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MURRAY COUNTRY FAMILIES

Tom Polk Edmondson


Tom Polk Edmondson was born about 1843 in Murray County, Georgia. His father, James Edmondson, had been born in Virginia about 1798. His mother, Rebecca, was born in Georgia about 1806.

James was listed living in Murray County in the 1834 State Census.

The 1840 Census listed only the head-of-household by name. All others were grouped by sex and age categories. Free white males ten thru 14 1; free white males 20 thru 29 3; free white males 40 thru 49 1; free white females under 5 2; free white females 5 thru 9 2 free white females 10 thru 14 1; free white females 30 thru 39 1. Slaves males under 10 1; males 24 thru 35 2; males 36 thru 54 2; females 10 thru 23 1; females 36 thru 54 1.

The 1850 Census of Murray County listed the James Edmondson household as follows: James Edmondson, age 52; Rebecca Edmondson, age 44; John L. Edmondson, age 23; Susan Edmondson, age 20, James Edmondson, age 18; Harriet W. Edmondson, age 16; Amanda T. Edmondson, age 14; Virginia M. Edmondson, age 12; George Edmondson, age 9; Tom Polk Edmondson, age 7; William A. Edmondson, age 2; Laurens A. Edmondson, age 0 (newly born); and Thomas Edmondson, age 80. The Census also indicated that the James (the father) and Thomas (probably the father's father) had been born in Virginia. All of the remaining Edmondsons listed had been born in Georgia. Although some family genealogies list a daughter named Georgia, the Census form clearly listed Georgia and indicated the sex as male.

The value of James Edmondson's real estate was listed at $40,000. The family was then living in the Vann House at Spring Place.

That Census also listed several people with other family names: Caroline Henry, age 12; Milley Henry, age 9; James Douglas, age 22; William Loften, age 24; James Young, age 26; John Shamblin, age 24. The Census listed the occupation of William Loften as attorney-at-law and that he had been born in Georgia. James Douglas was also an attorney and had been born in Virginia. James Young's occupation was plasterer and he was born in Virginia. John Shamblin was a plasterer and he was born in Tennessee.

The Vanns were slave owners but not on such a large scale as has been previously reported. The Census records indicate that in 1840 James owned 8 slaves; in 1850 he owned 9; and in 1860 he owned 23 slaves.

One of those slaves was Levi Branham, who wrote a book in the 1920s detailing his remembrances, including time as a slave in the Edmondson household when they lived in the Vann House. He mentioned several incidents of Tom Polk Edmondsons' early years.

When the War Between the States started, Tom Polk Edmondson, then age 17, enlisted in the Murray Rifles and was immediately assigned clerical duties. When he expressed discontent, he was made a recruiter. Clearly unhappy with things as they were, the young man wanted to be a real soldier and engage in fighting.

Those with financial means could legally hire an acceptable male to take their place in the military. Tom decided that was the way to get into combat. He paid Robert Morrisett to take his place. He immediately reenlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in a unit that was part of the Army of Tennessee. By 1864 he had attained the rank of Major.

He commanded a cavalry unit called the North Georgia Scouts, operating as a guerrilla unit that carried out raids against Union Army units in north Georgia. The group also reportedly harassed and even killed people who held Union sympathies.

The North Georgia Scouts became such a problem for the Union Army that they sent a large contingent of soldiers to Murray to find and destroy the Scouts. A force estimated to number 300 men from the 147th Illinois Infantry and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry came to Murray in April 1865. These troops camped at Spring Place overnight. They took several civilian prisoners. The next day, as they advanced toward Holly Creek, a small Confederate force fired upon them. The Union Army took one Confederate prisoner during that encounter.

Knowing of the approaching Union troops, Major Edmondson had reinforced his Scouts with several other squads, mustering a force nearly his unit's normal size. Even so, the Union force still greatly outnumbered the Confederates.

The two sides fought along the Salliquoy Creek, in the southwest corner of Murray County and on both sides of the Coosawattee River for several hours. Late in the day, Major Edmondson personally led yet another charge against the Union force. During hand-to-hand combat, he received a fatal slash wound to his face and died almost instantly.

The two sides separated, the fighting having virtually ended with Edmondson's death.

The next morning, before departing for Dalton, the Federal force returned Edmondson's body to the Confederates, and he was taken to the family home in Spring Place. He was buried in Spring Place Cemetery. His grave remains one of the most visited by those interested in Civil War history.

Many years later, one of the men who had been a member of Edmondson's unit and present close to Major Edmondson that fateful day wrote a poem detailing the day that Edmondson died. The poem, "North Georgia Scouts," by James Maurice Thompson, appeared in C. H. Shriner's Brief School History of Murray County in 1911.

The poem is easily accessible in this online museum's collection of poems. From the menu at the top of the screen, click on Poems, the scroll down to Thompson, James Maurice. There you'll find "North Georgia Scouts."

 



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