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


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.


9 thoughts on “So Reduced: The 12th Mississippi Infantry After the Battle of Sharpsburg

  1. Did part of the 12th Miss continue fighting after they were paroled at Appomattox? I have two paroles for Hugh P Davis (Durant Rifles) 12th Mississippi Vol Infantry, one from Appomattox on a April 10 and another from Mobile on May 3rd, 1865.

    1. Peggy,
      I have never heard of any of the 12th Mississippi fighting after the regiment was paroled at Appomattox, and it would have been dangerous for any man who had taken a parole to do so. If a soldier was caught fighting again while he was still on parole, it would not go well for him, and he could, in fact, be executed. The most likely reason I can think of for Davis having two paroles is that he might have lost his original copy of his Appomattox parole. He would have had to show that parole to any Union forces he came in contact with on his way home to prove that he was in fact a paroled soldier. If he lost it, he would need to get a replacement, and the easiest way to do so would be to go to the nearest Union forces and sign another parole form. I hope this helps, and If you have any questions, just let me know.

      1. Thanks for the reply. He didn’t lose his parole as I have it. I’ve had these paroles for years but when I got it I did some research on it and found that some had gone to Mobile still fighting but have been unable to find that information again. Guess ill keep at it.

      2. Joe, I don’t know of any records for the 12th Mississippi Infantry that list the regiment’s casualties. I do, however, know of some lists of casualties for the regiment for various battles that were published in the newspapers – I can send you a list of the articles I am aware of, just contact me by email –

      3. I sold this parole years ago so have almost forgotten it. My idea relating to Mobile was just wild speculation. I don’t know about any regimental records. Sorry I couldn’t help.

  2. I know this is an old conversation, but I’ve been doing some research on the 12th….there were no regular infantry from the 12th at Appomattox. A few members who had been assigned other behind the lines duties were there. The remainder of the 12th fought at Fort Gregg, holding to the last so Lee and the army could retreat. They were either killed, wounded or captured. It is my understanding at this point that none of them were able to join the retreat.

    As far as paroles in other places. There were a number of reasons for this. Desertion being one of them as the Spring of 1865 brought on a number of these, but the men may have still required a parole. Also a few of the 12th had been assigned behind the lines duties back in MS and AL in the commissary departments mostly. They still would have needed to get a parole, and so they gathered these men in various places to do that. This would included wounded men or former POWs who were home on furlough.

    1. I have a copy of my great grand fathers parole and it states that he was paroled at Appomattox courthouse April 9th.

      WW King Co. H 12th MS merged into Co A.

  3. I always heard of an old family cemetery, I found it Saturday. The cemetery had not been cared for and was in the woods, I barely found it due to weeds and vines. I saw a marker with 3 brothers names on it. I didn’t know the significants of it at the time but one of the names said he was, what I thought was in the 2nd MS but I guess it was the 12MS, since his name is on their roll. It also said he died 2 April 1865 at the battle of Fort Gregg. From what I read, there wasn’t many left, so what was left fell under the 19th MS, where they were told to fall back and hold the fort. All 3 brothers died as a result of the battle. All that were left at the Fort were hero’s, its sad that Lee would surrender 7 days later. The pain of the Mother and Father to lose 3 son’s in the last days of the war.

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