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
His Honor Gov. Pettus
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.