SOUTH CAROLINA’S BY COLONEL James R. Hagood
Posted By : manager
Posted : January 27, 2024
By Compatriot Michael Thomas
The Confederate army was filled with many young men in their teens who served with ranks from private up to Captain. A South Carolinian, James R. Hagood, younger brother of well-known General Johnson Hagood, went even further by earning promotion to Colonel of his regiment at age 18.
James Hagood left The Military Academy of South Carolina [The Citadel] as a sophomore, enlisted as a private in the 1st (Hagood’s) SC Infantry Regiment on 1 July 1862, and was elected the regimental Sergeant-Major at age 17. He seems to have been marked for destiny for, before the year’s end, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant and then Captain as well as serving as regimental adjutant at one point. Additionally, he led his company’s action in several battles involving the Army of Northern Virginia in this period including 2nd Manassas and Sharps-burg. Despite his youthful age, he soon was tasked to serve on examining committees and court-martials, positions attesting to his military knowledge, reputation, and standing. His regiment went with Longstreet to Georgia and Tennessee in late 1863. While there, his brigade commander Brigadier-General Micah Jenkins, recommended Hagood for promotion from Captain to Colonel of his “Hagood”,
regiment based on Hagood’s “Valor and Skill”. Bypassing the ranks of Major and Lt. Colonel was almost unheard of in promotion to Colonel but Jenkins felt the exceptions in this instance were appropriate. The War Department confirmed this promotion on 16 November 1863 just two days before Hagood’s 19th birthday making him the youngest Colonel in the Confederate army. Hagood was fortunate to serve in the superb Jenkins [later Bratton’s] Brigade in Field’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps with topnotch leadership at each level. He led his regiment in many of the major engagements of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864 including The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and the Petersburg siege. Paroled at Appomattox Court House in April 1865 at age 20, his record as a regimental commander stands strong and unblemished.
In 1868, General Robert E. Lee wrote about young Hagood. “During the whole time of his connection to the Army of Northern Virginia, he was conspicuous for his gallantry, good conduct, and efficiency. By his merit constantly exhibited, he rose from a private in his regiment to its command and showed by his actions he was worthy of the position.” Major-General Charles Field, his division commander, wrote, “Colonel Hagood’s high-toned, soldierly bearing at all times, his thorough handling of his regiment, and his distinguished gallantry in action, won my admiration and regard.” Such praise validates Hagood’s meteor-like rise through the ranks while he was still in his teens. It confirms that those above him saw the same fine leadership qualities as those with whom he served and led.
James Hagood, having survived the horrors of war without being wounded, lost his life in a tragic train accident in 1870 at age 26. He left behind a legacy of excellence as a man, a soldier, and a leader. He is buried in Barnwell County South Carolina, the site of his birth.