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Ten-Mile Bay: Deserters Stronghold.

Being a chapter of the collection of unpublished accounts referred to as the Griffin Papers (W.H. Griffin Jr., 1863-1932)

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Last edit: 2015-10-11
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Ten-mile Bay. As Mr. Griffin mentioned, the Ten-mile Bay lies east of a line drawn between Alapaha and Nashville. This map shows its position with respect to these two villages; for a southern reference, an asterisk is placed by Avera Mill Pond (nka Lake Lewis), the run from it forming the Allapacoochee Creek (nka Ten-mile Creek), which is the eastern boundary of the W.H. Outlaw Farm. This image shows that a considerable mass of land, not just the Ten-mile Bay per se, is not in field crops because of its swampy nature, which means potential for hiding. (These images were taken from Google Maps and Google Earth, respectively).

Thomas J Christian. Mr. Griffin provided abundant information on Mr. Christian. Out of interest, I confirmed the general outline of Mr. Griffin's description. Thus, Mr. Christian received an exemption in GMD 1157 from service because he was a miller (1864 Census for Re-organizing the Georgia Militia); exemptions were provided to many others, e.g., 42-year-old John Ellis Connell, my 3d greatgrandfather, whose exemption was based on his position as a Justice of the Inferior Court. In the 1850 FC, Mr. Christian was reported in Madison County, FL, and the Slave Schedule shows that he owned 9 people. In the 1860 FC, he was enumerated in Brooks County, GA, and the Slave Schedule lists him as owner of 14 people.

Captain William H. Sharpe. Mr. Griffin provided no details concerning Captain William H. Sharpe. Searching for <William Sharpe>, Confederate, Georgia, yielded four returns, one of which was in the State Guard (the kind of unit I half-way expected). This William Sharpe, however, entered and was discharged as a Private, like two others. The remaining William Sharpe was--according to many public trees on Ancestry--the son of the Lowndes pioneer Hamilton Wynn and Jane Perry Sharpe (see also Shelton's captivating Pines and Pioneers), and the 1850 FC is consistent. He was enumerated in Brooks County in 1860 as a 26-year-old merchant, married, and with a sizeable estate ($13000 in personal property, part of which was accounted for by two slaves, from the Slave Schedule). He became an officer in Co. K ("Brooks County Sons"), 50th Georgia Rgt , and was MIA near Middleton, VA, October 19, 1864 (Inspection Report, Oct 30, 1864) and later confirmed to be a POW. None of the 43 records on Fold3 indicate any assignment in other than the 50th Rgt. After the war, he moved to Brevard County, FL, which is inconsistent with his being murdered in Berrien County. Finally, I located another William H. Sharpe, merchant from Jonesboro, who advocated for the Union and died in 1863, eliminating him, though his estate was awarded claims against the U.S. Government for cotton taken. Various other searches also left me empty-handed; notably, no white male with the last name of Sharpe (or similar) was enumerated in the 1860 FC in Berrien County.

I subscribe to the maxim that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." This principle is certainly if not especially applicable to civil-war records (e.g., my 2d great uncle Isaac S. Watson gave his young life for the Confederacy, but there is nothing to be retrieved from Fold3, the National Park Service, Lastinger's compilation of Berrien Confederates, or . . .). I further stipulate that I have no competency in history and am not a reliable informant on such matters. Notwithstanding, I can neither dismiss a number of coincidences nor embrace two Captain William H. Sharpes in close proximity and that one simply materialized for a few months and as quickly vanished. First, Mr. Christian "harbored" Capt. Sharpe in Berrien County; both had been prominent men in then-adjoining Brooks County and must have known each other before the war. Second, although, as mentioned, Captain William H. Sharpe was assigned to Co K, 50th Georgia Regiment (cf., Co I, "The Berrien Light Infantry"); it is possible that he received a temporary assignment in Berrien County, as did Sergeant Berry J. Connell, my 3d great uncle. If there was indeed only one Capt William H. Sharpe, the story retold by Mr. Griffin had been embellished (as I have encountered in other oral histories). In any case, this detail is not the central thrust of the post, viz. that the priority of many Berrien County men was not fighting. I hasten to add that the latter does not imply infidelity to the South, rather that wide-spread privation must have drawn many home to their families. I do not know the situation in Berrien County, but another south Georgia county levied a special tax on the wealthy to feed families of soldiers (Davidson's The History of Wilkinson County). It was a time of crushing sadness, great want, and continual terror.

Captain Sharpe's correspondence with the governor. On Jun 14, 1864, William Sharpe reported from Nashville, GA, the names of some Berrien men he identified as shirking duty in the CSA military. Later (August 30, 1864), Captain Sharpe wrote (original, my transcript) Governor Brown via General Wayne for assistance in rounding up 40-60 deserters in Berrien County. Specifically, he named James Griffin, Hiram Ray, John D. McCraine and L.A. Folsom as those whose help he sought. In my opinion, these names are important because they--cf. outsiders Christian and presumably Sharpe--were local. For example, James Griffin (1813-1865), with four sons in the war, sold his mills to Mr. Christian (Tharon Griffin's The Descendents of James Griffin and Sarah Lodge), is buried at the Griffin Cemetery (aka Ten-Mile Creek Cemetery, just north of the W.H. Outlaw Farm), owned part of the W.H. Outlaw Farm, and is the grandfather of the Griffin-Papers author, to whom I am related on his maternal side. Likewise, one could detail the bona fides of the others, but the point is made already with fewer burdens to the reader.

The question arises, of course, whether these deserters were Berrien natives. Before more is said, I note, as have wise persons, that none knows the exact circumstances under which a particular desertion occurred, and thus judgement should be reserved. With that laid out, many were probably from Berrien County as Lastinger (The Confederate War) reports many Berrien men who were AWOL or deserters. Griffin himself is explict that deserters had family and friends in the area. The penalty for desertion could be death, as in the wholly immoral and unjustified hanging of Elbert J. Chapman. Thus, the deserters in Berrien had solid grounds for avoiding capture, and motivation to attack Christian's home. On the other hand, some who left the front seemed to not suffer financially or socially later. For example, Lieutenant J.H. Kirby (Co. I, 50th) was AWOL at the end of the war and six years later bought from my family what is now the W.H. Outlaw Farm and the L.S. Watson Farm (deed 1, deed 2).

In corroboration of Sharpe's letters re deserters and dodgers, and of this chapter in the Griffin Papers, refer to an unsigned letter (my easier-to-read version) that was published on page 2 of the March 23 1865 issue of the Albany Patriot (thanks to the University of Georgia). See also "Guerrilla Activity in South Georgia."

Context--a personal view. My first history teacher was Margaret Mitchell; classes at Nashville Elementary were marched single-file to the Majestic theatre to watch Gone with the Wind. . . . more than in one year. In that version of the South, men that mattered were ultrawealthy because of their innate superiority and they treated their women respectfully, the latter being devout, pure, and above all subservient. Slaves were countless, loyal to the last one, and as members of the extended family, adored their owners. When the call to war came, enthusiasm was unanimous and men feared they might miss their chance. Despite having officers who were masterful tacticians and soldiers most gallant, the South inexplicably lost, and with it, Glory. Examples, at least from the plantation owner's perspective, can be cited to support this model. Thus, Reverend Charles Colcock Jones was the patriarch of an operation that comprised several plantations and about 160 slaves. Our family enjoyed "meeting" the Jones family, about 1980, through my reading aloud the unabridged compilation of selected Jones letters (The Children of Pride--the abridged version is on Amazon) plus A Georgian at Princeton. . . . and on my own, I read perhaps 2000 additional pages relating to this history and family (a few books by the son-in-law, Robert Mallard, and histories by Charles Jr.). Nedra and I have "visited" with the Jones at Midway Church several times. I imagine Rev. Jones preaching to a rapt audience, black and white; then, later, the church being converted to a Union abattoir, for convenience and added insult. But, that was there, not Berrien County.

In fact, the enthusiasm for secession (tantamount to a declaration of war, in my opinion) was not unanimous. At one point, the Georgia convention was fairly evenly split; though the final vote (208:89) was decisive, a sizeable minority, 30%, of delegates favored cooperating with the Union. Among those who favored leaving the Union, not all were ready to die for the cause. The two signatories from Berrien County were Major John C. Lamb, who was killed in Jackson, MS, and Woodford J. Mabry, who went to Texas without serving in the military as far as I could find. A modern act, also tantamount to a declaration of war, is an instructive comparable. The Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq (2002) was passed in the House with 31% opposition (most Republicans favored it; the majority of Democrats opposed it) and passed in the Senate with 23% opposition (most Republicans favored it; even the majority of Democrats favored it). Both of these decisions to go to war were monumental blunders and caused horrific suffering. The casualties in these two actions were nominally equivalent, in the range of 600,000. In summary, not all Georgians wanted war just as not all Americans wanted to bed down with Bush, Bolton, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz when we lost our way. Politics matter.

In fact, the affluence obtained through slavery enjoyed by a minority elsewhere did not extend, at least in any general sense, to Berrien County. Ownership of slaves was atypical; this map (edited from the Library of Congress) shows that the slave population in Berrien County was low, 12.5% of the total population. In 1860, Thomas Wyley (n=23) and John Carroll (n=20) (1860 Slave Schedule) stood out as owning the most slaves. Obviously most Berrien Confederates did not fight to keep their slaves, and many chose for whatever reason to leave the military. Among others who remained in the military, I speculate that some did so under duress, not through choice. Unfortunately, some of my ancestors (Claiborn Carroll, Berry C. Thompson) owned slaves, but fortunately none of the advantages survived to my generation. On the other hand, disadvantages to the descendents of my ancestor's slaves are affronts to all of us. If amends should be made, my family did their part (e.g., my 2d great grandfather Newton J. Sutton, not a slave owner but the father of four, died in Virginia in 1864).

Absent slaves, artificial power sources and wealth, life was a struggle for the typical antebellum Berrien Countian and by no stretch resembled the liesurely (and superficial) life at Tara. Judge Ellis Connell May described (Gaters, Skeeters, and Malary) his family's situation, and with particular relevance to me because they lived on a land lot that joined the one (222/10th) that the most of the W.H. Outlaw Farm is in. Suffice it to note that the detached "kitchen" was log with only an opening (no door) and cooking was done over an open fire. They had to attend to basic needs manually (e.g., soap making, weaving, ginning, and the list goes on). Sometimes, I am at a loss to explain their survival.

I am responsible for what I say and write. Please let me know of errors so that I may correct them and avoid the all-too-frequent embarrassment my carelessness causes me.

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