By: Mac Wyckoff
The 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment:
"What his loss is to us of the brigade as an officer and as a man it is impossible to overestimate. It would gratify his friends to see how deep and universal the feeling has been and how irreparable his loss is regarded. .. . .I do not think that any death outside of my immediate family has ever affected me more deeply." So wrote William DuBose, the chaplain for the 2nd South Carolina, concerning the death of Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Gaillard at The Battle of the Wilderness. Franklin Gaillard, son of Thomas Gaillard, was born on April 26, 1829 on his father’s plantation near Pineville in what is now Berkeley County, South Carolina. Their French Huguenot ancestor had settled in South Carolina around 1685. With the soil depleted on the farm, in early childhood, his family moved to Alabama. He soon returned to the Palmetto State and lived with his uncle in Fairfield County. He attended the Mount Zion Academy in Winnsboro and like many of the officers of the 2nd South Carolina, he attended South Carolina College. Gaillard graduated with honors in 1849 as the class valedictorian. Almost immediately his friends and family from Alabama and South Carolina joined thousands of other Americans in heading west to California in search of gold. Like many of the 49ers, Gaillard did not strike it rich and he returned to his native state three years later. He began to put his life together in March of 1853 when he married the beautiful Catherine Cordes Porcher, a distant cousin. Three years later, she died leaving Franklin with two young children. Gaillard did not remarry and Catherine’s sister, Maria, helped raise the children. From 1853 until the outbreak of the Civil War, Gaillard’s strong states rights and secession views reached a large audience as editor of the Winnsboro Register and later the widely read Daily South Carolinian. His eloquent and opinionated writings were a potent force in shaping public sediment and rousing people to action. As the crisis mounted in Charleston Harbor in April of 1861, Gaillard enlisted as 2nd lieutenant in Company A, 2nd South Carolina Regiment. Unlike some, he proved as fearless and bold with the sword as he had been with the pen in helping to ignite the war. At the regimental re-organization in May of 1862, Gaillard was elected major. While descending Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, he was wounded slightly in the face and moments later more severely in the foot forcing him to seek medical attention. He returned from furlough in time to fight at Chancellorsville. On May 3rd, he commanded the skirmish line of Kershaw’s Brigade as it advanced toward the Chancellor House. A month later he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. On the same day, the regiment departed Fredericksburg toward the eventual showdown in Pennsylvania. The summer weather caused some members of the unit to faint and drop out. On June 26th, a cloud came up. Gaillard thought the rain revived the men "like pouring water on wilted plants." While many Confederates thought that they should treat the local civilians as the Yankees had treated the Southerners, Gaillard believed that General Lee had acted properly in issuing very stringent orders not to disturb civilian property. However, Lee looked the other way when his men lived off the land. Gaillard admitted this and felt that we "will make them feel the war," but added "we must not imitate the Yankees in their mean acts." Like many, he commented on the Pennsylvania women. He observed the girls carrying little American flags while others held their noses and made faces. "It is funny to see the long sour faces," he wrote. Gaillard thought that "our army never was in better health and spirits" as they approached the little college town of Gettysburg. On July 2, 1863, as Kershaw’s Brigade moved across the Rose Farm a misunderstood order resulted in the 2nd South Carolina moving to the right when they were about to capture a Massachusetts battery. The Bay Staters regained their poise and opened a devastating fire upon the 2nd South Carolina. Gaillard survived the blast to write, "We were in ten minutes or less time, terribly butchered." I saw half a dozen at a time knocked up and flung to the ground like trifles. There were familiar forms and faces with parts of their heads shot away, legs shattered, arms tore of." The regiment took cover in some woods where General Wofford’s Georgia Brigade found them. The Georgians scooped up the Carolinians and routed four Yankee brigades in the Wheatfield as they advanced all the way to Little Round Top. Here, he noted, "the bullets literally came upon us as thick as hailstones." Colonel John Kennedy was struck and Gaillard took command. He wrote, "It is scarcely necessary to say we fell back." The regiment was devastated at Gettysburg losing 52% of their men including their colonel, major, adjutant and 70% of their captains. Gaillard was the only officer above company level rank and he noted that the remaining company officers "are all inexperienced and slow to assume authority." Gaillard was "more satisfied that ever that invasion is too hazardous for us." While the Northeners fought better on their own soil, Gaillard thought the defeat "was caused by their (Confederate generals) over confidence" and the battle destroyed the army’s "unbounded confidence in General Lee." After a lengthy rest in Central Virginia, the South Carolinians accompanied James Longstreet Corps to Chickamauga where Gaillard commanded the regiment in Kennedy’s absence. If he filed a report on the battle it has been lost, however his October 5, 1863 letter serves almost as a well in giving the details of what happened to the regiment in that battle. His men were in the rear of Longstreet’s massive column that broke through a gap in the Union lines. Arriving in the front in the Dyer Field, Kershaw’s Brigade pivoted to the right to face two Union brigades on a ridge where the South Carolina Monument stands today. Kershaw detached Gaillard’s unit to head into some woods and follow a ravine that led to the Federal rear. Gaillard yelled to his men, "Let us get behind those fellows up there and capture them." The Yankees fled before the 2nd South Carolina got into position. Rejoining the brigade, the Carolinians climbed up the wooded slope of Snodgrass Hill. Artillery and the tremendous firepower of the 21st Ohio’s Colt repeating weapons stopped this advance. Richard Kirkland, the famous "Angel of Marye’s Heights," was among those hit as the South Carolinians fell back. Despite the losses, Gaillard thought his regiment had been miraculously spared. The Yankees rushed down the hill after the Confederates, but the Southerners regrouped and revered the situation only to be again stopped once they reached the summit of the hill. After a brief lull, General Patton Anderson’s Mississippi Brigade arrived on Gaillard’s left and charged up the hill only to meet the same result. This time the Federals counterattacked down the slope threatening the left of Kershaw’s boys. Gaillard proudly boasted that his regiment "stood fast like a rock." The fighting went on until the Yankees withdraw under cover of darkness. Colonel Kennedy returned only to be wounded in the next battle near Knoxville. Gaillard again took command for the rest of the campaign in East Tennessee and during the winter. Longstreet’s Corps returned to Central Virginia in April where Kennedy joined them to assume command. In his last letter home written just two weeks before his death, Gaillard mentioned receiving a letter from his little daughter and that he was surprised and delighted to see her improvement in writing. Early on the morning of May 6, 1864, General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Corps routed Confederate General A.P. Hill’s Corps along the Orange Plank Road. Longstreet’s men with the 2nd South Carolina in the lead hurried to the rescue. Gaillard rode next to his cousin, William DuBose. Gaillard spoke of hope that his life would be spared in the upcoming combat. Approaching the battlefield, the men emotionally shook hands and parted. Rushing into the Tapp Field on the left side of the Plank Road about 6:00 a.m., the 2nd South Carolina and some Virginia artillerists offered resistance until the rest of Longstreet’s men arrived to stabilize the situation. In assisting the halt of Hancock’s massive assault at The Wilderness, Gaillard’s South Carolinians had performed perhaps their greatest service of the war. The regiment then crossed the road and advanced to a line of shallow earthworks. About 9:00 a.m., Gaillard mounted the earth mounds to obtain a clearer view of the enemy. Then he stepped back with his men when a bullet "sped on its fatal mission." Hit in the head, he lingered while the litter bearers carried him to the rear. DuBose came upon the scene near where they spoken several hours before, but Gaillard "was no longer capable of talking." Gaillard was buried on the field, but later reinterred in the Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery in section 13, row 3, section 1. His superb letters were published by the family in 1941. There are typed copies at the South Caroliniana Library.
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