“He’ll See it When He Wakes:” A Poem of the Battle of the Wilderness

From May 5 – 7, 1864, one of the great bloodlettings of the Civil War took place in a forbidding and isolated section of Virginia countryside known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania. Among the estimated 61,025 Confederate troops engaged in the battle were Humphrey’s, Harris’, and Davis’ brigades of Mississippi infantry, Richard’s Mississippi Battery, and the Jeff Davis Legion of Cavalry. This poem, which I found in The American Citizen, (Canton, Miss.), April 26, 1866, is about an unnamed casualty from one of these commands that fell during that titanic struggle in the forest. The author of the poem is identified only as “SIGMA,” which is a shame, as I would love to know more about him. The man certainly had a way with words:

[For the Citizen]

“He’ll See it when he wakes”

We remember at the Wilderness, a gallant young Mississippian had fallen, and at night, and just before burying him, there came a letter from her he loved best. One of the group around his body – a minister whose tenderness was womanly – broke the silent tearfulness with which he saw the dead letter; he took it and laid it upon the breast of him whose heroic heart was stilled: ‘Bury it with him. He will see it when he wakes.’ It was the sublimest sentence of his funeral service.

Amid the clouds of battle smoke

The sun had died away,

And where the storm of battle broke

A thousand warriors lay.

A band of friends upon the field,

Stand round a youthful form,

Who, when the war cloud’s thunders peal’d,

Had perish’d in the storm.


"Rebel Seizure of the Works on the Brock Road" - Library of Congress

“Rebel Seizure of the Works on the Brock Road” – Library of Congress


Upon his forehead, on his hair,

The coming moonlight breaks;

And each dear brother standing there,

A tender farewell takes.


But e’er they laid him in his home

There came a comrade near,

And gave a token that had come,

From her the dead held dear.

A moment’s doubt upon them press’d

The one the letter takes,

And lays it low upon his breast:

‘He’ll see it when he wakes.’


Oh! thou, who dost in sorrow wait,

Whose heart with anguish breaks,

Though thy dear message came too late,

He’ll see it when he wakes.


Ne’er more amid the fiery storm

Shall his strong arm be seen,

No more his young and manly form,

Press Mississippi’s green.

And e’en thy tender words of love -

The words affection speaks -

Came all too late: but oh! thy love -

‘Will see them when he wakes’


No sound disturbs his gentle rest,

No noise his slumber breaks,

But they words sleep upon his breast,

‘He’ll see them when he wakes!’





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Mourning for our Chieftain: The Funeral Procession of Jefferson Davis

From the end of the war until his death in 1889, Jefferson Davis was the living personification of the Lost Cause to his fellow Southerners. The

Jefferson Davis at his home Beauvoir, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast - Library of Congress

Jefferson Davis at his home Beauvoir, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast – Library of Congress

Confederacy’s only chief executive never sought a pardon, believing to the end of his days that he had done nothing wrong. When he died in New Orleans in 1889, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children throughout the states of the former Confederacy mourned his passing.

Davis’ body was placed in the vault of the Army of Northern Virginia at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, but it was never meant to be a permanent resting place; Varina Davis would make the decision as to the final resting place of her husband. It took a few years, but eventually Varina chose Richmond, Virginia, the Confederacy’s former capital, as the final resting place for Jefferson Davis.

On May 27, 1893, Davis’ body was removed from the vault in Metairie Cemetery, and the next day it was placed on the train that would take him to Richmond. During the course of the trip, the train made a stop at Beauvoir, Davis’ post-war home on the Mississippi Gulf coast, and the body also lay in state at the capitols of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. All along the way, thousands of Southerners met the train to pay their last respects to Davis. On May 31, 1893, the train reached Richmond, and Jefferson Davis was taken to Hollywood Cemetery, where his body was interred.

Jefferson Davis had been accompanied to Richmond by a delegation of notable citizens, including a contingent of Mississippians. One of the Mississippians who made the trip was Patrick Henry, who had served as an officer in the 6th Mississippi Infantry during the Civil War. In the years after the conflict Henry had become a very successful politician, serving in the Mississippi State Legislature and in the United States Congress. He was also a delegate to the 1890 Mississippi Constitutional Convention.

As fate would have it, Henry was the last survivor of the members of the Mississippi delegation that accompanied Jefferson Davis’ body to Richmond. In 1927, Henry wrote the following letter to newspaper editor Edgar S. Wilson, giving his account of the trip. The original letter is located in the Patrick Henry Papers, Z/0215.000/S, Box 1, Folder 2, Mississippi Department of Archives and History:

Brandon – 10/19/27

Hon. Edgar S. Wilson, Jackson, Miss.

My Dear Friend,

Mindful of my promise to send you the personnel of the Escort to the body of President Jefferson Davis, from New Orleans, to Richmond, Va., I

Patrick Henry of Brandon, Mississippi - www.findagrave.com

Patrick Henry of Brandon, Mississippi – http://www.findagrave.com

had you the list, all gone to their reward, save the writer, Viz:

Gen. Stephen D. Lee, Commanding Escort, Gen. W.S. Fergerson, Col. J.L. Power, Capt. R.J. Harding, Capt. J.R. McIntosh, Col. J.R. Binford, Col. E.T. Sykes, Judge Newman Casey, Col. J.H. Jones, Lt. Gov’r., and Maj. Pat Henry. I write names and rank, as per my picture.

We had a wonderful trip, many stops en route, often the rail road yards were strewn with flowers, and hosts of people lining up on either side of the track, many in tears, all seemingly mourning for our chieftain, who even then had been registered among the immortals. We rested the casket in the Capitols at Montgomery, Raleigh, and Richmond, where great crowds of sorrowing people met us. It was placed in Hollywood Cemetery beside the body of his beloved, and beautiful daughter, lovingly known as the “Daughter of the Confederacy,” Miss Winnie Davis.

There was aboard the train a reporter for a Boston paper, who seemed deeply impressed with the general grief manifested by the people along our route. We passed a one legged ex-soldier plowing in his field, on the road side, and altho’ it was raining lightly, he stopped his mule, faced the funeral car, hat off, and head bowed, remaining uncovered with head bowed till the train passed. He had done his bit, it seemed to impress the reporter, and he turned to me, and said “What manner of man is this that brings forth such evidences of devotion, from an entire people. All seem to have sustained a personal loss.”

I told him he was the leader of a proud people, who yielded to numbers, but whose principles still lived, and he was the vicarious suffer[erer], for the so so called sins of his people. Why, he says, “I never witnessed anything like this, from the whole people, regardless of station or rank; think of that old fellow stopping his plow, and standing with bowed head, hat off, even in the rain.” He said, “I attended the funeral of General Grant, but witnesses [witnessed] nothing like this, no grief, or tears, there seemed to be a sort of machinery effect that is wanting here.”

We liked the reporter for his seeming interest, and suggested the same to him, and told him, when we reached Richmond, we would take him down to the James River, and baptize him in the waters of Democracy, but never saw him, after reaching the city, but it was his loss.

Ed, I recount this just for you, the memory of it came welling up, as I wrote, so you will excuse me. With great respect, and affection, I am your friend of the olden time.

Patrick Henry died three years after he wrote this letter, on May 18, 1930, and was buried in the Brandon City Cemetery in Rankin County, Mississippi. Henry’s obituary was carried in papers throughout the state; the Daily Herald of Biloxi published it on May 18, 1930. The tribute noted, “Death closed the colorful career of Major Pat Henry Sunday morning, and with it brought to a close a life devoted to the welfare of Mississippi.” The paper also noted, “Among the honorary pallbearers were the seven remaining members of the United Confederate Veterans camp here.


The Grave of Jefferson Davis in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia - www.virtualtourist.com

The Grave of Jefferson Davis in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia – http://www.virtualtourist.com


While Jefferson Davis never sought a pardon, and never apologized for his part in the rebellion against the United States, he did, in the twilight of his life, urge the Southern people to put aside any lingering animosity left over from the Civil War. In a speech he gave at Mississippi City in 1888, he told the audience:

“Mr. Chairmen and Fellow Citizens: “Ah, pardon me, the laws of the United States no longer permit me to designate you as fellow citizens, but I am thankful that I may address you you as friends. I feel no regret that I stand before you this afternoon a man without a country, for my ambition lies buried in the grave of the Confederacy. There has been consigned not only my ambition, but the dogmas upon which that Government was based. The faces I see before me are those of young men; had I not known this I would not have appeared before you. Men in whose hands the destinies of the South land lie, for love of her I break my silence, to let it bury its dead, its hopes and aspirations ; before you lies the future – a future full of golden promise; a future of expanding national glory, before which all of the world shall stand amazed. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to make your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished – a reunited country”


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Well Do I Remember that Exciting Day: The Capture of the Crew of the U.S.S. Rattler

On September 12, 1863, the parishioners of Rodney Presbyterian Church in Jefferson County, Mississippi, filed into their house of worship for a

Modern Photo of the Rodney Presbyterian Church -www.jayssouth.com

Modern Photo of the Rodney Presbyterian Church -www.jayssouth.com

typical Sabbath service. This Sunday, however, the service was anything but typical, as anchored just offshore was the United States tinclad gunboat U.S.S. Rattler, and some of the Federal tars were about to join the congregation for their worship.

The commanding officer of the Rattler was Acting Master Walter E.H. Fentress, and even though he had very clear orders against going ashore, the officer felt that there would be no harm in attending the service as there were thought to be no Confederates in the immediate area. Fentress, along with some of his men, took a rowboat to shore and quietly walked into the church – what transpired next made this particular worship service one of the most memorable of the entire war in Mississippi.

I found the following account of what happened that Sunday at the Rodney Presbyterian Church in The Port Gibson Reveille, March 10, 1910. This article was written for the paper by Elijah Conklin, who as a teenager had attended the church that fateful Sunday. While I have seen several other reminiscences of the incident at Rodney, I don’t think Mr. Conklin’s has been in print since it was originally published in 1910:

The following letter, written by Mr. Conklin, of Omaha, referring to an incident of the late war had been furnished us by Major Broughton. At the time referred to Mr. Conklin was a youth, living in Rodney; later he enlisted and served two years in the Confederate army:

Omaha, Neb., Jan. 8, 1910:

Maj. Jno. W. Broughton, Lorman, Miss.

Dear Friend and Comrade: As you mentioned in your last letter that the Fayette Chronicle would soon publish an account of the capture of a federal naval captain and sailors in the Presbyterian church in Rodney, during the war between the states, I thought as I was in the church that day, and had the experience of having both a Federal and Confederate officer level their pistols on me within two or three minutes time, that perhaps my experience might also be interesting to the readers of the Chronicle.

As a preface, I will say the captain of the Federal gunboat was a very sociable man and frequently came ashore and talked in a friendly way with the citizens, and had attended church a few times previous to the day of his capture. The citizens of Rodney did not know of there being any armed Confederate soldiers in that vicinity at that time; there were though several paroled Confederate soldiers in the town, it being their home, they having been captured and paroled, some at Vicksburg, others at Port Hudson, when those places surrendered to the Federals.


The tinclad U.S.S. Rattler

The tinclad U.S.S. Rattler – U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph


Well do I remember that exciting day. It was a beautiful, sun-shiny Sabbath morning. The church was crowded so much that a bench had to be brought from the negro gallery and was occupied by sailors who could not find seats in pews. The Federal captain was seated immediately in front of me. The pew he was sitting in was entirely taken up by himself and sailors. A Federal officer who had accompanied a lady of the town to church was seated on the opposite side of the church from the captain. He was the only one of the party that was armed, he having a navy revolver. Soon after the services commenced, we were startled by noises on the outside of the church, such as running of horses in the street and a rattling noise which we afterwards found out was caused by the Confederate cavalrymen’s spurs rattling on the brick walk in front of the church.

We could not imagine the cause of the noises, but everybody seemed to have a premonition of something dreadful going to happen. Before we had time to take in the situation, a Confederate officer ran in the church from the left entrance. He had a revolver in each hand, and with them pointed toward the Federals, said, in a loud tone, with an oath, ‘Surrender, you are my prisoners.’ The Federal captain quickly arose to a standing position with uplifted hands, facing the Confederate, said, ‘We surrender, for God’s sake don’t fire among the women and children.’

At that instant the Federal officer from the opposite side of the church fired at the Confederate, who immediately fired at the Federal and then such excitement and confusion never witnessed before or since. Women and children were screaming, men, women and children were rushing in every direction endeavoring to get out of the church, some jumping out of windows, others rushing out of the doors. Back in the choir looked to me to be the safest place, and in my excitement I climbed over the top of the pews to get there. I found a few of the citizens of the town in the choir, the only ones I can remember now were James Wilson.


Interior of the Rodney Presbyterian Church - http://www.pinterest.com/pin/447686019180754519/

Interior of the Rodney Presbyterian Church – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/447686019180754519/


We could hear the Confederates on the outside of the church shooting and calling on the sailors to surrender, and occasionally heard a shot fired from the inside of the church by the Federal officer. Presently he came running down the side of the church and into the corridor and stopped in the door-way leading into the choir and covered me with his pistol. I had met this officer on the street a few days before and had a heated argument with him, and when he pointed his cocked pistol at me I thought his intention was to kill me.  I threw up both my hands as quickly as possible and said, ‘For God’s sake don’t shoot me.’ He replied, ‘Then take those men away from here.’ I answered, ‘That is not in my power; I have no control over them.’ He then left me and I went farther in the church. One of the Confederates ran in the left entrance and leveled his revolver in the direction of the choir, but instead of covering the Federal with it as he expected, it covered me. I thought in his excitement he would surely shoot me, Instantly up went both of my hands and again I cried out, ‘For God’s sake don’t shoot me.’ He said, ‘Where did that Yankee go?’ I answered, ‘I don’t know.’

In my excitement I did not think to tell him that the Federal had gone further in the church. The Confederate went outside without searching the church for the Federal. We learned afterwards that when the Federal left me he hid under a pew and remained there until the Confederates left and then made his way to the river bank and gave a signal to the gunboat which was anchored in front of the town, and a yawl was sent ashore and he and a sailor who had escaped capture were taken aboard of the gunboat.

After my experience with the Confederate officer I realized that instead of getting, as I supposed, in the safest place in the church, I had got into the most dangerous, and I followed the Confederate officer out of the church and found most of the people who had been in the church congregated in front of it. Just at that time the squad of Confederates, mounted on their horses, passed in front of the church with the Federal captain and eighteen sailors with them as their prisoners. One of the Confederates, a mere boy as he appeared to me to be, waved his hat and said, ‘Three cheers for the Southern Confederacy,’ and addressing the crowd of citizens, said, ‘You must excuse us for disturbing your church services, but it was too good an opportunity to pick these men up.’

The Confederates left town and we Rodneyites hastened to our homes and hurriedly tied in sheets some provisions and clothing, ready to throw the bundles over shoulders and run from the town in case the Federals burnt it, which they usually did when they were fired on from towns. When the Federal officer and sailor who had escaped capture reached the gunboat and informed those on the boat what had occurred, the gunboat raised her anchor and steamed up and down in front of the town, firing broadside after broadside of shells into the town. Several houses were struck by the cannon balls, one entering the church; finally the cannonading ceased.


Modern Ruins of the town of Rodney

Modern Ruins of the town of Rodney


After the Confederates left town, they sent a written communication to the gunboat, stating that the citizens should not be held responsible for what had occurred, for the citizens did not know of their being in that vicinity or their intentions, and if the Federals burnt the town they would hang the prisoners they had captured. The communication was given to one of the old men of the town who immediately consulted other citizens and they decided it would be poor policy to send the communication to the Federals for they might capture nineteen citizens, burn the town and say to the Confederates, ‘Now hang our men and we will hang these citizens.’ So the communication was destroyed instead of being sent to the commanding officer of the gunboat.

In an hour or two after the cannonading stopped it commenced again. We soon discovered they were shelling the roads leading into the town and were landing a force of sailors who marched up town and set fire to the hotel. Rev. Mr. Price, came running down the street; he was bareheaded and in his shirt sleeves, and asked on of the sailors for their commanding officer; when he was pointed out to him he told him of the communication the Confederates had sent in and why it had not been delivered, and as they had commenced burning the town he thought it best to inform him of it. The Federal officer said he had orders to only burn the hotel; that the Confederates threats would not influence him to put the fire out, but he would call his men off and if the citizens could put the fire out they might do so. As the fire had hardly got started the citizens did not find it difficult to stop it. The Federals returned to the boat and we were told they would not disturb the town any more until the matter had been reported to the general in command at Natchez. He, I suppose, decided not to take any action, for we were not molested again. The reason they intended burning the hotel was on account of the sailor who escaped capture having run into the hotel and asked for protection which was refused him.

We afterwards heard that when the captured captain was exchanged he was courtmartialed and dismissed from service for endangering himself and men to capture. As to the truthfulness of his courtmartial, etc., I cannot vouch. Sometime in the future I will write for publication in the Chronicle an account of my capture during the war, as you have often requested me to do.

Remember me kindly to my Jefferson County friends, and with many good wishes for yourself, I remain, Your friend and comrade,


Elijah Conklin was born in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, in 1847, and shortly after the incident at Rodney which he so wonderfully described in his

Postwar Photograph of Elijah Conklin - Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume XIX, Page 492

Postwar Photograph of Elijah Conklin – Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume XIX, Page 492

letter, the teenager joined Wirt Adams’ Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry. His service record is woefully incomplete, but fortunately in later life Conklin filled out a veteran’s questionnaire for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. In it he stated that he enlisted in the army at Jefferson County, Mississippi, on September 1, 1864. Conklin wrote in his account:

I Elijah Conklin, when 16 years old, served during the siege of Vicksburg campaign as an independent volunteer in Co. K, Wirt Adams Cavl. Regiment, and participated at that time in Cavalry skirmishes, and in Battle of Jackson, Miss., and was a picket on the left wing of the Confederate army at the battle of Raymond, Miss. When 17 years old I enlisted for the war in Co. A, Wood’s Regt., Adams Brigade Cavalry, and served until the end of the war, and surrendered under Genl. Forrest, at Gainesville, Ala., in May 1865. I was captured by Elliott’s Marine Brigade, U.S. Cavalry, and held as a prisoner of war for a few days on boats on Mississippi River. During the winter of 1864 & 1865, I was detailed from my regiment to do service as a headquarters courier for General Frank Gardner, with headquarters at Jackson, Miss.

- Veteran’s Questionnaire of Elijah Conklin, Series 390, Box 16598, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

In 1873 Elijah Conklin moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to join his older brother William, who had found employment there as a bookkeeper. Elijah worked for over a decade as a Pullman Conductor on the Union Pacific Railroad, and later became a successful traveling salesman. Although he lived far from the state of his birth, Conklin never forgot his home, or the war he had fought in as a teenager. He was a member of the J.J. Whitney Camp, United Confederate Veterans, in Fayette, Mississippi. When he died in 1911 it was written that “He was borne to his last resting place in a casket of Confederate gray upon which were entwined Confederate and American flags. He wore the highly prized cross of honor, and his pallbearers were old veterans of both the Confederate and Union armies.” – Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume XIX, Page 492.



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Help Save A Confederate Flag

At the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, Brigadier General John Adams lost his life

Brigadier General John Adams

Brigadier General John Adams

while gallantly leading a brigade of Mississippians – the 6th 14th, 15th, 20th, 23rd, and 43rd Mississippi Infantry regiments.

I was recently sent the following press release by James Turner highlighting the work of a Tennessee Group called Save Our Flags, which is engaged in the worthy effort of conserving General Adams’ Brigade Flag. This unique flag stands as a testament to the courage under fire displayed by General Adams and the brave Mississippians he led. It needs to be restored, and I encourage anyone that can help to give to this worthy cause.
The Press Release is as follows:
Contact: James Turner
Save Our Flags
P.O. Box 782
Lebanon, TN 37088-0782
http://www.saveourflags.orgAdams flag press release  close-up
As the Battle of Franklin raged, Confederate General John Adams was felled
by numerous bullets as he rode his horse into the Federal works. Among his
effects that day was a unique brigade flag, and today the Save Our Flags
Initiative has announced they are sponsoring its conservation.Many historic items were donated to the Tennessee Historical Society after
the American Civil War, and among those is Adams’s headquarters flag,
which was donated in 1907 by the general’s widow. Currently maintained at
the Tennessee State Museum, this flag finds itself in dire need of
conservation. James Turner, chairman of the Save Our Flags Initiative,
says that this flag is different from any he’s ever seen, and he’s glad to
involve Save Our Flags in its conservation.  “The brigade flag of General
Adams has risen to the top of the endangered list at the State Museum,”
says Turner, “and with the 150th anniversary of the battle upcoming, we’re
optimistic that this project will grab the attention of the public.
Confederate originals such as this flag are rare, and we’re excited to
help with a flag that went into the melee that was Franklin.”

Dr. Michael Bradley of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
added, “In this past year I’ve watched the Save Our Flags people lead the
way for the conservation of the battle flag of the 14th Tennessee
Infantry, the famous kepi of General Cleburne, and the Sam Davis overcoat.
While other organizations are asking for money, it’s refreshing to see
these folks volunteering to raise it.”

The Save Our Flags Initiative has raised and donated tens of thousands of
dollars to help conserve items preserved by the Tennessee Historical
Society and Tennessee State Museum. “We care about these tangible
heirlooms from our ancestors,” said Michael Beck, commander of the
Tennessee Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, “and we intend to do
everything we can to be sure they remain intact for future generations.”

Meanwhile, the group is asking the public to let them know if they have
any particular information on this flag, or its maker. “Records show that
it was made by an unidentified Mississippi woman in 1863,” says Battle of
Franklin historian David Fraley, “but we know little beyond that, and
would like to hear from anyone with more details. Because we know that
brigade flags were carried forward at this particular battle, an educated
guess would be that this flag was unfurled in the midst of the fighting.”

The estimated cost of the flag’s conservation is $6,500, and the Save Our
Flags Initiative typically relies on small donations to conserve these
items. “People often say that they’d like to be involved in things like
this,” said Turner, “and because every penny donated goes toward
conservation, even a ten dollar donation makes a big difference.”

The Save Our Flags Initiative is an outreach of the Tennessee Division,
Sons of Confederate Veterans, and its sole purpose is to help conserve
endangered flags and textiles from the War Between the States. Founded in
1896, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is a genealogical, non-profit
organization of over 30,000 descendants of Confederate soldiers.


If you’d like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview
with James Turner, please call James Turner at 931-325-9860 or by emailing

Show message history

Further details are also available at  http://www.saveourflags.org or at Facebook
at http://www.facebook.com/saveourflags.

Map of the Battle of Franklin - www.civilwartrust.org

Map of the Battle of Franklin – http://www.civilwartrust.org

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A Refusal to Serve Against Liberty: Isaac N. Brown Quits the U.S. Navy

In 1860, Isaac Newton Brown was a respected lieutenant in the United States Navy with over 26 years of honorable service. He was so highly thought of by his superiors that he was selected in May 1860 to serve as executive officer on the U.S.S. Niagara, which was given the plum assignment of returning a group of Japanese diplomats to their homeland. The trip to Japan and then back to the United States took an entire year, and when the Niagara sailed into Boston Harbor in the spring of 1861, she returned to a homeland divided by Civil War.

Isaac Newton Brown had to choose sides, a prospect that must have been daunting to a man that had spent his entire adult life serving in the United States navy. He was, however, a native Southerner, having been born in Kentucky, and since the 1840’s he had lived with his wife and children, when not at sea, on a plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi.

Brown chose to go with his adopted state, and tendered his resignation as an officer in the United States navy. He wrote of this decision later, “I returned a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from service abroad after the commencement of the late unhappy troubles. My family home had been in the state of Miss. for more than a quarter of a century previous to that time, and my wife and children were then resident there.” - Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons, 1865-1867, application of Isaac N. Brown. Accessed via Ancestry.com.


1857 Illustration of the U.S.S. Niagara - U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

1857 Illustration of the U.S.S. Niagara – U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.


Word of Brown’s resignation from the navy spread quickly throughout Boston, and the news stirred up a hornet’s nest of anger toward the former lieutenant. In a letter written to Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, Brown described what happened when he stepped off the Niagara in Boston harbor:

Louisville, Ky May 3rd, 1861
Ex. J.J. Pettus, Gov., &c
Dear Sir
Though unknown to you personally I venture in the exigency of the moment to write what follows – I have just gotten away from Boston

Illustration of Isaac Newton Brown - U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

Illustration of Isaac Newton Brown – U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

where I was detained for several days with I presume the intent to be turned over as a prisoner of war. My resignation was immediate upon my arrival in the Niagara from Japan, and as it was made in the usual way its acceptance by the captain of the Niagara should have relieved me from all further dependence upon govt. orders.
So much for myself – premising merely that I was on my arrival at Boston 1st Lt. of the Niagara turned from that position ashore & arrested by the Gov. of Mass. – for treason, my crime being a refusal to serve against liberty – law, the rights of man – in a word my country, wife and children. However I am now here on my way home, and will be free to take my own course as soon as I can hear of my dismissal from the Navy.
While at Boston I was asked very significantly by a friend of the South if I lived near Yazoo City. This question was in connection with the subject of John Brown (Son of the old traitor hung in Virginia) whom my interlocutor termed a Hell Hound, and said that he was loose somewhere, & he feared would soon be heard of. I mention this for what it is worth possibly it might be well to have unusual vigilance directed towards the locality named.
I escaped through Vermont and Canada, Ohio & Indiana. Every where North and West the feeling is terribly hostile to the South, and the least violent demand from us total submission and disarming. Such seems to be the popular sentiment. I told those to whom I could talk that they would have submission from the South when the male race ceased to live there.
The time I think has come for the battle of human liberty to begin, for it seems to have been a mistake about it having been fought in America. I am fatigued with travel & hastening on home to Coahoma Miss. (Helena Ark. Is my P.O.), and I pray you pardon this hurried letter.
In great haste, very truly yours,
I.N. Brown
Late Lieut. U.S.N.

Original letter is in the John J. Pettus Correspondence, Series 757, Box 932, Folder 1, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

I did some looking, and found the following account of the arrest of Isaac Newton Brown in the Charleston Courier, May 7, 1861:

Arrest of Navy Officers in Boston – We find the following in the Boston Courier, of the 27th ult.: Considerable excitement was created on State street yesterday morning by the statement that the First Lieutenant of the Niagara, Isaac N. Brown, had resigned his commission and had purchased a ticket for Louisville, Ky. It was also said that he had avowed his determination to fight for the flag which he should find floating over his plantation. Mr. Wm. C. Dunham heard the above remark, and at his instance Mr. W.L. Burt made a complaint before Mr. C.L. Woodbury, United States District Attorney, that Lieutenant Brown had signified his intention of returning to the South, and also that he had given utterance to seditious language. After hearing the evidence, the Attorney decided that it was not strong enough to authorize him to place Brown under arrest, and referred the complaints to Gov. Andrew, as Commander-in-Chief of the State. He advised Mr. Burt to apply to Gov. Andrew, who at once authorized his arrest. He was then arrested by the Police, and the Mayor informed Mr. Dunham in the following note:

MAYOR’S OFFICE, CITY HALL, Boston, April 25, 1861.

Mr. W.C. Dunham – Sir: – Lieut. I.N. Brown, late of the Niagara, is in the custody of the police of this city, and will so remain until released by the Governor or other competent authority.


At 2 o’clock, the following order was received from the Navy Yard by Lieut. Brown, who was in custody at the City Hall:

U.S. Frigate Niagara, Boston Harbor, April 25, 1861

Sir: – You are hereby detached from this ship, and will report to Captain William L. Hudson, Commandant of the Navy Yard, Charlestown. I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. W. MCKEAN, Captain, To Lieut. Isaac N. Brown, U.S. Navy

The Mayor accompanied the Lieutenant to the Navy Yard, and he consented to take the oath to support the Constitution of the United States; and was willing to take an oath not to fight during the war, if released from the service on his parole of honor; but he felt that he could not take the oath to obey any future orders which might be given him, as under the present circumstances of the country the oath might require him to attack and destroy the residence of his wife and children.

The crowd who were in pursuit of Lieutenant Brown, broke open some boxes belonging to him at the depot. They contained only Japan curiosities &c., and were not further disturbed.

As Brown made his way home, Southern newspapers heralded his return. The following article was published by the Memphis Appeal on May 5, 1861, and reprinted by the Macon Telegraph on May 11:


We were happy to meet Lieut. I.N. Brown, late of the United States Navy, and late prisoner of the authorities of Boston, on our streets yesterday, en route to his home in Mississippi. From the accounts we have already published, it will be remembered that Lieut. Brown was in command of the Niagara in the laying of the Atlantic cable. After this service, his ship was detailed to take the Japanese embassy to their far distant home, and on his return to Boston he, among others, was arrested for misprision of treason for refusing to take the new oath of allegiance prescribed by the Lincoln Government. He, however, was not detained as prisoner more than some two hours. By the indisposition of the Mayor of Boston longer to detain him, he was permitted to make his escape through Boston, from whence he paid his fare from station to station until he reached Canada. Being then in a free country, he bought a through ticket to Louisville, from whence he came to this city by rail. He left yesterday evening on the steamer Victoria for his home in Coahoma County, Mississippi, and will probably today be received at his own fireside by the joyous congratulations of wife, children and friends.

Lieut. Brown speaks in high terms of the Mayor and other officials, as well as of many citizens of Boston in rescuing him from the mobocratic spirit that now holds sway throughout the North. He met with many kindly greetings from private citizens, who assured him that there were those yet left in Boston who did not approve of such a spirit, although they might be compelled to keep their peace.

We congratulate Mr. Brown on his release and escape, and indulge the hope that the time may not be far distant when we shall see him a Commodore, commanding not only a single, but a fleet of ships, in the cause of the Confederate States of America.

Isaac Newton Brown’s story was just beginning, as much was to be heard of him during the war. I plan to write of his further exploits in a future blog posting.


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Far Away From the Land of Our Childhood: A Tale of Two Brothers at War

The Civil War is often described as a conflict where “brother fought against brother,” and while that is certainly true, it was much more common for brother to fight alongside brother. Confederate regiments were made up of companies filled with relatives – brothers, fathers, uncles, and cousins. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the typical Mississippi regiment was one large extended family, bound together by the strongest ties of kinship and community. I recently found a letter in the correspondence of Governor John J. Pettus written by Theophilus P. Green  of Copiah County, which perfectly illustrates the importance that Mississippians placed on serving alongside their kin in the military.

Born on October 23, 1843, Theophilus grew up in a household that placed great importance on religion; his father, John, was a church deacon, and his older brother, William, was a Baptist minister. The young man heard the call from God while still a teenager, and in 1860 he was licensed to preach by the White Oak Baptist Church in Copiah County. That same year Theophilus decided to further his education and became a student at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. After one year in college, Theophilus moved to Fort Adams, in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, to live with his brother William, who was pastor of the local Baptist Church. He made the most of his time in Fort Adams, and it was said that he “devoted himself to close study and constant preaching, his youthful appearance, self-possession and remarkably impressive delivery soon made him a very popular preacher.”

When the war started in 1861, Theophilus heard a new call, and felt obligated to help defend his state. His desire to join the army had to be

Post-Civil War Photograph of Theophilus Green - Findagrave.com

Post-Civil War Photograph of Theophilus Green – Findagrave.com

heightened by the fact that his older brother, John Jasper Green, joined the “Mississippi College Rifles,” Company E, 18th Mississippi Infantry, in May 1861. When Theophilus wrote the following letter to Governor Pettus, the Mississippi College Rifles were already on duty in Virginia, and he made it clear just how much he wanted to join them:

Utica Miss. Aug. 12th, 1861

Governor J. J. Pettus

Honored and Esteemed Sir

I wish to know if there is any chance for me to obtain a passport from you to go from here to the Miss. College Rifles in Virginia. I wrote to my bro. who is in that company to know if Captain Welborn would receive me into his company. I received an answer from my bro. J. J. Green not long since stating that Captain Welborn would receive me at anytime.

In order that you may see what he writes I will send you the letter. When I wrote to him I thought something about going into a company at home which he advises me to do. But the company which was trying to be raised when I wrote to him remains as it then did; and I fear will continue to remain in the same state: unfinished. I know of no other company in contemplation in this part of the county to which I might unite myself. My bro. told me to write to him again and let him know more about it. But it will take so long to receive and answer from him I thought I would write to you and see if you would not be willing to give me a paper to carry me there.

Most all my relatives who have gone to fight are in the above named company. I know most all of that Company and know them to be good sturdy boys. The most of them were my class mates and school mates while I went to school in Clinton. I have many reasons why I wish that Company but I will refrain from giving any more hoping it will meet your approbation to give me a passport to said Company. If you are willing to grant me said document please write soon.

Direct yours to Utica Miss.

I remain yours truly

Theophilus Green Jr.

P.S. The young ladies of this vicinity are doing an active part for the support of the war; or rather to see that none of the volunteers from this vicinity suffer for clothes. They assemble once a week to attend to their important business. They also devote every moment almost they can to sewing, knitting, &c.


Theophilus Green Jr.

Endorsement by Pettus on the back of the letter: Ansd. Sept. 5th/61, Apply to qr.master & ticket will be granted.

To emphasize to the governor how much he wanted to join the Mississippi College Rifles, Theophilus enclosed a letter written by his brother John in Virginia:

Manassas Junction, July 10th, 1861

Mr. Theophilus Green:

My younger brother, your note of the 1st ult., was handed me last evening by Mr. Farmer. I was truly gratified to hear from you, and that you are getting along as well as usual. I was sorry however you did not give me more of the news. I think you all have been too delinquent in writing to me. I had not heard directly from you but once since I left.

You wished to know if there was any chance for you to join our company. I had a chat with Captain Welborn about it this morning. He said as you were my brother, and a college boy he would receive you at any time; notwithstanding he had rejected many others. But it will cost you about 40# to get here; unless you have a paper showing that you were a member of our company. If you decide to come you will have to write to me again definitely about it – stating that it is your wish to join our company, and I will try to arrange it so it will not cost you anything to get here.

But my advice to you is Offie, if you can join a company at home to do so in preference to ours. Although I would like to have you with me, you would have a very hard time here for a while – until you would be thoroughly drilled. I do not want you to leave pa and ma as long as it can be avoided; but I think you will have to go and leave our home to drive the invader from the soil of Va. I think we will have some very very hard fighting to do soon.

When I volunteered I thought we would have it to do, and I am thinking more that way now. But dear bro. though we may be called to wade through blood for our rights; freedom; and God’s holy truth; we should willingly do so. Many of us in a short time no doubt will fall on the battle field far away from the land of our childhood and happy days; but be assured we feel calm on the subject, for we feel that we have Him with us who sticketh closer than a brother.

Offie, if you volunteer do not think of throwing away your bible; but study and do all the good you can. I am well pleased with the course I have taken by joining this company. I have many opportunities of spending my time ideally. Give my love to all and write soon,

Your bro.


Theophilus did join the Mississippi College Rifles; his service record indicates that he enlisted in the company in March 1862. As fate would have it, he was seriously wounded less than three months later during the Seven Days Battles. He was on medical leave until early in the next year, not appearing on the regimental muster roll until January-February 1863. Theophilus was captured at Second Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863, but was exchanged shortly thereafter. Promoted to corporal on August 1, 1864, he was captured for the second time at the Battle of Berryville, Virginia, September 3, 1864. Sent to Camp Chase prisoner of war camp, he remained a prisoner until the end of the war. Theophilus signed the Oath of Allegiance to the United States on June 11, 1865, and was released to return home to Mississippi.

Theophilus had made the long hard journey to Virginia to join his brother John; ironically the two spent only a very short time together. John

Photograph of John Jasper Green, used with his obituary in Confederate Veteran Magazine.

Photograph of John Jasper Green, used with his obituary in Confederate Veteran Magazine.

must have shown leadership potential, for he was promoted to 3rd lieutenant on December 20, 1861, but before he had much of a chance to make an impression as an officer, his health took a turn for the worse. In early 1862 he was struck by a disease that was diagnosed as “intermittent fever.” He was hospitalized in February and again in April with this malady, and after being released for the second time he submitted his letter of resignation to the Confederate Adjutant & Inspector General. In this letter he wrote: I respectfully tender my resignation in the Provisional Army. Ill health causes me to take this step – as set forth in the enclosed Surgeon’s Certificate.” – Compiled Service Record of John J. Green, 18th Mississippi Infantry

Either John J. Green was not as sick as he was letting on, or he could not bear to be out of uniform for long, as he enlisted again in the spring of 1862, as a 2nd lieutenant in Company F, 38th Mississippi Infantry. With the 38th he fought in the battles of Iuka and Corinth, and in early 1863 John was promoted to captain of his company. The 38th was at Vicksburg during the siege, and the young lieutenant survived 47 days of near-constant artillery bombardment, musket fire, and exposure to the harsh Mississippi summer. After the surrender of Vicksburg, Green was a paroled prisoner for a short time, but soon he and his regiment were declared exchanged and sent back to fight. Designated the 38th Mississippi Mounted Infantry in 1864, John J. Green saw his most desperate battle on July 4 of that year. At the Battle of Harrisburg, Mississippi, the Confederates attacked a strongly positioned Union force, and the 38th was shot to pieces as it advanced close to the enemy line. In the desperate fighting, the 38th suffered a loss of 20 men killed, 51 wounded, and 3 missing; every company commander was killed or wounded except for one – John Jasper Green.

After the war, Theophilus went back to the job he loved so well; preaching the word of God. He was joined in the pulpit by his brother John, who joined the family business and became a well respected preacher in his own right. Ironically, Theophilus died in the pulpit; on April 22, 1883, he was killed when his church at Beauregard, Mississippi, was struck by a tornado. In his obituary it was said of him, “We feel that a good man has gone from among us; a bright star has set; and a shining light gone out from view; and as we loved him while living, so shall we cherish him when dead.”The Weekly Copiahan, May 19, 1883

John Jasper Green outlived his brother by many years, dying on December 9, 1899, of bronchitis. His obituary was published in Confederate Veteran Magazine, and it said of him, “He was no braver as a soldier and an officer in battle than at all times devout and zealous as a Christian.”


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Three Weeks In The Soldiers’ Home At Vicksburg

After Vicksburg, Mississippi, fell to the Union army, the Federals had to keep a substantial garrison  in the city to hold the place in the event of a Confederate attempt to retake the city. Thousands of Yankee troops lived and passed through Vicksburg during the remaining two years of the war, and numerous civilian aid organizations sent representatives to the Hill City to help provide comforts and necessities to the troops that Uncle Sam was unable to provide. Among the groups that established a permanent presence in Vicksburg was the Western Sanitary Commission, which opened a “Soldier’s Home” on August 6, 1863, in the residence of local citizen Duff Green.The Western Sanitary Commission; a sketch of its origin, history, labors for the sick and wounded of the Western armies, and aid given to freedmen and Union refugees, with incidents of hospital life, page 80. Authored by Jacob G. Forman.

In the summer of 1864, the Western Sanitary Commission sent a representative down the Mississippi River to check on the soldier’s homes that

Mrs. Frances D. Gage - Wikipedia

Mrs. Frances D. Gage – Wikipedia

the organization was running. That representative was Mrs. Frances D. Gage, a remarkable woman who had devoted her life to charitable causes such as the temperance movement, abolition, and the push for women’s rights. For Gage, the outbreak of war brought on a new cause: that of caring for the men in blue who were fighting to preserve the Union and destroy the evil institution of slavery. Gage also had a very personal reason for championing the cause of Union soldiers: she had four sons serving in the United States army during the war.

While doing some research recently I found the following blurb in the August 6, 1864, edition of the Vicksburg Herald:

THREE WEEKS IN THE SOLDIERS’ HOME AT VICKSBURG – Mrs. Francis D. Gage, one of the best writers in the United States, has kindly furnished us with an interesting paper under the above heading, which will be read with interest, not only by every soldier, but by the contributors to our Benevolent enterprises all over the loyal states. Its length renders it necessary to issue it in two numbers of our Daily, and it will be commenced in our next Tuesday’s paper. Soldiers and others desiring extra copies, containing this interesting paper, to send to their friends, will leave their orders at the HERALD office, on Monday, so as to be sure to obtain them.

With such an interesting teaser, I wasted no time looking up the first part of the article, which was published in the Herald on August 9, 1864. The article was preceded by the following statement:

THE SOLDIERS’ HOME – We publish on the outside, the commencement of Mrs. F.D. Gage’s sketch of her stay at the Soldiers’ Home in this city. We may state for the benefit of distant readers that the Soldiers’ Home is one of the finest residences in the city. It is a large and elegant brick mansion, erected just before the war by one of our wealthy citizens, Duff Green, Esq. It is therefore admirably adapted for the noble purpose to which it is applied. Mrs. Gage’s sketch is a frank, honest description of the occurrences during her stay; and when completed will fully justify the labor and expense of the establishment and furnish ample reason for our Northern friends to continue their contributions towards the support of the Western Sanitary Commission. It will also fully justify the military authorities for appropriating to this use so good a building.

Note: the Editions of the Vicksburg Herald containing Mrs. Gage’s articles about the Soldier’s Home were very difficult to read, as there was considerable bleed-through from the printing on the other side of the paper. I have done my best to transcribe the articles as accurately as possible, but there were a few places where the words were impossible to read.


Do not think, good folks, when you pick up this paper, that you are to have a romance, beginning with love at first sight, a terrible wound, almost a death scene in the middle, and a climax of sighs and a miraculous restoration to life, ambrosia and a wedding at the end: for if you do, you will lay it down in utter disappointment.

Young men with “lofty” or “marble brows,” shadowed by flowing masses of silken brown hair, and lustrous eyes, flashing out the light of “patriotic fire,” and all that sort of thing, are reserved for novel writers, who see them mostly in dreams or visions at the end of which comes in five dollars a column, and “_____  _____”.

What I wish to do, is to give you a little insight into what is doing away here at the Southwest, in this military department, with a fragment of the huge charities which you are sending out day by day, for the benefit of your soldier boys.  A million of times is the question asked, “I wonder if the soldier will get this?” and a million of times has echo given back only the contemptuous answer – “get this?” and the questioners, with a large heartedness, such as no other people ever knew, have said, “what, if he does not; what if but a half, a third or even a tythe; my own soul is made richer by the gift, and I can spare, and so I will give,” and God’s blessing and the blessings of “them that are ready to perish,” will fall upon every one.


Saturday, June 25, 1864 – I walked up the broad flight of wooden doorsteps that lead into the entrance hall that runs through the three story

Wartime image of Duff Green Mansion in Vicksburg. Note the "Soldier's Home" sign on the second floor balcony.

Wartime image of Duff Green Mansion in Vicksburg. Note the “Soldier’s Home” sign on the second floor balcony.

building on the corner of Locust and First East streets, now used by the Government and “Sanitary Commission” as a Soldier’s Home. I was met at the threshold by three ladies, who gave me a cordial welcome on the introduction by letter of James E. Yeatman, President of the Western Sanitary Commission under whose auspices this Home was established.

I found the house splendidly located for the purpose designed; rooms large and ventilated, airy, sweet and clean. Its beds numerous and in perfect order. The detailed assistants doing their part cheerfully and faithfully and the servants (all colored) prompt, attentive and polite. But there were no sick, no feeble or wounded ones – no soldiers – only here and there a straggler – a great force of helpers and no one to help – so it seemed.

June 26 – Laura swept the floors and halls before breakfast, while Matilda filled the pitchers with fresh water from a splendid cistern, at the door. Henry, a detailed soldier, was at his post as head in the cook-room, with Tennessee to help; Uncle John and Bob set the soldiers’ table, while Cynthie and Maria attended to all matters that came and went between. Little Harry and Leonard scrubbed the well curb and cleaned the brick pavements. These are the household boys, while Marsh, a detailed soldier takes care of the horses, and drives the ambulance. James and John are watchmen; Mr. McDonald keeps the books, and Mr. M. N. Mann is superintendent. Of the three ladies, one Mrs. P, former matron, is gone up the river; one Miss Hattie Wiswell, sick and off duty, and the third, Mrs. Gov. Harvey, of Wisconsin, was managing for the time. Note: “Mrs. P.,” is Mrs. S.A. Plummer, who was Matron of the Vicksburg Soldier’s Home. The Western Sanitary Commission; a sketch of its origin, history, labors for the sick and wounded of the Western armies, and aid given to freedmen and Union refugees, with incidents of hospital life, page 84.

Oh! how pleasant the first Sunday. Bonquets of flowers gave their fragrance; mocking birds sung their merry trills; Duff Green’s cows and calves, and chickens made farm yard music, close by, and the green trees, washed in the last spring showers, robbed the burning sun of its hot fierceness and rendered life tolerable even with the excessive heat. A few dropped into tea, mostly reverends and shoulder-straps. “Ha ha” said I to myself, “so this is the way the money goes.”

Mr. Mann was as cool and quiet as the centre seed of a cucumber. Why shouldn’t he be, with a palace to live in, nothing to do, and kept at the public expense on a good salary – so much for first impressions; and Mrs. H—-, how sweet and childlike she was, floating about in her white wrapper, dealing out raspberry vinegar and ice water to sick Hattie, and some of her half fainting guests (for don’t you know in such hot weather as this, most everybody has a “misery.” Note: “Mrs. H” is probably Mrs. Cordelia A.P. Harvey, wife of Wisconsin Governor Louis P. Harvey. After her husband’s death in 1862, Mrs. Harvey dedicated herself to helping soldiers, and in the summer of 1864 she was working at the Soldier’s Home in Vicksburg. The Western Sanitary Commission; a sketch of its origin, history, labors for the sick and wounded of the Western armies, and aid given to freedmen and Union refugees, with incidents of hospital life, page 85.


June 27 – Oh! how hot it was; the morning wind with scorching breath. Mrs. P—– had gone the day before, and the boat that took her away brought a load of refugees, or trash some folks call them. Mr. Mann was off on his work of mercy to _____ them into the Refugees Home, (You Northerners have not forgotten them). Mrs. Brooks, the Matron, and Mr. Nesbert, the Manager, were off too, and a hundred came into their family; men women and children, sick, weary, starved and baked. Miss Chapman, the refugee teacher, had to add another nurse to her main stock, as an additional force of juveniles forced their way into her school room from the new recruits of “dippers and clay eaters.” Note: “Miss Chapman” is probably Miss G.D. Chapman of Exeter, Maine, who was sent to Vicksburg by the Western Sanitary Commission to take charge of a school set up in the city for the children of refugees. Woman’s Work in the Civil War By Linus Pierpont Brockett and  Mary C. Vaughan, page 714.

There was a call from Reg. —–, and the ambulance came to the door, and in bounded Mrs. H—–, with her arms full of sanitary. Here a sick soldier, there one, and each got something. One with sore eyes, eight months useless, stood looking wishfully at the earth, a widowed mother at home, prayed that he might not go blind in the coming heat and dust of August, another a year sick, just out of the hospital, turned out by an inhuman surgeon. “He will die in a week if kept here,” said the Captain. “He shall go home,” said Mrs. H. with a vim, “we can’t afford to have him die.”

The surgeon, the colonel, the medical director were visited. “jump into the ambulance boys,” said a cheery woman’s voice. We took them home, nursed them a week. They are both up North on a furlough today.

June 28 – Only those two in the sick room and only now and then a soldier below. Oh! fie, twenty and one around all the time to wait on them. How Laura scrubs and Matilda sweeps and laughs, and there is Mr. Mann actually playing chess with Mrs. H., and Hattie is rattling dice with James, and Tennessee and Cynthie are telling yarns and making their own garments on the door step of the kitchen. But there comes an orderly with a requisition; away go the chess; out comes the cans, bottles, bandages, and clothes; away we go to the regimental hospital of —– Wisconsin. Things are all right; those windows must be cleared, bring in certain stores, mosquito bars for those beds need more air for these patients, and Susan carry a bowl of soup to that white refugee mother, with the two sick boys, in the back room. “What no sacks or straw on these sick men’s bed?” said Mrs. H. “Can’t get it.” “We’ll see,” Straightaway we go to the Colonel. “Can’t those boys have their sacks filled?” “Certainly Mrs. H., if there is no straw they must have hay.” That’s done now.


June 29 – Here comes a crowd – the expedition is returning. Here they file in under the porch, into the hall, on the stairs, around the hall. Henry, God bless him, is not playing chess now. He’s a soldier, ready for anything, from superintending the broiling of a steak, to the laying down his life for his country, only he is too lame for the march, and skirmish, and does the next best thing, cooks and keeps up the spirits of those who are not lame. He is taking the cooking stove by assault. A hundred weary boys are to be fed, and comforted. “Hurrah, Tennessee, come old woman, we’ve had a week’s play spell, now we must go in – see them fellows! don’t I know how they feel! Hurry up the fires. Grind that coffee, they shall having a rousing good cup this morning. But the bread, John, hurry up, hurry up!”

“Laura, where are the towels? Hang the rollers up, get the wash basins in their places. Poor fellows, how they plunge into the cool, clear, cistern water, worn out, melting with heat. There goes a sunstruck man into the sick room. Matilda – cold water for his head, and hot water for his feet. Courage, my friend, you’ll soon be better.” He fell on the march, and the regiment left him, and his Colonel found him and sat him on his own horse, (Oh! the good Samaritan) and brought him in – won’t his wife thank you!

And another, and another – how they pour in. Bandages for this, compress for that, poultice for the other. Bind up that rheumatic knee; give that fainting one ice water. Yonder poor chap needs a spoonful of stimulus. Hurry, hurry; none too many ready hands and kind hearts to answer to the needs of one hundred or more, who come to be supplied with what could be found no where else. I go to bed thanking God in my soul for all your charities from the North, and all the patience and love that is here to distribute them.

June 30 – The one hundred and more _____ they had dinner, supper, beds, breakfast, all the sore feet mended, the swelled ones bathed and slippered; the boils poulticed, the wounds cleaned. The steamer whistled, and they are gone to join their regiments at Memphis, or Natchez, or somewhere. But here are more. Thirty or forty! Oh how wretched – boys with no shirts; lost in the skirmish. New ones are ready: no shoes, and feet worn and blistered; slippers plenty; crutches for the lame; bandages for the bruised; plasters for the fellows; tonics for the weak; restoratives for the fainting, and good for all.

July 1 – House full. Twenty going up; thirty going down; forty coming in, and sixty going out – and not a request is made reasonably that is not granted – because you have said it should be so. I tell you, Mr. Mann, is a faithful man. Only four in the sick room – but something goes out every hour, to the regimental hospital, prison, camp, company or squad. Miss Hattie, still sick, moaningly wishes she could assist and still Mrs. H. in her strength rises up at every call and says with the force of a true woman, she can, and she does it too. – May she live long for the work. Note: “Miss Hattie” is Hattie Wiswall, who was assistant matron of the Soldier’s Home. The Western Sanitary Commission; a sketch of its origin, history, labors for the sick and wounded of the Western armies, and aid given to freedmen and Union refugees, with incidents of hospital life, page 85.


The second part of Mrs. Gage’s story was published in the August 10, 1864, edition of the Herald:


Now while there is a lull, and Mr. Mann is starting North on duty, I may as well tell you something else that you want to know. “Don’t the nurses and servants use the things we send for the soldiers” – asks Mrs. Prim, “why yes, to be sure they do; I have a pair of slippers on this very minute that came out of the sanitary – for you know Uncle Sam provides the rations and the Commissions help us to extras.” Yes, I have on a pair of your slippers, and so have Henry and James; and do you care? Do you want them to stump round here in army boots, to the annoyance of all the bursting heads in the sick room? And besides, are not they soldiers, and aren’t their feet as apt to blister as any body’s, when they work so hard? Henry’s did blister, and there, as I live, is Marsh in a Sanitary double gown? What right has he to that, I’d like to know? Is not a soldier’s coat, these hot July days good enough for him? Even if he does drive ambulance all day, and half the night, bringing in stores, and sick ones and wounded ones from streets, camps, regiments, and steamers, and I do not know what all. And George, another of our good boys, and brave soldiers, has a pocket-handkerchief!

Sanitary Commission Illustration from HARPER'S WEEKLY, April 9, 1864.

Sanitary Commission Illustration from HARPER’S WEEKLY, April 9, 1864.

Now you, Mr. Grumbler, you hold on there. I’m glad Marsh has that loose calico gown, to rest in, when he finds a minute’s time to rest. Why, it would cost him a month’s soldier’s pay to buy a light coat of those Jews, and there are his wife and children at home, wanting all he can spare. You’d give it to him, yourself, if you were here to see how tenderly and kindly he helps the sick in and out in his strong arms. He cannot watch and work and toil and never a drop of comfort. And there is Miss. H. giving a glass of ale to Sam, the laundry man, and Laura, the waiter. Don’t your head swim, are you not ready to cry out against all Sanitary Commissions, and to utter your maledictions against all matrons and nurses. You’d do it yourself, I know you would if you were here. Yes, you would, you’d be “demoralized” in less than no time, and I’ll bet a flippin be running down stairs to treat Bob and John, some of these hot mornings, when they told you they felt like they was powerful weak, and most done gone gin out.”


July 2 – Still they come – still they go – Mr. Mann leaves us today to see wife and children – we must all do a little more and make the gap he leaves a little less, for he will leave a big gap.

July 3 – What next will happen? Mrs. H. is called to see her father. “And will I stay a few days?” she asks; what can I say but, “yes.” But what shall we do without her?

July 4 – I go with a party to dine – sing songs, and make speeches on the hearth stone of Jeff Davis – and while I am gone Mrs. H. goes North.

July 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th – Still they come, still they go. Not less than a hundred, and sometimes twice that every day. The sick room is full. Oh, what washing and ironing Sam and Caroline do – for we will keep clean, and a hundred beds slept in every night make work – and John says, “why Madame (don’t say missus here,) I set them table three times a day, morning, noon and night, a hundred a lick, and dey keeps wanting and wanting sumthin, and wese all ready to drap.”

Well they may be with the thermometer at 96 and Stewart’s big stove at boiling, baking and roasting heat all day long. Oh you people up North, do you think we can watch and wait, and toil, and comfort sick folks, do up fellows, poultice boils, and spread plasters for sore feet, and dress old wounds; bathe aching heads, and give all clean clothes and comforts week in and week out, and not catch a little now and then for ourselves? If you do, you may think, and keep thinking, but you’ll be mistaken every time. I take the slippers because my feet are too much swelled for my own.


Do you see that poor fellow tramping in with his boots cut into strings? He has marched till his boots have taken the skin off. Bathing, soft rags and mutton tallow and a pair of slippers for him. “Oh what a dirty creature.” – “Madame, my clothes were lost. Sorry to look so. What would my wife say?” There are clean shirts, drawers, stockings, handkerchiefs, towels for all such, and many a one who loathed himself in the morning, stands in his manhood at night, clothed and thanking God for your good works. Oh “rejoice and be exceeding glad,” every one of you that you gave what you have never missed, to help him to be a clean, pure man once more, for he is fighting the great battle of liberty for you and me.

July 10, 11, 12, 13 – Our sick room is full, and five up stairs not able to come down, and yet this is not a hospital – only a stopping place, a home. Henry says some days he has made a barrel of soup, (good soup too), and cooked a barrel of beef and pork, with potatoes and beans to match, and three barrels of coffee is no uncommon affair. Don’t you see what a soldier’s home is good for? Where your good gifts go “Who are all these,” you say, “why are they not in the tents with their regiments?” There it is now, and just all you know about it. Here are fifty men left behind; when they get in the regiment has gone up or down, or out, or in, they can’t draw rations today, have not a cent in their pockets; as hungry as dogs, dirty and tired as men who have been out in service can be. Shall we tell them starve, or let them stand waiting for something to “turn up?” Of course they come to the Home.

And then a squad is ordered from Natchez to Memphis; the boat leaves them at Vicksburg; no tents no rations; two days before another  boat comes; they come to the Home. A dozen are turned from hospitals not sick enough to remain, not well enough to go to regiment for duty; they come to the Home. And so in a thousand and one ways the soldier claimed his right here, and would suffer if there were no right and shelter here for him to claim.


July 14, 15, 16 – Miss Hattie has been well a week, and the flies up stairs and down like a humming bird. She is in doors and out in the camp, and at prison even, with full hands. Jellies to these, wines to those, and medicine and clothes for all that need.

Shall I tell you a secret? Don’t for the world whisper it so it will get out. Some soldiers lose their clothes, or too sick to take care of themselves or something, and they are _____ no – I won’t tell you after all for in such as they get home and have soap and water and towels and combs and clean clothes, they are all right, if Miss Hattie did find them on her white waist _____, there, I’ve told.

But it aren’t their fault, and I’m so glad, oh so glad you send all these things; and you must keep sending, for the war is not over, and secessionism is not “played out” and I’ll just tell you while I’m telling secrets, and I don’t care if you tell Father Abraham and all his Cabinet, and the Congress to boot. It never will be while the “powers that be” are lots of them speculating in cotton, and the Shoulder Straps are hobnobbing with secesh ladies, and we feed the Confederates with the right hand with all our might, and fight them feebly with the left; giving them a chance to dot the whole of their country with the graves of our noble boys. “That’s what’s the matter,” and our soldiers “see it” too. But we must hope for the better, and you keep on praying and giving and we’ll keep on using and praying; for there are noble men that wear shoulder straps and stars too, and noble men who do not speculate, who will right up these things by and by.


July 17, 18, 19, 20 – Wash, iron, cook, scrub, nurse, poultice, bathe, bind, give – two thousand meals given out within a week, and as many more likely to be given out next week – and they say this is nothing to awhile ago. C— has been sent to hospital, I— furloughed; H—, mum for a whole week found his tongue at last, and gone up the river; W— gave one of his cheerful smiles and “thank you’s” would set a Northern girl’s heart into a quicker beat for a week as he receives some nice jelly or a canned peach as fresh and sweet as her own cheek.

Our sick room has but two occupants, and there is a lull or I should not scribble. It is useless to try to tell what happened every day. It is ever the same story – sending out delicacies to those that need, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and ministering to the suffering; whether artillery, cavalry, or infantry; from Maine or Missouri; no matter where, if loyal and true there is a home and welcome here for the soldiers of U.S. The soldier’s wife, too, sometimes has room, comfort and home while she hunts up a boat or waits for a dear one. School teachers shelter themselves and sing songs of home for a day.

And all this comes of your giving of your abundance in times past, that no one should suffer; and don’t you feel better for it as you sit rocking by your open doors and windows this hot July day, up there at the North? Don’t stop giving – you can’t afford to deprive yourself of such a luxury. Oh! it is such a luxury to do good! And every one of these soldier boys would have suffered but for “me and Betsy,” as the man said when he strided the beam while his wife killed the bear. You are “Betsy,” and we say “give it to him.”

Yes, they would have suffered – yet all, I think, have gone away feeling that this is truly a home. In the almost four weeks I have not heard a complaint; instead, many a time, “Don’t this seem like home.” “This makes me think of mother.” Soldiers say to me, “We used to think Sanitaries and Soldier’s Aids humbugs; but it’s better now; things go on without so much cheating and fraud.” So take heart and go forward, singing: Yankee doodle, keep it up, Yankee doodle dandy, The Soldiers’ Home is just the thing the soldiers find quite handy.


Saturday, July 23 – To-day I leave Vicksburg and the beautiful charities of the Soldier’s Home. Before I close, permit me to say I have visited Hospitals No. 2 and 3, the Contraband Hospital and several regimental hospitals, and with one or two exceptions I have found none in any better condition in the country, and many pleasant memories I shall carry North with which to solace the aching hearts of wives and mothers.


In her writing, Gage spoke of attending a Fourth of July Celebration at Jefferson Davis’ home Brierfield, which was located south of Vicksburg at Davis Bend. In doing some research on Gage, I found that she wrote a detailed article about this celebration which was published in The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts), July 29, 1864:



Celebrations of the glorious Fourth, made doubly glorious by the memories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, were doubtless as thick as musketoes on the Mississippi yesterday, and as like one to another as they, for the most part. But the celebration of our natal day in the family mansion of the Arch-Traitor who now stands at the head of the Southern Confederacy, by agents of Freedmen’s Relief Associations, officers of colored regiments, and teachers of contrabands was quite a different affair, and deserves its place in the record of the times.

The entertainment was planned and executed under the auspices of Col. Thomas, Acting Superintendent of Freedmen in this Department in the absence of Col. Eaton. The party, over one hundred in number, left the wharf at Vicksburg at 7 A.M. on the steamer Diligent, a Government transport that is diligent in conveying rations and other stores to the soldiers and freedmen between Vicksburg and Natchez.

Perhaps I should say, en passant, that this was the form of our bidding to this extraordinary and never again (for there can never again be a first time) to be repeated entertainment.


You are respectfully invited to spend the 4th of July at the “Jeff Davis,” Davis’s Bend, Miss. It being leap year, the ladies have the privilege of inviting their own escort. The steamer Diligent will leave the landing at the foot of Crawford Street at 6 A.M. on the morning of the 4th.  By order of the Committee of Arrangements.

There was quite a full proportion of ladies. This department at this time has a number of agents, teachers, and hospital nurses. We were a company of comparative strangers, coming from almost every Northern free state, meeting here for one great purpose. Though engaged in different branches, all were parts of one great whole.

The trip down, twenty-five miles, gave a chance for recognition and introduction. To have come from the same states was introduction enough – and if even the state lines met, we were not strangers. Three hours’ journey brought us to what used to be Joe Davis’ landing. The negroes say that Jeff owed his farm and his negroes, four hundred in number, to his brother who was very rich, and gave him a plantation, and erected the unpretending edifice that now has become so notorious.

As we landed, the colored people gathered in hundreds in their holiday attire to greet us. “It was a sight to see so many white ladies coming,” as one said. Carts, wagons, and ambulances were in attendance, to transport us two miles back to the famous spot.  We passed through corn and cane fields of wide extent, some looking well, others as ill as need be, and little of either betokening a thrifty crop, prophetic of great gains to the speculators, unless present prices should continue to advance. These plantations stretched out for miles on nearly a level, very luxuriant, and bearing evidence of intelligent cultivation.

The slaves quarters are larger and more commodious than usual, and the surroundings of Joe Davis’s family mansion (the house now a pile of ruins) are beautiful. A winding road brought us to the mansion of the chief of Confederates, a one-story frame, expansive and commanding, skirted, as all such are in the South, with deep porches or piazzas, with immense windows opening to the floors, and looking altogether commodious, comfortable, and inviting. Over the main entrance, in front, wreathed in evergreens, were the words, “This is the house that Jeff built;” over the door opposite, at the rear and within, “Exit traitor.”

Photograph taken of Brierfield, Jefferson Davis' home, during the July 4, 1864 party at the residence. - Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg.

Photograph taken of Brierfield, Jefferson Davis’ home, during the July 4, 1864 party at the residence. – Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg.

Many were the jokes, anecdotes, and questionings, as we entered within that great hall, and trod the floors those feet have often pressed that are now trampling, as it were, upon the hearts of our brave and gallant dead. But my story must be short and simple. The romance of the post is enough, and needs no embellishment. Under the oaks that front the house, we assembled for the reading of the Declaration of Independence, oration and song. A rain compelled us to go into the house, where at the usual hour a dinner was served up, and the servants of the former master, rejoicing in emancipation, strove to excel each other in waiting on the Yankees who “comed to help us,” and then sentiments were proposed – Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, the Army and the Navy, the day, the Republic, were cheered, “till roof and rafters resounded.”

On the right and the left, at the back and the front, grouped picturesquely in all manner of costumes, from gay flounces to disgusting rags, (for these are free people,) were the freedmen which have been gathered to these plantations to labor for themselves, and to learn from actual experience the truths of the Declaration of Independence. They seemed to enjoy the scene hugely, yet I fancied they would have been prouder of their Northern friends if they had been more elegant and “‘spensive.'” As one old woman expressed it: “I knows a Northern lady quick’s  I sees her; she don’t look so ‘spensive like as de tothers.”

But my story is told: we ate, we drank, we made speeches and cheered sentiments, we talked the rankest abolitionism under the portals of the traitor, and there were those who sung “We’ll hang Jeff Davis on a Sour Apple Tree.” But to us the prayer of old Isaac had in it more of the ring of the true Christian: -

“Oh! Massa Jesus, mighty God, Save Massa Jeff ‘fore it am everlastingly too late! Oh, Lord, take him by de nap of de neck, and shake him over de fiery furnace till he squeal like a pig in de barn! But don’t let him drop; oh, Massa Jesus, don’t let him drop, but fetch him to repentance, and save him sowl in de eberlasting kingdom ‘fore dem Yankees make him dry bones in a box.”

There, there is the whole spirit of the Gospel. Are we not in these days, – even amid wars and rumors of wars, – living a Christianity hitherto only theorized upon? We enter our enemy’s house only to do good. We give ourselves to the work of lifting up the poor and oppressed that be cast down. We find the poor white trash, sick and hungry, and we feed him; naked, and we clothe him; and while we strike for liberty, and right stalwart blows with the right hand, dealing death at every turn, with the left we lift up humanity, and every hour vindicate ourselves before God and the nations as being worthy to govern ourselves, as being worthy of the glory that shall enshrine our memory in the hereafter: we, the people. The great, true, common heart, ever good and brave, is doing this, and Abraham the honest is our strong arm to execute our will.

It was stirring thought as we bade good night to the house that Jeff built, that there was scarce one of all that multitude of white men and women that was not there to represent the feeling and charities of thousands of people who have commissioned them to do this holy work. At 5 P.M., amid the still dripping rain, we took our leave for Vicksburg, where all arrived in safety; no drinking, no profanity, no misdemeanors, no accidents marring the happiness of the closing hours of a day of rare festivity, mirth and enjoyment.


Shortly after writing her columns for the Vicksburg Herald, Gage returned North to join the lecture circuit and help raise money for the Sanitary Commission. Her work was cut short, however, when she was seriously injured in a carriage accident. She eventually recovered, however, and lived to the ripe old age of 76, dying on November 10, 1884. She is buried in Second Congregational Church Cemetery, Greenwich, Connecticut. This kind and giving woman, who gave so much to aid her much-beloved soldiers, has no tombstone to mark her grave; sometime in the past it fell over, or was lost. Her grave may have been forgotten, but the good that she did during the Civil War will be long remembered.












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Artillery During the Siege of Vicksburg

Civil War Artillery is a subject near and dear to my heart, because for the better part of a decade I was a reenactor with Battery C, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. In addition to reenactments, our battery also did a number of live shoots, and it was while firing the cannon live that I truly came to appreciate what Civil War artillery could do when it was manned by a highly trained team of cannoneers. I recently received a message from Kimberly Chavez asking about artillery used during the Siege of Vicksburg, and her question inspired me to post the following article on the subject:

Confederate General John C. Pemberton employed for the defense of Vicksburg 172 cannon, 103 fieldpieces, and 69 heavy guns. Of this number, 37 of the heavy guns, along with 13 of the fieldpieces, served in the river batteries. The rest were employed in the landward defenses, spread throughout the eight miles of siege lines and averaging one gun every 250 yards.

Captured Confederate Artillery lined up near the Mississippi River. Photo circa 1864 - Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Captured Confederate Artillery lined up near the Mississippi River. Photo circa 1864 – Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The Rebel artillery emplaced in the landward defenses had two main missions during the siege. The first was to provide defensive firepower to help break up any Union assault against the Confederate line. They were used in this role to good effect during the May 19 and 22 assaults. The second mission of the Rebel artillery was to hamper the work of the Union soldiers digging approaches toward their fortifications. In this role they were generally not very effective. The guns in the Vicksburg defenses were so dispersed that the Confederates were unable to achieve artillery dominance at any point on the battlefield. The Southern cannoneers were also hampered by General Pemberton’s orders to conserve ammunition for use against Union assaults on the earthworks, and by a shortage of friction primers needed to fire the guns. The restrictions left the Southern artillerymen at a great disadvantage against their Union counterparts, who did mass their guns to great effect, inflicting numerous casualties with the shot and shell they pumped into the enemy line on a near constant basis during the siege.

Union Artillery Firing on the Confederate Earthworks During the Siege of Vicksburg - Library of Congress

Union Artillery Firing on the Confederate Earthworks During the Siege of Vicksburg – Library of Congress

In August 1863 the New York Times published a synopsis of the Union expenditure of artillery rounds during the siege of Vicksburg. Lt. Colonel William L. Duff, General Ulysses S. Grant’s chief of artillery, provided it. He stated that during the 47 day siege, the Union artillery fired 9,598 rounds during the May 19 assault, 10,754 rounds during the May 22 assault, and 111,614 rounds during the remainder of the siege. This averaged out to 653 rounds fired by each Union cannon during the siege.

To be on the receiving end of a Union artillery barrage during the siege was mind-numbing, as Sergeant William

William H. Tunnard was a Sergeant in Company K, 3rd Louisiana Infantry during the Siege of Vicksburg. - http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~virgilgw/third/tunnard.html

William H. Tunnard was a Sergeant in Company K, 3rd Louisiana Infantry during the Siege of Vicksburg. – http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~virgilgw/third/tunnard.html

Tunard of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry found out first hand. He wrote in his memoir that on June 20, 1863, “At early dawn every gun along the line suddenly opened, keeping up a rapid and continuous fire. All concurred in the opinion that such a tremendous cannonading had never been equaled in their experience, and the volume of sound surpassed anything yet heard. It seemed as if heaven and earth trembled under the heavy concussion.”

The Union army at Vicksburg had some 220 cannon, organized into 89 separate batteries, and they had three objectives during the siege. The first was to keep the Confederate artillery suppressed, the second to smash openings in the enemy earthworks, and the third to provide fire support for the men digging the approach trenches. The Union artillery fulfilled all three of these missions by concentrating their cannon and laying down a withering amount of fire that quickly smashed any Confederate gun foolish enough to challenge them.


Model 1841 6-pounder gun
This model was first adopted by the United States in 1841, and was used to good effect during the Mexican War. By the time of the Civil War, however, it was nearing the end of its usefulness, having been surpassed by newer and more powerful models. The outbreak of war gave the Model 1841 a new lease on life, as large numbers of these guns were in both Northern and Southern arsenals, and they were pressed into service until newer models could be built.


Model 1841 6-pounder attached to its limber - www.steencannons.com

Model 1841 6-pounder attached to its limber – http://www.steencannons.com


Model 1857 12-pounder gun-howitzer
Invented in France and named for the Emperor Napoleon III, the Model 1857 was adopted by the United States army in 1857. One of the most popular smoothbore guns used in the war, the Napoleon was a versatile weapon that could fire solid shot, explosive shell, explosive case shot, and canister. Both the Union and the Confederacy manufactured these cannon during the war, and they can be distinguished by looking at the muzzle. Union-made guns swell at the muzzle, while Confederate-made guns have a straight barrel with no muzzle swell.


Sketch of a 12-pounder Napoleon by Edwin Forbes - Library of Congress

Sketch of a 12-pounder Napoleon by Edwin Forbes – Library of Congress


10-pounder Parrott rifle
Invented by Robert P. Parrott, the superintendent of West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York, this gun was widely produced by the Union. They were liked by the Confederacy as well, and they were manufactured in considerable numbers for the Southern armies. The Parrott can be quickly recognized by its distinctive iron-reinforcing band on the breech of the gun. This band provided additional strength to the cannon to help it withstand the stress of firing.


10-pounder Parrott rifle - www.militaryfactory.com

10-pounder Parrott rifle – http://www.militaryfactory.com


3-inch Ordnance rifle
Invented by John Griffen in 1855, the 3-inch Ordnance rifle was one of the most popular and accurate small-caliber rifled cannon used during the Civil War. These guns were constructed using a wrought iron forging and welding process that produced a very strong weapon that easily withstood the stresses of firing black powder charges. The Union built over 1,000 of these guns during the war. The South never manufactured this model, but they used all that they captured.


3-inch Ordnance Rifle - www.waymarking com

3-inch Ordnance Rifle – http://www.waymarking com


32-pounder Seacoast gun
In service for decades before the Civil War in many different models, the 32-pounder Seacoast gun was widely used by the Confederates at Vicksburg in the river batteries. Although designed as a smoothbore, both sides rifled many of these guns to increase their accuracy and range. 32-pounders were often mounted using a front-pintle barbette carriage, which was stationary and not easily moved once put into position.


32-pounder Seacoast Gun - www.go2gbo.com

32-pounder Seacoast Gun – http://www.go2gbo.com


42-pounder Seacoast gun
Similar in construction to the 32-pounder, the 42-pounder Seacoast gun was used by the Confederates in the river batteries, both in its original smoothbore configuration and in the modified rifle version. The Union army served two 42-pounder rifled guns at Battery Benton during the siege that had been borrowed from the ironclad USS Benton. Like the 32-pounder, these guns were generally mounted on a front pintle barbette carriage.

42 pounder Seacoast gun - Library of Congress

42 pounder Seacoast gun – Library of Congress


30-pounder Parrott rifle
Parrott rifles came in a number of sizes: The 30-pounder was classified as a siege and garrison weapon, as it was not easy to transport due to its weight. The tube alone was 4,200 pounds. The cannon generally used a wooden siege carriage, and the Union artillery had a number of guns in this configuration during the siege of Vicksburg. The 30-pounder was an accurate weapon, but all of the larger Parrott rifles were plagued with a distressing tendency to blow up due to the great stress placed on the iron gun by the shock of firing.


The Author (Seated, 2nd from the left), with his reenactment unit, posed with a 30-pounder Parrott rifle

The Author (Seated, 2nd from the left), with his reenactment unit, posed with a 30-pounder Parrott rifle


10-inch Columbiad
An old design, the Columbiad was first adopted by the United States in 1811, as one of the main weapons to defend the nation’s seacoast. These very large guns had a smoothbore tube weighing 15,400 pounds, and the Confederates used a number of them in the river defenses at Vicksburg.

10-inch Columbiad - Library of Congress

10-inch Columbiad – Library of Congress


13-inch Seacoast Mortar
The 13-inch Seacoast mortar was a massive gun weighing over 17,000 pounds, and was capable of firing a 200-pound shell over two and a half miles. The Union navy had six of these guns mounted on rafts in the Mississippi River, and they fired over 7,000 rounds into Vicksburg during the siege.

13-inch Seacoast Mortar

13-inch Seacoast Mortar

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A Guide to the Boats Lost on the Yazoo, Tallahatchie & Yalobusha Rivers

Control of the mighty Mississippi River was of vital national interest to both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War. By the spring of 1862 the fight for control of the Mississippi  focused on Vicksburg, the last major Confederate outpost on the river. The conflict soon spilled over into the Yazoo River and its tributaries, and by the time the Hill City fell in 1863, the brown waters of the Mississippi Delta was littered with both military and civilian vessels. When the war ended the armies went away, but the vessels lost during the fighting remained in their watery graves, where they could be extremely hazardous to civilian river traffic. On January 1, 1870, The Tri-Weekly Clarion of Jackson, Mississippi, published this guide to the wartime wrecks on the Yazoo, Tallahatchie and Yalobusha rivers under the title, “Interesting Reminiscences of the War:”

Many scenes of exciting interest transpired during the recent civil war that never have and never will be told. The line of the Yazoo, Tallahatchie and Yalobusha Rivers was a field of incident that has so far almost escaped the notice of reporters. Numerous vessels, owned chiefly by Southern boatmen, sought refuge in the streams named. As the Federals forced Southerners backward in their determined effort to capture and control the Mississippi and its tributaries on the eastern side, steamers huddled closer together like so many frightened sheep. Finally, when it was found impossible to save them from capture, the torch was applied, and great havoc resulted. Thirty-three steamers were given to the flames, among them many of the largest, fleetest and costliest that ever floated on the waters of the west. The line of the river was lurid with the glare of many burning steamers. Its course could be traced for days after by the dense clouds of black smoke that hung like a funeral pall over the wrecks that now lie scattered at intervals along the river.


The Yazoo River and Its tributaries - Many ships were lost in these waters during the Civil War -

The Yazoo River and Its tributaries – Many ships were lost in these waters during the Civil War – From the Wikipedia Entry on the Yazoo River


At several points vessels were moored side by side before destruction, that their sunken hulks might obstruct the channel and prevent the advance of the enemy’s fleet. At low stages of the river these wrecks now impede navigation, though they do not entirely prevent the passage of steamers. A recent visit to the locality enables us to give the following account of the situation:

In the upper Tallahatchie River, and 120 miles from its mouth at Jarmyn’s lies the wreck of the Cotton Plant, formerly Flora Temple. She was burned where she lies in July, 1863, and is no obstruction to navigation. At Sam Evan’s place, sixty miles lower down, the wreck of the Hartford City lies close to the bank, and out of passing steamers’ way.

At Fort Pemberton, six miles above the entrance of the Tallahatchie into the Yazoo, the wreck of the famous steamship Star of the West lies where she scuttled and sunk, directly in the middle of the river, and a dangerous obstruction to passing steamers. The engine walking beam, greatly injured by rust, and one weather-beaten wheel-house of this monster steam-ship stand high above the level of the river, to warn approaching vessels from above or below that they must give the wreck as wide a berth as possible. The channel at this point admits only a few spare feet on either side, while the current is swift as a mill-race, and pilots must exercise their best care and skill to make the run successfully. The Star of the West, it will be remembered, was driven to sea, off Charleston harbor, by Confederate batteries, when making an effort to provision Fort Sumter, and caused the firing of the first gun of the war. She was afterwards captured off Galveston, Texas, by Van Dorn and a party of Confederates under him, carried into New Orleans, and finally up the Yazoo. She was an unlucky vessel, and never did the Confederates any good, except to entail expense in caring for her. The blackened hulk and rusty, weather-beaten machinery may lie for ages in their present position, a fitting emblem of her useless career.

Engraving of the Star of the West, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 19, 1861

Engraving of the Star of the West, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 19, 1861

Up the Yallabusha, one mile from its mouth, lies the wreck of the Ferd. Kennet, once a fine St. Louis and New Orleans steamer, scuttled and burned in 1863. Navigation is unimpeded by this wreck. The Ed J. Gay, another elegant St. Louis steamer, lies directly at the mouth of the Tallahatchie and Yallabusha, close to the eastern bank of the Yazoo. Ample space is afforded passing steamers. A mile and a half below lies the wreck of the Acadia, in times ante bellum a favorite and well known New Orleans and Coast packet. Her wreck lies directly in the middle of the river. Steamers must feel their way carefully when passing by.

The remains of the Mary E. Keene, once the pride of the Vicksburg packets, are at French Bend, fourteen miles below Greenwood. The wreck is

The Steamboat Mary E. Keene - www.lakeprovidencegirl.com

The Steamboat Mary E. Keene – http://www.lakeprovidencegirl.com

close against the bend, and is no obstruction to navigation. At Browning’s Bar, twenty-five miles below Greenwood, four wrecks lie side by side, bows down stream, in the exact position where they were sunk to prevent the ascent of the Federal fleets. The Scotland is near the western bank, next the Golden Age, then the R. J. Lackland, and on the eastern bank the John Walsh is planted. These wrecks are all plain to view, except, the Golden Age, from under which the sand has washed, or suing the wreck to settle so far beneath that steamers pass directly over her without danger.

The great Natchez, one of the finest steamers ever constructed, and converted into a ram, was burned and destroyed with 1200 bales of cotton on board at Burtonia, eighty miles above Yazoo City. Sixty miles farther down, and within nineteen of Yazoo City, is the wreck of the Peytona: ten miles below is the Prince of Wales. The J. F. Pargoud, regarded by many boatmen as without a superior in point or symmetry and beauty, lies three miles farther down.

The Magenta and Magnolia, both of huge size and capacity, lie six miles above Yazoo City. Just below lies a Federal tin-clad gunboat, the Number 5, captured and destroyed here by the Confederates. The Baron DeKalb, a Federal iron-clad, was blown up and destroyed by a torpedo half a mile below Yazoo City. The Confederate gunboat Mobile was burned near the same spot. Both wrecks lie out of the channel. The Republic and Alonzo Child lie near here, their machinery having first been removed to Selma, Ala., where it was afterwards placed in Confederate gunboats.


The Ironclad USS Baron DeKalb - www.history.navy.mil

The Ironclad USS Baron DeKalb – http://www.history.navy.mil


At Liverpool Landing, some twenty miles below Yazoo City, several vessels were scuttled and burned. Among them was the famous Capitol,

Illustration of the Steamboat Capitol helping in the Construction of the CSS Arkansas - www.history.navy.mil

Illustration of the Steamboat Capitol helping in the Construction of the CSS Arkansas – http://www.history.navy.mil

owned at Memphis, and which, during the summer of 1860, made thirteen successive weekly trips between Memphis and New Orleans. The gunboat V. H. Joy also lives here: first as the Roger Williams, noted for speed in New England waters, then as the El Paraguay, a South American gunboat, again as a towboat, towing ships between New Orleans and the Gulf, then transformed into a Confederate war vessel and as Hollins’ flag ship, making rapid dashes in front of the enemy about Cairo and Bird’s Point. Her career was surely an eventful one. Her hull lies in a dangerous position, causing passing steamers to work with caution in making the run up or down.

The gunboats Lady Polk, Maurepas and Van Dorn are also sunk here. The latter, once well known as the towboat Junius Beebe, and one of the best vessels of her class ever constructed, was built at New Orleans in 1854. With low-pressure machinery of great power, she was one of the fleetest and handsomest vessels that ever dashed past the shipping in front of the Crescent City. The Lady Polk was known in earlier days as the Nashville steamer Ed Howard, and latter as one of Hollins’ gunboat fleet.

At Snyder’s Bluffs, below, is the hulk  of the iron-clad Cairo, blown up by a Confederate torpedo. These with the Hope and Ben McCulloch, afterwards raised; comprise all the vessels destroyed during the war on the Yazoo. Many have since been dismantled, and their machinery removed by the U.S. Government. Several still have their machinery on board; and are either disputed or private property.


The Ironclad USS Cairo

The Ironclad USS Cairo


In addition to the above, the H. D. Mears, Emma Bell and Argo were destroyed up the Sunflower, and the Dew Drop up Quiver, one of its affluents. Near the bridge crossing of the Vicksburg Railroad to Jackson, on Black River, the steamers Charm and Paul Jones were burned. The gunboat Arkansas, built at Memphis, and completed in Yazoo, was blown up just above Baton Rouge at the time it was attacked by Breckinridge in 1862. A huge war vessel was burned on the stocks half finished, at Yazoo City. These complete the list.

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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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