The Miracle in Savannah

I have a friend at work who is retired Navy and now working as a homicide detective.  He and I have bonded over genealogy and the military.  I know, I have never been truly a military buff, but as I have delved into my genealogy and realize what a presence the military has in my family, I have grown more familiar.  With this in mind, I began thinking about George Wiley Whitehead and the miracle that happened in Savannah, Georgia.

I wrote about him in 2013.  You can read about him here:

https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/george-wiley-whitehead/

 

What I didn’t know at the time was how his company, The Echols Artillery, was a part of a book that recalled their involvement in the War of Northern Aggression, or The War Between the States.

The book, This They Remembered,  written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Oglethorpe County Chapter, documents four companies who fought in that war.  I have two relatives that are documented in this book, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Wiley Whitehead both which whom served in the Echols Artillery, and both of whom are my second great grandfathers.

Below is a short timeline as described in the book.

Timeline:

1 March 1862               Echols Artillery organized and mustered in.

19 August 1862            Company ordered to Atlanta, Georgia

6 January 1863             Company received orders to report to General Howell Cobb at Quincy, Florida.

Mid March 1863           Company left Quincy, marching through Tallahassee to Camp Leon then to                                          Brokaw.  (Comprised of a six-gun battery; G.W. Whitehead, 1st Gunner),  Private                                          C.A. Stevens among many soldiers).

27 May 1863                 Company ordered to Ft. Gadsden and Battery Cobbs, both on the Apalachicola                                         River. Conditions here were poor, due to swamp conditions.

January 1864                Company reunited back at Camp Leon.

“In the short space of six months the company had been transformed from the finest and robust body in the service to a company of weak and sallow invalids.  Twelve had already died and many more were stricken never to recover (page 122).”

9 February 1864            One section ordered to Mosely Hall.  Glanders disease, is a contagious, acute or                                           chronic, usually fatal disease of Equidae broke out among the horses.

1 June 1864                    Company ordered to Tallahassee.  The enemy was in Jacksonville.

Late November 1864     Ordered to Savannah, Georgia

“Sherman was approaching Milledgeville on his famous march to the sea (p. 123).”

17 December 1864        G.W. Wounded in Action (G.W. Whitehead Pension Papers)

George Wiley Whitehead

George Wiley Whitehead

“The Echols Artillery was in charge of a siege battery on the Augusta road, where, during the ten days siege they were engaged in firing shot and shell and in return received close attention from the enemy’s sharp-shooters, but so well protected was the battery that the casualties were few, G. W. Whitehead seriously wounded (p. 123).  It is unknown what happened to G.W. Whitehead after he was wounded.  Family lore suggests he was captured by the Union.

This is what Chloe Adams Whitehead wrote for the North Georgia Life in 1965:

“Wounded and left for dead on the battlefield, George regained consciousness to find a Yankee officer standing over him.  He gave the Masonic sign which the office returned.  The Blue Coat carried his wounded Masonic brother to his own camp where he was given medical attention and as soon as George was able to travel, he was exchanged for a Yankee prisoner.  George returned to Oglethorpe and married Cena in 1866 (North Georgia Life, 1965, p.6)”

21 December 1864        Company was withdrawn from Savannah.  The company boarded a train to                                           Pocataligo, Georgia.  For those unfamiliar, this is located very close to                                            Oglethorpe County, where the Echols Artillery formed.

1 January 1865             Company ordered to James Island, Fort Jackson (near Charleston, SC).

17 February 1865          “All the works around Charleston were evacuated, the Echols Artillery going out                                              with the rest, marching all night and encamping at Monk’s Corner (p. 124)”.

Unknown 1865             Company marched from Monk’s Corner to Kingstree to Cheraw, they faced the                                          enemy there, and had to withdraw and marched via Rockingham to Fayettsville,                                          NC.  They then marched in the direction of Raleigh.

16 March 1865              Company along with General Hardee made a stand; however losing a few.

19 March 1865              Company joined General Johnson’s forces at the Battle of Bentonville.  The                                          Union won this battle.

21 March 1865              Company along with General Johnson moved to Smithfield, NC.  The Echols                                          Artillery had been reduced to 43 men.  The effects of two years in Florida made                                          them weak and frail.

10 April 1865                Company was sent in the direction of Raleigh however, they continued westward                                          to Greensboro where a surrender took place.

26 April 1865                Confederate Troops surrender.

27 April 1865                C.A. Stevens was present at last call, but G.W. Whitehead was not.

 

The important thing is that George came home from the war and married Cena Ann Mathews.  In 1889, he completed an application for pension due to his injury in the war.  He was granted $50 per month.  In 1990, the effects of his head injury had left him partially paralyzed and he reapplied for pension and received $100.  In the pension application, his physician wrote in part:

“I hereby certify that one George W. Whitehead was wounded in top of head during the war between the states and at the time he received said wound he complained of a numbness through his whole system.  Which has recurred periodically ever since until about a year ago when this numbness became permanent and brought about a partial paralysis.  He has since that time been entirely helpless and most of the time bedridden (Confederate Pension Applications).”

GWW Pension Papers

GWW Pension Papers

George Wiley Whitehead died 31 May 1891.  He was 62 years old.  He left behind his wife and 7 children.  The youngest child at the time of his death was Theordoric, who was only 8 years old.  If he hadn’t survived the war, I wouldn’t be here today.

CSA Marker for GWW

CSA Marker for GWW

When I write about my ancestors, I feel closer to them.  I believe in telling their stories, our lives are enriched.  Coming home from a war wounded he married a sweet girl, 16 years younger than him.  I wonder what Cena’s parents, Raleigh and Mary Mathews, thought.  Did they approve?  Did he prove to them that although he was wounded he was worthy of her hand in marriage? In addition to farming, George became a county surveyor, as well as a County Commissioner.  We do know that he ended up with lots of land.  In his will, he mentions 270 acres that the Home Place is on; as well as 450 acres that he and Obadiah Stevens; however, it also states some is to be sold to pay off some debts.  The Home Place is still owned by the family.  My Cousin Sara has taken on the huge responsibility of two of our families homes, one in Carlton and the Homeplace in Oglethorpe County.  To her, I am most grateful.

 

 

Sources:

United Daughters of the Confederacy. (1986). This they remembered: The history of the four companies and those in other companies, who went from Oglethorpe County to serve in the War Between the States : the Gilmer Blues, the Oglethorpe Rifles, the Tom Cobb Infantry, the Echols Artillery. Columbus, Ga: Brentwood University Press.

North Georgia Life, The Oglethorpe Echo, February 17, 1965, “The Whitehead Homeplace recalls Rural Life of Yesterday.”

Confederate Pension Applications. Ancestry.com. Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

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Remembrance Poppies

Has it really been three years?

I got an email from Word Press stating that it has been three years I have been blogging.  I know now that the goal I set for myself was unrealistic.  What really happens when I decide to write a blog, is I have to go research the missing pieces.  This in itself is a great exercise because it focuses my attention on the subject at hand.  However, what it also does is slow things way down.  It takes a lot of time to explore backwards.  I want to have some facts but I also wish for some character sketches as well.  But please know if I am not blogging I am still doing the research that I love and uncovering the mysteries of our families past.

 

Today is Memorial Day, as I sit here and type, I am thinking of all my ancestors that fought in the wars of our country.  I also think of all the men and women who have served.  Whatever you do today, take a minute of quiet reflection and think about all the soldiers we have lost during our wars.  Then take a minute to think of the multitude of family members they left behind.  There have been great poems and memorials written and constructed to remember the fallen.

Below is the poem, In Flanders Fields, by Major John McCrae, a Canadian Doctor and Artillery Commander.  It is believed he wrote this poem after giving a burial service for his friend during a battle of WWI.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Found on http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.htm

 

Moina Belle Michael, an American teacher, wrote a poem in response to In Flanders Field.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

http://www.usmemorialday.org/?page_id=2

She then conceived of the idea of wearing poppy flowers as a way to remember and commemorate the fallen soldiers and also to benefit them with the sale of poppies.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

If you see a Veteran today asking for a donation, offering you a plastic poppy flower, you will know the true reason for this gesture.

Who are the fallen heroes in your life?  Take a moment today to remember them, I know I will.

 

The Bible

The Bible

 

My cousin Sara was kind enough to send me my second grandfather’s Family Bible. What a treasure.

I wrote in previous posts that George Wiley Whitehead married Cena Ann Mathews after returning home from the civil war. The date was 30 January 1866. Although many of the names are faded, I know them. I am proud to have learned about them through my research. George and Cena had seven children.

Bookmark inside Bible

Bookmark inside Bible

 

The purpose of a Family Bible, along with the scripture is that they provide vital records for the family long before these records were collected for the State. By looking at the penmanship and ink, I can tell you that several of the entries were copied into this bible from another source. A few entries at the end are in both a different hand and ink. For a genealogist, Bibles can provide clues to the elusive maiden name or a birth dates.

Think about how this Bible could have been used. Our ancestors did not have the internet, television or radio. The reading of the Bible could have been a weekly or evening event. This was their connection to the word of God outside of church.

Whitehead Family Bible

Whitehead Family Bible

This bible has a copyright of 1872, this was 6 years after George and Cena married. It is 143 years old. This book has been held by a multitude of our ancestors. It is an important piece of our heritage. I am proud to be the steward of this family heirloom.

Vital Record Page

Vital Record Page

My parents recently moved into a smaller place. In the weeks prior, I kept reminding my mom not to discard any family heirlooms. She knows how much I appreciate our family history. However, what may be special to me, others may think less of. We each have different memories attached to different objects.

What pieces of your past do you cherish? Share one or two of your favorites!

 

 

 

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day was not always Memorial Day. It started out as Decoration Day. A day dedicated to decorating the graves of the civil war dead.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield, May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

(Source: http://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/memorial-day/history/)

At least three of my Great-Grandfathers fought in the Civil War, George Wiley Whitehead, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Bland Sublett. Two other Great Grandfathers were German and not in the US at the time. I still have to do some research on the other three, but since they lived in Virginia during the Civil War, I am thinking maybe they did as well. However, I will try to refrain from searching for that now, and focus on this blog. I had several others fight in both the Great World Wars.

My Grand Uncle, George Stevens Whitehead, was a Rhodes Scholar, and left the United States in 1916 for Balliol College, in Oxford England. He and many others left school in 1917 in order to join cause. In fact, when we were visiting our Georgia relatives last week, we read a series of letters written to Papa (Walter Everett) by George. One of them included a message from King George V, about the great duty they had to their country.

While thinking about the great sacrifices my ancestors made so that we could live in a free and democratic society, I am engulfed in patriotism. I am deeply humbled by their acts of courage. I honor them by paying tribute to these brave individuals. Today, we raised our flag and bowed our heads for those brave soldiers and their families that made the ultimate sacrifice. I write this blog and think about the individuals in my family that have given so freely of themselves so that I can be free.

Therefore, whether you raised a flag, run in a Memorial Day run, or wear poppy red, we will remember the valor of the dead. 

Below are the men in my family that have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Larry Whitehead

Larry Whitehead


Fred Whitehead

Fred Whitehead


Walter E. Whitehead

Walter E. Whitehead

 

 

Was the family divided?

There are notes in my family history that there were 2 brothers that fought for the Confederate States of America and another brother that fought for the Union. I have not yet reached the same conclusion, but I hope by writing about them here is that family members might be able to fill in some gaps. I do know that George Wiley and Elijah Dean were both soldiers for the Confederates. William Franklin fought in the Mexican American War.

Joel Whitehead married Mary Polly O’Kelley. Together they had five sons and seven daughters. For this post, I am just going to focus on the brothers.

What I do know about the Whitehead brothers:

 

  • Samuel, Joel’s oldest son, was born about 1821 in Oglethorpe County. He was named after Joel’s father. The last census record that I find him in 1860; he is living in Oglethorpe County, with his wife Savenia. He is listed as a living next door to his mother as a farmer and they show no children residing. He is aged 39 years.
  • William Franklin born about 1826 in Oglethorpe County, he married Pamela Fannie Jones. According to his tombstone, he was in the Mexican American War. This war was between 1846-1848. He fought with Captain Loyall’s Company, the Georgia Mounted Volunteers. The 1870 Census shows William aged 43 with his wife keeping house in Starkville, Oktibbeha Mississippi. It shows that his three children Robert, Margaret and Lasella were born in Mississippi. However, by 1880, the Pamela and her children are back in Georgia, and she is listed as a widow.
  • George Wiley was born 26 January 1829 in Oglethorpe County. George served in the Confederate Army. He was also a County Surveyor. See my previous post (https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/george-wiley-whitehead/)
  • Elijah Dean was born 23 October 1833. He was the fourth son born to Joel and Mary. I have records showing him also fighting for the CSA. He was a Private for the 38th Regiment Georgia Infantry.
  • Charles E. was born in 1841. In the 1880 Census, Charles is listed as blind and living with his brother Elijah in Jackson County. In addition, he is also found on the 1880 Non-population Census for Georgia; Schedule of Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes.

 

Union Soldier Button

Union Soldier Button

csa button

Confederate States of America Button

 

If any of my readers have information about any of these brothers, I would love to hear from you. Until later, I will continue to explore backwards.

Raleigh Hopper Mathews

When Raleigh Hopper Mathews was born on October 30, 1809, in Oglethorpe, Georgia, his father, Littleberry, was 23 and his mother, Jerusha, was 19. Raleigh grew up in Oglethorpe County and lived there his entire life. To give some context to this time period, James Madison was president of the United States. At that time there were 17 states. When Raleigh died, Lincoln was president and the country was at war with each other and there were 34 states in the Union.

 

Confederate States of America flag, circa 1861

Confederate States of America flag, circa 1861

Raleigh or Rolly as it was written on many documents was the oldest son of 14 children. Raleigh married Mary Ann Dowdy on 26 October 1835, in Oglethorpe County (Palmer, 1994). According to records that I could find, they had 11 children. Mary Ann Dowdy (1818-1889) was the daughter of Richard and Nancy E. Jones Dowdy.

Raleigh’s four eldest sons all served in the Confederate States of America. Fleming Jordan Mathews (1836-19908; Surgeon), Francis Marion Mathews (1838-1925), Richmond Butler (1842-1932) and Berriam McPheron Mathews (1843-1864? presumed to have died during the war). The youngest son, James Calvin Mathews (1855-1937) was too young to fight. Raleigh himself died during the first few months of the Civil War, he was only 51 years old.

I keep thinking about Raleigh’s wife, Mary, she would have had to bury her husband, and wake up every day knowing that four of her sons were off at war. The strength she must have had to carry on to attend to her other seven children (Cena Ann (my 2nd great-grandmother), Sarah Jane, Emma Jerusha, Mary Susan, James Calvin, Nancy Ella and Martha E.  Then in 1864, she loses another son Berriam to the war (I am still researching this event).

Additionally, what a financial toll this would have. In the 1860 Census, the value of property for Raleigh was $2000 and the value of his estate was $5000. In the 1870 Census, Mary’s property value was listed as $1000, and the value of her estate was only $500.

Sources:

Genealogy of the Mathews Family of Ancient Wales, England and America by Jerry Mathews Palmer, February 3, 1994.

US Census