I found the following photo in the Southern Sentinel (Ripley, Mississippi), July 18, 1907, with the headline “SEVEN BRAVE AND NOBLE MEN:”
The photo had the following caption:
This cut shows the seven survivors of Capt. A. C. Rucker’s company; B, 34th Mississippi; now living in Tippah County. This picture was made a few days ago on the occasion of a re-union tendered by Capt. Rucker to these excellent gentlemen, all of whom have been successful men since the war, as well as brave and noble upon the field of battle. On the bottom step is Capt. Rucker, 2nd step from left to right, Hon. Thos. Spight, Capt. H. A. Stubbs, T. A. Hunt; 3rd step left to right, M. S. Phyfer, J. J. Kinney, and Eld. Jos. Pearce. Seven as true and brave men as ever lived. That they may be spared yet many years is the wish of the Sentinel.
Just out of curiosity, I decided to look up the service records of the seven men in the above photo, and see if they truly were “Brave And Noble Men.” Here is what I found:
Albert C. Rucker – first captain of the “Tippah Rebels,” Company B, 34th Mississippi Infantry. Wounded at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky and left at a hospital in Harrodsburg where he was captured. After being exchanged Rucker returned to the regiment, and resigned in 1863 for disability.
Thomas Spight – promoted to captain after the resignation of Albert C. Rucker; wounded in 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.
Henry A. Stubbs – enlisted as a private in Company B, promoted to regimental quartermaster of the 34th Mississippi Infantry in May 1862, and served in this capacity for the remainder of the war.
Thomas A. Hunt – enlisted as a private in Company B, rose rapidly in rank and eventually became the regimental sergeant major of the 34th Mississippi; wounded in 1862, he returned to the regiment after recovering, and was captured at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee on November 24, 1863. Apparently he was exchanged, for his last muster roll card states he was “Absent in North Carolina, wounded.”
Munford S. Phyfer – sergeant in Company B; captured July 28, 1864, near Atlanta, Georgia.
James Kinney – sergeant in Company B, captured at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, on November 24, 1863.
Joseph Pearce – a private in Company B, he was wounded at Corinth, Mississippi, on May 16, 1862, and after recovering was detailed as a hospital nurse for the remainder of the war.
After carefully studying the service records of these seven men, I can say that the newspaper was right – these were seven brave men, who served their country and cause very well.
While doing a little research recently I found this interesting little article in the March 28, 1890, edition of the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Inquirer:
This rusty relic, found some twenty-seven years after the war, was a grim reminder of the gallant stand made by the 2nd Mississippi Infantry at the Railroad Cut during the battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.
The 2nd Mississippi suffered terribly at Gettysburg – the regiment had 40 killed and 183 wounded, and the great majority of these losses took place at the Railroad Cut. I could write a long, detailed account of the regiment’s service at Gettysburg, but it would be a waste of time, as Michael Brashear has already written a wonderful history of the 2nd on his website dedicated to the unit: http://www.2ndmississippi.org/. I highly recommend checking out his site as it is packed with interesting information about the gallant 2nd Mississippi Infantry.
One of the most complete surviving collections of Civil War artifacts belonging to an individual Mississippi soldier is the T. Otis Baker Collection at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. It includes several uniforms, accoutrements, pistol and holster, haversack, and utensils. In addition, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History has a large collection of manuscripts and photos related to Baker’s service. Baker’s uniform and equipment was on display at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, but unfortunately they are in storage now. Some of them can be seen in Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy by Time-Life Books.
Thomas Otis Baker was born on March 14, 1844, in Natchez, Mississippi, the son of Edwin Bliss Baker and Elizabeth Baker. Both of his parents were born in Connecticut, and the date they moved to Natchez is not known, but by 1858 Edwin Baker was listed in the city directory as a merchant selling plantation goods from his store on the corner of Main and Broadway streets.
Edwin Baker became very wealthy in Natchez, reporting in the 1860 Census that he owned real estate valued at $16,000, and a personal estate worth $25,000. He also owned ten slaves, ranging in age from one year old to fifty years old. In that same census T. Otis Baker was listed as a 16-year-old clerk; he was probably working in his father’s store.
T. Otis Baker received his early education from the Natchez Institute, a free public school established in 1845 when Alvarez Fisk gave a plot of ground and a building “to be used solely as a public free school forever…at public expense all free white children residing in the city of Natchez, without distinction as to sex, shall be taught the usual branches of learning.”
When the Civil War started in 1861, Baker was only 17, and he did not immediately join the Confederate army. His parents may have made him wait, for he was apparently a very patriotic young man. He joined the Natchez Cadets, a group of boys too young for service who acted as a home guard for the city. Baker must have shown leadership potential, for on May 18, 1861, he was listed as Captain commanding the Natchez Cadets. The youthful company was presented a flag in an impressive ceremony, and a local newspaper said of the event: “Yesterday evening at the parade ground on the bluff, a very beautiful and costly banner was presented to this company – the gift of the ladies of Adams County. The cadets are a company of youth, commanded by Captain T. Otis Baker, and certainly, in point of drill, discipline, care and quickness of movement, and gentlemanly and soldierly bearing, cannot be excelled in the state. Their appearance, marching, and discipline yesterday, elicited unbounded admiration.”
T. Otis Baker officially joined the Confederate army on March 8, 1862, at Natchez, six
days before his 18th birthday. His time as captain of the Natchez Cadets must have been noticed for he enlisted in Company B, 10th Mississippi Infantry, as a second lieutenant for the period of three years or the war. When Baker left Natchez he took with him Fred Lee, one of the family slaves. When Baker died in 1910, his obituary stated: “Fred Lee, the negro servant, who attended Captain Baker from his childhood, having been a slave in the family before the war, and who served Captain Baker throughout the war, nursing him when he was wounded and who was faithful to him until the last moment, is taking the death of his former master and friend very hard.”
By the time Baker joined the 10th Mississippi Infantry in March 1862, the unit had already been in service for over a year. The men making up the 10th were among the first from Mississippi to leave the state, responding to a call on March 1, 1861, for troops to serve 12 months at Pensacola, Florida. The 10th, along with her sister regiment the 9th Mississippi Infantry, were accepted into Confederate service in April 1861, becoming the first units from the state to do so.
In late February 1862, the 10th Mississippi was ordered to Corinth, Mississippi, where it
joined the army that soon came to be known as the Army of Mississippi. The 10th was assigned to the brigade of Brigadier General James R. Chalmers, made up of the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th Regiments of Mississippi Infantry. This brigade was known as “Chalmer’s High Pressure Brigade” during the war because of their excellent fighting abilities.
T. Otis Baker joined the 10th Mississippi just in time for the Confederate advance on Ulysses S. Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing in Tennessee, about twenty miles north of Corinth, Mississippi. In the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, fought on April 6-7, 1862, the 10th Mississippi, 360 men strong, was heavily engaged. Chalmer’s brigade was involved in six major assaults during the fighting, and had 82 men killed and another 343 wounded. In the process the brigade took over 1,600 Union soldiers prisoner.
Baker was wounded at Shiloh, but the wound must have been minor as he remained with the regiment after he was injured, and his service record barely makes mention of the incident. A few days after the battle Edwin Baker wrote to his son and told him: “I drop you this line by your brother, to say that the news of your victory and especially of your personal safety, after such a horrendous conflict of arms, has caused my head to overflow with gratitude to God for having enabled our brave men to vanquish the enemy on that eventful day, and for his goodness in shielding so many of our personal friends from harm.”
Although many Southerners considered Shiloh a victory, the battle was, in fact, a serious defeat, and the Confederate army was forced to retire back to Corinth, Mississippi. The Federals slowly advanced on the city, and Rebel skirmishers were sent out to slow their march. One of the unit’s selected for this duty was the 10th Mississippi, and in a skirmish at Michie’s Ridge on April 24, 1862, Baker was wounded. The injury must have been significant, as the young officer was given a furlough to return home to Natchez to heal. The May 1, 1862, edition of the Natchez Courier made note of his return saying: “We learn that Lieut. Baker and private Eustis, wounded in a skirmish at Corinth…returned home yesterday morning. It is gratifying for us to say to their many friends in the city & county, that they are doing as well as could be expected. All honor to the glorious “Natchez Southrons” who bravely fought the good fight at Shiloh!”
While Baker was recuperating in Natchez, the Confederate army abandoned Corinth on May 29, 1862, and retreated to Tupelo, Mississippi. The Federals promptly occupied Corinth and then split their army, sending 55,000 men east to take Chattanooga, Tennessee, while the rest remained in the north Mississippi area. The Confederates at Tupelo responded in kind, splitting their forces and sending 35,000 men under General Braxton Bragg to divert the Federals from Chattanooga by launching an offensive into
Kentucky that would force the Yankee army to follow. The 10th Mississippi was one of the regiments that went with Bragg, and Baker rejoined the unit in time for the advance into Kentucky.
Bragg began his movement from Chattanooga on August 28, 1862, and the first heavy fighting in the campaign came on September 14, 1862, when Chalmer’s Mississippi Brigade, including the 10th Mississippi, made an unsuccessful attack on the fortified town of Munfordville, Kentucky. During the attack the 10th Mississippi had the greatest loss of any unit in the battle; 13 killed and 95 wounded. Included among the dead were both the colonel and lieutenant colonel of the regiment.
The fight at Munfordville made a big impression on Baker: one year after the battle he noted in his diary, “Sept. 14th – One year today since the bloody affair at Munfordville.” After the war Baker collected a number of artifacts from the battlefield, many of which still survive and are in the Baker Collection at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky culminated in the battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862. The 10th Mississippi was on the field but was not engaged in the fighting. The Confederates lost the battle, and afterwards Bragg withdrew into Tennessee.
In November 1862, the Confederate Army of Tennessee was formed from two smaller armies. It was with this organization that Baker and the 10th Mississippi would fight for the remainder of the war. That same month, 0n November 28, 1862, T. Otis Baker was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant.
After the failed Kentucky campaign, Bragg retreated to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, about twenty miles from Nashville. The 10th Mississippi next saw action when Federal forces advanced on the city, prompting the battle of Murfreesboro on December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863. In the fighting the 10th was involved in the assault on an area known as the “Round Forest,” later renamed “Mississippi’s Half-Acre” because so many men from the Magnolia State died trying to take the position. In the battle the 10th had 8 men killed, 70 wounded, and 6 missing. The Confederates lost the battle and fell back to the area around Tullahoma, Tennessee, and remained there until July 1863.
The Confederate army went into winter quarters after the battle of Murfreesboro, and Baker spent part of this quiet time back home in Natchez on recruiting duty. On February 7, 1863, Baker ran the following ad in the Natchez Courier: “Volunteers wanted for Bragg’s Army – Persons who are liable to conscription under the several acts of Congress, having now an opportunity of offering their services to their country and receiving all the benefits hitherto extended to volunteers…The undersigned are authorized to receive recruits and furnish them transportation to the army. It is presumed that the patriotic societies of Adams County will supply the necessary clothing. T. Otis Baker, J.J.G. Beau, Lieuts. and Recruiting Officers.”
The 10th Mississippi along with the rest of the Army of Tennessee was inactive until mid-June, 1863, when a Union army under Major General William S. Rosecrans advanced on Chattanooga. On September 9, 1863, the Confederates were forced to give up the town and retreat into the mountains to the south. The Federals quickly pursued, but the Rebels, aided by reinforcements from Virginia, turned on them and attacked at Chickamauga, Georgia, on September 19-20, 1863. The 10th was not engaged on the first day of the battle and slept that night on ground that had been occupied by the enemy that morning. Baker wrote in his diary that the 10th “Had for our couches, ground which had resounded to the tread of the hostile forces during the day & for protection from the cold dew, trees that had humanely obstructed missiles which were intended to deprive fellow human beings & brothers of the precious boon – life.”
On the second day of the battle, the 10th Mississippi was in the thick of the action, breaking through a fortified line of the enemy and capturing three cannon. In fighting later in the day the regiment was thrown against a second fortified position and made repeated charges against it, but were unable to break through. The combat went on so long that the regiment ran low on ammunition, and their rifles were so choked with black powder that the men had to hammer the ends of their ramrods against trees to force home the bullets.
In his diary Baker wrote a vivid account of the fighting at Chickamauga on the second day: “Moved forward to the charge. In one hour we had driven the enemy three miles. Our brigade (Anderson’s) captured twelve pieces of artillery & our regiment three pieces. The brigade was engaged during the remainder of the day with a reserve division of the enemy. They charged us once but were repulsed with heavy slaughter. They occupied a hight which we stormed three times but were unsuccessful, not being well supported on the flanks…Providence in its goodness seems to turn aside the deadly missiles.”
Although the assault along the 10th’s section of the line failed, the Confederates broke the Union line in another area, forcing the Yankees to retreat back to Chattanooga. In the fighting at Chickamauga, individual casualties were not listed for the 10th, but the brigade to which they belonged suffered 80 men killed, 464 wounded, and 24 missing. I his official report on the battle, Colonel James Barr Jr. of the 10th Mississippi cited T. Otis Baker from his gallant conduct in the fight.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee besieged the Union army at Chattanooga, and the 10th Mississippi next saw action on November 25, 1863, when the Yankees attacked the Rebel position on Missionary Ridge. In the assault the Rebel line on the ridge broke, and the Confederates had to retreat south into Georgia where they went into winter quarters. No losses were officially reported for the regiment or brigade in the battle, but the casualties were probably light.
While in winter quarters in March 1864, Baker recorded in his diary an account of a snowball fight among the men that was so intense it sounds like he was talking about an actual battle: “About the latter hour 9 A.M. two lines of battle were formed by the 10 & 44 Regts. which charged the [camp] of the 41st Miss. The result of the battle was the dispersion of the 41 who for a short time fought stubbornly, the capture of their Colonel and several other officers and the occupation of their Regimental Parade.”
The 10th Mississippi was not engaged in any serious fighting until May 1864, when the Union armies under Major General William T. Sherman began advancing into Georgia with the goal of capturing Atlanta. In sharp fighting the 10th saw action at Rocky Face Ridge in early May, at Resaca on May 14-15, skirmished at Cassville on May 19, fought in the battle of New Hope Church on May 26-28, and fought at Kennesaw Mountain in June.
The Confederate army was slowly pushed back on Atlanta in these grinding battles, and the near constant marching and fighting left the men of the 10th Mississippi exhausted. On May 24, 1864, a clearly worn-out Baker scribbled on a scrap of paper, “Day was very warm & sultry. Began to rain soon after dark and continued to do so until near day light. Lay down under a tree with a blanket thrown over three of us but slept very little. This is about the most unpleasant part of a life which has no pleasures to say the best of it. Tis hard for a soldier to have his rest interrupted, but it is especially disagreeable to be awakened at night by the pattering rain on the face.”
By mid July the Federals had reached the outskirts of Atlanta, and beginning on July 20, the Confederates launched a series of attacks to try and drive them back. In an assault on July 28, T. Otis Baker was struck twice by bullets and badly wounded. He was not the only member of the regiment to be struck down: the 10th Mississippi had 16 men killed, 67 wounded, and 4 missing in the fighting. In addition, the regiment had five color bearers shot down during the battle.
Baker was sent to Newsome Military Hospital in Thomaston, Georgia, where he was treated for gunshot wounds to the right thigh. On October 15, 1864, he was granted a medical furlough to Meadville, Mississippi, to continue recovering from his wounds; he couldn’t go back to his home in Natchez, as the city was occupied by the Yankees.
While Baker was on furlough, the 10th Mississippi took part in the Army of Tennessee’s invasion of the state of Tennessee in November and December 1864. In the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, the regiment was heavily engaged, suffering 13 killed, 35 wounded, and 14 missing. In fighting at Nashville on December 15-16, the Army of Tennessee was decisively routed and forced to make a retreat back to Mississippi through terrible winter storms.
In 1865 the survivors of the 10th Mississippi were sent east for one final campaign in the Carolinas. Baker returned to the regiment at this time and was promoted to the rank of captain on April 10, 1865. The 10th marched through South Carolina and North Carolina, but missed participating in the last major battle in the east, Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 19, 1865.
On April 26, 1865, the Confederate army in North Carolina surrendered and were paroled at Greensboro. There were 64 men present from the 10th Mississippi, including T. Otis Baker. On May 2, 1865, the men of the 10th were officially paroled and allowed to travel back to their homes in Mississippi. When Baker arrived in Natchez he took the amnesty oath on July 21, 1865, swearing that he would “Faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of States thereunder.”
During the course of the war, Baker’s Company, the “Natchez Southrons,” had 127 men serve in its ranks from 1861-1865. Of that number, 18 were killed in action or died of their wounds, 1 died accidentally, 15 died of disease, and 11 were permanently disabled by wounds. Sergeant John C. Rietti of the 10th Mississippi kept a daily record while in the service, and he later calculated that the regiment marched 3,500 miles on foot and was transported by rail or boat 5,000 miles.
T. Otis Baker married Sarah Seaman on August 14, 1865, at Natchez, but she died less
than a year later. Afterwards Baker enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia, and after graduating began practicing law in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1871 he married Olivia J. Saunders, and the couple had eight children.
In the 1870s Baker moved back to Natchez, where he was a very prominent citizen. For many years he was the city solicitor, and he was especially lauded for his work in charge of the quarantine of Natchez during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878. T. Otis Baker died in Natchez on June 14, 1910, and was buried in the city cemetery.
Boatner, Mark Mayo III. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: David McKay Company, 1959.
Bubbles. 1921 Yearbook of Natchez High School.
Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served In Organizations from the State of Mississippi: 10th Infantry. Record Group 9, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.
The Daily Democrat (Natchez), June 15, 1910.
Moneyhon, Carl and Bobby Roberts. Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Mississippi In The Civil War. Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.
Natchez Courier, May 18, 1861, May 1, 1862, February 7, 1863
Rietti, John C. Military Annals of Mississippi: Confederate. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1978.
Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi 1803-1898. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1978.
T. Otis Baker Diary, Z/0072.001, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS
T. Otis Baker Papers, Z/0734, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.
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.
Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.
In the first decade of the 20th century, Simeon R. Martin of Vicksburg began writing a memoir about his service to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Martin explained in the introduction his reasons for writing of his wartime exploits:
As it may be a matter of interest to my descendants, especially my own children in after years, I propose to give a brief outline of my participation in the greatest war of modern times, viz: ‘The War Between the States,’ or as our friends the enemy term it, ‘The War of the Rebellion,’ together with my impressions of men and measures during that fateful period, and such comments as shall occur to me during the course of the narrative.
When he completed his manuscript, Martin had it privately published under the title, “Recollections of the War Between the States,” and distributed the copies to the members of his family. The old soldier never intended for his work to be published, and in relating to his children his wartime experiences, Martin pulled no punches. He presented the men with whom he served as they were, the heroes and cowards, rascals and colorful characters.
In describing the horrors he witnessed on the battlefield, Martin told his children of the blood and gore and didn’t try to gloss over the butchery of war. He has seen some terrible sights during his years in the army and felt that his children should not have a false idea of what Civil War combat was like. In speaking of the war he said, “It means misery, heart-breakings, desolation and death. This it the true picture, but it is not always thus painted.”
Simeon R. Martin began his military career in the spring of 1862 when he enlisted in a local company, the “Southern Rights,” that was forming in Union, Mississippi, a small town in Newton County. During the summer of 1862 this company along with several others were attached to the 6th Mississippi Battalion, which was later reorganized into the 46th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, the Southern Rights being designated as Company I.
The 46th Mississippi first saw action just north of Vicksburg at the battle of Chickasaw Bayou, December 27-29, 1862. The regiment was not heavily engaged, however, and casualties were very light. For the men of the 46th Mississippi, the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign was their bloody introduction to the horrors of modern warfare.
Martin’s memoir covered all four years of his wartime service, but for this work I have chosen only the chapters relating to the Vicksburg Campaign. As even this portion of the memoir is quite lengthy, I will post the work chapter by chapter as I have time. The narrative begins with the battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi, on May 1, 1863, and concludes with the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.
The words in this memoir are Simeon Martin’s; the only changed I have made are to paragraph the material to make it easier to read and to place the events mentioned in chronological order to ease the flow of the narrative.
In the beginning of his memoir Martin wrote a few notes about the men in his company that he served with. Some of the comments are funny, some are sad, more than a few depict his comrades in an unflattering light, but they help to put a face to the men that made up the Southern Rights, and where possible I have included these comments in the text.
Martin had a quick wit, an engaging writing style, and an honesty that sets his work apart from many other Civil war memoirs. I hope you like it as much as I did.
Chapter 1 – Port Gibson
After Chickasaw Bayou, nothing of importance transpired in the vicinity of Vicksburg till late in April 1863, when the Federals succeeded in running several boats by our batteries. This was done one very dark morning just before daylight. Our regiment was picketing the river that night and we saw the whole thing, or as much of it as could be seen, which was not a great deal.
I don’t know what the matter was, and have never hear it explained, but the fire of our batteries seemed wholly ineffectual, and so far as we knew inflicted no damage on the passing boats. The passing of these boats changed the whole appearance of things, and it was not evident that we should soon have more fighting to do. Grant now having ample facilities for crossing his troops over the river, it was to be supposed that he would lose no time in moving south and endeavoring to approach the city from the rear.
After the fleet succeeded in passing Vicksburg, Grant marched his army across the neck of land west of the city and down the river to a point opposite Bruinsburg, where he crossed over and established a base. As soon as he had sufficient troops and supplies brought up, and he began the movement to the rear of Vicksburg by way of Port Gibson.
Our command was ordered out to meet this movement, and we came in contact with Grant’s advance, three or four miles west of Port Gibson on the morning of the first day of May 1863. We took up position just at the intersection of the roads leading to Bruinsburg and Grand Gulf, our regiment being formed along a ridge to the left of the first mentioned road, to support Bledsoe’s Missouri Battery.
We had not been in position many minutes before the Yankees came in range, and the shells and minnie balls began to whistle round in unpleasantly close proximity to our various anatomies. The Federals ran a battery of five guns, up within about eight or nine hundred yards of us, and opened fire on two guns of the Missouri battery above mentioned, which were situated just at the right of the regiment, and then the fun began. As we were slightly below the brow of the ridge, they couldn’t see us at all and were not firing at us but at the guns; but this was little consolation to us, as the fragments of bursting shells scattered in every direction and occasionally wounded some of our men.
This is the most trying ordeal that troops can be subjected to, to have to lie still under fire which they cannot return, with nothing to do and nothing to think of, except how long it will probably be before their turn comes to die or suffer mutilation. Rush them into action in a charge or place them where they have an equal chance with the enemy, and they will think little of the danger, but to remain idle under fire, with no protection, will try the nerves of the finest troops on earth.
Fortunately we remained here but a short time. The two Missouri guns were manned by young fellows, none of them seemingly more than eighteen or twenty years old, but they were the coolest lot of fellows and the finest gunners I saw in action during the war. The shells were coming round them thick and fast, bursting, tearing up the ground and making a terrible noise, but they paid no more attention to them than if they had been base-balls.
They worked their guns with clock-like regularity, aimed with care and precision and every shot seemed to count. We could see their shells bursting right in the midst of the Federal batterymen, and it was not more than fifteen minutes from the beginning of the duel, before the Yankees moved off with three of their guns, the other two being dismounted, and leaving several men and horses dead. Not one of our guns or gunners were touched, the only casualty in the battery being an Irishman who was down under the hill holding horses, and he was wounded only in the pants, which had the effect of making him swear vociferously.
After the Federal position had been abandoned by their battery, we were advanced about a quarter of a mile to the front, down the Bruinsburg Road, and took position in an open field in full view of the enemy, and exposed to an open fire from both artillery and small arms. Many blunders are made in war, and this was one of them, and a fatal one for many of our men. This field was not more than two hundred yards wide, with timber on both sides of it, in which we could have had good shelter from the enemy’s fire, and yet we were kept there for a full half hour, in a bare level field, with not a tree, stump or anything else to shelter us, exposed to a merciless fire of shells, grape, canister and minnie balls.
It was here that Sam Smith was killed and John Campbell wounded, and where I had another narrow escape myself. After we had suffered severe loss, in killed and wounded, we were finally withdrawn into the road where we where sheltered by the high banks. We were then deployed as skirmishers and advanced to the front through the timber till we were in sight of the enemy, when we began firing, and kept it up till night pretty much in the same position. This was a hot place too. We were very near to the Yanks, not more than a hundred yards or so away, and in some places much nearer. Many were killed here on both sides, and at one time a few of the Yanks wandered into our line and were captured.
Editor’s note: Martin had this to say about Sam Smith: “Enlisted at Union and killed at the battle of Port Gibson, May 1st 1863. The bullet that killed him would undoubtedly have killed me, but for the fact that it struck him first. John Campbell had just been hit by a piece of shell, and as he was near to us, Sam and myself both raised up to see if he was badly hurt, when a minnie ball struck Sam, going through his head and killing him instantly. My head was just behind his, and the ball also struck it but not with sufficient force to penetrate, my head being to some extent protected by a stiff piece of leather in the top of my cap.”
Martin also said this about John Campbell: “Enlisted at Union, was with the command at all times and places and was always ready for duty. Was wounded at Port Gibson May 1st, 1863, and killed in the second days battle at Nashville, Tennessee, in December 1864. John was a good man and brave soldier. He opposed me for the Lieutenancy when I was elected and took his defeat with very bad grace, in fact was never cordial to me afterward, but this made no difference in my intercourse with him, I was always his friend and sincerely regretted his death.”
About nine o’clock that night, we were withdrawn and retreated, passing through Port Gibson and going down in the direction of Grand Gulf, as it was feared that Grant might send a column in that direction; but as he did not, after remaining in the neighborhood for two days we were brought back, crossed the Big Black at Baldwin’s Ferry and camped in the woods this side, where we remained for several days. When we moved from this camp, we went up the Black River to the railroad bridge, where we were on the day of the battle there, but in which we did not take part.
That night we were marched back to Vicksburg and occupied our old quarters. We were tired to death and it was a great relief to get back to our tents, beds, and extra clothing. We had carried no change of clothing with us, and were all very dirty and in bad shape generally. The first thing I did was to take a good bath and put on clean clothes, and then without waiting for anything to eat, I lay down on my cot about sundown and I don’t think I turned over or moved till sun-rise next morning, when the drum beat for roll call.
In the meantime the rest of our army had fallen back on the east side of Big Black, pursued by the enemy and had fought disastrous battles of Baker’s Creek, Champion Hills and Big Black, being finally forced across the latter stream at the railroad crossing and driven back to Vicksburg, reaching there the same night we did, viz: May 17th, 1863. After a good night’s sleep, we spent the next day in cleaning up our equipments, putting our clothing in order and resting.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, we were formed in line, marched leisurely to the
north of the city cemetery and took position as skirmishers about a quarter of a mile in front of the breast-works, which had been prepared for the defense of the city some time before. We had not been in this position for more than twenty minutes before the Federal skirmishers were in touch with us, and we were hammering away at each other for dear life.
I love doing research about rank and file soldiers from Mississippi – the men who did the marching and the fighting, the killing and the dying. Their stories are often lost in the histories of the Civil War – you can find tons of information on the generals and major battles, but ferreting out the long forgotten history of an individual soldier from the Magnolia State takes a little more effort. To illustrate what can be found about an individual soldier, I want to provide an example from my personal Civil War collections: a series of photographs & postcards that belonged to Elias M. Oden, who served in the 24th & 35th Mississippi Infantry Regiments.
Some years ago I picked up a set of real-photo postcards at an antique shop in Clinton, Mississippi – The thing about them that drew my interest was the address on one of the postcards that was dated July 15, 1921: “Mrs. E. M. Oden, Biloxi, Mississippi, C/O Beauvoir.” It was the “Courtesy of Beauvoir” that really caught my eye, as Beauvoir was Jefferson Davis’ postwar home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I knew that after his death the building had been used as a nursing home for elderly Confederate veterans and their wives.
Along with the Beauvoir postcard was another photo postcard showing an older woman posing with a small child on the steps of a monument. Although only a small portion of the monument was visible, I immediately recognized the structure, as I walked past it quite often – it was the monument to Mississippi’s Confederate dead, located beside the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi:
The postcards were only a couple of dollars so I bought them, and went home and proceeded to do some research. Fortunately Beauvoir is now a museum and presidential library dedicated to the life of Jefferson Davis, and a quick search of their website turned up a list of veterans and their wives who had been admitted to the facility. On the female list their was only one Oden listed – Annie Oden, who had been admitted on May 6, 1921. A look at the list of males who lived at the facility turned up only one Oden as well – Elias M. Oden, who served in Company B, 35th Mississippi Infantry.
Since both Elias and Annie were both alive as late as 1921, I thought it likely that one of them might have filed for a veterans or widow’s Confederate pension with the state of Mississippi. I took a quick look at the Mississippi Confederate Pension index and found that Annie had filed for a widow’s pension in 1926:
Armed with this new information, I then went to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and looked up Elias’ service record with the Confederate army. What I found was that he had actually served in two different infantry regiments during the course of the war. He started out in 1861 by enlisting in Company I, 24th Mississippi Infantry. After serving a short enlistment with this unit he was discharged, and then he enlisted again, this time in Company B of the 35th Mississippi Infantry. His service record with the 35th was short, but it indicated that Elias saw a good bit of action during his time with the unit; in fact, he was captured twice, once in 1862 at either the battle of Iuka, Mississippi or the battle of Corinth,Mississippi, and again in 1865 at the battle of Blakely, Alabama.
With all of this information in hand, I had a really good idea of what Elias Oden had done during the Civil War. But one thing still bothered me – I didn’t have a picture of Elias himself. Sometimes, however, I think that the people I research want to be found, and want their time on earth to be remembered.
A month or two after I had completed my research, I was at the Flea Market that used to be held every weekend at the fairgrounds in Jackson, Mississippi. I collect old photographs, and while looking though a pile of dusty pictures at one table, I found an 1880s era cabinet card of a husband and wife. I turned the image over, and written in a neat hand were the names of the couple: Elias and Annie Oden. It was an amazing coincidence, or perhaps it was no coincidence at all – it may be that I was meant to find the picture and tell you about Elias and Annie Oden.
Editor’s note: the article states that Colonel Posey detailed Phares;
To do dental work for the brigade. Shoes sent from home arrived today. There were welcome, as our boys were in great need of them.
Editor’s note: the article also states that Phares noted that the citizens of Wilkinson County sent packages of clothes for the soldiers and that
The boys were _____, each fellow eager to open [his] bundle to see what it contained from home.
Thursday, January 1, 1863:
Editors note: the article states there were rumors in camp that
The enemy are falling back toward Washington. I hope that success may follow us as the New Year advances, and that long peace and happiness may _____ where discord and strife now ______. We have cause to be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on us since last spring. Many victories.
Friday, January 2:
The enemy balloon was up several times today opposite Fredericksburg. Little of interest in camp until Richmond cars brought the news of Gen. Bragg’s victory over the Hessians at Murfreesboro, Tenn. The good news revived our spirits.
Editor’s note: The “enemy balloon” of which Phares speaks was part of the Union army Balloon Corps, organized and run by civilian scientist Thaddeus Lowe. These balloons were used for surveillance of Confederate movements at a number of battles from 1861 – 1863.
Date unreadable in article [January 4-6]
Come in from picket duty at 10 last night. _____ on the river above Fredericksburg. In speaking distance of enemy pickets, but were not allowed to speak to them nor permitted to fire on them by order of Gen. Lee.
Wednesday, January 7:
Regiment paid off today up to Jan. 1, two months in all. Weather very inclement, detailed to work on earthworks today. My mess commenced building a house of pine logs for winter quarters. Had to [carry] poles a mile on our shoulders. The house is nearly finished, covered with tent flies. _____ in at dark but chimney not yet finished. Sent $50 to Richmond this morning for material to do dental work with.
Monday, January 12:
Our house is finished. It has only a dirt floor, but is quite comfortable compared to our usual way of camping. Orders came to march on a moment’s notice. Heard from Ma today. The enemy is reported to be making a demonstration along the river _____ here.
Sunday, January 18:
Col. Posey received a promotion yesterday to Brigadier General. He made a farewell speech this evening to the regiment. All much affected, as it was thought he would be transferred. At dusk he returned from Gen. Featherstone’s headquarters informing us he would command the brigade. He was serenaded after dark by the band.
Tuesday, January 20:
We went to [bid] Gen. Featherstone adieu. Col. Taylor of the Twelfth Mississippi expressed regrets of the brigade in losing Gen. Featherstone. The General said said it was his honest opinion that this was the best brigade that ever the sun of heaven shone on. Gen. Posey took command of the brigade today.
Thursday, January 22:
Before light today sound of cannon was heard, presumably de_____ the approach of the enemy. The long roll was beat and every man answered roll call promptly. It was found to be a false alarm, however, and all returned to camp. A house had burned at Fredericksburg in which shells were placed, this causing the sounds. Parson Reeves made farewell remarks tonight, as he transferred. A gentleman from Mississippi preached to the Sixteenth Regiment. It is the first sermon I have heard since last summer at Charlottesville.
Date not stated [January 1863]
Editors note: the article states that Phares and a companion went into Fredericksburg and
While in town we walked into the cupola of the Baptist church and took a view of the
enemy on the opposite side of the river. They are plentiful, passing to and fro. Several regiments of infantry were marching, with wagons moving in various directions. Enemy soldiers were walking about _____. Their pickets are just across the river from us We were in speaking distance of them.
Date not stated [January – February 1863]
This is the second picket duty for us in a week. The world is a white sheet of snow today. More that twelve inches deep. Brother William arrived at Capt. Sims’ company today. We were relieved from picket duty after three days. I got a _____ chair at Fredericksburg to do dental work in. The enemy is thickly astir across the river today.
Friday, February 13:
Elected Harry Lewis Third Lieutenant today. Had considerable sport out of a member of Company C, making him believe he had been elected Third Lieutenant of Company K. Never did I see a joke run on a fellow so hard before. Had a snowball frolic before dark.
Sunday, February 22:
Snow fell all day, most disagreeable weather. About noon sound of cannon in the direction of Fredericksburg was heard. Everyone expected to be called out, but it proved to be a salute in honor of Washington’s birthday.
Thursday, March 5:
Had battalion drill today. I was appointed corporal yesterday.
Editor’s note: the article states that Phares was left with a guard detachment when the remainder of the regiment was ordered to United States Ford twelve miles up the river:
The enemy keeps up a stir across the river, drums beating and rumbling of wagons continuous.
Friday, March 27:
This is the day appointed by the President for prayer and fasting. Attended preaching both morning and afternoon. Whole earth covered with snow. Spent some time with a young lady, the first visit I have made this year.
Sunday, April 26:
Had a good time on picket duty today. The enemy came down to water’s edge across the river while we were fishing on our side. They seemed to want to be sociable, but all communications are forbidden by commanders on both sides. Sent to Richmond for $25 worth of gold foil.
Thursday, April 30:
Posey’s Brigade retreated from Chancellorsville to Fredericksburg. We threw up breastworks but in our company there was only one shovel and one pick. Our company was the first to complete rifle pits. Gen. Wright’s Georgia Brigade is here. The enemy charged several times, but we repulsed them. Reinforcements are arriving. Gen. Jackson came up this morning. Our regiment was much pleased to see him.
Saturday, May 2:
We lay on our arms. Skirmishing went on all night. Gen. Lee came along at noon and stopped near us. This is the first time I have seen him in this campaign. Gen. Lee ordered us out double quick to the battle line. Several men wounded.
Sunday, May 3:
The enemy gave way on our left. Gen. Jackson flanked them yesterday, attacking their rear. They fell back at night. The enemy took Fredericksburg Heights today and advanced on our flank till we made a stand at a brick church. The enemy charged our lines desperately, but were drive back with great slaughter. Gen. Jackson was wounded last night just after midnight. It is said he was shot by North Carolinians who thought he and his staff were enemy cavalry.
Monday, May 4:
The enemy gave way before us yesterday, being driven from their fortifications with little resistance. Frequently we could hear their officers ordering them to go forward, but they would not obey.
Sunday, May 10:
Today has been set apart by Gen. Lee to return thanks to the Most High for great victory over our enemy. But Gen. Jackson’s death at 3:30 p.m. today shocked and saddened us. He lost his left arm and was wounded in the right hand, his death being caused by pneumonia. A gloom is over the whole army. Many shed tears. All lament him. Our cause is greatly weakened by his loss.
Thursday, June 4:
My leg pains me so much I can hardly bear it. Our sick squad of 120 entrain for Gordonsville today. Yesterday I saw the house in which Gen. Jackson died. It is a good-sized brick dwelling, with four chimneys, some distance down the road from town on a little hill.
Date not stated [June 1863]
Editor’s note: The article states that Phares and the other sick of the regiment were sent from Gordonsville to Lynchburg where
We spent the night in a tobacco building near the depot converted into a hospital. This morning after riding around to several hospitals all filled, I was taken into Crumpton Hospital, Third Division, first ward.
Thursday, July 9:
Editor’s note: The article states that Phares was confined to his hospital bed for weeks, and wrote:
The news from Vicksburg causes us to wear long faces.
It went on to note that Phares’ leg refused to heal, and he was given a furlough to return home to Mississippi and recuperate there. He traveled by train, steamer and mule-drawn buggy across the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama before reaching his native state. His last night on the road was spent in a camp by the road to Liberty, Mississippi.
Tuesday, August 19:
Left camp before light today. Arrived at Mr. Robert Richards about 11 a.m. Reached home at Woodville at 1 p.m., my little mule ‘Jerry’ making thirty-two miles from Liberty to this place in good time.
After the war Phares got married and in 1871 he and his wife moved to Texas. Among the items that the doctor carefully packed for the trip to his new home were the diaries that he had kept during the Civil War. The couple settled in Dallas, Texas, where Phares built up a thriving dental practice. On December 5, 1917, Phares died of pneumonia at the age of 81. Some nine years later the family allowed his Civil War diaries to be published by the Dallas Morning Herald.
(Taken from the Dallas Morning News, August 28, 1927)
One of the reasons that I love being an historian is that it gives me an excuse to root around and find neat things that no one has seen for a very long time. A good example is the diary of John Louis Whitaker Phares, who served in Company K of the 16th Mississippi Infantry. His diary was published in the Dallas Morning News, the first part in the August 28, 1927 edition, and the second part in the September 4, 1927 copy of the paper.
Phares was a dentist residing in Woodville, Mississippi, when the war broke out, and he gave up his practice to enlist as a private in the Wilkinson Rifles. The diary kept by Phares covers the period from May 1862 – August 1863, and illustrates the war as seen by one of the rank and file who served under General Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia.
A note – in places the original article was illegible, and in places I have left blanks where words had been obscured. In other places where I was reasonably sure of the writer’s intent, I put the probable word that Phares wrote in brackets. In some places the article summarizes the journal entries rather than quoting them directly, and I include this information in the “editor’s notes.”
The 16th Mississippi Infantry was formally organized in Corinth, Mississippi, on June 17, 1861 when the unit was called into the service of the Confederate States of America. Carnot Posey, a veteran of the Mexican War who had served under Jefferson Davis in the 1st Mississippi Rifles was elected Colonel of the regiment. The 16th left for Virginia in July 1861, but didn’t see any significant action until the spring of 1862, when the regiment took part in General Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign in May and June of that year. As the diary opens, the 16th Mississippi is engaged in the battle of Front Royal, Virginia:
Friday, May 23, 1862:
Made an attack on the enemy at Fort [Front] Royal. The hour was 3 p.m. They showed but little fight and soon were put to flight. Captured the First Maryland Regiment, and others of other regiments. Took $500,000 worth of Government stores. The enemy did not burn the bridges near town. Took large amount of ammunition and other valuables. Captured nearly 3,500 prisoners in three days.
Editor’s note: While the 16th Mississippi was on the field during the battle of Fort Royal, they were not engaged, and suffered no casualties.
Friday, May 30:
The army began to retreat. In one march we tramped twenty-three miles.
Tuesday, June 3:
Crossed the Shenandoah two miles from Mount Jackson, set the bridge on fire. The enemy came up while it was burning. Our battery shelled them. We marched two miles beyond New Market. Moving all night long.
Wednesday, June 4:
Our brigade is the rear guard of the army. The boys suffered considerably from hunger today. Rations are short. Camped four miles from Harrisonburg.
Friday, June 6:
Marched twenty miles yesterday. The enemy pursued closely. Roads very bad, difficult to get wagon train along. Had a skirmish at 3 p.m., took forty-three prisoners, one Colonel. They were regulars but we held the field. Losses great on both sides. Colonel Ashby killed.
Editor’s note: the “Colonel Ashby” mentioned by Phares is Brigadier General Turner
Ashby, who commanded cavalry in General Stonewall Jackson’s command during the Valley Campaign. He was killed while leading an assault on June 6, 1862.
Saturday, June 7:
General Jackson went forward with his division to meet General Shields, Colonel Ewell remaining with his command. Enemy a little more cautious about following us today.
Sunday, June 8:
At noon we engaged the enemy. Our regiment charged the Eighth New York Regiment, repulsing them with great loss on their side. Fought until 5 p.m. We fought well, driving back three separate enemy regiments, then a brigade; a battery was driven back in a single charge. I was wounded in the last charge. Colonel Posey and I were carried back three miles to a farm house. The enemy lost ten men to our one.
Editor’s note: the engagement that Phares mentions in this entry is the battle of Cross Keys, Virginia. The 16thMississippi was heavily involved in this fight, suffering 6 killed and 27 wounded.
Date not stated [June 1862]
Editors note: the article states that Phares and Colonel Carnot Posey were transported by ambulance 20 miles to Waynesborough, Virginia, then put on a train and carried to a hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. The article went on to state that Privates Phares, William Patterson, T. N. McMorriss and Tom Rowland were:
Moved from the university to a small house, very comfortable. Large reinforcements passed through for Jackson today.
Friday, June 29:
Fighting commenced at Richmond today. Wounded in the Wilkinson Rifles were Sol Oliver, Tom Haynes, George Thornton, R. A. Babers and others.
Editor’s note: the fighting of which Phares speaks was part of the Seven Days battles for Richmond. The 16th Mississippi was heavily engaged during the battle of Gaine’s Mill on June 27 and at the battle of Malvern Hill on July 1. In these two battles the regiment had 15 killed, 51 wounded, and 19 missing.
Wednesday, July 9:
Editors note: the article states that the house where Phares was recuperating was struck by lightning.
Considerable thunder gust. Swartz and McMorris left for home today.
Wednesday, August 13:
The doctors have been busy all day amputating limbs of the wounded. Quite a pile of limbs are in sight of our room.
Thursday, August 21:
Visiting the soldiers graveyard near the university with John Patterson, where I saw the grave of E. H. Bell, made arrangements to leave for the army since my wound is almost well.
Editor’s note: E. H. Bell was Edgar H. Bell, a private in Company K of the 16th Mississippi.
Date not stated [August 1862]
Editors note: the article states that Phares and John Patterson walked to Gordonsville, Virginia, then on to Orange Courthouse and crossed the Rapidan River and reached Culpeper, Virginia, about nightfall. The pair then
Slept on a warehouse platform. Tried to get breakfast in several places without success. Reached Brandy Station at noon. The regiment had been ordered forward, but the cook detail was still in camp.
Date not stated [August 1862]
Editors note: The article states that Phares rejoined his company and marched with it through the towns of Orleans and Salem, heading in the direction of Manassas, Virginia.
Wednesday, August 27:
I could not keep up with the regiment last night.
Date not stated [August 1862]
Editors note: The article states that the following entry was made about the battle of Second Manassas. In the battle the brigade to which the 16th Mississippi belonged suffered 26 killed and 142 wounded.
Marching and countermarching until 2 o’clock at night. Heavy shelling from the enemy. We advanced across the area where the battle of Manassas was fought last year. It is covered with wounded from both sides. The enemy blew up the stone bridge across Bull Run last night We camped near Leesburg. Strangely enough, nothing of interest today. I wrote to ma.
Saturday, September 6:
Waded the [Potomac] river into Maryland. Captured enemy canal boats loaded with groceries. Camped later on the Monocacy River, bathing and washing our clothes. Drew two days rations of meat, flour, coffee and molasses; our appetites pretty sharp.
Wednesday, September 17:
Editors note: entry was made at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, where the Union garrison there was forced to surrender to the Confederates who had them surrounded. Although Phares has this in his diary as happening on September 17, the surrender actually took place on September 15.
The enemy made unconditional surrender. Fighting was mostly cannonading. Commenced at daylight and continued until they showed the white flag. Slept on our arms. Ten to fifteen thousand prisoners taken. General Longstreet is fighting [in] Maryland.
Editors note: a second entry was made that is dated September 17 about the fighting at Sharpsburg, Maryland – this battle is incorrectly listed in the article as taking place at Shepardstown, Virginia:
The engagement was general and said to be the largest battle fought to date. Wilkinson Rifles lost twenty-seven men. Both wings of our army were victorious, but the center was a draw fight, the enemy having advantage in position. The dead and wounded were left in the field. We lay on our arms both sides skirmishing, but afraid to attack.
Editor’s note: the battle of Sharpsburg, also known as Antietam, was one of the bloodiest of the war for the 16thMississippi. Of the 228 men that the regiment took into the fight, 27 were killed, 100 wounded, and 20 missing.
Saturday, September 20:
Editors note: the article states that by this date, the Confederate army had retreated to Charleston, Virginia, and then began a march to Winchester, Virginia:
Robert Gerald, Nole Dickson and I foraged for Irish potatoes and apples. Too cold to sleep with the little cover we have. Had an election in our company for third lieutenant. James Bryan was chosen.
Friday, October 3:
Foraged for plenty of cider, one loaf of bread and a good dinner. Returned from a frolic last night and was arrested by the provost guard. The rest escaped. Nothing of interest today.
Sunday, November 2:
Editors note: this entry was written from Culpeper, Virginia:
Men more worsted than ever before. Many are barefooted. All cheerful.
Wednesday, November 5:
E. R. Davis died yesterday. Frank Best, Robert Gerald, Frank Leatherman, Flitch Lewis and I went eight miles from Culpeper to Mrs. Moise’s to bury him. Spent night in barn. Snow several inches deep.
Date not stated, [November 1862]
Editors note: the article states that the 16th Mississippi made a forced march to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Phares made this entry:
The citizens having moved to the country at threat of the enemys shells. General Patrick warned them under flag of truce to surrender the city. Worked on the breastworks tonight. Our brigade was called tonight without five minutes notice on news that the enemy was crossing the river. Lay on our arms all night. No attack. Snow several inches deep.
Thursday, December 4:
Editor’s note: The paper states that after doing picket duty and having several engagements that caused numerous casualties in the Wilkinson Rifles, Phares made this entry:
Howell Cobb wounded and died this morning. Last night our company, under Captain Counsel, returned from picket duty. We dug entrenchments, then were ordered to leave them and move further along to the right, with the left wing of our regiment covering the road. We dug strong entrenchments. The second night we have not slept. Supplied canteens before light as position is exposed. At daylight were fired on. Our batteries routed the enemy. They ran, throwing away their guns. Rest of the day passed quietly.
Editor’s note: Phares had his Cobb’s mixed up – it was General Thomas R. R. Cobb who was killed at Fredericksburg, not his brother Howell Cobb, who was also a Confederate general.
Date not stated, [December 1862]
Editor’s note: the article states that after lying on their arms for two days and suffering from the cold, Colonel Posey ordered the Wilkinson Rifles to go into Fredericksburg and investigate the conditions there:
Several shells were thrown at us without effect. We went through the back streets, separating into squads, searching every house. Destruction and havoc everywhere. Citizens left their homes on a moment’s notice. Stores and furnishings all looted by the enemy. Every house shell ridden. Many burned. A squad captured one Hessian. Returned to regiment with blankets and shoes left in town and on the battlefield by the enemy. Lay on our arms for a week.
Editor’s note: The battle of Fredericksburg took place on December 11 – 15, 1862, and resulted in a Confederate victory when the Union assaults were repulsed with heavy casualties. The 16th Mississippi suffered only light casualties, having 3 killed and 17 wounded.
Friday, December 19:
The enemy fired a signal gun. Our long roll beat. In less than five minutes our army was marching to the front. The enemy remained inactive and we returned to camp. Sent a letter to Ms by Mack Lewis.
Monday, December 22:
Subscription in camp to relieve suffering in Fredericksburg district. Wilkinson Rifles gave $13.50.
Wednesday, December 24:
Weather mild and cloudy; company drill this morning. Everything dull in camp, nothing to change the monotony.
Thursday, December 25:
This has been the mildest Christmas I have ever seen. Moved camp a mile; now situated on a ridge with fine wood and water. Sad changes have taken place in our little band in a year. Many the pride of company and life of the whole camp are now consigned to the cold earth, either stricken down by disease from exposure or fallen contending for liberty. While looking back on our misfortunes with sadness, we have cause to be thankful to Almighty God that our sufferings have been no worse. While the enemy has been two-thirds greater in every battle in which we have taken part, we have been victors in every instance.
End of Part I – I will have Part II of the diary posted soon.
I received a really nice message from Sheilah Broughton, who is the G-G-G niece of Colonel William W. Witherspoon, who commanded the 36th Mississippi Infantry. I have had a interest in the 36th Mississippi for a number of years, as I had a G-G-G uncle, James M. Godwin, who served as a private in Company I, “Stephens Guards,” of the 36th Mississippi.
In her note Sheilah asked about where the 36th Mississippi was stationed during the siege of Vicksburg, and I thought the answer would make an interesting post for the readers, so here we go.
Raised in the spring of 1862, the 36th Mississippi was a veteran regiment by the time of the siege of Vicksburg, having been blooded in the battles of Iuka and Corinth in 1862. When the 1863 campaign for Vicksburg kicked off the regiment was part of Brigadier General Louis Hebert’s brigade, which consisted of the following units: 3rd Louisiana Infantry, 21st Louisiana Infantry, 7th Mississippi Infantry Battalion, 36th Mississippi Infantry, 38th Mississippi Infantry, and the 43rd Mississippi Infantry.
Hebert’s brigade was stationed just north of Vicksburg at Snyder’s Bluff while battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill and Big Black River were fought. After the Confederate defeat at Champion Hill on May 16, 1863, General John C. Pemberton sent orders for the troops stationed at Snyder’s bluff to march to Vicksburg. Hebert quickly complied with this order, and marched his men into the Vicksburg defenses.
Hebert was ordered to the earthworks in rear of the city and charged with defending the line of entrenchments between the Graveyard Road and the Jackson Road. Hebert deployed his brigade in the following order from left to right: the 36th Mississippi held the Stockade Redan, a large earthwork fort guarding the Graveyard Road; next came the 7th Mississippi Battalion, 37th Mississippi, 38th Mississippi, and 43rd Mississippi; the 3rd Louisiana held a redan north of the Jackson Road, and the 21st Louisiana anchored the brigade right flank in the Great Redoubt on the south side of the Jackson Road.
Because the Graveyard and Jackson Roads were natural avenues of approach to the city, the section of line held by Hebert’s men was destined to be the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the siege.
On May 19th, Union forces assaulted the Confederate defenses, and the Stockade Redan was a focal point of the union attack. Sergeant George Powell Clarke, a member of Company C “Harper Reserves,” of the 36th Mississippi wrote this account of the attack:
“At 10:00 A.M. the firing ceased and the Federals advanced in two lines of battle, halted about 300 yards from our position to reform their lines. Numbers of battle flags could be seen just behind the hill, waving in the morning breeze. We could plainly hear when the order was given to advance; the flags were seen mounting up the hill, and soon the long, glittering line of bayonets came in sight, as with martial tread this tremendous war machine marched to the attack. On reaching the top of the hill and coming into plain view, they gave a prolonged yell, and broke into a double quick towards our lines…At the proper time our batteries opened on them with with grape, canister, and shrapnel shells, which told fearfully on their crowded ranks. When they had reached within fifty yards of our lines we opened upon them with musketry, using the ‘buck and ball’ cartridge with murderous effect…But they were brave men and did not falter, though hundreds were falling all around them, until within a few feet of us. They then wavered, rallied once, but finally gave way and retreated to their own position.” – REMINISCENCE AND ANECDOTES OF THE WAR FOR SOUTHERN INDEPENDENCE by George Powell Clarke, pg. 100
The Union forces attempted a second assault on Vicksburg’s defenses on May 22, but met with the same result. Sgt. Clarke wrote that when the Yankees attacked,
“A withering fire of musketry, grape, canister and shells greeted them as they came in sight, and men fell like grass before the reaper…Here, now, the eye witness could have seen war in all its awful sublimity and grandeur.”
After the failure of the May 22 assault, General Ulysses S. Grant decided to besiege the city and starve the Rebel garrison into submission. For the 36th, the war became a waiting game in the trenches with the threat of death a constant companion.
On June 2, 1863, the 36th Mississippi was moved to a new position line the line on the brigade right flank. If you tour the Vicksburg National Military Park, the marker for this position is located about 200 yards south of the Louisiana State Memorial. The regiment remained in this position for the remainder of the siege.
The siege of Vicksburg ended on July 4, 1863, and the survivors of the 36th Mississippi stacked their muskets and marched out of the earthworks they had defended so well. The regiment had suffered terribly during the siege: of the approximately 300 men in the unit when the fighting began, 28 were killed and 72 wounded.