Monday, February 07, 2011

An Army of One

I’ve had a number of compliments on the two stories about my wife’s ancestor Sydney Davis, who wrote about his adventures as a US Cavalryman.

Apparently his kindness touched a lot of hearts.

Marilyn Davis Coolidge, Linda and Ed, Claire Davis
 We had lunch the other day with Linda's aunt, Claire Davis, and her daughter Marilyn. 
 It was Claire who was responsible for rescuing Sydney Davis’ autobiography from eternal atticdom  and bringing it to the attention of the Library of Congress, making it available to Civil War historians. She said that most of the books they had printed were purchased by friends and family members.

 I mentioned that there were a couple of books written about one of my ancestors, but neither of them ever came close to being a “best seller,” either.

Nor, would they ever leave anyone with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

My mother was Bertha Jolly from Anderson, SC. I remember her telling me that there were two families of Jollys in Anderson; one had money, and the other had the “Civil War hero”.......Manse Jolly.

Needless to say, her dirt poor family was descended from the latter.

But not everyone thought of Manse as a hero. The Federal government certainly didn’t. They had a higher price on his head than they ever had on Jesse James; $10,000 in gold...Dead or Alive.

You see, the heroics Manse became famous for were those he performed after the war was officially declared over.

He claimed that Lee may have surrendered, but he (Manse) didn’t.
He was the only one of 6 Jolly brothers who returned home after the war.

The others were all killed in battle.

He swore that he would kill 5 Yankee soldiers for every one of his dead brothers. Apparently, that was the unfinished business that drove Manse. That, and the fact that the helpless residents of Anderson were being abused by a number of the Federal soldiers..

He more than met his self imposed quota.

One of the books about him is titled, Manse Jolly, Hero, or Deranged Killer.

Perhaps he was a little bit of both.

Anderson SC Highway Sign
But considering the evil inflicted on the South (especially South Carolina) during “Reconstruction,” the darkest period in our nation’s history, the people of Anderson at that time considered Manse a hero.

That’s good enough for me.
The soldiers of the garrison stationed in Anderson, were known to loot and pillage the area... and Jolly went after each one.

The story says that the soldiers became so terrified of Manse that back up was brought into the area. It finally got “too hot” for him in Anderson, and aware of that $10,000 price on his head, he finally decided to flee to Texas and start his life over.

Many stories and legends have been told about him, many perhaps exaggerated or invented entirely, but apparently, there’s little disagreement about his departure from Anderson.
On his way out of town.....he rode straight through the Union Camp, yelling the spine tingling “rebel yell” while firing both pistols at everything that moved......

Newspaper accounts at the time quoted Union soldiers as saying that they thought they had been attacked by an entire regiment of Confederates.

Manse and his horse, Dixie, made it to Milam County Texas, where he settled and eventually married and began raising a family.

He drowned shortly before his first child was born while crossing a flooded river.

He was 29 years old.


(Researching this story, I discovered that there is even a song about him on YouTube.
It's was written by Jeff Rose of the Cane Creek Bluegrass band.)