A short history of the 23rd Georgia Infantry Regiment
and James H. Huggins of Union County service with it follows:
For a longer history about the 23rd, more detail, rosters, letters, dead go to
23rd's AN.V. Battle Flag
This Flag is said to have been kept by Col. Emory F. Best from being captured at the Weldon R.R. 1863
See the transcripts of Col. Best's Court Martial here!
In November 1861 the Twenty-third left Georgia for the Virginia theater with J.H. Huggins as Captain of Company K. The 23rd initially fought with the Army of the Peninsula and later the Army of Northern Virginia. Its first major engagement was at Seven Pines in May 1862, where it lost eighty men killed or wounded. The Seven Days Battle followed, with the unit again heavily engaged. As of August 16, 1862, J.H. Huggins was appointed a major.
At both South Mountain and Antietam the Twenty-third lost severely. In the latter battle its new Colonel, W.P. Barclay of Union County was killed. Although wounded at South Mountain on September 14th, J.H. Huggins was still with the regiment, and assumed command as Lt. Colonel on the 17th.
Chancellorsville found the Twenty-third guarding a Stonewall Jackson’s wagon train, which was attacked by elements of Sickle's Union corps on May 3rd 1863. The wagons were saved, but nearly 200 men including J.H. Huggins were captured. The men were imprisoned at Fort Delaware that same month and exchanged at City Point, Virginia May 23, 1863. They were some of the last men exchanged during the war.
Like the rest of Colquitt's Brigade, the Twenty-third left Virginia in the spring of 1863 for North Carolina and then for Charleston, South Carolina. As of December 15, 1863 J.H. Huggins promoted to full Colonel as the commanding officer of the 23rd. The 23rd served and fought at Battery Wagner, Johns Island, and Fort Sumter. At Fort Sumter, the 23rd’s and another regiment’s transport ship came under friendly fire and was sunk. Casualties were minimal. For ideal of what the fighting was like, see the movie “Glory”. The 23rd was there in Battery Wagner at the time.
Sent to Florida in February 1864, the Twenty-third suffered seventy casualties (two killed, sixty-six wounded and two missing in battle) out of 300 men at Olustee, which was described by a member of the regiment as “one of the most signal victories that the God of war has ever allowed to perch upon our banners.” The quote is from a letter that H.W. Barclay wrote to the Athen’s newspaper. Colonel J.H. Huggins commanded during the Florida battle.
The Twenty-third returned to South Carolina and then was ordered to Virginia in the spring of 1864. It fought at Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg J.H. Huggins resigned from service on August 13, 1864 due to severe illness contracted in the trenches of Petersburg.
The 23rd Georgia Regiment covered the retreat of the Confederate Government from Richmond before surrendering in North Carolina in 1865.
Camp McDonald Volunteer Training Camp at Big Shanty:
On June 11, 1861, Governor Joseph E. Brown established a training camp for Georgian volunteers in Big Shanty [now Kennesaw] named Camp McDonald (after former Governor and Marietta resident Charles C. McDonald). The Camp included 60 acres of land west of the Western & Atlantic Railroad tracks. The Camp was commanded by Georgia Militia Brigadier General (and Confederate Army Colonel) William Phillips. Cadets from the Georgia Military Institute served as instructors.
The greatest moment in the history of the Camp occurred on July 31, 1861, when a Grand Review was held – some sources indicate that as many as 2500 men passed in review before Governor Brown. In the next several days, most of these troops marched off to Virginia, as this excerpt indicates:
“The first contingent left for Virginia on August 2nd and 3rd, the second left on the 5th and 6th, and the remainder followed on the 12th. A few days later two regiments of eight hundred men each came in to camp, but I can’t find out what their regimental number was. [Part of these eight hundred were men from Union County with J.H. Huggins] They stayed a few months and then the camp was empty until February of 1862, when the 39th, 40th, 41st, 42nd, and 52nd [primarily from Union County] regiments came in …”
The two companies from Union County, Blue Ridge Volunteers a.k.a Young Cane Volunteers, and the Choestoe Guards were mustered into Confederate service at Camp McDonald, Big Shanty, in August 1861, as part of the 23rd Georgia Volunteer InfantryRegiment. The Twenty-third Georgia Infantry contained companies from Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Gordon, Pickens, Union, and Walker counties. The Choestoe Guards became Company B and the Young Cane Volunteers became Company K with J.H. Huggins as Captain.
The War in J. H. Huggins’ Own Words
Towards the end of the war, James Madison Folsom of Georgia decided to publish a series of books on Confederate Army units, both in the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia. He was able collect and publish some information on Georgia units in the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864.His collected work on the Army of Tennessee had not yet been published and was destroyed when his home was burned during Sherman’s “March across Georgia” (A great loss to history). A few copies of his book Heroes and Martyrs of Georgia : Georgia's Record in the Revolution of 1861 survived the war. In this book, James H. Huggins in his own words from the trenches of Petersburg, he gives a short history of the 23rd G.V.I.R. The war still raged and Col. J.H. Huggins was already ill. Please click here for J.H. Huggins’ story in Heroes and Martyrs
While the book was reprinted, it is again out of print, a digital copy may be found at: