Twenty-third Alabama Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Regimental History -- Part Two

    General Stevenson advanced skirmishers, and established his line of battle under the enemy's artillery fire. He placed Generals Brown's and Cumming's brigades in the first line and Generals Reynolds' and Pettus' Brigades in the second line.40   Later that afternoon he was ordered to advance from his position and drive the federals on the road toward Manning's Mill. General Stevenson's Division attacked at about 5 p.m., driving the enemy from his advanced works, which consisted of one line of logs and rails complete, and one line which was partially constructed. "The fire under which this was done was exceedingly heavy, and the artillery fire of the enemy, which was massed in large force and admirably posted, was served with a rapidity and fatal precision which could not be surpassed." After holding their position for several hours, General Hood41 directed the division to withdraw to its former position.

    Following this defeat and the loss of Atlanta, the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry's next battle was the Battle of Jonesboro, Georgia on August 31 and September 1, 1864. The Twenty-third was posted in the first line of General Stevenson's division, and when the second line consisting of the Brigades of Generals Cummings and Stovall advanced, apparently without orders, to attack the enemy, they, along with the balance of General Pettus' Brigade refused to go forward.42  The two attacking brigades were soon forced to retreat and return to their original positions.

    Greatly outnumbered by the Federal Army, the Army of Tennessee was once again compelled to retreat. General Hood initially attempted to draw General Sherman away from Atlanta by attacking his supply line from Chattanooga, Tennessee. During a demonstration in front of Resaca in October, 1864, the scene of earlier fighting, Colonel Beck, the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry commander, was killed. General Sherman refused to follow the Confederate Army, leading General Hood to decide to campaign into Tennessee to recapture Nashville.

    General Hood marched what was left of his army on October 17, 1864, including the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry, into northern Alabama where he rested his men and gathered supplies to support his new strategy. On November 2, 1864, the Army of Tennessee began crossing the Tennessee River to commence General Hood's final campaign.

    The conditions the men faced on this winter campaign into Tennessee were appalling. Shortly after they commenced marching northward, they were subjected to a "prematurely early blast of sleet and snow and rain, accompanied by freezing temperatures, and soon the roads were churned up into quagmires which alternately froze into hard ruts and thawed into tenacious mudholes".43

    General Hood's first battle in his Tennessee campaign was against General Schofield at Franklin, Tennessee. General Hood used General Lee's Corps, of which the Twenty-third Alabama was apart, to conduct a feint attack on November 29, 1864 against General Schofield, while he maneuvered his other two corps around the Federal Army. The feint attack was entrusted to General Pettus' Brigade. The Brigade's attack was so vigorous that the Union commander later attributed his loss in this battle to an attack made by a division rather than a brigade consisting of three understrength regiments.44

    Under the cover of General Lee's attack, General Hood maneuvered the rest of his army into position to attack General Schofield. When Hood attacked General Schofield's forces at Franklin on November 30, 1864, General Lee was still miles away and therefore, the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry did not take part in the disastrous Confederate attack.

    Although General Hood's attack at Franklin cost his army heavily, General Schofield continued his withdrawal to Nashville, Tennessee where he joined forces with General Thomas, the "Rock of Chickamauga". The Confederate Army established a thin line of entrenchments outside of Nashville and waited for the Federal Army to attack. General Pettus' Brigade, including the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry, occupied the Confederate center. The men, most of whom were without any semblance of winter clothing, suffered greatly in one of the worst winters in Tennessee's history.

    General Thomas waited until December 15, 1864 to attack the Confederate Army. His attack began on the Confederate right flank with a strong feint by General Steedman's Corps followed by his main assault on the Confederate left, their weakest point. General Hood reacted by shifting his right flank forces to his left flank, thereby making General Lee's Corps his right flank. Despite Hood's best efforts, his left flank caved in, and his men began to retreat. General Lee's Corps remained intact and established a new defensive line behind which the rest of the Confederate Army regrouped.

    The next day, December 16, 1864, General Thomas resumed his attack on the Confederate Army. This time, General Lee's Corps took the brunt of the fighting. General Whitacker's Brigade of the Union First Division attacked the sector held by Pettus' Brigade and the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry at about 6 a.m. General Whitacker wrote: "Steadily advancing under a heavy fire of artillery, my command moved to within 1,000 yards of the enemy works. In my immediate front were two rebel batteries of four guns each, 12 pounder Napoleons, Pettus' Brigade and other rebel troops supporting in strong entrenchments, with strong embrasures for their artillery. They kept up a constant fire of shell, round shot, and musketry on my main line and skirmishers, killings and wounding some of my officers and men. By 2 p.m. of to-day three [sic] several assaults had been made on the enemy's lines -- one by the Third Division, one by the Second Division, and one by the Third Brigade of the First Division of the Fourth Corps. They were made with great bravery and persistence, but were repulsed. 45

    Although the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry and General Pettus' Brigade held the Federal Army at bay, General Hood was again outflanked and his army collapsed. Once again, General Lee's Corps saved the army and formed the rear guard repulsing several attacks. General S.D. Lee reported: "About 4 p.m. [Dec 17, 1864] the enemy, having crossed a considerable force [over the Harpeth River], commenced a bold and vigorous attack, charging with his cavalry on our flanks and pushing forward his lines in our front. A more persistent effort was never made to rout the rear guard of a retiring column. This desperate attack was kept up till long after dark, but gallantly did the rear guard -- consisting of Pettus' (Alabama) and Cummings (Georgia) brigades .... repulse every attack.46

     The Confederate Army of Tennessee retreated across the Tennessee River arriving in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 10, 1865, to rest and reorganize. The Twenty-third Alabama Infantry reported 202 men present for duty on January 19, 1865, of which only 155 men were reported as effective.47  General Hood was relieved of command shortly after arriving at Tupelo, and the remnants of his army was ordered to move to South Carolina to oppose General Sherman's advance northward from Savannah, Georgia.

    The Regiment departed Tupelo on January 19, 1865, and moved by foot and rail to join General Johnston in South Carolina arriving in early February, 1865. The Regiment's first action in South Carolina was the brief defense of Orangeburg on February 12, 1865.48  The Regiment fought as a part of Pettus' Brigade, along with Generals Johnson's and Palmer's Infantry Brigades and a part of General Young's cavalry.49  The Confederates did not make a determined effort to stop the Federal Army, and quickly retreated with a loss of 6 men killed, 14 wounded and 26 men captured.

    The Regiment's next battle was General Johnston's attempt to destroy a part of Sherman's advancing army under General Cox near Kinston, North Carolina, on March 8, 1865. The Regiment participated in the flank attack made by the Corps Commander, General D.H. Hill, against the Yankee right flank using the Brigades of Generals Coltart, Pettus, and Hagwood. The attack "was completely successful, and the Yankees ran in wildest confusion.50  Unfortunately for the Confederates, confusing and contradictory orders from General Bragg's Headquarters resulted in the escape of the federal forces. Following this battle the Confederates established a blocking position to prevent General Cox from joining with General Sherman's army.

    Two days later, on March 10, 1865, the Yankees attacked General Hill's forces outside of Kinston. General Hill was forced to withdraw when "Stovall's and Jackson's brigades, of Clayton's division, numbering only 416 men, broke causelessly, leaving Pettus like a stone wall alone, supported only by Coltart's skirmishers".51  By this time, General Pettus' Brigade was reduced to only 350 men.

    The Regiment's final battle of the war took place at Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 19 - 20, 1865. They, along with the rest of General Pettus' Brigade, were placed in the second line in the center of General Hill's Corps about 250 yards behind General Palmer's Brigade, who held the first line. At about 4 p.m., General Palmer was ordered to attack, and General Pettus was ordered to follow. After advancing past two enemy entrenched lines, General Pettus was ordered to move to his left flank to cover the main road from Bentonville.

    Shortly thereafter, while advancing under a heavy fire, General Hill ordered General Pettus to halt and prepare to meet an enemy charge. "My [General Pettus'] line was halted with the right on the road, and the men were ordered to lie down in their places. It was then about sunset, and from the smoke of the guns and the burning woods it was very difficult to see objects at a distance. The enemy's line.... charged and drove in my skirmishers, following them with a shout. They were met, however, by a fire from the line so steady and so well aimed that they halted, and after receiving a few rounds retreated." 52  General Pettus' Brigade remained in place until 11 p.m. that night when it retired to the position it had started from that morning.

   Once again, despite small victories such as enjoyed by General Pettus' attack and defense, the Confederate army was compelled to retreat by the overwhelming strength of the Federal Army, this time falling back to Smithfield, North Carolina.

    On April 9, 1865, the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry was consolidated with the 31st and 46th Alabama Infantry Regiments to form the Twenty-third Alabama Infantry Regiment (Consolidated). On April 12, 1865, the Regiment was ordered to move to Salisbury, North Carolina, in response to General Stoneman's cavalry raid from Tennessee. The Regiment remained there until April 26, 1865, when it was surrendered by General Johnston along with the rest of his army. Throughout the war, over 1200 men served under the Regiment's colors at one time or another, but only 76 soldiers remained to surrender with the gallant Army of Tennessee.

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40. Ibid., p. 814. Return

41. General Hood assumjed command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee from General Johnston following the Battle of New Hope Church. Return

42. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 38, Part 3, p. 824. Return

43. The Army of Tennessee, by Stanley F. Horn, p. 383. Return

44. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 45, Part 1, p. 694. Return

45. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 45, Part 1, p. 197. General Whitacker's report of the Battle of Nashville, Tenn. December 15-16, 1864. Return

46. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 45, Part 1, p. 690. General S.D. Lee's report of his Corps' operations November 2, 1864 through December 17, 1864. Return

47. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, volume 45, Part 2, p. 799. Return

48. Orangeburg, SC was located halfway between Charlestown and Columbia, SC. Return

49. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 47, Part 1, p. 406. Return

50. The Official Record of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 47, Part 1, p. 1087. Return

51. Ibid., p. 1088 Return

52. Ibid., pp. 1098-1099 Return

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