Below is a Brief Unit History given by the 23rd's Commanding Officers, Colonel
James H Huggins and Major William Barclay, to Col James Folsom by his request to create a Unit History, while the 23rd was
still in the field in the trenches of Petersburg, in 1864
Heroes and Martyrs
by James M Folsom
The following is a history of the 23rd Georgia
Regiment in the
words of their Commanding Officer
Petersburg, Virginia, August 3rd, 1864
.. Colonel Folsom,
---Dear Sir: I enclose to you a very imperfectly arranged history of the Twenty-third Georgia, prepared under circumstances
that make it next to impossible to make it what it should be.
.. No record of
battles, marches and events has been kept, consequently this report is made almost entirely from memory. Besides the foregoing,
we are constantly on the front lines, near the enemy, and have but little time to devote to such duties, notwithstanding we
feel deeply interested in your history of the regiments from our noble old mother State
With high regard and esteem,
..... Your obedient
..... James H Huggins,
..... Colonel commanding
Twenty-third Georgia Regiment
.. The Twenty Third
Georgia was organized at Camp McDonald, Georgia, on the 31st day of August, 1861, entirely composed of companies from the
Cherokee counties of Georgia, and were enlisted and mustered into the service for the war. The following are the names of
the officers commanding the companies, and the counties to which they belong:-
Company A Captain Benjamin G Pool, Bartow County
Company B Captain James H Huggins, Union County
Company C Captain Marcus R. Ballenger, Floyd
Company D Captain John Steel, Pickens County
Company E Captain Samuel Tate, Pickens County
Company F Captain Benjamine F. King, Cobb County
Company G Captain John A. Sharp, Cherokee County
Company H Captain Francic M. Young, Walker
Company I Captain Thomas Hutcherson, Gordon
Company K Captain William P. Barclay, Union
.. After the afore-mentioned
companies were mustered into service, the organization was perfected by the election of Captain Thomas Hutcherson to the Colonelcy,
Captain W.P. Barclay to the Lieutenant Colonelcy, and E.F. Best to Majority. Dr. S.W. Thompson recieved the appointment of
Surgeon, Dr. J.H. Spear that of Assistant Surgeon. Dr. William Bacon was appointed Assistant Quartermaster, Warren Moss, Commissary,
and C.C. Sanders, Adjutant.
.. The regiment
in Camp of Instruction until about the 10th day of November, 1861, when it was ordered to Richmond but a very short time,
it was ordered to Yorktown, where it remained until the evacuation of that place, which event occurred on the 3rd day of May,
1862. During this eventful siege the regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Barclay. While at this point it was assigned
to the brigade of General Rains, in the division of Major General D.H. Hill.
.. After the retreat
commenced, the regiment was on the field of the Battle of Williamsburg, but were not in the engagement. The hardships, privations
and sufferings endured during this tedious retreat, were very severe, and in the opinion of many, only excelled by the disastrous
retreat of Napoleon Bonaparte from Moscow. Certain it is, that no march or retreat during this war, can bear any comparison
to it. The Twenty Third suffered very severely, many men died from the sufferings and exposure they underwent; and when we
reached Richmond or it’s vicinity, not more then one half the men and officers reported for duty.
.. The Battle of
Seven Pines, fought upon the 31st day of May, 1862, was the first engagement in which this regiment was regularly engaged.
The regiment went into the fight commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Barclay with four hundred men, and lost eighty men killed
and wounded. After the fight was over, the regiment was publicly complimented by General D.H. Hill for the conspicuous gallantry
which it had displayed during the fight. He said that it was owing to the manner in which the Twenty-third Georgia had conducted
itself, that the tide of battle was turned in favor of the Confederate Army on that bloody day.
.. The next engagement
in which this regiment was a participant, was the Battle of Mechanicsville, which was fought on the 26th of June, 1862. In
this fight the command of the Twenty-third Georgia devolved upon Major Best. In this action the brigade was surprised and
thrown into confusion; but owing to the indefatigable exertions of Captain Huggins assisted by other officers, order was restored.
Captain Huggins retained command until the enemy had disappeared from our front. The loss in the twenty-third from this fight
was slight. The regiment was engaged in the Battle of Cold Harbor the same day, and two days afterwards participated in the
Battle of White Oak Swamp, and the day afterwards, was again engaged in the terrible Battle of Malvern Hill. In all these
engagements we were commanded by Captain Huggins, and lost very heavily in killed and wounded. Soon after the battles around
Richmond, Lieutenant Colonel Barclay was promoted to Colonel to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Colonel
Hutcherson, Major Best was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Huggins to Major.
.. The next active
service performed by the regiment, was during the world renowned campaign into the state of Maryland. The march was executed
without any incident connected with the regiment worthy of notice, until the Battle of South Mountain, or as it is perhaps
equally called, the Battle of Boonsboro, at which place the Twenty-third Georgia acted a very conspicuous part. It held a
very important position on the left of the turnpike, where it winds through a pass in the mountains, against very heavy odds,
and inflicted heavy loss upon the enemy. This position was held in the face of an overpowering foe, when our ammunition was
so nearly exhausted that we could only keep up a show of fight by an irregular, scattering fire. As evidence of the heat of
the engagement, the loss of this gallant regiment, amounting to ninety men killed and wounded, out of three hundred carried
into action, will sufficiently testify. In this fight at least seventy thousand Yankees were beaten back and kept back for
many hours by major General D.H. Hill’s Division alone.
.. After the death
of Colonel Barclay, Lieutenant Colonel Best was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Major Huggins to Lieutenant Colonel, and
Captain M.R. Ballenger to Major. All of these officers having been wounded, the command of the regiment devolved upon a captain
for several months, during which time the regiment marched with the army from the Potomac near Shepherdstown, to Fredericksburg,
the men suffering extraordinary privations upon the march, which was almost equal to the horrid retreat from Yorktown. Many
of the men without a murmur, walked barefoot through the snow for days, until the were ordered by General D.H. Hill to make
and wear raw hide moccasins, to which however they were very much opposed, as they were exceedingly uncomfortable.
.. Commanded by
Captain Sharp, the regiment was in the Battle of Fredericksburg, but was not closely engaged. the loss in this fight amounted
to only five killed and wounded. Shortly after this Colonel Best returned to the regiment, and was in command at the Battle
of Chancellorsville, which was fought May 2nd and 3rd, 1863. The Twenty-third Georgia was detached from the brigade to protect
a wagon train, while the army was making a flank movement. The enemy discovering our movement, and thinking that it was a
retreat of the entire army, ordered General Sickles to make a reconnoissance in force, to discover what our movement really
was. He obeyed the order, and at the head of twenty thousand men, marched down upon the devoted Twenty-third. He maneuvered
to capture the wagon train, but after considerable skirmishing, pending which the wagon train escaped, he only succeeded in
capturing one hundred ninety men and officers of this regiment. By thus standing our ground firmly against the outrageously
overwhelming numbers of the enemy, we saved the wagon train at the expense of the before enumerated prisoners. These same
were exchanged about three weeks afterward and returned to the regiment.
.. The regiment
shortly after this affair; on or about the 20th of May, was ordered to Kinston, North Carolina. After staying at Kinston a
few weeks, we were ordered back to Richmond to repel a raid of the enemy’s cavalry. Spending a few days at Richmond,
the regiment was ordered to Wilmington, North Carolina, where after staying a few weeks, it was ordered to Charleston, South
Carolina. Here it spent the winter of 1863, seeing during the time, a tour of eight days in Battery Wagner, which was certainly
the most disagreeable duty the members of the Twenty-third had ever before performed. Some of our best men were lost upon
this Island, number not remembered. Upon being relieved, we were placed on board the ill-fated steamer Sumter, which, as we
went up the harbor, was fired upon and sunk by our guns at Fort Moultrie; but were fortunately and almost miraculously, we
lost no men at all by the accident. The regiment was at this time commanded by Major Ballenger.
.. After the evacuation
of Morris Island, fifty men of the Twenty-third were detailed for duty in Fort Sumter, where the duties were very onerous
upon both officers and men, When the enemy landed upon John’s Island, who was gradually retiring before them,; but before
the brigade to which this regiment belonged, General A.H. Colquitt’s, got into position, they retired without giving
battle. Immediately after this little affair, the regiment with the brigade composed of the Sixth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third,
Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Georgia Regiments, was ordered to report to general Finnegan, who commanded the Floridians,
at Olustee in the State of Florida.
.. On the 20th day
of February, 1864, we met the enemy at Ocean Pond, and we can truly say “ veni, vidi, vici .” The battle was long
and bloody; but the dash and enthusiasm of our Southern boys could not be resisted. The Yankees fell into confusion, broke
and fled, throwing away guns, knapsacks, accoutrements, and everything which could impede a precipitate retreat. This was
one of the most signal victories that the God of war has ever allowed to perch upon our banners. The twenty-third Georgia
was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Huggins in this fight, and acquitted itself with honor. loss in this fight was seventy
five men out of three hundred. Very soon after the Battle of Ocean Pond, the regiment, and in fact the whole brigade, was
ordered back to Charleston, South Carolina. After remaining but a few days in Charleston, we were ordered to return to Virginia.
The regiment reached Petersburg to Drewry’s Bluff, around the flank of the enemy, with the remainder of the brigade,
as an escort to General Beauregard. The regiment was in the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff on the 16th of May, commanded by
Major Ballenger. The Twenty-third advanced with two other regiments of the brigade, half a mile in front of the main line
of our army, and drove the enemy from a thick piece of woods where they had taken position. We afterwards crossed the road
with the other regiments, in the rear of the enemy, and drove them from their breastworks, which they held in front of our
men. The victory over the Federals at this point was complete; but its results were not as great as might have been suspected,
for the great advantage we had gained over them was not followed up as it might have been, owing perhaps, or I should say
no doubt, to some cause which has not been made public, or which was not known to the army itself.
.. The next move
of the regiment was to Cold Harbor, where on the 1st and 3rd days of June it nobly repulsed the desperate charges of the enemy,
inflicting the most severe punishment on the drunken ramble of Grant. The ground was literally covered with the slain of the
enemy, with a very trifling loss on our part. The regiment was here commanded by Major Ballenger. This was the second time
this command had met the enemy upon the field of Cold Harbor, and the position of the Twenty-third was nearly identical with
that it occupied two years before, about the 27th or 28th of June, 1862.
move to the south side of the James caused another movement of the army; and Colquitt’s Brigade moved to Petersburg,
where it held an important position in the line during the siege, and repulsed two assaults of the enemy upon the line. The
labor and hardships were very severe here, but were well borne and endured with the greatest fortitude by the troops of a
young nation struggling to be free. Colonel Huggins, who had recreantly been promoted to fill the vacancy occasioned by the
dismissal of Colonel Best, commanded during the siege. The enlisted men borne their part most nobly throughout the war, and
deserve the highest plaudits of their countrymen.
.. The following
are the names of the persons noted for their gallantry, but not the want of proper records, the peculiar acts of bravery by
which they are distinguished, cannot be given.
.. Captain A. Young,
Company K; Captain M.R. Ballenger, Company C; Lieutenant William F Smith, Company I; Joseph Adkins, Company B; Lieutenant
J.M. Steel, Company I; Corporal J.M. Reeves, Company D; Privates R.C. Brock and John Hambrick, Company E; and Private E.D
Cullence; at Seven Pines.
.. Privates R.H.
Mcquire, H Elison, D.H. House, in the Battles before Richmond.
.. J.B. Fulton,
B.C. Fulton, J.A. Cosner, and L.P. Parker, Company I, at South Mountain, Maryland.
.. A great many
other officers and men have performed equally as gallant acts as those whose names appear above; but the officers commanding
have usually refused to make any distinctions where nearly all act their part well.
.. Owing to the
frequent changes in the officers commanding this regiment, there has been no correct record kept of dates , battles, &c.,
and I have been compelled to supply the dates in most cases myself. Many of them may therefore be incorrect, but they are
very nearly right. Below I subjoin a letter from Colonel Huggins, which will place him and his regiment right before the public,
as regards the limited material with which he has supplied me.
Following is a letter to the readers from the Author, Col James M Folsom
.. Owing to some
error, perhaps in my own calculations of statistics of this regiment, I am unable to make a correct balance. There is a difference,
however, of only three men, between the report handed me and my own calculation.
.. It will be seen
by the forgoing that the Twenty Third Georgia has lost by death three hundred and thirty seven men; by death, discharge, promotions,
transfers, &c., &c. six hundred and fifty. And counting the number of men who have been wounded, ( all of whom are
in all probability with the regiment now ) the loss which of coarse is partially temporary, amounts to nine hundred and ninety
Statistical Record of Twenty-third Georgia
These statistics came from "Heroes and Martyrs of Georgia" 1864
Number of men originally enlisted......794
Number of recruits received.......264
Number of conscripts received.......37
Number of men received by transfer....... 23
Number of officers received by appointment, election, promotion, and transfer.......
Total strength of Regiment...... 1131
Losses in Officers
Resigned for disability....... 24
Resigned for wounds....... 4
Resigned for other causes....... 6
Promoted to other commands....... 7
Killed in action....... 8
Died of wounds........ 3
Died of disease....... 2
.. Total loss in Officers....... 65
Losses in Enlisted men
Discharged for disability....... 109
Discharged by order....... 12
Discharged by civil authority....... 1
Discharged for promotion....... 8
Killed in action....... 103
Died of wounds....... 42
Died of disease....... 178
Missing in action and supposed dead....... 6
Wounded in action........ 340
Disabled by service........ 22
Actual loss of Regiment....... 642
Total both permanently and temporarily lost...... 990
Total loss by death....... 337
Basic History of the Regiment:
The Georgia 23rd Infantry Regiment, organized at Big Shanty, Georgia, on August 31st,
1861, contained men from Bartow, Henderson, Floyd, Pickens, and Cherokee counties. It moved to Tennessee, then was sent to
Virginia and assigned to the Department of the Peninsula. In April, 1862, it totalled 370 effectives and during the war served
under Generals Rains and Colquitt. The 23rd participated in the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from Williamsburg
to Chancellorsville , where more than 275 men were captured. It then was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina, and later
Florida. After fighting at Olustee the unit returned to Virginia, took part in the conflicts at Drewry's Bluff and Cold Harbor
, and endured the battles and hardships of the Petersburg siege. It lost 4 killed and 56 wounded at Gaines' Mill and Malvern
Hill , had 14 killed and 64 wounded in the Maryland Campaign, and 2 killed, 66 wounded, and 2 missing at Olustee . During
1865 it was active in North Carolina and surrendered with the
Army of Tennessee.
Crute states that this regiment was made up of men from Bartow, Henderson, Floyd,
Pickens, and Cherokee counties. Walker is not included.
History of the Unit:
The unit was formed at Camp McDonald from men of Bartow, Henderson, Floyd, Pickens, Cherokee,
Union, and Walker counties with Colonel Thomas Hutcherson, first commander. They were significantly engaged at Seven Pines
(May 1862) and in the Seven Days fighting (June/July 1862).
In the Antietam Campaign:
They were engaged on South Mountain at Turner's Gap on 14 September, and in the vicinity
of the Cornfield at Sharpsburg on the 17th. Colonel Barclay was killed in action at Sharpsburg while in command of the regiment,
his relief, Lt Colonel Emory Best was wounded, the command devolving on Major James H. Huggins, who was also wounded in action.
The remainder of the War: The Regiment was at Fredericksburg
(December 1862) and Chancellorsville (May 1863), where Colonel Best was the only serving officer who avoided capture, then
served with the rest of the brigade in North Carolina and in the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina. In February 1864
they were in Florida for the Battle of Olustee. After further service in South Carolina, they returned to Virginia in the
Spring of 1864.They were at Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, and surrendered in Goldsboro, North Carolina with
General Johnston's Army of Tennessee in 1865.