IDENTIFIED 18th SOUTH CAROLINA CONFEDERATE CARTRIDGE BOX: W. F. HODGE, Co. B, WOUNDED IN ACTION AT SECOND MANASSAS

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Item Code: 846-195

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The loss of the Eighteenth South Carolina Volunteers in this engagement was   very heavy, being nearly or quite half the number that went into action.” – Official Report of Second Bull Run by W.H. Wallace, Colonel 18th SC Vols., from the regiment’s “Camp near Winchester,” October 1862.

This classic Confederate cartridge box follows the general lines of the old 1839 pattern, being made for wear on a shoulder belt only, two sections of which remain, one broken off above the level of the horizontal retaining strap on the reverse and the other extending several inches further above the box. The billets of the sling sections are held by the small buckles still place to the bottom of the box. The buckles are attached by stitching only (no rivets) and are secure, though one is missing one side of the small leather loop over its center bar. The box and belt are both brown in tone, with age abrasions and crackling, but are sturdy and have never been touched with polish or preservatives. The latch tab is still in place as well, sewn to the outer flap with a single line of stitching, and fastens over a classic Confederate, bullet-shaped lead or pewter finial. The implement pouch, with flap and tab, is in place, mounted high up on the front of the box. The inner flap and side ears are in place. Both magazine tins are present and the dividers in the upper trays are there also.

Lightly carved on the outer flap in two lines is: “W.F. Hodge / Co. B 18 Regt. S.C.” Age crazing to the finish makes the last portion of the second line  a little tougher to make out, but it is legible and the identification could be established even if there were nothing but the company letter and regimental number. Like many southern soldiers he may have also had earlier service in a South Carolina state unit, but we pick him up in the records enlisting in the 18th South Carolina regiment when it organized for Confederate service in May 1862, though one entry in his compiled service record indicates he may have first enrolled in March.

The regiment recruited from several counties in the northwest part of the state. Several companies, including Co. B, were from the Union District and Company B took the nickname “The Union District Volunteers.” The regiment saw early service in South Carolina and then joined the Army of Northern Virginia in July 1862, fighting at Second Manassas, South Mountain, and Antietam. It later returned to South Carolina for service around Charleston, and then went back to Virginia as part of Johnson’s Division to fight at Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg, where it was directly caught in the mine explosion, and finished the war taking yet more casualties at Sayler’s Creek, surrendering at Appomattox with just 16 officers and 139 enlisted men.

At Second Bull Run, the regiment fought on both August 29 and August 30, but was hit hardest on the second day, losing almost half the men engaged, including their first commanding officer, Col. Gadberry. Records indicate Hodge suffered a gunshot wound to the right ankle in the fighting, but he may not have left the regiment immediately. He was admitted to the hospital at Culpeper only on 9/28/62 and sent to the C.S.A. General Hospital at Farmville the next day. The month-long gap between his wounding and hospitalization may be simply a gap in the records, but might also indicate he stuck with the regiment through the Maryland Campaign and its fighting at South Mountain and Antietam. By the time he was hospitalized, however, the wound was serious enough that he was given a 60-day furlough from the General Hospital, which seems to have been extended into 1863 since he is listed as sick on furlough for Jan-Feb 1863. The muster rolls are thereafter are incomplete, but he is listed as present again in the November-December roll, and then is absent sick again from February through August 1864. He may have escaped the carnage of the Crater, but seems to have been promoted corporal on his return and served in the ranks during the final campaign, being marked present at least through February 1865, the last dated roll in his file.

The box came out of an old collection accompanied by a type-written display card recording its provenance. The card seems to date to the 1950s/1960s and reads: CONFEDERATE CARTRIDGE BOX from the Baker Place, Winchester Battlefield. Belonged to W.F. Hodge Co. B 1st Regt. S.C. The writer obviously misread the “18” of the inscription as “1ST.” (There is no W.F. Hodge in the 1st SC in any case.) But there is no reason to doubt the provenance and there is a good connection of the regiment with the location.

The “Baker Place” on the “Winchester Battlefield” certainly refers to the house of Josiah Baker, built in 1846 and demolished in 1969. Located along the Berryville Pike, it was used by Confederate sharpshooters during the Second Battle of Winchester and was at the center of fighting a Third Winchester, or Opequon, in September 1864. The house bore battle scars, particularly several artillery shells lodged in its brick walls, and it was logical to assume a cartridge box found there bore some relation to the battle, but the 18th SC was in neither battle. As the official report of their fighting at Second Manassas makes clear, however, the regiment was in camp “near Winchester” after their return from the Maryland Campaign in 1862, the very period at which Hodge was hospitalized. It is possible, of course, that someone else was issued the box who later had a connection with the battles at Winchester, but it is most likely the box was left there by Hodge himself or as part of the salvaged arms and equipment of the regiment’s casualties after Second Manassas and Antietam and is wonderful relic of that campaign.

All in all, this is a great example of a nicely identified, classic Confederate infantry cartridge box with a good history of use in the field at a major battle and room for more research on the soldier and unit as well. [sr]

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