Friday, July 5, 2013

South Carolina Troops at Gettysburg Speech

I had the opportunity and honor to speak on July 1, 2013 at a Battle of Gettysburg sesquicentennial memorial held at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery where 82 S.C. soldiers killed at Gettysburg were reinterred in 1871 from graves on the Pennsylvania battlefied.
(See Charleston Post and Courier coverage- for P&C Warren Peper video do Google search)
This headstone at Magnolia Cemetery marks the remains of nearly a dozen S.C. soldiers who fell at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863
I spoke about the role of South Carolina troops at this momentous Civil War battle. Here are the key excerpts:
Gettysburg and S.C. Soldiers
South Carolina was well-represented at the Battle of Gettysburg, which began 150 years ago today.

Nearly 5,000 South Carolina soldiers fought in the battle. They were an integral part of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which numbered 70,000 going into Gettysburg. Union Gen. George Meade's Army of the Potomac had 94,000 men.

Of those 5,000 South Carolinians, more than 300 died in the battle…and nearly 1,000 were wounded. That’s a killed or wounded ratio of roughly 26-percent…more than one-in-four.

Most of the Palmetto State men fought as part of two of the three large Confederate army General James Longstreet’s First Corps…and General A.P. Hill’s third corps. Longstreet himself has South Carolina ties. He was born in what is today North Augusta…in Edgefield County, South Carolina.

In Longstreet’s first corps…the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 15th South Carolina Infantry Regiments and the 3rd South Carolina Battalion made up Kershaw’s Brigade…under the command of General Joseph Kershaw of Camden, South Carolina.

Kershaw’s Brigade had nearly 22-hundred men at the start of Gettysburg and came out with 650 fewer…with 175 men killed…425 wounded…and 50 missing.

The 82 South Carolina Confederates buried here behind us were in Kershaw’s Brigade. They include members of the Palmetto Guard who were from Charleston and Beaufort Counties. The poignant and dramatic headstone where a wreath will be laid shortly is the grave of nearly a dozen Palmetto Guard soldiers who were killed on July 2nd, the second day of the epic Battle of Gettysburg.

Iconic Gettysburg landmarks such as the Peach Orchard…the Wheatfield…and Rose Hill Farm…are where these men fought…and died.

Our next speaker, John Spear, will detail the herculean efforts of Charleston’s Ladies Memorial Association to bring home from Gettysburg the remains of these sons of South Carolina. It did not sit well with the women in that organization and many others as well…to have these men buried in shallow graves in Pennsylvania. It took several years but the L-M-A did successfully bring home dozens of South Carolinians for reburial here on the Soldiers Ground of Magnolia Cemetery.

Also in the battle as part of Longstreet’s First Corps were several South Carolina artillery units…the Charleston German, Palmetto Light, Brooks and Alexander’s Battalion artillery. They and their cannon were also in the thick of things at Gettysburg…including the massive artillery barrage unleashed on the Union lines prior to the fateful Pickett’s Charge on the battle’s final day
In A.P. Hill’s Third Army Corps were also several South Carolina infantry regiments…the 1st  Provisional…the 1st South Carolina Rifles, and the 12th, 13th and 14th South Carolina infantry regiments. Cannon fire was provided by Pegram’s Battery and the Pee Dee artillery, each from South Carolina, that were part also part of Hill’s corps.

Those South Carolinians fought in all three days of the battle but took a particularly prominent part in Gettysburg’s first day…July 1st…150 years ago today…as they dislodged Union forces from Seminary Ridge and chased them into town, capturing many prisoners.

Wade Hampton

 Now, any discussion about South Carolinians at Gettysburg would be far from complete without mention of cavalry commander Wade Hampton and his harrowing experiences in the great battle.

General Hampton was born in Charleston at 54 Hasell street to a very wealthy family. Prior to the war, he was a lawyer, plantation owner and state representative and senator. Hampton would inherit great wealth to the extent that when the Civil War started he financed his own army of sorts…Hampton’s Legion, which had its own infantry, artillery and cavalry units.

Wade Hampton was wounded in battle seven times at four different battles…at First Manassas or Bull Run where a bullet creased his head…at the Battle of Seven Pines where he was shot in the foot. At Brandy Station…the war’s largest cavalry battle…fought three weeks before Gettysburg…he suffered another wound, this one minor.

Hampton and his approximately 2,000 men were part of JEB Stuart’s 12,000 member cavalry division. Stuart came under severe criticism at and after Gettysburg for his foray into Pennyslvania…around the Union army east of Gettysburg.

Stuart lost touch with Robert E. Lee for a few crucial days, leaving Lee without needed intelligence about the Yankee movements and positions. This caused Lee to deploy and fight on ground and positions that were not to his favor.

Stuart and Hampton did not engage the enemy until the evening of the battle’s second day. In a skirmish with Yankee cavalry he...Hampton... charged a Union soldier aiming a musket at him 200 yards away. Hampton charged the trooper before he could fire his rifle, but another trooper blindsided Hampton with a saber cut to the back of his head.

The next day, on July 3, Hampton led the cavalry attack to the east of Gettysburg, attempting to disrupt the Union rear areas, but collided with Union cavalry along the way. Among the Yankee cavalry Hampton and his men went up against was a brash young general from Michigan—George Armstrong Custer.

In this fight, which came to hand-to-hand and sword-to-sword Hampton took two more saber cuts to the front of his head, but continued fighting until he was wounded again with a piece of shrapnel to the hip. He was carried back to Virginia in the same ambulance as fellow wounded General John Bell Hood.

Hampton survived Gettysburg and in fact would… in 1864… replace JEB Stuart as Robert E. Lee’s cavalry chieftan after Stuart was killed in the Battle of Yellow Tavern.

After the war, Wade Hampton lost much of his wealth from the war but he would have a prominent political career…as South Carolina governor and then U.S. Senator. He was lauded for bringing the state out of the post war Reconstruction period.

Wade Hampton’s name is on the front of the Confederate soldier statue behind you, which for the prominence of his name on it is sometimes mistakenly called by some the Wade Hampton statue or monument. His name is there for his many contributions to the state during and after the war…and some would say for his part in fostering the Confederacy’s “Lost Cause” legacy.

 More Magnolia Cemetery Confederacy Legacy

My forthcoming book, “In the Arms of Angels: The History, Mystery and Artistry of Magnolia Cemetery” includes a lengthy chapter on the legacy of the Confederacy here.

I write about and show photographs of the Soldiers Ground section where we stand right now. I cover the Hunley memorial, which is the most visited site here. That’s where the three crews of the famous first submarine to sink a ship in a war are interred. Go by today and see it if you haven’t yet. It’s behind us in that direction. Just follow the signs.

Magnolia is also the eternal home to six Confederate generals. Perhaps the best known was Micah Jenkins of Edisto Island. General Jenkins was a rising star in the army, destined to become a corps commander many felt, but who…like Stonewall Jackson…was tragically shot by his own side…on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. Jenkins died a few hours later from the head wound. He was 28 years old.

You can walk around the 150 acres here and see many, many  references to the Civil War. Some 22-hundred Confederates veterans who survived survived the war…many who were killed in action…and mortally wounded soldiers and sailors were buried here. Small battle flags adorn many of the graves, placed by local Confederate groups. So that makes them easy to spot as your tour the grounds.

The range of South Carolina’s involvement in the war is impressively evident here…if you really look for it and study it…which I have. Several Confederate government leaders were buried here. There are men buried here who were killed or mortally wounded in every major battle of the war…in both the Eastern and Western theaters of operation.

The battles around Charleston are well-represented of course…Fort Sumter…when occupied by Southern troops who came under intense Union naval and ground fire in 1863-1864.  Confederates killed at Secessionville…Morris Island…Pocotaligo…and other area battles are here too.

But so are some Charleston soldiers killed in the many major Virginia battles at First and Second Manassas, the Peninsula or Seven Days Battles Campaign, Fredericksburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, to name several.

A Confederate soldier killed at Sharpburg or Antietam in Maryland…the bloodiest single day of the war on September 17, 1862…is memorialized with a large monument just over there behind the pond.

South Carolina regiments were also sent to the West. And some of those are buried here who fought and died at major Western battles in Tennessee and Georgia such as Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Franklin and Atlanta, among others.

To me personally it’s kind of chilling to see the direct references by name to the battles and armies inscribed on some of the headstones, monuments and memorials. It really brings alive the history!

Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia judge advocate general is buried here…so is one of Lee’s chief surgeons, as is Lee’s namesake grandson Robert E. Lee III.

If only these stones could speak!

A final tie between Gettysburg and Magnolia Cemetery is the South Carolina monument on the Gettysburg battlefield itself. It is located southwest of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue. The monument shows an outline of the state, its seal, and palmetto trees alongside a list of the South Carolina units that fought at Gettysburg.

At the base of the front of the monument is a line from “Ode to Magnolia Cemetery” by the Poet Laureate of the Confederacy, Charleston’s own Henry Timrod. Timrod read his specially written poem in 1867 during Magnolia Cemetery’s Confederate grave decoration service.

The words he read then and that are inscribed in South Carolina’s Gettysburg monument are these:

Quote-- “There is no holier spot of ground than where defeated valor lies, by mourning beauty crowned.” –end quote
Today…we mourn and honor not just the sons of South Carolina lost at Gettysburg…but the sons of all states both South and North.

At Gettysburg, the numbers are staggering: 7,863 killed…27,224 wounded…11,199 missing…total of all these casualties: 46,286. The Battle of Gettysburg 150 years ago today, tomorrow and Wednesday.

 Thank you for coming today! And thanks for listening.

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