You may remember Robert Haley Tatum from the legend of Dade seceding from the Union. He has been touted as the bold man who rose in the legislature in 1861 to proclaim, “By the gods, gentlemen, if Georgia does not secede from the Union, then Dade County will.”
He would probably the most surprised that he said those words, since he probably didn’t say them. I and others can find no evidence that he said it and I started looking in the late seventies.
(Image: Portrait of Marion Asher Braddock Tatum)
He was, however, an elected official, both locally and at the state level. He served as ordinary, and state representative and state senator. He made his home in Rising Fawn with his wife, the former Mary Ann Sutton. They had several children most of whom were “bred and born” in Dade County just after the first federal census for Dade (1840) was taken. For the time period, they were probably thought to be affluent. I surmise that one of the reasons that we have any legal documents in the court facility which date before 1865 was that he (R.H.) was forward thinking enough to take some of the documents out of the courthouse and hide them before the Yankees burned it. Thank you, Uncle Bob.
One of his sons, Marion Asher Braddock “Brad” Tatum, was also a devoted public servant and lived an affluent and interesting life until one dark night on a train in Athens, Georgia, when a horrible accident took his life. His death is one of the main reasons that he was included in the Historical Society’s Cemetery Walk. He is interred at Payne Cemetery, which lies within the confines of the more modern Lake Hills Cemetery.
The paper trail for researching MAB begins with the 1850 census, followed by papers joining the Confederacy and so on. A newspaper called The Southern Confederacy on 13 March 1862 reported that two sons of Col. Robert H. Tatum were leaving with this troop from Rising Fawn. Col. Tatum gave a rousing speech at their send-off and the paper reports a “beautiful mountain girl” by the name of Miss Mary Mann presented the “Invincibles” with a handsome battle flag. These men were in the company of James W. Cureton, Captain.
Brad was 17 when he joined. Another of our cemetery characters joined up at the same time. They had been friends for many years and remained so until the end of their lives. The friend was Thomas Henry Benton Cole. An article about his life will be forthcoming in this series.
The troop from Rising Fawn was deployed to Camp McDonald and became part of the 39th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry. The camp is memorialized by a Georgia Historical Marker on U.S. 41 in Kennesaw. Information about all of the places that the Invincibles troop served is not available but most of the troops from Dade County were at Jackson and/or Vicksburg, Mississippi, during the siege in June and July of 1863.
On 8 July 1863, MAB and many others from Dade were paroled by an order that was made on the Fourth of July that year. They signed an oath for release. It stated: “. . . I will not take up arms again against the United States. . . .” In looking at old documents it is not hard to find evidence of the return home of our local boys. Many of them, however, were involved again after their return home because Union troops were in Dade County off and on from August through December of 1863.
After the war was over, MAB found a young woman in Dekalb County, Ala., courted her and married her on October 31, 1866. Her name was Ann Josephine Withrow. They made their home in Rising Fawn and began their family. Their children numbered eight, with five boys and three girls. Only young Willie did not live to adulthood. One can tell from the names that were given to the sons that someone in the family was a reader of classical and Southern literature: Byron Eugene, John Byrum Gordon, Colyar Sutton and Henry Grady.
Ann will play a larger part in the next portion of this tale as we find what a strong and
resilient woman she was. Ann’s character was played at the Cemetery Walk by Desta Cox Sims.
--Donna M. Street