What Mississippi Has Done

When Mississippi went to war in 1861, the state was woefully unprepared to fight a major war. As an agriculturally oriented state, Mississippi had very limited manufacturing capability with which to arm, clothe, and equip the thousands of volunteers that were being organized to fight the Yankees. Over time many factories were built in the state to help meet the needs of the military. Some were built by the Confederate government, others by the state of Mississippi, and still others by enterprising individual citizens. How successful they were in their efforts is illustrated by this article from The Daily Southern Crisis (Jackson, Mississippi), March 21, 1863:

What Mississippi has Done

In the military department commanded by Gen. Pemberton, there are more troops than in any other one department outside of Virginia. When it is remembered that the territory comprising this department has ever been remarkable only for the growth of cotton – that every year large supplies of corn and bacon were imported into it – that manufactories were almost totally ignored – that the agriculturalists devoted their attention mainly to the production of cotton – it will be a subject of surprise that so large an army could be clothed, subsisted and partially equipped in a country the habits of whose people were so illy calculated to supply the wants of an army.

Yet such is the fact. The subsistence, the clothing, and the camp equipage for a tremendous army have been almost exclusively drawn from the State of Mississippi; and this, too, when several of her most populous and productive counties have been under the control of the enemy. Mississippi manufactories have made nearly all the material used for the army in the whole department.

A brief mention of the Mississippi factories, many of which have sprung up almost like

Uniform belonging to John T. Appler who served in the 4th Missouri Infantry. Appler was wounded at the Battles of Corinth & Champion Hill. The 4th Missouri spent a good bit of time in Mississippi and may very well have been supplied with uniforms that were made in Mississippi. - Missouri History Museum
Uniform belonging to John T. Appler who served in the 4th Missouri Infantry. Appler was wounded at the Battles of Corinth & Champion Hill. The 4th Missouri spent a good bit of time in Mississippi and may very well have been supplied with uniforms that were made in Mississippi. – Missouri History Museum

magic, will not be uninteresting to our readers. The Jackson manufactory makes five thousand garments weekly. The material is cut out in the city by experienced and industrious tailors, and distributed over the country in Hinds and adjoining counties to be made up. Soldiers wives and destitute families and always supplied with work first; thus enabling them to support themselves while lending a helping hand to the cause. Similar factories at Bankston, Choctaw county, Columbus, Enterprise, Natchez and Woodville, make up five thousand per week, the sewing of which is distributed in the same way.

The hat factories at Jackson and Columbus, make two hundred hats per day. We also have a manufactory at Jackson which turns out fifty blankets per day. The Pemberton Works at Enterprise and the Dixie Works at Canton, make not less than sixty wagons and ambulances per week. These factories are all new, established within a few months past, and their capacity is being constantly increased.

The Chief Quartermaster has now private contracts with parties in the State which supply eight thousand pairs of shoes per week. Arrangements are now being made to start an extensive Government shoe-shop in Jackson, with a capacity of turning out six thousand pairs of shoes per month. The tanneries in the State are sufficient to tan all the leather that can be procured. The most extensive tannery in the Confederacy is situated at Magnolia and supplies six hundred hides daily.

A pair of Confederate - made shoes from the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond - www.civilwaralbum.com
A pair of Confederate – made shoes from the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond – http://www.civilwaralbum.com

Tents manufactured from Mississippi cloth are the best in the Confederacy, and enough of them are made at Jackson and Columbus to supply the army. All the horses, mules, wagons and harness, for the transportation of the army stores, etc., have been supplied from Mississippi.

The energy displayed by the officers of the various departments in this command merit the highest commendation. Since the appointment of General Pemberton to this command order has been brought out of chaos, and new life, new energy infused into the army and the people. Whatever may be said of the inexperience of General Pemberton as an officer in the field, he has given ample evidence of rare military administrative tact, and proved himself a superior departmental commander.

Much of the labor of procuring supplies for the army and establishing manufactories has devolved upon the Chief Quartermaster, Major L. Mims – in fact, it may be said that the supervision and direction of the whole was entrusted to him. How signally successful he has been in the discharge of this responsible trust, is evidenced by the enumeration above.

The officers of the Department have performed their duties faithfully. They have often worked day and night; and instead entering complaints for what they have failed to do, let us remember that no small work has been accomplished. But the people are called upon to help. They must cooperate with the authorities or the army supplies will fail in a most critical juncture. Provisions are needed – corn is needed, and those having a surplus must be willing to dispose of it at a fair price. If all do their duty, the army will be well fed and well clothed.

At the time this article was written in March 1863, Mississippi had made great strides in establishing factories throughout the state with which to supply the needs of the military. Unfortunately General Ulysses S. Grant’s second invasion of Mississippi was only a few months in the future, and thousands of Yankee soldiers were soon on the march, leaving burnt-out factories and twisted railroad ties in their wake. In the months to come, Jackson, the state capitol, was particularly hard hit by the Federals. So much so that one Northern reporter wrote of the city in August 1863: “As the seat of government, it had the capitol buildings, penitentiary, governor’s house, the asylums for the deaf and dumb and the insane, and in addition, a fine court house, two excellent hotels, large blocks of stores, a cotton factory, a couple of foundries, grist mills, and a large number of splendid residences. This was Jackson of the past. The Jackson of to-day is quite another place, for the fortunes of war have borne heavily upon her. The penitentiary, one of her fine hotels, her cotton factory, foundries, a whole block of stores, several warehouses, and the railroad bridge and depot buildings were destroyed, while the federal troops occupied the city in May last. The reoccupation and evacuation by the Confederate armies cost her another large block of stores and another hotel. The present occupation of the federal army has well nigh served to blot the place from existence.” – Providence Evening Press, August 15, 1863

Buildings in Jackson being put to the torch by Federal troops - HARPER'S WEEKLY, June 20, 1863
Buildings in Jackson being put to the torch by Federal troops – HARPER’S WEEKLY, June 20, 1863

 

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Our Knife

I recently found this article in the Natchez Daily Courier, June 20, 1866. The author is unidentified, but he spins a wonderful little story about that most common, yet useful, of items carried by a soldier: the pocket knife:

We came very near a doleful article yesterday about our knife. We missed it and felt sad. Comfort was not to be had; nor was the three-bladed, pearl-handled, plated-tipped friend that had been with us so long, to be had either.

Pocket Knife similar to the one mentioned in the article
Pocket Knife similar to the one mentioned in the article

It was an army knife, and never could have deserted. It was bought in Atlanta; cost $75

Ad for pocket knives from the Augusta Chronicle, March 6, 1863
Ad for pocket knives from the Augusta Chronicle, March 6, 1863

Confed., and considered cheap. It ran the blockade, and we thought the fellow who sold it, a blockhead, for not asking $100. It cut rough lead pencils at Chattanooga, and rough beef and hard tack at Missionary Ridge. One thing it did not do; it never cut tobacco. Like its owner, it neither chewed nor smoked.

At Chickamauga Station, the morning after the Missionary Ridge affair, when almost all had left – the last train gone – Lieut. Col. McMicken, and one or two others, the knife and its owner being of the party, pushed up the long ascending grade a solitary flat car filled with sick and disabled, the last left, and then returned to the Station to know whether duty required longer stay. The knife and the little remaining party, concluded if they did not want to be captured, it was best to whittle – in other words to cut stick, and the knife did it. It was made to cut.

Lithograph depicting the Battle of Missionary Ridge - Library of Congress
Lithograph depicting the Battle of Missionary Ridge – Library of Congress

The knife walked some seven miles to the next station on railroad cross ties. It crossed five bridges, with nothing but string pieces to cross on. For crossing safely the last string piece, some fifty yards long, it was indebted to a comrade. He walked the other string piece. One held to the butt of a musket; the other to the end of a bayonet. And they crossed safely; the swollen, angry and blood-crimsoned River of Death boiling some thirty feet below them. The knife thought it disagreeable; but it would have been more horrible to have been stolen by a Yankee.

Railroad Bridge at Whiteside, Tennessee, outside of Chattanooga - Library of Congress
Railroad Bridge at Whiteside, Tennessee, outside of Chattanooga – Library of Congress

So the knife got safely at last to head-quarters, and went to work again cutting rough pencils and poor beef, and tough bread, and doing its duty in sunshine and in rain, and in twenty hours out of the twenty-four, and in every hour it was called upon. Though not of much account itself, it is a good knife and reliable. It has seen so much, that one of its blades only appears in the past tense of the verb ‘to see;’ it is a saw.

But this story about a knife is no saw, reader. We should have advertised for it, payable in its cost, $75 Confed., but for the lucky accident of finding it after three hours search, where it was left on our table; with this difference only; it was placed on an editorial article; the article contrary to usual habit, was so cutting, that it made a hole in the paper, and the knife went through; and we found it under the paper. Good Knife! It shall be long before you or your owner cut acquaintance!

So Reduced: The 12th Mississippi Infantry After the Battle of Sharpsburg

If your Civil War ancestor served in the infantry, you are in good company – the infantry was by far the largest branch of the military in which Mississippians served.  The basic building block of an army, a Civil War infantry regiment numbered 1,000 men at full strength.  After the twin killers of combat and disease had taken their toll however, a typical Mississippi regiment considered itself lucky to have even half that number present for duty. The following letter, written by Colonel William H. Taylor one day after the Battle of Sharpsburg, the single bloodiest day of the entire war, perfectly illustrates the toll that the war took on the men in the ranks:

Head Quarters 12thMiss. Regt.

Sharpsburg, Maryland  Sept. 18, 1862

To

His Honor Gov. Pettus

Jackson Miss.

General Featherston and myself have both made requisitions on the State through you for Seven Hundred Conscripts to fill out my Regiment to the number proscribed by law. My Regiment has suffered severely in every engagement it has been in, and at this time does not number One Hundred effective men for Battle so reduced is it by deaths, discharges and wounds. The Adjutant Books showed an aggregate of 658 on the first of Sept. and from that figure is to be deducted 80 names who have joined the Army under Genl. Bragg and the Secty. Of War has ordered their names to be struck from our rolls. Then deduct 12 killed in Battle in yesterday and the aggregate remains 566, and of this number 325 are absent sick and wounded. I am very much afraid if I can not get the Conscripts my Regiment will be disbanded. This will be handed you by Lt. & _____ Callum and you would confer a great favor in the Regiment and myself by sending with him the conscripts necessary to fill out my Regiment.

I am Sir with much respect

Your Obedient Servant,

Wm. H. Taylor, Col.

Comdg. 12thMiss. Vols.

This manuscript is located in the Letters sent to Governor John J. Pettus, Microfilm Roll #4854, Mississippi Department of Archives & History

The Spring and Summer of 1862 was a blood introduction to combat for the 12th Mississippi Infantry. At the time of their first battle at Seven Pines in May, the regiment numbered 1,013 officers and men. In that first engagement the 12th had 41 men killed and 152 wounded. The Seven Days Battles for Richmond that quickly followed saw the unit lose even more: Gaines’ Mill & Glendale cost the 12th 34 killed, 186 wounded and 5 missing. At Second Manassas in August, the regiment’s losses are unknown, but the brigade to which they belonged lost 26 killed and 142 wounded. At Sharpsburg in September, the regiment lost 6 killed and 53 wounded.