3rd Regiment, Virginia Infantry (Confederate)

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3rd Regiment, Virginia Infantry (Confederate)


The 3rd Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia.

Organization[edit | edit source]

On October 16, 1856 at the direction of Governor Henry Alexander Wise, David Smith Walton was commissioned to command a new volunteer militia organization in Norfolk County denominated as 1st Battalion, 3rd Regimental Virginia Volunteers. Prior to his commission, Walton of North Carolina nativity was employed as a civil engineer working on the Erie Canal before removal to Portsmouth, Virginia in 1853. Walton's Battalion was composed of four armed and uniformed companies formerly attached to Portsmouth's 7th Regiment of the line.

The companies were as follows:

Portsmouth Riflemen under Captain William James Richardson

Established in 1792, this company was the oldest organization belonging to the 3rd. In fact in 1850, it received the designation of "Oldest Volunteer Company in the State of Virginia". The company employed Rifle Green uniforms with dark plumes on their caps.

Old Dominion Guard under Captain Edward Kearns

Organized June 26, 1856

Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys under Captain P. H. Daughtrey

Organized June 4, 1856, the company employed grey frock coats and trousers and were described as handsomely dressed.

Newton Marion Rifles under Captain Johannis Watson

Organized August 1856, the company employed dark blue coats with three rows of state buttons down the front with green velvet collars, cuffs epaulets. Their trousers were dark blue with green velvet stripes and gold chords down the outer seam. The company employed the same cap as worn by the U.S. Army with a green plume tipped in black, velvet band and gold chords.In front beneath a brass bugle ornament were brass letters N.M.R.

Additional Companies[edit | edit source]

From late 1856, up until the middle of the following year three more companies were introduce into the ranks of the 3rd, thus bringing it regimental designation.

These additional companies were as follows:

Dismal Swamp Rangers under Captain James C. Choate

Organized in late 1856 at Deep Creek

Portsmouth Light Artillery under Captain Virginius O. Cassell

Organized in 1808. On June 22 1813, under Captain Arthur Emerson, this unit was stationed at Carney Island and conspicuous in the defeat of the British who attempted to capture Norfolk & Portsmouth. For a time, they were known as the Portsmouth Light Artillery Blues and later as the Portsmouth Light Artillery Guard. The company was dormant for a time and revived in late 1856.

Union Guard under Captain David J. Goodwin

Organized on June 17, 1857 and composed mostly of Irish-Americans

Pre-War Operations[edit | edit source]

1856[edit | edit source]

July 3, 1856- In their first Parade, The Portsmouth National Light Infantry Grays marched out to Newtown on the suburbs of Portsmouth and were presented with a flag

October 19, 1856- Old Dominion Guard and Portsmouth National Light Infantry grays marched out to Newtown to attend the presentation of a national flag to the Newtown Marion Rifles. After the flag ceremony, the Guard, Grays & Rifles paraded through the main streets of Portsmouth.

1857[edit | edit source]

April 7, 1857- Battalion election held. David Smith Walton elected Lt. Colonel and P. H. Daughtrey of the Portsmouth National Light Infantry Grays elected Major

May 13, 1857- Portsmouth companies take part in 250th Anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown.

July 4, 1857- Dismal Swamp Rangers presented a Blue Silk Flag by the ladies of Deep Creek

October 19, 1857- Parade and Election. With the designation of Regiment, David Smith Walton elected Colonel, P. H. Daughtrey elected Lt. Colonel and James G. Hodges of the Marion Rifles elected Major.

November 12, 1857- 3rd Regiment traveled to Norfolk where they were received by volunteer companies of the city and escorted to the fair grounds marching to the music from a brass band belonging to the U.S. Navy Receiving Ship Pennsylvania. In the presence of thousands of spectators, Samuel T. Sawyer presented the regiment a silk flag on behalf of the ladies of Norfolk

December 2, 1857- Regiment headed again by the Brass Band of the Pennsylvania marched in procession to honor ex-president Franklin Pierce during his visit to Portsmouth.

1858[edit | edit source]

Jan 8, 1858- 3rd Virginia in full force participated in target firing drills. The prize medal awarded to the best shot went to the Portsmouth Light Artillery

February- The remainder of January and early part of February were spent in preparation for the upcoming visit to Richmond. Here they would participate in ceremonies to honor George Washington on the occasion of his birthday as well as attend the dedication of Thomas Crawford's equestrian statue of which still stands in the Capitol Square. In the week leading up to departure, the companies drilled every evening so as their form would be of the upmost respect due the event. Finally on February 20, a quiet Saturday night, the regiment boarded the Steamer Coffee for a trip down the James River. They arrived about 8:30 the preceding morning and though the quarters were slightly unsatisfactory, they soon found refuge among the local regiments who provided them with food and merriment which would soon find them forgetful towards the poor accommodations. Finally on Monday, February 22, the events for which they traveled commenced. In the cold sleet and snow the 25 militia and military organizations in attendance were divided into battalions with the 390 men of the 3rd almost constituting one whole battalion itself this being designated the 2nd Battalion. The parade was so immense that it took any given point an hour before the whole could pass. After the ceremonies, the visiting organizations took in the hospitality of the Richmond Militias armories where they were furnished as many forms of sustenance as could be desired. The following afternoon, about 4 P.M., the regiment again boarded the Steamer Coffee for the return trip home.

Jul 1, 1858- By springtime 1858 Captain John E. Deans who apparently replaced P. H. Daughtrey upon his election to Major as commander of the Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys was brought before brigade court martial with the charges being disobedience to orders, sedition and contempt, and disrespecting the commanding officer of the regiment. He was sentenced this day to suspension of his command for the time of one month as well as censure in front of the public. Upon review, Governor Henry Alexander Wise approved the sentence with slight modifications, these being return of his command and a censure before the regiment in lieu of the public. The carrying out of this sentence was effected in early July during parade of the Greys per the governors orders.

Jul 26, 1858- The Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys observed the passing of their second year with a target shoot occupying the hours of the day. Following this event, at about 9:00 that evening they gathered at the Masonic Hall for a celebratory feast which was enjoyed by all 80 of her ranks. Speeches were given by Mayor George W. Grice, Lt. Colonel Daughtrey, Major Hodges and other regimental officers.

Aug 2, 1858- Captain William Lamb's Woodis Rifles of Norfolk visited Portsmouth and were entertained throughout the day by the Old Dominion Guard, National Greys & Portsmouth Light Artillery

Nov 20, 1858- In the final months of 1858 though the exact day is not noted, Colonel David Smith Walton stepped down as commanding officer of the regiment and was succeeded by the election of Major James Gregory Hodges. Captain David J. Godwin of the Union Guard was further chosen to fill the vacancy created by Hodges promotion.

1859[edit | edit source]

July 4, 1859- Announced by sunrise salutes of the Portsmouth Light Artillery and from the Pennsylvania, by 8:00 A.M. the regiment was formed. After ceremonial preliminaries by Adjutant Frank M. Ironmonger, Colonel Hodges took command and marched the regiment through the towns principal streets to the Middle Street Presbyterian Church. A prayer by Dr. Bagwell opened the ceremony followed by reading of The Declaration of Independence by Lieutenant Fauth and addresses by Captain John W. H. Wrenn of the Marion Rifles as well as a patriotic poem by Dr. J. M. Covert, surgeon of the National Greys.

November 26, 1859- With rumors of attempts to free John Brown and his men, Governor Henry Alexander Wise called out militia from across the area. From the 3rd was called the Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys while the rest of the regiment was put in a state of readiness. On the following day, the National Greys boarded the Steamship Louisiana along with the Captain Lamb's Woodis Riffles of Norfolk en route to Baltimore. Upon their arrival in Baltimore on Monday, the two companies boarded a train to Harper's Ferry and were then stationed at Charles Town.

December 1, 1859- Colonel Hodges received orders to hold the recently revived Old Dominion Guard which had been inactive for nearly a year in readiness under Captain A. J. Culpepper being selected to relieve the National Greys. However, before such orders were carried out the crisis surrounding John Brown subsided.

December 2, 1859- On the day of John Browns execution, The National Greys were stationed in the yard of the courthouse where they occupied the first floor. Following the execution the company held a mock trial for John Brown which attracted much attention.

December 16, 1859- On the occasion of the execution of John E. Cook, The National Greys as well as the Woodis Rifles were stationed behind the gallows between two pieces of artillery. Three days later with a parting salute from the Alexandria Artillery the Greys and Rifles left Charles Town. Upon reaching Harper's Ferry, they toured the armory before departing by train for home.

1860[edit | edit source]

May- About the middle of the month former Captain of the Old Dominion Guard, Edward Kearns was elected to reprise his roll as commander of the company.

July 4, 1860- At 5 A.M. the 3rd assembled for their annual observance of the Fourth of July. After marching through the streets, Colonel Hodges took the regiment to Norfolk where they made illustrious parade before breakfast. The Union Guard however was not among them having been inactive for some time and forthwith being disbanded by years end.

Succession[edit | edit source]

On the eve of Succession, April 16, 1861, the 3rd Regiment of Virginia Volunteers was composed of the following companies.

Portsmouth Rifle Company under Captain John C. Owens

Portsmouth Light Artillery under Captain Carney F. Grimes

Newton Marion Rifles under Captain Johannis Watson

Old Dominion Guard under Captain Edward Kearns

Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys under Captain John E. Deans

Dismal Swamp Rangers under Captain James C. Choate

Civil War (1861-1865)[edit | edit source]

Militia Service[edit | edit source]

April 1861[edit | edit source]

On April 20th, In response to a proclamation issued by Governor John Letcher calling up the local militias, the 3rd Virginia Infantry was quartered under arms at the Portsmouth Court House & City Hall, with the cannons of the Portsmouth Light Artillery stationed at the corner of Court & High Street. About sunrise the following morning, the regiment parted ways with the Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys, Old Dominion Guard & Portsmouth Rifles reporting to the Gosport (Norfolk) Naval Yard for the purpose of salvaging munitions, ships & supplies abandoned when federal troops in a hasty retreat set the yard ablaze. A quite intriguing tale as to how members within the 3rd perhaps saved the large stone dry dock is found within the records of Norfolk events as follows:

"Privates David A. Williams, of the Old Dominion Guard, and Joseph F. Weaver, of the Portsmouth Rifle Company, attracted by curiosity, strolled down to the dry dock, and, looking down into it, noticed a train of loose powder, leading down to the culvert at the northeast corner. Mr. Williams immediately ran down into the dock and broke the connection by kicking one of the planks down. They then hunted for the fuse or slow match, but did not succeed in finding it, and concluded that after the train was laid the orders to blow it up had been countermanded, or that there had been some other hitch in the proceedings."

Meanwhile the remainder of the regiment consisting of the Portsmouth Light Artillery, Newton Marion Rifles & Dismal Swamp Rangers, reported to the Hospital Point this being the location of the Naval Hospital and began assisting in the erection of a defensive battery along the bluff overlooking the Elizabeth River. By nightfall the regiment was reunited at Hospital Point with the exception of the Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys which remained at the Naval Yard.

Over the next week, the 3rd Virginia provided the necessary labor to achieve the construction of the defensive battery along Hospital Point. Much to the surprise of the regiment, former commander David Smith Walton, who had returned to engineering, was assigned to oversee the work. On April 27th, engineer Andrew Talcott reported that 10 guns ((2) 8” Shell & (8) 32 pounders) had thus far been mounted at the Naval Hospital and by weeks end 2 more were added completing the battery. While the men labored away another change occurred which undoubtedly affected the regiment as William B. Taliaferro was relieved from command of the Norfolk area militia's. On April 26th, Major General Walter Gwynn was assigned as his replacement .

On April 28th, a member of the Newton Marion Rifles was arrested for expressing “treasonable & seditious” pro union sentiments.

The month came to a close with the temporary detachment of two of the regiments companies. The Portsmouth Rifle Company was sent to Pig Point at the mouth of the Nansemond River to construct a defensive battery and train in artillery. They would later become the first company to see action in operations against federal ship U.S.S. Harriet Lane. The Old Dominion Guard was also dispatched to serve the battery at Pinners Point. The remainder of the regiment spent their time quartered on the 3rd Floor of the Naval Hospital while training to operate the artillery weaponry they had now installed.

May 1861[edit | edit source]

On May 3rd, General Gwynn was authorized to call out additional men and arrange them into regiments with particular emphasis placed upon associating those from like sections of the state. In this process changes befell the regiment as Colonel Hodges and Lt. Colonel Godwin were removed from command of the 3rd Virginia and eventually assigned to the 14th Virginia. Third in charge, Major William C. Wingfield was also removed from his position. This change was said to have been made in the interest of good discipline as it was feared friendly commanders would be unwilling to perform the necessary discipline against their brotherly subordinates.

As such, the 3rd Virginia usurer in the tenure of perhaps their best known commander, Colonel Roger Atkinson Pryor. Just below Pryor was second in command Lt. Colonel Fletcher H. Archer followed by Major James Mayo Jr.

On the 16th of the month, the Portsmouth Light Artillery was dispatched to Hoffler’s Creek to guard the shore between Carney Island and the Nansemond River

After just over a month at Hospital Point, the vote on succession having been approved April 17th was laid before the people in whole on the 23rd. As such the men of the 3rd were sent small groups to the courthouse to cast their votes. This however did not proceed as expected when 14 of the first 15 men of the Marion Rifles voted to against the resolution. When word of the results reached Pryor, he had the men temporary imprisoned on the lower floor of the hospital while awaiting the advice of the governor who stated “release them immediately” as the vote was not predicated on coercion but rather the honest feeling of the voter, whatever that may be. However, it became apparent that the rifles had conflicted views and could not continue to serve a cause which they were not invested within. As such the following morning Pryor assembled the regiment, ordered the rifles to step forward and ground their arms after which he disbanded the company.

The month ended with another shakeup in the command structure as General Walter Gwynn resigned his command of the Norfolk Area, taking a position with the North Carolina Volunteers, commanding outer coastal defense. General Benjamin Huger was chosen as his successor.

June 1861[edit | edit source]

As the month began about the 6th day, approximately 30 former members of the Newton Marion Rifles along with several new recruits began the formation of a new company within the regiment. Under Captain Alonzo B. Jordan, they would now be known as the Virginia Rifles. At this time several new companies came onboard and the disposition of the regiment was as follows:

Existing Companies[edit | edit source]

Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys under Captain John E. Deans

Portsmouth Rifle Company under Captain John C. Owens

Portsmouth Light Artillery under Captain Carney F. Grimes

Dismal Swamp Rangers under Captain James C. Choate

Old Dominion Guard under Captain Edward Kearns

New Companies[edit | edit source]

Virginia Riflemen under Captain Alonzo B. Jordan

Norfolk County Patriots under Captain William H. Etheredge

Virginia Artillery under Captain William James Richardson

St. Brides Calvary/Light Guard under Captain John Edward Doyle

Dinwiddle Rifle Greys under Captain John C. Griffin

On June 7th, The Dinwiddle Greys, Dismal Swamp Rangers & Virginia Riflemen were ordered to Isle of Wright County near Zuni. Here they established Camp Huger, so named after their commanding general, on the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad. Pryor was given command of all forces at Camp Huger. From correspondence between Robert E. Lee and Capt. Ruffin of the Virginia Volunteers, it appears that this camp was established on suspicion the enemy may land at Burwell’s Bay and proceed to occupy the railroad.

A scattered Regiment[edit | edit source]

A transcription made by Colonel Pryor as to the disposition of his men on June 15th shows that the regiment was wholly disengaged from each other as only 3 of the 10 companies were within his orbit. At Camp Huger the Dismal Swamp Rangers, Virginia Riflemen & Dinwiddle Rifle Greys remained quartered while the Norfolk County Patriots and Portsmouth National Light Infantry Greys continued their work at the Gosport Naval Yard. The remainder were all stationed at separate points along the peninsula as follows:

Pinners Point- Old Dominion Guard

Pig Point- Portsmouth Rifle Company

Hoffler Creek- Portsmouth Light Artillery

Carney Island- Virginia Artillery

Sewell’s Point- St. Brides Calvary/Light Guard

On June 22nd, Colonel Pryor made known his frustration to Richmond Authorities about the scattered nature of his regiment. However soon this would be the least of his worries as the turn of the month would bring complete reorganization to his ranks.

July (1st-12th) 1861[edit | edit source]

At the turn of the month, The Virginia Artillery, Portsmouth Rifles & Old Dominion Guard were transferred to the 9th Virginia Regiment. The Norfolk County Patriots withdrew and would eventually became part of 41st Virginia Regiment. Furthermore, The Portsmouth Light Artillery was removed and made an independent company known as the “Grimes Battery” in honor of its Captain who was killed at Sharpsburg and the St. Brides Calvary received transfer to the 5th Virginia Calvary Thus leaving the regiment in shambles with only four functioning companies. This would be rectified rather quickly however with the following additions in the upcoming days:

Nansemond Rangers under Captain William J. Arthur- Joined Aft. Jun 30

James River Artillery under Captain Alexander D. Callcote- Joined Aft. Jun 30

Cockade Rifles under Captain Joseph V. Scott- Joined Abt. Jun 30

Southampton Greys under Captain William H. Hood- Joined July 1

Rough & Ready Guards under Captain Ruben P. Clements- Joined July 3

Surry Light Artillery under Captain Thomas W. Ruffin- Joined Abt. Jul 8

On July 2nd, In compliance with orders received from the Headquarters of the Virginia Forces at Richmond, Pryor moved his regiment from Camp Huger to their new station at Day’s Neck called Camp Cook named so after James Watkins Cook, owner of the property on which the camp resided.

On or about the 12th of the month, The 3rd Virginia was officially accepted into the ranks of the CSA thus ending its services as a Virginia Militia.

Confederate States of America Service[edit | edit source]

Upon their acceptance into the CSA, The 3rd Virginia shed its familiar and unique company designations in favor of the simple alphabetic designation system which is still in use today. As such the organization of the regiment was as follows:

Company A (Dismal Swamp Rangers) Capt. James C. Choate

Company B (Virginia Riflemen) Capt. Alonzo B. Jordan

Company C (Dinwiddle Greys) Capt. John C. Griffin

Company D (Southampton Greys) Capt. William H. Hood

Company E (Cockade Rifles) Capt. James V. Scott

Company F (Nansemond Rangers) Capt. William J. Arthur

Company G (Rough & Ready Guards) Capt. Ruben P. Clements

Company H (National Light Infantry Greys) Capt. John E. Deans

Company I (Surry Light Artillery) Capt. Thomas W. Ruffin

Company K (James River Artillery) Capt. Alexander D. Callcot

Other Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Beginning United States Civil War Research gives steps for finding information about a Civil War soldier or sailor. It covers the major records that should be used. Additional records are described in Virginia in the Civil War and United States Civil War, 1861 to 1865. <br>
  • National Park Service, The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, is searchable by soldier's name and state. It contains basic facts about soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, a list of regiments, descriptions of significant battles, sources of the information, and suggestions for where to find additional information. <br>
  • Virginia in the Civil War describes many Confederate and Union sources, specifically for Virginia, and how to find them.. These include compiled service records, pension records, rosters, cemetery records, Internet databases, published books, etc. <br>
  • United States Civil War, 1861 to 1865 describes and explains United States and Confederate States records, rather than state records, and how to find them. These include veterans’ censuses, compiled service records, pension records, rosters, cemetery records, Internet databases, published books, etc. <br>
  • Sifakis, Stewart. Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Virginia. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1992- 1995. (Family History Library book 975 M2ss, Ten Volumes.) This gives organization information for each unit and its field officers, assignments, and battles. It also lists sources further reading. Volume 5 is for Virginia. <br>
  • Wallace, Lee A. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations, 1861-1865. Lynchburg, Virginia: H. E. Howard, 1986. (Family History Library book 975.5 M2vr, Volume 29.) This gives brief historical sketches of each regiment and lists officers, company names, and commanders. <br>

References[edit | edit source]