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[251]

The Guards were known in the Confederate army as the 18th Battalion of Georgia Volunteers, which was commanded by the gallant Major (afterward Colonel) W. S. Basinger, a distingushed lawyer and citizen of this city, but now residing at Athens.

The battle of Sailor's Creek was one of the several battles which took place after General Lee evacuated Petersburg, and just before the surrender of the army at Appomattox. The Confederate army, says the Savannah News, of the 5th, decimated and starving, was bravely trying to make its way through the cordon which General Grant's hosts were forming around it. The 18th Battalion was hemmed in, and attempted to break the enemy's lines, but was annihilated in the attempt, every officer and man being either killed, wounded, or captured.

The Guards went to Virginia when every available armed man that could be spared was needed to reinforce Lee's army. Although in service from the beginning of the war, the operations of the battalion had been confined to the coast, in the neighborhood of Savannah and Charleston, where there was much unpleasant duty, but very little fighting. The battalion had done some good service in Charleston harbor, however, where it distinguished itself in the repulse of the attack on Battery Wagner, on Morris Island, after which it did service for several months on Morris and James Islands, in the defence of Charleston.

In May, 1864, the order came for the battalion to go to Virginia, and was received with rapturous cheers by the men, who were tired of the monotony of garrison life. In the fall the battalion was joined with six other battalions, which were stationed with it at Chaffin's Bluff, on the James river, into a small brigade, commanded by Colonel Crutchfield, which was attached to the division of General G. W. Custis Lee, son of General Robert E. Lee. On this account General Custis Lee has been an honorary member of the corps since its reorganization after the war.

The battalion had the same hard experience with the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia during the winter of 1864-‘65. Its only shelter was a few ragged old tents, and these were not sufficient for all. Fuel was scarce, and very difficult to obtain. Their only rations were a pound of corn-meal and a third of a pound of bacon a day. The duty was also very severe. How would the 250 young fellows who looked so brave in the last annual parade of the Guards enjoy soldiering under such circumstances? But it was the same class of men who composed the battalion in 1864, and their successors would do the same thing now if it were necessary to do so.


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