The Southern Historical Society Papers.
The Twelfth Georgia Infantry.

Papers, Chiefly Relating to That Command.


(Correspondence of the Savannah Republican.)

Pocahontas county, Va., 28 July, 1861.

Mr. Editor: Knowing that the people of Georgia feel a deep interest in the condition and movements of the soldiers that represent that State in the service of the Southern Confederacy, and that among your readers are many of the friends and kindred--the parents and children, brothers, sisters and wives--of those attached to the same command with myself, I respectfully ask the privilege of publishing in your columns such items of intelligence, facts, incidents and speculations connected with our own regiment, or the general cause, as may likely interest or instruct the reader.

The Twelfth regiment of Georgia volunteers was organized in Richmond, Va., on the 3d day of July, under the following officers: Edward Johnson, colonel; Z. T. Conner, lieutenant colonel; Abner Smeade, major; Edward Willis, adjutant; Dr. H. K. Green, surgeon; Robert J. Lightfoot, quartermaster, and Richmond A. Reid, commissary.

The following companies compose the regiment, viz:
"Muckalee Guards," Sumter county, Captain Hawkins.
"Davis Guards," Dooly county, Captain Brown.
"Calhoun Rifles," Calhoun county, Captain Furlow.
"Lowndes Volunteers," Lowndes county, Captain Patterson.
"Davis Rifles," Macon county, Captain McMillan.
"Central City Blues," Bibb county, Captain Rodgers.
"Muscogee Rifles," Muscogee county, Captain Scott.
"Marion Guards," Marion county, Captain Blandford.
"Putnam Light infantry," Putnam county, Captain Davis.
"Jones Volunteers," Jones county, Captain Pitts.

On the day of our organization we received orders to search to Laurel Hill to unite with General Garnett's command at that place, and on Sunday, the 7th July, left Richmond, by railroad, to Staunton. Reaching this latter place a little before day Monday morning, we remained encamped there until Tuesday morning, when the order came to strike our tents and take up the line of march for Laurel Hill, distant about one hundred and twenty-five miles. Unaccustomed, as most of us were, to long pedestrian exercises, this was no very cheering prospect, and we could not exactly understand the good sense of selecting as a seat of war a point not accessible by railroad. (I trust the powers that be will remember this hint in any future orders they may issue to our regiment!) But good sense or otherwise the order came, and we had but to obey.

Soon all was in motion, and the regiment, followed by its long train of wagons, began slowly to file along the tortuous turnpike. To many of us who had never before seen an army on the march it was an imposing spectacle. The long line of soldiers winding slowly along the mountain sides, with their varied uniforms and bright guns glistening in the sun, the heavy, monotonous tramp of feet upon the rock-paved road, and the confused hum of a thousand voices were novel sights and sounds, and seemed to bring us nearer to the realities of actual war. Our daily stages were from twelve to fifteen miles, and were usually accomplished early enough in the afternoon to allow us ample time to pitch our tents, procure wood, provide our suppers, and make the necessary arrangements for the security of the camp. These marches were more or less fatiguing to many of our men, yet they performed them with a spirit and courage that deserves praise and shows them equal to the privations and hardships that lie along the soldier's pathway.

Thus we marched for five days, accomplishing about seventy-two miles, when, on Saturday evening, at Greenbrier Creek, near the foot of Cheat Mountain, we received intelligence of the fight at Rich Mountain, the retreat of General Garnett and the probable occupation by General McClellan of Beverley, and his probable advance to the top of Cheat Mountain, on the road between us and Beverley, a point so fortified by nature that a small force could hold it against greatly superior odds. Here also we met a Virginia regiment under the command of Colonel Scott retreating from Rich Mountain.

It being thus rendered impossible for us to join General Garnett's command, and not having a force with which we could hope to occupy the country in the face of the enemy's greatly superior numbers, we had no alternative but to retreat. Humiliating as was this movement, it seemed obviously the dictate of sound policy.

The details of the fight at Rich Mountain and Laurel Hill, and the retreat of General Garnett's command have already been published through so many channels (and more fully than I could furnish them) that I will not encumber your columns with a repetition of them.

After a brief rest and supper we began our retreat a little after dark Saturday night, and continued through that night and all the next day, encamping Sunday night at Monterey, about forty-five miles from Staunton. Long will we remember this retreat. Two days and a night of continuous marching was rather a severe ordeal for soldiers as young as we; and, though feeling it perhaps as keenly as any, having been on guard duty the night preceding, I could not withhold the sympathizing tear as I saw my companions, some of them delicate and weakly, weary and foot-sore, painfully measuring these almost endless miles of mountain road. When we reached our camp at Monterey we needed no soothing opiates to lull us to rest. The earth, rugged and damp as it was, with stones or canteens for pillows furnished a most inviting couch; and never have we enjoyed sounder, more refreshing sleep than on that evening with only these accommodations. Here we remained two or three days, and had the pleasure of greeting many of General Garnett's command who had made good their escape through the mountains, though suffering many privations and hardships in their flight. Among them also we met several members of the First Georgia regiment who were with General Garnett, and were glad to learn from them that that regiment had not suffered so severely as we had at first heard.

On Thursday, the 18th, we were ordered to return and occupy this place (which I have called Camp Alleghany, as it has no other name and is on the top of the Alleghany mountains), where we are still encamped. How long we are to remain or to what point we may be ordered I cannot tell. At present we occupy the advance position in this direction, the enemy's camp being distant about twenty miles by the road, though perhaps not exceeding twelve on an air line. We occupy the summit of the Alleghany, they of Cheat Mountain, and their tents are in full view from several points around our camp.

I have thus given you a sort of chronicle of our movements up to this time and our present position. I might intersperse it with many little incidents, personal and otherwise, of camp life, but they would make this letter too long and perhaps hardly repay the general reader for his pains. They are treasured, however, in our memories, and their recital will serve to enliven many an hour in the future when we shall have driven our invaders away and returned to our fondly remembered homes.

The country through which we have passed deserves some notice, possessing as it does many striking and interesting features. Making much of the travel from Richmond to Staunton in the night we, of course, had but limited opportunities to observe anything. One thing, however. we must record for the honor of the Virginia ladies (and we will not restrict it to the Virginia ladies, for the same thing met us at every step of our way from our homes in Georgia to Staunton), and that is the enthusiastic and graceful welcomes and greetings and Godspeeds they showered upon us from the doors and windows, and even house-tops along the road. Old women and young women, girls and even babies (so young that it must have been an instinct with them). waved their handkerchiefs, or bonnets, or aprons, or something, in token of their enthusiasm whenever we passed them. If there is anything that will stimulate faltering courage to the fighting point it certainly is the cheering of the fair, and our boys seemed fully to appreciate it.

Staunton is pleasantly located in the midst of towering hills that overlook it on every side, and is a place of frequent resort during the summer for its healthfulness and pleasant surroundings. It is also the site of the insane asylum and the institution for the deaf, dumb and blind--two institutions under State patronage.

The road from Staunton to Laurel Hill (as far as we traveled it) is a turnpike cut into the sides and over the tops of the mountains. So tortuous is its course that you may travel for miles without gaining in actual distance more than a few hundred yards, and sometimes the extremes of our column, stretching out a mile or nearly so in length, would be within a stone's throw of each other.

These mountain heights over which we passed sometimes discovered to us the most magnificent views that ever greeted the eye of man. Stretching almost infinitely on either hand are alternations of valleys with their teeming fields of grain, and mountains with clouds hanging gracefully on their sides and floating lazily about their tops. But these have been so often described that I shall not attempt it. The soil, even upon the tops of the mountains, from its appearance and products, seems to be of the richest character, more like the low lands in Georgia than mountain soil. Vegetation that we are accustomed to see only upon "bottoms" grows here in rich luxuriance upon the highest points.

The agricultural products are mainly small grain, though corn is grown in the valleys, and they are most abundant.

The population is confined chiefly to the valleys, the winter cold being too severe upon the mountains. Even now, in the latter part of July, we have to sit much by the fire and with overcoats on.

Our regiment has suffered some from the diseases usual in camp, though not more perhaps than was to be expected.

We are cheerful and in good spirits and prepared for any service that may be required of us. Of the progress of the war we know but little, our mail facilities being very limited. We are just now getting the details of the great battle of Manassas, fought a week ago within one hundred and fifty miles of us. What its results may be upon our enemies or the future history of the war we cannot tell, but are sure it will convince them that the subjugation of the South will not be the work of a holiday. History hardly furnishes a parallel to that battle, but if the North desire it we will seek to furnish more of the same sort.

R. T. D.

Willis, Edward, "The Twelfth Georgia Infantry," Southern Historical Society Papers 17(1889):161-165.