The Ballad of Manse Jolly

Melinda J. Hall*

In the midst of Reconstruction
A legend, he became:
"Avenging Angel of a Lost Cause."
Manson Jolly was his name.
Manse donned Confederate gray
As he watched five brothers die.
He and Larry were his mother's
Only sons who did survive.
Surrender at Appomattox
Returned them to their farm.
Martial law governed their home;
And the Union soldiers swarmed.
One star-filled night on the road from town,
Bandits stopped Manse's brother;
Larry fired his gun in self-defense
He died before firing another.
Manse wept at the family graveyard
For the brothers he had lost.
He vowed revenge in the name of God
No matter what the cost.
He took up his rifle and mounted his horse
In search of his brother's assassins.
His mother could not stop this quest
Manse would not submit to reason.
He waited for them outside of town
Where Larry had breathed his last.
He crept in the dark alongside the road
Eying every horseman who passed.
One passerby was wearing
The only evidence Manse required
Larry's spit-shined boots were on his feet
Manse took aim and then he fired.
The Union soldier hit the ground
And Manse that moment swore
The Union Army must be stopped
And he began his private war.
Manse hunted Union soldiers
And wherever they were found
He killed them in cold blood
Blue uniforms littered the ground.

A bounty was placed upon his head
The search for Jolly did grow
But the local folks hid Manse safely
He was their last Johnny-Reb hero.

Manse finally was convinced
To leave Carolina and go west.
Until the Union captured him,
Soldiers said they would not rest.
Jolly refused to sneak away without
A departure replete with glory.
Manse dressed himself in Union garb
And became the legend of this story.
Riding horseback with eyes ablaze,
He entered the Anderson town square
And watched the troops pass in review.
Of his presence none were aware.
At the stroke of noon in the heat of the day
Manse drew one loaded gun
And fired at the passing Union parade
Every bullet gleaming in the sun.
He fired six shots and six soldiers fell
As he galloped out of town.
The story would not be forgotten
Of Manse Jolly's last showdown.
The local folks of Anderson Swear by what they say
That the spirits of Union soldiers
Walk the square this very day.
At the stroke of noon when all is still,
They say if you listen close
You'll hear the wails of six dead men
Who wander there as ghosts.


* (c) Melinda J. Hall. Ms. Hall is a High School English Teacher in Greenville, SC. Poem used with permission