BRANTLEY COUNTY HISTORICAL AND PRESERVATION SOCIETY,
The compiler must point out at the beginning of this work that, due to some administrative meanderings by the state authorities, there were two separate Confederate regiments named the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry. The command with which we are concerned was raised in South Georgia and commanded by Colonel Duncan L. Clinch, Jr., of Camden County, hence its usual appellation - Clinch's 4th Georgia Cavalry. That name is used to differentiate it from the other regiment of Georgia Cavalry with the same numerical designation, which was from northern Georgia and was commanded by a Colonel Isaac W. Avery, Jr.
Clinch's 4th Georgia Cavalry grew out of a need for a military force-in-being in the coastal region of Southeastern Georgia. This sparsely-populated, far-flung region, which contributed several regiments of Infantry to the Confederate Army, was virtually without defense in mid - 1862, when Confederate Authorities had essentially abandoned the practically indefensible coastal area with its numerous rivers, bays, creeks, tidal estuaries, and off-shore islands, and much of its male Caucasian population had left to join either the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of Tennessee. In this same time-frame, Brunswick was abandoned and the rails on the connection to the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad in the vicinity of modern-day Waycross were removed from Brunswick to Waynesville. Most coastal residents refugeed to safer climes inland, especially Waynesville and Tebeauville (Waycross). The only formal military forces remaining in the region were several independent companies of Partisan Rangers or Cavalry, organized in the immediate aftermath of Secession in 1861 and mustered for state service, plus three excess mounted companies which had been spun off from the 26th Georgia Volunteer Infantry in early 1862 when that regiment was preparing to go north to join the Army of Northern Virginia.
In early 1862, Confederate Military Authorities organized these various companies into the Cavalry Command South of the Altamaha River, and put them under the command of Duncan L. Clinch, Jr., a local Planter and an Army veteran of the war with Mexico, as well as the son and namesake of the late highly - regarded veteran of the War of 1812, Indian fighter, Planter, and Public Servant - Brigadier General Duncan L. Clinch, Sr., of Camden County.
The initial organization of the Cavalry Command South of the Altamaha River was:
Commanding Officer - Major Duncan L. Clinch, Jr.
Wayne Rangers - Captain Thomas S. Hopkins
Camden Chasseurs - Captain George Lang
Camden Mounted Rifles - Captain Alexander S. Atkinson
Glynn Guards - Captain George C. Dent
Atlantic and Gulf Guards - Captain Enoch D. Hendry
In the Spring of 1862, recognizing that the initial 12-month enlistments of most existing commands was not going to suffice for the length of the expanding conflict, Confederate Authorities reorganized their army for the war. One result was the replacement of many officers at elections held attendant to the reorganization, including all the above company commanders. The new company commanders were:
Wayne Rangers - Captain Joseph S. Wiggins
Camden Chasseurs - Captain John Readdick
Camden Mounted Rifles - Captain Nathan A. Brown
Glynn Guards - Captain William M. Hazzard
Atlantic and Gulf Guards - Captain Allen C. Strickland
In mid - 1862, Clinch was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and he was authorized an Executive/Operations Officer. Additional companies were added to his command as the year progressed, and it was renamed the 3rd Battalion, Georgia Volunteer Cavalry. By late 1862, the organization of this command was:
Commanding Officer - Lieutenant Colonel Duncan L. Clinch, Jr.
Operations Officer - Major John L. Harris
A - Atlantic and Gulf Guards - Captain Allen C. Strickland
B - Shiloh Troops - Captain Jesse C. McDonald
C - Wayne Rangers - Captain Joseph S. Wiggins
D - Glynn Guards - Captain William M. Hazzard
E -Camden Mounted Rifles - Captain Nathan A. Brown
F -Camden Chasseurs - Captain John Readdick
G -No name - Captain Robert N. King
H - Georgia Dragoons - Captain James P. Turner
I - No name - Captain Thomas S. Wylly
K - No name - Captain John C. Nicholls
In December 1862, Captain Strickland of Company A died of disease, or an internal infection or injury, and was replaced by Alexander McMillan.
For their entire existence, both the Cavalry Command South of the Altamaha River and its successor, the 3rd Battalion, Georgia Volunteer Cavalry, operated solely inside their nominal area of responsibility - the coastal region of Southeastern Georgia between the Altamaha and Saint Mary's Rivers. Their mission was to perform scouting, picketing, and courier service in the region and, most importantly, to offer some credible resistance to Federal attempts to disrupt its contribution to the Confederate war effort. This resulted in some skirmishing with blockading Federals, as well as a few disaffected slaves and non-compliant conscripts and Confederate Army deserters. Several men were killed or wounded in these frays.
In early 1863, the Battalion, having been enlarged to ten companies, and numbering almost a thousand men, was re-designated the 4th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Cavalry. At that point, the companies were all re-lettered, Clinch was promoted to full Colonel, Harris to Lieutenant Colonel, and J.C. McDonald, commander of the Shiloh Troops, was elevated to Major and appointed Operations Officer. David Crum was promoted to fill McDonalds vacancy as company commander of the Shiloh Troops, and Clinchs younger brother, Nicholas B. Clinch, was brought in as 1st Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant.
The regimental organization at that time was:
Commanding Officer - Colonel Duncan L. Clinch, Jr.
Executive Officer - Lieutenant Colonel John L. Harris
Operations Officer - Major Jesse Campbell McDonald
Adjutant - 1st Lieutenant Nicholas Bayard Clinch
A- Wayne Rangers - Captain Joseph S. Wiggins
B - Glynn Guards - Captain William M. Hazzard
C - Camden Mounted Rifles - Captain Nathan A. Brown
D- Camden Chasseurs - Captain John Readdick
E- No name - Captain Robert N. King
F- Georgia Dragoons - Captain James P. Turner
G - Atlantic and Gulf Guards - Captain Alexander McMillan
H - No name - Captain Thomas S. Wylly
I - No name - Captain John C. Nicholls
K - Shiloh Troops - Captain David Crum
In late March, Clinch was ordered to take his small battery of artillery and five companies to Northern Florida, where the Federals had made a substantial appearance at Jacksonville. He took his third-in-command, Major J. C. McDonald, the three-piece battery of artillery, and the five companies, all told 277 men, to the vicinity of Jacksonville where they, plus other Confederate units from Florida, sparred with the Federals probing the Confederate defenses along the Saint Johns River. While the records are not definitive about it, the companies involved probably were:
A - Captain J.S. Wiggins
C - Captain N. A. Brown
D - Captain John Readdick
E - Captain R.N. King
H - Captain T.S. Wylly
1st Lieutenant Charles F. Matthews of Company C and 2nd Lieutenant John L. Morgan of Company G probably led the regiments small battery of artillery on the expedition. It appears that the second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel Harris, and the remainder of the regiment, stayed in Georgia and continued their mission of protecting the southeastern Georgia coast. This small deployment, in which Clinch served as the field commander of all the Confederate forces, involved some skirmishing and probes, but no serious fighting. It was concluded with both sides throwing a few artillery rounds at each other, then retreating to their defenses to observe a stalemate. With the arrival of other Florida forces, Clinch brought his men back home, arriving in Georgia on about 25 March. The Federals soon abandoned the effort after robbing a few plantations and generally destroying anything of value they could find farther up the Saint Johns River.
For the remainder of 1863, Clinchs 4th Georgia Cavalry continued to operate exclusively in the southeastern region of Georgia, as previously described. Increased activity by the ever-aggressive Federals in the region, operating primarily out of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, and Fernandina, Florida, resulted in additional skirmishes, the most notable of which was an altercation on 8 June 1863 between the Glynn Guards (Captain Hazzard) and several boat-loads of Yankees attempting to destroy some salt-manufacturing apparatus in the Turtle River above Brunswick. Throughout that year, the regiment suffered the ravages of a severe Typhoid epidemic, having for several months as many as 110 men sick at a time and ultimately suffering about two dozen deaths to the disease.
Up to that point, the regiment had based its headquarters at Waynesville, while keeping the individual companies at various camps located closer to the coast and maintaining many picket posts along the coast. In the Fall of 1863, Clinch moved his headquarters to Camp Mercer, near Screven, probably due to the removal of the rails from Waynesville to the SA&G Railroad near present-day Waycross, but his regiments mission remained the same. The Summer and Fall of 1863 witnessed a considerable effort by the regiment to collect conscripts and deserters around South Georgia, involving about a dozen separate patrols and at least 85 men. This activity occasionally resulted in some skirmishes and a few casualties. In the same time-frame, about 100 men of the regiment whose horses had died, or become sick or lame, were transferred to a new command formed under Colonel Clinch's younger brother and recent Adjutant, newly-elected Captain N.B.Clinch. This unit, Clinchs Artillery Company, or Clinchs Light Battery, would move to the vicinity of Savannah in June of 1864, from which time its mission and locations would be separate from those of Clinchs 4th Georgia Cavalry. In December 1863, Captain J.S. Wiggins of Company A was elected to the state House of Representatives and resigned. His place as commander of the Wayne Rangers was filled by Alexander Lang.
The mission of Clinchs 4th Georgia Cavalry was enlarged again in early 1864 when Colonel Clinch was called upon to contribute again to the meager Confederate forces in northern Florida opposing those of a sizable new group of invading Federals, resulting in the battle of Olustee, some miles west of Jacksonville. Clinch's command contributed 250 of its nominal strength of over 900 men, which included detachments from, or all of, the following companies:
B - Captain William M. Hazzard
C - Captain Nathan A. Brown
D - Captain John Readdick
F - Captain James P. Turner
G - Captain Alexander McMillan
I- Captain John C. Nicholls
K - Captain David Crum
Apparently, the remainder of the regiment again stayed in Georgia under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harris and Major McDonald to continue to perform its mission there. Clinch, and the portion of the regiment going with him, left on horse-back on 13 or 14 February from Screven, or the other coastal camps from which some of the companies were operating, and sent their heavy equipage to Florida via the rails to Valdosta, where it was shipped via wagon to the railroad at Madison, Florida, and eventually met them somewhere to the west of Olustee. The regiment arrived in Olustee on 17 February, and was involved in the initial fighting east of the village early on the morning of the 20th.
Clinch and his senior, Colonel Carraway Smith of the 2nd Florida Cavalry, were sent out with some of their cavalry by General Finegan to locate the approaching enemy, then draw them back toward the Confederate infantry. As the main battle developed in the early afternoon, the regiment was moved to the left flank of the Confederate lines to prevent any attempt by the Federals to outflank the Southern infantry on that side. In the process of taking station, many of the regiments horses bogged down in a swampy area and some were lost. This unfortunate event, plus a severe leg wound suffered early in the action that caused Colonel Clinch to retire from the field, effectively took the regiment out of the remaining days fight. Captain Brown of Company C assumed command when Clinch was wounded, but the regiment was not involved in any further substantive action on that day. Mrs. Clinch soon arrived on the battlefield and took her husband back to their recently-purchased Brooks County plantation to recover.
After the battle, the regiment stayed in Florida under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harris and Major McDonald, who came to Florida after Clinch's wounding and brought reinforcements of about another 100 men from those who had remained in Georgia. The command remained in the region until about 23 April, operating around Waldo, Starke, and Palatka against the ever-aggressive Federals committing depredations along the Saint Johns River and in the up-river lakes while enjoying the protection of their armed Army transports and a few powerful Navy gunboats. These operations were demanding and dangerous, and the regiment lost a number of men wounded or captured during the time.
The campaign having finally wound down in late April, the regiment was ordered back to Georgia and arrived in Screven, or at its respective other company camps, on 28 and 29 April. Its time there was going to be brief, as major operations loomed in the offing. At the end of June 1864, on the eve of these most challenging and important operations, the organization of the regiment was:
Commanding Officer - Colonel Duncan L. Clinch, Jr. (Wounded and on convalescent leave)
Executive Officer - Lieutenant Colonel John L.Harris (Acting Commanding Officer)
Operations Officer - Major Jesse Campbell McDonald
Assistant Commissary of Subsistence,
Assistant Quartermaster & Paymaster - Captain Henry R. Fort
Surgeon - Major Richard Berrien Burroughs (at Camp Mercer)
Assistant Surgeons - Captain John W. Bowdoin (at Camp Mercer)
Captain W. T. Grant (at Waynesville)
Hospital Matron- Mrs. Mary L. Spears (at Waynesville)
Drillmaster - Vacant, but possibly 2ndWilson Campbell; nominal Drillmaster,
who for some time had been filling the role of acting Quartermaster.
Chaplain - Vacant
Adjutant - 1st Lieutenant John Screven Bryan
Sergeant-Major - Sergeant-Major S.W. Cary
Color Sergeant - 2ndSergeant Henry R. DuBignon
Ordnance Sergeants - Ordnance Sergeant Garie Lang
Ordnance Sergeant A. Atkinson
Quartermaster Sergeant - Quartermaster Sergeant Elias C. Fort
Assistant - Private Glover G. Foremen
Commissary Sergeants - Commissary Sergeant William Pendarvis
Acting Commissary Sergeant - Timmons Myers
Wagon-Master - 2nd Sergeant J. Downie
Chief Farrier - Private John F. Evans
Colonels Orderly - Private Elias Pitman, Co. G
Hospital Orderly - Private Horace Dart, Invalid Corps
(at Waynesville & Screven)
Hospital Steward - Private Alexander C. Scott, Medical Department
A - Wayne Rangers
Captain Alexander Lang
1st Lieutenant Wilson Sarvis
2nd Lieutenant R.B. Hopps
2nd Lieutenant W.T.E. Butler
B - Glynn Guards
Captain William Miles Hazzard
1st Lieutenant John P. Scarlett
2nd Lieutenant Robert S. Pyles
2nd Lieutenant Hugh Fraser Grant
C - Camden Mounted Rifles
Captain Nathan Atkinson Brown
1st Lieutenant Charles F. Matthews
2nd Lieutenant Henry J. Nicholes
2nd Lieutenant Barney James Gowen
D - Camden Chasseurs
Captain John Readdick
1st Lieutenant Andrew J. Dunham
2nd Lieutenant John J. Rudolph
2nd Lieutenant Felder Lang
E - No Nickname
Captain Robert Newton King
1st Lieutenant John S. Cavedo
2nd Lieutenant John S. Collier
2nd Lieutenant J.W. Herndon
F - Georgia Dragoons
Captain James Peyton Turner
1st Lieutenant Joshua N. Barrow
2nd Lieutenant W.J. Dopson
2nd Lieutenant Isaac Alderman
G - Atlantic and Gulf Guards
Captain Alexander McMillan
1st Lieutenant Henry Jordan
2nd Lieutenant John L. Morgan
2nd Lieutenant William H. McMillan
H - No Nickname
Captain Thomas Spalding Wylly
1st Lieutenant James H. Carroll
2nd Lieutenant James A. Dasher
2nd Lieutenant J.O.A. Howell
I - No Nickname
Captain John C. Nicholls
1st Lieutenant Albert S. Leighton
2nd Lieutenant George M.T. Ware
2nd Lieutenant (Vacant)
K - Shiloh Troops
Captain David Crum
1st Lieutenant Middleton Graham
2nd Lieutenant R.T. Williams
2nd Lieutenant John G. Ritch
Sometime shortly after this, Captain David Crum died in camp and was replaced as commander of the Shiloh Troops by his brother, former Company 1st Sergeant Pitchford Crum.
As Confederate prospects around Atlanta and Charleston began to deteriorate in mid-1864, the regiment was re-positioned to extend its support for the first time to the area above the Altamaha River, which had been recently vacated by the reassignment of the 5th Georgia Cavalry to duties near Atlanta. So, it began to move some companies across the river. In May, Company E went to Dorchester in Liberty County and Company H moved to South Newport in McIntosh County. In June, Company F moved to "Camp Rogers" in Bryan County.
These relatively minor movements presaged significant changes, because major movements were soon ordered. On 5 July, Clinch had returned to active service, but with his Olustee wound still unhealed. Nonetheless, he was ordered to take the regiment to Savannah, then split his command into two detachments. Clinch was assigned to take one-third of his companies to Atlanta with all the regiment's horses, and send the remainder to Charleston without horses. He quickly gathered his far-flung command and sent it on the rails to Savannah, where it would split up as ordered. There is some evidence that, of the nominal thousand - man force, only some 500 or 600 ultimately went to Charleston and Atlanta. Why the remainder did not go is a matter of considerable conjecture, but probably reflects a poor state of health remaining in the many who had suffered from the previous years Typhoid epidemic, plus other various causes of physical debilitation or assignment to vital and continuing logistics support duties at Camp Mercer.
At any rate, those men going on to Atlanta went via the rails to Macon and Columbus. From there, they rode their horses back to Fort Valley near Macon, then on to Atlanta where they joined the Confederate Army of Tennessee and prepared to participate in the desperate Confederate defensive effort there. During this time, Clinch ordered substantial additional arms and equipment from the Macon Arsenal to equip his men for their forthcoming campaign.
The remainder of the regiment, about 300 men without horses, who were under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harris, was ordered to the vicinity of Charleston and, upon arrival there, participated as infantry in some of the fighting on John's Island on 8 and 9 July, during yet another attempt by the determined Federals to capture the city which, in their view, had fomented the Rebellion and initiated hostilities. With the successful defeat of that latest threat to the security of the Cradle of Secession, on the 13th Harris and his detachment were ordered to re-join the remainder of the regiment around Atlanta, probably traveling by rail and arriving by the end of the month. There, the reunited regiment reported to Major General Fighting Joe Wheelers Cavalry Corps in the Army of Tennessee. For a period of time, they skirmished with Federal Cavalry around the eastern side of Atlanta, then in August the regiment was assigned to act as Infantry (dismounted Cavalry) and placed in the trenches on the southwestern side of Atlanta.
On 31 August, when Sherman sent his 100,000 man army swinging to the west of the city to cut its remaining rail connections to the south and west, the regiment was forced from its breastworks by superior forces at Mount Gilead Church near East Point. Several of the men were reported to have been killed and wounded in this fighting and the battle of Jonesborough the following day. Among them was Captain T.S. Wylly, who was so badly wounded in the neck and shoulder that he was left on the battlefield when the regiment retreated. Surgeon Burroughs went back to the battlefield and rescued Wylly, hauling him to safety on his own horse. As Atlanta was falling to the Federal forces shortly thereafter, the regiment was remounted and assigned, along with other cavalry units, to serve as the rear guard while Confederate forces evacuated the city. Soon, they were involved in additional skirmishing with Federal Cavalry, as the Confederate Army relocated south of Atlanta.
These had been difficult and demanding operations and, after three months of arduous service, an exhausted Colonel Clinchs would relinquish command and seek medical care for his unhealed Olustee wound. On 26 September in Macon, he was reported to have been hospitalized with a broken leg and a "supporating (sic)wound". He apparently was not the only exhausted member of this command because, in October, during a brief respite in the campaign, about 100 men and some of the regiment's horses were sent to Ladiga in eastern Alabama, where they had been sent to rest and recuperate under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harris after the vigorous campaigning of the previous months. After some ten days, in early November, they were ordered to join the remainder of the regiment, which was presumably under the command of Major McDonald and was believed to be near Columbus. That location turned out to be incorrect, and they operated near Atlanta for the next two weeks, scouting and harassing Federal troops.
From mid-November to the end of December, the regiment was involved in opposing Sherman's army on its march to the sea, skirmishing almost constantly for six weeks, and eventually losing their flag to the Yankees near Sandersville in late November. Then, on 4 December in a hotly-contested battle with Kilpatricks cavalry command at Waynesborough in Burke County, Major Jesse C. McDonald was captured and several other men were captured or killed. Captain Pitchford Crum was among the wounded. In mid-December, Sherman captured Fort McAllister, which guarded the southern water-borne approaches to Savannah, sealing the city's fate. Captain Clinch's Artillery Company, comprised primarily of former 4th Georgia men, were all captured or killed there, and Captain N.B. Clinch was severely wounded, along with a goodly portion of his men. Savannah fell on 21 December when Lieutenant General Hardee, escaping Shermans grasp in the still of the night, took his 10,000 man force across the Savannah River into South Carolina. This effectively ended major military operations in Georgia.
The whereabouts of Clinchs 4th Georgia Cavalry during the remainder of the war is subject to some difference of opinion. Some references have them accompanying Wheeler into the Carolinas, surrendering with Johnston's army in North Carolina. Others have them remaining in Georgia, operating to the west and south of Savannah where they resumed their previous mission of picketing and courier service along the coast. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the latter case and it is the compilers strong conclusion that the regiment remained in Georgia.
It would appear that the Confederate forces operating in Georgia and Florida came under the terms of the surrender negotiated by Johnston, hence the possibility that some historians have concluded erroneously that the 4th Georgia was actually in North Carolina with Johnstons army. Further, there is ample evidence that Colonel Clinch returned from his hospitalization in March 1865 and reassumed command of the regiment at Camp Mercer. He returned barely in time to dissolve the regiment at Screven shortly after Johnstons surrender in April. On that momentous occasion he made a brief speech, then admonished his men to simply return home and go to work. Lieutenant Colonel Harris, who apparently was not captured during the war, was paroled at Augusta after the cessation of hostilities, and the majority of the regiments members were paroled in Thomasville, Georgia. These facts reinforce the view that Harris and the regiment, or what remained of it after the previous year's hard service, stayed in Georgia throughout all of its service in 1865.
While the records of Clinchs 4th Georgia Cavalry for the time after June 1864 are woefully sparse, and obviously do not fully reflect the experiences of the regiments personnel during that dangerous and debilitating time, those which have survived show that, of the somewhat over 2300 men who served in the regiment at one time or another, at least 67 men died while serving in the command, nine of them were killed in action or died of wounds suffered in combat with the enemy, and 35 were captured. Six of the latter died while being held in Northern prison camps and are included in the 67 dead.
As was the case in most other commands of the Confederate Army, by the end of hostilities, the merciless and debilitating demands of war had ground down the active personnel of the 4th Georgia Cavalry to a mere token of their former numbers. One source estimated that Clinchs regiment comprised only about 200 officers and men in May 1865 when it concluded operations. This represents a 91 % depletion rate, and is only one of the many measures of the awful cost of the tragic sectional war between Americans in the 1860s. In fact, out of the much-depleted numbers that deployed to Atlanta in the Summer of 1864, at least 78 had been hospitalized for various reasons during the Atlanta campaign and the March to the Sea, which represents about 20 % of those that were still active in the regiment at the time of their departure for that seat of war. The estimated numbers of men remaining in active service at the conclusion of hostilities would indicate that more than half of the approximately 425 men of the regiment that were paroled at the end of the war were no longer actively serving with the regiment.
While few of the losses were due to death, it is indicative of the degree to which the cruel processes of war can gleefully consume the human resources of any society. Further, while these figures do not replicate the degree of decimation seen in the many Southern units which performed front-line duties far longer than did Colonel Duncan L. Clinchs command, they still represent much valiant service and personal sacrifice, as well as unfathomable tragedy on the part of the families whose men lost their lives while serving their society.Yes, War is Hell indeed.