Gillam Hicks was a veteran of the War Between the States

Published 4:19 pm Friday, July 31, 2020

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In the two previous columns, the Hicks family, originally from England, who had descendants to eventually settle in Covington County, Ala. was featured. Today’s story will feature the next generation beginning with Gillam Thomas Hicks who was the sixth child and first son of William and Mary “Polly” (Phelps) Hicks.

Gillam was born in 1824 in Elbert County, Ga. Various records show his name spelled in many different ways such as Gillium, Gillum, Gilham, Gellum, etc. His middle name of Thomas is also shown in a record or two as Thompson, but Thomas seems to be the correct form. He appears to have moved with family a few years later to Troup County, Ga., and then later and before 1860, to Heard County, Ga., where he lived out his life. He was first married in 1856 in either Troup or Heard County to Arrena J. Mallory, daughter of William Mallory (1794-1847) and Elizabeth End Watson (1797-1851). Arena was born in 1823 in Greene County, Ga., and died in 1863 in Heard County, Ga.

As most able-bodied men of his age range did, Gillam enrolled for service in the Confederate Army on March 10, 1863. He and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter was born in April about a month later. Then, tragically, his wife, Arrena, died about two months later on June 25. How difficult it must have been for the young soldier to lose his wife and then soon to have to be separated from his infant daughter and their other three young children.

 Another record indicates he did not actually enlist for active military service until later that year on October 3. He probably was allowed to be with his wife about to have their fourth child and then recover from her death and find someone to care for the young children. It is not known who that was as his mother was already deceased. However, Gillam left them in the care of someone and served faithfully throughout the remainder of the war as a private in Company D, 35th Georgia Infantry Regiment. A valuable document states that Gillam was actually there with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Va., on April 9, 1865, when he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederate States of America to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union Forces.

It is difficult to imagine all the many emotions that enveloped Gillam and his fellow soldiers as their most admired General Lee rode past them on his way to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. They stacked their arms, furled or folded neatly their flag and surrendered on that day. There were only 15 officers and 121 men present in the 35th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment who had survived the war.

Author John J. Fox wrote about the 35th Georgia Regiment in his book, Red Clay to Richmond. He stated, “The soldiers of the 35th Georgia were average men. Their leaders asked them to perform a Herculean task. In the beginning 60 to 80 men filled each of the companies in the regiment, and each man had his own personal cares, needs and fears. These men successfully carried the flag of the 35th Georgia from the red clay of their home state in 1861 until they tearfully furled the flag at Appomattox in 1865. The survivors in the 35th Georgia could proudly say that no enemy hand ever touched their banner during combat.”

Gillam and Arrena Hicks were the parents of the following four children: James Thomas, b. 1858, d. 1927; William Jasper Newton, b. 1861, d. 1929; Elizabeth F., b. 1862, no other information given, but she may have died as an infant since the next child was also named Elizabeth; and Elizabeth Frances “Mollie,” b. 1963, d. 1910. 

Very soon after his return from the war, Gillam was married to his second wife, Samantha America Stewart, daughter of James McEwen Stewart (1808-1862) and Samantha Jane Childs (1821-1875). Samantha (Stewart) Hicks was born in 1841 in Heard County, Ga., and died in 1922 in Covington County, Ala. Obviously, Gillam needed help with his young children by Arrena, so Samantha filled that role. His and Samantha’s first child was born in 1866. 

In 1870, the federal census listed Gillam at 45 years of age residing in the military district of Heard County.  With him were his second wife, Samantha, and their two infants, Emma Emaline (4) and John Fletcher (8), plus his children by his first wife, Arrena: James Thomas (12), William Jasper Newton (9); Elizabeth F. (2), but Mollie who would have been 7 is not with them at the time. Gillam identified himself as a farmer and Susannah, as a housekeeper. James Thomas at the young age of 12 was listed as a farm laborer. Gillam’s real estate value was listed at $600, and his personal estate was valued at $390. That was quite a change from his status in 1860 before the war when his real estate was valued at $48,700, and his personal estate was at $43,300.

When the 1880 federal census was recorded, Gillam and his family remained in Heard County, Ga. He was 56 years old, and Samantha was 37, 19 years his junior. The oldest son, James Thomas appears to be gone from the family, but William Jasper Newton was 19 and living at home as a laborer. There was no mentioning of the daughter, Elizabeth, but the following children were living in the home: Mollie, 17; Emma, 18; John Fletcher, 12; Alice, 9; Margaret, 6; Anna, 4; Alonzar “Lonza,” 2; and Joseph Henry, 2 months. Four of the children had attended school that year. Of course, no records of the 1890 federal census survived to reveal any information on this family.

Gillam and Samantha Hicks were the parents of the following children: Emma Emaline, b. 1866, d. 1892; John Fletcher, b. 1867, d. 1923; Infant son, b.&d. 1869; Gillam, b&d. 1870; Alice, b. 1871; Margaret, b. 1874; Anna, b. 1876; Alonzar “Lonza,” b. 1878; Joseph Henry, b. 1880, d. 1958; and Cora Vesta, b. 1882, d. 1973. The infant sons born in 1869 and 1870 could be the same child.

Gillam Hicks died in 1895 in Heard County, Ga., but no reasons of his death have been found. He left his second wife a widow with several of their younger children in her home. He was buried in the Union Grove Cemetery in Heard County where their infant son(s) were buried in 1868 and/or 1869.

In his book on the Hicks family, Gale Hicks Thompson summarized Gillam’s life in the following words: “He (Gillam) had seen many changes in our country, our society and our economy during his brief 71 years. He had survived the Indian issues of early Georgia, enjoyed watching the growing prosperity of the state and then saw succession and the creation of a new and separate country. He survived the bloodiest and most devastating war of all times that was fought on American soil and lived through the ordeal. He had the honor to be present with general Robert E. Lee at a momentous time and place in our history at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and he must have emerged from all of this, a totally changed man. I feel like he may have encouraged his children to be adventuresome and not to remain in Georgia with all the difficulties of Reconstruction. Three of his children moved to Texas and Samantha and some of her children later moved to Alabama. He lived his whole life in the western part of Georgia yet during his lifetime, because of the Civil War, he lived in two different nations.”

Gillam Hicks’s children and other descendants will be featured in next week’s column.

The source for today’s story was the book The Hicks Family Tree; The Magnificent Journey of Our Branch of the Hicks Family Tree, 1455 to 2011, and The Families That Made a Difference, written by Gale Hicks Thompson and Bob G. Hicks.

Anyone who might find an error in the above is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: