Grand Rally at Milltown

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, May 1861

Special thanks to Jim Griffin for sharing contributions and illustration for this post.

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

About the Illustration

The illustration above, commissioned and contributed by reader Jim Griffin, depicts the scene of the Grand Military Rally held in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA in mid-May, 1861 to honor the Berrien Minute Men.  The illustration is based on reports published in Savannah, GA newspapers, transcribed below. Illustration by Alan H. Archambault.

Setting and Attendees Described in Newspaper Accounts

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA, received the ceremonial flag presented at the Grand Rally. He was a “large, raw-boned man,” and a social, political and military leader of Berrien County, which then included Milltown (now Lakeland),  GA and all of present day Lanier County, GA. A veteran of the Indian Wars, he organized the Berrien Minute Men in 1860, and  served as their first Captain. He took his company to Brunswick, GA where they first served with the 13th Georgia Regiment. After reorganization they were mustered into the 29th GA Regiment of Volunteer Infantry; L.J. Knight served as Major of this  Regiment before retiring on account of age and health.

The Baptist Church at Milltown, depicted in the background, was where the association of the ladies of Milltown convened prior to the Grand Military Rally of May, 1861. The Baptist Church was constructed about 1857.  Its organization was instigated by the families of James and Jesse Carroll, brothers who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County, GA.

“In 1857 Daniel B. Carroll (James’ son) and James S. Harris (James Carroll’s son-in-law) deeded land for a Missionary Baptist Church. Trustees to whom the deed was made were James Carroll, James Dobson, James’ sons John T. and James H., and James S. Harris.  Rev. Caswell Howell, who had recently settled here, is said to have been its first pastor. [Rev. Howell was a brother of Barney Howell, who was a mail carrier on the Troupville route.] The church, directly north of today’s courthouse [present day site of Mathis Law office, 64 W. Church Street Lakeland, GA], was built of hand-split lumber with hand-hewn sills, and put together with wooden pegs. The ten-inch-wide ceiling boards were planed by hand.” – Nell Roquemore, in Roots, Rocks and Recollections

The Methodist Episcopal Church, shown on the right,  was organized by the Talley family and built in 1856 on the present day site of the Lakeland City Cemetery, on  E. Church Street.  The pastor of this church, Reverend Nathan Talley,  led the invocation and hymns for the convening of the ladies association at the Baptist Church.

Not depicted is a school that sat in between the Baptist and Methodist churches.  The school supposedly sat back off Church Street.

Mrs. Jas. S. Harris, who made the motion for a chair to be called, was Elizabeth Ann Carroll Harris, wife of Milltown merchant and postmaster James Simpson Harris. As a civil servant, the 48 year-old Mr. Harris was exempt from Confederate military service.   The Harrises were neighbors of Milltown merchant Abraham Leffler and of Dr. James W. Talley, son of Reverend Nathan Talley.

Mrs. Susan A. Dawson served as Chair of the Ladies Association.

Miss E. Brannon,  appointed secretary of the Ladies Association, was Emily Elizabeth Brandon. She was a daughter of William R. Brandon.  She would marry Jonathan D. Knight, of the Berrien Minute Men, on August 10, 1862 in South Carolina.

Mrs. E .J. G. Crawford, who was selected to present the flag to the Berrien Minute Men, was Ellen Jeane Grey Lee, wife of Cornelius Whitfield Crawford. The Crawfords were residents of Magnolia, GA and later moved to Texas.

Mr. Wiley E. Baxter was  a school teacher for John T. Carroll, a neighbor of Captain Levi J. Knight.  Baxter was one of Captain L. J. Knight’s company of men; He appeared on the 1860 roster of Berrien Minute Men.  He would go with Captain Knight’s Company to Savannah, GA to enlist in the Georgia volunteer infantry. He eventually served in the 29th Georgia Regiment with both Company A (C & G) and Company B (D & K) of the Berrien Minute Men, and would achieve the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before being killed at the Battle of Atlanta, 1864.

Daniel B. McDonald, who also took up the collection from the men, was the twin brother of Dougal P. McDonald of the Berrien Minute Men.  The twins married sisters Elizabeth and Ann Lamb, who were siblings of William J. Lamb and John Carroll Lamb.  Dougal P. McDonald was excused from military duty to serve in the Confederate Georgia legislature.  Daniel McDonald later served as a Captain with the Georgia reserve Coast Guard at Jonesville near Riceboro, GA.

Elizabeth Lastinger was a daughter of William Lastinger, who owned Lastinger Mill. Her brother, Pvt. Seaborn L. Lastinger of the Berrien Minute Men, was killed September 15, 1863 in a magazine explosion at James Island, SC.

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 17, 1861

A Grand Military Rally in Mill Town, Berrien County.

A mass meeting of the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity convened in the Baptist Church in the above mentioned village.
   The Rev. Mr. Talley, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the meeting with singing and prayer, after which on motion of Mrs. JAS. S. HARRIS, Mrs. SUSAN A DAWSON was called to the Chair, and Miss E. BRANNON requested to act as Secretary.
     The object of the meeting was then explained from the Chair, which was —
     1st. The presentation of a beautiful flag representing the flag of the Confederate States.
     2d. The forming of themselves into an association of ladies for the purpose of preparing necessary articles of clothing, bandages, lints, &c., for the volunteer company, the Berrien Minute Men, while in camp or battle field.
     3d. For the purpose of taking up contributions for the benefit of the company, and for other purposes.
     The association being formed, on motion of Mrs. C. W. CRAWFORD, the Chair was requested to appoint two ladies and two gentlemen to take up a collection.  Miss E. LASTINGER and Mrs. HARRIS were appointed to take up a collection among the ladies; Mr WILEY E. BAXTER and Mr. DANIEL B. McDONALD to take collection from the gentlemen.
      It was, on motion, suggested that the Chair appoint some lady to present the flag to the company in behalf of the ladies of Berrien.
      The Chair suggested the name of Mrs. E. J. G. CRAWFORD, who accepted the appointment.
      Upon motion, the meeting adjourned; and a messenger despatched to the company (who were on parade in the streets) to inform the Captain that the ladies were ready to present the flag.  The Captain marched his company up in front of the Church. Capt. KNIGHT and his officers formed six paces in front, and announced themselves ready; when Mrs. CRAWFORD advanced with flag-staff in hand, at the top of which floated to the breeze the beautiful flag of the Confederate States, and addressed the Captain as follows:
        Captain Levi J. Knight and Gentlemen of the Berrien Minute Men: We, the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity, present you this flag, wishing you to present it to your ensign in our behalf. Brave volunteers! may you march forth under its stars to defend your country’s cause. The tocsin of war is resounding through our land.  From James’ and Sullivan’s Islands its first peals were heard, saying “We no longer submit to Northern aggression.”  Numbers of our brave countrymen are already in the field, firmly and proudly bearing arms defensive of our rights and our soil against the hostile invaders. Others are rushing on to the rescue.  For freedom they fight – for freedom will die.  Brothers! go join them. Rally for truth, for liberty, and our own happy South.
        This bright sunny land of our birth, and our homes inherited from our fathers, the brave old patriots of ’76, let their spirits inspire your souls to preserve that freedom for which they fought and bled.  Spread this fair flag to the breeze of Heaven; long and proudly may it float to the gaze.
       In every conflict with the foe, remember this flag waves over you. Those bars and seven stars represent our Southern Confederate flag, recently formed for our protection. Guard them with distinguished care, and never, oh! never let them fall to the dust in dishonor.
       Your trial, your toils, your hardships in this warfare may be many, very many; but be firm and unyielding, courageous and brave, true be each man to his post, dealing out death to foe, fighting for freedom, our rights, our homes, and the South.  Each heart will grow bolder, each arm will grow stronger, each eye will be brightened in view of success. Think not of those you leave behind you, but press onward to the glory in battle.  Our hearts, though riven with anguish, will ever be with you, and our prayers continually ascending to Him who defendeth our cause.  Then, brave soldiers, with God on your side and our prayers in your behalf, be sure you will conquer at last. Let your watch-word be triumph, or die in the ranks of the foe.
        Many were the tears that trickled down thousands of fair cheeks that composed the vast assembly that surrounded the fair and eloquent speaker. She advanced silently and presented the flag to Capt. Knight.  Upon receiving it he advanced two paces and replied as follows:
Fair lady accept our thanks for yourself and those you represent, for this beautiful and highly appreciated banner. When the aggressions of the North became so oppressive, we no longer could bear them without degradation; we withdrew from the old Confederacy, and assumed the right which the God of Nature has bestowed on every free and patriotic people – the formation of a government that will best accure to them the blessings and protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; but we are now threatened with subjugation; yea, the fiat has gone forth from the Black Republic President, that we must be subjugated, and is now arming his minions to force us to submit.  That the fair of our land should feel indignant, is but natural; but for you, fair Lady, and your associates, have been prompted by a nobler and loftier patriotism, felt only by the virtuous and intelligent.

        This beautiful flag, to which you have so happily allude and so delicately presented, will, I trust, stimulate every member of this Company to do his whole duty to his country and to you. May your generosity, confidence, labors, and anticipations be not in vain. May we ever merit that confidence; and should we meet the enemy, which there is now every possibility we will, I trust this beautiful flag will be the beacon that will guide this Company to noble deeds. – Though its beauty may be tarnished and soiled with the hardships of the camp; through its beautiful folds may be purforated with the enemy’s bullets, I trust it will never trail in disgrace. – While you fair lady, and the fair of this community, manifest such a noble spirit of patriotism, you can never want stout hearts and strong arms to defend and protect you.
        In behalf of the members of this Company, I tender to you our grateful acknowledgements.
        Notice was then given to the Captain, that a sumptuous dinner had been prepared at the Hotel by the ladies. The Company was then marched up in the front of the Hotel; orders were given to stack arms, which was done in beautiful order, and orders given to repair to the table – about 100 feet in length, and weighted down with many, very many, of the goodly things of our sunny South.
        Permit me, further, to state, Mr. Editor, that the Company numbers 80 as brave, patriotic and fine looking men as the Southern Confederacy can produce – well uniformed, with the first quality of muskets and sword bayonets. There is another volunteer company being bade up in our county, which I think will be complete in a few days – all brave as Sparters.

Soon Captain Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men would be bound for Brunswick, GA.  There, they would join the Thomasville Guards, Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Seaboard Guards, Piscola Volunteers, Wiregrass Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles in the defense of the port of Brunswick. In August, 1861, these companies and others would be mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment. (In a later reorganization, the Berrien Minute Men would be transferred to Savannah and mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.)

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Samuel Register and the East Florida Militia

According to Folks Huxford, Samuel Register came from Appling County to Lowndes County about 1826 and settled in the 10th Land District near Possum Branch, not too far from the homestead of Levi J. Knight and the future site of Ray City, GA. Samuel Register’s place later became the farm of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw.

Samuel Register was born in Sampson County, North Carolina on December 1, 1786, almost three years before that state would ratify the U.S. Constitution. He was a son of Dorcas and John Register.

Some time before 1804 Samuel Register came with his family to Bulloch County, GA where he apparently made his home for some 20 years, although there is no records to show that he ever owned land there. In  April of 1806 he married Elizabeth Skinner, a native of South Carolina.

When the U.S. went to war with Britain from 1812-1815 in response to British actions against American expansion and trade, it appears that  Samuel Register, like other Wiregrass pioneers (see Dryden Newbern)  joined the  Georgia Militia.   In the War of 1812 the Georgia Militia was occupied with three main theaters of operation: the Creek War of 1813-14, the British blockade, and the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island in 1814-15.  British  control of St. Marys, GA would have disturbed the economy of the entire Wiregrass region, interrupting trade on the Alachua Trail which ran from the Altamaha River through Centerville, GA, then across the St. Marys River and into  East Florida. The resistance of the Georgia Militia against the British incursions is described  in the New Georgia Encyclopedia  article on the War of 1812.

After the War of 1812, Samuel and Elizabeth remained in Bulloch county until about 1824 when they moved to Appling County, and then on to Lowndes county in 1826.  In 1827,  Samuel Register  received a draw in the land lotteries for his service as a soldier in the War of 1812.

The land lotteries, legitimized by questionable and coercive treaties, continued the encroachment by settlers on the ancestral lands of Native Americans in Georgia, inevitably leading to conflict.  In Florida, hostilities were greatly escalated in December 1835 by the Dade Massacre, where Seminole Indians resisting forced removal to the West   wiped out a force of 110 regular army troops under the command of Major Francis Langhorn Dade.  When conflict between the Wiregrass pioneers and the resistant Indians erupted in 1836, local militia fought engagements in Berrien county.

In the summer of 1836, a company of militia under Capt. Levi J. Knight of near Ray City was sent to protect the settlers from marauding Indians on their way to join the Seminoles in Florida.  When a party of Indians plundered the plantation of William Parker, near Milltown, the militia pursued them N. E. across the county overtaking them near Gaskins Pond not far from the Alapaha River.  Several were killed and some injured as the Indians fled across the river.  A few days later the militia encountered more Indians at Brushy Creek and ran them off.  That was the last real battle with the Indians in this section.

Across the state line in Florida,  actions against Indians were being fought by militia on a regular basis. The Battle of San Felasco Hammock was fought  September 18, 1836, when a force of 25 US Army Regulars and 100 horse-mounted militia from Fort Gilleland, with 25 armed residents of Newnansville, FL engaged and routed about 300 Indians led by Seminole Chief John Jumper. Fort Gilleland, a picketed fortification located south of the Santa Fe River at Newnansville in present day Alachua County, FL, was one of a string of forts stretching from Jacksonville, FL to Clay’s Landing, at the mouth of the Suwanee River.  Newnansville,  the largest inland town in East Florida, was strategically located at the junction of the Jacksonville road and the Bellamy Road which ran from St. Augustine west to Tallahassee and Pensacola. Newnansville was about about 80 miles southeast of Troupville,  in Lowndes County, GA.

In the spring of 1837 militia troops from Lowndes county were sent across the state line to join the forces at Fort Gilleland:

Jacksonville Courier
Jacksonville, May 11, 1837

—Extract of a letter from Col. Mills, to the Editor, dated Fort Gilliland, May 8.

“Major Staniford, with two companies of the 2d Infantry, arrived here yesterday in obedience to orders from Maj. Gen. Jesup, from Lowndes county, Georgia, and are here encamped, awaiting orders.” 

The following summer, in 1837, Samuel Register and other Lowndes county men went south to join the East Florida Volunteer militia to fight against the Indians on the Florida frontier. According to the records of the Florida Department of Military Affairs, Register traveled first to Fort Palmetto, on the Suwanee River at Fanning Springs, FL.

Samuel Register and his sons, David and John,   served with “Captain John J. Johnson’s Company of the 2nd Regiment, East Florida Mounted Volunteers, commanded by Colonel William J. Mills, ordered into the service of the United States by Major General Thomas J. Jessup under the Act of Congress approved May 23d 1836, for six months from the 16th day of June 1837 to the 18th day of December 1837.  Company enrolled at Fort Palmetto, Florida, and marched sixty miles to place of rendezvous at Fort Gilliland, Fla. Company mustered in by Lieutenant W. Wall, 3d Artillery.”

His son-in-law, John Tomlinson, and two other Registers in this same service and company: Samuel Register Jr and John Register, Jr..  Seaborn Lastinger, of Lowndes County, served as a private; he would be shot for desertion during the Civil War. James B. Johnson and Young Johnson , grand uncles of JHP Johnson of Ray City, served in the Florida Drafted Mounted Militia.

Muster Roll of East Florida Volunteers

Muster Roll of East Florida Volunteers

http://archive.org/stream/floridamilitiamu05morr#page/n71/mode/1up

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson's Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson’s Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

http://archive.org/stream/floridamilitiamu05morr#page/n72/mode/1up

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson's Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson’s Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Samuel Register was honorably discharged at Newnansville in December, 1837. He subsequently “served another enlistment in the Indian War under the same Capt Johnson (April 1, 1838-July 31, 1838). He also served a third term under this same Capt Johnson in the Georgia mounted Militia (Aug 25, 1840-Oct 18, 1840). On his Bounty Land application dated Nov 23, 1850, he was granted 160 acres of land for this service. His son-in-law John Tomlinson (husband of Zilpha) who served in the same military unit was granted 80 acres of land for his services”

Between 1840 and 1842, Samuel Register sold out his home-place in the 10th District, and moved from Possum Branch to the 11th Land District where he acquired Land Lot 500.   This lot was in that part of Lowndes county that was cut into the new county of Clinch in 1850, and in 1920 was cut out of Clinch into Lanier County.

In 1856, it was a great boon to Register when the Atlantic & Gulf railroad was charted  to run   from a connection with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf railroad at Screven, by way of his land to Thomasville. But when the surveyors for the new railroad  selected a route through Valdosta bypassing Troupville, that old town was doomed.   Register had a portion of Lot 500 platted into town lots and founded the town of “Registerville.” Although when the railroad people came through, they changed the name to “Stockton”, in honor of one of their contractors, a Mr. Stockton, who had charge of the road construction.

Children of Samuel Register and Elizabeth Skinner:

  1. Zilpha Register, born Feb. 4, 1807, married her first cousin John Tomlinson.
  2. Eady (Edith) Register, born Mar. 1, 1809, married Thomas Mathis Nov. 1, 1826 in Lowndes County.
  3. Guilford Register, born Jan. 7, 1811, married Priscilla Ann DeVane.
  4. David Register, born Apr. 10, 1813, married Matilda McDaniel of Bulloch County.
  5. William Register, born Sept. 24, 1814, married Luraney Harnage from Liberty County.
  6. John Register,  born June 10, 1819, married 1st Elizabeth Cowart, 2nd.Mary Ann Fiveash.
  7. Rebecca Register, born Apr. 5, 1821, married Reverend Hillery Cowart of Echols County.
  8. Phoebe Register, born Aug. 15, 1823, married Zachariah Lee of Clinch County.
  9. Jincy Register, born June 15, 1824, married Moses C. Lee of Berrien County.
  10. Ivy Register, born Apr. 22, 1825, married 1st Leta Lee, married 2nd Lavinia Arnold
  11. Samuel E. Register, born Sept. 16, 1826, married 1st Seneth Lee, married 2nd Mary Hutto, married 3rd Josephine Guthrie, lived in Berrien County.
  12. Elizabeth Register, born Aug. 21, 1828, married William Patten of present Lanier County.
  13. Reubin Register, born Nov. 25, 1830, married Harriet Brown, lived in present Berrien co.
  14. Martha Register, born Dec. 18, 1831, married Hillery P. Mathis of present Lanier co.

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