The Mementoes of that Tragic Conflict: Civil War Artifacts in the Museum of Mississippi History

For the past four years as I have worked at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, I have been able to look out the windows of our reading room and watch the construction of the Museum of Mississippi History. I take great pride in this building, as I played a small part in helping to create the exhibits that went into it. Before coming to work at MDAH, I was employed as an historical researcher at Communication Arts Company in Jackson. At the time I was hired, my primary job was to do research for the exhibits going into the new museum, and I spent years in completing that task. After so much work, and so many years of waiting, the museum opening is only two days away; the grand opening is on December 9, 2017!

Museum October 2014

The Museum of Mississippi History under construction in October 2014. (Photo by Author)

In honor of the opening of our new Museum of Mississippi History, I thought I would share some information about Civil War artifacts that were donated to MDAH in the early years of the department’s history. A few weeks ago while doing some research I found a catalog of the museum’s holdings dating from the late 1920’s – the following information comes from this manuscript:


[Series 1382, Box 5415, MDAH]

When the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was being proposed in 1901, one of the main components of the new agency was envisioned as “An Historical Art Gallery. It is intended that this collection should embrace the portraits or statues of great Mississippians and the views of historic places and events.” [“Historical Society,” Weekly Clarion-Ledger, November 28, 1901]

When the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was established in 1902, it did indeed include a “Hall of Fame” which is still in existence and is still adding portraits of distinguished Mississippians. By the time this catalog was written in the late 1920’s, the Hall of Fame already had 96 portraits, many of which were Mississippians that had fought in the Civil War. Among those listed in the catalog were the following portraits:

Jefferson Davis Portrait

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889):
Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America. Before that, he served in the U.S. Army, as a representative and senator in the U. S. Congress, and as secretary of war. [Photo by author, text is from:

Earl Van Dorn Portrait

Earl Van Dorn (1820-1863):
Earl Van Dorn, a veteran of the Mexican War, also fought in the United States Army in the Seminole War and against the Comanches in the West. He served as a major general in the Confederate Army and won fame for his successful cavalry raid on Holly Springs. [Photo by author, text from:

Wirt Adams 2

William Wirt Adams (1819-1888):
William Adams organized the First Mississippi Cavalry Regiment of the Confederate Army and fought in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Iuka, Raymond, and Champion Hill. He was a state representative before the war and later served as a state revenue agent and U.S. postmaster. [Photo by author, text from:

I already mentioned that the catalog was compiled in the late 1920’s – the manuscript itself is not dated, but this description of a dress on pages 4-5 gave me a very clear indication of when it was put together:

This dress was made about 1781, several years before the cotton gins invention. Made 148

Jane Grafton's Dress

Jane Grafton’s Dress [MDAH Museum Division Collections, Accession #1960.326.1]

years ago. Mrs. Jane Grafton, who lived in Adams County near Natchez, raised the cotton, picked the seed from the cotton, spun the thread, wove the cloth, raised the indigo used in dyeing the blue stripe and made the garment by hand, sewing it with homespun thread. Preserved and presented to the State Historical Department by Mrs. S.L. Chamberlain of Greenwood, Mississippi, a great grand daughter of Mrs. Jane Grafton, September 19, 1917.”

On page 5 I found this curiously worded listing:

Presentation of flag to Rodney Guards, Co. D, 22nd Miss. Inf. C.S.A.”

I found the following article concerning the flag of the Rodney Guards in the Port Gibson Reville (Mississippi), April 12, 1906:

One of those pathetic incidents that so often spring up in connection with the late War Between the States occurred yesterday afternoon in the offices of the Department of Archives and History, when two battle-scarred veterans of the Civil War turned over to the the State the flags under which they had fought so valiantly and which they had preserved with so much care for over forty years.

The mementoes of that tragic conflict were secured by John W. Broughton, Confederate history commissioner for Jefferson County, while the two men who released their much prized banners were Joseph Kling of Jefferson County and A.M. McCallum of Union Church. The flags were of most magnificent design. The first was that of the Rodney Guards, which was made and presented during the early part of the war by the ladies of Rodney, to whom it was returned when the regimental flag was adopted…The most pathetic feature of the presentation came when Mr. Kling, who had been desperately wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, gave up his old company flag.

The old man, now fast approaching the allotted three score and ten years, made a striking figure with his long, wavy hair, which time had changed to a silvery gray, with his eyes moistened with tears at the thought of parting with his much loved flag, and with voice throbbing with emotion and feeling. He stated to Mr. Rowland in charge of the department, that he had intended to die and be buried with the banner by his side, but after much persuasion had been induced to donate it to the collection being gotten up by his state for the preservation of the memories of that noted conflict. A strange coincidence is the fact that yesterday was the forty-fifth anniversary of the wounding of Mr. Kling at the battle of Shiloh…

At the time of the battle of Shiloh, Joseph Kling was serving as a sergeant in the “Rodney Guards,” Company D, 22nd Mississippi Infantry. His service record notes that he was “wounded and taken prisoner at battle Shiloh & returned to Co. October 24, 1862.” Kling returned to the 22nd Mississippi, and was wounded and captured again at Pulaski, Tennessee, on December 24, 1864. He spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp. Kling lived in Jefferson County, Mississippi, until his death in 1914.

On Page 7 was an item that spoke to a significant loss to the Union navy during the Civil War:

This brass ring was a part of the steam cylinder of the Federal Gunboat De Kalb, sunk by the Confederates in the Yazoo River, one an one-half miles below Yazoo City, in 1864. Presented Aug. 29, 1911, by W. G. Deles of Yazoo City.”

USS Baron DeKalb

USS Baron DeKalb – The catalog was off by a year, the ironclad was sunk in the Yazoo River on July 13, 1863, and never raised. []

Since the sinking of the Baron DeKalb in 1863, when the Yazoo River is low, the remains of the boat are visible – the picture below was taken in the early 1950’s:


Photo of the wreck of the Baron DeKalb [The Yazoo Herald, March 31, 1960]

During the war, both the Union and Confederate armies were swept by religious revivals; one reminder of this spiritual awakening was found on Page 12:

Book of Prayers and other Devotions for the use of the soldiers of the army of the Confederate States” A copy of this book has been digitized and can be found online at:

Prayers and Other Devotions


Some artifacts listed in the catalog were powerful reminders of the “Lost Cause.” such as this listing from Page 14:

Star from Head Quarters Flag of General N.H. Harris, which was used at the siege of Petersburg.” 


General Nathaniel H. Harris of Vicksburg commanded a Mississippi Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia [Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi]

There are many items on the catalog list that belonged to Confederate officers that served in the Civil War; one such item is listed on Page 16:

Derringer captured by General W.S. Featherston from a Federal Officer during the Confederate War. Presented by Mrs. Hamilton Johnson, January 19, 1920.


Brigadier General Winfield Scott Featherston commanded Mississippi brigades in both the eastern and western theaters of the war [wikipedia entry for Winfield S. Featherston]

Some of the artifacts initially donated to the State Historical Museum were found to be better suited to the State Archives: a good example is the following manuscript found on Page 17:

Note Book of Rev. A. A. Lomax, Chaplain Sixteenth Mississippi Regiment Infantry, Army of


Picture of Reverend Alexander A. Lomax [The Baptist, Jackson, Miss., July 18, 1901]

Northern Virginia, 1864.” This item is now in the Archive holdings listed under catalog #Z/0772.000/SF. This notebook belonged to Reverend Alexander A. Lomax, and our online catalog describes it thus: “Diary and notebook of the Reverend Alexander A. Lomax, chaplain of the 16th Mississippi Regiment. The book includes a ‘catalog of officers and members of church, 16th Miss.,’ a list of sick and wounded in the regiment, a list of persons baptized by Lomax in 1863 and 1864.”

Originally a member of the 12th Mississippi Infantry, Lomax became chaplain of the 16th Mississippi Infantry in December 1863. He was known as the “fighting chaplain” for his habit of picking up a musket and fighting during the regiment’s battles. He explained his reason for fighting thus: “My place is on the firing line; for if any of my boys should be mortally wounded, I would be there to take a dying message to a loving mother, wife, sister or sweetheart; and if in the rear, the poor soldier might die before I could get to him.” []

Some of the artifacts listed in the catalog were very simple, but filled with meaning. One such item was listed simply: “This book was the property of Colonel M. Farrel, Fifteenth Mississippi who was killed at the Battle of Franklin…The book was a present from Lieutenant Robert L. Johnson, Company C, Fifteenth Mississippi.” 

Colonel Michael Farrell was an Irish immigrant who commanded the 15th Mississippi

15th Miss.

The Clarion-Ledger, May 19, 1870

Infantry; mortally wounded at the Battle of Franklin, he died on Christmas Day, 1864. He must have been much beloved by his men, as they campaigned after the war to have a monument built to his memory. I found the following written about Colonel Farrell in The Nashville American, November 13, 1905: “As to our lamented and brave Mike Farrell, too much cannot be said in his praise. As an officer you know his record, and as a true Southern patriot he fought and died for principle. He did not have a relative in the South, neither did he own one dollar’s worth of property. He was a very poor man, working at his trade – a brickmason – when the war began, and even the horse he rode and loved so dearly (Old Bullet) was a present to him from his command.”

Colonel Farrell never got his monument; today he rests in the Confederate cemetery at

Farrell Gravestone

Gravestone of Colonel Michael Farrell (

Franklin Tennessee, his only marker a small, square stone with the letters “Col. M.F.” chiseled into it. His small book, however, still exists in the collections of the Mississippi Museum of history as a small reminder of the gallant Colonel Farrell of the 15th Mississippi.

Some of the artifacts listed in this catalog belonged to people I have already written about: a good example is found on Page 36: “The Historical Relics on the two middle shelves are preserved in the Mississippi State Museum in memory of Captain T. Otis Baker of Natchez, Mississippi, Captain of Company B. Tenth Mississippi Regiment of Infantry, C.S.A.” I wrote about T. Otis Baker back in July 2011, and that article can be found here: I highly recommend reading this article, although I must say I am a bit biased; but still it’s a very interesting story about a young soldier who grew up on the battlefields of the Civil War. I am also very happy to say that T. Otis Baker’s Uniform and equipment have a honored spot in the new Museum of Mississippi History.


Uniform of Captain T. Otis Baker in the new Museum of Mississippi History (Photo by Author)

Some items in the catalog are reminders of the famous ships used in the war; such as this artifact found on Page 38: “Brass spike from the ‘Star of the West,’ vessel which was sunk in the Tallahatchie River to prevent Grant’s army’s reaching Vicksburg 1863. Same vessel which drove the United States forces from the harbor of Charleston in 1861. Had been captured by the Confederates.”

Star of the West.PNG

Illustration of the Star of the West from Harper’s Weekly, January 19, 1861.

For years after she was sunk, the wreck of the Star of the West was visible when the Tallahatchie River was low. In 1870 a newspaper said of the wreck:

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

Star of the West Wreck

Illustration depicting the wreck of the Star of the West (Battles & Leaders, Volume 3)

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. [Tri-Weekly Clarion, January 1, 1870]

Some of the items donated to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History were rather…esoteric, such as this item from Page 40 of the catalog:

This tobacco is 60 years old. It was brought home by John McDonnell of Cowan’s Battery

John McDonnell Picture

Post-war picture of John McDonnell (Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 13, page 322)

at the close of the Civil War. Preserved by Mrs. Elizabeth McDonnell and presented December 15, 1910.” A Jackson newspaper actually wrote an article about this donation to the museum, saying, “The tobacco is of the home-made plug, and is in an excellent state of of preservation. It is 45 years old, and still retains much of its strength.” [Jackson Daily News, December 6, 1910]

Fortunately for posterity, John McDonnell’s wife left the museum a few other artifacts related to his service in the Civil War:

“Confederate coat, Knapsack and saddle bags of John McDonnell of Cowan’s Battery…Preserved by Mrs. Elizabeth McDonnell and presented December 15, 1910.”

I am not certain about the tobacco, but I am happy to report that John McDonnell’s Uniform coat is on display in the new museum.


John McDonnell’s Uniform Coat on Display in the Museum of Mississippi History (Photo by Author)

I thought I would close this article with an artifact from the catalog that has a very personal meaning to me. Found on Page 43 of the catalog is the following description:

A remnant of the Battle Flag of the ‘Bloody” Sixth Mississippi Regiment carried at the Battle of Shiloh and through many battles during the War for Southern independence. At the Battle of Shiloh, seven color bearers were killed and wounded while carrying the flag.”


Flag of the 6th Mississippi Infantry, on display in the Museum of Mississippi History. (Photo by Author)

I get a little thrill every time I see these scraps of flag, still in the same apothecary jar it was in when donated to the museum. The reason is simple, it’s the call of blood and kinship; my G-G Grandfather, Littleton H. Johnson, and his half-brother, William H. Harper, both served in the 6th Mississippi, and would have seen this restless symbol of the Confederacy defiantly waving in the breeze.

There are thousands of artifacts on display in the Museum of Mississippi History, and I am sure that many of them will speak to you the way that the flag of the 6th Mississippi Infantry speaks to me. I encourage everyone that has an appreciation for Mississippi History to go see the new museum – you won’t be disappointed!

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I Have Got A Heap of Children: Jane Boykin’s Letter to Governor Robert Lowry

Two years ago I wrote an article about Jane Boykin, a widow from Smith County, Mississippi, who had eight sons that served in the Confederate army. Thanks to blind luck, I have a little additional information to add to that story. If you haven’t read the original story, it can be found here:

A few weeks ago while in the course of my official duties at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, I was doing some research in the index to the official correspondence of Governor Robert Lowry. As I looked through the column of names, I

Robert Lowry

Photo of Governor Robert Lowry (Jackson Daily News, January 20, 1910)

spotted one that looked familiar: “Jane Boykin.” My curiosity was aroused, and I wondered if this was the same Jane Boykin I had written about. I looked up the letter, and sure enough, it was her. The following document is from the Robert Lowry correspondence at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History:

Shongelo, Smith Co., May 17, 1886

Mr. Robert Lowry,

Dear friend

I will drop you a few lines to let you know that I am still a live and enjoying good health as could be expected of a woman of my age, the last time I saw you was in time of the war about 23 years ago. I will be 74 years old the 21 of August if I live to see then, and I thought I would wright to you about my family. I have raised ten boys and thare was eight of them in the war and are all a live yet except one that got drownded. I raised 13 children and they all alive yet except that one.

My family now numbers one hundred and ninety nine which is children and son in-laws and daughter in-laws and grand children and great grand children. I think you aught to make me a valuable presant or give me a pention for I don’t think thare is another woman in the state that can say as much as I can of the increase of my family. I have ben left a widow 25 years. You may not remember me by my name above. I am Jim and Jasper Boykin’s mother and Old Brance Royal’s sister, Frank Boykin’s widow. I have got a heap of children but I am two high minded to go to them for anything.

Govener if you make me a present of a mule and buggy don’t send a gray mule for I never new a gray mule to dye. I hope to hear from you soon. The reason I asked help from you is because you have the power and are able to help me. I hope you will live the life of the righteous and die the death of the same.

Jane Boykin

Shongelo P.O., Smith Co., Miss.

[Series 812, Box 1044, Folder May 1-31, 1886, MDAH]

In her letter Jane Boykin mentioned that she had last seen Governor Lowry “about 23 years ago.” She may have been 73 years old, but Jane Boykin’s memory was still sharp. Lowry had been in Smith County in the spring of 1864, but then he was General Lowry, and he was in command of an expedition to root out the deserters that were infesting south Mississippi like a plague.

1860 Map of Smith County

1860 Map of Mississippi showing Smith County (

I can only imagine how difficult life must have been for Jane Boykin by the spring of 1864; her husband was dead, her adult sons were away in the army, and she still had 4 small children to support. To make matters even worse, conditions in Smith County, Mississippi that spring could only be described as unsettled. On February 8, 1864, W.H.

Captain William H. Hardy

Post-War Picture of Captain William H. Hardy (Newton Record, May 17, 2000)

Hardy, a retired captain who had served in the 16th Mississippi Infantry,  wrote to Governor Charles Clark from Raleigh to inform him of the situation in Smith County. The captain blamed many of the county’s problems on deserters from neighboring Jones County:

They are in strong force supposed to be about 2 or 300 in Jones County and the smaller bandits through the country have combined with these and confederates for mutual protection and depredation they have become quite bold and in some sections of the country have so intimidated the people that to save themselves and their property from depredation and pillage they are beginning to give them aid and comfort, and I perceive now a spirit of this kind beginning to pervade the people to such an extent that almost every man now is afraid to say anything against the deserters for fear of some private injury and unless it is checked all law and order will soon be suspended and every loyal man driven out of the county. 

There is now in this town a respectable citizen who was driven from Jones County all his property destroyed because he was a true and loyal citizen. Last week the Rev. Mr. Carlile a Baptist minister in the south western part of Jasper Co. was brutally murdered in his house by them. The Rev. Nelson West was yesterday with his family given notice to quit the county or that he shall suffer the fate of Mr. Carlile. On last week a band of them sacked several houses at Trenton of all the arms and ammunition and subsequently whipped a small band of cavalry belonging to Capt. McLean’s Co. who had been sent in pursuit. 

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 4, Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Hardy was not the only citizen of Smith County to write to the governor asking for help; in March W.H. Quarles sent this plea to Clark:

Macon, Miss., 28th March 1864


                     I desire to inform you of the bad state of affairs in our (Smith) County. The cty. is infested with deserters of the worst class. Peacible citizens are driven from their homes. Our sheriff a refugee. 

A few days ago I was ambushed near my plantation and shot. Union or peace meetings are boldly held and union speeches made – No man’s life is safe who deems to speak out against them. In the name of our citizens and myself I appeal to you for assistance to drive them out of our county. 

I am sir with great respect,

Your Obedient Servant,

Wm. H. Quarles

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 5, Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Quarles’ letter had been forwarded to Governor Clark by Major D.V. Merwin, who was


Order from the Mississippi Bureau of Conscription regarding the arrest of deserters. The breakdown of law and order in Smith County made these orders almost impossible to enforce. (The Daily Clarion, September 9, 1864)

with the Bureau of Conscription and was operating in Smith County. The Major included this brief message to the governor giving his thoughts on the situation in Smith County:

Bureau of Conscription

Department of Mississippi

Enterprise, March 19, 1864


                Mr. W. H. Quarles a gentleman from Smith County will represent to you the condition of affairs in this county, it being infested with deserters of the worst character, and will ask for some assistance from the governor. I have but a small force of cavalry and but partially equipped, and can render no assistance for the reason that this immediate neighborhood is in a like condition, and the force here will be kept busily engaged; In this unfortunate condition of the county it is highly necessary that a force be sent, to clear the county that is so much harrased by this class of community.

I am Colonel very respectfully

Your Obt. Svt.,

D.V. Merwin, Maj. & A.A.G.

Command  Conscripts Smith Co., Miss.

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 4, Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Governor Clark was not the only one receiving complaints about the problem with


Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk

deserters in Smith County; Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, the department commander, had been informed as well, and he felt decisive action was needed. The general had his assistant adjutant general, T.M. Jack, send Major General Dabney H. Maury the following orders:

GENERAL: Information from other sources confirms the statement in the dispatch of Colonel Maury as to the extent of the defection in the southern counties of Mississippi. The lieutenant-general commanding is of the opinion that an infantry force is indispensable so far as Smith County is concerned.  He has accordingly organized such a force, which will leave here to-morrow for Meridian, under Colonel Lowry, one of the oldest colonels in the army, and an officer of vigor and decision. He will go to Smith County to commence operations. 

[Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3, Page 661]

That same day, Colonel Lowry received his written orders from General Polk’s headquarters at Demopolis, Alabama:


HEADQUARTERS, Demopolis, Ala., March 20, 1864

I. Colonel Lowry, Sixth Mississippi Regiment, will take charge of the expedition against deserters and disloyal men between Pearl River and Tombigbee, south of the Southern Railroad. he will proceed without delay by cars to Meridian, with the command organized for that purpose, and execute with vigor the verbal instructions already received from the lieutenant-general commanding.

By command of Lieutenant-General Polk:

T.M. Jack, Assistant Adjutant General

[Official Records, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3, Page 662]

Accompanying Colonel Lowry and his two regiments of infantry (6th Mississippi & 20th Mississippi) on the expedition was a small cavalry force under the command of Colonel J.S. Scott. His orders from General Polk were very explicit:

What has been said to Colonel Lowry is repeated to you, that in the prosecution of this


Notice of the execution of two deserters at Meridian (The Daily Clarion, June 25, 1864)

campaign you are allowed to exercise a sound discretion in the execution of its details. You will nevertheless bear in mind that the country which is the theater of this campaign has been sadly demoralized and none other than the most vigorous and decisive measures will serve to impress its inhabitants with a sense of their duties to their Government and to bring it back to a sound and healthful moral condition. You will keep a list of all captures, and if in the execution of your orders you are resisted by force of arms you will not hesitate to punish the offender with death upon the spot.

[Official Records, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3, Page 820]

In April 1864, the editor of the Macon Beacon received a letter from an unidentified member of the 20th Mississippi Infantry, giving a detailed description of the work done by the Lowry expedition in Smith County. This letter was published in full by the newspaper:

From the Noxubee Riflemen

Enterprise Miss.

April 8th, 1864

Mr. Beacon

                        Prayers have been answered, and the piney woods of dear, old Mississippi now resound to the music of our footsteps, instead of the “sloshy” limestone of ‘ye Mississippi loving Alabam.’ This touches a much talked of subject, so pardon just one moment; while at Demopolis, a Mississippi soldier went to a house, engaged breakfast, ate it, and then enquired his bill; the reply was, ‘Nothing sir, but never come here again.’ Another soldier from our state went up to the entrance of a spacious mansion and asked ‘if the dogs would bite?’ ‘No sir, they are like the people of Mississippi, they don’t care for soldiers.’ And the reply to a similar question from another Mississippian was, ‘No sir, they are like Mississippi soldiers, there is no danger in them.’

All this had its origin in Polk’s retreat from Canton, augmented by the Mobile Register’s remarks upon that retreat and the Jones County deserters. It is unjust to a people to judge them by isolated examples of its members, for what would become of the honorable name conferred upon Alabama by her glorious 4th Reg’t at the first Manassas, should the unpleasant order of Baker’s Creek be inhaled too freely? But enough. I am surprised at this Mobile Journal, as the editor says his remarks were intended for those only who fell off like ‘autumn leaves,’ and was not intended to reflect upon those who stood by their flag in that severest of all ordeals, a long retreat, for his remarks could only reach those who did not desert, as they who took the woods, had no opportunities of reading or profiting by his sarcasm. We soldiers think it a shallow excuse for an unjust calumny.

On the 22 ult., the 20th and 6th Mississippi Regiments, under command of Col. Robt. Lowry of the 6th, were formed into a detachment, and sent back here for the purpose of breaking up the nests of deserters known to exist in Smith, Jones and adjoining counties. We reached Raleigh in Smith County on the 29th March. Head Quarters were established there, and detachments sent out in various directions for the purpose of gobbling up all stray cattle of the C.S. army, deserters, tories, bushwackers, paroled (Vicksburg) prisoners, conscripts, furloughed men overstaying their time, and all other shirkers.

The 6th charged a church about five miles from town and caught ten or fifteen. I cannot

Massey Deserters

List of Deserters from the 20th Mississippi Infantry. It was men like this that Lowry’s Expedition was attempting to root out of Smith County (Macon Beacon, October 7, 1863)

describe the scene among the softer sex as I did not participate, but from what I have heard, it was rich, and worthy of the region. On the same day, Sunday 29th, the day of our arrival, Major C.K. Massey, of the 20th, with four or five men caught three deserters and tories; but one of their prisoners effected his escape by slipping through a noose peculiarly adopted for ‘hard cases.’ The man’s name was Rains, and had been noted for his activity in encouraging desertion.

The Major appears to be unlucky in this respect, as he caught several more a few days afterwards, and again allowed one of them to escape; and strangely enough in the very same manner in which Rains got off and that seems stranger still this second man whose name was McNeill, slipped through a noose in the very same rope used by rains to effect his escape. McNeill is represented to have been a very bad man; he deserted just after the battle of Corinth and had been lying out ever since, and by some is said to have been one of the party of desperadoes who went to Paulding in Jasper County not long since and stole the Government property left there. A ‘roll book’ containing a great many names was found on his person, supposed to have constituted that batch of tories known as ‘McNeill’s Battalion.’

Col. Brown, of the 20th, captured a large gang including the notorious Hawkins of ‘Illinois corn’ fame; this man Hawkins has four sons, deserters, who managed to elude us; they are a bad family, and the true citizens regret that he was not Massey-cred as soon as arrested. Hawkins is the man who went to St. Louis, Illinois and other places in the North at the beginning of the war for the purpose of procuring corn for the starving people of his district; the result of that agency kept him quiet until Sherman made his grand raid into the state, when thinking the state was lost beyond doubt, he showed the cloven foot, spoke to Union meetings, advocated ‘no meddling with private property, but fight the rebel soldiers like the devil,’ and was known and feared as an uncompromising Unionist. With him was


A Poor Harvest in 1861 left many Mississippians in a Nearly Starving Condition – Benjamin Hawkins of Smith County went North to seek aid for his fellow citizens (Daily Nashville Patriot, March 12, 1861)

captured a badly gotten up Union Flag; it is made of coarse, white cotton cloth, upon which is worked in spotted calico, the shape of an eagle, surrounded by thirty-seven blue stars, with the letters U.S.A. in flaming blue capitals below the eagle. This flag was taken from around the body of Hawkins’ wife, who said ‘she would rather die than surrender it:’ but came the flag, which now floats its dishonoring folds in front of Head Quarters – an emblem of treason and desertion. A copy of Helpers Impending Crisis was also found at his house, with another abolition pamphlet. Hawkins is a native of North Caroline; his case was tried before a military court, and turned over to civil authorities.

Some of the men arrested were soldiers paroled at Vicksburg and were impressed with the belief that they were not exchanged; these men are sent to parole camps or to their respective command, and will make as good soldiers as we have. But the large majority were ‘hard nuts,’ and I would respectfully suggest to our authorities that they send all these whom they do not shoot, to the Virginia army, as they will never do to make trusty soldiers in this Department.

Our ‘bull-ring’ would present a curious study for the phrenologist; every conceivable variety of a ‘frontispiece’ is there presented; the snotty-nosed ‘babe’ of ‘just eighteen next fall,’ the blear-eyed dirty bushwhacker, and the veritable piney-woods ‘stump-shakers;’ our frame is frequently sent with pictures of Smith County femininity, who come to bring their traitorous relatives grub and clean shirts; and these same pictures are the primary causes of so much desertion. We have caught eight or ten men who had been married but a few days; some were dragged from the nuptial couch, and substituted for ‘coral lips’ and ‘silken tresses,’ the smutty face and wrinkled locks of some fellow-deserter who had ‘gone up before.’

Altogether this is a wild, exciting service, and although arduous in the extreme, the boys like it exceedingly and strive to excel in the business. There are many true, patriotic citizens in Smith County, but the mean ones are in the majority. You would be surprised to see the number of men in the out-of-the-way county who are not in the army – some never have been conscripted, and with no exemption papers either. Up to last Monday of _____ week from the date of our arrival, we had arrested 217 men, and out of the number retained in custody about 150, 76 were sent here day before yesterday under guard and that is why I write from Enterprise. We will doubtless start for Raleigh tomorrow, and I doubt not will have a second cargo await transportation.

Col. Lowry is managing matters finely, and I assure you his is no enviable ‘posish.’ If we are permitted to remain long in that section of country, I am confident that the death blow to desertion and toryism will be dealt with a heavy hand by Col. L. The citizens fear that we will leave them too soon, and that after we are gone the deserters will be more audacious than ever; but time shall we ask to wipe out these bloches on the fair name of our state, and when that is done we hope to be transferred to some honorable duty, for this is the most degrading of duties to a volunteer Southern soldier. I will keep you posted if I can. Our advance into Jones may be more exciting.

By the way we had forgotten to mention that on _____day, Lt. Evans, of the 6th, was [wounded] by a man in ambush. Lt. Evans was wounded through both thighs and two other men were struck, one _____ the body, the other in the ankle. The bushwhacker used a double barrel shot gun and got off safely.


[Macon Beacon, April 20, 1864]

Colonel Lowry’s raid into Smith County may have settled things for a time, but all too soon the troops left – they were going to be needed on many a bloody battlefield in Georgia. I doubt the situation for Jane Boykin and hundreds of others like her in Smith County improved substantially until the war ended. And one question remains to be answered – did Mrs. Boykin ever get that mule from Governor Lowry?


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A Most Universally Admired And Esteemed Character: The Life of Thomas E. Lewis of Vicksburg

In my youth, I was fortunate enough to work for nine years at the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. During those years I met with thousands of tourists from all over the world, and was asked one question more than any other; “Where are the caves?” I knew exactly what caves they were referring to: the caves dug by the inhabitants of Vicksburg during the 1863 siege to protect themselves from the devastating Union bombardment of the city.

I had to reluctantly inform them that almost all of the caves were gone – lost to time, the elements, and to progress in the form of bulldozers and earth moving equipment. The one surviving cave that I knew of was on private property and not open to the general public. Tourists were always disappointed to find out they couldn’t visit an authentic Civil War cave – but I did the next best thing and showed them a picture of a cave, usually this one:


Photo of Tom Lewis standing at the entrance of a Vicksburg cave (Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi, October 29, 2001)

Although taken long after the war, the photo above is probably the best surviving image of a Vicksburg siege cave. It was taken in the early 1900’s and shows Thomas E. Lewis standing at the entrance to the cave that he and his family sheltered in during the siege of Vicksburg. The photo is very well known, and has been published in many books about the Civil War. I have seen this photo literally hundreds of times, but up until very recently, never gave much thought to Mr. Lewis; after all, the real star of the image is the cave itself. I decided to look into the background of Tom Lewis, to try and find out who this man was; and in the process found a very interesting story.

Lewis Cave 2

The Lewis Family Cave was Located Behind This Home on East Grove Street in Vicksburg. Unfortunately no trace of it has survived to the present day. (Photo Courtesy of Tommy Presson)

Thomas E. Lewis was born about 1849 in Vicksburg; in the 1860 U.S. Census, he was listed

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Cotton Press patented by Lewis Lewis in 1852 (Google Patents)

as living with his parents, Lewis and Emily Lewis, and brothers Henry, Nicholas, and Prentiss. His father, Lewis Lewis, was born in Pennsylvania, and made a very comfortable living as a mechanic. (1860 U.S. Census, Warren County, Mississippi) Lewis was also an inventor, and patented an “Improvement in Cotton Presses” in 1852. (United States Patent Office, Patent #8774, dated March 2, 1852)

I did a good bit of research on Tom Lewis, and scoured the Vicksburg newspapers for information about him and his family. I found numerous articles about his activities after the war, but precious few that spoke of his experiences during the conflict. From the Vicksburg newspaper I did discover that the family residence was located on east Grove street. (The Vicksburg American, December 30, 1905)

I did find one brief mention of Mr. Lewis’ wartime experiences in The Vicksburg Herald, March 17, 1901:

Mr. Thomas E. Lewis, after whom Cave Lewis was appropriately named, knows more than anybody not actively engaged in the siege of Vicksburg about the battle fields around the city. Mr. Lewis was not big enough then to carry a gun, but he did what he could towards helping the defenders of the besieged city; he carried water for the soldiers and many a thirsty man was satisfied by the bare footed boy now known as Tom Lewis…

That one brief paragraph is all that I have been able to find that speaks directly to Tom Lewis’ wartime experiences; fortunately his post-war life is much better documented.

In the late 1860’s, Tom Lewis went to work at the shoe store of P.H. Gilbert on

Max Kuner Vicksburg

1866 Illustration of Washington Street in Vicksburg (Harper’s Weekly, June 1866)

Washington Street in Vicksburg. Tom worked at the shop until 1884, when he partnered with his brother Prentiss and opened his own shoe shop. The Vicksburg Evening Post gave the new business some free advertising saying that

Mr. Tom Lewis will have personal charge and management of the store, and that he is thoroughly qualified to conduct the shoe business, may be inferred fro the fact that he has been with Mr. P.H. Gilbert, in his large shoe establishment (the celebrated Parlor Shoe Store on Washington Street) for the last sixteen years. (The Vicksburg Evening Post, April 21, 1884)



Advertisement for the Lewis Brothers Shoe Store, The Vicksburg Herald, January 17, 1885

The Lewis Brothers Shoe Store prospered, and in time Tom followed in his father’s footsteps and became an inventor. On September 8, 1896, The Vicksburg Evening Post noted that

Mr. T.E. Lewis, left for Chicago by this morning’s 8:15 train to confer with the manufacturers of his latest patent, one of the most original and perfect contrivances for shoe dealers. The improvement consists in a small contrivance for exhibiting any kind of shoe in its original package. It is so arranged that it fits any kind of a box or shoe, and is regarded by shoe dealers as a most valuable invention.

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Patent Illustration showing Tom Lewis’ invention to display shoes (Google Patents, Patent #575897, dated January 26, 1897)

On December 27, 1894, the United States Congress established Shiloh National Military Park, and this action spurred local citizens and veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies that had fought at Vicksburg to lobby for the creation of a national park in the Hill City. One citizen took it upon himself to become a vocal advocate for the creation of a military park at Vicksburg; none other than Mr. Tom Lewis. On March 21, 1900, The Vicksburg Evening Post ran an article about the arrival in Vicksburg of Mr. H. B. Pierce of Rock Rapids Iowa. The paper explained that

Mr. Pierce was here in 1895, and took great interest in the movement inaugurated by Messrs. Lewis and Cashman for marking the lines and forts of the opposing armies during the  great siege, and which was the forerunner of the Park movement which now promises to be such a great success. It so happened that in the early part of 1895 Mr. Lewis escorted Mr. Pierce to portions of the old lines, and found some difficulty in locating positions with which he (Mr. Lewis) thought he was familiar. The action of the elements, the natural growth, and other causes made it difficult to recall the points of interest, and upon Mr. Lewis’s return to the city he visited the editor of the EVENING POST to discuss some method by which the old breastworks, forts, etc., could be kept from obliteration. 

Then it was that Mr. Cashman suggested a petition to Congress, and wrote one, which he and Mr. Lewis submitted to Congressman Catchings who was then in the city, and secured his promise of hearty effort to secure an appropriation for the desired work. A copy of the petition was sent to Mr. Pierce at his Iowa home, and he was very active in advancing it. Another copy was circulated in Vicksburg during the session of the great Farmers Institute in February 1895, when Gov. Hoard, Capt. Merry and other distinguished Northern ex-soldiers were here, and when Capt. Merry and others of the visitors signed the petition, and soon after set on foot the grand movement for the establishment of the National Military Park here. 

The lobbying effort by Tom Lewis and many others was ultimately successful, and


Representative Thomas C. Catchings of Mississippi (Wikipedia Entry on Catchings)

legislation to establish the park was introduced by Representative Thomas C. Catchings of Mississippi and after many fits and starts, the bill was passed into law on February 21, 1899, when it was signed by President William McKinley. (An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign & National Military Park by Jeff Giambrone, page 151)

A few months after the park legislation passed, Tom Lewis wrote an article for The Vicksburg Herald simply entitled “NATIONAL MILITARY PARK.” In this article Lewis continued his efforts to promote the battlefield, saying

The site of our National Park was rendered by nature a peculiarly suitable scene of contest for contending armies…As in time of conflict, so nature today clearly outlines the site of what will be one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Even now the scenery stretches out in grandeur, only needing a touch here and there from the hand of man. I have heard many tourists exclaim, ‘This is as grand a view as I have ever seen anywhere.’ What will they say when the park is finished?

Lewis closed his missive with an invitation to attend the opening of the military park:

In visiting these restored locations of the positions held by soldiers, do not be surprised if you find you can stand on some one of them and toss a pebble over into the opposite one, from either side, Yank or Reb. On the day of dedication, when Old Glory will run up and down her staff, signalling a united country; inviting all to come and see the spot where bravery and endurance met and fought, and to hear the tale told of victory won by Blue and deeds done by Gray; Gray and Blue both one under her sheltering folds, I know I, for one, will be glad to be there. (The Vicksburg Herald, May 7, 1899)

The Vicksburg National Military Park worked exactly as the city father’s had hoped,

Lewis Cave MDAH

Colorized Real Photo Postcard of Tom Lewis Standing in Front of His Family’s Cave (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Cooper Poscard Collection)

bringing visitors to the city from all across the United States. In addition to touring the military park, many of these visitors wanted to see one of the caves where the civilian population had lived during the siege. Fortunately, there was one that was in good enough condition for viewing: the Lewis family cave on the grounds of Mr. Tom Lewis’ home. On April 10, 1900, The Vicksburg Evening Post noted: “CAVE LEWIS, on Grove Street, a relic of the late Civil War, is one of the principal attention [attractions] to visitors to this city. It is reached by the Clay Street car line.”

In May 1900, the United Daughters of the Confederacy held their annual state convention in Vicksburg. As part of the festivities, a flag raising ceremony was held at the Lewis Cave. This event was considered so important that the Vicksburg city schools gave their students a half day off so that they could attend the ceremony. (The Vicksburg Evening Post, April 30, 1900; The Clarion-Ledger, May 1, 1900)

The Lewis Cave was very popular, but the throngs of visitors touring the site may have caused it to weaken. The June 11, 1901 edition of The Vicksburg Herald wrote an article with the bold headline ‘CAVE LEWIS NEEDS REPAIRS.’ It went on to say

It has been about a year since Mr. T.E. Lewis with the assistance of a number of public spirited citizens began the work of restoring to something like its former appearance the war time cave wherein the family of Mr. Lewis sought refuge during the siege. Mr. Lewis states that the tunnel like entrance to the cave is in need of strengthening and repairing as well as other parts, and as it is visited almost every day by strangers as well as residents of the city, considerable work is necessary in order to preserve it intact. There is no fund upon which to draw except what those citizens who are interested and kindly disposed are willing to contribute to its upkeep. Mr. Lewis states that he will take charge of any and all subscriptions for this purpose and will personally superintend such repairs as are necessary. He will be glad to hear from or call on any who may notify him, to receive contributions for the repair fund.

As time when on, Tom Lewis found his services as a tour guide to the Vicksburg National Park to be in high demand. In its January 3, 1903 edition, The Vicksburg American noted:

The National Park is fast coming into prominence and Northern tourists who come to this city nearly all want to go over the lines. Mr. Tom Lewis has acted as escort for a dozen or more parties, who drove over the lines in vehicles during the past week or two. 

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A Visitor to the Vicksburg National Military Park Touring the Battlefield in the Early 1900s. (Series 573, Vicksburg National Military Park Photographs, Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Tome Lewis guided more than just individuals or families around the military park; at times he took on the considerable job of escorting entire groups. In May 1903 he had to arrange 20 teams of horses to convey Colonel J.H. McDowell and a group of Tennessee Civil War veterans around the Vicksburg battlefield. (The Vicksburg American, May 23, 1903)

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Tourists in the Vicksburg National Military Park (Series 573, Vicksburg National Military Park Photographs, Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Tom Lewis’s relationship with the Vicksburg National Military Park had been a private one up until 1906, when he was appointed the Park’s first marshal. The Vicksburg Evening Post made the announcement in its December 27, 1905, edition:

Mr. T.E. Lewis for the last several years, the only official guide to points in the Vicksburg National Military Park, has been appointed U.S. Marshal for the entire inclosure and reservation of the Park, taking effect January 1, 1906. The requirements of the appointment are that he is to visit twice each week, every monument, slab and marker. The appointment is a fitting one, and is appreciated by the citizens of Vicksburg and especially by the many personal friends of Mr. Lewis. It was made on the recommendation of the Park Commission.

The next day The Vicksburg American had a follow-up article, laying out Tom Lewis’ duties as Park Marshal:

As Park Guardian of the National Park, Mr. Tom Lewis will be expected to also do detective work, where any depredations may occur, and to bring any guilty parties to justice. It is to be hoped that no one will ever deface any of the park monuments, but in this event, Mr. Lewis will have to do a little Sherlock Holmes work, and endeavor to run down the guilty ones. He will very likely be given police powers. (The Vicksburg American, December 28, 1905)

On January 8, 1906 The Vicksburg American ran another article entitled, “Park Guardian Lewis on Duty,” and gave some additional information about the work he was doing in the military park:

Park Guardian Tom Lewis, a well known citizen, who was appointed to watch over and care for The Vicksburg National Military Park, commencing his duties on the first of the month, has been busy since his taking the office visiting all of the monuments and markers in the park, and making book memorandums, so that he will have a handy reference. Mr. Lewis stated today that in all of his rounds of the park thus far, he has not found the least disfigurement or derangement of any of the monuments which is an indication that the souvenir hunters have thus far not defaced any of them. 

The Pemberton monument in the National Cemetery, prior to its having been placed there,

Surrender Monument, MDAH

was chipped very badly, and it was feared that the souvenir cranks would do the same to some of the handsome memorials in the National Park, hence the appointment of a guardian. The Illinois monument is nearly completed, being a magnificent mausoleum, which will cost nearly two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. With many others to be equally as valuable, it will be readily seen that a park guardian is a timely office, created by the government under the suggestion of the park commission.

Just a few days later paper ran another article under the headline “Prominent Englishmen Invading The Park Today,” concerning Tom Lewis’ guiding of two foreign tourists through the military park. In this article it was noted that

Mr. Lewis was asked about the number of tourists that are coming this way, and says that they are steadily increasing, and he now carries two or three times as many visitors to see the park as he did some time back. With trains in and out of here as they are running, tourists may rest assured that it is well worth their while to spend an hour or so here and visit the park, and many who come south are taking advantage of this opportunity. It is now scheduled so that travelers can spend an hour or two here, a half day, or a day, and enjoy a drive in the park, and then continue their journey without stopping off here longer if they so desire. (The Vicksburg American, April 12, 1906)

As Park Marshal, Tom Lewis was responsible for all of the monuments in the Vicksburg National Military Park, but without a doubt the most visually impressive was the Illinois monument. Completed in 1906 at a cost of $194,423.92, it’s design was inspired by the Roman Pantheon, and it was made of Georgia white marble. (

When the Illinois Memorial was completed in October 1906, The Vicksburg American noted, “Park Marshal Tom Lewis was given charge of the monument, and will keep it open that visitors may see it during the present week, until time for the dedication. (The Vicksburg American, October 22, 1906)

Illinois Monument Dedication, MDAH.jpg

(Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH)

With more and more visitors coming to the park, Tom Lewis had his work cut out for him in trying to protect all of the monuments and signage from damage. In its June 28, 1907 edition, The Vicksburg Herald noted a problem with the Iowa Memorial:

Captain W.T. Rigby, chairman of the National Park Commission, earnestly requests all people who visit the National Park to refrain from eating lunches in or around the monuments. There is nothing as injurious to marble or granite as grease and this is the reason for the request. It has been discovered that some persons have been eating lunches within the Iowa state memorial. As a result this beautiful structure is stained with grease and an unsightly appearance is presented…Yesterday a representative of the Herald, in company with Park Marshal Thomas Lewis, visited the Iowa monument and saw the damage that had been done by the grease. 

Iowa State Memorial, MDAH.jpg

(Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH)

Tom Lewis was such a fixture in the Vicksburg National Military Park that many locals probably thought he would be there forever. Sadly, this was not the case, and on March 28, 1908, The Vicksburg American ran the following story under the headline “Necrological:”

The community was shocked to learn this morning of the death of Thos. E. Lewis, which sad event occurred in New Orleans last night where he had  been for the past two weeks in hopes of relief from his illness, but without avail…Mr. Lewis was a well known citizen of probity and industry and at the time of his death was a valued employee of the National Park Commission, he being the official guide of the park property. The remains of Mr. Lewis will arrive from New Orleans this evening when the funeral arrangements will probably be announced. Mr. Lewis was a member of the Methodist Church.

The Vicksburg Herald gave additional details about Tom Lewis’ funeral:

The funeral of Mr. Thomas E. Lewis will be held this morning from the residence of Hardy Jones, on East Avenue at 9:30 o’clock…Mr. Lewis was always a most interested worker in National Park affairs. In taking parties through the park, and to see ‘Cave Lewis,’ which is on part of his property on East Clay Street, he many times afforded much pleasure and instruction to visiting tourists. His death means the taking away of a most universally admired and esteemed character in the active life of Vicksburg. (The Vicksburg Herald, March 29, 1908)

After much research, I have been unable to find the location of Tom Lewis’ grave. He was probably buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, but at this point that is just speculation on my part. It’s a real shame that Tom Lewis, who dedicated years of his life to preserving the memory of the men who fought and died at Vicksburg lies in a forgotten grave. I can’t make any promises, but if I can find the location of his grave, and if it is indeed unmarked, I will do what I can to see that this “most universally admired and esteemed character” has his own memorial in Vicksburg.

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A Good Samaritan in Blue, Part II

In February 2017, I wrote an article for this blog entitled “A Good Samaritan in Blue,” which detailed the story of Edmond Talbot, a corporal in the 6th Mississippi Infantry who was wounded at the Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi, on May 1, 1863. Talbot credited his survival to the ministrations of an unknown Union soldier who gave him water and had him taken to a makeshift hospital at the nearby Magnolia Church. My original post can be found here:


Post Civil War photograph of the Magnolia Church near Port Gibson (Clarion-Ledger, March 9, 1980)

I recommend reading Edmond Talbot’s story before continuing on with this one.

Edmond Talbot wrote to the Atlanta Constitution  in 1891 hoping to identify his benefactor, stating: “I was too badly wounded to take any note as to the features of this friend, and as a result have no idea as to his general appearance, but think he was a non-commissioned officer, and belonged to the infantry.”(Atlanta Constitution, November 1, 1891)

At the time my post about Talbot was written, I had no idea who the Yankee was that ministered to a Rebel soldier  during the Battle of Port Gibson. Thanks however to the modern miracle of digitized newspapers, I can now give you the rest of the story. I found the following letter printed in the Atlanta Constitution, March 21, 1892:

A Friend In Blue

Cascade, Ia., February 11th – Editor Constitution: In The Daily Times of Dubuque, Iowa, of February 3rd instant, I read an article headed “A Friend in Blue.” I found that the article contained an ardent desire of a confederate soldier to find a yankee soldier who showed him kindness after the battle at Port Gibson, Miss. 

The soldier states that he was wounded in the right lung, and was a member of the Sixth Mississippi Infantry “Company E.” I desire to state that after the battle I heard a deep moaning in a ravine, after listening and locating the sound; I searched  in a small grove, and found a confederate soldier, a young man badly wounded, apparently in dying circumstances. I raised him up and if I remember correctly, I carried him a piece towards the church on the hill, if not all the way. I have some recollection of going for help, but do not remember the details at this late day, but I do well remember getting a confederate soldier from the field up to the church for treatment.

I have often wondered if the poor fellow lived; and if so, I have a strong desire to find him. And having the impression that this is the soldier that it was my great pleasure to help on that sad occasion, I am very anxious to be put in direct communication with him. His name and address were not given in the article. I may also state my name and address, “James Hill, Baptist minister, Cascade, Dubuque County, Iowa.”

At the time of the Port Gibson battle I was first lieutenant of Company “I,” Twenty-First Iowa Infantry volunteers. Hoping to hear from you soon, either by letter or paper.

Yours very respectfully,


I did a little digging into Civil War service of James Hill, and was astounded to find that


Wartime photo of Lieutenant James Hill (

he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1893 for his actions at the battle of Champion Hill, Mississippi, May 16, 1863. I quickly pulled out my copy of Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor, and there I found, in Hills’ own words, what he did at Champion Hill that earned him the nation’s highest award for gallantry in combat:

On the 16th of May, 1863, while acting as quartermaster of my regiment, I was ordered by my commander, Colonel Samuel Merrill, to select as many soldiers as I needed, and return in the direction of the Raymond and Jackson Cross Roads to forage and collect anything that would serve the regiment on our march to the Big Black River and Vicksburg. I selected a sufficient number of good men, and sent them out to cover part of the country, giving them orders to report to me at Raymond and Jackson Cross Roads with what forage they had gathered in, preparatory to our return to the regiment.

After getting my men off on their mission, I took a pony belonging to the regiment and rode through some timber and brush in search of food, mules and horses. In following a path through the dense timber I unexpectedly rode right into the Confederate lines, and encountered three rebel pickets with their loaded rifles. I realized at once that I had gotten myself into a nasty position. Nevertheless, I did not lose my presence of mind, for as I emerged from the brush, I instantly and in the most natural manner, ordered the Johnnies to ‘ground arms!’ They obeyed. Then slightly turning my head, I addressed an imaginary guard in the brush, with a hasty order to ‘halt.’ 

The under growth and brush were so heavy that the Confederates were prevented from seeing through and thus discovering the deception. I next gave the command: ‘Ten paces to the front, eyes to the center.’ Seeing my revolver in my hand ready for instant use, the three men complied with my command. I further added that if any of them turned his head to right or left I would shoot him down in his tracks. I frequently gave the order to ‘halt’ to my imaginary guard, tending to frighten my prisoners into absolute obedience. This done, I deliberately dismounted and gathered up the three rifles, placed them against the neck of the pony, mounted, took the rifles under my arm and then gave the order to my prisoners: ‘Single file, march,’ and to my imaginary guard: ‘Forward, march.’


Illustration from the book Deeds of Valor, depicting the capture of three Confederate soldiers by Lieutenant James Hill.

I hurried toward the command at good speed. Before it began to dawn on my prisoners that I had fooled them, they found themselves within our lines. I turned them and their rifles over to Colonel Merrill who sent them to Major-General McClernand. When the prisoners saw that I had fooled them, their anger was vented in terms more strong than polite, one of them saying to me: ‘Lieutenant, you could never have taken us but for that devil of a body-guard we thought you had, from the way your kept halting them.'”

In today’s army, the capture of some enemy soldier’s would not earn a soldier the nation’s highest award for valor; but times were different in the 19th Century, and in that day and age Hill was widely hailed as a Civil War hero. When the old soldier passed away in 1899, his former comrade in arms, William D. Crooke, major of the 21st Iowa Infantry, had this to say about him:

I have constantly resisted the temptation to speak of individual acts of heroism. Where all were brave it seemed invidious to mention special cases, but during the battle of Champion Hill there occurred an incident so unique in character as to justify exceptional notice. I refer to the act of our beloved chaplain. He was then simply Lieut. James Hill, of Co. I, and Acting Quartermaster. Grant’s army was living on the country. Our last rations were issued at Bruinsburg, 17 days before, and were soon exhausted. The Commissariat was not yet in normal operation on the east side of the river. Cornmeal and bacon were plentiful on those Mississippi farms and in the woods, but required to be first found and then brought to camp…The duty of supplying food fell to the Quartermaster of the regiment, who, with a small force, would scour the country within safe distances, and usually with good success. Lieut. Hill was untiring in the performance of his duty, and could not restrain his energy or the pursuit of food and fodder even on the edge of a hard-fought battlefield. (The National Tribune, Washington, D.C., October 12, 1899.)

Sometime after the Vicksburg Campaign ended, Lieutenant James Hill felt the pull of a


Postwar picture of James Hill from the book Deeds of Valor

new call of duty, and became Chaplain of the 21st Iowa Infantry, a position he held until the end of the war. I found one interesting anecdote concerning his work as regimental chaplain, and interestingly enough, it was from the Findagrave listing of Major William D. Crooke – in his online obituary it was stated:

On August 28, 1864, in Louisiana, William was baptized by the regimental chaplain. Five months later, on January 23, 1865, he tendered his resignation on the ground that “my conviction of Christian duty will not permit me longer to use the sword for the redress of wrong.

The Reverend James Hill passed away on September 22, 1899, in Cascade, Iowa. He is buried in the Cascade Community Cemetery, and his grave has a modern brass grave marker alerting all that pass by that the man buried in this grave was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Hill Stone

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Feeding the Hungry: The Soldiers’ Lunch House of Jackson, Mississippi

Thousands of Mississippians served in the Confederate army from 1861 – 1865, and one very important source of support for these soldiers were the civilians at home. In particular, the ladies of Mississippi went to great lengths to make sure their menfolk had sufficient clothes, food, and medicine during the war.

Many military aid societies were formed during the Civil War by Mississippi women, but unfortunately documentation on the work done by these organizations is hard to come by. One such group that I have been able to document fairly well is the Ladies Military Aid Society of Jackson.

The Ladies Military Aid Society of Jackson was formed in 1861, and the earliest mention of them  I have found is an article from The Weekly Mississippian, September 4, 1861, in which the Aid Society of Jackson praised a group of ladies from Rankin County who made 142 garments for soldiers serving in the field.

In October 1861, the “colored people” of Jackson gave a ball at Concert Hall, with the

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Notice in The Weekly Mississippian, October 30, 1861, concerning the upcoming benefit ball in Jackson.

proceeds of the benefit to go to the Ladies Military Aid Society. The Weekly Mississippian noted in its October 30 issue that the ball “Was got up on a grand scale, invitations being responded to from Canton, Brandon, Clinton and other places. The price of admission was $1.50, and the Hall being filled to repletion with the ‘beauty and chivalry’ of our colored population, a considerable sum was cleared for the benefit of the Ladies Aid Society, or rather for the benefit of our volunteers.”

One of the guiding lights behind Ladies Military Aid Society was Isabelle “Belle” Knapp, the wife of Cyrus S. Knapp, a prominent Jackson dentist. Belle Knapp was vice-president of the Society, and her name is mentioned prominently in the newspaper articles and letters I have been able to find that document the work of the group.

In early 1862 the Ladies Aid Society took on the project of making uniforms for soldiers.


Requisition for Jeans wool given to the Ladies Military Aid Society by the State of Mississippi (

In February 1862, George A. Langford, Commissary Officer for the State of Mississippi, gave the group 898 1/2 yards of Jeans wool “to be made up in coats and pants for the use of our Miss. volunteers.” The bundle was signed for by “”Mrs. C.S. Knapp, Vice-President, Military Aid Society, Jackson, Miss.” (Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms 1861 – 1865, File of C.S. Knapp, accessed on, July 24, 2017). On March 5, 1862, Langford authorized a second donation to the society, giving them “2 bunches of knitting yarn.” Once again the supplies were signed for by “Mrs. C.S. Knapp.” (Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms 1861 – 1865, File of C.S. Knapp, accessed on, July 24, 2017).

In addition to making clothing for Mississippians, the society also extended their aid to Confederate soldiers from other states who were stationed in Mississippi. The February 7, 1863, edition of The Daily Southern Crisis had an article praising the Ladies Military Aid Society stating: “It will be seen that the ladies of Jackson have not been unmindful of the comfort of the Missourians, who, far from friends, and strangers in a strange land, are battling for the cause of truth and right.” The ladies had turns over to the Missourians 94 pairs of socks, and with them this letter, which was published in the article from The Daily Southern Crisis:

Captain Vankirk, A.Q.M. – Dear Sir: The Ladies Military Aid Society of Jackson, send you, for the use of your brave comrades, ninety four pairs of socks. We regret that we have so few, but hope they may be acceptable, and worn by your self-sacrificing soldiers, who have left friends and home to defend our beautiful valley. Ask them to accept them as a token of the great admiration which the daughters of Mississippi feel for the followers of the noble hero of the war, Sterling Price. Very truely the soldiers’ friend, Mrs. C.S. Knapp, Vice President M.A.S.

By the time 1863 rolled around, the Ladies Military Aid Society was ready to put into effect a plan to aid even more soldiers. On February 8, 1863, the group opened a “Soldiers Lunch House” in Jackson that both fed and quartered soldiers who were passing through the state’s capital city. In the March 9, 1863, edition of The Daily Southern Crisis, published a report by Belle Knapp detailing the work of the Lunch House in February 1863:

The soldier’s lunch house established by the Military Aid Society of Jackson, and supported by contributions from all parts of the State, has succeeded far beyond our expectations. Our expenses from the 8th to the 28th of February, were $325.25; amount of money contributed during that time $364; five hundred and ninety-five soldiers have been fed, and six hundred and sixty-nine lodged.

To operate such an expensive enterprise as the Soldier’s Lunch House, the Ladies Military Aid Society of Jackson enlisted the help of other aid societies from all over the state of Mississippi. In the March 25, 1863, edition of the Memphis Daily Appeal, Belle Knapp published the following letter, thanking the ladies of Natchez for their support of the Lunch House:

A Card of Thanks.

Mrs. L.C.W. Brown:

DEAR MADAM: Your letter, with one thousand dollars, contributed by the ladies of Natchez for the support of the Soldiers’ lunch house, was handed me this morning by Mr. Howe. Allow me, in behalf of the brave soldiers whose sufferings they nobly wish to alleviate, to thank the patriotic ladies of Natchez for their very liberal donation.

The Soldiers’ lunch house in this place was opened on the 8th of February last, and fed during that month 595 soldiers, and lodged 669. We have succeeded far beyond our expectations, and have the gratification of knowing that our streets are no longer crowded with hungry soldiers. The grateful soldiers bless the ladies of Mississippi, and go forth with fresh courage and renewed strength to meet our foes. Let me, in conclusion, assure them that the money shall be used as directed.

Yours, very respectfully,


Vice-President M.A.S.

Jackson, Miss., March 24, 1863

On April 22, 1863, The Memphis Daily Appeal published an article about the Lunch House, giving a detailed description of the work done by the facility:

Among the many efforts of the ladies of the South to contribute to the comfort of their brave defenders in the field, few, perhaps, have been more successful in accomplishing their original purpose than the enterprise of establishing a lunch house for the passing soldier at Jackson.

The association has quietly pursued its generous work, until after contributing to the comfort of thousands from every state in the Confederacy, it has become an institution favorably known in every corps that has had individual members detained in our city. Modestly pursuing the purpose of their organization the leading spirits in the good work have gone on with great energy and perseverance, until they have placed at the disposal of the soldier a home. True, it is plain and simple, still it is a retreat that has proven a benefit to thousands who would otherwise have suffered.

In this praiseworthy movement we are pleased to learn a number of ladies from all parts of the state have participated, and all of these can rest assured that every day their enterprise is filling its mission of relieving the distressed and toil-worn soldiers whose blessings upon the kindness and thoughtfulness of women are constantly ascending.

The Memphis Daily Appeal, February 11, 1863

Advertisement placed in the Memphis Daily Appeal, February 11, 1863, by Belle Knapp, seeking a cook for the Soldier’s Lunch House.

The monthly report recently published shows that the hearts of the noble women of the state are enlisted in the work they have undertaken. The institution, to the honor of its supporters be it said, is not a local one, any more than are the benefits it confers confined to the soldier from any particular locality. And so far as the latter is concerned we know a soldier of the Confederacy is always welcome.

We commend to the ladies at other important points in the state the example furnished by [the] ladies engaged in this work. There are [other] places where a few vigilant workers can accomplish the same beneficial results we have witnessed here. At Meridian, Grenada, Vicksburg, and elsewhere, we have seen our soldiery suffer, when they might, by similar efforts, have been relieved. Let the women reflect and act – the men will aid and assist. The burden will not fall upon the weaker sex alone.

We refer to the lunch house at Jackson, fully appreciating the good that has been accomplished by its establishment. And, because we believe it is accomplishing so much, we bespeak for the ladies connected with it every assistance that the charitable can possibly afford them. Of course its continued success depends upon the liberality of the public, and to this we would appeal. No matter how small the contribution, or what its nature, if of any value whatever, prudent managers will turn it to account. Nothing can come amiss. We hope the public will continue to respond to the call of the ladies, as heretofore, in order that there may be no intermission in their good works.

As the spring 1863 campaigning season started, thousands of Confederate soldiers passed through Jackson, and many of those soldiers found a hearty meal and a clean place to sleep at the Lunch House. In her report on the operations of the facility for March 1863, Belle Knapp reported:

We have fed in this month two thousand one-hundred and seventy-six (2176) travelling soldiers. Lodged one thousand three hundred and ten, (1310) and cooked government rations to be carried away, for seven hundred and eighty-three men (783). Whole amount of contributions two thousand and two dollars and a half ($2002.50) Expenses, six hundred and seventy dollars ($679)…Persons contributing provisions will please send them to the Soldiers’ Lunch House, where they will be received and receipted for by our very gentlemanly superintendent, Dr. John A. Bevill. (The Memphis Daily Appeal, April 1, 1863)

The Soldier’s Lunch House was doing a booming business, and it might have continued to expand in size and scope if not for the vagaries of war. Union General Ulysses S. Grant began his 1863 campaign against Vicksburg on May 1, landing at Bruinsburg and defeating the Confederate force under Confederate general John Bowen at the Battle of Port Gibson. The Union army advanced inland, and on May 14, 1863, the Federals took Jackson when the Confederates retreated from the city after offering only token resistance.

On May 15 the Union forces occupying Jackson began the systematic destruction of the city’s military infrastructure, and the Soldier’s Lunch House was probably a victim of the wanton burning that would give Jackson its nickname – “Chimneyville.” I say probably, because I have not been able to determine the exact location of the lunch house. The only clue to its location is found in the small ad from The Memphis Daily Appeal when the Ladies Aid Society was seeking a cook for the facility. It advised any potential job seekers to apply “at the depot.” This makes sense, as it would have been logical to place the Lunch House in close proximity to the railroad depot used by hundreds of soldiers each day. The only problem is that there were two railroad depots in Jackson – one for the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern railroad, and the other for The Southern Railroad of Mississippi.

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Wartime map of Jackson, Mississippi, showing the depots of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad (top left) and The Southern Railroad of Mississippi (center right)

The railroad depots were specifically targeted by the Federals for destruction, and The American Citizen of May 22, 1863, noted: “But on the next (Friday) morning destruction on the grandest scale commenced by orders. The railroad tracks were utterly demolished for between two and three miles in all directions, including Pearl river bridge, and the depot buildings and platforms burnt.”

Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1863

Burning of the Confederate House Hotel by the Union Army  (Harper’s Weekly, June 30, 1863). The Confederate House was in close proximity to the depot of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern railroad.

Given that the Soldier’s Lunch House was near one of the depots, and both were targeted for destruction, it is very likely the building did not survive the war. In any case, I cannot find any evidence that the Ladies Aid Society of Jackson was able to continue their activities after May 1863. It was not until the war ended that the ladies of Jackson were able to continue their benevolent activities. In The Daily Clarion, May 2, 1867, I found the following in an article headlined in bold with the title “To the Ladies of Mississippi:”

The Ladies of Jackson appeal to their sisters throughout the State, in behalf of the destitute – and they know the appeal will not be made in vain. Information is received, almost every day that great destitution prevails in different parts of the state. We cannot shut our ears to the cry for bread; and feel that prompt and efficient efforts should at once be made to afford relief…The Ladies of Jackson, feeling the necessity of organized and associated action, have formed here the ‘State Benevolent Society…’ Our whole people have suffered greatly in every  way during the past five years; but the burden has fallen much heavier on some than others…The true mission of woman is mercy and charity. In relieving sorrow – in feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked – she always follows the instincts of her nature…We ask for money and provisions. Let those who cannot give much give little; but let every one give something, however small. The occasion is urgent. Let not the cry for bread be made to any one in vain.

The article ended with a list of ladies in Jackson who could be contacted for more

Belle Knapp Grave

Grave of Belle Knapp in the Bolton City Cemetery (

information – the second name on the list was “Mrs. C.S. Knapp.” In the course of my research for this article, I was pleased to find that Belle Knapp in her later years moved to my hometown of Bolton, Mississippi. She died on October 17, 1916, and is buried in the Bolton city cemetery – the very same cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried. Over the years I have visited the Bolton Cemetery many times, and I have certainly passed by the grave of Belle Knapp without paying it any mind whatever. I wonder how many other interesting stories are connected to the individuals buried in this one small Mississippi cemetery? Probably more than I could ever conceive.

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Independence Day in Natchez, 1867

In post-Civil War Mississippi, no group had more reason to celebrate the 4th of July than the state’s African American population. The following article concerning the celebration of the 4th of July in Natchez was published by The Weekly Democrat (Natchez), July 8, 1867:

The 4th of July

At an early hour of the 4th, the streets of the city, the roads leading from the country, the ferry-boat, and all avenues of approach, were thronged with freedmen and freedwomen, coming to Natchez to participate in the celebration of the day and the picnic at the grounds of Mrs. Nutt, about two miles from the city. The Magenta, which arrived Wednesday, brought down some four hundred persons from the plantations above.

Natchez 1

Civil War Era photograph of Natchez Under-the hill (Gandy Collection, Mss 3778, Louisiana State University)

At about ten o’clock the procession was formed, consisting of the Union Leagues, and negroes from the surrounding country, nearly all decorated with ribbons, and many carrying flags, moved up Main street, from Broadway, in an orderly and quiet manner. There were in the line about twenty-five hundred males, a few of the marshals being white persons. The side-walks were thronged, and it would not be an exaggeration to state that there were at least 8000 persons on the streets, and in the procession. Two or three national flags, displayed on the streets, were saluted as the procession passed them.

Having marched up Main street to Pine, the crowd passed out on the Woodville road, to the picnic grounds. A thunder shower came up about this time, in considerable fury, and temporarily checked the proceedings. As soon, however, as the sky became clear, the festivities were resumed. It is estimated that there were not less than nine thousand people on the picnic grounds during the day. A stand had been erected for the speakers, and it was expected that Capt. L.W. Perce would deliver the oration of the day; but that gentleman was absent on important business.

The principal speech was made by ——- Langston, colored, from Ohio. We heard his speech highly commended for its good sense and moderation. Upon the subject of lands, now so interesting to negroes, the speaker’s remarks were particularly sensible and explicit. He told his hearers that they ought to have land; yes, God intended that all should have land who labored; but they were to get it by the proceeds of honest toil and economy, and by these alone; then God would prosper them and enable them to enjoy the land and its products. They should put away from them the delusive hope of obtaining land by any other means. They should work faithfully and steadily, and be frugal, and then would they be able to buy much land, and command the respect of the community in which they lived.

[Editor’s Note: The newspaper did not give the first name of the speaker, but with a


John Mercer Langston (Library of Congress)

little research I was able to determine that it was John Mercer Langston, an African-American lawyer from Ohio. The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, West Virginia) noted in its June 4, 1867, edition: “J.W. Langston, an able colored lawyer of Ohio, has also left for an extended speaking tour at the South.“]

As far as we could learn, nothing occurred during the day to mar the good order and enjoyment of the occasion, except the adverse weather. About five o’clock the skies rapidly darkened, and the accumulation of black clouds in the west, indicated a rain at short notice. This put an end to the picnic, and the roads were soon alive with thousands of people scampering home, in a great hurry to avoid being drenched. Many of them, however, were caught in a most furious rain, and thoroughly soaked.

We are glad to be able to say that the entire proceedings were marked by good order, quiet and sobriety. We have never seen a celebration so numerously attended and more yet quiet and well-behaved than this was. We neither saw nor heard of the slightest disturbance of any kind throughout the day and night.


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“A Hopeless, Endless Task:” The Work of John Logan Power, Superintendent of Army Records

On this Memorial Day, I thought it entirely proper to write about the one Mississippian who devoted himself to preserving the records of the Magnolia State’s Civil War dead. The man in question was John Logan Power, an Irish immigrant who settled in Mississippi in 1856. When the war came, Power cast his lot with his adopted state, and served it very well throughout the entire war.

In February 1864, the Confederate Congress passed a piece of legislation with the

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Photo of John L. Power and his wife Jane (Clarion-Ledger, January 19, 1947)

ponderous title of “An act to aid any State in communicating with and perfecting the records concerning its troops.” The purpose of this act was to create a new position for one officer in each state dedicated to collecting information on casualties to expedite the completion of “final statements of deceased soldiers,” so that their families could obtain any monies due them from the Confederate government. (Official Records, Serial 129, pages 189-190; available online at:

Responding to this legislation, in April 1864, Mississippi governor Charles Clark appointed Major John Logan Power, adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, to the position, which would be known as “Superintendent of Army Records.” Power immediately sent in his resignation as adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery to take up his new post. (Compiled Service Record of John L. Power, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, accessed on

J.L. Power 1

Letter from Governor Charles Clark appointing John L. Power Superintendent of Army Records for the State of Mississippi (Compiled Service Record of John L. Power, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery.)

The job assigned to John L. Power was massive; in a post-war speech for the veterans of Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade, he explained that it was the “duty of that office to collect and place in a form for permanent preservation and reference, the names of all Mississippians in the Confederate service, with the personal and military status of each; also to procure from the Commander of each Company a certified statement of the amount due each deceased soldier, and to place the same in a shape for settlement…and although I labored faithfully until the general surrender of our armies, yet I found so many obstacles to the successful prosecution of my duties that I was able to accomplish but comparatively little. To enter upon the compilation of these records, after more than three years of active military operations, involving the loss of company books and muster rolls, seemed indeed a hopeless, endless task; and in order to attain anything like accuracy, it was necessary to visit the camps, explain what was wanted, furnish blanks, and assist in filling them out.” (The Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880.)

The task set before John L. Power was daunting, but he went to the work with a will. In December 1864 he traveled to Richmond to begin documenting the casualties of those Mississippi units serving in the Army of Northern Virginia. The war ended before he could complete this task, but he was able to compile casualty figures for Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade:

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Casualty Figures for Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade             (Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880.)

Colonel Power said of his time with Humphrey’s Brigade, “My first visit was to the gallant brigade, so long, and so ably commanded by him who presides over this meeting to-day. Four years of active war had made sad havoc in the ranks of the four regiments composing it. Of more than five thousand names on the muster rolls since the organization of each command, not exceeding four hundred now answered to the bugle-call for dress-parade. Where were the absent? A glance at the tabular statement herewith submitted, shows that nearly two thousand were in their graves – that they had fought their last battle – that no “sound should awake them to glory again.” (Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880)

Although the war ended in 1865, Power’s work on behalf of Mississippi’s soldiers

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Advertisement placed in the Clarion-Ledger, March 10, 1867, by J.L. Power, requesting bids for artificial limbs.

continued into the next year. In 1866 the state legislature passed an act instructing the Superintendent of Army Records to determine the number of Mississippi veterans requiring artificial limbs. Upon completion of this task, Power reported to the legislature that thirty-six counties answered his request for information, listing 188 soldiers in need of artificial limbs. The colonel went on to speculate that the total number of veterans needing artificial limbs in Mississippi was in excess of 300. (Natchez Daily Courier, October 23, 1866)

Although he went on to bigger and better things (including being elected Mississippi’s Secretary of State twice,) J.L. Power never gave up on documenting the service of the Magnolia State’s Civil War soldiers. Using the documentation he had put together during his time as Superintendent of Army Records, Power drew up an estimate of Mississippi’s total military losses during the Civil War. The totals were as follows:










(Casualty figures are from The Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880)

Colonel Power also felt it necessary to give his thoughts on the Mississippians who deserted from their commands:

It is proper to remark that a large per cent of those reported as deserters were not such in the most odious sense of that term. Indeed I do not think that more than one thousand of the entire number of volunteers from Mississippi deserted to the Federal lines. Our reserves for the last two years of the war, the despondency, speculation and extortion in the rear, the inability of the government to pay the troops promptly, or to furnish them with anything like adequate supplies of food and clothing, the absolute destitution of many families of soldiers, and towards the last, the seeming hopelessness of the struggle, all conspired to depress the soldier’s heart, and causes thousands to retire from the contest when there was greatest need for their services.” (The Clarion-Ledger, May 26, 1880)

John Logan Power passed away on September 24, 1901, while serving in his second term as Mississippi’s Secretary of State. His efforts on behalf of Mississippi’s veterans were noted in his obituary:

The contributions of Col. Power to Mississippi history have been many and valuable, and

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Picture of John L. Power from his obituary in The Weekly Clarion-Ledger, September 26, 1901

through his efforts much valuable data pertaining to the affairs of the commonwealth would have been lost forever had it not been for his efforts. He has written a large number of articles now on file in the archives of the Mississippi Historical Society, and at the time of death was at work on a large volume history of the commonwealth he loved so well.” (The Weekly Clarion-Ledger, September 26, 1901)

Colonel John L. Power now rests at Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi. It seems very fitting to me that he is buried in a cemetery surrounded by the graves of untold scores of Mississippi’s Civil War veterans.

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“I Love the word Raymond”

I had planned to publish this article on May 12, the anniversary of the battle of Raymond, but it ended up taking longer than I thought. I would also like to thank Laura at the website, who was able to identify the unit that Francis E. Hyde served in.

Raymond is one of my favorite battlefields: I grew up just a few miles from there, attended school there, and have many friends from this beautiful little town. I am happy to share these stories of the battle, and hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

The day after the battle of Raymond, Mississippi, Corporal Francis E. Hyde of Company B, 32nd Ohio Infantry, took a trip to the Hinds County courthouse. Why he was there is unknown; but that he was there is certain, as the young soldier left behind a memento of his visit. In one of the big leather-bound ledger books used to record the legal details of Chancery Court cases, Hyde found a page and inscribed the following message:

State of Mississippi, Hinds County, April 12, [sic] 1863

Be it remembered by all the citizens of Hinds County, State of Miss., that the Yankees did on


Photostat Copy of the message written by Frank E. Hyde (Battle of Raymond Subject File, MDAH)

the 12th day of May A.D. 1863 take possession of Raymond by a force of arms and drive the Rebbels from the village. And be it also remembered that the said Yankees not only intend to keep possession of said village of Raymond, but to seize and hold possession of the city of Jackson together with the ballance of the so called Southern Confederacy.

Given under my hand & seal, this Thirteenth day of May A.D. 1863





Francis Hyde’s letter was boastful and cocksure, but he had good reason to be; he and his comrades had won a hard fought victory the day before at the battle of Raymond. His regiment, the 32nd Ohio Infantry, had seen plenty of action the day before; as part of Major General John A. Logan’s Division, XVII Army Corps, Army of Tennessee. The casualties of the 32nd Ohio were never reported, but the other three regiments of their brigade had 18 killed, 85 wounded, and 12 missing. (The Vicksburg Campaign by Edwin C. Bearss, Volume 2, page 516)

Raymond Map - Copy

Map of the Battle of Raymond – the 32nd Ohio is at the bottom center. Map courtesy of the Civil War Trust (

After recording his message for posterity, Francis Hyde returned to his unit, for they were in the middle of a campaign, and there was much hard fighting still to be done before Vicksburg fell.

Before the curtain closed on the war, the 32nd Ohio saw action in more than half a dozen major battles, but Hyde survived them all to muster out with the regiment on July 20, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky.

With the war won, Hyde returned home to Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and eventually married and had several children. On the 1880 U.S. Census, Francis Hyde is listed with his wife Susan, sons Vern and Fred, and sister-in-law Farley Montgomery. He listed his occupation as laborer. (1880 U.S. Census, Champaign County, Ohio, page 227.)

Sometime after the census was taken, the Hyde family moved to Kansas. They were still living there when Frank Hyde passed away on March 13, 1886. He is buried in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Fowler, Kansas. (Listing for Frank E. Hyde, I found the page with Frank Hyde’s brief message in a subject file at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on the Battle of Raymond. I could tell that the photostat had come from a ledger book, but which one? The only clue was a single sentence written on the back of the copy saying that it had been donated to the archive by Craig Castle of Jackson in 1953.

I did a search of searching for the term “Craig Castle,” and in just a few minutes I had my answer: in the April 19, 1953 edition of the Clarion-Ledger, I found an article written by Castle entitled “Yankee’s Calling Card – Left at Raymond in 1863 is still there.” The article detailed how Castle had found Frank Hyde’s message in one of the ledger books from the Raymond Chancery Court. The only problem was that in the article, Castle never specifies which book he found the note in. I can already see that a trip to the Raymond Courthouse is in my immediate future.

Hyde 1

Craig Castle article from the Clarion-Ledger, April 19, 1953

Frank Hyde’s message alone was quite a find, but it turns out he was not the only soldier to sign the Chancery Court ledger. Down at the very bottom of the same page that Hyde wrote on was the following message, written by someone with a shaky hand and absolutely no idea how to spell “Raymond.”

It took me a few minutes to decipher the poor handwriting, but I eventually translated the following message:

Rheamond, Mississippi, May 14th 1863

Thomas J. Bunch a private of Company g, 3 Tenn. Vols., Captain David Rheas Company, C.H. Walker Colonel Commanding, 3 Tennessee regiment volunteers.

Thomas J. Bunch

Co. G, 3 Tennessee regt. volunteers

I did a search of the Confederate service records on, and soon had the scoop

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Captain James D. Rhea, commander of Company G, 3rd Tennessee Infantry (Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 22, page 71)

on Thomas J. Bunch. He enlisted as a private in Company G, 3rd Tennessee Infantry (Clack’s), on November 14, 1862, in Pulaski, Tennessee. His muster roll for June 30 – August 14, 1863 listed Bunch as “Captured and paroled at Raymond, May 12, 1863.

I went back to my online newspaper databases, but didn’t find anything on Private Bunch. I did however find a very interesting account of the Battle of Raymond from another member of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry. Benjamin Franklin Herron was a private in Company K, 3rd Tennessee Infantry, and the following letter from him was published in the Hinds County Gazette on April 19, 1907:

From a Boy Soldier

Graham, Texas, April 9, 1907

Mrs. J. R. Eggleston, Raymond, Miss.

Dear Mrs. Eggleston: I noticed in the “Veteran” that your chapter was making an effort to

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Obituary of Frank Herron (Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 31, page 66)

raise funds sufficient to enclose, with an iron fence, the graves of the soldiers who were killed in the battle of Raymond, and to erect a monument to their memory. I was wounded in the battle of Raymond, on the 12th day of May, 1863. Never have I, nor will I ever forget how tenderly we wounded Rebels were nursed and cared for by the noble ladies of Raymond and surrounding country.

I was captured and carried from the battlefield to the home of a Mr. McDonald. At this Southern home I met his daughter, Miss Myra, who nursed and cared for me while I was at her father’s house, and after I was sent to the court house at Raymond, she continued her kindness to me. She is now a Mrs. Dennis and lives at Jackson, Miss. Her daughter, Miss Ida, a beautiful girl, paid me a visit some years ago.

I will mention the names of several ladies that I remember: Miss Laura Brown, Miss Johnie Jenkins and sister, Miss Kate Nelson and a Mrs. Reynolds who lived several miles from Raymond. Would be proud to hear from any of these ladies, for I love them all.

I enclose you postoffice money order for $5.00 to be used in your noble efforts, as herein mentioned.

I was 15 years, 2 months, and 13 days old the day I was wounded. I was a member of Company K, Third Tennessee Infantry, General Gregg’s Brigade. I would appreciate a letter from any of the within mentioned ladies, and if desired, would be pleased to give a write up of my experience while at Raymond.

Yours in true Southern love,

F. Herron

Frank Herron never forgot the care he received from the people of Raymond, and he wrote of them fondly on several occasions. In 1912 Mamie Yeary of McGregor, Texas, published a book of Texas Confederate veteran’s recollections of the war entitled Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray 1861 – 1865. One of the soldiers who had a story in the book was Frank Herron. His reminiscence from this publication can be found online here:


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Heaps of Human Bones: The Dead of Champion Hill

Today is the 145th Anniversary of Champion Hill, and even though I haven’t had the time to write a full article on the battle, I can’t let it pass without saying something. Growing up so close to this battlefield left it’s mark on me, and spurred the love of history that has led to a rewarding career. The following passage is taken from a longer article written by Benjamin F. Boring, who fought at Champion Hill with Company D, 30th Illinois Infantry. I think Boring’s account speaks volumes about the high cost of this battle:

I would like to know whose dead it was, and who buried them in the gullies on the hillside

B.F. Boring

Wartime image of Benjamin F. Boring (

along the road sloping south from Champion’s Hill. This battle, you know, was fought on the 16th day of May. As I said once before, as soon as the formalities of the surrender at Vicksburg were over, the command to which my regiment belonged was sent back on the Jackson road after Joe Johnston, and pushed him beyond Pearl River again. I think it was about the 5th day of July we passed along the road across the Champion’s Hill battlefield, and at the mouth or lower end of these gullies lay heaps of human bones that had been washed down there from the gullies, where the dead had been thrown and buried instead of in graves on the top of the hill. These bones were entirely destitute of flesh and naked, except the feet still had the shoes on. I remember noticing how oddly the bones looked with shoes on, and how nicely the shoes were still tied.  (The National Tribune, April 5, 1894)

The 30th Illinois had seen plenty of fighting at Champion Hill; part of Leggett’s Brigade, Logan’s Division, XV Army Corps, the regiment had 9 killed and 49 wounded in the battle. (Ed Bearss, The Vicksburg Campaign Volume 2, page 650)

I found the following biography of Benjamin F. Boring on the Vigo County (Indiana) Library website:

Born March 16, 1840 in Marion County, Indiana, Benjamin Franklin Boring was the son of Elizabeth Buchanon and Thomas W. Boring, a travelling preacher. He was educated in Lawrence and Crawford counties in Illinois. At the age of 21, Boring was mustered into the Union Army on August 26, 1861 at Camp Butler, Illinois, for a 3 year term of service with Company D, 30th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, his company was involved in many battles and skirmishes, including the battle of Britton’s Lane, the battle of Belmont (where Benjamin Boring was slightly wounded), the siege of Corinth, the battle of Champion Hills, the siege of Vicksburg and took part in Sherman’s push to Atlanta. Boring was mustered out of the army at the end of his term on August 27, 1864.

30th Illinois Infantry

Battleflag of the 30th Illinois Infantry

After his discharge, Benjamin Boring attended the Terre Haute Commercial College as well as received a teacher’s certificate which allowed him to teach school at the Durham schoolhouse, school district number 1, Honey Creek Township, Vigo County, Indiana (December 1864-March 1865). In May 1865, he received his diploma from the Commercial College and moved to Robinson, Illinois, where he sold goods in a store for Dorothy & Mills. When the store closed after his three month contract of hire expired, Boring moved back to Terre Haute and firmly established his teaching career. He taught again in Honey Creek Township, but eventually became the principal of Greenwood School in Terre Haute. By 1881, Boring worked for the Federal Revenue Department as a U.S. Storekeeper and Gauger. In the 1890s, he became a grocer and opened his own dry goods store (southwest corner of 1st and Boring) near his residence on the south side of Terre Haute.

On November 21, 1867, Benjamin Boring married Sarah Elizabeth Meredith; they had two daughters, Gertrude Meredith Boring (born 1869, who eventually married Charles Ehrmann) and Hortense Bonaparte Boring (born 1874). After the death of his first wife in 1902, Boring married Christina Elisabeth Noble on October 23, 1910. At the age of 79, Benjamin Boring died at his residence (Voorhees and Dilman streets) in Terre Haute on October 2, 1919.

The Vigo County Library has a large collection of letters and a diary kept be Boring in their holdings, and these documents are available online; they can be found here: When I have time I plan to read through his correspondence, because to put it simply, the young man could write.

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The Romance of a Sword

Not so long ago, my 12 year old daughter, Sarah, posed the question “Why do you keep all this old stuff” as she perused the Civil War artifacts I have displayed in my office at home.  I tried to explain to her that my “old stuff” were tangible reminders of a war that has excited my interest since I was just a child.

Among the many artifacts I have in my office is a sword hanger that I found while metal

sword hanger

Sword Hanger found on the Port Gibson battlefield by the Author.

detecting on the Port Gibson battlefield, June 18, 1995. I immediately thought of this small brass relic after reading the following article, which was published in The Vicksburg Herald on March 13, 1901:



On the first day of May, 1863, Lieut. I.B. Dutton of Company H, Twenty-Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, while with his regiment at Port Gibson, or in the battle of Magnolia Church, lost his sword. How it was lost was never definitely known, though quite possibly it was drawn from its scabbard while the bearer was passing through a thicket or cane break.

Be that as it may, thirty-seven years later, the same sword was found by Miss Sadie Millsaps, daughter of Mr. F.P. Millsaps of Port Gibson. The story of the finding of the sword forms almost as romantic a feature of the history of that relic as is the story of its loss.

In a private letter to a gentleman well known in this city, from a relative at Port Gibson, the following interesting passage occurs:

“I obtained it (the sword) from Mr. F.P. Millsaps, father of Miss Sadie Millsaps, the young lady who found it on the Port Gibson battle field near the old Magnolia Church. The Millsaps family resided near that old church, and last spring, while the young lady was out in the woods near her residence gathering wild flowers, she found the sword. The scabbard was not found. About a foot of the blade projected above ground, the hilt end and most of the blade being underground.

“I satisfied myself as to its identity by getting several young men with good eyesight to decipher the name scratched on the shield of the hilt. As you hold up the sword in your hand you will notice the upper side of the hilt is wider on one side of the base of the blade than on the other. You will find the name of the wider side near the base of the blade and that it follows the curvature of the opening, through which the blade passes through the hilt.”

“I requested Mr. Millsaps to ask his daughter to write me a letter giving me the particulars of her finding the sword.

Your brother,



The sword in question was sent by express to the addressee of the above mentioned letter,


Post-war picture of Captain William T. Rigby, 24th Iowa Infantry (National Park Service)

who has turned it over to Capt. W.T. Rigby, of the park commission. It was seen yesterday at the office of the park commission, and corresponds faithfully with the graphic description contained in the letter from the Port Gibson gentleman. Owing to its long burial the blade had been almost entirely eaten away by rust, while the hilt had become loosened from the blade. The following letter tells the story as to how the sword came to Vicksburg and to Capt. Rigby:

War Department

V’burg National Military Park Com’n

Vicksburg, Miss., Feb. 26, 1901.

Philip M. Harding, Esq., City:

Dear Sir – I am informed that Miss or Mrs. Sadie Millsaps, Port Gibson, has in her possession an officer’s sword found on the battle field of Port Gibson and marked “I.B. Dutton.” Lieut. Dutton belonged to Company H of my regiment (Twenty-Fourth Iowa Infantry Volunteers.) He has been told of the finding of the sword and is anxious to purchase it of Miss. Millsaps. He is, however, to my certain knowledge, a poor man and unable to pay much money to get back his sword. As it is no value for any one else, perhaps Miss Millsaps may be willing to sell it for $10 which is the largest sum that Lieut. Dutton can possibly pay.

If you can assist me in securing, for Lieut. Dutton, the sword at this figure, it will be a much appreciated favor.

With regards I am,

Very cordially yours,


Capt. Rigby will send the sword to Col. Milo P. Smith, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who is a brother-in-law of Lieut. Dutton, who also resides in Iowa. It was from Col. Smith that Capt. Rigby received his first intimation about hearing of the sword by Miss. Millsaps.

It is likely Mr. Dutton will be pleased to receive his old companion back again after so long a separation.

The young lady who found the sword, Sadie Millsaps, was the daughter of Franklin and Martha Millsaps. On the 1900 United States Census for Claiborne County, 19 year-old Sadie was living with her parents and siblings. (1900 United States Census, Claiborne County, Mississippi, ED 154, page 21A.)

The owner of the sword was Isaac B. Dutton, who enlisted as a Lieutenant in Company H,

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Portion of a Letter written on G.A.R. stationary by I.B. Dutton while he was post commander. (

24th Iowa Infantry, in August 1862. Dutton only served one year, being discharged early on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. After the war he lived many years in Tonganoxie, Kansas, and was very active in Post #149 of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving at various times as chaplain and post commander of the organization. (Kansas, Grand Army of the Republic Post Reports, 1880 – 1940; accessed May 1, 2017 on

I was very curious to find out if Lieutenant Dutton every received his sword, so I went to, and was very quickly rewarded with the following article from The Times Democrat (New Orleans), March 9, 1901:

Port Gibson, March 8 – Last spring Miss Sadie Millsaps, daughter of F.P. Millsaps, who resided on the old Port Gibson battlefield near Magnolia Church, found in the woods near her residence an officer’s sword, partly projecting above the ground, without the scabbard and with the name I.B. Dutton scratched on the hilt. The discovery was mentioned in the newspapers, and the original owner, Lieut. I.B. Dutton, of Company H, Twenty-Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, heard of it and requested his friend and former fellow officer, Capt. William T. Rigby of the Vicksburg Park Commission, to recover the sword. Capt. Rigby in turn requested the assistance of P.M. Harding of Vicksburg, a former resident of this place. To-day Mr. Harding, acting through his brother, purchased the relic from the finder and will forward it to its original owner, who lost it in the battle of Port Gibson or Magnolia Church, as called by the Federal side, which was fought between Grant and Bowen on May 1, 1863.

I found a second article, written in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 4, 1906; the article has some of the details wrong, in particular changing the place where the sword was found from Port Gibson to Champion Hill. Also, this article makes it sound as if the sword had just been presented to Dutton, some five years after the previous article. I have no idea why it would take so long to get the sword to Dutton. Once nice thing about this article though, is that it included both a picture of Isaac Dutton and a photo of the sword as well:


Within the past few days a sword has been restored to Captain Isaac B. Dutton which has been buried for more than forty years on the Vicksburg battlefield. And is still a good sword, requiring only a scouring and sharpening to be as good as ever. It was no ordinary weapon at the time it was lost at Champion Hills during Grant’s memorable siege of Vicksburg, and even now, in its coat of rust, the old weapon shows good temper and can be bent almost double.

Captain Dutton was elected to lead Company H of the Twenty-Fourth Iowa Volunteer

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Photo of Lieutenant Isaac B. Dutton from the San Francisco Chronicle, March 4, 1906

Infantry when the Civil War broke out, and he sent to Boston for the best sword that could be purchased. It reached him in good time and was worn by him on many a field. But at the Battle of Champion Hills, before Vicksburg, when Captain Dutton was busily engaged in looking after his company on the brushy field, his belt was broken and the sword dropped to the ground. It was not missed until he went into camp that night. He was compelled to rob a dead Confederate of his sword in order to continue the campaign with proper equipment.


A few days ago Captain Dutton, now a resident of Los Angeles, received a letter from the secretary of the Twenty-Fourth Iowa Association asking whether he had lost his sword in any of the battles about Vicksburg. It appears that a curio hunter, while digging on the old battlefield at Vicksburg, had unearthed a sword that bore the name of Captain Dutton. After scraping off the earth and rust the name was plainly discernible on the hilt.

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Lieutenant Dutton’s Sword – San Francisco Chronicle, March 4, 1906

A search of the records disclosed that the Twenty-Fourth Iowa Regiment had fought in that particular spot where the sword was found. Correspondence through the Grand Army of the Republic channels placed the curio hunter in touch with the original owner, with the result that the valuable relic was, a few days ago, received by Captain Dutton. He has presented it to his son, Harry A. Dutton of this city.

About 1885 Dutton moved to Los Angeles, California; I don’t know why he decided so late in life to move, but the old veteran had been to the state before. His obituary noted:

Captain Dutton was born at Waldo, Dover County, Ohio, September 24, 1827. When a boy of

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Lieutenant Dutton’s Grave (

22 he drove an ox team across the plains to the Yuba River in this state. This was before gold was discovered at Sutter Creek. He remained in California about a year and returned to the east by way of the isthmus. (Los Angeles Herald, January 10, 1910.)

Isaac B. Dutton died on January 9, 1910, and is buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. His grave is marked with a military marker that is slowly sinking into the earth.

I don’t know where Lieutenant Dutton’s sword is today, but I hope that it is displayed proudly in the home of one of his descendants. That worn and rusty blade is a tangible reminder of the sacrifices made by Dutton and thousands of other Union soldiers like him during the Civil War.



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