Like most local figures of note, the facts about Manse Jolly fade when the fiction begins. He was larger than life before he reached the age of 25. By this time, he was considered the Robin Hood of South Carolina. And while his commanders may have surrendered at Appomattox, Jolly kept on fighting. But before we get to the myths, lets see some facts:
- He was born in the Lebanon area of Anderson County some years before the war, the exact date is unknown. He was 6' 4", had red hair and could read and write.
- Jolly served as a Confederate Cavalry scout in the 1st S.C. Calvary, Company F. He was an expert horseman and well skilled in fighting with knife, pistol, and rifle.
- He was one of seven sons, all of which served in the war. Jolly and a younger brother were the only ones who survived. Of the five dead, four died on the battlefield and one in a field hospital.
- Upon returning to Anderson, he vowed that he would kill five Yankees for each brother who died. As of 1932, his birthplace was still standing, near the Anderson-Liberty Highway. Locals tell of a well on the property that was filled with bones and tattered uniforms bearing buttons engraved with "U.S."
Manse Jolly's last ride was made during late 1866 to early 1867, when he dashed on his horse, Dixie, down Fant Street through the Yankee camp. He yelled and screamed at the top of his lungs, firing pistols in each hand. So startled by the rebel yell, the Union troops thought they were under attack. Jolly escaped from his Union pursuers and left Anderson County for good. He made his way to Texas, where he established a new life.
It is estimated that Jolly killed 23 white soldiers before fleeing his home (some reports take the number to 100). The number of black soldiers he killed is unknown. His legend grew in the telling and it was reported that he killed more Union soldiers on his way to Texas. Manse Jolly died on July 8, 1869 near his home in Texas. He drowned in a river as he was trying to cross it. He had been married for one year and left a wife behind. His daughter was born a few months later, and his descendants live on today.
His remains were laid to rest in a forgotten cemetery in eastern Milam County, Texas (the Little River Cemetery). His tombstone simply says: "Sacred to the Memory of Manse Jolly, age 29 years." He is remembered as a murderer, a terrorist, a rebel, a hero, or a bushwacker, depending on who you talk to.