Aug 132022

Note: This story is from my book Highway History And Back Road Mystery

We’ve all heard the tale of Paul Revere, the brave Boston silversmith whose midnight ride alerted patriots that “the British are coming!” The lesser known part of that story is that Paul Revere was actually captured before he completed his mission and two other riders went on to warn the Minutemen of the Redcoats’ advance. But did you know that Georgia had its very own version of Paul Revere?

It happened on May 2, 1863, during the Civil War, when Union troops under Colonel Abel D. Streight began moving toward the town of Rome, Georgia with the intent of seizing the Confederate arsenal there, then cutting off the South’s supply line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Mail carrier John Henry Wisdom was at Gadsden, Alabama when he saw Streight’s men moving forward for the impending raid and took off to rally resistance.

Setting off by horse and buggy in mid-afternoon, Wisdom made it to Gnatville, Alabama, a distance of about 22 miles, before his horse gave out. The only mount to be had was a lame pony owned by a local widow woman. Borrowing the pony, the brave rider continued on his mission. But the poor animal could only make it another five miles before Wisdom had to abandon it and ride off on another horse he managed to borrow.

Through the evening and on into nightfall Wisdom continued, riding one horse until it collapsed and then begging another wherever he could. Some farmers refused to loan him their animals and he continued on foot until he could find another farmhouse to stop and ask for help. At one point he stumbled on for miles before finding a mule he could use. Sometime late at night, an exhausted John Wisdom arrived at the tiny settlement of Vanns Valley, Georgia, where he was able to get two fresh horses and race the final seventeen miles into Rome, completing a journey of nearly seventy miles on foot and horseback in just over eight hours.

It was after midnight when Wisdom arrived in Rome, but his night’s work was still not done. Rousing the citizenry, he helped organize a hasty defense. Since Rome was 60 miles south of the Confederate lines, there were no troops on hand to protect the town. Assembling a motley collection of wounded soldiers, old men, and young boys, a battle strategy was formed.

Knowing the Union troops would have to come across a covered wooden bridge over the Coosa River to enter town, the defenders chose the span to make their stand. Filling the bridge waist deep with straw soaked in oil and barricading it with cotton bales, the plan was to hold out as long as possible in the hope that reinforcements would arrive, and as a last resort, to set fire to the bridge to hold the invaders at bay.

Meanwhile the call went out for help, and planters and farmers began pouring into Rome from the surrounding countryside, armed with squirrel guns and muskets, much as the Minutemen had at Lexington and Concord nearly a century before. But unlike events in New England, this time bloodshed was averted.

At about 9 a.m. an advance force of 200 men led by a Captain Russell arrived at a hill overlooking the town and saw the defenses awaiting them. Unwilling to risk his men against such stubborn resistance, Russell withdrew and reported back to Colonel Streight that Rome was not to be taken easily. Streight began to move his force westward and they soon ran into Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and were captured. John Henry Wisdom’s midnight ride had succeeded in saving Rome!

As a reward for his gallant actions, the citizens of Rome presented John Wisdom with an award of $400 and a beautiful silver service. Though there is no evidence that the silver service was created by that other midnight rider from Boston, it did not matter to John Henry Wisdom, local hero. His long ride was done and Rome was safe. That was reward enough.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an autographed copy of Written in Blood by Nathan Bush. The first book in Nathan’s the Foley Chronicles: Files from the 8th District is the story of rookie detective Ken Collins investigating a serial killer who begins mutilating prostitutes in the 8th District. Working with his partner, Senior Detective John Filcher, the duo is on the hunt for a brutal and efficient killer who leaves no trail to follow.

To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books and audiobooks to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed

Thought For The Day – My dream job would be driving the karma bus.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  4 Responses to “Georgia’s Paul Revere”

  1. I really enjoyed the Georgia tale.

    His name was Nathan Bedford Forrest, not Nathaniel.

    Barry Forrest Townes

  2. Thanks for catching that, Barry. Are you related to the general?

  3. Not related. My great-grandfather was in NBF’s cavalry unit. (Tennessee) He must have held him high regard because my GGF named his son Forrest. My mother named me after my grandfather. Wasn’t being a spell nazi, but wanted to say something. I am glad to see any reference to NBF that just speaks of his place in history. Those were bad times and men did bad things, but NBF was not the soulless heathen some portray him to be.

  4. Both are totally awsome stories – thank you Nick and Barry!
    Is there a picture of the bridge available?
    or the exact location?

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.