TDGH - April 17
This Day in Georgia History
Ed Jackson and Charles Pou
The University of Georgia
1737 The Georgia Trustees were informed by an English ship captain who had escaped after being captured
by Spanish forces and taken to Havana, Cuba that Spain had 4,000 soldiers
and two war ships at Havana. Moreover, three more war ships were expected,
and construction was underway on 30 flat-bottom boats for the invasion of
Georgia or Carolina.
1861 In Virginia, a statewide
convention adopted an Ordinance of
Secession and ratified the Confederate Constitution.
However, the language
of the ordinance stated: "This ordinance shall take effect and be an act
of this day, when ratified by a majority of the vote of the people of this
State. . . ." That referendum took place on May 23, 1861 and was approved.
This leaves the question of whether April 17 or May 23 is the official date
of Virginia's secession. If April 17, Virginia was the eighth state to secede;
if May 23, then it was the tenth state to secede.]
1884 Leo Frank was born
in Cuero, Texas. Within a few months, the family moved to Brooklyn, where
Leo grew up. He graduated from Cornell University in 1906, earning a degree
in mechanical engineering.
In December 1907, Frank went to Europe for a nine-month
apprenticeship in pencil manufacturing. In August 1908, he moved to Atlanta
to assume the supervision of the National Pencil Factory. In October 1910,
Frank married Lucille Selig, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig, with whom
they subsequently lived.
By 1913, Atlanta's Jewish community was the largest
in the South. Leo Frank served as president of the Atlanta chapter of B'nai
B'rith, while maintaining his position as supervisor of the National Pencil
Factory. On Saturday, April 26 of that year Mary Phagan, a teenage employee
of the factory, came to collect her wages from Frank. At some point before
leaving the factory, Phagan was murdered.
Leo Frank was arrested, charged,
and convicted of the murder in one of the most infamous trials in American
Much of the evidence, later corroborated by witnesses, indicated
Frank was innocent of the crime. Nevertheless, Frank was convicted and sentenced to death.
After unsuccessfully appealing his death
sentence all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court [see decision],
Frank's sentence was commuted to life in prison by Georgia governor John
Slaton. This caused an uproar throughout the state, and a few months later
a group of armed men from Mary Phagan's hometown of Marietta kidnapped Leo
Frank from his prison bed and hanged him near Marietta.
In 1982, the Georgia
State Board of Pardons and Paroles officially pardoned Frank on the grounds
that the state did not do its duty of protecting him. [For more on the Leo
Frank case, click here.]
1917 United States entry
into World War I on this day would lead to the establishment of several
new military camps and bases in Georgia. The largest of these would be Camp Gordon, located north of Atlanta at the present-day site of the Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.
1944 Fifteen-year-old Martin Luther King
Jr. traveled to Dublin, Georgia, to deliver his oration "The Negro and
the Constitution." Although he did not win the contest, his speech was later
printed in the Booker T. Washington High School yearbook, The Cornellian.
1947 Georgia-born Jackie Robinson
got his first major league hit – a bunt.
1950 The United States Supreme
Court dismissed a complaint about Georgia's county
unit system of deciding elections in the case South
1967 Atlanta Braves outfielder
was born in Atlanta.
1982 The Atlanta Braves phenomenal season-opening streak continued as they beat the Houston Astros
2-1. Slugger Bob Horner accounted for both runs. The win pushed the Braves
to 10-0 – which tied the National League record and set a new Braves franchise
1987 Gov. Joe Frank Harris signed legislation [see text]
designating the Knobbed
Whelk as Georgia's official state seashell.
1990 Minister and civil
rights activist Ralph David Abernathy
died in Atlanta at age 64. [See March
11 entry for biographical information on Abernathy.]
2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution cartoonist
Mike Luckovich won his second Pulitzer Prize.
In Their Own Words on This Day. . .
1736 According to the 1732
charter, Georgia's southern boundary was to be the Altamaha River. However,
by 1736, James Oglethorpe was claiming for Britain (and presumably Georgia)
all lands southward to the St. Johns River. In a letter from Frederica on
this day to the Duke of Newcastle, Britain's Secretary of State for the
Colonies, Oglethorpe spelled out the basis for this claim. He further indicated
his willingness to fight to the death to defend Britain's claim – providing
he had funding assistance from Parliament:
". . . The Indian king Tomochichi, pursuant to the
assurances he gave to his Majesty and Your Grace in England [in 1734],
went down with me to the utmost limits of the King of Great Britain's dominions
to put us in possession of all lands held by their Nation from this island
to the Spanish frontiers. There are three beautiful islands upon the seacoast,
the first the Indian king's nephew Toonahowi, who was in England, called
Cumberland, saying that the Duke had given him a watch to show him to
use time and that he had obtained leave of the Creek Nation to give his
name to that island, that through all times his benefactor's name might
be remembered. The next island, the fairest of this province, I called
Amelia. Oranges, myrtles and vines grow wild upon it. To the South of Amelia
lies another island, the Southernmost part of which, called Saint George's
Point, is the farthest part of the dominions of His Majesty on the seacoast
in North America. The River Saint John's divides that island from the Spanish
Florida. It is there about two miles wide and on the point of the opposite
side the Spaniards keep a guard . . .
"I am in quiet possession as far as the Spanish out-guards,
and therefore hope I shall have directions what to do. I have heard that
the Spanish General intends to order me to quit as far as the River Edisto,
that is to say, all Georgia and part of Carolina. But as I cannot deliver
up a foot of ground belonging to His Majesty to a foreign power without
the breach of my allegiance to His Majesty, I will alive or dead keep
possession of it 'till I have His Majesty's orders. And if it is His Majesty's
pleasure not to give up this most valuable part of his dominions, I can
assure Your Grace that the fidelity of the Indians to His Majesty and
the gratitude for their treatment when in England is such that with the
same assistance which we had last year from Parliament I shall not only
be able to keep possession in spite of all the forces of Florida, Cuba
and Mexico. But if I have orders (considering the divisions amongst the
Spaniards in one of those provinces) there is more probability that the
British arms should entirely conquer them than that they can ever drive
us out. And this they know so well that, though they may threaten, they
dare not do so flagrant an injustice as to act against so clear a right
as His Majesty hath to these countries, which are the keys of all America.
. . ."
Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe's Georgia:
Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), Vol. I,
1839 In her final letter
from Georgia, Fanny Kemble wrote:
"We shall leave this place next Thursday or Friday
[April 18 or 19], and there will be an end to this record; meantime I
am fulfilling all sorts of last duties, and especially those of taking
leave of my neighbors . . . ."
"On Sunday I rode to a place called Frederica to call
on Mrs. A[bbott], who came to see me some time ago. I rode straight through
the island by the main road that leads to the little church. . . .
"This Frederica is a very strange; it was once a town
-- the town, the metropolis of the island. The English, when they landed
on the coast of Georgia in the war, destroyed this tiny place, and it
has never been built up again. Mrs. A[bbott]'s, and one other house, are
the only dwellings that remain in this curious wilderness of dismantled
crumbling gray walls compassionately cloaked with a thousand profuse and
graceful creepers. These are the only ruins, properly so called, except
those of Fort Putnam, that AI have ever seen in this land of contemptuous
youth. In my country [England], ruins are like a minor chord in music;
here they are like a discord; they are not the relics of time, but the
results of violence; they recall no valuable memories of a remote past,
and are mere encumbrances to the busy present. Evidently they are out
of place in America except on St. Simons Island, between this savage selvage
of civilization and the great Atlantic deep.
"Now E[lizabeth], I have often spoken with you and
written to you of the disastrous effect of slavery upon the character
of the white men implicated in it . . . . I know that the Southern men
are apt to deny the fact that they do live under an habitual sense of
danger; but a slave population, coerced into obedience, though unarmed
and half-fed, is a threatening source of constant insecurity, and every
Southern woman to whom I have spoken on the subject has admitted to me
that they live in terror of their slaves."
Source: Frances Anne Kemble, Journal of a Residence
on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1984), pp. 330-342.
1856 While the women's rights
movement did not take place and gain fruition until the 20th century, the
following entry from Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas's April 17, 1856 journal
shows that some were at least thinking along those lines by the mid-nineteenth
"This morning I sent Patsey over to Mrs. Harris with
a very amusing book of hers I have been reading, called Widow
Bedott Papers. It is indeed one of the most mirth provoking things
imaginable. Some of the Poetry is sick [her emphasis]. Aunt Macquire's
account of A Donation Party and a projected Sewing Society are very
amusing sketches. The work was written first in detached pieces by Miss
Berry after Mrs. Whitchers the wife of a minister. Then too I have
read Christine: or Woman's Trials and Woman's Triumphs. It is
something rather different to the usual style - Being a very decided woman's
rights book advocating women having their perfect equality with the other
sex. Some of her arguments were very good indeed. Yet the denoument of
the plot was rather unsatisfactory since Christine the heroine marries
and then confesses that she is glad that the tie of marriage is so strong
that it cannot be broken, this too after she has been advocating to the
contrary . . . ."
Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.),The Secret Eye:
The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1990), pp. 146-147.
1865 After having spent
several months with her older sister on a plantation near Albany, 24-year-old
Eliza Andrews was returning by train to her parents' home in Washington,
Georgia. In her journal entry for this day, she wrote of the fall of Columbus
and her bitterness toward Yankees:
". . . When the train arrived from Eufaula it was
already crowded with refugees, besides 300 volunteers from the exempts
going to help fight the Yankees at Columbus. . . . The excitement was intense
all along the route. At every little station crowds were gathered to hear
the news, and at many places we found a report had gone out that both our
train and yesterday's had been captured. The excitement increased as
we approached Fort Valley, where the Muscogee road (from Columbus) joins
the South-Western, and many of the passengers predicted that we should
be captured there. At the next station below Fort Valley, our fears regarding
the fate of Columbus were confirmed by a soldier on the platform, who shouted
out as the train slowed down, "Columbus gone up the spout!" Nobody was
surprised, and all were eager to hear particulars. I was glad to learn
that our poor little handful of Confederates had made a brave fight before
surrendering. The city was not given up till nine last night, when the
Yanks slipped over the railroad bridge and got in before our men, who were
defending the other bridge, knew anything about it. We had not enough to
watch both bridges, and it seemed more likely the attack would be made
by the dirt road. Then everybody blundered around in the dark, fighting
pretty much at random. If a man met some one he did not know, he asked
whether he was a Yank or a Reb, and if the answer did not suit his views
he fired. At last everybody became afraid to tell who or what they were.
It was thought that our forces had retired towards Opelika. When we reached
Fort Valley the excitement was at fever heat. Train upon train of cars
was there, all the rolling stock of the Muscogee Road having been run out
of Columbus to keep it from being captured, and the cars were filled with
refugees and their goods. It was pitiful to see them, especially the poor
little children, driven from their homes by the frozen-hearted Northern
Vandals, but they were all brave and cheerful, laughing good-naturedly
instead of grumbling over their hardships. People have gotten so used to
these sort of things that they have learned to bear them with philosophy.
Soldiers who had made their escape after the fight, without surrendering,
were camped about everywhere, looking tired and hungry, and more disheartened
than the women and children. Poor fellows, they have seen the terrors of
war nearer at hand than we. . . . From Fort Valley we traveled without
interruption to Macon, where the excitement is at its climax. The Yankees
are expected here at any moment, from both north and south, having divided
their forces at Tuskegee, it is said, and sent one column by way of Union
Springs and Columbus, and another through Opelika and West Point. I saw
some poor little fortifications thrown up along the line of the South-Western,
with a handful of men guarding them, and that is the only preparation
for defense I have seen. We are told that the city is to be defended,
but if that is so, the Lord only knows where the men are to come from.
The general opinion seems to be that it is to be evacuated, and every preparation
seems to be going forward to that end. All the horses that could be found
have been pressed for the removal of government stores, and we had great
difficulty in getting our baggage from the dépot to the hotel. .
. . In the hotel parlor, when I came from Lily's, whom should I find
but Mr. Adams, our little Yankee preacher! I used to like him, but now
I hate to look at him just because he is a Yankee. What is it, I wonder,
that makes them so different from us, even when they mean to be good Southerners!
You can't even make one of them look like us, not if you were to dress
him up in a full suit of Georgia jeans. I used to have some Christian feeling
towards Yankees, but now that they have invaded our country and killed
so many of our men and desecrated so many homes, I can't believe that when
Christ said "Love your enemies," he meant Yankees. Of course I don't want
their souls to be lost, for that would be wicked, but as they are not
being punished in this world, I don't see how else they are going to get
Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and
Co., 1908), pp. 145-149.
For more, see This Week in Georgia Civil War History.
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