2ND SOUTH CAROLINA INFANTRY
Co.E THE CAMDEN VOLUNTEERS
Welcome to the web-page of Co E – The Camden Volunteers, 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Hopefully the information on our web-page will give you a sense of who we are (today) and something of our unit’s history. The Camden Volunteers are an integral part of the American Civil War Society and have been for over thirty years. Historically we formed what was known, within the society, as the 2nd Company, along with re-enactors portraying the 32nd Virginia Infantry Regiment. This long established bond remains in place to this very day and is valued by all concerned. South Carolina was the first state to leave the Union and members are mindful of that fact as they tell the story of the Palmetto State at war.
Co E - The Camden Volunteers – 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the American Civil War Society
The American Civil War Society is one of the UK’s oldest re-enactment groups. The society offers its members a range of military and civilian portrayals which they are free to adopt as their own. New members to the society are free to decide which company/unit/stand-alone section to join and to a degree what they wish to do within that structure. Most choose to join the battle re-enactment side of the society, undertaking to learn the period etiquette, drill and military conduct of the armies engaged in the American Civil War. Others opt for other roles such as giving talks to the visiting public. These often include living history presentations and handling opportunities for the public, with a special focus on younger family members.
This is an area in which the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry excels. For those of a more active persuasion the firing line often beckons. Company E offers individual musket drill so that nobody needs to worry about safely taking the field during battle re-enactments. Company drill is often conducted alongside members of the 32nd Virginia, our sister regiment within the American Civil War Society. Both companies have a long established working relationship and usually combine to form a joint company street. A ‘street’ is a line of tents, each line representing troops from a specific state.
Across the society much can be done. Whilst many members choose to sleep in period specific white canvas tents, this is no obligatory. There is always a modern camping/caravan area set aside for those who wish to camp that way. Likewise it is not obligatory to have licensed blank firing muskets on the firing line, although this is preferred as it enhances our public re-enactment displays. Non firing or deactivated muskets can be taken onto the battlefield but do not be surprised if you are asked to take on the role of a casualty. Casualties’ play an important and valued job on the field and such a commitment is always much appreciated. The company has a non-firing loan musket which is brought to most events. Similarly we can provide a complete loan uniform, save for boots, for those wishing to see whether The American Civil War Society is the right re-enactment group for them. Musicians are highly sought after and the society can offer several roles to suit your inclination, such as bugler, drummer, fife player, fiddler, piper and songster. You get the picture.
Away from the company street the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry have carved an enviable reputation for their front of house presentations and often act as the first point of contact for those visiting the Confederate lines. Handling activities include investigating the Civil War through 3-D photography, exploring an authentically set up tent and hearing the story of the Palmetto Guard and their unofficial flag at the war’s opening battle. This section of the society is often supported by the aptly named ‘Southern Women’ who bring to life the story of the Confederate Home Front through practical demonstrations of domestic crafts of the period. Collectively both sections constitute what could best be termed a museum quarter.
The American Civil War Society is a family friendly society and welcomes members from all walks of life and from all over the UK and abroad. It attends events, large and small, throughout the Midlands and the North, including Wales and Scotland. Our re-enacting season usually runs from May to September. We portray Confederate troops of the mid war period.
The society attends prestigious multi-period events, multi-activity events, American Civil War specific events and private events. The word ‘event’ is often used in the hobby to mean a re-enactment weekend. Private events are usually organised by individual companies within the society and invariably kick start the season as early as March or April. They often take place in the relative comfort of wooden building, with in-house fireplaces, situated in the grounds of the Yorkshire Farming Museum outside York. They provide opportunities to rekindle friendships, field test new equipment, to remember drill and to try out new ideas. More often than not we are all raring to go and start the upcoming season as soon as we can. We sincerely hope you will feel that way too.
New recruits to Co E, The Camden Volunteers, receive a welcome pack containing regimental and company histories, facsimile documents and bank notes, an authentic replica of a South Carolina kepi badge (subject to availability), contact information, uniform information, including where to buy uniforms and field gear in the UK and USA, reading list and a glossy American Civil War Society information leaflet. Make no bones about it the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry want you and hope you will choose to join us and pursue your own interest in the American Civil War alongside us.
Please feel free to contact me (click here) for more information. My name is Martyn Clarke and I am your ACWS contact for all things 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, well within reason.
The 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment was also known as the 2nd Palmetto Regiment but is more often than not referred to by the former name. It completed its internal organisation in Virginia in May, 1861, drawing into its ranks South Carolinians from Charleston, Columbia, Camden and the counties of Sumter, Richland, Greenville, Kershaw and Lancaster.
The 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry was attached to the First Brigade of the Confederate Army of the Potomac, in time for the war’s opening battle of Bull Run or First Manassas. It would go on to fight in thirty one more battles, including all the major engagements of the eastern theatre of the war. It would do so as an integral part of what became known as Kershaw’s South Carolinian Brigade. It is often said that the regiment fought in more battles than any Civil War regiment, Confederate or Union.
The regiment ended the war with only 199 men, a shadow of its theoretical strength. What is even more staggering is the knowledge that this figure was the result of an amalgamation with the 20th Regiment of South Carolina Infantry as part of an army wide reorganisation. Some 1,589 men are thought to have enrolled in the regiment during the course of the war.
Sources vary but It is estimated that some 205 men of the regiment died of wounds or were killed outright, some 213 died of disease or by accident whilst some 400 were wounded. This last figure includes those thought to have been wounded more than once. This is a staggering figure when measured against that for enlistments.
With such a fighting record as this it is no wonder that the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment was regarded as an elite military formation. It was the first out of state unit to come to the defence of Virginia.
Percentage wise the heaviest toll of casualties occurred at the Battle of Gettysburg, with a percentage tally of 41% out of a total of 412 men present with the regiment. This figure breaks down as 52 men killed, 100 wounded and 17 men missing. These losses were sustained during the fighting around the Bliss Farm and the infamous Wheatfield on 2nd July, 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg proved to be a devastating engagement for the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the regiment never fully recovered from its ordeal in the fields of Pennsylvania, in terms of numbers and leadership.
The regiment fought in both theatres of war, respectively in the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee. It served in the latter from September, 1863, to April, 1864, and again at the war’s end in North Carolina, when it sustained ten further casualties in the last battle fought by the Army of Tennessee at Bentonville.
On the 28th of April, 1865, the men of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment presented themselves at their last roll call. The brave Southerners received their paroles home on the 2nd and 3rd of May, 1865, their equally courageous northern opponents showing great sensitivity by staying away from the proceedings, a gesture which was much appreciated by the southern soldiers.
The last act of Kershaw’s South Carolinian Brigade was to exchange provost guard with their northern counterpart. The South Carolinians conduct and composure was exemplary, as they stacked arms for the very last time. One would like to believe that these men were drawn from the ranks of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, but history does not say. We can only hope it was thus.
Company E - The Camden Volunteers or Camden Light Infantry – 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Company E of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry was accepted into state service on the evening of 9th April, 1861, at Camden, Kershaw District, South Carolina. From here it was directed to Charleston District, first on the Camden Branch Railroad and then on the South Carolina Railroad. After a stop-over at Kings Ville, Richland District, South Carolina, the Camden Volunteers eventually reached Charleston District on the morning of the next day. The unit was ordered to Morris Island from where they witnessed the fall of Fort Sumter. Two lesser detachments, including a corporal’s guard, were ordered to Charleston over the course of the following days. The company was subsequently ordered to Richmond on the night of 25th April and finally entered Confederate service on 23rd May at Camp Davis, Richmond, Virginia.
Company E - The Camden Volunteers or Camden Light Infantry – 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The Camden Volunteers were warmly received throughout the state of Virginia and particularly so in Petersburg. Great play was made of the fact that many of their admirers were womenfolk. The company was originally commanded by Captain John Doby Kennedy, who quickly rose to command the entire regiment in May of 1862. By the war’s end he assumed command of the entire brigade (Kershaw’s Brigade). He was a die-hard Confederate and refused to take the Ironclad oath after the war. Known to ex Confederates as the ‘Damnesty Oath’, the pledge required the individual concerned to swear that they had never borne arms against the United States or supported the Confederacy. Kennedy’s stance cost him a future place in congress.
Private James Allen Freeman enlisted as a private in the Camden Volunteers in the spring of 1862 and went on to have an interesting war service, ending up in the Union Army fighting Native American tribes in the West. He never went back to South Carolina.
In the same year that James Allen Freeman was captured by the Federal Army, the Camden Volunteers entered the three day bloodbath that came to epitomise the Battle of Gettysburg. Of the forty men of the company, who were drawn into the battle, only four remained unhurt at its end. It was here that the mortally wounded Private David Rodes Ryan uttered the immortal words ‘Tell Mother I fell at the post of duty’.
On route to further war service at the Battle of Chickamauga, two stories more than anything else illuminates the condition of the company and regiment at this time. Arriving first in Marietta, Georgia, men of the company were so ashamed of their dirty appearance that rather than decamp from the roof of their flat car to sample food proffered by the ladies of the town, they asked the young women to put the food in some baskets instead. Three of these soldiers would die at the Battle of Chickamauga.
When the men of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment were eventually forced to leave their train, they did so in an ill humour. General Kershaw, commanding the South Carolina brigade of that name, chided his men by saying ‘Gentlemen that is lovely language to be coming from the mouths of South Carolina gentlemen’. Such was their respect for their ex regimental commander that nothing further needed saying and their questionable language ceased.
By the war’s end the morale of the Camden Volunteers began to plummet but it was said less so than that of the wider civilian population of South Carolina. The last surviving member of the Camden Volunteers died in a house fire in 1931 at the age of eighty seven. His name was James Riddle and he was a wounded veteran of the Battle of Chickamauga.
By far the most famous member of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment was Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, originally of the Camden Volunteers. Known as the Angel of Marye’s Heights, renowned for taking water to wounded Union troops at the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, Sergeant Kirkland’s humanitarian behaviour was attested to by personnel from his original company, the Camden Volunteers. Kirkland transferred to Co G, otherwise known as the Flat Rock Guards, so that he could be with his many friends in this Kershaw District unit.
The Camden Volunteers were one of a small number of units that saw service before the fall of Fort Sumter and continued service after the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. It participated in over twenty eight major battles and numerous lesser engagements. The Camden Volunteers were present at the Battle of Bull Run or Manassas, at the onset of the war, and at the Battle of Bentonville at the war’s end. It lost over half of its personnel during the course of the war.
Several muster rolls, running from May, 1861 through to June, 1864, provide incidental information about the company. The muster roll for January, 1863 provides detail of long and fatiguing marches, withdrawals to new positions, and the wounding of twelve men at the Battle of Fredericksburg. A muster roll of the following month provides a much happier account and records that the company was encamped near Fredericksburg for two uneventful months, surely a soldier’s idyll.
The transfer of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, from the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of Tennessee, was detailed in a Company E muster roll of late October, 1863, along with a record of the losses sustained by that company at the Battle of Chickamauga, three dead and five wounded.
The above information is simply intended as background information, for us and our visiting public, to give us a sense of who we are, to give us a connection with the original Company E, and to cement our relationship with the brave South Carolinian soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their state and country.
This account of Company E is by no means exhaustive but it is fair to say that the story of the Camden Volunteers has been overshadowed by that of Company I - The Palmetto Guard. This does not however denigrate the achievements of the men of the Camden Volunteers who loyally served the southern cause during the years 1861-1865.
Co I - The Palmetto Guards – 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The Palmetto Guards were formed on 28th June, 1851. The company was attached to the Antebellum 17th Regiment, 4th Brigade, South Carolina Militia, also known as the Charleston Regiment. The regiment was made up of two wings. The Palmetto Guards were accepted into South Carolina service, at Charleston, on 27th December, 1860.
On 12th April, 1861, the Palmetto Guards found themselves on Morris Island, stationed at Stephen’s iron-clad battery at Cumming’s Point, directly facing Fort Sumter, and at Point Battery. Fort Sumter was the powder keg that ignited the American Civil War.
Stevens’ Iron Battery was the world’s first iron-clad armoured artillery fortification, which consisted of heavy timbers overlaid with railroad track, angled at 40 to 45 degrees. It protected three heavy Columbiads, and was flanked by impressive slopes comprised of sand-bags, with built-in “rat-holes” or bunkers. Despite their appellation, these “rat-holes” were spacious and comfortable shelters, designed to provide cover during counter artillery fire.
Steven’s Iron Battery showing a section of the Palmetto Guard approaching from the right and their unofficial company flag billowing in the breeze
The Palmetto Guards also manned a rather special piece of artillery. This was remarkably accurate, British rifled Blakely cannon, with patented side-sights, firing conical shells, gifted to the Confederacy by a South Carolinian resident in Liverpool. That resident was one Charles K. Priolau. This awesomely destructive cannon was positioned, along with three ten-inch mortars and two 42-pounders, at Point Battery, Cummings Point. 2nd Lieutenant T. Sumter of the Palmetto Guards supervised this detachment of the company, under the watchful and experienced eyes of Captain Thomas of the Charleston Citadel Academy. I imagine the irony of Sumter’s surname was not lost on him. Both batteries came under the overall command of Major Steven’s of the Citadel Academy, in Charleston.
The Blakely was engraved with the following inscription “Presented to the State of South Carolina by a citizen abroad, in commemoration of the 20th December, 1860.” Its accuracy was likened to that of a duelling pistol.
The Palmetto Guards was possibly the first unit, on either side, to be mustered for the war. It was regarded as an elite volunteer unit. The personnel came from the districts of Charleston and Beaufort County. In late December, 1860, the Palmetto Guards helped keep watch over the Federal arsenal in Charleston, before it was finally surrendered into South Carolinian hands on the last but one day of that month. By 11th January, 1861, the Palmetto Guards had been ordered to Morris Island and by mid-March the company was directed to the sea-shore there.
The Palmetto Guards was composed of very select members; no one was admitted unless they were perfectly respectable. They were known as Palmettoes, a nick-name given to them by General Beauregard, the Confederate general charged with taking Fort Sumter.
Edmund Ruffin, the elderly and famous Virginia secession firebrand, was in Charleston expecting war to break out at any time. Having secured the use of a musket and accoutrements, from the Citadel, he made his way to Morris Island where he received three loud huzzahs from the men of the Palmetto Guards. He bowed low to them in return, his long white hair cascading down, and accepted an invitation to dine with them. He initially refused an offer to serve alongside them at the Iron Battery, on the grounds that he knew nothing about artillery and because he did not wish to hide behind their defences and miss anything. He eventually reconsidered his earlier rejection of the offer to enlist with the Palmetto Guards and joined the unit as a private, but on condition that his membership lasted only for the period of the battle.
Captain George Barnwell Cuthbert informed Edmund Ruffin that the company wanted him to fire the detachment’s first shot at Fort Sumter. Deeply moved, he immediately agreed. Once the signal shot was fired, and once the Palmetto Guard were at their respective stations, he pulled the lanyard of a 64-pound columbiad, aimed at Fort Sumter, striking the south-west angle of the fort’s parapet. Ruffin’s shot was the first shot from Morris Island, in this the war’s opening bombardment. He readily conceded that the Union garrison at Fort Sumter were brave men, despite his well-known hostility towards the United States and the Union.
It was recorded, by a correspondent of the Charleston Mercury that Edmund Ruffin went on to fire all the cannon and mortars sighted at Fort Sumter. One presumes he meant only those artillery pieces positioned on Morris Island. Ruffin’s aplomb certainly impressed the secessionist editor of the Charleston Mercury who also ran a story of how when Ruffin, in response to an alarm, was making his way to the Iron Battery he was accosted by a sentry who did not recognise him. When challenged to say which company he belonged to, Ruffin replied “To that in which there is a vacancy.” Clearly here was a man with a sense of mission.
The first shot, fired in retaliation by the defenders of Fort Sumter, nearly took off the head of Arthur Linning, of the Palmetto Guards, who was in the process of raising an unofficial Palmetto Guards flag over the iron battery. With the insouciance of youth, he waved the flagstaff at the fort, before scampering back to safety, cheered on by his comrades. With equal sangfroid the Confederates troops, on Morris Island, nick-named Steven’s artillery iron and wood emplacement, the “slaughter-pen”. Happily for them, that proved to be far from the case, despite their initial misgivings. Union shots was said to glance off the Iron Battery like marbles, thrown by a child, at the back of a turtle. This was not strictly true as at least one shot, from Sumter, damaged the iron cove port hole of one of the Columbiads, dismounting it and putting it out of action.
Steven’s Iron Battery, under construction, showing the front of the protective structure and the amount of labour and materials entailed in its creation
A report in the Charleston Mercury newspaper, dated 13th April, 1861, spoke of two members of the Palmetto Guards who paid fifty dollars, in cash, to be rowed out to Morris Island in order to join their company. Such a sum of hard cash was deemed newsworthy and is indicative of the financial resources available to individual members of the unit. This would be in line with their elite social status.
A twelve or thirteen year old brother of one of the Palmetto Guards was allowed to fire some of the unit’s guns at the fort. Thus it can be said that in the opening cannonade of the war, the Palmetto Guards fielded the youngest and the oldest gunners on either side.
Elements of the Palmetto Guards were the first Confederate occupation troops to enter Fort Sumter after its surrender. For a short period of time, Ruffin carried their unofficial company flag. A thirty year old, married private, of the Palmetto Guards, William Gourdin Young, was the only Confederate private to have been present when the fort first (unofficially) surrendered. When he and the self-appointed peace emissary, Colonel Louis Trezevant Wigfall (an aide to General Beauregard), returned to Morris Island, the men on the shore ran into the surf and hoisted the two men onto their shoulders to cries of “Hurrah for South Carolina! Hurrah for the Palmetto Guards!”
The unofficial flag, briefly carried by Ruffin, was of the lone star and palmetto type. It had originally been flown from the masthead of the Palmetto Line Brig, John H. Jones, on a visit to New York harbour in November, 1860. It created quite a stir in New York, sufficient for the ship’s captain to be greeted as a hero upon his return to South Carolina. John S. Bird, a military goods dealer and member of the Palmetto Guards, was instrumental in gifting the brig’s captain a gold headed presentation walking cane in recognition of his defiant stance in New York. In return Captain Charles E. Mills gave his flag to Private Bird.
It was subsequently flown above the Federal arsenal in Charleston, when that place was seized by South Carolinian troops, before being redeployed on the old Charleston lighthouse on Morris Island. It accompanied the Palmetto Guards when they were ordered to the Iron Battery at Cummings Point. It flew over them as they retrained as artillerymen. When the Palmetto Guards were ordered to occupy Fort Sumter, Private Bird went with them, along with his flag. When an opportunity arose, Bird obtained a suitable pole from the steamer Excel which had brought the Palmetto Guards to Sumter, attached his flag to it, hared up a stairway and planted it on the left flank parapet of the fort. Thus his flag was the first Southern flag to fly over Fort Sumter.
Bird’s flag remained with the Palmetto Guards when they became Company I of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, when the Palmettoes were eventually mustered into Confederate service at Camp Davis, Virginia, on 22nd May, 1861. It saw action at 1st Manassas or Bull Run. When Private Bird was discharged from the army, on the grounds of ill health, he carried the flag home with him, where it remained until his grandson fittingly donated it to museum at Fort Sumter. Replicas of Bird’s Palmetto flag may be bought on eBay; such is its enduring appeal to students of the American Civil War.
Whilst at Fort Sumter, the Palmetto Guards helped man a fire engine, one of two, sent over from nearby Sullivan’s Island to assist the Union garrison in putting out the fire caused by the Confederate bombardment of the fort. Some of the Palmetto Guards also paid their respects, when the only Union casualty of the siege was buried in the sandy soil of the fort’s parade ground.
Edmund Ruffin made a makeshift cross, and placed it over the artilleryman’s grave. His name was Daniel Hough and he was the first official casualty of the Civil War. He was also one of its unluckiest as he died in a freak explosion as the departing Union garrison saluted the fort’s Stars and Stripes flag, one last time, with a one hundred gun salute. This was promptly cut short at fifty salutes following the unexpected blast that killed Hough. Hough was disinterred and reburied on Morris Island by the Palmetto Guard.
Edmund Ruffin was photographed wearing the uniform of the Palmetto Guards. His image quickly became popular across the south as pro secessionist supporters rallied to the recently established Confederate States of America. The remainder of the Palmetto Guards continued to maintain a presence on Morris Island, between Gadberry and Vinegar Hill, until late April when the 17th Regiment, 4th Brigade, South Carolina Militia, was relieved from duty and returned to Charleston. They helped man the famous Star of the West sand battery, from whence the first warning shot of the war had been fired by youthful cadets of the South Carolina Military Academy.
There is a wonderful description of the officers and men of the Palmetto Guards which deserves being quoted, almost, in full. It comes from the Charleston Mercury, and its April 13th, 1861 issue. “… a gallant corps, which for numbers, alertness, efficiency and unexampled coolness in action, won the respect and admiration of all who saw them in the fight. I think that their officers must be proud of such men and I know that those officers are not unworthy of their command.”
It is good to know that such men continued to be honoured within the ranks of today’s 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Camden Volunteers and Palmetto Guards), and that their story lives on.
After the action at Fort Sumter the Palmetto Guards divided into two companies. Half the men volunteered for service in Virginia and became Company I of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whilst the remainder stayed behind in Charleston and became artillerymen in the Buist Light Artillery or Company A, 18th Battalion, South Carolina Artillery. Confusingly, for a time, the artillerymen continued to also be known as the Palmetto Guards.
Before departing for Virginia, the original Palmetto Guards took part in two presentation ceremonies at the Institute Hall in Charleston. In the first they received a large gold medal and in the second an official, gold tasselled, blue silk flag bearing a palmetto and the company’s motto, fabricated from individual sequins. Before Confederate battle flags were widely introduced, the banner received three bullet holes before being returned to South Carolina. The flag was a gift of the women of Charleston, many of whom accompanied the Palmetto Guards on its march to receive it into the hands of Captain George Cuthbert, their company’s commander. The men of the Palmetto Guards were enjoined to “…make their future deeds worthy of the glorious past.”
Three days later, accompanied by upwards of one thousand friends and supporters, many of whom were women, the Palmetto Guards set off for war. Departing from South Carolina Hall, at nine o’clock in the evening, they briefly stopped at Military Hall, on Wentworth Street, where they met up with a military escort provided by a group of cadets from the Citadel and members of the Carolina Light Infantry. The Palmetto Guards then proceeded north to John Street and the North-Eastern Railroad Depot. Martial music filled the air as women waved their handkerchiefs at the departing South Carolinians. As the men lined up, alongside the train cars that were to take them to Virginia, someone proposed three cheers for Captain Cuthbert. Moments later they were gone. The first casualties would return to Charleston on 24th July, 1861.
The Palmetto Guards numbered 102 men, all ranks (85 privates), when it first entered Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States, in May, 1861. They breakfasted at the Exchange Hotel where they were welcomed by their regimental commander, later brigade commander, Colonel Kershaw. They were described as South Carolina gentlemen and were said to be armed with rifles.
The Palmetto Guard, with their band, later welcomed the Brooks Guards or Company K of the Second South Carolina Volunteer Infantry into camp at Richmond. Both companies were praised for their soldiery appearance. This mention in the Richmond Daily Dispatch is the first time a Palmetto Guard band is mentioned. Given their collective wealth it is possible they were able to field a band of sorts or to hire one for the occasion.
The Palmetto Guards helped cover the retreat of their parent regiment at Germantown, following the 2nd South Carolina’s rapid and forced withdrawal from the environs of Fairfax Court House, to distant Centreville. Private Brown of the Palmetto Guards was reported to have died from sunstroke during this frantic dash for safety. From Centreville, after a silent midnight trek of four miles, the Palmettoes eventually joined up with Kemper’s battery at Blackburn’s Ford, and provided needful infantry support to the artillerymen there.
Edmund Ruffin caught up with the Palmetto Guards again, this time at Manassas, in his home state of Virginia, with the intention of presenting them with a flag, but as the company had more than enough flags of its own, he gave them instead a donation of $100.00. He also brought with him a cheese and a barrel of crackers, which was no doubt much appreciated. True to form Confederate artillerymen allowed him to fire one of the opening shots in the ensuing battle of Manassas or Bull Run, as it was known in the north.
Several members of the Palmetto Guards were slightly wounded as the regiment subsequently marched to take up position at the bottom of Henry House Hill, during the battle of Manassas. In their attack on the 14th Brooklyn, Colonel Kershaw, of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, yelled at his command to move forward. The men responded with a wild cheer, which was later claimed to have been the origin of the famous rebel yell.
The Palmetto Guards ended the battle in an advanced position firing on a retreating northern column, fleeing from Sudley Ford.
At the battle of Malvern Hill, the Palmetto Guards lost an experienced company commander, Lieutenant Thomas Sumter Brownfield. He was the grandson of the famous revolutionary war hero, General Thomas Sumter, after whom Fort Sumter was named. The lieutenant was a graduate of the South Carolina Military Academy. The Palmetto Guards continued to lose promising officers and non-commissioned officers to enemy action; witness the deaths of lieutenants Samuel Robinson and William Darby at Antietam, along with Sergeant James Brown. Only three members of the original company remained at the war’s end.
At the battle of Fredericksburg the Palmetto Guards were detached from the regiment and deployed to Telegraph Hill, whilst the rest of the regiment deployed to the stone wall, in support of the Georgian troops positioned there. During the battle twenty or so men of the Palmetto Guards, ostensibly on a reconnaissance mission, enfiladed a Federal reserve unit positioned in a ravine. Fire, directed by Captain Cuthbert, poured into the Union troops, whose casualties quickly mounted as the Palmettoes expended upwards of fifty rounds per man. The Palmetto Guards lost six men in this action, dead or wounded.
Captain George Barnwell Cuthbert was said to be brave and daring man. His action at Fredericksburg amply bore out that view of him. The same diarist also wrote that he did not maintain good discipline and that his men’s initial positive view of him lessened during the course of the war. He died at the battle of Chancellorsville. He was remembered as a pleasant and handsome fellow with beautiful blue eyes. Not a bad epitaph.
The battle of Gettysburg proved to be a devastating engagement for the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, casualties were appalling, and the regiment never fully recovered from its ordeal in the fields of Pennsylvania, in terms of numbers and leadership. The Palmetto Guards and the Columbia Greys were marginally luckier than the rest of the regiment, in that they did not lose their company commanders, in the three day slogging match that constituted the battle of Gettysburg. This factor however did not mean that the Palmetto Guards was spared on the field of battle. Some of their best men fell at Gettysburg, including Private Edmund James Mills described as “the pet of the Corps” and Septimus Charles Miles similarly regarded as “the life of the company.” A poignant photograph of their partially buried bodies, taken in the aftermath of the battle by the northern photographer, Alexander Gardner, reminds one of the heavy cost war places on humanity.
Captain Ralph Emmes Elliot, assumed command of the Palmetto Guards, on the death of Captain George Barnwell Cuthbert. He held this command until friendly fire cut him down at Cold Harbour. The twenty nine year old physician lingered for five days, managing a smile before he died, on hearing the news that his brother had received a promotion to that of brigadier-general. It is unknown who then took immediate command of the Palmetto Guards.
By late June, 1864, command of the Palmetto Guards had fallen on the shoulders of Captain James E. Dutart. He fell, in action, on the night of 21st June, when Union troops assaulted the trenches he commanded. The Petersburg Campaign would continue, with other losses recorded amongst the Palmetto Guard. Thus within the space of three weeks, the Palmetto Guard lost two of its commanders.
The aftermath of the last battle fought by the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment, at Bentonville, found only three men of the original company remaining to the Palmetto Guards. A few recruits helped bulked up their numbers. As if recognising the enormity of their sacrifice, history allowed these stalwart South Carolinians a respite of three weeks; during which horseracing, a grand review of the army, a brigade reorganisation and visitations by the fairer sex helped distract their minds from the coming collapse of their hard fought for cause. The Palmetto Guards had, by then, fought in upwards of thirty two engagements, of varying length.
Martyn Clarke – 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 2nd South Carolina is a part of the American Civil War Society Ltd