South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Bloody 50th: Georgia's sons are slaughtered at South Mountain

Assigned to the brigade of Thomas Drayton, the 50th Georgia Infantry held the Confederate left flank during the afternoon fighting at Fox's Gap. Unfortunately, this would end up putting them in the crosshairs of Union arms from three different directions. The Georgians were decimated by the Union musketry until over 80% of their number lay dead and wounded in the Old Sharpsburg Road. The following is a brief history of the regiment, its role in the 1862 Maryland Campaign, and a casualty list from its fight on the mountain.

What would become the 50th Georgia Infantry was organized and mustered into Confederate service in March 1862 at Savannah, Georgia. The various companies of the regiment were recruited in the south and southeastern parts of the state. The companies with county of origin:

Company A- Sastilla Rangers, Pierce County
Company B- Ware Volunteers, Ware County
Company C- Coffee County Guards, Coffee County
Company D- Valdosta Guards, Lowndes County
Company E- Thomas County Rangers, Thomas County
Company F- Decatur Infantry, Decatur County
Company G- Clinch Volunteers, Clinch and Echols Counties
Company H- Colquitt Marksman, Colquitt County
Company I- Berrian Light Infantry, Berrian County
Company K- Brooks Volunteers, Brooks County

The regiment was placed under the command of Colonel William R. Manning. During the first months of service the regiment was stationed in the defenses of Savannah. In July 1862, the 50th was transferred to the newly formed brigade under Brigadier General Thomas F. Drayton. It was brigaded with the 51st Georgia, 15th South Carolina, 3rd South Carolina Battalion, and the Phillips' Georgia Legion. The new brigade was ordered to report to Richmond to help make up for losses suffered during the recent battles on the Virginia Peninsula. The men of 50th Regiment left their native state on July 20, 1862 with orders to report to Richmond. Many of them would never set foot in Georgia again.

Arriving in Richmond about a week later, the 50th and the rest of Drayton's brigade were placed into the division of General David R. Jones. After spending nearly 2 weeks in the defenses of Richmond, the regiment was on the road towards Gordonsville, Virginia and beyond with James Longstreet's command to meet the advancing Union army under John Pope. When word the Stonewall Jackson made contact with Pope's army near the old Bull Run battlefield, Longstreet's command picked up the pace of their march and eventually re-united with Jackson's men in the afternoon of August 28th. The coming fight would be the 50th's first taste of battle. Fortunately, the 50th was posted on the extreme right of the Confedrate line with the rest of Drayton's brigade after reports of a Union flanking movement. When the Confederate counterattack came in the afternoon of August 30th, Drayton's brigade was still posted on the extreme right. General Jones', seeing an advantage, pressed his division forward, with the exception of Drayton, who remained in his original position until it was too dark to do anything of consequence. Drayton did eventually get his brigade into line but did little fighting. The 50th Georgia was reported to have suffered only 9 men wounded.

The regiment then marched to the vicinity of Leesburg, Virginia where the Confederate high command planned the next move. It was decided that a movement into Maryland would be the most advantageous for the Confederate cause and immediately troops were put into motion and beginning on September 4th, Confederate troops were tramping across the Maryland countryside. The 50th Georgia was one of the last regiments to cross the Potomac, crossing on September 6th. By the 7th, the regiment was encamped outside of Frederick, Maryland. It was during this brief rest period that Special Orders 191, the infamous order that outlined the Confederate campaign in Maryland, was written. The order went into motion on September 10th, and after marching through Boonsboro, Funkstown, and Hagerstown, the regiment went back into camp to the south of Hagerstown on the road leading to Williamsport. On September 14th, the order of the day was there was to be a forced march from their encampment to Boonsborough where D.H. Hill's division was being heavily pressed by two Union Army corps. Setting out just before sunrise, the 50th, along with the rest of Longstreet's command, marched through suffocating heat and dust before finally reaching the bast of South Mountain early in the afternoon.

Drayton's brigade was ordered to Fox's Gap to bolster a planned Confederate attack that would sweep up over the mountain and into the Union 9th Corps' left flank. Drayton put his brigade into position in the Old Sharpsburg Road that crossed South Mountain at the gap. His brigade was deployed in an L-shaped line with the 50th Georgia forming the extreme right of the L, holding the line starting in the northeastern corner of  Daniel Wise's North Field. Between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, Drayton, inexplicably, ordered the three regiments in the road (Philips' Legion, 3rd South Carolina Battalion, and the 15th South Carolina) to advance into Wise's South Field. The 50th and 51st Regiment were to re-deployed into the road bed to cover the advance of these three regiments and then eventually they too would advance into the South Field.

Initially the advance was, believed, to be opposed by only the Ohioan's of the Kanawha Division in the immediate front of Drayton's men. The 50th Georgia, on the left of the 51st, now began to recieve fire from the left front. This startled the Georgian's and some tried to shift their fire to the left against this new threat. Those regiments in the open field recoiled against this deadly cross-fire and began to pull back. The Georgians in the road attempted to cover the withdrawal of their comrades. Now, a Union regiment suddenly appeared in the rear of the Old Sharpsburg Road. Now the 50th Georgia was taking fire from the front, left, and now rear. For the Union men, it was like shooting fish in a barrell. The Georgians attempted to hold their position for as long as possible but it was a futile resistance. The 51st Georgia evacuated the road and the 50th followed suit, with many men running through the gauntlet. The Confederate dead and wounded began to pile up in the road as the Confederates withdrew, making the withdrawal even more chaotic. After an hour of fighting, the 50th Georgia was a shadow of its former self. The regiment lost at least 51 killed, 116 wounded, and 36 captured or missing for a total of 205.

The fighting on the mountain ended around 10 o'clock that night and the remnants of the 50th Georgia regrouped and retreated with the rest of the Confederate forces in the immediate vicinity towards Sharpsburg on the night of the 14th. When word that Harper's Ferry would fall the next day reached the eyes of the dejected General Robert E.Lee, the commanding general decided to make a stand in Maryland in an attempt to salvage what was left of his Maryland Campaign. On the 15th, he massed what troops he had with him on the hills outside of Sharpsburg to await the arrival of Stonewall Jackson's command that was enveloping Harper's Ferry and the legions of Union infantry that were slowly pursuing the Confederates.

The skeleton of the 50th was posted on Cemetery Hill (present day location of AntietamNational Cemetery) on the 15th. When Drayton's brigade was again moved farther to the right, the 50th was detached and ordered to support Robert Toombs' brigade in holding the Rohrbach (Burnside's) Bridge. From General Toombs' report, the 50th numbered "scarcely 100 muskets." Positioned just below the bridge to cover the area between the bridge and Snavely's Ford. Avoiding the main Union thrust against the bridge, the 50th held the approaches from Snavely Ford. Just as Toombs's Georgians were forced out of their rifle pits, the Union infantry division of Issac Rodman's appeared opposite Snavely's Ford and the men of the 50th, with too few numbers, got off a few shots before withdrawing. The regiment would return to Drayton and resist the advance of Burnside's 9th Corps in the fields south of Sharpsburg. The weight in Union numbers was beginning to tell with Burnside's men advancing nearly into Sharpsburg. Fortunately, A.P. Hill's division of Confederate infantry arrived and slammed into the Union flank forcing a retreat back towards the Antietam by the 9th Corps.

On the night of September 18th, the 50th thankfully marched out of Maryland and to the safety of Virginia. When the Union 5th Corps pursued the Confederates to the river crossing at Shepherdstown, an artillery battle ensued on the 19th and when Union infantry crossed the Potomac, the outnumbered Confederates fled. On the 20th, a renewed Union advance ran into the division of A.P. Hill who had been ordered back to the crossing. The 50th Georgia was with Hill during this sharp skirmish that pushed Union forces back across the river.

The 50th Georgia would remain with the Army of Northern Virginia for the remainder of the war. In November 1862, the 50th Georgia was assigned to the brigade of Paul Semmes. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, the regiment was away from the firing line so few casualties were suffered. In 1863, the regiment would be engaged at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. When Longstreet's Corps was transferred to the western theatre, the 50th would participate in the Siege of Chattanooga, the Knoxville Campaign, and other operations in east Tennessee. In May 1864, the regiment again found itself in the East where it immediately went into combat when Ullysses S. Grant, the overall Union commander, ran into Lee's waiting Confederates in the Wilderness. The regiment would suffer heavily at the Wilderness, Spotslyvania, and in the early stages of the Petersburg Siege. The regiment would join Jubal Early during his campaign in the Shenandoah Valley during the late summer and fall of 1864. Here it would take part in the battles of Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. With Confederate defenses weakening around Richmond and Petersburg,  those Confederates under Early were ordered back to Petersburg. The 50th would remain here until April when the Union breakthrough finally came. The regiment would surrender on April 9th at Appomattox.

The following is a list of casualties from the regiment's fight on South Mountain:

Private Benjamin Adkinson, Co. F
Private Samuel Altman, Co. A
Private David Bass, Co. G
Private Hezekiah Brown, Co. D
4th Sergeant James Brown, Co. H
Private John W. Bryant, Co. F
Private Seaborn Burns, Co. F
Private Jasper Castleberry, Co. H
Private Joseph Castleberry ,Co. H
Private Richard P. Connell, Co. I
2nd Lieutenant William G. Dekle, Co. F
Private William F. Eddy, Co. C
Private Samuel Gandy, Co. E
2nd Corporal Elijah T. Grantham, Co. F
Private William J. Guthery, Co. G
Private Harrison G. Hancock, Co. H
3rd Corporal James T. Hancock, Co. H
Private Matthew Handley, Co. I
Private Bythel Hardy, Co. D
Private William Hartly, Co. I
Private Elisha D. Herring, Co. F
Private Moses Hicks, Co. E
3rd Corporal James A. Hood, Co. H
Private John M. Horn, Co. F
Private George R. Mallard, Co. F
Private Lewis W. Marshall, Co. I
4th Corporal W.F. McConnell, Co. D
Sergeant John M. McCoy, Co. E
Private John M. McElhany, Co. A
Private Benjamin Merritt, Co. C
Private Elijah Nesmith, Co. F
Private Clayton Nix, Co. F
Private James O'Rourke, Co. E
Private Nathan Passmore, Co. C
Private James T. Peacock, Co. A
Private Joshua G. Phillips, Co. E
Private William J. Powell, Co. F
Private Andrew J. Purvis, Co. I
2nd Sergeant Russell R. Reneau, Co. E
Private Ivey Ricketson, Co. C
Private John Roberts, Co. G
Private Lyman A. Sirmans, Co. G
Private Benjamin Smith, Co. F
Private Henry Smith, Co. C
Private George R. Stone, Co. A
Private Stafford G. Thigpen, Co. C
Private James F. Thomas, Co. A
Private James Tison, Co. I
Private John Vann, Co. E
Private John Vickers, Co. D
Private Matthew Vickers, Co. D

Private George W. Allen, Co. A 
Private Jackson A. Allred, Co. H
Private James Anderson, Co. B
Private William B. Bachelor, Co. F
2nd Corporal Thomas R. Bailey, Co. F
Private Archibald Bass, Co. G
Private William T. Boyett, Co. F
4th Sergeant Augustus Brack, Co. G
Private Daniel L. Bryant, Co. F
Private M.T. Buckland, Co. G
Private Joseph Bynum, Co. D
Sergeant William P. Brown, Co . E
Corporal James A. Carver, Co. C
Private James J. Carver, Co. C
Private William R. Cato, Co. C
Private James Clemons, Co. G
Private Peter M. Cloud, Co. F
Private George W. Collins, Co. A
Private Jesse Cooper, Co. E
Private Daniel G. Copeland, Co. D
Private Manning Corbitt, Co. G
Private Martin S. Corbitt, Co. G
3rd Corporal William Corbitt, Co. G
Private Paul M.J. Creed, Co. E
2nd Sergeant Charles W. Curry, Co. G
Private Aaron J. Donaldson, Co. E
1st Sergeant James Douglass, Co. G
Private William W. Douglass, Co. E
2nd Lieutenant Aaron Dowling, Co. A
Private Timothy S. Dunbar, Co. E
Private William B. Dunlap, Co. F
Private Seaborn Edwards, Co. K
2nd Lieutenant James B. Finch, Co. K
Private John W. Fletcher, Co. A
Private James B. Flowers, Co. H
Private Nathan O. Flowers, Co. H
Private Samuel Ford, Co. I
Private Nathanial Garland, Co. F
2nd Lieutenant Daniel D. Gaskins, Co. I
Private Lemuel Gaskins, Co. I
Private Matthew Gay, Co. H
Private David A. Giles, Co. H
Private William H. Gooding, Co. A
Private Christopher C. Hargraves, Co. C
Private James R. Hargraves, Co. G
Private Joseph M. Harrison, Co. F
Private George W. Herndon, Co. D
Private Newton Hicks, Co. F
3rd Sergeant Joseph L. Hill, Co. K
Private Elbert Hughes, Co. D
Corporal R. Perry Hughes, Co. D
4th Corporal Jacob Joiner, Co. C
Private Hardy Joiner, Sr., Co. C
Private W.F. Joiner, Co. K
Private Abner Jones, Co. G
Private Malachi F. Jones, Co. K
Private Zean W. Kirkland, Co. C
Private George Lee, Co. B
Private Butler W. Leverett, Co. K
Private Lewis Marshall, Co. I
Private William F. Maxwell, Co. F
4th Sergeant Wilson McCall, Co. K
Private Randall McMillan, Co. I
Private Wyatt H. McPherson, Co. E
Private John Mercer, Co. H
Private Benjamin F. Metcalf, Co. F
Private Music Mills, Co. B
2nd Lieutenant Francis Mobley, Co. I
1st Sergeant Edward H. Moore, Co. C
Private William J. Nelson, Sr., Co. D
Private Alexander Nettles, Co. C
Private John T. Nix, Co. F
Private Newton Nix, Co. F
Private Robert G. O'Berry, Co. A
Captain Joel R. Osteen, Co. G
Private A.J. Parrish, Co. I
Private S.F. Peters, Co. D
Private Gordon J. Phillips, Co. B
2nd Sergeant Noah Pittman, Co. B
Private Willis Price, Co. H
Private Thomas W. Rambo, Co. K
Private John T. Register, Co. G
Private James Revis, Co. C
Private Moses Roberts, Co. G
4th Corporal William T. Roberts, Co. G
Private Richard L. Rowland, Co. B
Private William N. Rowland, Co. B
Private Hiram Sears, Co. G
Private James Sears, Co. G
Private Simeon Sheffield, Co. E
Private Emanuel Shuman, Co. E
Private David Sloan, Co. F
Private William Smith, Co. C
Private Joseph J. Stanfill, Co. E
Private William H. Stone, Co. A
Private Matthew T. Strickland, Co. G
Private J.M. Summerall, Co. G
Private Jack Swilley. Co. D
Private Henry J. Tetson, Co. C
Private James Teston, Co. C
Private Colin Thomas, Co. G
Private Lewis R. Thomas, Co. A
Private James T. Tippans, Co. A
Private Issac Trawick, Co. F

Private Orthnald Trawick , Co. F
Private Charles Truelock, Co. F
Private Benjamin Waldron, Co. A
Private J. Walker, Co. D
3rd Corporal Joel Walker, Co. B
Private John F. Ward, Co. C
1st Corporal George W. White, Co. B
Private John T. Wilson, Co. A
Private William Wilson, Co. D

Private William R. Wiley, Co. F
Private Joel W. Wooten, Co. C
1st Corporal Riley Wright, Co. C

Private William Alderman, Co. K
Private Jasper S. Altman, Co. A
Private Martin L. Cloud, Co. F
Private Bernard Coleman, Co. D
Private Manning Cowart, Co. G
Private Daniel Dailey, Co. K
Private Gideon C. Davidson, Co. F
2nd Corporal John A. Dent, Co. C
3rd Corporal William M. Dent, Co. C
Private Jimpsey Finch, Co. K
Private Thomas Gill, Co. E
Private Hardin Hancock, Co. H
Private Jesse A. Hardee, Co. D
Private John Hardin, Co. E
Private D. Harding, Co. K
Private James Hecks, Co. E
Private Jacob Kinard, Co. H
Private H. Kirktona, Co. C
Private David M. Lastinger, Co. G
Private Dominic McCafferty, Co. C
Private John McGlynn, Co. E
Private Wryan Minchew, Co. A
Private Issac Morgan, Co. B
Private Elijah Nesmith, Co. F
Private Andrew Newman, Co. D
Private Jesse H. Powell, Co. F
Private Henry G. Radney, Co. E
Private James Ricks, Co. F
Private J.N. Taylor, Co. E
Private John W. Taylor, Co. D
Private William Vickering, Co. K
Private James Vining, Co. G
Private Jasper H. Vining, Co. G
Private John Walters, Co. F
Private William H. Williams, Co. F
Private Thomas Wilson, Co. I


  1. You have my relative Richard P. Connell listed as a casualty at South Mountain, he died at Antietam after South Mountain.

  2. The source I used for this casualty list stated that your relative, Private Richard P. Connell was wounded at the Battle of South Mountain and died as a result of his wounds. It also states that he is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, WV.

  3. Really enjoyed this article as I had 3GRGR Uncles in the 50th Ga. from Clinch County. They all survived the war.

  4. My g g grandfather Archibald Bass and his brother David are mentioned, Arch's pension mentions being wounded at 2nd Manassas but it was 40 some years later, he was also wounded at the wilderness and Ceader Creek most sites wrongly say he died as a POW but he was exchanged and moved to Florida in 1865 and died there in 1909. Confederate pension Florida archives. Good article.

  5. Private John Wesley Fletcher "was left at the point of death at a home in Boonsboro" he died of his wounds.

  6. Had over 150 ancestors/relatives in 50th and 29th. Some killed at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, abt 15 captured at Cumberland Gap - taken to Point Lookout Maryland. Any information on this would be great. Thank you for your articles so these men aren't forgotten. I ran this one on Facebook for Memorial Day.