Actual Factual Georgia

Q: How was Bartow County named? Is it named for a person, and if so, what did he do?

A: The county formerly known as Cass County had an identity crisis in the early 1860s.

Cass County had been named for Gen. Lewis Cass, who was the U.S. Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson.

Cass held several jobs worth recognition, including serving as a territorial governor before Michigan was a state, a senator from that state, as a minister to France and the Secretary of State under President James Buchanan.

As the Secretary of War in the 1830s, Cass had a huge part in Jackson’s work to move Indian populations from areas where American pioneers were settling, including five major tribes of the Southeast.

So, the folks living in that area choose Cass as their namesake, until many years later, when war broke out between the North and South.

That made them question their decision.

Locals weren’t bothered that Cass never lived in the area, but they didn’t like the New Hampshire native’s position on slavery.

So in 1861, the Georgia Legislature approved a name change from Cass County to Bartow County, recognizing the sacrifice of Francis Bartow, the first Confederate officer from Georgia to die in the Civil War.

“It was the first year of the war, and locals knew that Mr. Cass was a Northerner, but then learned he had given of his personal property to the war effort,” said Tina Shadden, the registrar for the Bartow History Museum in Cartersville. “Mr. Cass opened up this area for settlement, but when the conflict started, it was obvious that he was a Northerner through and through and that he supported the Union.”

If Cass’ Southern credentials were lacking, Bartow had plenty.

Bartow was a successful attorney and state senator from Chatham County and was a member of the First Confederate Congress from the Savannah District.

Oh, and he helped select gray as the color for the new Confederate uniforms.

He then led Georgia troops to Virginia, where the now-Col. Bartow was killed while rallying his soldiers at the First Battle of Manassas (or First Bull Run) on July 21, 1861.

His death caused much mourning in his native Savannah.

Like Cass, Bartow never visited the place that took his name.

“It didn’t have much to do with his connection to this area as his connection to the state,” Shadden said.

There’s also a Georgia city named for Bartow. It’s in Jefferson County, southwest of Augusta, slightly closer to his hometown of Savannah.

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