Thursday, 23 April 2009

Hampton’s Legion, Washington Light Infantry

From what I’ve recently read the old clichéd image of Confederate troops portrayed as wearing various colours and styles of uniform is largely historically inaccurate, especially so during the early period of the war. However I rather like this traditional image and thought it would make a nice counterpoint to my Union troops ‘factory fresh’ style uniforms so I decided to paint the Confederate’s to represent battle weary veteran troops.

My brother lent me a very interesting book 'Brassey's History of Uniforms American Civil War: Confederate Army.' Of particular note are the illustration's by Richard Hook. One in particular shows soldiers from South Carolina, Hampton’s Legion, Washington Light Infantry Volunteers Co. A. at the Battle of Seven Pines in 1862.

For more detailed information about the unit please follow the links below:

This painting formed the basis of my decision to paint some of the figures to represent these troops. The Washington Light Infantry (WLI) were first organized in 1807 and is now one of the America’s oldest militia units. They saw action in War of 1812. During the American Civil War the WLI formed part of Hampton’s Legion which formed almost a self contained army. Hampton's Legion was organized and partially financed by South Carolina plantation owner Wade Hampton III early in 1861. Elements of the Legion took part in almost every major campaign in the Eastern Theatre.

Hampton’s Legion was originally composed of six companies of infantry with the WLI forming the first company:

Co. A Washington Light Infantry Volunteers - Charleston

Co. B Watson Guards - Edgefield

Co. C Manning Guards - Sumter

Co. D Gist Riflemen - Anderson

Co. E Bozeman Guards - Greenville

Co. F Davis Guards - Greenville

Three cavalry battalions:
Co. A Edgefield Hussars - Edgefield

Co. B Brooks Troop - Greenford Co.

C Beaufort District Troop - Beaufort

Washington Artillery

The Legion, particular the infantry, saw action in the following major engagements:
First & Second Manassas, Peninsular Campaign, Seven Days Battles, Sharpsburg, Tennessee Campaign, Wilderness, Siege of Petersburg & Battle of Appomattox Court house. After suffering heavy looses at Antietam the Legion infantry were used for garrison duty therefore not being used during the Gettysburg campaign unlike the cavalry and artillery. The cavalry and artillery also saw action at the Battle of Bentonville. The infantry later formed part of Hood's Texas Brigade. The remnants of the Legion’s infantry surrendered with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

Wade Hamilton III was an interesting chap. Born in South Carolina he serving as its governor and two terms as a U.S. Senator. He father served in the War of 1812 and his grandfather fought during the War of Independence. Along the infamous Nathan Bedford Forrest he was one of only two officers to achieve the rank of lieutenant general in the cavalry service of the Confederacy.

Hampton first saw combat at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 and was wounded five times during the war, including at the Battle of Seven Pines. In the Gettysburg Campaign Hampton received three saber cuts to the head as well as a sharpel wound to the hip.

In mid September 1864, Hampton conducted the "Beefsteak Raid", capturing over 2000 cattle, 11 wagons and over 300 prisoners from behind enemy lines with relatively light losses. After the glory came the tragedy. Later in the same year Hampton sent his son Thomas Preston, a lieutenant and an aide to his father, to deliver a message from Petersburg, Virginia. Shortly afterward, Hampton and his other son, Wade IV, rode in the same direction. After a short distance they discovered Preston's body. Hamilton’s son Wade IV naturally jumped down but he was also shot later dying from his wound.

Hampton surrendered to the Union along with General Johnston's Army of Tennessee at Durham, North Carolina. He died in Columbia in April 1902 aged 84.

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