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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

WHEN JOHNNY CAME MARCHING HOME

WHEN JOHNNY CAME MARCHING HOME

                   
                    “The old church bells will peal with
                    joy, Hurrah! Hurrah! To welcome
                    home our darling boy, Hurrah!
                    Hurrah!  The village lads and lassies
                    say with roses they will strew the
                    way, and we’ll all feel gay, when
                    Johnny comes marching home!”  
                              Patrick S. Gilmore, 1863.
                   
     
      Battered, bruised and broken, the scattered remnants of a once mighty legion of Southern men and boys crawled back home to try to rebuild their lives and their communities.  On this the 140th (in 2005) anniversary of the end of the Civil War or the War Between the States, as some frivolously termed as the “Late Great Unpleasantness,”  I will focus on some of the mere boys who returned from the war to lead productive lives within their communities.  While underage men were generally assigned to     duties in local and state militia, many young boys, sixteen years of age and under, fought for the homes and communities in a war like all other wars, those which are started by men and fought by boys.
   
      Green V. Jenkins, a son of James J. and Lucinda Jenkins,  was born in Laurens County on January 27, 1848.  His brothers Isaac, Littleton, and George W. fought in the Civil War.  The oldest brother, Isaac, died in Richmond, Virginia on December 15, 1862.  Corp. Littleton Jenkins was captured at Spotsylvania Court House, Va., on May 12, 1864.  Corp. Jenkins was taken to Elmira Prison in New York. George Jenkins was wounded and disabled at Mechanicsville, Va. on June 26, 1862.  Green, the baby brother, was ready to fight for Georgia.  In 1864, at the age of sixteen, Green Jenkins enlisted in a reserve unit of the Confederate Army. He saw service in Georgia and South Carolina during the last year of the war.  During that time, he was sent to duty at Camp Sumpter in Andersonville, Georgia. Green Jenkins was very proud of the many years which he spent as a Deacon of Bethsaida
Baptist Church.
   
      In July 1938, Mr. Jenkins, (left) attended the Blue-Gray Reunion in Gettysburg,  Pa., on the 75th anniversary of that monumental battle.  Only two and one half months later, on September 26, 1938, Green Jenkins died at the age of 90.  He was the last surviving veteran of the Confederate Army in Laurens County, "The Last Boy in Gray."  Jenkins was buried in the cemetery at Bethsaida Church, next to his wife who predeceased him by ten years.
   
  The next to the last Laurens County Confederate veteran was John W. Green, who was seventeen when he enlisted in Co. H, 63rd Ga. Inf. in May 1862.  He was wounded at Rock Face Mountain and spent the remainder of the war at his home near the future site of Dexter, which he helped to develop. A prominent Baptist minister, Rev. Green (left) died on September 25, 1937 at the age of 92.
 
   
      While Green V. Jenkins was the last surviving veteran of the Confederate Army in Laurens County, the last surviving Laurens Countian who served in the  Confederate Army was Andrew Coleman Sanders.  Sanders was born in Laurens County on Feb. 20, 1847, the youngest son of Coleman and Emily Hudson Darsey Sanders.  The Sanders family moved to Calhoun County in Southwest Georgia before the Civil War.  The fifteen-year-old Sanders enlisted in Company D, "The Calhoun Rifles" of the 12th Georgia Infantry, on December 9, 1862.  Sanders survived the horrific Battle of Gettysburg, endured the siege of Petersburg, and limped into Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.  At the age of ninety, Sanders realized his dream of returning to Gettysburg for the 75th Reunion.  On December 17, 1939, just five days before his 70th wedding anniversary, Private Sanders joined his comrades in arms.  Sanders, the last veteran in Calhoun County, was buried in Mars Hill Cemetery.
   
  William F. Geffcken  (left) was born on September 17, 1848.  At the age of 13 years  and six months, Geffcken enlisted in the “Coast Rifles” in Chatham County and served for the remainder of the war. Geffcken Street in the southern section of Dublin is named in his memory.  Fourteen-year-old Samuel Fleetwood enlisted in Co. B of the 57th Ga. Infantry in May 1862.  He died relatively young but lived a productive life in the Mt. Carmel Community near Dexter.
 
   
      At least a baker’s dozen 15-year-olds from Laurens County served in the war.  On October 13, 1861, just ten days beyond his fifteenth birthday, William A. Witherington enlisted in Co. C, 2nd Reg., 1st Bgde., Georgia State Troops.  The company became Co. C of the 57th Ga. Infantry.  He survived the near annihilation of his regiment at Champion’s Hill.   As Fifth Sergeant, the 18-year-old Witherington led his company’s charge in the first hours of the Battle of Atlanta in July 1864.  Sgt.     Witherington remained in the service until the surrender of the Army of the Tennessee on  April 26, 1865.    Witherington returned home and lived in the Dexter community, where he became a leading citizen. Robert F. Rozar enlisted in Co. G of the 49th Georgia Infantry in May 1862.  After fighting in most of the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, he was discharged from the service for being under age.
   
      The last Laurens County man born who served in the war was Gideon B Towns. Born on Dec. 23, 1848, Towns enlisted in “The Telfair Volunteers,” Co. B., 49th Ga. in March 22, 1864 at the age of 15. William H. Mullis nearly made it through the war unscathed until six days before the end of fighting when he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war for nearly three months.  Dudley Keen suffered a wound at Kennesaw Mountain just a month before his 18th birthday, and after 25 months
of service. James L. Linder served in the Georgia Militia before his 16th birthday and after the war became one of Laurens County’s leading physicians.  William Kea, who four decades later would become a popular Laurens County Commissioner from the east side of the river, served all four years of the war.
   
      W.A. Jones served the entire war with Co. B, 57th Ga. Infantry, except for a short time when he was taken prisoner after the fall of Vicksburg.  William S. Graham enlisted in the 1st Bgde. of the State Troops in 1861.  Fourth Sergeant Graham served for the duration of the war, including the siege of Vicksburg and Battle of Atlanta.  Among the others in the middle of their second decade of life were:  John W. Raffield, J.I. Mathis, Thomas A. Smith, W.A. Jones, William J. Jones and Thomas D. Currell.
   
      As a sixteen-year-old, James T. McDaniel was ready to fight and to die for the Confederacy.  As a battle-hardened veteran of the Chancellorsville, Gettysburg,  Spotsylvania, the Wilderness and Cold Harbor, McDaniel grew weary of war, left his command and took the oath of allegiance to the United States in the summer of 1864. A year after his enlistment, 17-year-old Robert Dixon was wounded in his hip during the campaign for Vicksburg.  John Floyd Thomas was wounded at Chancellorsville in May 1862 and again at Spotsylvania C.H. two years later.  He was taken prisoner and spent most of the rest of his teen-age years in a Union prison W.J. Thomas lost his right eye when he was struck by a mini ball at Deep Bottom, Va. during the long siege of Petersburg.  Among the 16-year-olds from Laurens County who served in the Confederate Army were Thomas R. Windham, J.P. Scarborough, Henry T. Jones, S.K. Passmore, Henry E. Moorman, John Brown Jones, Starkey Daniel and H.H. Wynn.
   
      Soldiers on both sides of the war rapidly developed a fondness for the upbeat and optimistic song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”  While few  of the survivors of the bloodiest war in American history actually  marched home in gaiety (they hobbled and struggled all the way back), all of the young Laurens County boys who left their school books and playgrounds behind to whip the Yankees returned alive. Hurrah! Hurrah!
     

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