The 8th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment
By: Charles W. Watson
In 1887 Mrs. Hannah Lide Coker wrote: "When the
Confederate States were forced into war to repel the invasion of the United
States armies, my three sons at once offered their service as soldiers." Two of
Mrs. Coker�s sons, William and Charlie, enlisted in the 8th SC Regiment of
Volunteers along with approximately twelve hundreds others of their near
neighbors. Among this group were John Calhoun Wallace, John William Malloy
Wilkes, Hugh Alexander Douglas, his brother, Archibald McArthur Douglas, their
second cousins, John D., Hugh and Archibald McLucas, and James D. McMillian,
brother-in-law to the Douglases. This group of young men were from a line of
communities extending from Chesterfield, across the northern sections of
Darlington and Marlboro Counties, SC. Undoubtedly they either knew, or knew of,
each other before their great adventure. When the war was over only William
Coker, John Calhoun Wallace and John D. McLucas were alive. Charlie Coker died
at Malvern Hill; Hugh McLucas at Gettysburg; Archibald McLucas of disease 15
September 1863; Hugh Alexander Douglas at Hawes Shop, in connection with the
fight at Cold Harbor; John William Malloy Wilkes as a POW at Camp Chase,
Columbus,Ohio, having been captured just before Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah
Valley; James D. McMillian at Monroe's farm, just before the finale at
Bentonville and Archibald McArthur Douglas at Bentonville, nine days after
William Coker was wounded at Malvern Hill, by exploding cannon shot, as were most of the causalities of that fight. John Calhoun Wallace took a bullet at Chickamauga, which wound, according to family legend, was cleaned by passing a silk handkerchief through the wounded part of the body.
Each of these young men has a story that fits with the broader experience of the the 8th Regiment. For instance, Charlie Coker died at Malvern Hill, in action that he was not required to be in. His mother wrote: "After distributing ammunition to the men, and performing all his duties preliminary to the battle, he took a musket and accoutrements and went into the fight. His position exempted him from battle, and he should have remained with the ordnance train; but, remarking that he could not remain in the rear while his comrades went into danger, he stepped into line, and marched forward with them into the thickest of that terrible fight. There he offered up his precious life."
William Coker saw his brother fall, "but was impelled by stern duty to go forward with his men. After the battle, though himself wounded, he carried his brother in his arms from the battlefield. . . ." At Gettysburg, William was wounded again, and was captured, remaining a prisoner for twenty months. His story includes compassion form Northern business acquaintances who reached across the civil chasm to aid a Confederate soldier in need.
John Calhoun Wallace survived his Chickamauga wound to return home, where he married the young widow of James D. McMillan, and raised McMillian�s five year old son to manhood. A son of this marriage eventually married a grand daughter of John William Malloy Wilkes, who, when he marched off to war left two small sons, one of whom was practically blind. That blind boy was my great grandfather.
These young men of the 8th SC Regiment of Volunteers represent a set of soldiers who marched to their country�s call in 1861, and are typical of numerous other sets, whose stories remain largely untold. The goal of this writing project is to tell the story of the 8th with emphasis on the man in the trenches, the common soldier, rather than the officers on horse back. It is intended to capture their thoughts and feelings and report them in their words to the extent possible. It has rightly been said that no unit of the American Civil War saw harder service or participated in more severe fighting than Kershaw�s Brigade, of which the 8th was an integral part.
I�m flattered and humbled to be invited to participate in such a worthy project as this one which seeks to illuminate the contribution Kershaw�s Brigade made to United States History by focusing on its Regimental Histories. Such a project as I envision requires that I compile the stores of the participants, and weave them into the larger picture of what they did in their marching and fighting. Thus I invite any and all who are descended from these men, who know of letters, stories, legends, genealogies, etc. to correspond with me, that the picture I develop of their great adventure may be made more complete.
Charles W. Watson
Thatcher, Az, 85552