A Curious and Valuable Document: The Diary of Louis J. Frederic, 27th Mississippi Infantry

While doing some research recently I found a very interesting memoir written by Louis J. Frederic, who served in Company L of the 27th Mississippi Infantry. It was published in the Times-Picayune of New Orleans on December 7, 1896. Entitled “A Soldier’s Diary of the Civil War,” it is, in fact, not a diary, but a memoir written by Frederic after the war, likely using letters or a diary as his source material. The manuscript was published shortly after the death of Frederic, and the following introduction told how it came to be printed in the newspaper:

Not so very long ago the veterans of the Army of Tennessee were called upon to mourn the loss of a loyal comrade in L.J. Frederic. In order to express in some measure the regret at the passing away of their friend, the grand old association appointed a committee to prepare resolutions to enter upon the records and to form a priceless keepsake for the family of the departed hero. Dr. C.H. Tebault, now surgeon general of

Dr. Christopher H. Tebault was a native of Raymond, Mississippi. During the Civil War he served as a surgeon with the 21st Louisiana Infantry, and after the conflict was surgeon general of the United Confederate Veterans. He discovered Frederic”s diary in 1896 – CONFEDERATE VETERAN MAGAZINE, Volume 22, page 372

the Confederacy, who knew Mr. Frederic well, was one of the committee, and happened to make an examination of the papers which the deceased left behind. Among them he discovered a curious and valuable document. It was a brief but complete history of the war insofar as Mr. Frederic had to do with it. The young soldier had kept a diary of the various epochs in his battle career, and the whole made up a rare chronicle in the annals of warfare. There was no comment, no criticism, simply a bare, unvarnished tale, and it is well worth a place among the relics in Memorial Hall. Mr. Frederic’s Diary is as follows:

In the month of September, 1861, a meeting was held near Moss Point for the purpose of organizing a company of volunteers for service in the Confederate states army. The following officers were elected: H. Bruno Griffin, captain; Thomas K. Hawkins, first lieutenant; Samuel Johnson, second lieutenant; Aristides Krebs, brevet second lieutenant. The company was named Twiggs Rifles in honor of Major General Twiggs, then commander of the department.

On Oct. 2, 1861, the company was mustered in the service of the Confederate states for one year. Remained in camp at Pascagoula until the 24th of February, 1862. Marched to Fowl River, Ala., thence to Cedar Point, Ala. Remained there two months. On the 4th of May moved to Mobile.

Wartime Illustration of Mobile, Alabama

The company was now mustered in service for three years, and was reorganized, electing as officers H.B. Griffin captain; Samuel Johnson, first lieutenant; Jesse Thompson, second lieutenant; and Wm. Welch junior second lieutenant. Lieutenant Hawkins and Krebs withdrew from the company and enlisted in Morgan’s cavalry.

The company was now attached to the Twenty-Seventh Mississippi Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers, and designated as Company “L.” The Twenty-Seventh Mississippi Regiment was part of Jones’ brigade, then camped on the bay shore, about two miles from Mobile. July 24, 1862, was ordered to Chattanooga, Tenn. Aug. 4 was ordered to Graham Station on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, for picket duty on Long Island, in the Tennessee River, to prevent a corps of the federal army, then occupying Bridgeport, Tenn., from crossing at this point.

Aug. 20 returned to Chattanooga, crossed the river, camped at the foot of Walden’s Ridge

Modern view of the Tennessee River from Walden’s Ridge

and prepared for the march through Tennessee and Kentucky. Jones’ brigade was attached to Pat Anderson’s division. Sept. 1, 1862, moved from camp and began the long and fatiguing march over Walden’s Ridge and over the Cumberland mountains, without rest, until reaching Bardstown, where the army rested ten or twelve days. Marched as far as Harrodsburg, and then returned to Perryville to face the enemy under General McCook. Oct. 8, battle of Perryville, Private Louis Wells was killed, being the first man of the company killed in battle. Several men were wounded, Wm. Wiley Goff dying of heat and fatigue. Remained on battle field all night. Marched to Harrodsburg, where the wounded were left in hospital. Marched to Bryantsville and camped there several days at Camp “Dick Robinson.” Marched through eastern Kentucky and crossed the mountains at Cumberland gap.

Wartime Illustration of Camp Dick Robinson – HARPER’S WEEKLY, November 1, 1862

Marched to Knoxville, Tenn., arriving there on the 23d of October, 1862. Oct. 24 a heavy snow storm, from which the company suffered a great deal, occurred, many of the men having no shoes and only the clothes with which they had started on the campaign; very few had blankets. From Knoxville moved by railroad to Chattanooga and thence to Shelbyville, Tenn. Marched to Eagleville.

General E.C. Walthall now took command of the brigade, which afterwards became famous

Brigadier General Edward Cary Walthall of Mississippi commanded the brigade to which the 27th belonged

as Walthall’s brigade. On Dec. 25 marched to Murfreesboro and participated in battle Dec. 30 and 31, 1862, and Jan. 2, 1863. Sergeant Antonio Baptiste was killed in the ditch on the evening of Dec. 30, a solid four-pound shot fracturing his skull. Several others were wounded and sent to hospital. On Jan. 2 the men, wet by the rain which had been falling all day, and nearly frozen by the intense cold, were ordered to leave the line of battle and, marching through rain and mud, reached Shelbyville at night. Here the army went into winter quarters. J.A. McInnis was elected second lieutenant in place of Jesse Thompson, who had died in hospital at Chattanooga, after the return from Kentucky.

On the 2d of May the brigade was ordered to Louisburg, Tenn. On the 25th of May a match drill was held, in which Company “L” won first prize – ninety days exemption from duty. Lieutenant Welch, commanding the company, was presented with a sword, and a general order was read, in which General Walthall complimented the company for its skill. On May 27 returned to Shelbyville; from there marched to Tullahoma and over the Cumberland mountains, crossed the Tennessee River on pontoons and arrived at Chattanooga on July 4, 1863. Ordered to Chickamauga Station, where the brigade was attached to Liddell’s corps.

Marched to Lafayette, Ga., and to McLemore Cove to stop the advance of the union army in that direction. The enemy having withdrawn, Liddell’s corps marched back to Chickamauga Station, engaged in battle on the 19th, 20th and 21st of September, advanced to Missionary Ridge, where the brigade remained in line of battle during the month of October and part of November. About the middle of November camped on top of Lookout Mountain. On the 24th participated in the battle of Lookout Mountain. Lieutenant Samuel Johnson and Sergeant Hughie Goff were killed.

Wartime Illustration of the Battle of Lookout Mountain – HARPER’S WEEKLY, December 26, 1863

Captain Griffin, Lieutenant McInnis and sixteen men were taken prisoners. On Nov. 25 participated in the battle of Missionary Ridge. On Nov. 26 the army retreated to Dalton, Ga., and went into winter quarters. This being a very severe winter, the men suffered a great deal from cold and frequent snow storms.

On May 7, 1864, formed line of battle near Bald Face Mountain. The enemy having left, the brigade was ordered to fall back to Tipton, Ga. Marched to Resaca, Ga., and participated in battle May 14 and 15, retreating during the night and skirmishing during the day. Participated in battles at Cassville, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Good Hope Church May 25 and 28; was wounded here, at Culp Farm, near Marietta, June 22, 1864.

The army continuing the retreat, entered Atlanta on July 9. Atlanta was now closely invested by General Sherman, a constant bombardment being kept up night and day. Engaged in battle at Peach Tree Creek on July 22 and along the lines July 28 to Aug. 3, at Jonesboro Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Private Milton Evans was killed on Aug. 31.

Photograph of the Peachtree Creek Battlefield

Having now evacuated Atlanta, marched toward northern Georgia, engaged in the battle of Snake Creek gap Oct. 12, 1864; Private James Simmons was killed there; Florence, Ala., Nov. 6; Franklin, Tenn., Nov. 30; Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 12-15; Private William Saulsbury killed Dec. 12. Retreating from Tennessee, arrived at Bruensville, Miss., Dec. 31, 1864, where the company was mustered for pay. Marched to Tupelo, Miss., and camped there several days. On Jan. 18, 1865, moved by rail to Meridian, Miss.

On Jan. 28 the brigade was furloughed for fifteen days, the men of Company L going to their homes in Jackson County, Miss. Returned to Meridian Feb. 12. Feb. 19 ordered to Montgomery, Ala. On Feb. 28 company mustered, showing present for duty one first lieutenant, two sergeants, and four privates. Ordered to North Carolina, going by rail as far as Augusta, Ga., and marching from there to Smithfield, N.C., the effective strength of the regiment being now so reduced that it was found necessary to reorganize and reduce the regiment to two companies. Six companies, including Company L, were made Company “G,” Twenty-Fourth Mississippi, the Twenty-Seventh regiment ceasing to exist April 10, 1865. The officers appointed to Company “G” were: Ed D. Stafford, captain; William Welch, first lieutenant; Thomas Bailey, second lieutenant.

From Smithfield marched to Fayette, N.C., and fell back to Greensboro, where the brigade was put on duty as provost guard. On the 26th of April, 1865, the army surrendered. The officers and men each received out of the Confederate treasury $1___, nearly all in Mexican coin. May 1, 1865, the men received their parole papers. May 3 started on the return homeward, marching through North Carolina and South Carolina to Washington, Ga., and going by rail to West Point, Ga., marching to Montgomery, Ala., and taking boat down to Mobile and marching to Pascagoula. Lieutenant Welch, Sergeants L.J. Frederic and Andrew Vaughan, Privates Simon Cunningham, L.J. Dupont, Charles Hawkins, and William Passaw, seven out of 118 who had belonged to the company since its organization, returned home from the army, the others having been killed in battle, taken prisoners, died in camps and hospitals, discharged from the service, and some in hospitals, sick or wounded, at this time.

Louis J. Frederic’s full name was Louis Jefferson Frederic de St. Ferol, and he was born about 1832 in Pascagoula, Mississippi. According to a family history that I found online, his father had served in the French army during the Napoleonic wars, and immigrated to the United States in 1820. Louis moved to New Orleans after the war, and went into the cotton business. He died on October 17, 1896, and is buried in Metairie Cemetery.

The Army of Tennessee Louisiana Division Memorial in Metairie Cemetery. L.J. Frederic’s name is on a plaque inside the monument.
L. J. Frederic’s name inside the Army of Tennessee Memorial

A Daughter Lost and Found

In 1866 the number of children orphaned in Mississippi by the Civil War was estimated to be 10,000. The problem was so acute that the Confederate Orphans Home of Mississippi was established by the Mississippi Baptist State Convention in 1865 at Lauderdale Springs, outside of Meridian. In less than two years the facility was home to over 200 orphans, and it remained in operation until 1878 when the last of its charges had been placed into good homes.

The great majority of orphaned children in Mississippi, however, never saw the inside of an orphans home, as most were taken in by friends or family. The following article, published in the Atlanta Constitution, and republished by the Duluth News-Tribune on May 15, 1904, tells the story of one orphaned Mississippi girl who had an amazing reunion with her long lost soldier father almost 40 years after the war ended:

This Headline is from the NEW ORLEANS ITEM, April 25, 1904

“The great internecine conflict known as the civil war was prolific of tragedy, but the darkest pigments laid upon the awful picture of human woe painted in the blood and strife of Americans were not those which mark the graves of the fallen. They are to be found in the hearts of those who lived, bereft of kindred and shorn of all that makes life inviting.

The real tragedies of war are written, not in blood of fallen heroes, but in the tears of the widow and the orphan. The real cost of the conflict is not counted in coin, but summed up in the sighs and sufferings of the survivors. After the reading thrill of the marrow searching bullet, slow days and nights of fevered agony; after the sharp torture of the conflict, the dragging years of bereavement. This is a page which the historian never writes, because the poverty of words, precludes the adequate portrayal of its miseries.

To none among the disappointed ones of whom the peace of 1865 proffered the cup of myrrh, did life offer less than to J.B. Box of Myrtle, Union County, Miss. When he enlisted in the Twenty-Sixth Mississippi regiment, early in the great civil war strife, Mr. Box left a devoted wife and a sweet little daughter of 4 years in his Southern home. The pride that shone in the brimming eyes of the young wife and mother as he shouldered his musket and marched down the road in his uniform to join his command sustained him through many a weary march and gladdened his heart in many a darkened hour. The clasp of baby fingers about his face, as the little one was lifted for a last kiss, went with him through it all. Above the weird wooing of the love words cooed into his ear by childish lips. The stern humors of the battlefield never drowned completely the tender impulses that drew his heart towards his cottage hearth in Mississippi, and no march was ever hard enough to prevent his feet from wandering back, in dreams, to the hills and dales of his own little plantation, where the companionship of his own awaited him when the war was over.

It came at last. The Confederacy bowed beneath the weight of adversity and laid down its arms. Lee had surrendered. The cause for which Box had fought was lost, but his home was left – and in that home the faithful wife and idolized daughter were waiting to welcome him. With a heart in which the sorrows of disappointed patriotism were yet unable to repress the swellings of personal happiness, he drew near the lowly home within his heart had sheltered during all the years of war and wandering.

They met him as he came down the road. Not his wife and daughter, but sympathetic neighbors. The wife had laid down during the preceding winter and had died, breathing a blessing upon him with her last breath. And the little girl?

You who have hearts to  suffer, be sorrowful with this stricken man. His daughter had been taken by a neighbor, who had removed during the uncertainties of the war time, no one knew whither. Not the slightest clue could be given him. He passed over his deserted threshold, and while his tears fell upon the cold hearthstone he registered a vow to his God that he would never rest until he should have discovered the whereabouts of his child. There, in the desolate home, he consecrated himself to the search.

It was apparently a hopeless one. In the great disorder prevailing at the time there was neither mail nor telegraphic facilities. The neighbor who had taken the child had vanished from the ken of this world. Time after time he started out upon his mission, only to bring up against impassable barriers. There was no clue.

But he did not despair, or if he did he only ate his bread in bitterness and continued his search unceasingly. Last November he wrote to an address furnished by a friend in the mountains of Alabama, asking for information of his long lost child, and the God who cares for the weak and soothes the broken in spirit heard his petition at last.

It happened that on the night when his friend in Alabama received this letter and read it aloud to his household, a stranger had knocked on the door, asking permission to stay for the night. Southern hospitality had made him welcome, and the stranger was among those who sat about the fireplace when the weary-hearted father’s letter was read aloud.

At the conclusion of the reading the stranger rose to his feet and declared that the letter was from his wife’s father. Correspondence followed, and it was soon established as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt. The daughter had been discovered at last. She was now a wife and mother, but the father’s heart went out to her no less tenderly than it had to the little child he had carried in his heart all these weary years.

The meeting between father and daughter took place a short time later. Ten miles out from Cullman, Ala., lies the mountain home of the long lost daughter of J.S. Box. There her sturdy sons and worthy husband labor for the comfortable support which is theirs. There the father went to meet her, and the scene was one that no words can depict. The search of forty years was rewarded in that meeting, and the old Confederate sat beside his daughter’s fireside that night and listened to the story of her life and looked upon the manly faces of his grandsons, he felt that even the bitterest lot in life has its compensations for those who search for them in diligence and faith.”

There was a second article recounting the reunion of J.S. Box with his daughter in the New Orleans Item, April 25, 1904, that provided some additional details on the compelling story:

“When their only child, a little girl, was four years of age, Mr. Box responded to the call to arms, enlisting in the Twenty-Sixth Mississippi. During his log absence his wife died and the child was taken to live with a neighbor. On his return from the war after the surrender of Lee, Mr. Box could not find his child, the family she had gone to live with having moved from the county. He spent several years searching for the little one, but as he did not know the name of the family, never found her, and finally gave up in despair. However, last November Mr. Box wrote to an old friend in Alabama and incidentally mentioned his long lost daughter. The letter was read around the family fireside that night and a stranger who happened to be present on a visit jumped to his feet and declared his belief that his own wife was the long lost daughter of the writer of the letter, forty years old and living in Cullman County, Ala. Mr. Box was notified and went immediately to Alabama to see for himself. He had no trouble in establishing the identity of the daughter by a scar on her forehead. The meeting was witnessed by quite a crowd and is described as one of the happiest. incidents of the lives of any of them.”

In the course of researching this article, I looked for information on John S. Box, but he has proved hard to track down. Despite my best efforts I could not find the name of his daughter that he was so joyously reunited with in 1904. I did find that he applied for a Confederate Soldier’s pension with the state of Mississippi in September 1900. Box declared in his application that he had enlisted in Company B of the 26th Mississippi Infantry in the summer of 1861, but soon thereafter transferred to Company K of the regiment. He also stated that he was wounded twice at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in the right breast and arm in 1862, and was wounded again at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1865. At some point after the war Box must have remarried, for he wrote that he was married on the pension application, and that he and his wife were living at his son’s residence.

J.S. Box was approximately 67 years old when he found his daughter. He died in 1913 in Alcorn County, and I am sure his last few years were filled with joy, as he had found his long lost daughter.