Pickens County contributed many companies and men to Confederate Service, both at the national and local level. The best source of information on the service of her sons is Louise Bell's Rebels in Gray, Soldiers from the Pickens District, 1861-65. Rosters and other information are available in this wonderful book. Hopefully, it can be reprinted again shortly! What follows is a short sketch of the primary units that served outside the state. This sketch does not cover militia or state service units. There are other units and companies that had many men from Pickens County, but these represent, her major contributions.
Orr's Rifles or the First South Carolina Rifles had a very large contingent from Pickens County. Rosters for Companies A, C, E, F, and L may be found in Rebels in Gray. First commanded by its namesake, James L. Orr, the flashy Congressman from South Carolina, he soon turned the unit over to J.F. Marshall. Orr's Rifles would serve most of the war in Gregg's - McGowan's Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia. Involved in some of the worse fighting of the War Between the States, Orr's rifles would serve from Gaines Mill to Appomattox. Much of that service was with the mighty corps of Stonewall Jackson and then Hill's Light Corps. The unit was engaged in places like the Mule Shoe or the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania and Second Manassas where it ended the day commanded by a Captain. These who perished in the railroad cut had fought Pope to a deadly draw, not alone but as an integral element of Maxey Gregg's Brigade.
Few units would fight harder or see more action than the First Rifles. One of many amazing things about the unit was the claim of the last commander, Lt. Colonel J.T. Robertson. He stated that he fought in every action the unit participated in. As colorful as the time and as tough as Pickens County, nobody fought harder or pushed further than the magnificent men of Orr's Rifles.
Moore's Rifles, or the Second South Carolina Rifles, was formed from the nucleus of companies that were left after the formation of Orr's Rifles. Units from Pickens County included Companies B, C, D, H and K. In many ways, it was more exclusively a Pickens County unit than Orr's First. The first commander of the regiment, Colonel J.V. Moore was killed in action at Second Manassas. Other commanders included Thomas Thomson and R.E. Bowen. Bowen's name is associated with some of her toughest battles. Moore's Second S.C. Rifles found itself serving in one of three South Carolina brigades in the Army of Northern Virginia that could rival Gregg-McGowan's Brigade in length of service. The Second Regiment of Rifles was to be found with the glamorous and long remember Prince of Edisto, Micah Jenkins and his brigade.
Fighting first in the Peninsula Campaign, the Second would follow the old warhorse, Longstreet, for three bloody years. Fighting in both the east and the west she would see action at all the major eastern battles, except when detached. Ironically, Jenkins' Brigade was left in Virginia during Gettysburg. Therefore, they became the only element of Pickett's Division not to make the horrible charge on the third day of that battle. Longstreet's Crops was also detached during Chancellorsville. However, as if to make up for those sins of omission, the men were heavily involved in the night gamble at Wauhatchie where Colonel Bowen was wounded. This was after Longstreet's Crops had moved West to support Bragg. It is one of the bitter ironies of an ironic war that on at least two occasions, Jenkins and Evander Law from Alabama, former friends from the Citadel, would let their egos cost the south victories. While I tend to fault Laws and favor Jenkins in these issues, it is a mark against both men. That case is certainly one for a higher court, but many good man died because of Law's vanity at Wauhatchie. The fighting for Moore's Second continued on to Knoxville and then back across the mountain. Here Old Pete was once again under the familiar hand and loving eye of General Lee. Heavily involved in the fighting of the last year of the war, the Second Rifles were close by, at the death of Jenkins and the wounding of Longstreet in the Wilderness. They would fold their flag with Field's Division at Appomattox, walk home and the few that were left would embark on the most bitter of journeys the attempt to reconstruction them. They would tell you they were never reconstructed, only redeemed by Hampton in '76, but that is another story.
The old fourth, was one of the sadder units from South Carolina. When the Army of Northern Virginia reorganized in 1862, the Fourth Regiment became Mattsion's Battalion or the Fourth Battalion. Most of her men left her for other units. She fought on until nothing was left after Sharpsburg. At that point, numbering less than two companies, she was absorbed by the few survivors of the Hampton Legion Infantry, both units having been terribly used at Second Manassas and Sharpsburg. During the reorganization of 1862, at least one of the companies from Pickens County, went with Micah Jenkins to form the Palmetto Sharpshooters. Since all of these units served in Jenkins Brigade, most of these men from Pickens District would have followed the path of Jenkins through the years of conflict.
Pickens County also furnished at least two companies to the solid Twelfth South Carolina Volunteers. Serving with Gregg and McGowan they blazed a path of light across the heavens of Bobby Lee's Virginia. Commanded first by the colorful Dunavant on the coast and later under the steady hand of Miller they would follow the trail of Jackon and Hill with their friends and neighbors from Orr's First South Carolina Rifles.
Units or men from Pickens could be found in both the First and Second South Carolina Cavalry. Pickens men served in most South Carolina units and the units of other states as well. Perhaps most glorious of all, and certainly the best remembered, is the service of Bernard Bee who lived only to fight one battle. His words were a meteor that burst forth from First Manassas. At that battle, he would boldly point to a distant figure on Henry House Hill and cry, "Look! There stands Jackson, like a stone wall!" No one ever discovered if this was a compliment or a condemnation. One hundred and fifty years later it matters not, for all the world sees is the rock hard virtue and craggy visage of the man from valley Marse Robert's strong right arm. Old Jack!
So many stories, so much hope, buried forever in the charred and broken path of Sherman and Stoneman. Sherman was the only man who knew that we must be ground to dust, and even he said it would only be good for a hundred and fifty years or so if we were not assimilated. True to form the south will forever rise like the Phoenix of old, with one eye turned forever on that which was and the other focused on that which can be. May we learn the lessons of the past and commit them to a bright and glorious future. We know that the men of Pickens District, like their fathers of old, will always be in the fore. What follows is a small part of the story of these men and this district.
©1998, 1999, 2000 Traci Parsons-Holder and Dawn W. Cabe All rights reserved worldwide.