Manassas celebration to use face of soldier from Coweta County

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The central focus of the logo for the Civil War sesquicentennial celebration in Manassas, Va. features the image of William Sanford Askew, a Coweta County native who became a prominent Newnan businessman after the conflict.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER winston@newnan.com The face of a Confederate soldier from Coweta County has been incorporated into the logo inviting people to celebrate the Civil War sesquicentennial in the Virginia town of Manassas. Allan Guy, the artist who designed the logo, chose the image of William Sanford Askew because of his haunting eyes. Askew was born in Coweta County and returned to the county after the war.
According to Lisa Sievel-Otten of the Manassas Museum, Guy's task was to "put a face on the commemoration of a war that left 600,000 Americans dead, and that still sparks emotional debate." Guy said he tried to put a human face on the conflict. "I wanted to give some humanity to what went on here. This is not just a date in a history book," he said. At first, Guy explored imagery such as period flags, buttons -- even belt buckles. It was when he began searching through Library of Congress images of men and women of the Civil War era that Guy knew he had the centerpiece of the design. "I searched through a lot of images -- men and women -- with compelling faces, but this boy's eyes just shot out at you. This kid has the combination of age and eyes that are most direct," Guy explained. "A face like that is beyond comparison to even a period object or historic house. I wanted to make sure it had warmth because all too often history seems dead and gone." Guy grew up in Manassas, where two major Civil War battles took place in 1861 and 1862. He began his professional career in New York after earning a degree in fine arts from East Carolina University, but returned to Manassas and started his own business several years ago. William Sanford Askew was born in Coweta County on New Year's day in 1841, the son of James and Maria Connell Askew. He was named for his grandfather, one of the county's early settlers. At age 20, he enlisted in Company A of the 1st Georgia Volunteer Infantry in May 1861. He was later promoted to a full fourth corporal after his service in Virginia. T. F. Jones, another Confederate veteran from Coweta, wrote decades later in The Newnan Herald, predecessor of The Times-Herald, about that time: "In May 1861, 12 jolly young men boarded the train at Newnan for Pensacola, Fla., as recruits for the Newnan Guards. In the squad were four pairs of brothers, A. D. and Billy Freeman, Joe Nat and Billy Beadles, John D. and Lavender R. Ray, Minor and J. V. Davis. The other four were nearly the same as brothers -- George W. Ramey, W. S. Askew, Abner Calhoun and the writer. These boys were brave in war and lovable in peace. I still cherish the memory of their numerous kind and noble deeds." The month after Askew and his peers joined, their unit was in Richmond, Va., when they were reviewed by Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis and Virginia Gov. John Letcher, according to Sievel-Otten. "The battle of Big Bethel occurred during their short stay at Richmond and was hailed as a great victory," she said. The unit later was moved to what is now West Virginia -- making their camp high in the Allegheny Mountains at Laurel Hill, where they tried to protect Virginia from Union attack. "Union forces under General George B. McClellan soon approached and overpowered their positions, and the First Georgia led a retreat," Sievel-Otten said. During that summer of 1861, the unit moved south, hampered by torrential rains. Union forces caught up with them at Kalers Ford, a crossing of the Cheat River. Six companies from the First Georgia, including Askew's, were cut off from the rest of the army. "Rather than surrender, they decided to climb the steep mountains behind them, where the 400 soldiers quickly became lost in the wilderness," Sievel-Otten said. It is said the men were chewed strips of shoe leather and bark from laurel and spruce trees to alleviate their hunger. With help from a local, the Georgians escaped down rivers and over mountain paths to Monterey, Va., where they rejoined their comrades. It was in Monterey that Askew mustered out of his unit on Aug. 21, 1861. On May 2, 1862, Askew joined F Company of the Georgia 16th Battalion Cavalry. With his new unit, Askew became part of Gen. John Hunt Morgan's brigade for three daring raids into Kentucky. On July 8, 1862, they slipped out of Celina, Tenn., during the night, to begin the First Kentucky Raid. They surprised the Union Garrison in Tompkinsville, captured Union soldiers and marched northward through Kentucky, plundering and terrorizing the towns of Lebanon and Springfield. Morgan continued his guerrilla tactics with a Christmas Raid on Dec. 23, leading nearly 4,000 men. They crossed into Kentucky, capturing a small Union force at Glasgow and fought on Christmas Day at Bear Wallow near Cave City. "Morgan then captured Elizabethtown, and destroyed Union rail supply lines," Sievel-Otten said. "Morgan and his men escaped under heavy pursuit." Sievel-Otten said Askew may have been captured during a raid in Kentucky in July 1863. Records show him listed as a prisoner of war on Dec. 4, 1863, in Knoxville, Tenn. He was transferred to Camp Morton in Indianapolis, "a Union prison camp where squalid conditions and deprivation greeted Confederate prisoners," Sievel-Otten said. He later was moved to the Fort Delaware prison camp, where about 2,700 Confederate soldiers died. Askew was paroled on Feb. 15, 1865, at Fort Delaware, and formally exchanged at Boulware's Wharf -- outside Richmond, Va. -- on March 10, 1865. Sievel-Otten noted the irony that Askew never fought in either of the battles at Manassas. Frank Wilkinson of Haralson is Askew's great-grandson. His grandmother was Askew's oldest child, Olive Askew Wilkinson. "She used to tell me everything. I wish I had taped it," he said. Wilkinson's sister, Olive Turnipseed of Lansdale, Penn., also recalled the family sharing stories about William Sanford Askew's wartime experiences. "We would sit at our grandmother's around the stove in the evenings, and the family talked about all sorts of stories," Turnipseed recalled. She remembered there was a story about "floating down the river to blow up a Yankee boat," but Turnipseed does not remember the details. "I was one of the children. This was the adults talking," she said. The stories "were fascinating to me," she added. W. S. Askew returned to Georgia after the war and married Samantha Scroggins on March 3, 1867. They had three children -- Olive Wilkinson, Eugene Askew and Annie McRitchie. There also were two sons, James and Willliam who died as infants. The Askew children who lived to adulthood "lived in a row on LaGrange Street," Turnipseed remembered. Edgar Hollis, whose estate is expected to benefit the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, was a grandson of Annie McRitchie. In 1995, Hollis wrote Turnipseed a note -- recalling that grandsons of W. S. Askew enjoyed playing outdoors with Askew's sword from his war days. The sword has since disappeared. "It would be a prize relic," Turnipseed said. In the early years of his marriage, W. S. Askew was a farmer. Samantha Scroggins Askew died Jan. 15, 1879, and is buried at historic Emory Chapel United Methodist Church in the Dresden community in western Coweta County. W. S. Askew subsequently married her sister, Sarah, who was called Sallie. "Although Aunt Sallie never had children of her own, she was loved and remembered by Askew children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews for her unselfish character," according to the 1988 "History of Coweta County, Georgia." "Coweta Chronicles," a 1928 history of the county, noted that W.S. Askew and William L. Cruce started the Newnan Corn Mills in 1891, building a two-story building "with a capacity of 299 bushels at day." Askew later bought Cruce's share. "Chronicles" also noted Askew's new flour mills "went into operation in early August" 1898. William S. Askew died April 19, 1917. "Chronicles" related he was "one of the Newnan Guards in the War between the States," as well as "a useful business man of Newnan." Sallie Askew survived until 1923, and both are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. Now William Sanford Askew's face will be seen on publications, advertising, stationery, street banners and T-shirts as visitors come to Manassas to remember the war in which he fought.


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