Local News

June 21, 2013

‘Sacred to the memory of W.K. Pilsbury’

Local history center helps digitize makeshift Civil War-era journal

Kathy Hicks had the book literally under wraps for years.

An old relic that a friend had given her, the book was a history textbook that an aging Confederate war veteran converted into a makeshift journal by pasting old newspaper clippings to its pages and scribbling his thoughts in the margins. He completed the book, which is several hundred pages long, in September 1897. He died a little less than a year later.

Hicks, a member of the Old Herod chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Dawson, said she shared the book when the Terrell County Historical Preservation Society decided to open a small museum. Museum committee member Cherry Howell said she got permission to borrow the book and wrote a short biography based on it.

“I think I probably read through it three or four times,” Howell said, adding she had to do so with care. “It’s just very fragile. It won’t be around much longer.”

The women knew they wanted to save that piece of history — some 500 or so pages of it — compiled by W.K. Pilsbury. Pilsbury served with the 5th Georgia Regiment of Volunteers and saw action in the Battle of Chickamauga and the Battle of Bentonville, N.C. Members of the public gathered at Dalton State College Thursday evening to view the book and copied excerpts from it and meet those who helped preserve it.

Freida Boyles, who is over the Old Herod DAR, said she talked to her cousin, Bitsy McFarland, who is involved in the local DAR, about their efforts with the book for the museum several months ago, and McFarland suggested contacting the Bandy Heritage Center for Northwest Georgia.

The center, which is a part of Dalton State College, is designed to be a history hub and resource for all kinds of historical organizations in the region. Boyles said preservationists had already contacted officials at the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park about digitizing the book, but they were told the park didn’t have the resources to do it. When they contacted the Bandy Center, leaders there said “yes” right away, Boyles said.

“We about danced on the table,” she said.

Center director John Fowler said history student Amanda Kelley scanned roughly 500 pages so the book could be preserved. Justin Hayes, who works at the center, also assisted. Kelley, a Rock Spring resident, hopes to eventually work at a museum. She said she read every page.

Now, the Terrell County museum will have a digital copy of the book, and the Bandy Center will also have copies.

Many of Pilsbury’s memories from the Battle of Chickamauga are preserved in the book. His regiment went into battle with 300 men, he wrote, but when the battle was over, even though the Confederates had won, his unit had just 100 men left.

Pilsbury was wounded by a rifle ball but survived. After the war, he made a name for himself as a newspaper journalist and an educator, at one point serving as principal of an academy for males and females and writing for numerous publications, including The Atlanta Journal.

He never married, but in his old age he paid homage to a love of long ago, tucking a bookmark in the pages of his book and writing, “given to me by one whom I loved in my younger days better than life. A sweetheart but we drifted apart and I placed it here in memory of one girl I loved once tenderly and sincerely.”

He wrote shortly before finishing his book that if an epitaph were ever placed over his grave, he wanted it to read, “Sacred to the memory of W.K. Pilsbury who departed this life —. The deceased was a native of Columbia, S.C.; in early life a soldier of the Confederate States and afterwards a soldier of the cross. His warfare is now over but his end was peace.”

Fowler said a digital version of the book will be placed on the Bandy Center’s website, www.bandyheritagecenter.org.

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