1859-The organization of F Company, or Company F, as it was variously called, was completed on June 23, 1859, with the election of Captain R. Milton Cary. Captain Cary, a successful Richmond attorney, had served as adjutant of the 1st Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, 1855-1856, and as Lieutenant colonel of the regiment from 1856 until 1859, when he resigned to organize a volunteer militia company of light infantry. Soon after its organization, the company entered the 1st Regiment and was designated as Company F.
Details of the uniform adopted by the company were published in the Constitution and By-Laws of F Company, First Regiment Volunteers. Adopted June 30, 1859, a copy of which is now in the library of the Confederate Museum in Richmond. The uniform consisted of a single-breasted cadet gray frock coat, trimmed in black, with a row of ten brass Virginia seal buttons down the front. Gray pants, with a two inch black stripe down the outer seams, were prescribed for winter dress, while plain white pants were worn in the summer. Officers wore the same uniform, except for a gold braid trim on the coat collar and gold stripe on the pants. For dress, the company wore a black felt and patent leather cap, with a white pompon. The company also had a gray fatigue jacket and a forage cap with a brass letter "F" on the front. It was a handsome uniform, and other companies in the city soon adopted it for their own. John H. Worsham, who enlisted to the company in April 1861, recalled in his book, One of Jackson's Foot Cavalry, published in 1912, that F Company also had red and white calfskin knapsacks imported from Paris, imported canteens, and black overcoats with Virginia seal buttons.
When the news of John Brown's raid reached Richmond on October 17, 1859, F Company, numbering 70 men, left the city that evening to accompany Governor Wise to Harpers Ferry. The company arrived there five hours after the raiders had taken the engine house. The other Richmond companies left on the morning of October 18. They got as far as Washington, where they received orders to return to Richmond because the raiders had been captured. All companies were back in Richmond by the evening of October 19. Rumors of attempts to free the prisoners at Charlestown became widespread, and on the evening of November 19, F Company along with six other Richmond companies, left for Charlestown, where they remained until after the execution of Brown.
1860-On July 31, 1860, the company, under Captain Cary, with the 1st Regiment Band and a portion of the drum corps, left the city for a visit to White Sulphur Springs. The Daily Dispatch reported that it was believed that Governor Wise would accompany them. Aside from participation in regimental parades, this was probably the most significant event in the history of F Company during 1860.
1861-F Company was among the companies called out on April 21, 1861, when it was believed that the Federal gunboat Pawnnee was steaming up the James River to shell Richmond. At sunset, F Company reached Wilton, about ten miles down the river, where they were joined by the Howitizers. The Pawnnee never appeared, and on the next day, the companies returned to the city on barges which had been sent down for them.
News was received on April 24 that the Federals were landing a Aquia Creek, the terminus of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. F Company and the Richmond Light Infantry Blues were ordered there at once. Upon reaching Fredericksburg, it was learned that the enemy had not landed, and the two companies were sent to the fairgrounds, where Camp Mercer was established. About three weeks later, F Company was ordered to Aquia Creek, where the Company received its baptism of fire when enemy gunboats shelled the area on June 7. While the company was at Aquia Creek, it was drilled almost daily perfecting the skirmish drill and bayonet exercises.
While at Fredericksburg and Aquia Creek, a number of changes occurred in F Company. When it left Richmond, the company was comprised of three officers, seven non-commissioned officers, 123 privates, one surgeon, and an assistant surgeon. A number of men left the company afterwards to join other commands. Notable among them was William (Willie) R.J. Pegram, who was assigned to the Purcell Battery, and subsequently became one of the Confederacy's most eminent artillerists. Captain Cary was given command of a battalion and was appointed colonel of the 30th Regiment Virginia Infantry on June 15. First Lieutenant Richard H. Cunningham was elected to replace Cary as captain of F Company.
F Company was ordered to Richmond on June 14 and was sent to Camp Lee upon reaching the city. On June 28, the company was mustered in State service for one year, effective from April 21, the date on which it was enrolled for active service. Near the end of June, the 21st Regiment Virginia Infantry was organized and Captain Cunninghams's company was assigned to it as Company F. The regiment, under Colonel William Gilham of the Virginia Military Institute, was comprised of ten companies, totaling about 850 rank and file.
On July 18, the regiment left for Staunton, arriving there on the next day. The regiment resumed its march on the 21st into western Virginia to join the command of General Loring, arriving at Huntersville, Pocahontas County, on July 26. Here the 21st was joined by several regiments of infantry and some cavalry and artillery. An epidemic of measles and typhoid fever broke out, and by August 3rd, when they left Huntersville, at least a third of the regiment was hospitalized.
Loring's command continued on the march. On August 6th, they went into camp at Valley Mountain. Here they were joined by General Lee, who had arrived to coordinate operations in the western part of the State. On September 9, the regiment was ordered forward, and engaged the enemy at Conrad's Mill on the 11th. The Federals retired, and the 21st Regiment, 1st Battalion (Irish) Virginia Infantry, a battery of artillery, and a company of cavalry. Colonel Gilham was placed in command of these troops, and soon moved them to Elk Mountain. He remained there until October 9, when they left for Edray. Remaining at Edray until October 14, Gilham moved his troops to the Greenbrier River, where they were encamped about a month. After marches and encampments at Warm Springs, Bath Alum Springs, and Milboro, Gilham's command left for Staunton on December 4. On December 10, the regiment left for Winchester to join General Jackson. At Winchester, the Irish Battalion, and the 48th, 42nd and 21st Regiments were formed into the Second Brigade, Jackson's Division.
1862-The first real fight in which F Company participated occurred on January 3, 1862, when Jackson's forces were about five miles from Bath in Morgan County. When contact was made with the enemy, F Company was moved to the front and deployed as skirmishers. Heavily engaged until dark, the company lost Private William Exall who was killed and Lieutenant James B. Payne, who was seriously wounded. On the next morning, Jackson moved against the enemy at Bath, the Second Brigade marching with F Company as the advance guard. The Federals were driven from Bath and crossed the Potomac during the night.
Colonel Gilham and Major Scott Shipp left the regiment on January 9, 1862 to resume their duties at the Virginia Military Institute. As a token of respect for Colonel Gilham, F Company presented him with a fine horse, with the company's letter F attached to the bridle.
On January 14, Jackson moved into Romney, where F Company established its quarters in the bank building. Jackson then returned to Winchester with his original force, leaving Loring's command at Romney. Romney was evacuated on February 3, and Loring moved his command to rejoin Jackson at Winchester. On March 22, Jackson marched 27 miles from Rude's Hill and bivouacked that night near Fisher's Hill. On the 23rd , near Kernstown, the regiment was heavily engaged in the battle there, in which Jackson was defeated. This was the first "regular" battle experienced by F Company, which had six wounded.
After Kernstown, Jackson retired up the valley, and went into camp near Swift Run Gap on April 19. Here, with the reorganization of the army, the 21st Regiment elected John M. Patton, colonel; Richard H. Cunningham, Jr., lieutenant colonel; and John B. Moseley, major; and F Company elected William H. Morgan, captain.
On May 2, Jackson was at Port Republic, and on the 4th reached Staunton. Leaving Staunton early on May 6, Jackson joined General Edward Johnson's command about noon. The two forces moved westward, and on May 8 defeated Milroy near McDowell. Jackson abandoned his pursuit of the enemy on May 13 and marched back through McDowell toward Harrisonburg, which he reached on the 20th. Jackson's army marched down the valley, and on May 22, it was joined by General Ewell's command. Three days later, Jackson drove Banks from Winchester and advanced beyond Winchester to threaten Harpers Ferry. On May 28, the 21st Regiment, numbering about 250 men, returned to Winchester to take charge of about 3,000 prisoners, whom they guarded until June 18, when they were turned over to the guard at Lynchburg. The regiment then proceeded to Charlottesville and rejoined the brigade on June 21, as Jackson's army was moving to join Lee's forces at Richmond against McClellan.
On June 27, the 21st Regiment, along with the Second Brigade, under the command of Colonel Cunningham, was heavily engaged at Gaines' Mill, where the Federals held "the strongest point I saw occupied by either army during the war," wrote John Worsham of F Company. Jackson's men spent the night on the hard won field, and after re-building the bridge at the Chickahominy, crossed over on the morning of June 30. Passing the Savage farm, Jackson moved in the White Oak Swamp, and later found the enemy in position at Malvern Hill. The Second Brigade received a terrific shelling on July 1, but did not become engaged. On July 11, Jackson's troops went into camp at the Morris farm on the Mechanicsville Turnpike, remaining there until July 16, when they left for Louisa Court House.
On August 7, Jackson moved from Gordonsville, and defeated Pope's advance at Cedar Mountain on the 9th. Nearly half of Jackson's losses in the battle were with the Second Brigade. Lieutenant Colonel Richard H. Cunningham, formerly captain of F company, and then in command of the brigade, was among the dead. F Company, which went into battle with only 18 men, had six killed and six wounded.
After Longstreet's Corps had joined General Jackson, the army broke camp on August 20 to move against Pope. Crossing the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers, they were beyond Gainesville in Prince William County on August 26. The Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, was sent with the division into Manassas Junction, where vast quantities of stores were seized. After setting fire to the depot, the division moved across the old Manassas battlefield of 1861 to a ridge near Groveton. The 21st Regiment, with the brigade, was engaged in the ensuing Battle of Second Manassas, from the very beginning until the end. On the 30th, Lieutenant Edward G. Rawlings, commanding F Company, was Killed in the fighting along the railroad cut. F Company had been greatly depleted in strength by the time of Second Manassas, and when the army crossed the Potomac into Maryland, there were only three persons for duty in the company: Malcolm L. Hudgins, Reuben J. Jordan, and John H. Worsham. These men were permitted to march, camp and fight anywhere within the regiment they might choose. During the Maryland Campaign, they were known as the "guerrillas of the 21st."
1863- In January, 1863, the few men comprising F Company were sent to Camp Lee, near Richmond, to recruit and re-build the company. A few men were enlisted as soon as the company reached camp, some old members re-joined, and by June 22, when they left for Staunton, the Company, under Captain William A. Pegram, had three officers and 49 enlisted men. Upon reaching Staunton, the company was placed in charge of about a hundred stragglers and ordered to deliver them to the provost guard of the army, which at the time was about to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania. Because of the trouble given by the prisoners, the column traveled only during the day. On July 5, the company turned the men over to the provost guard and crossed the Potomac at Williamsport. Here, they received news of the battle at Gettysburg, and were ordered to halt and re-join the army as it fell back into Virginia. On July 6, Federal Cavalry attacked F Company while it was on picket duty outside Williamsport. Captain Pegram, rather than just defending his position, ordered a charge in which he and three members of the company were killed. Afterwards, the Company marched to Hagerstown and re- joined the regiment on July 8, which was encamped two miles beyond the town.
The 21st Regiment marched with Ewell's Corps, to which they now belonged, into Orange County, joined General Lee there on August 1 and went to camp at Montpelier, the old home of President Madison. On August 20, the Second Brigade was drawn up in line for the presentation of a new battle flag to the 21st Regiment, which was presented to the color bearer, who had lost an arm at Chancellorsville. This flag was carried until the surrender. At Montpelier, the company enjoyed their longest rest of the war. After a grand review of the division, which now was under Major General Edward Johnson, the rest was disturbed only by regular drills and the usual camp duties. On September 16, the army commenced a series of marches and engagements which included the Bristoe campaign and ended with the Mine Run operations of November 26 to December 2. The division spent much of the winter of 1863-1864 in quarters near Mount Pisgah Church in Orange County.
1864- On May 2, 1864, winter quarters were broken up, and the brigade along with Ewell's Corps marched ten miles to Bartley's Mill. On the 4th, they proceeded to Locust Grove, and on May 5, marched but a short distance, formed a line of battle, and soon became engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness. The brigade's losses here were very severe and nearly all of the 25th Regiment was captured. F Company lost three killed and two wounded.
Ewell's Corps, with the Second Brigade in advance, moved from Lee's left to his right on May 8. Marching by Todd's Tavern, the troops were moved into the line of battle at Spotsylvania Court House at sunset but were not engaged. Early on the morning of May 9, the brigade was moved further to the right of the line. The brigade occupied the salient with the 21st Regiment near the toe of the "horseshoe" as it was called. The men worked hard constructing works especially designed for protection against fire from all directions. The regiment had scarcely finished when orders came to report to General Stewart about three quarters of a mile to the front. The night was spent on the line, in advance as skirmishers. Heavy fighting occurred along the front during the 10th. Soon after dark on the 11th, the enemy began to move in front of the skirmish line held by the 21st Regiment, and at daybreak on May 12, General Hancock launched his attack, one that had never been witnessed before. The 21st Regiment, as skirmishers, was driven in; and after making a circuit to the left, passed through the line. The regiment moved to the rear and reported to General Ewell, who informed them that the division had been captured and that he had believed the 21st was among them. The regiment was immediately ordered back into the line and was heavily engaged for the remainder of the day. On May 15, F Company was again committed to action. On May 16, the regiment was engaged in skirmishing, and on the 17th, with skirmishers from Rodes' Division, the 21st Regiment drove back an enemy attack with heavy losses. On May 19, Ewell's Corps marched in pursuit of the enemy and engaged them until late in the night before returning to their old positions in the breastworks.
After the capture of Johnson's Division, the Virginia stragglers and others who escaped capture, about 600, were organized into a brigade to which William Terry, of the Stonewall Brigade, was assigned to command. Terry's Brigade, and the brigades of Evans and York, were formed into a division, to which Major General John B. Gordon was appointed to command.
On May 21, Gordon's Division marched to Hanover Junction ahead of Grant, who was marching for the same point. The operations of the two armies moved to the south, east of Richmond. On May 29, Gordon's Division was in line of battle at Bethesda Church, ready for Grant, who withdrew after some skirmishing. On the 30th, Gordon attacked and drove back the Federals for about a mile and a half. The division moved to the right on the 31st, and on June 1, the Second Corps moved out to attack, but only became engaged in skirmishing. On June 2, the division captured three lines of the enemy's fortifications and took about 700 prisoners. While occupying these works during the 3rd, they repulsed several attempts by the enemy to retake them. One enlisted man of F Company and Captain Jordan were severely wounded during the fighting. John Worsham remembered that in the midst of the fighting on the 3rd, the enemy's artillery fired over two rammers, both of which stuck in the ground a little to the rear of the positions held by the 21st Regiment.
On June 9, the Second Corps, after being on active duty for 35 days, moved to the rear and went into camp. Ewell was sick, and General Early was assigned to command the corps, which was then comprised of the divisions of Rodes, Gordon, and Ramseur. Early was ordered to move his command on June 13 to Lynchburg, then being threatened by the advance of the Federals under Hunter. Marching to a point just north of Keswick Depot in Albemarle County, which was reached on June 17, Early's men boarded a train which took them to Lynchburg. Hunter, who was at the time only two miles from Lynchburg, turned away towards the valley. Early followed, and on June 23 passed over Natural Bridge, where he halted his command to rest. On the next day, Early marched to Lexington, where the whole corps marched past Jackson's grave. Staunton was reached on June 27. On July 3, Early arrived at Martinsburg, where a large quantity of stores were taken, and on the 4th, F Company celebrated the day with a keg of lager beer. On July 6, Gordon's Division was before Harpers Ferry, and after driving the enemy back into their fortifications, they turned east, marched by Antietam, Boonsboro, through South Mountain at Fox Gap, and into Frederick.
At the Monocacy River east of Frederick, on July 9, Early crossed the river, flanked the Federals and drove them back. The troops comfortably watched the opening phase of the battle, but within a short time Gordon rode up and ordered his men to move at once. Crossing the river, the brigade moved forward in line of battle through a cornfield to a field surrounded by a fence. Gordon directed some of the men to pull down part of the fence so that the brigade could pass through, and without waiting for orders, the brigade rushed through into the battle. The losses in Early's command at Monocacy were largely confined to Gordon's Division. F Company had one killed and one wounded.
Two days after Monocacy, Early passed through Rockville, Maryland, and in the afternoon came within sight of Washington. They were shelled, and Rodes drove back skirmishers, who had been sent out from the defenses. Early had been instructed "to threaten Washington" only, and on the night of July 12, left Washington and recrossed the Potomac, and went into camp near Leesburg.
General Early remained in the lower valley until the second week of August 1864, when Sheridaan forced him to withdraw to Fisher's Hill. Early, however, received re- enforcements from Lee, and by August 17, had pushed Sheridan back across the Potomac. The Confederates were once again in the lower valley, where they remained for a month. Sheridan moved against Winchester on September 19, forcing Early to retreat as far as Fisher's Hill, where he made a stand. F Company had three wounded in the battle fought there on September 22. After Fisher's Hill, Early retired up the valley to Mt. Jackson. On October 19, he attacked Sheridan at Cedar Creek, but what was initially a Confederate victory turned into a defeat at the close of the day. Early was driven from the field, losing most of his artillery and many of his men as prisoners. F Company lost one killed, and three wounded, including Lieutenant Hudgins, who was captured. Cedar Creek virtually ended the 1864 Valley Campaign. On December 6, Gordons' Division marched from New Market to Waynesboro, where they boarded a train for Petersburg on the 7th.
1865- On their arrival at Petersburg, the division was sent into trenches on the right of Lee's defense line. On February 5, 1865, the 21st Regiment participated in the battle at Hatcher's Run. Here Captain Jordan, after the brigade had been thrown back, rallied seven men, including one from F Company, and stopped an advance of the enemy. The incident did not escape the attention of General Gordon, who complimented them on the spot, "in that peculiar way of his," wrote John Worsham, "which bound those men to him forever."
Early on the morning of March 25, Gordon's command attacked and captured Fort Stedman, on the lines east of Petersburg. A considerable portion of the Federal works were captured, but by 8.00 a.m., the enemy had counterattacked and driven the Confederates back. Gordon's losses were more than 4,000 killed, wounded and captured. In the struggle, the last offensive that Lee would launch at Petersburg, Captain Jordan was wounded, and three others of the company were wounded and captured.
Petersburg was evacuated on April 2, and the army moved westward toward Lynchburg. When it was evident that they were to surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, the flag of the 21st Regiment was torn into pieces and distributed among the regiment's survivors. A corporal and three privates were the only members of F Company paroled, and none of these had been members of the company when it left Richmond in 1861.
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