The Hampton Legion was raised and organized by wealthy South Carolina planter and politician Wade Hampton III in summer of 1861, initially consisting of a battalion of six companies of infantry, a battalion of four companies of cavalry, and a battery of artillery. Like most legions in the war, the different arms never actually fought together as intended and eventually went on to serve as individual units.
This thread will mainly focus on the infantry portion for the sake of clarity and since it retained the original name of "Hampton's Legion" throughout the war.
Company A - Washington Light Infantry Volunteers (Charleston District)
Company B - Watson Guards (Edgefield District)
Company C - Manning Guards (Clarendon District)
Company D - Gist Rifles (Anderson District)
Company E - Bozeman Guards (Greenville District)
Company F - Davis Guards (Anderson & Greenville Districts)
Company G - Claremont Rifles (Sumter District) Joined the legion after First Manassas.
Company H - South Carolina Zouave Volunteers (Orangeburg & Charleston Districts) Largely organized from the state militia company, the Charleston Zouave Cadets. Joined the legion in July 1862.
Company I - Originally companies B, D, and E of the 4th SC Inf. Btn. Assigned to Hampton's Legion on November 11, 1862.
Company K - Originally companies A and C of the 4th SC Inf. Btn. Assigned to Hampton's Legion on November 11, 1862.
Shortly after the capture of Fort Sumter in April 1861, Wade Hampton proposed his idea of raising a legion to Governor Pickens, financing part of it out of his own pocket if the state would also contribute. The governor immediately approved of his idea, and it was officially approved by the Confederate War Department on April 27.
The legion initially called for 600 infantrymen, 340 cavalrymen, and 120 artillerymen. Hampton began recruiting in Charleston, running ads in the local newspapers, and later in Columbia and other upcountry towns. He personally searched for good officer material by interviewing former members of U.S. Army, graduates of military academies such as West Point or the Citadel, as well as members of local militia organizations. Before long, over thirty companies offered themselves for enrollment in the legion; Hampton inspected and hand-picked the best. The Washington Light Infantry, one of Charleston's most prestigious local militias, was organized as Company A of the legion. Recruits filled the ranks so quickly that by May 1861 Hampton had more troops on hand than he was authorized to accept.
Hampton funded most of the legion's weaponry, ordering four Blakely rifles and 400 Enfield rifled muskets from England; the state would furnish the rest, however. The cavalry was expected to provide its own arms and mounts. The artillery could not furnish its own battery teams, so those were provided by the state.
It's widely believed that Hampton also funded the legion's uniforms, although each company actually provided their own uniforms initally. After those wore out over time Hampton did eventually furnish uniforms for the troops, writing his sister Mary Fisher Hampton and friends to sew new clothing in September 1861. Chaplain A. Toomer Porter also procured new uniforms from the South Carolina Quartermaster Department that August, which were issued out in October, consisting of frock coats and trousers made of gray jeans cloth and trimmed in yellow. As the war progressed the troops would be issued new uniforms by the state quartermaster or the Confederate quartermaster department.
The legion was organized and mustered into Confederate service at Camp Hampton (located on his estate outside Columbia) on June 12, 1861. Soon Hampton requested that the legion be attached to Beauregard's command, and before long his men were shipped off to Richmond on June 26.
The legion's infantry would get to the front in time to do more than just participate in the battle of First Manassas. They found themselves in the midst of the chaotic fighting at Henry House Hill, taking part in the capture of Ricketts' Battery. Hampton was wounded through the face in a charge on the guns, though not seriously. The legion lost 121 officers and men out of over 600 present; Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Johnson was among the killed. As John J. Hennessy says in his history of the battle, "No regiment on the battlefield rendered more important service than did Wade Hampton's legion." and "Likely no other regiment on the field received more acclaim afterward than did Hampton's, abetted greatly by Charleston's hyperactive press." The cavalry and artillery portions, however, did not arrive on the field in time to fight in the battle.
Hampton later took command of a brigade in late 1861, including his legion. They would see action throughout the Peninsula Campaign, including the battles of Eltham's Landing and Seven Pines. In the latter the legion would lose half its number (45 killed, 284 wounded) in disorganized attacks against the Federal right flank on the second day of the battle, and to no gain. Hampton was also wounded - shot through the foot - the bullet immediately being removed on the field by Surgeon E. S. Gaillard.
Initially turning down promotion, Hampton later accepted a commission as brigadier general in June 1862, departing from the legion's infantry and eventually transferring to cavalry command that July. The legion's one-year terms of service were coming to an end that summer and it would be reorganized with a reelection of officers. Though many men would reenlist, Hampton was not happy about some of the officers elected in the infantry battalion, such as Martin Witherspoon Gary, elected lieutenant colonel.
Martin Witherspoon Gary. An attorney from Edgefield, SC, he originally commanded Co. B "Watson Guards" of the legion.
Gary would prove to be a capable commander, although he was overly ambitious for self-advancement and electioneered his way into command, undermining his own friend, Lt. Col. James B. Griffin, whom Hampton preferred. From then on the infantry contingent would serve separately from Hampton, who took with him the cavalry battalion and one battery.
Always maintaining the original name of "Hampton's Legion," the infantry portion was assigned to Hood's Texas Brigade from June to November 1862, then transferred to Micah Jenkins' South Carolina Brigade. It was later mounted in 1864 and served as such throughout the remainder of the war.
While with Hood's Texans the legion saw some of its fiercest fighting. In the battle of Gaines' Mill, during the Seven Days battles, they made the charge across Boatswain's Creek; at Second Manassas they participated in the destruction of the New York Zouaves and the fighting on Chinn Ridge; and at Antietam the legion was engaged along the Hagerstown Pike on the southwestern edge of Miller's Cornfield. In the latter they went into battle with only 77 officers and men and lost 55 (3 officers and 3 men killed, 3 officers and 46 men wounded), or 71%. They weren't brigaded together for long, but during that time Hampton's Legion and Hood's Texans earned each other's respect and friendship through the trials of battle.
In November 1862 the legion was organized into a full-strength regiment with the addition of two companies from the disbanded 4th South Carolina Infantry Battalion and transferred to Micah Jenkins' brigade of fellow South Carolinians. In 1863 the brigade was left to guard Richmond during the Gettysburg Campaign, but they went West with Longstreet's Corps that year. They arrived too late to fight at Chickamauga, but participated in the Chattanooga and Knoxville Campaigns. With the rest of Jenkins' Brigade, Hampton's Legion was engaged in the night battle of Wauhatchie at Chattanooga - their only major battle during the two campaigns.
After returning back East, the regiment was separated from Jenkins' Brigade and mounted in March 1864. Commander Col. Martin W. Gary was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of a brigade of cavalry (including the legion) in the Department of Richmond. Hampton's Legion was equipped and would fight as mounted infantry throughout the remainder of the war, armed with rifles and bayonets and still mostly fighting on foot. They would see action in the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign and Appomattox Campaign until the surrender of Lee's army. The legion mustered 238 officers and men at Appomattox.
Gen. Gary refused to surrender, however, and escaped with a handful of his men, joining President Davis in North Carolina after his flight from Richmond and escorting him and his party to Cokesbury, South Carolina, where Gary's mother lived. He then ended his service there.
Infantry Battalion Commanding Officers:
Col. Wade Hampton - Promoted brigadier general June 1862.
Col. Martin W. Gary - Promoted brigadier general 5/19/1864.
Col. Thomas M. Logan - Commanded the legion until transferred to another cavalry brigade and promoted to brigadier general 2/15/1865.
Lt. Col. Robert B. Arnold - Surrendered the legion at Appomattox.
Besides Wade Hampton, five officers who served in the legion also went on to become generals: Stephen D. Lee, Martin W. Gary, Matthew C. Butler, James Conner, and Thomas M. Logan.