COLUMBIA, S.C. – Lt. Col. Elbert Bland was a physician in the Confederate army, but he didn’t think that was enough. So he went home and raised his own company, and led it into battle as a fighting soldier.
Bill Davies, a retired attorney and member of the governing board of the South Carolina Historical Society, will tell Bland’s story in a lecture at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum at noon on Friday, Sept. 28, as part of the museum’s monthly Lunch and Learn series.
Bland, a member of an affluent Edgefield County family, attended the Medical College of New York, where he graduated with distinction. He came home briefly to start a medical practice, but soon found himself serving in the Mexican-American War as assistant surgeon of the Palmetto Regiment.
At the very outset of the American Civil War, he became surgeon of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, serving under Maxcy Gregg, the subject of another recent Lunch and Learn lecture. But that didn’t last long. He soon went back home to help form the Ninety-Six Riflemen, and was eventually elected captain of that unit, which became part of the 7th South Carolina Volunteers.
The unit headed north and joined the fighting in Virginia, where it soon became a part of Kershaw’s Brigade. During the reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia in the spring of 1862, Bland was elected as lieutenant colonel of the 7th. He commanded the 7th often in the absence of the unit’s colonel, and eventually was appointed its permanent commander. He would fight, and be wounded, at Gettysburg. He would receive his final, fatal wound at the battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. When a fellow soldier tried to make him more comfortable, he said, “I am a doctor and I know the nature of my wound, and
it is useless for me to be pained by being moved… I have a very short time to live.”
He would be praised by his commanding officer as “a champion worthy of our glorious cause.” He is certainly a subject worthy of an interesting lecture. The program at the museum is free, and open to the public.
About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.