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Demand for Griffin’s book exceeds supply

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By Greg Summers

 

Empty-handed.

That’s the way Dr. John Griffin left the Lancaster County Library on Nov. 11.

Early on, the distinguished professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina figured he was on to something when he spent almost 16 months writing his latest book, “Silent Heroes: Lancaster County in the Civil War.”

Now Griffin knows he was right on that hunch.

“I sold out,” he said. “That was a pleasant surprise. I felt like this would be a popular topic, but I didn’t expect anything like this. The meeting room at the library was packed and they wound up buying every book I had.”

Griffin ordered more and will have a second presentation of the book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lancaster County Library.

Word has spread about the book, which chronicles the 10 companies of Confederate soldiers raised up in Lancaster County during the Civil War. It also contains the rosters of those companies. 

Griffin used muster pay records and other sources from Confederate archives to find out who was killed, died, wounded, captured or missing.

The 350-page book, which has almost 400 photos, costs $29.

“Interest is strong and I’ve been getting calls from people every day wanting to know where they can get a copy,” he said. “I’ve had to order more books.

“It makes me feel good that I was able to preserve so many photos of the boys from Lancaster who fought,” Griffin said. “They had such interesting military histories and told such interesting stories.”

One such story is of the Catawba Rangers’ Burrell Newton, who was shot in the left thigh at Second Manassas. 

Griffin said Jones’ captain tried to get the 17 year old to go to an aid station behind the lines. But Jones was scared battle surgeons would amputate his leg.

“He simply pulled his pants down, sat down on a stump, took out his jackknife and cut that big lead slug out of his thigh himself,” Griffin said.

“Did he make it? He lived another 58 years, Griffin said laughing. “It was the young heroes like him who make the Confederate Army so hard to beat.” 

Griffin said he also poured through old copies of The Lancaster Ledger and found a number of interesting first person accounts of how the local population dealt with Sherman’s troops.

In the late stages of the war, Griffin said a local company of 15 and 16 year old boys was organized to turn back Sherman’s March to the Sea. In reality, Griffin said most of the boys were only 13 years old.

“Today, these boys would be middle and high school students,” Griffin said. “They were brave young men and did what they could to save Lancaster from ’Uncle Billy’s Yankees.’ Several of them were killed.”

Griffin said another story involves a Mr. Belk, who was father of Henry Belk. Henry Belk founded Belk’s Department Store (“New York Racket”) in 1888.    

Griffin said that two Sherman “bummers” burst in on the elder Belk’s family, demanding to know where the family valuables were kept. 

After Belk swore they had nothing worth taking, Griffin said the Union soldiers dragged Belk and his terrified wife to a small creek.

“They held his (Belk) head under the water and when they raised him up, he had drowned,” Griffin said. 

“One of the Yankees looked at Mrs. Belk, laughed and said, ‘Well, I guess the joke’s on us.”