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Lost Legion - The Phillip's Legion Infantry Battalion at Fox's Gap, Maryland, Sept. 14th, 1862

By Kurt D. Graham

This story begins in a rather unusual manner back in 1996. I was getting a haircut from my barber and friend Dick Flannagan, and our conversation turned to my interest in American history and the Civil War (or War for Southern Independence as it's termed here in Georgia). Dick mentioned that his wife, Regina, was an avid genealogist with an interesting Civil War mystery in her family. Her great great grandfather, Alfred G. Arwood (a native of Cobb County), had enlisted in Company 0 of the Phillips Legion's Infantry Battalion during the spring of 1862 and marched off to war. The Legion had originally been formed in 1861 under the command of Colonel William Phillips and had campaigned in the mountains of western Virginia in late 1861. The weather had been brutal and many men succumbed to measles and typhoid. Returned to South Carolina in January of 1862 to recover their strength, Colonel Phillips returned to Marietta to recruit additional soldiers. After enrolling a number of men in Company C, Phillips obtained permission to form three new infantry companies from the Cobb County area. These new companies were lettered L, M and 0. The majority of men enlisted in companies L and M were from Cobb County while Company 0 contained men from both Cobb and Bartow counties. Thus it was that Alfred and newly formed Company 0 had gone to South Carolina and trained there until July, when they were brigaded with two other Georgia units (the 50th and 51st) and two South Carolina units (the 15th and 3rd Battalion) and sent north under Brigadier General Thomas Fenwick Drayton to join the Army of Northern Virginia at Richmond, Virginia. That fall, Alfred's wife, Lucinda, received word that Alfred had fallen in battle during Lee's first invasion of the north in September and that was the last ever seen or heard of Alfred Arwood. Regina had often wondered just where Alfred had fallen and been buried and asked if I might like to probe the mystery.

I love a good mystery and embraced the opportunity to learn something new and possibly solve Regina's family puzzle. I figured, look at a few works on the 1862 Maryland campaign to get the Legion's movements mapped out, take a trip to the state archives to look over Alfred's compiled service records and then do some research on burials once I had the location of Alfred's death nailed down. So, I moved to step one and looked at the reference works. What's this! The Phillips Legion Infantry simply does NOT exist during the 1862 Maryland campaign. All published works reviewed covering this period (including the extensive Official Records) show them present and in action on August 30th, 1862 with Drayton's brigade at the Battle of Second Manassas, then............. POOF!, they vanish, not to reappear until late November of 1862 when they are reassigned to T R R Cobb's Georgia brigade upon the dissolution of Drayton's brigade. After some unproductive flailing around, I decided to move to step two and have a look at Alfred's compiled service record at the Georgia State Archive.

These microfilm records were done around the turn of the century by the Federal government when it was discovered that many of the original paper records were deteriorating beyond useability. A small army of "compilers" sifted through original Federal and Confederate muster rolls, pay records, hospital records, POW records, death claims, requisitions, etc to produce a multi-card file for each soldier who fought in the war. Microfilm copies of these cards were eventually distributed to the various southern states for their respective soldiers. Sure enough, Alfred was there. His records show his enlistment in the Legion's Infantry Battalion in April of 1862 and end with a chilling notation on a December muster roll which states "killed at Sharpsburg (southern name for Antietam) September 17th, 1862".

So now we DO have a good mystery. How can a soldier be killed in a battle where his unit was not present? Regina suggested that I take a look at the records in the Georgia Room of the Cobb Countv Library. Since several companies of the Infantry Battalion had been recruited from Cobb County, they might have something. Sure enough, they had a Phillips Legion folder and contained in this folder were some rosters of men who had served in companies C, M and 0 of the Infantry Battalion. Of immediate interest was the fact that these listings showed a number of soldiers killed or wounded at Boonsboro (the southern name for the battles at Fox's and Turner's Gaps on South Mountain, Maryland) September 14th, 1862 and at Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17th. 1862. The source of these rosters was shown as the State Archives, so back there I went. The nice folks at the Archives quickly identified these rosters for me as a work product of the 1906 Georgia Roster Commission. This Commission was formed in an attempt to have surviving Confederate veterans provide information on the men who made up their various units. At this point the Federal government had not yet given copies of the captured wartime records back to the southern states. The southern states had, by the 1890s, begun providing pensions for their soldiers and were having a very difficult time sorting valid pension applicants from fraudulent ones. They had to write to Washington and wait months for someone to try and find a record of the individual applicant's military service records.

Thus it was that the Roster Commission idea came about in an attempt to build some local record of just who had served in the various Georgia units. As you would expect, some units had formed reunion groups and had very good records and others had little or no information available. When these attempts at reconstructing a 45 year old unit roster were attempted it was inevitable that clouded old memories would mispell names, show people killed in the wrong battles and often simply forget to include many men

So what this told me was that my new found, exciting rosters showing Phillips Legion casualties in the 1862 Maryland campaign were interesting, but not concrete evidence that they had been there. Now came a tough decision. I knew that I had found what appeared to be good solid evidence for Alfred Arwood's death during the Maryland campaign in his actual service record. Therefore, I could do the same for the entire Infantry Battalion IF I were willing to scroll through the nine reels of microfilm containing copies of the untold thousands of card records for all members of the unit. Sounds easy? These card records were handwritten and the writing styles of the compilers varied widely. Many wrote in the frilly cursive of that period. Bottom line was that this was going to be a several hundred hour task.

I was almost ready to stop at that point, tell Dick and Regina that it appeared that Alfred HAD been killed in Maryland in September of 1862, and to heck with the Phillips Legion Infantry. I then figured that I should at least take a shot at finding out where Alfred had been buried and moved along to step three. I vaguely recalled that I had once seen a nice book at the Antietam National Battlefield Park Visitor's Center which covered the subject of what had happened to the remains of those soldiers who fell at the battles of South Mountain (Boonsboro) and Antietam (Sharpsburg).

In trying to find out how I might obtain a copy, I ended up contacting its author, Steve Stotelmyer. Steve, who lives in Sharpsburg, Maryland, patiently listened to my tale and then told me that he had something that he thought would be of interest to me. He then read me an article by Reverend George Gilman Smith, chaplain of the Phillips Legion that had been published in an 1886 anthology titled Campfire Sketches and Battlefield Echoes. This article describes in very precise detail the actions of the Phillips Legion Infantry Battalion at the battle of Fox's Gap on South Mountain, September 14th. 1862. The reverend makes it clear that they are there as part of Drayton's brigade, and that they took significant casualties; one of which was himself. At the climax of the fight, Smith was shot in the neck and the wound, at first thought to be mortal, crippled him for life.

I will now let Chaplain Smith speak for himself. We pick up his account on the morning of September 14th at Hagerstown, Maryland. He states that, "On the Sunday morning on which the battle of South Mountain began, we were in camp at Hagerstown. We were expecting quite a time of repose when the order came to return towards Boonsboro. I had not the remotest dream of any hot work, nor do I think any of us had, for we had no idea that the Army of the Potomac could be reorganized and mobilized so soon. We thought the assault upon our lines was merely a feint of cavalry. This was evidently General Lee's opinion, or else he would not have allowed Jackson to have crossed the Potomac; but it was soon evident from the rapid motion of the artillery and infantry that hot work was before us. My regiment had gone and I ambled off as rapidly as I could toward the front.

Somehow I got the name of "fighting chaplain" and candidly I did not like it, for it was neither just nor complimentary. I did not go to the army to fight; I did not fight after I got there. I had as little stomach for fighting as Falstaff had. I went to the army as a chaplain, and as a chaplain I did my work, and yet that day I got a bullet through my neck. I ought not to have gone where the bullets were flying, but I did go and I got hit, and this is how it came about. I found Generals Lee, Longstreet and Jones standing at the base of the pass, and with them was one of the staff officers of our brigade, Captain Young. Inquiring of him for my regiment, he told me that it was behind a stone fence on the right of the Boonsboro and Frederick Pike (aka the National Road), and I immediately repaired to that place. A battery of light artillery (Bondurant's) was firing overhead and we lay quietly looking toward the south (his direction was off, this should read east). Suddenly the order came to change front. We were now to face toward the west (again his direction is off, this should read south). The turnpike (Old Sharpsburg Road) was narrow, and the enemy were upon us. The change of position called for a change from line of battle to column and then from column into line. My own regiment did beautifully and for a moment we looked to the woods expecting the Federals to charge upon us, but instead we were ordered to leave the protection of the stone wall (bordering the the Old Sharpsburg Road) and to charge into the woods. As we entered the woods I saw a poor fellow fall and heard him say, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit." I went to him and said, "My friend, that's a good prayer, I hope you feel it." He answered, "Stranger, I am not afraid to die; I made my peace with God over thirty years ago." Just at that moment I heard Cook (Lt Colonel Robert Thomas Cook), our commander, say in a loud voice, "For God's sake don't fire; we are friends!" I turned and saw a body of our troops about to fire. I said, "I will go back colonel, and stop them." As I ran back to the fence, I looked down the very road we had left, and saw a body of Federals moving upon us (the 800 man 17th Michigan regiment). Something must be done and I ran to General Drayton, our commander, and told him the position. A feint certainly must be made; if the Federals should know that the stone fence was abandoned, they would sweep upon the fence and thus capture the last man. Major Gest (Major William Gist, commanding a rear guard contingent of the 15th SC), when he saw how matters were, placed the few men he had in position, and I started for my regiment. As I came to the pike, I saw a soldier shooting toward the east. It took but a moment for me to see that the Federals were east, south and west of us.

The firing was now fierce, but I felt that my regiment must be brought out of that pocket at all hazards, and I started to warn it, when I found it retreating. Poor Ellis (Ellis Williams, Co D, KIA), a Welchman, had run the gauntlet and given them a warning, and the regiment was now retreating in a broken and confused manner. One of the boys, Gus Tomlinson, said in tears, "Parson, we've been whipped; the regiment is retreating." "And none too soon either," said I, "for we are surrounded on all sides but one." Just then I felt a strange dizziness and fell, my arm dropping lifeless by my side. I knew that I was hit, and I thought mortally wounded. But where was I hit? Was my arm torn off by a shell? No, here that is. Was I shot through the breast? Or - yes, here it was - blood gurgling from my throat. The dear boys rushed to me, laid me on a blanket and bore me off the field."

THIS was evidence enough to pull me deeper into the mystery, so I decided to go ahead and invest the time required to comb through the compiled service records of the Legion at the State Archives. This ended up taking several months, working as time was available. The results were amazing. This unit, which, according to published history, wasn't even in the Maryland campaign, had suffered 113 casualties at Fox's Gap on September 14th 1862. These consisted of 31 men killed or mortally wounded, 39 wounded and 43 captured. Pretty devastating losses for a unit that wasn't even supposed to be there!

Further evidence supporting their presence there has continued to trickle in. One of the casualties from Company C, William H. Dobbins, was last seen on the battlefield, shot through the chest. His father, a moderately well-to-do planter back in Habersham County, Georgia, began a frantic letter writing campaign trying to find out what had happened to his son. The Dobbins papers are currently archived at Emory University and contain a response from Lt Alex Erwin dated December 1862 which describes young William's loss at Boonsboro (as the Confederates dubbed the battles at South Mountain on September 14th) and the fact that he had not been seen or heard from since. In fact, that was the last anyone ever heard of William as he died on the field and was either buried in a shallow grave by a Federal burial detail on September 15th or was possibly one of 58 dead Confederates dumped into a well at Daniel Wise's farm at the gap.

An October 4th, 1862 letter (copy in Georgia Archives) from A.J. Reese of the Infantry Battalion states "We have heard nothing of the four boys we lost in Sunday's fight. I expect they war (sic) kill. I hope not though." The only recent Sunday fight for the Legion would have been Sunday September 14th's fight at Fox's Gap.

A short historical sketch of the Phillips Legion written by it's quartermaster, Major S.M.H. Byrd and published in the May 5-6, 1914 Cedartown Standard states, "We moved with the army into Maryland. Drayton's brigade bore a prominent part and suffered very heavily at Boonsboro Gap (the Confederate's name for Fox's Gap). The Legion lost a good many men in killed, wounded and missing; Major Barclay, Capt Daniel, Lieut. Col. Cook, Chaplain Smith, wounded: Lieut. A. Jones killed. The loss was so heavy in officers that the command fell upon Lieut Price of Co. E. At Sharpsburg, the Legion was again hotly engaged. Among the wounded was Capt Hamilton of Co. E"

I am certain that one reason for the absence of the Phillips Legion in the historical records for this campaign is the fact that neither General Drayton or any of his regimental commanders appear to have filed after-action reports. This has created a real vacuum of information relative to the strength, composition and actions of Drayton's brigade at Fox's Gap that persists to this day. One thing that we CAN now be certain of, however, is that the Phillips Legion's Infantry Battalion was engaged in a vicious holding action at Fox's Gap on the afternoon of September 14th, 1862. Their sacrifice, and indeed that of their entire brigade, bought just enough time to hold McClellan's huge army back one additional day, allowing General Stonewall Jackson to force the surrender of Harpers Ferry's 12000 man garrison on September 15th. This, in turn, set the stage for the bloody battle of Antietam at Sharpsburg on September 17th, 1862.

As to what became of poor Alfred Arwood, he was undoubtedly one of many Confederate dead who were buried where they fell at Fox's Gap and Sharpsburg by Federal burial details in the days immediately following these battles. Due to the large number of dead and the demands of the war, these burials were done in a haphazard manner. Visitors to the battlefields after the war, often noted bones sticking out of shallow graves and farmers would often plow up some poor soldier's remains as they prepared for the spring planting. The State of Maryland finally determined to rectify this deplorable situation and arranged for the remains of all Confederate soldiers that could be located to be removed to Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown, Maryland. By the end of 1874, 2240 Confederate soldiers had been reinterred at Rose Hill. Although it is not certain that Alfred's remains were found and relocated, it is probable that he rests at Rose Hill with his comrades, another unknown southern soldier who died far from home. The following list details the casualties suffered by the Phillips Legion at Fox's Gap, Maryland September 14th, 1862 as obtained from the compiled service records and 1906 Georgia Roster Commission records at the Georgia State Archives:

Company A
Capt Oliver Daniel WIA
C H Miller WIA
Musician Joseph B Walker KIA
William F Williams MIA later declared KIA

Company B
August Abraham WIA/CAP
J A Blanton WIA/CAP (shoulder)
Marcellus F Broyles CAP
Lyman Chapman CAP
William Cowan KIA
J C Currenton CAP
W R Davis WIA (lost arm)
Joseph C England CAP
Darling P Glover KIA
James W Hawkins CAP
S J Henderson MIA presumed KIA
William B Lynch MIA later declared KIA
James H Mitchell MIA later declared KIA
Monroe Mitchell MIA later declared KIA
W P Mitchell CAP
Cpl Charles H Quinn CAP
H L Russell CAP
John W Samples CAP
Richard P Stone KIA
F M Turner CAP

Company C
James S Alley CAP
Capt Elihu S Barclay WIA/CAP
William H Dobbins MIA later declared KIA
Henry W Dodd MWIA dies at Winchester, Va 11/12
Jonas Mills MIA later declared KIA
J J A Powers CAP*
Thomas J Roman KIA
J T Spruell CAP
J N Taylor WIA/CAP
Hunter Vandiver KIA

Company D
John T L Baldwin WIA (lost fingers)
David H P Barton WIA/CAP (left leg & right side)
John A Brooks WIA
R H Echols WIA *
Lt. Abraham Jones KIA
Frank B Luke WIA *
Sgt Major Jno A Mathias WIA
T H McElroy MWIA (dies at home 11/l/62)
J M Murphy WIA/CAP
John F Murphy MIA later declared KIA
John A Scott KIA
James W Spratling KIA
John M Steward CAP
W J Sumner CAP
Samuel Turner WIA/CAP
E C Williams CAP
Ellis E Williams KIA
Sgt Augustus Wimberly CAP
James Springer Wood CAP

Company E
James Blackwell CAP
Jesse Blackwell CAP
N V Collins CAP
James M Dempsey WIA (back)
Capt Joseph Hamilton WIA
James W Roberts CAP
Noah White WIA

Company F
William Carroll WIA/CAP
Bernard C Conway CAP
Richard Deignan CAP
Lt. John W Duggan KIA
Richard Furlong MIA later declared KIA
Patrick G Gary WIA/CAP
Richard G Gillespie WIA (arm & side)
James Lawler CAP
Lt. Patrick M McGovern CAP
Lt. Michael S Walsh CAP

Company L
Andrew J Alexander CAP
Henry C Bryant CAP
Isaac Campbell CAP
William J Esler CAP
Clement J Hunt CAP
Newton J Ivey KIA
Capt James M Johnson WIA/CAP
Doctor L Malone WIA/CAP
Ira F McClellan CAP
William Pilgrim WIA
J B Richardson WIA (lost arm)
Solomon Sanders CAP
Mitchell Walraven CAP
Harrison Wilmoth CAP

Company M
William Bannister Sr WIA (lost arm)
Cpl William Bannister Jr KIA
John Pleasant Bryan CAP
Charles B Collins CAP
Hiram Folds KIA
John W Hodge CAP
Andrew J Inzer WIA
Harvey E McKee WIA
Malachi W Pitts CAP*
Daniel H Ponder CAP
W H Sauls WIA/CAP (lost arm)
John W Sewell WIA (head wound)
James E Smith CAP

Company 0
Thomas C Austin CAP
Lt. Theophilus G Bowie WIA
Emsley J Childers MIA, later declared KIA
Zell Conger WIA
Andrew Davis WIA/CAP
Samuel E Fields MIA later declared KIA
Hiram A Harrison CAP
John Ransom Hawkins KIA
Charles P Henderson WIA
Jesse M Jackson MIA later declared KIA
Robert Moore WIA/CAP
Sgt Allen H Summers WIA/CAP
William G Taylor WIA
Lt. William 0 Watson KIA
Rufus W West KIA

Chaplain George G Smith WIA (neck, arm paralyzed)
KIA Killed in Action
MIA Missing in Action
WIA Wounded in Action
MWIA = Mortally Wounded in Action
CAP = Captured

* Denotes casualty where location and date are not certain. Could be either Fox's Gap on 9/14, Sharpsburg 9/17, or in the case of captures, somewhere in between.

Written by Kurt Graham

Phillip's Legion
Texans in the Civil War