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Gainesville Daily Register

May 4, 2010

History revealed to local Confederate soldier’s family

By PAMELA ROBINSON, Register Staff Writer
Gainesville Daily Register

Cooke County — Confederate soldier Elsberry Holcombe, who lived in Cooke County and was buried in Marysville Cemetery, was honored Sunday with a United Daughters of the Confederacy Iron Cross dedication ceremony.

Holcombe served with Company D of the 9th Battalion of Georgia Light Artillery in Gwinnett County, Ga. He served as 4th sergeant and was sent to Atlanta to guard stores and await the arrival of arms and equipment. Later he was sent to several battles in Tennessee and Virginia.

Cooke County resident Jean Roberg-Hamer, 72, a great-granddaughter of Holcombe, participated in the Sunday dedication with many family members.

Hamer said that participating in the Iron Cross dedication was very meaningful to her.

“It gives you a sense of importance because you are a part of our history,” she noted. “It’s not just family history it’s American history and I’ve toured all of those places...I have seen some of those battlefields where he fought in the Civil War.

“I can’t explain it but when I left the dedication I felt closer to my family and more a part of American history,” she added. “When you go to something like this it catches your attention. It’s more important now. To me, it’s so much more dear than it was.”

Hamer recalled that in one battle (Appomattox) there were 500 in Holcombe’s battalion. When the battle was over there were 20 men left, and her great-grandfather was one of them.

She remembered a story told by her aunt Ethel R. Davidson who lives in Gainesville and is a granddaughter to Holcombe.

“When Elsberry came home, Sarah (his wife) was on the porch sweeping. She looked up and she saw this man coming down the road walking. As he got closer she saw it was Elsberry. His beard was so long and his hair was so matted and dirty and long. His uniform, you couldn’t even tell if he had a uniform on it was so tattered, so torn.”

Hamer’s interest in family history also extends to her father, Earnest Elsberry Reeves, a grandson to Holcombe, who also served in the military in World War II.

“I was only about five-and-a-half when my dad went to World War II. He was gone three years and it was very hard for me to understand,” Hamer remarked. “We were very close. He would get up on Saturday morning when we lived out at Marysville, pick up his gun and I knew we were going down on the creek squirrel hunting and I’d pitter patter right after him every Saturday morning.”

He was stationed in the Philippine Islands as a rifleman and was wounded twice in action. He received the Purple Heart.

Hamer’s younger brother Danny Reeves, also of Cooke County, has their father’s military uniform and some of his letters.

Reeves said it has been enlightening to learn more about the family history.

“You are part of history. You are who your ancestors were, where they came from, everything,” he said. “We studied the Civil War in school of course but there wasn’t a direct connection there at that time. But, it helps you find your place, where you’re at in life and where you came from and the connection you have with history. That’s important because you don’t really know who you are unless you know where you come from. It gives you a sense of placement in history. Family stories are lost, and this is a way to regain knowledge.”

Reeves said he has visited a lot of family cemeteries because there is a lot to learn there about ancestry.

“You see the names and you know you’re connected, that you’re part of the past. Then you can start putting the pieces together,” he added.

Hamer said the Sunday Iron Cross dedication brought a lot of family together.

“It brought all the cousins together,” she said. “It was exciting to see all of them again. There are 12 great-grandchildren to Holcombe and all of them were there except two. His two granddaughters were also there. We don’t get together as much as we would like to, so it was great to see everyone.”

Hamer said she has her cousins to thank for the family history of her great-grandfather and the Iron Cross dedication because of their research. She said they took the time and made the effort to organize the ceremony and bring everything and everyone together.

“They belong to the United Daughters of the Confederacy and they also brought their mother Olive Pearson, Holcombe’s other granddaughter, to the dedication,” she added. Hamer’s aunt Ethel who lives here in Gainesville also participated in the ceremony.

Hamer said this family history experience has really stoked her interest and she is going to do a lot of family history now. She said to start with, her cousins are going to send her more information and get her more involved. They plan to trace their ancestors back to England.

“It just renews an interest for me,” Hamer noted. “It’s like a second wind in your life when you go to something like this (dedication). It’s like taking a breath and saying, ‘look, you know, I didn’t realize this was there, the significance of it.’”

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