5th SC Cavalry Regimental History

The origins of the 5th SC Cavalry can be traced to Captain Robert J. Jeffords' Co. (South Carolina Rangers) SC Mounted Militia, and Captain Wheeler G. Smith's Co. (Beech Hill Rangers) SC Mounted Militia. These volunteer companies were organized in Charleston and Colleton Districts, respectively, during the summer of 1861, under authority of a “Resolution for the Defence of the Sea Coast of this State” passed by the Secesssion Convention on 8 April 1861, and were incorporated into the 1st (Martin's) SC Mounted Militia Regiment in September of that year, under the command of Colonel William Edward Martin. Martin's Regiment was called to active duty in November 1861, in response to the occupation of Port Royal by Federal troops, and its companies were dispersed to various points along South Carolina's southern coast.

On 7 December 1861, the South Carolina legislature enacted a measure enabling the Governor to call out the militia for 12 months' service, and allowing for the organization of troops into regiments, battalions, and squadrons. Two days later, the Governor issued a call for 12,000 volunteers for 12 months' Confederate service, and ordered a draft to meet the required number if sufficient volunteers were not forthcoming. The effect of this proclamation was to require all volunteer military organizations to reorganize for 12 months' service, which Jeffords' company did almost immediately.

Colonel Martin was given until 1 February 1862, to reorganize his command, which at its height numbered some 21 companies on paper. However, he soon encountered several obstacles. Many men were unwilling to reenlist for 12 months, especially when told that credit would not be given for time already served. Further, the provision allowing for the formation of cavalry into squadrons of four companies, as well as regiments of 10 or more companies, prompted several of his more ambitious officers (including Captain Robert J. Jeffords) to begin efforts to form their own independent commands, effectively placing them in competition with Martin for the mounted companies.

By the February deadline, Martin had secured commitments from only eight companies, despite continuous politicking and advertising in the Charleston newspapers. In a final effort to preserve his regiment, he appeared before the South Carolina Executive Council on 12 February, and requested an additional 20 days to raise the last two requisite companies. However, his request was refused “inasmuch as it was at variance with the plan of organization at present adopted by the Chief of the Military Department.” The state's military authorities had apparently decided that several independent squadrons, instead of a single regiment, were better-suited for the administration and control of cavalry troops in the coast defense role, which required that they be dispersed in small detachments over wideareas of the country. The Mounted Regiment was therefore disbanded, and its various companies were individually mustered out of state service over the next several weeks (although some would not receive their final pay until April).

Following the disbanding of the 1st SC Mounted Militia, Jeffords' Co. (the South Carolina Rangers) entered Confederate service with two new companies from Charleston (the Dixie Rangers and Willington Rangers) as Jeffords' Squadron SC Cavalry. The Beech Hill Rangers joined the squadron in April 1862, and Jeffords' Squadron subsequently became the 6th (later, 17th) Battalion SC Cavalry. These companies ultimately became B, C, D, and G of the 5th SC CavalrY

Another predecessor organization was formed in December 1861-January 1862, as the 1st Battalion SC Cavalry, but was officially designated the 2d Battalion (Squadron) SC Cavalry upon its acceptance into Confederate service. It was commanded by Major Paul Stroman Felder of Orangeburg District until its reorganization in May 1862, after which it was commanded by Major Joseph H. Morgan, and redesignated the 14th Battalion SC Cavalry. The companies of this organization became A, F, H, and I of the 5th SC Cavalry.

The 6th (Manigault's) Battalion SC Volunteers was organized with a mixture of infantry and cavalry companies in late 1861. Co. A (St. James Santee Mounted Riflemen) was divided into new Companies A and B in May 1862, and new Co. B St. James Mounted Riflemen became an independent cavalry command under Captain Louis Augustus Whilden, of Christ Church Parish, Mount Pleasant, Charleston District. This unit became Co. E, 5th SC Cavalry.

Harlan's Co. SC Cavalry was organized at Columbia in December 1862, and was commanded by Captain Joseph Gist Harlan of Unionville, SC. Harlan was previously first sergeant of Co. D, SC Hampton Legion Cavalry Battalion. Harlan's new company became Co. K, 5th SC Cavalry.

On 18 January 1863, the above companies and battalions were consolidated to form the 5th SC Cavalry Regiment. Its first commander was Lieutenant Colonel Samuel W. Ferguson of the 28th MS Cavalry, who was then at home in Charleston recuperating from injuries received in a fall from his horse. However, Ferguson never joined the regiment, and chose instead to return to the western theater, where he was later promoted to brigadier general. Consequently, Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Jeffords served as acting commander until 28 July 1863, when Colonel John Dunovant was given permanent command.

Although officially designated a regiment, the companies of the 5th SC Cavalry continued to serve as detached commands assigned to coast defense duties at various locations in the Carolinas until March 1864. At that time, they were ordered to Virginia where the regiment assembled in April and along with the 4th and 6th SC Cavalry Regiments formed Butler's Brigade, Hampton's Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. For the remainder of that year, the regiment was actively engaged as mounted infantry in various actions associated with the defense of Richmond/Petersburg and the vital railroad lines supplying the Army of Northern Virginia. Colonel Dunovant retained command until 22 August 1864, when he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Butler's Brigade. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffords then commanded the regiment until he was killed at Burgess' Mill on 27 October 1864. For the remainder of the war, the 5th SC Cavalry was commanded by Captain Zimmerman Davis of Charleston, who was unofficially promoted to colonel on 15 March 1865.

In January 1865, the 5th SC Cavalry was reassigned to Wheeler's Cavalry Corps, Army of Tennessee, CSA, and returned to Columbia, South Carolina, under Lieutenant General Wade Hampton to check the advance of Major General William T. Sherman's troops from Georgia. Thereafter, it was involved in continuous skirmishing with numerically superior Federal forces as they moved inexorably north from Columbia, then across northeastern South Carolina, and finally into central North Carolina. The 5th SC Cavalry participated in the final battle of the Carolinas Campaign at Bentonville, North Carolina, and provided the escort for General Joseph E. Johnston when he met to discuss surrender terms with General Sherman at the William Bennett House near Durham Station, North Carolina, on 17 April 1865. The regiment was included in the surrender of cavalry troops at Hillsboro, North Carolina, on 27 April 1865, and its remnants were officially disbanded at Greensboro on 2–3 May 1865.

Available records show that some 1,750 men served in the 5th SC Cavalry and its predecessors during the period 1861-1865. Of this total, 165 (9.4%) died in service, 125 (7.1%) were wounded, 258 (14.7%) were lost through discharge, desertion, capture, resignation or retirement, and 135 (7.7%) transferred to other units. The average age at enlistment was 26.8 years. 200.

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