From an engraving by John Warner Barber showing the town of Athens, GA from across the Oconee River in 1861
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. 


   Augustus Longstreet Hull, one of Athens, Georgia’s most respected citizens, chronicled much of Athens and Clarke County history in his well-known book, Annals of Athens. His testimony of the Civil War years in the area is very valuable, because he himself witnessed these years and Reconstruction that followed.

   Trying to delineate the anger, grief and wracking Civil War changes in the lives of the residents of Athens and Clarke County is a difficult task. Almost every family had a member who fought, died, or was wounded in many of the most horrific battles fought between the North and the South.  Few men were left at home who did not see military service from 1861 to 1865.

   A compilation of the deaths of Clarke County troops shows they suffered heavy casualties fighting in many of the major battles fought. Lists of those killed in action in some major battles are as follows: Seven Days Battles, June 25-July 1, 1862, 23; Crampton’s Gap, September 14, 1862, 10; Sharpsburg, Sept. 17, 1862, 9; Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, 5; Chancellorsville, May 2-3, 1863, 12; Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, 3; Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, 18; Knoxville, November 29, 1863, 3; The Wilderness, May 4-21, 1864, 14;  and Siege of Petersburg and The Crater, June, 1864-April, 1865, 20. This list is in Kenneth Coleman’s Confederate Athens.

    Athens and its county suffered no damage by military action, although there were a few close calls, as Union units operated near the town. Sherman’s march of devastation from Atlanta to Savannah and into the Carolinas missed Athens. But the loss of life in military action, the wounding of many others and the death by disease or imprisonment in Northern prisons left the majority of Athens and Clarke County families shattered.  On the home front, deprivation of supplies of food, goods and services took a severe toll on the population. And many well-off families sank into poverty. Not only did most of the county’s men serve in Confederate units, but their families made great sacrifices to supply the fighting forces with supplies, clothing, and food.

   Many books could be written solely about the war and its effects just on Athens and Clarke County, but this blog will deal with some questions commonly asked by those seeking to know the cost to those serving in various Athens area Confederate units—the numbers killed in battle or by disease, or wounded.

   Augustus Hull wrote in his Annals that listing the names of those killed or wounded might seem “not interesting” to some of his readers. But, as to most residents, it was a personalized war in which they knew well their fathers, sons, and brothers who sacrificed in a heart-felt cause, he said.

   “Many of those men I knew and the mention of their names bring up memories of other days which throw a halo about them. I recall how they looked as they marched, new uniformed, with alert step, full of life and vigor, and how they stopped to speak the good-bye word; how, afterwards, they toiled on the forced march tattered, half-shod, half starved; how they went bravely into battle and how some came out bloody and faint, and some lay dead,” Hull wrote.

  The casualty totals make it achingly clear to us even 150 years later the catastrophic losses of the Civil War. These numbers aren’t precise for the totals, but estimates are accurate enough to show the magnitude of battle.  It’s estimated that somewhat more than one million men fought for the Confederacy. Of these, about 94,000 died from wounds, while disease killed off an estimated 164,000 more. Those wounded came to approximately 100,000. The Union put more than 1.5 million men into battle. Of this number about 110,000 were mortally wounded; almost a quarter of a million died from disease, and more than 275,000 received non-fatal wounds. These figures come from the respected site at the University of Houston, http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/us20.dfm.

   We can be somewhat more precise when we look at the fearsome cost involving troops from a specific area such as Athens and Clarke County, Georgia. Thorough rosters have been compiled of the units from this area seeing Civil War service. Military records, accounts in local newspapers and personal knowledge of the families have been used to keep track of the casualties from here. One of the most thorough casualty tabulations has been done by Joseph H. Kitchens, Jr., preparing the listing for Prof. Kenneth Coleman in his readable Confederate Athens, re-issued in a 2009 paperback edition by the University of Georgia Press.

   A total of 1,649 men were on the rosters of military units from Athens and Clarke County. Of these, 197, or 11.9 per cent, were killed in battle. Disease was even more deadly than battle, killing 214 or 13.0 per cent. Of the men serving from Athens and Clarke County 364 were wounded, or 22.1 per cent.  All told, approximately 46 per cent, or nearly half of those listed on the rosters were killed in battle, killed by disease or wounded.

The table below, based on Kitchens’ work, shows the figures for those from Athens area units killed in battle, dying from disease or wounded.  It doesn’t include 10 men who were termed “missing.” He based his work on Athens newspapers, The Watchman and The Banner 1861-65 issues, and rosters in a manuscript, “Roster of Companies Furnished by Clarke County Georgia, to the Confederate Army in the War Between the States, 1861-1865,” compiled by Albert L. Mitchell by authority of Clarke County Commissioners T. P. Vincent, W. H. Morton and S. M. Herrington, in 1903. A similar list is used by Hull in his Annals.

Military Unit                             Total Killed in Battle                 Dying from Disease                  Wounded

Athens Guards (143)                                30                                       30                                            63

Troup Artillery (287)                                 15                                       34                                             59

Clarke Rifles (150)                                  28                                        35                                             77

Johnson Guards (145)                           27                                        19                                             69

Cobb’s Legion Cav. (316)                    30                                         30                                             28

Mell Rifles (136)                                     31                                         25                                             42

Highland Guards* (136)                      15                                             9                                             23

Other Units **(75)                                 20                                             9                                             28

Factory Guards*** (110)                        1                                             4                                               3

Lumpkin Artillery*** (151)                     0                                             0                                               0

Grand Totals             1649            197 214              364

* The Highland Guards had troops from Athens, Northeast Georgia and Western North Carolina. Casualties may have been heavier, but were not all reported in local Athens newspapers.

** Athens area men serving in Confederate units other than those from the immediate area.

*** The Factory Guards and Lumpkin Artillery were “home guard” units and did not participate in any major fighting.

   Although it’s difficult to believe,  Athens area residents apparently only learned of the April  9 surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee  on April 26, 1865. Issues of The Watchman and The Banner for that date carried details of Lee’s surrender and of the assassination of President Lincoln. If residents knew earlier, there is no public record of it that we can find.

   Union troops from the 13th Tennessee Regiment raided the town on May 3. Brigadier General William J. Palmer and his troops stopped the raiding and stayed in Athens for several days in May as they hunted for Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. The official occupation of Athens by a small number of Union troops began on May 29—the 22nd Iowa Volunteers under the command of Capt. A. B. Cree.

   Kenneth Coleman puts it quite bluntly in his book: “Henceforth Confederate Athens existed only in the memories of her people.”


Benjamin of Mell suffered mortal wounds at the Battle of Crampton's Gap, Maryland. This photo shows him as a Corporal, but later he was promoted to First Sergeant.