The 17th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry
Please note: This page has a number of small images. Each has a larger, clearer version that can be viewed by clicking the small image.
For the men of the 17th South Carolina Infantry the campaigning of Second Manassas started with their regiment being "Nationalized" by the Confederate government. Then on, July 21, 1862, more than a month before the battle they were ordered to Richmond, VA. They broke camp and boarded the railroad. After a stop in Wilmington, N.C. they arrived in Richmond, VA. on July 24, 1862. The latter part of this trip was most likely on the Weldon Railroad which figured in the 17th's part of the Petersburg Siege. They remained in the city until July 28, 1862. They then marched east on the Darbytown Road (Click the image on the right to see this area today) to the area of the outer defenses of the city. Here they established, Camp Mary, named for the wife of Col. F.W. McMaster, their second in command. This area is about five miles South Southeast of the present Richmond International Airport. While at Camp Mary they built fortifications involved in protecting the city from the Union Army under the command of General George B. McClellan.
Capt. William Edwards of Co. A, 17th S.C. Inf. states in his writings that the weather was hot and steamy. Records indicate that the temperatures were in the 90s each day. This is typical Virginia weather for that time of the year. However, it surely made the work of digging and felling trees at the fortifications difficult. They were also envolved in a battle near Malvern Hill during this period.
On the night of August 13, 1862, the 17th S.C. Inf. was ordered to return to Richmond City where they again boarded the railroad. Lee had realized that another Union Army was roaming in Northern Virginia. The free movement of this army, commanded by General Pope, along with General McClellan's army, already in the vicinity, meant that the two armies could put Richmond in a fatal vice. The loss of Richmond would do serious psychological damage to the Confederate war effort, and take the capital and its industry away from the the Confederate Army. He had decided to attack.
train took the 17th S.C. Inf. to Gordonsville, VA. (Click images both left
and right to see Gordonsville station area today) Where they dismounted and
marched about three miles back down the railroad line in the direction of
Richmond and camped. Today at this location is a small village name, Meltons.(click
image to see this area today)The idea behind this and the circuitus route
used to reach Pope's army was apparently to hide the true size and purpose
of this force's movement. A number of Civil War era buildings still exist
in Gordonsville. To see a couple of these buildings, which the Lathans must
have seen while there click the two images below.
On August 16, 1862, the 17th S.C. Inf. along with the rest of Evans' Brigade and Longstreet's Corps left the Gordonsville area and started off for Manassas Junction. They arrived at Rappahannock Station on the evening of August 22, 1862, and camped. The next morning they were part of the artillery duel, mostly victims, between the Union and Confederate Armies. After taking time to see to their dead and wounded they again moved, by way of Jefferson, VA and Hinson's Ford.
On August 27, 1862, they arrived at The Plains, VA. The next day two brigades of Longstreet's Corps were used to dislodge the Union troops on the hill above Thoroughfare Gap. Taking the gap by force, General Longstreet's Corps marched through on the morning of August 29, 1862 and united with General Jackson's Corps. They approached the Manasas area by way of Gainesville and Haymarket. These two towns are today busy "bedroom" subburbs of Washington, D.C. occuppied by commuters working in Washington. (click the image to the left to see the grade crossing of the CSX Railroad line, then the Manassas Gap Railroad and the Warrenton Road, today U.S. 29)
On, August 30, 1862, the Confederate troops attacked
the Union line. (click the image to
the left to see a map of their position and movement on the battlefield) The
fighting continued until sundown. Between 4:00P.M. and 6:00 P.M. Evan's Brigade
was ordered to attack the Union line on the high ground of the Chinn farm.
This area is called, Chinn Ridge. The fighting was ferioucious. Union artillery
commanded Chinn Ridge along with multiple lines of infantry. However, the
Union lines eventually faltered and then were forced off the ridge. They retreated
in disarray East and Northeast toward the Stone House at the intersection
of Sudley Road and the Warrenton Road. Here they organized enough to prevent
a complete rout but the battle was over. The Confederate troops had taken
the field. General Pope's army continued its hasty, semi-organized retreat
across the Potomac and back into Washington, D.C.
(Click the images below to see what they saw... less the carnage.)
The Second Battle of Manassas was a definite victory for the Confederate Army but it had cost the 17th S.C. Infantry, and the entire Confederate Army dearly. The Commanding Officer of the 17th Infantry Regiment, Col Means, was wounded and died the day after the battle ended. He was a former South Carolina Governor. The rank and file also paid dearly. Capt. William Edwards of Co. A, states in his writings that 75 percent of the men were either killed or wounded. Offical "Returns" indicated this number was somewhat lower, nearer 66 percent. Either way, whether 3/4 or 2/3 wounded and dead, the price was horrendous.
Pvt. Samuel Boston Lathan wrote in his memoirs that he remembered the battle and its aftermath. He also said he wished he didn't remember it. He said that he was part of a burial detail that picked up the Confederate dead and buried them. He described the mass grave as about two feet deep. The bodies were lined up side by side in the trench. They were covered with brush and a little soil. After this detail he said he walked the battlefield and wished he hadn't done that either. He described the battlefield as covered with bodies of both wounded and dead of both armies. Mingled with the human bodies were animals and every sort of broken and useable equipment from both armies. Samuel Boston Lathan also described a clearing in a small valley, probably the small valley beyond Chinn Ridge. In an area he described as no larger than two acres he said there were at least 100 dead laying on the ground. He said that right then he decided that he hoped he would never have to see anything like it again... He did. So did many others.
Those buried by his, and other burial details like his, were lucky because many were not buried at all. And even those who were buried were buried in hasty, shallow graves such as he described. A few years later, soon after the war had ended, ladies from the Confederate Dames had about three hundred of these dead, who had become uncovered by errosion and farming, or who were never buried, buried in a mass grave on Groveton Plantation. This cemetery is on a small hill about one mile west of the intersection of Sudley Road and U.S. 29. (click image to the right to see photo of this cemetery) Of the nearly three hundred graves only two are marked. (click image to left to see one of the two marked graves-a S.C. soldier) Most Civil War soldiers did not wear durable identification. A few did, but many had nothing to identify themselves other than where they fell. The location of there hasty graves described above did make for identifing the state they served but that was all.
Pvt. Samuel Boston Lathan stated that the 17th Inf. Regt. camped on Young's Branch or Chinn's Branch the night after the battle and until they left for Maryland the second day after the battle. If one looks at the battlefield from the point of view of a soldier, it is almost certain that they camped on Young's Branch which was behind the Confederate line. Although the Union Army was beaten and retreating, Union wounded were almost certainly still in the vicinity of Chinn's Branch and the crossroads at Stone House just beyond. That would have made that area somewhat dangerous to camp near. In many instances a wounded man can still fire a rifle.
One last image that might be of interest is the one to the left. (click the small image on the left to see a larger version) This is an overseers house on what was Groveton Plantation. The "Plantation House" of the Dogans had burned a couple of years before the battle and the Dogan family had taken up residence in this overseers house. Generals Lee and Jackson ate dinner in this home the night before the battle. The original home of the Dogans, about a quarter of a mile east of this location, was rebuilt and is used today by the U.S. Park Service.