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Biography of William Chapman Shields (1841 - 1881)

Pages 5 - 8 Pages 9 - 13

Page  1.


    I was born in Cave Spring, Floyd County, Georgia, at 8 o'clock on the 8th of August, 1841.

    My father lived in Cave Spring till the fall of 1847, when he bought the Harper Mills, two miles from town on Little Cedar Creek. He then removed to the mills.  At the age of 7 years, I went to school at Cave Spring to Mrs. Butts at the Masonic School House.  In the win­ter of 1849, I accidentally got my right hand into the cotton gin and got it very badly cut to pieces.  It, however, did not seriously injure my hand.  But it left some stiffness in my middle finger and some very ugly scars.

    After going to school one session to Mrs. Butts', I went one-half session to Miss Lizzia Dowd and half a session to Mr. Holms.  Then I went one session to Mr. Cottrell, under whom I commenced the study of grammar and arithmetic.  All of these teachers taught in the Masonic School House in Cave Spring.

    On the 2nd day of December, 1853, while splitting a stick of wood, my foot slipped and the lick which I had aimed for the wood inflicted a deep wound on my left knee.  My mother immediately sewed up the cut, and I entered the house, not to leave it again for two months.  The wound sussurated and came very near causing my death.  I am not fully recovered from the effects of it till this day.  My knee still being   _ stiff and a slight lameness in my gait.

    My father sold his place in the winter of 1853-54 and bought another mill-seat from L. J. Sanford on Tarrapin Creek, in Cherokee County, Ala.  There not being a house sufficient for him to live in on the place, he rented a place from Abram Warren l 1/2 miles from Spring Garden on Frog Creek, where the family resided in 1854.

    As soon as I was able to walk without crutches, I was sent to school to the Hon. H. C. Sanford, at Big Springs.  At this school, I made but little progress, owing to the negligence of the teacher.

    In the fall my father moved over to his own place.  I next went to school a short time to James Craig and then a few months to my brother at the same place.

    In the winter of 1856-57, my father took me to Nashville, Tenn., and apprenticed me to the business of printing at the Southwestern Pub­lishing House, but not liking the business, I remained but about two months, when I returned home.  While in Nashville, I boarded with a Mr. Hughes, the foreman of the office, in South Nashville.

    Soon after my return from Nashville, religious controversy became very high in the country where we lived.  Eld. J. J. D. Renfroe preached a sermon before the Tallosohatchee Baptist Association at its annual session at Chalcedonia Church in 1856, and that body had the sermon printed in pamphlet form for circulation.  The sermon elicited a great deal of controversy and among the rest, a very infamous and slanderous reply was written by a Mr. Davis, a C.P. preacher of White Plains, Ala. under the title of "Cato's Reply to Parson Renfroe".  It was written in the name and language of a negro, and it raised my indignation.


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I conceived the idea of answering it, and made the attempt though but sixteen years of age.

    I wrote a short reply of twenty-four pages to Mr. Davis, and in the vindication of Eld. Renfroe, under the title of "Cato's Looking Glass or Parson Davis' Way-Bill to Texas".  I had five hundred copies printed at Mason's Job Office, Rome, Ga., and they were immediately disposed of and read by the people.

    During the year 1857, I went to school to M. W. Wheeler, at Spring-Garden.  At this school, I completed the study of arithmetic and commenced the study of algebra.  I went one session to Mr. Wheeler in 1858.  At the examination at the end of this session, I spoke an original speech on the subject of the "Political Con­ditions of the World."

    The latter session of 1858 I went to Mr. J. N. Swan.  Under this teacher, I commenced the study of rhetoric and Latin.  In the latter part of the summer of this year, there was a protracted meeting of several days at Liberty Church, near Spring-Garden.  I attended the meeting regularly and on the night of the 2nd of September 1858, I obtained a hope of salvation through the merits of Jesus. I united with the church on the 8th and was immersed in company with about twenty others, by the Pastor Eld. E. T. Smyth (or Symth) on Sabbath morning, the 9th, in Hurricane Creek, near the church house.  I soon after obtained a letter of recommendation and joined the Mt. Zion Church, on account of its being near home.  I was immediately elected Secretary, in which capacity I served the church as long as I remained a member.  The Church passed a resolution to have all her records revised and corrected which service I performed.

    During the year 1859, I remained at home and assisted as tending the mills and worked some on the farm.  In August and September I had a very severe attack of fever, which confined me to my room for several weeks.  This year I was chosen a delegate by the Church to the Tallassahatchee Association, which convened at the Shady-Groves Church, September 30th.  During the fall, while driving a two-mule team, the chair in which I was sitting turned over and threw me out of the wagon and the fore wheel ran over my right elbow and dislocated the joint.  The accident happened several miles from Gratsville on the Gadsden Road, some fifteen miles from home, and it was in great pain that I drove the team home.  It was several weeks before I could again use my arm, and owing to its not being properly set, I have never fully recovered its use.

    In January of 1860, I again started to school.  I went to Mr. J. F. Williams A.B. at Esom Hill Academy 9 miles S.W. of Cedar Town, in Polk County, Ga.  There I continued the study of rhetoric, algebra, and Latin.  I also made some progress in geometry and trigononmetry, and also surveying.  But I soon took the chills and fever, and was compelled to return home after completing the first quarter.  While there I boarded with Mr. Robert Hutchings, near the Academy.  My mother died on the 21st of April, 1860, and

Page 3


I never returned to school again.  This consequently was the last school I went to.

    In July of this year (1860), I attended a great Sunday School Mass Meeting, in Rome, Ga.  The Board of the S.S.B.S.U. also met at the same time and place, and while I was there, I took a Life Membership in "The Southern Baptist Sunday School Union” and paid the first installment of five ($5) dollars.  But before the next became due, Nashville, where the Board was located, was in the hands of the Federal Army.  The cost of the Life Membership was twenty ($25) five dollars.

    In August of this year, I commenced a "love correspondence" with Miss A. A. T. Carr of Missionary Station, Georgia, which finally led to our marriage.  I was again chosen by the church a delegate to the association, which met this year with the Liberty (H.C.) Church October the 5th.

    I continued the courtship with Miss Carr till the 14th of March,

    1861, when we were married at the residence of her father, Near Mission­ary Station, Floyd County, Ga., by Eld. Thos. Hollis at 5 p.m.

    During this year the flames of Civil War were kindled throughout the country on account of the cecession (Secession) of the Southern States from the Union.  To this cecession I was utterly opposed, for the reason that I could not see any sufficient grounds for so rash an action on the part of the South.  I reguarded (regarded) it only as a rash attempt of ambitious Southern Leaders to establish a separate gov­ernment for the sake of the spoils, and I believed the people deceived as to the real issues before them.  I was, therefore, not among the first to take up arms against the national government.  But toward the middle of the year, I became convinced that every man would be compelled to go into the Rebel Army or quit the Country.  This latter I was not pre­pared to do.  I consequently assisted Eld. Thos. Hollis to make up a company, which was tendered to the Secretary of War of the Confederate States and accepted.  I was chosen a Second Lieutenant.  But upon the even of the departure of the Company to Richmond, a cavalry recruiting officer succeeded in pursuading off quite a number of our men to that branch of the service, and the company was reduced below the lawful stand­ard.  Captain Hollis, therefore, disbanded the remnant of his Company, and I determined to stay out of the service as long as possible.

    I was again chosen by the church, a messenger to the Association which convened with the Harmondy Church, Calhoun Co., Ala., Oct. 4. But owing to the pressure of business, I did not attend this session.

    After my marriage, I worked for Father, who gave me sixty (.60) cents per day.  I lived in a house in his yard and tended the mill. I continued to work for Father till the time of his death, which occurred April 6, 1862.  By his will, he left Bro. James and myself his executors.

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We immediately commenced to settle up his estate.  We advertised a sale of his personal property, which took place June 19th and 20th.

    About this time, viz., June 9th, an important epoch in the history of my life transpired.  I became the father of a fine daughter, weigh­ing 9 Ibs. - Mary Paulina.

    Soon after the famous Confederate Conscript Law passed, and to avoid its action, at the solicitation of friends, as school teachers were exempt, I made up a school at the Big Spring.  The school commenced July 31, 1862, and lasted three months.

    I was again sent as a delegate to the Association, which convened with the Liberty (Coosa) Church, Cokes-Bluff (?), Cherokee County, Ala., October 4, 1862.  I was chosen Secretary or clerk by the Association and prepared the Journal, and had it printed at Mason's job office, Rome, Ga.

    Mr brother had already gone into the Rebel Army, and the entire business of the estate devolved on me.  At the request of the heirs, I got an Order of Court and sold the land and mills belonging to my father's estate at public auction.  Thos. Caddel became the purchaser for the sum of six ($6,000) thousand dollars.  The sale came off Oct. 1862.  Soon after the land sale, I had a very severe attack of pneumonia which came very nearly causing death.  Dr. W. S. Aher rendered me medi­cal assistance, and I was restored to health and strength after about three weeks illness.

    I rented a small place from Mr. G. Cone, near Missionary Station, Floyd Co., Ga. and moved on to it about Christmas, and the next year, that is 1863, I made a crop on the place.  When I left Ala. I could not longer be executor of father's will, consequently, I turned over the business of the estate into the hands of J. W. Ramsey, Attorney at Law of Centre, Ala.

    In March, I was conscribed (conscripted?) by Lieutenant P. (?) Dean, but I went before the Examining Board of Surgeons at Rome, Ga., and was discharged as unfit for service.

    In April, I made a visit to the Army of Tennessee to see Bro. James, who was then near Shelbyville, Tenn.   On my return, I was again conscribed at Chattanooga.  I again went before the Board of Surgeons and obtained a discharge.  But the time finally came when I could no longer evade the Conscript Law, and seeing that I would be forced into the Rebel Army, I, therefore, in the latter part of August proceeded to Alexandria, Ala., where Wheeler's Cavalry Corps were recruiting, and attached myself to Co. A, 5th Ala. Regt. Cav.

    The 5th Regt. was part of Morgan's Brigade of Martin's Division.

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Pages 5 - 8 Pages 9 - 13

Submitted by: James Shields. See Notes about W. C. Shields Biography, Campaign Sketches and Family Record

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Page Updated on: 5 Feb 2004 Page Visitors: c. Susan Shields Sasek