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Rare pot at museum part of our history

Harrison Family Dave Pot

Colleton Museum Director Gary Brightwell said that she and Museum Education Coordinator Rusty Clark were nervous Saturday about the pending arrival of a very old and rare pot Saturday morning.

“We were pacing back and forth just like new parents, nervous and waiting for a baby to arrive,” Brightwell said. She added that the piece is truly special, and it is also associated with a heart-rending story related to Colleton County. 

The unpretentious and utilitarian pot was made before the Civil War by a slave named Dave who worked for the potter Lewis Miles near Edgefield, South Carolina.  Dave, who could read and write, inscribed the pot with his name, the date it was made, July 22, 1857, and with the initials of the potter, LM.  He also made a double slash on the side of the pot with six pin marks to indicate the size of the pot; six gallons. 

Wilson Samuel Harrison purchased the pot sometime before the Civil War.  It was among his possessions when his estate was probated in Colleton County in 1866.  The pot was passed down in the Harrison family to Wilson Harrison’s great granddaughter, Ruth Harrison Lane, who gave it to her son, Jerry Lane.  Over the years the pot was used by various family members mostly to make sauerkraut. 

The pot was one of the reasons that Mrs. Lane became interested in genealogy.  No one in the family ever knew what happened to its original owner, Wilson Harrison, who never returned to his family after the Civil War.

Following is the tragic story Mrs. Lane uncovered through her research in the SC Archives and other historical files. The piece was acquired by the museum through Jerry Lane, son of above Ruth Harrison Lane.

WILSON SAMUEL HARRISON 1820-1865

Wilson Samuel Harrison was a farmer on land owned by his wife’s family in eastern Colleton County near Smoaks, SC.  In October 1862, at the age of 42 with a wife and six children, Wilson joined (or was conscripted into) the Confederate Army. Speculation was that he would have been conscripted to serve if he had not joined since, in September 1862, the Confederacy passed a second conscription law that increased the age for service in the Confederate Army from 35 to 45. 

Wilson served as a private in Company G of the 4th South Carolina Calvary which was posted until April 1864 at different locations along the Charleston-Savannah Railroad between Jacksonboro and Grahamville, SC (near what is now Ridgeland).  Company G was commanded by Captain Stokes who was also from the community of Smoaks, SC.  Wilson’s family saw him several times in the field and at home during this assignment but not afterwards.  They knew he was reassigned to another regiment which was moved north in early 1865, but they did not know the details and he never returned home to them. 

In September 1866 Wilson’s estate was probated based upon an affidavit from a fellow soldier who swore that Wilson had died in the spring of 1865 while serving in the Confederate army.  His estate of personal property including crockery, horses, and cattle was probated by his wife in Colleton County.  Since there was not enough money to pay estate expenses, Wilson’s widow acquired the crockery including the Dave pot from the estate for a few dollars.  Wilson’s wife later remarried but she and their children and their grandchildren all died without ever knowing what really had happened to Wilson. 

In the early 1990’s, Wilson’s great granddaughter, Ruth Harrison Lane, finally uncovered what had happened to Wilson and why he never returned home even after his unit surrendered to Sherman along with the rest of Johnston’s CSA Army in April of 1865.

In April of 1864, the 4th Calvary was ordered north to Columbia, South Carolina, to join General Hampton’s Calvary for deployment in Virginia. Company G was above its allocated number of soldiers, so Wilson, being older than most of the other soldiers, was left behind and reassigned to Company K of the 1st South Carolina Artillery.  Company K was posted around Charleston and along Charleston Harbor including at Fort Johnson.  In February of 1865, after Sherman entered South Carolina from Savannah, the Confederates commanded by General Hardee abandoned Charleston and moved their forces north to Cheraw, South Carolina.  There they joined up with other regiments of the Southern Army all under the command of General Joseph Johnston.  Johnston’s troops moved north from Cheraw just ahead of Sherman’s advancing army.  North of Fayetteville North Carolina, on March 15 and 16th, along the road to Raleigh, between the Cape Fear and Black River, Confederates under the command of General Hardee fought the battle of Averasboro (http://www.averasboro.com/) in an attempt to delay Sherman’s march north toward Goldsboro and the ultimate goal of Richmond. 

Wilson Harrison’s 1st SC Artillery occupied the right flank in the first line of defense against Sherman’s veteran troops.  The 1st Artillery was essentially a garrison unit assigned for most of the War in the forts defending Charleston from the northern Navy.  After Hardee was ordered to abandon Charleston, most of its soldiers were converted to infantry, including Company K.  The entire regiment only had a few pieces of artillery.  Averasboro was their first participation as infantry in close combat against northern infantry which had been through so many battles with Sherman.  The 1st Artillery held the first trenched defensive line for a long while but their troops were vastly outnumbered and eventually overwhelmed on the afternoon of March 16th after being unexpectedly flanked on their right side from a wooded area by troops of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, XX Army Corp, commanded by General Henry Case.  Diaries and correspondence of northern troops who overran the line described the scene as one of unbelievable carnage.  Most of Wilson’s Company was either killed or captured.  The remainder of Hardee’s troops formed several successive lines of defense before retiring from the field during the evening of March 16th. 

Records show that Wilson was captured on March 16th and was moved (most likely marched) with other prisoners to Newbern, NC where he arrived on March 30, 1865.  He was then transported by ship to Point Lookout Prisoner of War Camp south of Annapolis, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay.  Point Lookout was not known for its care of prisoners.  The Prison capacity was 10,000 prisoners but at any one time there were as many as 20,000 imprisoned there.  The prisoners were housed in tents with little food or firewood being provided.  Many died of exposure.  See http://www.plpow.com/.  Just a few weeks after his arrival, Wilson Harrison died at Point Lookout of pneumonia on April 14, 1865-the same day that Lincoln was shot.

While 3,384 names appear on the marker for the mass grave at the Point Lookout State Park cemetery, estimates are that over 14,000 prisoners actually died there.  Like Wilson Harrison, the names of most of those who died do not appear on the marker.  But thanks to the efforts of his great granddaughter, his name now appears on the marker. 

Ruth Harrison Lane, passed away in 2011 at the age of 86, also from pneumonia, one hundred and forty six years after Wilson Harrison.