The designation “8th Virginia Regiment” was used three times in two wars for non-militia units: twice in the Revolution and once in the Civil War. The existence of three regiments of the same name sometimes causes confusion for researchers and genealogists. This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that two of them were recruited in overlapping territory and the third was recruited nearby. This post is intended to make it easy to distinguish among them, and to provide a little bit of service history.
In the French and Indian War, Virginia had one "Virginia Regiment," notably commanded for part of the war by George Washington. The was (briefly) a 2nd Virginia Regiment, as well. In the Revolution, the Old Dominion had 15 numbered regiments. In the Civil War it had 64.
The Original 8th Virginia, 1776-1778
Most of the men in the original regiment signed up for two-year enlistments that ended in the spring of 1778 at Valley Forge. That, combined with casualties and weak recruiting, left the regiment significantly understrength when it marched out of Valley Forge. At the Battle of Monmouth, it was provisionally combined with the 4th and 12th regiments, which were also understrength, as the “4th-8th-12th Virginia Regiment.” The 4th, the 8th, and the 12th had all served together in Charles Scott’s brigade since the spring of 1777.
The “New” 8th Virginia of 1778-1779
In October of 1777, after Germantown but before the Valley Forge encampment, George Slaughter was promoted to become the new major of the 12th Virginia. He had, up until that time, been a captain in the original 8th Virginia. He resigned in November to deal with a family emergency. In January, he was succeeded by Jonathan Clark, who likewise had until that time been a captain in the original 8th Virginia.
When the 12th was redesignated in September of 1778, it’s field officers were Col. John Neville, Lt. Col. Charles Fleming, and Maj. Jonathan Clark. It continued in service until 1779 when the line was reorganized again.
The Confederate 8th Virginia
Another 8th Virginia Regiment was authorized by the Governor of Virginia in May of 1861 for service in the Confederate Army. It was led by Col. Eppa Hunton, Lt. Col. Charles Tebbs, and Maj. Norborne Berkeley. Major Berkeley was named in honor of Gov. Norborne Berkeley (1718-1770), a popular late-colonial governor. Berkeley, the regiment's best-remembered commander, was a graduate of VMI from Aldie, Loudoun County. Three of his brothers also served as officers in the regiment, leading it to sometimes be called the “Berkeley Regiment.” (It did not recruit in Berkeley County (named for the governor), as is sometimes assumed.) It was also called the “Bloody Eighth” because of its hard service.
The Civil War 8th Virginia’s original companies and captains were Company A, the “Hillsboro Border Guards,” raised in Loudoun County and led by N.R. Heaton; Company B, the “Piedmont Rifles,” raised at Rectortown in Fauquier County and led by Richard Carter; Company C, the “Evergreen Guards,” raised in Prince William County and led by Edmund Berkeley; Company D, “Champe’s Rifles,” raised at Haymarket in Prince William County and led by William Berkeley; Company E, “Hampton’s Company,” raised at Philomont in Loudoun County and led by Mandley Hampton; Company F, the “Blue Mountain Boys,” raised at Bloomfield in Loudoun County and led by Alexander Grayson; G Company, “Thrift’s Company,” recruited at Dranesville in Fairfax County and led by James Thrift; H Company, the “Potomac Grays,” raised at Leesburg in Loudoun County and led by Capt. Morris Wampler; Company I, “Simpson’s Company,” raised at Mount Gilead and North Fork in Loudoun County and led by James Simpson, and Company K, “Scott’s Company,” raised in Fauquier County and led by Robert Scott.
In 1905, Edmund Berkeley wrote a poem to welcome Union veterans to a reunion at the Manassas Battlefield that is notable for the grace shown to men who had fired at him on that very field. It was published by the Society of the Army of the Potomac in the report on its fortieth reunion.
O Lord of love, bless thou to-day
This meeting of the Blue and Gray.
Look down, from Heaven, upon these ones,
Their country's tried and faithful sons.
As brothers, side by side, they stand,
Owning one country and one land.
Here, half a century ago,
Our brothers' blood with ours did flow;
No scanty stream, no stinted tide,
These fields it stained from side to side,
And now to us is proved most plain,
No single drop was shed in vain;
But did its destined purpose fill
Of carrying out our Master's will,
Who did decree, troubles should cease
And his chosen land have peace;
And to achieve this glorious end
We should four years in conflict spend;
Which done the world would plainly see
Both sides had won a victory.
And then this reunited land
In the first place would ever stand
Of all the nations, far and near,
Or East or Western hemisphere.
Brothers, to-day in love we've met,
Let us all bitterness forget,
And with true love and friendship clasp
Each worthy hand in fervent grasp
And in remembrance of this day
Let one and all devoutly pray:
That when our earthly course is run
And we, our final victory won,
Together we'll pass to that blessed shore
That ne'er has heard the cannon's roar;
And where our angel comrades stand
To welcome us to Heaven's bright strand.
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed near the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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