Thoughts on Reunions & Recollections of the War – Bill Arp, 8/27/1891

Thoughts on Reunions, War Pensions & Recollections of the War – Bill Arp, 8/27/1891

It was good to be there. Twenty years ago a reunion of the soldier boys was a lively gathering. They greeted one another
with loud hilarity. They stepped around with a double quick and joked and laughed and cheered immensely. Most of the
boys were then between thirty and forty, but now they are nearing sixty, and these twenty years make a difference. Rolling
years will change a man. Anno Domini will tell. The years are all coming this way, and every one gives us a lick somewhere.
I used to think that General Young was the finest looking man in the State, and was getting the a best of the fight with old
Father Time, but I noticed him at this reunion, and he carried a cane and limped. Old Anno Domini struck him on the hip,
they say. Most all of the veterans looked older than usual-a little stooped-a little stiffer in the joints. As they sat together
in front of the speakers’ stand they made a goodly picture. It should have been taken. How solid, how thoughtful, how
serene they looked. A consciousness or duty done was set in every feature-no shame, no repentance, no fear, no boasting
-they went through the fires and were refined. You can tell a a veteran when you meet him in the road. It is said that Jerry
Simpson, the sockless statesman, looked upon a gathering of Georgia farmers and he said: “My friends, this is the first
time in my life that I ever stood up before a native American audience.” Where he came from more than half the people
are foreigners. If the institution of slavery did our region no other good it did that. It kept the foreigners away and it is doing
it yet. We are all one people-the descendants of revolutionary sires. Senator a Ingalls has been down here and professed conversion. He ought to have been baptized just as soon as he finished that speech so as to make his conversion stick.
It was such a sudden conversion that our people are dubious. If a northern man will come down here and live awhile he
always gets converted. I never knew but one exception, and that was William H. Seward. He taught school in Putnam
county when he was a young man, and old settlers told me that he courted a prety girl, and her plantation and niggers,
and because she wouldn’t have him he gave up his school and went back and began to write us down as barbarians.

Because he couldnt get the niggers he didn’t want anybody to have them. But all the other Yankee school teachers that I,
ever knew became good, warm-hearted southern men. Dr. Alonzo Church, the time-honored president of our State college,
and Hiram Warner, the chief justice of our Supreme court, were two of them. I have before me now The News-Democrat,
of Canton, 0., which has a marked letter written by a citizen of that town and State, who says he came to Georgia in 1839
and taught school in Danielsville, Madison couty, for two years, and then studied medicine, and in a few years his personal advantage called him back to Ohio, where he is now practicing medicine. But even the two years in Danielsville implanted
a love for those people and his letter is tender toward the South, and this last spring on his return from Florida he went to
Athens and rode horseback from there to Danielsville, eighteen miles, just to see the old place that had lived in his memory
for fifty years, and to enquire after his pupils. What devotion, what affection is that to come from a stranger, a northern man
who came South with prejudices and went back without them. Strange to say, he did not find a man, woman or child in the
village who lived there when he did. He heard of four of his new pupils who still live, only four. Sad and lonely he walked
about and repeated to himself the old song: “I feel like one who treads alone, etc.” He says he visited the same old Court
House, where he used to see Garnett Andrews presiding. and where he heard Toombs and Stephens and Howell Cobb
and Bill Yancey speak. He attended the old time barbecues and heard the band play Old Dan Tucker. He went coon hunting
with the young men and helped to hold the dogs while the darkies were cutting down the tree. He defends our people
from the slanders that have so long been heaped upon them and says, “My relations to the school and its patrons and
the outside public were most pleasant and agreeable. There is a quality of Southern blood whether derived i from Huguenot
or Cavalier which gives them a hospitality unknown in the Noth-a cordial welcome and socially to which we are strangers.”

In speaking of slavery he says, “I have seen them sold on the block and at administrators’ sales for division but I
never witnessed any such scenes as are depicted in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and kindred work of fiction. The internal
suggestions of humanity and self interest were as rife in slave as in free territory.” Whilst this happy reunion was
going on it occured to me that it hadn’t been about two hundred and forty years since Milton said, “Peace hath her
victories no less renowned than war.” It has been over one hundred years since Ben Franklin said, “There never
was a good war nor a bad peace.” This seems to be the common verdict of mankind, and yet as long as the devil
runs loose there will be wars. In fact, I don’t know but what there would be if the devil was dead, for we are taught
to believe that there is such a thing as original sin, which the devil nurses into total depravity. Nevertheless it is
our duty to get all the good that we can out of the evil that befalls us. In fact, we would hardly know what good
is if there was no evil. We wouldn’t enjoy health if there was no sickness. We t wouldn’t enjoy prosperity if there
was no adversity. And so if there had been no war we would have no reunions of the old soldiers, no pleasant
greetings, no campfire anecdotes, no thrilling recollections; in fact, we ii wouldn’t be here at all, and there wouldn’t
be any eloquent speeches, and worst of all, nothing to eat. Very frequently we are asked questions by our children
or by the youths of this generation concerning the war that we cannot answer. How many soldiers did Georgia
send to the war? I How many were killed in battle ordered in the service? How many died in prison? How many
have since died? Most of these things are guessed at. Only a few months ago our Legislature determined to
pension the Confederate widows and the committee had no data to go by and guessed there about six hundred
and fifty, and so they voted them $100 apiece and appropriated $65,000 to pay it. But most of the committee
were youngish men who didn’t know how long a Confederate widow lived, especially if she lived in Carroll
and only half the county heard from.

Now there is some explanation for this. Those were game women who sent their husbands to the war. “Go and
fight and whip them Yankees,” is they said, “I’ll run the farm and take care of the children until you come back.”
Game women are like game chickens-they live a long time-and as to Carroll having so many it was because
Sherman ran all the women and children out of the region, and they just dropped over in Carrroll, where there
was no railroad and a heap of hiding places, and after the war they were too poor to get back again, and they
are there yet. The trouble that now concerns the legislature is how to get out of the scrape, for they have
pensioned these widows $100 apiece, and it will take a half a million dollars a year to pay it. Now there some
facts that we do not have to guess at. For instance, we know that there were sent from Georgia to the war 66
regiments of infantry men….56,000 25 battalions of infantry num….22,500 11 regiments of cavalry num…. 9,350
34 battalions of cavalry num….10,200 companies of artillery num….4,300 Making a total of 92,350 These were
the original volunteers, and there were added to them by recruits, 25,000 making a total of 117,360. Not including
home guards. Now this is about one-sixth of all the Confederate army. Georgia showed her faith by her works.
But what proportion of all the soldiers still survive is a question where guessing is in order, but it is on record
that over 30,000 of them fell or died during the war, and 4,200 of these died in northern prisons. It is probable
that 40,000 have since died, and if that be a fair guess, then about one-third of the Confederate army still lives.
The veterans are passing away very rapidly now, and we see before us many an old soldier who will not attend
many more reunions. We have no pension rolls to tell us from year to year how many have fallen before the reaper.
I believe that pension rolls would tell us down here, though they do not seem to show any deaths up North. I was
talking to Dr. Headen about it yesterday, and he said that men who lived on pensions and the bounty of the
government and had no care or apprehension about food and clothing, did naturally live a long time.

Well, that may account for their not dying, but how does it account for the number increasing. They have now about seven
hundred thousand on the rolls, just about as many as the confederacy had soldiers, and their records say they lost about
seven hundred thousand during the war. Good gracious, what a record. These veterans helped to do it. They did their full
share in swelling these pensions to $160,000,000 for the year 1891. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for saddling
such a debt upon the country. But they keep opening the pension door wider and wider. A man can now get a pension if he
can’t see as good or hear as good or walk as good as he used to, provided he will swear that he believes it came about by
reason of his service in the war. The Youths’ Companion, of Boston, told us not long ago about a man applying for a pension because he had recently cut his foot with an ax that he brought home from the army. And another paper told of a soldier
who recently died and had been drawing three pensions for eleven years. He volunteered as John Tomson, got sick and
was discharged; got well again and hired as a substitute, and put his name down John Thomson, got wounded and discharged
and hired again as substitute with the name of John Thompson, with a P. He soon became an invalid and drew three
pensions under three different names, and they never found it out until his widow applied and got things mixed up. But
enough of that. It is all I mighty bad, but the good of it is they have to pay more of it than we do, and they are getting
awful tired of it. Our reunion was of the survivors of the Fortieth Georgia, commanded by Colonel Abda Johnson, and
Phillips’s legion, commanded by General William Phillips. Colonel Johnson is dead, but General Philips was present in
the flesh, and looks like he is good for many years to come. It is said that the Fortieth Georgia is the only regiment that
never changed many times. Indeed, there were six different lieutenant colonels, four majors and four adjutants.

I remember that the Eighth Georgia changed its commander four times, and that Company A. in the First Georgia regulars,
that went out under Captain H.D.D. Twiggs, changed it’s captain eleven times during the war. Most of these changes are
marked “k.i.b.,” killed in battle, but some are from resignations and some from promotions and some from transfers. The
privates did not change much. Death was their main chance. Sometimes the company fought down to the ragged edge.
I heard Captain Neal say yesterday that one company in his regiment fought down to one man, and he had to stack his
arms with another company for one gun won’t stand alone, This reminded me of Jonas-poor faithful Jonas-an Israelite
indeed, whom any town boy could slag around before the war and he never resented it. But he joined one of the Rome
companies, and never lost a roll call or missed a battle or straggled on a march. I never remember that after a hard days
march Colonel Towers called up his companies to see how many men he had, and when he called for Company 1., poor
meek-hearted, sore-footed Jonas stepped forward and saluted the colonel. “Where is your company?” said the colonel.
Jonas gave another salute and meekly said: “I ish der kompny,” He did not go to the war from courage or for glory, but
from a sense of duty. That duty he performed.

Last Updated on September 11, 2021 by Bill Arp

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