The Savannah Volunteer Guard




War and Military Action

The War Between the States

The Company Becomes a Battalion

The people of the southern states, while earnestly desiring that peace should be preserved, and not believing that their withdrawal from the Union, if it should occur, would be any excuse for a breach of it, were determined to be prepared fo any event. And in Georgia, and every other southern state, new companies of volunteers were formed, and multitudes flocked to the standards of those already formed. This was most notable in Savannah.

The membership of the Savannah Volunteer Guard (also called the Corps), as a prosperous and powerful organization, was increased by the induction of many new members. Althoughn unappreciated at the time, the Corps had reached a turning point in his history; where either expansion or division was inevitable. Happily, and almost fortuitously, it escaped the latter fate.

In the summer of 1860, Captain John Screven and Lieutenant William S. Basinger went for a ride one afternoon. Must of their conversation centered upon the affairs of the Corps. Said one, "What an admirable battalion they would make." Instantly the response came," Why should we not make it one?" A rapid review followed on the condition and prspects of the Corps. If their numbers continued to increase, there seemed to be no obstacle in the way.

It's possible that, in time, the suggestion may have occurred naturally, and by someone else. But the formation of the battlaion was first projected by the two officers, and on the aforementioned occasion. If not for that casual conversation, the Corps may have been shorn of its members, and absorbed entirely into the regiment into which it was then attached and thus would have lost its separate identity. It also likely would have been captured at Fort Pulaski, and after exchange, would have been sent to the Army of Tennessee. But as a consequence of the purpose then formed and soon carried into effect, it maintained its independent existence throughout the war under its own name, took a conspicuous part in the defgense of Charleston under Beauregard, served in the army of Northern Virginia under the immortal General Lee, won its honors and suffered its reverses for itself, and now occupies a leading place among the volunteers of Georgia.

  • Georgia, by ordninance of her convention, seceded on January 19, 1861, and prepared to defend herself.
  • Colonel John Screven (1858 – 1862) reorganized the “Guards” into an infantry battalion with three companies. This was due to much talk on possible war with the Northern States.
  • January 2, 1861: the governor of Georgia ordered that the “Guards”, along with the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, and the Chatham Artillery, to occupy Fort Pulaski. At the time it was defended by a lone Union Sergeant.
  • May 31: The “Guards” were mustered into Confederate Service. General Lawton assigned the “Guards” as Infantry to man the batters at Thunderbolt. This area is now known at Battery Point.
  • The “Guard” was assigned to Ft Screven on Green Island. Ft Screven is located on the south end of Green Island opposite Hells Gate.
  • April 13, 1862: The “Guards” were ordered to Fort Boggs, located on the Savannah River. The Savannah Golf Club now occupies this area. In late 1862, the “Guards” were assigned the designation of 18th Georgia Battery of Infantry.
  • June 9, 1863: The “Guards” were ordered to protect Railroad bridges over Turtle and Altamaha Rivers near Darien, Ga.
  • July 9, 1863: The “Guards” were ordered to Charleston, South Carolina. The enemy had occupied Morris Island, and hasty defenses were initiated. The “Guard” was rushed to Battery Wagner, not a minute too soon. Within hours after arriving at Wagner, The enemy attacked and was repelled by the “Guards” and German Volunteers from Savannah. Seven members of guards were wounded. Sgt Postell, Pvt Jason Bryant, A.P.Molley, J.A.Santina. Also wounded were Lt Tupper, Pvt Cornell, and Pvt Osmond. Later, Sgt John Lee died of his injuries.
  • The enemy took over Morris Island and began to attack Fort Sumter. The “Guards” stayed at Wagner under continuing fire.
  • September 18, 1863: Guards sent to Fort Marion on Sullivan Island a short distance from Mt Pleasant. The armament was 8 & 10 inch Columbiad and the Brooke gun.
  • May 1864: Command of Sullivan’s Island was given to Major Basinger and the “Guards” shortly after Beauguard ordered 12th Georgia battalion and the “Guards” to train to be a part of General Lee’s Army of North Virginia. The “Guards” were assigned to Mattoax in Amelia County. They were to guard the bridges South of Richmond.
  • October 1864: The “Guards” were ordered to Chafin’s Bluff on the James River South of Richmond.
  • April 2, 1864: The “Guards” along with several other Georgia units were ordered to Chafin Bluff. They headed south, and joined the Regular Army, ending up in the area of Sailors Creek South of Farmville, VA. They had their first meal in several days, consisting of rusty bacon and corn grits.
  • General Lee’s Regular Army continued on to the Amelia Court House. The “Guards” and other units, under the command of General Curtis Lee (nephew of General Lee) formed a rear guard for the Regular Army so they could escape to North Carolina. However, the rear guard was overwhelmed.
  • General Lee asked for a meeting with General Grant and arranged for the surrender of his Army, thus ending the WAR BETWEEN THE STATES.
  • The “Guards” fought valiantly against two Regiments, of eight Companies each. The 121st New York and the 37th Mass. There were only 29 men left when Major Basinger ran up the white flag. The “Guards” flag was captured. A member of the 121st New York Regiment, Private Warren C, Dockum presented the flag to Colonel Olcott, Commander of the 121st New York Regiment.
  • The desperate character of the fight may be inferred from the number of killed and wounded. The killed of the “Guards”, including those not slain on the spot, but who died afterwards of their wounds, were as follows:
    • Company A Lieutenants William H King and Frederick Tupper
    • Sergeants Richard Millen and William Bennett
    • Privates Henry Cook ,E.L.Gordon , J.W. Myddleton, John Vicars and B.Green
    • Company B Lieutenants George D Smith and William D Grant
    • Sergeants Chase B.Postell, Simeon Morton, and E.C.Wade
    • Privates Percy Elliott, F.Kreeger. Joseph A.Guerard, E.L.Barie, and Jason C.Bryan.
    • Company C Captain Gilbert C. Rice
    • Lieutenants George M.Turner and Eugene Blios
    • Sergeant George James
    • Corporal William H.Rice
    • Privates B.Abney, Alfred O Browne, Jacob Gould, John H McIntosh, E.A.Papy, and B.J. Rouse

Text courtesy of History of the Savannah Volunteer Guards, Inc. 1802-1992 by Henry J. Kennedy.