The Third South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Battalion,
Also Known As
the Laurens and/or the James Battalion
By: Sam B. Davis
Research and writing are in progress for a history of the Third South Carolina Battalion by James B. Clary and Sam B. Davis. Our goal is to document as accurately as possible the history of this unit. In order to accomplish this task, we are relying on primary sources such as letters, journals, photographs, diaries, and related information. If you feel you have information which might help in effectively portraying the events and history of this important Confederate battalion, please do not hesitate to contact me. The book title has not yet been determined. Since work is ongoing, material in this sketch is subject to revision and change.
The Third South Carolina Battalion, easily the smallest unit of
shared with its larger counterparts the glories and agonies associated with the
momentous conflict known as the War Between the States. Only two men, George
Strother James and William George Washington Rice , would ever attain the rank
of Lieutentant Colonel, the highest allotted officer grade of the battalion. On
occasion, the battalion was commanded by a major and even some captains before
the war's end. This circumstance in no way diminishes the part the battalion
played in the war but rather calls attention to the uniqueness of this gallant
little band of warriors.
While D. Augustus Dickert lists 710 officers and enlisted men, a year's research has yielded 897 names of men who answered duty's call to fight. The unit was never full strength in battle. A number of reasons, among them disease, death, wounds, resignation, discharge, special details , and furlough , accounted for the attrition throughout the conflict. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that never did more than half of the total actually take position in battle formation during the entire war and even that many on only a very few occasions. Nowhere in research could I find that any quarter was given or a less threatening or easier place assigned in battle whenever an engagement loomed. As evidenced in later years by accounts of regimental strength, this battalion fought side by side with units twice its size and even larger. Further, research has not determined why additional companies were never assigned to the battalion in order to bring it to full regimental strength. The term 'Sharpshooters' is used in some accounts, but the battalion was never assigned that designation per se in either Drayton's or Kershaw's Brigade.
Seven companies were assigned to the battalion. Companies A, B, C, and D were mustered into state service in late November and early December 1861 at Camp Hampton near Columbia. These four companies were composed predominantly of men from Laurens District, as was Company E mustered in in early January. By the end of January 1862, Company F (Harper Rifles), consisting of men from Lexington and Richland Districts , had enlisted. On February 6th, Company G (Aiken Guards), Fairfield District's contribution, was assigned, thus forming the battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Strother James.
The battalion was assigned duty at the small rail stop hamlet of Adams Run, a destination many upstaters had never heard of . They would soon learn however, that this hamlet, situated 35 miles south of Charleston on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, was Headquarters for the Third Military District of South Carolina, Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The battalion was placed under the command of Brigadier General Nathan G. 'Shanks' Evans.
The threatened and eventual Federal occupation of Edisto Island subjected the unit to its first experience of the realities of war, although that experience was limited, as subsequent events would show. Duties involving the defense of the island and maintaining open rail communications between Charleston and Pocotaligo occupied much time during the winter months. An election of officers was held as part of a reorganization in late April. When the battalion was transferred from state service to Confederate service Both Lieutenant Colonel James and Major Rice were re-elected.
On June 14,1862, the unit was ordered to James Island but did not participate in the Battle of Secessionville. After a period of relative inactivity, the battalion was moved to Summerville where orders came in mid-July for transfer to Richmond, Virginia.
Upon arrival at the Confederate capital, the battalion joined the 50th and 51st Georgia Regiments, The Phillips Legion Infantry Battalion, and the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment to make up the brigade of General Thomas F. Drayton in General David R. Jones's Division. As a unit of this brigade, the battalion would sustain its highest casualty rate of the entire war during the first Maryland Campaign at the battle of South Mountain (Fox's Gap) on September 14,1862. Research reveals that of about 250 men engaged, 132 casualties resulted from this bloody engagement. Lieutenant Colonel James was killed in action and Major Rice was severely wounded. The battalion was so disabled that that three days later its performance at Sharpsburg added little to its well-earned battle reputation overall.
On November 15, 1862, the unit along with the 15th SC Regiment, was transferred to Kershaw's Brigade of which it would remain an integral part until the end of the war. The battalion participated in nearly all the battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. In September 1863 it was transferred to the Western Theatre and fought at Chickamauga and Knoxville. Returning to Virginia in the spring of 1864, engagements included the Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, North Anna River, Second Cold Harbor, Deep Bottom and the siege of Petersburg. Ordered to the Valley in mid-August, 1864, actions at Berryville, Strasburg, and Cedar Creek were added to its list of engagements. December found the battalion entrenched at Richmond until January 4 in the last year of the war when it was ordered south to oppose Sherman in his march through the Carolinas. Battles in North Carolina at Averasboro and Bentonville would be the last for the battalion.
The battalion consolidated with the 3rd and 8th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiments and a part of Blanchard's Reserves to form the new 3rd South Carolina Infantry Regiment at Smithfield, North Carolina, on April 9, 1865. At that time ,the soldiers had no way of knowing that the dramatic events unfolding that day in the little village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia would bring their long martial journey to an end. Their duty ended, the men of the battalion were paroled on May 2 following General Joseph E. Johnston's surrender to Major General William T Sherman at Greensboro, North Carolina , on April 26, 1865.
Very honorably indeed had the 3rd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Battalion performed its duty.
As a Unit Assigned to the Third Military District of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
Slanns Island (White Point) Edisto Island, SC (December 26, 1861)
Pineberry Point Edisto Island, SC (February 21, 1862)
As a Unit of General Thomas F. Drayton's Brigade
Second Manassas (August 28-30, 1862)
South Mountain-Fox's Gap (September 14, 1862)
Sharpsburg (September 17, 1862)
As a Unit of General Joseph B. Kershaw's Brigade
Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862)
Chancellorsville (May 1-2, 1863)
Salem Church (May 3, 1863)
Gettysburg (July 2, 1863)
Chickamauga (September 20, 1863)
Chattanooga Siege (September 21-November 4, 1863)
Campbell's Station (November 16, 1863)
Knoxville (November 18, 1863)
Knoxville Siege (November 19-December 4, 1863)
Bean Station (December 14, 1863)
The Wilderness (May 6 , 1864)
Spottsylvania Court House (May 8 , 1864)
North Anna River (May 23-26, 1864)
Second Cold Harbor (June 1- 3, 1864)
Petersburg Siege (June 18-August 7, 1864)
First Deep Bottom (July 28-29, 1864)
Berryville (September 3, 1864)
Strasburg / Hupp's Hill (October 14, 1864)
Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864)
Richmond Defenses (November 20, 1864-January 4, 1865)
Carolinas Campaign-Salkehatchie Line (January 7-February 18, 1865)
Averasboro (March 16, 1865)
Bentonville (March 19, 1865)
George Strother James - Appointed 2/2/62. Elected 4/28/62.
Killed 9/14/62 South Mountain ( Fox's Gap ).
William George Washington Rice - Promoted 9/14/62 upon death of Lt. Col. James. Retired 1/12/65 on Medical Certificate in consequence of wounds received at Knoxville 11/18/63.
George Strother James - Appointed 12/62. Appointed Lt. Col.
William George Washington Rice - Promoted 1/31/62. Elected 4/28/62.
George Martin Gunnels - Promoted 9/15/62. Resigned 4/27/63 , debility and effects of chronic rheumatism
Daniel B. Miller - Promoted 4/27/63. Wounded 7/2/63 Gettysburg never returned to active duty.
William C. Harris - Commissioned 1/31/61. Served throughout
Benjamin Sampson James - Commissioned 2/10/62. Resigned
3/18/63 , elected to represent Laurens District in the South Carolina
Edward S. Percival - Appointed 9/30/64. Resigned 11/22/64 , sickness.
Joshua Milton Townsend - Appointed (Acting ) 12/23/61.
Promoted Captain Company A 1/31/62.
Rufus D. Senn - Appointed 2/10/62. Resigned 5/1/62.
George Anderson Ligon- Appointed 2/10/62. Died 10/18/62 ,
William Drayton Nance - Appointed ( Acting ) 4/1/64
Robert Burns Ligon - Appointed 2/10/62. Promoted 5/20/62
Captain Company B.
Robert J. Nichols - Appointed 5/3/62
Horace V. L. Spriggs - Promoted by 4/26/65.
Simon Baruch- Commissioned 4/4/62. Transferred 8/64 to 13th
Jobe Johnstone Boozer- Commissioned 12/23/61. Served throughout war.
Richard Simpson Dunlap- Appointed 6/11/63. Paroled 5/2/65 at Greensboro, NC.
J. Pinckney Johnson - Commission or Appointment not yet verified.
John Woodson Ligon- Commissioned 11/27/61. Discharged 2/23/62.
J.F. Mackey - Appointed 4/7/63. Paroled 5/2/ 65 at Greensboro , NC.
John L. Speake - Appointment not yet verified.
William R. Stoddard - Appointed 4/30/62. Died in Richmond 8/25/62
William George Washington Rice - Commissioned 11/25/61. Promoted Major
Joshua Milton Townsend - Promoted 1/31/62. Killed 9/20/63 Chickamauga.
Joel W. Anderson - Promoted 9/20/63. Assigned 12/5/64 to Invalid Corps.
Alexander Adams King - Appointed 9/20/63 while POW at Johnson Island , Ohio.
John Griffin Williams - Commissioned 11/27/61. Elected 4/28/62. Resigned 5/20/62.
Robert Burns Ligon - Promoted 5/20/62. Resigned 6/16/62 , aneurysm of abdominal
Orasmus Allen Watson - Promoted 6/20/62. Killed 9/20/63 Chickamauga.
William A. Wells - Promoted 9/20/63. Killed 19/19/64 Cedar Creek.
Wesley S. Pitts - Promoted 10/19/64. Paroled 5/2/65 at Greensboro , NC.
James Jasper Shumate - Commissioned 11/29/61. Not elected 4/28/62.
Williamson L Hudgens - Elected 5/1/62. Died 7/2/62 , typhoid fever.
Albert Irby - Transferred into 3rd Battalion 6/16/62 (company ?).
George Michael Irby - Enlisted 7/1/62. Wounded 5/26/64 North Anna River. Never returned to duty.
George Martin Gunnels - Commissioned 12/1/61. Promoted Major 9/15/62.
John B. Harris - Promoted 9/15/62. Paroled 9/19/64 by Medical Examining Board in
consequence of wound received at Gettysburg 7/2/63.
Melmouth Milton Hunter - Commissioned 12/21/61. Not elected 4/28/62.
William H. Fowler - Elected 4/28/62. Resigned 4/20/63 , overage and debility.
Henry Harrison Kern Wier - Promoted 4/20/63. Killed 7/28/64 Deep Bottom.
Allen Watson Burnside - Promoted 7/28/64. Paroled 5/2/65 at Greensboro , NC.
Daniel B. Miller - Enlisted 1/30/62. Reelected 4/20/62. Promoted Major 4/27/63.
Edward S. Precival - Promoted 4/27/63. Appointed Quartermaster 9/30/64.
Robert S. Kirkland - Promoted 11/22/64. Served until end of war.
Augusts Preston Irby - Commissioned 2/6/62. Not elected 4/30/62.
Benjamin Marcus Whitener - Elected 5/1/62. Killed 10/19/64 Cedar Creek.
Robert Henry Jennings - D. Augustus Dickert writes that Jennings commanded the
battalion at Chickamauga as senior captain but research thus far has failed to determine
if and when he was promoted to that rank. Applied 7/29/64 for retirement in
consequence of wound received at Chickamauga 9/20/63.
Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State Of South Carolina
History of Kershaw-s Brigade- Dickert
Letters, Journals and Diaries of soldiers who served in 3rd Battalion
Muster Rolls and Lists of Confederate Troops Paroled in North Carolina
Newspapers- Charleston Daily Courier, Charleston Mercury, Fairfield News and
Herald, and Laurensville Herald
Compedium of the Confederate Armies South Carolina and Georgia- Sifakis
A History of the 3rd South Carolina Infantry: 1861- 1865- Wyckoff *