Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I WILL ALWAYS LOVE A WOMAN NAMED "EBBIE"

          I cannot tell you exactly when I first fell in love with a woman, maybe some fifty years ago.  I do not count the women of my family nor  the two pretty blonde-haired girls who lived on either end of the street on which I grew up on.  She was of regular height, had a beautiful, gold-tooth, sparkling  smile and a light bronze, freckled complexion.  My sister Janet, my brother Henry  and I couldn’t pronounce her real name, Evie.  We called her “Ebbie.” And, some fifty years later on the 101st anniversary of her birth, I think of the days of my youth, when most things in America were still good. And, I think about the woman I first loved and one I always will love, a woman named “Ebbie.”

Evie “Ebbie” White was born on a farm in southwestern Laurens County on July 31, 1912.   Her grandparents, Stephen and Violet White and Guyton and Caroline Fullwood were all adult or teenage slaves at the end of the Civil War.  Ebbie’s momma and daddy,   Loyd and Rosa Fullwood White, had a hard life, working in the fields for more hours a week than any should - working all the time,  just to keep themselves and their family fed and as comfortable as they could.

Ebbie too worked in the fields picking cotton and other crops.  She had very little education compared to us. Her lack of advanced schooling did not mean that she was ignorant, far from it.  As she matured, Ebbie took on all sorts of jobs cleaning houses, offices and even Claxton Hospital for a good while.    I do not mention Ebbie’s married name.  She had not too much use for the scoundrel she regrettably married early in life. 

We first came to know Ebbie on Saturday nights.  Our  parents, Jane and Dale Thompson, while they were in the prime of life, loved to go to dances and play bridge games.  So, when it was time for them to go out on the town, Ebbie became one of our first baby sitters.  Her sister, Laner White Manning, had been our maid and baby sitter as well.  

It was these two sisters, Ebbie and Laner, along with our other maids from time to time, Elaine Thomas and Ethel Wells, who first introduced me to the inner beauty of the African-American maids of the mid 20th Century South.  I still remember the day I cried and Ethel cried when she was not able to work for us anymore.  There was a whole lot of squalling going on that sad afternoon when Momma took her home for the last time.  I can still show you the spot where the Ethel’s old ramshackle house on Highway 319 was once located.  And Elaine, well there was a character is there ever was one.  Elaine carried the spirit of the Lord with her everywhere she went.  She would get upset at some of our antics , but soon the joy of Jesus took over and you could see the gold teeth shining and the spiritual music exuding out of her soul. 

The mid 1960s were a time of trials and tribulations in our nation and our community.  As pre-teenagers, we were somewhat immune from the strife here in Dublin.  We used to hear Ebbie tell tales of the days when Sheriff Carlus Gay would come to the black neighborhoods and “all the colored people” would run and hide.  

When we moved from Stonewall to Brookwood, our nights with Ebbie became even more wonderful.  Our parents didn’t have enough money to furnish our living room.  With its large expanse and green carpet, the new empty room served well as a tackle football field and wrestling arena.

Although we were banned by our mother from wrestling and throwing a football  in the living room, Ebbie tolerated our foolishness until we got too wild or interfered with her hearing her television shows.  Her favorite, Gunsmoke, would bring her to her feet, squealing and cheering Matt Dillon as he pommeled the bad guys.

Without a doubt the best times came when the all too unreal wrestling matches came on our black and white television.  All of us eventually figured out they were fake, but you could never convince Ebbie that the fighting wasn’t real.  

New Year’s Eves were the best.  That’s when we learned about all the things you are supposed and not supposed to do on New Year’s Day. 

“I learned a lot of superstitions from her; ‘Don’t wash your bed sheets between Christmas and New Year’s, don’t gather broom straw in the New Year - wait for frost, then collect it prior to New Year’s day,” my sister Janet recalled.

Ebbie would say, “Anything you do on New Year’s Day, you will be doing all year long,” so right after midnight I would go find some left over Christmas candy and gobble it down.  I later figured out that she really meant household chores.

Gardening was a special talent in which Ebbie excelled in.  To keep the snakes away, she would  go to Black’s Seed Store and pick up a big paper sack filled with sulphur.  And, to make doubly sure, she would line the perimeter of her house and soak any possible entrances with the smelly yellow powder.  Ebbie was a master grower of roses.  Her secret - tea grinds - placed around the base of a rose bush produced bushes more than seven feet tall.  I know, I saw them and couldn’t reach the tops.  She also figured out that to keep a house plant container from flowing over, place ice cubes in them  which would slowly melt into the soil.

No one, with the possible exception of our  mother and few other people in our lives, could  bake a pound cake more delicious than Ebbie.  On every occasion and just because she loved us, she would bake us a fresh, warm and oh so delightful pound cake.

For most of her later years, Ebbie got to live in a new, or virtually new, house.  It was one of the greatest times in her life when she moved into a Housing Authority apartment for seniors on Druid Street.  We all helped furnish her home with some of our furniture from our old home.  Later we bought her  a color television. 

Ebbie continued to work for me in my office until the late 1980s.  Most days I would take her home to save the cab fare.  Lots of times, I got a whole or a half of a pound cake out of the gesture, although that’s not why I did it.    Ebbie didn’t eat “hog meat” and she didn’t like the government cheese she got once a month.  So, I would buy her a month’s supply of peach snuff at Piggly Wiggly and swap it for those foot long, delicious blocks of cheddar cheese. You couldn’t get them in any store. 

I count as one of our  greatest legacies from our parents  the fact that their children were never taught to hate black people just because of their color.   Many white people of our  parent’s and grandparent’s generations did not allow black people to eat at the table with themselves and their families.  My sister, my brother and I weren’t raised that way.  Ebbie ate with us just like she was a member of our family.  We knew in our hearts that she was family as if she was one of a score of great aunts we cherished.  She was always there, at graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, births and weddings.  

"She was more like a grandparent than a baby-sitter.  I loved to see her smile, it would light up the room.  She was as proud of us as our own parents were.  We were her's and she was ours," my brother Henry recalled.  

There were many “Ebbies” Laners, Elaines and Ethels in our community and around the South.  They worked hard with very little pay. And, they were the last of  a generation. Surely, many of these treasured women were never given the recognition and the rights they should have been afforded.  But, in my mind, they were put on this Earth in some way to help bridge the gaps of racism and violence and to bring us forward as a nation.    


L-R - Back Row, Scott Thompson, Henry Thompson
Front Row - Evie White, Janet T. Greer, Rosetta Horne

Many of you who grew up before the 1980s knew and loved ladies like Ebbie who had a profound influence on our lives.  Make no mistake, the lives of these ladies were not easy and most often not fair.  They truly loved us and we, well, we truly loved them.  Sadly, the days of ladies like Ebbie White are nearly gone forever.  

But they don’t have to be.  For you see, the greatest gift Ebbie  ever gave to us was an undying, unwavering, color blind love for us and we for her.  We obviously knew what color she was. But when we saw her there was no color of her skin.  All we saw was a smiling, laughing, and caring soul. 

Ebbie left the Earth on October 17, 1995.  Both of our grandmothers died that following winter.  It was indeed a sad time for all of us.  Three women who had meant so much to each of us were no longer there for us to visit and recall the good times we used to have.  I loved them all, but as long as I breathe I will remember the first woman I ever loved, a woman named Ebbie.

Friday, July 26, 2013

KOREAN WAR P.O.W.s WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN



The Korean War officially ended on July 27, 1953 sixty years ago.  They were prisoners of war in the so called "Forgotten War."  Under the truce agreement, prisoners of war were to be returned.   Decades later it was revealed that about a thousand American POWs were never returned to their country.  This is a story of three  who made it back home, and one who didn't.
 



Master Sergeant Wesley Hodges had been in a war before.  In World War II, Hodges was a member of the 38thMechanized Cavalry Recon Squad that repelled German counteroffensive in Monscham, France in Dec. 1944.  He was a bantam driver, and his squad was the first to enter Paris on August 25, 1944.  Hodges was awarded three bronze stars for actions in North Africa, Normandy, and France.   On Nov. 2, 1950, Sgt. Hodges was with the First Cavalry group at Unsong.  All of his battalion, including the commanding officer, were taken to Pyoktong, where they were held until August, 1951.   From there they were moved to Camp No. 3, Chansong.  Hodges remained at Chansong until he was moved to Wervon.

Sgt. Hodges, who was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism in Korea,  told of a terrible life in ten by ten huts. "We were crowded and slept on mud floors.  We had no haircuts, no shaves, and few clothes.  We did get some trousers and jackets in July, 1951. " When asked about medical treatment, the sergeant just shook his head.   While in the prison, Hodges dropped from one hundred seventy one  pounds down to 90 pounds.   Hodges and thirty three hundred other POWs signed an appeal for peace, and act for which he and others were later chastised by the American government.  Of that group, half made it out.  One thing that kept him going were the letters which starting coming from his wife in October, 1951.   Hodges, who had three brothers in the service, said "I'm just happy to put my feet under mama's table in Dublin."


Left to right: In soldier's uniform (tie, with cap) Emerson Burns,  center (with tie and hat) Wesley Hodges and right (in dark long sleeve shirt between flags) 


Emerson Burns  left Adrian, Georgia at the age of eighteen  when he joined the Army in 1949.  Burns was sent to Korea on August 4, 1950.  While in Korea, Sgt. Burns worked as a radio operator and truck driver.  In November 1950,  Burns and his unit barely escaped capture when the Chinese Army overran his division.   A member of HQ Company, 38th Regiment, 2nd Division, Burns was in Wanju in January of 1951 when he and seven hundred fifty other soldiers were taken prisoner.    Burns and his unit had gotten through the roadblock at Kunure, where many of the 2nd Division troops had been killed.    Burns' six by six truck had its gas tank shot out.  The men were forced to march for three months.  On the seven hundred mile march the men were given twelve total days of rest.   One in five of the men would live to see the end of the war.  Burns and the others were taken to Camp Number 1 near Chonwon.  When they first arrived,  the prisoners were fed twice a day.  Their diet mainly consisted of soy beans and millet.   Later the meals were changed to dry fish and rotting eggs.  They had to eat it.  It was their only food.

Temperatures in the Korean winter often fellow to thirty degrees below zero.  Burns (left)  recalled that the men were allowed to have a fire in a home-made furnace for about an hour a day.  The men lived in mud huts with mud floors.   Eventually Burns was stricken with beri-beri, a disease caused by vitamin deficiencies.    When truce talks began in 1951,  the prisoners were allowed to write letters home.  In the long days in the mud huts, Burns dreamed of living in Dublin.  He did not know that his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R.D. Burns, had already moved to Dublin.  Burns wrote home several times, stating that he was doing as well as could be expected.

Tyrois Odom, another Adrian boy who eventually moved to Laurens County, was a cannoneer in Battery C, 555th Field Artillery.    On the night of July 13, 1953, Odom was wounded in the hip during fighting between Kumhwa and Kumsong.  "We had been firing pretty regular.  We had been hit quite a bit in return.  About 1:30 a.m. we got a direct hit.  We had to leave our guns and take cover on the side of the mountain, " Odom said.   Odom remembered hearing bugles, but had no idea that his position was about to be attacked.  His battery was surrounded.  All that didn't surrender were killed.  The Associated Press called the action "one of the worst massacres of Americans in the Korean War."   The artillery was providing support for the South Korean army when three Chinese divisions smashed the U.S. lines from three directions.

Odom was lying down when the attack came.  He sat up and saw a Chinese soldier firing.  The shots were coming toward him.   The little puffs of dirt were getting closer.  He whirled around.  A bullet hit him in the hip, causing Odom's leg to double up.   Odom decided to lay motionless, what he learned as a child as "playing possum."  It worked.  The Chinese soldiers kept moving, leaving Tyrois lying dead, or so they thought.  Two other Americans were dead, each within fifty feet of Odom.   Odom and another soldier, Austin, who wasn't wounded,  "played possum" for sixty hours.   Austin had his helmet kicked off, but didn't move a muscle.  The pair survived on a case of c-rations and creek water for eight days.   They may have never been detected until  an American bomb blast buried them in dirt.  "Then we had to move and they captured us," Odom explained.   Unable to walk, he was carried by stretcher and truck for several days.  He spent only a few days in a camp before the war ended.

After the war, POWs were being released daily.  The members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars,  under the leadership of R.T. Peacock, Jr., W.M. Towson, Johnny Floyd, Lamar Thornton and W.G. Hanley, and the American Legion, represented by H. Dale Thompson, Harold E. Ward, Murray Chappell, and Horace Hobbs,  began plans to honor the hometown heroes with a welcome home parade.    A large banner welcoming home the trio was placed downtown.  Merchants displayed American flags prominently throughout the downtown area.

A celebration was held on October 2, 1953.  It was one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Dublin.  Bill Courson was the master of ceremonies.  Speaking that day were W.W. Jordan, mayor pro tem  whose only son was killed in World War II, and Guy Stone, National Executive of the American Legion.  The families of the three men were honored guests at the event.

Albert Arnau Lewis, of Laurens County,  served for six years in the United States Army through all of World War II.  When the United States entered into the Korean War, Lewis re-enlisted in the Army.  Sergeant Lewis, of the 503rd Field Artillery,  fell into the hands of the North Koreans and was sent to a prison camp.  Word was sent to the American government that Lewis died of pulmonary tuberculosis on April 30, 1951.  Nearly three years after his death the truth was revealed about the his death.   Lewis did not die from tuberculosis, but from malnutrition.  He starved to death.  There were no parades for Sgt. Lewis.  His name on the war memorial on the courthouse lawn and a short story in The Courier Herald are the only public memorials to the fallen soldier.

This is the story of four unforgettable men of the so called "forgettable war."  They are reminders of what we are, or what we should be, as Americans.  Let them never be forgotten.

And now, let us remember those Laurens Countians who gave their lives during the Korean War Era: James E. Daniel, Robert H. Grinstead, Roy T. Hughes, Albert A. Lewis, Joseph E. McCullough, T.J. McTier, Walter E. Nesmith, James C. Rix, Bobby Robinson, Ralph B. Walker, Bobby R. Wood, and Lonnie G. Woodum.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

BEYOND THE HIGH WATER MARK


The 48th Georgia at Gettysburg

They were three days which changed the world.  So much of the courses of our lives today were set in motion in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania exactly 150 years ago today. The place, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - a cross roads town just above the Maryland border - would become the scene of the most horrific carnage of the Civil War or any other war on American soil.   Nearly 50,000 men, roughly thirty percent of the effectives on the field of battle. were killed, captured, wounded or missing in action in three dying days. 

Each corner of the battlefield has its own name.  Little Round Top, The Devil's Den, The Peach Orchard, The Wheatfield, and Cemetery Ridge are names which still live in infamy.  Every year, more than a million people  conduct pilgrimages to the scene of the climactic battle of the Civil War.   

Robert E. Lee, still celebrating his greatest victory at Chancellorsville, launched his first invasion of Pennsylvania.  Although Lee wanted to avoid contact with the Union army at Gettysburg, advance elements of both armies collided on July 1, 1863, sucking both combatants into the chasm of the war's most brutal and critical battle. 

On the second day of the battle, Robert E. Lee launched an all out attack on the Federal positions from Little Round Top to Cemetery Ridge.  Each division attacked in order from south to north.   Late in the afternoon, the order came for A.R. Wright's brigade to attack the Federal positions on Cemetery Ridge.  The brigade commander (LEFT) was a Louisville born attorney, whose brigade consisted of four Georgia Regiments, including the 48th Georgia.      

The 48th Georgia was composed of companies from Jefferson Co., "The Jefferson Volunteers"; Johnson Co., "The Battleground Guards; Twiggs Co., "The Slappey Guards"; and Emanuel Co., "The McLeod Volunteers."  Several Laurens County residents were members of the Battleground Guards.  The 48th Georgia were a part of R.H. Anderson's Division of A.P. Hill's Corps.

At 6:30, Anderson sent his three remaining brigades to attack the center of Cemetery Ridge.  Wright's men were deployed from left to right:  48th Georgia, 3rd Georgia, and 22nd Georgia.  The 2nd Georgia was deployed in front as skirmishers.  A few hundred yards away on the  Bliss farm, four New Jersey companies were lying in wait.  Wright, with his sixteen hundred Georgians, began the attack in a quick step march across a mile-wide open field toward a small dip in the terrain.  

The advance went smoothly until the men came within musket range of the Emmitsburg Road.   There they encountered a strong body of infantry behind a fence.  The skirmishers from the 2nd Ga. were preparing the way.   The battle line moved rapidly toward the ridge.  Wright later recalled "We were in a hot place, and looking to my left through the smoke, I perceived that neither Posey nor Mahone had advanced and that my left was totally unprotected."   Wright sent a courier to Gen. Anderson, who replied "both Posey and Mahone had been ordered in and that he would reiterate the order."  (Left - Capt. Alexander C. Flanders, McLeod Volunteers) 

As Wright's Brigade passed the Bliss' yard, only a portion of Posey's men were in support of his attack.  After a brief and furious fight at the Emmitsburg Road,  Wright's right wing passed the Cordori House with little resistance.  With half of their advance forces down and both of their flanks turned, the 82nd New York and 15th Massachusetts regiments fell back to a superior defensive position on the ridge. . 

"As we were in the charge I had an old U. S. Musket that would not shoot, but seeing a wild Yankee lying in a ditch in the pike road with a fine rifle I asked him it was any good, he said that it was, I told him to take off his belt and cartridge box and give it to me, which he did. I cut off my old belt, cartridge box and shoulder strap with my jack knife, put on the Yankee accouterments, took his rifle and went to the charge," wrote a member of the 48th Georgia.



The  attack was directed toward a battery between a small clump of trees and Ziegler's Grove on the ridge to north.  Wright's brigade, stretching four hundred  yards wide, would just fit in between the trees and the grove. The six Napoleon cannon of Brown's Rhode Island Battery pounded Wright's men with case shot and then canister.  Wright's men routed the Federals from their second line of defense, a stone wall which would later come to be known as the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy. 

The Rhode Island Battery moved further up the hill under pressure from Posey's 19th Mississippi.  The 48th attacked Gibbon's lines in hand to hand fighting.  With well directed fire,  Wright's men drove the cannoneers from their guns.  As the charging Confederates  captured the Napoleons of the Rhode Island Battery,  they were suddenly pelted with canister and small arms fire from a ridge, one hundred yards away.

 The Georgians jumped the stone wall and rushed to stand at the crest of the ridge.  With an irresistible charge, they swept the Federal infantry from the ridge into a gorge beyond.  The men were jubilant.  

"We were now complete masters of the field," Gen.  Wright, "having gained the key, as it were, of the enemy's whole line."

The point where they stood would be the objective of Lee's attack the following day.  Wright again requested support.  The help they prayed for never came.  Posey was stuck in the field to the north, west of the Emmitsburg Road.   For some unknown reason Mahone, sitting idle,  would not budge his brigade from Seminary Ridge - despite the repeated urging of Gen. Anderson.  

 The 69th Pennsylvania counterattacked on Wrights' front. Wright's men suffered three effective volleys upon their unprotected flanks. Wright reported that the enemy was closing in.  With no sign of support, the 48th retreated from the ridge.  The Federals launched a bayonet charge and severe artillery  attack.

The rapid retreat continued under artillery fire from Cemetery Ridge.  The 106th Pennsylvania, under Gen. Abner Doubleday, the fictional inventor of baseball, caught up with the 48th Georgia just before they reached the Emmitsburg Road.  Col. William Gibson and several other officers including Capt. Thomas Kent of Johnson County were captured.  After an hour or so it was all over.  Nearly one half of the brigade lay dead, were wounded, or were captured.  The 48th lost 70 men killed, including 8 officers, with 97 wounded and 57 missing in action. 

The 48th Georgia's advance was the closest Lee's men came to breaking the Federal center at Gettysburg.  Wright's men are often ignored in the history books for their accomplishments.  They went further than any Confederate brigade at Gettysburg.  A lone marker in front of the stone wall marks their historic feats of courage in their valiant charge.

On the third and final day of the climatic conflict, Lee, observing that Gen. Wright broke the Union center with a single brigade, ordered Gen. George Pickett of Virginia to attack the same point, confident that an entire division could easily break the Federal center and secure a sure victory.  That attack, slow to start from the beginning, utterly failed, costing the lives of many of Pickett's men.  Their advance to the Angle at the  Stone Wall, where Wrights men had stood alone, if only briefly the day before, will be forever known as the "High Tide Of The Confederacy." 

Although no Laurens Countians were killed during the fighting, John Swinson was wounded and died one week later, while Wiley K. Bracewell would die from his wounds 8 weeks later.  The wounded were: Robert A. Beall, John T. Bender, Jesse Bracewell, Lewis Coleman, Allen Cowart, William E. Duncan, James Bryant Gay, T.D. Hudson, James E. Jones, James P. Kinchen, Dennis McLendon, James M. Mincey, John B. Roberts, Rev. Peter S. Twitty, William C. Vaughn, and Wade Wright.  Taken as prisoners were David Alligood, William F. Brewer, William M. Cardell, Thomas J. Green and Samuel Miller.

At the end of the arduous third day as the moon hung high in the sky, General Robert E. Lee mournfully reflected, "Yes, it has been a sad, sad day to us." 

THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR

THE SPANISH - AMERICAN WAR


This month marks 115th anniversary of the climax of the Spanish-American War.   The combat in Cuba lasted only a few weeks.  Consequently, only a few Laurens Countians saw any action during the war.  The origin of the war goes back to the early 1890s  when Cuban political parties were formed to seek independence from Spain.  Before it was over, the United States would spend four years fighting a war which did not officially end until July of 1902, when hostilities in the Philippines finally ceased.

On the day after Valentine's Day in 1898, the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor.  After an investigation determined that the explosion had been caused by a mine, cries for war and "Remember the Maine!" were heard over the entire country.   U.S. Naval Forces under the command of Commodore George Dewey began moving toward the Philippines.  On April 19th, 1898, Congress approved a resolution declaring war against Spain.  After months of training, U.S. Marines landed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on June 10th.   Ten days later, the main U.S. force arrived in Santiago Harbor.  

On July 1st, the battle for control of Cuba took place in the heights of San Juan.   Col. Henry K. Carroll commanded the 3rd, 6th, and 9th (Colored) Cavalry regiments.   Colonel Leonard Wood commanded the 1st and 10th Cavalry regiments together with the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, known as the "Rough Riders."   Gen. Joseph Wheeler, namesake of Wheeler County, Georgia and a former Confederate Cavalry General, was originally in command of the American Cavalry in Cuba.  Wheeler fell ill early on in the fighting.  It was said that, at the sight of the retreating Spanish soldiers  dressed in their blue coats, Wheeler yelled "Hurrah!  We've got the d... Yankees on the run!"  

Along the Santiago Road near the San Juan River Valley, Carroll's Cavalry was waiting to attack.  The 9th Colored Regiment held the right.   Their objective was Kettle Hill.  Behind the 9th, the "Rough Riders" were in held in reserve.   As the lead elements began to tire, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry became entangled with the "Rough Riders."   The 9th made it to a depression about half way up the hill.   Col.  Roosevelt told the commanding officer of the 9th to charge or get out of the way.  As Roosevelt galloped ahead, the soldiers of the 9th took to their feet and their horses and followed him.    The Spaniards were falling back, from one line of defense to another.  The cavalry swarmed to the top of the hill to plant their colors.

Spanish soldiers concentrated rifle and artillery fire on the victorious Americans.  The battle swung back and forth.  Roosevelt took four men and charged the Spanish line.  After their officers had deserted them, the men of the 9th  jumped into action and followed Roosevelt, who led the men to victory and became immortal in American history.

One Laurens County man was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers of the United States Army.  William Little was born in Baldwin County, Georgia on April 4, 1875.  Little enlisted in the army in 1898.  He was assigned as a cook in Company F of the  9th U.S. Cavalry.  Little remembered Col. Roosevelt as "a great fighter who would get on his horse and say 'follow me' which the men gladly did."  After the war, Little  re-enlisted on April 11, 1899 in the 1st Cavalry.  On September 16, 1900,  he was shipped overseas to the Philippine Islands.  Private Little was assigned as an orderly to Governor-General Arthur MacArthur.

Arthur MacArthur has served as adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War.    At eighteen years of age, MacArthur led his regiment up Missionary Ridge and won the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism.  He was promoted to major and then to Colonel at nineteen  years of age.  Col. MacArthur was promoted to Brigadier General during the Spanish American War.  He was appointed military governor of the Philippines in 1900.  Small insurrections took place until 1902.  He was subordinated to a civilian governor, William Howard Taft,  in 1901.   MacArthur was described by one colonel as "the most egotistical man I have ever seen until I met his son."  His son was the legendary General Douglas MacArthur.

After three years and twenty three days of service, Little was discharged from the service. Little returned to Dublin where he was living at 606 South Jefferson Street in 1946.  At the age of eighty five, Little was living alone but he loved piddling around in his garden and going to church.

The war continued in Cuba for a few more weeks.   President William McKinley signed a resolution annexing Hawaii as a territory of the United States on July 7th,  1898.  On July 17th, Cuban and Spanish forces surrendered at Santiago.  A month later U.S. forces occupied Manila,  the capital of the Philippines.   The Treaty of Paris was signed on April 11, 1899.  Some Spanish forces continued to resist until June.

  Those Laurens County men who did serve during the Spanish-American War saw much less action. Laurens County men actually began their training in the early 1890s when the Dublin Guards were formed.  The guards mustered in the hall of the Stubbs-Leitch Building during the Spanish-American War.  The building was located at the southwest corner of West Jackson Street and South Jefferson Street.   Most of the men joined units in Georgia.  William W. Ward, a river boat captain of wide repute, joined the Macon Hussars which were mustered into the U.S. Army as the 1st Georgia Regiment.  The Hussars trained at Fort Oglethorpe at Chickamauga Park, Georgia.  From there, the Georgians were sent to Puerto Rico in anticipation of a full scale battle in the Caribbean.  The war ended so quickly that Ward never saw any action.

Other Laurens Countians who served in the armed forces during the Spanish-American war were John D. McDaniel, William Lingo, Jule B. Green, Andrew J. Bass, "Pet" Pritchett, Neal Jones, J.E. Burch, Wesley Kea, and "Windy" Williams.  It is a shame that the newspapers of the era have not survived.  They would add many more details to our knowledge of the activities of our county's men during the war.

The Spanish-American War was one of the shortest, but also one of the most important, wars in our country's history.  It established the United States as a world power.  America began its territorial control over the islands of the Pacific Ocean.  Within forty years the control of the Pacific Ocean would become one of the main focal points of World War II.  The lasting reminders of the war in our community are streets named for some of the war's most well known participants.  Grateful Dubliners named streets for Gen. Joseph Wheeler, Adm. George Dewey, Adm. Winfield Scott Schley, and Col.  Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt Street was renamed in the 1940s.  After  Lawrence Street was named in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the city council changed Roosevelt Street in southwestern Dublin to Hester Drive.  That portion of North Calhoun Street north of West Moore Street was originally named Sigsbee Street after Charles Sigsbee, captain of the " U.S.S. Maine. "  The Dublin Guards, who intensified their training during the war, later became Company A of the 121st Georgia Infantry and the first National Guard company in the southeastern United States.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

WALKING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GLORY




At the appointed hour of three o’clock on the afternoon of July 3, the roaring reports of the cannon stopped reverberating throughout the hot, humid Pennsylvania countryside in Gettysburg. It was the signal to begin the advance to east.  Some fifteen thousand history buffs and curiosity seekers assembled behind the flags of the nine brigades of George Pickett, Johnston Pettigrew and Isaac Trimble.  We were there to commemorate the supposedly glorious, war changing charge led by General George Pickett on the climatic moment of the climatic battle of the American Civil War.

It was exactly one hundred and fifty years ago to the hour from the time when Lt. General James Longstreet, in dutiful obedience to the decisive orders of General Robert E. Lee, reluctantly nodded his head in approval of Pickett’s request to move his division forward from the Confederate position on Seminary Ridge in an effort to strike and break the center of the Union line, well positioned behind a stone wall between “The Angle” and “The Copse of Trees.”  (Left) 



After a two-hour Confederate cannonade, the largest ever staged in North America and one which was heard as far away as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Longstreet’s  12,000 men moved out.  After an hour long advance across open fields in the face of skirmish fire and a relentless barrage of Union artillery fire, a fragment of Gen. Lewis Armistead’s brigade managed to briefly break the Federal position at the angle.  (Left) 

With nearly half of their men dead, wounded or captured, and all three of Pickett’s  brigadier generals, along with three others of Pettigrew and Trimble’s divisions,  dead or gravely wounded, the battered brigades reversed their course and limped back to the safety of the woods along the Seminary Ridge.  The failed attack, one which General Longstreet had feared would be futile and a waste of lives, would be forever known as “Pickett’s Charge” and “The High Water Mark of the Confederacy.” 


For the culmination of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the National Park Service invited reenactors, living historians and the public to participate in a walk across the same mile wide field which led to the capture, wounding or deaths of 11 of 15 of Pickett’s regimental commanders a total loss of more than 6,000 men in a single hour. 

Visitors had their choice of following in the paths of Brockenbrough, Davis, Lane, Marshall, Fry, Lowrance, made of up of units from nearly all of the southern states, supported by Thomas’s Georgia Brigade including two companies from Laurens County on the left.  Pickett’s three brigades of Virginia infantrymen were positioned on the right with Garnett in the lead on the left, Kemper on the right and Armistead in the rear.

The largest crowd gathered behind the flag of the  brigade of Armistead, whose brigade broke the Union center and whose leader, General Lewis “Lo” Armistead, is featured prominently in Ted Turner’s movie, “Gettysburg.” 

My wife Kathy and I took our spot on the far right end of the Confederate formation.  We were there to walk in the footsteps of Kathy’s great-grandfather, William Foushee Harrison, a slight in stature, long bearded, 22-year-old 2nd Lieutenant of  Co. A. 7th Virginia Infantry, of James L. Kemper’s brigade.







(Lt. William F. Harrison, Co. A, Richardson Guards, 7th Virginia Infantry, Kemper's Brigade, Pickett's Division. 

For our point of departure, we were moved a few thousand yards north from the original position toward the center to shorten our strides. We could not see our objective on the ridge a mile in front of us, nor could the swiftly swelling crowd on Cemetery Ridge see us.  Pickett chose this position around the Spangler farm to take advantage of the  swales to conceal his position from Union lookouts.  Like Pickett’s men, we baked in the sweltering sun for nearly two hours before moving out. 

While Park Ranger and author, Troy Harman, was  giving us our final instructions and interesting aspects of what would have happened along our path 150 years ago, a bellowing voice rang out.  A  tiny man asked if anyone remembered the scene in the movie when the 7th Virginia’s  commander, Waller Tazwell Patton ( great-uncle of General George S. Patton) was wounded.  He pointed to the scene with the actor portraying Col. Patton, he movie’s producer, Ted Turner,  rallied his men and then grasped his left rib and fell mortally wounded  on the field.  In fact, the old man exclaimed loudly, “part of his jaw was ripped away.”  

In an instant, astonished park rangers and professional and amateur historians recognized the booming voice.  Ed Bearss, a Marine veteran of World War II and the country’s consummate dean of Civil War and World War II guides and historians, was among our ranks!  As he spoke to our brigade, whispers rang out, “Who’s he?” “He’s famous!”




We even had our own mascot in formation.  An white-headed, brindled English Bulldog, sporting a 3"x5" battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, was attempting to stay cool in the shade of adoring, camera clicking participants. 

After our chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer, Ranger Harman led us  followed by a chorus of Dixie.

“Forward march,” came the command! 

Two wavy ranks began to climb the hill to the fence line where General E.P. Alexander’s artillery was once stationed to pound the Union positions on the ridge to the northeast.   Our leaders directed us to go through a gap in the rail fence and reform for the second leg of our march to the left of Rogers house on the Emmittsburg Road, though along the line some couldn’t resist the urge to climb over the rails.  

As the formation began to disintegrate into a jumbled mass, I looked a few steps to my right to find Bearss walking beside me.  Asking for answers to questions to be delayed  until the end, Bearss wanted to personally embrace the moment.  As the prolific author Bearss wavered in his pace, I felt I should do the military thing and guard my superior’s unprotected left, just in case he fell.

For a few moments, I looked left down the entire line to see the breath taking sight of thousands and thousands of people walking, running and trudging forward.  A wave of a rainbow colored horde spotted with gray clothed soldiers and waving battle flags was rolling, rolling  across the plain and steadily up the hill.   
As we approached the road and the second fence row, I noticed Bearss had moved well ahead of me, confirming the statement in his Wikipedia article that he frequently outwalks the much younger members of his tours.  I certainly could stop worrying about him  and concentrate on my own ability to make it to the objective.  

After crossing the main road and moving to the right of the Cordori House, the ground became even more treacherous.  A single mowed lane led in the direction of our march.   In accordance with our commander’s original orders to march in ranks and not columns, I urged Kathy to move to the right. I shouted “Come over here to the right where your ancestor would have marched” in the face of frequently fatal flanking fire of the muskets of 59th New York, 20th Massachusetts and the 13th Vermont, which inflicted heavy casualties on Kemper’s men, including Kemper himself, who fell severely wounded and was eventually captured and exchanged.  Kemper, who was a family friend and neighbor  of Lt. Harrison, would be the only one of Pickett’s brigadiers to survive the attack.



After enduring ankle wrenching pot holes, sticky thistles, biting bugs and concealed rocks ravaging her partially covered feet and lower legs, that’s when Kathy broke the ranks and joined the files on the stable and safer path. I was left alone to defend the entire right flank of Pickett’s division.  Soon, I too succumbed to the obstacles in my course along the undulating ground and rejoined her in the column as we moved the last 100 yards.

Little did I know that we were walking over the molecular remains of hundreds of Confederate soldiers who,  for the most part, were buried where they fell that horrific day. 

As the formation stopped at the wall, once again I looked left to observe a sea of humanity, converging  at the angle at the stone wall.  The Park Service estimated that approximately 40,000 people had assembled on the same spot where the battle culminated and set forth the course toward the end of the war, accelerated by the surrender of the Southern Army at Vicksburg a day later on July 4.

We were instructed to wait at the wall and listen for the wailing call of a bugle.  One by one, from north to south,  professional and amateur buglers played “Taps” in echo style moving from our left to our right.


       When the last somber middle c faded into the hot July afternoon, I looked over to a big rock in a gap in at the stone wall.  There I saw, Ed Bearss, sitting in the shade of his escort’s rainbow colored umbrella, completely exhausted.  I was still standing and walking, hot and sweating, but not out quite all out of breath.  I didn’t revel in my achievement, after all, he is 90 years old.

For George Pickett and nearly every man in his division, the attack on the Union center was all for the glory of their beloved Virginia.   As I surveyed the tens of thousands of persons congregating, on that day and the third day of July 150 years ago,  around the stone wall and think of half of them being dead or wounded, I looked back to the total tragedy of it all.



Perhaps General Lee said it best when he saw a similar somber sight which  his men inflicted on nearly 8,000 Union soldiers at the base of Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg when he lamented, “It is well that war is so terrible that we may grow too fond of it.”












It was at this point, late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, when the Georgia Brigade under the command of General Ambrose Ransom Wright, including many local men, broke the Union center at the Copse of Trees.  This temporary successful accomplishment led Gen. Robert E. Lee to believe that if Wright's Brigade could break the center, surely Pickett's fresh Division could.