Saturday, December 20, 2014

KILLER KILDEE

KILLER KILDEE
Or Just Another Tall Tale Teller

John West could tell a tale or two. He claimed he was the Confederacy's best rifleman having killed generals and scores of officers and privates as well. Is the story of John West, alias "Kildee," an accurate story of a sharpshooting soldier or just an inflated fable of early yellow journalism to sell books, or merely the boastful reminiscences of an aging veteran of a horrible war?

West was born in Twiggs County, Georgia. When the Civil War broke out, West enlisted in the Confederate Army in Louisiana, but decided that it was best for him to transfer back his native land to fight the Yankees. On July 9, 1861, John West enlisted as a private in the Twiggs Volunteers, officially known as Company C of the 4th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Also known as "the "Jorees" because of the resemblance of their uniform coats with their three black stripes on the tails to a beautiful bird of the era, the Twiggs Volunteers were assigned to the brigade commanded by A.R. Wright of Georgia. Their first taste of battle and blood began in the last week of June 1862. In a series of engagements along the peninsula of Virginia east of Richmond, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac slugged it out in a prelude of the deadly battles to come. The battles, known as the Seven Days' Battles, culminated on July 1, 1862 at a small prominence known as Malvern Hill. In the fighting, West suffered his first substantial wound.

Many of the rifles which were used by Confederate soldiers had a limited range. It was in 1862 when General Robert E. Lee received a shipment of thirteen English Whitworth rifles, guaranteed to kill a man at a range of 1,800 yards and arguably the finest rifle that a soldier could possess. West was selected among an elite group of marksmen to train for three months on how to handle the coveted weapon. As the training came to end, West was ahead of the other dozen sharpshooters. In the final test a white board with a two-foot square diamond in the center was placed 1500 yards away. Shooting through a stiff wind, West scored three bulls' eyes, with the remaining shots striking the board. As the winner of the contest, West was given the choice of a horse, a rifle, a saber, a revolver and all of the finest accouterments.

Sharpshooters were an integral part of military operations. The men were often placed at strategic points to kill officers, silencing batteries, and especially picking off the sharpshooters on the other side. Artillerymen were easy targets, but when riled, would turn their canon on a sharpshooter and blow him a way. On one occasion, West and a associate killed the entire compliment of soldiers in a battery, allowing the infantry to take command of that part of the field.

West told the editors of Camp Fire Sketches and Battlefield Echoes, "I soon became indifferent to anger and inured to hardships and privations. I have killed men from ten paces to a mile. I have no idea of how many I killed, but I made a good many bite the dust." The sharpshooter's greatest fear was another sharpshooter. In the days before the advent of camouflage material, a sharpshooter would climb a tree and pin leaves to disguise his uniform. When two sharpshooters encountered an enemy sharpshooter, one would raise a hat on a stick or his ramrod to draw his antagonist's fire. Once the opponent revealed his position, the second marksman would point his sight directly at his head and fire.

"I've shot 'em out of trees and seem 'em fall like coons," West boasted. Occasionally West would be called upon to pick off targets while lying in a bed of tall grasses. Sparks from the discharge of his rifle frequently ignited the dry grasses and alerted the enemy of his whereabouts. West would then roll his body rapidly while Union riflemen poured round after round into the smoke. West claimed that he killed two Union Generals, General James Shields and Nathaniel P. Banks. The crack shot was sure he got General Shields as he was the only sharpshooter on the line that day and only a round from his rifle could have killed a man at that range. Shields was in command of a Union division near Winchester, Virginia in the late summer of 1864. He was wounded, but he was not killed. He went on to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate and died fifteen years after his wound at Winchester. No record exists of any wounds suffered by General Nathaniel P. Banks, though his division was thwarted by Stonewall Jackson's Army at the Battle of Cedar Mountain in August 1862. Banks served ten terms in the U.S. Congress and lived for nearly three decades after the close of the war.

At Cold Harbor, Virginia, West found himself and a Colonel Brown on the wrong side of the Union lines. West and Brown, wearing blue coats, attempted to fool a Union officer into believing that they were officers and needed to pass in front of the Federal wagon train. When the ruse was revealed, Col. Brown fired his revolver striking the Yankee officer. A hail of bullets was heaped upon Brown and West, who were attempting to flee for their lives. Brown's horse went down and both men tumbled to the ground. Thought to be spies, Brown and West were put under a close guard during the night by four Union soldiers. Deciding that trying to dodge four bullets in the dark was preferable to twenty bullets of a firing squad at dawn, the captives crawled on their bellies evading the inattentive sentinels and made their way to freedom.

During the fighting at the second battle of Cold Harbor, West was positioned at the front of the Confederate lines. For hours, West futilely tried to pick off a Union sharpshooter who had been killing his comrades all day. " I was behind a large rock. Several times he shot at me. He was out there about 1,400 yards in the woods, but I couldn't see his smoke for the treetops," West lamented. After two hours of silence, General George Doles, of Milledgeville, Georgia, appeared on the scene and asked West to silence that devilish tormentor of his men. "He asked me to do my best, and I told him that had been trying to do that all day," John remembered. It was then that Doles stepped in front of West and exposed himself. West warned the general to look out and take cover. At that instant a mini ball struck the general in the right side and passed through his body killing him instantly. West carried General Doles from the field and escorted his body home for burial in Milledgeville.

Though he may have never killed a general, John West believed it was his gun which fired the fatal shot which killed Major General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 9, 1864. While some doubted the story, West lent his gun to Charley Grace while he was in the hospital and it was true that Grace fired the fatal shot.

John West surrendered with his company at Appomattox C.H. on April 9, 1865. He tried to conceal his prized rifle in a blanket, but it was discovered and confiscated. He spent the rest of his life trying to get his gun back. After the war, West returned to Twiggs County to farm. West enjoyed attending Confederate reunions and telling stories of his days as one of the best sharpshooters in the army. He died in 1912 and is buried in the family cemetery on Fountain Road, 2.3 miles west of the intersection of Highway 18 and Fountain Road.

Friday, December 19, 2014

MATTIE HESTER

MATTIE GET YOUR GUN
The Story of Mattie Hester

Mattie Hester was a combination of Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane and a pony express rider. A headstrong woman in a male dominated world, Hester could hold her own with the strongest of brutes. This is a tale of one remarkable woman and her brief moments of fame. Martha "Mattie" Hester was born about the year 1868. Her parents, John and Mary Hester, lived in the southeastern part of Laurens County on the east side of the river in what is still known as Smith's District.

Mattie grew up in an era when mail delivery was intermittent and slow. Condor was established as a post office in 1878. Two years later, an office was established further south along the River Road at Tweed. Most of the mail coming into Laurens County first came into Dublin for distribution to other places throughout the county. It was about 1890 when Mattie was given the job of carrying the mail from Dublin to Condor where she began her route. From Condor, she traveled south three days a week along the Old River Road to Lothair in what was then Montgomery, but which now lies in Treutlen County.

Female mail carriers were rare. The forty-five-mile route was often isolated. Any miscreant looking to steal cash or a valuable document could easily rob a carrier along the road. But Mattie would not be deterred. She hitched a Texas broncho to her small road cart to allow her to outrun any thieves. Her horse, faster than a hemidemisemiquaver in a John Phillip Sousa march, never failed Mattie.

She always got the mail to its destination on time or well ahead of its scheduled arrival. If she was accosted, Mattie was as fearless as anyone. To insure her safety, she carried a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver in her side pocket. Mattie was considered a crack shot, and no one who knew her would ever contemplate trying to take any mail or in anyway impede her delivery schedule. Lacking no doubt about her ability to defend herself against any highwayman or tramp in her path, Mattie Hester held little respect for members of her own sex who feared to venture out into public without an escort.

A prime example of Mattie's determination occurred during a winter rainy spell. After nearly a week of constant rainfall in the summer of 1890, the creeks and streams along the mail route had swollen beyond their banks. Messer's (Mercer's) Creek, which serves as the boundary line between Laurens and Montgomery (now Treutlen) counties had become a raging torrent. The long bridge, usually dependable for most crossings, was in danger of being swept away at any moment. Its abutments were already gone. Upon her arrival at the bridge, Mattie surveyed the perilous situation. Recognizing the danger ahead, but acknowledging the necessity of the mail being delivered, Mattie decided to plunge ahead. "If there is any possible chance to cross, I intended to cross, even if I have to swim," said Mattie. Mattie whipped the hind of her trusty bronco and plunged into the turbulence. Her horse found itself tangled in a patch of vines in five feet of water. Instinctively Mattie cut the helpless horse from its harness. Battling shoulder deep raging currents Mattie persevered, all the time dragging the cart until she could reach the bridge which by then was cover with water itself, but still standing. She managed to make it across and did her pony. After a moment or two of rest, Mattie hitched the drenched horse to the wagon and resumed her journey, albeit she excusably took nearly an hour to travel the remaining seven miles to Lothair.

Mattie's duties at home and the pittance of a salary she received from the Postal Service led to her resignation as a postal carrier. One might think that this fiercely independent, pistol packing and hard charging woman might have a manly image. To the contrary, Mattie was described a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution as "a beauty of a real southern type, wavy black hair, deep blue eyes, beautiful figure and complexion with the whitest teeth imaginable." "Her jaunty air and pretty face never failed to attract the attention of strangers, as she rattled swiftly by in her cart, never looking to the right or to the left, but attending strictly to business," the reporter continued. I

n addition to her admirable qualities of dedication to her work and striking beauty, Mattie was considered to be an astute businesswoman. Following her father's death at a relatively young age in 1890, Mattie took over the management of the family farm. Mattie took part in all phases of the farming operation, from cultivation to planting and from harvesting to marketing to the highest bidder, the latter of which were among her greatest talents. Always looking for a way to improve the income from her home place, Mattie ventured into the woods behind her house and saw money in the trees. She cut some of the trees and personally assembled them into a raft. In the process she had to wade throughout the swamp, sometimes with water up to her waist. Mattie's brother took over at that point and piloted the timber raft down the treacherous waters of the Oconee and Altamaha rivers to the port city of Darien, where the logs were sold at a handsome profit. The venture became so lucrative that Mattie saved a few of the trees and invested some of the income into constructing a split rail fence around the Hester farm. By the best count available, Mattie cut about five thousand rails during her first five years of managing the farm. Mattie spent her spare time teaching young people how to shoot. She also a talent for penmanship and drawing.

Mattie's marksmanship came in handy when someone needed defending. On an early December evening in 18906, a Mr. Palmer was giving a dance party in his home in the Martha community near Tweed. Mattie's entrepreneurial abilities included the sale of spiritous liquors. It was said she sold her stock freely among the male party goers, many of whom found themselves under the influence of Mattie's liquor. As more and more whiskey was consumed, tempers began to flare. Mattie found herself engaged in a heated argument with Henry McLendon. Maggie drew her pistol and shot her antagonist. Mattie's brother rose to her defense, but was brutally beaten about the face with a pair of brass knuckles. Alfred Shell, a steam mill owner, was also shot and seriously wounded.

Mattie seemed to disappear after that. Was she forced to leave the community? If so, where did she go? Did this beautiful and fiercely independent woman ever marry? Maybe one day we will know. 

ORDER IN THE COURT - HERE COMES THE DOG!



Robert Earl Camp was known as a tough, no nonsense judge and a penultimate politician during his day.   Those who knew him also knew what a sincere and devoted dog owner the judge was.  

Camp was admitted to the bar at the age of nineteen  in 1902.  From his earliest days as an attorney and a judge, Judge Camp, who married Capt. Hardy B. Smith's daughter Gussie,  always kept an aide by his side.  This companion was simply not some ambitious, fame seeking intern hoping for a prosperous position, but a four legged one, who in many ways, was his own master.

Robert Earl Camp served as Dublin City Attorney from 1906-1908, Assistant City Court Solicitor from 1908-1912 and as a Lieutenant Colonel on the Military Staff of Governor Thomas W. Hardwick, 1921-1925.  Camp took his seat on the Judge's bench in 1925 and served two four-year terms.  A politician, while he wasn't a judge,  Camp served as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in San Francisco in 1920 and in Philadelphia in 1936.  Camp, a member of he State Democratic Committee from 1936 to 1940, was named to the Electoral College which elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to an unprecedented third term in office.   Judge Camp, too, was elected for the third time in 1940 and returned to the bench of the Superior Court. 

Just before Christmas 1929, some eighty five years ago,  Miss Ida Belle Williams, sister of Dublin attorney, George H. Williams, told the story of Camp's constant collie companion, Jeff.  It was said that Jeff never failed to miss a session of court.  Some even called him "the lawyer dog" or more prestigiously, "The Judge."

When Jeff wanted to enter the courtroom, his distinctive scratch was all it took to alert the bailiff to allow Jeff to prance with  great circumstance. On the other hand, when Jeff decided he needed to go outside, he would promenade across the courtroom and stare straight into the eyes of the bailiff, who immediately affected his release.  

Miss Williams, writing in her Macon Telegraph article, told of the day when Jeff noticed a crowd of people entering the auditorium.  Assuming Judge Camp was about to hold court, Jeff entered the room.  When Jeff realized that Judge Camp wasn't on the bench, the faithful pup poked his nose in the air with absolute disgust and stomped out of the meeting.

When it came time for his lunch and Judge Camp wasn't to be found, Jeff would stake out a strategic spot in the hallway at the base of the stairs leading up to the courtroom to await on his master's arrival.  

In writing of Jeff's devilishness, Williams wrote, "Jeff manifests a deed of cleverness in his attacks upon E.G. Simmons' dog, who frequently carries in his mouth a nickel wrapped with paper, deposits it at a meat market and receives a bone.  Old Jeff after observed the custom a few times, he came along to make an attack; lying in ambush at the opportune moment when Simmons' dog is passing the courthouse square, he leaps on him and seizes the prize.  Then enough noise for a battle follows, when the defeated puppy realizes that his precious possession has fallen into the hands of his adversary."  The bullying stopped when the Judge scolded Jeff for his bad behavior.

Popular among the city's grocers, Jeff often was the beneficiary of their free treats.  Some of them maintained a special scrap section, from which Jeff would pick his favorite treat.  When the dog would find his basket empty, he walked out in disgust, not even looking to nibble on delicious meats along his path.

When the Judge wasn't around, Ol' Jeff would cry and howl as he waited under the house for his return.  Little could make him want to eat or chase a wandering, trespassing cat.  

There was this one time when Judge Camp was gone and Jeff couldn't stand it any longer.  Jeff set out on a quest, roaming all over town from the courthouse to the post office, the city hall and the judge's usual visiting places, until he came upon the skyscraper First National Bank building.  Jeff rode the elevator to the top floor. Then the disconcerted dog descended one floor after another barking out calls for his master until he left the building in complete disappointment.  

Like most dogs, Jeff liked to take walks with the Judge, barking greetings to everyone they met.  He loved to ride in the Judge's car.  Anytime, Jeff saw someone in the car, he knew it was time to take a ride and jumped into the auto ready to ride.  One night, Jeff was mysteriously missing from the Camp home.  After one fruitless search after another, all hope of Jeff being found was lost until Camp called his garage where his car was being stored.  Upon an examination of the car, the attendant found Jeff sound asleep in his usual place in the car.  

Camp was known to get up very early in the morning to study his cases for the upcoming day.  Jeff was right there with him, sipping on his coffee to keep them both alert.  

"He never waivers in his deep devotion to Mr. Camp, a true friend, the collie weeps and rejoices with his master. So many turn with the political compass.  Others may back  back when the tide of misfortune rushes in.  But whether following over briery hills, through rocky paths or over dark threatening waters, this dog is faithful Jeff," Miss Williams concluded her feature on one of Dublin's most popular and beloved dogs.


In fact, what may have been the first instance of a humane society came about in February 1937 when the newly created City of Dublin dog catcher rounded up many dogs which were roaming the streets with no evidence of who their owners were or if they had been inoculated.   The animal control officer, acting under the direction of the city council, began preparations to euthanize the animals.  When Judge Camp found out, he, on behalf of himself and other dog lovers,  sought out and obtained a restraining order from Judge J.L. Kent enjoining the mass euthanization.  Sadly, the overzealous officer had already carried out his duty before receiving notice of the belated pardon. Camp continued his efforts to prevent such acts in the future. 

Our lives are filled with the stories of dogs we have loved.  They enter our lives as puppies, strays, adoptions or rescues.  They end their lives as our best friends, our children and  members of our own families.   Most dogs have unconditional love for us.  When we have had a bad day, they are there to greet us, tails wagging, running back and forth, howling and barking in adoration and affection.  They give love and all they ask is love in return.  

During this season of giving and love and throughout the year, give back to our four legged friends at your local humane society, animal shelter and rescue organizations.  You never know whose life you may change by bringing that special dog into your life and the lives of others.

P.S. Don't forget the cats!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DECEMBER DOINGS - A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION


YOU CAN'T FOOL ME, YOU TURKEY - Jordan Ellington was out in the swamps around Dublin  seeking to shoot a fat turkey hen for Christmas.  And so was Lee Davis, who heard the distinct call of the delicious bird.  When Ellington uttered his realistic turkey call, Davis fired, striking Ellington, the turkey who got himself shot by another turkey right before Christmas.  Greensboro, N.C. Daily News, December 14, 1922.  

FRANKLY MY SON, I DON'T GIVE A D#/N - George H. Williams had plenty of reasons to be proud of his son, Gladstone Williams.  Williams was an honor graduate of Harvard Law School and a talented writer for the Atlanta Constitution, the Miami Herald and the McClatchy Newspaper chain.  While he worked at the Constitution, Williams developed a brief friendship with Margaret Mitchell.  When Mitchell began to compose the character of Rhett Butler for her iconic novel, "Gone With The Wind," she often thought of the well mannered, handsome, well spoken and debonair Williams.

All of Georgia was excited as "Gone With the Wind" became an international best-selling book in the mid 1930s.   Georgians were more proud of their state with the premiere of Gone With the Wind at Lowe's Theater on December 15, 1939, seventy five years ago.  That is mostly everyone with the exception of George H. Williams.

In the days after the premiere, Williams told the members of the Dublin Rotary Club, "If it were my choice, I would destroy every copy and every film version of "Gone With The Wind."  "The book is doing more to rekindle hatred between the North and the South than  since the end of the conflict," Williams told the Dublin Rotarians.  It will also be noted that the elder Williams had a similar disdain for another Georgia icon, Coca Cola. 

WHERE ART THOU BROTHER? - The last time the Rev. A.E. Saunders heard from his brother, Edgar Sanders, was when he was out in Texas, nearly a decade before the turn of the 20th Century.   It was just before Thanksgiving 1934 while Rev. Sanders was attending the South Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church in Macon, when he was asked to pose for a photograph with three other ministers, who cumulatively totaled more than 203 years of service to the ministry of God.  

Edgar had gone to Texas in the early as the 1880s.  Not a trace of him had been known since he moved until his son read in a Texas newspaper that his uncle was pictured in the group photo.

The two began to correspond until they could be physically reunited. Macon Telegraph, December 9, 1934.

"I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS" - Jean Ellington, a 12-year-old Dublin girl, had spent all but two of her living years in a Philadelphia hospital suffering from the paralysis of her throat after a bout of diphtheria.  As the autumn session of her school in Dublin progressed, so did Jean, both physically and academically.  As the weather began to cool, Jean's thoughts turned to the best Christmas ever for which she hoped to receive a pencil box, vanity set, fruit and a typewriter from Santa Claus.  Macon Telegraph, December 11, 1935. 
  
A SECOND DAY OF INFAMY - In the dark days which followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the people of Dublin were making plans to return to church on the following Sunday to pray for America and for peace.  

Early in the morning of December 14, 1941 just before 7:00 a.m. as she was reporting to work, a nurse at the hospital of Dr. E.B. Claxton saw the smoke and flames and reported the conflagration to the fire department.  The nursing staff and Dr. Claxton leapt into action, bundling up some thirty patients, two or three of whom were sick with pneumonia or ailing from recent surgery.    The sickest of the patients were taken to other private hospitals while the remainder were taken into private homes to recuperate until their release. 

The inferno resulted in $100,000 damage to the building and the equipment.  The hospital, built in 1937 and thought to be fireproof, suffered substantial damage, but was repaired and remodeled. Augusta Chronicle, December 14, 1941. 

A COUNTRY CLUB FOR CHRISTMAS - For years, the erudite, elite and  athletically minded men of Dublin wanted a golf course to while away the hours on the links.  In 1921, they got their dream.    Located northwest of town adjoining what would become the dairy farm of Dr. E.B. Claxton, the members erected a 9-hole course centered along Hillcrest Parkway between Claxton Dairy Road and Brookhaven.    A club house was built on a lake at the western end of the course (now a part of St. Andrew Subdivision) just in time for Christmas.

To salute the opening of the 108-acre course, which included a swimming pool, tennis courts and other agreeable amenities, club members secured a Yule Log which they burned  all during the opening night.  Curtis Guttenber and his orchestra of Macon were hired to play an evening of holiday musical merriment.   Columbus Enquirer, December 24, 1921.

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS -  Dawson Kea, Dublin's Judge of Recorder's Court, was known for decades as a fine, honest and thoughtful Christian man.  Kea saw  that in the week before Christmas in 1938 that Dublin's civic club's stocking fund was alarmingly low.  So it occurred to the future state representative that he had personal control over some extra money for the indigent residents of Dublin during the Christmas season.  Kea's plan was to divert an entire week's fines from city court toward the fund in the true spirit of Christmas. 

Dublin Mayor William A. Hodges doubted the propriety of taking from  one class and giving to another one.  Mayor Hodges believed, "That charity should come from the heart, and from those able and willing to aid the less fortunate.  Its needs should be fully met by a public consciousness, instead of depending on such methods as haphazard collection of court fines." 

The matter came to a final resolution five days before Christmas.  Mayor Hodges, who lauded Kea's magnanimous intentions, personally asked the entire city council to contribute to the fund.  The council responded with a resolution to donate $50.00 from city funds.  Then, to start off the personal donations, Mayor Hodges put in $25.00 into the collection box.   Kea, whose only motive was to see that as many of the needy be taken care of as possible, was satisfied with the end result.  Macon Telegraph, December 13, 14, 21, 1938.   


Friday, December 12, 2014

TY COBB, JR.


No Chip Off the Old Block

He was never a baseball player, although his name was Tyrus Raymond Cobb, Jr. He loved the sport of baseball, but he never played it on a professional level or even in high school. He loved other sports, especially tennis and hunting. His was one of the most famous families in Georgia history, though he never reveled in their fame. He would talk to others about his famous father. However, he had his own successful, but all too short career. He was a healer, and he took pride in doing his job and doing it well.

Tyrus Raymond Cobb, Jr. was born on January 30, 1910 in the home of his maternal grandfather, Roswell Lombard. Lombard, a well-known Augusta, Georgia businessman, lived on Dean’s Bridge Road, which later became known as U.S. Highway No. 1, just this side of Augusta. Ty Cobb, Sr. married Charlie Lombard on August 8, 1908. Ty, their second child was a bid red-headed baby, tipping the scales at nine pounds. Newspaper writers knew that he was going to be a great baseball player, just like his daddy.

The elder Cobb had made it to the pinnacle of the American League in 1909. He was the second of only fourteen players in major league history to win the Triple Crown, leading the American League in batting average, home runs (9), and runs batted in. Cobb also led the league in runs, hits, on-base average, slugging average, and stolen bases. The 1909 season, just before Ty’s birth, was one of the greatest seasons a major league ball player ever had. Cobb nearly won the Triple Crown three years in a row, leading the league in two of three categories. Cobb, considered one of the best and meanest players (his own teammates disliked his tactics) who ever lived, remains at the top of the all-time statistical leaders. Cobb is first in runs scored, and lifetime batting average with a .366 average. He got on base 43.3 % of the time. He was second in triples and hits, although he batted nearly three thousand less times than the leader, Pete Rose. He is fourth in games played, doubles, total bases, and at bats. Cobb stands fifth in runs batted in. In an era when stolen bases were not the norm, Ty Cobb still remains fourth on the all time list. Cobb, known as the "Georgia Peach," led the American League in batting average 12 out 13 seasons. Famous people came to visit Cobb, including President William Howard Taft soon before the younger Ty’s birth.



Ty Cobb, Sr.

The Cobbs moved into a two story home at 2425 William Street in the well-to-do Summerville section of Augusta, just a short distance from the current location of Augusta State University. Ty’s childhood was not like that of a typical Augusta boy. Visitors to the Cobb home included such legendary Americans as Knute Rockne, Bobby Jones, John Phillip Sousa, Robert Woodruff, and baseball commissioner, Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis. The sounds of classical music filled his home, while a wide variety of pets and animals were kept outside in the back yard. Although the elder Ty’s feats on the baseball diamond provided the Cobb family with all of the amenities of life, their family life was not so amenable. Ty Cobb’s legendary ball field temper came with him when he came home during the off season.



Ty Cobb Sr. (center) takes a portrait with his five children, (left to right) Herschel, Jimmy, Shirley, Beverly and Ty Jr. Ty Jr. spent years as a doctor in Dublin, Ga., before being diagnosed with brain cancer. He died living with his mother and sister in California. @ Augusta Chronicle, Don Rhodes, author of Safe At Home, a biography of Ty Cobb.


Ty, Jr. attended Richmond Academy in Augusta, where he was a two-sport star. Ty chose football and tennis, not even trying out for the baseball team. He knew that he could never match his father’s feats as a baseball player. Ty Jr., the antithesis of his father, was considered shy and took a lot of jealous ribbing from his fellow students. Ty loved to play tennis, then considered a game of the erudite. He played in the South Atlantic Tennis Tournament against Bill Tilden, the greatest tennis player of his day. Tilden, the first American to win at Wimbledon, became Ty’s personal tennis coach.

Ty attended Princeton University for a time before failing too many courses. He continued to play tennis after transferring to Yale University, where he was captain of the team. Ty returned nearer to home to study medicine at the Medical College of Charleston. He did his intern work at the University of Georgia Medical School in his hometown, without the financial aid of his father. While on a fishing trip in Florida, he met his wife, Mary Frances Dunn, whom he married on June 13, 1942. Ty returned to Augusta to his practice, before moving to Dublin several years later. The Cobbs had three children, Ty, III, Charlie, and Peggy. In 1945, Dr. and Mrs. Cobb bought the Hardeman Blackshear home at 1108 Stonewall Street, where the senior Cobb reportedly visited him on at least one occasion.

Dr. Cobb played very little organized baseball. He did love baseball. "He was my doctor, my favorite doctor," Wash Larsen recalled. "I still remember going into his office in the Thompson hospital on Rowe Street. It was a thrill just to go in and listening to his stories about baseball, and he had some good ones," Larsen said. Larsen and his friends practiced baseball on the ball field at the old fairgrounds at the corner of Telfair and Troup Streets. "Nearly every day, Dr. Cobb would pull up to the ballfield in his sports car. He would get out and ask if he could play ball with us. We said sure, of course, Dr. Cobb," Larsen said. After all, he was Ty Cobb, not the ball player, but as close as the young boys would ever get to him. "He hit all of our baseballs over the fence into the kudzu-lined ravine across the road and then left," Larsen fondly remembered. Larsen and his friends went to the kudzu patch and found every ball they could, hoping that Dr. Cobb would come back the next day and hit them over the fence again, which he did. Dr. Cobb was one of the better golfers in Dublin. He loved hunting. One day he was out on the Oconee River hunting for game birds. When he hit his first wild goose, he found a band on the bird's leg. Cobb stated, "I nearly fell out of the boat." The bird came from a wildlife refuge and the home of his friend, the famous Jack Miner. The Ontario refuge, where Cobb had visited many times as a child and an adult, was home to thousands of birds under the protection of the Canadian government.

As a doctor, Ty Cobb became one of Dublin’s finest and most respected physicians. Cobb joined Doctors A.T. Coleman and Fred Coleman and the American Legion in calling for the construction of a county hospital in Dublin. Early in 1952, Dr. Cobb was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He underwent an operation and lived for a time with his sister Shirley Beckworth in New York. The family kept him in New York, knowing that the hot Dublin summers wouldn’t be good for him. Although he looked healthy, the cancer was destroying his brain. In a poignant meeting, Ty, Sr. offered to give Ty, Jr. a bird dog. Ty had enough memory left to realize that his father had never given him anything.

Tyrus Raymond Cobb, Jr. died on September 9, 1952. He was entombed in the family mausoleum in Palo Alto, California. His father died in 1961 and his mother in 1975. She was entombed by her sons, while Ty, Sr. chose to be laid to rest in his hometown of Royston. Dr. Cobb’s fellow Dublin Rotary Club members started a memorial scholarship fund in his memory dedicated to providing scholarships to medical students. Dr. Cobb’s son, Charlie probably summed up the essence of his father when he said, " I don’t care what time he came in from treating his patients or delivering babies – sometimes two or three in the morning – my father always would come into our bedrooms and give us a kiss. I probably remember that more about him than anything else."

Friday, December 05, 2014

WHICH CAME FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE ROAD?



The answer to that question is obviously, the chicken.    Perhaps the most essential question should be, why was the road named for a chicken and was the chicken, a bird, an Indian or a soldier?   For more than a century , toponymists (look it up, I had to) have vainly sought out to finally determine the derivation of the name of "The Chicken Road," which runs from Hawkinsville, Georgia on the Ocmulgee River to Dublin, Georgia on the Oconee River.

The Chicken Road is actually two roads.  Laurens, Bleckley andDodge Counties differ in their Chicken Roads.   Both Chicken Roads follow a northeasterly path running from Old Hartford on the Ocmulgee River, opposite Hawkinsville, through Frazier and Empire.  The lower road continues through Chester in Dodge County following the general path of Highway 257 on into Dublin. 

Northwest of Empire, another Chicken Road, sometimes called the "West Chicken Road" or "East Chicken Road"  veers   a little northwest of the former rail center through Dodge and Bleckley and enters Laurens County near the intersection of Branch Road, Moore Road and the terminus of Hillbridge Road. Continuing along its northeasterly course, this Chicken Road runs through the Buckhorn Community, first settled by Benjamin Darsey in the early 1800s, and intersects the Dudley-Dexter Road, Highway 338 at Turkey Creek, at a place once called Kewanee.  

From Kewanee it passed through the Hogan lands on the same basic northeasterly course to the Shewmake Community near I-16.  Passing through the legendary first county seat of Laurens, Sumpterville, this Chicken Road followed Moore Station Road until its intersection with Bellevue Road and Bellevue Avenue (Old Hawkinsville Road)  until reaching its terminus at the Dublin Ferry, where the ancient Indian road from Indian Springs to Savannah crossed the Oconee River.  

             One of the first attempts to find the derivation of the name was published in the Dublin Post on May 1, 1879.  "Ms. James Wyatt tells us that Mrs. Polly Weaver says Mr. Thomas B. Fuqua is mistaken in thinking the Chicken Road to Hawkinsville got its name from the chicken stealing proclivities of the road hands who opened the road.  This aged lady, then  about 80, says the Chickasaw Indians who lived in this community used to travel that road to Hawkinsville (which town, by the way was at that time situation on this side of the Ocmulgee River and called Hartford) to trade, and that on this account it was called the Chickasaw road, finally abbreviated to Chicken Road."

At the southern end of the Chicken Road, J.W. Carruthers, an ancient resident of Hawkinsville, proclaimed that the road's name had nothing at all to do with Indians.  He claimed that road was constructed about 1825 to 1830 and it was a mere folly to the residents of Pulaski County, who in ridiculing the idea proclaimed "that nothing more than a few dozen chickens would ever be brought over the road." 

Carruther's statement as to the date of the road seems to be plausible in that no trace of a trail is shown on the surveyors' detailed land lot maps of the area mad about 1806.

Yet another attribution of the name to the feathered bird is the story that the area along the southern end of the road was abundant with wild chickens.  The story goes that one day a chicken peddler was traveling along the road when he fell asleep near a creek in the present day Frasier community.  When the man awoke, he found his wagon gate open and not a single chicken in sight.  The old timers believed they skedaddled to the woods and swamps where they lived the wild life.  
Most anthropologists believe that the Chickasaw came from the west to settle in Louisiana and Mississippi, so it seems unlikely that any Chickasaw ever lived in the Hawkinsville area.  
Renowned toponymist, Kenneth Krakow, in his landmark work "Georgia Place Names," restates the Chickasaw Indian connection, but incorrectly states that the Chicken Road was originally part of the Lower Uchee (Yuchi) Trail, which also ran from Hawkinsville, but along a somewhat parallel path crossing the Oconee River, five to six miles above Dublin near Blackshear's Ferry.   
Guy Alford, of Swainsboro, after consultation with Hal M. Stanley, State Commissioner of Insurance and formerly of Laurens County, believed that the Chicken Road was named after General George Chicken. Mereness in Travels Among the Colonies, wrote that George Chicken represented the the English Commissioner of Indian Affairs, traveling through this area on his way to the Flint River.

And so, I come to the end of my quest.  The question still remains.  Not only are there three somewhat logical sources for the naming of the Chicken Road, once the road leaves the Empire Community of Dodge County, there are two separate and distinct Chicken Roads.  

If you want to know my guess, I will go with the less romantic name which derived from the shipping of chickens along the road.  This conclusion is based on the lack of a chicken road being shown on early 19th Century surveys of the area coupled with the fact that this area was primarily settled by Yuchi (Uchee) and Muskogee speaking Creek Indians. 

However, it remains positively clear that at one time or another that a bird, a soldier and an Indian did cross the Chicken Road.  Why? You know why! And don't ask me again!


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

BELIEVE OR NOT
The Fascinating and the Strange



I never tire of finding the strange, the bizarre and the unusual stories of our past. They are all true, or at least I think they are. You decide. The recent record rainfall on June 2-3, 2007 poses some interesting questions. Though the daily record was officially set on January 19, 1943 at 7.13 inches of rain, the official rainfall from the remnants of Tropical Storm Barry was 6.90 inches measured in the rain gauge at the 911 Center. Radar instruments measured 8 inches or more along a stretch of eastern Laurens County. Along the Savannah Road area, the instruments estimated that more than 10 inches fell to the scorched Earth. The total rainfall measured more than all of the rain from February through May and erased a 7-inch deficit in a matter of a day. Did you ever think how much that rain weighs or how much volume such a rainfall would fill? A seven-inch rainfall evenly spread over the entire 813 square miles of Laurens County would weigh 4,776,470,300 pounds or the equivalent weight of 310,156 average African male elephants or 25,165,805 average American male adults. The water would fill a swimming pool with the area of a football field to a depth of 1645 feet or nearly one-third of a mile, more than 5000 average size homes or a canal, seven feet deep and forty feet wide, for a distance of 621.04 miles. It would fill the Empire State Building twenty times or both of the felled World Trade Center Towers six times. If you want to know how many gallons that is, it is 57,271,820.

A more mysterious rainfall began to occur in 1918. Every day for nearly two years from 11:00 a.m. and mid afternoon, a light rainfall could be seen on the sidewalk of Columbia Street, between Franklin and Washington Streets, rain or shine. The mist appeared to emanate from a nearby tree, perhaps it was a "weeping willow" or maybe a "rainbow shower tree." There really is one. Look it up.

The odds that Henry Jones' cow would give birth to triplets were one in one hundred and five thousand. But it happened. The first calf was born on the afternoon of March 30, 1913. The other two were born the next morning. Two were female and one was a male and all were born healthy. Emory Whittle was concerned that his usually reliant cow wasn't delivering her share of milk. She seemed healthy, so Whittle suspected somebody was stealing her milk. Whittle wrote to the Washington Post about the solving of the mystery. "Imagine my surprise when I found the cow was mothering ten baby pigs." Whittle continued, "It was the pigs idea to start, but the cow didn't mind, and they took to one another naturally." Whittle wondered if he would ever be able to take the piglets away from their surrogate mother, so that he could have milk for himself and his family. In 1889, it was reported that where was a nanny goat in Dublin which had lost both of her kids. Longing for something to nurture, the goat adopted two of her owner's new born hound dog pups. Every day the goat would come to front gate and bleat. Soon the pups would be seen running toward her for their daily serving of goats' milk.

During the year 1882 all of the children born in Dublin were males. The trend reversed itself when in 1883 all of the babies were girls. Mrs. Felton Lowery of Dublin gave birth to triplets on September 11, 1930. She named her three sons George Carswell Lowery, Ed Rivers Lowery and Dick Russell Lowery in honor of three of the leading Democratic candidates in the primary held on that very same day.

Col. Phil Howard had rheumatism which caused much pain and consternation. Howard had traveled to Flat Rock, Georgia for a January 1896 session of the Justice of the Peace Court. The courthouse was a somewhat shabby structure, with a rickety table and dilapidated benches. As Col. Howard began his closing argument, two dogs commenced to have a vicious fight. Howard, forgetting the limitations of his ailing body, leaped onto the top of the shaky table, figuring that he was safer there than in between the fighting fidos. Howard brandished his cane and braced for an attack. Col. Hightower attempted to join him on the pedestal but had to make arrangements of his own. Justices Thigpen and Drew grabbed as many volumes of the Georgia Code as they could hold, just in case they needed a protective projectile. After five rounds of fighting, the dogs went their separate ways. It was said that the laughter could be heard for a half mile, but I seriously doubt it. Howard did report that the symptoms of his rheumatism were gone.

Following the untimely death of President William Henry Harrison in 1841 just weeks after his inauguration, the ladies of Dublin decided to honor their fallen president by placing flowers on a small hillock in the old City Cemetery. The tradition continued for many years, but with the Civil War and other distractions to occupy their thoughts, the practice was abandoned. When William Henry Harrison's grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was elected President, the old tradition was revived.

In the category of fantastic fruits and vegetables, consider these produce. J.M. Butler was proud of his sweet potatoes. He showed four of his prize spuds with a combined weight of fifteen pounds. He was also proud that he dug four to five thousand bushels of sweet potatoes from his ten-acre field. Not one to be outdone, Judge J.E. Page, of Orianna, brought a twenty-one-inch long ten-pound sweet potato into the newspaper office five days later in November 1917. The big tater was seven inches in diameter at its thickest point. Unless you were a cotton farmer, 1917 was a good year. J.H. Taylor of Dudley set out tomato plants in July and carefully cultivated them, protecting them from the summer's scorching heat and the fall's chilly nights. In early December, Taylor delightfully took a couple of beauties into Dublin to show them off. Have you ever seen a double watermelon? Well in July of 1900, J.W. Weaver brought in his unnatural oddity for believers and nonbelievers to see. J.N. Mullis, of Laurens County, may hold the record for the most odd clump of fruit. In 1891, Mullis brought a four-inch long twig from his prolific apple tree. To the amazement of the editors of the Eastman paper who saw it with their own eyes, the short branch had twenty-two well-developed apples attached to it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

GENERAL JOHN TWIGGS

GENERAL JOHN TWIGGS
 Revolutionary Hero

John Twiggs was born in the state of Maryland on June 5, 1750. Very little is known of his early life, other than he came to Burke County, Georgia with his family shortly thereafter. A child of a poor family, John took up the trade of being a carpenter. Twiggs caught the eye of Miss Ruth Emanuel, a firm lady of character and sister of the Hon. David Emanuel. Following their marriage John and Ruth moved to Richmond County, where they established a modest plantation.

As tensions began to mount between the American colonies and the King of England, more local difficulties began to arise. Twiggs joined the army as a lieutenant and as a captain, a position to which he was appointed on June 1, 1774, led a company of men of St. George's Parish in a successful operation against a band of Cherokee Indians who had been making raids along the settlements along the Georgia frontier. In 1779, Twiggs, in support of Col. William Few, defeated a contingent of British troops seeking to attack the jail in Burke County. In the months which followed the epic battle at nearby Kettle Creek, Twiggs kept British regulars at bay by skirmishing them at every opportunity and attacking their supply lines in the rear of their lines. John Twiggs found himself and thirty men under attack at Butler's plantation on the Ogeechee River in June, 1779. Outnumbered by more than two to one, Twiggs inspired his men to rout the British force causing a bit of consternation among the British officers in Savannah.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Twiggs encountered and conquered a band of British marauders at Buckhead Creek. On September 12, 1779, Twiggs and his company of soldiers joined General Benjamin Lincoln in preparation for an all out siege upon the British held Savannah. In one valiant and eventually futile attempt after another, the Continental army and local militia failed to liberate Georgia's ancient capital and most important city. In the retreat under cover of a flag signifying mutual respect for his status as an officer, Twiggs and his family were fired upon by British riflemen.

Following the fall of Charleston, the southeast's most important port, in May, 1780, Twigg's force joined General Horatio Gates' army in an attack at Camden, South Carolina. The colonial army, composed primarily of untested local militia, were trounced by Lord Cornwallis' battle-hardened veterans. Twiggs was nearly impaled by a saber, and left for dead on the battlefield. With the fire of freedom still in his soul, Twiggs returned to the Georgia backwoods to thwart his old enemies as they continued to pillage and terrorize the western regions of the colony.

Twiggs led American victories at Fish Dam ford and at Blackstock's house, where he personally led the attack against the fierce charge of the calvary of the villainous Banastre Tarleton. Though not given adequate credit for his actions by contemporary historians, it was indeed Col. Twiggs, who at the end of the day, was in command of the victorious colonists. During what was truly America's first civil war, a plot by an infamous Tory by the name of Gunn was uncovered and circumvented. When it was insisted that the poltroon be hung by the neck, Twiggs, in his usual forbearance, vetoed the execution of his assassin.

For his gallantry in action, the Georgia legislature, in its meeting in Augusta on August 18, 1781, named John Twiggs a brigadier general in the Georgia militia. Though the Revolutionary War was technically about to come to close in the early fall, British loyalists and discontented Indians were rumored to be mustering along the western frontiers in preparation for an attack on Augusta. For the remainder of the conflict, Twiggs organized for the impending attack, which never materialized.

After the close of the war, Twiggs retired to the solitude and enjoyment of his home, which he dubbed "Good Hope." He served a term as Justice of the Peace of Burke County in 1782. But the contentment was fleeting. On May 31, 1783, Twiggs along Georgia's most illustrious statesmen Lyman Hall, Elijah Clarke, William Few, Edward Telfair and Samuel Elbert met with a council of Cherokee chiefs in Augusta. The result of the negotiations was the purchase of a large tract of land in northeast Georgia. Nearly six months later, Twiggs helped to negotiate a treaty with the Creek Indians. Under the agreement the State of Georgia acquired all of the lands between the Ogechee and the Oconee rivers under a treaty, which precipitated a new war, a conflict which would evolve into a fifteen-year series of skirmishes and raids along both sides of the Oconee.

Treaty negotiations continued at Galphinton in 1785 and at Shoulderbone Creek. On September 8, 1791, Twiggs was again promoted by the Georgia legislature, this time to the position of Major General. It was during that year when Twiggs made his only engagement into politics by being elected to represent Richmond County in the Georgia legislature.

One of his most difficult assignments came in 1794, when Major General Twiggs was ordered to assemble a force of six hundred men to eject Twiggs' old comrade, General Elijah Clarke, who had, in the eyes of President George Washington and Georgia authorities, usurped his authority by establishing his own country along the western banks of the Oconee River in what would become Wilkinson, Baldwin and Laurens counties. Before the attack was launched, Clarke conceded and violence was averted.

In 1800, the State of Georgia honored General Twiggs by appointing him to the initial Board of Trustees of Franklin College, which evolved into the University of Georgia. Throughout his final years, this five-foot ten-inch stout man, with his florid complexion and gray eyes, remained active in civic affairs.

John Twiggs rarely sought any glory for his actions, only the satisfaction that he was serving his fellow man and protecting them from harm. In compliance with his wishes, no extravagant memorial would be placed on his grave. He died on March 29, 1816 at the relatively old age of sixty five. His body was laid to rest in the Twiggs family cemetery ten miles south of Augusta, off Georgia Hwy 56, on Goshen Industrial Blvd.

John and Ruth Twiggs had six children. One of them, David Emanuel Twiggs, served in the War of 1812, the various Indian conflicts of the era, and because of his heroic actions during the Mexican wars, was breveted a major general in command of the Department of Texas. When the Civil War erupted, Gen. David Twiggs surrendered his command to the Confederate army. For the act of treason and his acceptance of an appointment in the army of his homeland, Twiggs was dismissed from the Federal army. Another son, Levi Twiggs, was a field officer of the Marine Corps from the War of 1812 until his death during an assault on Mexico City in 1847. Two U.S. naval ships were named in his honor. A great grandson, Lt. Gen. John Twiggs Myers, earned high recognition in Marine Corps history for his valiant actions as commander of the American Legation guard in China during the Boxer Rebellion. His wife's brother, David Emanuel, served under Twiggs during the American Revolution and in 1801 was elected Governor of Georgia. On November 14, 1809, the State of Georgia immortalized the name of Twiggs by naming its newest county, Twiggs County, in his honor.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

THE BATTLE OF BALL'S FERRY

THE BATTLE OF BALL'S FERRY, GEORGIA



   They were coming!  Sixty thousand Yankees in columns as far as you could see were marching to the sea.  Nothing in their reach was safe from the foraging parties.  Rails were twisted, livestock slaughtered, factories and mills were burned, and homes were ransacked for anything of military value.

  One hundred and fifty years ago today, The Battle of Ball's Ferry, Georgia took place on the Oconee River.

     On the afternoon of November 21, 1864, General Henry C. Wayne, C.S.A. realized that the defense of Gordon was futile and ordered his men to withdraw to the eastern banks of the Oconee River.  Their mission was to defend the Central of Georgia Railroad bridge near the small village of Oconee.  The Confederates built a fort with a commanding view of the bridge and the opposite bank of the river.  The area approaching the bridge on the west side of the river was nearly impassable.  Jackson's Ferry had been abandoned and the trestles along the western bank of the river were demolished by Wayne's men.

     The right wing of General William T. Sherman's Army, composed of the 15th and 17th Corps, were moving into Gordon on the 22nd - days after a difficult skirmish at Griswoldville with Confederate Cavalry.  Gen. Oliver Howard, U.S.A. was in command of the Right Wing.  The 15th Corps, with Gen.  Peter J. Osterhaus commanding,  arrived in Gordon on the 22nd hoping for a few days rest.  Generals  John E. Smith, John M. Corse, William B. Hazen and Charles R. Woods were in command of the 15th's four divisions.  Gen. Francis P. Blair, U.S.A. commanding the 17th Division moved his men forward from Gordon through McIntyre and eventually to Toombsboro - destroying tracks and depots along the way.  Generals Gustavas A. Smith and Mortimer D. Leggett were in command  of the 17th's two divisions.  The 17th Corps were instructed to move to Jackson's Ferry to secure the Oconee Bridge.  The 15th Corps moved to the right to secure the county seat of Irwinton and to follow the 17th Corps to the River.

     Gen. Gustavas Smith arrived at the Oconee Bridge on the 23rd.  He found that there was no Jackson's Ferry and certainly no approaches to the supposed site.  He found  Gen. Wayne's forces fully entrenched on the morning of the 23rd at Station 14 Central Railroad (Oconee) with six guns in place.  The guns were strategically placed with a commanding view of the opposite bank.  When the advance elements of the 17th Corps reached the western bank,  they found all roads impassable with no bridge in place.  They reported back that a crossing would be costly.  Little did they know that the opposing forces included a mixture of Georgia Military Institute Cadets, state prisoners, and local guards.  Gen. Wayne repeatedly begged Gen. McLaws for more men, ammunition, and rations.  Gen. McLaws sent eighty-five enlisted men, one hundred forty five cadets, and two hundred militia.  The cavalry and artillery horses arrived on the 22nd.

     General Smith found that the only way out of the swamp was to return to Toombsboro. He decided to move further south to join the 15th Corps at Ball's Ferry - sixteen miles through Toombsboro but only a couple down the river.  Before moving, the Union artillery shelled the Confederate Fort across the river inflicting as much damage as possible. Gen. Smith dispatched Col. Spencer and the 1st Alabama Union Cavalry to Ball's Ferry early on the 24th of November.  Their mission was to secure the ferry for passage by the Right Wing.  The cavalrymen found the ferry boat on the opposite side of the river.  A patrol was sent up the river crossing on makeshift rafts.  The patrol moved down to the east bank of the ferry and dislodged the Confederate pickets.

     Gen. Wayne dispatched Major A.L. Hartridge with two cavalry companies, eighty infantry soldiers, and two cannons to Ball's Ferry.  Major Hartridge arrived at 3 p.m., just in time to prevent the Alabama Cavalry from securing the ferry.  The Union cavalry suffered nearly a dozen casualties.  Major Hartridge set up positions along the east bank of the ferry.  That evening he returned to Oconee with part of his command.

     Lt. Colonel Andrew Young commanding the 30th Georgia Battalion arrived in Oconee on the 24th.  Gen. Joseph Wheeler led his four thousand cavalrymen along the right flank of the right wing.  They left Macon and swam across the Oconee River at Blackshear's Ferry. Lt. Col.  Gaines and his Alabama Cavalry were sent to Ball's Ferry. They strengthened the fortifications, preparing for the larger force which would soon come.  The remainder of Wheeler's force moved to Tennille.  On the night of the 25th the head of the 15th corps was camped in Irwinton with its rear in Gordon.  The head of the 17th corps was still camped near the Oconee River Bridge with its rear along the railroad back through Toombsboro.


     On the morning of the 25th,  the two corps began their march toward Ball's Ferry.  The 17th corps returned to Toombsboro on their way.  General Hazen's Division, 15th Corps led the way.  General Woods' Division was to move next detouring south toward the Lightwood Knot Bridges.   General Woods' mission was to protect the flank against an attack by Wheeler's Cavalry.  He sent the 29th Missouri (mounted) to destroy the bridges.  The cavalrymen reported resistance at the bridges.  They never knew the extent of the resistance.  The force that turned them away was a Confederate surgeon and an elderly slave woman.  The Confederate force set the bridges on fire and began screaming and firing weapons.  The cavalry,  satisfied that the bridges were destroyed, returned to the division, that is according to the local view of the incident.

     General Hazen arrived first around 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon.  He found the Confederates entrenched on the opposite bank with skirmishers up and down the stream.  As soon as the 12th Wisconsin Battery was set in place, the Confederate forces on east bank were besieged by artillery fire.  The 19th Illinois and the 97th Indiana were placed on picket duty along the river.  The 17th Corps arrived about dusk.  The 17th sent infantrymen to cross the river upstream and work their way down to the right flank of the Confederates.   Smith's and Corse's Divisions of the 15th Corps and the pontoon trains of the 1st Michigan Engineers arrived during the night.

     Col. Gaines realized the magnitude of the opposing force around midnight.  General Wayne's main force at Oconee had been outflanked. With no hopes of reinforcements, Wayne ordered a retreat to Tennille.  Commanding Gen. William J. Hardee ordered the army to move to a defensive position on the Ogeechee River.

     On the morning of the 26th, two pontoon bridges were laid across the river.  Generals Corse and Woods crossed first, moving to Irwin's Crossroads to camp for the night.  General Hazen moved ahead of General Smith, who remained behind to remove the pontoon bridges.  After the crossing was completed, Hazen and Smith moved to Irwin's Cross Roads.  After crossing the river, Blair's 17th Corps moved north toward Oconee to continue the destruction of the railroad.  The 17th Corps Headquarters was established at the intersection of the Oconee and Irwin's roads.  As the two corps rendezvoused near Irwin's,  elements of both continued the destruction of the railroad.  The right and left wings of Sherman's army came together at Sandersville and Tennille.  On the 28th Sherman's army entered the last four weeks of its March to the Sea.  By Christmas,  Savannah was controlled by General Sherman's forces.  

THANKSGIVING - In the Beginning




When did Thanksgiving begin?  Many claim it began in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621.  Proud Virginians have a strong claim that it was on the banks of the James River two years prior when American colonists first celebrated their blessings on a day of Thanksgiving.  The Northerners won the Civil War.  So, to the victors go the rights to write our history.  So, the traditional origin of Thanksgiving features the Pilgrims and Indians of New England.   You might be surprised to learn that a Laurens County man was the first to urge the adoption of the holiday in Georgia.

In 1619, a group of English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River, southeast of present day Richmond, Virginia. Their charter of settlement provided, "We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for the plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."  That first celebration was held on December 4, 1619.

Nearly two years later in the fall of 1621, the settlers of the Massachusetts colony joined with their Indian friends in celebrating their good fortune during their first year on the North American continent.  The holiday was primarily celebrated on an irregular basis. George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795.  It would be nearly another quarter of a century before northeastern states revived the erratic celebrations.

The authorities of Augusta, Georgia proclaimed one of the first local Thanksgiving  observations in Georgia on Friday, November 7, 1823.  Members of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches joined together for three services to thank God for  His tender mercies over all the works and in whose favors, all are partakers.

The origin of Georgia's first official celebration of Thanksgiving Day came in 1826.  Governor George M. Troup, in his annual message to the Georgia legislature, asked the assembly to proclaim a statewide celebration of Thanksgiving Day.  Troup, a resident of Laurens County, was one of the most powerful and admired chief executives of Georgia in  the first half of the 19th Century.  Troup urged the legislators to set a day aside to render from time to time homage and adoration so justly due to that Being, who is the donor of all good.

Robert Rea, of Greene County, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on November 18, 1826 to set apart a day statewide for prayer and thanksgiving.  Madison County Senator Robert Groves introduced a similar resolution five days later in the upper house in acquiescence to the Governor's request.   Both houses adopted the resolution on December 4th.

Legislators acknowledged the many undeserved favors bestowed by the hand of providence.  In paying honor to the Almighty, the legislature authorized the governor to set forth measures to establish a state wide day of Thanksgiving to be held on the first Thursday of the next year, January 4, 1827.

On the 8th of December, Gov. Troup urged all denominations to assemble in their respective churches and celebrate the day with penitential hearts and uplifted hands to make grateful acknowledgment for the benefactions  received from the Universal Parent.

Thanksgiving celebrations continued to be sporadic in Georgia until the 1840s.  The corporate authorities of Savannah determined that November 25, 1841 be a day of public Thanksgiving.  Daniel Hook, the Mayor of Augusta, proclaimed that the last day of 1841, would be set aside as "A day of Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God for blessing our city with its accustomed good health."

On December 19, 1842, the Georgia legislature officially adopted the first Friday of November in 1843 to be a day of Thanksgiving, to be attended with appropriate religious services in the several churches throughout the state.   The statewide observance once again changed in 1845, when Governor George W.  Crawford proclaimed  the 13th day of February as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, in congratulating the people of Georgia on the introduction of this time-honored custom of the Eastern States.   A dozen years later, the legislature determined that the celebration be held on November 26, 1857, the fourth Friday of that month.

Known more for her authorship of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, is more responsible than anyone for the national celebration of Thanksgiving.   Mrs. Hale, is probably one of the most unknown successful women of the 19th Century.  She was the first to urge equal education for women and the first to start day care nurseries for working women.  And, Mrs. Hale was the first woman to serve as an editor of a woman's magazine.   It was Mrs. Hale who wrote to urge President Abraham Lincoln to issue his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.

It would take another eighty years before the date was made uniform across the nation.  Amazingly, the designation of Thanksgiving Day as being the fourth Thursday of November, was not officially adopted by the Federal government until the day after Christmas 1941, two years after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suggested the national holiday as a way of boosting the country's economy.

On this day of Thanksgiving, let us all acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings we have.  Celebrate the day with those you love. But remember those who are not as blessed, not only on this Thursday, but all the year long.