Robert Martin Lyles joined the newly forming Company F of the S.C. 1st (Orr's) Regiment of Rifles on July 20, 1861. Through the summer of 1861 the regiment drilled at Camp Pickens, Sandy Springs, S.C., then moved to Charleston and thereabouts for the winter. In the early Spring of 1862, Obediah Lyles joined his older brother's company. In April the regiment left winter quarters for Richmond and the front, and there they drilled and stayed in reserve till late June.
The regiment engaged in its first fighting as a part of Gen. A. P. Hill's Light Division during the Battle of the Seven Days. On the third and fiercest day, June 27, they were thrown into battle at Cold Harbor and suffered 60 percent casualties. A few days later, on July 12 or 13, Obediah Lyles died, probably from wounds.
At the end of August, the regiment fought again at Second Manassas (or Second Bull Run) from August 28 to September 1 or 2. Robert M. Lyles died, officially, on August 31, 1862.
Two other Lyles boys--James M. Lyles and John W. Lyles--in Company F were also dead by the first of September 1862. Thus all four Lyles boys were gone when on September 17 the regiment fought in the bloody battle at Antietam.
Below, I've written an account of the what Robert and Oby Lyles lived through with the 1st Regiment of Rifles and their Company F--the Blue Ridge Rifles.
draft in progress 2/19/99, James R.Lyles III
On July 20, 1861, 18-year-old volunteer Robert M. Lyles was mustered into the Confederate Army at Sandy Springs in Anderson County, South Carolina.
Yesterday, July 19, hundreds of other young men from nearby counties had gathered on the campgrounds near Sandy Springs M.E. Church. Months ago, after the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, former U.S. Congressman Robert Orr of Pendleton had asked for and gotten permission from Governor Francis Pickens to raise a regiment from the upland counties. Recruiters had fanned out to sign up volunteers. For signing up for three years or the duration of the war, Robert Lyles earned a bounty of $50. And yesterday, he and the others--his cousin John J. Vissage, his neighbors James M. Lyles and John W. Lyles--had come from the Pickens District west of the Keowee River. Others had walked or rode in from the eastern Pickens District, from Abbeville, Anderson, and Marion Counties to assemble on the camp ground dubbed Camp Pickens.
On July 20, the men were sworn in, and Lieutenant B. Sloan swore in Robert Lyles. The men elected their own officers, and the regiment was constituted out of ten 100-man companies. Pickens County men made up Companies A, C, E, and F. Company F--Robert Lyles' company--was headed by Captain Robert A. Hawthorne and became known as the Blue Ridge Rifles.
Companies B and G were made up of Abbeville County men; Companies D, K, and L of Anderson County men; and Company H of men from Marion County.
"Few, if any, thought that the war would continue for three years," recalled J.W. Mattison. "The general impression was that six to twelve months would end the war and secure our independence. Some of us were afraid it would all be over before we reached the front."
Long after the war, in 1899, Mattison, a veteran of Company G, recalled those days in "Orr's South Carolina rifles, a brief sketch of the famous regiment from the pen of one who fought in its ranks" in Southern Historical Society Papers, XXVII (1899), 157-65.
"The drills and camp duty we thought very hard. In a few weeks a majority of us thought we had at least learned all that Hardee knew about tactics," remembered Mattison. "During our stay at Sandy Springs we learned very little of actual camp life. We were all quartered in tents used by tent holders at camp meetings. We had plenty to eat, such as it was, and it was roughly prepared in many cases.
"While we were drilled very hard, we had many pleasant hours in camp. Friends and relatives of the members of the regiment visited the camp daily by scores and hundreds. Dress parade at 6 P.M. was the hour to see the ladies out in large numbers to witness our military evolutions and soldierly bearing."
In late August after a month of training, the Keowee Courier published a roster of Company F. Then in early September the regiment broke camp and marched toward Charleston and took up quarters on Sullivan's Island and other nearby islands and strategic spots along the coast. There they drilled and did picket duty through the winter. During the winter, Colonel Orr resigned his commission and entered Congress. Lieutenant-Colonel J. Foster Marshall was now Colonel of the regiment.
On March 25, John W. Lyles died at Sullivan's Island, most likely of illness. His service records in the National Archives do not mention any next of kin. He was likely a cousin of Robert and Oby Lyles.
"Colonel Marshall received orders on April 19th, to report with his command at Richmond, Va., at once," Mattison wrote. "Our surplus baggage was packed and sent home at once. On Sunday, April 20th, we left the Island rejoicing that we were going to the seat of war."
In spring 1862 back in the Pickens District, Obediah Lyles enlisted in his brother Robert's regiment and company--Company F, the Blue Ridge Rifles. S. H. Johns, Magistrate of the Pickens District, signed up Oby on March 15, 1862. We don't know what training he had or how soon he reached the regiment. But he was with Robert by late June.
Late on April 20, the regiment marched toward Richmond, passing through Weldon, N.C., and reaching Richmond at noon on April 23. They moved on up the road toward Fredericksburg and made camp for a month until General Joseph Johnston withdrew his Confederate forces from the Yorktown Peninsula back to near Richmond. Orr's Rifles camped in marshy land near the Chickahominy River on May 29.
"The night of the 29th was a night of continued downpour of rain, our camp was a pond of water, and slop was out of the question," Mattison wrote. "The Chickahominy bottom lands were overflowed and the water extended from hill to hill."
"Our command was moved down the Chickahominy, Saturday, May 31st," said Mattison. "We could hear the battle of Seven Pines raging as we moved down the river. We were not engaged in the fight. A few shells were thrown by the enemy in our direction." Afterwards the regiment went into camp just east of Richmond.
"The camp was a low, swampy piece of timber land, which proved to be a very unhealthy location. A large number of our regiment and brigade were on the sick list in a few days. Orr's Rifles lost during the summer quite a number of men by disease; nineteen of Company G, died in the hospital with fever. June, July and August quite a number were unable for duty during the campaign of the summer," Mattison said.
In June, Orr's Rifles became part of General Maxcy Gregg's 2nd Brigade of General A.P. Hill's Light Division. They joined the S.C.1st, 12th, 13th, and 14th Infantry Volunteers. On June 25, the brigade was ordered to move.
"Rations were issued and cooked and all made ready for a march. Soon after dark we formed line. And our Chaplain, Rev. H. T. Sloan, offered an earnest prayer, asking the God of battles to be with us in the conflict that was soon to come. We moved out of camp early in the night and marched up the Chickahominy somewhere north of Richmond, and near Meadow bridge. We remained at this place the balance of the night and until two or three o'clock next evening," said Mattison.
On June 26, the regiment stayed behind the fighting at nearby Mechanicsville. Mattison recalled that they were "not yet initiated into the horror of war," as they heard the sounds of shells not far away. Before dark, Company G lost its first man, S.C. Reid, to a stray shell.
Company F, 1st (Orr's) South Carolina Rifles
[Published in the Keowee Courier, August 10, 1861]
Captain R.A. Hawthorne
1st Lt. Geo. W. Fullerton
2nd Lt. James A. Johns
3rd Lt. Samuel K. Dendy
1st Sgt. Alex. Armstrong
2nd Sgt. James Johns
3rd Sgt. Thomas D. Long
4th Sgt. J.C.P.J. Miller
1st Cpl. John H. Harris
2nd Cpl. Wm. J. Gaston
3rd Cpl. Wm. J. Hughes
4th Cpl. C.S. Milford
Leathers, John A.
1L.D. Fowler was likely an uncle of our Obadiah and Robert Lyles.
2John W. Lyles and James M. Lyles, sons of Hugh Isham and Jenny Lyles, both enlisted on the same day as our Robert Lyles did. They are almost certainly kin, though we don't yet know exactly how.
3This is our Robert Martin Lyles?
4Our Obediah Coleman Lyles enlisted in this company on March 15, 1862.
5Henry Martin Pitts is reputed to have married widow Caroline Matilda Lyles after the war.
6This John Jackson Vissage is the brother of Selena Ellen Vissage and the first cousin of our Lyles boys.