Jefferson Smith’s youth was overshadowed by the Civil War. It began on the early morning of April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces opened fire on the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. Georgia was the fifth state to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America. Two of Ira’s sons, Ira Ellis Caspar Wistar and Columbus Darwin, joined the Confederate cavalry to fight for the Southern cause. Both men survived the war. Young Jeff was able to continue his education at a Sabbath school throughout the war.
The War Between the States is a significant part of the history of Newnan and Coweta County. Newnan was known as the "hospital city of the Confederacy," having six field hospitals located city-wide in churches, homes, and other buildings and serving as many as 10,000 wounded soldiers of both the North and South.
On July 30, 1864, the carnage and violence of the war approached Newnan. During the siege of Atlanta, Union Brigadier General McCook with 3,600 Federal cavalry began a campaign of raids against Southern railroads, the final objective of which would be the attempt to rescue 32,000 Union prisoners at Andersonville. In the path of the army advancing on Andersonville was Newnan. Believed at the time was that General McCook intended to capture wounded Confederates at Newnan. The Union troops were only three miles from the town when Major General Joseph Wheeler with 1,400 Confederate cavalry caught up with the Federals, engaged them in battle, and won a victory. Captured were approximately 2,000 prisoners, several ambulances, and a full battery. Also won was the release of about 500 Confederate prisoners that McCook had in his possession.
The Confederate triumph, known as the “Battle of Brown’s Mill,” probably saved Newnan from the destruction that many Southern cities suffered. —Alias Soapy Smith:The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, pp. 22-23.
- More on the Battle of Brown's Mill can be viewed at www.battleofbrownsmill.org.
- The print above and the others regarding Brown's Mill can be seen here.
- Prints of the series can be purchased from the Newnan Coweta Historical Society.
Edition of each Giclee print on canvas limited to an edition of 125 signed and numbered. Contact the Newnan Coweta Historical Society for cost and details.