Friday, June 20, 2014

Dickson Huie Copeland - Son of the "Snake Man" and Confederate soldier

(Family lineage: son of  1  Robert Hatten Copeland; 2 Charles Mabry Copeland;
 3 Charles Thomas Copeland Sr., 4 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr.)

1832 - 1905

The spelling of Dickson's name is somewhat intriguing to those of us who care about such things.  We know for sure he wasn't "Dick's" son ( his father was the "Snake Man", Robert, who was described in an earlier post) or perhaps the family simply didn't know how to spell Dixon. I guess it doesn't really matter because it seems his relatives and friends didn't worry about it (if they ever did) and simply called him "D".

D was the second of nine sons in Robert Hatten Copeland's first family with wife Sarah Minerva Copeland  (maiden name unknown). Family stories reveal that Robert, who was disabled, did not believe in slavery – especially since he had nine sons to help with the chores.  However, despite his father's opinion, D became a slave overseer as a young man on a large plantation with many slaves. His main responsibility was to see that the crops were properly planted and harvested, and he reported to family and friends that there were never problems with the slaves on that plantation.

A little known fact is that some of the large plantations had already begun to free their slaves before the start of the Civil War (aka "The War between the States"or "War of Northern Aggression").  D's employer might have been one of those downsizing plantations because before the war even began, D had left the plantation, rented some land and started farming.  

Where he met her, we're not sure, but Nancy Ann "Nannie" Witcher became D's wife in 1858  After their marriage, the young couple lived next-door to D's father, who was a ferry keeper on the Flint River.  Their close proximity must have been especially welcome after D's mother died the next year at age 48 while there were still a number of children living at home.

As war threatened, the family's pattern of life was changed forever. Although they had never owned or approved of using slaves, they deeply loved their Southern heritage, and it wasn't long before D and his brothers joined the Confederate Army. However, a few of  the younger boys had to wait until they were of age to enlist a year or so later.  It was just as well that no one knew then that by the time the war ended, two of D's younger brothers (Asberry and George) would have died. 

Before joining the army in April of 1862, D transported Nannie and their two little girls to live with Nannie's sister, Lizzie Lyle, in Cave Spring, GA, where they remained until after the war ended.  Once they were assured their families were as safe as possible, D and his brother-in-law, Evan Lyle, enlisted in Company C, 1st Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Calvary of the Confederate Army. This regiment was forming up that April, but wasn't mustered into the Confederate Army until May 28. 

Following early skirmishes in East Tennessee, the regiment took an active part in Bragg's Kentucky Campaign and also fought at Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Knoxville, Atlanta, Savannah, and in the Carolinas Campaign.  Finally, almost three years later and a few weeks after General Robert E Lee's surrender on April 9, the regiment, which was composed of less than 50 officers and men by that time, was surrendered by General Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station, Orange County, NC on April 26, 1865.

Fortunately Dickson and Evan had no idea what their families were going through in Cave Spring while they were gone - which was just as well.  It seems that while the Battle of Atlanta was still raging, some Yankee raiders arrived at the Lyle home. Since the Witcher sisters had encountered the Yankees the year before they sprang into action when they heard they were coming again.  First - and most importantly - they found a safe place for the children and then tried to hide all their valuables and food.  

After Nannie had gathered her wedding presents and stowed them in a trunk which she had pushed into a briar patch, she and her servant squeezed themselves into the trunk (must have been a very tight fit!).  However, the raiders soon found them, tore apart the trunk and divided the contents among themselves. They then turned their attention to gathering all the available food, while killing the chickens and hogs.  

Before leaving with the livestock, they started to burn down the house, but - out of desperation - Nannie, who was a member of the Eastern Star, gave the ritual distress sign.  Ironically, the leader of the Yankees was a Mason who recognized the signal and called his men away from the house without doing further damage. However, they did take all the treasures and food with them, leaving the  two women with four small children to survive the ordeal somehow.

After the surrender of his regiment, D made his way back to Cave Spring to claim his wife and daughters.  They spent some time  weighing the advantages versus disadvantages of returning to Heard County to live, and finally decided that they would make a fresh start in a different part of Georgia.  Eventually they settled near D's sister, Nancy Copeland Haynie, and other family members in Polk County.  

After their 5th daughter was born in 1867 they  managed to buy a farm across the road from Lizzie and Evan Lyles where they lived for 20 years.  Dickson was 73 years of age, and the father of eight children when he died in Cave Spring.