Captured by the Yankees: A Reminiscence by B. L. Wynn of the Confederate Signal Corps

On July 1, 1861, Benjamin Littleton Wynn joined the “Volunteer Southrons,” of Vicksburg and went off to war. The 22 year-old student had been matriculating at Kentucky Military Institute in Frankfort, Kentucky, and he ended his college career early to return home to Mississippi and fight for his native state. In 1861 joining the military was a grand adventure, and Benjamin was accompanied into the service by his younger brother William, who also joined the Volunteer Southrons. The company was sent to Virginia, where they were made part of the 21st Mississippi Infantry. The Wynn brothers service with the 21st was to last only a matter of months, for on the November – December 1861 Muster Roll for the regiment it was noted that both men were “Detailed to Signal Corps.”

By the time of the Civil War, the fastest way to send a message was by telegraph – but often the armies were operating far from

Equipment used by the Signal Corps - Image from Wikipedia

Equipment used by the Signal Corps – Image from Wikipedia

telegraph lines, and it was vital that a system for passing intelligence and orders be established. To fill this vital role, the Confederate Signal Corps was created by Confederate officer Edward Porter Alexander. The Corps used signal flags during the day and torches at night to pass messages along a chain of signal stations. In his article on the Confederate Signal Corps for the Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, John R. Elting described the workings of the organization thus:

“The Signal Corps established chains of signal stations, each manned by one or two officers and several enlisted men, from their army’s outposts back to its headquarters. These were placed on commanding heights so that each station had a clear line of sight to the stations on either side of it…Since these stations frequently provided excellent views of the opposing army, the Signal Corps detachments manning them thus had the dual mission of transmitting messages and observing and reporting enemy activities.”

Benjamin and his brother William were both assigned as privates to work for General Thomas J. “Stonewall Jackson. During one of his early missions for the general, Benjamin was captured by the enemy. He wrote of this episode in The Tallahatchie Herald, January 26, 1910:

 

Captain B.L. Wynn, writes interestingly of a thrilling experience in war times. Writes it for the Boys and Girls.

I am induced to give you this story of the capture of a Confederate soldier, for two reasons; first, because I find you as a class, exercised and your minds more receptive, concerning instances appertaining to the War Between the States, than many of more mature years. Second; because it will have a tendency to keep warm your patriotism and also, to inculcate a further desire on your part to learn more of the history of the Civil War, both of which will argue well on your part.

About the middle of October, 1862, General McClellan, crossed the Potomac, moving southward east of the Blue Ridge. General Lee moving

U.S. Army Signal Corps Station - A Confederate Signal Station would have been very similar in layout - Library of Congress

U.S. Army Signal Corps Station – A Confederate Signal Station would have been very similar in layout – Library of Congress

parallel with him on the west of the ridge. About the 20th, General T.J. Jackson’s corp, camped for the night east of and near Winchester, Jackson’s headquarters for the night being at Berryville, on the road leading from Winchester through Ashby Gap over the mountains. After a long ride coming into headquarters, and about nine 0′clock at night, Colonel Pendleton, Jackson’s Adjutant General, sent for me. On reaching his tent, he said to me, “The General wants you to go to the top of the Blue Ridge tonight and make observation of the enemies’ movement and report next morning.” I replied that I was ready to go, but that I had been in the saddle since daylight and had had a long, hard and somewhat dangerous ride. I also said that I could make no observation until the sun had dispelled the mist over the valley. He said that he would see the General and explain to him, returning in a few minutes. He told me that it would be all right with the General if I would be certain to reach the top of the ridge by or a little before daylight next morning. I gave orders to my servant to have something for me to eat and my horse saddled two hours before daylight the next morning.

I got off on time, and after a ride of four or five miles, before daylight, I came to the Shenandoah River, where I was halted by our pickets. I had to send for the officer in command before they would let me cross. When the officer came, he knew me and passed me, although he failed to tell me, as was his duty, that there was nothing between me and the enemy. After crossing, having plenty of time, I rode leisurely along, and not at all on the alert, thinking I would find our cavalry pickets somewhere in advance on the western slope of the mountain, but a mile from the summit and a little before daylight I rode square into a body of cavalry that proved to be General McClellan’s advance body guard. They had their guns upon me before I took in the situation. There was nothing for me to do but surrender or be killed. I made up my mind in an instant and yielded to the inevitable as gracefully as I knew how, but it was not my capture that I was most concerned about. Just now a dispatch I had in my pocket from General Lee to General Longstreet, ordering the latter to move his corp, with all possible dispatch, to the railroad bridge across the Rappahannock River, take possession of it and hold it.

The dispatch, I had sent by signal to General Longstreet the day before, and should, as was my duty, have destroyed it upon acknowledgement of receipt. I thought of half a dozen different ways as to how I could keep the enemy from getting it, and as it was hardly light good, and being disarmed, I concluded that I would not be watched closely, so I tore the paper in small pieces while in my pocket, and every few feet I moved, I pulled out three or four pieces and dropped them under my horse, as we moved along. I had succeeded in disposing of [it] in this way nearly all of it before I was detected. A dozen pistols were thrust, cocked, into my face and I was told if I put my hands in my pockets again I would be shot on the spot. I remembered what they said, and obeyed.

Going on about a mile, we reached the top of the mountain, where General McClellan and staff had headquarters. The first question he asked me was to what arm of service I belonged. I said, “I am a member of the signal corps of the Second Army Corps.” “Where did you leave General Jackson?” he asked. I replied, “I cannot answer the question.” He pressed me no further on this line. Among other questions he asked that if it was not the general belief among our soldiers that if they were taken prisoners they would be inhumanely treated. I said it was not, so far as I knew. “I’m glad to hear it,” said he.

Turning to a colonel on his staff, he said something to him, which I failed to catch, but I was immediately marched down the eastern slope of the mountain by six cavalrymen, headed by the colonel. We had gone but a short distance before we met the infantry. The road was narrow, and it was with difficulty that we could pass them, and here I met with another trouble, for every once in a while an infantryman would say to me, “You old rebel, you let your horse step on me, and I will run my bayonet through you.” Was I careful? Well, if you could have seen me just then, there would be no need to ask the question.

After going several hundred yards passing the infantry all the while, we came to a small opening on the side of the road, into which we turned. Now I began to think, and think seriously, too what was up? Why should I be carried into this place? I concluded being captured before day and inside of their lines and with papers on my person and a citizen’s coat, which was almost new, which I had gotten while in Maryland, that they had taken me for a spy and were going to shoot me on the spot. I had made up my mind that if I was going to be shot, they would have to shoot me in the saddle. After halting in the open place, the colonel said, “I am going to search you for papers, dismount.”

Ah, you do not know how sweet that word “search” was to me. What a strain it took off my mind. What a relief it brought. After dismounting I was stripped of every vestige of apparel, every nook and corner and seam of my clothes was ripped open. I had on a collar and cravat they cut them open. My bed which consisted of a blanket lined with brown linen, batted well between, which had been sent to me from home, was taken from under my saddle and ripped open. In my purse I had about five hundred dollars in Confederate money one of the guards said Johnie you seem to have a good roll. Oh, yes plenty of money I said, no papers were found, I was reclothed more in strings and rags however than clothes.

On my way to the guard house one of the guards said to me, Johnie, I see your ride a very fine animal and I want to change horses with you before I turn you over to the brave guards. The exchange were made, he keeping my animal and turning it in as captured property. He gave me my blanket and oil cloth and said good bye. I thanked him. I found at the guard house forty or fifty prisoners many of whom were citizens and too old for military service but they were carrying them along, having doubtless trumped up some sort of charge against them. The next day we were marched in the direction of Warrenton and near which place we camped for the night in an old field. That night it snowed and the next morning the ground was covered four or five inches. We huddled together that night like a covey of birds, and managed to go through the night and was much worse for the wear next morning. We had had no dinner, supper or breakfast.

A wagon going by loaded with ear corn, we charged it, each man getting two or three ears. Be it said to the credit of our guards, they ran around the wagon, bringing it within the lines. About twelve o’clock the prisoners were formed into line and marched to the rear. When we had covered, I suppose about three miles, we knew something was in the air, but could not diving what. Couriers were constantly passing us in a swinging gallop their horses flecked with foam and much stir was going on among the troops that were camped along the route we were moving along. It was but a little while before we were made to do the double quick for at least three miles then we were halted and allowed rest. We then learned that the stir and commotion was caused by a report, that Jackson was in their rear. I knew that this was not true, but thought very probably it might be Moseby coming (cavalry), but it proved to be a false alarm and we had no more ‘double quicking’ to do.

If there was one thing more than another, that was calculated to throw the enemy almost into spasms, it was a report that General Jackson’s foot cavalry were in their rear, and well might they be alarmed, for several times, had he not only thrown them into fits, but had knocked them into ‘smithereens.’ Something unusual had taken place, we observed small groups of soldiers all around the prison talking and acting in an excited manner. We enquired the cause and was told that General McClellan had been relieved and Burnside put in command and that the war would soon be over, that General Lee was in full retreat and that Burnside would capture the greater part of his army, before he reached Richmond. Some two weeks after this, while a prisoner in the old capitol at Washington, I learned from Northern papers of Burnsides defeat at Fredericksburg.

Some two months after this, I was paroled and a month later was exchanged. I went back to the army and found Jackson’s headquarters changed to Fredericksburg, where we remained the balance of that winter. In conclusion, will state that what I have written is strictly true, with no coloring what ever in it.

B.L. Wynn

P.S. Like a lady see, I have a letter from an old college mate, General H.V. Bagaton, who commanded an Ohio brigade, who wrote me that nothing was made out of the paper I tore up when captured, that he had examined the war records and found no mention made of it and that he supposed that not enough of the pieces had been found to make out its purport.

 

After returning to his command after being exchanged, Benjamin Wynn continued his work in the Signal Corps. Apparently both he and his brother William were good soldiers, as their commanding officer, Captain Richard E. Wilbourn, a fellow Mississippian, recommended to Secretary of War James A. Seddon that they be commissioned officers in the Signal Corps. He wrote of the Wynn’s:

They have had a great deal of experience as signal operators, Gen. Jackson’s Corps having probably had more practice than any other. I

This Post-War Picture of Benjamin L. Wynn was published in The Tallahatchie Herald on March 23, 1910

This Post-War Picture of Benjamin L. Wynn was published in The Tallahatchie Herald on March 23, 1910

respectfully request that they be assigned to duty in the 2nd Army Corps, as we need some efficient officers in this corps. Though I have recommended them for a lieutenancy I may state that [they] will discharge the duties of any office you may see proper to give them with honor and credit.” – R.E. Wilbourn to James A. Seddon, April 2, 1863, located in the Benjamin L. Wynn Signal Corps Service Record.

Unfortunately for the Winn brothers, when the signal corps was established, its contingent of officers was fixed by law as one major, ten captains, ten first lieutenants, ten second lieutenants, and twenty sergeants. On the recommendation letter was written “The Signal Corps is complete to the extent allowed by law.” There were no open officer spots in the signal corps, and the brothers remained privates throughout their wartime service.

Both Wynn brothers survived the war, and on returning to Mississippi Benjamin returned to his home in Yalobusha County. He was a prominent

citizen, and represented Yalobusha County in the Mississippi legislature. Some years later he moved to Tallahatchie County, where he lived out the remainder of his life. Benjamin L. Wynn died on July 25, 1917, at the age of seventy-eight. In his obituary it was said of him, “He was a faithful and gallant soldier on the side of the Confederacy in the great Civil War, seeing four years service in the Signal Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia, part of which was under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.”

For anyone wishing to learn more about Benjamin Wynn’s service during the Civil War, a typescript copy of his diary is located at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History – catalog # Z/0686.000. Wynn was also a member of the United Confederate Veterans, and wrote several articles about his wartime service with the Signal Corps in Confederate Veteran Magazine.

 

 

 

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Southern Cross of Honor Records at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

I recently had an article published in The Primary Source, the online publication of the Society of Mississippi Archivists, concerning a project I am working on to create a database of the Southern Cross of Honor records at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History. I thought the readers of my blog would be interested in this project, so here is the article:

Some of the most widely requested records at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History are those related to the State’s participation in the American Civil War. The service records of Mississippians who served in the Confederate army, their postwar pension applications, and the list of veteran grave registrations are all frequently used by researchers. In addition to the above mentioned records, there is an often overlooked resource at the archive that might be helpful to someone researching a relative that fought for the Confederacy: the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Mississippi Division) Southern Cross of Honor Records.[1]

The Southern Cross of Honor was a bronze Maltese cross suspended from a bar to which the recipients name could be engraved. The

Southern Cross of Honor that belonged to F.W. Whitaker, who served in Company I, 4th Mississippi Cavalry. Photo courtesy of James Allard

Southern Cross of Honor that belonged to F.W. Whitaker, who served in Company I, 4th Mississippi Cavalry. Photo courtesy of James Allard

decoration was awarded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to any Confederate veteran that served honorably as a soldier or sailor. The idea for the cross came from Mary Cobb Erwin, who was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter in Athens, Georgia. The United Daughters of the Confederacy authorized the crosses in 1899, and the first medals were awarded on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1900.[2]

When the United Daughters of the Confederacy authorized the Cross of Honor, they selected three dates on which they could be bestowed. The first was Confederate Memorial Day, celebrated in Mississippi on April 26.[3] The others were Jefferson Davis’ birthday, June 3, and Robert E. Lee’s birthday, January 19. In addition, each state chapter of the organization could choose one date between July 1 and January 19 to award crosses. Mississippi picked October 20, the birthday of “The Great Commoner,” Senator J.Z. George.[4]

The Cross of Honor was a very powerful symbol to the veterans that received it, and they wore it with pride. Mrs. S.E.F. Rose, historian of the Mississippi Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, explained what the medal meant to the old soldiers that had earned the right to wear it:

It stands not for one deed of courage, but many. Not once, but often, these heroes in Gray faced death before the blazing cannon’s mouth. Through the storm of hissing minnies, in the lonely watch of the midnight picket with no companion but the stars, and endured every form of hardship, peril and privation, and suffered the bitterness of cold, weariness and hunger. Yes, the Southern Cross of Honor has a deep significance – and ‘this little bronze cross’ that rests over the hearts of veterans tells its own story…To the veteran, it is a badge of merit – justly won, for he has paid the price and earned the right to wear it on many a bloody battlefield.[5]

The Southern Cross of Honor records at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History are contained in two bound volumes, and cover the years from 1900 – 1918; however the majority of the records date from 1907 – 1918. Each volume contains a wealth of information about the individual recipient of a Cross of Honor: the name of the soldier, his rank, the company and regiment that he served in during the war, his period of service, the United Confederate Veterans camp he belonged to, the United Daughters of the Confederacy camp bestowing the cross, and the name of the soldier’s next of kin is among the information included.[6]

Unfortunately, the Southern Cross of Honor Records have never been widely utilized by Civil War researchers, as the information is not easy to access. The first book alone has 1,043 individual veterans listed, and the second book is of a similar size. Neither book is indexed, requiring a researcher to look through each book name by name to try and find the person they are seeking. In addition, both books are extremely fragile, and can not withstand repeated handling by patrons.

To make these documents more user friendly, a project is currently underway at the archives to transcribe these records into a computer

Charles C. Cummings served in Company B, 17th Mississippi Infantry. In this photo from Confederate Veteran Magazine (1917, pg. 494), he proudly wears his Cross of Honor.

Charles C. Cummings served in Company B, 17th Mississippi Infantry. In this photo from Confederate Veteran Magazine (1917, pg. 494), he proudly wears his Cross of Honor.

database that will eventually be available to patrons. This will be a boon to those doing Civil War research, as the Cross of Honor records have information in them that may be available nowhere else. For example, one veteran listed in the records is Charles B.N. Rice of Copiah County. He was presented his medal on April 26, 1914, by the Charles E. Hooker Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Rice listed his unit on the application as “Member of the home guard,” a group which has little or no official documentation at the archives. He does not have a service record, did not file for a veteran’s pension, and does not show up on the Mississippi Confederate grave registration cards. Rice’s Cross of Honor application may be the only written record of his wartime service.[7]

The Cross of Honor applications had a space reserved to list the recipient’s next of kin, but it was not always filled out. For the veterans that did list a relative, however, this information may prove to be very useful to a researcher. When Joseph H. Askun applied for his cross, his listed his next of kin as “Mrs. Frank C. Owen & Mary A. Owen, daughters.” George W. Harris listed his nearest relative as “S.P. Harris, son, Verona, Miss.”[8]

Some of the Cross of Honor listings have additional information added that can provide useful insights into the wartime service or postwar life of the veteran. On the application of William J. Byars there is a notation that he “Died Meridian, Jan. 19th, 1909.” E.H. Gregory’s listing notes that he was “Honorably discharged Columbus, Miss., on leave of absence caused by wounds, May 1865.” A.C. Minter had to apply for a replacement cross, and it was noted that “Mr. Minter lost his first cross when his home burned Jan. 19, 1914.”[9]

In addition to the information contained in the Cross of Honor records, staff members at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History are attempting to verify the information in the books by checking it against the veterans service records, pension applications, and grave registration cards. This is necessary because in many instances the veteran only wrote down the name of his commander, or the name of the company he served in, not the regiment he was attached to. For example, C.H. McLeod only listed his unit as “Co. A, Stockdale’s Battalion Mississippi Cav. Vols.” A quick check of Grady Howell’s seminal roster of Mississippi Confederate soldiers indicates that McLeod served in Company A, 4th Mississippi Cavalry. Armed with this information, a family genealogist could determine which battles the 4th Mississippi Cavalry fought in, and gain a better understanding of the service of C.H. McLeod.[10]

The information in the Cross of Honor records can indicate new sources that a researcher might want to check out. Using the date of bestowal of

William D. Mims of the 17th Mississippi Infantry wearing his Cross of Honor - Confederate Veteran Magazine (1908, pg. 134).

William D. Mims of the 17th Mississippi Infantry wearing his Cross of Honor – Confederate Veteran Magazine (1908, pg. 134).

the cross, a researcher could check the veteran’s hometown newspaper to see if the publication wrote an article about the award ceremony. One of the men listed on the Cross of Honor records is James M. Selser, a relative of the author who served in the 1st Mississippi Cavalry. He was awarded his cross in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 26, 1913.[11] A search of the Hattiesburg newspaper turned up an article about the event, listing every man by name that was awarded a cross. The paper also gave a detailed description of the ceremony:

Mrs. Massengale, the church organist, played a stirring march as the procession filed into the church. Captain J.P. Carter, commandant of the local camp of veterans, called on Dr. E.J. Currie to lead in prayer, at the conclusion of which the audience sang a hymn, which was followed by a presentation of crosses of honor by Mrs. Wm. F. Hewett, who said there are three important events in the life of the soldier, the call to arms, the surrender and the bestowal of the cross of honor.[12]

The project to transcribe the Cross of Honor records is underway: the records from the first book have been entered into a computer database, along with the information found by the staff at the archives when verifying the service of each soldier. Data entry on the second book will begin soon.  This is a time consuming process, but eventually the database will be made available to the public. This database will be searchable by name or by unit, and will prove a valuable resource to those doing Civil War research on an ancestor that served in a Mississippi unit.


[1] United Daughters of the Confederacy (Mississippi Division), Southern Cross of Honor Records, 1900 – 1918. Located at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Jackson, MS. Catalog # Z/1907.000. Cited hereafter as Cross of Honor Records.

[2] Gregg S. Clemmer, Valor in Gray (Staunton, VA, 1998), 433-434.

[3] The Mississippi Code of 1906 (Nashville, TN, 1906), 1104.

[4] “History of the Southern Cross of Honor,” Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume XVIII (January 1910), No. 1, 234 – 235. “Crosses of Honor,” Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS), 20 September 1904.

[5] Mrs. S.E.F. Rose, “Southern Cross of Honor,” Our Heritage, Volume IV, No. 12, (October 1910). Located in the Southern Cross of Honor Subject File, Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Jackson, MS.

[6] Cross of Honor Records.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] H. Grady Howell, Jr., For Dixie Land I’ll Take My Stand! A Muster Listing of All Known Mississippi Confederate Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, Volume 2. (Madison, MS, 1998), 1913.

[11] Cross of Honor Records.

[12] “Observance of Memorial Day,” The Weekly News (Hattiesburg, MS), 2 May 1913.

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Veterans Need Tobacco: A Story From Beauvoir

In the June 13, 1919, edition of the New Orleans States, the paper had a bold headline detailing a crisis that was sweeping Beauvoir veteran’s home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast:

NO CHEWING TOBACCO; NO CIVIL WAR STORIES

The States went on to relate that “Because the maintenance fund of the home is not sufficient, Confederate veterans at the Beauvoir home cannot swap war reminiscences unless they have more chewing tobacco.”

Intrigued by the tale of this calamity that swept Beauvoir in the spring of 1919, I did a little digging and found a more detailed story of the problem in The Southern Advocate (Benton C0unty, Mississippi), June 19, 1919:

VETERANS NEED TOBACCO

Biloxi, Miss., June 11, 1919

Editor The Commercial Appeal

My appropriation for maintaining the Confederate veterans at the Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home at Beauvoir, Miss., is so small that I am forced to put the old veterans on very small tobacco allowance. If there is anything an old Confederate veteran loves and enjoys it is his pipe and his chewing tobacco. I am doing everything possible to keep them in tobacco. I have made appeals to the public for tobacco for them and am getting some responses.

Mr. W. M. Lampton of Magnolia has sent us 100 pounds of chewing tobacco and we have received quite a number of small packages from various parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, but I am afraid that not many people read my appeal for tobacco and I am going to ask you to write an appeal and ask everybody in Mississippi who uses tobacco to send me just one plug or just one package of plug cut by parcel post. This won’t hurt anybody’s purse and I feel certain that every tobacco user will only be too glad to divide his tobacco with an old Confederate veteran.

Picture postcard of a group of Confederate veterans at Hayes Cottage, Beauvoir

Picture postcard of a group of Confederate veterans at Hayes Cottage, Beauvoir

Mr. L. K. Salsbury, president of the Mississippi Pine Land and Delta Company of Memphis, has written to know what are the

Period advertisement for Brown's Mule tobacco, a favorite of the Confederate veterans at Beauvoir

Period advertisement for Brown’s Mule tobacco, a favorite of the Confederate veterans at Beauvoir

favorite brands of tobacco. We replied Brown’s Mule and George Washington. You will certainly be conferring an everlasting favor by writing an appeal in your paper for tobacco for the old veterans at Beauvoir. thanking you very much for this kindness in advance, I beg to remain, yours very truly,

E. Tartt, Superintendent

In yet another article about the great tobacco shortage from the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), May 31, 1919, I found more detailed information about the cause of the problem:

Mr. Tartt makes this appeal because the institution is short of funds, due to the small appropriation by the Legislature, which allowed only 60 cents a day for each person in the home. The advance in prices since the appropriation was made by the legislature in March, 1918, has placed the institution in an embarrassing financial condition, and the management has found it difficult to make both ends meet. Out of an allowance of 60 cents a day for each inmate the superintendent mush furnish clothing, medicine, fuel and all other necessaries, and in addition must give each veteran $2 per month in cash for pocket money.

The call put out by Elnathan Tartt for tobacco met with a positive response from the general public. The Beauvoir Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy voted to donate $5 to the home to buy tobacco for the veterans. As stated above, the largest single benefactor of the Beauvoir veterans was Walter M. Lampton, who sent the veterans 100 pounds of tobacco. Lampton, a businessman from Magnolia, Mississippi, greatly admired the old soldiers, and often sent them food, drink, and other items to make their stay at Beauvoir more pleasant.

A cursory search in the GenealogyBank newspaper archive turns up story after story of the generosity of Walter M. Lampton: the

Photo of Walter M. Lampton from the Times-Picayune, December 12, 1930

Photo of Walter M. Lampton from the Times-Picayune, December 12, 1930

December 20, 1921 edition of the Gulfport Daily Herald noted that he had offered to replace the wooden headboards in the Beauvoir cemetery with cement headstones, so that the graves would never be unmarked; in the May 29, 1922 edition of the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), the paper noted that Lampton had pledged to pay ten percent of the total donations made to Beauvoir in the campaign to build a $100,000 hospital on the grounds.

Walter M. Lampton died on December 11, 1930, at his summer home, which was near the Beauvoir veteran’s home. In his obituary it was said of him, “Enjoyment of residence near Beauvoir Soldiers Home and friendship with the inmates there were predominating influences in his life during the past decade. He knew every man and woman at Beauvoir and all counted for him their friend. He attended 32 Confederate Reunions, state and general, and was known through America for his interests in the ‘old soldiers.’ When his health permitted no day passed that he did not visit Beauvoir. Not a casual interest but the type of friendship and desire for the happiness of the old soldiers that caused him on numerous occasions to loan the home funds to operate [while] awaiting legislative appropriation, actuated Mr. Lampton.” – Daily Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), December 11, 1930.

The body of Walter M. Lampton was taken by train back to Magnolia, where the body was interred by the family. The Daily Herald noted “The Confederate flag at Beauvoir was at half mast all day in respect to Mr. Lampton.” It was a last tribute to a man who had spent much of his life and fortune helping others.

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I am an Old Sea Dog: War of 1812 Veteran Peter Ulrick

In early 1861 when the Confederacy was young and the Southern people had yet to feel the hard hand of war, Mississippians by the thousands were eager to join up and serve their new country. Most of them were young men, full of energy and just itching to fight. There were older veterans that offered their services to the South, most of whom had served as enlisted men or junior officers in the Mexican War. But there were a few, a very few, who fought in even earlier conflicts than the Mexican War. One such old-timer was Peter Ulrick of Daleville, Mississippi. In the spring of 1861 he wrote to Governor John J. Pettus, tendering his expertise in naval matters to the service of the state. His letter is preserved in the John J. Pettus Correspondence at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History:

Daleville, State of Miss., Lauderdale County

April 1st, 1861

Most Honoured Sir,

I am a citizen of this county and state and have been for several years, but find that my old adopted state has weighed anchor, and joined the glorious Confederacy. Therefore I tender my services to the State of Miss., as an old practiced seaman and commander of any craft, to secure the coast, and bays of Miss., Alabama & Florida and defend the same from any foreign power or state.

I am an Old Sea Dog. I was mate on board the U. State Frigate Constitution at the taking of H.B. Majesty’s Ship Guerriere, and had the pleasure of welcoming Captain Dacre on board of the U. State Constitution. I then recd. a warrant as Sailing Master in the U. State service, and was sent to Charleston S. Carolina to take charge of the U.S. Schooner Nonsuch under command of Commodore Dent and Patterson. We sailed upon a cruise and on the second day fell in with and captured the Calledonia an English Privateer from New Providence, mounting 11 long guns and carrying 60 negroes, with a black commander and we took two yankey schooners laden with flour. The battle was fought off Tybee Light House at the mouth of Savannah River, and your humble servant had the pleasure of taking her into Savannah as Prize master, with the Stars and Stripes flying over the Ramping Lyon of old England.

USS Constitution fighting the HMS Guerriere, by Michel F. Corne - www.history.navy.mil

USS Constitution fighting the HMS Guerriere, by Michel F. Corne – http://www.history.navy.mil

After a few weeks rest and having some damage repaired, that I received in the action, I was sent on board the U.S. Schooner Caroline under Commodore Patterson and started for the Gulf to watch the British fleet as to their whereabouts. I then took charge of Gunboat No. 163 with five other boats to break up Lafitte (the pirate) strong hold on Lake Borgne. We were then on the watch for the British fleet, to lookout for them landing we had six gunboats under the command of Lieutenant Jones (now commodore ap Jones). We were engaged by 43 boats from the squadron and were captured after selling our men and craft at a high premium. There were 800 men and guns against 180 men. We were taken on board this fleet, as prisoners of war. We lost one third of our men and were kept prisoners of war until general Jackson flogged them from New Orleans and peace was declared.

I have been living a retired life for some time from active service upon the ocean, but feel willing to with the greatest cheerfulness to embark in the service of my state and Confederacy. I could be of great service to the teaching of young officers their duty and train them on the right way.

I now tender my service to the State of Miss., in the capacity of Commander from a gun boat to Seventy four ___ in any capacity where big guns are used for the purpose of defending my country from any foe whatever. I sincerely pray through your excellency that I may receive a call. Once more, to serve in defense of my country.

Will your Excellency have the goodness to respond to the above, and please say if you need the service of such a man as I represent myself to be. If you do, I can be ready for a all in twenty four hours.

I am your excellency

Obt. Servant,

Peter Ulrick

After reading Ulrick’s compelling narrative of his service in the War of 1812, I was compelled to find out more about Peter Ulrick – could it be possible that he actually served in the Confederate navy during the Civil War?

I started by looking for Peter Ulrick in the 1860 U.S. Census, and quickly found my man: 65 year old Peter Ulrick, a native of Pennsylvania, was listed as living in Daleville, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, with his wife Elizabeth, age 60. At the time the census was taken Ulrick was making his living as a small farmer, reporting that he owned real estate worth $500, and having a personal estate worth $400.

My next step was to see if I could find any evidence that Ulrick had served as a sailor, and thanks to Ancestry.com, I located the

Peter Ulrick's Seaman's Protection Certificate  - Ancestry.Com

Peter Ulrick’s Seaman’s Protection Certificate – Ancestry.Com

Seaman’s Protection Certificate taken out by him on November 12, 1805, when he was 15 years old. These certificates basically served as a sailor’s passport, proving his place of birth, and offering him some protection from impressment by the British. Ulrick’s certificate stated he was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and described him as being four feet, nine inches tall, with light hair and hazel eyes. It also stated he had a scar on his right cheek, and a pit from small pox near the corner of his right eye.

I tried to find some verification that Ulrick served in the War of 1812, but unfortunately was unable to locate anything online. It will probably take some correspondence with the National Archives to determine the details of Ulrick’s service in the war. If the old sailor did what he claimed he did, Ulrick was a veteran of one of the most celebrated naval battles of the War of 1812: the victory of the USS Constitution over the H.M.S. Guerriere on August 19, 1812. On that date the Constitution, a frigate commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, met and decisively defeated the frigate Guerriere, commanded by Captain James R. Dacres.

In addition to serving on the Constitution, Ulrick also claimed to have fought in the Battle of Lake Borgne, one of the most celebrated naval actions to take place along the Gulf Coast. On December 14, 1814, a small U.S. naval force of five gunboats and two tenders protecting the navigable waterways leading to New Orleans met a British force of forty-five barges loaded with 1,200 sailors and marines. The American vessels, commanded by Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones, put up a fierce resistance despite being terribly outnumbered, killing or wounding 94 of the enemy for the loss of six killed and thirty-five wounded. The Americans lost the battle and the survivors spent the rest of the war as prisoners, but their sacrifice had not been in vain. Their stout resistance at Lake Borgne delayed the British attack on New Orleans, giving General Andrew Jackson much needed time to prepare his defenses.

In the course of my research, I did find one other bit of information about Peter Ulrick – in the newspaper The National Crisis, February 1, 1861, was this brief article: “Peter Ulrick, who served on board the U.S. frigate Constitution when she captured the Guerriere, in the war of 1812, and was subsequently a sailing master in the navy, has tendered his services to Alabama, in any capacity where ‘big guns’ are to be used.”

Apparently Ulrick sent a letter offering his services to the Governor of Alabama as well as to Governor Pettus of Mississippi. Whether

Gravestone of Peter Ulrick in Catholic Cemetery at Mobile - findagrave.com

Gravestone of Peter Ulrick in Catholic Cemetery at Mobile – findagrave.com

either of the men took the veteran up on his offer remains to be seen. I do know that Ulrick survived the war, dying on October 1, 1868. He is buried in Catholic Cemetery at Mobile, Alabama. I will keep looking into the history of this “Old Sea Dog,” and if I find out anything else about his service during the Civil War, I will post it here.

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They are Mississippians and Therefore Brave: The University Greys Go to War

One of the most storied organizations to serve from Mississippi during the Civil War were the “University Greys,” Company A, 11th Mississippi Infantry. Made up primarily of students from the University of Mississippi, the company was made up of the cream of the Magnolia state’s society. Fighting in the Army of Northern Virginia, the University Greys distinguished themselves on dozens of battlefields, making a name for themselves by their fighting ability and their devotion to the cause of an independent South. It’s hard to imagine now, but when the war broke out, there was some opposition to sending Mississippi’s best and brightest off to fight. The following letters from the correspondence of Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, illustrate the public relations campaign that took place in 1861 to make sure that the University Greys were not left behind when it came time to march off to war.

The first letter was written by Calvin Breckinridge McCalebb, a member of the Class of 1861 at the University of Mississippi, and proud officer in the University Greys:

Univ. of Miss., Mar. 15th, 1861

Gov. J.J. Pettus

Dear Sir,

Though you may deem it presumptuous on my part to address  you on the present question,  yet my anxiety to know  your opinion

Photo of Calvin B. McCalebb, from the 1861 University of Mississippi Classbook - University of Mississippi Collections

Photo of Calvin B. McCalebb, from the 1861 University of Mississippi Classbook – University of Mississippi Collections

and intentions,  prompts me to address you a few lines  as to the permanency of the “University  Greys.”  Many base and evil minded persons,  as I understand tried to influence you  to disband our company and deny us the privilege  of battling beneath the flag of our southern country in defense of our institutions,  and revolutionary heritage.

What are the arguments which they advance in support of their  position?  They simply contend that we are not the material  to be shot down upon the field of battle, but are those who should fill the halls of state.  The youth of the land should be looked to  for the victory. When the aged shall fall  beneath the circle of time who are to replace them?  Tis the young men.

They further urge that it  will break up the college.  Futile indeed is this argument.   Do They know that if war should come, that the students will leave?  I actually  do not know a student,  who is willing to remain here after war has broken out. even those who refuse to join the company,  assert,  that they are going to leave,  when ” red battle stomps his  foot.”

There are many we are aware of who wish to  rule us out, and are endeavoring in an  insidious manner to crawl in themselves. Suspicion  is fastened upon many,  but I am not prepared to say as to whom I deem the guilty,  but of one thing I am certain,  that they are not actuated by pure motives,  but only as blind ambition directs.

I would be very happy to hear your opinion of the matter.  hoping  that you  will use your influence in our behalf,

I am truly yours ,

C.B. McCalebb

P.S. – I wish you would send my  commission  as 1st Lieutenant of the “Univ. Greys.”

In 1850, Calvin B. McCalebb was listed on the U.S. Census living with his widowed mother and four siblings in Kemper County, Mississippi. On the  186o Census, the family was still living in Kemper County, and only Calvin and a younger sister were still living at home with their mother, Mary. 19 year old Calvin listed his occupation as “student.”

Calvin B. McCalebb’s service with the University Greys turned out to be of very short duration. He was listed as being absent sick for several months in 1861, and he resigned his commission on December 9 of that year. After recovering his health he enlisted in the “Farmer Boys,” Company B, 35th Mississippi Infantry. He must have been a good soldier, as he worked his way up to 1st Sergeant in the company. In the winter of 1863 it was noted in his service record that Calvin was “transferred, promoted Inspector Department, Columbus, Miss., order [of] Gen. Johnson.” There was only one other piece of pertinent information in McCalebb’s record – one sentence that simply stated, “Died Feb. 22, 1864.” Nothing else, no place of death, no cause of death, just “died,” one more Mississippian who gave his life for his country.

McCalebb’s letter was just the first of several letters written to Governor Pettus about the University Greys:

Oxford, March 18, 1861

Gov. J.J. Pettus

Sir

I beg leave, to address you  in behalf of the “University Greys”  and to offer a few suggestions,  which I trust,  may not prove entirely unsatisfactory to you, why this company should be retained  in the service of the state. I premise, that I have not the honor to be a member of the Company,  and am therefore  uninfluenced  by personal considerations,  and thus justified, to regard it  simply as a matter affecting in a great degree the military service of the State, and the cause of the South.

It is needless to say that the Company is composed of intelligent  and educated gentlemen, ready to give,  understand and execute orders. They are Mississippians, and therefore brave and courageous.

Though enthusiastic and ardent,  they have learned to submit to the rigorous regulations  of the college, and will consequently easily adopt themselves to the discipline of the camp.  And though eager to  win laurels  they will be too jealous of the reputation of the Greys to disobey any order through restraining their zeal and ardor.

It might  be said that their officers are  young, but that has long since ceased  to be a reproach. And the young men will cheerfully obey superiors, chosen by themselves,  and of their own class. The interests of the University  will be promoted,  by permitting the  students  to march in a body; as otherwise they would abandon the college  at once to join other military companies.

This company is drilling daily; and is fast acquiring that skill and training which _____ victory.  I trust then that they will be permitted  carry out their patriotic and laudable desires,  to convince your Excellency on the tented field that they deserve to be a part of the Miss. Army  And in expressing  this wish, I but present the  universal sentiment  of the community, and especially of its military organizations.

Very Resp.,

L. Houseman

I approve, from a personal knowledge of the facts stated the sentiments espoused above.

A. Peterson

The “L. Houseman” that wrote this appeal on behalf of the University Greys was Leopold Houseman, a 26 year old lawyer living in Oxford on the 1860 U.S. Census. A native of Bavaria, Houseman immigrated to the United States in 1852, and settled in Oxford. In 1855 he became a naturalized United States Citizen. When the war broke out, he sided with his adopted state and joined the “Lamar Rifles,” Company G, 11th Mississippi Infantry. Sadly, Houseman’s war was also a short one. A sergeant in the Lamar Rifles, it was noted in his service record that he “Died of Typhoid, Camp Fisher Va.,” on September 3, 1861. Houseman left behind no wife or children, only a brother, who filed for the back pay that Leopold had never received during his short time in the Confederate army.

The testimonials of support continued to come in – here is the third such letter to be put on Governor Pettus’ desk:

Oxford, Miss., March 19, 1861

Gov. J.J. Pettus

Sir: I have learned that an attempt has been made  rule out this regiment, Capt. Lowry’s Company, here at the University after they have been regularly mustered into service and received their arms.  I think it would be a great injustice to do so.  They are all young men it is true, but many of them are  of legal age  all of them eligible for military service,  and they are exceedingly anxious to enter the service.  As a company they are really better skilled in military tactics than any company I know of . Many of them have been educated at military schools.  I hope therefore they will not be ruled out.

With highest respect I have the honor to be your

Obt. Servt.,

Wm. Delay, Capt., Comdg. Lafayette Guards

P.S. This Company  has also been at  considerable expense in procuring uniforms &c.

W.D.

Of all the letters that Governor Pettus received on behalf of the University Greys, the one written by William Delay probably carried

Grave of William Delay in Oxford Memorial Cemetery listing his extensive military service - findagrave.com

Grave of William Delay in Oxford Memorial Cemetery listing his extensive military service – findagrave.com

the most weight. A newspaper editor and postmaster in Oxford, Delay was also a close personal friend of Jefferson Davis. In addition, Delay had extensive military experience. He served in the Blackhawk Indian War in 1832-1833, and as Captain of the “Lafayette Volunteers,” Company F, 1st Mississippi Regiment during the Mexican War. During the Civil War Delay joined up to fight in his third conflict, serving as Captain of the “Lafayette Guards,” Company H, 9th Mississippi Infantry. He survived the war, dying on September 15, 1871.

As if these testimonials were not enough, a fourth letter in favor of the Greys was received by Governor Pettus:

Oxford, 20 March 1861

His Excellency,

J.J. Pettus

Dear Sir:

The company of volunteers mustered into service here by Gen. Griffith,  known as the “University Greys” are anxious to be retained & and not thrown out because they are university students.  it is a delicate question to decide by the military board, and its delicacy is not  diminished, when trustees of the University are called  on to express an opinion.

The young men have  appealed to me to interpose  in their behalf, I write therefore to express my opinion  as to the effect, on the college,  their reception or rejection would have.  I would  regret to see the college broken up,  but I believe their rejection at this stage  of the  proceedings would do it more harm  than their acceptance.  They say they will go home &  and join other companies if they are excluded now, & that they must be  allowed to do some fighting.

I am of the opinion that the matter has gone too far to be checked, with _____ to the college.  The board are men of judgment &  I expect will view the matter properly.

Very respectfully your friend,

J.M. Howry

The final letter sent to Governor Pettus was written by James M. Howry, a wealthy planter and judge who lived in Oxford. He was also one of the original trustees of the University of Mississippi, so his letter of support probably carried considerable weight with Governor Pettus.

Needless to say, the University Greys did remain in service, and served their state and country well on many a bloody battlefield. Today there are a number of memorials dedicated to the University Greys, but my personal favorite is the Memorial window to the unit in Ventress Hall at the University of Mississippi:

 

IMG_1747

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A Confederate Soldier’s Story of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads

As my last article was a Federal soldier’s account of the Battle of Brice’s  Crossroads, it seems only fitting that my next post should be a Confederate soldiers view of the same battle. I found this article in the Southern Sentinel (Ripley, Mississippi) October 10, 1895:

When the train slowed up to the Ripley Depot one day last week, an old man seated in the rear coach roused up when the trainsman

Photograph of an unidentified Mississippi cavalryman - it was hard fighting men like this that made Forrest's victory at Brice's Crossroads possible - Library of Congress.

Photograph of an unidentified Mississippi cavalryman – it was hard fighting men like this that made Forrest’s victory at Brice’s Crossroads possible – Library of Congress.

called out “Ripley.” “So this is Ripley?” Said he interrogatively “changed up smartly since I came through here with Forrest about 30 years ago; times have changed too. Then there was a rattle of small arms and the smoke of battle going up instead of the peaceful hum of industry.”

“So you were with Forrest in his pursuit of Sturgis? asked a Sentinel reporter who had entered the car during this soliloquy. “Yes, and many other times,” said the old veteran. “I belonged to the —– Kentucky mounted infantry.  It was at first in Buford’s brigade but when he was promoted to major general  was commanded by Gen. Lyons.  Lyons commanded us at Brice’s X roads.  I tell you that was a hot fight.  A time or two I begun to think the tide was going to turn against us, but we had great confidence in old Bedford Forrest. I tell you we tore them Yankees all to pieces that day.  It was the biggest victory I ever had a part in.  We captured scads of wagons, ambulances and so on, and as for guns, why it seems to me we got all they had. We did get all their cannons, capturing the last piece right here in the edge of Ripley. There was a Yankee killed over in that yard,”  said the reporter,  pointing to Mrs.  C. E.  Hines’ yard.

“Oh! t there were Yankees lying all along the road from here to the X roads and beyond here,  for we followed ‘em  to Salem,”  said the old veteran.  “I’ve been up to the old Kentucky,”  said he after a pause. I went up to see my brother at Louisville.  It was in the time of the Yankee Grand Army  was there.  I went out the first night to see the fireworks close up to the river.  The machine they had throwing ‘em at up exploded and killed three men.  I was right close by myself. I never enjoyed the show after that.  Fact is I don’t like them Yankees much nohow;  fit ‘em  too long I reckon.  I try to like ‘em,  because it’s all the fashion now to bury the hatchet,  but it’s an uphill business I tell you .”

“I live down in Pontotoc County now,” said he in answer to a question. “Met up with a girl down there during the war that pleased my fancy.  She was foolish enough to think pretty well of me so I come back and married her after the war.  I’ll never go back to Kentucky to live any more.  Twouldn’t  suit me up there anymore;  times have changed awfully and it don’t seem like home to me anymore.”

Unfortunately,  Confederate soldier  that wrote this account  of the Battle of  Brice’s Crossroads  did not  identify himself or give his complete  unit.  We do know from the article that he belonged to a Kentucky mounted infantry  regiment  in Colonel Hyland B. Lyons brigade. There were three Kentucky mounted infantry  regiments  in that brigade:  the 3rd, 7th, and 8th. Our writer belonged to one of these units, but which one will remain a mystery.

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A Federal Soldier’s Story of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads

I recently found this account of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, written by Cornelius A. Stanton, the Captain of Company I, 3rd Iowa Cavalry at the time of the engagement took place. It was published in the Southern Sentinel (Ripley, Miss.), November 1, 1906:

A FEDERAL SOLDIER’S STORY

Personal recollections of the Battle at Brice’s Crossroads on June 10, 1864.

It may interest the veterans of  Forrest’s Cavalry to read a brief description of some of the incidents in one of their great battles as

Wartime CDV of Cornelius A. Stanton - www.deadfred.com

Wartime CDV of Cornelius A. Stanton – http://www.deadfred.com

they appeared to a soldier who was present on the Federal side. In General Sherman’s book (Sherman’s “memoirs”) he states that during the summer of 1864, while engaged in the Atlanta campaign, he feared that General Forrest would cross the Tennessee River with his cavalry and break up the railroad in the rear of Sherman’s army, and in anticipation of this danger he sent General Sturgis to Memphis with orders to take command of a force of cavalry and infantry, “go out toward Pontotoc engage Forrest and defeat him.”

Gen. Sturgis carried out the first part of his instructions, but when he met Gen. Forrest, instead of defeating him, he was himself defeated, and the Federal forces under his command were utterly routed, with great loss of men, artillery, small arms, wagons, rations, ammunition and other Army equipments.

The Sturgis expedition, consisting of Grierson’s division of cavalry ( Winslow’s and Waring’s brigade’s) and 5000 infantry, left Memphis on June 1, 1864. I was then the captain of a company in the third Iowa cavalry, attached to Winslow’s brigade, and I shall not attempt to describe the battle of Brice’s Cross roads in detail, but only the small part of it which I saw, and in which I was engaged with my company and regiment.

On the morning of 10 June we left our camp at the Stubbs plantation, the cavalry moving out ahead of the infantry, and when Winslow’s brigade reached the Brice Cross roads Waring’s men were already engaged on the Baldwin Road. Winslow’s men dismounted and went forward about 800 yards east of the Brice house formed in the woods, our line reaching some distance south of the Guntown Road and extending north far enough to bring a part of my regiment out to an open field. The men of Waring’s brigade continued our line northward behind the field and curving to the west up to and across the Baldwin road. My company’s place in the line was at this field, and I saw that part of the battle which took place at this point and witnessed their heroic bravery on the part of Confederates such as I had never seen before. We were scarcely in position before the Confederates appeared in our front, and it was with mingled feelings of admiration and dread that we watched them as they emerged from the woods and advanced towards us across the open field.

Scan0001

Tennyson has immortalized ” The Charge of the Light Brigade” at Balaklava, but that charge, when considered with reference to the unshrinking courage and  grim tenacity of the men engaged, does not equal the heroic gallantry of Forrest’s soldiers who charged across that bullet swept field at Brice’s Cross roads.

Nearer and nearer to us came the men in gray, until we could distinguish the features and see the determination written in every face,

The Spencer Carbine

The Spencer Carbine

and then they met a deadly and merciless fire. The Federal soldiers in the rear of the field were armed with Spencer carbines, a magazine gun  (the best in use at that time) carrying seven metallic cartridges. seven shots could be fired in quick succession without stopping to reload, and that continuous and withering fire met the brave men in gray, but heedless of the thick storm of death, their line continued to advance. No soldiers ever faced the enemy’s blazing guns more fearlessly than did the veterans of Forrest’s  cavalry who made that desperate charge. The bullets came like swarming bees, men fell all along the line; it seemed impossible that any living thing could stand in front of such a storm of lead and iron ball. It was gallantry beyond parallel, but the terrific volleys finally became too much for human endurance.

There is a point in battle beyond which human flesh and blood cannot pass. The men in gray reached that point and then retired. Later the Confederates charged here again, and drove back the Federal line, but that I did not see, as my regiment had been transferred to another position. The fearless attack at this field was equaled by Forrest’s  other troops along the line, and everywhere they passed forward impetuously and persistently, fighting with desperate bravery.

The battle of Brice’s Cross roads was an exhibition by Forrest’s soldiers of grand courage and undaunted valor which I do not believe was surpassed on either side during the Civil War. About 2 o’clock there was a lull in the battle, Federal infantry regiments began to arrive, and as Grierson’s cavalry had been engaged since 11 o’clock, they were relieved by the infantry and were ordered back and halted in the woods, a short distance in rear of where the infantry regiments went into line; they were hardly in place before they were attacked with determined fury; the crash of arms was deafening, a perfect hail of bullets from the Confederate side came over my regiment, where we lay in line on the ground: I remember noticing the  forest leaves cut by rifle balls, falling all around, almost as thick as snowflakes. Intending to attack the Confederate flank, Sturgis now ordered the cavalry return to their horses, which were being held in the open ground, just in rear of the Brice house, and we were there, mounted and in line, awaiting further orders, when broken detachments of infantry came streaming out of the woods in wild disorder and confusion, and it was evident that our forces were defeated.

As long as I live I shall never forget the terrible sight which was presented when the retreat began; it was like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, and it might be fitly described with the lurid adjectives which the Italian poet used in his description of  hell. The battered and beaten fragments of the infantry regiments poured out of the woods, slowly followed by the victorious Confederates, who advanced, cheering and firing as they came, and with their front lines came Morton’s battery, firing at close range, into the retreating  Federals.

In the open ground west of the Brice house the cavalry, aided by some detachments of infantry which still held together, made an

Flag of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry - www.iowahistory.org

Flag of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry – http://www.iowahistory.org

effort to repel the Confederate attack and check the retreat, but the attempt was not successful. The road  back to Tishomingo bridge was filled with mule teams and wagons, artillery, caissons, ambulances, wounded men, riderless horses and a mob of disorganized and panic stricken troops, all hurrying to the rear. At the bridge across the Tishomingo there was indescribable excitement and confusion, and there the Confederates captured all that part of our wagon train that had not crossed and part of our artillery, except Winslow’s two guns, was captured that night in the Hatchie Swamp. Darkness came on and enforced a truce between pursuer and pursued: Forrest knew how to gather the fruits of victory, and his pursuit had been relentless and unsparing, but at dark or soon after, he wisely halted long enough to give his men and horses a few hours rest. Sturgis now ordered Winslow to push on with his brigade, ahead of the retreating troops and stop them at Stubbs’  plantation until they could be formed for another fight. Winslow moved his brigade through the woods, parallel with and near the road, reaching Stubbs’ place ahead of the flying army and stopping the retreat, but later, when Sturgis came up, he made no attempt to reorganize the infantry regiments, he said ‘the whole thing had gone to hell,’ and ordered Winslow to open the road to the rear, let the retreating infantry pass, and urge them to hurry along.

Winslow’s cavalry remained at Stubbs’ until 2 o’clock at night, lighting many fires along the road and in the woods, hoping to deceive the Confederates in the belief that a large force was in camp there; at 2 o’clock the road seemed clear, and supposing all the infantry that had escaped capture was safely in front, we went forward on the road to Ripley. My recollections are still vivid of that fearful night; the air was hot and oppressive, we were weary also worn from lack of food and rest since early morning, and an indescribable feeling possessed us of terrible disaster that had overtaken us. At daylight Forrest made a fierce and furious attack upon the rear of our column, and at Ripley, after passing through the town, a part of our cavalry, with a detachment of infantry, made a stand in the outskirts of the village, but soon forced to give way. When the retreat from Ripley began, our brigade took the Salem road, with my regiment as rearguard, and just where the road enters the woods, northwest of the town, I was ordered to stop with my company, and, if possible, check the pursuit long enough to allow my regiment to fall back a short distance and take another defensive position: we did not remain long, a detachment of the Sixteenth Tennessee, led by Col. Jesse Forrest, charged us and a hand to hand fight ensued, in which I lost twenty-three men of my company.

In Jordan’s Life of Forrest he speaks of this fight to the edge of the woods near Ripley, saying, ‘The charge on the Federals was made with such hardihood that the commander of the rear guard narrowly escaped capture.’ I was the Federal officer to whom he refers, and if any of the Sixteenth Tennessee men at the reunion were in that charge and the fight which followed they may remember seeing a Federal officer who broke away and galloped up the road closely pursued by three or four Confederates, who tried to knock him off his horse with their empty guns, but he escaped. It was lucky for me that their guns were empty and my horse was not quite as jaded as theirs were, or I might not be here now to tell this story.

I went into the engagement at Brice’s Cross Roads with thirty five men in my company. The next day, after the fight at Ripley I had four men left. I may be pardoned for saying here that in spite of the misfortune that overtook me and my company in this campaign I received soon after a major’s commission, which dated from the memorable day at Brice’s Cross roads.

All day on the 11th and all through another dismal night we hurried on, the cavalry in the rear protecting the tired infantry soldiers who filled the road ahead of us, staggering along, some of them wounded and almost exhausted from hunger and fatigue, and it was not until we reached Colliersville that we made our first stop for food and rest. On the morning of the 13th we reached Memphis. It had taken us ten days to march from Memphis to Brice’s. We came back over the same road in three days and nights. Our losses in this campaign were 2,100 men, 16 pieces artillery, 1,500 stand small guns, 300,000 rounds ammunition, 300,000 rations, 200 horses and mules, 200 wagons and ambulances and other property.

For the Federals it was an utter rout and humiliating defeat; yet our beaten and disheartened troops were not lacking in soldierly qualities. Their bravery had been tested before, and was tested again on other fields where they did not fail. It was the same cavalry which was compelled to retreat from Brice’s and Ripley that afterwards, under other leaders, rendered effective service at Harrisburg, Montevello, Ebenezer Church, Boglers Creek, Selma, Montgomery, Columbus and Macon.

For the Confederates Brice’s Cross roads was one of the most dramatic and overwhelming victories of the war. It was an illustration of Gen. Forrest’s matchless generalship, of the amazing swiftness and precision with which he formed his plans and the tenacity of his thunderbolt methods of executing his designs, of the genius which entitles him to rank with the great military leaders of history. Every veteran knows the pride a soldier feels in the record of the regiment to which he belonged, and the veterans will pardon me, I know, for referring to the fact that my regiment, the Third Iowa Cavalry, was one of the regiments that was first in the fight at Brice’s Cross roads and was one of the last to leave the field. I was forced to retreat, but retreated in perfect order, and in turn with other regiments of Winslow’s and Waring’s cavalry brigades formed the rear guard and covered the retreat of the Federal troops and continued to fight until the Confederate forces discontinued the pursuit. What is true of my regiment is also true of the other regiments of Grierson’s cavalry division; and the brigade to which my regiment belonged brought through to Memphis two pieces of artillery, our ambulances and all our wounded men.

Brice's Crossroads National Battlefield Site - National Park Service

Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site – National Park Service

To the comrades at the reunion I would like to say I am glad that now every true American takes pride in the soldierly qualities and brilliant achievements of the men of Forrest’s cavalry. They have won renown which will endure as long as history survives. I honor them for the splendid record which they made in the Titanic struggle: I honor them for their heroism in battle and for their superb manhood in excepting the final result of the war: I honor them for their devotion to duty and loyalty to principle; I wish for them all the blessings in life that noble men deserve, and I hope that they may continue to ‘Meet and greet in closing ranks, in time’s defining sun. Until the bugles of heaven shall sound the recall. And the battle of life be won.’

C. A. Stanton, Vicksburg, Miss., Oct. 16th, 1906

After reading Stanton’s very well written account of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, I thought I would try to find a little more information about him. At the age of 19 he enlisted in Company I, 3rd Iowa Cavalry, on September 6, 1861, at the rank of 5th Sergeant. Stanton must have been a very good soldier, for he rose in rank very quickly. He was promoted to Sergeant Major in July 1862, and just two months later he was made an officer and assumed the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Promoted to Captain in the 3rd Iowa Cavalry in June 1863, Stanton was wounded at LaGrange, Arkansas, on July 1, 1863.  After recovering from his wounds he returned to the 3rd, and after the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads was promoted to major in the regiment. He mustered out of service on August 9, 1865, at Atlanta, Georgia, and returned home to Iowa.

In the 1870 United States Census, Stanton was living in his hometown of Centerville, Iowa, making his living as a dry goods merchant. At some point, however, he moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, as he was living there by the early 1900s. Cornelius A. Stanton died in Los Angeles, California, on December 17, 1912. His body was returned to Iowa where he was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Centerville. In his obituary a friend wrote of him:

His life was a life of service to his country, his state, his community, his fellow man. He inculcated in his life the highest and purest principles of brotherhood and fraternity. His liberal hand was ever open to the poor, the needy and the unfortunate…His comrade and long ago friends can see him now as a fair-haired lad, just as he stood on the threshold of young manhood, with the glow of youth and health upon his cheek, with eyes turned to a future of bright prospects and rosy dreams; when the tocsin of war sounded in his ears and the cry for help came from his bleeding and distressed country, appealing to the patriotism of the land to uphold the flag of the Union and to crush the cohorts of treason and rebellion. He thought not of himself and the allurements of life in its peaceful pursuits, but he buckled on his armor and went forth to face all the dreadful realities of a bloody war that involved the perpetuity of this government and the great question of human liberty.

- Report of the Proceedings of the 42nd and 43rd Reunions of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, 1915.

This year, 2014, marks the 150th anniversary of Brice’s Crossroads. I, for one, plan to remember the brave men, North and South, who fought there by visiting the battlefield and seeing this sacred ground first hand. It will be a great trip, and I am sure I will write about it in a future blog posting.

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Abandoned Home

I found this article recently in The Iuka Vidette, April 31, 1910 – it’s not very long, but in very few words the writer paints a vivid picture:

The Abandoned Home

Some three miles east of Iuka, surrounded by a forest of second growth timber, is an abandoned farm. There is a dim, old road that leads to the place, and there are ruins of old chimneys where there once stood a happy home, some half a century ago. Briers grown in the old garden place and choke up the way to the spring from whence came the supply of water for the family years ago. This is the McKeown old place. From this home a stalwart son, Isaac by name, went forth to the great Confederate war and followed the stars and bars till on the bloody field of the Wilderness fight he yielded up his life’s blood. From here went forth two other sons, J. T. and L. A. McKeown, both of whom are Methodist ministers – one in the Mississippi Delta and the other in the wind-swept plains of Texas. Meanwhile silence reigns round the site of the old homestead unbroken save by the owl or the cry of other wild denizens of the forest.

I did a little research, and found that the McKeown family was living in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, when the 1860 United States Census was taken. Thomas and Mary McKeown had a small farm where they lived with their children: Isaac, James, Margaret, Elizabeth, Christopher, Joseph, and Luther. When the Civil War started, the two eldest boys, Isaac and James, enlisted in Company K, “Iuka Rifles,” 2nd Mississippi Infantry.

Looking up the service records of Isaac and James told me the grim story: James, who was 20 when he enlisted in the army, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gaines Mill, Virginia, on June 27, 1862, and he died at Richmond, Virginia, on July 5, 1862. His older brother Isaac, who was 29 when he enlisted, was wounded in action and captured at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Taken to Point Lookout prisoner of war camp, he was exchanged on March 3, 1864. Returning to the ranks of the 2nd Mississippi, he was mortally wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, and died on May 8, 1864, while being transported to the hospital.

The Confederate government never had the means to award medals of valor to its soldiers, but the Southern congress did authorize its soldiers to vote on which of their members should have their names added to a roll of honor for each battle in which they participated. After the Battle of the Wilderness, the men of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry voted, and one of the names added to the roll of honor was that of Private Isaac McKeown.

In time the war ended, and the surviving members of the McKeown family went on with their lives. Patriarch Thomas McKeown died in 1870, and he was followed to the grave five years later by his wife Mary. The couple are buried in Snowdown Cemetery in Tishomingo County. The McKeown children must have moved off as they married and started their own lives, leaving the family farm to fall to ruin.

Photograph of a ruined house taken during the Civil War. This particular image was taken on the Gaines Mill Battlefield, where James McKeown was mortally wounded - Library of Congress

Photograph of a ruined house taken during the Civil War. This particular image was taken on the Gaines Mill Battlefield, where James McKeown was mortally wounded – Library of Congress

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Seven Brave And Noble Men

I found the following photo in the Southern Sentinel (Ripley, Mississippi), July 18, 1907, with the headline “SEVEN BRAVE AND NOBLE MEN:”

Seven Brave Men

The photo had the following caption:

This cut shows the seven survivors of Capt. A. C. Rucker’s company; B, 34th Mississippi; now living in Tippah County. This picture was made a few days ago on the occasion of a re-union tendered by Capt. Rucker to these excellent gentlemen, all of whom have been successful men since the war, as well as brave and noble upon the field of battle. On the bottom step is Capt. Rucker, 2nd step from left to right, Hon. Thos. Spight, Capt. H. A. Stubbs, T. A. Hunt; 3rd step left to right, M. S. Phyfer, J. J. Kinney, and Eld. Jos. Pearce. Seven as true and brave men as ever lived. That they may be spared yet many years is the wish of the Sentinel.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to look up the service records of the seven men in the above photo, and see if they truly were “Brave And Noble Men.” Here is what I found:

Albert C. Rucker – first captain of the “Tippah Rebels,” Company B, 34th Mississippi Infantry. Wounded at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky and left at a hospital in Harrodsburg where he was captured. After being exchanged Rucker returned to the regiment, and resigned in 1863 for disability.

Thomas Spight – promoted to captain after the resignation of Albert C. Rucker; wounded in 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.

Henry A. Stubbs – enlisted as a private in Company B, promoted to regimental quartermaster of the 34th Mississippi Infantry in May 1862, and served in this capacity for the remainder of the war.

Thomas A. Hunt – enlisted as a private in Company B, rose rapidly in rank and eventually became the regimental sergeant major of the 34th Mississippi; wounded in 1862, he returned to the regiment after recovering, and was captured at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee on November 24, 1863. Apparently he was exchanged, for his last muster roll card states he was “Absent in North Carolina, wounded.”

Munford S. Phyfer – sergeant in Company B; captured July 28, 1864, near Atlanta, Georgia.

James Kinney – sergeant in Company B, captured at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, on November 24, 1863.

Joseph Pearce – a private in Company B, he was wounded at Corinth, Mississippi, on May 16, 1862, and after recovering was detailed as a hospital nurse for the remainder of the war.

After carefully studying the service records of these seven men, I can say that the newspaper was right – these were seven brave men, who served their country and cause very well.

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