The Civil War is often described as a conflict where “brother fought against brother,” and while that is certainly true, it was much more common for brother to fight alongside brother. Confederate regiments were made up of companies filled with relatives – brothers, fathers, uncles, and cousins. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the typical Mississippi regiment was one large extended family, bound together by the strongest ties of kinship and community. I recently found a letter in the correspondence of Governor John J. Pettus written by Theophilus P. Green of Copiah County, which perfectly illustrates the importance that Mississippians placed on serving alongside their kin in the military.
Born on October 23, 1843, Theophilus grew up in a household that placed great importance on religion; his father, John, was a church deacon, and his older brother, William, was a Baptist minister. The young man heard the call from God while still a teenager, and in 1860 he was licensed to preach by the White Oak Baptist Church in Copiah County. That same year Theophilus decided to further his education and became a student at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. After one year in college, Theophilus moved to Fort Adams, in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, to live with his brother William, who was pastor of the local Baptist Church. He made the most of his time in Fort Adams, and it was said that he “devoted himself to close study and constant preaching, his youthful appearance, self-possession and remarkably impressive delivery soon made him a very popular preacher.”
When the war started in 1861, Theophilus heard a new call, and felt obligated to help defend his state. His desire to join the army had to be
heightened by the fact that his older brother, John Jasper Green, joined the “Mississippi College Rifles,” Company E, 18th Mississippi Infantry, in May 1861. When Theophilus wrote the following letter to Governor Pettus, the Mississippi College Rifles were already on duty in Virginia, and he made it clear just how much he wanted to join them:
Utica Miss. Aug. 12th, 1861
Governor J. J. Pettus
Honored and Esteemed Sir
I wish to know if there is any chance for me to obtain a passport from you to go from here to the Miss. College Rifles in Virginia. I wrote to my bro. who is in that company to know if Captain Welborn would receive me into his company. I received an answer from my bro. J. J. Green not long since stating that Captain Welborn would receive me at anytime.
In order that you may see what he writes I will send you the letter. When I wrote to him I thought something about going into a company at home which he advises me to do. But the company which was trying to be raised when I wrote to him remains as it then did; and I fear will continue to remain in the same state: unfinished. I know of no other company in contemplation in this part of the county to which I might unite myself. My bro. told me to write to him again and let him know more about it. But it will take so long to receive and answer from him I thought I would write to you and see if you would not be willing to give me a paper to carry me there.
Most all my relatives who have gone to fight are in the above named company. I know most all of that Company and know them to be good sturdy boys. The most of them were my class mates and school mates while I went to school in Clinton. I have many reasons why I wish that Company but I will refrain from giving any more hoping it will meet your approbation to give me a passport to said Company. If you are willing to grant me said document please write soon.
Direct yours to Utica Miss.
I remain yours truly
Theophilus Green Jr.
P.S. The young ladies of this vicinity are doing an active part for the support of the war; or rather to see that none of the volunteers from this vicinity suffer for clothes. They assemble once a week to attend to their important business. They also devote every moment almost they can to sewing, knitting, &c.
Theophilus Green Jr.
Endorsement by Pettus on the back of the letter: Ansd. Sept. 5th/61, Apply to qr.master & ticket will be granted.
To emphasize to the governor how much he wanted to join the Mississippi College Rifles, Theophilus enclosed a letter written by his brother John in Virginia:
Manassas Junction, July 10th, 1861
Mr. Theophilus Green:
My younger brother, your note of the 1st ult., was handed me last evening by Mr. Farmer. I was truly gratified to hear from you, and that you are getting along as well as usual. I was sorry however you did not give me more of the news. I think you all have been too delinquent in writing to me. I had not heard directly from you but once since I left.
You wished to know if there was any chance for you to join our company. I had a chat with Captain Welborn about it this morning. He said as you were my brother, and a college boy he would receive you at any time; notwithstanding he had rejected many others. But it will cost you about 40# to get here; unless you have a paper showing that you were a member of our company. If you decide to come you will have to write to me again definitely about it – stating that it is your wish to join our company, and I will try to arrange it so it will not cost you anything to get here.
But my advice to you is Offie, if you can join a company at home to do so in preference to ours. Although I would like to have you with me, you would have a very hard time here for a while – until you would be thoroughly drilled. I do not want you to leave pa and ma as long as it can be avoided; but I think you will have to go and leave our home to drive the invader from the soil of Va. I think we will have some very very hard fighting to do soon.
When I volunteered I thought we would have it to do, and I am thinking more that way now. But dear bro. though we may be called to wade through blood for our rights; freedom; and God’s holy truth; we should willingly do so. Many of us in a short time no doubt will fall on the battle field far away from the land of our childhood and happy days; but be assured we feel calm on the subject, for we feel that we have Him with us who sticketh closer than a brother.
Offie, if you volunteer do not think of throwing away your bible; but study and do all the good you can. I am well pleased with the course I have taken by joining this company. I have many opportunities of spending my time ideally. Give my love to all and write soon,
Theophilus did join the Mississippi College Rifles; his service record indicates that he enlisted in the company in March 1862. As fate would have it, he was seriously wounded less than three months later during the Seven Days Battles. He was on medical leave until early in the next year, not appearing on the regimental muster roll until January-February 1863. Theophilus was captured at Second Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863, but was exchanged shortly thereafter. Promoted to corporal on August 1, 1864, he was captured for the second time at the Battle of Berryville, Virginia, September 3, 1864. Sent to Camp Chase prisoner of war camp, he remained a prisoner until the end of the war. Theophilus signed the Oath of Allegiance to the United States on June 11, 1865, and was released to return home to Mississippi.
Theophilus had made the long hard journey to Virginia to join his brother John; ironically the two spent only a very short time together. John
must have shown leadership potential, for he was promoted to 3rd lieutenant on December 20, 1861, but before he had much of a chance to make an impression as an officer, his health took a turn for the worse. In early 1862 he was struck by a disease that was diagnosed as “intermittent fever.” He was hospitalized in February and again in April with this malady, and after being released for the second time he submitted his letter of resignation to the Confederate Adjutant & Inspector General. In this letter he wrote: I respectfully tender my resignation in the Provisional Army. Ill health causes me to take this step – as set forth in the enclosed Surgeon’s Certificate.” – Compiled Service Record of John J. Green, 18th Mississippi Infantry
Either John J. Green was not as sick as he was letting on, or he could not bear to be out of uniform for long, as he enlisted again in the spring of 1862, as a 2nd lieutenant in Company F, 38th Mississippi Infantry. With the 38th he fought in the battles of Iuka and Corinth, and in early 1863 John was promoted to captain of his company. The 38th was at Vicksburg during the siege, and the young lieutenant survived 47 days of near-constant artillery bombardment, musket fire, and exposure to the harsh Mississippi summer. After the surrender of Vicksburg, Green was a paroled prisoner for a short time, but soon he and his regiment were declared exchanged and sent back to fight. Designated the 38th Mississippi Mounted Infantry in 1864, John J. Green saw his most desperate battle on July 4 of that year. At the Battle of Harrisburg, Mississippi, the Confederates attacked a strongly positioned Union force, and the 38th was shot to pieces as it advanced close to the enemy line. In the desperate fighting, the 38th suffered a loss of 20 men killed, 51 wounded, and 3 missing; every company commander was killed or wounded except for one – John Jasper Green.
After the war, Theophilus went back to the job he loved so well; preaching the word of God. He was joined in the pulpit by his brother John, who joined the family business and became a well respected preacher in his own right. Ironically, Theophilus died in the pulpit; on April 22, 1883, he was killed when his church at Beauregard, Mississippi, was struck by a tornado. In his obituary it was said of him, “We feel that a good man has gone from among us; a bright star has set; and a shining light gone out from view; and as we loved him while living, so shall we cherish him when dead.” – The Weekly Copiahan, May 19, 1883
John Jasper Green outlived his brother by many years, dying on December 9, 1899, of bronchitis. His obituary was published in Confederate Veteran Magazine, and it said of him, “He was no braver as a soldier and an officer in battle than at all times devout and zealous as a Christian.”