5th SC Cavalry Regiment
The origins of the 5th SC Cavalry can be traced to Captain
Robert J. Jeffords’ Co. (South Carolina Rangers) SC Mounted Militia, and Captain
Wheeler G. Smith’s Co. (Beech Hill Rangers) SC Mounted Militia. These volunteer
companies were organized in Charleston and Colleton Districts, respectively,
during the summer of 1861, and were incorporated into the 1st (Martin’s) SC
Mounted Militia Regiment in September of that year. Martin’s Regiment was called
to active duty in November 1861, in response to the occupation of Port Royal by
Federal troops, and its companies were dispersed to various points along South
Carolina’s southern coast.
On 7 December 1861, the South Carolina
legislature passed a bill enabling the Governor to call out the militia for 12
months’ service, and allowing for the organization of troops into regiments,
battalions, and squadrons. Two days later, the Governor issued a call for 12,000
volunteers for 12 months’ Confederate service, and ordered a draft to meet the
required number if sufficient volunteers were not forthcoming. The effect of
this proclamation was to require all volunteer military organizations to
reorganize for 12 months’ service, which Jeffords’ company did almost
Colonel Martin was given until 1 February 1862, to
reorganize his command, which at its height numbered some 21 companies on paper.
However, he soon encountered several obstacles. Many men were unwilling to
reenlist for 12 months, especially when told that credit would not be given for
time already served. Further, the provision allowing for the formation of
cavalry into squadrons of four companies, as well as regiments of 10 or more
companies, prompted several of his more ambitious officers (including Captain
Robert J. Jeffords) to begin efforts to form their own independent commands,
effectively placing them in competition with Martin for the mounted companies.
By the February deadline, Martin had secured commitments from only eight
companies, despite continuous politicking and advertising in the Charleston
newspapers. In a final effort to preserve his regiment, he appeared before the
South Carolina Executive Council on 12 February, and requested an additional 20
days to raise the last two requisite companies. However, his request was refused
"inasmuch as it was at variance with the plan of organization at present adopted
by the Chief of the Military Department."
The state’s military
authorities had apparently decided that several independent squadrons, instead
of a single regiment, were better-suited for the administration and control of
cavalry troops in the coast defense role, which required that they be dispersed
in small detachments over wide areas of the country. The Mounted Regiment was
therefore disbanded, and its various companies were individually mustered out of
state service over the next several weeks (although some would not receive their
final pay until April).
Following the disbanding of the 1st SC Mounted
Militia, Jeffords’ Co. (the South Carolina Rangers) entered Confederate service
with two new companies from Charleston (the Dixie Rangers and Willington
Rangers) as Jeffords’ Squadron SC Cavalry. The Beech Hill Rangers joined the
squadron in April 1862, and Jeffords’ Squadron subsequently became the 6th
(later, 17th) Battalion SC Cavalry. These companies ultimately became B, C, D,
and G of the 5th SC Cavalry.
Another predecessor organization was formed
in December 1861 - January 1862, as the 1st Battalion
SC Cavalry, but was officially designated the 2d Battalion (Squadron) SC Cavalry
upon its acceptance into Confederate service. It was commanded by Major Paul
Stroman Felder of Orangeburg District until its reorganization in May 1862,
after which it was commanded by Major Joseph Hargrove Morgan, and redesignated
the 14th Battalion SC Cavalry. The companies of this organization became A, F,
H, and I of the 5th SC Cavalry.
The 6th (Manigault’s) Battalion SC
Volunteers was organized with a mixture of infantry and cavalry companies in
late 1861. Co. A (St. James Santee Mounted Riflemen) was divided into new
Companies A and B in May 1862, and new Co. B St. James Mounted Riflemen became
an independent cavalry command under Captain Louis Augustus Whilden, of Christ
Church Parish, Mount Pleasant, Charleston District. This unit became Co. E, 5th
SC Cavalry. Harlan’s Co. SC Cavalry was organized at Columbia in December 1862,
and was commanded by Captain Joseph Gist Harlan of Unionville, SC. Harlan was
previously first sergeant of Co. D, SC Hampton Legion Cavalry Battalion.
Harlan’s new company became Co. K, 5th SC Cavalry.
On 18 January 1863,
the above companies and battalions were consolidated to form the 5th SC Cavalry
Regiment. Its first titular commander was Lieutenant Colonel Samuel W. Ferguson
of the 28th MS Cavalry, who was then at home in Charleston recuperating from
injuries received when he fell from his horse. Ferguson never joined the
regiment, however, and elected instead to return to the western theater, where
he was later promoted to brigadier general. Consequently, Lieutenant Colonel
Robert J. Jeffords served as acting commander until 28 July 1863, when Colonel
John Dunovant was given permanent command.
designated a regiment, the companies of the 5th SC Cavalry continued to serve as
detached commands assigned to coast defense duties at various locations in the
Carolinas until March 1864. At that time, they were ordered to Virginia where
the regiment assembled in April, and along with the 4th and 6th SC Cavalry
Regiments formed Butler’s Brigade, Hampton’s Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of
Northern Virginia. For the remainder of that year, the regiment was actively
engaged as mounted infantry in various actions associated with the defense of
Richmond/Petersburg and the vital railroad lines supplying the Army of Northern
Virginia. Colonel Dunovant retained command until 22 August 1864, when he was
promoted to brigadier general and given command of Butler’s Brigade. Lieutenant
Colonel Jeffords then commanded the regiment until he was killed at Burgess’
Mill on 27 October 1864. For the remainder of the war, the 5th SC Cavalry was
commanded by Captain Zimmerman Davis of Charleston, who was unofficially
promoted to colonel on 15 March 1865.
In January 1865, the 5th SC
Cavalry was reassigned to Wheeler’s Cavalry Corps, Army of Tennessee, CSA, and
returned to Columbia, South Carolina, under Lieutenant General Wade Hampton to
check the advance of Major General William T. Sherman’s troops from Georgia.
Thereafter, it was involved in continuous skirmishing with numerically superior
Federal forces as they moved inexorably north from Columbia, then across
northeastern South Carolina, and finally into central North Carolina. The 5th SC
Cavalry participated in the final battle of the Carolinas Campaign at
Bentonville, and provided the escort to General Joseph Johnston when he met to
discuss surrender terms with General Sherman at the William Bennett House near
Durham Station, North Carolina, on 17 April 1865. The regiment was included in
the surrender of cavalry troops at Hillsboro, North Carolina, on 27 April 1865,
and its remnants were officially disbanded at Greensboro on 2–3 May 1865.
Available records show that 1,750 men served in the 5th SC Cavalry and
its predecessors during the period 1861 - 1865. Of this
total, 165 (9.4%) died in service, 125 (7.1%) were wounded, 258 (14.7%) were
lost through discharge, desertion, capture, resignation or retirement, and 135
(7.7%) transferred to other units. The average age at enlistment was 26.8 years.
For a more detailed statistical summary of the regiment, see the Recapitulation.
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