Mississippians in the Army of Northern Virginia

Without a doubt, the most famous Confederate army was the Army of Northern Virginia, the principal eastern army of the Confederacy. The reason for this fame is simple: under the leadership of General Robert E. Lee, this army won numerous victories over its larger and better equipped opponent, the Army of the Potomac.

Although the Army of Northern Virginia wasn’t officially organized until 1862, it had its origins in the armies created around Richmond, Virginia, in 1861 for the defense of the Confederate capitol. Among the troops that flocked to Richmond at this time were a number of Mississippi infantry regiments. These units were the first from the state to see combat against the Yankees.

The Mississippians first “Saw the Elephant” during the battle of First Manassas, July 21, 1861. In the fight Confederate forces under Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard combined with those of Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston to repulse the Union advance from Washington, D.C. The combined Confederate army that won the battle was initially known as the Army of the Potomac, which can be quite confusing as the main Union army they were facing was known as the Army of the Potomac.

Battle of 1st Manassas - Library of Congress

In the battle of First Manassas, five Mississippi units were engaged: the 2nd, 11th, 13th, 17th, and 18th Mississippi infantry regiments. They suffered combined casualties of 84 men killed or wounded during the course of the fighting.

Private Abner O. South of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry gave this interesting, it somewhat poorly spelled, description of the battle: “The fight was for 8 or to miles up and down Bull Run and back from it some two miles on our side about 3/4 on there side. Bumbs shells, and mortars buzing and flying in evey direction all over the field and when faling bursting and spreading destruction all around. The fight commenced about 6 oClock in the morning and lasted until dark even in the night. They commenced retreating about 4 o Clock from where we were in the utmost confussion the first running over those behind…it was the most complete rout ever known in history.”

In addition to the five regiments that fought at First Manassas, by the end of 1861 there were five more Mississippi units serving in Virginia: the 12th, 16th, 19th, and 21st infantry regiments and the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Battalion. They were joined in the summer of 1862 by the 42nd Mississippi Infantry, and the last Mississippi regiment to reach Virginia was the 26th Mississippi Infantry that was transferred to the east in 1864.

The artillery and cavalry branches of service were also had Mississippi units that served in the Army of Northern Virginia. There were two batteries of artillery: the Madison Light Artillery and the Confederate Guards Artillery. There was also one cavalry unit: the Jeff Davis Legion of Cavalry.

All told, between the infantry, artillery, and cavalry units from Mississippi that served in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war amounted to approximately 16,000 men.

The next Mississippians to see combat in Virginia were the soldiers of the 13th, 17th, and

General Winfield Scott Featherston

18th infantry regiments who helped rout the Union forces at the battle of Ball’s Bluff on October 21, 1861. Leading the men from the Magnolia State was Colonel Winfield Scott Featherston of the 17th Mississippi Infantry who urged his men forward while shouting, “Charge Mississippians, Charge! Drive them into the Potomac or into eternity!”

After Ball’s Bluff, the Mississippians in Virginia had a relatively tranquil time in northern Virginia until the spring of 1862, when General Joseph E. Johnston began withdrawing south to block Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac that had traveled by water and landed on the Virginia peninsula southeast of Richmond, placing the Confederate capitol in grave peril of being captured.

Johnston moved his Rebels to the peninsula to oppose the Federal move on Richmond, but the Confederates had only 60,000 men to confront over 112,000 Yankees. On May 4, 1862, McClellan began his advance, and the Confederates were forced to fall back in the face of the much larger enemy army. In rear guard fighting at Williamsburg, Virginia, the 19th Mississippi Infantry and the 2nd Mississippi Battalion were both heavily engaged, with total casualties of 141 men killed or wounded. Johnson continued to retreat, leading his army into the defenses surrounding Richmond.

Battle of Williamsburg - Library of Congress

While the main armies were contending on the peninsula, Major General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson was operating in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with a small army as a diversionary force. His mission was to draw Federal troops away from Richmond. Marching with Jackson was the 16th Mississippi Infantry, the only unit from the state to serve in his command during the war.

In the battle of Seven Pines, fought from May 31 – June 1, 1862, Johnston attempted to take the initiative away from the Federals by attacking an exposed portion of the Union army as it approached Richmond. Only two Mississippi units were heavily engaged at Seven Pines: the 12th Mississippi Infantry and the 2nd Mississippi Battalion. They suffered combined casualties of 280 men. The fight ended as a bloody draw, but it had one very important result – Johnston was wounded, and had to be replaced as army commander by General Robert E. Lee.

Image of the Seven Pines battlefield taken after the fighting had ended. - Library of Congress

On taking command of the army, Lee officially changed its name to the Army of Northern Virginia. To deal with the Federal army threatening Richmond, he launched a series of attacks known as the Seven Days Battles because they lasted a full week, from June 25 – July 1, 1862. During this week the Mississippi units in the Army of Northern Virginia saw heavy combat, many for the first time, and casualties were high.

At the battle of Gaines’s Mill on June 27, the 2nd Mississippi Infantry and the 11th Mississippi Infantry had combined casualties of 55 men killed and 272 wounded. The Mississippi brigade of Brigadier General Winfield S. Featherston consisting of the 12th, 19th, and 2nd Battalion were also engaged at Gaines’s Mill, and three days later they were shot up again at the battle of Frayser’s Farm, suffering 666 casualties in the two engagements.

Scattered remains of Civil War Soldiers on the Gaines Mill Battlefield. - Library of Congress

The Mississippi brigade of Brigadier General Richard Griffith consisting of the 13th, 17th,

General Richard Griffith was killed at the battle of Savage Station, Virginia.

18th, and 21st Mississippi infantry regiments did not see any serious action until June 29, when they fought at the battle of Savage Station. Casualties were light, but General Griffith was among the slain, and Colonel William Barksdale of the 13th Mississippi took over command of the brigade.

The final engagement of the Seven Days was Malvern Hill, fought on July 1, 1862. In this battle General Lee made one final attempt to destroy the Army of the Potomac. The Yankees were massed on Malvern Hill with plenty of artillery support, and the Confederates were slaughtered as they advanced into a maelstrom of fire. The Mississippi brigade commanded by Colonel Barksdale was shot to pieces in the battle. Barksdale later wrote that his men “Advanced upon the enemy under a terrible fire of shell, grape, canister, and minie balls…The entire command, although one-third of its number fell upon the field, maintained its ground with undaunted courage, and dealt bravely terrible blows upon the ranks of the enemy.”

The Battle of Malvern Hill - Library of Congress

Although the attack at Malvern Hill was a bloody failure, the Union army did retreat after the fight, ending the threat to Richmond. Lee had driven the enemy away from the Confederate capitol, so the campaign was a success, but it came at an extremely high cost. The Army of Northern Virginia had nearly 20,000 casualties, over 1,500 of them being Mississippians.

After the beating it had taken during the Seven Days, General McClellan was content to remain safely entrenched at Harrison’s Landing on the Virginia peninsula during July and August 1862. In the meanwhile, another Union army moved into Northern Virginia under the command of Major General John Pope. The Union high command eventually ordered McClellan to withdraw from the peninsula and join his force to Pope’s and then strike the Army of Northern Virginia with overwhelming force. Lee also saw the threat of the combined Union armies, and decided to strike Pope before the junction was effected. This move brought about the battle of Second Manassas on August 29-30, 1862. In the battle Lee split his forces and struck the Union army on the second day with a devastating attack on their flank that routed the Federals from the field. Casualties among the Mississippi units engaged in the battle were light, only 41 killed and 295 wounded.

The Battle of Second Manassas - Library of Congress

After the smashing victory at Second Manassas, Lee wanted to press his advantage by taking the war to the north by invading Maryland. Unfortunately a copy of his plans for the campaign fell into the hands of General McClellan, and he used this information to move with greater speed than normal to attack Lee.

The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia met at the battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. Lee’s army was badly outnumbered; with only 45,000 men facing McClellan’s 75,000. McClellan wasted much of this advantage in numbers, however, committing his troops piecemeal in a series of uncoordinated attacks, allowing Lee to move men around the battlefield to concentrate against each assault. In the bloodiest single day of the war, the two sides fought to a costly draw along the banks of Antietam Creek.

The carnage at Sharpsburg was almost unimaginable in scale: 2,100 Yankees and nearly 2,000 Confederates dead, and approximately 9,000 wounded on each side. The Mississippi regiments who fought in the battle suffered casualties of 852 men killed or wounded.

After the fighting had ended, Private Edward M. Burruss of the 21st Mississippi Infantry walked the ground where his regiment had fought, and he later wrote: “I had an opportunity of going over the battle field – in fact we were immediately on one of the very bloodiest parts of it. It is no figure of speech, metaphor or anything but a simple fact to say that there were frequently places where for 50 or 60 yards you could step from one dead Yank to another & walk all over the ground without once touching it with your foot. On one little knoll about 25 or 30 yds. square I myself counted 189 dead Yankees & they were no thicker there than in many other places.”

Confederate Dead at Sharpsburg - Library of Congress

After the losses he suffered at Sharpsburg, Lee had to retreat back into Virginia to reorganize his worn out and depleted army. The Yankees aided Lee by not making a serious move until mid-November 1862 when the Army of the Potomac, by this time under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside, marched on Fredericksburg, Virginia. But before Burnside could cross the Rappahannock River with his 122,000 men, Lee was able to concentrate his army, now back up to 78,500, at the town.

Wartime photo of Fredericksburg, Virginia - Library of Congress

On December 11, 1862, the Federals began constructing pontoon bridges to cross the Rappahannock and take Fredericksburg. The assault was opposed by Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade, who fired on the Yankees from buildings along the waterfront. The Mississippians put up a stout defense, delaying the Union crossing until late in the day. Once the Federals managed to cross the river in force, Barksdale’s men contested the advance block by block as they withdrew to the main Confederate line of defense on the heights outside of Fredericksburg.

The Union crossing of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg was fiercely opposed by Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade - Library of Congress

On December 13, Burnside attacked the entrenched Confederates, and the Union troops were mowed down by waves of Confederate musketry and artillery. The Yankees suffered 12,000 casualties before the attack was finally called off. Southern casualties were less than 5,000. Losses among the Mississippi troops engaged were negligible.

Men from Barksdale's Brigade Posed to have their picture taken by a Union photographer on the opposite side of the river in April 1863 - National Archives

After the battle of Fredericksburg the Army of Northern Virginia went into winter quarters. They would not see any significant combat until late April 1863 when the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, Major General Joseph Hooker, surprised Lee by flanking the Confederate army at Fredericksburg and concentrating his men at a crossroads known as Chancellorsville. Hooker had 70,000 men in Lee’s rear, having left 40,000 men in front of Fredericksburg. Lee only had 60,000 men in the Army of Northern Virginia to oppose this massive Union force arrayed against him.

In the battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-4, 1863, Lee made a very bold move: leaving 10,000 men to hold his position at Fredericksburg, he took the remainder and went out to confront Hooker. On May 2, Lee divided his army again and sent Stonewall Jackson with 28,000 men to make a surprise attack on Hooker’s flank. Lee remained in front of the Union host with only 18,000 men. It was a gamble, but it paid rich dividends when Jackson smashed the unprepared Union flank. Hooker withdrew his army, battered but intact, and Lee could claim another victory. The cost, however, was high, as Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men and eventually died of his wounds. Mississippi losses in the battle were light: only 438 men killed or wounded out of a total of 13,000 casualties in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The Mississippi brigade commanded by Brigadier General Carnot Posey particularly

Brigadier General Carnot Posey

distinguished itself in the battle of Chancellorsville, and their division commander, Major General Richard H. Anderson later wrote in his official report on the battle: “Where all performed their duty with so much zeal and courage it is almost impossible to make a distinction: but Brigadier General Posey and his brave, untiring, persevering Mississippians seem to me to deserve special notice. Their steadiness at the furnace on Saturday evening, when pressed by greatly superior numbers, saved our army from great peril, while their chivalrous charge upon the trenches on Sunday contributed largely to the successes of that day.”

While the main battle was playing out, Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade had to fight their own private little war at Fredericksburg. Left behind to guard the city, the small band of Mississippians was attacked on May 3, 1863, by over 25,000 Federals. Fighting like demons, the Rebels repulsed two attacks on Marye’s Heights, but were overwhelmed in the third assault, and the Mississippians were forced to retire from the field. Losses in the 18th Mississippi and 21st Mississippi that defended Marye’s Heights, were heavy. After defeating Hooker’s main army Lee sent reinforcements back to Fredericksburg, and the Union forces withdrew from the city and returned to their starting point on the opposite side of the Rappahannock River.

These men from Barksdale's Brigade were during the Assault on Marye's Heights During the Battle of 2nd Fredericksburg - Library of Congress

The Army of Northern Virginia was at the height of its glory after the victory at Chancellorsville, and Lee felt it was time to take the war back to the north. This move culminated in the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1-3, 1863. In the battle Lee’s 75,000 men engaged 88,289 Federals from the Army of the Potomac, now commanded by General George G. Meade. On July 1, the Rebels routed the Yankees north and west of Gettysburg, pushing them through town to the heights beyond. The Mississippi brigade of

Brigadier General Joseph Davis

Brigadier General Joseph Davis (nephew of Jefferson Davis) was heavily engaged on the first day, fighting at the railroad cut west of town.

On July 2, 1863, Lee attacked both flanks of the Union army at Gettysburg, his troops nearly broke the Federal line. In the fighting that day Barksdale’s Mississippi brigade smashed the Union forces defending the Peach Orchard and kept advancing the face of heavy fire. Union reinforcements eventually forced them back, and Barksdale was mortally wounded and captured by the enemy. The Mississippians had advanced farther than any other unit, but it had come at an extremely high cost: out of the 1,590 men in the brigade, 569 were killed at the Peach Orchard. Among the casualties was Captain Isaac Davis Stamps of the 21st Mississippi Infantry, the nephew of Jefferson Davis.

On July 3, Lee decided to make a massive assault on the Union center in an attack that came to be known as Pickett’s Charge. At about 3 p.m. approximately 12,500 Confederates stepped off and marched toward the Union position. The neat Confederate lines were shredded by artillery and musket fire, but a few stalwart men penetrated the Union center before they were driven back with heavy casualties. In the charge Joseph Davis’ Mississippi brigade consisting of the 2nd, 11th, and 42nd Mississippi regiments plus the 55th North Carolina were especially hard hit and suffered numerous casualties.

One of the Mississippians killed in Pickett’s Charge was Corporal Jeremiah Gage of the 11th Mississippi Infantry. Mortally wounded by a shell while waiting for the advance to start, Gage wrote his mother one last letter, telling her, “This is the last you may ever hear from me. I have time to tell you that I died like a man. Bear my loss as best you can. Remember that I am true to my country and my greatest regret at dying is that she is not free and you and my sister are robbed of my worth whatever that may be…This letter is stained with my blood.

On July 4, 1863, General Lee began the retreat from Gettysburg. The loss in this battle, combined with the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the same day marked one of the great turning points of the war. Rebel casualties at Gettysburg were 3,903 killed, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 missing. The battle cost the eleven Mississippi infantry regiments engaged at least 1,361 killed or wounded.

In August 1863, Lee detached the 1st Corps of his army under the command of Lieutenant General James Longstreet to reinforce the Army of Tennessee, and this force included Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade, now commanded by Brigadier General Benjamin G.

Brigadier General Benjamin G. Humphreys

Humphreys. The Mississippians fought with the Army of Tennessee at the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, on September 19-20, 1863, and at the battle of Knoxville, Tennessee, on November 29, 1863.

The Army of Northern Virginia saw no further major battles for the remainder of 1863, but the spring of 1864 brought some of the bloodiest fighting of the entire war. In March 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to General of the Union armies and made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. His goal was simple: destroy the Army of Northern Virginia.

Before the 1864 spring campaign started, General Lee sent a special order to the Mississippi units in his army. In this document he spelled out exactly what they were fighting for. He told them: “Soldiers of Mississippi! It is with great gratification that the Commanding General announces to you the joint resolutions of thanks passed by the Legislature of your state. It is a just tribute to that conduct which in every campaign and on every battle field of the Army of Northern Virginia, has won for you his highest admiration. He mourns with you your gallant leaders and brave comrades who have fallen. May you cherish their memories and emulate their deeds. From her wasted fields and desecrated homes, Mississippi calls upon you to vindicate her honor and achieve her independence.”

In early May 1864, Grant began his spring offensive to eradicate the Army of Northern Virginia, unleashing his mighty host of 108,000 men. To meet this force Lee could muster only 62,000 soldiers. Between May – June 1864, the two armies mauled each other in a series of bloody battles: the Wilderness on May 5-7, Spotsylvania Court House on May 7-20, North Anna River from May 23-27, and Cold Harbor, May 31-June 12, 1864. During these battles Grant attempted to flank Lee, only to have the wily Confederate commander block every thrust. But with each move, Grant advanced closer to Richmond, and the loss of lives was more than the Confederacy could sustain. In the spring campaign the Mississippi regiments in the army had at least 1,400 casualties.

By mid-June 1864, Grant had pinned the Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, Virginia. Both armies dug in, and for the next nine months Yank and Reb engaged in a bloody form of trench warfare very similar to that seen on the Western Front in Europe during World War I.

Photo showing some of the Confederate entrenchments at Petersburg - Library of Congress

In July 1864, Humphrey’s Mississippi brigade was sent to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to reinforce the troops already operating there under the command of Lieutenant General Jubal Early. The brigade took part in the battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, which started well for the Confederates, but ended in a Union victory. The brigade returned to Richmond in December 1864, having less than 800 men left in the ranks that were fit for service.

On April 2, 1865, Grant broke through the Petersburg defenses and Lee had to retreat, forcing the evacuation of Richmond. In brutal rear-guard fighting approximately 500 men were left behind to slow the Union advance enough to let the remainder of the army escape. Most of these men were from Brigadier General Nathaniel Harris’ Mississippi

Brigadier General Nathaniel Harris

brigade. These troops manned two forts: Fort Gregg, and Fort Whitworth, which they had to defend against thousands of Union troops. The Mississippians in Fort Gregg repulsed three Union attacks before they were finally overwhelmed, buying precious time for the retreating Confederate army. The men stationed in Fort Whitworth supplied a heavy supporting fire during the attack, and then received an order to retreat at the last minute, thus avoiding the same fate that befell their comrades in Fort Gregg.

Union soldiers from the 24th Corps attacking Fort Gregg - Library of Congress

On April 8, 1865, Lee’s small army was surrounded near Appomattox Court House, Virginia. He tried to break out the next day, but when this attack failed, Lee had no choice but to surrender or face the immediate annihilation of his army. On April 12, 1865, the 698 Mississippi soldiers still with the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox.

Sources

     Boatner, Mark Mayo III. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: David McKay Company, 1959.

     Burruss, John C. Papers, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University.

     Current, Richard N. Ed. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, Volume 1. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

     Gage, Jeremiah. Letter, 3 July 1863. Gage Family Collection, manuscript # Gage_b1f72, University of Mississippi.

     Lee, Robert E. Special Order, 20 January 1864. Benjamin G. Humphreys Papers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

     McPherson, James M. Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.

     Moneyhon, Carl and Bobby Roberts. Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Mississippi In The Civil War. Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.

     Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi 1803-1898. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1978.

     South, Abner O. Letter, 7 August 1861. Manuscript # SMMSS 77-3, J.D. Williams Library, University of Mississippi.

     United States War Department, Compiler. War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 73 Volumes, 128 Parts; Washington, D.C: 1880-1902.

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A Gun Found At Gettysburg: The Second Mississippi Infantry at the Railroad Cut

While doing a little research recently I found this interesting little article in the March 28, 1890, edition of the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Inquirer:

This rusty relic, found some twenty-seven years after the war, was a grim reminder of the gallant stand made by the 2nd Mississippi Infantry at the Railroad Cut during the battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.

Post-war picture of the Railroad Cut at Gettysburg - Library of Congress

The 2nd Mississippi suffered terribly at Gettysburg – the regiment had 40 killed and 183 wounded, and the great majority of these losses took place at the Railroad Cut. I could write a long, detailed account of the regiment’s service at Gettysburg, but it would be a waste of time, as Michael Brashear has already written a wonderful history of the 2nd on his website dedicated to the unit: http://www.2ndmississippi.org/. I highly recommend checking out his site as it is packed with interesting information about the gallant 2nd Mississippi Infantry.

Civilians at War: The Relief Association of Rankin County, Mississippi

The Confederate armies in the field would never have lasted as long as they did if it had not been for the support they received from friends and loved ones at home. Civilians directly supported the war effort by sewing uniforms, sending packages of food to the front, and by taking care of sick and wounded soldiers. During the course of the war a number of volunteer organizations were started in Mississippi specifically to provide support for the soldiers from the Magnolia State. The following newspaper articles illustrate the work done by one of these organizations – the Relief Association of Rankin County. These articles, clipped from the Mississippian, are from the J.L. Power Scrapbook, Z/o742.000, at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

John Logan Power was born in Ireland in 1843, and immigrated to the United States when he was 16 years old. He settled in Jackson, Mississippi in 1855. When the Civil War started he quickly went to the aid of his adopted state and joined the Confederate army, serving as an officer in Company A, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. In 1864 he was appointed superintendent of army records for the state of Mississippi, and in that capacity he began keeping a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings of casualty lists from Mississippi regiments, lists of the sick and wounded, and lists of those who died in hospitals in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. It also contains the obituaries of individual soldiers and reports of battles in which Mississippi units were engaged.

The following are just three of the many clippings in the Power scrapbook, illustrating the work of just one relief organization from the state that sought to aid the Mississippi soldiers that were fighting in the Atlanta Campaign:

Brandon, June 24, 1864

Editor Mississippian Extra:

Dear Sir – The enclosed letter from Dr. W.R. Chew, the agent of the Relief Association of Rankin County was received yesterday too late for publication in the Brandon Republican of this week; and although it is a private letter and was not intended for publication by the Doctor, the Executive Committee here determined to publish it as the best mode of addressing the public on the important subject to which it relates; and as no time should be lost in collecting and forwarding money and supplies for the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers at Atlanta, we hope you will give the letter a place in your paper.

Our Association was formed here about one month ago. It is independent of any State aid or other relief association and is designed especially to relieve the wants of Mississippians. Our agent at Atlanta is an estimable Christian gentleman and a good physician. He gives his personal attention to the wants and necessities of Mississippi soldiers, receives and distributes in person the supplies we forward, and thus we are assured that those for whom the supplies are intended do actually get them.

We have thus far contributed about $2000 in money and 10 boxes of supplies of provisions and clothing, rags, etc.

Through the Brandon Republican we did several weeks ago invite the people of other counties in this State to organize similar associations, and we now again urge the prompt and zealous c0-operation of all _____ people in this charitable and patriotic enterprise.

Respectfully,

Richard Cooper

J.H.D. Bowmar

Geo. WM. Shelton

Executive Committee

P.S. – Any supplies sent to us at Brandon will be forwarded by us to Dr. Chew

Mississippi Depot, Atlanta, Ga.,

June 18, 1864

Messrs. Cooper, Shelton and Bowmar:

GENTS. – I have received one box of the sundries forwarded about the 9th inst. The other box mentioned in Judge Shelton’s letter, has not yet reached me, but have no doubt it will be on in a few days.

The labors of the various relief committees are daily increasing. Besides the wounded who are coming in by every train, the constant rains have increased the amount of sickness to a fearful extent. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the prevailing diseases. I am sorry to say, the mortality from sickness is much greater than from wounds. I witnessed the death of two Mississippians on yesterday: Capt. Henry Fawle, of Natchez, and Lieut. Nelson, of Canton, both young men in the prime of life. Capt. Hargrove is doing well. I think he will be able to get a furlough and go home by the last of the present month.

It is impossible to estimate the amount of good accomplished by the various relief committees here. I am sorry to inform you I am the only one from Mississippi giving personal attention to the wounded. It is difficult for me to decide where I ought to be. – Messages are constantly coming to me to go to the front, and at the same time hundreds of cases here claim my attention. Every county in Mississippi ought to have at least one here engaged in giving relief. If nothing more than merely visiting the sufferers is done, that amounts to much. I am satisfied I have saved the life of one by my visits. He says he feels like he will now get well since my presence has given him so much comfort. To give you some idea of what we are doing in the way of refreshments to the sick and wounded as they are brought down from the front. Let me inform you, we distribute to them before they are taken to the various hospitals, from fifty to one hundred and fifty loaves of bread, besides biscuit and crackers, three to five gallons of pure coffee, and other things that we can get. The relief is given in the car shed and is attended to upon the arrival of every train. Many of the sufferers are so exhausted from the pain and the loss of blood, were it not for the untiring vigilance of our committees, many would sink before they could reach the hospital. If you could hear the expressions of gratitude and thankfulness of the poor fellows, you would realize the necessity and duty of bringing every means together to increase our facilities to assist them.

We have to buy all the bread and coffee and sugar. The prices are very high here and much money is needed. Urge the different counties to go into this matter. The butter you sent is a most valuable item. It is worth here eight dollars per pound.

I suppose the telegraph keeps you posted in army matters. A general engagement is expected daily. In all probability, a decisive battle will be fought before this reaches you. The death of Gen. Polk is universally lamented. The army was never more confident, and every train from the south carries additions to the force in front. It is singular what anxiety is expressed by the wounded to get well in order to join their comrades in the field. No regrets – no despondency is expressed by any.

I hope to hear from you often. Send on everything you can get. Nothing comes amiss. Many of the poor fellows are out of money and cannot draw any. I have to purchase them many little comforts. Some have lost all their clothes. The old clothing sent comes into immediate use.

Very truly, your friend

W.R. Chew

The final article related a list of items and money donated to the Relief Association:

We acknowledge the receipt of the following supplies and money since our last report: From Mrs. Dr. Farrar, box of sundries and twenty dollars. From Master Ben Sherrod, ten dollars. From Thomas N. Norrell and Miss Norrell, bundles of old clothes, bandages and $20. From Mrs. Quinn, 14 pounds of butter. From Mr. Lewis Myers and others, butter, eggs, clothes, etc. Cash, twenty dollars. From Mr. Ferguson and others, one box, delivered at Pelahatchie Depot. From the young ladies of Mr. Cameron’s School, one hundred and five dollars. We forwarded, in charge of Thomas H. Johnson, on Monday last, nine hundred and seventy eight dollars, par funds, and six boxes sundries, weighing 570 pounds.

Butter, eggs and hams are solicited as the most desirable contributions, and such vegetables as will bear transportation – onions, potatoes, etc.

J.H.D. Bowmar, Treas’r.