"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Review

I'm very pleased and gratified to announce that I Will Give Them One More Shot has received another good review.  I'd like to thank Mr. John Michael Priest of the Civil War News for his kind words.  Mr. Priest wrote that "I Will Give Them One More Shot . . . is a comprehensive, well-written account of the 1861 campaign in what is now West Virginia. . . . In resurrecting the forgotten history of this one-year regiment, he [Martin] has skillfully filled a niche in Civil War research. . . .This well-written book goes beyond the realm of local history and belongs on the Civil War student’s shelf."

The full review can be read here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20, 1861

The bulk of Major Thompson’s 300 men, led by “Tanner Jim” Parsons, begin to come into the camp at Monterey There they are greeted with wild cheering and laughter by their comrades, who had been certain that they had all been all been captured or killed.

Amazingly, when all of Thompson’s troops arrive and are accounted for, not one man is missing. However, the trek through the wilderness had shattered the health of many. An officer later wrote that “A great many of those who had suffered so much died of fevers and other ailments in a few months. Most of those who had become crazy, recovered for a time, but either died soon afterward or become permanently deranged.”

James Rust Parsons, the savior of Major Thompson’s 300, received the grateful thanks of the regiment. Following the war, the soldiers sang “Tanner Jim’s” praise at their reunions and in their memoirs. Parsons himself was unable to return home after the rescue, however. Because of the strong Unionist sentiment in the region, he believed he would be killed if he returned – in fact, there were several reports that he had been murdered for helping the Georgians. Parsons traveled westward to Iowa, where he took refuge with his brother, Robert Slack Parsons. Not until the war ended would he feel safe enough to return to his farm in the Allegheny Mountains.

Thus ended the tragic retreat of the Army of the Northwest.  Reinforcements would continue to arrive in Monterey to bolster the command, but it would be many weeks before the army would be ready for another campaign.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19, 1861

The decimated Army of the Northwest straggles into Monterey.  General Jackson is shocked and dismayed at the condition of the troops, and the next day sends the following dispatch to Richmond, in which he describes the wretchedness of Colonel Ramsey's command:

Camp at Monterey, July 20, 1861.
Assistant Adjutant-General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.:

SIR: Yesterday I received the letter of General Lee of the 16th of July, unaccountably delayed upon the road, in which he refers to the importance of defending the mountain passes to prevent the advance of the enemy to the Central Railroad at Millborough. I have been exceedingly anxious that the general should be apprised by personal inspection of the indescribable condition into which this branch of the army has fallen, and therefore have learned with great pain, through Major Harman, that his contemplated movement toward this quarter has been delayed. I can confidently say that of all the troops under my command the regiments from Georgia and North Carolina are alone reliable and fit for service, all the rest having been demoralized to a greater or less extent by our late disasters. The condition of Colonel Ramsey's command, the larger portion of which has arrived in camp, is in truth pitiable. Officers and men are absolutely stripped of everything-tents, clothing, cooking untensils, shoes-and I am sorry to believe that many have thrown away their arms. Men and horses jaded, dispirited, half, and limping, are wholly unfit for duty, and what disposition to make of them is a most serious question. No re-enforcements have come up from below. The Arkansas regiment, so long and anxiously looked for, did not leave Stauntion until yesterday. It certainly must be obvious at a glance that with the available troops at hand little or northing can be done, and yet, unless the points referred to by the general be taken at once, they must pass into the enemy's hands. Is the whole country thus to be surrendered? A glance at the map will show that to prevent the advance of the enemy at least two routes toward the east must be at once held-the one upon which we now are had the turnpike from Huttonsville through Huntersville to Millborough. My letter of yesterday will have informed you that I have sent forward a small but comparatively well-organized force to occupy the Alleghany pass on the former, with the faint hope that they might ascertain by reconnoitering that the Cheat pass had as yet been neglected by the enemy, and by a forced march at night might throw themselves into it. This movement, contemplated by me from the first, had been delayed by the sickness of Colonel Johnson, who, it is needless to say, had been my main reliance. I am sorry to say that he is still unwell and unable to sustain the advance by his presence. The inhabitants of Pocahontas, through which the other route passes, are said to be loyal. Those of them who are not already in General Wise's brigade are flying, or are disposed to fly, to arms. But they appeal for assistance and ask not to be abandoned. Under these circumstances, weak as I am, the receipt of the general's letter decided me at once to send the Sixth North Carolina Regiment into Pocahontas and to the Elk Mountain pass, said to be defensible, accompanied by the Bath County Cavalry. I have taken the liberty of countermanding the proclamation of Major Harman calling upon the militia of Pocahontas and adjacent counties to rendezvous at Staunton. Have directed that they rendezvous at Huntersville; have sent them powder for their rifles; have ordered them to go at once against the enemy, to blockade the road from Huttonsville to Elk Mountain by felling trees before him, and to beset his flanks from the adjacent woods and fastnesses. I have also written to Major Harman to send one of the regiments at Staunton by the railroad and Millborough int the same direction, and shall make arrangements at Huntersville for their supplies. I think the general will perceive that in comparison with my resources I have undertaken a vast deal, and yet what else was to be done? I must either advance or retreat from this point. To advance may be dangerous; to retreat would be ruinous, since the whole country, thus apparently abandoned, would turn from us to receive the enemy with open arms. I must be excused, therefore, for praying most earnestly that attention be turned in this direction; that re-enforcements of all kinds be forwarded at once; that some one more competent than I be placed in charge of these complicated operations; or that, if this cannot be, the necessary staff officers be sent to my assistance, since, without any exaggeration, apart from the anxieties of my position, flesh and blood cannot long stand the mere detail imposed upon me.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17, 1861

Parsons drives several cattle into the Georgians' camp. As the men butcher the animals, many devour the meat raw, rather than wait for it to be cooked. Several of the soldiers have to be helped to eat, being too weak to raise the food to their lips.  They spend this day and the next resting and regaining their strength. Rescue parties are sent back along the trail to bring back those to weak to travel that had been left behind.
Brigadier General Henry R. Jackson, who had arrived in Monterey a few days before with reinforcements for Garnett's army, sends the following message to Colonel Ramsey:

SIR: Your note of yesterday is at hand. I am surprised and pained to learn by it that you may not be on the road to this point. If so, you will at once change your line of march, and with all practicable dispatch, join me here. You will send forward, with directions to move as rapidly as possible, the artillery and cavalry attached to your command; also the engineer officers, and Lieutenants Washington and Humphries of the C. S. Army.
Brigadier-General, Commanding, &c.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16, 1861

Despair is overtaking the bedraggled soldiers in Major Thompson’s lost detachment as they continue to search for a way out of the mountains. The specter of death by starvation is causing some to even consider the possibility of cannibalism. Suddenly, hope begins to rise as a stranger approaches.

“Tanner Jim” Parsons, a farmer and mountain man who lives near Shavers Fork River, has learned of the Georgian’s plight, and decides to attempt a rescue. He tells Major Thompson that he can lead the soldiers to safety. Suspicious, Thompson agrees, but warns Parsons that if he leads the troops into a trap he will be killed. Parsons directs the men to turn about, and they start back through the mountains, eventually arriving at a clearing near Parsons’ farm, where they bed down for the night.


The retreating Army of the Northwest has reached Petersburg in Western Virginia. Colonel Ramsey, recovering from his illness, has taken command of the army by virtue of his seniority. He dispatches a message to Colonel Edward Johnson, who has arrived in Monterey with his Twelfth Georgia Infantry as reinforcements for Garnett’s army:

My command is here, marching to Harrisburg. We have suffered awfully. Not many men were killed by the enemy, but there are hundreds missing. We were near starvation. The cavalry scouts still hang on our rear, but I do not think they are pursuing in force. What is left of this army will not be fit for service in a month.

Very respectfully,
Colonel, Commanding.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15, 1861

Corporal Nathan Pugh of the Walker Light Infantry, makes the following entry in his diary:

Started on our dreary march through the mountainous wilderness of laurel at daylight this morning.  All weak and tottering from hunger.  We have marched through this wilderness for thirty-six hours, without discovering any mark or sign to indicate that man had ever trod the soil before; and I have not idea that this region was ever before penetrated by any man living.  For nearly two days we have marched without so much as hearing a bird.  No game!  Nothing in this region for game to live on.  The growth consists of laurel, laurel, laurel, with occasional spruce-pine and birch.  The boys are eating birch-bark—some are eating spruce-pine bark.  As for myself, I cannot bear to look at them as they eat it.  I ate it freely yesterday, but to-day I am sick—sick, I suppose, from eating it yesterday.  We are marching in profound silence, no man having strength or energy to converse with his companion.  Many of the boys are throwing away their guns, &c., not being able to carry them.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14, 1861

The retreating Army of the Northwest reaches Red House, Maryland, around 2:00 a.m., where it stops to rest for about three hours. Colonel James Irvine of the Sixteenth Ohio receives orders to intercept the Confederates. Due to faulty intelligence, Irvine’s regiment takes up position on the wrong road. By the time Irvine realizes his mistake and marches for Red House, the Confederates are gone. The Army of the Northwest pulls out of Red House at 5:00 a.m., turning south toward Greenland, Virginia.

Colonel Ramsey, who is actually the senior colonel by virtue of his commission date, has not taken command of the army due to being ill, so the retreat up to now has been overseen by Colonel William B. Taliaferro of the Twenty-Third Virginia.

Major Thompson and his 300 Georgians, suffering hunger pangs from lack of food, continue to hack their way through increasingly dense scrub as they try to find their way out of the mountains.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13, 1861

Death of General Garnett at Corricks Ford
Early in the morning, General Garnett orders the army to cross Kalers Ford and head northward down the Shavers Fork Valley. Garnett moves ahead with his leading regiments, leaving the Twenty-Third Virginia and Ramsey’s First Georgia as rear guard to protect the wagon train. Cavalry scouts report that Union troops (Captain Benham’s pursuit force) are coming up fast behind. In an attempt to ambush the Federals, Colonel Ramsey divides the First Georgia, ordering Major George Harvey Thompson to place the better part of six companies, some 300 men, in hiding along the far side of the Shavers Fork Valley. Ramsey positions his remaining four companies at the northern end of the valley to await the Federal attack. Thompson conceals his soldiers in a corn field as they wait to spring the trap.

Splashing across Kalers Ford, the Union soldiers move down the valley toward Colonel Ramsey’s position. Through an incredible piece of bad luck, the Federal troops align themselves in such a way as to remain out of range of the smoothbore muskets of Thompson’s detachment, cutting the major and his men off from the rest of the regiment.

Colonel Ramsey, fighting desperately against overwhelming numbers, is forced to order a retreat. The Union column, unaware of the presence of Thompson’s detachment, presses forward in pursuit. At Corricks Ford, Colonel William B. Taliaferro positions his Twenty-Third Virginia, the remnants of the First Georgia and two artillery pieces on a bluff overlooking the river. After a fierce battle lasting about half an hour, Taliaferro is running low on ammunition and orders a withdrawal.

General Garnett meets Taliaferro at the next ford, ordering him to continue his retreat while the general remains with just twenty sharpshooters. When Union troops threaten to swallow up this tiny force, Garnett orders a retreat, but he is shot and killed, becoming the first general officer on either side to be killed in the war.

The Army of the Northwest, now little better than a panic-stricken mob, continues its retreat northward toward Red House, Maryland. Captain Benham halts his pursuit at Corricks Ford to rest his men and wait for General Morris to arrive with the rest of his brigade.

Back at Kalers Ford, the Major Thompson and his six companies, now completely cut off, work their way up the mountain to their east, attempting to find a route back to their army.  Before long, the soldiers are completely lost in the wilds of the Allegheny Mountains.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12, 1861

The road to Beverly is blockaded, stopping the Army of the Northwest’s retreat south. General Garnett receives a report that Federal troops are in Beverly (a mistake). With few choices left to him, Garnett decides to reverse direction and push north, hoping to reach the western tip of Maryland and then to turn back south toward Monterey, Virginia. The army does an about-face, with the First Georgia now in the rear guard. As rain continues to pour down, the troops struggle through knee-deep mud along narrow mountain paths. Much equipment is jettisoned from the wagons to lighten the load. Some of the wagons literally slide off the trail and crash down in ravines below. The Southern Guard and the Gate City Guards, Companies B and F, lose their company flags this way. By late that evening, the army reaches Kalers Ford on the Shavers Fork River, where the exhausted troops go into bivouac.

Back at Laurel Hill, Union General Thomas Morris dispatches three infantry regiments and two artillery pieces, under the command of Captain Henry W. Benham, in pursuit of the Confederates.

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11, 1861

General Robert S. Garnett’s outpost at Rich Mountain is outflanked and captured by Union troops under General William S. Rosecrans.  When Garnett learns of the defeat, he realizes that his position at Laurel Hill is now untenable.  In a driving rainstorm, Garnett begins his retreat just after midnight, traveling southward toward Beverly.  The First Georgia Regiment is in the van of the retreat.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Baptism of Fire

150 years ago today, the First Georgia Volunteers experienced their first taste of combat.  A picket post in advance of the fortifications at Laurel Hill, manned by the Gate City Guards, was attacked by Union skirmishers.  Ordered to advance the First in support of the pickets, Colonel Ramsey divided his regiment, taking five companies around the Confederate left in search of reported Federal activity there, and sending the remaining four companies, under Lt. Colonel James O. Clarke, around the right.  Coming abreast of a hill to the right of the Gate City Guards position, Clarke was informed that Union troops were coming up the opposite side, probably trying to outflank the Guards.  Clarke sent two companies, the Bainbridge Independents and the Walker Light Infantry, further down the road to protect his flank.  Forming the Dahlonega Volunteers and the Quitman Guards into line of battle, Clarke raised his sword and led the soldiers in a charge, yelling "Up the hill, boys!  And remember you are Georgians!"  Clarke's men hit the Federals at the top of the hill.  The Independents and the Walker Light also charged up the hill in support, and after several minutes of vicious fighting, the Georgians drove the Union troops off the crest. 

The image at the top of the page, taken from Leslie's Illustrated News, shows the battle.  In the foreground are Union troops.  The soldiers in the distance on the hillside are the Georgians.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Best Wishes for a Glorious Fourth

From the Martin family to everyone out there - we wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July.  As we tend our barbecues and watch parades and fireworks, please take a moment to remember the men and women in uniform who serve our country across the globe; from those in harm’s way, to those in support roles, as well as the loved ones who wait at home for their safe return. 
Confederate Camp at the 150th Anniversary Reenactment of Corricks Ford
I'd also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Rodger Ware and the rest of the staff of the Corricks Ford Battlefield Association for a great first event.  The 150th Anniversary Reenactment of Corricks Ford this past weekend came off without a hitch, and the turnout was impressive for a first event.  With continued support from Tucker County and the community of Parsons, WV, I foresee this reenactment growing into a major national event.  I look forward to attending again next year.

"General Garnett" at Corricks Ford