A. P. Hill's Light Division
|A.P. Hill's Light Division|
|Allegiance||Confederate States of America|
|Part of||Army of Northern Virginia|
|Engagements||Seven Days Battles
Battle of Cedar Mountain
Battle of Sharpsburg
Battle of Chancellorsville
A. P. Hill's Light Division was an infantry unit in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Originally composed of six brigades, it was initially commanded by General A. P. Hill. In a revised form, the Light Division was later commanded by William Dorsey Pender and Cadmus M. Wilcox.
Created in the late spring and early summer of 1862, the Light Division was composed of six brigades from six different Confederate states. The First Brigade was a Virginia Brigade under command of General Charles W. Field. It was initially composed of the 40th, 47th, 55th, and 60th Virginia Infantry regiments. This brigade was later commanded by Henry Heth and John Brockenbrough. The Second Brigade was a South Carolina Brigade commanded by Maxcy Gregg. This famous brigade became known as the Gregg-McGowan Brigade (Samuel McGowan being the other major commander). The South Carolina Brigade consisted of the 1st South Carolina Rifles (Orr's Rifles), 1st South Carolina, 12th South Carolina, 13th South Carolina, and 14th South Carolina.
The Third Brigade was composed of Georgia troops. Initially commanded by Joseph R. Anderson, the brigade was mainly commanded by General Edward L. Thomas. It consisted of the 14th Georgia, 35th Georgia, 45th Georgia, and 49th Georgia.
The Fourth and Sixth Brigades were made up of North Carolina infantry. Lawrence O'Bryan Branch's brigade consisted of the 7th North Carolina, 18th North Carolina, 28th North Carolina, 33d North Carolina, and 37th North Carolina. This unit was later commanded by General James H. Lane. William Dorsey Pender's Brigade consisted of the 16th North Carolina, 22d North Carolina, 34th North Carolina, and 38th North Carolina. This brigade was later commanded by Alfred Scales.
Finally, the fifth brigade was a mixed command of Alabama and Tennessee regiments under James J. Archer. It consisted mainly of the 5th Alabama Battalion, 1st Tennessee, 7th Tennessee, and 14th Tennessee. It was commanded late in the War by William McComb.
Artillery batteries including Andrews' (Maryland) battery, Bachman's (South Carolina) battery, Braxton's battery, Fredericksburg (Va.) Artillery, Crenshaw's (Virginia) battery, Davidson's battery, Letcher (Va.) Artillery, Johnson's (Virginia) battery, Master's (Virginia) battery, McIntosh's Battery, Pee Dee (S. C.) Artillery, and Pegram's (Virginia) battery were also attached to the Light Division.
The Light Division saw its first action as a unit in the Seven Days campaign as part of James Longstreet's wing of the Army. (Some of the units had seen action prior to this, however.) It was heavily engaged at Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, and Glendale.
After A.P. Hill engaged in a newspaper feud with Longstreet, the Light Division was transferred to Stonewall Jackson's wing of the Army. With Jackson, the Division again was heavily engaged at Cedar Mountain. It then took a conspicuous role on the defense at Second Manassas.
The Light Division earned its place in history on Lee's First Invasion of the North into Maryland. Left behind to parole captured Union troops at Harpers Ferry, Hill and his men were not initially on the battlefield at Antietam. Leaving early on the morning of September 17, 1862, Hill's men completed the 17 miles (27 km) march in time to arrive and save Lee's Army which was at that moment facing destruction from the advancing Army of the Potomac. In the battle, General Branch was killed.
This was the Light Division's finest day.
The Division last served together as a unit at Chancellorsville where the 18th North Carolina of Lane's Brigade had the misfortune of mortally wounding Jackson. In the same rash of firing, A.P. Hill was also wounded, though his wound proved minor.
After Jackson's death, Lee reorganized his Army. A.P. Hill was given command of the Third Corps and the Light Division was changed. Two of the brigades—the Virginia Brigade and Archer's Brigade—were placed in a new division under Henry Heth. The remaining brigades stayed together. Heth was actually the Division's senior brigade commander, but Hill preferred Pender to have command of his old division, writing "Gen. Pender has fought with the Division in every battle, has been four times wounded and never left the field, has risen by death and wounds from fifth brigadier to be its senior, has the best drilled and disciplined Brigade in the Division, and more than all, possesses the unbounded confidence of the Division."
Parts of the Division were engaged on July 1 and July 3 at Gettysburg. Here, General Pender was mortally wounded on July 2 as he moved to engage his men. The Division fought under Isaac R. Trimble in Pickett's Charge on July 3.
The Light Division was never the same without A.P. Hill at its head. It continued to exist under Cadmus Wilcox and fought, notably, in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg campaigns.
The name may have been a reference to the famous British Light Division. Or it may have been meant as ironic given that the Division was the largest in the Army. It may also be the case that Hill simply named the Division the "Light Division" to instill a sense of speed, esprit de corps, and because he envisioned great things for it. The reasons for this name are ultimately unclear. The first official reference to the "Light Division" was in a routine communique from Hill's headquarters soon after he took command of the Division.
- Schenck, Martin. The Light Division and its Leaders
- Robertson, James. A.P. Hill: Story of a Confederate Warrior
Jenny Goellnitz has an extensive website on General A.P. Hill that includes information on his officers, including those who served in the Light Division.