Unit History – 2nd South Carolina Infantry

5 04 2022

[Also called 2nd Palmetto Regiment] completed its organization near Richmond, Virginia, in May, 1861. The men were from Columbia, Camden, and Charleston, and the counties of Sumter, Richland, Greenville, Kershaw, and Lancaster. After fighting in Bonham’s Brigade at First Manassas, the unit served under Generals Toombs, Kershaw, Kennedy, and Conner. It participated in many conflicts of the army from the Seven Days’ Battles to Cold Harbor except when it was detached with Longstreet at Chickamauga and Knoxville. The 2nd was active in Early’s Shenandoah Valley operations and ended the war in North Carolina. It reported 5 killed and 43 wounded at First Manassas, and lost eighteen percent of the 338 at Savage’s Station, twenty percent of the 203 at Malvern Hill, thirty-seven percent of the 253 at Sharpsburg, and forty-one percent of the 412 at Gettysburg. The regiment sustained 10 casualties at Bentonville and totalled 184 men on March 23, 1865. It surrendered with the Army of Tennessee. The field officers were Colonels Ervine P. Jones, John D. Kennedy, and Joseph B. Kershaw; Lieutenant Colonels Franklin Gaillard, A. D. Goodwyn, and William Wallace; and Major Benjamin Clyburn.

From Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army, pp. 249-250

Unknown (4), Co. I, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

5 04 2022

Extracts of a Private Letter
[From a Member of the Palmetto Guard, Kershaw’s Regiment.]

Advance Army of the Potomac, Vienna,
Fairfax Co., Va., July 28th, 1861.

My Dear Brother: This is the third letter I have written since the great battle, but from one cause or another was prevented from sending you either of the other two. Before entering into any details of the fight, I would remark that I escaped unhurt, and have continued well ever since. On the 17th inst., while we were at Fairfax Court House, the enemy advanced upon us in great strength; the least estimate of their force having been set down at 45,000, while our own being but 5000, we retreated in good order to our old batteries at Bull Run. Our retreat was performed with great reluctance, but in the face of such overwhelming odds it became a matter of absolute necessity.

We have since learned that Gen. Beauregard never intended giving them battle at Fairfax, and that our advance was a bait thrown out to decoy the enemy. His standing order was to retire. The enemy pursued us very closely from Fairfax, and came very near cutting off our retreat at Germantown; had we arrived fifteen minutes later they certainly would have done so. Col. Kershaw has since been very highly complimented for the masterly manner in which he conducted our retreat. Although our Company occupied the right of the Regiment, we were selected from the whole Brigade to march o the left and cover the retreat. On the morning of the 18th we reached Bull Run, about daylight, and before noon the enemy attacked our right flank, but were repulsed with fearful loss.

That evening (Thursday) our Regiment was ordered to the left, and they were industriously employed in throwing up breastworks. Here we remained until 12 o’clock on Sunday, when we were ordered to take up the line of march, and join the fight now raging about one mile or more to the left. Just before the order reached us, our Chaplain came over to our company and requested us to join him in prayer. To this we readily assented, and never have I witnessed a more solemn or imposing sight. Every man seemed impressed with a sense of the awful solemnity of the occasion, and nerved by a consciousness that our cause was just, we bent to reverent knee before the majesty of Him in whose keeping is the fate of men and empires.

The services concluded, the order reached us to march, and every man was in his place almost before the order had been extended. The enthusiasm of the men was glorious. Off we went at the double quick, when just before reaching the battle field we met hundreds of our men retreating, who, as we came up to them, with uplifted arms, besought us for “God’s sake not to go on, that we were marching to an inevitable doom, and that the day was lost.” These supplications seemed to have but little effect upon our men, who had but so recently been nerved to the conflict in their solemn appeal to heaven. For myself I only felt that if the day had indeed been lost, we, at least, would make on stout effort to redeem it.

Our regiment formed the line of battle under a tremendous fire, and were forced for a while to lay down for protection. I the meanwhile Col. Cash’s and the Maryland regiments joined us on the left. At this stage we found the enemy advancing upon us, and the bulk of our own force retreating. Col. Kershaw immediately asked Col Cash and the Colonel of the Maryland regiment to select their positions, which they declined to do, whereupon the gallant Kershaw replied, “I’m going into the fight anyhow.” Immediately after came the order “fix bayonets – forward, march.” We did so with one loud yell, which Gen. Johnson says he heard on the other side of the field. After giving the enemy one volley we rushed forward, and at the point of the bayonet recaptured the famous “Rickett Battery,” which, though taken early in the morning, had been recaptured by the enemy. After retreating, the enemy formed a line of battle on a high hill, about five hundred yards from us. It was not until then that we discovered that we had flanked the famous (or infamous) New York Zouaves, who as they passed, were sot down by our men like fleeing deer. The rascals found out that we were killing so many of their number, that many of the betook themselves, like Falstaff, “to counterfeiting,” and stretched upon the ground in our rear, they mercilessly fired upon our wounded who were being carried from the field. Samuel Calder, a member of our company, who had been wounded, and while going to the rear, was sprung upon by one of these miscreants, who happened this time to have missed his man. Calder had strength enough left to impale the villain upon the blade of his sabre bayonet.

After having taken the artillery, which consisted of six rifle cannon, we advanced about two hundred yards, and took up our position in ta deep gulley. The Colonel, finding our position well protected, kept us there until Capt. Kemper brought up his battery, when we advanced, and about an hour afterwards the enemy gave way, and retreated generally in great confusion.

Our own, followed by Cash’s Regiment, pursued the enemy for several miles, when night set in and we thought it advisable to discontinue the pursuit. Before doing so, however, we treated the rascals to a parting volley. This produced such a panic among them that we captured twenty-seven pieces of artillery and quite a number of baggage wagons. You can form no idea of the quantity of military stores that have come into our possession. Military men say they have never known an army so splendidly equipped.

A great many citizens of Washington and representatives from Northern cities came out in carriages to witness and take part in the triumphal entry into Richmond. Senator Foster came out in a carriage and four as far as Cantreville, but returned on foot at the “treble quick” as far as Fairfax, and there succeeded in getting into a baggage wagon, whose driver, I suppose, will receive a foreign appointment as a reward for this happy deliverance.

The officers of the army and the civilian spectators brought with them every conceivable comfort and delicacy, and confidently expected to pass Manassas without even a fight. Their viands fell into the possession of those who, to say the least, were in a condition to do them more than justice. The day after the fight (which was a very rainy one) I visited the battle field, and there beheld a scene which beggars all description. Hundreds of the dead and dying lay promiscuously around me, while the moans of the dying and the piteous supplications of the wounded, might have softened the most relentless heart. I spent the whole morning in giving the wounded water, and doing what I could for the alleviation of those who had but a short time to live. From nearly all whom I questioned touching the motive which induced them to engage in this war of invasion, there came but the single response, that they had been promised large rewards, and been induced to believe that our men would quail before the “Grand Army of the Union.” But in this they had been wofully disappointed, as our men had evinced a courage and an obstinacy of determination that were not to be overcome.

On the field I met our old friend, J. P., of the Washington Light Infantry, with only about twenty men of his company. Young L., who is also a member, came up to me with tears in his eyes, and said, “My G-d, we have lost all of our men.” I am happy to say, however, that since the fight their men have collected, and their loss is not near as great as was apprehended.

I might go on giving you incidents of the fight, but I am admonished that this letter has already grown too long. What I might say, must therefore be reserved for my next. I will only remark, in closing, that the moral of this fight illustrates, as well as anything can, the characteristics of the people of the two sections of the country. The one, inflated with inordinate vanity, greedy of gain, and ready to sacrifice to material prosperity the better and more ennobling qualities of our nature. The other, in cultivating and developing the individual man, gives to each a self-sustaining sentiment which finds its highest expression in the self-sacrificing devotion to the great principles of liberty.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 8/5/1861

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