Augustus “Gus” Franklin Samples (1843-1926)
On Tues., Sept. 19, 1843 in Pike County, GA, a baby boy was born to Jesse & Elizabeth Samples. They named that little boy “Augustus Franklin Samples,” but in later years, he would come to be known simply as “Gus.”
At the age of eighteen, Gus volunteered for duty in the Confederate States Army and enlisted in Scogin’s Battery of the Griffin Light Artillery, a unit that was organized on May 7, 1862 in Griffin, GA, and described in one source as: “… one of Georgia’s most gallant commands …”
The Griffin Light Artillery was better known in some circles as “The Church Bell Battery.” Listen to Kingman Porter Moore, one of Gus’ comrades in arms with Griffin’s Light Artillery, relate how the Griffin Light Artillery acquired its nickname:
“… know where our guns came from. The securing of brass or copper … was almost out of the question … and an appeal was made to the churches of Georgia … to contribute their church bells to be molded in[to] cannon. … in a very short time a number of these bells had been molded into four beautiful twelve pound Napoleon guns, mounted on brand new carriages, and shipped to our company at Calhoun, and we had the honor and unique distinction of being the first ‘Church-bell Battery’ in the Confederate Service. … all the Company, felt a very peculiar pride in our guns, and we all pledged ourselves never to bring reproach or dishonor on those guns. … And it was not until, in the awful and bloody struggle of September 19, 1863 [Gus Samples’ twentieth birthday], at Chickamauga that we had to surrender the first one of our ‘Churchbell guns.’ … It was not until about half of the men, and every horse but one, were shot down around the piece that it was left in the hands of the enemy. And though we sorrowed over the loss of our friends and companions, we all felt a sense of profound sadness over the loss of the first one of our Churchbell guns.”
You can read Porter’s lengthy, enlightening memoirs of what some aspects of service in Scogin’s Battery was like right here.
Following the bloody fighting at Chickamauga* – in which 13 of the 89 men in Griffin’s Light Artillery died – Gus and his company did garrison duty at Charleston, TN until rejoining Bragg’s army in the retreat from Dalton, GA following the battle of Missionary Ridge. The spring of 1864 would find Griffin’s Light Artillery involved in the fighting at Resaca, New Hope Church and Jonesboro.
Griffin’s company suffered heavy losses of horses at New Hope (May 1864) and many of the men wound up being transferred to other units or re-shuffled to other batteries within the Griffin Light Artillery. On June 20, 1864, Gus was re-assigned to Jeffress’s Battery and he would continue service with this battery until his company surrendered with Gen. Joseph E. Johnson at Wilmington, NC in 1865.
Following the war, Gus returned to Pike County, GA, but son moved to Panola County, TX in 1871 and began to make his living as a farmer. There he came upon “Argent Aurora King,” the daughter of William & Winifred [Hardy] King, whom he married. Sad to say, sometime early in the 1880’s, Argent died (probably in Erath County, TX), leaving Gus as a widower with five children to raise. Gus, however, found love once more and moved to Anderson County, TX, where he married “Sallie Brown” in 1887. Gus fathered seven more children through Sally, until Sally died in childbirth in 1908. Gus continued living in Slocum (Anderson County, TX) until he moved to Jefferson County, OK in 1916.
The year before Gus moved to Oklahoma, he applied for, and received, a Confederate’s soldier’s pension from the State of Texas. At that time he was seventy-two years of age. On his pension application he stated that he had no occupation and that his physical condition was “poor.” Six years later, at age seventy-eight, when Gus applied for, and received (January 1922), an indigent soldier’s pension from Oklahoma, he described his health as “feeble” and listed all his personal property as “cows and mules worth $300.”
* You may recall that one of the Union veterans we highlighted recently, Loren Walton Lewis, also fought at Chickamauga. Lewis, and this man, Samples, fought in the same area along the Brotherton Road – on opposite sides – on the morning of Sept. 19, the first day of the Battle of Chickamauga. A number of the Civil War veterans buried in Stephens County, OK fought at Chickamauga.