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Civil War Service of
John McCully Gilfillan

(John McCully Gilfillan was the son of Robert Gilfillan who had come to the Sharon, SC area about 1822 from Northern Ireland. John M. Gilfillan was married twice. First, to Fathie Hambright and later to Mary Jane Porter Roe. He saw considerable action during the Civil War, and the following account has been put together from historical records, Confederate military records, and from an account by a Captain in Company "A", 17th Regiment, SC Infantry.)


December 19, 1861 — This company was organized in York District, S.C. This company subsequently became Company "C", 17th Regiment, South Carolina Infantry.

December 20, 1861 — Tendered to and accepted by Adj. Gen. Gist.

December 27, 1861 — John McCully Gilfillan volunteered and enlisted at York Court House by Capt. Witherspoon.

January 3, 1862 — Camp Hampton (near Columbia, South Carolina). This company was mustered into Confederate Service for Special State Defence for 12 months by Lt. Col. Robert Martin. Note that, at this time, the men were "State Troops". They were reorganized as Confederate Soldiers in April and May, 1862.

January 1862 — Sent to the coast of South Carolina. Sent first to "Camp Lee" (after Robert E. Lee), a camping place on the south side of the Ashley River bridge. There they were issued (and used till the end of the war) old British muskets which had been modified from the old flintlock to the newer percussion locks. The men were also issued uniforms at this time - gray jackets and black pants, with blue stripes up the outside seams. This was the only uniforms they were ever issued. They lasted about a year. For the rest of the war the men wore what they could get. Sometimes it was clothes from home, or clothes which were stolen or taken from dead soldiers - anything except blue or black. Many men died of an outbreak of measles at this camp.

February 1, 1862 — Moved to John’s Island, where the men camped and drilled for several months. Also spent some time on Wadmalaw Island.

April 28, 1862 — Camp Pillow (believed to be somewhere on John’s Island). John McCully Gilfillan enlisted for 3 years (Confederate States of America) by Capt. Witherspoon.

June 17, 1862 — The 17th Regiment moves to the mainland and goes into camp at Rantowles on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad.

Late June -- Early July, 1862 — the regiment is moved a few miles south to an area near Adams Run.

July 19, 1862 — The 17th is ordered to prepare rations and get ready to move on the 21st.

July 21, 1862 — The regiment breaks camp and is moved by rail to Charleston, and then by the Northeastern Railroad to Wilmington, North Carolina, and then on to Richmond, Virginia, where they arrive on the 24th of July.

July 28, 1862 — The regiment is marched from Richmond down the Darbytown Road for about seven miles and goes into camp at "Camp Mary" (named for Mrs. F. W. McMaster).

August 10, 1862 — Company A kills two Yankee cavalrymen on a reconnoitering expedition near Malvern Hill. This is the first enemy killed by the 17th South Carolina.

August 13, 1862 — During the night, the regiment marches to Richmond and arrives about sunrise. They are taken by train to Gordonsville and arrive in the early evening. They camp near the station that night.

August 14, 1862 — The regiment marches to Mechanicsville and camps for two days waiting for Longstreet’s Corps to get under way for the march to Manassas Junction. The 17th is attached to Evans’ Brigade.

August 16, 1862 — Longstreet’s Corps, with Evans’ Brigade and the 17th South Carolina, begin their march towards the Rapidan River.

August 21, 1862 — The brigade crosses the Rapidan River at Raccoon Ford and continues marching up the river towards Stephensburg.

August 22, 1862 — The brigade camps near Rappahannock Station (where the railroad crosses the Rappahannock River).

August 23, 1862 — The brigade is caught in a heavy artillery duel across the Rappahannock River that lasts all day. Ninety men are killed and wounded in the brigade, although only a few shots are fired. That evening they bury their dead and send back the sick and wounded.

August 24, 1862 — Longstreet’s Corps begins marching with the hopes of crossing higher up the river. All day long, the brigade sees Pope’s Union Army moving in a parallel direction on the other side of the river.

August 25, 1862 — Longstreet’s Corps marches all day.

August 26, 1862 — The brigade crosses the Rappahannock River at Hinson’s Ford and camps near a place called "Orleans."

August 27, 1862 — Longstreet’s Corps marches all day and camps that night near White Plains.

August 28, 1862 — Longstreet’s Corps marches thirty miles, passes through Salem, and reaches Thoroughfare Gap, where the railroad crosses the mountain.

August 29, 1862 — Battle of Thoroughfare Gap. The 17th sees little, if any, action. That evening, Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson join forces.

August 30, 1862 — Lee and Jackson defeat Pope at Battle of Second Manassas, Virginia. For most of the morning, the 17th arranges the lines of battle. The day is fair, clear, and very warm. The fiercest fighting for the 17th South Carolina comes at about 6:00PM near Chinn Ridge. Colonels Means and Gadberry are killed in the fighting. The 17th loses 62% of its 304 men.

September 4-7, 1862 — Lee crosses the Potomac into Maryland to invade the North.

September 7, 1862 — Longstreet’s Corps marches to Frederick City, Maryland.

September 14, 1862 — McClellan attacks D.H. Hill at South Mountain. Lt. Col. Stark Means is wounded and captured. The 17th Regiment loses 43% of its 141 men.

September 17, 1862 — The battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg, Maryland), the bloodiest single day of the war. The 17th loses 32% of its 59 men.

September 18, 1862 — Lee retreats to Virginia without opposition from the North.

September 20, 1862 — The brigade camps near Winchester, Virginia, and remains there until November 12th.

Late October 1862 — The entire Army of Northern Virginia passes in review before General Lee and his corps commanders. It was a grand sight. No soldier of that army would ever forget it.

November 12, 1862 — The brigade is ordered to North Carolina. They march to Culpepper Court House and then are sent by train to Halifax Court House, North Carolina. They remain here, and at Tarboro, North Carolina until November 20th.

November 20, 1862 — The brigade is sent to Kinston, North Carolina, and goes into camp six or seven miles south of Kinston at Wise’s Fork. Lee hopes to protect the supply lines in eastern North Carolina and to gather provisions from this fertile region. It is part of a larger effort that involves Longstreet and two divisions.

December 13, 1862 — Lee defeats Burnside at Marye’s Heights and saves Fredericksburg. The 17th begins a march to Kinston and engages the enemy at the Battle of Kinston. Later, the 17th falls back through the town of Kinston and takes a position on Washington Hill.

December 15, 1862 — The 17th marches to Goldsboro and camps east of town.

December 17, 1862 — The 17th marches through the town of Goldsboro towards the railroad bridge. Because of poor Confederate leadership, the federals under General Foster burn the bridge and retreat to New Bern without a fight.

December 18, 1862 — The 17th marches back to Kinston, where they remain until after Christmas.

December, 1862 — John McCully Gilfillan appears on a company muster roll in Confederate Records.

March 1863 — The brigade is moved to Wilmington, North Carolina.

April 25, 1863 — The brigade leaves Wilmington on the Northeastern Railroad for Charleston and arrives on the evening of the 26th, camping at the Four Mile House until the 28th.

April 28, 1863 — The 17th marches through Charleston, crosses the Ashley River on the long bridge, and camps near the Charleston and Savannah Railroad until the 4th of May.

May, 1863 — The 17th is ordered to Fort Sumter, South Carolina to become part of the garrison.

May 4, 1863 — The 17th marches to Secessionville, on James Island near Charleston, and relieves the 24th South Carolina Volunteers, who are leaving to join the Western Army.

May 9, 1863 — Yankee soldiers land on John’s Island and occupy Legareeville. The 17th is ordered to defend the island, but by the time they arrive, on the evening of May 10, the enemy has gone into hiding and their is no battle. The 17th returns to James Island.

May 16, 1863 — The 17th crosses the Ashley River in a ferryboat and leaves Charleston by rail about midnight for Jackson, Mississippi. They camp on the Pearl River, near Jackson, until the 22nd of June. We don’t think John McCully Gilfillan made this trip. Many soldiers deserted and returned home. We think this is what John did. Later, he turned himself in, or was captured, and, by July 1, was in confinement near Charleston.

June 22, 1863 — The 17th breaks camp and marches on the Livingston and Canton road towards Vicksburg.

June 23, 1863 — The 17th joins forces with a brigade from Arkansas and one from Tennessee and becomes a new division under the leadership of Major General French. They move toward Vicksburg through Canton and Brownsville and finally camp at Birdsong’s Mill on July 2nd.

July 1, 1863 — Company Muster Roll. John McCully Gilfillan was present, but in Confinement at Mt. Pleasants, South Carolina.

July 4, 1863 — The 17th learns from a courier that Vicksburg has surrendered and the Confederate Army, under General Johnston, is in retreat. They stand by, ready to fight, until July 7th, and then retreat to Jackson. The 17th sees fierce fighting for nine days.

July 16, 1863 — The 17th moves, by way of Brandon, to Forest Station, Mississippi. The brigade camps at Forest Station until July 23rd.

July 23, 1863 — The 17th moves six miles and camps near Beaverdam Creek. They remain here until August 4th.

August 4, 1863 — The brigade marches to Forest Station and draws rations of fresh beef and corn meal, but before they can eat it, a train arrives to take them to Savannah, Georgia. They leave with nothing to eat and never see the Western Army again.

August 5, 1863 — The brigade leaves Meridian, Mississippi by rail and travels through Demopolis and Selma, then down the Alabama River to Montgomery, then by rail through Georgia into Savannah, arriving on August 9th.

August 10, 1863 — The 17th marches about ten miles out of Savannah on the Skidaway shell road and goes into camp for sixteen days on the Skidaway River at "Camp Johnston".

August 26, 1863 — The 17th leaves Savannah for Charleston, arriving on the 27th and is stationed on Sullivan’s Island and at various places in and around Charleston, including James Island and Fort Sumter.

October 15, 1863 — While camped at Secessionville on James Island, President Davis and General Beauregard visit and review the 17th together with all the troops on the island.

October 31, 1863 — Company Muster Roll. Present. John McCully Gilfillan is paid ($24.00) by Capt. Means. The 17th contains 324 men on this day.

October 31, 1863 — (Later that day?) Absent from Service. Mt. Pleasants, SC.

January 9, 1864 — John McCully Gilfillan is (probably temporarily) transferred to Hampton’s Legion, South Carolina. This company was also known as Company "B", Mounted Infantry Regiment, Hampton Legion South Carolina Volunteers. The Hampton Legion South Carolina Volunteers was originally organized June 12, 1861 with an infantry battalion of eight companies A-H; a cavalry battalion of four companies A-D; and an artillery battalion of two companies A and B. By Standing Order #196 A&I, General Order dated August 22, 1862, the cavalry battalion became a part of the 2nd Regiment South Carolina Cavalry. The artillery battalion became separate and independent companies some time prior to August 25, 1862 about which date the Legion was re-organized. The infantry battalion was increased to a regiment November 16, 1862 by the addition of two companies, I & K, which had been formed by consolidation of the 13th battalion SC Infantry, by Standing Order #239, Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia dated November 11, 1862. The infantry regiment was transferred to the cavalry service about March, 1864, and it was paroled at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 10, 1865 as Hampton Legion Mounted Infantry South Carolina Volunteers.

Winter 1863-1864 — The 17th is camped at several locations and spends the winter around Charleston including Sullivan’s Island, Secessionville, and James Island.

February 16, 1864 — The 17th marches out of Charleston to Green Pond on the Charleston and Savannah railroad and are given a speech by Col. McMaster encouraging them to re-enlist for the duration of the war. "The whole regiment moved forward like the work of a machine." They are promised that all of the men will be sent home, in rotation, for a furlough of twenty days. Four men from each company are sent home. Those are the last furloughs ever granted.

April 16, 1864 — The 17th is sent by rail to Wilmington, but takes three days owing to the bad condition of the cars and the railroad. They are camped here and at Tarboro, North Carolina, handling prisoners captured by General Hoke at Plymouth, North Carolina, until May 16th.

May 16, 1864 — The unit is ordered north to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee. They are sent to fight in the Petersburg trenches north and south of the James River. The 17th leaves Wilmington by rail, traveling through Weldon, North Carolina, and arrives in Petersburg, Virginia on May 18th.

May 19, 1864 — The 17th marches through Petersburg and ten miles out of town to near Chester Station, where they encounter the Yankee advanced line.

May 20, 1864 — General Walker takes charge of the brigade in the morning and the Battle of Clay’s Farm ensues. General Walker is killed, but the battle is a Confederate victory. The 17th loses several good men, the 18th South Carolina has the heaviest losses. The brigade holds this position until June 16th.

June 16, 1864 — Hearing that Grant is rapidly approaching Petersburg, General Beauregard withdraws the 17th, in a forced march, back to Petersburg to defend the city.

June 16-18, 1864 — Grant launches a surprise attack at Petersburg, Virginia, but command delays deny him victory, and the siege of Petersburg begins.

June 17, 1864 — John McCully Gilfillan appears at Jackson Hospital, Richmond, Virginia with chronic diarrhea and scabies.

June 18, 1864 - March 15, 1865 — The 17th digs in and hold their position near Petersburg.

July 1-8, 1864 — John McCully Gilfillan is treated for chronic diarrhea at Jackson Hospital.

July 8, 1864 — J. M. Gilfillan is returned to Duty.

July 12, 1864 — J. M. Gilfillan appears on a Register of Receiving and Wayside Hospital (General Hospital #9) near Richmond, Virginia. Disposition: Sent to Jackson Hospital.

July 13, 1864 — J. M. Gilfillan appears at Jackson Hospital, Richmond, Virginia.

July 30, 1864 — The Battle of the Crater. Petersburg mine explodes and subsequent Union assault is a disaster. The 17th loses 135 men in the explosion and fighting.

August 26, 1864 — Last sheet when paid. Paid by J. Ambler. Amount $24.00.

September 29-30, 1864 — Grant pushes his lines west of Petersburg with the battle of Peeble’s Farm.

September 30, 1864 — John McCully Gilfillan is captured at Chaffin’s Farm, Virginia.

October 3, 1864 — John McCully Gilfillan is turned over to Provost Marshall General.

October 4, 1864 — Remarks by prisoner: "To go to New York, claimed to be a deserter."

October, 1864 — J. M. Gilfillan is on a register of Prisoners confined at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia.

March 24, 1865 — The 17th receives marching orders and pulls out for Fort Steadman, located on the edge of Petersburg near Hare’s Hill.

March 25, 1865 — Battle of Fort Steadman.

March 29, 1865 — The Appomattox Campaign begins.

April 1, 1865 — Sheridan overwhelms Pickett at the Battle of Five Forks junction (west of Petersburg).

April 2, 1865 — The assault on Petersburg begins. General A.P. Hill is slain. The confederates evacuate Richmond.

April 3, 1865 — Lee pulls his army out of the defense of Petersburg and moves west. Richmond is occupied by federal troops. President Lincoln and General Grant meet briefly in Petersburg.

April 4, 1865 — President Lincoln visits Richmond.

April 6, 1865 — Battle of Sayler’s Creek, Virginia. The 17th loses many men and many more are captured. It’s possible that John McCully Gilfillan was taken prisoner in this battle, but it is also possible that he was still a prisoner from the Chaffin’s Farm battle.

April 9, 1865 — Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Grant authorizes 25,000 rations to feed Lee’s men.

April 12, 1865 — Surrender ceremonies held at Appomattox Court House. 22,000 Confederate infantry lay down their arms, furl their flags, and say their farewells. The 17th has 9 officers and 110 men who surrender.

April 13, 1865 — John McCully Gilfillan ends the war as a prisoner. We do not know if he was at Appomattox or in prison at Richmond. From whatever place, we think he probably had to walk home to South Carolina, since most of the railroads were destroyed and the scene in the south was one of chaos.

Carlton A. Gilfillan, Jr.
Carlton A. Gilfillan, Sr.

May 1997