What Miss Mattie Said to the General

Sunday, July 3rd, will mark the 158th anniversary of the fall of Marietta, Georgia, to Union Forces under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. The importance of Marietta and nearby Kennesaw Mountain was that they were the key to control of the Chattahoochee River and to the vital railway leading into Atlanta from the Shenandoah Valley. Thus allowing the union forces to lay siege to Atlanta for four long months. I was reflecting on those events when I recently came across the obituary of my great-great-grandmother Martha Josephine Prothro or, as she was known to friends and family, Miss Mattie. The obituary contains a rather provocative statement alluding to a conversation that Miss Mattie once had with a certain visitor to Marietta.

Miss Mattie was born and raised on her daddy’s plantation near Aiken, South Carolina. Her daddy, Evan Prothro, was one of the richest men in that area, and he kept an army of slaves busy chopping down timber and hauling it to one of three sawmills Mr. Prothro controlled. In 1857, she married David Judson Dobbs (D.J. Dobbs), son of Col. Dobbs of Cobb County, Georgia. The Dobbs family owned a cotton plantation near Marietta, and they kept fine houses in the pretty little town.

For most of the early part of the Civil War, the area of Cobb County that surrounded Marietta prospered as cotton had become the chief resource of exchange during the war. The CSA stockpiled thousands of bales of cotton as if it were gold stored at Fort Knox. The mills along the Chattahoochee River were vital to the war effort. Marietta was also a spa town, and it has been called the Beverley Hills of the antebellum South. Every summer, the town was typically bustling with visitors escaping from the malarial swamps down south along the Georgia coast.

During the summer of 1864, a different kind of visitor arrived when Federal forces under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman moved in and occupied the town.

Miss Mattie lived to the ripe old age of 93 years. When she died in May 1928, her obituary appeared in Georgia’s newspaper of record, The Atlanta Constitution.

Besides telling me of her death at her daughter’s home near Lynchburg, Virginia, and her pending burial at her family’s hometown of Marietta, I learned an interesting detail of an important event that occurred nearly 65 years earlier. It’s one of those kinds of things where one might wish they had been a fly on the wall.


“Lynchburg, Virginia, May 9 – Miss Mattie Prothro Dobbs, 93, widow of David J Dobbs of Marietta, Georgia, died this morning at the home of her daughter Ms. Mattie D Smith at the Wigina, Amherst County, where she had been visiting. Her body was brought here, preparatory to being taken to Marietta for burial. Mrs. Dobbs is survived by her daughters and a son, EP Dobbs, of Marietta.”


“Marietta, Georgia, May 9 – A notable and loved Marietta woman, Mrs. Mattie Prothro Dobbs, died Wednesday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Martha Dobbs Smith, near Lynchburg, Virginia. Mrs. Dobbs had been visiting her daughter for about three weeks, having left here by motor with her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. E.P. Dobbs.

“Mrs. Dobbs was 93 years of age on May 2, and for 73 years had worshiped in the First Baptist Church here having gone there first as a bride, at the time she was married to the late Col. David J Dobbs in 1857. She was born in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1835 and remembered Sherman and his army passing through Marietta during the Civil War; she distinctly recalled a talk she had with the federal chieftain during his passage.

“Mrs. Dobbs leaves two daughters, Mrs. Lillian Dobbs Finn, of College Park, and Mrs. Martha Dobbs Smith, of Lynchburg; and three sons, E.P. Dobbs, Marietta, H. C. Dobbs, Miami, and M.D. Dobbs of Atlanta. [my great grandfather, J. M. Dobbs, predeceased his mother by six years.]

“Funeral services will be held in Marietta, either from the first Baptist Church or from Ellwood, her son’s home on McDonald Street. The time for the funeral has not been definitely set, pending arrival of the remains.”

I would sure like to know what Miss Mattie said to crazy uncle Billy when he brought his horde of Yankees to the doorstep of her home in Marietta in the summer of 1864. I am sure that she wanted to express to him her opinion on a variety of subjects. Being the Christian woman that we know she was, I am certain that she was restrained from fully expressed her emotions to the scruffy man from Ohio.

When Sherman began his march to the sea in November 1864, Marietta was no longer important to the Union forces. Upon abandoning the town, the Yankees burned down some County buildings and torched the buildings of the Georgia Military Institute. This was the school that had been founded by Miss Mattie’s father-in-law, my third great-grandfather, Col. David Dobbs.

After the fall of Atlanta, the family escaped from Marietta and took refuge in South Carolina. Miss Mattie’s father, Evan died that winter and his heirs were paid in near worthless Confederate dollars.

The ledger shows that on February 1, 1865 D.J. Dobbs and wife were paid $1542 in Confederate currency. That is the equivalent of $740 is 2021 dollars. Within only few weeks, those Confederate dollars would be totally worthless. Given that the total amount that D.J. paid at the estate sale was $1555, it appears that he converted the nearly worthless cash into 35lbs of shoe leather, an old mule, a padlock, and some items for the home.

Miss Mattie’s previous life was now ‘gone with the wind.’

After my great-great-grandfather, D.J. Dobbs had been taken prisoner by the Yankees at Greenville, South Carolina in May of 1865, he was paroled a few days later in Georgia, and the family made their way back home to Marietta in the late spring of 1865. Miss Mattie’s husband died a young man. My great-great grandfather was only 42 years old when he passed in 1877.

Another subject that Miss Mattie might have wanted to discuss with the general would have been in regard to her beloved church. Some folks say that the First Baptist Church of Marietta was used as a hospital for both Confederate and for Federal soldiers. However, other folks told a different story of how the church building was used by the Union Army as a stable and that they shot wounded horses inside the building. Both stories were told for the purpose of explaining bloodstains on a wall in the church.

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