June 16, 2013

Pilsbury diary to be unveiled at Bandy Heritage Center

Submitted by event organizers

— How do you think you are going to be remembered after your death? And how can you tell the next generation what you did in your life?

William Kennedy Pilsbury told his story before, during and after the Civil War by taking an old history book and inserting notes in the margins, pasting newspaper articles and handwritten documents on each page about his life and his family, and by writing and inserting his own writings and poetry.

The book, found in Terrell County, was noticed by library volunteer Cherry Howell of Dawson, who became enamored with the book and spent months reading it, taking notes and researching to assure accuracy to write a short biography, “W.K. Pilsbury: A Man of Contradictions.” Through this biography, the book caught the eye of several members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter in Dawson who shared it with relative Bitsy McFarland of Dalton, also an active DAR member. McFarland shared it with the Bandy Heritage Center at Dalton State College, whose officials believed that Pilsbury’s scrapbook is a valuable historical document and offered to digitize it to preserve it.

The book will be available for viewing on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Brown Center at Dalton State College. And the digital format will be available from the Bandy Center. The Bandy Center and the two DAR chapters encourage anyone who is interested to come see the book and meet the people who helped save it.

Student interns Amanda Kelly and Justin Hayes, under the direction of the Bandy Heritage Center staff, took white gloves and great care to systematically and carefully digitize every page. Now the documents will be available to students, researchers and Civil War historians in digital format. And the whole book is now preserved for everyone’s interest.  

Pilsbury was a native of Columbia, S.C., born into the gentry, and his family contained several patriots in the Revolutionary War. Later in life the family moved to Georgia where he went into Confederate service in the Griffin Light Guards in May 1861 — Company 13, 5th Georgia Regiment. Pilsbury served for the entire four years of the war, including the battle of Chickamauga.

He describes his experience, “About 4 o’clock, Sunday afternoon, September the 20th, 1863, an advance was ordered and the regiment of which I was a member, the 5th Georgia Regiment of volunteers, in an unbroken line in concert with other troops moved up the slope of the hill to attack the Federal troops in this their last position upon the battlefield of Chickamauga. As we reached the top of this hill, the usually silent woods suddenly became alive. The angry flashing of the musketry and the cannons’ heavy roar mingled with the yells of the combatants realized the poetic battle picture of ‘Beal and Duine’ — As all the fiends from heaven that fell had raised the banner cry of hell.”

Pilsbury writes later in the diary that his pocket Bible saved his life at Chickamauga. “This book was in his side pocket over his heart where it was struck by a ball the force of which slightly paralyzed the upper part of his body, with no serious results.”

In a later article written in a Raleigh, N.C., paper about the battle at Bentonville, N.C., it was said that Pilsbury fired the last shot that was fired during the war in the 5th Georgia Regiment and is among the ones who fired the last shots in the war.

Following the war, he became a teacher and newspaper writer and remained in the United Confederate Veterans organization throughout his life. His contradiction in allegiance was displayed when he described himself as being like a “drummer of ’76, still a Confederate soldier, but saluting ‘old Glory’ under which his ancestors fought and asking God’s blessings upon his Country.”