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Civil War train wreck accounts found

By Walter Geiger Though whether or not its victims are buried in the Wadsworth Cemetery is disputed, there is no question that a horrible Civil War train crash occurred in Lavender’s Curve just northwest of Barnesville on Sept. 1, 1864 on what was then the Macon and Western rail line. A train carrying wounded soldiers and others from the Battle of Atlanta and pulled by an engine known as The Dispatch was southbound when it collided with a northbound supply train and its engine, The Governor. Former county extension agent and amateur historian Keith Lassiter read coverage of the wreck in the June 5 edition of The Herald Gazette and began researching it. He turned up an account from the Daily Dispatch in Richmond, Va. The newspaper indicated it received its information by a telegraph. The account was datelined in Barnesville and read: ‘A collision of the up and down trains on the Macon and Western railroad took place 40 miles from Macon today, by which 37 wounded soldiers were killed and 40 dreadfully mangled. The engines and six cars were completely wrecked.’ Lassiter also turned up online records of two letters to the Barnesville Gazette. The first was from a Union soldier who wrote from Missouri that he was riding atop on of the cars at the time of the crash. The newspaper was too damaged from wear to determine anything else, including the man’s name. A second letter writer, again wear prevented determination of his name, wrote in reference to the first letter. His missive, written from Blakely, Ga. was published on July 23, 1891. It read as follows: Dear Sir: My friend Judge H.C Fryer informed me that he saw an article in your paper of recent date from an ex-federal soldier who was in the terrible railroad wreck near Barnesville on Sept. 2, 1864. It was my ill fate to be one of the number on the down train. I was severely wounded on the day before at Jonesboro. My leg was broken by a minnie ball. I received seven injuries in the collision and was taken from the wreck more dead than alive, and would have died in the old open field in the broiling sun, if it had not been for that good old mother in Israel, Aunt Ann Barnes, who I learn has long since passed over the River. There were other ladies whose names I never learned, who administered to our wants in the hot sun, as soon as they could get on the ground after the accident happened, and they no doubt saved several lives. I could write much more on the subject, but simply wish to get a copy of your paper with the article from the ex-federal soldier. I shall never forget the calamity. I shall ever remember the good people of Barnesville, many thrilling incidents, my great suffering with eight others left to die in the old store house, with eight coffins in the rear end of the building. When the hospitals were moved to Corinth, Miss., out of eight men, five had filled their coffins. The last sentence of the letter was illegible due to deterioration, according to a transcription by Lynn Cunningham on Dec. 2, 2002.

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