3rd Alabama Infantry Regiment

"The Glorious Third" Alabama's first volunteers

The Election for Major, Part II

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Every regiment had line officers and field officers. Captains and lieutenants were “officers of the line,” in command of the various companies; divided between two battalions: First and Second. Field officers  commanded these: First Battalion was always under its Lt. Colonel; Second battalion, under its Major. (Colonel Lomax had overall command of the entire regiment).

With Captains Sands, Woodruff and Gracie out of the running (for one reason or another) 3d Alabama still had to select a major. As a ‘volunteer’ regiment, their leaders (every officer in fact, with the exception of staff appointments such as commissary and quartermaster) were chosen by ballot. Lomax and Battle had been approved for colonel and lieutenant colonel (respectively) by nearly unanimous vote.

Major was a different matter. Absent the obvious frontrunners, the regimental vote was split among second-tier officers. For a variety of reasons, most of the remaining captains and first lieutenants did not allow their names to be put forward:

Captain Bonham of Co H, for instance, was wrestling for the leadership of his own company, the Lowndes-Beauregards; Captain Powell of D, was also enduring a wave of dissatisfaction among his own volunteers (Both men would have made excellent field officers, and each was promoted to the rank of major before the end of the war). Captain Swanson of C, was a martinet–no one wanted to be under his command; Captain Andrews of the Montgomery True Blues (G) already was making arrangements for his company to be detached as an artillery battery…and so it went. Technically, any officer or man was eligible, but to capture this vote one needed a following. None of the first lieutenants mounted a viable campaign–many were themselves being recruited to officer newly-forming regiments.

The choice appeared to boil down to: Captain Edward Ready of Wetumpka, (Co I) or the erratic Winston Hunter, captain of the Metropolitan Guards (F)–the other Montgomery militia. In the first evening’s balloting, Hunter got the most votes but not a majority. The next night, in two subsequent tallies, Ready overtook Hunter by a slim margin. But neither had a majority. And regiment-wide enthusiasm for either was lacking.

In classic American fashion, a dark horse arose: Charles M. Forsyth was 2nd lieutenant of the Mobile Cadets. He was popular with the men–especially so, with those from Mobile, representing the largest voting bloc. He was young, dashing, and wealthy. He treated the volunteers firmly, but with respect. His father, John Forsyth, was the powerful and influential publisher of the Mobile Register, one of the great pulpits for State’s Rights. Also in his favor was his pretty fiancé, Laura Sprague.

On the minus side (and a serious consideration it was), he was under the command of Captain Robert Sands, 35, ten years his senior, who was, unquestionably, the man best suited for the majority. But Sands had declined the offer, and there was no going back. In a decided upset, the final vote was Forsyth 321; Ready 138; Hunter 131. Young Charlie, 25, while away in Mobile, was elected Major of the 3d Alabama. A decision that would redound over the next three and a half years.

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Written by boothma

March 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

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