Little evidence remains that a Civil War-era poet praised as one of America's best sonnet writers lived out the last of his literary life in a cabin about 15 miles west of Augusta.
Paul Hamilton Hayne's wooden cottage near Fort Gordon's Gate 3 was torn down in the 1950s. His poems include Aspects of the Pines and In Harbor.
Scholars remember Mr. Hayne -- buried in Augusta's Magnolia Cemetery and memorialized with other poets on a Greene Street monument -- as a prolific writer who produced hundreds of lyric poems, sonnets, essays and articles when most Southerners were more worried about food than literature.
Born into a prominent Charleston, S.C., family in 1830, Mr. Hayne graduated from Charleston College and gave up interests in law and politics to pursue writing.
At the time, Charleston was the literary center of the South. In 1857, Mr. Hayne helped start Russell's Magazine, which was on its way to success when the Civil War began.
Physically unfit for military service, Mr. Hayne served on the South Carolina governor's staff during the war. After Union troops burned and looted his Charleston home, Mr. Hayne moved near Grovetown in 1866.
He bought land and a house from local businessman Dennis Redmond, who built the indigo plantation house that is now the clubhouse for Augusta National Golf Club.
Mr. Hayne lived on what he could earn, writing verse and prose for publications across the nation including Harper's New Monthly Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly.
While living near Grovetown, Mr. Hayne was literary editor for several publications and produced several volumes of poetry including Mountain of the Lovers and Legends and Lyrics.
Writing until he died in 1892, he became better known in Europe and in the North than his native South. He corresponded with the literary lions of his era including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sidney Lanier and Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Critics called him the "Poet of the Pines" and "the Poet Laureate of the South." His sonnets were acclaimed by English Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson as the best written by any American. William Cullen Bryant praised his work.
"Those were the big boys back then," said Grovetown resident and amateur historian Charles Lord. Mr. Lord grew up about a mile from the Hayne home and can remember playing near it as a child.
"I'd stand outside the house and try to imagine what it must have looked like," Mr. Lord recalled in 1995. "Aspects of the Pines were about these pines here in Grovetown."
Mr. Lord wrote a term paper on the poet while attending Harlem High in the 1960s and began a lifelong study of Mr. Hayne.
Time has not been kind to Mr. Hayne or to his work, which some critics have panned as conventional, predictable and overly sentimental.
Even so, Mr. Hayne will always be remembered by some as a unique minor figure in literature: a Southern man of letters who worked despite crushing poverty. Favorable critics say he produced moving lyrics and sonnets that display deep-rooted love of the South's nature.
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