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John Darnell 5th TN Mounted Inf -USA (1818-1877)

John Darnell (1818-1877)

Soon after Georgia’s secession in January of 1861, the state was aghast to learn that the Union flag again flew over the Pickens County Courthouse and was guarded by a small band of local Unionists in open defiance of Confederate authority. The event gave rise to the notion that Pickens had “...practically seceded from the Confederacy.” It was the last Union Flag flying below the Mason and Dixon line.

John Darnell and others of the family were among those who raised that flag and defied all who would remove it. Local Secessionist, not yet in a mood to fire on friends and neighbors, appealed repeatedly to Governor Joe Brown, himself a native of the region, to send troops to cut down the flag.

Joe Brown’s response was beautifully expressed, perhaps reflecting the real mind and soul of the Southern people.

“By no means; let it float. It floated over our fathers, and we all love the flag now. We have only been compelled to lay it aside by the injustice that has been practiced under its folds. If the people of Pickens desire to hang it out, and keep it there, let them do so. I will send no troops to interfere with it.”
Notice that in Sion Darnell's address to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1901, he alters Brown’s meaning by omitting the sentence italicized above. (See Sion Darnell)

And so it stayed until blown down in a few weeks by a storm. It was recovered and hung on the wall in the courthouse where it remained until the building burned in the 1930’s.

In March of 1862, John Darnell was Captain in the local Pickens County Militia of the 107th Georgia Militia. We can only speculate as to the cause of his being in this Confederate unit. However, he is back in the Union camp in the Spring of 1864 as Federal post Commandant of Jasper (Pickens County), installed there by Union Cavalry raiding into Pickens. By late November, John was on his way to Tennessee with his teen-aged sons, Sion Arrington and William Dyer, and others. (See Sion Darnell for an account of the trip.) John, at age forty-five, and the others enlisted in the 5th Tennessee U.S. Mounted Infantry.

Seventeen year old William Dyer died of fever in February of 1865. John and Sion survived to return to their home in Pickens County, and from there they took an active part in the Reconstruction government of Georgia.

Terry Lawson,


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Published on May 24, 1997. Changes last made on August 25, 2004.

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