The Enduring Legend Of An Anderson County Confederate Veteran,
Unreconstructed Rebel And Folk Hero1
By Charles H. Busha
Ever since the Reconstruction epoc that tread on the heels of the U. S. Civil War, the exploits of Confederate combatant Manse Jolly have become riddled with myth, tall tales, embellishments and bias. Thus, history buffs and other interested persons in Upstate South Carolina face a host of hurdles when they attempt to separate fact from fallacy within the full-fledged Jolly legend. Nonetheless, some facts about Manse Jolly and his adventures are well documented and indisputable. For example, as a Confederate soldier from Anderson District, South Carolina, Jolly served courageously and with distinction throughout the four years of the War of the Rebellion.
In addition, there is widespread accord among local historians (as well as in various oral traditions) that the demise of the Confederacy at the end of hostilities was a bitter pill for this seasoned and exhausted veteran to swallow. Undoubtedly, Jolly did not relish the thought that the combat deaths of five of his brothers during the North-South military contest were in vain. There is also unanimity in some published accounts about another facet of the Jolly folklore, including the fact that this Confederate veteran was a persistent and piercing thorn in the side of Yankee occupation troops stationed in the Upstate after the war.
Despite verifiable accounts within the folklore concerning this man, descriptions of the true character, motivation and range of his post-war behavior (up until his departure for the "western wilds" of Texas in the fall of 1866) are, for the most part, speculative and somewhat questionable. Detailed accounts of the misrepresentations and falsifications contained in various stories and legends about the so-called "unreconstructed re-ble" have been published in E. Don Herd's book The South Carolina Upcountry, 1540-1980, Volume II (Greenwood, S. C.: The Attic Press, 1982, pp. 387443). As historian Herd pointed out, many of the undocumented spurious yarns about Manse Jolly have their roots in at least three historical novels and a host of newspaper articles that all fall short in the presentation of facts--but are imbued in a plethera of fiction. Thus, every attempt will be made in the present article to concentrate on information that is known to be factual, free of falsifications and not distorted.
Manson Sherrill Jolly was born in 1841 in Anderson District, South Carolina. He was the fifth of seven sons born to Joseph Moorhead Jolly ( 1802-1856) and Anna Cole (Sherrill) Jolly. His paternal grandparents were Joseph Jolly (b. 1768-d. 3 Dec 1851) and Jane (Moorhead) Jolly (b. ca 1775). During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, yoeman farmer Joseph Moorhead Jolly and his wife settled on a 300-acre farm in the Lebanon community of Anderson District. They constructed a two-story log dwelling in which eleven children of the family were born and grew up. The Jolly farm was situated off present-day U. S. Highway 178 and on a road that was eventually named in honor of their son, Manse Jolly.
As a youngster, Manse and his ten siblings attended a common school in the Lebanon community. It was deemed to be somewhat better than many of the other similar institutions in the district. Thus, Manse was afforded an opportunity to obtain an adequate elementary education for a youth of his time. Because some of the letters penned by Manse have been donated to, and preserved by, the library at Anderson University in Anderson, S. C., it is evident that, while he was not a scholarly individual, this Confederate soldier was certainly literate and could express his feelings satisfactorily in the written word.
On February 5, 1861, Manse, who was then nineteen years of age, enlisted in an infantry unit organized in the Upstate by William Butler. The military unit was raised to serve only one year and was soon mustered into Confederate service as the 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment. On March 10, 1861, Manse Jolly was assigned to Company "F" of the regiment, and he became a corporal. The company was commanded by Captain Thomas M. Baker. It was initially assigned to duty on the South Carolina coast in and around Fort Moultrie. In July 1861, Manse was promoted to the rank of sergeant. In a furlough document, prepared during the war, the company commander, Capt. Baker, wrote that Manse was six feet and four inches tall and that he had a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and red hair. The document also contained a notation that Manse had been a farmer in Anderson District before his enrollment in the army.
After his one-year military obligation came to an end and his regiment was disbanded on February 5, 1862, Manse returned to Anderson District for a two-month visit with his widowed mother and his sisters. Then, he mounted a faithful horse, Dixie, and rode to Adams Run, South Carolina, where the young former soldier volunteered on April 8, 1862, to serve as a private in yet another unit, Company "F" of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment His younger brother, William Enos Jolly (1843-1864), was already serving in the same company. While Manse was in the cavalry, he provided his own horse (or mount as it was called), for which he was paid $12.20 monthly as a supplement to his regular pay.
The commander of Company "F", 1st South Carolina Cavalry was Captain Elam Sharpe (b. 1821) of Pendleton, South Carolina. Another captain who served in the company was Alfred T. Clayton ( 1828-1884) . Benjamin Franklin Blassingame was a first lieutenant in the unit, and the company's three second lieutenants were Benjamin Luther Holder (1825-1919) , J. W. Earle, and Thomas Hogan Russell ( 1820-1905). Besides, Leroy W. Lusk (1831-1909) was a third lieutenant in the company.
Many additional men from Anderson and Pickens districts also served in Company "F". Among them were Evan Virgil Nicholson (1844-1902), Russell Duke (1827-1894), Robert A. Gilmer (1827-1905), John Harvey Ariail, III (18381862 ) , Benton Strain Freeman ( 1836-1921), Hamilton Brevard Capehart (b. 1830), Oliver Perry Field (1841-1920), Harrison Haynes (1821-1898), Nathaniel M. Madden (1823-1908), John Tarleton Lewis ( 1838-1915) , Samuel Alden Lyles (b. ca. 1826-d. 1874), David H. Messer, Ransom Duke (1829-1901), and too many others to be enumerated here.
The 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment was commanded by Colonel John Logan Black (18301902), a native of York County, South Carolina, who had attended the United States Military Academy--but who left the institution without having completed the four years of study required for graduation. On August 31, 1861, he entered the Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America and was assigned to the 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, a unit that evolved when the 1st Battalion S. C. Cavalry was expanded. Black was promoted to colonel June 25, 1862. Field officers of the regiment were Major Niles Nesbitt, Major Moses T. Owens, Lieutenant Colonel John D. Twiggs and Lieutenant Colonel William A. Walker. In October 1862, the regiment was ordered to leave South Carolina and to proceed to Richmond, Virginia. Manse Jolly went to Virginia with the regiment, and he was soon assigned duties there as a scout.
Between November 1862 and September 1863, the 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment was assigned to General Wade Hampton's Cavalry Brigade, a part of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. During the U. S. Civil War, cavalry troops were used extensively. Their typical function involved the scouting of enemy troop positions and the raiding of supply lines and depots, all of which became the major tasks of mounted soldiers during the war. Typically, cavalry troops first used their horses to reach the battlefield; they then dismounted and fought as doughboys. After engagements began, horses were usually kept behind front lines in relatively safe locations. Then when the battle ended, cavalrymen again mounted their horses and rode away.
During the first two years of the Civil War, Confederate horsemen were superior in both numbers and fighting ability in comparison to their Northern counterparts. They were especially more effective than Yankees in scouting and screening enemy positions and then raiding their long supply lines.
Manse Jolly's regiment, the 1st South Carolina Cavalry, participated in numerous battles, skirmishes and raids of the war. Among them were the following that took place in Virginia: Fredericksburg, on December 13, 1862; Dumfries and Fairfax Station, on December 19, 1862; Brandy Station, on June 9, 1863; Hunterstown, on July 2, 1863; Bristol Campaign, on October 9-22, 1863; and Mine Run Campaign, in November and December 1863. Moreover, in Pennsylvania the regiment participated in the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1-3, 1863. In addition, the regiment fought in several engagements in the Carolinas, including Chapman's Ford on the Ashepoo River in Colleton County, South Carolina, on May 26, 1864; Carolina Campaign (February - April 1864); and Moccasin Swamp on April 10, 1865.
More attention to the battles at both Brandy Station and Gettysburg should be devoted here. As General Robert E. Lee began to move his army north for an invasion of Pennsylvania, the largest cavalry clash of the Civil War was fought at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, in Culpeper County, Virginia A total of 18,000 horses were used by Union and Confederate cavalry troops at that battle. Confederate cavalry forces under the command of General Jeb Stuart (1833-1864) were surprised at Brandy Station by 8,000 attacking Union cavalrymen and their 3,000 supporting infantrymen who were commanded by General Alfred Pleasonton ( 1824-1897). Jeb Stuart, a West Point graduate, was a flamboyant and dashing young Confederate general, and in spite of having been surprised by the enemy's attack at Brandy Station, he led his troops very effectively. The battle has been described as a draw--but from a technical standpoint it represented a Confederate victory. Union troops began to withdraw from the area, and their departure allowed the Army of Northern Virginia to move toward Maryland and ultimately into Pennsylvania. After the Battle of Brandy Station, Manse Jolly was detached to his regimental headquarters and served there as a regimental scout for two months.
As indicated earlier, the 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment also fought at Gettysburg where one of the most important military engagements of the Civil War took place on July 1-3, 1863. At that time, Manse Jolly's regiment was assigned to Hampton's Brigade, and it became the first element of General Jeb Stuart's cavalry forces to reach Gettysburg on the second day of the battle. About 75,000 Confederate troops participated in the fierce engagements at Gettysburg where 20,000 of them became casualties as a result of battle deaths or wounds. During the Gettysburg campaign, Manse Jolly was again promoted to sergeant, having achieved the same rank earlier during his voluntary service in Butler's Regiment.
Sgt. Manse Jolly's last six months as a member of the Army of Northern Virginia were served while his regiment was assigned to Butler's -Young's Brigade. The 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment fought in the Mine Run Campaign in Virginia from November 26 until December 1, 1863. In preparation for a counterattack against Yankee forces during that engagement, General Jeb Stuart took command of several cavalry regiments, including the one in which Sgt. Jolly served. During the fight at Mine Run, Union forces retreated and were quickly pursued by General Stuart and his cavalrymen who somehow became wedged between two Union corps during the fast-paced action. Upon realizing that his forces were virtually surrounded by the enemy, General Stuart knew that he probably had to pass through enemy territory in order to reach Lee's front lines. Thus, he called upon Colonel John Logan Black, commanding officer of the 1st South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, to provide a capable and dependable scout who might find a clear and safe route for Confederate forces to take out of the confined predicament into which they had inadvertently stumbled. Colonel Black promptly selected Sgt. Manse Jolly for the demanding and dangerous scouting task. An account of this incident, including an evaluation of Jolly as a soldier, was written by Colonel Black many years later and published in his memoirs and reminiscences. Provided below is the regimental commander's recollection of what happened at Mine Run.
That evening we moved back by a near cut to form a junction with Gen'l. Lee & awhile after dark found we were in the wrong pen as we had moved in between two Yankee Corps encamped on our right and left. Stuart was at the head of the Column and my Regt. in front. He soon found out where he was going and halted, passing back an order for all to keep quiet. Even the very horses seemed to reali7e the situation and to stand still. Gen'l Stuart asked me for a good man, a scout that he could send thro the enemies' camp to reach Gen'l. Lee's lines. I ordered the adjut. to detail a scout, Sergeant Jolly, of Co. F, asked Capt. Clayton to let him go. Clayton directed him to come to me. He did so & I referred him to Gen'l Stuart. Poor Jolly was a bad talker but a better man or soldier never lived. He did not impress Stuart who, however, told him to go back and get an overcoat (Yankee) to cover and conceal his uniform. This Jolly did. While away, Stuart asked me about him. I told him there was no better man in the corps and Jolly soon came back and departed on his mission & went thru to our lines. We reversed our column and backed out, made a detour, and before daybreak had taken up our position on the flank of Gen'l. Lee's Army.
Source: Crumbling Defenses edited and privately published by John Logan Black and Eleanor D. McSwain of Macon, Georgia.
1. From: Old Pendleton District Newsletter, Volume 21 No. 2, February 2007.
2. We are searching for Part 2 and will add it at a later date.
3. Posted with permission