The general’s 200th birthday

Posted by on Nov 3, 2012 in General William Grose, Historically Speaking |

The general’s 200th birthday
Kevin Stonerock’s portrayal celebrates Gen. Grose
Kevin Stonerock portrayed a Civil War union soldier at the Henry County Historical Society Tea. (Darrel Radford / C-T photo)
Kevin Stonerock portrayed a Civil War union soldier at the Henry County Historical Society Tea. (Darrel Radford / C-T photo)

By DARREL RADFORD
dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Before the cake was served, conversation included “hard tack” – that simple but rather tasteless biscuit that had an amazing shelf life. There were no candles, but plenty of light was shed on the Civil War. Likewise, there were no gifts, but plenty of sacrifice.

In other words, it was a birthday observance which Gen. William Grose might have appreciated.

It was the 200th anniversary of Grose‘s birthday and the Henry County Historical Society celebrated by taking a trip back in time, courtesy of Kevin Stonerock.

The local songwriter and dramatist – who has done more than 300 Civil War-related presentations – brought William Fentress to life in front of a captivated crowd of more than 60 people. Fentress served under Gen. Grose‘s command in Company D of the 36th Indiana infantry. A soldier who eventually lost his life in battle, Fentress is regarded by local historians as one of Henry County’s “most gallant soldiers.”

Stonerock’s presentation was poignant, eye-opening and, at times, even funny. The true-life story of Fentress can be found in Hazzard’s History of Henry County.

According to Hazzard, the Fentress family, as did many others in the early days of Henry County, came originally from North Carolina. From there, they moved to Tennessee, and Hazzard says it is from this family that Fentress County, where Jamestown Tenn., is located, got its name.

Stonerock’s performance last Sunday portrayed the soldier during some of the last days of his life, when Fentress was on leave. It was March of 1864, just before the beginning of the climactic Atlanta campaign. He was granted a short furlough home. It was the only time he saw his wife and children after his first departure for the front.

Fentress, like his commander, Gen. Grose, was no stranger to danger. He was wounded at Shiloh, Tenn. in 1862 and again at Dalton, Ga., in 1864 during a charge by Gen. Grose‘s brigade on an entrenched enemy.

During his presentation, Stonerock told the audience the early days of soldiering were “boring” and that many of the men were anxious to see some “real” action. That was before the horrors of war were realized.

According to Hazzard’s writing, Fentress was a popular and well-respected soldier whose actions spoke louder than any words could.

“He was the ideal soldier of his company, patient in camp, enduring on the march, brave and steadfast in battle; ever solicitous for the welfare of his comrades,” Hazzard’s History says of Fentress. “He was always anxious to relieve, as far as possible, the needs of the weak and the sick.”

Fentress was killed on May 31, 1864.

“It can truly be said of him that no soldier or officer of the famous 36th Regiment was more deeply mourned by his comrades, not only of Company D, but of the entire regiment, of which he was a general favorite.” Hazzard’s History said.

Fentress was among more than 2,000 boys and men from farms and small towns in Henry County who fought for the Union Army. All but 200 of them were volunteers.

Sadly, 25 percent of them – including Fentress – never made it home. Philander Wisehart of Fall Creek Township was the first local casualty, killed at Rich Mountain, W. Va., just 10 days before the battle of Bull Run.

In all, Henry County suffered 500 deaths, thousands of injuries and sicknesses before the Civil War ended.

The 200th anniversary of Gen. Grose‘s birthday is this Sunday. A story about his life was published in last Saturday’s issue of The Courier-Times. For more information, visit the Henry County Historical Society website at www.henrycountyhs.org

Darrel Radford is executive director of the Henry County Historical Society and a staff writer for The Courier-Times.

 

 

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