Georgia Boys Hundreds of Miles from Home
The year 1862 ended with great loss on both sides; the carnage at Fredericksburg should have convinced a sane Northern leader that the human cost of his war upon the South was not worth the ever-increasing casualty lists. By mid-year Lincoln was told that enlistments had virtually ceased and that only forced conscription could fill his armies fighting against poorly-armed and supplied Southern men who were fighting for their homes and political independence. In the fighting [below] at Seven Days’, twenty-five Athens, Georgia men were killed at the Seven Days’ battle.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Georgia Boys Hundreds of Miles from Home
“General Robert E. Lee, now in command of the entire force defending Richmond, set June 26  as the day for a great attack to drive the enemy from the area. Suddenly, in mid-afternoon there came the crashing sounds of war. Many thousands of Confederate soldiers crossed the Chickahominy [river], advancing eastward toward the village of Mechanicsville, driving the enemy steadily before them.
It was after four o’clock in the afternoon before Captain Samuel Lumpkin led the Johnson Guards across the Chickahominy . . . [and] Scarcely had they crossed before a group of civilian horsemen appeared . . . it was President [Jefferson] Davis, trying as ever to get nearer the center of action.
Lumpkin’s men hurried toward Mechanicsville with their regiment . . . exposed on open ground to the raking fire from the heights beyond. Some found cover, others could only protect themselves by lying down prone. There was no chance for a direct assault on the Federal lines, and the Southern commanders could only hope to flank the Union left. The Forty-fourth Georgia, that included the Johnson Guards, was given the task . . . in the face of the concentrated fire of Federal muskets that poured bullets into them from the easiest point-blank range.
The Georgia lines were shattered, and the attack utterly crushed. Of the five hundred men of the Forty-fourth Regiment that entered the battle, less than fifty escaped unharmed; nine-tenths of the command were shot or captured. Of the three hundred Georgians that lay dead in the tangled swamp of Beaver Dam Creek, eleven were country boys from the Watkinsville area, shot dead on their first day of battle, hundreds of miles from home.
On the following days the Confederate command, rallying all along the line, regained the initiative it had lost at Beaver Dam Creek. At Gaines’ Mill, Savage Station, and Frayser’s Farm, in one bitter battle after another, the enemy was gradually pushed back from the gates of Richmond.
In the early morning hours of July 1, the war once again caught up with the Johnson Guards, when the weary survivors of Ripley’s Brigade were thrown into the attack against the hill. Before the day was over, the six other Clarke County companies were joined in the fight, all occupying the same battle line. The old Athens Guards [of Capt. Henry C. Billups] and [Capt. Isaac S. Vincent’s] Clarke [County] Rifles, now merely companies “K” and “L” in the regiment of [Ambrose] R. Wright’s Brigade, were on hand. So were Captain William S. Grady’s Highland Guards, of Robert Ransom’s Brigade, and the three Athens companies of Tom Cobb’s Legion, of his brother Howell’s Brigade.
At one time, all the Athens companies were on the move simultaneously in the Army’s desperate attempt to make headway up the murderous slope. But the onslaught was useless; the defensive positions were too strong, and he attackers were driven back with great loss. As night came on, the Federals still held the hill. When the artillery of both sides finally ceased firing at ten o’clock that night, only the agonized cries of the wounded and the dying could be heard from the hillside.
At daylight the following morning, Wright’s Brigade of Georgians was one of only two Confederate commands that had not been swept off the hill. As the men of the Athens Guard and Clarke Rifles looked up the slope, the only soldiers they could see were the writhing wounded and the shattered bodies of the dead. Eleven of their comrades had been killed.
Out of sight, behind the crest of the hill, a Federal force of cavalry and infantry waited for a time, but withdrew at the first fire of the Confederates. By ten o’clock in the morning, the last Union soldier had disappeared . . . The field belonged to the South at last, but the victory had not been won. The enemy had successfully got away.
Edgar Richardson, of [Capt. Marcellus Stanley’s] Troup Artillery, walked over the Malvern Hill battlefield, looked at the bulging eyes of the dead, and wrote his sister he never wanted “to behold such a sight again.” Tom Cobb wrote [wife] Marion: “It is very unpleasant to go to [the battlefields], not only on account of the stench, but also the flies which . . . over the whole earth and trees in a dense mass.
Thus ended the Seven Days. The enemy was gone, withdrawn to its James River base, and Richmond was saved.”
(These Men She Gave, Civil War Diary of Athens, Georgia, John F. Stegeman, UG Press, pp. 52-54)