Sunday, July 25, 2010

Manse Jolly: Fact and Fiction

He stands out in South Carolina history as a true rebel. He was a reactionary leader who waged a war of terror against the occupying Northern troops in the years following the end of the Civil War. His motive was revenge for the loss of five brothers to Yankee fire. His name was Manse Jolly. His story is the stuff of legend and most of it happened in and around Anderson County.

Manse Jolly
(d. 1869)

Like most local figures of note, the facts about Manse Jolly fade when the fiction begins. He was larger than life before he reached the age of 25. By this time, he was considered the Robin Hood of South Carolina. And while his commanders may have surrendered at Appomattox, Jolly kept on fighting. But before we get to the myths, lets see some facts:
  1. He was born in the Lebanon area of Anderson County some years before the war, the exact date is unknown. He was 6' 4", had red hair and could read and write.
  2. Jolly served as a Confederate Cavalry scout in the 1st S.C. Calvary, Company F. He was an expert horseman and well skilled in fighting with knife, pistol, and rifle.
  3. He was one of seven sons, all of which served in the war. Jolly and a younger brother were the only ones who survived. Of the five dead, four died on the battlefield and one in a field hospital.
  4. Upon returning to Anderson, he vowed that he would kill five Yankees for each brother who died. As of 1932, his birthplace was still standing, near the Anderson-Liberty Highway. Locals tell of a well on the property that was filled with bones and tattered uniforms bearing buttons engraved with "U.S."
His targets were the 1st Maine, 33rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops,  garrisoned in Anderson and the white Volunteer troops supporting them. The sight of the garrison so angered him that he soon killed his first victim, a member of the Union garrison. A few days later, a second member of the garrison was found dead. Jolly claimed the murder. The garrison commander sent out squads to capture the renegade. While they often found him, the willy Jolly would escape, usually taking one or two more victims.

Manse Jolly's last ride was made during late 1866 to early 1867, when he dashed on his horse, Dixie, down Fant Street through the Yankee camp. He yelled and screamed at the top of his lungs, firing pistols in each hand. So startled by the rebel yell, the Union troops thought they were under attack. Jolly escaped from his Union pursuers and left Anderson County for good. He made his way to Texas, where he established a new life.

It is estimated that Jolly killed 23 white soldiers before fleeing his home (some reports take the number to 100). The number of black soldiers he killed is unknown. His legend grew in the telling and it was reported that he killed more Union soldiers on his way to Texas. Manse Jolly died on July 8, 1869 near his home in Texas. He drowned in a river as he was trying to cross it. He had been married for one year and left a wife behind. His daughter was born a few months later, and his descendants live on today.

His remains were laid to rest in a forgotten cemetery in eastern Milam County, Texas (the Little River Cemetery). His tombstone simply says: "Sacred to the Memory of Manse Jolly, age 29 years." He is remembered as a murderer, a terrorist, a rebel, a hero, or a bushwacker, depending on who you talk to.

4 comments:

viv said...

there will be more legends like him before this country disintergrates god bless Manse Jolly and long live dixie

74143e14-9e0d-11e1-a758-000f20980440 said...

Enjoy you sharing your knowledge. I am originally from Maine, and live in Anderson now. Love knowing the local history, more so since this particular piece includes both my home states, past & present. My great-great grandfather fought for SC Orr's Rifles.
Emma Dalrymple\
ANderson, SC
Bowdoin514911@aol.com

Blog for Leary B. Rivas, Jr. said...

Thanks for this information. My girlfriend is actually a descendant directly from Manse Jolly's lineage, and had told me some of the stories before I found this. Very interesting!

Mike Cannon said...

I have a song about Manse Jolly, if anyone would like a copy just post a comment here.