Civil War topic at Cornerstone meeting

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WAYNESBURG – The Civil War happened 150 years ago, but it is still important to remember the sacrifice and hardships of not only the soldiers who fought, but of the families left behind.


That was the basis of the program presented by Tim Hawfield, Waynesburg Borough police chief, at the July meeting of Cornerstone Genealogical Society.


Hawfield, who is retiring as chief, talked about Greene County’s role in the “War Between the States.”


At the time, Greene County was strongly Democratic and opposed President Lincoln and the Union. Many towns throughout the county were rumored to have helped the south by raising money and even in some cases, “ bushwacking,” Hawfield said.


Memories of the efforts made by Greene County members are still discussed today, such as the story of the two canons forged in the county. The canons were both set off for recreation: One destroying the chimney of Billy McFann’s cabin; and the other set off by Jacob Hoover and some friends, which sent a canon ball through the Purman Run covered bridge.


Many of Greene County’s own became a part of the war effort either by helping with supplies or enlisting, Hawfield said.


The population of Greene County at the time of the Civil War was about 24,000 and 1,800 had signed up to fight with the Union.


Many men, both white and black, joined in the efforts.


Isaac Scherick of Richhill Township kept a memoir that mentioned the straw hat missing half of its brim and his oversized shoes he was wearing the day he enlisted in 1862.


Other men from Greene County fought proudly for their hometown and for their country. The first Greene County unit mustered into service was commanded by George Gordon Meade, Hawfield said. During one battle they were surrounded by the enemy and were forced to retreat, suffering heavy losses. In a letter to the editor one of the soldiers wrote, “Virginia soil is crimson with the life blood of some of Greene County’s noblest and promising young men.”


Some men never made it back. Jesse Taylor of Gilmore Township, and Richard Morris and John Fulton McCullough from Jefferson all gave their lives for the cause.


But many others did make it back. James Pipes, Charles Swan and John Shanes all came back with medals for their services during the war.


Another man who came back was James Jackson Purnam, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was shot in the leg while helping a fellow wounded soldier at the Wheatfield in Gettysburg. He lay wounded on the battlefield for a day, then during the night a Confederate officer crawled forward and gave him water from his canteen. The Confederate soldier dragged Purman off the battlefield and laid him against a tree where the Union forces found him when they advanced forward. Purman lost his leg.


He returned to Waynesburg, finished his education and became a doctor and a lawyer. He became the head of the Pension Bureau in Washington, D.C. In 1907 he found the Confederate officer who had befriended him, Lt. Thomas Oliver of the 24th Georgia Troops. Oliver was the mayor of Atlanta, Ga.


Forty-five men from Greene County were prisoners of warand 352 men died


The next meeting of the genealogical society will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 in the log courthouse on Greene Street. John “Buzz” Walters and Judge Farley Toothman will present a program on coke ovens.


Everyone is welcome. For more information call 724-627-5653.


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