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Women aided Confederates in Civil War

POSTED: August 8, 2010 1:00 a.m.

The American home front is well known for supporting its fighting men and women in its wars. Local organizations in all wars have prepared bandages, food, stationery, shaving and other personal items especially during World Wars I and II. It continued through the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Many individuals and groups back home send "care packages" to American troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

The tradition might have started during the Civil War. In the South, though times were tough and provisions scarce, ladies aid societies scrounged together what they could to help Confederate soldiers, especially those wounded in action.

The Southern Confederacy newspaper carried lists of donations from all over Georgia. The Atlanta Hospital Association received gifts and distributed them where needed.

An 1862 edition of the paper noted the "ladies of Hall County" had contributed "one box nicely packed with sheets, shirts, etc., one sack of meal, one sack of flour and one jar of butter."

The county's Ladies' Aid Association had collected $50 from Gen. H.W. Riley, $50 from M.W. Brown and $5 from the Rev. J.R. Rives. In addition, Harvey Hall had donated $25 to the effort to aid the sick and wounded of the war.

Other organizations around the state had sent vegetables, fruit, clothes and eggs.

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A Whelchel story from the Civil War:

Valentine Whelchel of New Bridge in northwest Hall County enlisted in the Confederate Army even though his father was one of seven delegates who opposed Georgia's secession from the Union. On June 3, 1863, Valentine was trying to recapture some artillery guarded by the 9th Michigan Cavalry at Brandywine. He got into a sword fight with a Union soldier, Louis Metzger, and was slashed on the head and hand. Though wounded, he eventually was able to capture Metzger and sent him to the rear as a prisoner before getting treated for his injuries.

After the war, Whelchel moved to Texas and was looking for a surveyor to survey his farm. He came across his next door neighbor, who turned out to be Metzger, the former Union soldier whom he had fought with and captured. They became best friends and lived side by side for five years until Whelchel returned to Hall County. He left his Texas farm under the watch of Metzger.

Whelchel told the Atlanta Constitution in July 1892, "The politicians made the war while the jeans and butternuts did the fighting. There are no better friends than those who wore the Blue and Gray from 1861 to 1865 fighting the politicians' battles."

Whelchel said he still had the scars to prove his skirmish with Metzger.

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Footnote on Whelchel/Wilkie: Hayne Thomas, a Murrayville area historian, says New Bridge once was a post office at Leather's Ford on the Chestatee River. It was important because it was on the main route to the gold fields of Auraria and Dahlonega.

The Wilkies or Whelchels, he said, once owned most of the land on the east side of the Chestatee from Leather's Ford south to Grant's Ford. His neighbor, the late Jim Brown Wilkie, used to joke that the only difference between the Whelchels and the Wilkies was that the Whelchels were the rich ones.

Thelma Little, 84, who grew up about a mile from Wilkie Bridge said Jim Brown told her father that the Whelchel name sounded "high-falutin'," and he was just a plain old country boy who wanted to be called "Wilkie." The Whelchels and Wilkies fell from the same family tree; it was mostly just a difference in pronunciation of the names.

Mrs. Little remembers playing in the Chestatee River before the original Wilkie Bridge was built. She now lives in Walnut Grove subdivision off Price Road. The subdivision was developed on the former farm where she grew up.


Her two older sisters attended Grange Hall School, but the year she was supposed to attend the school it consolidated with Price School into Murrayville. She is seeking information on the old Grange Hall School.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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