Published Saturday, March 02, 2013

Cowetans share Civil War-era items


Cowetans brought Civil War-era treasures, including treasured family heirlooms and metal detector finds, to the Carnegie in Newnan on Thursday for a show-and-tell, part of the final lecture of the Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation’s Edgar B. Hollis Distinguished Lecturer Series for 2012-2013.

The show-and-tell was held before the lecture and other Civil War “discovery” events, which featured a talk from Mary Ellen Brooks, historian and director emeritus of the Hargett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia.

Carol Burke brought a love letter that she found among her great aunt’s things. The letter was written to Burke’s great grandmother. It included a poem proposing marriage from a man named George Mitchell.

Burke isn’t sure who Mitchell was — he wasn’t her great grandfather. “That’s what makes it interesting,” Burke said.

Apparently, she turned him down. “But she didn’t throw it away, did she?” Burke asked with a smile. At the time, Mitchell was stationed in Vicksburg, Miss., and her great grandmother was at the Port Gibson Female College between Vicksburg and Natchez.

Later, Joan Achee and Jan Bowyer tried to read the ornate script and figure out exactly what it said.

“It’s a sweet letter,” said Bowyer. “It’s beautiful,” added Achee.

Doug Newberry has been metal detecting for about 15 years, and has found a number of Civil War-era artifacts in Coweta. His most recent find is an intact small cannon ball. He also brought two rusty stirrups and several smaller items, including Minie balls, rings and other pieces of jewelry, pocket watches, belt buckles, buttons, and part of a gun.

Ben Grubbs found half of a cannon ball in a rather unexpected place — a parking lot. But it wasn’t as unusual as it might seem, as the parking lot was located near the site of the Battle of Brown’s Mill. “It had been fired and it broke half in two, when it hit what it hit,” Grubbs said.

When he was a boy, Grubbs and his brother found the remains of a bugle stamped CSA, for Confederate States of America. They had been walking in a creek when he stepped on it. His brother was older, and he ended up getting it, and selling it. Grubbs said he was hoping its new owner would have brought it to Thursday’s event.

Lauren Jones presented a handbill from May 1, 1861, that was found in her husband’s mother’s attic.

It was a notice to the employees of the Virginia Central Railroad informing them of an order issued by the governor that exempted them from military duty and required them to stay at their posts.

The executive order states that “no person now engaged in the capacity of operator in any one of the Telegraph offices or on any of the railroads of the State shall leave his post for the purpose of engaging in military operations, without leave first obtained from the Executive.”

Emily Miller Wilbert had the metal parts of an 1844 North carbine that one of her relatives used in the Civil War.

The gun was the only Civil War artifact that survived a house fire, Wilbert said. Two trunks of mementos from the Confederate soldier, Confederate money, and two dolls burned.

She doesn’t know which relative used it, because, as a girl, she never paid attention when her grandmother and aunts talked about such things. Her grandmother was Sonora Polk Camp, from Coweta, but Wilbert grew up in Ohio. “I was just bored to tears,” listening to them, she said. At the time, it just seemed like “three old ladies gossiping.”

“All the ones who listened are dead,” Wilbert said, but her sister has plans to do a lot of genealogical research when she retires.

Wilbert urged those present to always listen to stories from the past.

“We are the ones who have World War II veterans for parents. We better start listening,” she said.

Sam Edwards brought pages of hospital records from the field hospitals that operated in Newnan during the war.

Not all the soldiers treated were shot. Many were treated for disease.

After the war, the records actually ended up at the University of Texas, Edwards said. Several years ago, Cowetan Kerry Elliot discovered them and ordered copies. He wasn’t expecting $500 worth of copies, Edwards said. So he contacted the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society and offered to donate the records, if they would help him pay for them. Copies are at the Male Academy Museum and the Coweta County Genealogical Society.

Tommy Hooks had a few items, including a letter from a cousin to his grandfather’s grandfather, in 1863. It tells a lot about camp life.

He also has the will that his great-great-grandfather wrote before enlisting. His great-great-grandfather was on his way home for a short furlough but didn’t make it; he was hospitalized and died in Florida. The third item was an inventory of his personal belongings at the time of his death.

“My mother had those rolled up in a little box,” Hooks said.

Patti Durden had some bonds that were sold to raise money for the CSA. If the investors had ever gotten paid back, they would have made a nice profit — 7 percent.

Herb Bridges had a photo of General George Stoneman. The photo is signed and Bridges said he was hoping someone would be able to tell him if it was an original signature.

One gentlemen had a copy of a book written by Gen. Joe Johnston. Johnston commanded the Army of Tennessee in the defense of Atlanta until he was relieved of his command and replaced by Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood on July 17, 1864.

The gentleman said his grandfather, a Civil War buff, acquired the book, and it was passed down to him. The book includes battle plans. He said that only five original copies are left — his and four that are in museums.

“I’ve never had an opportunity to show it to anybody,” he said.

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