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

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

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


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

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

Lewis Cave 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Kuner Vicksburg

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lewis Cave MDAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surrender Monument, MDAH

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

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

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

As Park Marshal, Tom Lewis was responsible for all of the monuments in the Vicksburg National Military Park, but without a doubt the most visually impressive was the Illinois monument. Completed in 1906 at a cost of $194,423.92, it’s design was inspired by the Roman Pantheon, and it was made of Georgia white marble. (https://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/historyculture/illinois-memorial.htm)

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

Illinois Monument Dedication, MDAH.jpg

(Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH)

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

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

Iowa State Memorial, MDAH.jpg

(Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH)

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

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

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

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

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

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A Good Samaritan in Blue, Part II

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



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

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

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

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

A Friend In Blue

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

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

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

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

Yours very respectfully,


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


Wartime photo of Lieutenant James Hill (www.thechaplainkit.com)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Postwar picture of James Hill from the book Deeds of Valor

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

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

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

Hill Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Requisition for Jeans wool given to the Ladies Military Aid Society by the State of Mississippi (Fold3.com)

In February 1862, George A. Langford, Commissary Officer for the State of Mississippi, gave the group 898 1/2 yards of Jeans wool “to be made up in coats and pants for the use of our Miss. volunteers.” The bundle was signed for by “”Mrs. C.S. Knapp, Vice-President, Military Aid Society, Jackson, Miss.” (Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms 1861 – 1865, File of C.S. Knapp, accessed on Fold3.com, July 24, 2017). On March 5, 1862, Langford authorized a second donation to the society, giving them “2 bunches of knitting yarn.” Once again the supplies were signed for by “Mrs. C.S. Knapp.” (Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms 1861 – 1865, File of C.S. Knapp, accessed on Fold3.com, July 24, 2017).

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

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

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

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

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

A Card of Thanks.

Mrs. L.C.W. Brown:

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

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

Yours, very respectfully,


Vice-President M.A.S.

Jackson, Miss., March 24, 1863

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

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

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

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

The Memphis Daily Appeal, February 11, 1863

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1863

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

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

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

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

Belle Knapp Grave

Grave of Belle Knapp in the Bolton City Cemetery (Findagrave.com)

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

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Independence Day in Natchez, 1867

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

The 4th of July

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

Natchez 1

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

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

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

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

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


John Mercer Langston (Library of Congress)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

ponderous title of “An act to aid any State in communicating with and perfecting the records concerning its troops.” The purpose of this act was to create a new position for one officer in each state dedicated to collecting information on casualties to expedite the completion of “final statements of deceased soldiers,” so that their families could obtain any monies due them from the Confederate government. (Official Records, Serial 129, pages 189-190; available online at: 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 went to the work with a will. In December 1864 he traveled to Richmond to begin documenting the casualties of those Mississippi units serving in the Army of Northern Virginia. The war ended before he could complete this task, but he was able to compile casualty figures for Humphrey’s Mississippi Brigade:

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

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

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

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

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

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










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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“I Love the word Raymond”

I had planned to publish this article on May 12, the anniversary of the battle of Raymond, but it ended up taking longer than I thought. I would also like to thank Laura at the 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


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

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

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





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

Raymond Map - Copy

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

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

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

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

From a Boy Soldier

Graham, Texas, April 9, 1907

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in true Southern love,

F. Herron

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


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Heaps of Human Bones: The Dead of Champion Hill

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

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

B.F. Boring

Wartime image of Benjamin F. Boring (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.

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The Romance of a Sword

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

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

sword hanger

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother,



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


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

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

War Department

V’burg National Military Park Com’n

Vicksburg, Miss., Feb. 26, 1901.

Philip M. Harding, Esq., City:

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

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

With regards I am,

Very cordially yours,


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Lieutenant Dutton’s Grave (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.



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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

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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

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“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.

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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


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!


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 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


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


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.

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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.’


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.


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

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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


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

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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.









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