Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Martin: "'I WILL GIVE THEM ONE MORE SHOT': Ramsey's 1st Regiment Georgia Volunteers"

[I Will Give Them One More Shot: Ramsey's First Regiment Georgia Volunteers by George W. Martin (Mercer University Press, 2011). Cloth, maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:267/390. ISBN:978-0-88146-219-7 $45]

The First Georgia Regiment was a twelve month unit that manned Confederate defenses at Pensacola, Florida and fought in western Virginia before being mustered out in the spring of 1862. George W. Martin's I Will Give Them One More Shot is an impressively detailed regimental history and roster study of this unit, its companies raised from nine counties scattered across the state.

Martin makes fine use of local newspapers, unpublished letters, and other primary source materials to relate to the reader the initial fervor of the officers and men for the Confederate cause, an enthusiasm that would be severely tested in the isolated wilds and winter storms of Appalachian Virginia. The Lavender Ray diary and letters were an especially fruitful find, as the Newnan Guards private was a steady and articulate chronicler of the 1st throughout its term. On the other end of the spectrum, James Newton Ramsey, the regiment's colonel, put less of a stamp upon the regiment's story, as his frequent sicknesses kept him out of action and absent from Martin's narrative for extended periods.

Save for the book's coverage of the Romney Campaign, which tended to follow a more general outline, the level of attention paid to the 1st Georgia's specific role in each battle and campaign is quite satisfying. The men were not involved in heavy combat during their first posting at Pensacola opposite Union held Fort Pickens, but they did gain some experience in manning artillery, which many of the Georgians undoubtedly found to their liking as four entire companies reenlisted in that branch of service in spring 1862.

In June, the regiment was sent to the mountains of western Virginia, where it promptly experienced disaster. With the Union victory at Rich Mountain, Laurel Hill, the other of Confederate General Robert S. Garnett's fortified points (as well as the camp of the 1st Georgia), became untenable, forcing a harrowing retreat through barren wilds. Garnett's death at Corrick's Ford is fairly well documented in the literature, but Martin's description of the rear guard action at Kaler's Ford, of which the 1st played a prominent role, is the best coverage of that event available. The author's account of the wilderness retreat of the Georgia regiment's separated halves (Ramsey's main force and Major George Thompson's detachment) is also excellent. Later on, the regiment participated in September's aborted Cheat Mountain campaign, but did see significant action during the October 3 Greenbrier battle that blunted a federal movement against Confederate Camp Bartow.

The January 1862 Romney Campaign, with its expeditions against Bath, Hancock (Md), and Romney itself, concluded the 1st's active Civil War military service. It also left the men embittered against Stonewall Jackson for his perceived operational incompetence and indifference to the Georgians's plight. There was also a near mutiny over the regiment's official mustering out date. Nevertheless, most of the men reenlisted in the spring, with the book's epilogue providing a fine overview of each company's reorganization.

Covered in gray cloth, the book itself has a fine look and feel, and is abundantly stocked with photographs and maps. While simple in design and lacking scale, the latter do trace the operational movements of the Georgians for each campaign as well as their tactical positioning at all the battles and skirmishes described in the text. Appendices provide a list of the 1st Georgia's organizational attachments, a casualty discussion*, and richly detailed company rosters.

I Will Give Them One More Shot is a well researched and satisfyingly full featured history of a short lived Georgia regiment. In its military historical capacity, this unit study is also a valuable contribution to the literature of the 1861 battles and campaigns in western Virginia. 


* - the actual casualty list was mistakenly omitted from the first printing. However, a .pdf copy down be downloaded from the author's website (here).

Other CWBA reviews of Mercer titles:
* The Battle of Resaca: Atlanta Campaign, 1864
* Volunteers' Camp and Field Book
* Griswoldville
* Civil War Macon: The History of a Confederate City

3 comments:

  1. Drew-

    I would like to express my deep gratitude for your kind words. This was my first attempt at writing a history and it was very much a labor of love, having had an ancestor in the Dahlonega Volunteers. You are correct about Colonel Ramsey almost becoming a bystander to events. As time went on and he became more sickly, he spent more and more time absent. I suspect that this contributed to the confusion about when he left the regiment.

    George

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  2. I have just learned that my great-great uncle James William Loyd enlisted in this unit on March 18, 1861. Having visited the Tygart Valley area of West Virginia prior to knowing of this, I hope to get your book soon. My ancestor later served as a courier and scout for Joseph F. Johnston during Sherman's campaign for Atlanta.

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  3. Ken, the link mentioned in the above review is broken. You can get the casualty list from my website at www.georgewinstonmartin.com.

    George

    ReplyDelete

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