16th GA Infantry – A Brief Regimental History

Welcome! If you have arrived here, you are probably looking for information about your ancestor’s Civil War service. If you have been looking for very long, you have probably already discovered that there is very little compiled information available.

My connection to the 16th Georgia is through my husband. His gg grandfather, Pvt. William Walker Fitts, served in Company D “Danielsville Guard” and was killed at the Bloody Angle at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. When I attempted to gather information on my husbands ancestor, I realized that the resources are few.

Basic Regimental Information:

On December 8, 1860, Howell Cobb wrote to President James Buchanan resigning his position as US Secretary of the Treasury to return to Georgia: “If, as I believe, history will have to record yours as the last administration of our present Union, it will also place it side by side with the purest and ablest of those that precede it.”

Just over a month later, on January 19, 1861, the Georgia Secession Act passed by a vote of 208 to 89, due largely to the influence of Howell Cobb and his brother, Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb. On February 4, 1861, Howell Cobb was elected President of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States at Montgomery AL and, at 1pm on February 18, 1861, he administered the oath of office to Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens at the State Capitol in Montgomery AL.

By June 26, 1861, the Southern Banner reported, “Hon. Howell Cobb has also been to Virginia for the purpose of making arrangements to raise a regiment. We learn that he has been commissioned and will be here very soon to perfect the organization. His clarion voice will soon be heard in the mountains of the Old Sixth (Congressional District), where ‘One blast from his bugle-horn, Is worth a thousand men.’” And certainly, it was. The ten companies were quickly filled and the 880 men were encamped in Richmond by August 11, 1861.

Today, the history of the gallant regiment organized by Howell Cobb is largely forgotten. I hope to share some of the information I have gathered in this blog.

Brief Regimental History

During the early summer of 1861, the ten companies of the 16th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry (sometimes referenced as the Sallie Twiggs Regiment) were organized for service in Howell Cobb’s regiment. The companies were raised in the counties of Madison, Jackson, Gwinnett, Hart, Habersham, Columbia, and Walton, (although there were members from other counties and even a few from other states.)

The newly enlisted recruits boarded “the cars” at Athens and traveled to Richmond, Virginia in June and July. By August 11, 1861, all ten companies were encamped at Richmond. There they were assigned to the command of General Howell Cobb, and remained until Oct 18, 1861 when they were ordered to Yorktown. The Regiment fought with Magruder at Dam No. 1 and in the Seven Days battles around Richmond.

Assigned to McLaws Division of the Army of Northern Virginia, the 16th Georgia traveled into Maryland. At Crampton’s Gap (on South Mountain, near Burkittsville, MD,) the 16th Georgia would face its greatest challenge up to that point. Just three days after being badly overrun at Crampton’s Gap, the remnants of the Regiment took part in the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam.)

From there, it seems the 16th Georgia found itself in all the worst places. At Fredericksburg, they would lose their beloved General TRR Cobb at the stone wall. They were engaged again at Chancellorsville and, at Gettysburg, they battled in the  Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield. The 16th Georgia served mostly in the east, but also traveled with Longstreet to serve in the west at Chattanooga and in East TN. At Fort Sanders in Knoxville, bad weather, poor reconnaissance, and impenetrable earthworks resulted in devastating losses.

Returning to Virginia, the Regiment arrived in time to take part in the Battle of the Wilderness, and a few days later, at Spotsylvania, the 16th was called upon to fill a hole in the line at the Bloody Angle. From there, they march to North Anna and Cold Harbor where they were engaged yet again. They were part of the Confederate defense at the Siege of Petersburg and later, were part of Early’s operations in the Shenandoah Valley at Front Royal/Guard Hill and Cedar Creek, among others. They returned to the Army of Northern Virginia in the defenses around Richmond and, took part in the final battles of Sailor’s Creek and Appomattox Court House.

In April of 1862, the 16th Georgia regiment reported a force of 488 effectives. It lost 13 killed, 2 mortally wounded, and at least 52 wounded at Malvern Hill. In the Maryland campaign, the regiment lost at least 130 men killed, wounded, and captured.  The regiment sustained 77 casualties at Fredericksburg and 133 at Chancellorsville. It is estimated by some that the casualties sustained by the 16th Georgia in the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield at Gettysburg may have been as high as 39% (121 of the 303 effectives.) The 16th lost at least 79 killed, wounded, and captured in the failed assault on Fort Sanders at Knoxville and 81 at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. In the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864, the regiment sustained the loss of another 112 casualties (82 at Guard Hill and 30 at Cedar Creek.) At Cold Harbor, at least 40 men were killed, wounded and captured. Many were captured at Sailor’s Creek, including Brigadier General Dudley Dubose and Division Commander Maj Gen Joseph B Kershaw.  The 16th Georgia surrendered 2 officers and 56 men at Appomattox Courthouse under the command of 21 year old 1st Lieutenant William Washington Montgomery (Company E), who was the highest ranking officer present.

Up Next – The Captains and their Companies