Posted By : manager

Posted : October 30, 2022

By Compatriot Mike Thomas

Confederate history is full of stories about young men and their service in the army. That of Charlestonian Joseph P. Huger {1846-1864} is among those full of hope and admiration but with a tragic ending. Though barely a minor footnote in the overall study of the war, it brings to light a young man’s patriotism and desire to serve his new nation when he was under no obligation to do so.

On December 22, 1863, 17-year-old Huger wrote a letter to General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Chief of Staff, General Thomas Jordan. It read, “I have the honor to request an appointment to the Signal Corps as the state of my health prevents me from joining any other branch of the army.” Charleston’s Signal Officer, Lt. Frank Markoe, advised Huger that the Signal Corps depended exclusively on volunteers from other branches of the service being detached, subject to recall, by their regiments. Accordingly, Huger must be lawfully enlisted in a regular army command and then ask to be detached to the Signal Corps.

It appears Huger met with Lt. Markoe over the next few weeks. Huger’s health problem is not identified in the records, but Markoe was satisfied that his intelligence, attitude, and general physical condition were sufficient for the performance of Signal Corps duties. Huger enlisted in Company “A”, Manigault’s Battalion of South Carolina Artillery on January 21, 1864 in Charleston and was detached to the Signal Corps just two days later.
Huger had to learn to send and receive signals at all hours. In the daytime, they would be sent via signal flags and at night via lighted torches. His natural talents and positive attitude seemingly outweighed whatever his health issues were and likely endeared him to Markoe and others working with him. He certainly must have quickly become proficient in his duties for he is next found as a member of a 3-man team stationed at Fort Sumter.
On April 13, 1864 Lt. Colonel Stephen Elliott, commanding Fort Sumter, sent several messages. One of those was a request to Beauregard asking permission to fire a 13-gun salute at noon in honor of the capture of Fort Sumter on that date in 1861. The request was quickly approved and plans were set in place to proceed. Shortly afterward, Elliott sent his final message that day ad-vising Beauregard that, “J.P. Huger, Signal Corps, was killed half an hour ago by a Parrott Shell.” The Yankees fired 23 shells at Sumter that day and Huger was the only casualty. He and his team were on duty and exposed on the fort’s rampart when the shell hit. Though numerous Signal Corps operators around Charleston were wounded during the war, his was the only death.

Private Joseph P. Huger’s military service lasted less than three months and his death came six months prior to his 18th birthday. He is buried in Charleston’s magnificent Magnolia Cemetery with his story known only to precious few. 

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