During the Civil War there were four ranks of general in the Confederate army; from lowest to highest they were brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and full general. There were twenty-four Mississippians who were brigadier generals, five who were major generals, and no lieutenant generals or full generals.
The brigadier generals from Mississippi were Wirt Adams, William E.
Baldwin, William Barksdale, Samuel Benton, William L. Brandon, William F. Brantley James R. Chalmers, Charles Clark, Douglas H. Cooper, Joseph R. Davis, Winfield S. Featherston, Samuel W. Ferguson, John W. Frazer, Samuel J. Ghoulson, Richard Griffith, Nathaniel H. Harris, Benjamin G. Humphreys, Mark P. Lowrey, Robert Lowry, Carnot Posey, Claudius W. Sears, Jacob H. Sharp, Peter B. Starke, and William F. Tucker.
The major generals from Mississippi were: Samuel G. French, William T. Martin, Earl Van Dorn, Edward C. Walthall, and William H. C. Whiting.
Being a general in the Civil War could be a very hazardous job, as they were often required to be at the forefront of the attack to inspire their men and often found themselves in the thickest of the fight. The list of killed and wounded Mississippi generals bears out the dangerous nature of their work. Of the 29 generals who served from Mississippi, five were killed in battle and ten were wounded in action, three of them more than once.
The five Mississippi generals who were killed in action were as follows: William Barksdale, mortally wounded at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863; Samuel Benton, mortally wounded at Atlanta, Georgia, on July 28, 1864; Richard Griffith, killed at Savage Station, Virginia, on June 29, 1862; Carnot Posey, mortally wounded at Bristoe Station, Virginia, on October 14, 1863; and William H. C. Whiting, mortally wounded at Fort
Fisher, North Carolina, January 15, 1865.
In addition, there were two Mississippi generals who died by misadventure: William Baldwin died on February 19, 1864 at Dog River Factory, Alabama, when he was thrown from his horse; Earl Van Dorn was murdered on May 7, 1863 at Spring Hill, Tennessee by an enraged husband who said the general “violated the sanctity of his home” by his affair with the man’s wife.
The ten Mississippi generals who were wounded in action were as follows: William L. Brandon at Malvern Hill, Virginia; had to have his leg amputated. Brandon actually became a general of Mississippi state troops after he lost his leg; he was only a lieutenant colonel at the time he was wounded; James R. Chalmers, wounded at Stone’s River, Tennessee; Charles Clark, wounded at Shiloh, Tennessee and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the second wound crippled him for life; Samuel J. Gholson, wounded at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, and Egypt,
Mississippi; Benjamin G. Humphreys, wounded at Berryville, Virginia; Mark P. Lowry, wounded at Perryville, Kentucky; Robert Lowry, wounded twice at Shiloh, Tennessee; Claudius W. Sears, wounded at Nashville, Tennessee and had to have his leg amputated; William F. Tucker, wounded Resaca, Georgia; and Edward C. Walthall, wounded at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee.
No better example of the fighting spirit required of a Civil War general can be found than that of Brigadier General William Barksdale at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. While waiting to be given the order to assault the federal troops in the Peach Orchard, the Mississippian were being hit by Union artillery fire. Barksdale pleaded with his superior to be allowed to attack saying “I wish you would let me go in general; I will take that battery in five minutes.” At 6:30 p.m. he was finally given the command to charge, and Barksdale rode up in front of the 13th Mississippi Infantry and as he turned toward the enemy one of his aides said his face was “radiant with joy.”
In a matter of minutes Barksdale’s Brigade broke the Union line and
smashed the federal brigade defending the Peach Orchard, capturing it’s commander, Brigadier General Charles K. Graham. One Union colonel called the advance “the grandest charge that was ever made by mortal man.” The Mississippians continued onward in the face of heavy fire, capturing an artillery battery of six guns at the Trostle Farm. Finally federal reinforcements stopped the advancing Mississippians, and as he tried to rally his men for another charge, Barksdale was shot from the saddle and captured by the Federals. Before he died Barksdale told a federal surgeon, “Tell my wife I am shot, but we fought like hell.”
The bravery displayed by Mississippi generals and the men they led was
not uncommon during the war, and it was often remarked on. Major General Richard H. Anderson wrote in his official report on the battle of Chancellorsville glowing praise for the Mississippi Brigade commanded by General Carnot Posey, saying of them, “Where all performed their duty with so much zeal and courage, it is almost impossible to make a distinction; but Brigadier-General Posey and his brave, untiring, persevering Mississippians seem to me to deserve special notice. Their steadiness at the furnace on Saturday evening, when pressed by greatly superior numbers, saved our army from great peril, while their chivalrous charge upon the trenches on Sunday contributed largely to the successes of that day.” – Official Records, Series 1, Volume 24, Part 1, 852.
Clark, Champ. Gettysburg. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1985.
Confederate Generals Subject File, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.
Moneyhon, Carl and Bobby Roberts. Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Mississippi In The Civil War. Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.
Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi 1803-1898. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1978.
United States War Department, Compiler. War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 73 Volumes, 128 Parts; Washington, DC: 1880-1902.