In honor of the Anniversary of the Battle of South Mountain, 150 years ago today, the following posts first appeared on the blog of Antietam Battlefield Guide candidate Tim Ware (Bloody Prelude: The Battle of South Mountain) on Sep. 1, 2012, and Sep. 11, 2012.
Men of the Phillip’s Legion
Listed here are a few photographs of men that would find themselves fighting for
their lives during the savage afternoon fighting that would swirl around the
Daniel Wise Cabin at Fox’s Gap.
Captain Joseph E. Hamilton, Co. E: Born in April 1839, Captain Hamilton was only 23 when he lead his company into the maelstrom that was the afternoon fighting at Fox’s Gap. Commanding his company during the three regiment assault order by brigade commander Thomas F. Drayton, Hamilton would lead his company into the teeth of the massive Union 9th Corps. Under heavy musketry, the Hamilton would pull his men out of the fight but only after he was wounded and fortunately, he would be able to make his escape off the mountain. Hamilton would continue fighting until he was captured during the retreat to Appomattox. He would survive being sent to a northern prison and would live until 1907.
Captain James M. Johnson, Co. L: A native North Carolinian, Captain Johnson would spend much of his life living in Georgia where he would attend the Georgia Military Institute. He would serve in the 14th Georgia Infantry before returning to Georgia after being discharge for disability in December 1861. Not wanting to miss out on the war, he enlisted in what would become Company L, Phillips’ Legion and was given command of the company as it’s captain. Leading his company at South Mountain, Hamilton would be wounded in the thigh and the nature of his wound would cause him to fall into the hands of Union forces. He would be paroled and returned to Richmond by October 1862. He would survive the fighting at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg but would fall, mortally wounded, during the attack on Fort Saunders near Knoxville, Tennessee in late 1863.
1st Lieutenant Abraham Jones, Company D: Initially serving as part of a Georgia State Brigade, Lieutenant Jones would find himself serving in Phillips’ Legion in August 1861. Jones would serve with the regiment in the western Virginia campaign in late 1861 before the legion was sent back to the deep south to protect coastal areas. By July 1862, Jones was back in Virginia with the Legion as part of the newly created brigade of Thomas Drayton. During the ensuing campaign and victory at Second Manassas, Jones would write home that he believed the army was about to cross the Potomac. With his belief a reality,
Jones would march on the roads of western Maryland eventually reaching Hagerstown on September 11. On September 14, Jones would find himself marching back towards South Mountain. Arriving on the mountain, Jones would find himself at Fox’s Gap advancing through farmer Daniel Wise’s South Field and into a woodlot. Suddenly firing breaks out and after a severe firefight, Phillips’ Legion is forced from the field. Tragically, Jones would not be among the survivors. At some point during the fight, he would fall and he would be listed as killed as a result of the fighting. He would be buried with his fellow soldiers in mass graves in the fields around Fox’s Gap. Here he would rest until
the mid-1870’s when the Confederate dead were recovered, if possible, and
re-interred in Hagerstown, Maryland. If his grave was found, he is likely listed
as an unknown among the over 2,000 Confederates buried in Hagerstown.
Chaplain George Gilman Smith: Serving as the pastor of a small church in Georgia prior to the war, Chaplain Smith would find himself serving with the
Phillips Legion when war broke out. He would, to his disdain, receive the moniker “fighting chaplain”. Smith would find himself with the Legion’s battle
line as it advanced into Wise’s South Field at Fox’s Gap. With the advance and
confusion of the coming fight, Smith served as a sort of courier for the Legion
to help avoid a friendly fire situation and also to warn General Drayton of a
Union column advancing up the Old Sharpsburg Road. After warning Drayton, Smith saw that the Confederates were under fire from three directions. Rushing to warn the commander of the Legion, he saw them retreating in utter confusion. At this point, Smith would be severely wounded in the throat with a bullet entering his throat and exiting near his spine, paralyzing an arm. Smith would be carried off the field by a group of soldiers who believe his wound was mortal. Smith would survive his wounds and live until 1913. He wrote an account of his experience on the mountain that can be read here.
Remembering New Jersey’s Fallen
New Jersey, Adjutant-General’s Office. RECORD OF OFFICERS AND MEN OF NEW JERSEY IN THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865.[Trenton, NJ, John L. Murphy, Steam Book and Job Printer, 1876.] Two volumes. “Published by authority of the Legislature.” William S. Stryker, Adjutant General. (found online at the New Jersey State Library)