We Have A Winner…

The 2013 contest to pick a topic for my next blog article is now history, and we have a winner! My daughter Sarah picked a name from the hat containing all the entries, and the prize (such as it is) goes to Sidney Bondurant, who chose the 33rd Mississippi Infantry as the regiment to be immortalized here on the Mississippians in the Confederacy blog. For those of you that know Sidney, his choice should come as no surprise, as he has written an excellent history of the 33rd Mississippi. He also has a wonderful website about the 33rd here: http://www.angelfire.com/ms2/33Miss/. I really have my work cut out for me on this article, as I will have to come up with something really special to impress the 33rd’s regimental historian. I better get to work…

Battle Flag of the 33rd Mississippi Infantry
Battle Flag of the 33rd Mississippi Infantry

Thanks to everyone that submitted an entry to this year’s contest, your kind words and support of this blog  is very much appreciated!

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Reminder: Last Day to Vote in the “Help Me Choose A Blog Topic” Contest

I just wanted to send out a reminder that today is the last day to vote in the “Help Me Choose A Blog Topic” Contest. If you would like to see me write an article about the Mississippi unit your relative served in during the Civil War, this is your chance! Just email me the name of the unit: send it to championhilz@att.net. You can only choose ONE unit, and all entries must be in before midnight tonight. Tomorrow I will put all the names in a hat and choose the lucky winner.

I Wish To Goe Home: A Letter Sent to Governor John J. Pettus

One Civil War source that is not utilized as often as it should be is the correspondence of

Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus - Mississippi Department of Archives & History
Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus – Mississippi Department of Archives & History

Mississippi’s wartime governors. In addition to letters from politicians, army officers, and influential businessmen, there are numerous letters sent to the chief executive of the state from the ordinary citizens of Mississippi. These missives help to bring home the toll that the war took on the common people as they pour out their wants and needs, their hopes and fears, to the governor. A good example is this letter written by Private J.L. Broom, a member of Company F, 4th Mississippi Infantry (State Troops). I have kept the spelling just was Broom wrote it – he was not an educated man, but he certainly gets his point across:

Camp Durgin April 12th 1863

Lt. A. Swain commandind comp.

Sir I wish you to grant me a Furlough for the following reasons first because I have been from home near four months. 2nd i have a wife and five children all being small and the eldest one of them a daughter of thirteen years old and I being a poor man my family is entirely dependent on my labour for the sustenance of life and I being a member of the ms malitia I want to goe home to try to get some person either a man that is over the age of malitia service or under the age of conscript service to plant and cultivate a small corn crop for the comfort and sustenance of my family for next year also my my wife being in a state of vary dellicate health especting to be confined in child bed  about the 25 of April she is liveing in a vary remote and thinly settled neighbourhood I wish to goe home to see that she has the necessary attention requisite in such a case her children all being small if you will grant me this favour I pledge myself to be punctual to return to my command where ever it may be at the end of my furlough.  J.L. Broom a private in Capt. Fontains comp. (F) 4th Regt. Miss. State

A. Swain, 1st Liut. commanding Co. F

APPROVED

W.C. Bromley, Col.

4th M.S.T.

I believe the material statement of the above petition to be true and herefore recommend respectfully forward Charles Fontaine

This letter is from the correspondence of Governor John J. Pettus at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History. Despite much looking, I have not been able to find any information on Private Broom other than the 1 card in his Civil War service record. This one letter may be the entire legacy of J.L. Broom, a common soldier of the Confederacy who served in the great Civil War.

It’s Contest Time! Help Me Choose My Next Blog Topic

I was just looking back over my previous articles for the blog, and realized that it has been a year since the contest to help me pick a topic for my blog. That contest resulted in the article, “An Avalanche of Brave Southern Soldiers: The 31st Mississippi Infantry at the Battle of Baton Rouge.”

I had so much fun with the contest that I want to do it again – So if you would like to see an article about your favorite Mississippi Civil War regiment, this is your chance! That said, here are the rules:

1. All votes must be sent to my email address: championhilz@att.net, and put “Vote” in the subject line

2. Only one vote per person – but feel free to have your friends and family vote as well

3. You can vote for any Mississippi unit except the 38th Mississippi Infantry/Cavalry, 21st Mississippi Infantry, or 31st Mississippi Infantry – I have already written extensively about the first two units, and the 31st was the unit chosen in last year’s contest.

4 Votes must be received by me before midnight on July 28, 2013

5. I will announce the winner on July 29, 2012

6. I will chose the winner in a slightly different manner this year – each person that votes for a regiment will get the name of the unit thrown into a hat. The winner will be chosen from the hat, so every entry has a chance to win, and the more votes for a particular unit gives it a better chance to win.

7. Good Luck to Everyone, and I look Forward to Your Entries!

 

 

A Body of Wild Riders: The 20th Mississippi Infantry (Mounted)

If you asked most Civil War enthusiast’s what happened in Central Mississippi on May 12, 1863, they would answer without hesitating, “The Battle of Raymond.” They would, of course, be correct, but the Battle of Raymond was not the only fighting that took place that Spring day. Most of these minor engagements were little noted at the time, but they were important to men that fought in them. While doing some research recently I found the following letter published in the Macon Beacon of Noxubee County on July 22, 1863. The missive was written by a soldier in the “Noxubee Riflemen,” Company D, 20th Mississippi Infantry, who only identifies himself as “Bob.”

Although the men of the 20th Mississippi were foot soldiers,  the regiment had been mounted in late April to help run down Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s Union cavalry, which were playing havoc as they raided through the Magnolia State. After General Ulysses S. Grant landed his invasion force at Bruinsburg on May 1, 1863, the 20th Mississippi was ordered to central Mississippi. On May 9, a detachment of the 20th under the command of Lt. Colonel W.N. Brown was ordered to Edwards where they were in position to respond to the movements of the Federal army. They would not have long to wait.

On the night of May 11, General Grant gave his corps commanders their orders for the next day’s march. General James B. McPherson on the Union right was ordered to occupy the town of Raymond. It would be his troops that would fight the Battle of Raymond the next day. General William T. Sherman, in the Union center, was ordered to capture and hold a bridge spanning Fourteenmile Creek near Dillon’s Plantation, some six miles southwest of Raymond.

The Confederate troops defending this bridge were part of a task force commanded by General Wirt Adams. Among the units serving under Adams  was a detachment of the 20th Mississippi commanded by Major Walter A. Rorer. On May 12, while thousands of men were locked in battle at Raymond, just a few miles away a much smaller and more intimate conflict was taking place near Dillon’s Plantation. The following letter is the only account of this action that I have found that was written by a member of the 20th Mississippi. The newspaper that I found it in was faded in places obscuring some of the words, but it is such an interesting letter that I had to share it:

 

Near Clinton, Miss.,

May 25, 1863

My Dear Father and Mother:

Without knowing exactly how much time I may have to write, will compose a brief narrative of the campaigns of the 20th Mississippi Battalion. I wrote to you from Jackson that, in my opinion, _____ and important events would transpire in a very few days, in fact I _____ battle would occur on Tuesday and Wednesday following which _____ place near Raymond.

Leaving Jackson Monday evening, I reached _____ Depot, where I had previously _____ boys, the same night _____  _____ they had gone out that ______ scouting expedition. _____  _____ until the  next morning __ance of the 20th Mississippi _____ companies) commenced ___is the enemy. Besides _____ there were five or si__ and Col. Wirt Adams _____ two from 4thMiss. cavalry amounting to about 800 men _____ command of Col. Adams.

After going _____ 12 miles from Edwards _____ column halted at a creek _____ and ascertaining the direction the enemy was advancing. Capt. Massey’s company was at the time at Big Black Bridge, two miles further on at Col. Dillon’s farm. Hearing it was about to become engaged pretty soon I hurried on and left the main column and found the Captain busy in felling trees in the road to obstruct the passage of the enemy. About twenty minutes later and a picket comm.___ to report the advance of a heavy body of cavalry. Quickly everything was in readiness, Co. “D” was in line, and awaiting with no little anxiety, the appearance of the foe as the signal to fire. A few minutes later and thick clouds of dust admonished us the approach of the enemy. We had set the bridge on fire to delay their crossing as much as possible. On comes the cavalry, and promptly a murderous volley was poured into their ranks that sent many a riderless horse dashing back. Several men were heard to cry mournfully, but our boys enjoyed the music of their cries, and continued to deal on them their just merits. The cavalry was soon reformed and began to advance again, and another volley from boys again thinned their ranks, and received several shots in exchange.

Map showing the location of Dillon's Plantation
Map showing the location of Dillon’s Plantation

We continued to _____ upon for an hour and a half, when they opened upon us with

Brigadier General Wirt Adams commanded the Confederate troops at Dillon's Plantation
Brigadier General Wirt Adams commanded the Confederate troops at Dillon’s Plantation

artillery and our company was withdrawn to another position. We had them at a decided disadvantage, for we had ___s and fence on them while they were in open view. Gallantly our boys stand to their post and everyone seemed to vie with the other in the accuracy of their fire. To mention the meritorious would be to mention all, but I cannot failed to mention the coolness and gallant conduct of Bo___ Boyle, who was afterwards promoted for his conduct. I was standing by his side behind a fence and watched and admired his coolness. The balance of the 20thMiss. came at a double-quick to our assistance, and after exchanging several shots, fell back by order of Col. Adams. A Lieutenant of a battery stationed at Port Hudson, but acting at that time as aide to Col. A. was with our company _____ in hand, and seemed to enjoy the excitement very much. He complimented all of the company to the Col., but Bob B. was his particular favorite. During this affair Frank with Sergt. Freeman and three more men were about two miles distant acting as picket on another road. They were cut off from us, but joined us the next day.

Col. A’s whole command formed formed line of battle about 14 miles from this bridge in a skirt of woods. He ordered Co. D to take possession of a little house in Col. Dillon’s yard, with orders not to fire upon the Yankee cavalry, but let it pass and to prevent a battery being planted in this yard, was our object. All the boys did not like our position for we would soon have been surrounded and captured without firing a gun, but an “aid” come dashing up and ordered us away, which we obeyed with alacrity.

Finding the enemy too strong for us, the Col. marched us towards Raymond and halted within four miles of the place. He sent me on to Raymond, to report to Gen. Gregg the advance of the enemy in our direction, and also to ascertain the result of the battle at Raymond.

The Battle of Raymond
The Battle of Raymond

I reached the battle field as our men were beginning to retreat and could plainly see our men were outnumbered. Gen. Gregg ordered me to return to Col. A., to tell him to come immediately to his assistance, to protect his rear, but before we could reach Raymond, the Yankees had taken possession of the town, and we had to go through the fields and by a circuitous route to unite with them. After reaching Gen. G’s command we were ordered to Bolton’s and Edwards’ depot. Reaching the latter place, Co. “D” was detached and sent out scouting again, and I was attached to Co. “K” to assist the Capt. Of that company, and in a skirmish that evening, had command of that company. The next morning it was my lot to get into it again; and as we were double-quicking across an old field, a volley was fired at us, but luckily it went above us, and none was hurt. Co. “D” was not present during this skirmish. This skirmish brought on the battle of that day, and which resulted to our disadvantage.

We continued to skirmish with the enemy for three hours, when we retired and then the battle began. We were ordered around to the left, dismounted and marched up and formed line in an old road. On going to the battle field, we met hundreds and hundreds of stragglers, frightened almost out of their senses. On being asked where their regiment was, they invariably replied all killed and captured. These cowardly men had thrown away guns, cartridge-boxes, hats and shoes. I can assure you it was with heart felt pride that I heard the hisses and groans given these men by the boys of the 20th Miss. They called on them to return and go back, but they would not; and so they combined their flight to Edwards’ depot.

I have often spoke in very high terms of our regiment, but I had the only battle of Donelson to warrant me in placing such great confidence in their valor; but their conduct on this battle field, though we were engaged for only two hours, had gained for themselves renewed praise from those who were witnesses. From their conduct at Donelson, I based bright hopes for their future good conduct, and I can safely say my hopes have been more than realized.

Co. “D” was not with these five companies, but was on another part of the field, and was actually engaged. I was still with Co. K, and had two men shot down by my side, while I escaped unhurt. One ball barely missed me, it threw dust on my clothes. Our regiment remained at its post sometime after the other troops by our side had left, and being left alone and unprotected, and having just become exposed to an enfilading fire, we were ordered to retire, which we did with much reluctance, for it was ten fold more dangerous to retreat than to remain where we were, for we had to go across a large high open field. Several were wounded while falling back, only two killed.

Many acts of heroism were displayed some of the officers and especially Major Rorer, who acted with great coolness and deliberation. He appeared as firm and cool as I ever saw him away from the battle. He stood straight up with pistol in hand, walking from one end of the line to the other giving orders &c. All of his men who speak of him, only do so in terms of highest praise and sincerely wish he was Colonel of the regiment.

I heard the 42d Georgia regiment that acted so badly at battle of Edwards and still more disgraceful nearer the depot when a large body of the Yankee cavalry come charging up the road. Major Rorer sent these companies to three companies to their assistance, Co’s K, A, and part of Co. D, under command of Capt. Massey. Already the 42ndGeorgia were thrown into confusion, and Capt. M. called on them to rally, and stand firm. He again called on them to stand, but they could not, and they fled panic stricken from the field. Our men continued to advanced, and the tramping of hundreds of horses close upon us. A few minutes more, and they reached the top of the hill, and we gave them one volley which threw them in disorder, and they retired to form again. We stood there awaiting their approach again, with the determination of driving them back at all hazards, for we knew a great deal depended upon us. Gen. Barton, perceiving us entirely alone, and knowing our inability to defend so large and open a field, had us recalled, when we retired go our horses.

The next day (Sunday) the battle of Big Black bottom was fought, and disastrously to us. We were not present, but were sent down the river to guard the different ferries. On Monday evening Co. “D” Capt. Massey, and a portion of Co. K under my command, were at Baldwin’s ferry, when one of our men, who had been at a house two miles distant, and running in, and reported a large body of Yankee cavalry coming after. They had already captured two of the company, Drew Allen and Hydes with their horses. Capt. Massey and myself with our commands, left immediately that place for the purpose of extricating ourselves. We reached a dense woods in the swamp and halted there, and sent out two scouts to find out where the Yankees were. They returned in three hours and reported them on a road where they expected us to come out at. We retraced our steps and went back the same road we came and reached Vicksburg early next morning.

I have not the paper to spare to give you a full history of our campaign which has been an adventurous one to us. Tuesday we were in the city of Vicksburg when the first day’s battle took place. The bombardment was heavy and lasted till sunset. At 3 p.m. same day Col. Brown received orders to take his command out of Vicksburg, across the enemy’s lines, and report to Gen. Loring, which we did without seeing a single Yankee. We reached Perry depot, on the N.O.J. & G.N. R.R. on Thursday last, and received orders to go beyond Raymond, to hunt all of Gen. Loring’s artillery, which he hid in 14 mile Creek swamp. We halted close to Raymond on Saturday and sent out scouts to see if the artillery was still there, they returned at night and reported it to be gone. So all the mules and horses were sent back to Jackson, and Lt. Col. Brown determined capturing Raymond. We dashed into the place about six o’clock Sunday morning capturing 500 Yankees, about two hundred stand of arms, a few horses &c and many negroes. Two hundred and fifty Yankees were sent to Jackson, the balance being sick and wounded were paroled.

The day before Bob Boyle and John Tyler were sent out as scouts and come suddenly on two Yankees who presented pistols at them and called on them to surrender, but Bob said no, and quickly brought his rifle to bear upon them, when they surrendered themselves. The capture of these two scoundrels proved to be a rich haul. They had 10 or 15 gold and silver watches, a hat full of specie; jewelry of all kinds, Confederate money and Mississippi cotton bills, silver goblets and a host of other valuables, with the names of persons on them. They had eight pistols and one cavalry rifle, which pistols and rifle were given to Bob and John Tyler. Col. B, sent these two men to Jackson, and received orders not to take any more such men prisoners, but to shoot them on the spot.

We received a cordial greeting from the ladies of Raymond. They are nearly scared to death by the negroes. A Yankee gave me a new and valuable blanket. This same man gave three more officers blankets. I did not expect it. They was very kind, and had breakfast ready when we came into town and invited all of us.

BOB

Macon Beacon July 22, 1863

The Federal unit that initially made contact with Wirt Adams’ command at Dillon’s was the 4th Iowa Cavalry. In 1893, William F. Scott, Adjutant of the 4th Iowa Cavalry, published a history of the regiment entitled, The Story of a Cavalry Regiment. In this work he describes the fight at Dillon’s Plantation in some detail, and I thought it might be interesting to see how the other side described the fight:

On the 11th Grant’s army was all in hand, prepared for action. The three corps moved steadily northeastward, keeping about parallel with the Big Black River, as if to hold it, but on different roads. McClernand kept to the left, on the road to Edward’s Depot, a point on the Vicksburg and Jackson railway not far from the Big Black; Sherman was in the centre, on the Auburn road; and McPherson on the right, marching toward Raymond.

The Fourth Iowa, in front of Sherman, came upon the enemy at Fourteen-mile Creek,

During the fight at Dillon's, Major Edward F. Winslow narrowly escaped serious injury when his horse was hit and fell on top of him. - THE STORY OF A CAVALRY REGIMENT
During the fight at Dillon’s, Major Edward F. Winslow narrowly escaped serious injury when his horse was hit and fell on top of him. – THE STORY OF A CAVALRY REGIMENT

near Dillon’s plantation, early Tuesday morning, the 12th. The evening before, upon special instructions from Sherman, the Second Battalion of the Fourth Iowa, under Major Winslow, had been sent forward, had crossed the creek by a bridge and examined the country for some distance beyond, but without learning anything of the enemy. Perhaps the bridge should have been held over-night, but it was not so ordered. The enemy occupied the position during the night, and in the morning burned the bridge. Then, concealing themselves in the dense thickets along the northern bank, they awaited the head of Sherman’s column. 

This was the Fourth Iowa, the second battalion being in front. As the advanced company turned a bend of the road and observed the smoking bridge, the enemy opened fire from apparently a long line. The

Flag of the 4th Iowa Cavalry - www.iowahistory.org
Flag of the 4th Iowa Cavalry – http://www.iowahistory.org

whole battalion was immediately thrown into position in the wood on the left of the road, and returned the fire, though without seeing the enemy. The Third Battalion was formed on the right of the road and the First on the left of the Second; and all joined in the fire, but the rebels held their position. As the creek could not be crossed without a bridge, and the position and force of the enemy could not be discovered because of the thick woods and underbrush which concealed them, Sherman ordered up a battery, with infantry in support, and opened the guns at short range. This soon silenced the rebel fire; and the bank of the creek being gained, the bridge was repaired and the corps crossed before noon. It was afterward learned that the enemy was Wirt Adams’ cavalry, a body of wild riders with whom the Fourth Iowa were to become well acquainted in the field.

The fight at Dillon’s Plantation was just a little piece of a much larger campaign, and the casualty reports reflect this. The Confederates suffered only two dead and one wounded; Adjutant Scott wrote that the 4th Iowa Cavalry had one man killed, three wounded, and four horses killed. Little remembered today, the fight at Dillon’s Plantation was one of hundreds of such skirmishes that took place in Mississippi during the 1863 Vicksburg campaign.

A Letter From Virginia

In the spring of 1862, the Old Dominion State of Virginia was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting yet seen in the year-old Civil War. Thousands of Mississippians took part in the fighting, and hundreds were killed or wounded. Among the casualties was Corporal James D. Feemster, a member of the “Noxubee Rifles,” Company F, 11th Mississippi Infantry, who was struck by a musket ball at the Battle of Seven Pines, May 31 – June 1, 1862. While recovering from his wounds, Feemster wrote the following letter to his sisters; it was published in the Macon Beacon on June 18, 1862:

Chimborazo Hospital, Va., June 5, 1862

Dear Sisters:

Here I am at old ‘Chimborazo Hospital’ again, but will be able in a few days to bid it another adieu, and I hope a final one. I can only write you a short letter to-night as I have other letters to write, and Mr. L. Dupres leaves early in the morning. I will now give you a brief account of our fight of Saturday the 31st ultimo.

This image of Chimborazo Hospital was taken in 1865 - Library of Congress
This image of Chimborazo Hospital was taken in 1865 – Library of Congress

The fight opened about eleven o’clock A.M. and closed at night. From the best information I can gather, our forces numbered 20,000 and that of the enemy 40,000. The battle was fought in Chickahominy swamp six or seven miles from Richmond. On the night previous to the fight, we had a very heavy fall of rain, which overflowed the river covering the swamp, and low ground with water, and rendering the roads almost impassible.

The enemy were attacked in their camps and driven from their position, leaving their camps, a considerable amount of ammunition and army stores. Our brigade was held in reserve, and was not let into the fight until in the evening. We were then sent to the right wing, where it was thought the enemy would send a heavy force to regain their camps, and retrieve their lost fortunes. We came upon their camps, when they immediately opened a heavy and destructive fire on us from their batteries.

The Battle of Seven Pines - Library of Congress
The Battle of Seven Pines – Library of Congress

We had no artillery to engage them, the nature of our ground being such that we could

Brigadier General William H.C. Whiting of Biloxi was the 11th Mississippi's division commander at the Battle of Seven Pines
Brigadier General William H.C. Whiting of Biloxi was the 11th Mississippi’s division commander at the Battle of Seven Pines

not use it. Gen. Whiting seeing that they were likely to make sad havoc of our men with their eight pieces of artillery, first ordered the Sixth North Carolina regiment to charge and take the battery, they made the charge, but were driven back with heavy loss. He then came to the 11th Mississippi, and asked us if we would not take the battery; the answer was ‘yes.’ We were then thrown into line and ordered a charge.

The battery was half a mile distant, and between us and them was a dense wood and a pond of water nearly waist deep, covered with bushes and briers, so that it was almost impossible to get through it at all. During all of this time the enemy were pouring the shot and shell into us like hail. By the time we reached the field beyond our lines was so badly broken that we were led back to reform, when we were taken into open ground, our line was immediately reformed and led to the charge the second time, but this time through the open field. Col. Liddel snatched up the colors and asked the boys to follow him. On we went mid a perfect storm of bullets and shells.

Guns of the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery at Seven Pines - Library of Congress
Guns of the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery at Seven Pines – Library of Congress

We had advanced more than halfway, when there was a regiment of the enemy thrown down on our right. We were then halted and ordered to fire. After firing a few rounds, we were ordered to retreat. In this position the enemy had at least four to one, besides a battery of eight pieces. The prisoners says the battery was guarded by four regiments, and these were in trenches. It was in this charge that we lost so many men. On every side could we see the wounded, dead, and dying shot and mangled in every possible form.

We still held their ground that night, sleeping in their camps. You can form some idea of the fire we were exposed to when I tell you we were not exposed longer than an hour, & during this short time we lost one hundred and ninety five men killed and wounded. I will send you a list of the killed and wounded of our company. I happened to be among the number wounded. I was struck just before dark, by a ball, part of the loading of a shell, it entered my jaw just by my ear, and passing between my upper and lower jaw lodge before it reached the corner of my mouth, had it extracted the next evening, it will be well enough in a week longer, for me to rejoin my regiment.

Burying the dead and burning the horses after the Battle of Seven Pines - Library of Congress
Burying the dead and burning the horses after the Battle of Seven Pines – Library of Congress

In the list of killed you will find the names of Ily Fant and George Hopkins, two nobler victims never died for liberty. W.J. Fant is among the missing, he was told that Ily had fallen, he went back after him and was either killed or taken prisoner. All of our wounded are doing well. Matt Bell is shot through the breast. I saw him today he is doing well, and I am in hopes he will recover.

Your brother,

Jas. D. Feemster

The 11th Mississippi Infantry paid heavily in blood for their courage at Seven Pines; in his history of the regiment author Stephen R. Davis wrote, “The regiment entered the battle with a strength of 504 men and lost 20 killed and 100 wounded.” It was only one of many battlefields where the 11th Mississippi paid dearly for its stubborn defense of Southern rights.

Once he recovered from his injury, Feemster returned to the 11th Mississippi and resumed   his duties as a soldier. The heavy losses the Noxubee Rifles had suffered left holes to be filled in the non-commissioned officer ranks, and soon after his return Feemster was promoted to 5th sergeant.

Feemster’s time with the 11th Mississippi proved to be all too brief; at the Battle of Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862, the dedicated soldier was wounded and captured by the enemy. The Federals immediately paroled the mortally wounded Rebel, and he died in a Confederate hospital at Shepherdstown, Virginia, on October 16, 1862.

James D. Feemster apparently lies in an unmarked, soldier’s grave somewhere in Virginia – I could not find any indication that his burial place is marked. The young sergeant who gave his life fighting for Mississippi died over 150 years ago, but he has not been forgotten. On the Sharpsburg battlefield is a new monument to the 11th Mississippi infantry, dedicated in 2012 to the men of the regiment that fell on that bloody killing ground. Engraved on the stone column is the name James D. Feemster, along with those of 23 of his comrades that died on the single bloodies day of the war. In addition to the long list of names, their are a few words of Latin carved into the stone: “DUCIT AMORE PATRIAE” – The Love of My Country Leads Me.

Monument to the 11th Mississippi Infantry at Sharpsburg
Monument to the 11th Mississippi Infantry at Sharpsburg

 

A Mississippian Goes West

In the years leading up to the Civil War, many Mississippians moved west, lured by the limitless opportunities the land seemed to hold. Texas was destination of choice for most men and women from the Magnolia State, and thousands moved there to carve new homes from the wilderness.

One example of such a pioneer was David Alexander Nunn, a native of Noxubee County who was born at Summerville on October 1, 1836. His father, John Nunn, was one of the early planters in the state, and he was able to afford to send his son to the University at Murfreesboro and afterwards to law school at Lebanon, Tennessee. David A. Nunn was

Photo of David A. Nunn and his wife Helen, taken on their wedding day - www.findagrave.com
Photo of David A. Nunn and his wife Helen, taken on their wedding day – http://www.findagrave.com

admitted to the bar in Mississippi in 1857, and began practicing law that same year in Noxubee County. On June 8, 1858, he married Helen Williams, and that same day the newlyweds set out to make their fortune in Texas. The couple settled in the town of Crockett, a small community in east Texas that had only been incorporated the year before David and Helen arrived. David Nunn began practicing law in Crockett, and soon made a name for himself among the locals; the young Mississippian was chosen the town’s first mayor.

Undated photo of Crockett, Texas - www.crocketttexas.org
Undated photo of Crockett, Texas – http://www.crocketttexas.org

When Civil War broke out, Nunn used his popularity in the town to raise a cavalry company for service in the Confederate army. This unit was mustered into service on September 29, 1861, as Company I, 4th Texas Cavalry, with Nunn as its commanding officer. As part of the 4th Texas Cavalry, Nunn took part in some of the westernmost actions of the Civil War; the New Mexico Campaign of 1861-1862. On January 15, 1862, the Macon Beacon in Noxubee County published a letter written by Nunn to his father-in-law while he was participating in the New Mexico Campaign. Note: the newspaper in which this letter appears was very faded, and in a few places the words were impossible to decipher.

FROM NEW MEXICO

Mr. B.T. Williams has allowed us the use of a private letter from his son-in-law, Dr. D.A. Nunn, formerly of this county, who is now on the far off plains of New Mexico, in command of a cavalry company belonging to a regiment which left Texas for that country some two months since. The letter is dated ‘In Camp, 480 mile west of San Antonio, and 780 miles west of Crockett, Nov. 28, 1861.’ We make some extracts:

‘You all may think very strange of my leaving my family among comparative strangers and coming off on this wild goose chase. I was among the first if not the first who took public position in my county for secession. If I had not done so I would have been recreant to every principle of honor and duty to myself, family and country, with my view of _____.

After secession the war came. I felt it to to be my duty to prove my _____ by my works, and when Lincoln called for 400,000 men and 400,000,000 of dollars, I felt also_____ of my circumstances and condition must rally to the support of their country’s cause. I did so. I raised a company and though my intention was to serve in my own state, yest I am not in this wilderness country making my way to New Mexico, having left far away a beloved family. These are the sacrifices I have made, and this is a brief history of my course of late date. I hope it affords a sufficient explanation for my leaving my beloved family. I cannot think of our being conquered, subjugated, enslaved. I will never see it. Nor can I think of other men suffering for me when I am able to do my own part, and yet remain in selfish inactivity. I have gone in for the war trusting to good luck and a protecting Providence for my return to my family.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. We drilled an hour and then had an interesting sermon. Many rumors of a heavy force that we have to meet, _____ _____ as many men as are in this brigade. Our force, when it all comes up, will be about 3,500 – the 3d Regiment will not be up in some time, the 2nd is still behind. We will either have a very fine time or a most desperate one if we meet 10 or 15,000 men we will have to fight terribly, and the worst of it is, we are miserably armed – good many without any guns, very few six shooters, &c – horses broken down &c. Upon the whole we are in a bad condition for a fight. There will be a very great unnecessary sacrifice of life for the  want of sufficient arms. It is very cold here, the weather dry but changeable and disagreeable; a stiff norther blowing on us every day or two.

Some of the boys are poorly provided for in the way of blankets and winter clothing. I have a fine company numbering 75 men, including commissioned officers. I frequently sleep in hat, trowsers, two coats, boots and spurs – get up the next morning, eat breakfast without washing or combing head, and repeat this for several days in succession, habits perfectly repulsive and intolerable to me before I engaged in camp life.

This is a desert wilderness for hundreds of miles in every direction. The lands are totally worthless from here to Fort Clark, 110 miles this side of San Antonio. Many parts of it are picturesque, grand and _____ romantic. Large mountain (or rather hills) of huge rock, some of them apparently one solid rock with the most peculiar crags and other interesting formations.

The New Mexico Campaign culminated in the Battle of Valverde on February 20-21, 1862. The Confederates won the battle, and David Nunn was mentioned in the after action report written by Lt. Col. William Scurry as taking part in a cavalry charge “which decided the fortunes of the day.”

Immediately after the battle, Nunn resigned as captain in the 4th Texas, apparently in

Post-war photo of David A. Nunn from Confederate Veteran Magazine
Post-war photo of David A. Nunn from Confederate Veteran Magazine

response to a petition circulated by his men. He went back to Crockett, raised another company for service in Walker’s Texas Division, and served with that unit until the end of the war. Nunn died in Crockett on August 13, 1911, and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery.