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John Wisdom
John H. Wisdom

John Wisdom was 43 years old when he made his ride to alert Rome. He died in 1909 at the age of 89 and this photograph was obviously made late in his life.

Wisdom's Ride

by Pierre-Rene Noth, editor, Past Times; editorial page editor, Rome News-Tribune
From "The Yankees are Coming," a longer article in the Cherokee County Herald, Centre, Alabama, Oct. 17, 1990. Reprinted by permission.

Col. Abel D. Streight, 51st Indiana Infantry Volunteers, commanded an expedition or raid into northeast Alabama on April 26,1863 which resulted in his capture at Lawrence near Cedar Bluff by Gen. Nathan B. Forrest on May 3, 1863. Wisdom's ride to warn Rome, Georgia is part of the local Civil War lore. Wisdom was a stage coach driver. (Battey's History of Rome and Floyd County, p. 94) --T. Hardin, webmaster.

From a little further up the road, at Turkeytown, [Union General Abel Streight] sent ahead 200 men, commanded by Capt. Milton Russell, as a forward spearpoint. Their orders were to capture Rome's bridge and hold it until Streight arrived with the main force.

Rome, however, was to be forewarned by [John H.] Wisdom, a former Roman who operated a ferry across the Coosa River at Gadsden and transported Confederate mail on contract to and from Rome.

That Saturday morning, Wisdom had crossed the river via his ferry to take a sack of corn in his buggy to a grist mill six miles from Gadsden. He returned to find his ferry sunk and Gadsden burning in the distance. Three men shouted to him from across the river that the town had been raided by Union troops on their way to Rome.

Neither they nor Wisdom apparently knew that Forrest was close behind the enemy force. Wisdom immediately set off to warn Rome, driving the buggy 22 miles to Gnatville where the horse gave out. There, the widow Nancy Hanks gave him the only transport she had -- a lame pony -- and Wisdom hobbled on to Goshen, five miles away.

There, according to Wisdom's own account, Simpson Johnson furnished him a fresh horse and rode with him 11 miles to the Rev. Joel Weems' home near Spring Garden, Ala., where a fresh mule was saddled. Another 11 miles down the rough road brought Wisdom to the home of John Baker, a mile south of Cave Spring.

Baker loaned Wisdom a horse that carried him to just six miles south of Rome, where at the home of a man named only as Jones he was given another fresh mount.

Reaching Rome, Wisdom alerted George S. Black, the militia commander, then went through town at Black's request "rousing people of his acquaintance." About 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 3, he went to the home of his mother, who lived in Rome, and went to bed, probably exhausted and not to hear the uproar he caused.

Noth's Sources: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies," U.S. Government Printing Office; “The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest and Forrest’s Cavalry” by Thomas Jordan and J.P. Pryor; “A History of Rome and Floyd County” by George Magruder Battey Jr.; “History of Rome and Floyd County, Georgia in the Civil War” by Wade Banister Gassman; “Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest” by John Allen Wyeth; “First With the Most: Forrest” by Robert Seiph Henry; “All Roads to Rome” by Roger Aycock; “John Wisdom: Citizen-Soldier” by Joe Barnes; “Life in Rome During the Civil War” by Steven Mull, Northwest Georgia Historical & Genealogical Quarterly; “White Columns of Georgia” by Medora Field Perkerson.

John Wisdom
John H. Wisdom

Journal Of Roman Ruben S. Norton Containing an Account of Wisdom's Ride

(JOURNAL 1861..., Norton, Ruben S., Bound photocopy of typescript dated 1987, Rome, Georgia (accessed at Floyd County Library Feb. 2009, p. 35 and 36)

...Flour, 4.00 pr Barrel; Corn, 40 cts a Bushel; Hogs, 3.25 each; Hams, 40 cts; Butter, 10 cts; Eggs, 8 cts a dz.

In the river Towna of Iowa, Beef is only $2.50 pr Hundredpound; in rich areas of the same State last winter, not 100 miles from the Mississippi, pork was sold dressed at less than $1.00 per Hundredpouud.

1863 April 11
This month, had 20 Barrels Sugar sold in Atlanta, Ga. at 85 cts per pound, in which the Government expenses (or Commission) was $265. A friend bought in Atlanta 3 Barrels of Peach Brandy for which ha paid 30.00 per Gallon, or about $1050 per Barrel. Bot. on Speculation.

This day sold 1 Barrel Sugar at $l.00 per pound.

May 3rd
This morninr, at 2 o'clock, news came by Mr. Wisdom that the enemy had destroyed his boats on the Coosa River at Gadsden, and also burnt the Depot or Warehouse at the same place, that it was done yesterday at about 2 o'clock p.m. The news created quite an excitement; a Train left by 1/2 past 4 for Kingston, families commenced moving out, also the Civilians to arm.

At about 12, the Enemy were reported as being at Mr. Shorter's, which was found to "be true.  They were near his Spring, beyond the House, in number, say 200 or 3OO mounted Artillery and Infantry.  Cannon are planted at Mr. Attaway's, and the Road is picketed from, say near Dr. Miller's, through and beyond Mr. Shorter's.

- 3 P.M. The enemy are falling back and are said to be now 3 or 4 Miles in the rear.

- The pickets are coming in and report that Gen. Forrest came up
with the Enemy at Coosavllle and captured the whole of them, including those who had fallen back.

- 6 o'clock. The pickets are coming in with the mounted men escorting Gen. Forrest, a small portion of his men escorting the Enemy, say 2 or 300, who were the first or nearest ones to Town, being the ones who were at Mr. Shorter's. The Town Is full of men from all parts.

May 4th Noon
The prisoners are coning into Town, preceded by a part of Gen. Forrest's mounted men; they number near 1200, or more, mostly mounted on mules which they have stole on the way. Men are here from all the farms, on their route from Gadsden here, on the Hunt for Mules and Horses.  On the whole, as a Body, they are good-looking, and are commanded by Col. Strickler from Cincinnati, said to be a picked body from two Illinois, one Indiana and one Ohio Regiments for this particular exercise.

May 5th. The prisoners all went off to day on the Trains.

6th. At about 8 o'clock this morning, a Courier came to Gen, Forrest that the Enemy were coming on by Elyton, Ala. which place had been burnt, and were on the way to Talladega. The Town is again in commotion. Troops are ready to move.

We also get accounts of a battle near Chancellorsville, Va. Between our Forces under Gen. Jackson and the Enemy under Gen. Hecker; the battle was severe, and great losses on both sides.  We lost General ... killed; Gen. Jackson severely wounded, lost an arm; Gen. Hill and ... slightly wounded. We are said to have captured 6000 men.

Emma Sansom
Emma Sansom

Only 16 at the time of her heroism (riding double with Forrest to show him the location of a ford), Emma Sansom was 19 when this photograph was taken shortly after the Civil War ended. It appeared in “The Campaigns of Lieut-Gen. N.B. Forrest and of Forrest’s Cavalry,” published in 1868 and written by Confederate Brig. Gen Thomas Jordan and J.P Pryor

Thank You Note From a General

Reproduced from “Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest”

When Nathan Bedford Forrest rode off to continue his pursuit of the Union raiding force, he left this “thank you” note behind for Emma Sansom. Written in lead pencil on a page torn from an old pocket memorandum or account book, it reads:
Hed Quarters in Sadle
May 2,1863
My highest regardes to Miss Emma Sansom for her gallant conduct while my posse was skirmishing with the Federals across Black Creek near Gadsden Alabama.
N.B. Forrest
Brig. GenI.
Comding N. Ala.—

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Last updated 5 Feb 2009Tuesday, 24-Jan-2017 14:32:40 EST