.  Most of these Indians reached the Okeefenokee Swamp where they were joined by a large band of Seminoles.  From then until 1839 these savages did much damage to the white settlers in the vicinity of the Swamp, but in that year they were driven out and took refuge in the Everglades, where they were, with the exception of a small number, finally captured and sent to Arkansas.
Since the above was put in type another of the gallant old Indian fighters, Mr. Aaron Knight, has joined his comrades beyond the stars.

A 1915 reprint of this article also  noted “The Malcolm McCranie referred to was the father of Mr. Geo. F. McCranie, cashier of the Bank of Willacoochee and Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Coffee.”

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