South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

11th Virginia Infantry, Kemper's Brigade

Unidentified Soldier
Company C, 11th VA Infantry
  In the afternoon of September 14th, the men of the 11th Virginia Infantry found themselves going into line of battle along a the rocky slopes of South Mountain just north of Turner's Gap facing an enemy they knew was in front of them but they could not see. When the Union assault finally came, they stubbornly held their ground until darkness ended the fighting.

The companies of the 11th Virginia were enlisted into service during the spring of 1861. They are as follows:

Company A: "Lynchburg Rifle Greys", Campbell County, April 22, 1861
Company B: "Southern Guards", Campbell County, April 23, 1861
Company C: "Clifton Greys", Campbell County, May 16, 1961
                     - transferred from 28th Virginia in June 1861
Company D: "Fincastle Rifles", Botetourt County, April 23, 1861
Company E: "Lynchburg Rifles", Campbell County, April 19, 1861
Company F: "Preston Guards", Montgomery County, May 29, 1861
Company G: "Lynchburg Home Guards, Campbell County, April 23, 1861
Company H: "Jeff Davis Guard", Campbell County, May 15, 1861
Company I: "Rough and Ready Rifles", Fauquier and Culpeper County, May 25, 1861
Company K: "Valley Regulators:, Botetourt and Rockbridge County, May 25, 1861

Samuel Garland, Jr. in militia uniform

The seperate companies would begin arriving in Richmond for muster into Confederate service beginning in late April and and early May when they were gathered and officially designated as the 11th Virginia Volunteer Infantry. They would elected Captain Samuel Garland,  Jr. of Company G as their first colonel.  Attached to the brigade of Brigadier General James Longstreet, the 11th Virginia spent the following months drilling in preparation for the coming Union invasion. Stationed near Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia, the 11th would get its first taste of battle in the middle of July.

On July 18, 1861, a Union reconnassaince in force approached Blackburn's Ford on the right flank of the Confederate defenses along Bull Run Creek. The fight was severe and the 11th helped turn back this Union thrust. In the first major battle of the war fought three days later, the 11th remained in its post on the Confederate right and only after the Union army was routed and chased from the field did the 11th go into action. The regiment along with the 1st, 17th, and 24th regiments with a section of artillery and a troup of cavalry supporting, advanced in pursuit of the routed army, reaching as far as Centreville before being ordered to fall back to the brigades original position. The regiment lost 19 men killed, wounded, and missing after being under constant artillery fire for the better part of the day. Following the battle, Colonel Garland was ordered to take his regiment and police the battlefield.

For the remainder of the year, the regiment found itself on picket and drilling in northern Virginia. In December, the regiment found itself fighting around Dranesville, Virginia. It was here that two foraging parties under Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart (Confederate) and Brigadier General Edward O.C. Ord (Union) came upon each other. A brisk fight ensued that drove off Stuart's confederates. The 11th, with Garland commanding, held the line as the rest of the Confederates retreated. The day following this battle, Stuart returned to collect his wounded and left them at Frying Pan  Church, where the Confederates had retreated the previous day. After this skirmish, the 11th went into winter quarters.

In April 1862, the regiment was reorganized and sent to the Virginia Peninsula to help bolster Confederate defenses against the advance of General George B. McClellan's massive Army of the Potomac. Going into position in the defenses at Yorktown, the 11th came under a constant artillery fire. After stalling the Union advance for about two weeks, the Confederates abandoned their Yorktown lines and retreated back towards Virginia's colonial capital, Williamsburg. At Williamsburg, now a Major General , James Longstreet turned his division and attacked the pursuing Union force. The 11th was now in Brigadier General Ambrose P. Hill's brigade and they were in the thick of the fighting. Charging through a field and into a wood lot, the 11th suffered horrendous casualties. Colonel Garland was wounded during this assault but remained in command until the battle was over. For his gallantry and leadership in this fight, Colonel Garland was promoted to Brigadier General.

The 11th would lose is beloved commanded to promotion just as the regiment embarked on the most trying time to date since it went into service. The regiment would fight at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31,1862 and but would be relegated to a reserve position on June 1st. A development that occured during this fight would change the course of the regiments history as well as the Confederacy's. General Joseph E. Johnston was wounded by a shell fragment during the fighting on May 31st and that night, Jefferson Davis gave command of the Confederate army to Robert E. Lee, who re-christened it, the Army of Northern Virginia.

For the entire month of June, the 11th was busy building and strengthening the fortifications around Richmond. It lead some of the men to believe that Lee was settling in for a siege. During this time, the army was also reorganized somewhat. The 11th was now assigned to the all-Virginia brigade of Brigadier General James Kemper in James Longstreet's division. During the coming Seven Days' Battles, the 11th would participate in the Battle of Glendale where it would suffer heavily. During the Battle of Malvern Hill, the 11th was held in reserve with the rest of Longstreet's division after the hard fighting they suffered through at Glendale.

Following the Seven Days, the 11th saw itself return to the Northern Virginia area where Union General  John Pope's new Army of Virginia had taken upon itself the invasion of this region and its systematic destruction. Lee first sent Stonewall Jackson to the area with his command to defend the approaches to Richmond and to harass Pope's army. The result was the Battle at Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862 and on August 28, after capturing the depot at Manassas Junction, Jackson attacked the marching columns of Pope's army near the old Bull Run battlefield sparking the 2nd Battle of Manassas/Bull Run. The 11th was still apart of Kemper's brigade but Kemper was in command of a division at the moment and command fell to Colonel Mongomery D. Corse. The 11th arrived on the battlefield on August 29th and was apart of Longstreet's crushing flank attack against Pope that drove the Union men from the field in what amounted to a replay of the previous July's fighting over the same battlefield. The regiment suffered heavily, losing 9 men killed and 63 wounded.

After the Battle of Second Manassas/Bull Run, the 11th marched towards Leesburg, Virginia where the Confederate high command would debate a possible invasion of Maryland. The decision was made and on September 4, 1862, the first Confederate troops splashed into the Potomac River and entered Maryland. The 11th Virginia was now commanded by Major Adam Clement and was apart of Kemper's Brigade now attached to the division of Major General David R. Jones. The 11th crossed into Maryland on the 6th of September and bivouaced that night between Buckeystown, Maryland and the C & O Canal. It continued towards Frederick, Maryland the following day and went into camp for a brief rest. Remaining in Frederick until the 11th, the Virginians followed the main body of Lee's Army towards Hagerstown, Maryland where it would await the completion of Stonewall Jackson's expedition against Harper's Ferry. The regiment would arrive near Hagerstown on the 12th and go into camp along the Williamsport Road (present day Route 11/Virginia Ave. in Hagerstown).

On the 14th, the men of the 11th found themselves retracing their route of march from the previous days back towards Boonsborough and South Mountain. Hearing the rolling sound of musketry and the thunder of artillery coming from the mountain, the men surely knew that serious work was ahead. Arriving on the base of the mountain in the early afternoon, the Kemper's brigade was ordered to the summit. Kemper was ordered by D.H. Hill to place his regiments to the left of the National Pike to oppose the advancing Union division of John Hatch. Going into line of battle at about 4 P.M., the 11th found themselves under heavy fire from Union artillery.

The 11th deployed in a cornfield on the right center of Kemper's brigade. The regiment numbered perhaps 95 men. To its right was deployed the 17th Virginia (about 71 men) under Colonel Montgomery Corse and to its left was the 1st Virginia under Coming under attack from the forces of Hatch's division, the 11th held its ground along with the 17th Virginia on its right while the rest of Kemper's brigade melted away. Upon the recommendation of Colonel Montgomery Corse of the 17th Virginia, the 11th Virginia pulled back about 15 yards to a fenceline that they would occupy for the remainder of the fight. A fresh Union assault came just before darkness fell but the Virginian's held. After the bloody fighting on the Mountain Spur, the 11th was ordered to retreat along with the rest of the Confederates on the mountain towards Sharpsburg.

After reaching Sharpsburg, the 11th went into line on Cemetery Hill outside of Sharpsburg just above the Middle Bridge. It was under periodic artillery fire and skirmishing on the 16th. On the 17th, the 11th was shifted to a ravine in support of the defenders of what would become Burnsides' Bridge. Kemper's  brigade was shifted to a ravine, just south of the town to oppose the coming  Union advance. The 11th, along with the 1st and 17th Virginia, advanced to meet the Union assault after the bridge had been lost at around 3 P.M. The Virginian's were swept from the field and rallied in the Harper's Ferry Road south of Sharpsburg. From here they would hold and upon the arrival of A.P. Hill's Light Division, join in the counter-attack that would push the Union troops back to the Burnside Bridge.  The 11th would evacuate its position outside Sharpsburg during the night of September 18th and recross the Potomac.

Following the Maryland Campaign of 1862, the 11th would participate in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. Still within the brigade commanded by James Kemper, the 11th with ,the rest of the brigade, marched to the relief of the Confederates holding Marye's Heights. This movement occured towards the end of the fighting on the 13th and the brigade was returned to its original position early on the 14th. The regiment would miss the fighting at Chancellorsville the following May. They were marching with James Longstreet against Suffolk, Virginia. Their mission: to protect Richmond and to forage for much needed supplies. The ensuing Siege of Suffolk lasted nearly a month, but the objectives of the campaign had been met. Richmond was safe and supplies had been gathered. In early May, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Longstreet ordered his divisions to retreat from Suffolk and march to rejoing Lee's beleagured Confederates. In doing so, he put his men on the road to Gettysburg, a battle that would be fought over three hot days in July.

View of Kemper's Advance towards The Angle
Gettysburg NMP
Under the command of Kirkwood Otey, the 11th Virginia would, along with the rest of George Pickett's Division, would not arrive on the battlefield at Gettysburg until the night of July 2nd and 3rd. The regiment had been in Chambersburg acting as the rear guard for Longstreet's Corps. On July 3rd, the regiment would be decimated during the assault that became known as Pickett's Charge. Forming up in the late morning, the regiment stepped off in the middle of the afternoon and within the hour, its men soaked the lush fields with their precious blood. The regiment would suffer through the grueling retreat towards the Potomac and the safety of Virginia.

In 1864, the regiment would find itself in North Carolina fighting at Plymouth in an attempt to capture the town that was successful. After this successful venture, the regiment was returned to Northern Virginia where it participated in the Battle of Cold Harbor in June and the Siege of Petersburg from June 1864 to April 1865. When the Union breakthrough came, the regiment retreated with the once proud Army of Northern Virginia to Appomattox Courthouse where Union forces cut off the Confederate line of retreat. Here the regiment surrender with 1 officer and 28 men.

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