August 31, 1812
1812 Georgia newspaper editor William Thompson was born in Ravenna, Ohio. In his early 20s, he moved to Augusta, Georgia, where he studied law under Augustus B. Longstreet, editor of the State Rights Sentinel. Without the outbreak of the Seminole War, Thompson enlisted in a local militia unit that was dispatched to Florida. During the campaign, he wrote letters detailing his unit’s adventures to Longstreet, who published them in his newspaper. In 1838, Thompson began publishing the Augusta Mirror, a literary endeavor. In 1842, he wrote the first of a series of fictional letters from a semi-literate Major Joseph Jones. That same year, Thompson moved to Madison, where he became editor of the weekly Southern Miscellany. He continued writing his series of fictional letters, and in 1843, 16 of them were published as Major Jones’ Courtship. After leaving the Madison, Thompson wrote Chronicles of Peneville (1845) and Major Jones’ Sketches of Travel (1848). In 1850, Thompson helped establish the Savannah Daily Morning News , which he edited until his death in 1882. In his later years, Thompson became involved in politics, and was a member of the convention that framed Georgia’s redeemer Constitution of 1877. But of all his accomplishments, William Thompson probably is best remembered for his humorous Major Jones’ letters, which skillfully employed dialect to portray comical characters in antebellum Georgia.
August 31, 1864
1864 In a day that would be plagued by confusion and bad command decisions, Confederate forces charge Union forces just after 3:00 p.m. starting the Battle of Jonesboro. In less than an hour, the Confederates suffer 1,400 casualties. Many more are captured. Even before hearing the bad news from Jonesboro, Gen. Hood ordered Gen. Stephen Lee to pull his corps out of Jonesboro and bring it back to Atlanta. Hood finally concluded that Atlanta could not be defended, so he began making plans to evacuate the city.
August 31, 1886
1886 The great Charleston earthquake that devastated the port city was felt across northern Georgia. In downtown Atlanta, shaking buildings caused frightened citizens to flee to the streets out of fear that the structures were about to collapse.
August 31, 1956
1956 Morehouse College graduate and Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses [1976 and 1984} and the first athlete to only take 13 strides between hurdles, was born in Dayton, Ohio.
August 31, 1964
1964 The trial of Joseph Howard Sims and Cecil William Myers began in Danielsville, Ga. They were two of three Athens Klansmen accused of murdering Lemuel Penn. [See July 11 entry for information on the murder.]
August 31, 1979
1979 President Jimmy Carter named Donald McHenry to succeed Andrew Young as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
August 31, 1983
1983 Morehouse College graduate Edwin Moses set the 400m hurdle record (47.02) in Koblenz.