Posted By : manager

Posted : January 30, 2024

By Mike Thomas

When war erupted in 1861, men of all ages rushed to serve the Confederacy. It was not unusual to see men in their 40’s, 50’s, or even 60’s in the army. One of these men was 56-year-old Charlestonian Peter Manigault. Said to be “possessed of wealth and high social position”, Manigault was a prosperous planter and Harvard graduate with connections to some of the earliest and most influential families in South Carolina. Nevertheless, he enlisted as a Private in the 1st SC Mounted Militia in 1861. In the spring of 1862, the Confederate army was reorganized and the militia disbanded. At the same time, the age of conscription was set at 18-35. The vast majority of men over 35 left the army but Manigault chose to remain in service by enlisting in the 3rd SC Cavalry in March 1862.

His company was immediately sent to Grahamville, SC where it remained until October 1864. It scouted, pa-trolled, and was actively engaged in combat in both battles at Pocotaligo. The service rendered was difficult, tedious, and demanding. Manigault had no difficulty in keeping up with compatriots many years younger for otherwise he would have been discharged from the army. He was retained by his command testifies that he was not a hindrance, but a capable and respected soldier despite his age. He must have been truly dedicated to having willfully endured physical hardships, light rations, and the rigors of a Private in mounted service when he could so easily have resigned from the army at any time on account of his age and returned to civilian life.

In October 1864, Manigault’s command was sent to Georgia to protect a vital railroad connecting Albany and Savannah. A month later they found themselves facing Sherman’s hordes in their in-famous “march to the sea”. On November 23rd, Manigault’s company was part of about 150 men sent to repel a Union force that had crossed the Oconee River between Augusta and Macon. The Yankees were dislodged and forced back across the river in the ensuing Battle of Ball’s Ferry, a small but sharp engagement that halted the Union forward progress for 2 full days. Confederate casualties were light with 1 killed and 4 wounded. However, among the wounded was Private Peter Manigault who survived the night but expired the following day.

Manigault’s body was returned to his family in Charleston and interred in the French Huguenot Church Cemetery. His death in combat at age 59 makes his story quite remarkable for several reasons. He was under no requirement to have spent a single day in the military. He willingly gave up the ease and comfort of civilian life in service to his new nation. His extended service as one of the oldest men in the Confederate army is highly commendable and has few parallels. His story, known to but a few, is worthy of remembrance.

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