A Guide to the Boats Lost on the Yazoo, Tallahatchie & Yalobusha Rivers

Control of the mighty Mississippi River was of vital national interest to both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War. By the spring of 1862 the fight for control of the Mississippi  focused on Vicksburg, the last major Confederate outpost on the river. The conflict soon spilled over into the Yazoo River and its tributaries, and by the time the Hill City fell in 1863, the brown waters of the Mississippi Delta was littered with both military and civilian vessels. When the war ended the armies went away, but the vessels lost during the fighting remained in their watery graves, where they could be extremely hazardous to civilian river traffic. On January 1, 1870, The Tri-Weekly Clarion of Jackson, Mississippi, published this guide to the wartime wrecks on the Yazoo, Tallahatchie and Yalobusha rivers under the title, “Interesting Reminiscences of the War:”

Many scenes of exciting interest transpired during the recent civil war that never have and never will be told. The line of the Yazoo, Tallahatchie and Yalobusha Rivers was a field of incident that has so far almost escaped the notice of reporters. Numerous vessels, owned chiefly by Southern boatmen, sought refuge in the streams named. As the Federals forced Southerners backward in their determined effort to capture and control the Mississippi and its tributaries on the eastern side, steamers huddled closer together like so many frightened sheep. Finally, when it was found impossible to save them from capture, the torch was applied, and great havoc resulted. Thirty-three steamers were given to the flames, among them many of the largest, fleetest and costliest that ever floated on the waters of the west. The line of the river was lurid with the glare of many burning steamers. Its course could be traced for days after by the dense clouds of black smoke that hung like a funeral pall over the wrecks that now lie scattered at intervals along the river.


The Yazoo River and Its tributaries - Many ships were lost in these waters during the Civil War -
The Yazoo River and Its tributaries – Many ships were lost in these waters during the Civil War – From the Wikipedia Entry on the Yazoo River


At several points vessels were moored side by side before destruction, that their sunken hulks might obstruct the channel and prevent the advance of the enemy’s fleet. At low stages of the river these wrecks now impede navigation, though they do not entirely prevent the passage of steamers. A recent visit to the locality enables us to give the following account of the situation:

In the upper Tallahatchie River, and 120 miles from its mouth at Jarmyn’s lies the wreck of the Cotton Plant, formerly Flora Temple. She was burned where she lies in July, 1863, and is no obstruction to navigation. At Sam Evan’s place, sixty miles lower down, the wreck of the Hartford City lies close to the bank, and out of passing steamers’ way.

At Fort Pemberton, six miles above the entrance of the Tallahatchie into the Yazoo, the wreck of the famous steamship Star of the West lies where she scuttled and sunk, directly in the middle of the river, and a dangerous obstruction to passing steamers. The engine walking beam, greatly injured by rust, and one weather-beaten wheel-house of this monster steam-ship stand high above the level of the river, to warn approaching vessels from above or below that they must give the wreck as wide a berth as possible. The channel at this point admits only a few spare feet on either side, while the current is swift as a mill-race, and pilots must exercise their best care and skill to make the run successfully. The Star of the West, it will be remembered, was driven to sea, off Charleston harbor, by Confederate batteries, when making an effort to provision Fort Sumter, and caused the firing of the first gun of the war. She was afterwards captured off Galveston, Texas, by Van Dorn and a party of Confederates under him, carried into New Orleans, and finally up the Yazoo. She was an unlucky vessel, and never did the Confederates any good, except to entail expense in caring for her. The blackened hulk and rusty, weather-beaten machinery may lie for ages in their present position, a fitting emblem of her useless career.

Engraving of the Star of the West, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 19, 1861
Engraving of the Star of the West, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 19, 1861

Up the Yallabusha, one mile from its mouth, lies the wreck of the Ferd. Kennet, once a fine St. Louis and New Orleans steamer, scuttled and burned in 1863. Navigation is unimpeded by this wreck. The Ed J. Gay, another elegant St. Louis steamer, lies directly at the mouth of the Tallahatchie and Yallabusha, close to the eastern bank of the Yazoo. Ample space is afforded passing steamers. A mile and a half below lies the wreck of the Acadia, in times ante bellum a favorite and well known New Orleans and Coast packet. Her wreck lies directly in the middle of the river. Steamers must feel their way carefully when passing by.

The remains of the Mary E. Keene, once the pride of the Vicksburg packets, are at French Bend, fourteen miles below Greenwood. The wreck is

The Steamboat Mary E. Keene - www.lakeprovidencegirl.com
The Steamboat Mary E. Keene – http://www.lakeprovidencegirl.com

close against the bend, and is no obstruction to navigation. At Browning’s Bar, twenty-five miles below Greenwood, four wrecks lie side by side, bows down stream, in the exact position where they were sunk to prevent the ascent of the Federal fleets. The Scotland is near the western bank, next the Golden Age, then the R. J. Lackland, and on the eastern bank the John Walsh is planted. These wrecks are all plain to view, except, the Golden Age, from under which the sand has washed, or suing the wreck to settle so far beneath that steamers pass directly over her without danger.

The great Natchez, one of the finest steamers ever constructed, and converted into a ram, was burned and destroyed with 1200 bales of cotton on board at Burtonia, eighty miles above Yazoo City. Sixty miles farther down, and within nineteen of Yazoo City, is the wreck of the Peytona: ten miles below is the Prince of Wales. The J. F. Pargoud, regarded by many boatmen as without a superior in point or symmetry and beauty, lies three miles farther down.

The Magenta and Magnolia, both of huge size and capacity, lie six miles above Yazoo City. Just below lies a Federal tin-clad gunboat, the Number 5, captured and destroyed here by the Confederates. The Baron DeKalb, a Federal iron-clad, was blown up and destroyed by a torpedo half a mile below Yazoo City. The Confederate gunboat Mobile was burned near the same spot. Both wrecks lie out of the channel. The Republic and Alonzo Child lie near here, their machinery having first been removed to Selma, Ala., where it was afterwards placed in Confederate gunboats.


The Ironclad USS Baron DeKalb - www.history.navy.mil
The Ironclad USS Baron DeKalb – http://www.history.navy.mil


At Liverpool Landing, some twenty miles below Yazoo City, several vessels were scuttled and burned. Among them was the famous Capitol,

Illustration of the Steamboat Capitol helping in the Construction of the CSS Arkansas - www.history.navy.mil
Illustration of the Steamboat Capitol helping in the Construction of the CSS Arkansas – http://www.history.navy.mil

owned at Memphis, and which, during the summer of 1860, made thirteen successive weekly trips between Memphis and New Orleans. The gunboat V. H. Joy also lives here: first as the Roger Williams, noted for speed in New England waters, then as the El Paraguay, a South American gunboat, again as a towboat, towing ships between New Orleans and the Gulf, then transformed into a Confederate war vessel and as Hollins’ flag ship, making rapid dashes in front of the enemy about Cairo and Bird’s Point. Her career was surely an eventful one. Her hull lies in a dangerous position, causing passing steamers to work with caution in making the run up or down.

The gunboats Lady Polk, Maurepas and Van Dorn are also sunk here. The latter, once well known as the towboat Junius Beebe, and one of the best vessels of her class ever constructed, was built at New Orleans in 1854. With low-pressure machinery of great power, she was one of the fleetest and handsomest vessels that ever dashed past the shipping in front of the Crescent City. The Lady Polk was known in earlier days as the Nashville steamer Ed Howard, and latter as one of Hollins’ gunboat fleet.

At Snyder’s Bluffs, below, is the hulk  of the iron-clad Cairo, blown up by a Confederate torpedo. These with the Hope and Ben McCulloch, afterwards raised; comprise all the vessels destroyed during the war on the Yazoo. Many have since been dismantled, and their machinery removed by the U.S. Government. Several still have their machinery on board; and are either disputed or private property.


The Ironclad USS Cairo
The Ironclad USS Cairo


In addition to the above, the H. D. Mears, Emma Bell and Argo were destroyed up the Sunflower, and the Dew Drop up Quiver, one of its affluents. Near the bridge crossing of the Vicksburg Railroad to Jackson, on Black River, the steamers Charm and Paul Jones were burned. The gunboat Arkansas, built at Memphis, and completed in Yazoo, was blown up just above Baton Rouge at the time it was attacked by Breckinridge in 1862. A huge war vessel was burned on the stocks half finished, at Yazoo City. These complete the list.

Captured by the Yankees: A Reminiscence by B. L. Wynn of the Confederate Signal Corps

On July 1, 1861, Benjamin Littleton Wynn joined the “Volunteer Southrons,” of Vicksburg and went off to war. The 22 year-old student had been matriculating at Kentucky Military Institute in Frankfort, Kentucky, and he ended his college career early to return home to Mississippi and fight for his native state. In 1861 joining the military was a grand adventure, and Benjamin was accompanied into the service by his younger brother William, who also joined the Volunteer Southrons. The company was sent to Virginia, where they were made part of the 21st Mississippi Infantry. The Wynn brothers service with the 21st was to last only a matter of months, for on the November – December 1861 Muster Roll for the regiment it was noted that both men were “Detailed to Signal Corps.”

By the time of the Civil War, the fastest way to send a message was by telegraph – but often the armies were operating far from

Equipment used by the Signal Corps - Image from Wikipedia
Equipment used by the Signal Corps – Image from Wikipedia

telegraph lines, and it was vital that a system for passing intelligence and orders be established. To fill this vital role, the Confederate Signal Corps was created by Confederate officer Edward Porter Alexander. The Corps used signal flags during the day and torches at night to pass messages along a chain of signal stations. In his article on the Confederate Signal Corps for the Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, John R. Elting described the workings of the organization thus:

“The Signal Corps established chains of signal stations, each manned by one or two officers and several enlisted men, from their army’s outposts back to its headquarters. These were placed on commanding heights so that each station had a clear line of sight to the stations on either side of it…Since these stations frequently provided excellent views of the opposing army, the Signal Corps detachments manning them thus had the dual mission of transmitting messages and observing and reporting enemy activities.”

Benjamin and his brother William were both assigned as privates to work for General Thomas J. “Stonewall Jackson. During one of his early missions for the general, Benjamin was captured by the enemy. He wrote of this episode in The Tallahatchie Herald, January 26, 1910:


Captain B.L. Wynn, writes interestingly of a thrilling experience in war times. Writes it for the Boys and Girls.

I am induced to give you this story of the capture of a Confederate soldier, for two reasons; first, because I find you as a class, exercised and your minds more receptive, concerning instances appertaining to the War Between the States, than many of more mature years. Second; because it will have a tendency to keep warm your patriotism and also, to inculcate a further desire on your part to learn more of the history of the Civil War, both of which will argue well on your part.

About the middle of October, 1862, General McClellan, crossed the Potomac, moving southward east of the Blue Ridge. General Lee moving

U.S. Army Signal Corps Station - A Confederate Signal Station would have been very similar in layout - Library of Congress
U.S. Army Signal Corps Station – A Confederate Signal Station would have been very similar in layout – Library of Congress

parallel with him on the west of the ridge. About the 20th, General T.J. Jackson’s corp, camped for the night east of and near Winchester, Jackson’s headquarters for the night being at Berryville, on the road leading from Winchester through Ashby Gap over the mountains. After a long ride coming into headquarters, and about nine 0’clock at night, Colonel Pendleton, Jackson’s Adjutant General, sent for me. On reaching his tent, he said to me, “The General wants you to go to the top of the Blue Ridge tonight and make observation of the enemies’ movement and report next morning.” I replied that I was ready to go, but that I had been in the saddle since daylight and had had a long, hard and somewhat dangerous ride. I also said that I could make no observation until the sun had dispelled the mist over the valley. He said that he would see the General and explain to him, returning in a few minutes. He told me that it would be all right with the General if I would be certain to reach the top of the ridge by or a little before daylight next morning. I gave orders to my servant to have something for me to eat and my horse saddled two hours before daylight the next morning.

I got off on time, and after a ride of four or five miles, before daylight, I came to the Shenandoah River, where I was halted by our pickets. I had to send for the officer in command before they would let me cross. When the officer came, he knew me and passed me, although he failed to tell me, as was his duty, that there was nothing between me and the enemy. After crossing, having plenty of time, I rode leisurely along, and not at all on the alert, thinking I would find our cavalry pickets somewhere in advance on the western slope of the mountain, but a mile from the summit and a little before daylight I rode square into a body of cavalry that proved to be General McClellan’s advance body guard. They had their guns upon me before I took in the situation. There was nothing for me to do but surrender or be killed. I made up my mind in an instant and yielded to the inevitable as gracefully as I knew how, but it was not my capture that I was most concerned about. Just now a dispatch I had in my pocket from General Lee to General Longstreet, ordering the latter to move his corp, with all possible dispatch, to the railroad bridge across the Rappahannock River, take possession of it and hold it.

The dispatch, I had sent by signal to General Longstreet the day before, and should, as was my duty, have destroyed it upon acknowledgement of receipt. I thought of half a dozen different ways as to how I could keep the enemy from getting it, and as it was hardly light good, and being disarmed, I concluded that I would not be watched closely, so I tore the paper in small pieces while in my pocket, and every few feet I moved, I pulled out three or four pieces and dropped them under my horse, as we moved along. I had succeeded in disposing of [it] in this way nearly all of it before I was detected. A dozen pistols were thrust, cocked, into my face and I was told if I put my hands in my pockets again I would be shot on the spot. I remembered what they said, and obeyed.

Going on about a mile, we reached the top of the mountain, where General McClellan and staff had headquarters. The first question he asked me was to what arm of service I belonged. I said, “I am a member of the signal corps of the Second Army Corps.” “Where did you leave General Jackson?” he asked. I replied, “I cannot answer the question.” He pressed me no further on this line. Among other questions he asked that if it was not the general belief among our soldiers that if they were taken prisoners they would be inhumanely treated. I said it was not, so far as I knew. “I’m glad to hear it,” said he.

Turning to a colonel on his staff, he said something to him, which I failed to catch, but I was immediately marched down the eastern slope of the mountain by six cavalrymen, headed by the colonel. We had gone but a short distance before we met the infantry. The road was narrow, and it was with difficulty that we could pass them, and here I met with another trouble, for every once in a while an infantryman would say to me, “You old rebel, you let your horse step on me, and I will run my bayonet through you.” Was I careful? Well, if you could have seen me just then, there would be no need to ask the question.

After going several hundred yards passing the infantry all the while, we came to a small opening on the side of the road, into which we turned. Now I began to think, and think seriously, too what was up? Why should I be carried into this place? I concluded being captured before day and inside of their lines and with papers on my person and a citizen’s coat, which was almost new, which I had gotten while in Maryland, that they had taken me for a spy and were going to shoot me on the spot. I had made up my mind that if I was going to be shot, they would have to shoot me in the saddle. After halting in the open place, the colonel said, “I am going to search you for papers, dismount.”

Ah, you do not know how sweet that word “search” was to me. What a strain it took off my mind. What a relief it brought. After dismounting I was stripped of every vestige of apparel, every nook and corner and seam of my clothes was ripped open. I had on a collar and cravat they cut them open. My bed which consisted of a blanket lined with brown linen, batted well between, which had been sent to me from home, was taken from under my saddle and ripped open. In my purse I had about five hundred dollars in Confederate money one of the guards said Johnie you seem to have a good roll. Oh, yes plenty of money I said, no papers were found, I was reclothed more in strings and rags however than clothes.

On my way to the guard house one of the guards said to me, Johnie, I see your ride a very fine animal and I want to change horses with you before I turn you over to the brave guards. The exchange were made, he keeping my animal and turning it in as captured property. He gave me my blanket and oil cloth and said good bye. I thanked him. I found at the guard house forty or fifty prisoners many of whom were citizens and too old for military service but they were carrying them along, having doubtless trumped up some sort of charge against them. The next day we were marched in the direction of Warrenton and near which place we camped for the night in an old field. That night it snowed and the next morning the ground was covered four or five inches. We huddled together that night like a covey of birds, and managed to go through the night and was much worse for the wear next morning. We had had no dinner, supper or breakfast.

A wagon going by loaded with ear corn, we charged it, each man getting two or three ears. Be it said to the credit of our guards, they ran around the wagon, bringing it within the lines. About twelve o’clock the prisoners were formed into line and marched to the rear. When we had covered, I suppose about three miles, we knew something was in the air, but could not diving what. Couriers were constantly passing us in a swinging gallop their horses flecked with foam and much stir was going on among the troops that were camped along the route we were moving along. It was but a little while before we were made to do the double quick for at least three miles then we were halted and allowed rest. We then learned that the stir and commotion was caused by a report, that Jackson was in their rear. I knew that this was not true, but thought very probably it might be Moseby coming (cavalry), but it proved to be a false alarm and we had no more ‘double quicking’ to do.

If there was one thing more than another, that was calculated to throw the enemy almost into spasms, it was a report that General Jackson’s foot cavalry were in their rear, and well might they be alarmed, for several times, had he not only thrown them into fits, but had knocked them into ‘smithereens.’ Something unusual had taken place, we observed small groups of soldiers all around the prison talking and acting in an excited manner. We enquired the cause and was told that General McClellan had been relieved and Burnside put in command and that the war would soon be over, that General Lee was in full retreat and that Burnside would capture the greater part of his army, before he reached Richmond. Some two weeks after this, while a prisoner in the old capitol at Washington, I learned from Northern papers of Burnsides defeat at Fredericksburg.

Some two months after this, I was paroled and a month later was exchanged. I went back to the army and found Jackson’s headquarters changed to Fredericksburg, where we remained the balance of that winter. In conclusion, will state that what I have written is strictly true, with no coloring what ever in it.

B.L. Wynn

P.S. Like a lady see, I have a letter from an old college mate, General H.V. Bagaton, who commanded an Ohio brigade, who wrote me that nothing was made out of the paper I tore up when captured, that he had examined the war records and found no mention made of it and that he supposed that not enough of the pieces had been found to make out its purport.


After returning to his command after being exchanged, Benjamin Wynn continued his work in the Signal Corps. Apparently both he and his brother William were good soldiers, as their commanding officer, Captain Richard E. Wilbourn, a fellow Mississippian, recommended to Secretary of War James A. Seddon that they be commissioned officers in the Signal Corps. He wrote of the Wynn’s:

They have had a great deal of experience as signal operators, Gen. Jackson’s Corps having probably had more practice than any other. I

This Post-War Picture of Benjamin L. Wynn was published in The Tallahatchie Herald on March 23, 1910
This Post-War Picture of Benjamin L. Wynn was published in The Tallahatchie Herald on March 23, 1910

respectfully request that they be assigned to duty in the 2nd Army Corps, as we need some efficient officers in this corps. Though I have recommended them for a lieutenancy I may state that [they] will discharge the duties of any office you may see proper to give them with honor and credit.” – R.E. Wilbourn to James A. Seddon, April 2, 1863, located in the Benjamin L. Wynn Signal Corps Service Record.

Unfortunately for the Winn brothers, when the signal corps was established, its contingent of officers was fixed by law as one major, ten captains, ten first lieutenants, ten second lieutenants, and twenty sergeants. On the recommendation letter was written “The Signal Corps is complete to the extent allowed by law.” There were no open officer spots in the signal corps, and the brothers remained privates throughout their wartime service.

Both Wynn brothers survived the war, and on returning to Mississippi Benjamin returned to his home in Yalobusha County. He was a prominent

citizen, and represented Yalobusha County in the Mississippi legislature. Some years later he moved to Tallahatchie County, where he lived out the remainder of his life. Benjamin L. Wynn died on July 25, 1917, at the age of seventy-eight. In his obituary it was said of him, “He was a faithful and gallant soldier on the side of the Confederacy in the great Civil War, seeing four years service in the Signal Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia, part of which was under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.”

For anyone wishing to learn more about Benjamin Wynn’s service during the Civil War, a typescript copy of his diary is located at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History – catalog # Z/0686.000. Wynn was also a member of the United Confederate Veterans, and wrote several articles about his wartime service with the Signal Corps in Confederate Veteran Magazine.




Southern Cross of Honor Records at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

I recently had an article published in The Primary Source, the online publication of the Society of Mississippi Archivists, concerning a project I am working on to create a database of the Southern Cross of Honor records at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History. I thought the readers of my blog would be interested in this project, so here is the article:

Some of the most widely requested records at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History are those related to the State’s participation in the American Civil War. The service records of Mississippians who served in the Confederate army, their postwar pension applications, and the list of veteran grave registrations are all frequently used by researchers. In addition to the above mentioned records, there is an often overlooked resource at the archive that might be helpful to someone researching a relative that fought for the Confederacy: the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Mississippi Division) Southern Cross of Honor Records.[1]

The Southern Cross of Honor was a bronze Maltese cross suspended from a bar to which the recipients name could be engraved. The

Southern Cross of Honor that belonged to F.W. Whitaker, who served in Company I, 4th Mississippi Cavalry. Photo courtesy of James Allard
Southern Cross of Honor that belonged to F.W. Whitaker, who served in Company I, 4th Mississippi Cavalry. Photo courtesy of James Allard

decoration was awarded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to any Confederate veteran that served honorably as a soldier or sailor. The idea for the cross came from Mary Cobb Erwin, who was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter in Athens, Georgia. The United Daughters of the Confederacy authorized the crosses in 1899, and the first medals were awarded on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1900.[2]

When the United Daughters of the Confederacy authorized the Cross of Honor, they selected three dates on which they could be bestowed. The first was Confederate Memorial Day, celebrated in Mississippi on April 26.[3] The others were Jefferson Davis’ birthday, June 3, and Robert E. Lee’s birthday, January 19. In addition, each state chapter of the organization could choose one date between July 1 and January 19 to award crosses. Mississippi picked October 20, the birthday of “The Great Commoner,” Senator J.Z. George.[4]

The Cross of Honor was a very powerful symbol to the veterans that received it, and they wore it with pride. Mrs. S.E.F. Rose, historian of the Mississippi Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, explained what the medal meant to the old soldiers that had earned the right to wear it:

It stands not for one deed of courage, but many. Not once, but often, these heroes in Gray faced death before the blazing cannon’s mouth. Through the storm of hissing minnies, in the lonely watch of the midnight picket with no companion but the stars, and endured every form of hardship, peril and privation, and suffered the bitterness of cold, weariness and hunger. Yes, the Southern Cross of Honor has a deep significance – and ‘this little bronze cross’ that rests over the hearts of veterans tells its own story…To the veteran, it is a badge of merit – justly won, for he has paid the price and earned the right to wear it on many a bloody battlefield.[5]

The Southern Cross of Honor records at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History are contained in two bound volumes, and cover the years from 1900 – 1918; however the majority of the records date from 1907 – 1918. Each volume contains a wealth of information about the individual recipient of a Cross of Honor: the name of the soldier, his rank, the company and regiment that he served in during the war, his period of service, the United Confederate Veterans camp he belonged to, the United Daughters of the Confederacy camp bestowing the cross, and the name of the soldier’s next of kin is among the information included.[6]

Unfortunately, the Southern Cross of Honor Records have never been widely utilized by Civil War researchers, as the information is not easy to access. The first book alone has 1,043 individual veterans listed, and the second book is of a similar size. Neither book is indexed, requiring a researcher to look through each book name by name to try and find the person they are seeking. In addition, both books are extremely fragile, and can not withstand repeated handling by patrons.

To make these documents more user friendly, a project is currently underway at the archives to transcribe these records into a computer

Charles C. Cummings served in Company B, 17th Mississippi Infantry. In this photo from Confederate Veteran Magazine (1917, pg. 494), he proudly wears his Cross of Honor.
Charles C. Cummings served in Company B, 17th Mississippi Infantry. In this photo from Confederate Veteran Magazine (1917, pg. 494), he proudly wears his Cross of Honor.

database that will eventually be available to patrons. This will be a boon to those doing Civil War research, as the Cross of Honor records have information in them that may be available nowhere else. For example, one veteran listed in the records is Charles B.N. Rice of Copiah County. He was presented his medal on April 26, 1914, by the Charles E. Hooker Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Rice listed his unit on the application as “Member of the home guard,” a group which has little or no official documentation at the archives. He does not have a service record, did not file for a veteran’s pension, and does not show up on the Mississippi Confederate grave registration cards. Rice’s Cross of Honor application may be the only written record of his wartime service.[7]

The Cross of Honor applications had a space reserved to list the recipient’s next of kin, but it was not always filled out. For the veterans that did list a relative, however, this information may prove to be very useful to a researcher. When Joseph H. Askun applied for his cross, his listed his next of kin as “Mrs. Frank C. Owen & Mary A. Owen, daughters.” George W. Harris listed his nearest relative as “S.P. Harris, son, Verona, Miss.”[8]

Some of the Cross of Honor listings have additional information added that can provide useful insights into the wartime service or postwar life of the veteran. On the application of William J. Byars there is a notation that he “Died Meridian, Jan. 19th, 1909.” E.H. Gregory’s listing notes that he was “Honorably discharged Columbus, Miss., on leave of absence caused by wounds, May 1865.” A.C. Minter had to apply for a replacement cross, and it was noted that “Mr. Minter lost his first cross when his home burned Jan. 19, 1914.”[9]

In addition to the information contained in the Cross of Honor records, staff members at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History are attempting to verify the information in the books by checking it against the veterans service records, pension applications, and grave registration cards. This is necessary because in many instances the veteran only wrote down the name of his commander, or the name of the company he served in, not the regiment he was attached to. For example, C.H. McLeod only listed his unit as “Co. A, Stockdale’s Battalion Mississippi Cav. Vols.” A quick check of Grady Howell’s seminal roster of Mississippi Confederate soldiers indicates that McLeod served in Company A, 4th Mississippi Cavalry. Armed with this information, a family genealogist could determine which battles the 4th Mississippi Cavalry fought in, and gain a better understanding of the service of C.H. McLeod.[10]

The information in the Cross of Honor records can indicate new sources that a researcher might want to check out. Using the date of bestowal of

William D. Mims of the 17th Mississippi Infantry wearing his Cross of Honor - Confederate Veteran Magazine (1908, pg. 134).
William D. Mims of the 17th Mississippi Infantry wearing his Cross of Honor – Confederate Veteran Magazine (1908, pg. 134).

the cross, a researcher could check the veteran’s hometown newspaper to see if the publication wrote an article about the award ceremony. One of the men listed on the Cross of Honor records is James M. Selser, a relative of the author who served in the 1st Mississippi Cavalry. He was awarded his cross in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on April 26, 1913.[11] A search of the Hattiesburg newspaper turned up an article about the event, listing every man by name that was awarded a cross. The paper also gave a detailed description of the ceremony:

Mrs. Massengale, the church organist, played a stirring march as the procession filed into the church. Captain J.P. Carter, commandant of the local camp of veterans, called on Dr. E.J. Currie to lead in prayer, at the conclusion of which the audience sang a hymn, which was followed by a presentation of crosses of honor by Mrs. Wm. F. Hewett, who said there are three important events in the life of the soldier, the call to arms, the surrender and the bestowal of the cross of honor.[12]

The project to transcribe the Cross of Honor records is underway: the records from the first book have been entered into a computer database, along with the information found by the staff at the archives when verifying the service of each soldier. Data entry on the second book will begin soon.  This is a time consuming process, but eventually the database will be made available to the public. This database will be searchable by name or by unit, and will prove a valuable resource to those doing Civil War research on an ancestor that served in a Mississippi unit.

[1] United Daughters of the Confederacy (Mississippi Division), Southern Cross of Honor Records, 1900 – 1918. Located at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Jackson, MS. Catalog # Z/1907.000. Cited hereafter as Cross of Honor Records.

[2] Gregg S. Clemmer, Valor in Gray (Staunton, VA, 1998), 433-434.

[3] The Mississippi Code of 1906 (Nashville, TN, 1906), 1104.

[4] “History of the Southern Cross of Honor,” Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume XVIII (January 1910), No. 1, 234 – 235. “Crosses of Honor,” Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS), 20 September 1904.

[5] Mrs. S.E.F. Rose, “Southern Cross of Honor,” Our Heritage, Volume IV, No. 12, (October 1910). Located in the Southern Cross of Honor Subject File, Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Jackson, MS.

[6] Cross of Honor Records.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] H. Grady Howell, Jr., For Dixie Land I’ll Take My Stand! A Muster Listing of All Known Mississippi Confederate Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, Volume 2. (Madison, MS, 1998), 1913.

[11] Cross of Honor Records.

[12] “Observance of Memorial Day,” The Weekly News (Hattiesburg, MS), 2 May 1913.