Thousands of books have been written about heroes of Civil War battles. In this the 150th anniversary year of the start of the Civil War, such books proliferate like rabbits—and some make good reading.
   But an Athens, Georgia, author, Gary Doster, has just published a book which tells us a lot about a different kind of hero in the war—the stubborn Confederate soldiers who kept to their duty, although their biggest enemies were boredom, often fatal illnesses, dumb officers, and lack of furloughs.
   Gary has produced a wonderful book about a bunch of Georgia Civil War troops, mainly from Oglethorpe County and Greene County, Georgia, near Athens and Clarke County, who found themselves almost forgotten, mainly in Florida during the war. Through hard work and a lot of good luck, Gary tells us their stories in Dear Sallie. . .: The Letters of Confederate Private James Jewell, Echols Light Artillery, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. This book, 360 pages long, is a marvelous collection of letters Private Jewell wrote to his family back home in Oglethorpe County, GA, and letters they wrote to him. So in a way, Private Jewel and his family members basically wrote the book themselves through their letters, although the letters were never meant for publication. Private Jewel was from a farm in rural Oglethorpe County.
   Culminating years of work, Gary ran down 120 letters from Pvt. Jewel or members of his family to him. Most of these Gary was lucky enough to obtain through a dealer, and some he tracked down at Emory University in Atlanta. Getting the letters and publishing this first-hand account of the Civil War, mainly in Florida, is a major contribution to Civil War history. 
   Gary's soft-cover book also has good maps showing where the Echols Artillery served, and he has located several hitherto unknown military sites from the letters indicating Confederate camps in Florida. The book also contains a photograph of the grave of his "Aunt Sallie Jewel" and a picture of a ruined chimney on the old Jewel property in Oglethorpe County. Unfortunately no photos of Private Jewel, his wife, Eliza, or of his sister Sallie, to whom he wrote the majority of his surviving letters, are available.
   Any veteran in our armed services knows well some of the difficulties Pvt. Jewel faced in his long service in Florida. They frequently suffered from the military's "hurry-up-and-wait" attitudes, poor decisions or lack of decisions by commanding officers, and the inability to get furlough time to see a wife and family at home. Pvt. Jewel's letters frequently graphically point out the administrative and supply problems, which modern veterans had a name for: SNAFU.  It's too graphic a term to translate for non-vets.
   The Echols Light  Artillery's main duty stations were in Florida until late in the war. You might say that Florida was considered "the back-door of the Confederacy," to be guarded but denied most of the resources given to more strategic areas. Main enemies for Private Jewel weren't Yankees. They were malaria, diarrhea, and a host of other illnesses, lack of attention by the Confederate government, and sheer boredom of routine.  Sometimes the Echols Artlillery members couldn't even figure out why they were in Florida. At other times, they were placed there to guard vital salt works, guard rivers against attack, and to stymie Union advances into the state.
   Florida was the site of some important Civil War conflicts, but only a few minor contacts characteriized activities of the Georgia unit to which Private Jewel belonged.The unit was formed in 1862.
   It wasn't until almost the end of the war that his outfitl moved out of Florida and did indeed fight some of the last battles in South and North Carolina shortly before Lee's surrender in April, 1865. His unit  served under Gen. William J. Hardee, who made a stand at Averasboro, North Carolina, on March 16, 1865. 
   The story of Private Jewel is unfinished. Sadly there was no closure for his wife and family—and for us. According to an article in the  Aug. 7, 1885, issue of the Oglethorpe Echo, Lexington, GA, newspaper, written by two veterans of the unit, C. M. Witcher and M. B. Amason,  Private Jewel disappeared, apparently missing in action.
   "How he met his end is unknown," Gary Doster writes, drawing on the veterans' recollections. "Nathan M. Eberhart was killed, and I. H. Webb and J. H. Tiller, Jr. wounded, and James Jewel missing and never afterwards heard from."
   His wife, Eliza, filing for a Confederate widow's pension in 1891, indicated her husband was sent to a hospital at Smithfield, North Carolina, "and that he has never been seen or heard from since that time."
  Lack of space precludes quotes from the letters and a description of Private Jewel's activities, mainly in Florida. Florida Civil War researchers will find a wealth of information about where Confederate units were stationed there and their activities.     
   Dear Sallie. . . should be a standard reference for anyone interested in either the war in Florida or its effects on many of the men serving in the Echols Artillery from Georgia.
   The book is available at $24.95 from AngleValleyPress.com, or from Amazon.com and many book stores at varying prices.
Dear Sallie: The Letters of Confederate Private James Jewel, Echols Light Artillery, Oglethorpe County, Georgia by Gary L. Doster              copyright 2011 foreword by Dr. William Warren Rogers.
6 x 9 softcover, 360 pages, 6 maps, 4 photos, appendices, genealogy information, [ECHOLS] bibliography, index.
FIRST LETTERS EVER PUBLISHED FROM THIS  BATTERY NOW AVAILABLE - PRICE $24.95 from AngleValley Press. Author signed 1st edition includes FREE Shipping/Handling and no tax for website and mail orders.
NOT AVAILABLE for Phone Orders! Internet & Mail Order Only!



   
   
Picture
This ruined chimney is on the Jewel farm in Oglethorpe County, Georgia (Photo by Tom Gresham)
Picture
Photo of infamous Andersonville Prison, where the Echols Light Artillery did a brief tour of duty. (National Archives)
12/12/2011 10:56:18 pm

Al, Thank you for your excellent synopsis of Gary's book. The first time I read the James Jewel letters with Gary's excellent edit and footnote work, I knew that we needed to publish this book due to the large amount of new info detailed in the letters.

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Nick Soriano
9/18/2015 05:19:09 am

Good Day to you Sir, I own a home in Oglethorpe County on Harris Rd, I have lived there about 18 years now and I have become interested in the history of the area. By chance do you know of any confederate troop movements on or around Harris Rd near Sandy Cross? Or if there were any encampments? I would like to use a metal detector on my property to see if there might be any relics from the civil war but if there was no history of any troops in the area it might be a waste of time. Nay help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I only own 5 acres

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