1st Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters- Regimental History
Note: I started this with the intention of doing a complete history all the way to Bentonville. As I continued to find more and more information I concluded that I had almost enough for a book. After Russell Brown and I met I quit working on the online history and began to concentrate on gathering all the information I could for publication. I am sorry this history doesn't go all the way to Bentonville, but for a better history there's always the book. The title is Our Connection with Savannah- The History of the First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters and is available in most online book stores.
The battalion was formed on August 15, 1862 and organized by Colonel Robert H. Anderson. The battalion was mustered at Camp Anderson south of Savannah Georgia on the Ogeechee River. The battalion was under departmental command of Gen. John Pemberton. The sharpshooters remained at Camp Anderson with no military activity except for a review by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard who replaced Pemberton on October 27.
On February 1, 1863, the sharpshooters were stationed at Fort McAllister, near Savannah Georgia, to help slow the advancing Yankee iron clads. Col. Robert H. Andersonís official report of Feb. 2 he states that at 7:45 a.m. on Feb.1 the battery was attacked by one iron-clad of the monitor order, whose armament was one 15 inch and one 11 inch gun, three gunboats (wooden), and one mortar boat. Before the enemyís boats came within range I ordered Capt. Arthur Shaaff, commanding the First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, to line the river bank with his riflemen. His right rested about a quarter of a mile in rear of and west of the battery. As soon as I was satisfied that there was no intention on the part of the enemy to land at Kilkenny on my right flank, and that his intention was restricted to passing the obstructions, I ordered him to deploy his battalion on his right file at ten pace intervals, which enabled him to cover the bank of the river for over a mile with his sharpshooters, who had excellent cover, and would have annoyed the enemy terribly had he succeeded in passing the obstructions. (O.R.series1.vol.14 serial # 20) Artillery that had been brought up from Savannah fired on the iron clad Montauk, which sustained forty-six direct hits. Col. Anderson stated that he thought the ironclad had been damaged because he could hear them hammering on the turret which had ceased to rotate. The Montauk did succeed in taking out one of Fort McAllister's guns. Col. Anderson requested that in commemoration of the gallant action that the garrison be allowed to inscribe "Fort McAllister" on their standard. This would be the first of many battle honors the First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters would have inscribed on their flag.
The Mississippi Campaign
On May 5th, 1863, the battalion was ordered to Mississippi with Gen. William Henry Talbot Walker to help Gen. Pemberton near Vicksburg. May 6th Walkerís and Gistís brigades leave Savannah and after five days of travel, Walker's Brigade arrived by train at Jackson on May 11th. The next day Walker pushed forward and joined Brig. Gen. John Greggís forces at Mississippi Springs on the night of the 12th .The brigade was composed of the 1st Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, 4th Louisiana Battalion and Martin's Georgia Battery. The 25th, 29th.and 30th Georgia not arriving until on or around May 14th. On May 14th Gen. Gregg was in charge of the Confederate troops in Jackson and had been expecting an attack from the northwest on the city. From Rebel scouts he learned that another attack would also be coming simultaneously from the southwest. Gregg ordered Colonel Albert Thompson of the 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry to assemble a task force to protect Jackson from this new threat. The force consisted of the 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry, the 1st Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, and four guns of Martinís Georgia Battery. "Task Force Thompson" was posted at a bridge on Lynch creek, southwest of Jackson on the Raymond road, in support of Martinís Battery. The force was barley in position when Capt. Robert Martin gave the order to fire. The battery began pounding the advancing Yankeeís with shell. Sherman rode forward, made a hasty reconnaissance of the position and ordered Gen. Tuttle to mass his division for an attack.11am, After heavy rains had subsided, with 12 cannon covering deployment, Shermanís force that was four times stronger than Walker's advanced on this position. For a brief time "Task Force Thompson" was able to hold the bridge but eventually was ordered to fall back. They fell back to a skirt of woods fronting the rifle pits that guarded the southwestern approaches to Jackson. This position is adjacent to present day Battlefield Park. Tuttle re-deployed his division made up of three brigades. An officer from one of these brigades recalled "We soon reached the brow of the hill from which the eye commanded a view of the cleared level bottom, the cleared space being about two-thirds of a mile across. The two brigades of our division were in line of battle, stretching across the bottom immediately to our front. We were ordered to form line of battle in the rear. The front lines set up a shout and started forward to charge the enemy, who were in line of battle in the edge of the woods beyond" The force was confronted by the Yankeeís in overpowering strength and again was forced to fall back, this time to the Jackson entrenchmentís. . Battle map of Jackson As the Federals continued their advance the order was given to retreat through Jackson using the Canton road. A.P. Adamson of the 30th Georgia recalled " We marched for miles in a heavy rain and the roads soon became sloppy, so much so that the feet of the men sunk into the sticky mud over the tops of their shoes. The next morning our men were wet and muddy, some of them barefooted; hats and caps were drooped and appeared dilapidated." The retreat continued to Canton and a bivouac was set up near a small stream.
On May 23rd, at Gen. Johnstonís request, Gen. Walker was promoted to Maj. Gen. and on the 25th, put in charge of the right wing. Senior regimental commander Col. Claudius C. Wilson then took charge of the brigade. After a short rest the brigade was marched to Yazoo City to establish a base and keep an eye on the bridge over Big Black River. From Yazoo City Walkerís men marched to a point east of Big Black River, where the railroad from Jackson to Vicksburg crossed. On the 4th of July the brigade was to cross Big Black River and harass the Federal rear to bring some relief to Gen. Pemberton who was still pinned down in Vicksburg. Just as the men were getting ready for the march Gen. Johnston received official word that Vicksburg had fallen. Johnston, knowing Grantís entire army would then turn upon him ordered the immediate retreat towards Jackson. The march began just after midnight on the 4th and continued for twenty-four hours with no rest except for a ten-minute stop every hour. The weather in this area was extremely hot and water was in short supply. This caused intense suffering and fatigue among the men. The brigade was marched to west Jackson. The city was heavily fortified and Sherman knew this. He was convinced that the works were too strong to be breached by assault. Sherman decided the best way to accomplish the task of removing the rebels was by siege. The city came under a continuous bombardment. Wilsonís brigade was supporting the left of Walkerís division but did not have the advantage of earth works for protection. Col. Wilson stated in a letter to his wife " I lost more men than anybody else, 80 killed and wounded. We were supporting the left of Walkerís division and I endeavored to protect my men by placing them in a ravine. My right rested sixty yards from the trenches and the left about one hundred-fifty yards, the ravine running obliquely to the main line of works." Shermanís troops attacked the lines with very little success and then resumed the bombardment. Gen. Johnston learned of another Union force being brought in from Yazoo City. Johnston knew that this force, if left unchecked, would cross the Pearl River and turn his right flank. On the afternoon of the 16th Gen. Johnston decided to evacuate. At 9 p.m. the field guns were removed and one hour after the cannon were removed the infantry, except for skirmishers, evacuated the rifle pits. Walkerís division crossed the Pearl, followed by Lorings division, at Carsonís ferry while Breckinridgeís and Frenchís divisions utilized the lower bridges. Once all were on the east bank, a rapid march towards Brandon was made. With Shermanís men in pursuit Johnstonís troops could not linger. By the end of the dayís march on the 20th the troops had reached Morton. Sherman learned of Rebels moving eastward from Brandon and with all communications and railroads being destroyed in central Missisippi he returned to Vicksburg.
On August 24, the corps, now Walker's corps, was ordered to join Gen. Braggís army which was in and around Chattanooga. From Morton, they moved by rail to Atlanta then to Chickamauga Station over the W&A railroad. Walker arrived on August 28,leading two divisions, one under his command, and the second under Brigadier-Gen. St. John Liddell. From Chickamauga Station they went to Tylerís Station, Tenn. where they remained until September 7, when Walker returned to Chickamauga Gen. Bragg had evacuated Chattanooga on the 7th and retired most of his army to the vicinity of Lafayette. Several days were spent maneuvering for positions. Gen. Bragg gave two orders for an attack, one on the 10th, for Cheatemís and Hindmanís divisions to attack the advanced divisionís of the enemy; and again, on the 13th, for Polkís corps and part of D.H. Hillís corps to attack the Union forces under Crittenden near Rock Springs. Walkerís division formed part of Hillís corps and on the 13th remained in a line of battle for several hours expecting every moment to move to attack the Federals. Due to lack of co-operation by the corps commanders, or for reasons unknown, these attacks never came about.
September 18, 1863
Gen. Walker was ordered by Gen. Bragg to cross the Chickamauga at Alexanderís Bridge, if possible. If not, cross at Byramís Ford, about 1.5 miles below. Just before reaching the bridge Gen. Walker was informed that the enemy, (Wilderís brigade) was holding it. About 2pm Gen. Liddell was ordered by Walker to advance on the bridge along with Wathall and Grovanís brigades with Ectorís and Wilsonís brigades held in reserve. After a hasty reconnaissance Liddell ordered Gen. Wathall to attack. This was promptly executed and in about 45min. the Confederates held the bridge with a loss of 105 killed and wounded. This high number was attributed to the modern breech loading rifles that Wilderís infantry was known to carry. In the fighting the bridge had been torn up and rendered useless. At this point the division began to move in the direction of Byramís Ford.
September 19, 1863
Col. Wilson reports that it was not until 1am that he had completed crossing due to the divisionís wagons and artillery trains blocking the ford, that had preceded them. After crossing, the brigade bivouacked on the west side of the river and prepared to follow the division on the march later that morning. About 9am the divisionís trains had crossed and all began to march with the 25th Georgia and one section of battery as an advance guard and the rest of the brigade in the rear. The brigade had marched about 2mi. from the ford to the intersection of the Alexanderís Bridge Road and the road to Lee and Gordonís Mills (Viniard-Alexander Road) when one of Gen. Forrestís staff gave Wilson an order from division headquarters directing him to go with Forrest and obey his orders. The train was sent on alone and the brigade filed to the right on to Alexanderís Bridge Road except for one company (B Co. 30th Ga.) who had been thrown out as skirmishers from the ford. (It is noted that Co.B fell in with Ectorís Brigade) As Col. Wilson rode forward with Gen. Forrest he was informed that the enemy of considerable force was engaging his Calvary to the right and front of his position and was directed to select a position and form a line of battle on the left of the road. Not being at this position long Forrest informed Wilson to move up on his left as the enemy was sorely pressing him along his front. . Forrestís Calvary had become engaged with Croxtonís brigade of Bairdís division and desperately needed help. Col. Wilsonís brigade moved off by right flank approx. 3/8ís mi. up the Alexander Bridge Rd. and was formed into a line of battle. The line was made up of the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-ninth Georgia Regt, s on the right, the Thirtieth Georgia held the center, and the Fourth Louisiana Battalion and First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters held the left. This line bearly formed when firing began on the left. The order was then given to move up at once. Col. Wilson stated" the line stepped off with the enthusiasm of high hope and patriotic determination, and the precision and accuracy which only disciplined and instructed troops can attain." The enemyís skirmishers were encountered at once and driven in on their first line, which opened up on them with a terrific fire. Steadily the line moved forward and poured a well directed fire into the enemyís ranks soon this line broke and fled leaving dead and wounded covering the field. The brigade still pressed onward and encountered a second line of battle drawn up 300 or 400 yards in rear of the first. Firing at this point was terrific and many officers and men fell while discharging their duties. For a time the line wavered but recovered and again moved forward and succeeded in driving the enemyís second line to his breast works constructed of fallen trees about 400 yards in rear of his second line. At this time an order from Gen. Forrest was given to not press the enemy any farther but Wilsonís line had come well with in range of the breast works and was taking on heavy fire and being flanked on the left by Scribnerís brigade. The whole line began to fall back. Gen. Ectorís brigade then moved in on the right of Wilsonís line. The Twenty-fifth and Twenty-ninth Georgia Regtís fell in with Ectorís brigade and remained with it during the rest of the dayís fight. The First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters and the Fourth Louisiana Battalion had been hit very hard and were brought to the rear of other troops coming up for relief. Here they rallied, replenished their cartridge boxes and again took up positions with the rest of the brigade, which remained, on the battle- field that night. Col. Wilson had approx. 1200 men at this time and had taken on an effective force of over 2900 men before having to fall back. Gen. Walker then ordered Gen. Liddellís forces into action. Liddell brought up Gen. Wathall.s and Col. Grovanís brigades. After some success they too were compelled to fall back. It was not until Gen. Cleburneís division came up, an hour before sunset, that the enemy was driven back of a distance of a half-mile and both sides ceased fire for the night. In Gen. Walkerís report he states " The unequal contest of four brigades against such overwhelming odds is unparalleled in this revolution, and the troops deserve immortal honor for the part borne in the action. Only soldiers fighting for all that is dear to free men could attack, be driven, rally and attack again such superior forces."
Sept. 20, 1863
On this the last day of battle Gen. Gist had been put in command of Col. Wilsonís, Gen. Ectorís and Gistís brigades and supported Gen. Hill on the right wing of the line. Col. Wilson reported that having advanced some distance engaged the enemy in thick woods about a half-mile from the Chattanooga road in connection with Gistís brigade in front and Gen. Ectorís in the rear. This lasted approx. 45 min. but the three brigades were occupying the same line, which caused great confusion. They were ordered to fall back and reform. With this being completed Col. Wilson wrote" we advanced to the last charge, meeting, however, no enemy, and having the satisfaction of taking up our bivouac upon the field from which our enemy had been driven in confusion. Maj. Shaaff, commander of the 1st Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, reported being wounded but it is unclear on what day this occurred. Wilsonís brigade had entered the fight with an effective force of 1,800 men, and lost in two days fighting 100 killed 433 wounded, and 80 missing including 1 officer killed and 7 wounded. This was to be the bloodiest two-day battle of the war with the Federals loosing 16,170 men and the Confederates loosing 18,454 for a total of 34,524 men lost. The Confederates were the victors but a heavy price was paid.
From November 14th to the 23rd, Walker's division, under the command of Brig. Gen. States Rights Gist, bridged the valley of Chattanooga Creek between Lookout Mountain and a lower hill called Brushy Knob. On the afternoon of the 23rd Wilson's brigade was shifted to Missionary Ridge in response to Union activity around Orchard Knob. Wilson's brigade were the first troops to occupy the Ridge. Their mission was to observe and take action against any force attempting to turn the right. About this time a changewas made in the brigade. The 4th Louisiana Battalion was transferred to another brigade and the 66th Georgia and 26th Ga. Battalion regiment under Col. J. Cooper Nisbet was added.At this time the brigade consisted of the 25th, 29th, 30th, 66th Georgia Infantry, the 26th Georgia Battalion, and the 1st Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters. Wilson's brigade was under the command of Col. J. Cooper Nesbet due to Col. Wilson being seriously ill and the 1st Battalion Sharpshooters were under the command of Capt. Ben Hardee. ( This was probably due to Maj. Shaaff being wounded at Chickamauga) On 24th and 25th the battle of Missionary Ridge took place but the 1st Battalion and the rest of the brigade took very little part in the battle. The brigade, however, was at times under long range skirmish fire and did sustain some loss including some men being captured. Their position was held until the end of the battle and the brigade withdrew in order at dusk on the 25th. According to reports Walker's losses for the division totaled 14 killed 118 wounded 190 missing. Col. C C. Wilson died on Nov. 27th in Ringold, Ga. due to camp fever. His death occurred eleven days after being promoted to Brig. General. On November 28th, the 1st Battalion arrived in Dalton with a extremely dispirited army. Walker's division had lost 322 men at Chattanooga.
Col. Clement Hoffman Stevens was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of Wilsonís Brigade. Steven's was transferred from Gist's Brigade where he had commanded the 24th South Carolina. The South Carolinian was known to be a strict disciplinarian and had acquired the nickname "Rock" but by showing interest in the welfare of the troops he soon won their admiration. The 1st Battalion Sharpshooters remained at Dalton until December 12th. Then, they went into winter camp three miles east of town on the Hasing Place Road. On December 2nd, Gen. Bragg was relieved from command. On December 27th, Gen. Joseph Johnston arrived to take over command of the western army.
On February 23rd, the battalion moved from their winter camp to the Confederate lines a mile north of Dalton. The battalion held this position during the Federal demonstration at Dalton until February 28th
The Atlanta Campaign
At the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign the assignment for the Sharpshooters was as follows. Regimental Commander Maj. Arthur Shaaff- Stevens' Brigade- Walkers' Division- 1st Corps- Army of the Tennessee.
On May 9th, the sharpshooters marched from Dalton to Resaca with Gen. Hood. Gen. Hood took one of his own divisions and two of Hardee's. Hardee's divisions included one of Walker's. The following day brought no significant fighting, so Hood returned to Dalton. He posted Walker's and Cleburne's divisions halfway at Tilton.
By May 15th at Resaca, the sharpshooters held a position on the centerline with the rest of Hardee's corps. In day long fighting, Hardee's four divisions held Gen. Thomas in check. This position was held until 11o'clock at night.
Overnight Walker's division was detached from the centerline and sent to a new destination two miles south west of Calhoun at Lay's ferry on the Oostenaula River (south of Resaca). The division was sent due to reports Johnston received of a federal force crossing the river. Walker's division found McPherson's army East of the Oostenaula River where their advance was only slowed. Walker's division regrouped on a line to face the bridgehead. Before long, Rebel pickets were driven back so far that the bivouac area of Hardee's corps came under a galling artillery fire. About 2 p.m., Hardee ordered Walker to clear away the annoying Yankee force and the Georgian turn to Gen. States Rights Gist. Gist selected the 24th South Carolina and Major Arthur Shaaff's 1st Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters from Steven's brigade. Gen. Gist placed Col. Capers of the 24th South Carolina in charge of the action. Capers planned that Shaaff's men would charge the enemy from the right rear, while the 24th assaulted the front. The Sharpshooters reached the assigned position over a trail protected by a stand of woods and shielded by a dense hedgerow. They formed a line perpendicular to the South Carolinians. As soon as the Sharpshooters were in position, Capers marched the 24th Regiment into the open. Without hesitation, he gave the command that began the charge, and the Georgians wasted no time coming from the other direction "with a yell." Because of the swiftness and vigor of the attack, the enemy fired wildly over the heads of the charging Confederates. The Federals broke into a retreat and as quickly as it began the battle was over. Col. P.E. Burke commander of the enemy force, fell at the head of his troops. The Confederates captured a few prisoners and silenced the artillery fire that had annoyed Hardee's bivouac. They then reestablished the pickett line at it's former position. One observer recalled that "he never saw anything of the kind ever done." The Southerners advanced with precision then on order charged with a Rebel yell. Col. Capers reported that "the enemy, after firing wildly over us, broke into a precipitous retreat, the battery narrowly escaping capture." So far, were the enemy driven that Gist became alarmed and sent a courier galloping after Capers to halt his victorious troops before the little command took on the entire Union corps. After the war, Capt. Roddy, Company commander of Co. H, 24th S.C. told his story about the charge at Calhoun, Georgia. " It impressed me very broadly as much as any occurrence during that campaign for one reason...we charged through a skirt of wood...and stopped at an open place for a minute or two...I, and it may be another man or two, went forward 30 yards to an old fence...there was a volley fired by the enemy. At no place during the whole campaign did such a shower of bullets fly so close to me and not one touched me. In a very short time the line came forward and all firing stopped." Gist's men had demanded a little elbow room, but Johnston's position at Resaca was doomed and the withdrawal was carried out overnight.
They continued to Adairsville and bivouacked on May 17th. At sundown, they were involved in heavy skirmishing and sustained causalities. By daybreak on May 18th, Hardee's corps moved South on the railroad to the Rome Spur Junction at Kingston. They were involved in minor skirmishing.
Two Federal armies converged on Kingston, a move that provided Gen. Johnston with an opportunity. One corps under Gen.Schofield had wandered out by itself. On May 19th, Hardee's corps joined Johnston's main force and took up a defensive position along a woody ridge Southeast of Cassville. Generals Hood, and Polk opposed the attack so much that Johnston finally yielded, a decision he always regretted. As evening fell, the army's fired artillery shells at one another over the town between their lines.
After Cassville, Johnston's army moved to Allatoona Pass. This position proved to be to strong and again Johnston was flanked. On May 24 Walker's Division marched to Dallas and camped. The next day, the division headed down the Allatoona road and entered a bivouac near New Hope Church. The Confederates had established a strong line from Dallas to New Hope Church. Hardee was at Dallas, while Hood was at New Hope, and Polk in the center. There Walker's Division supported Gen. Stewart's Division. Late that afternoon Hooker threw his entire Federal corps at Stewart, and a severe battle raged until after dark.
On June 4th, Hardee's corps held the left on Lost Mountain and Gilgal Church. The 1st Battalion Sharpshooters remained at Lost Mountain through the second week of June.
On June the 16th, the sharpshooters pulled back to the left of Kennesaw Mountain blocking the road from Dallas to Atlanta. On June 27th, Walker's division was posted between the base of Kennesaw Mountain and the point known as "the dead angle". Here, some of the fiercest fighting took place. However, due to effective artillery fire from batteries on Little Kennesaw, their losses were held to a minimum. By mid-day on June the 27th, the battle of Kennesaw was over. Union losses stood at 2,041. Confederate losses at only 552.
For another month, the Confederates continued resisting the Union advance upon Atlanta. On July the 20th near 4 p.m., Hardee brought Bate's and Walker's divisions into the line of battle. Walker's men, including Stevens' brigade and the 1st Battalion sharpshooters, moved north along Peachtree Road. They struck a Federal division which was partially entrenched on the hillside just south of the Peachtree Creek bridge. However, the attack was repulsed. All three corps were ordered the fall back on the 21st. Walker's division along with Hardee's corps marched six miles south of the city to gain a position on the left flank of McPherson's army between Atlanta and Decatur. A dawn attack was ordered.
Walker's division advanced and formed the extreme right of Hardee's line. As the division advanced, they encountered a large pond and an extremely impregnable briar patch. Gen. Walker was refused permission to skirt the obstruction and was infuriated. The division finally overcame the briar patch and charged the enemy's works. During the assault Gen. Walker noticed that Gist's Brigade was suffering the effects of heavy fire . Walker personally rushed forward and rallied the men. Without hesitation, Gen. Walker rode among them, in the middle of iron hail and complimented the gallant regiment for their bravery. Gen. Walker's clarion voice reached out to every solider, calmed their fears and urged them onward. Gen. Walker waved his hat and extolled the bravery of every man!," Solders: Remember Stevens! Remember him! One more charge and the day is won! Follow me!" With a wild cheer those gallant men responded. Suddenly, Gen. Walker's horse was shot out from under him and fell heavily. At the same moment as Gen. Walker stood up several enemy minie balls struck his body, mortally wounding him. Those who saw the General fall yelled out " Bring off the General!" Pvt. John Bagley of Co. H, 24th S.C. gathered General Walker's body in his arms as tenderly as possible under the circumstances and bore him from the field.
A few days after Walker's death, his division was abolished. The three brigades were reassigned to Hardee's other three divisions. The 1st Battalion and the rest of the brigade were reassigned to Gen. William Bate's division. The new brigade commander who succeeded Stevens was Gen. Henry Roots Jackson. On August 6, 1864 the brigade was involved in the heavy fighting at the battle of Utoy Creek, southwest of Atlanta. Here Bate's Division almost made up the entire Confederate force with Jackson's brigade in the center astride present day Willis Mill Rd.
On August 19th, the 1st Battalion marched with Hardee from Atlanta to East Point in anticipation of the coming battle for Atlanta's only remaining rail connection.
On August 30th, Hardee moved toward Jonesboro. On August 31st, the 1st Battalion was heavily engaged on that day what proved to be the final loss of Atlanta and the near destruction of the Army of Tennessee. Approximately half of the remaining members of the 1st Battalion were killed, wounded, or captured in the battle of Jonesboro. Hardee's defeat allowed Hood's final evacuation of Atlanta and cleared the path for Sherman's march to the sea.
The battered army wandered north Alabama through the fall. The final demise came in December at Franklin and at Nashville as Hood dashed his barefoot and undernourished soldiers against Thomas. What remnants were left of the Army of Tennessee spent the final six months of the war maneuvering about Tennessee and North Carolina , finally surrendering on April 25, 1865, 16 days after Appomattox.