On July 4, 1864, the day that my great-grandfather turned five years old, the town that he lived in, Marietta Georgia, fell to Union forces following a nearly two month-long series of battles and skirmishes in the vicinity of the town. The war was literally at their doorstep but from my perspective this is where the story ended for James Monroe Dobbs and his family during the Civil War. The next point in time that I was able to find records for my Dobbs family was in the US Census for 1870. At least that was the case until the other day when I found five packets of information at Fold3. Two packets for James’ father D. J. Dobbs, two for his Uncle Jim, and one for a mysterious third man. One of the immutable laws of the universe is that a person cannot be in two different places at the same time. Unfortunately, that is the one law that seems to trip up a lot of us family historians. So, think of this as a confession as I tell you the story of why I need make, not one, but two corrections to my book, Gathering Leaves.
In the chapter titled “The Blue and the Gray”, I write about my great, great grandfather David Judson Dobbs (from here on, I call him D. J. Dobbs) and his older brother, James Monroe Dobbs (I’ll call him Uncle Jim). Most of the information that I published regarding the two men and their activities during the Civil War came to me from a distant relative who had acquired her information from an aunt who did the bulk of her research into family history in the early 1950s, and who got her information from a first cousin who filled out an application to the Daughters of the Confederacy. Based on what I learned, I was able to fill in some of the blanks via access that I had to databases on Ancestry.com and a few other places. At the time, I had only access to indexes that listed information derived from primary sources in the form of tables with columns of information. Now, through my local library, I have access to Fold3, the Ancestry.com repository for military records and when I searched for my ancestor and his brother, I found images of documents that changed the narrative for both men.
I discovered that Uncle Jim was not the man I thought he was and as for my great, great-grandfather, I found him in a place he should not have been.
My great grandfather’s family were slaveholders who had been farming in Georgia since the 1780s. Following the Revolutionary war, the Dobbs family acquired land in Elbert County on the Georgia side of the Savannah River. His grandfather, David Dobbs (1792-1872) was born in Elbert County and grew up to become an attorney at law and a high-ranking officer in the Georgia Militia. His part-time military career began with the Creek War in 1814 and ended with the 2nd Seminole War in the 1830s.
In 1836, David Dobbs and others in his family acquired land through a lottery conducted by the state of Georgia that had belonged to the Cherokees. David Dobbs was one of the founders of the city of Marietta, the First Baptist Church of Marietta, and Georgia Military Institute (GMI) located in Marietta. His middle son, D.J. Dobbs graduated from GMI’s first-class in 1856. Before that, in the early 1850s, his eldest son (Uncle Jim) moved north to Chattanooga, Tennessee and set up shop as an attorney-at-law.
Uncle Jim was the namesake of my great grandfather who in turn gave the name James Monroe to both his sons. The first son died in infancy and the second son was my maternal grandfather.
And a grand time was had by all…
Considering that D. J. Dobbs graduated from GMI, others including myself figured he must have been an officer in the Confederate States Army (CSA). The aunt who did her research in the 1950s wrote that
D. J. Dobbs was a Colonel of 42nd Regiment of the Georgia State Volunteers, and was in the Confederate service, and stationed in Atlanta about the time of the siege of that place, and was transferred to the ‘Nitre & Mining Bureau’ of the Confederacy, and served in said last mentioned service until the close of the war.
This information came from one of D. J. Dobbs’ descendants who applied for membership in the Daughters of Confederacy many decades ago. Yet, I was not able to confirm that he was indeed a commissioned officer in the Confederate army, nor that he served in the 42nd Regiment of the Georgia State Volunteers. At first, I took “Nitre & Mining Bureau” possibly to mean that he held a post in the Confederate government and not the Army.
As for the rank of Colonel, he is documented with that title in at least two later sources. In Sarah Temple’s The First Hundred Years: A Short History of Cobb County in Georgia there is transcribed a catalog of the Marietta Female College issued in 1876 and here he is listed as “Colonel D. J. Dobbs”, father of Lillie E. Dobbs, who was in the junior class of 1875. Also, one of the obituaries for my great-grandfather in 1922 refers to James as the “son of the late Colonel David Dobbs.”
Yet my research indicates that during the conflict he held no higher rank than that of sergeant and I am not able to determine at what point did David J. Dobbs obtained the rank of Colonel – was it during the war, the later days of the war or after the war ended?
We find both David Judson and his father, David referenced more than once in a book by Gary Livingston titled Cradled In Glory: Georgia Military Institute. The book primarily deals with the cadets and their activities during the war, but both David Dobbs and David J. Dobbs show up in a couple of lists in the book. In the center of the book there is a copy of a list entitled the “Officers and Members the Kennesaw Dragoons”. F. W. Capers, the commandant of GMI in 1861, is listed as Captain of this unit and in the list of Master Privates is a D. J. Dobbs. This unit appears to be a very small cavalry troop that was formed in the very early days of the war: “In Marietta, most of G.M.I.’s faculty members and local alumni joined area citizens in units such as the ‘McDonald Guards’, the ‘Kennesaw Dragoons’, or the ‘Marietta Rifles’.” In my research, I have found no further references to the “Kennesaw Dragoons”.
With the help of a fellow researcher I was able to find that D.J. Dobbs of Marietta Georgia was enrolled as a private in the Georgia Seventh Infantry Regiment (aka State Guards). The Georgia State Guards were infantry units raised for the Confederacy by the state of Georgia in the summer of 1863 and was drawn mainly from exempts and men older than conscription age. This would make sense as D.J. Dobbs was overseer of his father’s plantation and was exempted from service by order of the governor of Georgia. In the two rosters where D.J. Dobbs is listed (Kennesaw Dragoons and Co. E of the 7th Georgia Infantry) he holds a rank no higher than sergeant. The State Guard was in service from August 1863 to February 1864 under the leadership of General Howell Cobb. Georgia militia officers were used for raising the force and were given furloughs to join. When Sherman’s army invaded Georgia in the spring of 1864, the 7th Infantry Regiment (State Guards) was formed from smaller local units. Company E nicknamed the “Marietta infantry”, had been part of larger unit called Lester’s Battalion. This unit was combined with another battalion to form the 7th Infantry Regiment of the Georgia state guards.
What I discovered in the packets found at Fold3 was:
- Confirmation that D. J. Dobbs was in Company E 7th Infantry Regiment (State Guards)
- Explanation as to where the title of Col. came from
- Revelation of how the war ended for D.J. Dobbs
But before the big reveal, allow me tell you Uncle Jim’s story
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
Uncle Jim, the first of a series of James Monroes, was born in 1822. He was the eldest son of David Dobbs and was 13 years older than his brother D.J. Dobbs. Early on I had found conflicting information about the first James Monroe Dobbs. One tertiary source said that he had died during the war with Mexico, another said that he had died during the Civil War. I found that neither of those was true. What I did learn was that he served in the Mexican War. In 1846 he is listed as a member of the Kenneshaw Rangers from Cobb County having the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Family records say that he moved to north to Chattanooga at some time and he does appear on the Census of 1860 in Hamilton County Chattanooga Tennessee where he is shown without a spouse. This may explain why his son Joe was living with the boy’s grandfather in Marietta in 1860. On the census his occupation is shown as attorney at law. We know he died on September 10, 1869 at age 46 and that he is buried in city cemetery in Marietta Georgia.
Then I had to go and mess things up when I recorded in my book that he served in Company I 3rd Confederate Cavalry Regiment in Tennessee between 1863 and 1864 as a private. I also noted that he was a Confederate prisoner of war and that he was captured in Meigs County Tennessee and was held prisoner from October 1863 at Camp Chase Ohio for an unknown duration.
That was a big mistake as I learned from what I found at Fold3. First, I found the records that seem to confirm what I already knew about Uncle Jim but it goes off the rails from there. The first set of records I examined were labeled Civil War Service Records – Confederate – Tennessee. These are compiled records of Confederate soldiers who served in organizations from the state of Tennessee and the source of this content is the national archives. These documents were compiled from original sources during the period from 1903 to 1927. There were six images in the packet I examined. The first image is a file cover labeled Dobbs, James for company I 3rd Confederate Cavalry. He is listed with the rank of private. Images two and three indicate that he enlisted at Tullahoma Tennessee 17 June 1863. The fourth image reports that he was made prisoner of war 17 October 1863. Image number five states that he was taken prisoner at Meigs County Tennessee October 15, 1863 and that he was received at Camp Chase Ohio November 4, 1863. It then states that he was transferred to Rock Island Illinois in January 1864. The final image is a reference slip indicating that the name on the enclosing file should include the middle initial ‘M’.
The next set of records I examined was titled “Confederate Citizens File” and in here I found proof that Uncle Jim was NOT the same guy that served Tennessee Cavalry and spent time as a POW. Instead what I found seems to indicate that Uncle Jim was as acting as a “speculator” (i.e. war profiteer) during the same time that someone else named James M Dobbs was penned up in a Union POW camp. The file consists of 11 images most of which are covers for other documents contained in the pocket. The rest of the images are of receipts for various goods sold to the Confederate States of America with payments made to James M. Dobbs of Chattanooga. There is a receipt from the Confederate States to JM Dobbs stating that he was paid $2100 for 84,000 pounds of hay and is dated September 30, 1863.
This was a record scratching moment for me. How could this guy be a prisoner of war at the same time he is selling horse feed to the Confederate States of America?
Page 6 is a receipt for a total of $420 dollars. It shows that JM Dobbs sold to the Confederate States, 22,000 pounds of green hay for $330 dollars and 600 pounds of dry hay for $90. The receipt is from June 1863. Page 8 is the backside of a receipt and it appears to be a document from the Confederate States Nitrate and Mining Service. Page 9 is the reverse side, and it is a receipt for $270 for six months’ rent for an office, warehouse and stables. The receipt is to James M. Dobbs, administrator for the estate of C. Cornish, deceased. Finally, there is a receipt for $1000 to James M Dobbs for 40,000 pounds of oats purchased by the Confederate states of America. This is dated July 1863. I think that pretty much settles things and proves that James M Dobbs was not the guy we thought he was.
But Wait There’s More…
The third packet tells what Uncle Jim of Chattanooga Hamilton County Tennessee did after the war. It is a set of 10 documents labeled Confederate Amnesty Papers. This is a collection of case files of applications from confederates for presidential pardons i.e. amnesty papers. The dates covered are 1865 through 1867. These documents are housed in the National Archives and there four pages in the packet. The first page labels this as case file 33214 for James M Dobbs of Hamilton County Tennessee and these papers were filed on January 13, 1866. There is a notation that he was pardoned by the President of the United States on that same date.
Two of the pages to the pages are letters of reference signed by a handful of citizens of Hamilton County. They state that James Monroe Dobbs is “praying for a special pardon”, that they have known him for many years, and that he is an upstanding citizen who has taken the amnesty oath in good faith and who wishes to become a loyal citizen of the United States. In each of those letters the undersigned respectfully ask granted special pardon.
The main event is a letter from James M Dobbs addressed to his Excellency Andrew Johnson president of the United States.
In his letter to the President, Uncle Jim admits that he did sympathize with the rebellion but at the close of the war he determined turn his allegiance to the United States and with that view he took what is known as the Amnesty Oath. The handwriting is difficult to read but throughout the letter he makes a number pleas regarding property valued at or over $20,000. The bottom line is he is requesting a special pardon be granted by President Johnson.
According to Wikipedia:
As Johnson assumed the presidency his attitude toward Confederate leaders seemed to signify punishment and prosecution for the rebellion. Many southern leaders fled the United States, going to Mexico, Canada, Europe and other countries. He doubled the number of exempted classes that had been exempted by Lincoln. Johnson’s proclamation of May 29, 1865, for example, did not include anyone whose personal property exceeded $20,000. Several mitigating factors however led Johnson to greater clemency, such as the attitude of Lincoln for reconciliation and William H. Seward’s similar leniency towards the former rebels. Those excluded from general amnesty had the option of applying to the president for a special pardon, and much of Johnson’s time was spent in granting those pardons.
No, Really, What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
So, what did I find at Fold3 regarding my great, great grandfather D. J. Dobbs? I found out where the rank of colonel came from and I learned that he was the one, not his brother, that became a prisoner of war.
For DJ Dobbs there was a similar packet for him in the Confederate Citizens Archives. This packet consists of 3 pages, an enclosing page, a copy of the back of the letter and then the actual letter.
The letter is dated May 1, 1862 is from the citizens and residents of the city of Marietta in Cobb County Georgia addressed to the Hon. George W Randolph Secretary of War of the Confederate States of America. The letter is asking that the Secretary of War install Col. David J Dobbs as enrolling officer for the County of Cobb. The letter states that Col. Dobbs was “raised among us and is well known to us. He is a graduate of Georgia Military Institute and is the Colonel of this county” In this context Colonel means that he was the one responsible for enlisting citizens in the county into the state militia. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that he became an enrolling officer for the CSA.
Which Way Did He Go, George?
Now as to D.J. Dobbs fate at the end of the war. This was answered in the final packet found at Fold3. Similar to what I found for the third man; I found the Civil War service records for a David J Dobbs serving in the Georgia 7th Infantry (State Guards). The packet consisted of nine pages. The enclosing page listed Dobbs, David J in company E 7th Georgia Infantry (state guards) with the enlisting rank of private and the exiting rank of private. Page 2 shows that David J Dobbs’s on the Muster roll or company E 7th Infantry (State Guards) for August 1, 1863 to August 8, 1863 states that he was absent for six months. Page 3 is a similar document for November and December 1863. It shows that he enlisted August 1, 1863 Cobb County for period of six months. It says that pay is due from September 5, 1863. Muster roll does not state whether he was present or absent. Page 4 for company E 7th Georgia (State Guards) – David J Dobbs – January 1-31 August 1864. Muster roll does not state is present or absent.
When I got to page 6, I experienced another record scratching moment. This card states that he was captured at Greenville South Carolina on May 23, 1865.
What was he doing in Greenville South Carolina six weeks after the surrender at Appomattox?!!?
According to Livingston’s book, prior to the fall of Marietta in May 1864, the cadets at GMI were sent into active service against units of Sherman’s army. Cadets from GMI were ordered to report to Resaca. There is listed on the roster of Caper’s Battalion, a Major Dobbs as Quartermaster and commissary officer of GMI, but there is evidence that the Major Dobbs listed was D. J. Dobbs’ cousin, Ellison A. Dobbs. Yet, it does seem odd that in the entire list of soldiers only one man is missing a first name.
Caper’s Battalion was small unit made up of cadet’s from GMI that was formed hastily in the last days of war and existed from 10 May 1864 to 20 May 1865. On May 17, 1864 the town of Rome, Georgia fell to the Union army. The invaders were now only 50 miles from Marietta. Ten days later as Sherman and Johnston battled at Pickett’s Mill, two hundred cadets from GMI boarded cars for West Point, Georgia in Troup county, along the Chattahoochee river, where they were to guard vital rail lines to the north. These cadets were later sent to guard the state capital in Milledgeville and then to perform police duty in Augusta.
In May of 1865, a year after they went into active service, they become the last unit in the eastern theatre to receive orders to surrender at Augusta. This was on the 20th of May, three days before D.J. Dobbs was captured at Greenville South Carolina and six weeks after Lee surrendered to Grant in Virginia.
I did a Google search for May 23, 1865 Greenville South Carolina and I got few hits. The first website found makes the claim that Greenville South Carolina was the location of the last Civil War skirmish east of the Mississippi.
The first article titled Greenville Dodges Last Bullet of Stoneman’s Raid states that on either the 22nd of 23 May, a force of 500 Union Calvary arrived at Greenville. The article says that a number of citizens were arrested and there was talk that they would be executed. The article mentions that in 2002 someone unearthed eyewitness accounts from Confederate Gen. Ellison Capers. It is not known if Ellison Capers is related to the F.W. Capers who led the battalion of cadets from GMI.
The second article I found at the same’s site is titled Greenville prepare to meet your God. This article describes two newspaper articles from the 1880s that described an incident that occurred 25 miles outside of Greenville on May 24 where four Confederate soldiers were arrested and sentenced to execution for allegedly mistreating sick and wounded Union troops that were headed for Knoxville. The newspaper articles stated that the Union commander paroled the four Confederate soldiers. Thus letting them go rather executing them.
I did a Google search for the phrase “captured at Greenville” and I got a few hits at Genealogy sites listing rosters from Georgia state militia units. One listed three soldiers of the 15th Georgia Infantry who were captured at Greenville, South Carolina on May 23, 1865. Greenville seems like a place that rebels wanting to get out of the way of Sherman’s army would have gone to in May 1865. The rail hub deep in the South Carolina’s upcountry was untouched by the war. Union troops visited the town for the first time in early May while on hot pursuit of Jefferson Davis who had escaped a few weeks earlier from the Confederate capital of Richmond. They did not stay long, and Davis was caught, disguised as an old woman, a few days later in Irwindale Georgia.
According to D.J. Dobbs card in the archive, he may have been paroled at Hartwell Georgia although it does not state when.