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by Henry E. Kidd
In early 1861, Virginia voted not to secede from the Union. However, after Ft. Sumter, S.C. was fired upon, President Lincoln called for seventy five thousand troops to force southern states back into the Union. These troops were to come from all remaining states. Virginia was forced into a decision to either send her sons across the borders of sovereign states, that she believed had the right to secede, or secede herself and defend her boarders. Virginia voted 88 to 55 to defend herself.
The people of Virginia knew that their actions might bring war to their state as Lincoln may send troops to force them back into the Union. In order to defend her boarders, Virginia called upon her sons. Local militias were activated and combined with other units to form regiments. One such regiment was made up of men from Roanoke, Bedford, Craig, Botetourt and Campbell Counties. These men formed the 28th Virginia Infantry Regiment.
The 28th Va. fought for the Old Dominion from First Manassas to Appomattox. Very few of its’ original members survived the entire war. Battlefield casualties and illnesses took a great toll on these Virginia, mountain men.
Depicted here is the color guard of the 28th Va. Inf. as they wait for orders to advance upon the enemy near Gains Mill no June 27, 1862. The color bearer is holding the state flag that was given them by Governor Letcher. This was a day of glory and death for the regiment. They captured thirteen cannons in their charge across three lines of enemy breastworks. The cost was high. They lost twelve men killed and sixty five were wounded. This was the second bloodiest day for the regiment during the war Only Pickett’s Charge in Gettysburg surpassed the number of men killed. On July 3, 1863, the sons of Virginia unfurled their colors and carried them across the mile wide open field and into history. On that hot afternoon, they followed their brigade commander, General Garnett, into certain death. Twenty eight men of the 28th Va. Inf. laid down their lives that day. Eight six men were wounded and one hundred five were captured. Only ten percent made it back to safety. But before they did, they waved the flag of Virginia on top of the stone wall in the face of the enemy before it was overwhelmed and captured.
Decimated, they returned to Virginia. Their ranks slowly grew once again as other sons of Virginia were called into service. Many battles lay in front of them as they fought from Cold Harbor to Sayler’s Creek where one hundred fifty three men were captured on April 6, 1865. Only seventy five men made it to Appomattox where they surrendered with General Robert E. Lee. Finally, after four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the sons of Virginia returned home. The survivors carried the scars of war with them for the rest of their lives. They never forgot their fallen comrades in gray. They erected monuments and wrote volumes of books on the bravery and sacrifice of Virginia’s Sons.