July 21, 2013

Civil War anniversary: Dalton Machine Guards

By Marvin Sowder Dalton 150th Civil War Commission

— In 1863, Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown called for a volunteer force of 8,000 men to serve the state in home guard companies. As local defense units they would be used to protect the state’s borders, railroads, bridges and other such properties vital to the state’s interests. The call would affect all men between the ages of 15 and 45, drawing from exempt men and men over the conscription age not already serving in the military.

In July of 1863, Capt. James H. Bard of Dalton would be among the first to organize such a company. He began enrolling men to serve in what would become known as the Dalton Machine Guards.  He successfully raised a company consisting of 47 men, most of whom enrolled on July 7 and enlisted on Aug. 21, for a service period of six months.

Bard was born in Pennsylvania in 1810, the son of William and Martha Bard. After receiving a good education he met and married Elizabeth Holiday Dunn. In the late 1840s they moved to Dalton and contributed much to the development of the young city. Bard was a broker and served as president of the Cherokee Insurance and Banking Co. of Dalton. He helped organize this bank and his eldest son, Willie D. Bard, served as bank teller.

On Dec. 27, 1847, Bard organized the Dalton Manufacturing Co. and served as its president. All sorts of cast iron implements were manufactured there and shipped out in wagons and later on the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Bard became one of Dalton’s wealthier citizens serving as broker, banker and manufacturer. In 1861 and 1862 he secured several contracts with the Confederate government and began turning out those articles in great numbers up through 1864.

His product line consisted of such things as cast iron skillets, kettles, scales, boilers, andirons for fireplaces as well as other miscellaneous castings such as wagon axles and safe doors. The Dalton Machine Guards was organized by Bard to provide protection for Dalton Manufacturing Co. as well as other manufacturing establishments in Dalton should a threat to them become imminent.

The first lieutenant of Bard’s company of guards was Merritt Russell, who incidentally had his own manufacturing company that operated under the name of M. Russell, Brother and Co. of Dalton. The second lieutenant was a 19-year-old man, George A. Williamson, son of widow Rebecca Williamson, a seamstress and probably in the employ of Bard or Russell.

The first sergeant of the company was William F. Autry, a local blacksmith who was doing a brisk business shoeing military horses for the Confederate Government. The other sergeant was another 19-year-old man, Benjamin J. Sitton, who was detailed as a mechanic at Dalton Manufacturing. The two corporals who served on the staff were George Russell, brother and partner in the firm of M. Russell, Brother and Co. and Henry A. Wrench, who was destined to become a leading newspaper man and later editor of the Dalton Argus.

Of the 40 men who served as privates in the guards, 14 were employed by Bard at Dalton Manufacturing as molders, pattern makers, founders, machinists and mechanics.

 Other manufacturers and businessmen who served in the guards were Merritt Burns of the firm of Merritt Burns and Co. and William W. Higgins, a local gunsmith thought to have worked in the Dalton Arms Co. operated by Gen. Duff Green and son Ben Green.

Another was William C. Loughmiller of Spring Place and owner of the firm Loughmiller and Co. He turned out large quantities of soap, candles and matched sets of accoutrements for the Confederate quartermaster.

John S. Oliver of the firm of Oliver, Nichols and Co., operated a meat packing company, located on Mill Creek just north of the Dalton city limits, and worked under government contract. William J.M. Thomas was also a stockholder in that company.

As one can see, many of the men had good reasons to be a part of the Dalton Machine Guards. They were ready and willing to do battle in defense of Dalton and the businesses represented by the men in their ranks.

The six-month enlistment period for the guards expired on Dec. 7, 1863, and the company then disbanded.

Most of the business firms still located in Dalton at that time would leave and reopen in cities and towns further south that were thought to be out of harm’s way.

This article is part of a series of stories about Dalton and life in Dalton during the Civil War. The stories run on Sunday and are provided by the Dalton 150th Civil War Commission. To find out more about the committee, go to www.dalton150th.com. If you have material that you would like to contribute for a future article contact Robert Jenkins at (706) 259-4626 or robert.jenkins@robertdjenkins.com.