Battle of Criswoldville

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Battle of Griswoldville Georgia
The face off with General William T. Sherman!

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Black Confederate Soldiers

 

By George McCullum
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The story told here is not my story, rather retold exactly as related to me by a dear friend, whom I shall refer to in this article as the late Mr. Elgie Baker, who passed away on 28 December 1995 at the age of 78 years.   Mr. Baker was a Southern Gentleman in the truest sense of the word, but more important to the story, he was by his own definition, a Negro, and a colored man.   On those occasions when he was relaxed his mind would revert back to what I considered his true dialect, that of the Ole South Negro.   But he could also speak in the modern context of our times, when called upon to do so!   The family cared for their totally disabled adult son Rochelle Baker!
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I knew the family for about ten years or more prior to his death, and daily transported their son to various activities and medical appointments.   On one such occasion a prolonged delay at the Baker residence gave us time to speak and it being a pleasant day, we did so.   The others being inside the house, the two of us remaining outside and standing along side my companies large cargo size van, old Mr. Baker began to speak.   "George, he said, I am gettin' up in years - my time draws near.   I have a story and I'd like to tell it before it can't be told!   I am a native of Georgia you know, but what you don't know is my Grand pappy was a Confederate Soldier - died in that terrible war, fightin' those Yankee folks.   The story I want to tell you, won't be found in no White History Book, but it happen just the same!"
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"When all the white folks went off to do the fightin, only the white women and the colored folks were left behind to do the work.   We were treated good, and not like them Yankee folks say now a days - it was all right.   We took care of the plantation and saw to it that the women were all right.   We wanted to go fight too and not many of us colored folks got to go at first, but later a whole lot of dem did.   The fightin' wore on and the victories turned to loss, as our white boys began to loose ground.   Finally the summer of 1864 came and rumors had it that the whole Yankee army was outside of Atlanta.   Us colored folks got real concerned, because we heard that that fella Sherman was killin' and burnin' everything in his path - killin women, children, colored and white folks alike.   So some of us got together chose one of us to do the talkin for all of us, and went to the white ladies so as to say how we felt.   Our leader a ‘Ole Joze’ said, sooner or later this Yankee Sherman and his army is comin dis way and we'll all be doin some fightin and diein' soon enough.   ‘Ole Joze’ said, could we form what you white folks call a militia, so as to be ready, best we could.   The ladies den looked at us, a real motley bunch and said, all right, so we began preparin' - We had heard about such things from those white boys, before the war, so we chose us a Commander"
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"The word wasn't long in comin', we soon heard tell Sherman had burned Atlanta, killed all kinds of people and was now comin' out the other side, headin' dis way.   We rounded up such weapon as we could find, some were dem ole revolution muskets left behind, machetes, pitchforks and even clubs, but still we had no fightin flag.   All the cotton and wool was gone to the war, so we rounded up what rags dat we could, and made us one of them Confederate Battle flags from dem rags.   The colors didn't come out too good, but least we had a flag!   Den some the day when we were fixin' to march off to face down Sherman's Army, we gathered in the town square, 300 of colored folks.   Raggiest army I ever did see!   We'd be out numbered over 200 to one, but dat’s all right, it was our homes and our families too, and we'd fight to defend dem.   What a motley bunch we were, daring to face off with the mightiest' army in the land!"
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"Doz 300 colored men and dar Confederate Battle Flag sewed out of rags!  Well, had I been alive back then, they would have had 301, because I would have been amongst them."   Ole Mr. Baker looked far way as if into yesteryear as he was telling his story, and he continued until he finished.   "Now just before we left to face off with dat Sherman fella an elderly colored lady come up to our new commander, and spoke to him.   If'n those white boys couldn't stop this fella Sherman, what makes you think you can?   The ole colored commander paused while looking back at the lady, then answered, "I don't know about such things" he said, "but if Sherman's fixin' to come through Georgia, he'll have to come through us."  "George," he said, "300 colored Confederates marched off dat day to face off with this General Sherman, and da took down as many of dem Yankee soldiers as they could.   Only three come back, and my grand pappy wasn't among dem dat come back."
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Ole Mr. Baker still far away in his thoughts, looked at me with his glassy eyes and said, "dez modern ‘African-Americans’ like so many modern white folks, couldn't cover one inch of the ground doz colored Confederates stood on."   After hearing his story, I was deeply moved!   I've never had to face those kinds of odds in peace, let alone in battle, but I can say that if ever there were true heroes, these men were amongst them.   Surely these are heroes of the highest order, and as for me, well, I'd build a monument as big as a house to these 300 brave Soldiers of the Confederacy.   These men were in every respect Southern Gentlemen.   Ole Mr. Baker had one last remark before closing his story,   “George," he said with deep emotion as his manner of speaking returned to the present day, "I'd give every thing I own in this world, if only I could but hold in my hands that Confederate Battle Flag made with rags, that my grand pappy, and those 300 motley men carried off into battle, when they face off with Sherman."
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The story you have just read as I said, is not my story, so I can only relay the story as it told to me, beyond that, every individual must judge, for them-selves.   But as for me, based on the honor and integrity of Ole Mr. Elgie Baker, I believe the story to be true!   I was invited into the Baker home many times, and once I was even asked to wear my Confederate Uniform, so their disabled son could see what a real Confederate looked like, since the son could not get out of the house, in order to attend the local reenactments.   I even held a kind of humorous reveille on him one morning at the family’s invitation, afterward drafting their son into the Confederate Army, and he was overwhelmed with joy at the entire situation.  Lying across the mirror of Rochelle Baker’s dresser was ever so carefully draped, a Confederate Battle Flag, and upon his dresser itself were several audiocassette tapes of Confederate Period Music.
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God save the Confederacy
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