This date in regional history.

MAY 31, 1861

Augusta's first casualty of the War Between the States involved Confederate Pvt. H.H. Parkyn on duty in Pensacola, Fla., who died on this date after being bitten by a snake.

The story got better a century later, when The Augusta Chronicle offered a more detailed account during Masters Week 1961. That was when the remains of the suspected serpent supposedly survived a fire at the Augusta Museum.

Calling it the "most famous snake in the South," the newspaper identified it as the coral snake that had struck Parkyn, a bugler in the Clinch Rifles, when he tried to "charm" it. Capt. C.A. Platt was said to have killed it, placed it in a whiskey jug and sent it back to Augusta.

It wound up on the shelves of the Plumb and Leitner Drug Store and then was moved to the museum, where an April 1961 fire threatened it.

"The fire's heat broke its jar," The Chronicle reported. "The snake tumbled into an Indian pottery exhibit. Firemen's hoses filled the pot with water, and the flames around it never scorched a scale."

That artifact no longer seems to exist.