Dr. Marty Olliff looks through the Wiregrass Archives to tell the story of a Civil War veteran.
The Wiregrass Archives has only one collection directly relating to the U.S. Civil War – the Jerrie Watson Bass Collection, record group 18, donated in 2003.
Ms. Bass was one of her extended family historians. In addition to allowing us to scan photographs of her male relatives who served in World War 1, World War 2, and into the 1970s, as well as female relatives from the first half of the 20th century, she gave us photographs, letters and a jacket cuff of her great-great-grandparents Hardy F. Scarborough and Malvina Carter Scarborough.
We know little about either Hardy or Malvina. They were born in Georgia, him in 1832 and her in 1835. Neither appear in any federal census except that of 1860 that showed them and their three children farming in Beat 4, Barbour County. Both had connections to Barbour County as well as Terrell and Baker counties in Georgia.
In 1849, Uriah Paulk wrote a letter to John Hunt of Oswichee, Russell County, Alabama, recommending the 17-year old Hardy as an overseer, a job he also offered to perform in 1857. When the couple married we do not know, though a letter from Hardy’s brother in June 1849 and another from Malvina’s sister in December 8 indicates the couple had married sometime that spring.
The Scarboroughs appear to be living in Baker County, Georgia in 1851. Hardy’s brother tried to entice him to move to Louisiana in 1854 (while Malvina’s sister tried to dissuade her by libeling a family acquaintance who had moved there and fell to debauchery), but they seem to have settled in Mt. Pleasant, east of Eufaula, by 1855.
Hardy was a late enlistee in the Confederate Army. He became a private in Brook’s Battery of the Terrell Artillery in early 1863. He was stationed near Savannah at Camp Ogeechee then Camp Ashby on the Vernon River at White Bluff. From there, Brook’s Battery was to defend Savannah as well as Charleston, South Carolina. An 1865 report listed the battery’s arms as four 12-pound Napoleon field cannon. Hardy assured Malvina that he much preferred the “duties of a cannoner” to that of driving the caisson because driving was dangerous.
In his first letter as a soldier, Hardy enclosed his portrait. He explained the juxtaposition of sword and Bible, “I send you my ambrotype which keep as a memento of my affection for you and my dear children until I see you again — it was taken in the position of a soldier (sitting excepted) with a Bible in the left hand which I hope will direct you to Christ who is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”
Malvina retained 14 letters from Hardy written between February 1863 and April 1864 when he died of disease in camp. They discuss little about his life in camp, focusing on instructions/suggestions for how Malvina should work their farm, including hiring a local enslaved woman to help with the house and an enslaved man to work the fields. His last letter talks about a small feud between one of his comrades and a girl back home.
After Hardy’s death, Malvina received the cuff from the uniform coat she had made for him. She never remarried. In 1887, the Alabama Legislature passed a law for Confederate widows’ relief. Malvina applied a few months later (she was still in Barbour County) but was apparently turned down. She applied six more times, 1891-1896, while living in Dale County near Wicksburg in present-day Houston County where her “taxable property consist[ed] of nothing” according to her affidavit.
We do not know if she succeeded in winning a pension from the state, but she did not live long after 1897, dying before 1900.
To read the transcribed Scarborough letters visit the Jerrie Watson Bass Collection at https://www.troy.edu/_dev/wiregrass-archives/inventories/018.html.
It Came from the Archives is an ongoing series spotlighting the fascinating collections at the Wiregrass Archives. To find out more, visit online at https://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives or in person in Everett Hall on the Dothan Campus.