Week 28: July 12, 2014
Dahlonega’s Blue Ridge Rangers
My third great grandfather, Berrian Clark Bryan (No. 15), fought in the Civil War with the 1st Regiment of Dahlonega’s “Blue Ridge Rangers”. They were mostly small farmers, but the roll also contained names of – gold miners, two gold mine owners, an attorney, a minister, the Lumpkin county tax receiver, a stage coach driver, a Justice of the Inferior Court, State Assemblyman and an artist.
Berrian joined up as a private to fight for his homeland alongside his three sons, Calloway (Marion Calvin Calloway Bryan), Josiah and Ransom. His pension record shows he enlisted in the Georgia State Line in December of 1862 in Dahlonega at the age of thirty-seven. It states that he served a “little over one year”.
Marion Calvin Calloway Bryan enlisted on Jan. 24, 1863 shortly after his father. He also was listed on the muster roll of Co. D. 1st. Regiment of the Georgia State Line “Blue Ridge Rangers.” On the eighth roll, Calloway was “AWOL” and on the last extant roll he was “Discharged by Gen. Order from A&IGO.” His military records were misplaced by copyists, but he was with the 1st Georgia Infantry (State Troops). Calloway’s name was on a “roll of deserters from (the) Rebel Army, and captured June 6, 1864; … to be released North of the Ohio (River).” The enemy captured him in Fannin County – Federals discharged him on June 8, 1864.
From the great – great grandson of Marion Calloway Bryan: “My great-aunt Bessie Bryan Frazier mind is still very sharp and she said that after her grandfather Marion Bryan was discharged out of the Southern Army, he then fought for the North at the end of the war. That kind of makes since because I was wondering how he ended up in Indiana. She says that in later years he went back to Dahlonega to visit his relatives and his father, Berrian Bryan; that was the first time he’d seen his father since leaving Georgia and the last time they saw each other. (While the family in Georgia referred to him as Calloway, the Northern family knew him only as Marion.)”
“Another family member remembers family talk about Marion (Calloway) going AWOL during the Civil War – hiding during the day and traveling by night. One day as he was hiding in a large drain pipe, he heard soldiers talking about hunting for him as they stood right on top of the pipe.”
Marion Bryan was one of nine that deserted with Francis Tumlin during the night of March 14, 1864. During the Court Martial of Edward J. Tumlin, they put a question to Private C. W. Stargel, “Where are the Bryan’s and the Cochran’s now?” He answered, “They are either in the mountains or gone to the enemy.” Since he later married and died in Indiana, it appears that Marion became permanently attached to the North.
Major J. J. Findley recruited the Blue Ridge Rangers and they became Company D of the 1st Regiment; there were two State Line Regiments. Their company consisted of about half of the men from Lumpkin County and the rest from counties abutting Lumpkin; their ages ranged from 18 to 40. Georgia law required that a company have no more than 100 enlisted men plus four officers. Company D initially had 101 enlistees, though two never reported for duty. Enlistment was for the duration of the war. It’s written that about half of the men from Lumpkin were Confederate sympathizers and the other half were for the Union.
The first weapons issued at Dahlonega were smooth bore muskets, but all soldiers didn’t receive them. Initially the state issued only 75 smooth-bores to Company D soldiers; each man did not have a gun until the troop was at Savannah for some time and then they received new weapons of Mississippi Rifles, Belgian Rifles and Enfield Rifles. The Blue Ridge Rangers were in luck since they received the choicest of weapons – Enfield Rifles. Did he return home with that Enfield Rifle? If so, what happened to it? (I’m told that the grandchildren who lived with him at the end had his Civil War medals but I’ve never been able to make contact with them to document that.)
These men were soon homesick, worrying about the well being of their families they left home; even more so after Georgia was invaded. Their lives were consumed with frequent illness, food in less quantity or quality, even clothing and shoe replacement was scarce. Camp life was lived with no barracks. (What was on Berrian’s mind as he thought about his wife Berrilla left home with several children – that was what pushed many to go AWOL and go home.)
The Blue Ridge Rangers were considered State Line soldiers – they were to stay in Georgia and unless Union forces invaded the state, their duty was of less risk than Confederate military service. Once Sherman invaded Georgia, the State Line was not safe – they were now more on the front lines in combat duty.
Muster rolls are the primary source of military information about the men of the Blue Ridge Rangers Company D. During the 28 months in which this company was in existence, there are only rolls in the Archives which cover just 16 months. The first Blue Ridge Ranger muster was at Dahlonega on January 24, 1863. Later muster rolls were taken every two months and mostly functioned as a way for payrolls to exist.
State Line pay was the same as that for Confederate soldiers. Company officers received $80 to $130 per month. Privates received $11 per month, musician’s $12 a month; there were no musicians on the Blue Ridge Ranger rolls. (I find it ironic that a musician drew a higher pay than a solder with a rifle in his hand) The men could not even count on drawing a regular pay during their non-combat duty and wives often sent them tobacco, writing paper, salt, pepper and spices; and sometimes even clothes and occasionally cash. When a soldier did draw a pay, he often sent some home.
An exert from one of the soldiers letters; “I will send a hair pin in this letter for one of the girls, whichever needs it worse. The tobacco you sent me was very excitable, for I was nearly out and near out of money and it is worth two dollars a pound.” (As I read about the soldiers sending money home and receiving money and food items, it amazed me how well the mail system actually worked. How did they post letters and packages to their loved ones without them becoming lost or stolen, and what was the time frame of delivery?)
State line, up-country men, who volunteered as solders in the Blue Ridge Rangers never expected that their outfit would be subjected to the perils of wartime. The governor’s critics described the State Line troops as “Joe Brown’s Pets.” Instead of President Davis, the Georgia governor, Joseph Emerson Brown, was their Commander-in-Chief. State Line soldiers were to stay within the limits of state boundaries, but they served outside the state five times. During the the company’s 26 month life, the company of 139 men suffered five killed, nine wounded, seven dead of disease, six captured by Federal troops, and 46 deserted. There were only 31 privates active at the end.
During the first sixteen month life of the company, serving their State was not as risky as it was during the final ten months; we can surmise that Berrian was not engaged in any fighting other than a small skirmish. Before entering combat in the spring of 1864, our soldiers did duty in Dahlonega, on the Atlantic Coast, and along the state owned Western & Atlantic Railroad in North Georgia.
The initial first duty for the Blue Ridge Rangers was to search for deserters and Tories in the Georgia up-country. (It must have been very hard for them as you had brothers fighting brothers and fathers fighting sons in this war. We had that right in the Bryan family when Marion Calloway went AWOL and fought alongside the North. It was said that many men in Lumpkin County were for the Union, and that caused them to search for their own neighbors as deserters and Tories.)
They were soon ordered to report to Camp McDonald (2 1/2 miles outside Big Shanty), now Kennesaw, Ga. for the regimental election. Since there was no railroad into Dahlonega, they traveled by wagon, horseback and on foot. They had to carry provisions for their substance, such as a blanket/quilt, and rations, until they arrived at camp. It took three days to march fifty miles from Dahlonega to Camp McDonald.
After a short stay at Camp McDonald, they were now one of nine companies sent to guard the W & A Railroad in Savannah. Instead of marching they went by freight cars; although it was better than marching, they still suffered for two days and two nights sleeping on the floor or on baggage inside the freight cars.
Arriving in Savannah was of a new experience for these up-country soldiers. They did not take to the flat country around Savannah, the marshes and the strange drinking water. It was not like the cold water of a mountain stream or a sweet, cool up-country Georgia well.
There were about fifteen thousand troops encamped at Savannah; they did not believe they would be there long. It was felt by most that there would be no land fight here, only a naval engagement. However, there soon was cannon fire.
A short stay soon turned into an extended camp life of living in tents with no central mess facility. There were company cooks, but they often had to prepare food themselves. Sanitary facilities were outdoors but that was what the soldiers had at home; the difference being the facilities were for many, instead of a single family.
During their Savannah stay, there was an invasion scare in Charleston, S.C. and the Governor was asked for them to go to the South Carolina port to reinforce the garrison. Governor Brown reluctantly gave his permission and our Blue Ridge Rangers left with other companies. The threat to Charleston soon passed and they were ordered back to Savannah.
As the months progressed, their dispositions deteriorated and soon there were many incidents of desertion. They complained they went AWOL because they were cold, hungry, lonesome, poorly clothed, needed at home to plant crops, etc. Ten soldiers of Company D went AWOL on the night of March 14, 1864. It was listed the two Bryan brothers were two of the ten. Testimony suggested that the Bryan brothers were either in the mountains or gone to the enemy. In B. C. Bryan’s pension application he stated that he left after one year, so I’m assuming the two Bryan brothers were his sons. But it’s also written that he was one of those ten that went AWOL in 1864 from Resaca; he wrote that he furnished a substitute and was discharged. The State did not permit substitution in the Georgia State Line; the substitute he claimed was his son who joined another outfit. (I do not know of which son he referred to.)
By mid-spring, 1865, the men of the Blue Ridge Rangers wartime adventures and agonies were over. But for them, their families, and fellow Southerners a new and desperate era began. It was now the Reconstruction of their land.
Berrian Clark Bryan said in his 1909 pension application that he left the command at Camp Foster for “disability.” It was granted by Captain and Commander. The authority by which he left was …order of Surgeon A. P. Brown. (It was written to me by his granddaughter Ila Stargel Jones that he was wounded in the Civil War by a bullet to his face and it affected his hearing. At this writing Ila is living, she is 104 years of age, and was age 19 when B. C. Bryan died.)
Granddaughter Ila Stargel Sewell-Jones remembers her grandfather walking to town to every meeting for Civil War Veterans and also to get his monthly pension check.
Written in The Dahlonega Echo; January 25, 1914: Uncle Clark Bryan; “We are grieved to learn that this veteran soldier was unable to attend the exercises on Lee’s birthday on account of serious sickness. We hope for him a speedy recovery. He is now in his 94th year and on November the 1st had walked to town to be present at the bestowal of the Southern Crosses of Honor (Nov. 1913) . One little girl of the graded school was so impressed with his appearance that on returning home after the ceremony at the church, said, “Mama, I do think somebody might have carried him home in an auto after he had walked so far.”
Berrian Clark Bryan died January 16, 1923 and is buried at Cane Creek Church Cemetery, just outside of Dahlonega, Ga. He lived in his mountain cabin by Cane Creek until his death.
(Much of the unit history information was learned from a booklet entitled “Dahlonega’s Blue Ridge Rangers by Harold Ernest O’Kelley of Murrayville, Ga. He compiled this invaluable information many years ago and placed a typewritten booklet in several of the local libraries in 1992.)