Mission Of This Blog


The overall mission statement of this blog is to share many unique topics of this blogger's interest. Topics include (but are not limited to): Southern Cultural Heritage, Local History of the South Carolina Upstate, Confederate Heritage Preservation & Awareness, Americana, Nature & Wildlife Preservation, Science & Science Fiction, Astronomy & Night Sky Photography, Literacy & Writing, Travel & Local Places Of Interest, Southern Cuisine, Popular Culture & Philosophy, Classic Animation Nostalgia, Fandom ....as well as various other topics explained from the blogger's point of view. The following website contains the UNCENSORED thoughts and opinions of a Southern-born country writer from upstate South Carolina - the living, beating heart of the great American Southland!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Planetary Photography - 03-29/30-2015 - Luna & Jupiter Transition In Eastern Sky

These are the photos I took on Sunday, March 29th and Monday, March 30th showing Jupiter and Luna's progress as they seem to pass one-another in the evening sky.

These were taken on Sunday night between 7:50 PM - 8:10 PM EST in the eastern sky.


These were taken the following night on Monday evening between 7:58 PM - 8:00 PM EST in the same location as Jupiter appears above the moon.

I hope y'all enjoyed them.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Planetary Photography 03-28-2015 - Luna & Jupiter

I managed to get a pretty good shot of the planet Jupiter with the waxing gibbous moon tonight. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Buck Island Massacre - A Roden Family History & Tragedy

 The Buck Island Massacre 
A Roden Family History & Tragedy

By: C.W. Roden

The following tragic story is a true account of the slaughter of members of the Roden family - some of my own ancestors - during the latter half of War Between the States (American Civil War). 

Buck Island is located on the Tennessee River between the towns of Guntersville and Claysville, in Marshall County, Alabama

On December 26, 1863, a band of Southern Unionists led by notorious Tennessee Valley outlaw and Union scout named "Captain" Benjamin R. Harris, captured four members of the Roden family - two civilians and two Confederate soldiers on holiday leave recovering from wounds - were captured there along with two other men. These men were led to the river and then summarily executed. 

Harris was born in Alabama in 1823 and moved from place to place with his family from southeastern Madison County to Arkansas and then to Louisiana. 

When the War Between the States broke out in 1861, Harris hired himself out as a scout for the Union Army, giving himself the unofficial rank of captain. He led a band of 30 or so men who later became notorious foragers/pillagers in Northern Alabama in the fall of 1863 till his death. 

The following is an account taken from the autobiography of Dr. John A. Wyeth titled: With Sabre and Scalpel (New York: Harper & Bros., 1914), pg. 314-15. The story was also written in the Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol. VI, page 523 and reads as follows: 

Northern Alabama had paid dearly for the devotion of her people to the cause of the South. Nowhere in the Confederacy had such ruin been wrought, save in the path of desolation along which the march to the sea was made, or perhaps in the valley of Virginia, in obedience to the order to leave it so desolate that "a crow flying over would have to carry its rations." Our county of Marshall had suffered in a double sense, being overrun for the last year and a half of the war by bands of marauders who robbed the defenseless people of the little the two armies had left. The story of their forays would make a bloody record. The narration of one tragedy which was enacted on a small island in the Tennessee River may give an idea of the awful conditions which prevailed. Buck Island was then almost wholly covered with dense cane. Hither five men, non-combatants, had fled for a hiding-place, and had taken with them the few cattle which had escaped impressment. In the depths of the cane-brake they had constructed a pole cabin for shelter. A Confederate soldier named C. L. Hardcastle, wounded and on furlough, a relation or friend and neighbor, slipping in to visit his family, came to stay all night with the refugees. Toward morning they were aroused from sleep to find their cabin surrounded and themselves in the hands of the notorious Ben Harris and his band, who had learned of their retreat and had come for their cattle. Being a far-sighted man and well known to the Rodens and their guest, Harris gave them five minutes for prayer, after which he made them stand in a row along the riverbank, and, to make sure of a clean job, with his six-shooter he put a bullet through the hearts of five of the six and thought he had done the same with the sixth man. This man was Hardcastle, who told me that as Harris came down the line, placing the muzzle close to the left side of the chest of each victim as he fired, he made up his mind to drop quickly a little before he was shot, which he did, and the ball missed a vital spot. Feigning death, he was dragged with the other five bodies and thrown into the river, the current of which washed them down-stream as they were sinking. Holding his breath, he floated under some driftwood lodged against a fallen tree and concealed himself behind a log. The bullet had struck a rib and taken a superficial course. When the murderers walked off to round up the cattle he crawled out and into the cane, and in this way made this marvelous escape from death. I knew the men who were killed.

During all of 1864 and the spring of 1865 Marshall County was the scene of active hostilities, not only between scouting parties of regular soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies, but between bands of Tory marauders, who paraded in Federal uniforms, and small squads of Confederate Home Guards under partisan leaders. Some few of the Tories had been Union men all along, but were wise enough to keep discreetly quiet until the Federals occupied the country. Most of them were poor whites who had dodged conscription by hiding out in the mountains near their cabins when the Confederates were in control, and came into view as soon as the Federals appeared. Some few were deserters from our army, but all were united now in their love of country by the cohesive strength of a desire to plunder the helpless. As these men of the two sides had known one another before the war, it may be imagined that what is described as "feeling" ran about as "high" between them as it could run. Toward the last it was considered a waste of time to surrender, even if cornered without hope of escape. The recognized practice was to sell out as dearly as possible and keep shooting as long as a trigger could be pulled. 

Ben Harris had led off in a practice of extermination which put Cromwell to the blush. The conqueror of Ireland knocked only every tenth prisoner on the head, but Captain Ben overlooked none, and just to be sure that no detail was omitted he was his own executioner.

Roden family patriarch Mr. Benjamin Roden; his son, Mr. Portland Roden; both victims of the Buck Island Massacre.
Also included here are Benjamin Roden's nephew, Confederate Sgt. James Roden, Co. G, 48th Alabama Infantry; and James' son, Pvt. Felix Roden, Co. G, 4th Alabama Cavalry. 
The graves are located at Roden Cemetery, Marshall County, Alabama, USA. RIP

Several members of the Roden family murdered in cold blood by Harris were recovered from the river and lain to rest with other family members -- including this blogger's paternal great-great-grandfather and Confederate ancestor Sgt. Jackson S. Roden 48th Alabama Infantry Regiment -- at Roden Cemetery in Marshall County. Their friend and Confederate soldier, Charles Hardcastle, would survive his wound and live well after the War ended.  

As for the Southern Union Loyalist and infamous Tennessee Valley outlaw Ben Harris, he died on March 5, 1865 from natural causes after a couple of years of terrorizing Southern civilians, burning homes and crops -- sometimes also including those with Union loyalties according to some accounts. 

In reward for his questionable service, Harris is buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery under his presumed rank of "captain" despite lack of formal commission by Union authorities, laying among Union dead killed in battle like proper soldiers facing their enemy like men. His grave is decorated with a US Flag every US Memorial Day and US Veterans Day placed there by the National Parks Service. 

The Buck Island Massacre is mentioned prominently on the granite Confederate Monument in front of the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville, Alabama, along with other war related events and skirmishes that took place in the area.

Confederate Monument at the Marshall County Courthouse grounds, Guntersville, Alabama.

(Yet another account of the Buck Island massacre can be found in The Sword of "Bushwhacker" Johnston, Charles S. Rice, ed., which details a first-hand account of events in Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb and Madison Counties by Rev. Milus E. Johnston. The book was published in Huntsville, Ala., by Flint River Press in 1992. Johnston's story and Rice's notes appear in chapter 6, "Acts of the Invaders", pp. 26-31.)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

National Tragedy - 7 Marines and 4 LA National Guardsmen Killed In Tragic Accident

On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, seven US Marines from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina and four Louisiana National Guard soldiers were involved in a terrible helicopter accident during a training exercise near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Black Hawk helicopter they were training in got lost in foggy conditions at around 8:30 PM in the Santa Rosa Sound in the Florida panhandle.


  
Pictured from the top, left to right:
Captain Stanfort H. Shaw III (31) from Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Staff Sergeant Kerry Kemp (27) from Port Washington, Wisconsin
Staff Sergeant Marcus S. Bawol (27) from Warren, Michigan.
Staff Sergeant Trevor P. Blaylock (29) from Lake Orion, Michigan

Pictured bottom, left to right:
Staff Sergeant Liam A. Flynn (33) from Queens, New York
Master Sergeant Thomas A. Saunders (33) Williamsburg, Virginia
Staff Sergeant Andrew Seif  (26) from Holland, Michigan (a Silver Star recipient)

The seven Marines were members of the same team who constantly trained and faced danger together as a part of the Marines Special Operations Command (MARSOC) which totals about 2,500 troops.

Four Louisiana National Guard soldiers were also killed:



Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin (37)
Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother (44)
Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron (40)
Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich (26)

The National Guard soldiers, from Hammond, Louisiana, each did two tours in Iraq and joined in humanitarian missions after the Gulf Coast hurricanes and the 2010 BP oil spill.

This was a senseless accident and a national tragedy. May God be with the families of these good men in their time of sorrow. My prayers go out to you too.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Planetary Photography 03-12-2015 - Saturn & Luna


Took this great shot of the Waning Gibbous Moon and the planet Saturn early this morning before departing for work.

A Final Act Of Retaliation - The Execution of PVT James M. Miller CSA





On March 2, 1865 near the town of Cheraw, South Carolina, a Confederate soldier was executed by Union soldiers under the command of Major General William T. Sherman in a final act of retaliation before the invading Union army left the Palmetto State and march north into North Carolina.

One of Sherman's Bummers was found dead near Big Lynch Creek.

Earlier, Sherman himself issued a standing order that one Confederate prisoner would be executed for ever Federal soldier found executed. The major of the dead Federal initially refused to pick a prisoner for execution. He believed that the soldier, a fellow unpopular among his own peers, might have been murdered by another Federal.

It would be learned years later that the Yankee had been killed by a Southern slave who had been taken by this soldier. When opportunity arose, the slave killed the Yankee and returned to his master's farm.

Regardless Sherman threatened the Union major with court-martial if the order was not carried out.

At about noon that day, lots were then drawn among the Confederate prisoners. One young prisoner was the unfortunate winner, but another prisoner, Private James M. Miller, an older man and father of nine, who had been captured by Union troops while traveling home on furlough, stepped forward and volunteered to take the younger man's place.

Private Miller was then taken by guard to execution.

According to eyewitness accounts, the Union major tried to tie his hands, but the Confederate asked for not restraints. The major then handed him a handkerchief and told the prisoner to drop it when his prayers were concluded.

According to a Wisconsin soldier who witnessed the scene:

"As the smoke floated away among the tall pines, our boys looked with sadness upon the bleeding corps of a brave old man who had met his death unflinchingly and heroically for the crime of another man. If the old man had bounded away into the forest, we'd never have run a step to catch him."

As witnessed in a Union diary entry:

"At noon the prisoners had by lot selected one of their number and was sent under guard to the 30th Ills - and was by them shot at 2 P.M.. The unfortunate man was over 40 years of age and the father of numerous family - me met his fate like a hero, five balls entered his breast. On visiting his grave afterward I found the following inscription: "James M. Miller Co. C Browns Batt. S.C. Infy. Who was shot to death in retaliation for a regularly detailed forager who was murdered and found near Big Lynch Creek S.C., March 2nd 1865."

Such acts of retaliation against the deaths of Bummers would continue to be repeated for at least another week or so, before threats of retaliation with Union officers captured by Confederate General Wade Hampton III caused Sherman to resend his previous order.


Pvt Miller's grave at Five Forks Methodist near Pageland, SC.

(Sources for this blog post may be found at: http://chesterfield.scgen.org/historicalsociety.html as well as the book: Touring the Carolinas' Civil War Sites by Clint Johnson ISBN 0-89587-146-7. All photos were taken by the Witherspoon-Barnes Camp #1445 Sons of Confederate Veterans.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chester County, South Carolina In The Final Year Of The War Between The States 1865

The War Between The States (American Civil War) 1861 - 1865

The Old English District of upstate South Carolina holds numerous sites of important historical significance related to American history, particularly those related to the Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783) and the War Between the States (1861 - 1865). Many of them local incidents that had significant -- often times defining -- impacts on American history as a whole. Others are simply local tales that related to important aspects of Southern and American history. Many of those tales I plan to talk about here at Southern Fried Common Sense over the course of the year.

February 1865 - Sherman Marches North


On February 20, 1865, Union army forces under the command of US Major General William Tecumseh Sherman began advancing north through South Carolina from the fallen state capital of Columbia -- now half burned and destroyed.

There is significant debate among modern Civil War historians as to who actually burned Columbia.

In his official reports, Sherman placed the blame on Confederate Lieutenant General Wade Hampton III, who Sherman said ordered the burning of cotton in the streets and high winds that spread the fire to nearby buildings. This despite the fact that eyewitness testimony claims no cotton was left burning. 

Sherman would later recant this allegation and admit lying in his Memoirs (Vol. 11 pg. 287):

"In my official report of this conflagration I distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and confess I did so pointedly to shake the faith of his people in him, for was in my opinion a braggart and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina."

It is possibly, of course, that Sherman lied in his memoirs. By the time he wrote them Reconstruction has ended and Hampton had indeed become the champion of South Carolina -- as well as its first post-Reconstruction governor. Sherman might well have allowed his bitterness over that fact to color his memory and exaggerate his tale.

The best proof over who really caused the destruction is the damning admission in 1867 of Major General Oliver O. Howard, then in command of the US 15th Corps of Sherman's army during the burning. During a chance meeting with former Confederate General Hampton in the office of Federal occupation Governor James Laurence Orr in Columbia, the two former combatants were introduced in the presence of many dignitaries. Hampton reportedly asked, "Before I take your hand General Howard, tell me who burnt Columbia?" General Howard would reply, "It is useless to deny that our troops burnt Columbia, for I saw them in the act." (See Edwin J. Scott, Random Recollections of a Long Life. Pg. 185; The Burning of Columbia, Charleston, SC, 1888, pg. 11.)

Now playing devil's advocate here, Sherman as a professional soldier probably contented himself with seeing that war material and railroad equipment vital to the dying Confederacy was destroyed, and simply did little to restrain the conduct of his men, leaving that job to his subordinates, many of whom likely choose to look the other way. Sherman himself gave no specific order to destroy and loot the surrendered city itself.

To the credit of some of Sherman's men, they did help fight the fires set to several buildings by their drunken comrades, including the University of South Carolina, largely sparing the college from the flames. Other Union soldiers however were credited with the destruction of a church, the old State Capitol building and breaking off the cane of a statue of George Washington that still stands today in front of the current State Capitol building (which today still bears six marks where Sherman's artillery barrage of the city struck the building as it was still under construction) among other various acts a day after the surrender of the city.


Regardless of how -- or whom -- specifically set the fires that gutted half of Columbia, there is no denying that even today the name William T. Sherman firmly stands besides other notorious names in South Carolina's history like Edward "Blackbeard" Teach and "Bloody Ban" Tarleton.

There is also no denying that some of Sherman's men -- "Bummers" as opposed to foragers who were sent out to commandeer supplies from the countryside -- committed terrible acts of destruction, theft and murder during the Carolina Campaign in 1865.

Sherman was aware that his force was larger than anything the retreating Confederates and the local home guard forces could throw at him. In fact, Sherman's force of sixty-three thousand soldiers was at that point in time more than twice as large as General Robert E. Lee's own Army of Northern Virginia, which at that time was trapped in Petersburg, Virginia, by Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Sherman's main opponent, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson had only enough men to slow down Sherman's advance.

Regardless, "Uncle Billy" (as his men affectionately called him) wanted to be careful. He was still deep in hostile territory hundreds of miles from supplies and any other Union forces, save for those in Charleston on the coast. He had to keep the Confederates from guessing his next objective, which would either be Raleigh, or Goldsboro, North Carolina.

To keep Johnson and the Confederate forces from concentrating their forces in the northeast part of the state, Sherman decided to "feint" (a military maneuver that fakes the army's true direction) directly north towards Charlotte, North Carolina.

My hometown of Chester, South Carolina (then known as Chesterville) lay in the direction of Sherman's feint.

His main force would go as far north as Winnsboro twenty-five miles to the South of Chester before turning northeast towards the old town of Camden. Sherman's main force did not come to Chester County, though some elements of his Union cavalry and the army's left flank would in late February and early March of 1865.

The Hanging Of Burrel Hemphill

In front of the Hopewell Reformed Presbyterian Church just to the northeast of the small town of Blackstock in the southern part of Chester County is a small stone monument dedicated to the memory of a slave named Burrel Hemphill. Burrel was the slave of Robert Hemphill, who owned twenty-two hundred acres near the church. Both Robert and Burrel were both members of Hopewell Church (founded and organized in 1787).

When the Yankees (Federals) arrived, the Hemphill family fled and Burrel was left in charge of the estate. Burrel buried the family silver in the woods, but was caught by Union soldiers upon his return. According to the eyewitness accounts of his grandson, who witnessed the incident, Hemphill refused to tell the Bummers where he'd hidden the valuables. The angry Yankee soldiers then dragged Burrel to a spot near the church and hanged him, then lowered him several times, then hanging him again, repeating their demand that he tell where the valuables were hidden. Burrel refused and eventually died from the torture. The Bummers would then use his hanging body for target practice.

Hopewell Reformed Presbyterian Church on Hopewell Church
Road (SC 12-36) near Blackstock, SC.
The Burrel Hemphill Marker in front of the church.

Chesterville in 1865 - A Hub Of Activity

In 1865, following the surrender and subsequent destruction of Columbia's railway yard, Chesterville was the southern-most point in the dying Confederacy that could be reached by train. A hub of activity, Chesterville in 1865 served as an arsenal and had four hospitals dedicated to the care of wounded soldiers coming in by train on almost a daily basis. Many died in the hospitals, or in transit from Columbia, and would be buried in nearby cemeteries -- notably Evergreen Cemetery a mile away from the station. 

In March and April of 1865, as the War was coming to its end, Chesterville became a beacon for refugees fleeing the Union Army. On April 13, 1865, Chesterville's Southern Railroad Station (located on Lancaster Street) would be the end of the line for the heavily guarded Confederate treasury train from Richmond.

On the train were boxes of gold and silver, which were loaded onto wagons and transported south. Of equal importance on the train were valuable government records, including both the original provisional and permanent Confederate Constitutions, and the Great Seal of the Confederacy. The Constitutions were recovered and kept safe by Mr. Felix Gregory DeFontaine, who later sold both of them to museums. The provisional constitution ended up in the Confederate Museum in Richmond, VA; the permanent constitution is now owned by the University of Georgia. 

Several important passengers who also arrived in the city on the train were Mrs. Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and their children, who were traveling south to join her husband in Georgia after the fall of Richmond.

On main street in Chester today, near the Confederate Soldiers Monument erected in 1905, stand the Devega Building, then a hotel in 1865. It was there in April of that year that the famous civil war novelist Mary Boykin Chesnut and her husband Brigadier General James Chestnut Jr. rented a room in the hotel that existed there and entertained Mrs. Davis and her children. Mrs. Chesnut would also pen some of her famous novel A Diary From Dixie in that building.

The Devega Building as it stands today.
The Devega Building Marker.

Following their departure south in an ambulance, heavy rains would make the roads nearly impassable and bog down Mrs. Davis' wagon. The Confederate First Lady then carried her baby in her arms for six miles to Woodward Baptist Church (located at 1570 Ashford Road) where, according to some sources, Varina and her children slept the night on the church pews before departing toward Georgia the next morning. 

Woodward Baptist Church where Varina Davis and her
children spent the night sleeping on the church pews according
to the local folklore.
 
The Chester Cannons


In late February, 1865, Confederate General Wade Hampton came to Chesterville to make sure that what was left in the arsenal was out of Sherman's grasp. Hampton himself would order four - 10lb cannon tubes spiked and buried about a hundred yards from the railroad depot. Those cannons would remain buried for approximately 121 years before being discovered during construction of an addition to Chester's Cavalry Baptist Church in February of 1986. 

Cavalry Baptist Church in downtown Chester, SC.

The cannon tubes were identified as 10 lb. Confederate Parrott rifles, each weighing approximately 1150 pounds -- four of only 77 of its type and size produced by the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia during the period of November 18, 1861 to February 20, 1865.

These cannons would be carefully disarmed -- all four of them were loaded with live rounds and gunpowder -- and preserved, then restored. Two of the cannons would be mounted onto carriages and placed on display in Chester. One near the Confederate Soldiers Monument in the town square and the other in front of the Chester County Courthouse. The third would be displayed permanently in the civil war section of the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia. 

Marker with details about the cannon and its ordinance.
First Confederate Parrott Rifle in Chester's town square near the Confederate Soldiers Monument.
Second Confederate Parrott Rifle in front of the Chester County Courthouse.

Third Confederate Parrott Rifle on display in the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia.

The final cannon, which would come to be known as the Chester Gun, was re-bored and sleeved to make it safe to fire -- the ONLY live firing 10 lb. Confederate-made cannon in the world. The Chester County Historical Society would then purchase a reproduction wooden carriage along with a wheeled limber. The cannon would be on renewable loan to the 6th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment re-enactors who used it in a number of local and national re-enactment and living history events. During the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, the Chester Gun took part in many of the 150th anniversary re-enactments from Fort Sumter, Shiloh, and most recently Gettysburg in 2013, where it pleased re-enactors and spectators alike. 

Most recently, I saw the cannon again at the South Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans 2014 Reunion in Florence, SC. along with several other interesting artifices.

The Chester Gun, the only live-firing Confederate-made civil war cannon in existence. Photo taken at the SC Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Reunion in March 2014.

A Union Soldier's Grave

I mentioned before and in a previous post that many of the Confederate wounded in hospitals and carried by train through Chesterville died in 1865 and were hastily buried in Chester's Evergreen Cemetery. A total of 53 graves are labeled Unknown CSA. One other was recently identified and given a grave marker by the Walker-Gaston Camp #86 Sons of Confederate Veterans in 2007. The only other known Confederate soldier, an 89 year old aged Confederate Veteran from Georgia who wanted to be buried with comrades, is buried in the same plot.  
 
Fifty-three Unknown Confederate Soldiers buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Chester, SC.
Pvt. William G. Parker, Co. G, Cobb's Legion Georgia Volunteers CSA. 

Pvt. Reuben T. Ashley, Co I, 19th SC Infantry CSA
recently identified and given a new marker by the Walker-Gaston Camp #86 SCV in 2007.

Also buried in the plot with these men is a 19 year-old Union soldier, Charles F. Emerson of the 15th Maine Volunteers, who joined the Union army at the age of 15. He died of "lung fever" (pneumonia) on March 14, 1866, while acting as part of the town's occupation force. It was often the practice of the Federal occupation to bury their dead with Confederate soldiers as a means of reminding the local populace of their "reunited" status. His large, well-inscribed headstone stands in stark contrast to the simple "Unknown" granite markers of his Confederate counterparts.

Regardless of why he was buried there, his grave is honored on US Memorial Day with a new US flag. The Unknown Confederates (and two known ones) buried with him are also honored with Confederate battle flags on their graves on Confederate Memorial Day -- something I have personally seen to every year since 1993.

Pvt. Charles F. Emerson, Co. G, 15th Maine Infantry USA.

That concludes some of the stories about my hometown and county during the final days of the American Civil War. In the coming couple months, I will post more interesting tales about the war in the upcountry of South Carolina during the final days of the war.


(Sources for this blog post may be found at: http://chesterschistory.org/index.html as well as the excellent and detailed reference book: Touring the Carolinas' Civil War Sites by Clint Johnson ISBN 0-89587-146-7. All photos were taken by this blogger, Mr. C. W. Roden.)