Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series that provides a brief sketch of the life of Col. James D. Blanding.
According to a publication titled "Men of the Times," Blanding was one of Sumter's most respected law professionals, and he …
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According to a publication titled "Men of the Times," Blanding was one of Sumter's most respected law professionals, and he died more than a century ago; however, his impact on the community continues to be evident. Originally published in 1902 and 1907 and sourced from The Sumter Item archives, these articles will be reprinted with minimal modifications; further enlightenment was derived from the writings of Cassie Nicholes and Anne King Gregorie. This article will be presented in two segments.
WAR ERUPTS BETWEEN THE STATES: 1861
The citizens of Charleston were awakened on April 12, 1861, to the rumble of cannons which pounded Fort Sumter for 33 hours. It is interesting to note that no lives were lost during this incredible bombardment. On April 9, 1861, Gov. Pickens ordered 10 regiments, consisting of volunteers from the militia, mustered into state service. The Second Palmetto Regiment, as this new military unit was known, soon assimilated; Company D was organized in the Sumter community by James D. Blanding. The Sumter Volunteers with John S. Richardson Jr. as captain spent two weeks on Morris Island before being moved to Virginia.
Lt. Col. Blanding was placed in charge of the Ninth South Carolina Regiment and led his men to Manassas, arriving there on the evening of the First Battle of Bull Run. Reports indicate that he was disabled (possibly wounded). Afterward, Blanding was ordered to report to the inspector-general and assigned to inspect the sea coast batteries from Charleston to the North Carolina line. He also inspected various regiments of reserves stationed along the coast. He was later assigned to duty within the ordnance department where he remained until the end of hostilities.
AFTER THE WAR
When Blanding returned home, he began a tireless effort to move his county's government to a firm foundation. Records indicate that from 1876 to 1890 he was a delegate to every state convention, and his law firm had grown into the largest practice located in Sumter. He was noted to be a "Godly man, a wholesome, old-fashioned Christian ..For 40 years, he served First Presbyterian Church of Sumter as deacon and elder." It was noted that the first service of Wedgefield Presbyterian Church was held on July 3, 1881, with Rev. James McDowell officiating. "The celebration of the Lord's Supper was observed at the end of service. For this occasion, the First Presbyterian Church of Sumter graciously lent its communion service which was bought by Col. James Blanding, a ruling elder of that congregation."
Blanding became Democratic chairman of Sumter County, serving from 1870 to 1884. He served in all Democratic State Conventions from 1876 to 1890 and was elected to serve as a presidential elector and was given charge of the campaign in what was then a Black District. In History of Sumter County, Gregorie writes, "He retired from his position as the head of Sumter County's delegation from the Democratic State Convention and became active in organizing the Democratic Conservative Convention."
Following 50 years of professional work, he made the decision to retire fully because of his loss of hearing. It is thought this physical malady was brought about when a cannon ball exploded near his ear during the Civil War. Nevertheless, he became active in helping Sumter gain access to the railroads. He helped secure the Three C's Railroad and eventually became president of the company. This rail company was "in operation from Camden, South Carolina, to Marion, North Carolina, now known as the South Carolina and Georgia Extension Company, the section from Camden to Sumter, thence to Lanes and thence to Georgetown, having been constructed by separate companies and the connection from Marion, North Carolina, across the Alleghany and Cumberland Mountains to the Ohio River, being now built by a combination of companies. When completed this will be the shortest railroad route from Cincinnati to the Atlantic coast. The Sumter and Wateree Railroad, now a part of the Southern, was also constructed under Blanding's organization and presidency."
Col. James D. Blanding died on Oct. 25, 1907, at the age of 86. He was living at the home of his son-in-law, Mr. W. E. Dick, in the community of Heriots in Lee County. At the time of his death, he was said to have a clear and active mind and continued to have an interest in current events. He was described by those who knew and respected him as patriotic and inspirational to those he served. "In public place and in private life, in peace and in war, he performed every duty of a man and as a citizen faithfully and well, and the impression he made upon his time and generation was for good and for righteousness."
His funeral was held in First Presbyterian Church and "conducted by Rev. J. P. Morgan Jr., assisted by Rev. W. J. McKay and J. C. Bailey" with burial taking place in the family plot located in the city cemetery. The City Hall bell tolled 85 times "as the funeral cortege left the church," and all businesses were closed from noon to 1 p.m. while funeral services were in progress.
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