Captain Andrew Dickerson's Company from Floyd County enlisted on September 10, 1861 for one year. This company was originally comprised of 100 men, who enlisted at Jacksonville or Floyd Court House, Virginia. Only two extant muster rolls for this company exist, for the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, win camp near Paintsville, Kyw and for the period from July to December 31, 1863, when the regiment was camped at Dalton, Georgia. This is supplemented by one clothing issue roster dated April 1864, in the field near Dalton, Georgia. An extensive postwar roster at the Virginia State Library helped fill in some gaps in the compiled service roster. Captain Dickerson was not retained at the regimental reorganization on May 13, 1862. Lieutenant Thomas P. Dobyns succeeded to the command of the company, and served until he was killed in action at Kelly's Store on January 30, 1863. Dobyns was succeeded by Darius Sowers, who resigned. Robert Hammit of this company also held the rank of Captain, and according to the postwar roster of the company he was in command when he was killed at Resaca in May 1864.
Captain Jackson Godbey's Company from Floyd County enlisted on September 16, 1861 for one year. Godbey was successful in recruiting 88 men to join his unit, and enrolled them in the Confederate Army at Floyd Court House. Two extant rosters for this company at the National Archives were supplemented by six other muster rolls turned in to the Virginia State Library and Archives after the end of the war. These rosters cover nearly the entire war, the last being dated February 28, 1865. On this last roster, 23 men were counted present for duty. Company B lost 11 men at Missionary Ridge, either killed or captured. Captain Jackson Godbey was dropped when the regiment was reorganized on May 13, 1862. Godby was succeeded by Armistead O. Dobyns, who served until he resigned on January 30, 1863 for ill health, and was succeeded by James Madison Boyd who served to the end of the war. Although Dobyns resigned for ill health, he later served as captain of Company G. 21 st Virginia Cavalry. William H. Bartlett also served as regimental Color Bearer for an unknown period of time.
Captain James Craig Taylor's Company from Montgomery County enlisted on September 10, 1861 for one year. Taylor's original group of 72 men enlisted at Christiansburg. This company has two muster rolls on file at the National Archives; the first covers the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862 at wnear Paintsville"; the second covers the period from July 9 to December 31, 1863, when the company was located at Dalton, Georgia. Postwar rosters add some detail, but sadly, much of the detail for these men is missing from the records. Taylor requisitioned 77 sets of military equipment for his men at the outset of the war. Some men who served in this company may have also served in Company A, 75th Virginia Militia. Captain James C. Taylor served as commander of this company until the regimental reorganization on May 13, 1862, when he was promoted to major of the 54th. Lieutenant William H. Ragan was elected to fill the vacancy and served until he resigned at Licking Station, Kentucky, on October 23, 1862. The muster rolls indicate that William G. Anderson was also promoted to captain when the 54th reorganized, but it is likely that he succeeded Ragan. Anderson served intermittently as regimental commander during the later days of the war.
Captain Henry Slusher's Company from Floyd County enlisted 78 men on October 1, 1861, for one year at Jacksonville, Virginia. Most of this company deserted en masse in North Georgia in the late spring of 1864. This company has two muster rolls on file at the National Archives; the first covers the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, at "near Paintsville"; the second covers the period from July 9 to December 31, 1863, when the company was located at Dalton, Georgia. Postwar rosters add some detail including the notation "disloyal," but much of the detail for these men has been omitted from the extant records. The first company commander was Henry Slusher, who served until he resigned on January 16, 1862, from the camp of Humphrey Marshall's Army of Eastern Kentucky, then camped on Beaver Creek in Eastern Kentucky. Slusher was succeeded by Austin Harman, who had served as Slusher's second in command. Harman served until he was promoted to major on April 27, 1863. Harman remained in the army until Johnston surrendered at Durham Station in April 1865, but his affiliation with the 54th was severed at some unrecorded point. Asa H. Boothe was promoted to the captaincy of Company D when Harman was promoted. Boothe, raised in the North, wwas a Yankee at heart, and it could not be got out of him." He led his company to desert en masse in North Georgia on June 19, 1864. The company ceased to exist at this point. Three men, according to James Clark of the 63rd, remained in the army. The faithful three seemed to try harder than the rest of the regiment to make up for their comrades' disloyalty, and before the war ended all three became casualties.
The Montgomery Grays enlisted on September 10, 1861, from Montgomery County men, for one year. The muster rolls for January 1, 1862, seem to indicate only 67 men originally enlisted in this company at Christiansburg. This total was below minimum organizational strength, and it is possible that a few others also joined but were rejected by the surgeon, deserted or died before the first muster roll was completed. Company E has two muster rolls on file at the National Archives; the first covers the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, at "near Paintsville"; the second covers the period from July 9 to December 31, 1863, when the company was located at Dalton, Georgia. These rosters are supplemented by good postwar rosters and a clothing issue roster, dated April 23, 1864. John Jason Wade, organizer of this company served until he was promoted to the majority of the regiment when it reorganized in May 1862. James Ryan succeeded Wade, and served until succeeded by James K. Peterson on September 20, 1862. Peterson served until he resigned on November 23, 1863 due to "feeble health." First Lieutenant James R. Birchfield assumed command of the company, but was apparently never promoted to captain. Birchfield served until he was mortally wounded and died on June 13, 1864. Apparently he was the last officer on duty with this company and none were reappointed. While recorded desertions for this company are low, it apparently was so weak that operational control of the company passed to the officers of Company C in late 1864.
Captain William J. Jordan's Company enlisted on September 9, 1861, from Pulaski County men, for one year. Jordan and 82 other men cast their fate with the Confederacy at Newbern at the regiment's formation. A total of 217 men eventually served in this company, making it the largest in the regiment. This company retained a high level of esprit de corps, evidenced by 33 men remaining in ranks as late as February 28, 1865. Rosters for this company are the most complete of any in the regiment. The first roster covers the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, when the 54th was in camp near Paintsville in Johnson County, Kentucky. The second roster covers the period from July 9, 1863, through October 31, 1863, when camped near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The third roster covers the period from July 9, 1863, through December 31, 1863, when camped at Dalton, Georgia. The fourth muster roll was taken for January and February 1864, again at "near Dalton". The February 1864 roster notes that one "of our brave and patriotic boys" was killed at Stony Side Mountain, and that two others had since died of wounds received there. The fifth muster roll covered the period of July - August 1864. The activities noted on this roster indicate that seven members of the company were wounded at Resaca; one was wounded at Cassville; three were killed, four wounded and two were missing after Mount Zion Church; and "three men straggled on 3rd July & were captured by the enemy & two deserted and Fountain Wise was captured on 2d July near Atlanta while on picket." The sixth and last extant roster was for the period January and February 1865, dated February 28, 1865, when the company was stationed at Chesterville, South Carolina. Captain William Jasper Jordan served in what would become the largest company in the 54th from its organization until it was reorganized, when he was unsuccessful in his bid for reelection. Jordan was succeeded by William F. Eaton, who served in the captaincy until disabled and retired to the Invalid Corps. Jacob Henry Anderson was then promoted to captain and served until the end of the war.
Captain George Hylton Turman's Company mustered in service on September 16, 1861, primarily from Carroll County residents, for one year. This company has two extant muster rolls, one for the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, at Paintsville, Kentucky; the second for the period from July 9, 1863, to December 31, 1863, near Dalton, Georgia. A clothing roster for April 1864 filled in the strength for that month. This company's postwar roster is probably the least informative of all the postwar rosters, therefore it is probable that this company's record is the least complete for the regiment. George Hylton Turman organized this company from that portion of Carroll County which borders Floyd County and had many connections in Floyd County. Turman convinced 78 other men to enlist in the Southern cause at Dug Spur on September 16, 1861. He served until he resigned on February 16,1862 because of ill health. The captaincy remained vacant until the regimental reorganization of May 1862, when Jeremiah Spence was elected to the post, which he held until he resigned on November 23, 1863. Eli Spangler, the errant 1 st lieutenant of the company, was rehabilitated by his superiors and promoted to the captaincy of Company G on January 1, 1864 to rank from November 23, 1863. Spangler, in a successful effort to redeem his tarnished reputation, performed yeoman service until the end of the war, and was paroled at Greensboro on May 1, 1865.
Captain Sparrell H. Griffith's Company enlisted on October 1, 1861, from Floyd County residents for one year. Griffith enlisted 64 men in this company at Jacksonville when the company was formed. This company, the smallest of the 54th, has two extant muster rolls, one for the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, at Paintsville, Kentucky; the second for the period from July 9, 1863, to December 31, 1863, near Dalton, Georgia. A clothing roster for April 1864 filled in the company's strength for that month. The postwar roster for this company is relatively complete and filled in many gaps. Captain Sparrell Griffith, a 45 year old farmer, served the company as commander until the regimental reorganization. Although he has no contemporary file, it appears that Joseph Henry Scales succeeded Griffith. Scales was succeeded by his younger brother James R. Scales on October 17, 1863, who was then only 20 years old. He was present with his men until admitted to the hospital on August 5, 1864, and it would appear that he was unable to return to duty. First Lieutenant Lewis A. Buckingham assumed company command until he was declared absent without leave on November 17, 1864. First Sergeant Peter S. Banks was the senior member of the company until he was captured at Bentonville on March 19, 1865, and was probably the last member of the company on duty. This company's casualty rate mirrored the overall rate for the regiment of 27% for the three and one half years it was in service.
Captain Burwell Akers' Company enlisted on October 1, 1861 from
Floyd County residents for one year. Company I, organized at Jacksonville,
Virginia, was originally the largest of the regiment, composed of 121 men
at its organization. Eventually 197 men would claim service in this
company. This company has two extant muster rolls, one for the period
from enlistment to January 1, 1862, at Paintsville, Kentucky; the second for
the period from July 9, 1863, to December 31,1863, near Dalton. Georgia.
The company lost two killed and four wounded at Chickamauga. A clothing
roster for April 1864 filled in the company's strength for that month. The
postwar roster for this company is relatively complete and filled in many
gaps. Burwell Akers was the first commander of this unit, and served until
he resigned on July 11,1862. according to a letter in his service file. (The
postwar roster of this company indicates he was dropped at the regiment's
reorganization.) Akers was succeeded by James Hammet as captain of the
company, who served until he was mortally wounded at Chickamauga.
Lieutenant Henry Smith assumed command of the company at this point
and served until he was wounded by a shell fragment near Atlanta on
August 16, 1864. Smith was sent home to recover, and was detailed to
recruiting duty in Southwest Virginia. First Lieutenant Philip Shoemaker
assumed command of the company and served in that capacity until he was
captured at Bentonville on March 19, 1865. No replacement was named.
Many members of this company formed the core of Trigg's detachment of
the 54th Virginia serving in Southwest Virginia during the last eight months
of the war.
The Roanoke Guards, or Captain John Scott Deyerle's Company,
enlisted on October 10, 1861, for one year and was made up of residents
of Craig and Roanoke counties. The company of 64 men was mustered into
Confederate Service at Salem. Eventually 174 men would pass through the
ranks of this company, which had a desertion problem nearly as bad as the
infamous Company D. This company has two extant muster rolls: one for
the period from enlistment to January 1, 1862, at Paintsville, Kentucky, the
second for the period from July 9, 1863 to December 31. 1863, near Dal-
ton, Georgia. The company lost one killed and four wounded at Chick-
amauga. A clothing roster for April 1864 filled in the company's strength
for that month. The postwar roster for this company is relatively complete
and filled in many gaps. Captain John Scott Deyerle served as first
commander of this company and held the post until promoted to major of
the regiment on November 13, 1862. He held that post until he resigned
to become surgeon of the 21 st Virginia Cavalry on April 27, 1863. William
W. Brand succeeded to the captaincy of Company K. He was wounded at
Chickamauga, but was able to return to duty by December 31, 1863.
Brand was wounded again at New Hope Church on May 19, 1864, and was
absent with those wounds until transferred to the Invalid Corps on February
23, 1865, though he nominally retained command of the unit. Second Lieu-
tenant Frederic N. Bryant was the last officer of this company on duty, and
served until he was captured at Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 19,
Some of the 54th's men deserted to the Federals when the
opportunity presented itself. There were incredible pressures not to desert
such as fear of punishment if caught, ostracism of the family left at home,
an unsure Federal reception, and beginning a new life somewhere strange
with no friends, family, or money. In light of these fears, one would
assume the desertion rate would be low, but the horrors of war were worse
than the other considerations. The regiment's desertion rate, however, was
about the same rate as that in other mountain units, e.g., the 29th, 45th,
51st, 63rd and 64th Virginia Infantry regiments. However Company D.
from Floyd County, deserted en masse. Some men made claims of being
loyal and deserted to avail themselves of the amnesty proclamation. Some
men, if not most, were stragglers wanting to make their encounter with the
Federals as easy as possible. Some men were apparently believed by the Federal authorities, and were released north of the Ohio River. Most.
however, were not believed and sent to prisoner of war camps in
Many churches dealt with deserters after the War was over. Many
churches divided over the issue of slavery before the outbreak of the war
into Northern and Southern factions. The Primitive Baptist Church, then the
predominant religion in Floyd and Carroll counties, did not divide, but in the
period 1866-1868, excommunicated its members who had deserted from
the Confederate Army or who had joined the Union League or Red Stringers.
The hyper-Calvinist Primitive Baptist Church, with another Calvinistic group.
the Presbyterians, seem to have held the theological loyalties of a majority
of the regiment. Calvinists had a bent to be fearless in battle. They did not
believe it possible to die before it was one's time to die. When the time of
death arrived, it mattered not what the person was doing, he would die,
according to Calvinistic theology. This theological point of view is evident
in various articles of faith espoused by area churches.
Confederate apologist historian Edward Pollard wrote in The Lost
Cause, "In armies thus recruited [by conscription], desertions were the
events of every day. There were other causes of desertion. Owing to the
gross mismanagement of the commissariat, and a proper effort to mobilize
the subsistence of the Confederacy, the armies were almost constantly on
short rations, sometimes without a scrap of meat, and frequently in a
condition bordering on absolute starvation. The Confederate soldier, almost
starving himself, heard constantly of destitution at home, and was
distressed with the suffering of his family, and was constantly plied with
temptation to go to their protection and relief." Many soldiers in the 54th
Virginia must have felt compelled to go home to avoid being cannon fodder
for John Bell Hood. Many of the soldiers evaded police and home guard
patrols and successfully made their way to their Blue Ridge Mountain homes
and successfully hid out until April 1865. These feelings may have
overridden their loyalty to consistently popular brigade and regimental
Other feelings were supplemented by a burning desire to aid their
defenseless families. Bushwhackers were rampant in Southwest Virginia
during and immediately following the war. Any able-bodied horse was
stolen from 1863 onward. Confederate commissary agents made offers for
farm products the inhabitants could not afford to refuse, but often did.
They came through and offered set prices for goods, usually below market
value. If the farmer refused to sell, the goods were taken; the farmer was
given a voucher to be paid by the next disbursing officer coming into the
area. The paymaster usually never came. Competing Union and Confederate home guards were impressing any able bodied male into
service, regardless of loyalties. What food there was often had to be buried
to be saved. There are innumerable tales in the oral tradition about
desperadoes and deserters from both sides being on the loose. These
"bushwhackers" would steal what was not nailed down, and sometimes
would burn what was.