17th Virginia Volunteer Infantry

On July 10th 1861, the Old Dominion Rifles, with 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.

On 18th July, Longstreet’s Brigade, at Blackburn’s Ford on the banks of Bull Run, decisively repulsed a determined Federal attack. Next day the Old Dominion Rifles (Co. H) were ordered across the river where they encountered, and drove off, a large Federal force. 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, was commanded by A. P. Hill.

On 3rd May, the Brigade marched to Williamsburg to be heavily engaged in fighting. Heavily engaged again at Seven Pines on 31st May. On 30th June, at Frazier’s Farm, the Brigade charged Union Artillery, capturing the guns - but, cut off and unsupported, were forced to retire.

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.

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, 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. 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 Present 17th Virginia

Co H. 17th Virginia Volunteer Regiment prides itself on giving a good impression of Confederate soldiers during the War Between the State 1861-1865, otherwise know as the American Civil War.

We wear accurate copies of period uniforms and carry replicas of Civil War weapons. SoSkAn’s skirmishes are well organised and very exciting, making us a popular attraction and winning us countless compliments and awards. The real thrill, however, is to take part. The visual impression is only one aspect of our battle, to ‘feel’ the excitement you really have to be in it!

If you join us as a soldier you will be taught to march and manoeuvre using period manuals and fire a musket in the correct manner. Attention to detail is important in all areas of our impression from the weapon and uniforms down to the cooking utensils and camp furniture. Camping is normally done in white canvas ‘A’ frame tents in company ‘streets’ although areas are provided for modern tents, caravans and camper vans.

As we camp together we have built up a strong feeling of comradeship in the 17th. Meals are cooked on a communal open fire and as the evening draws in we settle down to some lively banter and sing songs that would be familiar to the real soldiers of the Civil War 145 years ago.

SoSkAn and 17th Virginia welcome families and the study and re-enactment of the civilian side of Civil War life is becoming a very popular feature of all SoSkAn events, so if the military life does not suit you, there are still ways to get involved in portraying this monumental period in American and British history.

Music is also an important part of 17th Virginia and SoSkAn. Field music (fife and drum) accompanies the soldiers as they march and adds a great martial atmosphere to our battles, parades and drills.

Beyond the military side of things music is played around the campfire in the evening and attention is paid to research and learn period songs in a friendly atmosphere that allows everyone, regardless of musical ability, to join in.