The Gray

sc-sovflag In the south, there is evidence of many Prothro’s and Dobbs serving in the Confederate armies. A search for "Prothro" shows five men serving in Georgia units and about nine serving in Louisiana units; all with names I recognize as kin to my gg-grandmother, Martha J. Prothro.

A search for "Dobbs" returns a listing of 79 names. Many of names in the list represent duplicated entries and most of them I recognize as kin to my gg-grandfather, David Judson Dobbs.

In 1856, David Judson Dobbs (my gg-grandfather) graduated from the Georgia Military Institute (GMI). Originally, I had assumed that all members of this class served as officers in the Confederate Army, but that was definitely a bad assumption and mainly came from not fully understanding the politics of Georgia during the Civil War.

Information provided to me by a distant cousin indicated 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 David Judson Dobbs’ descendants who applied for membership in the Daughters of Confederacy about 50 years ago, but I was not able to find confirmation 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. In Sarah Temple’s The First Hundred Years: A Short History of Cobb County in Georgia 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 James M. Dobbs, Sr. 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 obtain the rank of Colonel – was it during the war, the later days of the war or after the war ended?

We find both David and David Judson 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".

Ellison A. Dobbs (nephew of David Dobbs) is listed as head of the commissary department of GMI during the war years (1861-1864). In the back of the book there are lists regarding the classes of GMI. David J. Dobbs is listed in the freshman class of 1853. In the "Roll Of Cadets Arranged According To Merit In Conduct For The Year Ending June, 1853" David J. Dobbs is listed as number 82 in his class with 77 demerits. This puts him in the bottom third of his class. The cadet with the most demerits had 262. David J. Dobbs’ father, Col. David Dobbs, is mentioned twice in the book as a founder and on the Board of Trustees for GMI from its inception in 1851 to at least 1857.

I made an inquiry on the Yahoo! e-group Georgia Civil War  regarding David J. Dobbs, the 42nd Regiment of the Georgia State Volunteers and the Nitre & Mining Bureau. I received the following reply:

These were the only finds I had.  I looked under the initial "D", "D. J." and "J".  I also looked at other possible spellings of Dobbs and had no results there.   Dobbs, David GA 14th Inf. Co. D Dobbs, David J. GA 7th Inf. (St. Guards) Co. E   Either or both of these could be your ancestor.  State Guards were frequently consolidated into larger units.  Him being a Col. and in the 42nd State Volunteers puts doubt into these listings being his. These are the only listing of Nitre & Mining: Acklin, Edward AL Nitre & Mining Corps Young’s Co. Howard, Joshua NS Nitre & Mining Bureau War Dept., CSA Jackson, John D. AL Nitre & Mining Corps Young’s Co. Jones, Charles J. AL Nitre & Mining Corps Young’s Co.  Cpl. 

The Georgia State Guard was an infantry unit raised for the Confederacy by the state of Georgia in the summer of 1863 and was drawn mainly from exempts and men older that conscription age. 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.

Following this, I searched the Civil War Research Database on Ancestry.com where I found two David Dobbs listed in Georgia units during the war:  "David Dobbs" of Georgia who is shown as enlisting as a Private in Company D of the 14th Georgia Infantry on March 1, 1862 and was discharged as a Sergeant and "David J. Dobbs" of Cobb Co., Georgia, who enlisted as a Sergeant in Co. E of the 7th Georgia Infantry (State Guards) and who was discharged as Sergeant (no dates given). It would seem that of the two listed, that my David J. Dobbs of Cobb Co., Georgia is most likely the David J. Dobbs who served in Co. E of the 7th Georgia Infantry. Was there only one David J. Dobbs in Cobb Co., Georgia during the war?

In the index for the 1860 US Census, we find one D. Dobb in Cass County, two David Dobbs in Cherokee county, and a David Dobbs in Pickens County. There is one D. J. Dobbs in Cobb County, who is also a slave owner (this is my great-great grandfather). The other David Dobbs listed in Cobb County in 1860 is his father.

David Dobbs, father of David J. Dobbs, was about 65 years old at the start of the war. The Dobbs family owned and operated a large plantation in the Marietta area. The tax records of the county for 1851 show David Dobbs with 42 slaves and 475 acres of land. He owned the largest number of slaves in Marietta that year and the second largest number in the county. Owners of large plantations in Georgia were exempted by the Governor of Georgia from service in the Confederate States Army (CSA). The exemption is ironic because these are the very people who stood to lose the most from the outcome of the war. The Georgia governor at the time, Joseph Brown, was a political enemy of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. When the Confederate States of America was established, Brown spoke out against the military draft as an over-reaching of the Confederate State’s central powers, targeting Davis in particular and calling him a tyrant. He even tried to stop Colonel Francis Bartow from taking Georgia troops out of the state of Georgia to the battle of First Bull Run.  In a letter to Jefferson Davis in April of 1862, Governor Brown made several arguments against the Confederate conscription act. In one of his arguments, he explains why plantation owners and overseers should have been exempted:

"[I]n portions of our State where the slave population is heavy almost the entire white male population capable of bearing arms (except the overseers on the plantations) are now in the military service of the Confederacy. Most of these overseers are over eighteen and under thirty-five. If they are carried to the field thousands of slaves must be left without overseers, and their labor not only lost at a time when there is great need of it in the production of provisions and supplies for our armies, but the peace and safety of helpless women and children must be imperiled for want of protection against bands of idle slaves, who must be left to roam over the country without restraint."

Noting that in the two rosters where David J. Dobbs is definitely listed (Kennesaw Dragoons and Co. E of the 7th Georgia Infantry) he holds a rank no higher than sergeant, I concluded that David J. Dobbs did not take a commission in the Confederate Army, nor in the Georgia Militia, but again that is an assumption based on not having all of the information and unfortunately many of the records of the Georgia military were lost in the final days of the war.  I did find that "the 7th Regiment Georgia State Guards appears to have been formed about September 1863, by the consolidation of Lester’s Battalion and Neely’s Battalion Georgia State Guards."

Another website listed Co. E as being nicknamed the "Marietta Infantry" and that it was commanded by William G. Grambling of Cobb County. There is also a description of the regiment:

"This regiment was formed in August 1863 by the consolidation of Lester’s Battalion, State Guards (also know as the Cobb County Battalion, State Guards) and J. J. Neely’s Battalion of Newnan, Georgia. Companies A, C, E, G, K, and L belonged to Lester’s Battalion. The remaining companies belonged to Neely’s Battalion. The regiment served as local defense in an area ‘commencing at the North Carolina line and following along the line between Towns and Rabun counties between White and Habersham counties to the Chattahoochee River, thence along said river to a point near Roswell in Cobb county, thence upon a line so as to include the city of Atlanta, thence along the Atlanta & W.P.R.R. to West Point, thence along the line between Georgia and Alabama to the line of Tennessee, and thence along the line of Georgia and Tennessee and between Georgia and North Carolina to the starting point." 

The Dobbs were cotton growers and the cotton industry was very important to the economy of the Confederacy. Yet the Union blockade of the South prevented southern cotton growers from getting their product to European markets. The English textile industry, which had relied heavily on U.S. cotton, found out early in the war that they could make do without the cotton imports and began to rely on flax as a replacement for cotton with some degree of success. Within a few years, British cotton growers in India began to make up for this loss. It was a difficult situation for the South. Although they had been cut off from the European markets, the cotton growers in Georgia were still vital to the economy of the South and hence they did receive exemptions from the govenor of the state.

It does appears then that David J. Dobbs’ military duties during the war were limited to service in local defense units, but if he managed to stay out of the main theatre of the war (i.e. Virginia and Tennessee) by being exempted from service for most of the war the effects of the war were no stranger to him. He did not need to go to the war for the war certainly came to his doorstep.

Following the Battle of Chattanooga (Tennessee) (Nov. 23-25, 1863), Confederate forces under General Bragg evacuated Tennessee and regrouped in Dalton, Georgia. The battleground of the western theatre of the war was now moved to northwestern Georgia.  In the spring of 1864, General William T. Sherman began the invasion of Georgia from Chattanooga. Skirmishes between Union and Rebel forces took place throughout April and May. On May 14, the Battle of Resaca began as almost 100,000 men stormed out of Snake Creek Gap west of the tiny Georgia town of Resaca, 60 miles north of Marietta.

Cadets from GMI were ordered to report to Resaca. There is listed on the roster of Caper’s Battalion, a Major Dobbs as Quatermaster and commissary officer of GMI, but this was David J Dobbs’ cousin, Ellison A. Dobbs. 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 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. A year later in, May of 1865, they become the last unit in the eastern theatre to receive orders to surrender.

By mid-June the advances made by Sherman forced Johnston to withdraw and reform a line at Kennesaw Mountain on the outskirts of Marietta. On June 19, fighting began at Kennesaw Mountain, a few miles north of Marietta. On 22 June, Hood attacked the Union forces at Kolb Farm (Marietta), halting Sherman’s attempt to bypass Kennesaw. Then on July 3, ironically the day before they would have been celebrating American independence, Marietta fell to Sherman’s army and the grounds of GMI were occupied by Union soldiers.

According to family tradition, as told by a son of David J. Dobbs, the Dobbs’ children were sent out of town to escape, in an oxcart. They buried the family silver to hide it from the Yankees, and when they came back, they never found it.

On July 10, Johnston withdrew to the gates of Atlanta, and as they retreated, the Rebels destroyed all bridges over the Chattahoochee River. By mid-July, Sherman’s forces moved east from Marietta and spread across the open land north of Atlanta. On July 20, the first artillery shells fell on the city. By the beginning of August, the Union was slowly encircling the city as heavy fighting continued. By late August, the Rebels continued to hold Atlanta and on the 25th Sherman ordered six divisions to begin moving towards the Macon and Western Railroad, the last of the supply lines for Atlanta. On September 1, the Rebels finally gave up on holding the city and began their evacuation. On the second, the city was surrendered by the city’s Mayor. On the third, Sherman wired Washington "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won!"

Two months later Sherman began his famous "march to the sea" towards Augusta and Savannah. On November 13, most of the town of Marietta, including all but one of the buildings of GMI, was destroyed by fires set by Union forces. Before leaving the area, Sherman ordered that the Chattanooga-Atlanta railroad and any public buildings in Rome, Marietta, and Atlanta be destroyed.

GMI was never rebuilt and the grounds of the former school are now the site of a golf course and country club. A mural in the main house of the country club depicts life at the former school in the era before the war. However, in 1872 the Association of the Surviving Cadets of the Georgia Military Institute was formed and they did attempt to get the state of Georgia to revive the institute. David J. Dobbs was treasurer of this group and they met annually in Marietta for a number of years following the war. A bill was introduced in the Georgia legislature to reestablish the school, but it did not pass.

As the knowledge of what my Dobbs ancestor went through in the closing months of the war began to sink in, "Gone with the Wind" was no longer just a movie to me and I realized that the aftermath of the war must been devastating to the family.

Both David J. Dobbs and his father survived the war and they are both listed in the US Census of 1870 in Marietta. David Dobbs died at the age of 80 in 1872. David J. Dobbs died at the early age of 42 in 1877. The war must have taken a heavy toll from him. An 1876 newspaper article in found in the archives of the Atlanta Constitution describes a lawsuit filed by David J. Dobbs of Marietta against two of his brother-in-laws claiming that the estate of his wife’s late father, Evan Prothro, owed him 370 dollars. The judgement of the lawsuit was found in the favor of the brothers, Wilston and G. A. Prothro who had counter-sued for the same amount.

James M. Dobbs, Sr. was only 18 years old when his father died and this appears to have had a tremendous impact on him as he ran away from home and went to sea in 1878 (see International Man of Mystery).