I presume that countries in Europe, Africa and Asia have commemorative dates with long titles since they’ve been around (and inhabited and ruled and governed) for much longer than 250 years. Perhaps they have been around for so long they can’t trace their nations back to their origins.
I had never before heard such a word until 1983. It breaks down by syllable, Latin of course, to mean 250 years. Semi means half, quin translates to five, and centenary to 100; thus, half of 500. Pronunciation is yet another hurdle.
My library co-worker and I decided to be together anytime we had to use the word. She would say “sem- i-quin” and I would add “cen-TEN-a-ry.” By the end of February, we had mastered the word to go solo.
All that to say that we all need to be aware of this year’s commemorative events. It has been 150 years since a few generals from the Northern hinterlands paid the Atlanta area, including Cherokee County, a not-so-friendly visit and brought thousands of their friends with them.
Those generals were not of the same ilk as Gen. Oglethorpe. They had no designs on the colonization of our land. The battles were designed to bring us to our knees as the “visitors” fought to preserve the Union.
There’s no reason to fight the war again, but it behooves us to continue to preserve the sites and stories that are an integral part of our history. We are a union now; our name is The United States of America. Although the word “states” is a part of our name, since the end of the Civil War our name is a singular noun.
Where we were once just a bunch of states, the United States were just that, a bunch of states, plural. But, once we were truly united, the United States was a union, no longer at war with each other, no longer a jumble of states, but rather one country. We went from “the United States are” to “the United States is.”
But I digress. The word for now is sesquicentenary, or, as some prefer, sesquicentennial. Somewhat simpler than the word for 250, it combines sesqui, Latin for “one-and-a-half again” with centenary for one hundred.
Other commemorative events in neighboring Southern states have been in progress since the 150th anniversary of their battles, but war did not come to Georgia’s soil until 1863/1864.
In the century-and-a-half since then, local Civil War relic hunters and enthusiasts have been unrelenting in their efforts at finding and preserving the remaining artifacts from this crucial segment of our nation’s history.
Groups such as Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and various historical societies are constantly involved in presenting programs, searching and researching family histories and other records and publishing new books and articles.
They say that more books have been written about the Civil War than any other one subject, and with each commemorative event, more and more are added. Watch for an upcoming book to be published soon about the battles and skirmishes in Cherokee County in June 1864. You may be surprised to discover the importance of the events here as Gen. Sherman made his way south.
One aspect of research is always the possibility of error. It has been brought to my attention that an event mentioned in Georgia’s Woodstock, a history of Woodstock authored by Felicia Whitmore for Woodstock’s Centennial in 1997, happened not in our Woodstock, but in an Oglethorpe County community which was unincorporated at the time.
As with any such printed error, it is too late to make that correction in every volume. It seems the truth of the matter is that Gen. John C. Breckinridge did, as stated, deliver a farewell address in a Georgia community called Woodstock on May 7, 1865, almost a year after battles in Cherokee County.
He told the soldiers that the war was over and there was no use fighting any more. But the Woodstock where he spoke was between Lexington and Crawfordville.
The settlement had originated around 1829. When the citizens later petitioned for a post office, there was already a Woodstock; it was in Cherokee County and had a postmaster since 1833. Thus the southeast Georgia Woodstock disappeared from maps, replaced by Philomath, Georgia… a story for another day.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.