- "I Will Give Them One More Shot": Ramsey's 1st Regiment Georgia Volunteers
Adding to the myriad of historical publications accompanying the Civil War sesquicentennial, George W. Martin's study is an intriguing regimental history of the First Georgia Infantry. The Georgia regiment was the first mobilized for Confederate service, the first to see combat, and the only unit disbanded at the end of its one-year service term in 1862. Martin portrays the First's participation in the spring 1861 standoff at Fort Pickens and traces the regiment's service in the Army of the Northwest, where members saw action in western Virginia from June 1861 through February 1862. Martin undertook extensive research—uncovering newspaper editorials, soldiers' correspondence, and diaries—to chronicle the "story of the men of the 1st Georgia, related in large part through their own words . . . to give their history a human face" (preface).
Martin initially details the regiment's mobilization in early April 1861. Although it formally assembled in Macon, under James N. Ramsey, members hailed from diverse communities across the state—including Atlanta, Bainbridge, and Columbus. Governor Joseph Brown even ordered a unit from Dahlonega mustered in, because he hoped it would "increase sentiment in Lumpkin and the surrounding mountain counties in support of secession" (24). Martin depicts many soldiers' naïve jubilation upon enlistment; he oversimplifies, however, the complex issues facing Georgians, stating merely that "sectional differences between North and South over issues such as tariffs, trade, control of Congress, and slavery were threatening to tear the United States apart" (7).
After detailing the 1st Georgia's stint in Pensacola, manning Rebel batteries facing Union-occupied Fort Pickens, Martin sketches how members' initial euphoria gave way to the harsh realities of war in the Virginia highlands. In July 1861, the Georgians engaged Union forces at Laurel Hill, but the author romantically claims, "the vastly outnumbered [Confederates] fought gallantly but were overwhelmed by superior federal numbers" (94). During the retreat, [End Page 286] the regiment undertook devastating rearguard actions at Kalers Ford and Corricks Ford, which cut off six companies from the main column. As many of the stranded Georgians became lost in the rugged mountains for over a week, they not only began eating birch bark and shoe leather to stave off starvation, but a few also allegedly "entertained thoughts of cannibalism" (119).
The regiment also took part in Gen. Robert E. Lee's failed September 1861 Cheat Mountain campaign, aided in the Confederate victory at the October 1861 Battle of Greenbrier River, and served under Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in January 1862. Under Jackson, the Georgians suffered forced marches in the harsh winter weather and endured "rampant sickness and the filthy conditions" at their quarters in Romney (206). Regimental officers secured a transfer; however, because the unit's service term was soon ending, officials ordered the First back to Georgia and mustered out in March 1862, weeks before the passage of the Confederate Conscription Act. Martin concludes by reviewing the regiment's postwar commemorations and providing short biographies of its notable figures.
Martin has composed a fine story, yet, because he fixates on the minutia of army life, readers may often lose sight of the wider context of the war. With the burgeoning literature on Civil War memory, Martin may have also placed the 1st Georgia's reunions within the larger Lost Cause movement. This regimental history will undoubtedly captivate general audiences, and the detailed rosters will certainly prove useful to genealogists and scholars alike.