Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Civil War: Choestoe Guards and Young Cane Volunteers
with an emphasis on April as Confederate Memorial and Heritage Month
26 as Confederate Memorial Day, we look this week at two units that
prominently in the war---Company K of the 23rd Regiment,
Infantry Volunteers, Army of Tennessee, Confederate States of America,
“The Choestoe Guards,” and Company B, of the 23rd, known as
Union County Mountain Volunteers” (also known as “The Young Cane
These units were formed in 1861 and
went to Fort
McDonald in Cobb County
where they were attached to the 23rd Regiment in August,
1861. Joseph G. Souther who was only six
age when the men signed up and went away to war recalled in his memoirs
many years later in 1937: “I saw the first
soldiers of my township enlisting for the front, happy, content, saying
would be over in six weeks and not a drop of blood spilt.”
But the anticipation with which the
Choestoe Guards faced the war was short-lived, for Joseph Souther noted: “Thirty young men of my township joined the
ranks, one-half of which never returned to once prosperous and happy
Who were some of these soldiers in
Company K and Company B?
William P. Barclay was first Captain
of the Choestoe Guards. Later he was
to Lieutenant Colonel. The 23rd
Regiment was ordered to Richmond,
Virginia on November 10, 1861,
and shortly went
into action at the Battle of Yorktown.
It was there the men learned how cruel and terrible war can be. Private John Nix of the Choestoe Guards was a
casualty there. His brother, James Bly
Nix was near him and saw John cut down by a mini-ball “right in the
midst of a
roasting ear patch.” Fighting in the
Campaign of 1861-62, they moved on to the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862. Lt. Colonel William Barclay was described as
“cool and gallant” in every intense battle.
at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, Col. Barclay was
called “the hero of
the battle” by General D. H. Hill and Colonel A. H. Colquitt in their
reports. On September 17 in the Battle at Sharpsburg (Antietam, America’s
bloodiest day), Colonel Barclay and his troops underwent heavy
bombardment. He was fatally wounded, but
before his death he saw his unit victorious in the field.
Four Barclay brothers served in the
Confederate Army. The others were Elihu
S. Barclay, Hugh W. Barclay, and Julius Barclay. Two
of these, William P. and Julius (Captain
of Company G, 52nd Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment) were
killed. Julius lost his life in the
Battle of Atlanta.
James H. Huggins, captain and enlister
of Company B, the “Young Cane Volunteers,” likewise distinguished
battle. On May 29, 1862, Captain Huggins was in
his unit at the Battle of Malvern Hill.
Following this engagement, he was promoted to major. At the Battle of Sharpsburg at which his good
friend, Colonel Barclay died, Major Huggins was severely wounded. After that battle, Huggins was promoted to
Then came the forlorn march from Shepherdstown, Maryland
back to Fredricksburg, Viginia in the dead of winter.
Huggins’ unit was deprived even of shoes and
had to march through the snow with such improvised footgear as they
around their feet to protect them in the terrible cold.
They were assigned to guard a wagon train of
supplies. Many of the men were taken
captive but some were exchanged a few weeks later.
Col. Huggins’ unit traveled much during the
last several months of the war. They
were at Fredericksburg
At the latter battle, General Stonewall
Jackson lost his life. There Colonel
Huggins was taken prisoner of war and held at Fort Delaware,
but was traded in a prisoner-of-war exchange.
His unit was ordered to Kingston, North Carolina,
back to Richmond, Virginia, and then to Charleston, South Carolina
where they spent the winter of 1863.
They were fired upon as they were aboard the ship named Ft. Sumter
Harbor, but no
casualties resulted for
Huggins’ unit. They were ordered to Olustee, Florida,
where they engaged in the Battle of Ocean Pond.
Colonel Huggins was reported as “acquitting himself with honor”
Huggins and his men returned to Charleston and thence to Petersburg, Virginia
and on to Drewry’s Bluff where they won a fierce battle in May, 1864. In June, 1864, they fought for the second
time at the Battle of Cold Harbor where it is reported “they left the
littered with Grant’s drunken rabble.”
They met the enemy again at the final siege of Petersburg, Virginia
located on the Appomattox River. The end was near at hand.
A week after the final battle at Petersburg came the
signing of the surrender papers on April 9, 1865, with the treaty signed
three days later on
Space precludes a listing of all
members of “The Choestoe Guards” and “The Mountain—or Young
and the brave soldiers who lost their lives.
Those with internet connections may access the muster rolls of
and other units of brave Union County Confederate soldiers.
It is interesting to note that Colonel
James H. Huggins, born August 22, 1828, was a lawyer by occupation. He served in the Georgia General Assembly
both before and during the war. He
signed for Georgia
to secede from the Union. He was a slave owner, having two slaves in
the 1860 listing who helped him in his farming operations.
Regardless of our leanings, whether
South, we can but salute the bravery and persistence of the units from
mountains as they defended their homeland.
A Confederate Memorial Day marker in Kingston, Georgia
declares the South’s men “gallant Confederates—greatest fighting men of
Historian James M. McPherson
stated: “A blend of triumph and tragedy,
courage and cowardice, heroes and knaves, selfless sacrifice and
profiteering, the war shaped and defined the America
that has emerged in the
(now 140) years since the guns fell silent.”
Jones; published Apr. 28, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708
Updated August 31,
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