Monday, August 9, 2010

A Documented Source Isn't Always A Valid Source

It seems there is always some discussion going on about the lack of sourcing in on-line trees. It's definitely a problem and it makes me crazy but today I ran into a new slant on the subject.

Some time ago I found a tree with notes for David Gamble (my 3rd great-grandfather) of Heard County, Georgia. The story goes that an unknown Union soldier died at the well of David Gamble. This soldier had been with General McCook during his raid through that area of Georgia and even though David and his wife, Anna, had lost two sons who fought for the Confederacy [I've only been able to prove one son died in the war but it's possible there were two], David built this soldier a coffin using planks from his barn and buried him in nearby Adamson Cemetery. Now granted this particular tree acknowledged that the notes came from another tree but went on to say that this event "is recorded in "Sherman's Horsemen, Union Cavalry Operations in the Atlanta Campaign" by David Evans.

Wow! A source in an on-line tree.

I made note of the book in my to do list for David Gamble and filed the story in my head. In June, I was in Heard County, Georgia and visited the Adamson Cemetery where David and Anna Finney Gamble are also buried. I saw the grave of this unknown Union soldier. In addition to an unknown soldier marker, there are two big concrete slabs with a poem written by Nathaniel R. Adamson inscribed in the concrete. The story seemed to be accurate. Right?

Unknown Union Soldier's Grave, center with flag
When I returned home, I checked World Cat and found the book was available close by at the Berea College Library. Today I finally ran by there to check it out. On page 286, in the Chapter "McCook's Raid: The Chattahoochee River to Marietta", Evans tells about Union troops traveling southwest from Newnan, Georgia across the Chattahoochee River and into the area near Glenn, Georgia. The following is the complete quote regarding this incident:

"The sun was at its zenith when one of the dismounted men staggered and collapsed with a mournful cry. Some of his comrades gingerly picked him up and carried him into J. C. Gamble's yard, just west of a little settlement called Glen. Gamble offered what assistance he could, but the stricken trooper never regained consciousness and soon died."

So, I guess you see my problem - the source material doesn't back up the story.

Now David did have a brother named James but he had died in Tallapoosa County, Alabama in 1856 so he couldn't be this J. C. Gamble, besides his middle initial was A. David and his sons (none with initials J. C.) were the only Gamble's in Heard County, Georgia and nearby Randolph County, Alabama in the 1860 and 1870 census so I have no clue who J. C. Gamble might have been (or if the author just made a mistake with the name).

The only thing I'm sure of is this soldier is buried in the Adamson Cemetery. Check back tomorrow for Tombstone Tuesday with a transcription of the poem inscribed on his grave.


  1. "just west of a little settlement called Glen."

    SOOOOO, do you know where this Glen is??

    AHHH, the mysteries.

    Can't wait to see what else you dig up on this (oooo, pun intended).

  2. Hi Carol, I do know the location. Adamson Cemetery is just "west of Glenn" in Heard County, Georgia, less than a mile from the Alabama border. David Gamble's property was near the cemetery. There is a Gamble Road there today, a tenth of a mile from the cemetery, that I suspect was named for him or maybe one of his descendants.

  3. Fascinating! Love the Tombstone post too. Nice job.

  4. That's the difference between a secondary source and a primary source. Secondary sources are often wrong.

  5. That's certainly true, Martin - the problem is with this kind of story there isn't much chance of a primary source ever existing. It's too bad N. R. Adamson didn't mention the farmer's name in his poem. That would have still been secondary but probably a more reliable secondary source.

  6. Was the poem ever posted? I am researching my Adamson family and have a very bad copy of the song and am looking for a better copy. Any help you can give is appreciated

    1. A transcription of the poem is in this blog post.