If we could bring back to life the man pictured to the right, Confederate Brigadier General Edward L. Thomas, we could find out exactly what roles Blacks played in the Confederate Army. Two of the Black men pictured above served in the 14th Georgia that he commanded.
Near the end of the War General Thomas' men voted to petition their government to enlist Blacks in the Army to fight beside them. General Thomas forwarded this petition to his superiors. The Confederate Congress passed, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed, a bill authorizing the enlistment of Blacks.
Picture 2 is one of Charles Hicks, Co. F, 14th Georgia, taken at the 1938 reunion held at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Picture 3 is of Jeff Shields, who was Stonewall Jackson's cook.
Laurens County sent Jeremiah Yopp and Dr. Nathan Tucker, two of the county's largest slaveholders, as delegates to the Secession Convention in 1861. Dr. Tucker voted no on the issue of secession, thereby giving the county a split delegation. Ashley Vickers, a wealthy and influential planter, wrote to President Andrew Johnson stating that he was against secession and tried to convince all of his friends to remain with the Union. Many of the neighboring counties to the east voted against leaving the Union. Laurens County furnished nearly seven hundred men to the armies of the 14th, 49th, 57th, and 63rd Georgia Infantry Regiments of the Confederate States Army and several companies of the Georgia Militia and Reserves.
Laurens countians fought in all of the major battles of the war with the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Tennessee. Seven sons of Eason and Eliza Weaver Green enlisted in the Southern Army. Whiteford S. Ramsay and C.S. Guyton of Dublin were appointed Colonels in the Confederate Army. Col. Ramsay was appointed a Lt. Colonel a month after his 22nd birthday, making him one of the youngest colonels in the Confederate army. Dublin lawyer, Capt. Young Anderson, served as Quartermaster of the famed Cobb's Legion. Bill Yopp, a former slave, served as a private in Co. H. of the 14th Georgia. He earned the nick-name of "Ten Cent Bill" when he was doing chores for his fellow soldiers. Private Yopp is the only African-American Confederate soldier buried in the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. Sgt. Daniel Mason of Laurens County was the first to fall. Mason was wounded in the first battle of the war at Manassas and died several weeks later. Elijah Curl, a Laurens County private in the 49th Georgia, was given some credit for firing the shot that killed Gen. Phillip Kearney, the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. A few Laurens Countians were members of the 48th Georgia Infantry which assaulted and overran Federal positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg the day before Gen. Pickett's failed charge marked the "high water mark of the Confederacy." A small commissary was established by the Confederate Government at Laurens Hill on the Cochran Road near Dudley and Montrose. Future Dubliner Alex Moffett served in the Macon Volunteers with Georgia's most famous poet, Sidney Lanier. In the early months of 1864, Laurens Countians serving in the 57th Ga. Infantry, were assigned as guards at Andersonville Prison.
Laurens County itself avoided the war for the most part. General Joseph Wheeler, C.S.A., led his four thousand cavalrymen in a river crossing at Blackshear's Ferry in November of 1864 in an attempt to flank the right wing of Gen. Sherman's army. Gen. Samuel Ferguson and his Mississippi Cavalry spent a few days in Laurens County protecting against an anticipated mission by Sherman's forces to capture Andersonville prison. The closest battle to Laurens County occurred at Ball's Ferry near where Georgia Highway 57 crosses the Oconee River in Wilkinson County in late November of 1864. Sherman's right wing was delayed for a few days by military cadets, prisoners and their guards, and the local Washington County militia. Legend has it that Major James B. Duggan and an elderly lady tricked a Union cavalry unit into thinking that they were Wheeler's Cavalry. Their actions at the Lightwood Knot Bridge on the Toomsboro Road saved Chappell's, then Stanley's Mill, from destruction by the "Yankees." Chappell's Mill still stands in the northern part of the county. The mill was recently closed after nearly 180 years of operation.
In the days following General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Laurens Countians wondered what the future held for them. Future Dubliner Louise Kohn Baum attended the play "Our American Cousin" and witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Little did the Laurens Countians know they would be witnesses to history within a month. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, left Richmond before it fell. Davis traveled south in an attempt to escape to England or Texas. On May 6, 1865, Davis and his escorts reached Sandersville. His family and the members of the Confederate Cabinet were traveling in a wagon train on a separate route. At Ball's Ferry in Wilkinson County, Davis learned of a plot to rob the train. Davis traveled down the river road frantically looking for his family. They met at Springfield, the home of E.J. Blackshear, son of Gen. Blackshear. After a short rest and breakfast, the wagon train crossed the Oconee at dawn. Davis moved down the east bank of the river crossing at Dublin. Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan stopped the train in front of F.H. Rowe's store on the courthouse square. Rowe, a native of Connecticut and a loyal southerner, directed the Confederates along the Telfair Road. Davis spent that night at the southern tip of Laurens County between the forks of Alligator Creek. That same night the Wisconsin Cavalry reached Blackshear's Ferry. Col. Harnden was sent east from Macon in hopes of picking up Davis' trail. Col. Harnden was informed by former slaves of a small wagon train crossing the ferry earlier in the morning and that one of the men was called "Mr. President." When the cavalry arrived in Dublin, they were misdirected by Rowe, who sent them down the River Road east of the Telfair Road. Had the cavalry been sent a day earlier, Davis would have been captured in Laurens County. A day or two later, Davis might have escaped capture entirely. Davis and his party were captured two days later in Irwinville, Georgia. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, a former Vice - President of the United States, and Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy, were right behind Davis and his party. Both men barely avoided capture in Laurens County and escaped to England. John Davis, the presidential carriage driver, returned to Laurens County to marry Della Conway, whom he met while he was in Dublin. The Davises lived here for the rest of the 19th century.
The Reconstruction period was a difficult time for Laurens countians. Nearly half of the soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured during the war. One of those wounded men was Col. Jonathan Rivers. Col. Rivers, a Wilkinson County attorney and former Judge of the Court of Ordinary of that county, moved to Dublin in 1866. Col. Rivers, commanding officer of the 49th Ga. Infantry, survived two amputations. Rivers practiced law in Dublin from 1866 to 1873. Col. William H. Wylly, former Lt. Colonel of the 25th Georgia Infantry, C.S.A., practiced law in Dublin for a brief period in the latter part of the 1870s. Those who survived came back to a home which would never be the same.
Riverboat Captain W.W. Ward, was the first Laurens Countian to volunteer for service in the Spanish American War. Dubliner William Little, a member of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, followed Col. Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. Following the war, Private Little served as an orderly for Arthur McArthur, Governor-General of the Philippines and father of Gen. Douglas McArthur.
Dublin and Laurens County furnished nearly 1100 men to the armed forces in World War I. Dubliners and Laurens Countians raised tremendous sums of money through bond sales. Corporal Walter A. Warren, of Dexter, was the second American aviator to be wounded in France. Many of Laurens' citizens, including its most prominent physicians, served in the military. Early Miller was the first to be drafted. Even Dublin's mayor, Peter S. Twitty, enlisted in the U.S. Army. Twitty's successor, Izzie Bashinski, donated his salary to the Red Cross. Cecil Preston Perry became the first Laurens Countian to die in action in the summer of 1918. James Mason was the first Dubliner to die in action. He died in France on July 29, 1918. James L. Weddington, Jr., of the 6th Marine Corps Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre on July 10, 1918 for his heroism in carrying many wounded men off the battle field to field hospitals for several hours, risking his own safety in the process. Lt. Col. Pat Stevens was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre for extraordinary heroism in action south of Spitaal Bosschen, Belgium, on October 31, 1918. Lt. Ossie F. Keen was awarded the Silver Star. Thousands more of Laurens County's finest young men went "over there" for Uncle Sam. Fortunately, the war was relatively short and only fifty Laurens County men lost their lives. After the war, the Dublin Guards, a state militia unit, re-organized as Co. A. of the 1st Battalion of the Georgia National Guard. The unit which is still active today was the first National Guard unit in the southeastern United States. The company's first captain, Lewis C. Pope of Dublin, served as Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard in the 1920's. World War I's biggest hero, Sgt. Alvin York, spoke to a large crowd at the First Methodist Church in the early 1920s.
Dublin and Laurens County once again stepped forward and sent thousands of young men into military service during World War II. Scores of Laurens County boys joined the National Guard which was attached to the 121st U.S. Infantry division. The Guard mobilized in September of 1940 into Federal service. Alta Mae Hammock and Brancy Horne were the first women to join the W.A.A.C.. Marayan Smith Harris was the first woman to join the WAVES. Several Laurens Countians were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Marjorie Hobbs Wilson and her husband were eyewitnesses to the bombing.
Alton Hyram Scarborough of the D.H.S. Class of '37 was the first of one hundred and nine casualties of the war. Robert Werden, Jr., loved to fly and was so anxious to fly planes in World War II that he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. When the United States declared war, he joined the Army Air Force, only to be shot down and killed in the early years of the war. Capt. Bobbie E. Brown of Laurens County was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the assault on Crucifix Hill in Aachen, Germany. Capt. Brown, a career non- commissioned officer, personally led the attack on German positions, killing over one hundred Germans and being wounded three times during the battle. Capt. Brown was the first Georgian ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor, along with eight Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars. At the end of the war, Captain Brown was the oldest company commander in the United States Army and first of length of service. Paratrooper Kelso Horne was pictured on the cover of Life during the invasion of Normandy. Aviator Wex Jordan, an all Southeastern Guard for Georgia Tech in 1941, was killed in an air accident while training in San Diego. Randall Robertson and James Hutchinson, both only a year or so out of Dublin High School, were found lying dead near each other on the beaches of Iwo Jima in 1945. Robert Colter, Jr., who had been teaching Vocational-Agricultural classes at Cadwell High School was killed on February 20, 1945 in Germany. Captain Henry Will Jones, the Vocational - Agricultural teacher and football coach at Dexter High School and a paratrooper, was killed in the South Pacific in October, 1944. Lt. Lucian B. Shuler, a former Cadwell High School basketball coach, was an ace, having shot down seven Japanese planes in combat. Captain Shuler was awarded eleven Distinguished Flying Crosses and twelve Air Medals. Cpt. William A. Kelly, a former Dublin High School coach, was flying the ADauntless Dotty@ when it crashed into the sea in the summer of 1945. The B-29 Superfortress was the first B-29 to bomb Tokyo. Hubert Wilkes and Jack Thigpen survived the fatal attack on the AU.S.S. Yorktown@ at the Battle of Midway. Tech. Sgt. Luther Word was awarded the Silver Star, the nation=s third highest award for heroism, just prior to his being killed in action.
Commander Robert Braddy was awarded the Navy Cross, our nation=s second highest honor for naval heroism, for his actions in North Africa in November of 1942. Rear Admiral Braddy retired from the service in 1951. Captain William C. Thompson was awarded a Silver Star, two Gold Stars, a Navy Cross, and a Bronze Star for his outstanding naval submarine service. Captain Thompson was the executive officer aboard the submarine "Bowfin," which was credited with sinking the second highest Japanese tonnage on a single war patrol. Both men are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Captain Thompson=s first cousin, Sgt. Lester Porter of Dublin, led the first invading forces over the Danube River in nearly two millennia. Capt. John Barnett, a twenty-one year old Dubliner, was credited with being the youngest executive officer in the United States Army in 1944. Lt. Arlie W. Claxton won the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943. Marine Corporal James W. Bedingfield, of Cadwell, was awarded a Silver Star by Admiral Chester Nimitz for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the Japanese at Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, on February 6, 1944. His kinsman, Capt. Walter H. Bedingfield, was awarded a Silver Star for heroism in setting up a field hospital in advance of American lines at Normandy on D-Day. T. Sgt. Thurman W. Wyatt was awarded a Silver Star for heroism when he assumed command of his tank platoon following the wounding of the commander and guided it to safety. Lt. Colonel James D. Barnett, Col. Charles Lifsey, Col. George T. Powers, III, and Lt. Colonel J.R. Laney, former residents of Dublin and graduates of West Point, were cited for their actions in India and Europe. Captain Alvin A. Warren, Jr., of Cadwell, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying 70 missions in the Indo-China Theater night and day through impassable mountain ranges and high clouds. For his battle wounds and other feats of courage and bravery, Lt. Clifford Jernigan was awarded the Purple Heart, an Air Medal, and three Oak Leaf clusters in 1944. Lt. Garrett Jones was a highly decorated pilot who participated in the first daylight bombings of Germany. Calvert Hinton Arnold was promoted to Brigadier General in 1945. Lt. Col. Ezekiel W. Napier of Laurens County, a graduate of West Point, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and retired from the Air Force in 1959 as a Brigadier General. The "Pilot's Pilot," Bud Barron of Dublin, was credited with the second most number of air miles during the war, mainly by ferrying aircraft to and from the front lines. James Adams, Morton C. Mason, Wilkins Smith, Russell M. Daley, Gerald Anderson, Marshall Jones, Robert L. Horton, Loyest B. Chance, William L. Padgett, Joseph E. Joiner, W.B. Tarpley, Owen Collins, Loy Jones, Thurston Veal, James B. Bryan, and Cecil Wilkes were surviving in P.O.W. camps in Germany, while Alton Watson and Alton Jordan were held prisoner by the Japanese. Lt. Peter Fred Larsen, a prisoner of the Japanese army, was killed by American planes when being transported to the Japanese mainland in an unmarked freighter. Future Dubliner Tommy Birdsong was digging coal in a Japanese coal mine when an atomic bomb near Nagasaki was dropped. Earlier he survived the infamous "Bataan Death March." PFC Wesley Hodges was a member of the 38th Mechanized Calvary Recon Squad, the first American squad to enter Paris on August 25, 1944. Seaman James T. Sutton survived the sinking of the AU.S.S. Frederick C. Davis@, the last American ship sunk by the German Navy. The 121st Infantry of the Georgia National Guard, which was headquartered in Dublin until 1938 and of which Company K was located in Dublin, won a Presidential Unit Citation for its outstanding performance of their duty in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest during Thanksgiving, 1944. These are only a few stories of the thousands of Laurens County's heroes of World War II.
Laurens Countians supported the war effort on the home front. A State Guard unit was formed by over-aged and under-aged men. Everyone from school children to grandmothers did their part. Many Laurens Countians commuted to Warner Robins and Macon to work for the war effort. Angelo Catechis bought war bonds with his life's savings to help rescue his family in Greece. The women of Laurens County worked diligently on the home front. The women made bandages, surgical dressings, and sponges, along with knitted garments. Carolyn Hall, blind since birth, was one of the most proficient knitters in the community. In the summer of 1944, the U.S. government honored Laurens County by naming one of the reconditioned "Liberty Ships" the "U.S.S. Laurens."
The resurgence of Laurens County started during the war. Congressman Carl Vinson of Milledgeville secured the location of a German-Italian Prisoner of War Camp at the old fairground site. Prisoners were put to work on local farms, filling a void left in the male farm labor force. Vinson, a powerful member of the Naval Affairs Committee, secured the construction of a naval hospital in western Dublin in 1945. The hospital was designed to treat patients who needed long term care. One of only two rheumatic fever research units in the country was established at the hospital in 1946. The hospital was a tremendous boost to the local economy bringing in several thousand new citizens. The Navy constructed one of Georgia's largest airports for the transportation of patients. For several years Dublin played host to several Army-Navy baseball and football games between the prison guards and the naval hospital personnel. The hospital, now the Carl Vinson V.A. Medical Center, is serving the needs of thousands of American Veterans.
The naval hospital, now a part of the armed forces hospital system, took on the role of aiding the war on the home front. This mission included entertainment and rehabilitation of the patients. On April 7, 1945, Eddie Rickenbacker visited the hospital. Rickenbacker was the American Ace of World War I. He owned the Indianapolis Speedway for 12 years. In 1938 he was named President of Eastern Airlines and served in that position until he was named Chairman of the Board in 1959. Rickenbacker's mission was to cheer up those sailors who were facing long periods of recuperation from their injuries and ailments.
Twelve Laurens County men lost their lives in defense of their country in the Korean War. James E. Rix and James E. Daniel were the first two Laurens Countians to be killed. Sgt. Albert Lewis of Laurens County was starved to death in a Korean P.O.W. camp. Emerson Burns, Wesley Hodges, and Tyrois Odom survived and were welcomed home by one of the Dublin's largest parade crowds. Major Charles L. Holliman, then a lieutenant, treated 700 casualties during the war. Holliman, relying on his experience as a combat medic in World War II, had to perform field surgery. He lost only one man. The Herschel Lovett Bridge replaced the narrow 1920 bridge over the Oconee River in 1953. William C. Dominy of Dublin began his six year term as Commander of the Georgia State Patrol in 1953. In January of 1954, the National Guard returned to Dublin when the 286th Infantry Heavy Mortar Battalion was organized under the command of William V. Crowley, Jr.. An armory building was constructed in 1957 and later named in honor of Major Charles E. Stroberg, the executive officer of the unit. Over the years the armory has hosted all types events including circuses, prom dances, wrestling matches, antique shows, and concerts by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Ernest Tubb, and Don Gibson. Airman Bobby Tennyson Robinson was killed by a tornado at Lawson Air Force Base, Columbus, Georgia on March 13, 1954. Airman Robinson remained at his sentry post despite the threats to his own safety.
As was the case in many wars before, Laurens County sent many of its best young men into the armed services during the Vietnam War. U.S. Navy Lieutenant, Charles P. Ragan, was one of the first naval advisors sent to Vietnam in 1963. Lt. Ragan was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism by Pres. Lyndon Johnson. Col. Addison Hogan was awarded the Gallantry Cross with a Silver Star by the South Vietnamese Government for his service in Vietnam in 1963-1964. Sergeant James A. Starley of Dublin was killed by a bomb in Vietnam on February 22, 1965. Sgt. Starley was the first of twenty four Laurens Countians who lost their lives during the war. In the winter of 1966, Lt. Col. Harlow G. Clark, Jr., became the first Laurens Countian to be killed in action. The citizens of Laurens County erected a sign in front of the Dublin-Laurens Museum honoring those men who served in the armed forces during the war. The names of those who died were painted in gold. A dedication ceremony was held on June 30, 1967, in which the families of Bobby Finney and James Cook, the third and fourth men who lost their lives during the war, were special guests. Sgt. Jimmy Bedgood, winner of four Bronze Stars for bravery, two Purple Hearts, and an Army Commendation medal with a "V", was killed in his third tour of duty in 1968. Four Laurens County aviators, Warrant Officer David L. Green, Jr., Lt. W. T. Holmes, Jr., John E. Best, and Captain Wilbur A. Darsey were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Air Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal, respectively, for valor and meritorious service in the early years of the Viet Nam War. Lt. Col. W. Clyde Stinson, Jr., of Dublin, was killed while directing his troops from his helicopter. Stinson, a 1953 graduate of West Point Military Academy, was awarded three Silver Stars, just prior to his death. At the time, Lt. Col. Stinson was one of the highest ranking officers killed in the Vietnam War. Major James F. Wilkes was awarded a Silver Star for piloting his bomber aircraft in between friendly and enemy positions and saving the lives of many American soldiers. Major Wilkes also won two Distinguished Flying Crosses and fifteen Air Medals. Staff Sergeant Charles D. Windham, Jr., was awarded two Bronze Stars for his heroism as a Patrol Leader, one of the most dangerous positions in the field. Chief Warrant Officer Danny Collins was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals, and a Bronze Star. Sgt. Gary Fields, Green Beret, won several medals for his actions as a helicopter gunner. Capt. Fred M. Stuckey was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action when he piloted his helicopter into an extremely hazardous area under difficult weather conditions and rescued Amercian soldiers who were pinned down under enemy fire. Lt. Col. Holman Edmond, Jr. in his two tours of duty in Vietnam was awarded 2 Bronze Stars and 17 Air Medals. Billy Bryan, of Dublin, and his fellow M.P.s established Operation Blind Orphan to care for blind and orphaned Vietnamese children. Four sons and one daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Tipton were serving in the armed forces. These are only a few of the remarkable stories of Laurens County's heroes during the Vietnam War.
Laurens County was saddened by the death of two of her sons, Sgt. Dewey Johnson and Capt. Lynn McIntosh, in the ill-fated attack to rescue the hostages in Iran in April of 1980.
Laurens County was saddened by the death of two of her sons, Sgt. Dewey Johnson and Capt. Lynn McIntosh, in the ill-fated attack to rescue the hostages in Iran in April of 1980.