His Gallant Spirit Went Home: The Burial of General William Barksdale in Jackson

In 1878 former Confederate general Lafayette McLaws paid tribute to Brigadier General William Barksdale and the gallant

This photo of William Barksdale was taken in 1859 while he was serving as a United States Congressman from Mississippi - Library of Congress
This photo of William Barksdale was taken in 1859 while he was serving as a United States Congressman from Mississippi – Library of Congress

brigade of Mississippians that he led at the Battle of Gettysburg. He said of them:

Barksdale had been exceedingly impatient for the order to advance, and his enthusiasm was shared in by his command. Barksdale was standing in front ready to give the word and to lead. He was not far from me; and so soon as it was signified to me I sent my aid-de-camp, Captain G.B. Lamar, Jr., to carry the order to General Barksdale, and the results I express in Captain Lamar’s words: ‘I had witnessed many charges marked in every way by unflinching gallantry; indeed, I had the honor of participating when in the line with the First Georgia Regulars, but I never saw anything to equal the dash and heroism of the Mississippians. You remember how anxious General Barksdale was to attack the enemy, and his eagerness was participated in by all of his officers and men, and when I carried him the order to advance his face was radiant with joy. He was in front of his brigade, hat off, and his long, white hair reminded me of the white plume of Navarre. I saw him as far as the eye could follow, still ahead of his men, leading them on. The result you know. You remember the picket fence in front of the brigade? I was anxious to see how they would get over and around it. When they reached it, the fence disappeared as if by magic, and the slaughter on the other side was terrible. Barksdale, gallantly leading his men in the terriffic fight, fell mortally wounded. The last words of that ardent patriot to fall on the ears of one of his countrymen were, “I am killed. Tell my wife and children I died fighting at my post.”

– Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade at Gettysburg: Most Magnificent Charge of the War,” by J.S. McNeily; Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Volume 14, Page 241.

General Barksdale leading his brigade at Gettysburg - "Barksdale's Charge" by Don Troiani
General Barksdale leading his brigade at Gettysburg – “Barksdale’s Charge” by Don Troiani

After he was mortally wounded, Barksdale was taken to the Hummelbaugh House, where he passed away during the night. He was buried by his captors in the yard of the home.

The Hummelbaugh House at Gettysburg, where General William Barksdale died - www.gettysburg.stonesentinels.com
The Hummelbaugh House at Gettysburg, where General William Barksdale died – http://www.gettysburg.stonesentinels.com

Soon after the war, Barksdale’s family began making preparations to have the general’s body brought back to Mississippi. On June 14, 1866, the Intelligencer of Anderson, South Carolina, noted:

Hon. E. Barksdale, formerly member of the Confederate Congress from Mississippi, in a note to the editor of the Jackson Standard, refers to the recently published statements relative to the removal of the remains of his gallant brother, Gen. Wm. Barksdale, who fell at Gettysburg. He says, ‘it is the intention of his nearest kindred to remove his body, at an early day, for consignment to its final resting place, at some appropriate spot within the limits of his own State, without taxing the generosity of others.’

It took some months to finalize the plans for shipping Barksdale, and on January 12, 1867, The Evening Telegraph of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, noted that the remains of the general passed through Lynchburg, Virginia, on the previous Saturday, in route to Mississippi. On January 10 the Vicksburg Daily Herald stated that General Barksdale’s remains were expected to arrive in Jackson the previous day, and that “Arrangements were being made to pay proper honors to the memory of the distinguished dead.”

The Vicksburg Daily Herald published the following article about the funeral of General Barksdale on January 12, 1867, noting that it had originally appeared in the Jackson Clarion two days earlier:

GENERAL WILLIAM BARKSDALE – The remains of this noble and lamented son of Mississippi, arrived here yesterday at 1 o’clock, and will this evening be conveyed to their last resting place – in the bosom of the State he loved so well, and among a people that will ever respect and revere his memory. The body was brought here by Lieut. Harris Barksdale, nephew of the deceased, from Washington, where it had been embalmed, and was met at the depot by a committee of citizens, and conducted to the Capitol, where it lays in state until the hour appointed for the funeral.

THE FUNERAL OBSEQUIES – The funeral of Gen. Wm. Barksdale will take place at 3 0’clock this evening, from the Capitol Rotunda, where his body, in an elaborately mounted coffin, is now lying in state. Religious services will be performed by the Rev. Mr. Crane. The procession, under the direction of Col. Geo. L. Donald, Marshal, and Maj. A.J. Herod, Assistant Marshal, will be formed in the following order: 1. The Body, 2. Relatives of the deceased, 3. State Authorities, 4. Judges of the High Court, 5. City Authorities, 6. Survivors of the Brigade, 7. Masonic Fraternity, 8. Citizens.

The procession will proceed down Capitol to West Street, and thence to the grave. Col. H.W. Walter has been invited and will officiate as Master of Masonic ceremonies. The fraternity are requested to meet at their hall punctually at two o’clock. The following pall bearers have been appointed by the Marshal: Gen. W.S. Featherston, Hon, Lock E. Houston, Gen. J.Z. George, Lt. Jas. B. Clark, Lt. G.S. Covert, and Marion Smith. A like number will be appointed by the Masonic fraternity.

Colonel H.W. Walter headed the Masonic contingent that took part in the funeral ceremony, and his words make a good

Harvey Washington Walter of Holly Springs led the Masonic contingent at the funeral of General Barksdale - findagrave.com
Harvey Washington Walter of Holly Springs led the Masonic contingent at the funeral of General Barksdale – findagrave.com

epitaph for General Barksdale:

When the hour of peril came to the South, he sought the post of danger, and the halo of heroism illumined the chaplet of the statesman. At the head of his noble Mississippians, he led the van on the ensanguined field, and wherever blows fell fastest and blood flowed freest, his manly form was seen and his clarion voice was heard. In the frightful carnival of death at Gettysburg, he yielded to that conqueror whose command is law, and his gallant spirit went home.

– Public Ledger (Memphis, Tennessee), January 16, 1867

Given his status as one of the most prominent Civil War generals that Mississippi produced, I have always thought it was a shame that there are no known wartime images of William Barksdale in uniform. There are a number of photographs of the general extant, but they are all pre-war images. Perhaps one day a wartime image will turn up, but until that day, the following illustration will have to do. I  found this image in The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes And Incidents of the War of the Rebellion, by Frazar Kirkland. The book was published in 1866 by the Hartford Publishing Company, and as far as I know, it has not been seen on the internet before:

General William Barksdale in the only known image of him in uniform
General William Barksdale in the only known image of him in uniform

For anyone wishing to see the grave of William Barksdale, the general is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi. Please note that he has a memorial stone in the Confederate section of the cemetery, but his actual grave site is unmarked in the Barksdale family plot.

Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi
Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi

Such was the Fidelity of a Dog: Mousel, the Mascot of the 8th Illinois Infantry

Civil War soldiers faced the dangers of the battlefield with great valor, but they also had to come to terms with the boredom and loneliness that was part and parcel of army life. To help cope with the stresses of military service, many soldiers adopted pets or mascots that traveled with their owners on the march and in battle. One of the most famous Civil War mascots was “Old Abe,” the eagle mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, but all manner of creatures served as mascots. Probably the most common mascot was the dog, and they came in a wonderful variety of breeds and sizes. The importance of these canine companions to the soldiers they followed should not be underestimated; the following story, published in the Vicksburg Daily Herald, on July 21, 1864, illustrates this fact:


This dog belonged to one of the companies of the 8th regiment Illinois Volunteers. His early puppyhood was spent at Bird’s Point, Missouri, where, at a very early age he became a very great favorite with the regiment – not on account of his beauty, for he is a homely little fellow – but by reason of the loving and kind disposition manifested toward all into whose society he was permitted to come.

When the regiment, with other Union forces, left Bird’s Point, on their expedition up the Tennessee, this dog Mousel, for that is his name, left with them. Wherever the regiment moved – in pitching or in striking tents, on drill or in preparing meals, on a march or on board transports, from one point to another – Mousel was a constant attendant.

Mousel, after supper, would go the rounds of each company, to see if everything was right, and would then come to his master’s tent and quietly lie down there for the night.The dog of our regiment

During the siege of Fort Donelson, he seemed very much excited by what was passing around him, and would run from one point to another, apparently in the deepest anxiety, as if to inquire what all the noise meant.

During the nights of Thursday and Friday, when the regiment slept on their arms, amid rain, snow and ice, this little creature could not sleep or be quiet, because those whom he loved were suffering. His sympathetic nature seemed in perfect accord with the feelings which, during that stirring scene, filled every human breast.

On Saturday morning, when the battle was at its fiercest point – a time when grape, canister, shells, Minie balls, and buckshot filled the air with their sharp, quick, hissing, whizzing, fearful sound, and when the ranks on both sides were terribly cut down, our little dog, either frightened by some passing cannon ball, or by the bursting of a stray shell near by, took himself during the day away from the scene. Very late, however, when the firing ceased, Mousel made his appearance in great joy.

Going hastily the rounds of the regiment to see if all was well, he came back to his _____ was very uneasy, and much troubled about something. Not finding any relief in his home tent, around the regiment he again ran, and returned, as before, excited and in trouble. But, without any stay there, off he ran again, and this time to the battlefield. There he walked around among the wounded, dying, and dead, to find the object of his search.

In his faithful search for such among the many wounded and slain lying there, little Mousel found the body of Capt. W., of Company I, wounded in the left side by the fragment of bursting shell. It was a fearful wound, rendering the Captain completely helpless – unable even to move a limb, though not depriving him of life, or rendering him insensible to his condition.

Captain W. noticed the approach of the dog, just as the shades of evening were gathering around him. He thought it a harbinger of good – evidence of the coming of someone to remove him from the scene of agony and suffering, where, by a sad oversight, he had lain from 10 a.m., till that time.

But the dog only came to keep vigil with him, during that long, cold, fearful night. Seeming to comprehend the suffering of one whom he loved, this sympathetic, faithful little creature would caress the wounded Captain in every way he could – now lying down close by him, now roused up again by the groans of the suffering soldier, and then, in a most affectionate manner, lapping his hand, as if he would soothe and comfort him in such an hour. In this way, and in such a battlefield vigil, our faithful dog passed the night with the wounded Captain.

Dog 1

In the morning, when his master was removed to the hospital – a service in which the hand now penning these lines was permitted to engage – and his wound was cared for, the little watcher who had been his only companion during the past night sought again the regiment, and reassumed his accustomed quiet habits.

Such is the fidelity of a dog!

The “Captain W.,” of the story was Captain Robert Wilson, commander of Company I, 8th Illinois Infantry. Born in England, WIlson had served in the British army in India before immigrating to the United States in 1856.  After being wounded at Fort Donelson Captain Wilson resigned from the service, but after recuperating, he joined the 5th United States Heavy Artillery. Wilson served with the 5th until 1865, ending the war as a brevet lieutenant colonel, awarded him for his gallantry at Fort Donelson.

Post-war photo of Robert WIlson with his family - ancestry.com
Post-war photo of Robert WIlson with his family – ancestry.com

The only other information I could find on “Mousel” was a brief blurb in the same edition of the Vicksburg Daily Herald as the main story about him. The brief article read:

STOLEN – The faithful dog, “Mousel,” belonging to “I” company of the 8th regiment Illinois Veteran Infantry, was stolen from the company some two weeks since, It would be well for the thief to keep at a safe distance from the 8th, for should any member of that regiment get sight of him he is “gone up” sure. We republish from the “New Year’s Call of 1863” published January 1863, at Jackson, Tenn., by some Union Soldiers, a short history of this faithful dog.

It was a sad end for a faithful dog that had served his regiment so well; I could not find any other mention of “Mousel,” but I’d like to think that the little guy found his way back to the soldiers that loved him.

A Burial Detail at Corinth

Something you generally don’t read much about is what happened in the aftermath of a major battle – in particular, the unpleasant task of burying the dead, both human and animal.  Thus I was very interested to see the following article, which was written by a member of the 39th Mississippi infantry, identified only as “Junius,” who was a member of the Confederate burial detail sent back to Corinth in the aftermath of the October 1862 battle.  This Confederate soldier had a unique view of the closing moves of the Corinth campaign: as a member of a burial detail under a flag of truce, he was able to witness the Union army moving against his own comrades. This article was published in The Daily Mississippian, November 6, 1862; the newspaper was very faded, but I was able to transcribe most of it, with the exception of a few words here and there:

The Corinth Flag of Truce

Ed. Mississippian – As a good many false rumors and erroneous fabrications have gone forth, relative to the Corinth “flag of truce,” we deem it the duty incumbent upon us to make a brief, plain and unvarnished statement of facts, and request its insertion in your paper, for the benefit of the public in general.

On Sunday morning, the 5th instant – the next morning after the long to be remembered battle near Corinth – thirty men from the Bloody 39th Mississippi, under our command; thirty from the 12th Louisiana under Captain Dickson; thirty-three from the 1st Confederate Battalion and the 33d Mississippi, under Lieutenant Felder, together with one hundred and seventeen from General Maury’s Division, under Captain Lamb, and one hundred and twelve from General Little’s Division, under the command of the chivalrous Capt. Haven, of the 20th Arkansas, were detailed to go back to Corinth under a flag of truce to bury our gallant dead, slain in battle on the two preceding days.

Colonel William S. Barry, formerly of Columbus, now the popular and much loved Colonel of the 35thMississippi,

Colonel William Taylor Sullivan Barry, commander of the 35th Mississippi Infantry and leader of the Corinth burial detail
Colonel William Taylor Sullivan Barry, commander of the 35th Mississippi Infantry and leader of the Corinth burial detail

commanded the detail. On arriving within two miles of the battle-field, we were met and halted by some Yankee cavalry, who informed us that they could not permit us to pass, without permission from Headquarters. A messenger was dispatched, who arrived in about two hours with a dispatch, the contents of which were about as follows: “The rebel dead are now being buried, and there is no necessity for admitting a flag of truce within the Union lines. The detail, unmolested, will be permitted to return.  We immediately obeyed instructions and started on after our army: but on arriving opposite Chewalla, Tenn., ten miles north of Corinth, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, we were again halted and ordered to await further instruction.

Here we remained all night, during which time General Rosencranz, with seven brigades of infantry and sixty pieces of artillery, passed on in hot pursuit of our retreating army. The General is a fine looking, intelligent and well informed “chap.” He said our men, on the two days previous, did the bravest but the most rash fighting he had ever known. He expressed his intention of making special mention in his official report of the unparalleled bravery of Colonel Rogers, of General Maury’s Division, who fell while gallantly leading his men in a desperate charge over the breastworks in the town of Corinth. Some of his officers say the General had him taken up, his face washed and his likeness taken. For the truth of this we cannot vouch, as the General said nothing of it himself.

At the right of this, the most magnificently equipped and fine looking army we ever saw, you may be sure our poor hearts bled within us, and more especially were they wrung with anguish when, on the following morning, a courier was dispatched to Corinth with the intelligence that General Price had told his men to _____ for themselves, he himself had fled to the swamps, and his entire baggage and artillery captured, together  with a great portion of the army, and what remained were scattered through the woods in every direction; in short, it was completely annihilated. As to the correctness of this, you all know as much as we do. Comment is unnecessary.

On Monday we removed to Chewalla Station, where rations were issued as follows: to each man ¾ lb. of hard bread, ¾ lb. of bacon, and some sugar and coffee, all of which would have done well enough if we had have had any utensils in which to have done our cooking. The water was very scarce, extremely filthy, and miserably badly tasted.

While here, about 150 prisoners were brought in, mostly stragglers. In company with Captain Haven, we obtained permission to visit them, and had the pleasure, over the left, of finding in the number, two members of Company I of the 39thMississippi – Frank Burt and a Mr. Woodford, of Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Woodford’s fellow prisoners stated that immediately after his capture, he went to the General to have the oath administered, and expressed great concern as to how he should manage to get his family away from the South.

On Thursday morning we were released, and sent with a guide toward our army, and halted again on Friday, and detained until Tuesday, when we were again permitted to resume our journey for the balance of the time unmolested. We were sent by Baldwin on the Mississippi and Ohio Railroad, which made it about one hundred miles to Holly Springs from Chewalla, Tennessee, where we had been so long, uselessly detained.

1862 Illustration from Harper's Weekly of Holly Springs
1862 Illustration from Harper’s Weekly of Holly Springs

On Saturday evening, the 18th instant, we reached Cold Water, seven miles north of Holly Springs, where we had the exquisite pleasure of finding “our boys” in fine spirits, good health, clean shirts, smoothly shaved faces, and looking as cheerful, contented and happy as though they had never received a sound drubbing at the hands of the “Yanks,” who now, by their hated presence, _____ the already polluted plains of Corinth.

_____ ______ account of our second attempt to visit a place we never were ever anxious to see.



Camp Moore, La., Oct. 28th 1862

I did a little research, and did confirm that a Confederate burial detail was sent back to Corinth under the command of Colonel Barry.  In the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, I found the following statement by Brigadier General John C. Moore: “Colonel William S. Barry was not present on the 5th, he having been sent to Corinth under a flag of truce to bury the dead. He is a gallant and efficient officer, of whom his state may well be proud.” – O.R. Series 1, Vol. XVII, Part 1, page 400.

I also found the following explanation from Major General William S. Rosecrans in the Official Records as to why the Confederate burial detail was not allowed back into the city: “Dispatch received. I sent my compliments to Major General Van Dorn, commanding Confederate forces, and told him that ample provision had been made for the burial of the dead.” – O.R. Series 1, Vol. XVII, Part 1, page 161.

In the end, the Corinth burial detail did not accomplish their goal: they were not able to insure that their comrades received proper graves. But their journey did afford them a view of the Union army at Corinth that few other Confederates would have that were not prisoners.