Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Sr., lived 60 years before the Civil War and 25 years afterward (1801-1890.) He was a slaveholder, but viscerally opposed to secession. He was a member of the Union Party but saw his eldest son leave the family’s north Georgia farms to go off and fight the Union.
Sharp was born in Pickens County, South Carolina, in 1801, to Bartemous Reynolds (son of William Acheleus Reynolds, a Patrick County, Virginia, plantation owner) and Mary Mildred Taylor Reynolds, daughter of another Patrick County, Virginia, planter David Taylor. She was the granddaughter of a Zachary Taylor, whose grandson and namesake would go on to become the most famous general in America in 1847, and would be elected President of the United States in 1848 when his first cousin Mary Mildred was 71. Sharp was 47 when his 2nd cousin from Louisiana, by way of Virginia and Kentucky, won the Presidency.
Bartemous Reynolds, with his growing family and an entourage of slaves, settled in the place now known as Hall County, Georgia, in 1804. He became one of the founders of Hall County (along with John W. Bates and others.) Bartemous was elected Justice of the Peace. He was also a founder and pastor of Timberwill Baptist Church. When Bartemous died, in 1854, he left no will. Therefore, his estate had to be inventoried for taxing purposes and this inventory lists all his worldly possessions and their estimated value. He left the final 280 acres of the 1,000 he had once owned. When he died his storehouses were filled with corn. He still had herds of farm animals but only 7 slaves, two of whom were very old, three very young, and two of prime working age. Several entries on the inventory from November 28, 1854, six days after his death, were individual books and several 'lots' of books, including a Bible, “Dr. Wright’s Book,” two “Law Books,” and a walnut bookcase. So we know that Sharp Spencer grew up in a slave-holding, religious family, in a home with books. And we know that he had a way with words.
On January 25, 1827, Sharp Spencer Reynolds married Nancy Bates, daughter of another Hall County founder, General John W. Bates, a member of the committee that had formed the county from a slice of Jackson County. John W. Bates was a member of Hall County’s first Inferior Court. He was Hall County’s first representative in the State Legislature (for 16 years.) He was the leader of the Union Party in Hall County, Chairman of the Union Democratic Republican Convention in 1835, a veteran of the War of 1812, a Major-General in the 7th Division of the Georgia Militia from 1832-35, resigning in 1835, allegedly over the state’s takeover of Cherokee lands and the ethnic cleansing that would—three years later—send the entire tribe to Oklahoma over “the trail of tears.” John Bates’ wife, (and Sharp Reynolds’ mother-in-law,) Barbary Crenshaw, was said to be a full-blood Cherokee. When John Bates moved to Murray County which was taken from the Cherokee and awarded to white men by allotment in 1836, Representative/Judge/General Bates was once again elected to the Georgia Legislature.
So there was a time when Sharp Spencer Reynolds was in his late 40’s that his mother’s first cousin was President of the United States, and his father-in-law was a state legislator, ex-general and ex-judge and his father was a major land-owner, prosperous farmer, preacher and local elected official.
(Note: After bearing 9 children, Nancy Bates Reynolds died in 1851. The next year, Sharp married Elizabeth Terrell, the daughter of a civil engineer, surveyor and War of 1812 veteran named Timothy Terrell. Elizabeth Terrell Reynolds bore four sons, including my Great-Great-Grandfather Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Jr., born on July 23, 1857.)
Sharp & Nancy’s eldest son John B. (named after his grandfather Bates) was born in Hall County in 1838 and enlisted in Company D, 27th Georgia Volunteers, (Captain Dorsey’s Company,) on September 23, 1861. John B. Reynolds was 23 years old when he said goodbye to his twice-widowed father, his five older sisters, one younger sister and his four little brothers who were all under the age of ten. My great-great grandfather Sharp Spencer Reynolds, Jr., age 4, was the youngest of the brood when his gallant big brother marched off to war.
The Civil War was a horrible thing for those who fought it and for those who got in its way. For some southern cotton planters, it was a bonanza, both because cotton prices went up and because secession allowed indebted planters to get out of millions of dollars in debt to northern banks. The Confederate government wanted the region’s planters to grow more corn and foodstuffs, but many planters refused to do so. With dollar signs in their eyes, they kept on growing cotton. The Confederate government confiscated or bought much of the food that was grown in the south. Confederate soldiers sometimes lived off the land; unfortunately, it was their own territory, and the more the army took, the less there was to feed the women and children at home. There were several women’s riots in which women broke into stores and warehouses to steal food. Confederate soldiers, hearing about the dire conditions back home, deserted in droves to try get home to find some way to feed their families. Many of these family men were tracked down by special squads and brought back to the front lines to be executed.
Sharp Reynolds, although a slave owner, had never been in favor of secession, arguing against it for decades before it finally happened. His writing shows his loyalty to the concept of the Union. His first father-in-law had been a leader of the Union Party and the anti-secessionist Democratic-Republican Party in Georgia, and Sharp had also espoused those causes. Once secession became a reality, Sharp’s loyalties may have changed. Certainly when his oldest son, John B. Reynolds, went off to war, Sharp’s notions of Union vs. secession would have become irrelevant.
When sons of the more prominent southern families grew tired of the war, they were allowed to go back home to their lives of relative ease to help raise and ship the cotton and manage the slaves.
Whether the Reynolds family, being north Georgia farmers, not south Georgia plantation owners, were prominent enough to get John B. out of service, I don’t know, but after April 05, 1862 it was too late. He died that day of Typhoid Fever in Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia.