287,292 Pages

12th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Flag of Virginia (1861–1865).svg
Flag of Virginia, 1861
Active July 1861 – Spring 1865
Disbanded April 1865
Country Confederacy
Allegiance Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Role Infantry
Engagements American Civil War:Seven Days' Battles-Second Battle of Bull Run-Battle of Antietam-Battle of Fredericksburg-Battle of Chancellorsville-Battle of Gettysburg-Siege of Petersburg

The 12th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment raised in central Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia.

The 12th Virginia was organized at Norfolk, Virginia, in May, 1861, using the 4th Battalion Virginia Volunteers as its nucleus. Its members were from Petersburg, Richmond, Hicksford, and Norfolk. The regiment was assigned to General Mahone's and Weisiger's Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. It participated in many conflicts from Seven Pines to Cold Harbor, then was involved in the Petersburg siege south of the James River and the Appomattox Campaign. This unit totaled 691 effectives in June, 1862, and sustained 23 casualties at Oak Grove, 69 at Second Manassas, 39 during the Maryland Campaign, 1 at Fredericksburg, and 86 at Chancellorsville. Of the 348 engaged at Gettysburg, only four percent were disabled. It surrendered 12 officers and 177 men. The field officers were Colonels Everard M. Feild and David A. Weisiger; Lieutenant Colonels John R. Lewellen and Fielding L. Taylor; and Majors Edgar L. Brockett, Richard W. Jones, and John P. May.

Future Virginia governor William Hodges Mann served in the 12th Virginia. He would be the last governor of Virginia who had fought in the Civil War.

Companies and uniforms, 1861[edit | edit source]

The different companies of the 12th Virginia wore a menagerie of uniforms in the beginning. Here is the brief description of each company:[1]

Company A: The Petersburg City Guard.[edit | edit source]

Navy blue frock coats with light tape trim on the edge of the collar, pointed cuff decoration, and striping on the trousers, following in accordance to VA state regulations of this year. They wore a shako in similar pattern and color as the Richmond Grays (later Co. G, one of the shakos can be seen in Time Life's Echoes of Glory series), with the plate and pompom devices. The trim may be sky blue, white, yellow, or gold, however the way photos were taken in the 19th century, yellow and gold often appears dark, almost black, so this is a stretch of whether or not this is a possibility. One photograph depicts three members of Co. A, The one at left wears a battle shirt of lighter colored material than the trousers, a large white stand and fall collar, with a black or navy blue cord-tie coming down from the collar, with 4-5 buttons down the front, and no trim is seen; a white leather or cotton belt with a large plate is worn; the trousers are Navy blue with the same piping or tape trim down the seam: The center man wears the dress frock coat without the shako and accoutrements, 3 buttons adorn the cuffs, and infantry hunting horns/bugles are present on the collar, approx. 2 inches from the opening; he too wears the same style belt and plate: The man on the right wears a shell jacket made of a lighter material than the trousers, however it is difficult to say from the image alone whether it is grey or blue in color; it has the same design trim as the dress frock coat, minus the collar horn insignia and is shorter than the frocks’ collar is cut; he too wears the same style trousers. One photograph taken at Poplar Lawn, February, 1861, shows the Petersburg City Guard in full dress and marching order. They wear the frock coats and white accoutrement straps, with the shakos in similar description to the Richmond Grays, with the officer in center wearing light epaulets, assumedly gold; however the image is not clear enough to show the detail of the devices on the front of the shakos.

Company B, The Petersburg Grays (old)[edit | edit source]

The uniform of the Petersburg Grays was copied from the 7th New York Infantry (militia), and as such evolved from the tail coat to the frock coat during the 1850s. One image of a member of the company from 1861, (Private McKenzie Dunlop,[2] ) depicts him in both the Dress uniform and the fatigue uniform. It can be assumed that this uniform may be worn company-wide, as the original unit comprised the middle and upper classes of the city; however, it is possible that this man could have been one of only a few to wear the uniform. Here is what the dress uniform image shows: The frockcoat is Cadet Grey, being the lighter shade found in VMI and West Point Academy uniforms, 9 button front, the collar has black or navy blue piping along the edge, and gold lace either 3/8” or ½” with approx. ½”-3/4” space in the center, and a 7/8” is at the rear of the lace, three gold or yellow squares adorn the cuffs, with a 7/8” button in the center of each square: White accoutrement straps, (the image, despite the clarity of it, is not fine enough to show whether or not Pvt. Dunlop wears leather or cotton straps and belting,) the white accoutrement straps have a brass, circular, (not oval) center plate; he wears the 1850 or 1860 pattern VA state militia belt plate; He wears epaulettes, either navy blue or black boards, with white fringe, 2.5-3” long; The image also shows the shako, very similar to the 1861 US artillery or the U.S.M.A. pattern, with the 1821 eagle device on the front, toward the crown, a large wreath (approx. 3-4” in width) with a large gothic B in the center,(indicating that the image may have been taken between 1859-1861), and a pompom, barely visible, being black or navy blue: The trousers he wears also has a wide stripe down the center, being 1.5”-2” in width, the exact pattern cannot be determined from the image, as the skirt of the coat covers most of the trousers. The second image shows the same man in the fatigue dress, most likely worn under the coat. A forage cap, being navy blue, or black, (one description read dark and light greys used, similar to the 13th VA Inf. Cap,) in the McDowell design, the center disc being smaller in proportion than the US Regulation 1858 cap, the brim is shined, possibly lacquered: The battle shirt worn is of a lighter shade material than the coat and trousers, with a stand and fall collar, no color trim, 6-7 button front, small buttons are used (possibly civilian), two low set pockets, and a cravat is worn: He wears the 11 button suspender pattern trousers, however, the pockets and seams cannot be seen in this image, so as to give reference to the source of his uniform.

Company C, The Petersburg Grays, (new)[edit | edit source]

This company was formed in 1859, as the “Old Grays” expanded. It can be assumed that the uniform of the Old Grays may have been worn by the New Greys; however the information currently available indicates that this must be researched further. One thing that may be assumed is that the shako probably worn, likely had the letter “C” in the center.

Company D, The Lafayette Guards[edit | edit source]

One image capturing two members of the Lafayette Guards, shows a man standing behind his seated companion; wearing grey trousers and a grey shell jacket, trimmed with black or dark blue shoulder straps, a 7-button front, and a low collar, piped to match the straps. This may be a fatigue style uniform similar to the Richmond Greys' uniform. The seated man wears civilian clothing; a black suit, with a white pleated dress shirt and dark coloured cravat.

Company E, The Petersburg Riflemen[edit | edit source]

This Company wears a uniform that is identical to Company A, however the accoutrement straps are shined, black (possibly lacquered) leather, with the English cartridge box for an Enfield pattern Rifle/ Rifle-musket, there is no strap for the bayonet, as these may be the English frog pattern or the American pattern that attached to the belt. One image of a member, in dress uniform shows him wearing a Navy blue forage cap with a flat brim, and a small wreath on the front with VA in the center, and a pair of black or navy blue, (including the fringe,) epaulettes.

Company F, The Huger Grays[edit | edit source]

Company G, The Richmond Grays[edit | edit source]

This was once Company A of the 1st Virginia Infantry, however it was transferred on July 12, 1861, (one source reads that the transfer was later in august). The uniform they wear is similar to the Petersburg Grays, with these exceptions: The trim was black, epaulettes were black with white fringe, shako previously used in descriptions, similar to the 7th NY Militia pattern, collar on frock was completely black with gold lace and button placement as described for Company B, black flashing on cuffs with gold lace on edges. The fatigue uniform was similar to the 7th NY Inf. Jacket and kepi, the difference being that the kepi had no black trim other than the band; they also possessed double-breasted over coats.

Company H, The Norfolk Junior Volunteers[edit | edit source]

This company was composed of men from Norfolk, Virginia. When the city fell to the Union Army & Navy in 1862, many of these men left the unit for their families. The oldest volunteer organization of Norfolk (founded in 1802), enlisted on April 19, 1861, for one year. Their uniform at the start of the Civil War was a short blue coat with red and white buttons; a vest; pantaloons; black boots; and a fur cap with a crest of bearskin bound with white cotton, a black cockade, and a liberty cap front-piece made of tin. On July 1, 1861, this company was transferred from the 6th Virginia Infantry Regiment, to the 12th Virginia Infantry, as Company H. (page 6, Michael A. Cavanaugh, 1988. 6th Virginia Infantry, The Virginia Regimental Histories Series, VA: H.E. Howard Inc.)

Company I, The Meherrin Grays[edit | edit source]

Company K, The Archer Rifles[edit | edit source]

Fletcher Harris Archer was born on February 6, 1817, in Petersburg, one of the youngest of five sons and four daughters of Allen Archer, a prosperous miller, and Prudence Whitworth Archer. He attended school in Petersburg before entering the University of Virginia, where he received his bachelor of law degree on July 3, 1841. He then returned to his native city and established his practice.

On April 2, 1842, Archer was elected captain of the 7th Company, 39th Virginia Militia Regiment. He held that rank in December 1846, when he raised the Petersburg Mexican Volunteers, which became Company E of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Regiment. His was one of the few Virginia units that saw active military service during the Mexican War. The regiment reached Mexico early in 1847 and served on General Zachary Taylor's line until the end of the war. By August 1, 1848, the company was back in Petersburg, where Archer resumed his law practice. He married Eliza Ann Eppes Allen and they had one daughter, born shortly before her mother's death in April 1851. Title: Petersburg During the Civil War

Petersburg During the Civil War

Within two days of Virginia's secession from the Union, Archer raised a company of one hundred men that was designated Company K, "Archer Rifles," 12th Virginia Infantry Regiment. He was elected its captain. Shortly thereafter, on May 5, 1861, he was appointed lieutenant colonel in the 3rd Virginia Infantry Regiment. After brief intervals of service in command of the Naval Hospital in Norfolk, as lieutenant colonel of the 5th Battalion Virginia Infantry, and as commander of the 1st Brigade, Department of Norfolk, Archer retired in May 1862 to civilian life in Petersburg. On March 31, 1863, he married Martha Georgianna Morton Barksdale, a widow with three sons and one daughter.

As the armies moved ever closer to the Richmond-Petersburg front, Archer again offered his military expertise to the Confederacy. On May 4, 1864, he was commissioned a major commanding the 3rd, or "Archer's Battalion," Virginia Reserves. Composed of men between the ages of sixteen and eighteen and between forty-five and fifty-five from Petersburg and the counties of Dinwiddie and Prince George, the reserves were to be used for state defense and detail duty. They participated in Archer's greatest military accomplishment, his defense of Petersburg on June 9, 1864, in what has come to be called the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys. Title: General August V. Kautz

General August V. Kautz

As more than 1,300 Union cavalry troops led by Brigadier General August Kautz attempted to ride into Petersburg from the south and Union infantry threatened the defenses east of the city, 125 members of Archer's unit and 5 men and one gun from an artillery unit answered a call for reserves and militia to assemble at Battery 29 on the Jerusalem Plank Road. Later Archer recalled that details for special service and guard duty in Richmond had left him with barely a company of inadequately armed men in civilian clothes, combining those "with head silvered o'er with the frosts of advancing years" and others who "could scarcely boast of the down upon the cheek." His command repelled the first attack by the Northern troops but a second assault forced him back into the city. The arrival of Confederate cavalry and artillery put a check to further Union movement, but at the cost of 76 casualties to the reserves, more than half of those who had gone into action.

Promoted to lieutenant colonel, Archer led his unit in the defense of Petersburg during the subsequent Union attack of June 15–18 and throughout the nine-and-one-half-month siege of the city. Wounded in the arm at Petersburg, he was hit again during the retreat to Appomattox, where his combined force of the 3rd and 44th Battalions of Virginia Reserves surrendered sixty-five men.

After the war ended Archer returned to Petersburg and began to rebuild his law practice. Active in the local Conservative Party, he eventually became its chairman. He sought the party's nomination for mayor in 1876 and 1878 but lost both times to William E. Cameron, who had aligned himself with the Readjuster movement before the second campaign. In 1879 Archer and tobacconist Charles A. Jackson were the Conservative nominees for seats in the House of Delegates, but both lost as the Readjusters carried the city with 55 percent of the vote.

Following this defeat Archer was elected to the Petersburg City Council and his fellow councillors elected him president of that body. By virtue of this position Archer became mayor on January 2, 1882, when Cameron was sworn in as governor. At this point the council still had a Conservative majority, but the Readjusters controlled all of the elective executive offices in Petersburg except the mayor's office and vowed to oust Archer in the May 1882 election.

To counter a Readjuster–Fusionist Republican coalition, the Conservatives formed an alliance with the Straightout Republicans and ran as the Citizens' Party. Archer received their nomination for mayor but lost to Thomas J. Jarratt, and the Readjusters won a narrow majority on the city council. The Conservatives then tried to keep the Readjusters from taking their seats by alleging a violation of the city charter, and on July 1 Archer refused to vacate his office at the end of his term. He did not finally step down as mayor until a lawsuit confirmed Jarratt in the office on March 23, 1883. Title: Blandford Cemetery

Blandford Cemetery

In 1884 Archer was a delegate to the state Democratic convention in Richmond and tried to encourage dissident white Readjusters to rejoin the Democratic Party. He did not run for another public office thereafter. Archer died at his home on High Street on August 21, 1902, after having been in "feeble health by reason of his advanced age for some months." He was interred in Petersburg's Blandford Cemetery.

The Legacy of the 12th Virginia[edit | edit source]

The 12th Virginia Infantry lives on today in the form of a living history and reenactment unit bearing its designation. Companies 'B' and 'C' live on in the Richmond-Petersburg region of the Commonwealth of Virginia; with one company not associated having formed in California as company 'G'. The Virginia unit is a family-friendly, non-profit organization, and participates in numerous events in Virginia and bordering states.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Henderson, William D. (1984). 12th Virginia Infantry, The Virginia Regimental History Series. Petersburg, VA: H. E. Howard Inc.. 
  2. Field, Ron (2006). Men-at-Arms, The Confederate Army 1861-65 (4), Virginia & Arkansas. England: Osprey Publishing. 

External links[edit | edit source]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.