Hampton's Legion

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Hampton's Legion
Flag of South Carolina.svg
Flag of South Carolina
Active Summer 1861–1865
Country Confederate States of America
Allegiance CSA Dixie
Branch Volunteer Army, American Civil War
Type Multiple Component Legion
Engagements American Civil War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Wade Hampton

Hampton's Legion was an American Civil War military unit of the Confederate States of America, organized and partially financed by wealthy South Carolina plantation owner Wade Hampton III. Initially composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery battalions, elements of Hampton's Legion participated in virtually every major campaign in the Eastern Theater, from the first to the last battle.

History[edit]

Wade Hampton statue on the South Carolina Statehouse lawn

A legion historically consisted of a single integrated command, with individual components including infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The concept of a multiple-branch unit was never a practical application for Civil War armies and, early in the war, the individual elements were assigned to other organizations.

Organized by Wade Hampton in early 1861, Hampton's Legion initially boasted a large number of South Carolina's leading citizens, including future generals J. Johnston Pettigrew, Stephen Dill Lee, Martin W. Gary, and Matthew C. Butler. Originally, the Legion comprised six companies of infantry, two of cavalry, and one of light artillery. The infantry and cavalry fought in the First Battle of Manassas, where Colonel Hampton suffered the first of several wounds during the war. In November 1861, the artillery was then outfitted with four Blakely Rifles, imported from England and slipped through the Union blockade into Savannah, Georgia. By the end of the year, each element of the Legion had been expanded with new companies to bolster the effective combat strength.

With the reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia in mid-1862, Hampton's Legion was broken up and reassigned. The cavalry battalion, with an expansion in size and numbers, became the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry under Colonel Butler. It remained directly under General Hampton's control and served in his brigade and then division for the rest of the war. The artillery was converted to horse artillery and renamed Hart's Battery, after its commander, Capt. James F. Hart. Lt. Colonel Gary's infantry element, retaining the designation Hampton's Legion, was initially brigaded with Georgia troops in Stonewall Jackson's command, but was transferred in June to John Bell Hood's "Texas Brigade."

The various elements of the Legion fought in most of the major Eastern operations of 1862, including the Peninsula, Northern Virginia, and Maryland campaigns, suffering substantial losses. The Legion helped to dislodge the Yankees at the battle of Chinn Ridge, and the Second Battle of Bull Run, and to inflict the horrific amounts of casualties on the 5th New York Regiment. Battered at Antietam, the much depleted Legion infantry was sent to the rear and performed garrison duty for months while refitting and recruiting. It did not participate actively in the early part of the Gettysburg Campaign (unlike the cavalry and artillery elements, which played a major role in several battles during the campaign). It fought a minor rear-guard action at Boonsboro, Maryland, during the army's retreat from Gettysburg. It returned to action in the fall of 1863 in Longstreet's Corps during the Battle of Chickamauga and the subsequent Chattanooga campaign. The Legion infantry later returned to Virginia and rejoined Robert E. Lee's army. In March 1864, it was converted to mounted infantry and reassigned to Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry brigade. It harassed Federal supply depots throughout northern Virginia, and fought in several actions during the lengthy Siege of Petersburg.

What was left of the Hampton Legion infantry surrendered with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in early April 1865. The South Carolina cavalry regiment and the horse artillery (by then renamed as Halsey's Battery after Hart's wounding) participated in the Carolinas Campaign with General Hampton and surrendered at Bennett Place in North Carolina along with the rest of General Joseph E. Johnston's forces on April 26.

Organization of the Legion[edit]

Original composition[edit]

Six companies of infantry:

Co. A Washington Light Infantry Volunteers (Charleston)
Co. B Watson Guards (Edgefield)
Co. C Manning Guards (Sumter)
Co. D Gist Riflemen (Anderson)
Co. E Bozeman Guards (Greenville)
Co. F Davis Guards (Greenville)

Cavalry battalion:

Co. A Edgefield Hussars (Edgefield)
Co. B Brooks Troop (Greenville)
Co. C Beaufort District Troop (Beaufort)

Artillery:

Washington Artillery (Charleston)

Additional units[edit]

Infantry:

Co. G Claremont Rifles (Statesburg) 19 Aug 1861
Co. H (1st) German Volunteers (Charleston) 22 Aug 1861
Co. H (2nd) South Carolina Zouave Volunteers 29 Jul 1862
Co. I Capt. D.L. Hall's company 11 Nov 1862
Co. K Capt. John H. Bowen's company 11 Nov 1862
Co. H 16th North Carolina Infantry

Cavalry:

Co. D Congaree Troop (Columbia) 5 Aug 1861

Artillery:

Co. B German Artillery (Co. H (1st)) 1 Nov 1861

Major engagements[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]