Thursday, April 30, 2015

Stoneman's headquarters on Caesars Head

Caesars Head, SC
(photo by Jeff Clark)
     As a member of the Army Signal Corps, Private Allen "Frank" Frankenberry had the best views of Stoneman's Raid. His unit was responsible for manning mountaintop flag stations to relay long-distance semaphore messages in a land without telegraph lines.  
     On April 30, 1865, his brigade marched south out of Brevard, N.C., crossed the Blue Ridge for the fifth time in 33 days, and entered South Carolina for the first time. Figuratively speaking, the Union soldiers looked down on the state where the rebellion began. Then Falkenberry stepped out onto the 3,200-foot high cliff called Caesars Head and literally looked down upon South Carolina.
     He wrote in his diary that Caesars Head had "the grandest, most magnificent view of the country and mountains I ever had." If it was clear enough, he could see all the way to Anderson, the brigade's destination over 50 miles away.
     Before the cavalry descended the ridge and marched toward Anderson, they received their wages for the first time in a couple of months. (Lack of pay could be one explanation for their looting during the past two weeks.) Union privates like Frankenberry earned $16 per month, lieutenants $105, colonels $181, and generals $315 to $758.
The 36-year-old benchmark
atop Caesar's Head has been
worn smooth by sightseers.
I doubt that the 150-year-old
 Stoneman inscription remains.
     Paying several hundred soldiers took some time, and while the march was halted, Frankenberry and a few friends left a mountaintop signal for the ages. He carved his initials into a rock on the summit, along with the message "HdQrs Stoneman Cav Apr 30th 65."
     Last time I was at Caesars Head, I looked for the inscription but could find no sign of it in the well-worn rocks on the summit. State park employees told me they had never heard of it.
     Another member of the graffiti gang with Frankenberry was "the cute Yankee" who boasted about this inscription the following night in Anderson, when he was assigned to guard the home of Emmala Reed and her family. Tomorrow, we will launch a three-part serial from Emmala's journals as she chronicles Stoneman's Raid in my hometown.

Sing from the mountaintops: Hold the Fort

     If you have ever sung the hymn Hold the Fort, for I Am Coming, you can thank Frankenberry. That's the message he sent in October 1864 from Gen. William T. Sherman to Gen. John Corse, who had come under siege from Confederates as he guarded the railroad that was so vital to supplying Sherman's army.
     Frankenberry used signal flags to wig-wag those encouraging words from the top of Kennesaw Mountain over the heads of the Confederates to Allatoona, Georgia, 15 miles away. Corse indeed held the fort long enough for Sherman to respond and defeat the rebels, securing the way for his infamous March to the Sea.
     Maj. Daniel Webster Whittle, who was also part of Sherman's march, shared Frankenberry's message as a Gospel illustration with Philip P. Bliss, who turned it into a hymn made famous by Ira Sankey singing at Dwight L. Moody's crusades. (Whittle was a hymnwriter himself, composing Showers of Blessing. Bliss also wrote Hallelujah, What a Savior! as well as the tune for It Is Well With My Soul.)
     Here are Bliss' lyrics for Hold the Fort (click here to listen to a recording by the Kings Heralds quartet):
Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”
See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!
See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe.
Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!
The view southwest from Caesar's Head toward Table Rock and Anderson
(photo by Jeff Clark)

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