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

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

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

Snap 2017-05-29 at 13.42.13

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

ponderous title of “An act to aid any State in communicating with and perfecting the records concerning its troops.” The purpose of this act was to create a new position for one officer in each state dedicated to collecting information on casualties to expedite the completion of “final statements of deceased soldiers,” so that their families could obtain any monies due them from the Confederate government. (Official Records, Serial 129, pages 189-190; available online at: http://ehistory.osu.edu/books/official-records/129/0189.)

Responding to this legislation, in April 1864, Mississippi governor Charles Clark appointed Major John Logan Power, adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, to the position, which would be known as “Superintendent of Army Records.” Power immediately sent in his resignation as adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery to take up his new post. (Compiled Service Record of John L. Power, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, accessed on Fold3.com).

J.L. Power 1

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

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

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

Snap 2017-05-29 at 14.17.31

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

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

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

Snap 2017-05-29 at 16.02.38

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

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

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

WHOLE NUMBER IN SERVICE: 78,000

DIED OF DISEASE: 17,500

KILLED AND DIED AFTERWARDS: 15,000

DISCHARGED, RESIGNED, RETIRED: 19,000

DESERTED OR DROPPED: 6,000

MISSING: 250

TRANSFERRED TO COMMANDS IN OTHER STATES: 1,500

TOTAL LOSS FROM ALL CAUSES: 59,250

BALANCE ACCOUNTED FOR: 18,700

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

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

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

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

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

Snap 2017-05-29 at 16.42.49

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“I Love the word Raymond”

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

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

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

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

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

SCAN0295

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

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

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

A.A.C.

 

 

 

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

Raymond Map - Copy

Map of the Battle of Raymond – the 32nd Ohio is at the bottom center. Map courtesy of the Civil War Trust (https://www.civilwar.org/learn/maps/battle-raymond.)

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

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

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

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

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

Hyde 1

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

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

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

Rheamond, Mississippi, May 14th 1863

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

Thomas J. Bunch

Co. G, 3 Tennessee regt. volunteers

I did a search of the Confederate service records on Fold3.com, and soon had the scoop

Snap 2017-05-25 at 08.45.51

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

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

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

From a Boy Soldier

Graham, Texas, April 9, 1907

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

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

Snap 2017-05-25 at 08.50.11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in true Southern love,

F. Herron

Frank Herron never forgot the care he received from the people of Raymond, and he wrote of them fondly on several occasions. In 1912 Mamie Yeary of McGregor, Texas, published a book of Texas Confederate veteran’s recollections of the war entitled Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray 1861 – 1865. One of the soldiers who had a story in the book was Frank Herron. His reminiscence from this publication can be found online here: http://battleofraymond.org/history/herron1.htm.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Heaps of Human Bones: The Dead of Champion Hill

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

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

B.F. Boring

Wartime image of Benjamin F. Boring (findagrave.com)

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

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

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

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

30th Illinois Infantry

Battleflag of the 30th Illinois Infantry

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Romance of a Sword

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

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

sword hanger

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

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

ROMANCE OF A SWORD

A YOUNG LADY OF PORT GIBSON FINDS AN IOWA OFFICER’S SWORD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother,

“__________”

RUSTY AND CORRODED BUT A SWORD STILL

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

Rigby

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

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

War Department

V’burg National Military Park Com’n

Vicksburg, Miss., Feb. 26, 1901.

Philip M. Harding, Esq., City:

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

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

With regards I am,

Very cordially yours,

W.T. RIGBY.

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

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

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

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

Snap 2016-12-26 at 16.05.37

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

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

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

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

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

SWORD LOST AT VICKSBURG IS DUG UP AND RESTORED AFTER FORTY YEARS

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

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

Snap 2017-05-01 at 19.58.53

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

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

 

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

Snap 2017-05-01 at 19.59.38

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

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

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

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

Snap 2017-05-01 at 20.19.34

Lieutenant Dutton’s Grave (Findagrave.com)

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

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

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

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Just Fifty Years Ago

Today, on Confederate Memorial Day, we remember the sacrifices made by Southern soldiers in defense of their homes and families. This is the perfect time to share this reminiscence of the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, written by Nathaniel L. Barfield, who served in the 3rd Mississippi Infantry. Written for The Lexington Advertiser (Lexington, Mississippi),  on the 50th anniversary of the battle, it was published by the newspaper on July 24, 1914:

Just Fifty Years Ago

Arlington, Ga., July 20, 1914

Dear Advertiser: – Just fifty years ago today, as we look backward we imagine we see Gen.

Featherston's Headquarters Flag

Headquarters flag of General Winfield Scott Featherston. The 3rd Mississippi Infantry was part of Featherston’s Brigade at the Battle of Peachtree Creek (Photo by Author)

Featherston with his brigade drawn up in line of battle, which was composed of 1st Mississippi Battalion Sharpshooters, 3rd [Mississippi Infantry] of which this writer belonged, 22nd, 31st, 33rd and 40th [Mississippi Infantry]. A staff officer hurried up and stated in our hearing: “General Featherston, General Loring wishes to know why you do not advance.” To which Gen. Featherston replied, “Tell Gen. Loring I am now in advance of the command I was to follow.”

Scarcely had that officer left when another rode up, and in very commanding voice repeated the same message. Then came the expression from Gen. Featherston, and I almost fancy I see and hear a face and voice – I would not recognize as the words came, “Tell Gen. Loring I am now two hundred yards in advance of the line I was to follow, but if he says forward! I can do so,” at which came the well-known command on such occasions.

We crossed the creek and when in reasonable distance the old brigadier shouted, “Charge!” and great was that charge, nevertheless more than half were either killed or wounded. My brother lost an arm, my old uncle, Capt. Pearce, for years has suffered from the effects of a wound in the neck that has made him an invalid. Colonel Drake, of the 33rd [Mississippi], standing with one hand resting on an old gate post giving orders to his regiment, gave his last command.

Stewart's Attack at Peachtree Creek

Attack by Stewart’s Corps at Peachtree Creek by Rick Reeves. The 3rd Mississippi was part of Stewart’s Corps in the battle.

At the reunion in Jacksonville, I met one of the battalion, the postmaster at Lady Lake, Florida, also one of the 33rd, which were all of the old brigade as far as I then saw, none of my old company or regiment. N.D. Hearn, of Ebenezer, Robt. Shirley, of Free Run, Yazoo County, Capt. R.N. Pearce and A.L. Holt, Yazoo County, are all the survivors I know of

Snap 2017-04-24 at 15.49.26

Article about the 1914 U.C.V. reunion in Jacksonville, Florida Gastonia Gazette, (Gastonia, North Carolina), April 10, 1914.

belonging to my company. Dr. G.C. Phillips, my especial friend and the senior surgeon of our brigade, is the only one of the surgeons now living so far as the writer knows, and how thankful today as we look backward just fifty years with the many changes attending, that we are permitted to write the little history above stated. Who will remember in nineteen sixty-four, just another half century, to record the doings of July the 20, 1914? Will the present editor then be in his office to direct a publication, I wonder?

To one and all now living – old survivors – accept my great love and best wishes. To you, Mr. Editor, I send happy greetings

N.L. Barfield, Co. I, 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Perrine, Florida

In his reminiscence, Barfield wondered how he and his fellow Confederates would be remembered in 1964 – or if they would even be remembered at all. I think he would be very pleased to know that his story is being told in 2017, over a century after his article first appeared in print.

Nathaniel L. Barfield was born on October 16, 1842, to Thomas and Mercy Barfield. His father was a prosperous planter in Yazoo County, Mississippi. (1860 United States Census, Yazoo County, page 999; also findagrave.com listing for Nathaniel L. Barfield).

Nathaniel enlisted in the “John M. Sharps” on August 31, 1861, at Benton, Mississippi. This company, raised in Yazoo County, became Company I, 3rd Mississippi Infantry. (Compiled Service Record of Nathaniel L. Barfield, 3rd Mississippi Infantry)

The Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, took a terrible toll on the 3rd Mississippi Infantry; the regiment suffered the loss of 11 men killed, 71 wounded, and 6 missing. Nathaniel Barfield escaped this killing ground without harm, only to fall in another, equally bloody battle at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. Shot in the head, Barfield was captured in December 1864 at Franklin, probably while he was still recuperating from his injury at a Confederate hospital. (Compiled Service Record of Nathaniel L. Barfield and Military History of Mississippi 1803 – 1898, page 152.)

After recovering from his wound, Barfield was sent to Camp Chase prisoner of war camp in Ohio. He remained under confinement until the war ended; the 22 year old private took the oath of allegiance to the United States on June 13, 1865. (Compiled Service Record.)

With the war over, Nathaniel Barfield went home to Mississippi, married and raised a family. He must have had some wanderlust in him, however, as he moved quite often; in 1880 he was living in Holmes County, Mississippi; by by 1900 he had moved to Lee County Florida, and in 1920 Nathaniel made his home in Dade County, Florida. (1880 United States Census, Holmes County Mississippi, ED 6, page 148A; 1900 United States Census, Lee County, Florida, ED 163, page 2A; and 1920 Dade County, Florida, United States Census, ED 38, page 8B.)

Eager to find out more about Nathaniel’s post-war life, I did a search through Newspapers.com, and found the following article, published in The Lexington Advertiser (Lexington, Mississippi), March 27, 1914:

Comrade Barfield Hopes to See Many from Holmes at Reunion

Perrine, Fla., March 15, 1914

Dear Advertiser: – Through Brother W.H. Faulconer, of Ebenezer, I learn the Lexington Camp will doubtless be represented at Jacksonville – this state in the reunion which is not far off. How gratifying to this writer as we picture the faces of the long ago that may be seen on that occasion. Dr. G.C. Phillips, the senior surgeon of Featherstone’s Brigade, Dr. Raiford Watson, N.D. Hearn, W.H. Faulconer, my old church clerk, and others whose names I do not now remember, should we meet, may I be permitted to encircle one and all in these old feeble arms, while their faces may be doubtless bathed with the tears which can not be suppressed. God bless one and all.

N.L. Barfield

The 24th annual United Confederate Veterans reunion of which Barfield spoke was held on May 6- 8, 1914, in Jacksonville, Florida. Fortunately for posterity, this reunion was filmed, and the footage can be seen on Youtube:

 

In the course of my research, I found one additional newspaper article about Nathaniel Barfield concerning another Civil War anniversary that he was celebrating. The following article was published in the Palatka Daily News (Palatka, Florida),  December 8, 1921:

Celebrates Anniversary of Rifle Ball In His Bean

Perrine, Dec. 6 – N.L. Barfield on November 30 celebrated here the 57th anniversary of the receipt of a rifle ball in his skull during the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, which he still carries in his head. The dining table at the Barfield home, around which were gathered several of his children and grand-children, bore in the center a large cake with the date “1864” on it in icing. In the center of the cake was a small flag with the inscription “Franklin, Tenn., 4 p.m., Nov. 30.”

Nathaniel L. Barfield died on July 28, 1927, and is buried in Miami Memorial Park Cemetery in Miami, Florida. It is my sincere hope that he rests peacefully under a beautiful Southern sky, content in the knowledge that his service during the Civil War has not be forgotten.

Barfield Grave

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“In The Iron Grip of Grant:” A Lady’s Reminiscence of the Siege of Vicksburg

Having a strong interest in the Civil War history of Vicksburg, I’m well acquainted with the published letters, diaries, and reminiscences written by the civilian inhabitants of the city. Emma Balfour’s diary, Mary Loughborough’s book, My Cave Life in Vicksburg, and Lucy McRae’s published reminiscences are just a few of the better known civilian accounts of the siege of Vicksburg. One writer who had escaped my attention until recently however is Theodosia F. McKinstry, who had her reminiscences of wartime Vicksburg published in 1927She lived through the siege of Vicksburg as a teenager, and her memories of 47 days spent under fire make for compelling reading.

Theodosia was born on August 28, 1844, in Vicksburg; her parents were Laurence and Jane Houghton, both natives of New York. Her father, Laurence, moved to Vicksburg about 1836, and he did not pick the location by chance; his own parents, Daniel and Lydia Houghton, immigrated to frontier Mississippi in the 1820s and settled at Vicksburg. The move proved to be ill-fated, however, and Daniel died at Vicksburg in June 1825. On the death of her husband, Lydia moved back to New York. (The Ancestors of Ebenezer Buckingham, Published in Chicago by R.R> Donnelley & Sons, 1892, pages 114-115).

Lawrence S. Houghton was a lawyer by trade, and he prospered at Vicksburg in his chosen profession. He became a Justice of the Peace, and later was elected to three terms as a Probate Judge for Warren County.

Snap 2017-03-12 at 13.39.47

Laurence S. Houghton’s Advertisement in the Vicksburg Daily Whig, May 7. 1856.

By 1860, Laurence Houghton had built a comfortable life for himself and his family. In the 1860 U.S. Census for Warren County, he listed a personal estate worth $1,500, and had real estate holdings of $1,800. According to the census, Laurence and Jane had six children living at home: five girls and one boy. The oldest child was Theodosia, age 15, and interestingly enough she had a personal estate valued at $35.00 listed on the Federal census.

The good times, however, could not last, and the Houghton’s were soon caught up in the whirlwind of war that would eventually find them under siege and living in a cave. The following account was written by Theodosia many years after the war, and published in the July 1927 issue of Holland’s Magazine – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

One Christmastide, years after the siege of Vicksburg, my husband, who wasn’t a

Edward Gregory

Civilians Under Fire at Vicksburg (The Annals of the Civil War, Alexander K. McClure, editor)

‘caveman’ at all, my daughter in her early teens, and I – guide of these two Northerners – started on an eager search for the cave where I had lived. It had utterly vanished. My daughter, brought up on my descriptions of it all through her ‘tell-me-a-story’ age, was bitterly disappointed. ‘Never mind,’ consoled her father, ‘the cave is still here, only the dirt has been taken away around it.’

If only Vicksburg had kept a few caves to show visitors to-day, sixty-four years beyond those exciting weeks between May 18 and July 4, 1863! It would make past events very real to be able to see what sort of temporary homes the yellow-clay hills and ridges of Vicksburg provided in storm and stress. But caves are too handy for gamblers, pirates, thieves, trouble makers generally; it was thought best not to keep them.

There had been a year of danger. Long before, Porter had brought his mortar fleet up to

david-dixon-porter

Admiral David Dixon Porter (The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes: Volume Six, The Navies)

within range of the city, and for days would rain shells down upon us. All the women and children ran to the country back of the city, and I well remember the scene on the old Jackson road that early morning in the spring when the bombardment commenced.

The flight was a panic. Many were in their night clothes, not daring to wait to dress when the bursting shells drove them from their beds. But our fleeing family had a wonderful refuge awaiting us, for two and a half miles away, in a beautiful plantation home, lived our friends, the Shirleys. My family and another family shared a negro cabin in the yard of the big white house. I, however, stayed in the house with the daughter, Alice Shirley. Little did I dream that later on this stately residence was to become a target, a landmark for both armies, honeycombed with bullets during the siege, and that finally, some forty years later, it would be considered important enough to be bought by the Government and restored perfectly. ‘The white house’ was referred to again and again in official orders and reports during and after the siege. Comrades of both armies greatly desired its restoration. Now it is a highly important feature of the Vicksburg Military Park. So, if I cannot inspire awe by showing my real cave any longer, at least I can point with pride to a tangible and impressive reminder (and what a contrast in architecture!) of my war days in Vicksburg.

Shirley House.png

Modern photo of the Shirley House – the exterior has been restored to its pre-war appearance. (www.americanexpeditioners.com/vicksburg-military-park.php)

The withdrawal of Porter’s fleet allowed us to return to our home, where we remained until the following May. As you know from your history, Admiral Porter and his fleet came back in ’63. In preparation for great danger, caves had been dug in the hills of Vicksburg. A neighbor of ours had kindly offered to share his with us, laughingly saying it would be a delightful residence. There was no thought then that we should have to live in one, but it was constructed as a temporary place of shelter should the shells fly too thickly. It was a long, narrow cave in the shape of a half-moon, with two entrances, for if only one entrance were left, a shell might fill it up and we should be buried alive. We had frequent recourse to it for months before May, on days when the bombardment was severe, but it was some time before we had to take up quarters in it for forty-eight days and nights!

vicksburg-caves

Illustration of the Vicksburg Caves                                                                           (The Valentine Democrat, Valentine, Nebraska, April 9, 1896)

We became more indifferent to death as the siege progressed. People do, you know, when it is so near them. Life is so cheap when it is daily going. No matter, was the thought, to-morrow we may be killed, and so life went on with no calculations for the morrow. Confederate officers were frequent callers at our home, and sometimes it grew very social under our roof surrounded by death. And then bang would go the signal gun, the officers would fly to their posts and we to our caves, for the bombardment had commenced again. That was a gallant young officer who had command of the signal gun. They brought him to our home hallway, the first officer who fell in the siege.

Whistling Dick, the long Whitworth gun which was the terror of the Northern fleet, was on

mortar-scow

Mortar Scows firing on Vicksburg (Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War, 1896, by Frank Leslie)

an eminence near our home. It commanded up and down the river and was the most destructive gun. We learned soon to distinguish the sound of the different kinds of shells from the fierce screeching of the great mortar shells to the almost musical tone of the James and Hotchkiss shells that rained down upon us. We heard and saw them from our cave dwelling for many days. You have never seen the grandest exposition of fireworks unless you have seen a bombardment by night from mortars, the great masses of fire crisscrossing over the city, bursting in mid-air and raining death below. We noticed the grandeur of it even while knowing it might be a message of death to us.

One evening, during a lull in the firing, we were seated at the supper table, which was not bountifully spread, when a shell suddenly fell and exploded before the dining room door. We rushed out to the cave, and from it we did not go again for forty-eight days. The Federals had surrounded the city entirely, the siege had commenced in earnest, and we were in the iron grip of Grant. Our cave was one of the few completed and was crowded as full as it could hold. That first night it had to give protection to seventy-five. I don’t know where the extra people went after that – to hastily prepared shelters behind the hills or to quickly dug caves farther out perhaps. A young bride came there who had been married that day amid the din of war – the serenade of her wedding night the boom of guns out at the front, where her bridegroom stood amid the ranks of death. Another bride of only two weeks was also one of our company. Poor girl, she went out in the iron hail to meet her husband and was shattered by a bursting shell and doomed to years of suffering before death relieved her.

Ah! what a night! The batteries on the shore belched shot and shell at the fleet; the fleet

Porter's Fleet

Porter’s Fleet Shelling Vicksburg (Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History, Volume 10, 1912)

replied with iron hail. The great guns on the hill-tops roared. In the rear of the city the field guns were at it; the volleyed musketry quivered the air. There was battle all around us; the air was full of death; the earth shook with the roar of guns. To the rear of the city stood two armies face to face. One wore the Blue and one the Gray. In Northern homes the women were praying and working for the Blue. In our damp, close cave we were working and praying for the Gray. Why, I knew that in the ranks of the Blue, school friends of years before, whom I had known in a little tree-clad village of the North, where I had spent happy school days. And I knew in the ranks of the Gray there were those who only a few hours before had been guest under my father’s roof, the friends of our house and companions of my youth. And Blue and Gray were out there; the one giving his life for his nation, the other giving his life for his home. The blue wave dashed upward on the earthworks and the blood-crested wave rolled back again from the gray beach of the human sea.

Day after day the guns roared and volleyed, and the dead came back, and the living went out. Day after day we waited. A friend was brought in and so great was the love of him that he was buried in the city cemetery while the shells shattered the tombstones all about the burial party. There was death in our cave, and a table that was there was made into a coffin. Near by we buried her, the daughter of one of our city’s clergymen. For food we had corn meal and molasses and occasionally a rarity of meat. To be sure, it was mule meat, but then it was a luxury. Still, life went on somewhat as usual. Even our old cow, Sukey, came to the door of the cave to be milked. She didn’t come for many days, naturally, for the soldiers, I suppose, had to have her killed for beef. During intervals in the firing one might sit by the doorway and read, and I remember finishing an engrossing story there – a more cheerful one, I hope, than the thrilling story reverberating around us. And one Sunday morning I remember, we had a very special occupation – a strange kind of fancywork. Some messengers sent from the army left at our cave – and at all the other caves – small red-flannel gun bags to make.

Really our cave was pretty dark – one couldn’t see upon going in out of the light, and it was

vicksburg-cave

Entrance to one of the Vicksburg Caves (New York Public Library Digital Collections)

 

never light enough to read. There was no wood-work of any kind about it, and naturally so few conveniences that you may wonder how we managed to cook, to eat, to wash our faces, and to dress. Across from the cave was the home of a lady we knew. She had said, before she left the city for safety, that we might use her premises. So, when we didn’t make a little bonfire outside the cave for our cooking, we used her stove whenever it was safe to go over. And we got our drinking water from her cistern. We used to eat at a little stand just outside the entrance to our cave – when it was safe. Meals had to be irregular.

As to dressing and undressing – mostly, we didn’t! Whatever we managed to do in the morning to make ourselves a little presentable was achieved through a bit of looking- glass and a tin wash basin arranged outside. Naturally, when the cave had been dug, dirt was thrown up at the side of the entrance. In the ridges of this dirt pile, the wash dish and piece of mirror could rest – a primitive beauty parlor, indeed!

The drinking water that we kept inside was always put in a square place cut out of the side wall. Another square furnished a place for reading matter. There was a smaller cut in the wall for the little tin pan of tapers. Our candles (always made by good old ‘Aunt Cynthy’) were all used up before we moved into the cave. I remember so well how some of the last batch looked when we burned them. Down the sides ran a streak of something red. ‘Blood fum de daid hosses on de battlefield!’ exclaimed Aunt Cynthy, who seemed convinced of the source of her candle grease.

I shall never forget our salt. It came from Louisiana, and was deep pink; it looked beautiful enough for a ‘pink-tea’ accessory. Certain other trifling details of our daily life, however, escape me. For instance, what did our dog, Bulger, get to eat? Our half barrel of molasses, corn bread, and sweet-potato coffee couldn’t have interested him much. But Bulger wouldn’t stay out – he knew where he belonged even in those terrifying days.

I would sometimes run the risk of hasty trips to our home. On one such trip I found two wounded men in gray being cared for in our front room – a Captain Hatch and a Confederate soldier. I do not know the fate of the soldier, but Captain Hatch we saw again under happier circumstances. For on the evening of the Fourth of July, when we were able to return to that much-damaged home and enjoy our first peaceful, adequate supper, Captain Hatch was a guest.

Right here I may as well describe the condition of our house at the close of the siege. It was

McKinstry

Theodosia McKinstry posing with the coverlet damaged by a shell during the siege of Vicksburg. (Holland’s Magazine, July 1927)

purely luck that it wasn’t demolished, for the house next door, the residence of Mrs. Prosser, a widow, was literally torn to pieces. Our back yard was strewn with bits of the Prosser furniture, broken crockery, and ornaments. Not that our house escaped damage. Our dining-room chimney was all knocked in. A piece of mortar shell that exploded above the house crashed through the roof with such force that it came down into the bedroom below, through the bed, down through the parlor beneath, and still on to the basement, where it buried itself, its force pretty well spent. So, when we returned home at last, we could gaze up at the sky as we stood in our plaster-littered parlor. And what was that bit of dark blue something, hanging through the hole above us? A few ravelings, evidently. A bit of the dark blue coverlet which was on the bed above. What a tear that piece of shell had made in it! Yes, it was better to have been uncomfortable in an old chair in the cave than lying in that bed. The coverlet was one thing that didn’t ever have to be mended. It’s the kind of hole that one preserves to show to one’s grandchildren.

Another of my souvenirs is our clock. Such a beautiful French clock, with its ornate pendulum and alabaster pillars! It ‘carried on’ during the siege, because probably it was wound occasionally, on our hurried trips to the house, but the glass globe covering it was shattered. Its alabaster pillars suffered accident long after the war, but the clock will still go. It is a hundred and twenty-five years old now, I think.

In our yard the Minie balls could have been gathered up literally by the peck. But far more

Hotchkiss Shell

3-Inch Hotchkiss Shell with Percussion Fuse Found at Vicksburg (www.pintrest.com)

impressive as souvenirs were the big shells that one might pick up around the city – a Hotchkiss shell was beautiful, and I carried one with me when, after the death of my parents, I went North to live with my grandmother. The dangerous element had been all taken out, of course – a soldier had done that at my request. But grandmother was decidedly afraid of it. ‘It may explode yet!’ she evidently reasoned, and solemnly buried it ‘way in the back part of her vegetable garden. Will anyone ever find it, I wonder, and imagine a bombardment of that peaceful Northern village?

But now let me return to the cave, and the end of the siege.

At length one day there came a lull in the storm. It was the third of July, 1863. We were ready to bear all dangers to get a breath of fresh air and stretch our cramped limbs, and with my mother I started for our home, to find it pierced with shells and shattered, but still habitable.

A quartermaster came riding down the street. You can stay there if you wish to-night’ he said; ‘there will be no firing.’

What did it mean? We climbed a hill and looked toward the army in the rear of the city.

Snap 2017-03-08 at 09.25.33

Headline from the Republican Democrat (Ravenna, Ohio), Announcing the Surrender of Vicksburg (July 8, 1863)

The smoke had cleared away; the guns were silent. The silence seemed intense and ominous and unnatural after the days of battle. A long line of white flags was waving between the armies. A truce was declared. Out from the caves poured the people, wan, emaciated, and some near death. A surrender was rumored and received with sullen denial. Death was preferable.

‘I would rather have lived on rose leaves and held out,’ declared Mrs. S. ‘Yes, but at least you have the rose leaves – we haven’t.’ someone reminded her charming old garden with roses white, pink, crimson, and yellow, in Southern luxuriance.

So, my mother and I had one less night of cave life than the rest of the family. In spite of the assurance of the quartermaster, and the white flags, we wondered if the strange silence really meant safety. Were the besiegers getting ready to blow up the town with liquid fire the next day? We had heard vague hints of it. But we were so very, very tired! So, we stretched a mosquito bar over four chairs and slept on the floor. My father had come over to the house in the evening, given reluctant consent to our staying, and returned to the cave to be with the children.

But the next morning the sun shone brilliantly, and up the streets came the tramp of marching feet and the hoof beat of cavalry. Between the lines of Blue marched the unarmed ranks of Gray. There were sphinx-like Grant, and stern Sherman, and dark Logan on a coal-black horse, and knightly McPherson at the front. The Confederate flag still floated from the courthouse on the summit of the hill. The troops marched on upward. The flag fell, the Stars and Stripes floated there, and Vicksburg was taken.

Entering Vicksburg 4 July 1863

The Fourth Minnesota Infantry Entering Vicksburg, July 4, 1863. Painting by Francis D. Millet (Minnesota Historical Society)

We kept close in the house that day, as did all citizens, for the streets were full of soldiers. Blue and Gray strolled along arm in arm and told their stories of the siege and sang through the streets: ‘To-day we’ll be friends and to-morrow we’ll fight.’ Union officers whom we had known before the war came to bid us greeting, and Confederate officers, our neighbors and friends, came to bid us good-bye. And many we had known came not at all, but out in the trenches found peace in the din of war. And that was the Fourth in Vicksburg, sixty-four years ago.

General Grant, in his memoirs mentions the Vicksburg caves, of course: ‘Many citizens secured places of safety for their families by carving out rooms in the embankments. A doorway in these caves would be cut in a high bank, starting from the level of the road or street, and after running in a few feet a room of the size required was carved out of the clay, the dirt being removed by the doorway. In some instances I saw where two rooms were cut out, for a single family, with a doorway in the clay wall separating them. Some of these were carpeted and furnished with considerable elaboration. In these the occupants were fully secure from the shells of the navy, which were dropped into the city night and day.’

vicksburg-siege-caves

Cave Dwellers at Vicksburg (The Youth’s History of the United States)

Carpets? Perhaps there were some – but one may suppose only for special days. For Vicksburg rains seemed a little wetter and much more generous than other rains, and I remember the dismal condition of our cave and of ourselves during one hard storm! Ours was a brag cave, too – arched, and with its greater and lesser entrance. Yet always water seemed to be seeping through, and what pleasure would there have been in a wet carpet? My mother and the younger children had what might be called a room, or alcove, where the cave rounded at the back. There they could lie down at night. The alcove was large enough for three or four boards, and a brown blanket over them made the bed. I can visualize that brown blanket now, for every single morning it had to be hung out to dry. Our hands in the morning would be beaded with moisture, and my dress would be as wet as if it had been sprinkled. After the storm I have mentioned, we had planks down the middle of the cave.

I cannot remember that I did anything at night except sit in an old chair and sleep as best I could. But youth can always sleep. My father, too, seemed to manage his nightly rest in his broken-armed rocker. Aunt Cynthy, our cook, and Bulger, our dog, were inside near the smaller entrance. Considering there were three good-sized families in the cave, we adjusted ourselves fairly well.

Perhaps people away from Vicksburg in 1863 wondered whether the exact day of surrender was part of a plan. That may have been the case – General Grant, however, was of the opinion that Pemberton commenced his correspondence on the third to prevent the capture taking place on the Fourth of July. Pemberton reported that he selected the Fourth, feeling sure that he would get better terms, since it would be highly pleasing to the Northern army to take possession of so great a stronghold then. Naturally, I do not know. The thing of particular interest to us just then, I suppose, was to get something to eat. Our food was all gone, and everybody in Vicksburg was in the same condition. During the last days of the siege we had really eaten next to nothing. My father and the other citizens took their baskets and went down to the boats which the Northern army at once sent to our relief. I was told that there were thirty of these boats, flags flying, one following another, with provisions for the citizens. So, for our Fourth of July supper we had plenty of everything to make an acceptable meal. It seemed like a banquet.

july4grantpemb

Generals Grant and Pemberton met between the opposing lines to discuss terms for the surrender of Vicksburg (Civilwardailygazette.com)

Just a few years ago I spent a few days in July in Vicksburg. I wanted to be there over the Fourth. Such a quiet Fourth! Banks and post office were decorously closed, but there certainly wasn’t any celebration – any noisy rejoicing. Nor will there be, I think. The city remembers without comment its day of the white flag of surrender, just then, although, like the rest of the South, it is splendidly loyal to the Star-Spangled Banner.

After reading Theodosia Houghton’s reminiscence, I did some research on her family, and

Union Meeting

Advertisement for a Union Meeting to be Held in Vicksburg – (Vicksburg Whig, November 28, 1860)

found some very interesting things. Her father, Laurence, was a Unionist in Mississippi at a time when being so could be dangerous to one’s health. After the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, many Mississippians were loudly advocating secession, but Houghton put his name, along with other Pro-Union citizens, on an article in the Vicksburg Whig calling for a “Union Mass Meeting” to be held in Vicksburg on November 29, 1860. In this article the signers called for an assembly of their fellow citizens who wanted to ‘…maintain the integrity of the State, to avert the horrors of civil discord and to prevent rash, ruinuous, expensive and illegal actions…We repeat, let all come and devote a short time to the service of the State. If we must be involved in a common ruin let us meet it manfully. But a bright destiny awaits the country if the people will assemble and take wise and prudent counsel together. Let the voice of the people be heard on the all-important questions now at issue.’ (Vicksburg Whig, November 28, 1860).

Although he had Unionist sentiments, and did not support the secession of Mississippi from the Union, Laurence had a large family to support, and kept his job as probate judge of Warren County. In the eyes of the United States government he was serving in an official capacity for the Confederate States of America, and this would cause him no small amount of trouble after Vicksburg was captured.

The powerful Federal artillery being thrown into Vicksburg during the siege made quite an impression on Theodosia, and she was probably chagrined to find out after the surrender that her own cousin, Howard Bass Cushing, was one of the cannoneers firing the deadly ordnance into the city. Howard was a private in Battery B, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, and

Howard B. Cushing

Wartime photo of Howard B. Cushing (findagrave.com)

after the siege ended he actually lived with the Houghton’s in Vicksburg while recovering from an illness. (Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander, page 261.) Howard was not the only artilleryman in his family; his brother Alonzo commanded Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, at the Battle of Gettysburg – the young man was killed at his guns on July 3, 1863. Alonzo H. Cushing was awarded the Medal of Honor on November 6, 2014, for his gallant service at the Battle of Gettysburg. In November 1863, Howard B. Cushing was given a commission in the United States army and assigned to his brother’s unit, the 4th United States Artillery. He survived the war and remained in the army, only to be killed by Apache Indians near Tucson, Arizona, on May 5, 1871. (Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander, page 261.

The Houghton family had survived the siege, but with the Federals in control of Vicksburg, Laurence Houghton faced possible punishment for his service as a probate judge under the Confederate regime. On July 17, 1862, the United States Congress had passed a confiscation act that allowed the Federal government to fine or imprison individuals that aided the Confederacy. For simply trying to keep his family fed, Houghton faced financial ruin and incarceration by the government he had supported so vocally. (“Federal Confiscation” The Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, Volume 1, pages 389 – 391.

To fix the predicament he now found himself in, Laurence Houghton decided to go right to the top; on August 29, 1863, he wrote the following letter to President Abraham Lincoln:

Vicksburg, Miss.

August 29th 1863.

My Dear Sir,

I feel a delicacy in Presenting the accompanying sheets to you, being a stranger to you in Person, and likewise unknown to fame. I am now the Judge of the Probate Court, and have been for some years past, And having a familiarity with the circumstances and condition of Our People, I feel that I can at least write understandingly of their wants and necessities, And that I well know what are the claims of most individuals in this community! The Office which I hold is a Salaried Office at two thousand Dollars pr Annum, with Perquisites Ordinarily amounting to from $600 00 to $1000 00 Per Annum additional, this Salary is now about worthless — from the fact that the Taxes are collected in worthless currency.

I do not write you, asking or seeking for anything Personal, farther than your forgiveness for acts which could not be avoided — to wit; Holding the Office which I now hold Under state Authority, and which I was compelled to do or starve a large family. Otherwise I have given no aide or comfort Voluntarily to the Confederacy. I have first, last and all the time, been a Union Man, and have been so well endorsed, that I do not think a Man here either civil or Military doubts it. Still the fact that I hold Office as judge makes me liable Under the Provisions of the Confiscation Acts, — And this being the case, I humbly ask your Pardon & Pray that you will be Pleased to grant it to me, if upon Proper enquiry you are satisfied of honesty of Purpose.

I shall be obliged to you, if you will direct, sent to me sheet acts of Congress in Relation to Confiscation, Income Tax, or any laws which my aid me in giving information to Persons, Or in Preparing matters under any of those laws.

I Am Very Respectfully

L. S. Houghton

(L.S. Houghton Letter to Abraham Lincoln, August 29, 1863, The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress)

Not content with just one letter, Houghton fired off a second letter to Lincoln, also dated August 29, 1863. In this letter he points out the strong Unionist sentiment in Vicksburg before the war, and their efforts to oppose secession:

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty of addressing a few thoughts for your consideration; as bearing upon the People of this vicinity: I will be brief, as I know your time is too much occupied to consider a lengthy disertation!–

To begin then, I will state in a few words what is born out by a history of the time to wit; That this City and County was one of the strongest in its adhesion to Union sentiments of any in the South, and so it continued to be until it was overwhelmed by the Force of Arms! Even then the sentiment did not die out, but being overpowered, it had to lie quiet and bide its time.

When the election for President had taken place in 1860 — which resulted in the choice of yourself for that high station, the Union Party here were ready and willing to accept the choice, and to sustain you in upholding the integrity of the Government: This was well Understood, not only here, but throughout the State! But Sir secession and rebellion, was a foregone conclusion in the hearts and minds of the Party who — (unfortunately) had control of Our state Government. The Papers representing the dominant Party at once set to work to mislead and madden the ignorant Portion of Our People, And the various branches of the state Government was turned loosed to aid in bringing about a state of feeling which should end in a determination to separate from the Parent Government for imaginary injuries. In Pursuance of this Gov Pettus1 convened the Legislature, (whose sentiments he well knew) and in a most hurried manner a Law was Passed calling a Convention, and ordering an election of Members to the same, Only twenty days notice being given from the Passage of the law to the day of election this gave no time for Understanding or any consideration by the People as to the questions involved: While every Neighborhood was supplied with leading democratic Secessionists to Poison the minds of the People and induce them to vote for Persons who were Pledged in advance to separate this State from the Union. The result — is known to you, hence I need not further alude to it. While all this was going on steps were taken to fortify this Place in a Small way, and thus to begin offensive operations at a Point known to Gov Pettus & his co laborers as one most violently opposed to their Policy. Notwithstanding all these preparations, and the scurrilous abuse heaped upon the Union Party here as submissionists, they kept a lively opposition at this Point until New Orleans fell. This so maddened the State authorities, that they determined to make this a strong Point of resistance for a two fold object, — One was to stop the Navigation of the River, and the other, (as well understood, by private intimations given out,) to cause the destruction of this City, — as a Punishment for its continuing its opposition to the Patriotic Movement in the South! We had a large Military force Placed here, and we were soon informed that if we did cease our opposition we should be imprisoned, shot or sent out of the Country. Very soon they begun to arrest Persons, some were imprisoned while others were sent off, and many others were warned.– this very soon had in Part the effect desired by our rulers, it Prevented open opposition. in fact, it silenced the voice; and Probably — about One fourth of the Union Party from fear of consequences, and from doubts as to the ability of the United States as a Government to sustain itself– Went Over to the Party in Power here, and soon became active Participants in the rebellion. The remainder stood silent, but stood firmly as ever by their first love, and Patiently waited the hour that should deliver them from this dreadful bondage!

The Season of deliverance has come at last; But it has found us exhausted! And worst of all — misunderstood! Unfortunately to the Victorious army now here, all of us appear alike, and they seem Unwilling to regard any as Union Men, and hence all must be treated quite alike!– This does not seem just to those who have born so long the scorn and contempt of the Oppressor of Secession, and I think calls for a change of System that will cheer up & sustain those who are, and have been loyal to the Union, and to give encouragement to those but lightly involved — to fully return to their allegiance.

I Come now to the Practical Point, And that, is, What can be done for those who are worthy of consideration, and who have been steadfast & true to the Government?–

I should say first make them self sustaining in allowing them the use & control of their Property, and in Permitting them to trade & manufacture in subjection to such necessary regulations and restrictions as may be necessary to prevent aid or comfort to those in rebellion!

Many of Our Union Men here were in the Mercantile & others branches of business and in the

Snap 2017-03-30 at 21.00.37

Vicksburg Union League Celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s Reelection (The Vicksburg Herald, Nov. 30, 1864)

Course of their business had outstanding a large amount of indebtedness and they in turn were quite largely indebted to those furnishing them facilities. When this rebellion broke out collections could not be made on account of stay laws enacted by Our Legislature and those in business were forced to dispose of their stocks or the fruits of their labor or industry for that which had been made the Currency of the Country, and When this Currency became Plentiful & a doubt of its being good for anything, seized the minds of all — then it was that Stay laws were needless, as all Persons rushed to Pay his debt in this worthless Currency. business Men at once foreseeing the end of this, made haste to invest their money so collected in Sugar, Cotton and Tobacco, laying it by to enable them to sell the same when a change took Place, and thereby enable them to Pay their Creditors, Put a stop to interest and also to begin life again. this Property is all, or Nearly all, Seized by the Military Authority and a receipt given for the same Payable after the War, and this too when said Property has not been abandoned or in any way Voluntarily turned over. To me, this does not seem fair to the Man who has stood firmly by his Country, And who has done all that could be done to keep himself unspotted from the Pollution of Rebellion. I know several Union Men who are thus situated! and who in Consequence thereof are reduced to the Position of mere mendicants, having nothing in the way of money that will Pay current expenses of their living, their stocks taken from them, and unable to do any business for the reason that their means of doing business is taken from them, And because they are not allowed to trade or Manufacture even for Purposes of this vicinity.–

I write this to urge upon your consideration the Propriety of doing something to relieve this Community, a majority of whom I still think, have held themselves aloof from acts of Rebellion, and who stand ready to give all the aid in their Power to the Union.

They look to you for such relief as it may be in your Power to afford them consistent with your views of Propriety.

Asking On behalf of these People a consideration of this Letter, and at the same time asking Pardon for the length of the Epistle,

I Am Dear Sir

Your Obt Sevt

L. S. Houghton

Vicksburg, Miss

August 19th 1863

(L.S. Houghton Letter to Abraham Lincoln, August 29, 1863, The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress)

To prove his loyalty to the Union, Laurence Houghton went before the Assistant Provost

Fold3_Page_4_Case_Files_of_Applications_from_Former_Confederates_for_Presidential_Pardons_Amnesty_Papers_186567

Oath of Allegiance taken by Laurence Houghton at Vicksburg in December 1863.(Confederate Amnesty Papers, Fold3.com)

Marshal at Vicksburg in December 1863, and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. Houghton’s efforts were ultimately successful; on February 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln issued the judge a pardon. (How Lincoln and a Confederate Judge Left Winona a Treasure; by Dennis Challeen; http://www.winonadailynews.com)

In the midst of his political problems, Laurence Houghton was hit with a string of personal tragedies; just weeks after the siege of Vicksburg ended, his daughter Laura, age two, died on July 20, 1863. Less than four months later Laurence lost another daughter, Lydia, who died shortly after her birth, November 8, 1863. That same month Houghton lost his wife, Jane, who passed away on November 28, 1863. (The Ancestors of Ebenezer Buckingham, page 115).

The widowed judge was left with six children to raise, but he also found time for political activity as well; he was one of the founding members of the Mississippi Union League, a organization made up of citizens loyal to the United States Government. On February 24, 1864, Houghton sent a letter to President Lincoln, enclosing the “Preamble and Resolutions” of the organization.

Vicksburg Union League Letter, LOC

Letter from Laurence S. Houghton to Abraham Lincoln Concerning the Mississippi Union League (Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress)

By the time the war ended in 1865, Laurence Houghton was suffering from poor health, and he

Snap 2017-03-31 at 06.22.14

Obituary of Laurence S. Houghton (The Vicksburg Herald, January 4, 1866)

decided to move his family north to recover. The Houghton family settled in Winona, Minnesota, but unfortunately the change in location did nothing for Laurence’s health. In fact, his condition worsened, and he passed away on December 14, 1865. With both of their parents dead, the Houghton children moved to Fredonia, New York, their father’s birthplace, where they still had family. (The Ancestors of Ebenezer Buckingham, page 114-115.

Theodosia Houghton prospered in Fredonia; she married newspaper editor Louis McKinstry on October 8, 1868, and in time the couple had two daughters, Grace and Arabelle. Theodosia died on September 2, 1940, less than a week after her 96th birthday.  In her obituary it was noted that “She was with her father’s family in Vicksburg during the thrilling days of the siege in 1863 and was often heard to tell of the experiences of that time, when in common with other citizens, the family lived in caves.” (Dunkirk Evening Observer, September 4, 1940.

For anyone wanting to read more of Theodosia’s wartime reminiscences, there is a longer and more detailed memoir entitled “My Days of Danger in Vicksburg” available here: http://jacksonvilleuniversity.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15428coll2/id/302.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Good Samaritan in Blue

The Mississippians who fought in the Civil War were left with many memories of the conflict. Some were good memories and some were bad; but some of the most vivid concerned the moments of unexpected kindness displayed by someone who had no reason to be kind at all.

Such is the case in this story, written by Edmond Talbot, a corporal in the “Lake Rebels,” Company E, 6th Mississippi Infantry. On May 1, 1863, the 6th Mississippi was engaged in a bloody fight near the Magnolia Church during the Battle of Port Gibson. Talbot was wounded at Port Gibson, but it was what happened after the fighting had passed him by that led him to write to the Atlanta Constitution, a letter which was published in the November 1, 1891 edition of the paper.  

An editor for the paper prefaced Talbot’s letter with this commentary:

A GOOD SAMARITAN IN BLUE

Here is one of those incidents which make us think more of our kind. This touching letter from a Confederate soldier, who wishes to find the Yankee soldier that did him a kind act thirty years ago, breathes the fragrant breath of gratitude, which is as fresh and strong now as it was thirty years ago.

Without any further commentary, the paper printed Talbot’s missive, a long-shot request to find the man who had aided him more than thirty years earlier on a blood soaked battlefield in Mississippi:

While engaged in the civil war at Port Gibson, Miss., I fell a victim to the ill fortune of war. I was severely wounded in my right lung, which rendered me unable to speak audibly, and while in this condition there came to my assistance an unknown friend, clad in blue, who showed me exceeding kindness.

port-gibson-may-1-1863-september-2016-925-1

The 6th Mississippi was heavily engaged during the Battle of Port Gibson near the Magnolia Church, which can be seen in the bottom right corner of the map. (Map Courtesy of the Civil War Trust, http://www.civilwar.org).

After he administered to my thirst I surrendered my arms, and learning of my desires, he had me placed upon a litter and carried by unwilling men to a church near by. There I was cared for until I was able to get elsewhere.

magnolia-church-circa-1938

This photo of the Magnolia Church was taken circa 1938 by Margie Bearss. Unfortunately the church is no longer standing. (National Park Service)

In giving details I will state that this friend did not carry me from the battlefield when he first found me, but left me for awhile, telling me that he would return, and sure enough he did, to my surprise, and rendered the above mentioned service.

Comparatively speaking, this man was my enemy, yet I am partially indebted to him for my present existence. Had it not been for that noble heart that beat within his bosom, I never would have been carried from the battlefield. More than once the bearers of the litter complained of my weight and expressed their desire to carry men who would survive.

I was too badly wounded to take any note as to the features of this friend, and as a result have no idea as to his general appearance, but think he was a non-commissioned officer, and belonged to the infantry.

I belonged to the Sixth Mississippi Infantry, Company E, and we fought the Twenty-Ninth

wilhelm-deppe-company-a-29th-wisconsin

Corporal Wilhelm Deppe, Company A, 29th Wisconsin Infantry. The regiment was attached to General George F. McGinnis’ brigade at the Battle of Port Gibson. (www.civilwarwisconsin.com)

 


Wisconsin regiment in our front.

It is very seldom that we experience a manifestation of such love and respect from a foe, and if the doer of that noble act is still living and can remember the expressions as well as the act, and will respond thereto, I will be very much gratified. If he has passed over the trials of this world and gone to try the realities of the unknown, I can only wish him peace, bliss and happiness.

The almighty power saw proper to spare me and allow me to reunite with the Confederates, and to return to my much loved country, and raise a family that prides in the sunny south as did their sire.

Address E. M. Talbot, Rochester, Jackson Parish, Louisiana

 

Edward Middleton Talbot was born February 14, 1839, in Pike County, Alabama. Sometime after 1850 his family moved to Mississippi, as they are shown on the 1860 U.S. Census living in Neshoba County with his father, stepmother, and six younger brothers and sisters. (Findagrave.com listing for Edward M. Talbot and 1860 U.S. Census for Neshoba County, Mississippi, Page 126).

Edward M. Talbot enlisted in the army on August 24, 1861, as a corporal in Company E, 6th Mississippi Infantry. His service record indicates he was wounded at taken prisoner at the Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi, May 1, 1863. After Port Gibson Edward never returned to his unit, and the final card in his service record indicated that his residence at the end of the war was Bienville Parish, Louisiana, and that he was part of the mass surrender of troops at Natchitoches, Louisiana, on June 6, 1865. I found this very curious, as Talbot’s regiment, the 6th Mississippi, was not in Louisiana in 1865. (Compiled Service Record of E.M. Talbot, 6th Mississippi Infantry)

I was able to clear up the mystery of Talbot’s surrender in Louisiana when I located his Confederate pension application, filed with the state of Louisiana in 1916. In this document he wrote: “I was paroled May, 1863, at the Battle of Port Gibson, Miss., wounded. I came home and after getting well joined the 28th Louisiana, Trans-Mississippi Department. My father refugeed west of the Mississippi with his negroes, and after being paroled I followed him.” (Louisiana Soldier’s Application For Pension; available online at: https://familysearch.org/search/image/index#uri=https://familysearch.org/recapi/sord/collection/1838535/waypoints.

I checked the compiled service records of the 28th Louisiana Infantry, but Talbot does not

edward-talbot-gravestone

Edward Talbot’s Gravestone (findagrave.com)

have a service record with the unit. Most likely, he was never officially enrolled in the unit, as he would have had to get an official  transfer from the 6th Mississippi to the 28th Louisiana, which would have been difficult and very time consuming to accomplish. Without an official transfer, Talbot would have been considered a deserter by Confederate authorities, a fact the officers of the 28th Louisiana would have been well aware of; but all Confederate regiments were short of manpower in the latter stages of the war, and they were probably willing to overlook his less than legal transfer.

Edward Talbot never returned to Mississippi after the war; he made his home in Louisiana and made a living as a small farmer. When he applied for a pension in 1916, the tax assessor of Jackson Parish wrote the pension board a letter stating that the old veteran had real estate worth $160.00, and personal property valued at $200.00. This pittance did not disqualify Talbot for a pension, and his was granted on December 14, 1916. Edward Middleton Talbot died on April 1, 1922, and is buried in Jonesboro Cemetery in Jonesboro, Louisiana. In his obituary it was said of him, “He was another of the ‘Men in Grey,’ who has answered to the last roll call. A pioneer citizen, a unique character, he commanded the respect of all who knew him by his absolute honesty and sincerity of purpose.” (The Bienville Democrat, April 6, 1922).

Despite all my research I was unable to find any indication that Talbot found the Union soldier who had aided him at Port Gibson. If they were unable to meet in this world, I hope they met in the next, that place of “peace, bliss and happiness” as Talbot put it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Grave of the Year: Mississippians Look Back on 1865

The end of the year is a time for reflection on the changes that have occurred during the previous 365 days. For Mississippians, no year brought more change than 1865, as the Confederacy crumbled to ash and Southerners lost not only a war but a way of life. On January 1, 1866, The Natchez Democrat ran from following article that very eloquently explains the altered world that Mississippians had to learn to live with. The following article was very long, and I have edited it down to a more manageable size:

The past is an instructive study. We love to dwell upon its joys, because their pleasure is renewed when we recall them to mind; and we love to brood over its sorrows, because there is something irresistibly attractive in the recollection of our troubles. In reflecting upon the past we often become lost in our reveries; and we seem, at times, to transport ourselves to other and far distant days. The world as it was looks better; for we view it in a mellowed light…

The year 1865 draws rapidly to its close. In its brief space what changes have been wrought? Many have grown suddenly rich, and many have seen the accumulated wealth of years vanish forever from their sight. No pestilence has swept over us with its dark and noisome wing; but the fearful scourge of war has made our country one vast charnel house for the uncoffined dead.

The opening spring saw the marshalling of defiant armies; the closing autumn saw those armies broken and dispersed. The opening year beheld a people strong and confident in the justness of their cause; the closing year discovers them powerless and disheartened, and their cherished cause mocked and condemned as unrighteous. To many it has been a year of exultant triumph; to many, a year of sadness and dejection. The year closes, and one people boasts a nation saved; while another mourns a country lost.

surrender

Furling the Flag by Richard Norris Brooke, depicting the surrender of a group of Confederates at Appomattox

It seems but a little while since the sons of the South went out to battle. They endured hardships, suffering and death. Their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters braved all trials and shunned no dangers; but amid all the havoc and ruin of a wide spread desolation stood unchanged and unchangeable in their devotion to the cause of their espousal. And today, standing as we do on the grave of the year, overcome and humiliated though we are, it is a matter of boastful pride and sorrowful satisfaction to reflect that we were not reduced to submission and subjection until the flower of our youth had been cut down in the rich harvest of death.

They went out from among us with banners full high advanced, drums beating, and all the

surrender-4

Monument to Mississippi’s War Dead at Jackson

pompTand circumstance of a holiday parade. With joyful hearts, with head erect, with elastic step, and consciences clear, they buckled on the panoply of war, and went forth to meet those whom they deemed the invaders of their country. The war had closed; but they have not returned. From the Potomac to the Rio Grande the little hillocks tell where sleep the brave

“- who sank to rest, by all their country’s wishes blest.”

They are dead; but they are not forgotten. Their memory is enshrined in the temple of our hearts. They no longer appear to our mortal vision. The melody of their voices no longer greets our mortal ear. Their hands are no longer extended for a friendly clasp. But when we turn in imagination to gaze upon the past, and the curtain is lifted from the late fearful and bloody struggle, which seems to move before us “like some high and mighty drama intermingling with its solemn scenes and acts a seven fold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies” we hear the glad shouts of our sons and brothers as they rushed on to victory, we see their proud forms as they stood erect in the fire and smoke of battle – and though we should live a thousand years, as often as memory shall waft us back over the lapse of time, and we shall recur to the days of our pride and the days of our glory, we shall see them still.

surrender-3

Close-up from the Monument to Mississippi’s War Dead at Jackson

“On fame’s eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread; and glory guards with solemn round the bivouac of the dead.”

The old year passes away. May the new year open with fairer hopes and brighter prospects!

The Natchez Democrat in which this article appeared was a good symbol of the changes that Mississippi was undergoing in 1865. The paper was founded that year by two former soldiers: Paul A. Botto, who served in the 12th Mississippi Infantry, and the curiously named Fabius Junius Mead, who was a member of the 4th Illinois Cavalry. (The Natchez Bulletin, May 21, 1869)

snap-2017-01-02-at-05-54-11

Ad for The Natchez Democrat from The New Orleans Crescent, August 30, 1866

Two former enemies were able to put aside their differences and create a newspaper that would stand the test of time- The Natchez Democrat is still being published, and still looking back at the past to help prepare for the future – writer Ben Hillyer wrote such an article on January 1, 2017, and it can be found here: http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/2017/01/01/let-us-learn-from-past-for-better-future/

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“The Splendid Entertainment:” Christmas Eve in Jackson, Mississippi, 1861

I have just returned from a wonderful Christmas Eve meal with friends and family, which inspired me to find out how Mississippians were celebrating the first yuletide of the Civil War. While reading The Weekly Mississippian, I found the answer I was seeking in the December 18, 1861, edition of the Jackson newspaper:

CHRISTMAS EVE ENTERTAINMENT – We are gratified to learn that it is in contemplation to give

snap-2016-12-24-at-20-41-39

an entertainment at concert hall on Christmas Eve, the proceeds of which will be appropriated to charitable purposes. It is said that there is to be a Christmas Tree, and that adults and children will receive tickets with numbers at the door which will entitle them to corresponding numbers which are to be attached to a multitude of prizes on the tree. When the arrangements shall have been fully completed our readers shall be notified.

Curious as to what took place at this Christmas Eve party, I looked through later editions of the newspaper, and was rewarded with the following articles from The Daily Mississippian that were published in the December 25, 1861, issue of The Weekly Mississippian.

On December 19, 1861, the Mississippian gave the following update on the party:

THE CHRISTMAS TREE – The Christmas Tree is being rapidly supplied with prizes by donations from the ladies and gentlemen of Jackson and vicinity, and still there is room remaining for a few more. But few persons have an adequate conception of the vast amount of both valuable prizes and toys for the juveniles the branches of the Christmas Tree is capable of containing. It is thought by those who have a right to know from the knowledge of its construction, that it will display several hundred prizes of great beauty and value, and it is but reasonable to suppose that our entire population will desire to witness this great attraction.

The next day, December 20, the Mississippian carried the following endorsement of the party:

CHRISTMAS EVE – Donations for the Tree will be received at Concert Hall on Saturday from 9 till 5 o’clock. Tickets of admission bearing numbers for the prizes will be sold at the same hours on Monday and Tuesday. This is the first Christmas under the Confederate Government, and the object being patriotic, let there be a crowded house.

On December 24, the Mississippian had one final plug for the Christmas Eve bash:

Christmas Entertainment

We would call attention to the splendid entertainment gotten up by the ladies of Jackson, to come off at the Concert Hall on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Tree, loaded with its rich gifts, for Christmas presents, will be a sight well worth seeing. Each person buying a ticket of admission will be entitled to a prize, corresponding to the number on the ticket. Tickets only fifty cents, half tickets for children, twenty-five cents, all of which will draw a prize.

Snap 2016-12-24 at 20.49.30.png

“The Christmas Tree” by Winslow Homer, Harper’s Weekly, December 25, 1858.

A raffle will also take place during the evening, for a richly embroidered Vest, and a most beautifully embroidered Child’s dress, both presented to the Ladies Aid Society by Mrs. Angelo Miazza. The proceeds of the entertainment raffle &c., for the benefit of our brave volunteers.

Good music has been engaged for the occasion, and we anticipate the most delightful entertainment of the season. Doors open at 6 o’clock. Tickets to be had at the Post Office during the day, and at the door at night.

In many ways, Christmas Eve 1861 was the last good yule holiday for Southerners. The war was still in its infancy, casualties were few, and hopes were high that the conflict would soon be over. Such sentiments were much harder to believe in the Christmas’ that followed.

To all of my readers, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The State of My Early Adoption: A Letter from General Nathan Bedford Forrest

In August 1864, the Mississippi legislature passed a joint resolution praising the

nathan-b-forrest-loc

Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest (Library of Congress)

Confederate general who had exerted himself so forcefully to protect the Magnolia State in that tumultuous year. The officer was, of course, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose exploits in defense of the Confederacy had endeared him to thousands of Mississippians. The resolution read thus:

Joint Resolutions

In regard to Maj. General N.B. Forrest

Whereas, the eminent services of Maj. Gen’l N.B. Forrest have inspired the country with the highest confidence and admiration in his gallantry as an officer and pre-eminent qualities as a commanding General; and whereas his daring bravery and consummate skill, and the devoted heroism of his brave little army have repeatedly saved an important portion of this state from destruction by a ruthless foe: Therefore be it resolved by the legislature of the State of Mississippi, that the Governor be and he is authorized and instructed to cause to be manufactured in the finest style of workmanship and art, a sword, the hilt, blade and scabbard to be embossed, etched or engraved with the Arms of the State of Mississippi, and have engraved thereon the following inscription, “Presented by the State of Mississippi to Maj. Gen’l N.B. Forrest, of the C.S. Army, as a testimonial of the high appreciation of him as a warrior and patriot – and for his distinguished services in defense of her soil and people.” Which sword the Governor shall present or cause to be presented to Gen’l Forrest.

Resolved, that the Governor be and he is hereby authorized to make his requisition on the Auditor, for his warrant upon the treasury for the amount necessary to pay for the manufacture of said sword.

Resolved, that the Governor be requested to forward to Gen’l Forrest a copy of these resolutions.

Passed House of Representatives, Aug. 7, 1864, R. C. Miller, Clerk

Concurred in by Senate, Aug. 9th, 1864, D. P. Porter, Secy. Senate

Lock E. Houston, Speaker of the House of Representatives

W. Yerger, President of the Senate

Approved August 12, 1864, Chas. Clark, Governor

EDITORS NOTE: This resolution is located in Series 2585, Enrolled Bills, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

As far as I can tell, the State of Mississippi was never able to present a sword to General Forrest.  Given the chaotic conditions in the state during the last months of war, procuring a fancy presentation sword had to be at the bottom of a nearly endless list of priorities. Governor Clark did, however, forward a copy of the legislature’s resolution to Forrest, and he sent back the following reply:

Meridian, Miss., Sept. 6th, 1864

Governor Charles Clark

Dear Sir –

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your kind favour of yesterday, enclosing the resolutions of the Legislature of Mississippi. For the complimentary terms in which the Legislature of your state has been pleased to speak of my services, permit me through you, Governor, to return my sincere thanks. The compliment is the more highly appreciated since it comes from the state of my early adoption, the home of my youth & early manhood.

A promise of continued devotion to the interests of the state and her people, is all that I can offer in return for the high estimate placed upon my services. But it has been through the instrumentality of the brave troops which the Legislature has so justly complemented, that I have been enabled to serve the country. To them all the praise is due. It has been through their gallantry, courage and endurance that these victories have been achieved.

I remember with pride and pleasure the associations to which you refer in your letter. It was under

98785_photo-680x800

Portrait of General Charles Clark in his brigadier general’s uniform – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

your order Governor, that I first drew my maiden sword. I regret that our intercourse was of such short duration, for it was one of unalloyed pleasure and harmony. I have mourned your absence from active field service where you were doing such valuable service to the country, and often have I sympathized with you in the suffering you have endured from wounds received in defense of the sacred cause.

Hoping your life may long be spared to the country you have served so faithfully, and thanking you for the kind terms in which you have discharged the duty imposed by the resolutions.

I remain Governor,

Very Respectfully,

Your friend and obt. Svt.,

N.B. Forrest, Maj. Genl.

EDITORS NOTE: This letter is located in the Charles Clark correspondence, Series 768, Box 950, Folder 1, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.