The Doomed City: A Reminiscence of Jackson, Mississippi

I found the following reminiscence by a member of the 14th Mississippi Infantry in The Clarion (Jackson, Mississippi), October 13, 1881. It’s a very interesting account of the time the regiment spent in the capital city of Mississippi while serving on provost duty:


Eighteen years ago, this writer marched up Capitol street to the tune of ‘The Bold Soger Boy,’ played by the band of the

Photograph of Capitol Street in Jackson, Circa 1870 - Mississippi Department of Archives & History

Photograph of Capitol Street in Jackson, Circa 1870 – Mississippi Department of Archives & History

14th Mississippi Infantry. Two decades of time begin at length to clothe with a weird and fascinating interest the grand old days when gray columns marched and counter-marched, and men laughed at fate, and slept under the booming of cannon. And ex-soldiers, who were rollicking youngsters then, carelessly treading the weary march, or watching, lynx-eyed and silent, on the lonely vidette post, begin now to realize that they were then passing through the great epoch of their lives, and participating in events of mighty import.

We had campaigned in East Tennessee, wintered in Kentucky, surrendered at Fort Donelson, spent seven months in prison, and been exchanged at Vicksburg. Afterwards we had retreated before Grant from Cold Water, until Van Dorn turned him back by striking his commissary department at Holly Springs. Then came a lull in military operations in this quarter, and the 14th, by some hook or crook, got ordered to Jackson on provost duty. We reported to Brigadier General John Adams, commanding the 4th military district, whose head-quarters were up-stairs in the old brick building opposite the south side of Capitol square.

We went into camp in the old field west of the depot, where we remained five or six months doing provost duty in town

Photo of the Bowman House Hotel, Circa 1860

Photo of the Bowman House Hotel, Circa 1860 – Mississippi Department of Archives & History

and on the railroads, and had, in the language of that day, ‘a regular stavin’ time.’ Jackson was then the head-quarters of everything military and civil in this department, outside of Vicksburg. Army teamsters swore at their mules, and their wagons sunk to the hubs in the muddy streets. Quartermasters, commissaries, paymasters, and a hoard of gamblers with bogus passes in their pockets, thronged the sidewalks. The old Bowman House was a favorite resort of the latter, and here many of the members of the 14th were accustomed to deposit their Confederate stamps and return to camp in the dark hours of the night, sadder but not much wiser men. In the basement was a large billiard room with bar attached, and in the third story faro-banks drove a thriving business.

The Confederate House, near the depot, was constantly thronged, and hotels, restaurants and eating houses of every description had a regular boom of business. The impecunious officers and men of the 14th while on duty down town, used to patronize the eating house of a little Dutch woman – I have forgotten her name – down near the guard house at the foot of State street. For one dollar she gave biscuit, beef-steak, eggs and ‘genuine’ coffee. The more aristocratic officers, and those more fortunate in the mysterious games of keno and faro, took breakfast at Angelo’s. This old guard house at the foot of State street was an institution of the times. It was an old brick building on the east side, and was the receptacle of prisoners of every hue and nationality; Jew and Gentile, black and white, civil and military, all found temporary shelter and protection beneath its friendly roof. It was a kind of wayside hotel for Yankee prisoners in transit to the interior, and a safe refuge for refactory Confederates awaiting the action of court-martial. The ‘blue and gray’ met here on common ground, and shook hands across a tray of corn bread and blue beef.

Federal Troops Burning the Confederate House Hotel on May 15, 1863 - Harper's Weekly, June 20, 1863

Federal Troops Burning the Confederate House Hotel on May 15, 1863 – Harper’s Weekly, June 20, 1863

There was a broad-shouldered six foot, young Kentuckian, a splendid specimen of manhood, under sentence of death. He had murdered the major of his regiment in cold blood, deserted to the enemy, and been recaptured. One night, two weeks before the day of execution, he managed to get off his chains, and when detected, backed himself in the corner, and defied the guard with a heavy piece of iron, that he had gotten hold of by some means. He was overpowered after a desperate struggle, and two weeks later, defiant still, he tore his shirt collar, and bared his breast to the volley of musketry that sent him to eternity. One man amongst this motley crowd of prisoners wore a black stove-pipe hat, called in army parlance a ‘camp kettle;’ and he had been frequently importuned by the other prisoners to ‘come down out of it.’ He finally attempted to escape annoyance and effect his release by civil process; and one morning, the officer of the guard was served with a writ of habeas corpus. It was a mass of unintelligible jargon to him, and not knowing what better to do, after a careful perusal, he burned the papers, and locked up the civil officer who served them.

One of the most noted characters in this department was a private of Company F., known in almost every command by

Illustration of Civil War Foragers - Harper's Weekly, April 1, 1865

Illustration of Civil War Foragers – Harper’s Weekly, April 1, 1865

the euphonious sobriquet of ‘Beauregard Bill;’ though his baptismal name, if he had ever gone through a process of that nature, was Bill Mitchell. His ubiquitous propensities obtained for him a widespread acquaintance, and his admirable qualities as a forager were appreciated by all. While the army made a direct march of twenty-five miles, Bill foraged for five miles on either flank, and came into camp at night loaded down with fresh pork, canteens of sorghum and twists of half-cured tobacco, called with a kind of sardonic humor, ‘stingy green.’ Love was an emotion not found in Bill’s composition, and he parted with his stock only for money. He always got around the officer of the guard by a plausible story, a piece of fresh pork, or a canteen of sorghum or Louisiana rum. He was an old Mexican war soldier, and around the camp-fires, recited many a chapter of history not laid down in the books. He was as notorious amongst the soldiers as any general officer in the division; and he, doubtless, has a vivid recollection of every den and haunt in Jackson, and every road and by path for twenty miles around. I have introduced his name here, for the purpose of informing his surviving comrades, that he lives now a few miles from Yazoo City. He is a member of the Baptist church; drives a lonesome and shadowy mule, and is as calm and placid under a deed of trust, as when in the old days he converted himself into a walking saloon and peddled pine-top whiskey at one dollar a ‘jigger.’

All the churches were in full blast and well attended. One Sunday morning I dropped into one of them, but I cannot now recall the name nor face of the preacher, neither his text nor sermon. The church was crowded from door to pulpit, and my eyes were busy with the strange faces and varied costumes. There were officers in bright uniforms, with red, blue and buff trimmings, and others with threadbare coats buttoned to the chin to hide their faded calico shirts; privates, with well brushed brogans; civilians, in broadcloth and home-made jeans; ladies, in elegant Parisian costumes, and others in homespun dresses, with velvet cloaks and kid gloves. Antique bonnets had been withdrawn from long retirement, and forced into active service, and even sun-bonnets shaded delicately tinted cheeks and modest eyes that drooped under the soothing influences of inspiration. I had, only a few hours before, returned from a short leave of absence, and just before boarding the cars at Meridian, I had seen a telegram containing some details of the battle of Corinth, and amongst others the death of Col. Robt. McLain, of the 37th Mississippi Regiment.

Looking over the congregation I saw Col. McLain’s daughter, who was visiting at the time, relatives in Jackson. Mail and

Battle Flag of the 37th Mississippi Infantry

Battle Flag of the 37th Mississippi Infantry

telegraphic communications were uncertain in those days and correctly surmising that she was ignorant of the death of her father, I tried to avoid her on leaving the church, but was intercepted at the gate with an eager demand for news of the battle. With the truth on the end of my tongue, I looked into her blue eyes, and there, under the very shadow of the sanctuary, I told her a monster lie. She invited me to dinner, and it was a terrible temptation; my pockets were empty and I was down flat on army rations with pay-day a long way in the future. But I refused, and walked slowly away to camp, mournful for two reasons; I had missed a good dinner, and I knew that before the sun went down, the girl’s fresh young heart would be crushed by the harsh tidings my lips had refused to utter.

Our boys were the recipients of much kindness at the hands of the people of Jackson, and doubtless they remember that period as a luminous spot in the black disk of the war. There were many amusements into which they plunged with a zest, heightened by the knowledge that they could not last; and those were days when men and women grasped eagerly at pleasure with the shadow of death overhead, and threaded the dreamy waltz with the dull roar of distant siege guns booming in their ears. There came a day at length when our carnival was to end. An old copy of the Columbus Republic of that date says: ‘The enemy landed 75,000 men at Grand Gulf, on the 27th April, and approached in the direction of Jackson.’ Grant was uncoiling his ponderous army, and slowly enveloping Vicksburg in its fatal folds.

The 14th was rudely awakened from its dream of inglorious ease; and one fine morning in May, we bade adieu to Jackson, folded our tents, fell into line, and silently marched away. The commissaries, quartermasters, paymasters and army of gamblers, with their military stores and faro-banks, were already domiciled at Meridian; and the State government, with the old Roman Governor, Jno. J. Pettus, at its head, and Jones S. Hamilton, Adjutant General, was temporarily established at Enterprise. Many of the citizens left their homes, and Jackson was abandoned to the torch of the invader. The convicts from the penitentiary were released, formed into a company, and placed under command of Lieut. Trotter; but on the march they ‘vanished in thin air’ like the smoke from Grant’s batteries in the distance.

A mile or two out I paused and looked back, a carriage, filled with pale-faced refugees, dashed by; over the doomed city, a tall column of black smoke was slowly unfolding into a huge umbrella; and a sound, like the distant murmer of the sea, broke on my ear. The ‘bummers’ were getting in their work. We took the road to Canton, where Gen. Johnston attempted to gather a force for the relief of Vicksburg. Eventually the 14th, 15th, 20th and 43d Mississippi Regiments, commanded respectively by Cols. Doss, Farrell, Rora [Rorer] and Lowry, were formed into the first brigade of Loring’s division and placed under command of Gen. John Adams. The brigade remained intact through the Georgia campaign and Hood’s Tennessee campaign, until the battle of Franklin, where Adams, Farrell and Rora [Rorer] were killed, and one-half the brigade withered away before the seething fire from Schofield’s breast-works.

Illustration of Federal Troops Occupying Jackson, Mississippi

Illustration of Federal Troops Occupying Jackson, Mississippi

The field officers in this fatal charge, contrary to their usual custom, remained mounted; and Gen. Adams and his horse, riddled with bullets, went down together within a few feet of the works. Rora [Rorer] fell shot through the heart, but his horse plunged forward and dropped square across the works, his head and fore-feet dangling on the enemy’s side. Farrell was mortally wounded, and died soon after in the hospital. The brigade finished its career amongst the red hills of North Carolina, under command of Gen. Robert Lowry. A feeling of solemn awe steals over us at the awakened memories of those stirring times, and across the long lapse of years, we hear the sharp voices of the Captains, and a sound like the rush of many footsteps.

W., Yazoo City, October, 1881

Unfortunately, the writer of this wonderful little story only identified himself as “W,” from Yazoo City, Mississippi. I would, however, like to speculate as to his identity. In the story he speaks of a most notorious soldier in his regiment, Bill Mitchell of Company F, This is just a personal feeling of mine, but the way the writer talks about Mr. Mitchell, it sounds like he is talking about himself. Also, he does state that Mitchell was from Yazoo City, and the Writer does give his residence as Yazoo City. I checked the service records of the 14th Mississippi Infantry, and sure enough, there was a Private William C. Mitchell who served in Company F, 14th Mississippi Infantry. He enlisted on May 29, 1861, at Corinth, Mississippi, and listed his age as 35 years old. In the article the writer states that he served in the Mexican War, and at 35 years old, he was definitely of the right age to have served in that conflict.

At this time I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that William Mitchell was the writer of this article – if I find any information that sheds more light on the identity of the author, I will certainly post it, as he deserves to be remembered.

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A Fearless Soldier: Joseph Henry Castles of the 24th Mississippi Infantry

A few days ago I was on the website, when I came across a listing for the grave of Joseph Henry

Tombstone of Joseph Henry Castles -

Tombstone of Joseph Henry Castles –

Castles, who served in Company H, “Buena Vista Hornets,” 24th Mississippi Infantry. The imagery on the tombstone was striking, as was Castles epitaph; “A True Christian and a Fearless Soldier.”

I decided to look into the service of this “Fearless soldier,” and see what I could learn about him. I pulled Castles service record and found that he enlisted in the army on September 24, 1862, at Buena Vista, in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. He was listed as “present” on every muster roll of the regiment through January – February 1864, but after that time his service record just ends without any explanation. There was one other item, a small scrap of paper, that does shed a little light on what happened to Castles – It’s nothing more than a receipt from St. Mary’s Hospital in LaGrange, Georgia, dated June 20, 1864, and stating that he was issued one jacket, value $4.00.

The hospital receipt was a strong indication that Castles was either wounded or sick during the Atlanta Campaign, but determining exactly what happened took a little more digging.

On a hunch I pulled the index to Confederate Veteran Magazine, and as luck would have it, I found a listing for Joseph H. Castles. I pulled Volume 17 of the publication, the issues for 1909, and on page 208 I found the following:

J.H. Castles, of Houston, Miss., who was a member of Company H, 24th Mississippi, Walthall’s Brigade, gives an interesting account of his war experiences. He joined the army when only sixteen, and was in all the battles with Johnston’s army. He was wounded in the battle of Atlanta, and still carries the ball in his body. He gives a pleasant episode of the defense of Lookout Mountain. He says that the pickets of both armies were so close together that there was much friendly exchange of badinage and commissaries, and that when the orders came for battle the Yankee pickets called out to the Confederate pickets to get to cover, as the firing was about to commence.

It’s not much, but the brief account from Confederate Veteran does answer many of the questions regarding the missing information from Castles service record. I was on a roll and decided to check and see if Castles filed for a Confederate Veteran’s pension. Sure enough, on August 4, 1912, he filled out the form to obtain a pension. When asked if he was ever wounded, the following was recorded: “Atlanta, Ga., shot in chin and shoulder blade. Now has ball under right shoulder blade. Right arm injured so as to prevent manual labor.” When asked if he was absent from the surrender of his regiment in 1865, Castles wrote: “Yes, on furlough, on account of wounds.”

So there we have it. Castles served faithfully until his wounding during the Atlanta Campaign. His wound was serious enough to take him out of the war, and in fact he was still carrying the Yankee bullet in his body nearly a half century after the battle in which he was shot.

I am glad I was able to find so much information about Joseph H. Castles, but the really intriguing thing to me is that it seems that the reminiscence quoted in Confederate Veteran was part of some longer manuscript. I hope that this reminiscence still exists, because I really want to read it.

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All the Points About Vicksburg: The Report of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Fontaine



My ongoing research into the correspondence of Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus has turned up another interesting letter. This author was Lieutenant Colonel Edward Fontaine, who at the time the manuscript was written in late 1861 was serving as Chief of Ordnance for the state of Mississippi. The lieutenant colonel had just completed an inspection tour of Vicksburg, and in his correspondence to the governor he made recommendations for the defense of the Hill City. I found this manuscript fascinating, as many of Fontaine’s observations about the defenses needed to protect Vicksburg were later put into effect and successfully used during the 1863 siege of the city. The following letter is from the John J. Pettus correspondence at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Series 757, Box 940, Folder 9:

Head-Quarters, Army of Mississippi Ordnance Office, Jackson, Dec. 20, 1861

Edward Fontaine

Post-war photo of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Fontaine –

His Ex. J.J. Pettus, Govr., of Miss. Dear Sir, I have just finished an examination of all the points about Vicksburg, necessary to be fortified to make it impregnable against an attack by land and water; and to make the river impassable to the enemy’s boats; and I have made a rude estimate of the cost to the state of one fort to mount 5 – 42 pounders, & 4 – 24 pounders, & which has been already commenced. But after a careful reconnaissance of the topography of Vicksburg, I feel it my duty to recommend that no further work be done upon the fortifications there than what is necessary for their preservation, & the safe keeping of our ordnance stores; for the following reasons: 1st, If we fortify Vicksburg, it must be on a scale sufficient to resist a heavier attack than one which could not be resisted by the defenses of Columbus, & Memphis. 2d, To do this the cooperation of Louisiana is absolutely necessary; or the Confederate States must assume the control of the work. As the Yazoo River is at all times navigable for boats of light draught, and often for those of the largest size for a considerable distance above Vicksburg, and as excellent artillery roads lead to it from the bluffs on its left bank, making a land attack on the north of the city, & an approach to the Southern R. Road entirely practicable, the first point necessary to be fortified is above the mouth of that river. The place is called “Young’s Point.” Strong earthworks & bomb-proof batteries, with a heavy force on both banks of the river are necessary there, with obstructions between them.

The next points to be fortified are the first bluff of the Yazoo River & its opposite bank. The next is the great bend next to Vicksburg & above it, but south west from the city. The R. Road passes through the narrow neck, separating the river above & below. Which neck the enemy can occupy & use the R. Road for penetrating the interior of Louisiana, or for running a battery in front of Vicksburg; or they can cut a canal through the neck, and turn the river through it, and pass by Vicksburg with their flotilla. If a fort is not erected there to prevent this, in ascending from it to the next bend north of the city, with rifled cannon they can strike it from their gunboats across the wooded peninsula & the river. The Mississippi opposite Vicksburg is only eleven hundred yards wide, & the peninsula in not more than a mile across. The water battery commenced above the city is well situated to command the bend of the river; but the fire of long range guns mounted upon it would be rendered ineffectual for more than a mile and a half by a heavy body of timber on the Louisiana side, which conceals & shelters the approach of steam-boats descending from the south west to the north east.

The remains of an old Spanish Fort occupy the hill above our water battery; & which commands the city, and two roads approaching it from the Yazoo, and the river and all the country around within the range of shot and shell. It is necessary to fortify this important position for this reason, & to protect the battery at its base. A beautiful streamlet winds around its northern side, & makes a cascade over a ledge of cretaceous rock near the north east angle of the Water Battery. This waterfall makes a fine pool for bathing under a shower bath; & the water is clear & cool. The southern bank of the stream is a precipice of fifteen or twenty feet, and is a strong natural defense to the north line of the fort. The site is very comfortable & healthy; and sufficiently near the city to guard it against insurrection. Captain Taylor’s artillery company is stationed there; the men are in good health and pleased with their situation. I think it would be well to keep them there, to practice them with the siege guns, & to drill them in the exercise of light artillery; & also to guard our ordnance stores, & to protect the city against any domestic disturbance.

I ordered Major Barnes to move the 5 – 42 pounders & their carriages & chassis now lying at the R. Road Depot exposed to the weather, & many injuries, to the fort, & place them in position; & erect wooden shelters over them to be used for the drill of the company. I also instructed him to have built a plain, cheap, & substantial store house of undressed Cypress lumber at the fort, & deposit it all the vacant gun carriages, implements, and other ordnance stores, except the powder; and place the whole in the charge [of] Captain Taylor. That officer promised me to set the whole of his company to doing this work which will make it cost the state but a small sum; less I think than the expense of moving the stores away, or paying storage in the city, while the whole is going to decay. I also recommend that after Captain Taylor’s company is drilled sufficiently, it be removed to active duty in the field; and another company of artillery recruits substituted for a similar course of instruction. With this company & Genl. Tappan’s city guard, I think Vicksburg sufficiently defended for the present; if we supply the artillery company with some field pieces, and ammunition & the infantry with cartridges.

Respectfully your obt. svt.,

Ewd. Fontaine Lt. Col. & Ch. of Ordnance & Acting Engineer.

After reading this letter, I wanted to know a little bit more about Fontaine’s background, and what I found was truly fascinating. Edward Fontaine was born August 5, 1814, in Greenwood, Virginia, the son of Patrick Henry and Nancy Fontaine. He was the Great-Grandson of Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry. Fontaine was admitted to the United States Military Academy in 1830, but was discharged in 1832 for a deficiency in math – It would prove to be one of very few failures in his life. Fontaine became a lawyer in 1835, and that same year found him in Pontotoc, Mississippi, working as a draftsman for the survey being done of Chickasaw lands acquired by Federal government.

Active in the Methodist Episcopal Church, Fontaine heard the call to preach, and was admitted to the ministry in 1838. Serving congregations in Texas, while he was in the Lone Star State he also found time to be a private secretary to Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar.

Fontaine’s first wife died in 1855, and four years later he moved back to Mississippi where he married Mrs. Susan Taylor Britton. The couple lived at Pocahontas, in northern Hinds County. When the war started Fontaine wasted no time offering his services to the Confederacy. He enlisted on May 24, 1861, as the captain of Company K “Burt Rifles,” 18th Mississippi Infantry. While serving with the 18th Mississippi at the Battle of First Manassas, Fontaine led his company so well that he was cited in General P.G.T. Beauregard’s report on the battle. It stated that “Capt. Fontaine’s company of the 18th Mississippi Regiment, are mentioned by Genl. Jones as having shown conspicuous gallantry, coolness and discipline under a combined fire of infantry and artillery.” - “Extract from General G.T. Beauregard’s Report of Operations July 21, 1861.” A copy of this extract is attached to Fontaine’s Compiled Service Record with the 18th Mississippi Infantry.

Edward Fontaine did not remain with the 18th Mississippi Infantry for very long. He resigned on October 1, 1861, to take an appointment as Chief of Ordnance for the State of Mississippi. He was serving in this capacity when he wrote the above letter to Governor John J. Pettus.

I did a little more research on Edward Fontaine, and I found a number of letters he wrote attached to his compiled service record with the 18th Mississippi Infantry. The following letter also deals with Fontaine’s thoughts on the defense of Vicksburg, so I thought it was worth including in this article:

EXECUTIVE OFFICE Jackson, Miss., April 23d, 1862

Major Genl. G.T. Beauregard, C.S.A.

Dear General I feel so much solicitude about the defense of the Mississippi River that I venture to offer to you a few suggestions in regard to it, which I hope you will pardon, and for which an apology may seem necessary as my rank and position hardly excuse what might seem to be presumptuous. Soon after my appointment as Chief of Ordnance of the State Army of Mississippi last fall, I was ordered by Govr. Pettus to examine the fortifications at Vicksburg to report a plan for completing them. I spent some time in examining the topography of the city & its vicinity, and upon my return reported that it was necessary to fortify both sides of the river above the mouth of the Yazoo in order to make Vicksburg impregnable, & the river impassable to a descending armada of gunboats & transports. The Louisiana shore was out of our jurisdiction. It was therefore necessary to get the cooperation of the State of La., or else the Confederate States Government should be requested to assume the work.

The Govr. then ordered me to write to Govr. Moore upon the subject, which I did immediately. He referred the matter to Genl. Lovell, & sent me his letter. Genl. Lovell said that the guns & men could not be obtained, & that it would be better to direct our attention to the fortification of the Mississippi in the neighbourhood of Fulton. I replied that I was confident the enemy would not attack either Columbus or Bowling, but would ascend the Tennessee and Cumberland, & attempt to march upon Memphis from the Tennessee by the direction of Purdy or the nearest and most convenient route for an attack by land, and force our troops to fall back to the south of our whole line of defense, and in that event I thought we ought to construct fortifications below Memphis on the river, much stronger than these above for the defense of Vicksburg & New Orleans. This was early in November.

Finding that our rulers differed from me, I ceased correspondence, and recommended that our siege guns be sent up to Genl. Polk, which was done immediately. I mention this, General, that you may be convinced that I have thought much about the matter, & that you may the more readily pardon me for giving you the plan I intended to pursue, if I had been ordered to fortify Vicksburg, which would have been the case, if the cooperation of Govr. Moore could have been secured; or if the wishes of Govr. Pettus could have been gratified. I considered well the topography of our river valley – & determined 1st – not to fortify heavily any part of the river where its course is serpentine, the banks low on one side, and high on the other, where, there is a “cut off,” or a hill approaching it, as represented in the following sketches for these reasons. Snap 2015-03-01 at 11.57.27 1. An enemy with superior force can cut a canal across the peninsula formed by the bends above & below the fortifications and “turn” them, as at (a) or 2. If the works are water batteries, star, or bastioned forts, crown works, or any fortifications suitable for hills, ravines, or a continuous ridge or such a locality as the Memphis, Vicksburg, or Natchez Bluffs – they can be carried by mining, assault, & regular approaches at (b). I therefore determined to select a section of the river where its course is straight or slightly tortuous for many miles – thus: Snap 2015-03-01 at 11.58.02 For these reasons: 1. Where the course of the river is straight, or slightly tortuous for many miles, the banks are usually old, high & firm. The bed of the river has not been changed for ages. This is often proven by the aboriginal mounds, & levees which occupy such situations. 2. There the banks are usually higher, & the swamps approach the river nearer than where the course of the river is serpentine. 3. Star forts can be built opposite each other and fortifications extended to the swamps, which can be made impregnable. The ditches can be filled with water. The enemy cannot mine the works; because the water will fill their mines. Cypress and other timber, better than stone or brick, is convenient for framing bomb proof shelters. The soil is not gravelly, but a closely compacted mass of loam & fine sand admirably adapted to resist shot & shell, & easily worked with the spade. 4. The swamps prevent any flanking movements of the enemy (a, b). It is easy to entrench the banks above so as to shelter sharp shooters to annoy a mortar fleet anchored at long range. I think obstructions could be placed between the forts to hold gun-boats under fire, and to prevent their descending in darkness and fogs. Cypress logs lashed together in threes by chains, and anchored with their length diagonal to the course of the current might answer a good purpose, except in the current. Snap 2015-03-01 at 11.59.49 In this current a strong iron plated floating battery or steamer might be anchored in action. Steam tugs can be used to construct these “booms” & to keep them free from drift wood, & to guard them in the night, adjusted by watch boats to do the duty of sentinels. I will not weary you with a longer letter. I am opposed to forts on bends and hills to defend the river. If you consider the above worthy of attention please refer it to a council of war, or to the proper authority.  I will only add that I am now doing but little here. The conscription law makes my services to the State Government almost unnecessary, I hold no office now but that of aid to our governor. After serving as Chief of Ordnance last fall & winter, with the rank & pay of Lieut. Col., & then Col., I resigned the office because the Legislature cut down my salary & left me no clerk. I have no talent for electioneering, and am not personally acquainted with the president, & might be disappointed if I were to ask for a Brigadiership, or even a Colonelcy.

So in a few weeks I expect to go home, & plant corn & remain with my family unless the government calls me into some service. I would be delighted to be with you again, & give our enemies another stroke in the rear as I did at Manassas, for the notice of which I sincerely thank you. I would raise another company, but some political “greenhorn” of a Colonel or General would be elected or appointed to command me & might disgrace me. But I wish you dear General to consider me at all times under your command and subject to your orders. You will come through this war gloriously & without a wound if my prayers to the God of our Fathers are answered.

Respectfully, Your Obt. Svt.,

Edward Fontaine

Shortly after this letter was written, Edward Fontaine did go home, plant corn, and remain with his family. He attempted several times to obtain a position in the Confederate army, but his efforts were never rewarded with an officer’s commission.

When the war ended, Fontaine continued his work in the ministry, but was probably best known for his scientific pursuits. Author Elmo Howell said of him, “Touched by the Fontaine wildness and extravagance of intellect, Edward was ‘a Leonardo of a man’ with an extraordinary range of interests. Soldier, educator, public official, he was also a scientist, renowned for a plan to control the water of the lower Mississippi which was subsidized by the Louisiana legislature. - Mississippi Scenes: Notes on Literature and History, pages 237-238.

Edward Fontaine died on January 19, 1884, and was buried on his plantation at Pocahontas, Mississippi. An article written about him in The Comet (Jackson, Mississippi), November 27, 1880, serves, I think, as an elegant epitaph:

Dr. Fontaine has been a close student and earnest investigator all his life, and he has the gift and faculty of learning faster and more than almost any other student. He has written enduring pages on the book of science, and made many marks in the limitless field of investigation that will stand out all the brighter after his great grandchildren are dead.”

As a final postscript, I do need to mention that one of Fontaine’s children was Lamar Fontaine, who was even more flamboyant than his father. His exploits as a soldier during the Civil War have reached the level of myth, and one day I will have to devote a blog post to him as well.


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I’m Teaching a Civil War Research Class!

I thought I would use the blog to spread the news that I am teaching a non-credit class in researching your Mississippi Civil War ancestor at Millsaps College as part of their Community Enrichment Series. The class will meet at Millsaps on Thursday nights from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., and will run from January 29 – February 19, 2015.

The class I am teaching will cover the basics on researching the military service of Mississippians who served in the Union or Confederate armies during the Civil War. Among the topics to be covered will be locating and understanding Civil War service records, pensions, and burial information. The class will also discuss how to research a relative’s Civil War unit to understand what battles they might have participated in.

The cost of the class is $75.00, and you can register online at:


It will be a great class, and I hope to see you there!


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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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He Died For His Country: Lieutenant Colonel James L. Autry, 27th Mississippi Infantry


I found the following letter recently, and this is the perfect time to post it, as today’s date, the final day of 2014, is the 152nd anniversary of the death of the man who wrote it. The letter is as follows:

Vicksburg, Miss., May 6, 1862

Gov. Pettus,

We need the following articles immediately – 400 sabos & the straps for 10 inch shells – 60 hand spikes – 15 thirty-two pounder sponges – 15 thirty-two pounder rammers. 500 plugs & fuses for shells – 1,000 32 pound cartridge bags – 30 priming wires – Telegraph for them to be sent tonight – the enemies boats passed Fort Adams this morning at 9 0’clock – May be here by noon to-morrow.

Your svt.,

James L. Autry

Be sure to send a dispatch to send them out to-night by an extra train – no train was here to-night, therefor no danger of a collision. 

- John J. Pettus Correspondence, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

The letter above was written by Lieutenant Colonel James L. Autry, and if his message had a sense of urgency about it,

Wartime photo of James L. Autry

Wartime photo of James L. Autry – Fondren Library, Rice University

there was a very good reason. Autry was military governor of the post of Vicksburg, and at the time he wrote Governor Pettus, Union naval forces were closing on the city from above and below.

On May 18, 1862, the lead elements of the Union flotilla reached Vicksburg, and Commander S. Phillips Lee of the United States navy sent a message demanding the immediate surrender of the city. Lee received three replies to his ultimatum: one from Laz Lindsay, Vicksburg’s mayor; one from General Martin L. Smith, commanding the Confederate forces defending the city; and the last from Autry, acting in his capacity as post commander. While all three documents rejected the call for surrender, I think that Autry’s was the most eloquent:

I have to state that Mississippians don’t know, and refuse to learn how to surrender to an enemy. If Commodore Farragut or Brigadier General Butler can teach them, then let them come and try.

Autry’s defiant tone struck just the right cord among the Confederate populace, and his words were reprinted in newspapers throughout the South. The lieutenant colonel well understood the importance of taking a stand against a powerful foe; his own father, Micajah Autry, was one of the defenders of the Alamo, and died when the mission fell to Mexican forces.

James Lockhart Autry was born on January 8, 1830, in the town of Hayesborough, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville.

Micajah Autry at the Battle of the Alamo - Fondren Library, Rice University

Micajah Autry at the Battle of the Alamo – Fondren Library, Rice University

As he came into the world, cannon were booming as a spirited celebration of the anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s victory over the British at New Orleans in 1815 was taking place. After the death of his father at the Alamo, his mother, Martha Wyche Autry, moved her family to Holly Springs, Mississippi. As the young man became an adult, Autry decided on a career in the law, and after passing the bar he opened a practice along with two fellow Mississippians that made names for themselves during the Civil War: L.Q.C. Lamar and Christopher H. Mott. From practicing law, it was an easy transition for Autry to go into politics; he served as a representative for Marshall County in the Mississippi legislature from 1854 – 1859, and during the last two years of his term he was Speaker of the House of Representatives.

When the Civil War came, James Autry wasted no time in volunteering; he was mustered in as 3rd lieutenant of Company B, 9th Mississippi Infantry, on February 16, 1861, at Holly Springs. The young man advanced quickly in rank, being elected lieutenant colonel of the 9th on April 12, 1861. After serving for a year with the regiment, the 9th Mississippi was reorganized, and Autry was detached from the unit for temporary duty as post commander at Vicksburg. After his defiant stand and the Union failure to take the hill city in the summer of 1862, Autry received orders to report to the 27th Mississippi Infantry to serve as the unit’s lieutenant colonel.

In his first battle with the 27th Mississippi, at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 152 years ago today, James L. Autry was shot down while leading his men from the front. In his after action report on the battle, General Patton Anderson wrote:

The ordeal to which they were subjected was a severe one, but the task was undertaken with that spirit and courage which always deserves success and seldom fails achieving it. As often as their ranks were shattered and broken by grape and canister did they rally, reform and renew the attack under the leadership of their gallant officers. They were ordered to take the batteries at all hazards and they obeyed the order, not, however, without heavy losses of officers and men. Not far from where the batteries were playing, and while cheering and encouraging his men forward, Lieut. Col. James L. Autry, commanding the 27th Mississippi, fell, pierced through the head by a Minnie ball.

- Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Centenary Series, Volume I, page 460.

When Martha Autry was notified of the death of her son, she exclaimed,

My poor boy! The first sound that ever came to him was the booming of cannon, and it was the last sound he ever heard. Peace let him rest! God knoweth best! - Ibid, page 457.

In addition to a widowed mother, Autry left behind a wife, Jeanie, and a namesake: James L. Autry, Jr. Born in 1859, Autry’s son was only a toddler when his father died, and had few, if any memories of him. But he did have one keepsake from his father: The day before James Autry was elected lieutenant colonel of the 9th Mississippi, he wrote his son a letter in the event he should fall in battle. The handwriting was hard to read, and this is the best transcription I could make of it:

Camp Davis, April 11, 1861

To Jas. L. Autry Jr.

My Dear Son

Your father may fall to-night in battle – Your mother will keep this & when you are old enough to comprehend she will read it to you – My dear boy, never do a mean or cowardly act – let all your actions be upright, just, honorable and in accordance with the teachings of the Bible which you should ever make your guide through life – Be kind to your mother – always listen to her advice & never do ought towards her save in kindness – She is every thing that a pure, virtuous woman can be, as near perfection as any human being can be. “Beware of entrance into a quarrel,” but _____ in _____ like a man in the true _____ of the term – Never tell a falsehood – die before doing so under any circumstances – Put your trust in God & _____ and revere his name – And now my son God bless and protect you through life – Farewell

Your devoted father

Jas. L. Autry

- “Letter from Col. James L. Autry to James L. Autry, II,” Woodson Research Center – Fondren Library  Rice University, accessed December 27, 2014,

Lieutenant Colonel James L. Autry’s body was brought back to Holly Springs, and he was buried at Hill Crest Cemetery.

Grave of James L. Autry -

Grave of James L. Autry –

During the graveside services, Colonel H.W. Walter said of him:

He has come back to us. What an awful return. A few moments since he was under his own roof, and a wail of agony went up from the hearthstone. The plaintive call of wife and mother fell on cold and listless ears. He is before us here. The eye that sparkled with affection is closed – the hand that grasped hand with friendship is paralyzed – the manly form that moved with vigor once, is still and cold now, and the body is sinking slowly, sadly to its final rest. No, thank God; not to its final rest; for we believe it will rise again, as we believe that his spirit has passed to that heaven where law is love – where legislation is Jehovah, where battles are never fought, and where happiness is unmixed and eternal.

- Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Centenary Series, Volume I, page 461.

James Lockhart Autry continues his eternal slumber in Hill Crest Cemetery, his grave marked with a beautiful marker. His epitaph is simple, but true: He died for his country.




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A Great Deal of Suffering: Letters to Governor John J. Pettus

For quite some time now, I have been working with the Governor John J. Pettus correspondence at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Much of it is just the ordinary bureaucratic paperwork necessary to keep the government running. Pettus was a wartime governor, however, and many of his letters were from Mississippians who were seeking help, or offering advice, or just pouring out their troubles to a burdened chief executive. These letters open a window into the experiences of ordinary people who were living in extraordinary times.

A good example of this correspondence is the following letter, written by Dr. J. W. Martin. The good doctor was on his way to Richmond with a load of medical supplies to aid the Mississippians serving in the Army of Northern Virginia. Martin only made it as far as Meridian when he found a need for his supplies and medical expertise much closer to home. The Battle of Shiloh had occurred just a week earlier, and communities throughout Mississippi were struggling to care for thousands of casualties from the Battle of Shiloh:

Engraving of the Battle of Shiloh from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 17, 1862

Engraving of the Battle of Shiloh from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, May 17, 1862

Brookhaven, Miss., April 14th 1862

Hon. J. J. Pettus:

Dear Sir,

Failing to get through to Richmond after I left Jackson on last Monday I returned to Meridian on Friday night, when I found a large number of our wounded, and fortunately for them when I started for Richmond I carried bandages, lint and other necessary articles to treat the wounded. I divided out my material with two other physicians who I found without anything.

We went to work and dressed a large number of wounds. It was deeply impressed on my mind from what I witnessed that we must lose a large number from the want of proper attention at the time and after being wounded than is killed in battle. A number of them informed us that it was from twenty-five to sixty hours after being wounded before they received any attention and their wounds had received no attention after first dressing, a large majority of those I dressed, the bandages were made of new coarse osnaburg, a new unbleached domestic which was very irritating to the wound, causing a great deal of suffering, and would finally lead to death in some cases.

Impressed with that belief and for the feeling I have for our wounded soldiers on my arrival home yesterday I had it announced in our church that we needed lint and bandages for our wounded of the proper kind and urged upon our patriotic ladies to go work in preparing them that another battle was eminent at Corinth and they would be needed, and if permitted I would go with them and give my whole attention. And as the ladies has ever come up to the help of our beloved country, they all went to work this morning in scraping lint and rolling bandages, and I have no doubt by tomorrow I will have over five hundred bandages ready rolled for use with several pounds of lint.

Another subject I wish to lay before your excellency is in regard to a hospital at this place. We could I think in one week make arrangements to take care of fifty patients, and let me assure you, that they would receive that attention that men should who are battling for our rights and liberties. If you think I can accomplish anything, and would like to confer with me in this subject, please let me hear from you at an early date, and any assistance you can lend me will be thankfully received and highly appreciated.

With high esteem, I remain your excellency’s obedient servant,

J. W. Martin


Just two days after Martin wrote his letter, Mary A. Jones poured out her heart in this letter to Pettus:

Natchez, Miss., April 16, 1862

Governor J.J. Pettus

In reply to your letter March 12, I went up to Yazoo City to see if I could draw any thing up there as you directed me.

"Women in Mourning, cemetery in New Orleans," Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 25, 1863

“Women in Mourning, cemetery in New Orleans,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, April 25, 1863

I saw Mr. Mangum the sheriff of Yazoo he said I could not draw any thing yet as the law has not allowed any thing for soldiers widows. As for my husbands position I can’t get that only from Virginia Law Department so you see the sad condition I am placed in with three small children to take care of. Half of the time we have not bread to eat every body say I must be taken care of by the Confederate States they did not tell my deare husband that I should beg from door to door when he went to fight for his country; no he sacrificed every thing he had deare to him on Earth for our sake thinking that he left us in a Land of Humanity with out thought or feare give up his life in defense of his country. Kind sir if you can assist me in any thing I will [be] veary thankfull to you. I am your obedient svt., Mary A. Jones. 

This is a moving letter, and I wish I knew more about Mary Jones; the problem is that her name is so common that it makes tracking her down very difficult. If I find out any additional information about her, I will be sure to add it to this post. These are just a couple of the thousands of letters in the John J. Pettus correspondence at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. I sure there are many great stories waiting to be discovered and told in those letters, and I know that some of them will make their way into this blog.




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Murder Will Out: A Story of Bloody Kansas

In the summer of 1890, Joseph Tribble, a carpenter living in Grenada, Mississippi, decided to make a trip to his boyhood home in Kansas. Having been gone for thirty years, Tribble probably felt that no one would remember him, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Shortly after arriving, Joseph Tribble was recognized, and immediately arrested. He was charged with the murder of Alexander Kincaid – a crime which had taken place in September, 1861, and had its roots in the conflict known as “Bloody Kansas.”

In the 1850s the turmoil in the Kansas territory foreshadowed the coming Civil War. The conflict had its roots in the

Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, author of the Kansas - Nebraska Act - Library of Congress

Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, author of the Kansas – Nebraska Act – Library of Congress

Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was a measure proposed by Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas to organize the territories because he wanted to build a railroad linking Illinois with California. Douglas realized that for the act to pass, he would have to make concessions to the South if he was to obtain their support for the measure. Thus the act repealed the provision of the Missouri Compromise that prohibited slavery north of 36* 30′ in the Louisiana Purchase lands. In addition, both Kansas and Nebraska territories were thrown open for settlement, and the immigrants  themselves would decide whether these lands would be slave or free – a concept known as popular sovereignty.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress in May 1854, and the law set off an immediate firestorm of protest. Abolitionists in the North denounced the act as a slave holder conspiracy to add additional slave states to the Union. In the South, the law was very popular, as it was seen as an opportunity to add Kansas as a new slave state north of the old 36* 30′ Missouri Compromise line. An unintended consequence of the law was that Kansas turned into a battleground as abolitionist  and pro-slavery settlers flooded into the territory.

In his biography of Confederate guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill, writer Edward E. Leslie summed up very eloquently this not-quite-a-war going on in Kansas in the 1850s:

Just as in Northern Ireland and the Middle East in recent decades, it was a tit-for-tat war, a war of retribution and retaliation. It was characterized by fiery rhetoric, with talented and unscrupulous propagandists on both sides. ‘War to the knife, and knife to the hilt!’ one newspaper editor cried. It does not matter which side he was on; such

Illustration from the book, "The Reign of Terror in Kanzas" - Kansas Historical Society

Illustration from the book, “The Reign of Terror in Kanzas” – Kansas Historical Society

sentiments were echoed by both sides. - The Devil Knows How To Ride, page 6.

Joseph Tribble was born into this simmering cauldron of violence; I first found him on the 1850 United States Census as an 11 year old, living in Platte, Andrew County, Missouri, with his mother and his seven brothers and sisters. His mother, Cassandra, was a native of Tennessee, and all of the children were born in Missouri. Andrew County, located in the Northwestern part of Missouri and bordering on Kansas, was home to both pro-Union and pro-Confederate citizens during the Civil War, and was on the front lines of the guerrilla war during the conflict.

Sometime after 1850 the Tribble family picked up stakes and moved just across the state line to the town of Burr Oak, in Doniphan County, Kansas. There the family eked out a living as farmers; on the 1860 Census, Cassandra Tribble reported that she owned real estate worth $200.00, and had a personal estate valued at $100.00. Twenty-one year old Joseph was still living with his mother at this time, and listed his occupation as “farm hand.”

With the outbreak of war in 1861, citizens in Missouri and Kansas began taking sides and donning uniforms to fight. But in Missouri and Kansas, the war would not be confined to soldiers; civilians would be caught up in the ever expanding whirlwind of violence and terror. I don’t know much about Joseph Tribble’s life prior to the Civil War, but given subsequent events, it is safe to say that he was pro-Confederate in sentiment. Living in Kansas, he was bound to rub elbows with pro-Union men, and eventually one of these encounters turned violent. On September 19, 1861, the White Cloud Kansas Chief (White Cloud, Kansas), ran the following story:

A Union man named Kincaid, was murdered, on Sunday week, in Burr, Oak Township, by a Missouri Secessionist named Tribble. Kincaid was coming out of church, when Tribble stepped up to him, and asked him whether he was a coercionist? Kincaid replied in the affirmative, when Tribble stabbed him to the heart, then escaped over the river, with the assistance of Kansas traitors. The murderer is a brother to the ruffian whom the Pro-Slavery Democracy of this County attempted to shove into the office of County Treasurer, two years ago.


Map of the Missouri/Kansas Border where Joseph Tribble grew up - He was born in Andrew County, Missouri, but his family moved to Doniphan County, Kansas between 1850 and 1860

Map of the Missouri/Kansas Border where Joseph Tribble grew up – He was born in Andrew County, Missouri, but his family moved to Doniphan County, Kansas between 1850 and 1860

The murdered man was Alexander Kincaid, a small farmer who lived in Doniphan County. In the 1860 United States Census for Doniphan County, Kincaid listed his birthplace as New York, and he stated he had a personal estate worth $120.00. One interesting fact about Kincaid’s listing in the 1860 Census – he was on the same page as Joseph Tribble, meaning that they were neighbors. The two probably came into contact with each other quite often, and over time their political differences grew into an animosity that led to murder.

After killing Kincaid, Joseph Tribble did not wait around to face Kansas justice; where he went I have not been able to

Joseph Tribble's enlistment information from his Civil War Service Record -

Joseph Tribble’s enlistment information from his Civil War Service Record –

discover, but he next appears as a private serving in Company A, 1st Missouri Cavalry. Enlisting in December 1861, Tribble’s service record gave the following synopsis of his wartime service:

Served in Missouri State Guard, engaged at Blue Mills, Lexington, Sugar Creek, Bentonville, Elk Horn, Farmington, Iuka, Corinth. Deserted May 1, 1863, returned February 1, 1864. New Hope Church, Latimore House, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Lovejoy. Transferred to Company I, September 12, 1864. Allatoona, Georgia, Franklin, Tennessee; deserted at Nashville December 6, 1864.

Joseph Tribble enlisted in the 1st Missouri Cavalry along with his brother Andrew. The older sibling was soon promoted to sergeant, but he was captured at the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas, and sent to a prisoner of war camp at Alton, Illinois. Apparently Andrew had seen enough of the war to suit him, as he took the oath of allegiance to the United States and was released from prison.

After deserting from the 1st Missouri Cavalry in December 1864, Joseph Tribble drops from sight until 1880, when he shows up on the United States Census in Grenada, Mississippi. The forty-one year old listed his occupation as carpenter, and he was living with his wife, Levisa J. Tribble, and their children, Claudia, Andrew, and Cassandra.

Joseph Tribble had spent a considerable amount of time in Mississippi during the war, and perhaps he liked what he saw of the state. He also had to know that with the war over and the Union victorious, returning to Kansas or Missouri would have entailed considerable risk for a man wanted for murder. By 1890, however, with 30 years between him and his crime, Tribble must have felt safe in taking a trip back to his old haunts in Kansas. But he could not have been more wrong. On July 6, 1890, the New York Herald ran the following story:

Murder Will Out.

Arrested for Killing A Man in Kansas Nearly Thirty Years Ago

St. Joseph, Mo., July 5, 1890 – Joseph Tribble, whose residence is on a plantation in the State of Mississippi, was arrested at an early hour this morning at Wathena, a little town just across the river from St. Joseph and in the state of Kansas. Tribble was a resident of Wathena twenty-nine years ago at a time when the border ruffians and bushwhackers run almost everything on the Kansas and Missouri sides of the river.

It was during these times in the year 1861 that Tribble, who sympathized with the Confederate cause, murdered Thomas Kincaid, who was a Northern sympathizer and who was at the time preparing to enlist in the Union Army. Immediately after the murder, on account of the feud then existing between Missourians and Kansans, Tribble made his escape, going to Mississippi, where he entered the Confederate army and served as a private until Lee’s surrender.

After the war he settled down on a Mississippi plantation, was married and now has in Mississippi a wife and three children, who have not yet been notified of the trouble he has gotten into. He had never visited his old home until the first day of the present month, when he came to St. Joe, then went to see friends in a little town ten miles north of here, and on the 4th he went to attend a celebration. He had no idea that any of his old acquaintances would recognize him, but they did, and his arrest followed. The murder was committed by a butcher knife in the month of September, 1861, and curious to say, the identical knife was found on his person when arrested. Tribble acknowledged that the knife was the one he used to murder Kincaid, and when asked why he carried it yet he answered: ‘I was coming back here on a visit the first time since the crime was committed and thought I would bring my friend of those times back with me.’ Tribble is now in jail at Troy, Kansas.

Justice moved quickly in the 1890s, and on July 16,1890, The Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kansas), reported on the opening of the trial:

The Tribble Trial

Troy, Kan., July 15 – The preliminary trial of Joseph Tribble, charged with the murder of Alexander Kincaid in September, 1861, is being held here today. A number of witnesses have been examined, but none have testified positively to the facts of the killing. Tribble is a resident of Mississippi and was here on a visit when he was recognized and arrested.

The Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska), also published an account of the trial on July 16, and their story includes more details about the murder:

Great was the excitement at Troy, Doniphan County, this state, today, the occasion being the preliminary examination of Joseph Tribble, who was arrested July 4 at Wathena for the murder of Alexander Kincaid on September 8, 1861. Tribble was rebel, Kincaid a man of union tendencies, although neither belonged to the regular armies. On the day mentioned, which was Sunday, the boys, both under twenty-one, met at a campmeeting. A quarrel ensued and they went at each other, Kincaid with a butcher knife, Tribble with a bowie knife. Kincaid was killed. Tribble went to Mississippi and did not reappear until July 4, when he was arrested. Today he was bound over in the sum of $7,000, which he is unable to give. The most intense excitement prevailed at Troy during the trial. The court room was crowded by men who had rebel tendencies and men of union proclivities and who openly stated them now. Tribble has a wife and five children in Mississippi, in destitute circumstances. He made no defense at the preliminary examination today.


Main street of Troy, Kansas, circa 1912 where the trial of Joseph Tribble took place - Special Collections, Wichita State University

Main street of Troy, Kansas, circa 1912 where the trial of Joseph Tribble took place – Special Collections, Wichita State University

One interesting statement was put forward in the Bee article – it noted that both Kincaid and Tribble were armed with knives – all of the previous statements about the murder made it sound as if Tribble simply stabbed an unarmed man to death. This information would turn out to have a great impact during the course of Tribble’s trial.

By early August, word of Joseph Tribble’s predicament had made its way back to Mississippi. On August 2, 1890, The Grenada Sentinel (Grenada, Mississippi), ran the following article:

Mr. Joe Tribble In Trouble

Arrested in Kansas for Killing a Man in 1861

Several weeks ago Mr. Joe Tribble of Jefferson, left here to visit relatives at Troy and other places in Kansas. While there he was arrested, charged with the killing of one Mr. Alexander Kincaid, in 1861. It seems that Mr. Kincaid was a rabid Federalist man, while Mr. Tribble was equally as strong a Confederate. They got into a dispute in which Mr. Kincaid was killed, and Tribble left the country and joined the Confederate Army. Mr. Tribble had a preliminary trial in Kansas some time since, and was bound over in the sum of $5,000, which bond he has not yet been able to give. None but state witnesses were examined and Mr. Tribble and his lawyers, as well as friends claim that they can easily prove that the killing was done purely in self-defense, when the trial comes before the Circuit Court. Some of his army comrades and other friends have been appealed to, and are now raising money to help him out of his trouble. We trust that all who can will contribute towards this end, and that Mr. Tribble will be acquitted. He made a brave Confederate soldier, and has a number of friends in this section. It will be hard for him to get full justice amongst strangers who know and care nothing for the South but to hate and malign her and her people.

The Grenada Sentinel article was very sympathetic to Tribble, but he was going to be tried by a Kansas jury, and his defense attorney would certainly have to work hard to obtain an acquittal for his client. The trial started in early October, 1890, and the Kansas City Times devoted considerable ink to the proceedings in the October 10, 1890, edition of the paper:

Joseph Tribble’s Hearing for a Murder in 1861 Opened at Troy

The case of Joseph Tribble for the murder of Alexander Kincaid in September, 1861, was called in the district court yesterday morning and the day was consumed in endeavoring to secure a jury. A special venire of twenty-six names was issued and this morning a jury was obtained and the trial begun. At 3 o’clock this afternoon the state rested its case and a short adjournment was had to enable the defense to prepare for its side.

One witness for the state testified that he stood by and saw Tribble stab Kincaid without any hostile demonstration on the part of the latter and that he repeated the blow in the back after Kincaid started to run. Also that before the first blow Kincaid had declined to fight Tribble. A lady testified that on the day of the murder she was visiting at a neighbor’s when Tribble came with bloody hands and upon being offered a basin of water to wash them, replied that he wanted the blood to remain so that when he reached Price’s army, he could show them the blood of an abolitionist.

After the killing Tribble went south with Price’s army, and had since made his residence in Mississippi, where he married and raised a family. Last Fourth of July he came back on a visit and was immediately arrested and placed in jail at Troy. Four witnesses who saw the killing, said that Kincaid had a sharpened butcher’s steel in his hand when he was stabbed by Tribble. By the few witnesses introduced by the defense up to adjournment it was proved that Kincaid had threatened Tribble’s life and the morning of the killing had sharpened the butcher’s steel for the purpose of killing Tribble. They met at the school house on Sunday, where church was held, and Kincaid struck Tribble and drew the steel. In self-defense Tribble drew a knife and struck the blow that caused death. The defense will set up the plea of self defense.

On this first day of the trial, the jurors had the difficult task of determining the truth from witnesses that told two entirely different stories of what happened 30 years earlier. If they believed one set of witnesses, Joseph Tribble had basically assassinated an unarmed, defenseless man. If you believed the other witnesses, Joseph Tribble had defended himself from a man who was intent on taking his life. Only time would tell which set of witnesses the jurors believed.

Today, a major murder trial might last for months; but in the 1890s justice was swift and sure, and on October 12, 1890, the Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), announced the verdict in all caps:


Joseph Tribble was acquitted of a murder in Doniphan county, Kansas, today committed over thirty years ago. Tribble was a southern sympathizer and the man he killed was Alexander Kincaid, a recruiting officer for the Union army. The evidence conclusively showed that Tribble acted wholly in self defense. Tribble is a resident of Mississippi and was arrested here the 4th day of last July while on a visit to his relatives in this section.

Without having access to the transcripts of the trial, it’s hard to second guess the verdict of the jury. The thirty years between the killing and the trial must have worked in Tribble’s favor; memories fade over time, witnesses die or move away, and the animosities generated by the war had decades to subside. All of these factors probably had something to do with Tribble’s acquittal.

With his name cleared, Tribble returned home to Mississippi and the loving embrace of his wife and children. He had endured a difficult few months, but I have to think that the acquittal must have given him peace of mind; no longer would he have to look over his shoulder waiting for law to catch up with him. As the Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada), put it in their October 22, 1890 edition:  “He has been 29 years in dread of the hangman’s noose.” Tribble would no longer have to worry about a death on the gallows, but I have to wonder if his conscience ever bothered him. Was he forced to relieve the killing in nightmares night after night? Unfortunately, the historical record is silent on the subject.

The last mention I can find of Joseph Tribble is in the Confederate Widow’s Pension application of his wife, Levisa. In 1916 the 71 year old woman applied for a pension in Hinds County, Mississippi, declaring that she owned no property and lived with her son. Levisa wrote that she and Joseph were married on March 3, 1867, and that he had died on July 10, 1898.









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Often Defeated, Never Doubted: A Veteran Defends the Army of Tennessee

The Civil War was a bloody affair, but in the decades that followed another war was fought in the pages of books, newspapers, and magazines as

Confederate Veteran at the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion -

Confederate Veteran at the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion –

veterans battled over their understanding of the conflict. In this new war, no blood was spilled, but plenty of ink was, as soldiers both Blue and Gray sought to remind the public of the importance of the sacrifices made in their behalf for four long and bloody years. Quite often this war of words was between former comrades, as the old veterans jealously guarded the reputations of their former units from any slight, real or perceived. In particular, men who had served in the Army of Tennessee often felt that their service was overlooked in favor of their comrades who served in the eastern theater with the Army of Northern Virginia. The cult of personality that grew up in the post-war South around Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia was considerable, and for the men who served in the Western theater, it often felt like they were living in the shadow of that more successful army.

From time to time, men who served in the western theater took up the pen and sought to vindicate their service during the war. I found a good example of such recently, and wanted to share it on my blog. The following article, published in the Holmes County Times, August 3, 1906, was written by Thomas W. Smith of Lexington, Mississippi, who served in Company A, 38th Mississippi Infantry, during the war. Enlisting in the “Holmes County Volunteers” on March 15, 1862, Smith fought in some of the most important battles of the western theater, including the Siege of Vicksburg where he survived 47 days of siege before the garrison surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.


Comrade Smith’s Recent Able Address to Veterans of Holmes

Comrades: Forty years ago, the last shot was fired, and the last roll call was had in the Confederate army. Those of us who were spared through the four preceding years of bloody warfare, returned to our humble homes to be tried anew through the ever memorable years of reconstruction. We passed from period to period, until finally the passions and bitter animosities engendered by the war were either ameliorated or forgotten, when the present dawned upon us, and by that present we were reminded that history had been, and was being, written.

It also dawned upon us that such as had been written was not in all respects a true statement of facts, and placed the people of the South and the cause for which they fought falsely before the world and the children of our Southland. To correct, as far as possible, these errors, and to give to future generations a true conception of the aims and purposes of the Confederates, camps, such as our own, were formed, and it should be the duty of each and every member of these camps to place on record such facts as shall assist the future historians to write of us truly. History is only valuable as true. Opinions are not history. Acts and facts alone constitute matters historic. With this line of thought in view, I wish to bring to mind a few facts and acts, pertaining to the armies of Virginia and the West, or the Army of Tennessee.

Some fifteen, or perhaps twenty years ago, a young man born and reared in our town said to me, that “the Army of Virginia did

Union Broadside with the "On to Richmond" slogan -

Union Broadside with the “On to Richmond” slogan –

more fighting, severer fighting, and against greater odds, than did the Army of Tennessee; that the world accorded the Army of Virginia the greatest [measure] of praise, and that it was justly entitled thereto.” This opinion was neither new nor strange. That such opinions prevailed is not a matter of surprise when we remember that the fighting began on Virginia soil. That Richmond, the Confederate capitol, was the goal of the Federal soldier, and the cry “On to Richmond” the slogan of the Federal government. On the other hand, the Confederate soldier strained every nerve, and the government exhausted every means for its defense. Every maneuver by either army was heralded both from Richmond and Washington like lightning flashes, throughout the globe. All felt that with the fall of Richmond the dissolution of the Confederacy would follow.

General Lee, whose star of glory rose at his first battle, rose higher and higher, and shone with greater luster and brightness with each successive encounter, and did not go down with his surrender at Appomattox, commanded the Army of Virginia the greater part of the war continuously. Being in close proximity to the Confederate capitol, he had the full confidence of the president and cabinet – was in close touch with them and they each day knew his intentions and contemplated moves against the enemy. His army was at all times thoroughly organized under his various lieutenants, and was never divided or broken up, except when Longstreet was sent to Tennessee. Never a maneuver or movement was made that it was not give to, thoroughly understood, and if possible, executed by his subordinates, and they, together, with all his army, had perfect confidence in his ability.

Again, the contracted area covered by the Army of Virginia, enabled it by quick and rapid marching and counter marching, to foil the enemy, and attack him with the whole army when he might least expect it. Not so with the Army of Tennessee. The vastness of territory to be defended, the great distances between the various subdivisions, and the long hard marches to be made, rendered it a matter of impossibility to always unite in time to give battle.

Again, the commanding general was not at all times calculated to win the confidence of his men and lieutenants, and frequently, when with them long enough to inspire that trust and confidence necessary between them, some breach would occur between him and Richmond authorities, or for some other cause, he would be relieved, sent to another department, and another sometimes new and almost untried, placed in command. These and various other causes, all of which you, comrades, may call to mind, detracted from the Army of Tennessee, or the West.

I yield to no one a greater admiration for Lee and his men, the Army of Virginia, who won laurels that are deserved and imperishable, and those who utter a word in depreciation of their superb worth and splendid works of heroism, must be traitors to the glorious memories of the Confederacy. Its achievements made illustrious both its officers and men, who met every requirement that patriotism, undaunted courage and self-denial could demand or accomplish. It suffered losses, endured dangers and hardships, and evinced a valor which are among the greatest treasures of the most chivalric army that ever battled for sacred rights and the land they loved. As said before, the very purpose for which it was organized, and the positions it held gave it a presence and tendency to overshadow all other portions of the Confederate hosts.

In the west, Price with his little band of Missourians were pouring out their life’s blood freely for the mastery in that state, finally

General Sterling Price, veteran of many battles in the Western Theater - Library of Congress

General Sterling Price, veteran of many battles in the Western Theater – Library of Congress

closing their campaign with the battle of Elkhorn in Arkansas, but the actual great battle of the war was not fought until April, 1862.

Shiloh, with its terrible loss of life, gave to the South and her people a foretaste of the awful holocaust that was demanded of her in her efforts to be free and independent. Thirteen thousand federals killed and wounded and eleven thousand Confederates, were appalling figures, and staggered the minds of the people in their contemplation. On this bloody field, the chivalric soldiers of the South, was met in stubborn conflict by the sturdy western warrior. The losses in all other encounters dignified with the name of battle were insignificant when the minds of the people were awakened to the terrible casualty list of twenty-five thousand in a single battle. The enormity of these figures forced into the hearts and homes of the people both north and south, the calamity of war, and demonstrated the fierceness with which free men could meet free men, in defense of a principle for which they are willing, if need be to lay down their lives.

The army of the west made no claim of being better soldiers than the army of the east. They recognize the fact that the record of one Confederate redounds to the glory of all. All that the men who marched or died along the great father of the waters – from Belmont, Mo., to New Orleans, and in the states of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina ask, is that it be known that they exhibited the same willingness to suffer and die, the same unselfish patriotism, as did the men whose blood crimsoned the Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania soil.

The army of the west, at all times overwhelmed by numbers, never despaired; often defeated, never doubted. No misfortune discouraged it, or cast a gloom over its spirits. Being far removed from the center of attraction Richmond, it did not have the best equipment the Confederate authorities could provide, but this aroused no complaint. It was too loyal not to be in sympathy with the efforts being put forth by the government to drive back the mighty hosts of federal soldiers who were pressing down upon the Confederate capitol.

The Federal army on its front and flank supplied, to a very great extent, its quarter-master’s stores, and the ever brave and vigilant knights of the saddle under Forrest, Buford and Wheeler, were its most bountiful commissary. Naked or clothed, barefoot or shod, hungry or well fed, it declined no service and hesitated at no sacrifice. Whether on the march or on the field of battle, it exhibited unsurpassed courage and fortitude. One single thought dominated every soul. The defense of home and loved ones, and the defeat of the foe, being the all-absorbing principle that made them such splendid fighters in battles like Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Franklin.

Comrades, permit me to call your attention to the fact that every battle engaged in by the Army of Virginia had its counterpart in the west; and also to compare two assaults on the enemy, one by Saunder’s brigade at the “Crater;” the other by Mabry’s brigade at Harrisburg. Both insignificant, but got to show more forcibly the point I am endeavoring to make. The first has been eulogized in books and public prints. The latter was published in a county newspaper in our state. For the first I quote extracts from Capt. John C. Featherston in the Confederate veteran. “On we went, as it seemed to us, literally to the mouth of hell. This practically ended the fight inside the fort; but the two armies outside continued firing at this common center, and it seemed to us that the shot, shell, and musket balls came from every point of the compass and the mortar shells rained down from above. They had previously attacked us from below. So this unfortunate fort was one of the few points in the war or any other the history of which I have read, which had the unique distinction of having been assailed from literally every quarter. By the report of Capt. George Clark, assistant adjutant general, this brigade of five regiments carried into the battle of the ‘Cratre,’ six hundred and twenty-eight men, and of this number it lost eighty-nine.”

For the last, I quote from Lt. Col. Jones’ letter to the Woodville Republican: “The 38th Mississippi regiment made the charge that

Colonel Hinchie P. Mabry commanded the brigade to which Thomas W. Smith's regiment served at the Battle of Harrisburg - Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 20, (June 1912)

Colonel Hinchie P. Mabry commanded the brigade to which Thomas W. Smith’s regiment served at the Battle of Harrisburg – Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 20, (June 1912)

day with about 300 men, rank and file. Forty-four escaped unwounded. Every field and line officer was killed or wounded except Jasper Green, now a Baptist minister in Rankin County. The little remnant of survivors rallied around him in a thicket not over fifty yards from the entrenched line and a four-gun battery of the enemy. Col. Mabry ordered him to renew the charge, and his reply , as I was afterwards informed, was this: ‘Colonel, we have exhausted every round of ammunition, but if you say so, we will try again with empty guns.’ Nothing could be more Spartan like than this.”

Gen. S. D. Lee does the men who made the charge at Harrisburg but simple justice when he says that he “never saw soldiers fight better. Except in numbers engaged, Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg did not excel the desperate charge of Mabry’s brigade at Harrisburg. Nor did the famous charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava equal in desperation that of the 38th Mississippi regiment, if we may judge by the percentage of loss incurred by each.”

I wish now to draw your attention to a few of the battles of the west which are fearful in mortality and show the courage of the men engaged in them, whose conduct challenges human admiration, and give them highest rank among the world’s heroes. Having mentioned Shiloh, I pass to Chickamauga, where, in the month of September, 1863, forty thousand Confederates were met by fifty thousand Federals in deadly conflict. Sixteen thousand Federals and eleven thousand Confederates attest the determination of both. No fiercer fight had been witnessed on this continent. On these two days, assistance was out of the question. No reserves were to be had, and every man was at his post.

Some of the men who had won distinction on many fields in Virginia were to charge the enemy side by side with the men who had valiantly fought at Fishing Creek, Corinth, Shiloh, and Stone River. These Virginia veterans soon learned that the Army of Tennessee were their equals. In this bloody battle the Army of Tennessee lost none of their daring courage as compared with the men who at Sharpsburg, Manassas and Seven Pines had written in the great book of fame the story of Confederate heroism.

On the 8th day of October 1862, Gen. Bragg with 15,000 Confederates, confronted Gen. Buell with 28,000 Federals at Perryville Kentucky. The Confederates being elated at the forward movement through the blue grass state, felt confident of victory, and when the order to assault the enemy came, it met with the heartiest response. The battle was begun at 2 o’clock in the evening and by the shade of night came on 3400 Confederates and 4400 Federals killed and wounded, show how terribly earnest were the men engaged. Those who witnessed Shiloh and many other hotly contested fields declare that for numbers engaged, Perryville was the most dreadful they had________________ Franklin, Tennessee, to cover with glory as unfading as time the Army of Tennessee.

Poetry and song alike magnify the assault of Pickett at Gettysburg as being paralleled only by the charge of the Old Guard at

Waterloo, and as being the bloodiest of the age. Pickett’s loss was 21 per cent, while the loss at Franklin reached the enormous percentage of 33. Thirteen regimental commanders were killed, 32 wounded and nine captured. Of the brigadier generals, 4 in one division, 3 were killed and the other captured, and the major general so severely wounded that the day after the battle, his division was commanded by a colonel. In proportion to the numbers, the battle of Franklin was the bloodiest of modern times, and it was a sad fate in a noble response to the call of duty, for the Army of Tennessee to meet with practical annihilation.

Of the 70 regiments in the Confederate service holding the highest percent of loss in a single battle the west has to its credit 17 of these at Chickamauga alone. Of the 18 brigades suffering the greatest loss in a single battle Chickamauga had 4 and Gettysburg had 4 and it is said that the west is entitled to a majority of all so far reported.

And now, comrades, in conclusion, the reverberating peals of the thundering artillery in the seven days around Richmond, proclaiming the severest trials that men could endure, are answered by the clash of resounding arms from Missionary Ridge to, and around Atlanta. When the east speaks with pride of the glory won at Gettysburg, the west answers, here is Chickamauga.

As the east catching the echoes of heroism that rise from the hills of Sharpsburg, the west answers with consciousness of duty well done, and points to the blood stained field of Shiloh. When the east lifts to view the glory head of Malvern Hill, and when Second Manassas and Fredericksburg are mentioned, the west answers back with the requiem of its slain and the heroism of its deeds at Franklin, Stone River, Corinth, Iuka, Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

And from the regions beyond the great Mississippi comes the refrain of the fearless deeds of our comrades who dared and did all that human could do. And the world listens with wonder and admiration, as from all sections of our sunny south comes the same story of illustrious courage, patriotism and unselfish consecration to the cause of truth, right and justice.

T.W. Smith,

Holmes County Camp No. 398,

Lexington, Miss.


Thomas W. Smith made it very clear in his letter the importance he attached to his memory of the past; and he did his part to make sure that this history was not forgotten. When the Holmes County Veterans memorial was dedicated on December 2, 1908, the monument was accepted on

The grave of Thomas W. Smith in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Lexington, Mississippi -

The grave of Thomas W. Smith in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Lexington, Mississippi –

behalf of the veterans by Smith. In his acceptance speech the veteran spoke eloquently on how he hoped future generations would remember the Confederate soldier:

May it forever stand, as a perpetual memorial to induce them to emulate the virtue and devotion to duty, of the Confederate soldiers, who offered their lives in defense of that independence and political freedom, bequeathed to us by our revolutionary fathers. It will speak in silent language to them of a citizenry and soldiery scarcely equaled, and never excelled, in any age.

Thomas W. Smith died in Lexington, Mississippi, on April 27, 1919. In his obituary it was noted that “He served with conspicuous bravery and unswerving loyalty in the Confederate army during the Civil War. In civil life he was always aligned with the forces and influences that worked for the moral and material advancement of the community.” Smith is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery at Lexington, Mississippi; in addition to the dates of his birth and death on his tombstone, there is a simple inscription: “Company A, 38th Miss. Regt., C.S.A.”


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“A Few of Us Remained True to the Old Government:” Unionists in Tippah County, Mississippi

Mississippi is so strongly identified with the Confederacy during the Civil War that it is easy to overlook the fact that not all citizens of the state supported secession. One of the strongholds of Unionist sentiment in the state was the hill counties of Northeast Mississippi. Once the Magnolia State secession convention voted to remove themselves from the United States, many Unionists in Mississippi searched their hearts and made the difficult choice to stay loyal to the government of their birth. For more than a few, this meant turning their backs on friends and neighbors, and the possibility of being forced into exile or worse by their pro-Confederate neighbors.

Documentation on Unionists in Mississippi can be hard to find – after the war ended, and particularly after Reconstruction, most whites that supported the Federal government during the conflict were not eager to advertise the fact. Many left the state for more welcoming climes, while those that did remain in Mississippi were decidedly low key about their wartime sentiments.

Thus I was very interested when I found the following documentation concerning a group of pro-Union men from Tippah County, Mississippi, that not only remained loyal to the Federal government, but they felt so strongly about it that they joined the Union army. The following letter was written on August 11, 1865, to William L. Sharkey, who was installed as provisional governor of Mississippi by the Federals after the Confederate surrender:

Tippah County, Miss., Aug. 11, 1865

Hon. Gov. Sharkey

Sir, with a degree of backwardness, I write this letter, but being promoted by pure motives, I beg you to excuse its imperfections. At the

Post Civil War Tintype of William T. Rowland -

Post Civil War Tintype of William T. Rowland –

commencement of the late rebellion, a few of us remained true to the Old Government. After doging [dodging] the Confederate Conscripters for a few months we went to the Federal lines where we enlisted in different Regts.

I with a number of others enlisted on the 24 of July 1862 in Company “I” 11th Ills. Cav. We were discharged at Memphis, Tenn., June 9, 1865. Since which time we have returned to our former homes in Tippah County, Miss. Those who are acting in authority here require us to take the Amnesty Oath, not that there is any thing in the Oath that we would object to, but it seams strange that we should have to undergo the same process that a Rebel Soldier does to become a loyal citizen of our native state and county.

If you consider this worthy of your notice pleas send us information on the subject of what it takes to constitute a loyal citizen.

Your Obt. Servt.,

W.T. Rowland

My address at presant is Pochahontas, Tenn.

- W.L. Sharkey Letters and Petitions, 1865 (Series 771, Box 956, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

The writer of this missive to Governor Sharkey was William T. Rowland, a Union man from Tippah County who served nearly three years in Federal blue as a member of the 11th Illinois Cavalry. I wanted to find out a little more about this man, so I looked for him in the United States Census. I found Rowland on the 1850 U.S. Census for Tippah County, living with his parents, David and Nancy Rowland, and his five younger siblings. Among the children listed was William’s younger brother,  James, who also served in the 11th Illinois Cavalry.

William’s father, David, listed his birthplace as North Carolina, and his occupation as farmer. He must have had a small farm, as the value of his

William T. Rowlands 1865 discharge from the Union Army -

William T. Rowlands 1865 discharge from the Union Army –

real estate was listed as only $250.00 on the 1850 Census. This is just the sort of family that was hostile to the Confederacy – small farmers from the hill country with few or more likely no slaves, just trying to eke out a hardscrabble existence from the rocky soil. By the time the next census rolled around, in 1860, William was living on his own, albeit next-door to his parents, and like his father, he was making a living as a small farmer – in the Census that year he listed the value of his real estate at $300.00.

When William and James left home to join the Union army, they did not go alone; a number of their friends and neighbors went with them. The group traveled to Bethel, Tennessee, about 90 miles north from Tippah County, where they enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry. It seems that most of the Mississippians were placed into Company I of the regiment; Francis A. Luthey, a member of the unit, wrote in a letter to his hometown newspaper: “Since we arrived at Bethel, ten Mississippians have joined our company, thereby making it the biggest and best company in the regiment.” - Macomb Eagle, August 23, 1862

I wanted to get a better idea of just who the Mississippians were that joined the 11th Illinois Cavalry; but research was hampered by the fact that the Civil War service records of the 11th Illinois Cavalry are not yet on the website. I was, however, able to find the Illinois Adjutant General’s roster for Company I of the 11th Illinois at This roster gives some details about the men in the company, including where they enlisted. I decided to focus my research on the men that joined Company I at Bethel, Tennessee.

Through the power of the internet, using,,, the United States Census, and the 1890 Veterans Census for Mississippi, I was able to document pretty conclusively that 10 men from Tippah County served in the 11th Illinois Cavalry. Further, I found a number of other men from Tippah that I believe served in the regiment based on a match of names from the U.S. Census for 1850 and 1860 in Tippah County.

In addition to William and James Rowland, the men who definitely served in the 11th Illinois Cavalry from Tippah County were as follows:

Moses Parker and Talbot F. Parker – I found Moses Parker on the 1860 U.S. Census for Tippah County; the 43 year old farmer was living with his wife and seven children, the oldest of whom was 15 year old T.F. Parker. Moses died during the war, and was originally buried in Pocahontas, Tennessee. After the conflict ended his body was moved to the Corinth National Cemetery where he was buried in Plot 14, Grave number 3606. The Illinois Adjutant General’s roster states that Talbot “deserted March 1, 1863,” so the teenager may have decided to return home after the death of his father.

Hansel E. Moore – Listed in the 1860 U.S. Census for Tippah County as H.E. Moore, the 40 year old lived with his wife, Mary, and four children. He joined the 11th Illinois Cavalry at Bethel, Tennessee, date not listed. I will be speaking more of Hansel Moore shortly.

Eli Moore - Listed in the 1860 U.S. Census for Tippah County, Eli Moore, probably related to Hansel E. Moore, was living with his wife and two children. He enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry at Bethel, Tennessee, on August 18, 1862, and was discharged on November 1, 1862, for unknown reasons. Eli is listed on the 1890 U.S. Veteran’s Census as still living in Tippah County, and he filed for a veteran’s pension on July 31, 1890. He died on February 23, 1906, and is buried in Tippah County.

John B. Sasser - I found J.B. Sasser on the 1870 U.S. Census for Tippah County, he was 29 years old. According to information I found on the 1st Alabama Cavalry, United States Volunteers website, John was the half-brother of David and Thomas Stephens/Stevens, both of whom served in Company I of the 11th Illinois Cavalry. Sasser joined the 11th at Bethel, Tennessee, on July 24, 1862, and was discharged December 6, 1864, to take a promotion to 1st Lieutenant in the 1st Mississippi Mounted Rifles. The 1st Mississippi was the only Union white regiment officially credited to Mississippi during the Civil War.

David Stephens – Enlisted at Bethel, Tennessee, date not known. He was the brother of Thomas Stephens and half-brother of John B. Sasser.

David Stephens/Stevens served in the 11th Illinois Cavalry with his brother and half brother. He died in Vicksburg of chronic diarrhea on September 18, 1864 -

David Stephens/Stevens served in the 11th Illinois Cavalry with his brother and half brother. He died in Vicksburg of chronic diarrhea on September 18, 1864 –

Thomas Porter Devereaux Stephens – listed on the 1860 U.S. Census for Tippah County, the 23 year old was living with his wife and two children. He was the brother of David Stephens and the half-brother of John B. Sasser. Stephens filed for a U.S. pension in 1910 while living in Arkansas.

John C. Whitley and William T. Whitley - These brothers enlisted in the 11th Illinois Cavalry at Bethel, Tennessee on August 1, 1862. Both men survived the war, and they mustered out of service on June 9, 1865. I found them in the 1860 U.S. Census for Tippah County, living with their father, J.H.B. Whitley, and mother Ann Whitley. John was listed as being 18 years of age, while his younger brother William was only 16.

The other men I found that I suspect were from Tippah County were as follows: William R. Boyd, William S. Dawson, Almonta May, Jesse Overton, William Rainey, and Samuel M. Thompson. All of these men enlisted at Bethel, Tennessee, and I have found individuals with the same names living in Tippah County on the U.S. Census for 1850 or 1860. I am hoping that further research will enable me to definitely prove the service of these men with the 11th Illinois Cavalry.

While doing a little background research on the 11th Illinois Cavalry, I noted that the regiment saw extensive service inside the state of Mississippi. This would have put the Union men in the unit in the position of having to fight against their fellow Mississippians, and often in their familiar stomping grounds of the northern part of the state. I was also struck by the fact that these men would have been of invaluable aid to the 11th – being residents of north Mississippi, they would have been very familiar with the terrain, and could serve as expert guides.

Among the battles and skirmishes in which the 11th was engaged in Mississippi were the following: Corinth; Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign; Expedition from Memphis, Tennessee to Grenada, Mississippi; Expedition from Big Black River to Yazoo City; Expedition to Canton; the Meridian Campaign; Expedition from Vicksburg to Yazoo City; Expedition from Vicksburg to Rodney and Fayette; Expedition from Natchez to Woodville; Operations in Issaquena and Washington Counties; and Egypt Station. During its term of service, the 11th Illinois Cavalry lost 2 officers and 32 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, and 8 officers and 237 enlisted men that died of disease. (A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick H. Dyer)

The 11th Illinois Cavalry mustered out of service in the fall of 1865, with the majority of the men returning to Illinois for a heroes welcome from their friends, family, and neighbors. For the Tippah County contingent, however, going home meant something entirely different – they would have to resume their lives while living amidst the very people they had fought against for nearly three years. Their ex-Confederate neighbors were bound to hold grudges, and the threat of violence was a very real possibility. To protect themselves, the Union men of Tippah County formed a militia company for self defense. On September 23, 1865, Hansel E. Moore, a former member of the 11th Illinois, wrote the following letter to Governor Sharkey:

Tippah County Miss., Sept. 23rd/65

Gov. Sharkey, Jackson, Miss.

Dear Sir, I am credibly informed that several men in this county have, or are going to join together and petition to you to “put down” my company by stating that the company is composed of “bad men, tories &c,” and also that there is “not any use for a company of any kind here.” You can do as you wish in regard to putting down my company – But I can prove by the oldest citizens of the county several of whom are Secessionist & Union men too, that these statements against my company are false, entirely so. And the men whom I say I can make the proof by are men who has not been in the army on neither side. 

     When you remove this company (mine) you then leave this country in a bad condition – the northern part of the county is composed mostly of Union men (I mean loyal men), and numbers of them too are men who have served their time out in this war in the U.S. Service. And these very men who are saying the most against the company are the very men who are saying that “There is not any Union and that all Union men and men who served in the U.S. army shall leave their homes, land &c, and shall move north as soon as the U.S. troops leave the state & the rail-roads close by here.”  Now we, as loyal men call on you to sustain yourself & us in all patriotical efforts.

My company is made up in compliance with your proclamation, and agreeable to an act of the revised code & the amendment thereto, passed on the 10th day of Feb. 1860. I wish an answer from you in regard to all this immediately. In haste, Yours respectfully,

H.E. Moore Capt.

P.S. – I do nothing secretly nor try to undermine any person, all I do and say I wish it published to the world. My last & most earnest wish is that you have this letter published in the Miss. & Memphis papers. If those men have, or do send, such a “petition” to you, I wish it and their names published also.

Yours truly,

H.E. Moore Capt.

Write to me at Jonesboro, Miss., via Pocahontas, Tenn.

H.E. Moore

- W.L. Sharkey Letters and Petitions, 1865 (Series 771, Box 956, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

It’s no surprise that the pro-Confederate population of Tippah County would have been angered by the formation of a county militia made up of

Wartime image of T.P.D. Stephens/Stevens, probably taken after he had joined the 1st Mississippi Mounted Rifles, as he is wearing officer's rank on his uniform -

Wartime image of T.P.D. Stephens/Stevens  – This photo was probably taken after Stephens was made an officer in the 1st Mississippi Mounted Infantry, and he is wearing officer’s insignia on his uniform. –

former Union soldiers, and done their utmost to have it disbanded. I wish I knew what Governor Sharkey’s response to Moore was, but so far I have not been able to find one. I did, however, find one last piece of information regarding Moore’s militia company – the captain submitted the official results of the election of officers in his unit, probably in an effort to prove to the governor that they were a legitimate militia unit. The document begins by giving the results of the militia company’s voting for officers:

For Capt. H.E. Moore – 25

1st Lieut. T.P.D. Stevens – 25

2nd Lieut. W.T. Rowland – 25

All three of the men elected officers in the company were veterans of the 11th Illinois. The document goes on to explain the particulars of the election:

We the judges and clerks of an election held at Jonesburough on the 9 day of Sept. 1865, for the offices of Capt., 1st Lieut., and 2nd Lieut., of a Cav. Com. organized at Jonesburough Miss., in pursuance to Gov. Sharkey’s proclamation do certify H.E. Moore received Twenty-five (25) votes for Capt., that T.P.D. Stevens received Twenty-five (25) votes for 1st Lieut., that W.T. Rowland received Twenty-five (25) votes for the office of 2nd Lieut.

D.T. Bobo, Judge; T.P.D. Stevens, Judge; Clerks: W.T. Rowland, W.L. Skinner

State of Miss., Tippah County

Charles A. Stevens {Seal} Justice of the Peace

W.L. Sharkey Letters and Petitions, 1865 (Series 771, Box 956, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

I wish I knew more about what happened to the Unionists in Tippah County during Reconstruction, but documentation can be very hard to come by. That’s why I would like to make an appeal to any descendants of Union soldiers from Tippah County, or anyone with more information about them, to please contact me – I would love to post additional information about these men.

I want to close this story with a brief quote from the book The Iron Furnace: Or, Slavery And Secession, by Reverend John H. Aughey of Choctaw County, Mississippi. Aughey was an outspoken supporter of the Union during the Civil War, so much so that he was arrested and thrown into prison at Tupelo and threatened with execution. The good reverend eventually escaped from prison, but he was weak and exhausted and left with the dilemma of whom to turn to for help. For Aughey, the choice was simple:

I despaired of getting much further. I thought I must perish in the Iron Furnace of secession, which was heated very hot for me. Feeling confident that I must be near Tippah County, and knowing that there were many Union men in that county, I resolved to call at the first house on my route. If I remained where I was, I must perish, as I could go no further, and if I met with a Union family, I should be saved; if with “a secesh,” I might possibly impose upon their credulity, and get refreshment without being arrested. They might, however, cause my arrest. It was a dilemma such as I hope never to be placed in again. - The Iron Furnace, page 192.

Reverend Aughey’s instincts were good; the first house he came to in Tippah County was owned by a Unionist who aided him in escaping to the Federal lines. Aughey did not name his benefactor, as his book was published during the war, and he did not want to place him in any danger. I like to think, however, that the unnamed farmer had relatives or friends fighting for the Union in the 11th Illinois Cavalry.




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