The men of the old First Georgia are home. Many who did not return are mourned by their loved ones. J. M. G. Medlock, editor of the Sandersville Central Georgian and former member of the Washington Rifles, poured out his grief in his newspaper:
WELCOME HOME.--The 1st Regiment Georgia Volunteers, having served out their term of enlistment, have been disbanded, (the order for them to go to Tennessee was countermanded) and the train from Augusta Monday evening last, brought back to their anxious friends, our brave boys of the Washington Rifles. The joy that was felt can only be realized by those who participated in it.
But this meeting was one of sorrow as well joy. There were those who looked in vain for the familiar faces of those beloved and whose return they had fondly anticipated.— [illegible] his own almost upon the eve of their starting for home. Pardon us reader, if we open afresh the wound that time had partially healed. We would not cause one pang of sorrow or awaken one sad thought. But we mourn a brother dead. For weeks and months had we looked forward to the return of the Rifles, for the HE would once again gladden our hearts by his presence. But the hand of disease feel heavily upon him. When the Regiment left Winchester he was confined to the hospital. He now sleeps his last sleep in that far off land. Yes EUGENE is dead! If we only knew that some friend was with him in his last moments to hear his last request; but if so we know not who that friend was, as the company were far on their way homeward. But he has given up his life in a noble cause, and we try to say “thy will be done.”
To William G. Robson, Esq., we owe a debt of gratitude, for his kind attention to our brother, which we can never repay. Heaven alone can reward him according to his desserts.
Some who did return to Georgia still suffer afflictions resulting from the harsh conditions they endured during their service. The Augusta Daily Chronicle of March 15, 1862, recorded what may have the final casualty of the First Georgia Volunteer Infantry:
DEATH OF A GEORGIA VOLUNTEER.—Mr. William D. Lewis, of Washington county, Ga., and a member of Company E, First Georgia Regiment, died at this place [Augusta], at the house kept by the Rev. N. Graham, on Sunday night last. He was attended by Dr. Whitaker, a member of the same command who left with his remains on Monday night. The First Georgia, it will be recollected, participated in the fight which took place at Laurel Hill and Cheat Mountain, and has doubtless seen as much severe service as any Regiment which has participated in the war.
The unfortunate young man, whose death we record, was among those who made that long and fearful passage across the wild mountains of Western Virginia. He is said to have been a good and true soldier. The circumstances of his death are melancholy, (being upon his passage home to the bosom of loved ones after a long perilous service) but it should be consolation to his afflicted relatives to know, that, notwithstanding he was a stranger, he received every attention and kindness during his last hours; free of charge, from the family at whose house he died, and from others of our most respectable citizens. He was watched by them until dissolving, nature had made its struggle, and was then tenderly and decently prepared for the grave.