The 51st Georgia Regiment, Civil War

Milo Grow in the Civil War

The 51st Georgia Regiment

Records of the 51st Georgia regiment are sparse. At times it is difficult to tell where Milo and his regiment were stationed. Here is what I have been able to find.

March 1862.

Stationed at Camp Davis, near enough to make a trip to Savannah and Charleston on company business. The regiment was just being formed. Slaughter of Albany appointed Colonel of the regiment. Milo was in Savannah when the Federals attacked Fort Pulaski April 10, 1862. (Source: his letters.)

May 1, 1862.

Letter from Camp Calhoun, in sight of Port Royal or Beaufort Island. This places him between Savannah and Charleston. Moved to Adams Run, about eleven miles from Charleston. (From letters.)

May 24, 1862.

Rantowles, Colleton District, South Carolina. About 12 mi SW of Charleston. (Letters.)

June 20, 1862.

James Island, fives miles from and in sight of Charleston. He relates having been in the battle of Seccesionville, though not under fire. This battle took place a few miles southeast of Charleston. (Letters.)

Milo dated a letter from James Island on June 26. He was standing picket within a half mile of the enemy camp. He reports picking up a butter knife on the Seccessionville battlefield that belonged to S.C. Spence of the 8 Michigan regiment. (Letters.)

There is a gap in Milo’s letters from this time till Fredericksburg, November 1862. Since the letters place him at James Island, he could not have been in the battle of Williamsburg under General Semmes, nor at Seven Pines, and he could not have been in much, if any, of the Seven Days battle around Richmond. CMH (p. 124) claims the 51st Georgia was in these battles, but offers no documentation.

 

Late July, 1862.

The next record places the 51st Georgia at Manassas (Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.). They marched in Drayton’s Brigade, D.R.Jones’s division, under Longstreet, passing through Thoroughfare Gap, to fight at Second Manassas, late July 1862 (Confederate Military History VI, p. 180). In that battle the 51st Georgia lost 9 men (CMH VI, p. 184).

My guess is that Milo’s regiment was called up from Charleston to reinforce Semmes’s brigade after it suffered heavy losses at Malvern Hill during the Seven Days. According to Lee’s Lieutenants, Drayton’s command was a disaster, and he was relieved of it and his regiments transferred to other commands. Sometime in 1863, the Georgia 51st came under the command of General Semmes of Georgia.

Sept. 17, 1862.

CMH describes Semmes’s brigade as being hurried northward to join Lee just before he entered Maryland. They crossed the Potomac while Jackson was capturing Harper’s Ferry, and delayed as much as possible the advance of McClellan at Crampton’s gap and South Mountain. [Semme’s defense of Crampton Gap was crucial in the battle.] On Sept. 17, 1862, the bloodiest day of the war, Semmes’s brigade was engaged with the rest of McLaws’ division in some of the hardest fighting at Sharpsburg [Antietam] (CMH VI, p. 436). At Sharpsburg, McLaws’ division engaged in heavy fighting in the West Woods area.

November 1862 to May 23, 1863.

Milo Grow’s letters provide a brief account of the battle of Fredericksburgh (about 50 miles south of Manassas), beginning in November 1862 and covering the two main days of fighting, Dec. 15 and 16 (Dec. 13 had been his second wedding anniversary).

By means of his letters and the maps at the battlefield headquarters, Milo’s position is pretty well known at Fredericksburgh, just south of Lee’s headquarters, on what is now Lee Road, in trenches along the ravine facing the town and river. A

As his letters relate, he moved the second day, to a location overlooking the town, with many wounded in sight, expecting the enemy to attack again just at that point. As Lee’s Lieutenants points out, Cobbs Georgians, who defended the Stone Wall during the first day of Fredericksburgh, were replaced by Semmes’s brigade the second day. The description in Milo’s letter seems to confirm this position for Semmes’s brigade on December 16. Maps in the Fredericksburgh office have Kershaw’s brigade at the Stone Wall on the second day, but do not mention Semmes’s. Milo’s letters seem to place him, and the Semmes brigade, at the wall Dec. 16, 1862.

May 1, 1863.

Milo and both armies wintered over in and around Fredericksburgh, then the north attacked Lee’s position in the battle of Chancellorsville. In a letter, Milo regrets he has not felt like describing that battle. His brigade appears to have played a major role in the battle of Chancellorsville.

The 51st Georgia fought in Semme’s Brigade, McLaw’s Division, in the First Corps, where they played a major role in the battle. Confederate Military History, VI, relates:

“Semmes’ brigade…fought on the line confronting the forward movement of [Northern General] Hooker from Chancellorsville. It was the chief participant in the defeat of Sykes’ division of the United States regulars on May 1st, the Fifty-first Georgia bearing the brunt of the fight. Col. W. M. Slaughter, ‘the gallant leader of the Fifty-first,’ received his death-wound early in the action, and a little later Lieut.-Col. Edward Ball was wounded in the head. As the Federal lines gave way on Sunday morning, McLaws and Anderson pressed forward to a union with Jackson’s corps…. The brigade now received orders to move down the turnpike in the direction of Fredericksburg to meet the enemy under Sedgwick [at Salem Church], pushing forward they came under severe fire…General Semmes said:’ This battle was one of the most severely contested of the war…The brunt of the battle fell upon this brigade….’ The brigade during the three days’ battles captured 595 prisoners and nearly 1,500 small-arms, and inflicted terrible casualties upon the enemy. Its own loss was very heavy, 577 killed and wounded.” (CMH VI, p. 215-6)

July 1-3, 1863.

The 51st Georgia fought at Gettysburg in Longstreet’s Corps, McLaws’ Division, Semmes’s Brigade. On the march into Gettysburg, Longstreet’s Corps brought up the rear, so Semmes’s Brigade did not arrive until mid-afternoon of the second day, July 2, 1863. General Kershaw, whose troops moved alongside Semmes’s during this attack, published a detailed account of this action.

In one of the letters from Fredericksburgh, Milo mentions that he applied for admission to the Engineering Corps about to be formed, and has the support of Col. Slaughter. If he got into the engineering corps, he might not have been with the the 51st Georgia at Gettysburg. So far, though, there is no reason to believe he was not with the 51st Georgia at Gettysburg.


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