Whatever that number may have been in the past, this year of the sesquicentennial of the Late Unpleasantness, has been cause for an increase in published accounts.
Writers have been inspired, and readers have shown a new interest in all aspects of the war.
Here in Cherokee County, a special sesquicentennial committee was formed, and out of that committee some plans were formulated and some activities planned that would appropriately honor this segment of Cherokee County’s history. We all know of Gettysburg and Antietam and Vicksburg. They all seem so far away. Even the Battle of Atlanta seems not to be that close to home.
But in two books published recently, we can envision the War and its aftermath here, on our hills and fields, affecting our own ancestors. It was on this very ground and with these local people that daily lives during that time have been captured in words and photos.
Gerald Flinchum’s “Creeks, Clashes & Crossroads” carries us into battle and into the hearts and heads of the participants, from the foot soldier to Stonewall Jackson himself, and from the housewife who stood her ground to the plantation owner John Miller McAfee. Sub-titled “Civil War Skirmishes in North Cobb and Cherokee Counties,” its locales and settings will be familiar to local readers who will also be able to recognize names that may not have had particular meaning heretofore.
The other book, authored mainly by members of the committee, is titled “Cherokee County Voices from the Civil War.” It is, in actuality, just that — voices directly from the War. One section contains letters from Confederate soldier John Beavers to his wife, Mary, interspersed with family relationships and other background information and with matters of record, some confirmed with illustrations of records.
One sentence highlighted the severity of the situation: “Halfway through the war, Cherokee County had 93 widows of soldiers, and 218 children under the age of 12 left fatherless.”
The 1860 population is listed as 11,291, double the 1840 number. But the next census, 1870, shows the population dropping to 10,399.
Beavers gives voice to his concerns. He was 26 years old when he enlisted on Feb. 27, 1862. He has been described as six feet tall with dark hair, yellow eyes and a dark complexion. He had married Mary Westbrook on March 22, 1861. They were expecting their first child when he went away to battle.
He survived the war, serving until May 12, 1865. He and Mary had five children. He died in 1914, and Mary died in 1927. His many wartime letters reveal a man of compassion who grieved when his comrades suffered. He feared for the safety of his family and for the ravages of weather and war that might destroy his crops back home.
Upon the birth of his son back home, he sent Mary a lock of his hair and asked that she send him a lock of their son’s and a braid of her own. He sent descriptions of battles and living conditions, and was impatient for the war to end. In one letter he suggests that he might desert or go AWOL.
“Mary, you need not be surprised to see me walke up some time before long … I can get home anny how and I am coming home … people can say what thay please for I see no chance to gane our independence … remember me in your prayers I am in danger.”
In at least one letter he urges her to pay someone to take his place with the regiment so that he could come home and save his fruit crop. This plan was thwarted when the general no longer allowed that practice. John asked often that Mary pray for him.
Once, upon hearing that a fence came down at home, his concern was that the stock could ruin his fruit trees. He told Mary to plant corn and potatoes and raise chickens, “do the best you can without me for it will be sometime before I will be there if I live.”
His letters tell his story. These words written on Dec. 29, 1863, reflect his despair: “I see no chance for this to end … I wish it was over so the poor soldiers … could return to their loved ones once more on earth … if we never meet on earth I hope we’ll meet in heaven where parting will be no more.”
Call Cherokee County Historical Society at (770) 345-3288 to obtain copies of the books.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.