So Reduced: The 12th Mississippi Infantry After the Battle of Sharpsburg

If your Civil War ancestor served in the infantry, you are in good company – the infantry was by far the largest branch of the military in which Mississippians served.  The basic building block of an army, a Civil War infantry regiment numbered 1,000 men at full strength.  After the twin killers of combat and disease had taken their toll however, a typical Mississippi regiment considered itself lucky to have even half that number present for duty. The following letter, written by Colonel William H. Taylor one day after the Battle of Sharpsburg, the single bloodiest day of the entire war, perfectly illustrates the toll that the war took on the men in the ranks:

Head Quarters 12thMiss. Regt.

Sharpsburg, Maryland  Sept. 18, 1862

To

His Honor Gov. Pettus

Jackson Miss.

General Featherston and myself have both made requisitions on the State through you for Seven Hundred Conscripts to fill out my Regiment to the number proscribed by law. My Regiment has suffered severely in every engagement it has been in, and at this time does not number One Hundred effective men for Battle so reduced is it by deaths, discharges and wounds. The Adjutant Books showed an aggregate of 658 on the first of Sept. and from that figure is to be deducted 80 names who have joined the Army under Genl. Bragg and the Secty. Of War has ordered their names to be struck from our rolls. Then deduct 12 killed in Battle in yesterday and the aggregate remains 566, and of this number 325 are absent sick and wounded. I am very much afraid if I can not get the Conscripts my Regiment will be disbanded. This will be handed you by Lt. & _____ Callum and you would confer a great favor in the Regiment and myself by sending with him the conscripts necessary to fill out my Regiment.

I am Sir with much respect

Your Obedient Servant,

Wm. H. Taylor, Col.

Comdg. 12thMiss. Vols.

This manuscript is located in the Letters sent to Governor John J. Pettus, Microfilm Roll #4854, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

The Spring and Summer of 1862 was a blood introduction to combat for the 12th Mississippi Infantry. At the time of their first battle at Seven Pines in May, the regiment numbered 1,013 officers and men. In that first engagement the 12th had 41 men killed and 152 wounded. The Seven Days Battles for Richmond that quickly followed saw the unit lose even more: Gaines’ Mill & Glendale cost the 12th 34 killed, 186 wounded and 5 missing. At Second Manassas in August, the regiment’s losses are unknown, but the brigade to which they belonged lost 26 killed and 142 wounded. At Sharpsburg in September, the regiment lost 6 killed and 53 wounded.

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3 thoughts on “So Reduced: The 12th Mississippi Infantry After the Battle of Sharpsburg

  1. Did part of the 12th Miss continue fighting after they were paroled at Appomattox? I have two paroles for Hugh P Davis (Durant Rifles) 12th Mississippi Vol Infantry, one from Appomattox on a April 10 and another from Mobile on May 3rd, 1865.

    • Peggy,
      I have never heard of any of the 12th Mississippi fighting after the regiment was paroled at Appomattox, and it would have been dangerous for any man who had taken a parole to do so. If a soldier was caught fighting again while he was still on parole, it would not go well for him, and he could, in fact, be executed. The most likely reason I can think of for Davis having two paroles is that he might have lost his original copy of his Appomattox parole. He would have had to show that parole to any Union forces he came in contact with on his way home to prove that he was in fact a paroled soldier. If he lost it, he would need to get a replacement, and the easiest way to do so would be to go to the nearest Union forces and sign another parole form. I hope this helps, and If you have any questions, just let me know.

      • Thanks for the reply. He didn’t lose his parole as I have it. I’ve had these paroles for years but when I got it I did some research on it and found that some had gone to Mobile still fighting but have been unable to find that information again. Guess ill keep at it.

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