My mother was a Chesser whose great-grandfather is the same Tom Chesser mentioned below. I had heard this story over the years and recently found it online in one of a series of articles originally written in 1976 by William Eugene “Gene” Barber for the Baker County(Florida) Press entitled “The Way It Was”. This may explain where I get some of my attitudes about war, etc. If you are ever in the area, the original homestead located on Chesser Island is a historic tourist attraction in Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
The old Chessers were a pleasant but peculiar people, jealous of their privacy and not hesitant to stand up to federal and state governments against the rich man’s war of secession. Two of the Chesser boys and a brother-in-law deserted the Confederate Army after a few grueling months and hid out in the fastness of the swamp for the duration of the war.
Tom, Buck, and their brother-in-law Tom Petty were conscripted into the Confederate Army. Being opposed to the war, irrespective of who was fighting, they deserted above the swamp. They came down through the swamp and according to those who heard the story from those who saw the boys, they were so swelled by mosquito bites and brier scratches that they were not recognizable.
These men lived out the duration of the war in the swamp, surviving on game they shot and supplies left at a designated place by the family. Their excess game was left to be picked up by the hard-pressed family who left salt and other provisions. A time and a place was set for the exchange. The men and the family did not meet during this entire time, and so they never had to lie when the military asked if they had seen the deserters.
Whenever troops of either army (U.S. and C.S.A.) moved near, or other danger was close a large conch shell horn was blown at the ‘big house’. The runaways removed themselves deeper into the Okefenokee.
After thinking about it I realized that by avoiding “re-enactments” I’m behaving just like my Chesser ancestors.
Next – my father’s family and the Civil War