Combined research effort turns up identity of long-dead soldier

After more than 150 years, the identity of an Alabama soldier who died in the waning days of the War Between the States has been uncovered.

Lt. Josiah M. Brown perished on April 4, 1865, from pneumonia at a hotel in Newberry, SC, while passing through the community en route home to Greene County, Ala. All that was known about the officer’s identity was what appeared in the Newberry Weekly Herald on April 6, 1865: “Lieut. Brown of Greene Co. Ala. died from pneumonia on April 4, 1865 at the hotel in Newberry. He was buried with Masonic Honors.”

The late Edith Greisser of the Newberry Historical and Museum Society spent many hours tracking down information about the 14 Confederate soldiers who had died while passing through Newberry on their way home in 1865 and were buried in the Old Newberry Village Cemetery.

Five have never been identified, but Brown was the only one with a partial identity.

Greisser, who died in 2013, tried the Alabama State Archives and found there were more than 400 Confederate soldiers with the surname Brown. However, there were only three “Lieutenant Browns”; an A.J. Brown, an F.A. Brown and a J.M. Brown. Curiously, all were members of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment, though of different companies.

Veterans Administration gravestone for Josiah M. Brown, issued before his full identity was known.

Greisser contacted the Chamber of Commerce in Greene County, and a representative went to the Confederate monument in town, but the only Brown listed was one who had died after 1907.

Chapters of Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Freemasons were no longer active in the county, a reflection of the hard times that have fallen on the area in the decades since the war’s end.

Greene County, located in the western half of the state, is the least populated county in Alabama, with fewer than 9,000 residents. By comparison, it had more than 30,000 residents in 1860. Its population fell by more than 40 percent between the 1860 and 1870 censuses, reflecting the heavy toll the war took on its populace.

A Masonic funeral service was conducted for Brown, at his request, but the Masonic records of the Newberry lodge were lost in a fire in 1866. The South Carolina State Masonic Lodge did not have the duplicate record of 1865 for Newberry Lodge in its collection.

Members of the Amity Lodge in Newberry recently picked up the ball and got in contact with the Alabama State Masonic Lodge. Gene Wicker, a member of the Amity Lodge, was able to discover that a Josiah M. Brown, who had served as an officer in Company D of the 5th Alabama, had been a member of the Beacon Lodge in Greene County, Ala., joining before the war, thereby solving the mystery.

The 5th Alabama saw its share of severe action, fighting at Seven Pines, Gaines’ Mill, Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Boonsboro, Antietam, Chancellorsville,  Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and around Petersburg in the last months of the war. Brown was wounded at least once, at Gettysburg.

This past Sunday, a granite stone identifying Josiah M. Brown by his full name was unveiled at the Old Newberry County Cemetery, next to a Veterans Administration marker that reads “Lieut. Brown of Greene Co. Ala.” It was paid for by Amity Lodge member Huger Caughman Sr.

“As Masons, we take a vow to take care of our brothers, and that vow extends to the grave,” said Jason Moore, the Worshipful Master of the Amity Lodge, during a brief ceremony.

(Top: New gravestone for Lt. Josiah M. Brown, paid for by the Amity Masonic Lodge of Newberry, SC, at the Old Newberry Cemetery.)

Intrepid reporter: Avoid floating masses of fire ants

One would think that if a large newspaper company were going to rewrite press releases sent to them – rather than going out and finding news stories – it could do so in an intelligent manner.

A reporter for, which is the website for several publications, including Alabama newspapers the Birmingham News, the Mobile Press-Register and the Huntsville Times, apparently decided the recent arrival of Tropical Storm Cindy, with its potential for flooding, would be a good opportunity to rewrite a release from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System on the dangers of fire ants.

Fire ants, of course, aren’t daunted by flooding, as they ball together by the thousands during floods, making small rafts that enable them to survive for considerable periods until they find dry land.

According to the story, “If a person encounters one of these floating balls of fire ants, it can be seriously bad news, causing potentially serious health problems not to mention many painful bites.”

Anyone living in the South who isn’t aware that a floating mass of fire ants is bad news either just stepped off the plane from an Inuit enclave in northern Canada or has serious short- and long-term memory issues.

And it isn’t the bite of fire ants that is so much bothersome as the other end of the critter; the fire ant has a sharp stinger on its rear, connected to an internal venom sac.

Among advice included, directly quoting the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service release, was the following:

During times of flooding, avoid contact with floating masses of fire ants; and if you are in a rowboat, do not touch the ants with oars.

It’s understood that newspapers cater to a sixth-grade reading level, but even in sixth grade, when I happened to live along the Mississippi River, I knew you didn’t mess with fire ants, never mind a floating mass of the pernicious devils.

To be told to avoid contact with floating masses of fire ants is akin to being instructed not to stare directly into the sun with a pair of high-powered binoculars.

If all this seems nitpicky, remember that the fire ant that today has spread throughout the Southern US, the Southwestern US and California, came into the United States through the port of Mobile in the 1930s. One would expect a story from a site representing in part the Mobile Press-Register to have a pretty good understanding of the facts regarding this invasive and painful nuisance.

(Top: Fire ants grouped together floating on water.)

Kudzu bug threatening Southern exports

Some Latin American countries that trade with Southeastern states are worried that kudzu bugs may be headed south of the border, Southeast Farm Press reports.

In February, officials in Honduras discovered dead kudzu bugs in a shipping container from Georgia. This led the country to step up inspections of cargo from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, according to the publication.

The kudzu bug only arrived in the Western Hemisphere in 2009, coming into Atlanta from Asia. But since then it has spread across at least 230 counties in four states.

It’s now found in all 46 South Carolina counties, more than 140 counties in Georgia, more than 40 North Carolina counties, along with parts of Alabama. Entomologists have been astounded by the insect’s rapid movement.

The bugs, known in most parts of the world as bean plataspids, look like boxy brown ladybugs and emit a foul-smelling secretion when threatened. While they are known to eat kudzu, they can also ravage soybeans, along with other legumes, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

University of Georgia researchers scheduled an informational meeting late last month to share with Latin American officials what they have learned about the kudzu bug since its arrival in the Southeast.

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‘Kudzu bugs’ an increasing Southern problem

How fast has the so-called “kudzu bug” moved across the Southeast over the past two years? Since arriving in the Western Hemisphere by way of Atlanta from Asia in 2009, the insect has spread from nine Georgia counties to across at least 230 counties in four states.

It’s now found in all 46 South Carolina counties, more than 140 counties in Georgia, more than 40 North Carolina counties, along with parts of Alabama, and entomologists have been astounded by its rapid movement, according to Southeast Farm Press.

The bugs, known in most parts of the world as bean plataspids, look like boxy brown ladybugs and emit a foul-smelling secretion when threatened. As a result, it’s often as easy to locate them by smell as by sight when they occur in large numbers.

While they are known to eat kudzu, they can also ravage soybeans, along with other legumes, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Clemson University Entomologist Jeremy Greene says the insects, often mistakenly referred to as stink bugs, are becoming a bigger problem in agriculture as they spread throughout the region.

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Alabama honors Reconstruction black leaders

The state of Alabama recently attempted to correct a century-plus oversight by recognizing a group of black legislators who served during Reconstruction.

“Somewhere there’s a song about ‘It’s a long time coming,’ and it has been for the families of these great men,” Alabama state Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgom­ery, said during a ceremony this past Saturday outside the state Capitol.

McClammy, who took part in the “Reconstruction Descen­dants Weekend,” was quick to praise the black legislators who served with distinction, but without recognition by their white colleagues in the decade after the end of the War Between the States.

The 19th-century black leaders finally are recognized on historic markers at the Cap­itol and at Alabama State Uni­versity.

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UAB scientist uncovers 17 Egyptian pyramids

University of Alabama Birmingham scientists employing a new type of infra-red imaging have discovered 17 lost pyramids and more than 1,000 tombs in the deserts of Egypt.

The astonishing results, which also include finding 3,100 ancient settlements, have been confirmed by archaeologists with picks and shovels, who have located two of the pyramids found from space, according to The Telegraph.

For more than a year a team led by Sarah Parcak, an Egyptologist and assistant professor of archaeology at UAB, used a combination of NASA and commercial satellites that orbited above the earth to capture the images of Egyptian antiquities, according to information released by the university.

She was able to uncover sites that had been invisible – including a world of houses, tombs and pyramids. Once the images were discovered via satellite, a team of French excavators confirmed what Parcak saw in the images from space, the school added.

Ginners appear set to handle cotton capacity

With cotton production booming, one wonders whether there is enough ginning infrastructure to handle anticipated capacity?

Cotton acreage increases are expected nationwide, with a total of more than 12.5 million acres expected to planted, 15 percent above last year, according to Southeast Farm Press.

The largest increase, at 548,000 acres, is expected in Texas, and acreage increases of more than 100,000 acres are expected in North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. Acreage has boomed with the jump in cotton prices over the past year to record levels.

Experts in some of the largest cotton-growing states say they anticipate no problems in terms of gins meeting the capacity needs of farmers.

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