Hurricane Matthew uncovers clutch of Civil War ordnance


When word circulated that Civil War-era cannon balls had been uncovered on beach south of Charleston following last weekend’s hurricane, I was somewhat surprised.

While the strength of such storms can’t be underestimated, the ability to move, say, a 12- or 24-pound round shell from the bottom of Charleston Harbor onto a beach would be quite a feat.

It appears that the clutch of 16 cannon balls found Sunday on Folly Beach had most likely been in place since the 1861-65 conflict.

“There was a gun emplacement there during the Civil War and this must have been a stack because they were all consolidated together,” John Manzi, who has a home on Little Oak Island, on the other side of Folly, told USA Today.

Manzi said a friend went on to the beach Sunday and found the Civil War-era shells.

Bomb squads successfully detonated most of the shells, which were badly corroded by 150 years of sand and salt.

An official with the area sheriff’s department said a few of the shells were transported to the nearby Navy base.

Maj. Eric Watson, a public information officer with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, said his office had to wait for the tide to go down to recover all the ordnance.

“When the tide receded, our guys and members of the US Air Force explosive team used a small amount of C-4 to detonate the cannon balls right there on the beach,” he said.

Fuse holes were noted in at least some of the shells, indicating the ordnance was designed to explode, rather than being solid shot, which was used to batter targets.

(Top: Exciting action photo of cannon balls found on Folly Beach, SC.)

Savannah’s Methuselah, sloppy mind or stonecutter’s mistake?


Claims to amazing longevity are not only legion, they go back thousands of years. Methuselah is noted in the bible for having lived 969 years; Jimmu, alleged to be the first emperor of Japan, was said to have survived more than 125 years; and the Soviet Union claimed that as of 1960 it had 100 citizens between the ages of 120 and 156.

Science, though, recognizes France’s Jeanne Calment (1875–1997), who lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days, as the longest-lived person, at least that can be verified. She lived three years longer than the runner-up, Sarah Knauss of the US, who died in 1999 at 119.

So it was some skepticism that I read the wording on the tombstone of Laurence Dunphey, located in Savannah’s Catholic Cemetery:


to the Memory of

Laurence Dunphey

A Native of Clonmel

County of Tipperary Ireland

who departed this life

December 17th 1834,

aged 145 years”

Were the information on Dunphey’s gravestone correct, it would mean he had been born in 1689, the year before the Battle of the Boyne, fought between English King James II and the Dutch Prince William of Orange. William and his wife Mary had overthrown James in 1688.

The battle, fought near the town of Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland, about 100 miles from Clonmel, resulted in a victory for William, curtailed James’s bid to retaken the English throne and aided in ensuring the continued Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. It is still a point of pride today with Protestants in Northern Ireland, the more low brow of whom use it as occasion to attempt to whip up anti-Catholic feeling.

Box vault of Laurence Dunphey in Catholic Cemetery, Savannah, Ga. Note Southern Cross of Honor in front of grave, apparently depicting belief that Dunphey, who died in 1834 at the purported age of 145, also managed to fight in the US Civil War (1861-65).

Box vault of Laurence Dunphey in Catholic Cemetery, Savannah, Ga. Note Southern Cross of Honor in front of grave, apparently depicting belief that Dunphey, who died in 1834 at the purported age of 145, also managed to fight in the US Civil War (1861-65).

Georgia itself wasn’t established as a British colony until 1733, when Dunphey would purportedly have been 44 years old.

Of course, it’s almost a certainty that Dunphey was not 145 when he died in 1834. It’s possible Dunphey was old, even very old when he died, but it’s more likely that a mistake was made by someone somewhere along the line.

While some Irish immigrants had moved into Georgia from South Carolina in the 18th century and there were Irish who came with founder James Oglethorpe when he arrived in Savannah in 1733, the first wave of Irish immigration directly into Savannah came in the 1830s, with the arrival of individuals to help build the Central Rail Road and Canal Co., later the Central of Georgia Railway.

Had Dunphey immigrated with the very earliest settlers to Georgia, he probably would have been recognized as such as his death; it seems implausible that he chose to leave his homeland and come over with the first major wave of Irish immigrants at the age of 140-plus.

A writer for the Catholic Diocese of Savannah speculated that Dunphey’s age was probably inscribed on his gravestone by “bored Union soldiers” during or just after the War Between the States.

However, the lettering appears identical across the marker, meaning that unless the Federal soldier-turned-mischievous stonemason opted to remake an entire marble slab, it’s almost certain that the grave marker was made shortly after Dunphey’s death.

Two possibilities:

  • Dunphey was very elderly, but uncertain of his age, and he or his family either really believed that he was 145, or, in his family’s case, did so to humor him. In an era when time was much more fluid, mistakes regarding age, even of several decades, weren’t unheard of;
  • There is also the possibility that the stonemason working on Dunphey’s marker simply made a mistake, carving “145” instead of, say, “45.” And given that there’s no “reset” button when you’re working with stone, you get what you get.

Whatever the real story behind the age of Laurence Dunphey – County Tipperary native, US immigrant and long-dead Irish Catholic – he’s managed to achieve a small bit of immortality, no matter how long he really lived.

North Carolina woman still receives Civil War pension

irene triplett 1

More than 150 years after the end of the War Between the States, the US government continues to pay out pension money connected to the Civil War.

Irene Triplett, a Wilkesboro, NC, woman and the 86-year-old daughter of a Civil War veteran, collects $73.13 each month from her father’s military pension.

Triplett’s father was Mose Triplett, born in Wilkes County, NC, in 1846. He joined the Confederate army in May 1862 as a member of Company K of the 53rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment, at age 16. In 1863, he transferred to Company C of the 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment.

Later that year, he fell ill with fever and was admitted to a Confederate hospital in Danville, Va. He escaped from the hospital on June 26, 1863, and deserted.

Triplett’s decision to turn his back on the Confederacy enabled him to miss the Battle of Gettysburg, which began less than a week after he slipped out of the Danville hospital, and likely saved his life.

The 26th North Carolina suffered unparalleled casualties at Gettysburg, losing 734 of the approximately 800 men it went into the battle with, according to the David H. McGee’s regimental history of the 26th North Carolina.

The losses suffered by the 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg were the highest of any regiment in a single battle during the 1861-65 conflict.

Mose Triplett's pension card.

Mose Triplett’s pension card.

Triplett is said to have made his way to Knoxville, Tenn., where he joined the 3rd NC Mounted Infantry, a Union regiment, in the summer of 1864. He began receiving a pension of his own in 1885, as an invalid.

Triplett’s first wife died without the pair having any children.

At age 78, Triplett married Lydia “Elida” Hall, who then 28. They had five children, three of whom did not survive infancy. But Irene, and her younger brother Everette, did. Mose Triplett was 83 when Irene was born and nearly 87 when her brother Everette came along.

Mose Triplett, who lived into his early 90s, eventually made it to Gettysburg, attending the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938. But he died a few days after returning from the event.

With the Great Depression still lingering, times weren’t easy for a single mother with two children. In 1943, Elida and Irene went to live in public housing, while Everette ran away, according to the website

Sadly, Irene Triplett, who was born disabled, did not have a happy childhood, she told The Wall Street Journal in 2014.

“I didn’t care for neither one of them, to tell you the truth about it,” she said referring to her parents. She noted she was often abused. “I wanted to get away from both of them. I wanted to get me a house and crawl in it all by myself.”

Elida Triplett died in 1967. Everette Triplett died in 1996.

When US News & World Report recently reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for updated information on Triplett, a spokesman indicated the family did not wish to be contacted.

(Irene Triplett with historian Jerry Orton in 2010. Photo credit: The Daily Telegraph.)

The man who fought Indians, Mexicans, Yankees and himself


Next year will mark the 200th anniversary of one of the Confederacy’s greatest foes: General Braxton Bragg. Unfortunate for the Southern cause was the fact that Bragg wore Confederate gray.

Bragg, born March 22, 1817, in North Carolina, was a key Southern commander in the Western Theater and later an important military advisor to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although West Point-educated and active in the Seminole and Mexican-American wars, Bragg proved indecisive, ineffective and querulous as a Confederate general, earning the disdain of subordinates and superiors alike.

Bragg feuded with most everyone he came into contact with except Davis, and even Bragg and Davis were said to have squabbled mightily in the years before the war.

In fact, as Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant recalled in his memoirs, during Bragg’s time fighting Indians on the frontier in the 1850s the latter even managed to get into a major league rhubarb with … himself.

Grant related an experience that occurred when Bragg had been both company commander as well as company quartermaster, the officer in charge of approving the disbursement of provisions, according to Civil War Trust.

As company commander he made a request upon the company quartermaster – himself – for something he wanted. As quartermaster he denied the request and gave an official reason for doing so in writing. As company commander he argued back that he was justly entitled to what he requested. As quartermaster he stubbornly continued to persist in denying himself what he needed. Bragg requested the intervention of the post commander (perhaps to diffuse the impasse before it came to blows). His commander was incredulous and he declared, ‘My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself.’

Bragg’s obsession with military propriety would seem to have bordered on the maniacal. During the Mexican-American War, for example, while Bragg and his men were enduring a murderous artillery barrage at Monterrey, Bragg saw an American horse driver fall dead from his saddle.

Bragg ordered his retreating men to halt, and in the middle of the onslaught ordered one of the other horsemen to dismount, turn around and recover the dead man’s sword because it was public property, issued by the government.

The horseman also took from the corpse a pocket knife, fearing that if he didn’t Bragg would send him back for it.

It would seem likely that Bragg suffered from one or more mental disorders that 150 years ago were simply chalked up to being cantankerous and thin-skinned. Whatever the true diagnosis, he was a poor choice to lead men into battle.

High Hill Baptist Church retains old-time atmosphere

High Hill Baptist Church cropped

High Hills Baptist Church is an antebellum structure with an interesting history, but like many old rural Southern churches it would seem its best days are behind it.

The congregation was begun in 1772 and the current church building was erected in 1848, replacing an earlier structure that dated to 1803.

Richard Furman (1755-1825), influential in spreading the Baptist faith in South Carolina, was the first pastor of the church, taking over at the tender age of 18.

Furman was a native of New York who had moved to Charleston as a youth. At 16 he converted to the Baptist faith, turning away from the evangelical Calvinism of his family. Two years later, in 1774, he was ordained as pastor of High Hills Baptist Church.

Bees coming and going into hive in wooden column on front of High Hills Baptist Church, Stateburg, SC.

Bees, left, corner, coming and going into a hive in wooden column on High Hills Baptist Church, Stateburg, SC.

The High Hills of Santee area, around present-day Stateburg, SC, was, from the colonial era until the War Between the States, noted as a healthful region where wealthy planters from the South Carolina Lowcountry would escape to during the summer months, when malaria and yellow fever were especially prevalent.

Thanks to Furman’s efforts, numerous Baptist churches emerged around South Carolina during his decades as a pastor.

Furman was an ardent patriot, as well. During the American Revolution, he volunteered to serve in the Continental Army but instead was persuaded that his talents could better be used as a speaker to help gain support for the American cause.

On the fall of Charleston to British forces in 1780, General Lord Cornwallis announced a princely bounty of £1,000 for Furman’s capture, and the latter was forced to flee South Carolina.

The land where High Hills Baptist Church is located was donated by American patriot Thomas Sumter, the South Carolina militia general who played a key role in defeating the British during the Revolution.

While many of the large plantation-style homes and other structures that once dotted the area were destroyed in the waning days of the war by Union troops, some survived, including High Hills Baptist Church.

The distinctive Greek Revival structure has remained largely unchanged over the past 168 years.

Good old outhouse. Operational, as author found from experience.

Good old outhouse. Operational, as author found from experience.

In fact, there is still an operational outhouse out behind the church, one of the few churches in South Carolina with such a “facility.”

The church is showing the ravages of time, however. Bees have set up a hive in one of the wooden pillars at the front of the church, and the slats along at least one of the large hurricane shutters are deteriorating.

Given that the church has just a single service each week, and that it takes place at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, it’s likely the congregation is small.

Inside, the church features tiled floors, hard-carved walnut woodwork and old-time wooden pews.

Despite the church’s diminished role, it’s left an indelible mark on the state that continues unabated.

Furman University, one of the Southeast’s most prestigious private schools, was established in 1826, the year after Richard Furman’s death. It was named in his honor.

Now based in Greenville, Furman University was located near High Hill Baptist Church from 1829-1834. It later relocated to Fairfield County, SC, before moving to Greenville in 1851.

Graduates of the institution include Nobel Prize winning physicist Charles Townes, John Watson, the founder of Behaviorism, and SC Governor and US Secretary of Education Dick Riley.

After three years of war, Texas cavalryman wasn’t ready to quit


Tens of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers went AWOL or deserted during the War Between the States. Some found combat wasn’t as glamorous as they had imagined, others wearied of being away from family, while many simply tired of seemingly endless monotony punctuated by the short bursts of terror common to combat.

Henry Martin Lary, a Confederate cavalryman from Texas, apparently did not waver in his conviction, despite the dangers and drudgery of war.

Lary enlisted as a private in Company D of the 19th Texas Cavalry Regiment on June 24, 1862, in Dallas County, Texas. He had earlier served for six months in a different Texas unit, beginning in 1861.

Lary saw action with the 19th Texas on April 26, 1863, at the Battle of Cape Girardeau (Mo.), and on June 9, 1863, at the Battle of Lake Providence (La.), during the Siege of Vicksburg, Miss.

He was captured at Monticello, Ark., on Jan. 15, 1864, and was first transferred to Little Rock, Ark., then to St. Louis’s Gratiot Street Prison. Gratiot was the largest war prison in Missouri, although it was mostly used as a transfer station.

First page of Henry Martin Lary's statement made at March 30, 1864, Gratiot Street Prison, St. Louis. Click to embiggen.

First page of Henry Martin Lary’s statement made at March 30, 1864, Gratiot Street Prison, St. Louis. Click to embiggen.

Lary apparently spent several months at Gratiot before being sent in August to the notorious Camp Douglas, in Chicago.

He would spend the winter of 1864-65 at Camp Douglas before being sent south to be exchanged near the war’s end.

On April 11, 1865, he was sent down the Mississippi River to Cairo, Ill. He arrived in New Orleans on April 22 and remained there until early May, when he was exchanged at the “mouth of the Red River, La.” on May 5.

Late in the war, nearly all exchanges were made because soldiers were in failing health, so it’s likely that Lary was suffering from health complications, possibly related to the winter at Camp Douglas, which had one of the highest mortality rates of any Civil War prisoner of war camp, with as many as 6,000 prisoners dying there between 1862 and 1865.

But before Lary was sent north Camp Douglas, Union officials at Gratiot interviewed him and transcribed his responses to a series of set questions.

Although they misidentified him as “Martin H. Lary” – transposing his first and middle names (unlike the Confederates, who misidentified him as “Leary” rather than “Lary”) – it’s apparent that even after nearly three years of service, Lary’s dedication to the Southern cause hadn’t wavered.

After answering such questions as place of capture, battles participated in and commanders served under, Lary was asked “Are you a Southern sympathizer?”
His response was a straightforward, “I am.”

To the question, “Do you sincerely desire to have the Southern people put down in this war, and the authority of the U.S. Government over them restored?” Lary was likewise succinct: “I do not,” he replied.

While it’s impossible 150 years later to know if Lary’s convictions remained as strong throughout the winter he spent at Camp Douglas, he did manage to survive and make his way back to home to Hill County, Texas.

Lary married, and lived until 1910, dying at the age of 67. His wife lived until 1933 and received a pension for her husband’s Confederate service. They are buried side by side in Hillsboro, Texas.

(Top: Confederate POWs at Camp Douglas, Ill.)

Picturesque church a reminder of town’s glory days

First Presbyterian

Say one thing for old-time Presbyterians: They knew how to build a church.

Consider First Presbyterian Church in Laurens, SC. Built in Victorian Gothic Revival style, it has all the beauty and elegance of any storied European house of worship despite being located in a town with barely 9,000 residents.

Constructed of red brick, it possesses a cross-gabled slate roof, and a two-story mansard-roofed tower. It employs board-and-batten dormers with round windows and an octagonal broach spire. Its decorative brickwork is indicative of beautiful masonry found on many buildings constructed in the US up through the 1940s.

Features of First Presbyterian’s brickwork includes corbelled arcades, blind-raked arcades, soldier courses set with diagonally placed bricks, brick buttresses, and brick chimneys with recessed panels and corbelled bands and caps, according to information about the church detailed by the National Register of Historic Places.

Door to First Presbyterian Church, Laurens, SC.

Door to First Presbyterian Church, Laurens, SC.

The congregation was organized in the early 1830s, and by the 1840s it was more than 100 members. The church continued to grow prior to the Civil War, with its first standalone structure, on Church Street in Laurens, being built in 1850. By 1860, First Presbyterian’s membership rolls had swelled to 176, including 46 slaves.

First Presbyterian, like most houses of worship in the South, struggled during the war, as not only were a number of its congregants killed during the conflict, but contributions fell off as members sought to keep their own heads above water financially. In 1863, its minster was sent off to serve as chaplain in the Confederate army.

Following the 1861-65 conflict, First Presbyterian slowly recovered, as the region embraced manufacturing and textiles, and also served as a transportation hub, with several railroads serving the town.

Toward the end of the 19th century things were going well enough in both the churchB.F. Mauldin story 177 and the community that it was decided expansion was in order.

First Presbyterian acquired a lot on Laurens’ Main Street for $800 and began construction in 1891. The first service inside the completed structure was held two years later, in April 1893.

During the past three decades, Laurens, like many Southern towns, has fallen on difficult times as textiles and manufacturing plants have closed or relocated. Nearly 500 fewer people lived in Laurens in 2010 than did so 50 years earlier, a trend evident in small towns across the Southeast.

However, even with the problems inherent in struggling town, the Presbyterians of Laurens, SC, have a house of worship they can rightly take pride in.

B.F. Mauldin story 171