MYSTERIES

What are “The Spindles”?

Confederate naval officers operating in the lower reaches of St. Augustine Creek (apparently somewhere below the Causton’s Bluff/Bonaventure stretch), often mentioned “The Spindles” as a means of identifying their location. What were “The Spindles”? Why were they so named, and where–exactly–were they?

How did Harriet get the money?

In 1885, about a year after the death of her younger sister Mary, Harriet Tattnall (one of Josiah and Harriet Tattnall’s daughters) married her late sister’s husband, the widower Edward Fenwick (Ned) Neufville. The son of Josiah Tattnall’s cousin Mary Fenwick (Aunt Fen) Neufville, Ned had been a marine lieutenant in the Savannah Squadron.

Like most ex-Confederates Ned struggled after the war, making a modest living as an insurance agent and realtor. His dream of creating a Tybee Island tourist haven for rich Yankees did not succeed. And Harriet’s parents were destitute. Yet Harriet bought a house and lot at the corner of E. Gaston and Habersham (318 E. Gaston) for $3,000. She had a dwelling on the lot torn down, and built this beautiful home, where Ned died young (as had his father and younger brother) while having a mid-day meal, just a day short of his 49th birthday.1

Ned’s estate, divided between Harriet and his daughter by his first wife, totaled $3,000. It would have been typical of the careful Ned to make this real estate purchase in Harriet’s name to protect the home from his creditors; yet his financial situation never appeared strong enough to buy the lot and build the house. It may have been that this was all Harriet’s doing. She may have been headstrong, ambitious, upwardly mobile, and tired of genteel poverty. She may have been anxious to reenter the upper class society of post-war Savannah—a position her family had enjoyed since the days before the American Revolution, when the first Josiah married well and received title to Bonaventure. She may have been the driving force behind the purchase of the lot, and the design and construction of the house, perhaps with the approval and help of her husband, perhaps over his unsuccessful objections. Or, perhaps not.

Who designed and built this house (are there architectural drawings, construction plans, or contracts existent?) and again, how did Harriet get the money?

Are there other existing primary sources on the Tattnalls?

There is a small trove of Josiah Tattnall correspondence in the Georgia Historical Society.2 Are there other collections of correspondence (or diaries, journals, etc.) from or about Josiah, Harriet, John R.F. or any of the other Tattnalls? Charles Colcock Jones, Jr. seemed to have access to much Tattnall correspondence for his biography of Josiah Tattnall: Does that collection survive?

What happened to Paulding Tattnall?

Youngest son Paul did not join the military during the war, but served as his father’s secretary on the Savannah naval station. With the end of the war, he drops from sight. He does not appear in post-war Savannah city directories, and he is not buried at Bonaventure with most of the family. His death is nowhere recorded, and an obituary has not yet been found. Did he die in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when the family moved there in 1866? Did he go to California and become an obscure poet, newspaper man, or college professor? What happened to Paul?

What of Josiah Tattnall’s anti-secession testimony?

In a post-war letter to Robert E. Lee, Josiah Tattnall wrote: “Although I disapproved entirely of secession, and had to give evidence to that effect before a jury at Savannah a year after the commencement of the war…”3

In what Savannah court was this jury? What were the circumstances under which he was required to give testimony? Does a transcript exist?

Tattnall cousin Dr. Phineas Miller Kollock was visiting Josiah and Harriet Tattnall at Sackett’s Harbor Navy Yard just before secession. Is there any record (in the Kollock Papers at Georgia Historical Society or Emory University, or elsewhere) of their conversations on secession and Southern nationalism?

Are there existing letter collections or diaries of (or referencing) Midshipmen Barron Carter and Thomas M. Berrien?

Both were from prominent Georgia families, both spent much of the war attached to Savannah, yet neither has had any personal primary source material come to light.

What was this incident?

Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory to Commodore Josiah Tattnall, Aug. 13, 1861. “The Department has this day received from you Lieut. Comdg. J.N. Maffitt’s report of the conduct of Acting Midshipman James B. Ratcliffe on the 5th instant in rescuing a shipmate from impending death. You will please convey to Mr. Ratcliffe in such manner as you may deem [?] appropriate the Department’s high appreciation of his conduct upon this occasion and of the spirit which prompted it.

Register of Officers says James B. Ratcliffe was from Virginia, appointed a master’s mate May 16, 1861, and acting midshipman July 12, 1861. Served aboard C.S.S. Savannah 1861-62, New Orleans station (to serve aboard C.S.S. Mississippi), 1862, C.S.S. Patrick Henry, 1862, etc.

The Fingal

Who were Foster and Moffat, who returned to the South aboard the Fingal?

What happened to the Fingal’s elegant cabin appointments, which were stripped during the conversion to the Atlanta and sent to the naval store house in Augusta? (See The Best Station of Them All, p. 138)


1. For Ned Neufville, see Adam Brian Butcher’s 1993 Armstrong State. College senior thesis, “The Life and Times of Edward Fenwick Neufville.” It contains a 1960s photo of the Harriet Neufville home, at that time a shabby, run-down apartment house. A copy of the thesis is in the GBS file, Biography N folder, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Ga.

2. Josiah Tattnall Papers. Collection no. 1016, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Ga.

3. See correspondence between Tattnall and Lee, Aug. 23, Sept. 7, 1865 in Jones, Life and Services of Tattnall, 234-38.