Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Georgia Guard at war: 1863 and 2013

By 1st Lt. William Carraway
Public Affairs Office, Georgia Dept. of Defense 

Georgia Volunteers then and now

One hundred fifty years separate us from the campaigns of 1863. Many of our modern-day Georgia Guard units trace their lineage to units that fought in the American Civil War. The Georgia National Guard has mobilized more than 15,000 Soldiers in support of combat operations over the past 11 years. But from 1861 to 1865, out of a population of just over 1 million (one tenth the present population) Georgia contributed 100,000 Soldiers to serve in the armies of the Confederate States of America. Nearly 20,000 of these would fall in four years of conflict.

From Secession to Sherman

Georgia was the fifth state to join the Confederacy when it left the Union January 18, 1861. It would not return to the United States until readmitted to the Union in 1870 following reconstruction. Georgia spent the first two years of the war largely untouched; however, by 1864 the “universe of battle” descended upon the state. From late 1863 to 1865 more than 500 battles and skirmishes would be fought on Georgian soil. The largest two-day battle of the war would be fought along the banks of the Chickamauga River in north Georgia and the world would learn a new definition of total warfare during General William T. Sherman’s march to the sea.

First to fight

While Georgia herself did not feel the full ravages of war until the campaigns of 1863, her Soldiers had been engaged from the very first battle. The 7th and 8th Georgia Infantry were present on Henry House Hill during the First Battle of Manassas where they were ordered by their brigade commander, Col. Francis Bartow, to seize artillery pieces that were firing upon Confederate positions. Bartow, a native of Savannah, led his men forward with the cry “boys follow me!” As he rode on horseback waving his kepi above his head, he was felled by a bullet. Surrounded by his Georgians, Bartow spoke his last words. “Boys, they have killed me, but never give up the field.” Bartow was the first brigade commander on either side to be killed in the Civil War. Bartow County, home for 171 Georgia Guardsmen, was named in his honor. More than 350 of Col. Bartow’s Georgians became casualties at Manassas.
Also present at Manassas was an inventive engineer. Captain E. Porter Alexander, a native of Washington, Ga. formed the Confederate Signal Service and at Manassas became the first signal officer to transfer information by signal flags while in combat.

Georgia deployments then and now

During the Civil War, Georgia sent eight battalions and 28 batteries of artillery into service. More than 50 cavalry battalions, squadrons and regiments were also sent into Confederate service. Beginning in 1861, Georgia organized and mobilized nearly 80 Infantry battalions and regiments. These Georgia Soldiers served in the armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee and participated in all major conflicts of the war.

214th Field Artillery (FA)

In February, 2013 the Georgia Guard mobilized more than 200 artillerymen of the 1-214th (FA). Curiously, the 214th FA does not trace its lineage to one of those civil war artillery units but rather to the 5th Georgia Cavalry Regiment. As the forerunner of the 214th FA, the 5th Georgia Cavalry Regiment saw action during the Atlanta, Savannah, and South Carolina campaign against the forces of Gen. Sherman before surrendering in North Carolina in April 1865.

The 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT)

When the 48th IBCT deployed to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2009 it carried with it a heritage that, like many Georgia Guard units, predated the Civil War. Known as the Macon Volunteers, the forerunners of the 48th IBCT were incorporated into the 2nd Georgia Infantry Battalion in 1861. As part of the Army of Northern Virginia, the battalion travelled north into Pennsylvania with Gen. Robert E. Lee in June 1863. At Gettysburg they would suffer nearly 50 percent casualties while serving as skirmishers for the brigade of A. W. Wright. More than 1,000 men would serve in the ranks of the 2nd Georgia Battalion until the unit surrendered at Appomattox Court House April 9, 1865 with less than 100 men still in the ranks.

118th FA

The 1-118th FA’s connection to the Civil War is complex. The predecessors of the 118th FA were activated into state service two weeks before Georgia seceded. The unit occupied Fort Pulaski and mustered into Confederate service in the summer of 1861. Although constituted as the 1st Georgia Volunteer Regiment, the unit’s companies would be broken up over the course of the war. In August 1861, the Chatham Artillery was separated from the regiment. Armed with four 12-lb Napoleon cannons the Chatham Artillery (also known as Claghorn’s or Wheaton’s Battery) surrendered April 26, 1865 near Greensboro, N.C.
Other companies that detached from the original regiment would be reconstituted as the 13th and 18th Infantry Battalions. The remnants of the regiment reorganized in 1862 and were consolidated with the 57th and 63rd Georgia Volunteer Infantry in April 1865, days before surrendering near Durham, N.C., with the shattered remnants of the Army of Tennessee.

Aerial surveillance then and now

The Georgia Air National Guard flies the unique Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar (JSTARS) platform. Surprisingly, Georgia also provided an aerial surveillance platform during the Civil War. While the Union maintained a robust balloon corps, Confederate technology lagged until Savannah residents Langdon Cheeves and Charles Cevor developed a silk balloon that could remain aloft for hours. During the Seven Days campaign of 1862, this balloon would be piloted by the remarkable Lt. Col. E. Porter Alexander. Alexander made several ascents in this balloon and observed Union troop movements. Alexander would continue his remarkable career as General Longstreet’s Chief of Artillery and would command the artillery bombardment that preceded Pickett’s ill-fated charge at Gettysburg.

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