Long before Col. Sanders made Kentucky Fried Chicken famous, there was another Col. Sanders, a prominent Gainesville citizen who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
He was C.C. Sanders of the 24th Georgia Infantry Regiment, not to be confused with yet another Col. Sanders, John C.C. Sanders, an Alabaman who died fighting for the Confederates.
Gainesville's C.C. Sanders was much beloved and respected, though his service in the war might have been overshadowed by his more famous friend, Gen. James Longstreet, who also spent his last years in Gainesville.
Sanders was born in the part of Franklin County that is now Banks County and grew up in Banks. He graduated from Georgia Military Institute in 1861 and immediately joined the Confederates' Army of Northern Virginia. He advanced in rank to colonel in the 24th Georgia. He fought in such notable battles as Antietam and Fredericksburg. A friend characterized Col. Sanders as "brave as a lion, but gentle as a lamb."
The colonel described the horrific scene at Fredericksburg: " ... one could walk on the dead for hundreds of yards. We were pained to see the noble fellows coming up in steady columns to be mowed down before our lines of solid flames of fire from our entrenched positions ... The field of battle ran great streams of blood."
Union casualties numbered more than 12,000 while the Confederates lost more than 5,000.
But Union forces captured Sanders at Saylers Creek just three days before Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.
After President Andrew Johnson freed Confederate prisoners, the U.S. Army invited Sanders to join it as a brigadier general, but he declined. Friends learned in referring to the war in his presence not to call it the Civil War, but the War Between the States, the term favored by Southerners.
After the war, he moved to South Georgia before relocating to Gainesville and making his home on South Main Street. Sanders became a successful businessman, dealing in general supply and banking. He organized the State Banking Co. in 1889 and continued as president till his death in 1908. He also was active in other banks, including helping found one at Maysville.
Sanders was a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher, Gainesville school board member and Brenau College trustee.
A.S. Hardy, editor of the Gainesville News at the time, wrote of his close friend: "Col. Sanders was not the kind of man to parade before the public. He was as unostentatious as anybody I ever saw, and it was never his purpose to pose before the public as a great benefactor of mankind."
His deeds, however, demonstrated he was a benefactor of many. He would pay the expenses of Confederate veterans traveling to reunions, and often made up any shortfall of funds for his church or other cause.
Hardy wrote that Sanders was so popular he could have been elected to any office he wanted, but he consistently refused appeals to run. "Keep out of politics," he advised Hardy.
The C.C. Sanders chapter of Children of the Confederacy planned a memorial fountain for him on Gainesville's square. Instead, a statue of him and a fountain were erected at the Post Office, then at the corner of Green and Washington streets. The building, part of Gainesville's Federal Building, still stands, but the 1936 tornado blew Sanders' statue across the street to the steps of First Baptist Church, where Regions Bank main office stands today.
Gen. Longstreet's widow, Helen, who was postmaster at the time, campaigned to have the statue placed on the Post Office corner, and it became the only Confederate monument on federal property. Parts of the statue are housed at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.
Gainesville's Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a statue of Longstreet a few years ago on the general's former homesite in City Park. Both Sanders and Longstreet are buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. Originally published Oct. 14, 2007