From an engraving by John Warner Barber showing the town of Athens, GA from across the Oconee River in 1861
A WONDERFUL SOURCE OF HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL INFORMATION:
Prof. Robert Scott Davis
Whether you call it
researching or pleasant dabbling, hunting down information for history and genealogy questions can be a major project for thousands of Americans. A lot of their work would be a thousand times more difficult if it weren’t for the dedicated band of persons who spend tedious months and years finding, abstracting and publishing old records from local and state agencies.
Basically, the persons who meticulously work to make records public and convenient for use by hobbyists and researchers are really the “unsung heroes” in history and genealogy, especially on the local or state level. One of the top experts making this a major part of his life is Prof. Robert Scott Davis, director of the Family and Regional History Program, Wallace State Community College, Hanceville, Alabama. Professor Davis has written more than 1,000 books and articles on records and research. He carefully cites his sources and indexes the hundreds of thousands of names occurring in local records. Using one of his books of records is like successfully hunting for nuggets of gold in family history. While more and more records are becoming available on-line, there are still vast quantities not on the Web, and the collections in print are very valuable. Professor Davis doesn’t know me, and I have never met him—but I can sure tell good work and research when I see it. He has been amazingly helpful to thousands of genealogists, history buffs and others.
Clarke County and residents of the surrounding area are lucky Professor Davis has dug out many Clarke County records which otherwise would languish in musty files sometimes very difficult to find. He is a marvelous detective at sniffing out old records and saving them for easy use.
Since this is a blog about Civil War and Reconstruction period history in Clarke County, Georgia, we’ll zero-in on just one of his incredibly useful publications: Records of Clarke County, Georgia, 1801-1892, in the Georgia Department of Archives and History.
(Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1993). Not everyone can dash over to the Department of Archives and History in Morrow, Georgia, especially now that its public hours have been slashed by the state budget crunch. For those of you who want to visit, here is the location and Web listing for the Georgia Archives. Note carefully the brief times the facility is open for research: 5800 Jonesboro Road,
Morrow, GA 30260,
, Open Friday - Saturday
8:30 - 5:00,
Just one section of the rich records trove Professor Davis has dug out from the state archives concentrates on information about Confederate soldiers and their relatives. In some cases, these records involve returning veterans after the war was over. If you’re interested in tracing your Clarke Confederate ancestors, the chances are good you’ll run across mentions of them in the Clarke County records housed in the State Archives and published in Professor Davis’ Clarke County book.
Of most interest to seekers of Civil War era information about relatives and friends in Clarke County are Record Group 129-2-4 Miscellaneous, Box 2: Civil War Era Files. Professor Davis did detailed searches of this record group at the Georgia State Archives.
Here are some highlights of records he found involving Civil War and later time periods involving those with involvement in the era: Amnesty Oaths
with 358 names of Clarke and a few other area residents who swore allegiance to the federal government after the war ended in 1865. Professor Davis also notes that physical descriptions and signatures of these persons are found in Microfilm Reel 287/40-8 at the Georgia Archives. His list of oath signers contains the names and ages of the signers. Confederate Veterans Receiving Artificial Limbs in 1867 in Clarke County
: 19 names. Extensive Confederate Records, 1862-1892
: Includes: Names of Confederate widows, 27 names. Guardians or persons having charge of orphan of deceased soldier
: 29 names. Persons dependent upon deceased soldiers for support:
4 names. Soldiers crippled for life
: 1 name. Aged or infirm white persons
: 13 names. I assume these are persons dependent upon Confederate veterans. On the back of this list are 23 names of African-Americans. A long list of widows, wives and infirm persons and their families
whose service in the Confederate Army caused much hardship for the families in Clarke County. A list of persons entitled to receive salt from the Confederate government
. Salt was in tremendously short supply in the Confederate states during the war. Lists of more aged and infirm persons, persons dependent on soldiers for support, soldiers’ widows, more guardians of orphans of deceased soldiers
. A list of citizens made destitute by the war, as of April 15, 1864
. Sixty-six names of whites and 42 names of African-Americans. A long list of classes of priority for aid to families of Confederate soldiers.
These gave the reason for the priority of each case. This list contains hundreds of names, listed by militia district. Destitute Confederate Soldiers and other destitute citizens
, as of June, 1867. A long list of widows, wives and families with sons in military service
As you can see, Professor Davis’s book and the records of the Georgia Archives can be of tremendous help in tracing activities of your Civil War and Reconstruction era relatives.
If you would like to obtain this book, call the Southern Historical Press at 1-800-233-0152
to obtain prices (reasonable) and place your order. You can’t order online from this press yet, but it has hundreds of excellent books of interest to genealogists and historians.
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!
This ruined chimney is on the Jewel farm in Oglethorpe County, Georgia (Photo by Tom Gresham)
Photo of infamous Andersonville Prison, where the Echols Light Artillery did a brief tour of duty. (National Archives)
Any blog has to answer the question, "What's in it for the reader?" Of course it also has to answer the author's question, "What's in it for me?" I hope the answers to these questions will be positive for readers and for me. The subjects of these blogs may range from the ridiculous to the sublime—but they basically will deal with history and from time to time some culture, too. As you can tell, my Web pages are mostly about Civil War and Reconstruction subjects and incidents. They are, obviously, also about selling two of my books. Writing local histories is a labor of love, and I can say nobody gets rich doing it.
The Internet has made it possible for us to reach a great many more persons than writing a small-press-run book and hiding it in the cobwebbed stacks of miscellaneous libraries. Blogs on the Internet put a lot of chaff out there for others to see and read. But they do offer an unparalleled opportunity to reach some Web users interested in subjects bonding them together. I hope these blogs, more or less to be aired each week will pique your interest and keep you coming back for more.
There's nothing an author likes to do more than get the viewer's or reader's interest. If he or she can do this, the Web user may be put into a jocular frame of mine to put up with a writer. Each blog will probably contain a lively treatment of some off-beat or little-known incident in Athens or Clarke County during the Civil War or Reconstruction. Here's the first one:
The Confederate Veteran Who Taught Ex-Slaves in a Yankee Freedmen's Bureau School in Athens, Georgia—and a Union drum major who taught ex-slaves in Athens
The Yankee Drum Major: Less than two months after the Civil War ended, an Yankee Union Army drum major from New York was busily teaching what seems to have been the first Freedmen's Bureau school for African American ex-slaves in Athens. Perhaps even more surprisingly, a Confederate veteran from an old Athens family took a job just days later teaching ex-slaves in another Freedmen's Bureau school. Both men began their teaching careers in August, 1865, when Athens was still under occupation by units of the Union Army.
Lt. Col. Homer B. Sprague of the 13th Connecticut Infantry Regiment of Volunteers served as the first Freedmen's Bureau agent in Athens, although he was on active duty with occupation forces here in 1865. He encouraged the earliest efforts to educate ex-slaves in Athens and Clarke County. Blacks ardently wished to become literate. It had been illegal during slavery. Most white citizens didn't want ex-slaves educated and gave almost no support to efforts by the federal government to do so, or to efforts by such groups as the American Missionary Association, which furnished many of the teachers for ex-slaves throughout the South.
The Yankee drum major was Bernard P. Jacobs, about 22 years old when he saw duty in Athens with the 156th Regiment, New York Volunteers. He was mustered in as drummer, Co. I, Nov. 18, 1862. He was promoted to fife major on that same date, and made regimental Drum Major Feb. 19, 1864. (From files of the Adjutant General of New York, 1904, and records in the Athens Freedmen's Bureau correspondence.)
"The Colored School of Athens (at the Colored Baptist Church) was opened on the 10th of August, 1865, taken charge of, conducted by Mr. Barnerd [sic] J. [sic] Jackobs [sic], Drum Major of the 156th Regt., New York Volunteers. . ," the Rev. William Finch, a prominent African-American leader in Athens wrote to Freedmen's Bureau Supt. of Georgia Schools, G. I. Eberhart. There were about 60 to 70 pupils in this first black school.
"I don' think that children by any means made more rappid [sic] progress than they have done under Mr. Jacob's teaching. He has become a great favorite among the colored people. . . by his gentlemanly conduct and general good behavior and I know the colored people of Athens would do anything to have Mr. Jacobs come again, after him being discharged from the service of the United States. I don't suppose that any colored school has been opened any where under more difficult circumstances than his without any help and hardly any books," the Rev. Mr. Finch said. Jacobs was mustered out on Oct. 23, 1865.
The Confederate Veteran: Leonard S. Schevenell, a member of an early Athens family headed by Richard Schevenell, had enlisted in Company G of the North Carolina Infantry, also called the Highland Guards. He joined at age 18. A number of Athens men had joined the 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, as had Schevenell. He mustered in on April 1862. He mustered out on April 9, 1865, the day Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Schevenell didn't go into details about why he wanted to teach. He must have taken severe criticism from white townspeople for teaching blacks. Richard Schevenell, Leonard's father, had one 61-year-old female slave, according to the enumeration in the 1860 Federal Census.
"I am a white man and the only Southern man I know of engaged in teaching Freedmen," he wrote to Eberhart on Nov. 2, 1865. Schevenell said he began teaching in Athens on Aug. 14, 1865 ". . . on which day I organized the school of which I now have charge." He had 26 pupils. His school met in an African-American church. "There is a general disposition among the colored people to educate their children but very few of them are able to pay for their tuition [$1 per month per student]. The children progress very well in their studies as in general they pay more attention to their lesson than white children," he wrote the school superintendent.
"Being dependant [sic] on my labor for a support I fear I shall have to discontinue my school activities as the amount that I receive for tiuition is insufficient," Schevenell explained.
The Confederate veteran was criticized in a letter written to Supt. Eberhard by Daniel Hough: "The other school is taught by Mr. L. Schevenell, a Confederate soldier, and in my opinion does not amount to much. I don't think he will continue."
Schevenell remained in Athens for many years, but not teaching school. He worked at various times as a bookkeeper and carpenter, and was employed by the Athens Evening News. On Dec. 16, 1904, the Athens Weekly Banner reported his death, saying he died Dec. 8, 1904, falling from the Georgia Railroad trestle into the Oconee River. He is buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens.
This unlikely pair of Yankee drum major and Confederate Infantry veteran were the forerunners in what would become a major effort to give African Americans an education. During Reconstruction and afterward, many schools gave blacks their first education, long before the whites in Athens had public schools. Whites were also invited to attend Freedmen's Bureau schools, but there is no record any of them wanted to be educated with blacks.
These are mere vignettes of brief teaching careers, but we wonder what motivated the New Yorker and the Athenian to teach black children in Athens. Union military unit members also taught in other Freedmen's Bureau schools and received encouragement to do so. Schevenell, a returning veteran, seemed to count on the low pay to support himself. Jobs were few and far between in Athens that soon after the Civil War.