Love amid the ruins

“As you wind through the forest, ravine and open country from Resaca to Dalton, the utter loneliness, the want of human life, strikes one with a feeling of desolation. The fences are gone, the houses are deserted, the bubbling spring on the road side has no happy child drinking or paddling in its water. No sheep graze in the fields, no cattle browze in the woods, not even the crowing of a cock is heard. The bee hive is deserted by its once busy tenants, and the ruined mill is still. So startling is the utter silence, that even when the wild bird of the forest carols a note, you look around surprised that amid such loneliness any living being should be happy. This is the result of war.”

Southern Watchman
Saturday, 21 January 1865

For Albert Smith, the Civil War was a year of hell, followed by a return home to a land soon to be in total devastation. We cannot know what kind of man Albert was before the war, or what kind of man he was after, but with sure certainty we can say they were not the same.

Albert, a member of the 18th Georgia Infantry, enlisted on 2 August 1861 and was wounded in the left leg at Manassas, Virginia on 30 August 1862. His leg had to be amputated below the knee. Albert was captured, and paroled on 29 September 1862 at Warrenton, Virginia. He was also later paroled again at Kingston, Georgia, on 12 May 1865.

Albert was listed as a "maimed" Confederate veteran in 1894, drawing $100, the highest amount (see Smith documents). And I believe he was among the two in five soldiers in the war who were afflicted with “soldier’s heart,” the Civil War term for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Born 11 November 1840 in South Carolina, he was only 20 when he enlisted as a recruit out of Cassville, Cass County, Georgia. By the time of his 21st birthday, he was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, fighting as part of “Hood’s Brigade,” Gen. Robert E. Lee’s favorite shock troops.

Hood’s Brigade, also called the “Texas Brigade,” consisted of three Texas regiments and the 18th Georgia. When Gen. Lee called for an assault on enemy lines, they often led the charge. On the afternoon of 27 June 1862, at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Gen. Lee ordered a major assault on Union lines in a bold bid to break a stalemate. The assault was led by Hood’s Brigade, which was led by the 18th Georgia.  The charge broke the Union line and forced their retreat, but the 18th Georgia had 146 casualties.

As William T. Sherman himself said, “War is hell,” and the 18th usually found itself in the hottest part. Its casualties were staggering: 101 men either killed, wounded, or missing at Sharpsburg, 146 at Cold Harbor. The casualty rate at Sharpsburg, 101 of 176 me, was 57%, once thought to be the highest of any unit in any major battle in the Civil War.

For modern scholars, that dubious honor now belongs to the 1st Tennessee Infantry, which lost over 82 percent of its men. But there are other such records as well, depending on how the horrors of war are calculated. In terms of a single battle, the 26th North Carolina Infantry lost 714 of its 800 men at Gettysburg, or 89 percent, and the 24th Michigan Infantry, which opposed it, lost 362 of 496, or 73 percent. And in terms of most losses in the shortest period of time, the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, in a charge at Petersburg, Virginia, 18 June 1864, lost 635 of its 900 men in seven minutes. And, in terms of a single family, 18 members of the  Christian family, of Christiansburg, Virginia, died in the war.

But while the 18th Georgia no longer is considered the record holder for casualties, its overall casualty rate was a still horrific 72 percent and it participated in 20 major battles.

That meant that Albert's war experiences were horrific despite his one year of service. Not only did he see the horrors of the battlefield, but amputations were made without an anesthetic.

No doubt life had toughened him. Albert was born only two years after the Cherokee were removed from North Georgia, and his family moved into this wilderness in the 1850s. But the war must have affected him. And then, he returned home to watch his father’s farm in Cassville destroyed by Sherman’s troops, part of a path of utter devastation up to 30 miles wide down the heart of North Georgia.

All Confederate soldiers and their families suffered, and all of them had to cope with the fact that the South lost the war. But some soldiers were doubly affected because not only did they lose the war, their homes and farms and livelihood were lost as well. While this was true in places such as Vicksburg and Richmond, it was nowhere more true than in North Georgia, where Sherman’s Army laid waste to over 3,000 square miles. And in his wake, outlaw bands, home guards, and Union troops waged guerilla warfare until well into 1865.

A number of authors have discussed the effects of the war on how the soldiers felt about themselves – their pride and manhood – and how their wives felt about them after they were not only unable to win the war, and were unable to defend their families and property. And the loss of over a quarter-million soldiers affected virtually every home in the South, not to mention those who died later, as the result of diseases or wounds. In the Smith-Hall family records are several men who fought in the war and survived, only to die before 1870. The war left a lot of lingering anger and rage and grief always simmering just below the surface of Southern society.

Researchers have documented the way PTSD can get passed down from one generation to the next like a genetic mutation, In the Smith family, there is a phenomena called the “Smith temper.” It is a pathology that almost always infects only males. It's symptoms include a volcanic and unpredictable temper, most often directed at spouses and children, but seldom if ever at cousins, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren.

It is so violent it poisons family relationships. As one surviving son said of his dead father, one of Albert’s great-grandsons, “I knew that man 56 years and I don’t have one good memory of him.” But in my experience, he a friendly man with a great sense of humor. Yet, when we talked of my father, Thiddo Smith, another of Albert’s great-grandsons, we reversed roles. I am always taken a little aback when I hear a relative talk about what a great guy Thiddo was. It is amazing that we are talking about the same person.

Since in the same family, only some men have such a violent temper and others do not, I have often wondered what produces it. Is it biological? That might be the case. It is possible that Albert did not have the Smith temper, but something akin to it existed in the family of his wife, Ursula Collins. Four of her first cousins, and possibly a fifth, died violently, three of them in late summer in 1865 just a few months after the war ended, and another was indicted for two murders that September (see "The Scared Corn-Ryo Murders").

In any case, it was to a shattered world and a shattered self-image that Albert returned to Georgia. Before the war, in 1860, Albert lived with his father and mother, Jesse and Polly, in Georgia Militia District 936 in Cass County, a district that extends from just north of Cassville to the Gordon County line, and sits between the Adairsville and Pine Log Districts.

It’s largest community is Folsom, so named for Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland Preston (July 21, 1864 - October 29, 1947), wife of the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, and First Lady of the United States from 1886 to 1889, and again from 1893 to 1897" (Wikipedia).

But GMD 936 is very rural even today, although in 1860 it extended southward to the northern edge of Cassville, the county seat and largest city. So, just where did they live? In 1900, Albert and his third wife live on the “Folsom and Fairmount Road,” which does not exist today, but probably is all or part of three roads today: Glade Road in Bartow, Perry Road in Bartow and Gordon, and Slate Mine Road in Gordon. Glade Road begins in Folsom and Slate Mine Road ends at Highway 53 less than a half-mile from the Fairmount City Limits. So, Glade Road may well have been where his parents lived.

The 936 G.M.D. would have been familiar territory to Albert. His father, Jesse, moved to the 936th from South Carolina sometime between 1851 and 1860. Jesse was a wheelwright and, since he and his wife Polly lived near a doctor and a school teacher in GMD 936, they must have lived near a town of some sort. But whether that town was Folsom or Cassville, the only two candidates, I cannot tell.

Eight houses away from Jesse, Polly, and Albert in 1860 lived a widowed farmer, Nancy Collins, and her children, Wylie 16, Ursula 13, and Sarah 8. Albert and Ursula undoubtedly knew each other before the war, and on 17 September 1865, amid the ruins of Sherman’s March to the sea, and less than three weeks after three of her cousins died in shootouts, they married.

Ursula was the daughter of Thomas Collins of Lincoln County, North Carolina, and Nancy, surname unknown, of South Carolina. Ursula was born in 1847 in Georgia and died before 1884 in Bartow County. Her family was part of a massive migration of Collins from Lincoln County into Bartow, Gilmer, Pickens, and Cherokee Counties in the 1840s (See the "Collins in North Carolina and North Georgia").

Thomas and Nancy Collins originally settled in Gilmer County, in the Talking Rock or Truck Wheel Districts that were later carved out to create Pickens County. But Thomas died before 1860, and before or after his death, Ursula and her mother Nancy moved to Cass County.

Albert and Ursula started out relatively poor – in the 1870 census, he is a farm laborer with only $100 in personal assets. But by 1900, he owns his own farm, free of any mortgage.

Albert and his wives moved around a lot. In 1870, he and Ursula are living in the Pine Log District of Bartow County. Pine Log is a small but ancient hamlet, as the present town was built on or near a very old Native American village. DeSoto visited the town on his journey through North Georgia in the 1500s. I have lost the citation, but I recall that in the 1790s, among the Native American signers of a treaty was a Chief Yellow Bird of Pine Log.

By 1880, Albert and Ursula have had some success. They have moved to the Kingston District, and own their own farm free and clear. Then, as indicated, sometime in the next 20 years, Albert, now married to his third wife, moved to the Folsom and to a house 32 houses from the starting point of the count, which means it was probably near Folsom on Glade Road.

After Ursula’s untimely death in her 30s, Albert, at 44, married Julia A. Akins, 25, on 14 September 1884 in Bartow County, and when she died less than two years later, he married Sallie L. Cason, 29 (born December 1856), on 8 August 1886 in Bartow County.

Albert died on 10 December 1910 in Rydal, Georgia, leaving Sallie a widow.
Rydal is just below Pine Log, Georgia, on Highway 411.

Julia Akins was born in Georgia, the daughter of William Akins, born about 1825, and Julia A. Akins, born about 1829, both in South Carolina. She died at the age of 28, according to her tombstone. She is buried at Connesena Baptist Church Cemetery near Halls Station, and her tombstone says “Julia Smith, age 28 yrs w/o A. Smith.” According to the 1880 census, she was born about 1859, but her birthday must have occurred after the census was taken in June since she must have been born in 1858 in order to have died at 28 in 1886. So she was born in the summer of 1858, in June, July, or August, and died sometime between her birthday and Albert’s third marriage in August. This means that Albert remarried very quickly, no more than two months after Julia’s death and probably less.

Albert Smith is one of the few Smith-Hall ancestors to appear in public records other than the censuses and civil war rosters. Albert was a tax receiver in Bartow County from 1891-1893. The leader in this category, and no one else is close, is the Collins family. Among them were a petit juror, a justice of the peace, a county judge (I think he might have been a judge of the Probate Court), a county treasurer, and a three-term county commissioner (see "The Collins of North Carolina and North Georgia").

It should come as no surprise, then, that Albert himself attended school, and that even though there is no evidence Ursula ever did, they could both read and write, and their children attended school. There is a large section of the family tree for which these simple accomplishments were not achieved until the turn of the century, or even later. The Smiths and the Collins were among the literate minority as far back as the historical records go. While neither Alfred’s father or mother could read and write, they obviously valued education.

When the family first appears in the records, in the 1860 Cass County census, Albert and his sisters Emma and Louisa have all three attended school in the last year. Surprisingly, there were 18 schools at that time in Cass County, serving a school population of 1,464 elementary students and 303 high school students (The History of Bartow County, Formerly Cass, page 148).

Emma, 12, and Louisa, 10, probably attended elementary schools, but it is possible that Albert, at 20, attended the Cherokee Baptist College in Cassville, established 1854. There were two colleges in Cassville, the other the Cassville Female Institute, established 1853.

Having three children in school, perhaps one of them in college, was an expensive proposition then as it is now. The average elementary school tuition in Cass County in 1860 was $14.25 per year. High school tuition averaged $20.07. Cherokee Baptist College charged $34 per month for a “regular 10 months’ college course of four years” and $28 per month for a classical education (Ibid pp. 143-144).

These amounts might appear small by modern standards – the total for Albert and his sisters, if Albert was in high school, would only have been about $48 per year. But in this time, the census included an estimate of the value of real estate as well as personal property, and the vast majority of families had neither. However, in 1860, Albert’s father Jesse owns real estate valued at $150 and has personal property worth $220, and the Halls live in what must have been a wealthy neighborhood. On the same census page with Jesse are five families with total wealth ranging from $700-$4090.

While the college was a four-year institution, the secondary schools included only grades 1-11, 11 years then felt to be sufficient time to
teach them English, arithmetic, home economics, and animal husbandry as well as to indoctrinate them with the prejudices of their parents.

It worked for their son William and their grandson James Henry “Jim” Smith, who owned a farm along the Oostanaula River north of Rome by the time he was 30. But it is obvious that Jim was infected with the Smith temper. He beat Thiddo Smith, his son, with a plow strap when he was about 16, until the shirt on his back was soaked with blood, then threw him out of the house forever.

Thiddo’s crime? Changing his mind about how he was going to spend some money he earned that summer off an acre of cotton. He originally agreed to buy a shotgun from his brother, but at his mother’s urging, decided to buy clothes and shoes since his were in such poor condition. The beating only ended when Jim’s wife, Rosa, stepped between them and Jim hit her. She raised her hand and looked upward, and said, “Oh, Lord, let him hit me again.”

(Who the heck is Thiddo Smith? See the Smith-Hall Nexus).

Albert and Ursula had four known children:

1. Anna L. Smith was born in 1857 in Cass County. Anna L. Smith married William Neville 15 April 1882 in Bartow County. Cass county became Bartow County in 1861. I could find no further information on them.

2. William Thomas “Willie” Smith was born in 1867 in Bartow County, and died in 1949 in Bartow County at the age of 82. He married Harriet Octavia “Octney” Brownlow about 1886 in Bartow County. She was born in 1859 in Van Wert, Polk County, Georgia, and died in 1935 in Bartow at the age of 76. They are Thiddo Smith’s grandparents. But even though Thiddo was born 26 years before Willie died, I never heard him speak of him.

Willie and Octney are said to be buried in Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church Cemetery on Georgia Highway 293 east of Kingston, but their graves are unmarked. Her parents were James A. H. Brownlow and Jane Ann Austin Brownlow, a somewhat distinguished family examined elsewhere (See the section on “James A. H. Brownlow and Jane Ann Austin”).

3. Robert L. Smith, born in 1869 in Pine Log. Robert married S. E. Dempsey on 29 December 1889. I have no further information on them.

4. Minnie C. Smith, born in 1871, probably in Pine Log. There are three Minnie Smiths who got married in Bartow County between 1890 and 1899 who could be her.

Albert Smith and Sallie Cason had five known children:

Fred Smith, born April 1888. A Fred Smith married Mabel Henderson on 28 December 1919, and a Fred Smith married Nannie Littlejohn on 6 July 1923. There were three Fred Smiths in Bartow County of roughly the same age, including one born in 1894 and one born 1896-97.

Lula M. Smith, born 27 July 1890 and died 2 June 1980. She married Robert Leon Jackson Hicks on 16 July 1916. He was born on the Fourth of July, 1876, and died 10 October 1948. He is buried in White, Georgia.

Pearl Smith, born September 1891. Pearl Smith married Thomas Carey on 8 August 1915 in Bartow County.

Mary L. Smith, born May 1892. There are four possible grooms for Mary in the Bartow marriage records: Lee Stidham 5 October 1913, Peter Patterson 15 March 1915, Jesse Burrows 1 May 1918, and Ananias Pyles 14 October 1920.

Clifford D. Smith, born June 1894. He married Ollie Chastain in Bartow County on 17 March 1918.

Gus F. Smith, born 1902.

In 1920 and 1930, Sallie is living with her son Clifford and his wife Ollie F. in GMD 936.
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