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

Friday, August 12, 2016

THE GRAY GHOST


Robert V. Hardeman, Jr.

The bold headline of the obituary read, “R.V. Hardeman Called By Death.”  Near the end of the first paragraph, the article noted  that Hardeman died at 8:30 a.m. on August 12, 1916  at the home of his daughter, Mrs. M.H. Blackshear in Dublin, Georgia.   When I first read that article some 20 years ago in my former home, the red flag shot up the flag pole.  My insatiable curiosity for historical facts peaked. For you see, the house in which Robert Vines Hardeman died in was my very  own house. The bed room in which the long life of this Confederate veteran and Macon attorney ended was my very own bedroom.

People who have never lived in an old house occupied by a host of known and unknown occupants often do not think about what has transpired within the walls of their homes, nor do they dream what events may occur in the future.

Well, I do. I set out on a mission to learn about the story of the man born more than 170 years ago whose life ended in old home a century ago.

Robert Vines Hardeman, Jr.  was born on February 19, 1843  into the well to do Jones County, Georgia family of  Robert Vines Hardeman, Sr. and Elizabeth C. Henderson.  He attended the best schools available in Clinton.   After six months of post secondary education at Mercer University in Penfield, Georgia, Robert left college to return home to Clinton.

Hardeman’s life and the lives of his family and his entire world were radically transformed a few months after he attained the age of majority.  The firing on Union forces stationed at Fort Sumter, South Carolina cast the nation into a mighty and horrific four-year war - the slaughter known as “The Civil War” or the “The War Between the States.”   His father had served as a colonel in the Indian Wars of the 1830s.

Seven weeks before his 19th birthday, Robert Hardeman enlisted in Co. B of the 2nd Battalion of the Georgia Infantry. On the Ides of March in 1862, he transferred to Co. F, “The Gray Volunteers,” of the 45th Georgia Infantry under the command of his older brother, Colonel Thomas Hardeman, Jr.  Robert’s brothers Isaac, Frank, and John joined the Confederate Army in the late winter of 1861-1862 as members of the local company of volunteers.

Colonel Hardeman resigned his commission in October 1862. He returned home to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1863 and 186.  The Colonel  served as the Speaker of the House in 1874.

Hardeman, a delegate to the 1872 Democratic National Convention and  president of the State convention, and chairman of the Democratic State executive committee for four years, served in the U.S. House of Representatives as fm March 4, 1883, to March 3, 1885.

Frank, a courier for General Jubal Early, C.S.A, died of congestive fever at Staunton, Virginia in the last autumn of the war.  Isaac, a future attorney and director of the Macon, Dublin & Savannah Railroad, worked his way up from an Orderly Sergeant to Lt. Colonel of the 12th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  Col. Isaac Hardeman was captured at the pivotal and deadly battle at Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia.

John Hardeman was elected as the Jr. 2nd Lieutenant of the Gray Volunteers, Company F of the 45th Georgia Infantry.  Following the Battle of the Second Manassas, John was elevated to the rank of Captain on  August 28, 1862.  Captain Hardeman survived all of the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia until he was wounded on April 2, 1865 as the Confederate Army was forced to evacuate Petersburg.  Although he lost his thumb to the wound, Captain Hardeman left Stuart Hospital in Richmond to return to his company, only to surrender one week later.

The 45th Georgia was a part of Edward L. Thomas’ Brigade and Gen. Cadmus Wilcox’s Division of Gen. Ambrose P. Hill’s 3rd  Corps.  Fighting along the side of two Laurens County companies, Co. H, 14th Georgia (Blackshear Guards) and Co. F, 49th Georgia (Laurens Volunteers) Hardeman’s company saw major action in the Battle of the Second Manassas and Fredericksburg in the last third of 1862.

Robert Hardeman’s first major battle of 1863 took place at Chancellorsville, Virginia, known as “Lee’s Greatest Victory,” despite the loss of Lee’s invaluable right arm, Gen. Stonewall Jackson.  Two months later, Hardeman was among the tens of thousands of Lee’s army which moved northward into Pennsylvania.

Robert Hardeman’s regiment was not  heavily engaged during the Battle of Gettysburg.  Only on the third and climactic day did the 45th Georgia, positioned at the  edge of the trees, watch General George Pickett’s initially glorious, but quickly disastrous, charge into the center of the well-entrenched Union army on Cemetery Ridge.

Before the equally disastrous battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse, Robert left his company to serve as a provost guard.   The provost guards were considered the army’s military police, which often provided guards for prisoners and security for Confederate nonmilitary officials.

After the war, Robert Hardeman returned home on September 27, 1865  to marry Ella Griswold (LEFT) Smith, a member of the prominent Griswold family of Jones County and a daughter of Gen. D.N. Smith and his wife, Mary Griswold.  The Hardemans had eight children: sons; Frank S.,  Gordon, Clark G., Wallis B., Robert N. and  daughters; Mary Maud, Ruth  and Annie Lucia Hardeman (Mrs. M.H. Blackshear,) of Dublin.  Hardeman took up farming and worked for a while with the Central of Georgia Railroad.

Robert Hardeman decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and entered the practice of law.  He began his practice in Gray in Jones County in 1873.  He served for 14 years as the Solicitor of the County Court of Jones County.  In 1891, he removed to Macon, where he became a well respected and honored member of the bar as a member of the firm of  R.V. Hardeman & Sons.  Five years later,  he joined in partnership with L.D. Moore.  Hardeman retired from the practice of law in 1910 at the age of 70 when his health began to fail him.

Hardeman, who lived on Forsyth Street in Macon,  served as superintendent of the Vineville Methodist Sunday school for many  years. He was one of the founders, a long time steward  and one of the largest contributors to the church.

As he entered his fifties, Hardeman took every opportunity to join in the activities of the local camp of the United Confederate Veterans.

Robert Hardeman, at the age of 74,  suffered a stroke in May 1916. His father too had suffered from a series of strokes which cut his life short at the age of 71.   Paralyzed and unable to function, Robert moved to Dublin, where he lived in the relatively new home of his daughter, Annie Blackshear, at 202 South Calhoun Street. Following his death, Hardeman’s body was returned home to Macon, where it was buried in an afternoon funeral service in Riverside Cemetery.  His wife Ella would survive him for about 21 years.



I will never learn any more about this man, the Gray Ghost, but I can only hope that one day I will find out one more fact,  not how he died in my house, but how he lived his life. For a moment, think about the lives of those who have lived or who will live in your house.  




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