The Vicksburg Sharpshooters go to War

Having worked at the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi, for nine years, I have a soft spot for Civil War units from the Hill City. One of these units was the Vicksburg Sharpshooters, a pre-war militia unit that became Company G, 12th Mississippi Infantry, which served in the Army of Northern Virginia. The following letter was written by a member of the Sharpshooters who used the pen name “Phoenix.” Written on May 14, 1861, it was published in the Vicksburg Weekly Citizen on May 20, 1861, and describes the first heady days of the war, when most people thought the conflict would be short and relatively bloodless. In this letter “Phoenix” writes of the departure of the Sharpshooters from Vicksburg, and their trip to Corinth, Mississippi. This young soldier wrote at least one other letter, which I plan to publish in my next article.

Letter from the Sharpshooters – Their Departure from Home – Scenes along the Route – Noble Conduct of Captain Miller – Good Health of the Boys, &c.

Corinth Miss. May 14th, 1861

Dear Citizen: When I left your city I promised to write you all that would transpire on our journey to Corinth, and will now proceed to sketch a few outlines of the incidents connected therewith.

I need not describe the scene at our departure from home, as all the good citizens of Vicksburg were present to witness the affecting scene. As we reached Bovina, we were received by cheers from the men and the ladies presented us with a large number of boquets and flags. This was the way all along the railroad. Arrived in Jackson about 5 o’clock where we received our new tents, and also an additional recruit, your old friend H.R. Marshall. The train being ready to start for Canton we left Jackson, after stopping there about two hours. Reached Canton about 9 o’clock where we partook of a magnificent supper at the hotel. After supper we changed cars and proceeded on our way. This was the first time that a great many of us had slept in the cars, but all the boys enjoyed themselves finely by singing, &c until they fell asleep.

Wartime illustration of Jackson, Mississippi, from HARPER’S WEEKLY, June 20, 1863

We were awakened in the morning by the stopping of the cars, owing to a tree having fallen across the track the night before. Our company assisted in removing the obstruction, and we passed on arriving at Holly Springs about 8 o’clock on Friday morning where we were compelled to lay over, having missed the connecting train. Here we were received by the Mayor and Council of this city, who treated us to a breakfast, after which we were escorted up town through an ankle depth of mud to the Court House, where speeches were made by several gentlemen, and responded to by Capt. Miller. During these proceedings a number of gentlemen of this city made up a purse of about thirty dollars and presented it to our Captain, who declined to accept the generous offer, on account, as he said, that we did not need anything. We also were the recipients of magnificent boquets from the hands of Miss Long, Miss McLean, Miss Daniels, and several other ladies.

Wartime illustration of Holly Springs, Mississippi, HARPER”S WEEKLY, January 10, 1863

We accepted a kind invitation to supper, and soon after, the train to convey us to the Grand Junction arrived, and we left the patriotic city of Holly Springs and we can truthfully say that the Sharpshooters will never forget the generous people of that city [as long as] they live. Three time three cheers and a bumper for Holly Springs rent the air as our company left that city.

We arrived at Grand Junction about 9 o’clock on the same night, and there being nothing ready for our transportation except box cars upon which they wanted us to proceed but our noble Captain told them that his comrades were gentlemen, and not dogs or horses, and that he would not go in them, that if they did not have cars there in the morning for his company he would take the next train by force, if he could not get it in any other way. So we laid over and slept in the offices of the depot until morning when to our surprise we found the cars ready for our transportation. Here we were also cleverly treated by the proprietor of the Perry Hotel, to hot coffee for the whole company.

Wartime illustration of Grand Junction, Tennessee, HARPER’S WEEKLY, December 20, 1862

We arrived at Corinth at 20 minutes to 12 o’clock on Saturday and were received and escorted to camp by the Natchez Fencibles. There are now companies enough here to form a regiment, and they have determined to run our captain for Colonel of the regiment. The tickets have been printed and the election is expected to take place tomorrow.. I have heard of none other for the position, except Gen. Griffith, who was defeated in the regiment which left here on last Sunday week for Lynchburg, Va.

There is much dissatisfaction about the muskets which are in use here by the companies. The Natchez Fencibles, who were armed with Sharp’s Rifles when they left home, had them taken away from them by the Governor at Jackson, and they have determined not to use any if they cannot get their own. On Saturday the company notified their Captain (who it is said has treated them like dogs, instead of men,) that they would not go if they could not get their own rifles. He called them together and said if there were any in the company who would not fight with anything that was given them, to step out in front, and he would endeavor to have them sent home, whereupon about thirty stepped out, but up to this time they have not gone, though determined to do so if their demand is refused.

Civil War Period Illustration of a Sharp’s Rifle

We have a beautiful drill ground here, and good water, but wood is somewhat scarce. The boys all enjoy themselves I can assure, and all keep in good health and lively spirits, there having not been one complaint of sickness so far. All they think about is fighting, and our Captain is tormented with the question a hundred times a day when we will start. For the information of your readers I will state that it is expected we will go to Lynchburg, Va.

Wartime illustration of Corinth, Mississippi, HARPER’S WEEKLY, June 21, 1862

Our camp was the scene of great rejoicing about 10 o’clock today on account of the arrival of our second lieutenant, Richard Richardson, from Louisville, Ky., with our new uniforms. They are a beautiful suit. We have received a great many new members since we left home, among whom is the Nicaraguan warrior, Columbus Jackson, of your city, who was at the time of our leaving, first lieutenant of the Willis Rifles, but joined our company as a private. One of our men deserted at Vicksburg, and the Captain has sent a dispatch back from Holly Springs to Mayor Crump, for his arrest and to send him on here.

As we are to have a regimental parade this evening, I must bring my correspondence to a close. We will be instructed by Major Barksdale. All letters directed in care of Captain Miller, Vicksburg Sharpshooters, will be received by those they are addressed to; even if we leave here, the letters will be forwarded to us wherever we go. I will endeavor to give you the names of all the companies here in my next. The boys are all well and doing well.

Yours Truly,


The “Saving Mississippi’s Battleflags” Exhibit in Jackson

There is a new exhibit in Jackson, Mississippi, called “Saving Mississippi’s Battleflags,” and it has on display a number of Mississippi Confederate flags that have been beautifully restored at great expense thanks to the generosity of the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. The exhibit is in the lobby of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, and will be up until November 2012.

Shown below are the pictures that I took of the individual flags in the exhibit, along with a little history about the units that carried them. I had to deal with a wicked glare, but I did the best I could given the lighting conditions and my limited photographic skills.

Brigadier General Winfield Scott Featherston’s Brigade Headquarters Flag – Photo by Author
Text panel explaining the history of Featherston’s headquarters flag and the conservation work that was done to it – Photo by Author

In his after action report on the Battle of Franklin, Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood,

Lieutenant Colonel G.W. Smith, commander of the 88th Illinois Infantry – United States Army Military History Institute

commander of the 4th U.S. Corps, said that it was Lieutenant Colonel G.W. Smith, commander of the 88th Illinois Infantry, “Whose good fortune it was on this blood-stained day, the 30th of November, 1864, to render the most important and distinguished service.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XLV, Part 1, page 125)

The 88th Illinois Infantry captured not only Featherston’s Brigade flag at the Battle of Franklin, but four others as well. Private Peter M. Woolf of Company A captured one flag, Corporal James K. Merrifield of Company C captured two flags, Corporal Benjamin Newman of Company G captured one flag, and Corporal Samuel Bittles of Company H captured one flag as well. Featherston’s flag was most likely taken by Bittles, for in the official records it is noted that he “Captured a rebel battle-flag inscribed ‘Featherston’s Division.” (Official Records, Series I, Volume XLV, Part 1, page 237)

On December 9, 1864, General Featherston reported the loss of three regimental colors

Brigadier General Winfield Scott Featherston

from his brigade during the Battle of Franklin. Interestingly enough, he did not mention the loss of his own headquarters flag. His report, however, illustrates just how desperate the fighting at Franklin was: “I would respectfully report that three stand of colors were captured from my brigade on the 30th of November, belonging to the Third and Twenty-Second, and Thirty-Third Mississippi Regiments. The color-bearers of the Third and Twenty-Second planted their colors on the enemy’s works, and were wounded and captured with their colors. The color-bearer of the Thirty-Third was killed some fifteen paces from the works, when Lieut. H.C. Shaw, of Company K, carried them forward, and when in the act of planting them on the works was killed, his body falling in the trench, the colors falling in the works.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XLV, Part 1, page 714)

Battleflag of the 4th Mississippi Infantry, captured by the 5th Minnesota Infantry at the Battle of Nashville – Picture by Author
Text panel giving the history of the 4th Mississippi Infantry and the conservation efforts done to the flag – Picture by Author

The 5th Minnesota Infantry captured the colors of the 4th Mississippi at Nashville, but they paid an extremely high price for the honor. Lieutenant Colonel William B. Gere, commander of the 5th Minnesota, wrote of the fighting on December 16 in which the 4th Mississippi’s flag was taken: “At 4:15 p.m. the order to forward was given, which being repeated along the line, the Fifth Minnesota, with bayonets fixed, moved over the breast-works in their front into the open field which lay between them and the enemy’s works, and at a double-quick rushed forward under the most terrific and withering fire of musketry and artillery it has ever been my fortune to behold or encounter. Yet, forward our line pressed, and soon the colors of the Fifth Minnesota were planted, the first in our brigade, upon the rebel intrenchments, and the enemy were driven from their fortified position. The regiment pursued, capturing hundreds of prisoners, among whom was Brigadier-General Jackson, and many other officers. I think I can  safely say that the Fifth Minnesota captured more prisoners in this charge than the regiment numbered…The glorious victory we had won had not, however, been a bloodless one. The loss in my regiment in this charge had been nearly 100 killed and wounded, which was about one-fourth my entire command.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XLV, Part 1, page 451)

This photograph of some of the officers of the 5th Minnesota Infantry was taken after the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, in 1862. Seated on the right is Lieutenant Colonel William B. Gere. Standing on the left is Adjutant Thomas P. Gere. Thomas was the younger brother of William B. Gere, and it was he that captured the 4th Mississippi’s flag. It is very hard to see, but there is an ink inscription on the 4th Mississippi’s flag which reads: “Captured by 1st Lieut. Thomas P. Gere, 5th Minnesota Vols., at the Battle of Bentwood Hills near Nashville, December 16, 1864. – Minnesota Historical Society
Flag of the “Burt Rifles,” Company K, 18th Mississippi Infantry – Photo by Author
Text panel giving the history of the Burt Rifles and describing the conservation that was done to the flag – Photo by Author

The “Burt Rifles” were named for Erasmus R. Burt, who was elected Auditor of the State of

Colonel Erasmus R. Burt – Photo Courtesy of Trisha Borders

Mississippi in 1859. He organized the “Burt Rifles,” Company K, 18th Mississippi Infantry, in early 1861. Elected colonel of the 18th on June 7, 1861, Burt led the regiment at the Battle of Leesburg, Virginia, on October 21, 1861. Mortally wounded during the fighting, he died at the 7th Brigade Hospital in Leesburg on October 26, 1861. The first Mississippi officer to be killed in battle, Burt left behind a widow and eight children. A writer for the Richmond Whig lamented Burt saying, “The 18th Mississippi regiment, his state, and the Country will feel keenly the death of Col. Burt. He fell in close action with the enemy, defending Southern soil and a cause that enlisted all his sympathies and energies. He was the model of an upright, honorable man – an experienced, intelligent and chivalric officer.”

Flag of the “Liberty Guards,” Company E, 22nd Mississippi Infantry.
Text panel explaining the conservation done to the Liberty Guards Flag – Photo by Author
Text panel illustrating the techniques used to restore the Liberty Guards flag – Photo by Author

The Southern Herald of Liberty, Mississippi, gave the following account of the presentation of the Liberty Guards flag. The exact date of the article is not known, but it was about 1900: “The flag which was presented to the Liberty Guards by the ladies of the town of Liberty in 1861 was of silk with two red bars and one white with blue field in which were 13 white stars representing the Confederate States. On the white bar was “Armor patrise vincit,” and the name of the company. It was presented to the company by Miss Judith Walker in an address abounding in patriotism, bidding the boys as well as her brother go forth to defend the country whose sacred rights had been trampled on and where no longer could the beloved south expect justice from an overbearing north, now become a foe.
The flag was received on the part of the company in a neat speech by Mr. H. B. Mackin, a member of the company and its flag bearer.”

Flag of the 33rd Mississippi Infantry, captured by the 26th Wisconsin Infantry at Peach Tree Creek, Georgia – Photo by Author
Text panel giving a brief history of the 33rd Mississippi flag and the steps taken to conserve it – Photo by Author

Lieutenant Colonel Frederick C. Winkler of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry, wrote this account

Postwar picture of Frederick C. Winkler, who commanded the 26th Wisconsin Infantry at the Battle of Peach Tree Creek – Wisconsin Historical Society

of how his regiment captured the 33rd Mississippi’s flag: “The order came, and we moved forward simultaneously with the brigade on our right. We gained the first hill just as our skirmishers were falling back from the second. We moved forward still, and had just gained a shallow ravine covered with bushes between the two hills when the enemy appeared in strong line of battle at a fence running along the brow of the hill in our front. As the two lines were within easy musket-range of each other, the battle commenced at once with great fierceness…In our front the field was open, but some sixty yards from our left there was a dense forest. Of this the enemy availed themselves, and came upon our flank in strong force, opening an enfilading fire upon us, while at the same time the line in front came nearer and nearer, until the two lines were in many places less than a rod apart. For a time the conflict was desperate. I took every man who could be spared on the right to re-enforce the left. At last the enemy broke and fled. We pursued him on his very heels to the top of the hill, captured the regimental flag of the Thirty-third Mississippi, and leaving Colonel Drake, of that regiment, and 34 others dead, and at least double that number severely wounded…” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XXXVIII, Part 2, pages 466-467)

Close up showing the inscription written on the 33rd Mississippi’s flag by its captors – Photo by Author
Flag of the 41st Mississippi Infantry – Photo by Author
Text panel detailing the conservation work done to the 41st Mississippi’s flag – Photo by Author

The 41st Mississippi Infantry served in the Army of Tennessee, and fought bravely in over

William F. Tucker commanded the 41st Mississippi until he was promoted to brigadier general in early 1864

a dozen major battles. In his report on the Battle of Chickamauga, Colonel William F. Tucker, commander of the 41st Mississippi, wrote: “The Forty-First Mississippi was advancing at a double-quick through the woods when it was met by Manigault’s men, and for a moment was thrown into confusion as they burst through its ranks; but the men responded with a regular Mississippi yell to the command forward, and dashed at the enemy, who immediately fled.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume 30, Part 2, page 327)

The flags on display at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History are well worth your time to visit. These relics speak volumes of a day and age when men were willing to lay down their lives fighting  underneath the torn and tattered flags they loved so well.

This Terrible War is Still Going On: The Diary of William Larkin Faulk, 38th Mississippi Infantry

In the spring of 1903 William T. Rigby, chairman of the Vicksburg National Military Park

The first resident commissioner of the Vicksburg National Military Park, William T. Rigby had served in the Civil War as a member of the 24th Iowa Infantry regiment. This bust of him is on display in the Vicksburg National Military Park – National Park Service

Commission, wrote to William L. Faulk of Fayette, Mississippi, asking if he had any written records of his participation in the Siege of Vicksburg. Rigby was seeking such narratives from hundreds of soldiers who had fought in the Vicksburg Campaign, as they would be of immense help in correctly placing the thousands of markers and memorials planned for the new military park. On April 17, 1903, Faulk responded, telling Rigby: “You have been correctly informed. I did keep a diary of events as they came under my observation, but that was only what took place in our own regiment, and such other matters of interest that I could hear. You must know that a captain in the ditches had very little time or opportunity of knowing anything but what came under his personal observation.”

Fortunately Faulk sent a typewritten copy of this diary to the Vicksburg National Military Park, where it remains to this day. The original diary has since disappeared, making the copy at the Military Park the only one extant.

In transcribing Faulk’s diary, I have been faithful to the original: the only changes I have made are to write complete dates for the entries and spell out some abbreviated words for the sake of clarity. I will also add some notes at the end of each entry in bold where needed to give a little further insight into the narrative.

William Larkin Faulk was a 31 year old planter living in Port Gibson, Mississippi, when the war broke out. He and his wife Elisebeth had three children: Emily, Alfred, and Henry, all of whom were under the age of five. A wealthy man, on the 1860 census Faulk listed the value of his real estate at $3,000, and his personal estate at $18,000.

On March 19, 1862, Faulk enlisted in the “Van Dorn Guards,” at Rocky Springs, Mississippi. This unit subsequently became Company B of the 38th Mississippi Infantry. Initially a 2nd lieutenant in the unit, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on July 15, 1862, and then to captain on September 24, 1862. Wounded at the Battle of Corinth in October 1862, after recovering he returned to the regiment.

When the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign started, the 38th Mississippi was stationed at

Brigadier General Louis Hebert commanded the brigade to which the 38th Mississippi Infantry belonged during the Siege of Vicksburg – National Park Service

Snyder’s Bluff, just north of the city of Vicksburg. The regiment was assigned to the brigade of Brigadier General Louis Hebert, which consisted of the following units: 3rd Louisiana Infantry, 21st Louisiana Infantry, 36th Mississippi Infantry, 37th Mississippi Infantry, 38th Mississippi Infantry, 43rd Mississippi Infantry, and the 7th Mississippi Battalion.

Hebert’s brigade was assigned to the division of Major General John H. Forney, which was charged with defending the area north of Vicksburg. Thus the 38th Mississippi and all of the other regiments in their division did not take part in the initial battles of the campaign. After the Confederate loss at the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16, the next day General John C. Pemberton ordered Forney’s division to leave Snyder’s Bluff and take their place in the entrenchments guarding Vicksburg.

General Hebert received the order to move to Vicksburg at 11:00 a.m. on May 17, and he quickly set his men to gathering up what supplies could be carried with them, and destroying everything that had to be left behind. At 7:30 p.m. the brigade formed up, and the 12 mile march to Vicksburg began. The soldiers marched through the night, arriving in the Hill City at 2:30 a.m. on May 18.

Hebert’s brigade was ordered into the earthworks in rear of the city, charged with defending the section of the line between the Graveyard and Jackson roads. Hebert deployed his regiments in the following order from left to right: the 36th Mississippi held the Stockade Redan, a large earthwork fort which guarded the Graveyard Road; next came the 7th Mississippi Battalion, followed by the 37th Mississippi, 38th Mississippi, and 43rd Mississippi; the 3rd Louisiana held held a redan on the north side of the Jackson Road, and the 21st Louisiana anchored the brigade right flank in the Great Redoubt on the south side of the Jackson Road.

May 18, 1863

Left the camp on Chickasaw Bayou last night and went into the intrenchments in the rear of Vicksburg. For the last two weeks I have heard nothing from home; my anxiety is very great. Skirmishing commenced about 1 o’clock today. Two guns of the enemy’s artillery firing. 6 o’clock – Heavy skirmishing on the left of our line.

Modern picture in the Vicksburg National Military Park showing the position held by the 38th Mississippi until June 2 during the siege of Vicksburg. The regiment’s left would have been near the marker in the foreground, with the line stretching off toward the trees in the distance – Photo by Author

May 19

Skirmishing brisk part of the night. Hard fighting anticipated today. 10 o’clock – Skirmishing in front of our lines. Some heavy pieces firing on our left from our side. 45 minutes past six – We have fought the enemy very hard today and held our positions well along the line. It is with deep regret I have to record the wounding of three of my company – Sergt. M.W. Payne, privates Landthrop and Middleton. I am proud to have it to say that my company behaved nobly. Report says the enemy’s loss is very heavy on the left of our line. I thank almighty God for his protection through the past days. The fight commenced about 1 o’clock. [Editors Note” 2nd Sergeant Milton W. Payne was wounded at Vicksburg on May 19, 1863; he survived his wound and returned to the 38th Mississippi, only to be killed at the Battle of Harrisburg, Mississippi, on July 14, 1864. Private J. P. Landthrop enlisted as a substitute for another man in August 1862; his service record states, “Wounded May 19 since died.” Private Martin V. Middleton was wounded on May 19, 1863; he was paroled with the regiment when Vicksburg surrendered, and never returned to the regiment. He was listed on the muster rolls as absent without leave.]

The terrain in front of the 38th Mississippi’s position is mostly obscured today by vegetation and trees, but in one area on the regiment’s right flank there is a small corridor of open ground showing the area over which the Union soldiers of Ransom’s brigade attacked during the May 19th assault. – Photo by Author

May 20th

5 o’clock a.m. – Skirmishing along our lines. Sharpshooting and artillery firing incessant since morning up to this time. 10 o’clock – Adjutant Ward wounded in both legs by a sharpshooter. 6 o’clock p.m. – Firing heavy in the right since 2 o’clock and on the left since 4 o’clock. I am certain we have held our position all along the line. We have not been engaged up to this time but have been under a heavy fire from the sharpshooters, and in range of the firing on the left. Five or six men in the regiment wounded and one killed from Company I. Reports have had Gen. Johnston coming to our assistance for some days – hope he may come soon, but our men seem confident of holding Vicksburg. One man from my company slightly wounded – D. Y. Legust. I forgot to mention yesterday the wounding of Lieut. Lainhart, said to be mortal. He was a good officer and popular with his fellow officers. In him the regiment has lost a good officer. Night has set in and it is with grateful feelings I return thanks to God for his protection and victory to our arms for this day. Spirited conversation between the pickets along the line. [Editors Note: The “Adjutant Ward” mentioned by Faulk was actually Adjutant William Lynch Ware, who was listed as “Severely wounded” on May 20, 1863. After recovering from his wounds he returned to the regiment only to be wounded again at the Battle of Harrisburg, Mississippi, on July 14, 1864. He also recovered from this injury and came back to the 38th, surrendering with the regiment in May 1865. The “D.Y. Legust” in the diary was actually David T. Segrest. His service record notes that he was “Wounded May 20th, slightly.” “Lieut. Lainhart” was 1st Lieutenant Hansford Lanehart who was a member of Company D from Wilkinson County. During the May 19 Union assault on Vicksburg, Laneheart commanded the regiment’s skirmishers who were out in front of the main line of entrenchments. As his men retreated back to the works in the wake of the Union attack, Laneheart was struck by an enemy bullet and mortally wounded. He was the first casualty of the 38th Mississippi during the Siege of Vicksburg.]

May 21

Heavy skirmishing along the right of our lines and some opposite us. It is hard to say what the program is for the day. 6 o’clock – Nothing done along the lines today except brisk skirmishing. We still hold our positions well. None hurt in our regiment today, for which we are thankful to God.

May 22

Heavy artillery firing during the night and up to 8 o’clock this morning. 7 o’clock p.m. – The enemy made a desperate charge on line commencing at 10″30 o’clock and was kept up around the lines until dark. The enemy made tremendous exertions to force our lines but with God’s assistance, we have been able to hold it. Only two companies in our regiment have been engaged today – my company and Company E. One man from my company badly wounded, Private I. Ritchey. Three men killed in the regiment and three wounded. The enemy’s loss was certainly very great. We are nearly worn out lying in intrenchments. Gunboats shelling Vicksburg. [Editor’s Note: Although Faulk stated that only his company and Company E were engaged during the May 22nd assault, this statement is clearly shown to be incorrect by the accounts of other members of the regiment and the casualties that they took, which are spread throughout the 10 companies of the 38th. Given his responsibilities as company commander, and the chaotic nature of Civil War combat, Faulk probably had little chance to witness the actions of the other companies in the regiment. 

“Private I. Ritchey” mentioned by Faulk was Isaac Ritchey, who was captured at Oxford, Mississippi, on December 2, 1862. Paroled at City Point, Virginia, on April 1, 1863, he made it back to the 38th Mississippi just in time to take part in the Vicksburg Campaign. His service record notes that he was “Wounded May 22d, since died.”]

May 23

All very quiet along our lines last night and up to present time – 6 o’clock – except some sharpshooting. We are called upon to regret the loss of Capt. Gravis. He was killed early this morning by a sharpshooter. He was a clever man and good officer. 5 o’clock p.m – All has been quiet along the lines up to this time. They have commenced heavy shelling and will keep it up till dark. 6 0’clock – Four men wounded in our regiment, one severely; one from my company, Geo. Burford, slightly. The enemy have planted artillery in many places and we may look for heavy shelling. We are having many men wounded, principally from shells. Tomorrow will be Sunday and we may look for hot work. [Editor’s Note: “Capt. Gravis” was Captain Leander M. Graves, commander of Company F of the 38th; his service record simply states he was “Killed May 23d.” Private George H. Burford’s wound must have been very slight, indeed, for it was not mentioned in his service record.]

May 24

8 o’clock a.m. – All quiet this morning except the sharpshooting on both sides. Had my company at work all night throwing up embankments to prevent the enfilading fire from the enemy. Today is Sunday, the day usually selected for fighting. We can hear nothing very reliable from our reinforcements. Major McCay is very sick at the hospital. Lieut. Smith went to hospital sick yesterday. 7 o’clock p.m. – Today has been unusually quiet. Sharpshooting and artillery firing all day. No one hurt in our regiment. Sunday has been more quiet than usual when we take into consideration that two armies are lying so near each other. We thank God for his continued protection of our lines. [Editor’s Note: “Major McCay” was Major Robert C. McCay, third in command of the regiment. He survived the Siege of Vicksburg only to be killed at the Battle of Harrisburg, Mississippi, on July 14, 1864. “Lieut. Smith” was 2nd Lieutenant Stephen F. Smith of Company B.]

May 25

All quiet this morning. Nothing heard but the firing of sharpshooters and occasionally they throw in a few shells, but do very little harm. One man killed in Company D by sharpshooter this morning. Shelling in Vicksburg from gunboats very severe. 4 o’clock – The enemy have sent in a flag of truce to bury their dead, which was granted. Hostilities on both sides ceased during the time. It was a grand sight to see two large armies within speaking distance of each other and in full view, many conversing with each other, seemingly very friendly. Their dead, many of them, have been lying on the field three and four days. Such are some of the horrors of war. One poor fellow was picked up last night who had been wounded two days before; what must have been his sufferings! Night has set in and the time allowed the enemy to bury their dead is past. It has been a period of recreation to us all. We have been permitted to come from the ditches and walk about and relieved from the continuous firing of the sharpshooters and cannon, but it will soon be resumed, to continue I suppose until there is another lot to bury. How tiresome it is to lead such a life, and what is worse, not able to hear from our loved ones at home. It has not been  about three weeks since I heard anything definite from them. May God protect them and watch over them.

Although this engraving is not specifically of Vicksburg, it perfectly illustrates the truce to bury the dead as described by Captain Faulk on May 25.

May 26

This is a quiet spring morning, all nature seems at peace, but this terrible is still going on. Our men are all cheerful and are determined to contend for what they believe to be their sacred rights. One man killed accidentally or by mistake, while on picket by a man from 7th [Mississippi] Battalion. He belonged to Company C of our regiment. 5:30 o’clock – No charge made by the enemy today. All quiet except occasional firing by cannon and continuous sharpshooting. I regret the wounding of one of my best men (Louis Segrest) who was shot just below the knee, causing a fracture of one of the bones; also one man from Company E wounded at the spring while getting water. 6:30 o’clock – Night is fast approaching, firing still continues, principally from the enemy’s guns. Nine days we have been confined to the ditches, only permitted to walk around after dark. All worried and tired, but still determined to endure all for what we believe to be our rights, and confident that an over-ruling providence will work all for our good. The enemy may be a superior force, overcome us for a short time, but God will never favor the persecutors of innocent women and children. They have passed by my home and I cried to hear the condition in which I fear they have left my wife and children. They have waged war against defenseless women and children. God will certainly visit them with terrible vengeance. [Editor’s Note: Louis Segrest was a private in Company B. His service record states that he was “Wounded May 25th, since died. Louis Segrest was the brother of David T. Segrest who was mentioned in the diary on May 20]

May 27

Another beautiful morning has rolled around and still the popping of guns from sharpshooters continues and occasional peals from the enemy’s cannon. We will all rejoice when we can leave these ditches, but if we can save Vicksburg by it we are willing to remain here for weeks. No one can tell what a day may bring forth. 3 o’clock – Lively firing on the river this morning. One of the enemy’s gunboats, a heavy iron-clad turreted boat, came withing range of our batteries and was sunk by our guns. Lieut. Harrington went to hospital today. The incessant sharpshooting still continues. [Editors Note: The ironclad mentioned by Faulk was the USS Cincinnati, a Cairo-class gunboat that was sunk on May 27 by artillery fire from the Confederate river batteries. “Lieut. Harrington” was 1st Lieutenant E.T. Harrington of Company B.]

USS Cincinnati was sunk by the Confederate River batteries at Vicksburg on May 27, 1863. After the siege ended she was raised and put back into service by the U.S. Navy. – U.S. Naval Historical Center

May 28

No attack has yet been made on our lines. 7 o’clock – Nothing unusual has happened today. The enemy still continue their shelling and sharpshooting. Johnston is reported to be in Canton on his way here. We will try very hard to hold Vicksburg until he arrives. God still continues to watch over our little army and I trust will finally deliver us from our troubles.

May 29

6 o’clock – Very heavy artillery firing from the enemy this morning. We may have a warm time of it today. God be with us. 4 o’clock – No fighting today so far. It seems to be their determination to starve us out and besiege the city. From 5 o’clock until dark the enemy’s cannonading was tremendous. They opened all their guns on us, but no one was hurt that I heard of.

May 30

We expected an attack last night and had all things prepared, but the night has passed off and this morning the sharpshooters are popping away as usual, but we may have it today. We have now been in the ditches 14 days. For two weeks have the enemy been hammering at the gates of Vicksburg and still she refuses to open unto them. 7 o’clock – Heavy artillery firing this evening, but so far as heard from no casualties. Another day has passed and Vicksburg still ours. The confidence and determination of the troops seems to grow stronger every day. We will hold our Hill City, cost what it may, with God’s assistance.

May 31

The enemy opened on us with a tremendous artillery fire, commencing about 2:30 o’clock a.m. As usual no damage done Tis the sabbath again. My desire is to be at my quiet home for a few short minutes seems greater than ever, to be rid of this everlasting firing. 6:30 o’clock p.m. – Today has passed off unusually quiet. One man wounded in our regiment, slightly. We came into the ditches, tonight will be two weeks ago. We are all very tired but will hold out as long as there is a possible chance to save our city.

June 1

Some artillery firing last night opposite our lines. Heavy on the right about 3 o’clock. Shell bursted in Company A last night just after dark killing three men and wounding two. Their provisions had just come in and they were sitting around eating their suppers when a shell exploded in their midst, showing how little we know at what moment the summons of death may come and the uncertainty of life. 6 o’clock – Nothing unusual has occurred today. Enemy shelling rapidly this evening. When will this tedious siege come to an end? Our men still continue cheerful under their slim fare of one ration per day, and other hardships. No late news from Johnston.

June 2

7 o’clock – Brisk firing of musketry about 12 o’clock last night on our right. We expected a charge from the enemy. All quiet again this morning except the usual sharpshooting and occasional cannonading. 5:30 p.m. – Very heavy shelling from the enemy at present and for last half hour, but doing no harm that I can hear of. Today so far has been about as quiet as usual. 100 of the enemy’s pickets reported to have been captured last night on our right by General Green. We thank God there has been no casualties today.

June 3

We were moved last night to a position toward the right. The men very much dissatisfied with the change. Everything more quiet than usual this morning. 7 o’clock – Shelling has been very heavy today and we again return thanks to God that no one has been hurt. I have just heard of the death of one of my wounded men in hospital (Louis Segrest). He was killed by the explosion of a shell while lying in a tent near the hospital. We all mourn his loss for in him we lost a brave soldier and his community a good citizen.

On June 2, the 38th Mississippi was moved to this position in the Vicksburg line that protected the Jackson Road entrance into the city. The regiment’s line of entrenchments is marked in this modern photograph by the red markers to the right of the Jackson Road. – Photo by Author

June 4

Heavy firing on the right last night, cause not known. 7:30 o’clock – Shells falling all around us. Nothing but providential interference has saved some of our company from being killed, our position being more exposed than the other companies. 7 o’clock p.m. – But little firing from cannon today compared to other days.

June 5

Nothing has occurred today worth mentioning. The usual amount of shelling and cannonading has been done, but we have great cause to be very thankful to Almighty God that no one in our regiment has been hurt for several days.

June 6

One man from Company I shot in the finger by a sharpshooter last night. Less firing from cannon this morning than usual. 7 o’clock – Today has been very quiet. Many reports about General Johnston, but nothing reliable.

June 7

‘Tis Sabbath day again. God’s holy day and all is more quiet than usual this morning. It appears that the enemy was disposed to keep the Sabbath holy; Would that we would follow their example in this respect, but we may have a warm time before night. We were shelled up to a late hour last night. 7 o’clock p.m. – All has been quiet on the line today, until now the enemy are shelling considerably. We have been in the trenches now 21 days. Our men have endured it all pretty well. God grant a speedy termination of the siege in our favor. How severe a trial to be separated from our loved ones at home and no possible chance to hear from them, and they perhaps suffering for the necessaries of life. Such indeed are the horrors of war.

June 8

The enemy have been very quiet for several days past. The sharpshooters keep up a continual firing, for what reason they alone know for they can see nothing to shoot at. Shelling moderate; they seldom ever hurt anyone.

June 9

The regiment on our left (the 3d Louisiana) shot a fuse into some cotton bales the enemy were using as breastworks and set them on fire last night. Our sharpshooters fired into them rapidly. The cotton was burnt. One man from Company E was badly wounded. 7 o’clock p.m. – The enemy have been shooting very incessantly today, paying us up for what we did last night, but thank God we have had no one hurt. Two men from the 3d Louisiana killed today. Went into town today and took a good bath at Major McCardle’s quarters. Saw Major McCay, Lieuts. Harrington and Smith, all improving. [Editor’s Note: “Major McCardle” was William H. McCardle, a resident of Vicksburg who served as assistant adjutant general on the staff of General John C. Pemberton.]

June 11

Yesterday was a miserable sad rainy day. It is very muddy and disagreeable in the trenches. The men are nearly worn out. Very heavy sharpshooting yesterday and this morning. 6 o’clock p.m. – Our position has been very severely shelled today, but, thank God, up to this time none of our regiment have been hurt. We have been particularly blessed since we have occupied our present position. The parapet on our left has been nearly battered down with a 10-inch gun.

June 12

The shelling has not been so heavy at our position today; we may have it this evening.

June 13

The same old routine of shelling and sharpshooting still continues. We can do nothing during the day but eat and sleep, and but little to eat and that very common. We are all nearly worn out with the ditches, but will hold out as long as provisions last. I could endure it cheerfully if I could know how my dear ones at home are; it has now been six weeks since I heard from home; been in trenches 27 days and no prospect of being relieved at a very early date.

June 14

Another Sabbath has rolled around and Vicksburg is still ours. Thanks to Almighty God our loss the past week has been very small. This is a beautiful morning and were it not for the incessant firing of the sharpshooters all would be perfectly quiet as it should be this day. General Hebert was around the lines last night. He spoke encouragingly to the men and seems confident of our ultimate success. 7 o’clock p.m. – Heavy cannonading during the day. Our mortar has annoyed the enemy very much today. Another Sabbath has passed and we are again indebted to God for the preservation of our lives.

June 15

The Feds have all their cannon along the line in use this morning. They have taken away several pieces – to fight Johnston with, I suppose. 11 o’clock – Have been looking for Major McCay and Lieut. Smith all the morning. McCay and Smith came in this morning.

June 17

Nothing occurred yesterday worth notice. Heavy shelling from the enemy this morning. Several pieces have fallen very near us, and several bombs exploded within a few feet of us, but, thanks to Almighty God, we have had no one hurt yet. We are putting up several heavy guns on our lines, so reported. Our men still keep cheerful, most of them, notwithstanding their rations are very scant and becoming smaller each day. 7 o’clock – Heavy shelling all day. One man killed by a sharpshooter in Company I. I am feeling unwell this evening; hope will not be sick. We have now been in the trenches one month today.

After the 38th Mississippi moved to their new position guarding the Jackson Road on June 2, they suffered a large number of casualties from sharpshooters. One reason for this was that the Union sharpshooters had an excellent spot from which to shoot at them – a tower built of railroad ties that looked down into their entrenchments, which can been seen in the distance in this photo. The tower was built under the direction of Lieutenant Henry C. Foster of the 23rd Indiana Infantry. – The Photographic History of the Civil War (1911)

June 18

9:30 o’clock – Shelling commenced later this morning than usual. Several bombs

Corporal isiah Rush of the 38th Mississippi Infantry posed for this picture with his family many years after the war. The empty sleeve from the arm he lost at Vicksburg is clearly visible in the image – Author’s Collection

have exploded very near us. Corporal I. Rush of my company wounded in the arm with a piece of shell, I hope it is only slight. One man from Company K killed by sharpshooters. 7:30 o’clock – Shelling not so heavy this evening. [Editor’s Note: “I. Rush” was Isiah Rush, a corporal in Company B. His arm had to be amputated because of his wound, ending his service in the Confederate army.]

June 19

Heavy firing last night on our right. One man killed by sharpshooter on left of our regiment; he belonged to a Missouri regiment. The enemy have been unusually quiet this morning. 7 o’clock – Today has passed off quietly.

June 20

6 o’clock – Very heavy shelling this morning. I think the enemy have planted more guns last night. The firing continued very heavy up to 11 o’clock. Three men in our regiment wounded by shells. 5 o’clock – We were very unexpectedly called into our positions in the trenches at a double quick. The alarm caused by two impudent Yankees crawling up and looking over our parapet. We are now lying in the ditches all ready, but I think it was a false alarm. 7 o’clock – No fight today but all quiet. I have just heard of the death of I. Ritchey, of my company. He was a brave good soldier. He died in the hospital from a wound received in a charge on May 21. No news from outside our lines.

June 21

Another Sabbath finds us still in the trenches, and i fear with but little prospect of a speedy relief. We will continue to thank God for his protection of our lives when we are exposed to so many dangers. W.T. Adair of my company, was wounded by a sharpshooter, I am afraid badly. Another day has passed off quietly. Many rumors very encouraging to us from Johnston. The enemy advancing on us rapidly with their ditches. Man from Company D slightly wounded by explosion of shell. [William T. Adair was a corporal in Company B. Wounded and captured at the Battle of Corinth in October 1862, he was also immediately paroled, and recovered from his wound in time to rejoin the 38th Mississippi for the Vicksburg Campaign. He was mortally wounded on June 21, 1863.]

June 22

The enemy unusually quiet early this morning. Another man killed in Company D from shell exploding. Today has been quiet.

This Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver was carried by Captain William L. Faulk during the Civil War, and belongs to one of his descendants.

June 23

Left camp early this morning. Took breakfast before leaving camp. Called at city hospital, took another breakfast with Mr. Johnston and then another at Mrs. Lawrence’s, where I got a good bath and put on clean clothes and consequently feel much better. Capt. Gilmer wounded today, I hope not seriously, by shell. I have enjoyed one day of rest and quiet and feel much refreshed. Left Mrs. Lawrence’s after tea and got to camp after dark, found all doing well. [Editor’s Note; “Capt. Gilmer” was Captain C.L. Gilmer, commander of Company E of the 38th Mississippi. He was wounded June 23, 1863, and his service record does not show that he ever returned to the regiment afterwards.]

June 24

Heard rapid firing from small arms about 10 o’clock last night on our right. We were called to our position in the ditches immediately, expecting a charge, but the alarm proved to be false. The enemy rather quiet this morning. They have ditched up very close to our breastworks. Another man killed in our regiment today from Company I. We thank God that our loss has been no greater for each hour of the day we are exposed to great danger.

June 25

We slept in the ditches last night in obedience to an order from General Pemberton for every man to sleep on his arms as an attack was anticipated, but the night passed off quietly. God in his wisdom has seen fit to take from us one of our best soldiers (Aleck Cameron). He was good in all that constitutes a soldier – brave, noble and true – one who never shrank from danger or murmured at duty – always ready to encourage the men under the greatest hardships and privations. He was shot by a sharpshooter in the left eye whilst looking over the parapet last night about 9 o’clock. His death has cast a gloom over our little company, and it will be long before we can realize that Aleck is no more. Major McCay went to town sick again last night. 7 o’clock p.m. – The enemy attempted to blow up

Blowing up the mine under the 3rd Louisiana Redan – National Park Service

the parapet of the 3d La. and partially succeeded, and threatened us with a charge. We remained in the ditches all night. Two men of Company C and one in Company E wounded today by explosion of shell; another man in Company C wounded by sharpshooters.

June 26

We are looking for an attack from the enemy this morning. Very heavy sharpshooting in front of our position since last night, [Editors Note: The next seven pages of the diary are missing. The narrative continues in mid sentence.]

July 2

…of my company was badly wounded by a shell today in the arm. It has since been amputated, which I regret very much. Another man killed in Company I today by a sharpshooter. We are losing men very rapidly. [Editor’s Note: The man who had his arm amputated was 4th Sergeant John Gipson Goza of Company B, whose service record states he had an “Arm shot off” on July 2, 1863.]

July 3

We have had a quiet day of it. A flag of truce was sent over to the enemy at 8 o’clock this morning, which lasted about one hour, when another flag was sent over. We are very anxious to know what it all means. 5 o’clock – Three or four of our Generals are in front of our regiment with the same number of Federal officers holding a conference. [Editor’s Note: The meeting between General John C. Pemberton and General Ulysses S. Grant to discuss the surrender of Vicksburg took place directly in front of the entrenchments held by the 38th Mississippi. Thus the men of the regiment had a front row seat to see the end of the Siege of Vicksburg.]

Position of the 38th Mississippi Infantry overlooking the spot where Generals Grant and Pemberton met to discuss surrender terms. There is a cannon barrel under the tree in the center of the picture marking the spot where the meeting took place – Photograph by Author

July 4

Another meeting of the officers on each side about 10 o’clock last night and still another about three o’clock this morning, the result of which was our surrender at 10 o’clock today. How humiliating it si for us to be compelled to submit to such an enemy, and that too on the 4th of July; but we have done all that men could do – we held them 48 days on very scant rations and we would have continued to hold the place had our rations held out. The Feds and our men are mixing together and talking good humoredly. [Editor’s Note: The Siege of Vicksburg only lasted 47 days.]

Captain William L. Faulk’s Vicksburg parole

July 5

Today has been the only quiet Sabbath we have passed since we have been in Vicksburg. We are anxiously waiting for our paroles for we are very tired of this place.

July 9

We have been lying in camp here since the 4th waiting for orders to leave. The Feds have issued an order prohibiting any negro passing their lines. It looks very hard for many of them are anxious to return to their homes.