An Avalanche of Brave Southern Soldiers: The 31st Mississippi Infantry at the Battle of Baton Rouge

It took some time and a good bit of research, but here is the article on the 31st Mississippi Infantry, the winning entry in the contest to help me choose my next article subject. I decided to concentrate on the 31st Mississippi’s participation in one battle, as trying to cover their entire Civil War service would have taken a long, long time. I chose the Battle of Baton Rouge as it was a engagement that I was not familiar with and wanted to learn about. It also helped that I was able to find a good many sources related to the 31st Mississippi’s participation in the battle. I hope you enjoy reading article as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.

The 31st Mississippi Infantry mustered into Confederate service at Saltillo, Mississippi, in the spring of 1862 under the command of Colonel Jehu A. Orr. As organized,

Colonel Jehu A. Orr commanded the 31st Mississippi Infantry, but missed the Battle of Baton Rouge because of illness. CONFEDERATE VETERAN MAGAZINE, Volume 19

the regiment consisted of the following units: Company A, “Orr Guards,” from Pontotoc County; Company B, “Dixie Guards,” from Choctaw County; Company C, “Chickasaw Guards,” from Chickasaw County; Company D, “Dixie Rebels,” from Calhoun County; Company E, “Choctaw Rebels,” from Choctaw County; Company F, “Calhoun Tigers,” from Calhoun County; Company G, “Orr Guards,” from Pontotoc County; Company H, “Captain Jenning’s Company,” from Itawamba County; Company I, “Jackson Rifles,” from Choctaw County; and Company K, “Captain McWhorter’s Company,” from Pontotoc County. (For Dixie Land I’ll Take My Stand, Volume 1, page 960; Military History of Mississippi, page 288).

The 31st had little time to train, as reinforcements were needed at Corinth to meet the advancing Federal army that was moving on the city in the wake of the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Shiloh. H.N. Faulkinbury, a private in Company D of the 31st, wrote an account of the organization and early days of the regiment. He may have been lacking in grammatical skill, but he did make clear just how rushed their training was: “Our Regt. was organized our respected Capton whos name was M.D.L. Stephens was promoted to Lieut. col. wher upon our 1st Leiut. F.M. Gilespe taken his position. At Saltillo Itwambia Co. Miss. was organized our Regt. the 31st Miss. Ther we drilled about one month then went to Corinth shortly after the Shilow Battle was fought. Ther we was all furnished with a good musket apiece and other equipages.” (Diary of H.N. Faulkinbury, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

At Corinth, the 31st Mississippi was assigned to the command of Major General John C.

General John C. Breckenridge commanded the Confederate forces at the Battle of Baton Rouge – Library of Congress

Breckenridge, serving in a brigade led by Colonel Robert P. Trabue. As the Federal army closed on Corinth the 31st was engaged in some skirmishing with the enemy. They also took part in the rear-guard action to delay the Union army when the Confederates abandoned Corinth on May 29, 1862, and retreated to Tupelo. (Military History of Mississippi, page 289).

The retreat to Tupelo was very hard on the green soldiers of the 31st Mississippi; many of the men were already suffering from sickness, and the long grueling march took a toll on the regiment. H.N. Faulkinbury took part in the retreat and recorded his thoughts about it: “On the great Corinth retreat we fared very well to wat some our poor soldiers did for ther was great menny of them very sick at that time whow perished and dide [died] on the road sides. We fill [fell] back to Tupelo on the M & O. R.R. [Mobile & Ohio Railroad] we was all worn out and brooke down a marching by this time. I had sorter begain to expreance [experience] some of the hardships of the life of a soldier.”

The 31st Mississippi did not have a long stay in Tupelo, for in early June, General

David G. Farragut – Library of Congress

Breckenridge was ordered to Vicksburg with his troops to help defend the city, which was then under attack by the enemy. (Military History of Mississippi, page 289). These troops were needed because Union naval forces had moved on Vicksburg from both ends of the river. In April 1862, Flag Officer David G. Farragut entered the mouth of the Mississippi with the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, a fleet of ocean-going vessels. After fighting his way past forts Jackson and St. Philip below New Orleans, he proceeded to the Crescent City, which fell without a fight on April 25, 1862. (An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign and National Military Park, page 36).

At the same time that New Orleans fell, the Mississippi Flotilla, consisting of rams and ironclads commanded by Flag Officer Charles H. Davis, was moving down the Mississippi River. On June 6, 1862, Davis’ fleet destroyed the rag-tag Confederate vessels defending Memphis, and the city was forced to surrender. With both New Orleans and Memphis in Union hands, the two powerful Northern fleets were free to advance on Vicksburg. (An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign and National Military Park, page 36).

Farragut’s fleet was the first to move, heading upriver toward Vicksburg, stopping along the way to force the surrender of Baton Rouge on May 7, and Natchez on May 13. On May 18, 1862, an advance force under Commander S. Phillips Lee dropped anchor at Vicksburg, and sent a message demanding the immediate surrender of the city. But unlike Baton Rouge and Natchez, Vicksburg did have defenders, and they were able to successfully resist the Union forces despite being terribly battered by an intense naval bombardment that lasted from May 20 – July 26, 1862. (An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign, and National Military Park, page 37).

The 31st Mississippi’s brigade, now commanded by Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin

General Benjamin Hardin Helm commanded the brigade to which the 31st Mississippi belonged during the Battle of Baton Rouge – Kentucky Historical Society

Helm, arrived at Vicksburg in mid-June. Cyrus Decatur McElroy, a private in Company H of the 31st, wrote of his arrival in the Hill City: “We marched along down the banks of the great Father of the Waters and saw the gunboats and transports of the enemy in the distance, moving slowly about on the surface of the water. We soon found that we were not unnoticed by them, for scarcely had we reached town when we heard the roar of cannon from the mortar boats of the enemy and soon a shell came whistling along which burst immediately over our heads. One followed another in quick succession, and now followed a scene such as I had never witnessed before. Women and children were seen running in every direction bare-footed and bare-headed trying to escape the horrible death that seemed almost inevitable. Fortunately none of us were hurt and we reached camp about dark.” (Cyrus Decatur McElroy Letter, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

Despite his intense efforts, Farragut was unable to capture Vicksburg, and with the Mississippi River falling, he had to take his fleet south or risk having it stranded. On July 27, 1862, he ordered his ships to make steam for New Orleans, ending the threat to Vicksburg that summer. (An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign and National Military Park, page 39).

With Vicksburg safe for the time being, Major General Earl Van Dorn, commander of the

General Earl Van Dorn – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

District of Mississippi, felt it was time to take the initiative against the Federals and “Strike a blow before he had time to organize and mature a new scheme of assault.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 16). Toward that end Van Dorn resolved to attack and recapture Baton Rouge, the state capital of Louisiana. The general stated that the city was held by a force he believed to be about 3,500 strong with the support of the union navy, which had gunboats just offshore of the capital in the Mississippi River. Van Dorn believed that the capture of Baton Rouge would “Open the Mississippi, secure the navigation of Red River, then in a state of blockade, and also render easier the recapture of New Orleans.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 16).

To effect the capture of Baton Rouge, Van Dorn ordered General Breckenridge to take 5,000 men from Vicksburg and move by rail to Camp Moore, Louisiana, where he would add to his command the 1,000 soldiers there under Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles. To help neutralize the Union gunboats in the waters off Baton Rouge, Van Dorn ordered the ironclad C.S.S. Arkansas, then at Vicksburg, to steam down the Mississippi and attack the Federal vessels. (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, pages 17-18).

General Breckenridge left Vicksburg by rail on July 27, and his weary command, including the 31st Mississippi, arrived at Camp Moore on the evening of the next day. Once there he began to organize his soldiers for the attack on Baton Rouge. Unfortunately Breckenridge had significantly less than the 5,000 men that Van Dorn had authorized for the operation. The general had only been able to scrape up 4,000 men at Vicksburg, and by the time they reached Camp Moore, he was down to only 3,400 soldiers. Breckenridge wrote that he had lost many men due to “The effects of exposure at Vicksburg, from heavy rains without shelter and from the extreme heat.” (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 76).

Wartime illustration of Camp Moore, Louisiana – Encyclopedia of Louisiana

The Confederates at Camp Moore were organized into two divisions by General

General Charles Clark served as the 31st Mississippi’s division commander at the Battle of Baton Rouge. Badly wounded and captured during the fighting, he was eventually released by the Federals. Unable to serve as a soldier because of his wounds, Clark was elected governor of Mississippi in 1863 – Wikipedia

Breckenridge, the First Division led by Brigadier General Charles Clark, and the Second Division led by Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles. The 31st Mississippi served in the First Division, Second Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Benjamin H. Helm. Serving with them in the brigade were the 4th Kentucky Infantry, 5th Kentucky Infantry, 31st Alabama Infantry, and Pettus’s Flying Artillery from Mississippi. Colonel Orr being sick, command of the 31st Mississippi fell to Major H.E. Topp. (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 3, page 585; Military History of Mississippi, page 289).

With his attacking force so greatly reduced, General Breckenridge realized that the role of the C.S.S. Arkansas in neutralizing the Federal Fleet at Baton Rouge was critical to the success of his mission, and he telegraphed Van Dorn to see when the ironclad would reach the Louisiana capital. The reply quickly came back over the wires that the Arkansas would arrive at Baton Rouge by daylight on August 5, 1862. (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 77).

The 31st Mississippi, along with the rest of the Confederate army, marched out of Camp Moore on July 30 for Baton Rouge, some 65 miles to the southwest. By the afternoon of August 4 the Rebels had reached the Comite River, about 10 miles from the city. The hardships of the march, however, had taken a toll; Breckenridge estimated that so many men dropped out because of sickness that he had only 2,600 effectives for the next day’s battle. (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 77).

Breckenridge had his men make a night march on August 4-5 to reach Baton Rouge before daybreak, hoping to surprise the Federal garrison. Cyrus D. McElroy noted that “On the evening of the 4th of August we were called into line and informed by Maj. Topp (who was then in command of our regiment) that a council of war had been held, and that it was resolved to attack the enemy at 4 o’clock the next morning. We accordingly cooked rations for two days, ate suppers, filled our canteens, and just after dark took up the line of march for the city, our design being to surprise the enemy at daylight, while at the same time the Arkansas was to attack the Federal fleet.” (Cyrus D. McElroy letter, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

Wartime panoramic image of Baton Rouge

The Confederates reached the eastern outskirts of Baton Rouge before dawn on August 5, and Breckenridge began to deploy his men for the attack. An unfortunate mishap,

Colonel Thomas H. Hunt had to take over as the 31st Mississippi’s brigade commander after General Benjamin H. Helm was wounded in the opening minutes of the battle

however, destroyed an chance of a surprise attack on the Federal garrison, which numbered about 2,500 men. A group of Confederate Partisan Rangers made accidental contact with the Federal pickets guarding the approaches to the city. As they hastily galloped back to the Confederate lines, they were mistaken for the enemy, and shots were exchanged. There were a number of casualties from friendly fire, among them General Helm, the 31st’s brigade commander, who was wounded, and his aide, Lieutenant A.H. Todd, the brother of Mary Todd Lincoln, who was killed. With Helm out of the fight before it even began, Colonel Thomas H. Hunt of the 4th Kentucky Infantry assumed command of the brigade. (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 77).

General Breckenridge arranged his forces for the attack along the Greenwell Springs Road which led into Baton Rouge. He only had enough troops for a single thin line of battle, with General Ruggles division on the left of the road, and General Clark’s division to the right. When there was enough light to see, General Ruggles’ troops advanced to open the battle. His men pushed back the Federals in the opening minutes of the battle as General Clark prepared his troops to engage the center and left of the enemy line. (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, pages 77-78).

Map depicting the Battle of Baton Rouge – The 31st Mississippi fought with Helm’s brigade on the Confederate right

As Clark’s troops moved into position to attack, a Mississippi officer who may have been a member of the 31st Mississippi noted, “As we approached, that grand old air, ‘The march of Norma,’ could be easily distinguished, vainly endeavoring to inspire their cowardly hirelings to resist the coming avalanche of brave Southern soldiers. We soon formed line of battle and marched upon the concealed enemy.”       (Daily Constitutionalist, August 19, 1862).

Cyrus D. McElroy wrote a detailed account of the 31st Mississippi’s part in the battle, as he

Postwar picture of Cyrus D. McElroy, a member of the 31st Mississippi who fought at the Battle of Baton Rouge – http://en.rodovid.org/wk/Person:26914

remembered it: “When within two miles of town we filed right into a field of green corn, and formed in line of battle. We then marched on through the corn and entered a field of sugar cane. Pressing on through this we entered an old pasture just at the dawn of day. Just after this we heard the battle commence on our left. We heard the boys raise the yell, and knew they were charging the enemy. We pushed on an entered another pasture. Here we were greeted by grape shot and canister, round shot and shell, and everything that would do to shoot out of cannon. We however, pushed on until we reached the edge of the city. Our battery had come up, and we lay down for a few moments near it behind a plank fence. We then rose, pushed down the fence, passed into the street, made a left flank movement, went in double quick about 200 hundred yards, then faced in line of battle opposite the 14th Maine regiment. Our company of 76, was now thrown out as skirmishers. We took several prisoners, arms ammunition, etc. We passed through the camp and entered a corn field where the enemy were stationed. Here our regiment had a hard fight, but finally repulsed the enemy. (Cyrus D. McElroy letter, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

Illustration depicting the Battle of Baton Rouge – Library of Congress

One of the Union soldiers on the receiving end of the 31st Mississippi’s attack was Ira B.

Ira B. Gardner commanded a company in the 14th Maine Infantry during the Battle of Baton Rouge, and fought against the 31st Mississippi

Gardner, a first lieutenant in Company I, 14th Maine Infantry. As his company commander was sick, the young lieutenant found  himself in command of his company during the battle. He wrote of the fighting: “About that time the sun came out, the fog lifted and I saw one brigade of Clark’s division charging our front and within not more than fifteen or twenty rods. I immediately gave the order to my company to fire; the other nine companies also fired into the brigade. In a short time Colonel Nickerson appeared and took command. He immediately ordered a change of front to the rear on the right company. Being in command of the right company, the initiative devolved upon me. Their batteries were still shelling our camp and the musketry fire was quite heavy. I immediately put my company in position as a right angle to our first line, facing to the left and rear. The other companies quickly took their positions on my left. My position was still on the right of the line on the bank of the Bayou Sara Road. Colonel Nickerson gave the order to forward and we marched through the camp. About the time I reached the left of the camp, looking up the Bayou Sara Road, apparently not more than two hundred feet from me I saw Captain Semmes with his battalion of partisan rangers charging down the road. I immediately gave the order to fire again, without waiting for the colonel. The other nine companies again fired. Captain Semmes of the partisan rangers was between the brigades of Helm and Smith and it proved that our change of front came just in time to stop Helm’s brigade coming in on our left. By this time Smith’s brigade had rallied and was advancing with our regiment at a right angle to his line of battle. It will be seen that no regiment in the world could have withstood the charge of a brigade on its front and one on its left flank with no protection for the flank…the regiment fell back in confusion.” (“Personal Experiences with the Fourteenth Maine Volunteers: From 1861 to 1865.” By Ira B. Gardner; in War Papers Volume IV, published in 1915 by Lefavor-Tower Company).

The Union line was broken and the Federals forced to retreat, but they had put up a stubborn defense, and hundreds of wounded and dead Confederates littered the field. The 31st Mississippi and their brigade was especially hard hit; Colonel Hunt went down with a serious wound, and a Mississippi officer noted, “The 31st Mississippi suffered greatly – Three color bearers were shot down in quick succession, and yet each time it fell, a gallant Mississippian was on hand to raise  on high the bonnie blue flag that bears the thirteen stars!!” (Daily Constitutionalist, August 19, 1862).

After forcing the 14th Maine to retreat, Cyrus D. McElroy noted in his letter what the regiment did next: “We now fell back to a ravine, rested a while, then fell back to the top of a hill and made a left oblique movement, which threw us on the left of and to the support of the 3rd Kentucky regiment, which was under a galling fire from the 2nd and 7th Indiana regiments. We fired a few rounds, then charged bayonets, which put the enemy to flight. The fate of the day was now decided. The victory was ours, but we were not not able to hold the field, as the Federals were shelling it from their gunboats. We now fell back two miles, rested until evening, and returned to camp.” (Cyrus D. McElroy letter, Mississippi Department of Archives and History).

The Confederates had pressed the Federals back to the Mississippi River, but direct fire from the Union gunboats in the waterway prevented them from taking the last position and completing the victory. The C.S.S. Arkansas had trouble with its engines, and the crew was forced to destroy the vessel to keep it from falling into enemy hands. General Breckenridge, realizing nothing could be done against the Union gunboats, ordered his troops to withdraw, and the Rebels slowly retreated from Baton Rouge and gave up their hard-won gains. (Official Records, Series 1, Volume XV, page 79).

The 31st Mississippi had fought well at Baton Rouge, but all they had to show for it was a long list of casualties – 16 killed or mortally wounded, and 31 wounded. By August 20, the regiment was back in central Mississippi, and Doctor Thomas J. Blackwell, a surgeon in the 31st Mississippi, noted: “The troops from Baton Rouge arrived today with Col. Orr at their head, and a worn, dusty and tired set set of men as I ever saw. Poor fellows, many of them died on the battle field and others must soon follow by the ‘wasting hand of disease,’ to the common grave of ‘all the living.’ I believe that the soldier who lost his life by disease, in camp, is as much, if not more, of a hero, as he that perishes by the bullet or cannon shot on the battle field, and that the government should provide for the families of both alike.”

The Battle of Baton Rouge was over, and for a time the men of the 31st Mississippi Infantry would have a much deserved rest. But in their future lay many more battles…but those stories will have to be told at some later date.

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27 thoughts on “An Avalanche of Brave Southern Soldiers: The 31st Mississippi Infantry at the Battle of Baton Rouge

  1. Chad Teasley

    What a great essay, Jeff! Thank you for the highly enjoyable and informative read.

  2. Very extensive and well done. It always amazes me how intense even the relatively little-known conflicts of the war were. It’s unlikely that 10 out of 100 Civil War buffs are familiar with this fight, yet to the men who fought there, it was a brutal battle. And think what it could have meant if the South could have dislodged the Federals at Baton Rouge.

    • I really like writing about the lesser known battles and skirmishes of the Civil War – there is no shortage of books and articles about the major battles of the war, but there are so many lesser battles and skirmishes that are almost unknown today, and the men who fought in them earned the right to be remembered.

      • I couldn’t agree more – there were hundreds of battles and skirmishes during the four-year conflict, and to boil the war down to barely a dozen battles does a grave disservice to the men who risked their lives countless times. And that’s not even counting the tens of thousands who served and died of disease without ever setting foot on a battlefield.

  3. marie

    Just found your blog yesterday; quiet interesting. I appreciate your knowledge, research, and time in writing these detailed entries. I just recently began to study the 31st, in which my great great grandfather served; he was wounded at Nashville. Enjoyed the article and learned much.

    And I’m excited to see that the 31st flag is on display (another post) at the MDAH. I had planned to go see the exhibit, but now I will go sooner and will appreciate it more!
    thanks,

    • Marie, I have a pretty extensive list of sources on the 31st Mississippi – if you would like me to send you a list of them, just let me know your email address.

      • th

        Hello… My mom’s cousin was a G.W. Naron, a lieutenant in the 31st (Co H). I’ve just now started researching our ancestry and found this gentleman. Can you please send me any information on him or his company?

        Thank you for your time and your efforts in researching all of this. I really have enjoyed reading it all…

        th

      • I will be happy to help if I can – If you will send me your email address, I can send you a list of sources on the 31st Mississippi, and tell you how to obtain your relative’s service record. You can contact me at:
        championhilz@att.net

      • Robert Bell

        Please let me have a list of references for the 31st infantry ( Mississippi )

      • Here you are:

        Blackwell, Thomas J. [S., F&S] Diary, 15 August 1862 – 25 December 1862.
        Published in Yalobusha Pioneer Magazine, Volume 21, # 3, (Fall 1996): 83-123.

        Clark, Squire A. J. [Pvt., Co. C] Letter, 23 May 1863. Located in the John Guy Lofton Collection, J. D. Williams Library, ID # MUM00272, University of Mississippi, University, MS. Letter from Clark to his father written from a camp near Jackson, MS. Describes the Battle of Champion Hill and the retreat of Loring’s Division after the fight.

        Faulkinbury, Henry Newton. [Pvt., Co. D] Diary, 1861 – 1865. Catalog # 973.782
        F 263d, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

        Hemphill, A. J. [3rd Lt., Co. I] Papers, 20 November 1862 – 1 July 1865.
        Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

        Hudson, William Spencer. [1st Lt., Co. D] Diary, 6 December 1862 – 9 January 1866.
        Catalog # 973.78 H 86c, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

        King, Green. [Pvt., Co. A] Letters. Located in the Carter House Museum, Franklin,
        TN.

        List of Killed and wounded in the 32nd Mississippi from the Battle of Dallas, GA, May
        27, 1864. Daily Mississippian. Jackson, MS: 16 June 1864.

        Orr, John A. [Col., F&S] 31 Telegrams to Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles. Located
        in the Daniel Ruggles Papers, Z 0593.000, Mississippi Department of Archives
        and History, Jackson, MS.

        _____. “Reminiscences of J. A. Orr.” 27 March 1905. Located in the
        Daniel Ruggles Papers, Catalog # Z 754f, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

        McElroy, Cyrus Decatur. [Pvt., Co. H] Letter, 1862. Catalog # Z 1375f, Mississippi
        Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

        Stephens, Marcus D. Lafayette. [Lt. Col., Col.] Manuscript. Located in J. D. Williams
        Library, Catalog # SMMSS 77-3, University of Mississippi, University, MS. The
        manuscript describes skirmishes that took place around Oxford, Water Valley and
        Coffeeville, MS. There is also an account of the Battle of Franklin, TN.

        Street, Charles Napoleon Batchelor. [Pvt., Co. K, Sgt. Maj.,, F&S] Letters. Located in
        the Carter House Museum, Franklin TN.

        Thornton, Solomon M. [Capt., Co. B] Letter, 1863. Located in the Gardner Collection,
        Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS.
        The letter was written by Thornton to his wife from a camp near Edwards, MS.

        _____. Letters. Located in the Thornton Collection, Mitchell Memorial Library,
        Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS.

        Watson, James W. [Pvt., Co. B] Letter, 1 July 1864. Located at the Kennesaw
        Mountain National Battlefield, Kennesaw, GA.

  4. Harvey

    I think my great, great grandfather was in the battle. Can you tell me? His name was Thomas Sterling Cooper. From Mississippi and in this infantry regiment, I am pretty sure. He survived the war.

    • Harvey,
      Where was your g-g-grandfather from in Mississippi? Also, do you know when he was born and when he died? The only Thomas S. Cooper I find serving from Mississippi was in the 19th Mississippi Infantry which served in the Army of Northern Virginia.

  5. Tony Morgan, Brandon, MS

    Great article. My great, great grandfather was Corporal Stephen Bennett Morgan of Company D, 31st MS Infantry “Dixie Rebels” organized from Calhoun County, MS. He survived the Civil War after being a prisoner at Vicksburg.

    • Tony, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History has two diaries written by soldiers in Company D of the 31st Mississippi – you might want to check them out, as being in the same company, they might mention your relative. The two diaries are:

      Faulkinbury, Henry Newton. [Pvt., Co. D] Diary, 1861 – 1865. Catalog # 973.782
      F 263d, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

      Hudson, William Spencer. [1st Lt., Co. D] Diary, 6 December 1862 – 9 January 1866.
      Catalog # 973.78 H 86c, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

      • Thanks a Bunch! Correction – I am still researching whether he was a prisoner at Vicksburg; but feel like he did not but rather did fight at Champion Hill and Big Black River under Loring’s Division. I found his application for pension dated 1916. He mentions his unit (CO D, 31 MS) surrendered at Greensboro, NC around 26 Apr 65. In the application he cites Colonel M.D.L.Stephens and Captain Mario{a}n Gillespie as commanders. Thanks, Tony Morgan Brandon, MS

      • Henry Newton Faulkinbury, b. 1842, was my great-great uncle. He enlisted in the 31st at Serepta, Mississippi with his brother George Folger Faulkinbury on March 7, 1862. Another brother, William Jasper Faulkinbury, who had originally joined the 15th Arkansas Infantry and was captured at the battle of Vicksburg on 14 July 1863, was paroled on the condition of never again taking up arms, then joined the 31st Mississippi to be with his brothers. They all deserted according to Henry’s diary on March 5th, 1864. Following the War, Henry Newton Faulkinbury became sheriff of Jackson Co., Arkansas in 1873-1874 and then U.S. Deputy Marshall for the Eastern District of Arkansas serving until 1893 when he retired having lost the election for Marshall. He was chief rider under “Hanging” Judge Parker at Fort Smith Arkansas. He was a U.S. Secret Service agent, special agent for the Iron Mountain Railroad, and following his retirement, opened a private detective agency in Little Rock. He also served as special commissioner to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. I’ve found many newspaper accounts of his exploits in newspapers from New York City, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana as well as the local Arkansas Gazette.

      • Jim,
        Thanks so much for the information! Henry Newton Faulkinbury certainly had a very interesting life after the Civil War, and I’m glad you shared this with me.

    • Bob Thomas

      My wife, Jo Barton of Derma, MS is also a descendant of Stephen Bennett Morgan. A very gifted Mississippi State scientist/engineer/missionary named James Stribbling wrote a book on the Dixie Rebels that is yet unpublished. He could leave a lasting legacy honoring his Stribbling ancestors. He currently lives in New Mexico and should be encouraged to get it in print.

      • Thanks for the info Bob. I grew up in Bruce, MS and now reside in Brandon, MS. I am also doing research on 31st MS Infantry. One of Stephen Bennett’s chidren was George Washington Morgan. George had four children, Gladys, Clarence, Vernon, and Georgia. Vernon is my paternal grandfather. If Jo is doing family research, let me know and I would be glad to help. I may try and contact Mr. Stribbling as I would love to review the material on the Dixie Rebels.

  6. Mark Bailey

    My brother was in Jackson doing a little research on our family members who served during the Civil War. While there they showed him a flag that they said had belonged to Company D, 31st MS Infanty (the company the Bailey side of the family fought with) that had been capatured during the war and was later returned to the State of MS. He took a picture of it cause it wan’t on display. It look like the stars and bars we see now days but the star in the middle is absent, so there are only 12 stars. Do you know anything about this flag and is this true?

    • Mark,
      To the best of my knowledge, the only flag of the 31st Mississippi at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History is the unit’s regimental flag, which is a 12-star pattern battleflag. Here is the description of it from the book “Battleflags of the Army of Tennessee” by Howard Madaus & Robert Needham:

      “The 31st Mississippi Volunteers, serving in Brigadier General W.S. Featherston’s Brigade of Loring’s Division, lost their colors at Peachtree Creek, Georgia on 20 July 1864. Private Dennis Buckly of the 136th New York Volunteers personally clubbed the color bearer with his musket and seized the colors. This flag, which measures 48 inches on the staff by 52 1/2 inches on the fly, is devoid of any lettering. The cross is 7 inches wide and is bordered with a 1 1/4 inch wide edging. Each of the twelve stars measures 4 1/2 inches across the points. It was attached to its staff by means of a sleeve formed by doubling back the field 2 inches.”

  7. tony forrester

    Nice article, my relative was William J Forrester 31st Miss Inf Co H.

  8. Rebecca Roberts

    Great read, thanks you!

  9. Tony

    The most notable thing about this battle is that it may be the single biggest blunder of the Civil War. The repairs to the Arkansas were nowhere near completion when she was ordered to Baton Rouge, and the commander had left explicit instructions that she not leave Vicksburg until repairs were complete. If the Arkansas had remained at Vicksburg, Grant would never have been able to move his army south of Vicksburg and strike inland towards Jackson. Van Dorn’s stupidity doomed Vicksburg to fall, and for what strategic end? With no rail connection and no towering bluffs, Baton Rouge had no strategic value, unlike Port Hudson which had both. And the turning of the tide in the battle by the federal gunboats shows that, if taken, Baton Rouge could never have been held. Van Dorn could very well have been one of the most valuable general officers of the Civil War, to the federal cause! 🙂

  10. Tony Morgan

    Enjoyed meeting you yesterday at the MS Archives. Thanks for letting me browse thru your research binder on the 31st MS. I will be returning soon to get photo copies of my g-g-grandfather’s muster roll cards (Co D). Also, want to read through the 31st MS records I browse through yesterday.

    Tony Morgan
    Brandon, MS

  11. Thank you for writing this account of the Battle of Baton Rouge. My 4th great-grandfather, Howell Best Shelton, was a private in the 31st, Co. G. I do not know if he was present for this battle because he had long battled illness that kept him on and off on medical furlough. I do know, however, that he was captured from the hospital at Edward’s Station a day or two after the Battle of Champion Hill. He was confined at Fort Delaware for a couple of months and was paroled on July 4th, 1863. He died on July 6th…only two days later. Thanks again for detailing this lesser-known engagement

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