4th Virginia Infantry
The Stones of the Wall
In 1861, a future Stonewall Brigade member wrote dramatically, "I feel it my duty to lay down the plow and pruning hook and take up the sword and the battle-axe."
Out of the Valley came hundreds of men to answer their state's call. From them were formed five regiments and a battery of artillery which were designated as the first Brigade, Virginia volunteers. Within the regiments were forty-nine companies, each with a letter and distinctive nickname. The Second and Thirty-third Regiments originated in the lower (northern) end of the Valley. The fourth Regiment came from the upper (southern) end of the Valley, and included companies from Pulaski, Marion, Bristol, Wythenville, and as far down the Valley as Lexington. The Staunton and Augusta County area, midway in the Valley, provided the nucleus for the fifth Regiment, the largest unit in the Brigade. The smallest regiment, the Twenty-seventh, was composed of men from the Lexington area and the counties to the west. Associated with the Stonewall Brigade until the latter part of 1862 was the Rockbridge Artillery.
Soon after the formation of Virginia's First Brigade, some wit among its members conceived nicknames for each of its regiments. The Second was called "The Innocent Second" because it refrained form pillaging. "The Harmless Fourth" received that name for its good behaviour in camp, and "The Fighting Fifth" earned its name for reason of an opposite quality. A large element of Irishmen was partly responsible for the sobriquet "The Fighting Twenty-seventh", although in time it justified its name by an extraordinary casualty rate in battle. When the newest regiment in the Brigade became the first to be plagued with "Graybacks", it was promptly dubbed "The Lousy Thirty-third."
It was around July 1st 1861 that the 4th Virginian infantry Regiment was officially organised and accepted into Confederate service. Its field and staff officers were: James F Preston, Colonel: Lewis T Moore, Lieutenant Colonel; Josiah F Kent, Major; Joseph Crockett, Surgeon: Lafayette H Jordan, Assistant Surgeon; Andrew E Gibson, Quartermaster. The Regiment consisted of the following lettered companies:
- "Wythe Grays" (Wythe county) - Capt. William Terry
- "Fort Lewis Volunteers" (Montgomery County) - Camp. D Edmundson
- "Pulaski Guards" (Pulaski County) - Capt. James A Walker
- "Smyth Blues" (Smyth County) - Capt. Albert G Pendleton
- "Montgomery Highlanders" (Montgomery County) - Capt. C A Ronald
- "Grayson Dare Devils" (Grayson County) - Capt. Peyton N Hale
- "Montgomery Fencibles" (Montgomery County) - Capt R G Terry
- "Rockbridge Grays" (Rockbridge County) - Capt. James G Updike
- "Liberty Hall Volunteers" (Rockbridge County) - Capt. J J White
- "Rockbridge Rifles" (Rockbridge County) - Capt. S H Letcher
Late in July, the "Rockbridge Rifles" transferred to the 5th Virginia. Taking its place in the 4th Regiment was company L, a unit without nickname from the Blacksburg section of Montgomery County. Robert G Newlee was its first captain.
So it was then, that the first Brigade of Virginia became an official entity. Composed of regiments from the Shenandoah Valley extension and commanded by Thomas J Jackson, the Brigade contained the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Regiments. The four gun battery known as The Rockbridge Artillery served with the 2600-man brigade for the first year of the war.
Sources: History of The 4th Virginia Infantry; History of The Stonewall Brigade
Supplied by Ron Emmett, Sgt, 4th Va.
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, August 1999