Saturday, September 10, 2016

History investigation takes Singleton over into Clarke County, Alabama

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “A glance at pages of history” was originally published in the Sept. 18, 1997 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

The only desire that I have to be wealthy would be that I could go anywhere I desired in the study and investigations of certain times within our history. I could spend 24 hours a day wandering and looking through the old and abandoned cemeteries throughout the South. Some of my readers might think it weird when I say that I enjoy visiting the old burial grounds of our Southland. But, walking through many of these old cemeteries is like walking through the pages of a history book; only in most instances the history books have been changed.

As I have stated many times in these writings, my favorite period in our history is during the dreadful days of our Civil War. No other time in the history of the world did so many people fight for so many different causes and beliefs. Even the information that one can gather from off the tombstones of those that died or were killed during this terrible conflict is even more different than the other periods of our country’s history. As one searches around the old, abandoned home places, it’s not uncommon to find a lone tomb of a Confederate soldier nestled away in the corner of the old grown-up yard or in a not-too-noticeable thicket somewhere nearby. In most instances, the information on the small markers are always brief.

This past Thurs., Sept. 11, I had some time to myself. I decided to wander around and revisit some of the old burial grounds in the area and do some research on some of the graves of the Confederate dead that I knew were buried there. I had no plans or a map as to where I was going. As many times before, I knew I would decide my route when I reached the first crossroads. I did however receive a telephone call a few days back, asking me to try and locate the graves of two Confederate soldiers that were in the Suggsville area over in Clarke County.

My first stop would be an old abandoned cemetery near the community of Suggsville. Here, as I wandered around in this old burial ground, I would visit six graves of Confederate soldiers. Up the road aways, I would read the names of four more. All these burials were grown up and unkempt. As I expected, they, like most of the others scattered throughout the area, had been neglected for many years.

In searching and reading the brief messages carved on the plain, lonely tombstones, I was to find that one of these Rebels had ridden with the famed “Quantrill’s Raiders.” This fearsome group of the Rebel Army struck terror in the hearts of many of the people who supported the Union. Riding with this guerilla band were men with such names as the Younger brothers, who were later known throughout the West as outlaws. The youngest of the band, not yet 16, was a young lad named “Jessie James.”

John C. Breckinridge
My next stop was to be a large cemetery at Coffeeville. Here, I counted seven or eight graves of men from this area who had gone off to war and had fought for the Rebel cause. I had been told years before that one of these had been a distant cousin to Confederate General John C. Breckinridge. This cemetery is well taken care of, probably due to the fact that it is still in use today.

Turning to the east up Highway 69, I knew that I was getting into some very familiar territory. I could never travel this way without visiting the old cemetery that rests atop the high hill known as the mountain. Standing there in the old cemetery and looking northeast across the vast valley before me, I knew that down there in the distance lay the burial ground where my great-grandfather slept. He, too, had worn the uniform of the Confederate and in the same small cemetery one could find the graves of his two brothers who also joined the cause of the Confederacy. And, I knew if all went well, I would arrive at this special place within the hour.

As I stood there in the cemetery atop the high hill, many thoughts passed through my mind about the strange and unusual events of the Civil War. I thought of a Rebel soldier named Henderson Viden who fought with the 2nd Arkansas. In March 1862, he found himself marching through familiar territory and was soon fighting across the fields of his own farm in the battle of Pea Ridge, Tenn. During a lull in the fighting, he went over to his house and had lunch with his wife and children. After lunch, he returned to his position at the battle line. During the bloody fighting that afternoon, trooper Viden was seriously wounded. He was taken to his home nearby, where he later recovered under the watchful care and love of his wife and family.

Another Rebel soldier during this battle slipped away for a short while, also to visit his home place that was nearby. In searching for his family, he would find his mother and father hidden in the storm cellar to escape the dreadful noise of the cannon fire. Finding that they both had fallen asleep there in the deep storm cellar, the Rebel wrote a message and left it in the shirt pocket of his sleeping father. Leaving as quietly as possible, he returned to his assigned unit. The soldier would live to return home after the war to tease his family about his visit home that they had not been aware of that day in March 1862.

John F. Reynolds
Gen. John F. Reynolds of the Union Army was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. Some years after the war, when the state of Pennsylvania was building a large monument to her dead who were killed in the dreadful war, a worker who was carving Gen. Reynold’s statue out of the granite, was the Rebel sniper who had killed him by a bullet through the neck. This workman was Frank Wood, a native from the hill country of North Carolina.

Making my way down the narrow dirt road toward the Wood’s Bluff area, I was soon dismounting my iron horse at the old cemetery of my mother’s people. Making my way over to the grave site of my maternal great-grandfather, I knew that here too was a story that few others excelled about the hardships he suffered during and after the dreadful war.

Time was fast approaching for me to begin my return trip home. The hours of riding and searching had been worth it. I had found the information I was seeking; as always, I was glad that I had come this way once again.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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