17th Virginia Infantry Regiment
The Old Dominion Rifles
The Seal of Virginia
In 1860, three long standing Militia Companies existed in Alexandria, Virginia. These were joined on 6th December, 1860 by the, newly raised, Old Dominion Rifles, commanded by Captain Montgomery D. Corse. The companies were organised as ‘The Alexandria Battalion’ in February 1861, consisting of the Alexandrian Riflemen, Mount Vernon Guards, Old Dominion Rifles and Alexandria Artillery. Captain Corse was elected as its Major and Lieutenant Arthur Herbert became Captain of The Old Dominion Rifles. In April the battalion, augmented by the Loudon Guards and Warren Rifles, was designated the 6th Battalion Virginia Volunteers.
Posted on picket duty at the intersection of the Washington and Alexandria turnpikes, the Alexandria Riflemen provided the only Confederate infantry post ever stationed so close to Washington city.
On May 23rd, the day after Virginia’s secession, Federal troops crossed the Potomac River by gunboat while Ellsworth’s Zoauves entered Alexandria from the Washington bridge. With only 2 rounds of ammunition per man, the 6th Battalion retired to Manassas. There, on July 10th, the Battalion, with 5 other local Companies, was mustered into Confederate service as the 17th Virginia Regiment (The Alexandria Regiment), Colonel M. D. Corse commanding and were part of Brigadier General Longstreet’s 4th Virginia Brigade.
General James Longstreet
On 18th July, Longstreet’s Brigade, at Blackburn’s Ford on the banks of Bull Run, decisively repulsed a determined Federal attack, for the loss to the 17th of 1 killed and 7 wounded. Next day the Brigade were constantly under heavy shellfire; the Old Dominion Rifles (Co. H) were ordered across the river where they encountered, and drove off, a large Federal force, losing 1 killed and 18 wounded. These actions gained the Regiment the nickname ‘The Bloody 17th’ and the rare battle honour ‘Bull Run’.
In November, 1861, Longstreet being promoted to Major General, Brigadier General R. S. Ewell took command of the Brigade (now the 1st Brigade) containing the 1st, 7th, 11th and 17th Virginia. In April, 1862, the Brigade, at Yorktown with Longstreet’s Division, were commanded by A. P. Hill.
On 3rd May, the Brigade, as part of the rearguard, marched to Williamsburg to be heavily engaged in fighting - the 17th losing 26 killed and 26 wounded. Heavily engaged again at Seven Pines on 31st May, the 17th lost 21 killed and 38 wounded. On 30th June, at Frazier’s Farm, the Brigade charged Union Artillery, capturing the guns - but, cut off and unsupported, were forced to retire, the 17th losing 17 killed, 23 wounded and 13 officers and 60 men missing or captured.
At 2nd Manassas, August 30th, the 17th captured 5 stands of Federal colours. Fighting at Boonsboro and Sharpsburg the 17th ‘held their own, despite being heavily outnumbered’; Colonel Corse was, again, wounded and captured but, later rescued. Only 9 officers and 46 men of the Regiment fought at Sharpsburg, their losses were 7 killed and 24 wounded, (56% losses).
On 23rd December, 1862, Colonel Corse was promoted to Brigadier General and Major Herbert promoted to Colonel to command the 17th Virginia. The 13th, 15th, 17th and 37th Virginia were assigned to Corse’s Brigade.
Sent to Zollicoffer, Tennessee in September with Longstreet’s force, the 17th fought several brisk skirmishes before moving to North Carolina, then Petersburg on 12th May, 1864. On 14th May, they were in action at Drury’s Bluff (11 killed and 21 wounded), 17th May a skirmish at Howlett House, 3rd June at Cold Harbor. From then until March, 1865, was spent manning Howlett’s House.
Fighting at Dunwiddie Court House on 31st March, the 17th lost 15 killed and wounded. At Five Forks on 1st April, Corse’s and Terry’s Brigades, on the Division’s right, held their ground fighting on three fronts until, finally, forced to retire.
On 5th April, the 17th drove off Federal Cavalry but, overwhelmed by the onrush of Infantry and Artillery at Sayler’s Creek, sustained heavy losses. General Corse and 19 officers of the 17th Virginia were captured. Colonel Herbert assumed command of the Brigade.
At Appomattox Courthouse, the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment surrendered 2 officers and 49 men - 22 of whom had served since June 1861 when the Regiment had reported 745 men fit for duty.
The 17th Virginia passed into history at Appomattox Courthouse but, it is not forgotten. We attempt to recreate the Regiment to remind people of the Regiment’s valiant deeds in the service of its State and Country. We try to honour the brave souls who made up its numbers and who gave their all for their cause.
Join us and help us to spread the word of the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment’s glorious history to all that show an interest.
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Last updated - 28th November, 2003