The Savannah Volunteer Guard

 


 

 

The Guard's Flag

The Flag shown above was carried by the “Guards” from 1863 to April 1865. It was captured by the 121st New York Volunteers during the battle of Saylors Creek south of Farmville,Virginia. Pvt Dockum a member of the 121st who captured the flag was awarded the Metal of Honor. Pvt Dockum gave the flag to Colonel Olcott,Commander of the 121st.

This flag is stored at the Savannah History Museum and is exhibited on Special occasions. (See Museum in this website)

The original Savannah Volunteer Guard flag was created in 1861 by Mary Marshall, wife of Captain James Marshall; second commander of the guards. This flag was carried by the Guards from 1861 to 1863. During that period the Guards carried the flag in the takeover of Fort Pulaski, and at defensive positions at Darien, GA, and manning the Artillery emplacement at Battery Point on Whitmarsh Island and Artillery emplacement at Fort Screven located on Green Island in defense of naval attack south east of Savannah. The last assignment was Battery Wagner and Marion in defense of Charleston, SC. The flag was in a weathered condition to the point that Major Basinger commissioned a local firm to make a copy of the original. This copy of the original flag was captured at Saylor Creek as stated above.

In addition to the flag history of the Guards, the Savannah Volunteer Guards were designated the 18th Georgia Battalion in 1861 by the state of Georgia. The 18th Georgia Flag was also captured at Saylor Creek according to LTC Harris, who was serving as federal advisors to the Guards. Colonel Harris stated he found the 18th Georgia flag in the Confederate Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

The Guard Uniform

The Guards, pledged to the defense of Georgia during the War Between the States, and desiring to prepare themselves most effectively for that duty, understood well that their handsome uniform was not suited to active service in the field. They made haste, therefore, to provide themselves with a uniform better adapted to that purpose.

An ample supply of coarse, but stout, dark gray cloth was procured, of which a service uniform was made. The new uniform consisted of a short coat and pantaloons, both edged with small scarlet cord; reminiscent of their old uniform, which was not permanently abandoned, but only temporarily laid aside. For the same reason, they discontinued the use of white belts, a circular belt for the cartridge box and cap pouch, and a shoulder belt for the baoynet sheath, which had been issued to them with their new arms.

Surmounted by a gray kepi with the initial letters of the name of the Corps on the fron tin scarlet, this uniform, though not attractive upon the person of a single man, gave a most attractive appearance to the Corps as a whole, was much admired, and very generally imitated. It led, indeed, to the choice of gray as the color of the Conferederate uniform. Captain Bartow, Commander of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, who was a member of the first Confederate Congress and chairman of the military committee of the House of Representatives, insisted on the adoption of gray as the color of the uniform prescribed for the Army of the Confederate States after he had seen the gray service uniform of the Guards. When these uniforms wore out, they were replaced with the uniform of the Confederate Infantry issued by the government.

Official Insignia

The original Coat of Arms, or official insignia (shield) of the 118th Field Artillery Battalion, appears on the Battalion standard and is also worn on the blouse shoulder strap by members of the battalion. As such, the Savannah Volunteer Guards wore the insignia.

The original description (not pictured here) was written formally, in the language of "heraldry" by the Office of the Quartermaster General of the War Department in Washington, DC.

  • Shield: Gules, a saltire gray fimbriated or, in chief, a lion passant guardant, in base a fleur-de-lis of the last.
  • Crest: That for the regiments of the Georgia National Guard: On a wreath of the colors (or and gules) a boar's head erased gules, in the mouth an oak branch vert fructed or.
  • Motto: Nescit cedere (He knows no surrender).

How to make sense of heraldry.
The shield-shaped field of the coat of arms is divided into areas. There are essentially three horizontal areas and two "sides". The topmost third of the shield is the "chief"; the middle third is known as "fess"; and the bottom third of the shield is called the "base". The two sides are dexter and sinister. The designations "dexter" (Latin: "right") and "sinister" (Latin: "left") are given from the point of view of the warrior behind the shield.

Gules
Red (denotes Artillery)
Or
Gold
Saltire
X-cross
Grey
(represents Civil War Service as Confederate Troops
Fimbriated
small strips of color placed around common charges or ordinaries, usually in order for them to stand out from the background
Lion
(denotes service during the American Revolutionary War)
Passant
an attitude of an animal
Guardant
walking forward and facing outward toward the viewer
Fleur-de-lis
French for "lily flower" (denotes service during WWI)
Erased
head of an animal or other bearing having the appearance of being forcibly torn off, leaving jagged or uneven ends.
Fructed
bearing fruit

More detail is available in History of the Savannah Volunteer Guards, Inc. 1802-1992 by Henry J. Kennedy.