It was July 3, 1861 when Wilson N. Crawford was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 11th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.
Wilson had moved from the the western mountains of North Carolina to north Georgia in the late 1840s, not long after the U.S. government had cleared the remaining members of the Cherokee Nation from is homelands, making way for white settlers.
He eventually settled in Gilmer County, near Ellijay and began farming the rocky hillsides and raising a family.
Like most of his neighbors in Georgia’s Appalachian foothills, he never owned slaves, whether that was merely an economic impossibility of a moral stance, it is unknown. He likely had little in common with Columbia County native -- and perhaps distant cousin -- George W. Crawford, the former governor and U.S. Congressman, who served that year as the chairman of the Georgia Secession Convention that had assembled in Millegdeville in January 1861.
Wilson was dirt-farmer and hunter, who was scraping out a living on what was then the American frontier.
Despite those differences, he still responded to the call for volunteers, along with dozens of others from his county. after George Crawford announced the vote in favor of succession in March, and shot were fired on Fort Sumter the following April.
Numbered among Company F, “Mrs. Joe Brown’s Boys,” were a cousin and a nephew of Wilson’s -- neither of which survived the catastrophe now known as the Civil War.
Wilson managed to live through it, even some the famed battlefield’s of Bull Run and Gettysburg, before being furloughed in early 1865. He returned to Gilmer County and never returned to his unit.
The reason I know a little about this ordinary Confederate lieutenant, is that he was my great-great grandfather.
It’s no surprise that I’m a son of the South. I, like many have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy.
Many of you probably had ancestors who were Union soldiers. Some might have family who fought on both sides of the conflict. Many others have ancestors who were freed from the bondage of slavery when the battles were done.
I’m not ashamed of my grandfather or my heritage. It is part of me and -- in part -- it defines me. Wilson Crawford was a man of his time. I can’t begin to understand his mind or question the decisions he made.
That being said, I also feel no reason to burnish his memory with tales of heroism, either.
He fought the war, for his reasons. That the South lost, can only be considered a good thing, but it has taken us 150 years to let go of that lost cause. Some of us are fighting it still.
I will be glad to see the battle flag come down in Columbia. This son of the South is ready to move on.