A week or so later they were ordered to Poplar Springs to support John Bell Hood's corps and man two miles of trenches on the eastern edge of Atlanta. Gen. Toombs welcomed the men and had this to say about them:
The militia are coming up finely. Twelve hundred of them arrived here this evening, armed and tolerably well equipped. Poor fellows! They are green and raw, undisciplined and badly officered...They march right into the trenches, and are immediately under the enemy's fire all day. We shall trust to a kind Providence alone to preserve them from a great disaster...It would not be long before the men of the Georgia militia would begin to prove their worth. After a successful fight in the beginning of the Battle of Atlanta, Gen. Toombs again spoke of the home grown soldiers:
The militia have behaved with great gallantry. This is sincerely true. They have far exceeded my expectations, and in the fight...equaled any troops in the line of battle.Unfortunately, their next fight would not be so easy. The infamous (in the state of Georgia, at least) Battle of Griswoldville would decimate the companies of old men and young boys who fought there. It is amazing Pvt. Thomas Vinson escaped with his life.
From Joe Brown's Pets:
When the Confederate artillery finally fell silent...The fight was over; the remaining disheartened Southern troops fell slowly back toward Griswoldville.After the hard-fought loss at Griswoldville, the Georgia Militia headed to Savannah straight away. They arrived exhausted and hungry. They didn't stop there, however. The 1st Brigade did something unexpected and crossed over into South Carolina to help the Confederates at Honey Hill. This battle was a success with few casualties. This time, the Union was the army to sustain substantial loss.
When the Federal skirmishers advanced onto the abandoned field before their works, they found a sickening and pathetic scene. On the slopes, in the thickets surrounding the stream, and in the fields beyond, they clearly saw their recent antagonists for the first time. At close range they finally realized that they had been fighting, for the most part, only old men and young boys. Lieutenant Charles W. Wills of the 103rd Illinois Regiment, who thought it "awful the way we slaughtered those men," described what he saw on the killing ground: "Old grey-haired and weakly-looking men and little boys, not over 15 years old, lay dead or writhing in pain...I hope we will never have to shoot at such men again. They knew nothing at all about fighting, and I think their officers knew as little, or else, certainly knew nothing about our being there."
The Battle of Honey Hill was a great support to the Confederate cause during Sherman's March to the Sea. The victory there allowed for enough time to properly plan and organize an escape route for the people left in Savannah and the men soldiering there. The Georgia Militia also helped during this evacuation of the city.
Though it might not seem like much, I imagine Thomas Vinson's service in the Georgia Militia and contribution to the Confederate cause was a very trying and difficult period in his life. The Battle of Griswoldville alone had to be scarring. And just being part of the militia wasn't easy. The militiamen were ridiculed by the regulars and given very little respect.
"The Georgia Militia would hardly go down in history for its military bearing or proficiency in battle, as it demonstrated little of either, but it should in all fairness be remembered for a level of courage and devotion to duty for which any soldier may be proud." (Last paragraph of the epilogue, Joe Brown's Pets.)
Tomorrow I'll fill you in on the rest of Thomas Oscar Vinson's story.