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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

J.T.L. Preston, a Founder of V.M.I. and One of Stonewall's Staff Officers

This is to help Richard Cheatham, VMI 1970.  f you are interested in honoring J. T. L. Preston, a founder of VMI and staff officer for Stonewall Jackson, please click on the following link.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Faces of the 12th Virginia Infantry ("Petersburg Regiment"): Allen Washington Magee, Another Brief Banner Carrier at Spotsylvania

Caption:  Allen Washington Magee

Credit:  George Seitz, “Allen Washington Magee,”, May 26, 2017

May 12, 1864 east of Heth's Salient at Spotsylvania was a very bad day for the 12th Virginia Infantry, the Petersburg Regiment.  After Federals from Burnside's Corps shot color bearer Ensign Ben May and his banner fell to Cpl. William Carrington Mayo.  Seconds later, another Unionist plugged Mayo and the flag fell again.  Pvt. Allen Washington Magee of the 12th's Company C, the Petersburg New or "B" Grays, seized the flag.  Magee had been a clerk in civilian life.  Burnside's bluecoats fled and the 12th's men searched for friends and relatives among the dead and wounded.  The remnant of the 12th’s color guard stood near a dogwood. A shell burst among these soldiers while First Lt. James Eldred Phillips of the 12th's Company G, the Richmond Grays, was talking to Pvt. Doncey Dunlop of the New Grays, recently returned to the ranks from a detail as wagon master with the regimental quartermaster. Two of the color guard died instantly. Magee, wounded in the left forearm, dropped the flag. Phillips ran around the dogwood and picked up the colors. Nearby Sgt. William Crawford Smith of the 12th's Company B, the Petersburg Old or "A" Grays, the lone member of the color guard still on his feet, had recovered from his wound of six days earlier. Phillips gave the flag to Smith, who got through the fight unscathed despite the hail of lead that the colors drew in his direction.  Smith had carried the regiment's colors into the Wilderness on May 6, 1864, but after being wounded then had turned them over to May.

Magee survived to become a first lieutenant and the 12th's color ensign October 28, 1864.  He and Pvt. Charles David "Charlie" Blanks laid down their arms at Appomattox after returning from furloughs, and did not received paroles but were not imprisoned.  Magee became a tobacconist after the war.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Faces of the 12th Virginia Infantry ("Petersburg Regiment"): William Carrington Magee, Carried the Colors Briefly at Spotsylvania

Caption:  William Carrington Mayo

Credit:  American Civil War Museum
East of Heth's Salient at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864, a savage melee erupted in front of the 12th Virginia's center and left with elements of Burnside's Corps.  Shot by a Federal, Ensign Ben May dropped the colors.  They fell to the Richmond Grays’ Cpl. William Carrington Mayo. A graduate of Yale fluent in a dozen languages, this engineer had returned from France on a blockade runner in early 1863 and immediately enlisted, refusing an officer’s commissioner. Mayo’s hold on the regiment's banner lasted just seconds. A Yankee drilled him in the chest and the colors fell again.

Soldiers from the Richmond Grays ending the war at Appomattox included Mayo, survivor of the bloodbath east of Heth’s Salient and by that time a sergeant.  After the war, Mayo became a prominent Richmond lawyer and businessman.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Faces of the 12th Virginia Infantry ("Petersburg Regiment"): Hugh Ritchie Smith, Helped Cease Fire after Longstreet's Wounding

Caption:  Hugh Ritchie Smith

Credit:  The City of Petersburg:  The Book of its Chamber of Commerce

Captain Hugh Richie Smith, a former clerk, had enlisted in the 12th Virginia's Company C, the Petersburg New Grays, on April 19, 1861.  He became a corporal on September 1, 1861, a sergeant on May 1, 1862, sergeant major on June 1, 1863, and the regiment's adjutant and a captain on November 21, 1863.  His brother was Sgt. William Crawford Smith, the architect of the Germanna Ford bridge in April 1863 and the 12th's last color bearer.  

At the battle of the Wilderness, after the 41st Virginia (or maybe the two companies of the 12th with the 41st) had shot Longstreet at the climax of his flank attack, Hugh Smith waved a handkerchief atop the point of his sword. The musketry quickly stopped. The eight companies with the 12th’s colors recognized the troops firing on them as men of their own brigade.

On June 12, 1864, at Cold Harbor, Hugh Smith informed Pvt. George S. Bernard of Company E ,author of War Talks of Confederate Veterans (1892) and Civil War Talks (2012), that the regiment had suffered 159 casualties since the campaign’s beginning, mostly in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania.

At the climax of the battle of Globe Tavern on August 19, 1864, according to The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, with the 12th and the rest of the Virginia Brigade facing envelopment, brigadier David A. Weisiger gave his horse to Hugh Smith and sent him to tell division commander William Mahone that the Unionists threatened to surround Weisiger’s force. On the way, Smith met courier Robert Randolph Henry bearing an order from Mahone for Weisiger to withdraw and reform.

During the retreat from the battle Burgess Mill on October 27, 1864, Smith Hugh Smith lent his horse to Cpl. John R. Turner of the 12th's Company E, the Petersburg Riflemen. The Riflemen’s Pvt. Richard Henry May mounted the animal, took Turner up behind him and eventually took him to safety through dark woods that helped swell the numbers of the 12th captured to 92, three of them wounded. 

Captain Smith surrendered at Appomattox.  After the war, he manufactured soap and candles and served as a state legislator.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Faces of the 12th Virginia Infantry ("Petersburg Regiment"): Wyatt Mosely Elliott, Involved in Booth Conspiracy

Caption:  Wyatt Moseley Elliott

Credit:  Virginia Military Institute

John Wilkes Booth stood in the ranks of the Richmond Grays at John Brown's hanging in 1859 while the Grays belonged to the 1st Virginia Infantry.  Detached from the 1st Virginia and dispatched to Norfolk under Capt. Wyatt Moseley Elliott, a Virginia Military Institute graduate and the Richmond Whig’s publisher, the Grays became Company G of the 12th Virginia in April 1861.  Elliott declined to stand for reelection in May 1862 and subsequently led the Richmond Battalion, the 25th Battalion Infantry, a local defense unit, as its lieutenant colonel.  Commanding the 25th Battalion, Elliott played a minor role in the conspiracy to kidnap Lincoln that led to his assassination by Booth.  Elliott returned to civilian life as a Richmond newspaper editor.  He also served as a state legislator.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Faces of the 12th Virginia Infantry ("Petersburg Regiment"): James Edward Tyler, Conducted 12th's Only Execution

Caption:  James Edward Tyler

Credit:  American Civil War Museum

Private James Edward Tyler may have stood in the ranks of the Richmond Grays with John Wilkes Booth at John Brown's hanging at Charles Town, Virginia in 1859.  At that time, the Grays belonged to the 1st Virginia Infantry.  Tyler was a building contractor in civilian life.  In 1861 the Grays were transferred to the 12th Virginia Infantry and sent to Norfolk, becoming the 12th's Company G.  Tyler rose through the ranks and reached the rank of captain by January 1863.  He commanded the bridge detail at Germanna Ford attacked on April 29, 1863 by the vanguard of the Federal army heading for Chancellorsville.  By November 1863, he had been exchanged and was charged with the execution of the only one of the 12th's soldiers ever shot for cowardice.  Tyler assumed command of the sharpshooter battalion of Mahone's Brigade on May 6, 1864, after the battalion's previous commander took charge of the 12th.  (At the same time the 12th's previous commander became its brigadier, the former brigadier William Mahone rose to division command and Fighting Dick Anderson, the former division commander, assumed command of Longstreet's Corps after Old Pete's wounding that day.)  Though wounded on May 24, 1864 when the division sharpshooters helped rout Ledlie's brigade of Burnside's Corps at the North Anna, Tyler returned to the ranks and surrendered at Appomattox. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Faces of the 12th Virginia Infantry("Petersburg Regiment") : Fielding Lewis Taylor, Mortally Wounded at Crampton's Gap

Caption:  Fielding Lewis Taylor

Credit:  Creative Commons, “Fielding Lewis Taylor,”, May 25, 2017

Norfolk-born Fielding Lewis Taylor, who resided in Gloucester County and had attended Washington College, became the 12th Virginia's first Lieutenant Colonel on July 1, 1861.  He was reelected to his position May 1, 1862.  At the battle of Seven Pines/Fair Oaks June 1, 1862, he took the colors away from a color bearer he thought had hesitated under fire.  Moments later, he defended the regiment against Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill's charge that the 12th had run.  Despite illness, he fought at Second Manassas/Second Bull Run on August 30, 1862.  Still too ill to take charge of the regiment at Crampton's Gap on September 14, 1862, Taylor accompanied the regiment bearing a gold-headed cane.  Taylor fell mortally wounded.  Private John E. Crow of the regiment's Company E, the Petersburg Riflemen, saved Taylor's cane by sticking it into the barrel of his fouled rifle.