The Grave of the Year: Mississippians Look Back on 1865

The end of the year is a time for reflection on the changes that have occurred during the previous 365 days. For Mississippians, no year brought more change than 1865, as the Confederacy crumbled to ash and Southerners lost not only a war but a way of life. On January 1, 1866, The Natchez Democrat ran from following article that very eloquently explains the altered world that Mississippians had to learn to live with. The following article was very long, and I have edited it down to a more manageable size:

The past is an instructive study. We love to dwell upon its joys, because their pleasure is renewed when we recall them to mind; and we love to brood over its sorrows, because there is something irresistibly attractive in the recollection of our troubles. In reflecting upon the past we often become lost in our reveries; and we seem, at times, to transport ourselves to other and far distant days. The world as it was looks better; for we view it in a mellowed light…

The year 1865 draws rapidly to its close. In its brief space what changes have been wrought? Many have grown suddenly rich, and many have seen the accumulated wealth of years vanish forever from their sight. No pestilence has swept over us with its dark and noisome wing; but the fearful scourge of war has made our country one vast charnel house for the uncoffined dead.

The opening spring saw the marshalling of defiant armies; the closing autumn saw those armies broken and dispersed. The opening year beheld a people strong and confident in the justness of their cause; the closing year discovers them powerless and disheartened, and their cherished cause mocked and condemned as unrighteous. To many it has been a year of exultant triumph; to many, a year of sadness and dejection. The year closes, and one people boasts a nation saved; while another mourns a country lost.


Furling the Flag by Richard Norris Brooke, depicting the surrender of a group of Confederates at Appomattox

It seems but a little while since the sons of the South went out to battle. They endured hardships, suffering and death. Their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters braved all trials and shunned no dangers; but amid all the havoc and ruin of a wide spread desolation stood unchanged and unchangeable in their devotion to the cause of their espousal. And today, standing as we do on the grave of the year, overcome and humiliated though we are, it is a matter of boastful pride and sorrowful satisfaction to reflect that we were not reduced to submission and subjection until the flower of our youth had been cut down in the rich harvest of death.

They went out from among us with banners full high advanced, drums beating, and all the


Monument to Mississippi’s War Dead at Jackson

pompTand circumstance of a holiday parade. With joyful hearts, with head erect, with elastic step, and consciences clear, they buckled on the panoply of war, and went forth to meet those whom they deemed the invaders of their country. The war had closed; but they have not returned. From the Potomac to the Rio Grande the little hillocks tell where sleep the brave

“- who sank to rest, by all their country’s wishes blest.”

They are dead; but they are not forgotten. Their memory is enshrined in the temple of our hearts. They no longer appear to our mortal vision. The melody of their voices no longer greets our mortal ear. Their hands are no longer extended for a friendly clasp. But when we turn in imagination to gaze upon the past, and the curtain is lifted from the late fearful and bloody struggle, which seems to move before us “like some high and mighty drama intermingling with its solemn scenes and acts a seven fold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies” we hear the glad shouts of our sons and brothers as they rushed on to victory, we see their proud forms as they stood erect in the fire and smoke of battle – and though we should live a thousand years, as often as memory shall waft us back over the lapse of time, and we shall recur to the days of our pride and the days of our glory, we shall see them still.


Close-up from the Monument to Mississippi’s War Dead at Jackson

“On fame’s eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread; and glory guards with solemn round the bivouac of the dead.”

The old year passes away. May the new year open with fairer hopes and brighter prospects!

The Natchez Democrat in which this article appeared was a good symbol of the changes that Mississippi was undergoing in 1865. The paper was founded that year by two former soldiers: Paul A. Botto, who served in the 12th Mississippi Infantry, and the curiously named Fabius Junius Mead, who was a member of the 4th Illinois Cavalry. (The Natchez Bulletin, May 21, 1869)


Ad for The Natchez Democrat from The New Orleans Crescent, August 30, 1866

Two former enemies were able to put aside their differences and create a newspaper that would stand the test of time- The Natchez Democrat is still being published, and still looking back at the past to help prepare for the future – writer Ben Hillyer wrote such an article on January 1, 2017, and it can be found here:



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“The Splendid Entertainment:” Christmas Eve in Jackson, Mississippi, 1861

I have just returned from a wonderful Christmas Eve meal with friends and family, which inspired me to find out how Mississippians were celebrating the first yuletide of the Civil War. While reading The Weekly Mississippian, I found the answer I was seeking in the December 18, 1861, edition of the Jackson newspaper:

CHRISTMAS EVE ENTERTAINMENT – We are gratified to learn that it is in contemplation to give


an entertainment at concert hall on Christmas Eve, the proceeds of which will be appropriated to charitable purposes. It is said that there is to be a Christmas Tree, and that adults and children will receive tickets with numbers at the door which will entitle them to corresponding numbers which are to be attached to a multitude of prizes on the tree. When the arrangements shall have been fully completed our readers shall be notified.

Curious as to what took place at this Christmas Eve party, I looked through later editions of the newspaper, and was rewarded with the following articles from The Daily Mississippian that were published in the December 25, 1861, issue of The Weekly Mississippian.

On December 19, 1861, the Mississippian gave the following update on the party:

THE CHRISTMAS TREE – The Christmas Tree is being rapidly supplied with prizes by donations from the ladies and gentlemen of Jackson and vicinity, and still there is room remaining for a few more. But few persons have an adequate conception of the vast amount of both valuable prizes and toys for the juveniles the branches of the Christmas Tree is capable of containing. It is thought by those who have a right to know from the knowledge of its construction, that it will display several hundred prizes of great beauty and value, and it is but reasonable to suppose that our entire population will desire to witness this great attraction.

The next day, December 20, the Mississippian carried the following endorsement of the party:

CHRISTMAS EVE – Donations for the Tree will be received at Concert Hall on Saturday from 9 till 5 o’clock. Tickets of admission bearing numbers for the prizes will be sold at the same hours on Monday and Tuesday. This is the first Christmas under the Confederate Government, and the object being patriotic, let there be a crowded house.

On December 24, the Mississippian had one final plug for the Christmas Eve bash:

Christmas Entertainment

We would call attention to the splendid entertainment gotten up by the ladies of Jackson, to come off at the Concert Hall on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Tree, loaded with its rich gifts, for Christmas presents, will be a sight well worth seeing. Each person buying a ticket of admission will be entitled to a prize, corresponding to the number on the ticket. Tickets only fifty cents, half tickets for children, twenty-five cents, all of which will draw a prize.

Snap 2016-12-24 at 20.49.30.png

“The Christmas Tree” by Winslow Homer, Harper’s Weekly, December 25, 1858.

A raffle will also take place during the evening, for a richly embroidered Vest, and a most beautifully embroidered Child’s dress, both presented to the Ladies Aid Society by Mrs. Angelo Miazza. The proceeds of the entertainment raffle &c., for the benefit of our brave volunteers.

Good music has been engaged for the occasion, and we anticipate the most delightful entertainment of the season. Doors open at 6 o’clock. Tickets to be had at the Post Office during the day, and at the door at night.

In many ways, Christmas Eve 1861 was the last good yule holiday for Southerners. The war was still in its infancy, casualties were few, and hopes were high that the conflict would soon be over. Such sentiments were much harder to believe in the Christmas’ that followed.

To all of my readers, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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The State of My Early Adoption: A Letter from General Nathan Bedford Forrest

In August 1864, the Mississippi legislature passed a joint resolution praising the


Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest (Library of Congress)

Confederate general who had exerted himself so forcefully to protect the Magnolia State in that tumultuous year. The officer was, of course, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose exploits in defense of the Confederacy had endeared him to thousands of Mississippians. The resolution read thus:

Joint Resolutions

In regard to Maj. General N.B. Forrest

Whereas, the eminent services of Maj. Gen’l N.B. Forrest have inspired the country with the highest confidence and admiration in his gallantry as an officer and pre-eminent qualities as a commanding General; and whereas his daring bravery and consummate skill, and the devoted heroism of his brave little army have repeatedly saved an important portion of this state from destruction by a ruthless foe: Therefore be it resolved by the legislature of the State of Mississippi, that the Governor be and he is authorized and instructed to cause to be manufactured in the finest style of workmanship and art, a sword, the hilt, blade and scabbard to be embossed, etched or engraved with the Arms of the State of Mississippi, and have engraved thereon the following inscription, “Presented by the State of Mississippi to Maj. Gen’l N.B. Forrest, of the C.S. Army, as a testimonial of the high appreciation of him as a warrior and patriot – and for his distinguished services in defense of her soil and people.” Which sword the Governor shall present or cause to be presented to Gen’l Forrest.

Resolved, that the Governor be and he is hereby authorized to make his requisition on the Auditor, for his warrant upon the treasury for the amount necessary to pay for the manufacture of said sword.

Resolved, that the Governor be requested to forward to Gen’l Forrest a copy of these resolutions.

Passed House of Representatives, Aug. 7, 1864, R. C. Miller, Clerk

Concurred in by Senate, Aug. 9th, 1864, D. P. Porter, Secy. Senate

Lock E. Houston, Speaker of the House of Representatives

W. Yerger, President of the Senate

Approved August 12, 1864, Chas. Clark, Governor

EDITORS NOTE: This resolution is located in Series 2585, Enrolled Bills, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

As far as I can tell, the State of Mississippi was never able to present a sword to General Forrest.  Given the chaotic conditions in the state during the last months of war, procuring a fancy presentation sword had to be at the bottom of a nearly endless list of priorities. Governor Clark did, however, forward a copy of the legislature’s resolution to Forrest, and he sent back the following reply:

Meridian, Miss., Sept. 6th, 1864

Governor Charles Clark

Dear Sir –

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your kind favour of yesterday, enclosing the resolutions of the Legislature of Mississippi. For the complimentary terms in which the Legislature of your state has been pleased to speak of my services, permit me through you, Governor, to return my sincere thanks. The compliment is the more highly appreciated since it comes from the state of my early adoption, the home of my youth & early manhood.

A promise of continued devotion to the interests of the state and her people, is all that I can offer in return for the high estimate placed upon my services. But it has been through the instrumentality of the brave troops which the Legislature has so justly complemented, that I have been enabled to serve the country. To them all the praise is due. It has been through their gallantry, courage and endurance that these victories have been achieved.

I remember with pride and pleasure the associations to which you refer in your letter. It was under


Portrait of General Charles Clark in his brigadier general’s uniform – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

your order Governor, that I first drew my maiden sword. I regret that our intercourse was of such short duration, for it was one of unalloyed pleasure and harmony. I have mourned your absence from active field service where you were doing such valuable service to the country, and often have I sympathized with you in the suffering you have endured from wounds received in defense of the sacred cause.

Hoping your life may long be spared to the country you have served so faithfully, and thanking you for the kind terms in which you have discharged the duty imposed by the resolutions.

I remain Governor,

Very Respectfully,

Your friend and obt. Svt.,

N.B. Forrest, Maj. Genl.

EDITORS NOTE: This letter is located in the Charles Clark correspondence, Series 768, Box 950, Folder 1, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

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An Incident of the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee

Today is the 152nd Anniversary of the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, the engagement that effectively tore the heart out of the Army of Tennessee. In honor of the hundreds of Mississippians killed or wounded in the fight, I would like to share this article about Jesse Rice, a private in the “Live Oak Rifles,” Company A, 3rd Mississippi Infantry. Private Rice fought and was captured at Franklin, afterwards spending the remainder of the war in a Union prison. Amidst the horror he had witnessed at Franklin, Rice also saw an act of bravery so compelling that years later he was moved to have his memory of the event recorded by the clerk of the Jackson County circuit court. The following account was published in The Jackson Daily News, February 5, 1912:



Affidavit of Mississippian Brings to Light Interesting Incident of Battle of Franklin – Copy Sent Reunion committee

Macon, Ga., Feb. 5 – A copy of a deposition from Jackson County, Mississippi, to the reunion executive committee, brings up an interesting incident of the battle of Franklin, which is directly connected with the gory and fierce fighting which was waged around the historic old cotton gin in the Tennessee town. It was at this gin that the gallant and chivalric Gen. Adams went down; it was from the region of this gin that the renowned Gen. John C. Brown of Tennessee was carried, sorely wounded, to the rear, and it was near this gin that the rash “Pat” Cleburne met his death while storming the breastworks of the federal forces. The federal soldier mentioned in this deposition was killed near the gin in the conflict at late eve.


The 3rd Mississippi Infantry was part of Brigadier General Winfield S. Featherston’s Brigade at the Battle of Franklin. Their position can be seen on this map on the Confederate right, astride the Lewisburg Pike. (Civil War Trust)

The deposition follows:

“State of Mississippi, Jackson County.

Personally appeared before me, a clerk of the circuit court of said county, Jesse W. Rice, who being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says:

That he was a private in the ranks of Company A, Third Mississippi Regiment Volunteers.


Post-war photo of the cotton gin at Franklin (Wikipedia)

Featherston’s Brigade, and Loring’s Division, Stuart’s Corps of the Confederate army, and that he, with his company, was engaged in the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on the 30th day of November, 1864, and that he [was] in the charge on the last breastworks of the enemy’s line, arrived at the point directly at the old cotton gin house which stood inside of the enemy’s line and that  the reserves of the enemy came on the run and gained possession of the ditch inside of the line, or breastworks, and he saw one of the federal soldiers there making repeated attempts to shoot and kill his lieutenant, S.R. Thompson, and that the said lieutenant repeatedly prevented him in his aim by throwing dirt in his eyes, at or near the old gin house on the day and the date above mentioned.


Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 21st day of March, 1904

Fred Taylor, Clerk Circuit Court.”

This incident deserves to rank along with Ney’s use of ammonia at the battle of Ligny, Togo’s mirrors in the glaring sunlight of the Russian harbors and the Moro custom of painting their costumes the color of Philippine clay.

Mr. Rice, who vouches for the authenticity of this incident, will be one of the visitors to the Confederate reunion to be held in Macon May 7.

Editor’s Note: Jesse W. Rice enlisted in the Live Oak Rifles on September 20, 1861, along with his brother Bryant C. Rice. The brothers were both captured at the Battle of Franklin, and eventually sent to Camp Douglas prisoner of war camp. Bryant died on April 16, 1865 of pneumonia, but his brother Rice survived and was released from captivity at the end of the war. He died on February 26, 1905, in Jackson County, Mississippi, and is buried in Havens-Fletcher Cemetery at Vancleave.


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They are Hostile in Spirit: The Arrest of Miss Emma Kline


After the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the victorious Union army had to settle into the difficult role of occupier to a city filled with pro-Confederate sympathizers. Over time most of Vicksburg’s residents settled into an uneasy peace with the Federal garrison guarding the city. There were a few civilians, however, that loudly proclaimed their loyalty to the Confederacy, and took every opportunity to aid the Southern cause. Writing of this troublesome portion of the population, Vicksburg’s post commander, General James B. McPherson complained that they “require watching, although seemingly disposed to remain quietly at home and pursue their peaceful avocations, they are hostile in spirit…”

“Hostile in spirit” was a very good description for Miss Emma Kline, a feisty Rebel who made it quite clear where her loyalties lay. The daughter of Warren County planter Nineon E. Kline and his wife Patience, in the 1860 Warren County Census 17 year old Emma was still living in her father’s home along with five younger siblings.

The entire Kline family was well known to Union authorities, so much so that General James B. McPherson issued the following order in regard to them:

HEADQUARTERS SEVENTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Vicksburg, Miss., January 26, 1864.

Commanding Cavalry, Red Bone Church:

MAJOR: It is reported to me on good authority that a party of Whitaker’s band, say 15 or 20, contemplate crossing the Big Black to-night in the vicinity of Hall’s or Regan’s Ferries, and will probably come over to Mrs. Stowe’s place, or possibly to Nelian Kline’s. I desire you to entrap and catch these outlaws, if you can.

I am also well satisfied that the Kline family, and especially Miss Kline, are guilty of acting in bad faith toward our Government and imparting information to the enemy.

You will, therefore, take immediate steps to put the whole family across the Big Black, not to return to this side without written permission from the proper military authorities, under penalty of being dealt with as spies.

They will be permitted to take their household furniture and private clothing, and a complete inventory will be taken of what remains and a guard placed over it until it can be turned over to the U. S. Treasury agent.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,



Official Records, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 2, 227

Emma Kline would be little remembered today if not for one photograph of her that was taken in 1864. It shows a defiant young lady standing between two guards from the 5th Iowa Infantry after her arrest for smuggling.


Emma Kline under arrest at Vicksburg in 1864. Vicksburg and the War, page 106.

While the photograph of Emma is very well known in Civil War circles, not much was known about the circumstances of her arrest, other than it was for smuggling. After the Union authorities detained Emma, they had her picture taken with her guards, supposedly as a warning to others in Vicksburg that might be inclined to aid the Confederacy.

As fate would have it, while doing some research, I found the following newspaper article in The Vicksburg Herald, April 16, 1908. It was written by Alonzo L. Brown, the Union officer who arrested Emma Kline:


A.L. Brown, captain Company E, Fiftieth U.S.C.T., Brounton, Minn., in regard to the arrest of Miss


Postwar picture of Alonzo L. Brown, the Union officer who arrested Emma Kline –

Emma Kline at Vicksburg, Miss., for attempting to smuggle contraband goods through our lines to the Confederates, says that in May, 1864, he had command of that part of the picket line at Vicksburg which extended from the railway south and west beyond the Hall’s Ferry wagon road. At this point there was a tent.

About 3 o’clock in the afternoon one day a young man rode up on horseback from Vicksburg and told him a Miss Emma Kline had been stopping in the city at the house of Dr. Anderson, and that she would try to pass out of the lines in a carriage that afternoon with another young lady (a granddaughter of Dr. Anderson) on a family pass. The ladies would have a large quantity of contraband goods concealed on their person. The man added: ‘When they come up here I want you to arrest her and send them back to the city under guard. Do not allow them to pass out. I would rather not be seen, and when they appear I will step inside your tent.’

In a short while the carriage approached, and its occupants had a pass signed by Gen. McPherson for Mr. Thompson and family through the lines at Vicksburg. One of the ladies had bright red hair, a pale complexion and rather sharp features. The writer asked her if she was a member of Mr. Thompson’s family, and she said she was not. She gave her name as Miss Emma Kline. The writer could hardly repress a smile as he noticed their distended skirts. He informed Miss Kline that he had received instructions not to allow her to go through the lines, but to send them back to the city under guard.

At this juncture, the young fellow, who was a detective, drew near and told Miss Kline he had orders to arrest them and took them in charge. Miss Kline lived with her parents about ten miles southeast of Vicksburg, toward Hall’s Ferry.

IN the spring of 1864 two ladies, Mrs. Reynolds and Miss Maggie Oliver, of New Orleans, were arrested at Vicksburg and imprisoned in the third story of the Old Main Street school building. The ladies were smuggling quinine through the lines into the Confederacy. They were moved from Vicksburg to Alton, Ill., and put in prison, where Mrs. Reynolds died. Miss Oliver after being released from Alton prison returned to New Orleans.

Alonzo L. Brown served in Company B, 4th Minnesota Infantry during the siege of Vicksburg. Shortly thereafter he was commissioned as 1st Lieutenant of Company E, 50th United States Colored Infantry, and eventually rose to the rank of captain. After the war Brown went home to Minnesota, where he founded the town of Brownton, and served as its first mayor. A devoted amateur historian, Brown wrote a regimental history of the 4th Minnesota Infantry that was published in 1892. –


Fourth Minnesota Regiment Entering Vicksburg, July 4, 1863. Painting by artist Francis Davis Millet.

Emma Kline survived her imprisonment and the war, marrying William Lum Lane in the 1870s. Emma died in 1878, shortly after the birth of her daughter and namesake, Emma Lane. Emma Kline Lane may have died in childbirth, or she may have been a victim of the Yellow Fever epidemic that scourged Vicksburg in 1878. She is buried in Asbury Cemetery located just south of Vicksburg. –

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We Have a Winner!

I had a number of entries in the contest to choose the subject of my next blog

16th Miss. Inf.

Private Silas A. Shirley, Company H, 16th Mississippi Infantry (Library of Congress)

article, and I am happy to say we have a winner! I put all of the entries in my old reenacting hat, and my daughter Sarah picked the winning entry. Without further ado, the subject of my next blog post will be the 16th Mississippi Infantry! I had multiple entries for this regiment, so I know there will be a number of people happy tonight. The 16th Mississippi Infantry compiled a notable war record with the Army of Northern Virginia, and was, in fact, the only Mississippi unit to serve under General Stonewall Jackson. I am looking forward to writing about the 16th Mississippi, and I plan to have the article finished before the end of the month.

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Contest Time is Here Again! Help Me Choose My Next Topic!


Soldier’s Voting (Harper’s Weekly, October 29, 1864)

It has been a long time since my last contest, so it is well past time to do another one. If you would like to see me write an article about your favorite Mississippi Civil War regiment, this is your chance! That said, here are the rules:

1. All votes must be sent to my email address:, and put “Vote” in the subject line.

2. Only one vote per person – but feel free to have your friends and family vote as well.

3. You can vote for any Mississippi unit except the 38th Mississippi Infantry/Cavalry, 21st Mississippi Infantry, 31st Mississippi Infantry, or 33rd Mississippi Infantry – I have already written extensively about the first two regiments, and the 31st Mississippi and 33rd Mississippi have been picked in previous contests.

4. Votes must be received by me before midnight on April 1, 2016.

5. I will announce the winner on April 2, 2016.

6. Each person that votes for a regiment will get the name of that unit thrown into a hat. The winner will be chosen from the hat, so every entry has a chance, and the more votes a particular unit gets, the better its odds of winning.

7. Good Luck to Everyone, and I look Forward to Your Entries!

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“The First Fruits of a New System:” Freedmen’s Schools at Vicksburg

After Vicksburg fell to United States forces on July 4, 1863, the city served as a beacon to slaves throughout Mississippi. Thousands of African Americans ran away from their owners and flocked to Vicksburg to begin their lives as freedmen. In addition to feeding and clothing the throngs of former slaves in the hill city, Northern benevolent associations also opened schools offering an education to eager students of all ages. I found the following article concerning the Freedmen’s schools at Vicksburg in the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph (Gloucester, Massachusetts), April 1, 1865:

SCHOOLS FOR FREEDMEN – An interesting account of the colored schools at Vicksburg, Miss., will
be found on the outside of our paper to-day. Miss Wright, who is mentioned as one of the teachers at DeSoto, formerly taught several terms in this town, where she is well known. Several ladies have gone out from Gloucester Freedmen’s Aid Society are engaged in raising funds to support a teacher in this field of labor. We trust they will be successful in their effort to help along the work.


Inside a Freedmen’s school at Vicksburg – Harper’s Weekly, June 23, 1866

The new system for the education of the colored people in this city is fully inaugurated. The reports for the month of December, show that the system is already a success. In the prosecution of this work, the greatest difficulties were to be overcome. Among the chief of these is the want of suitable rooms, and as the numbers of pupils increase, the overcrowding of the schools becomes increasingly uncomfortable and damaging. It is well known that the military disposes of a very large proportion of the buildings of the city, for quarters, depots, &c. The ordinance department alone requires forty buildings. But against all these obstacles and many others, the work has been carried on.
In the basement of the Methodist Church, a school is taught by the mission of the “United Brethren,” in three good rooms. The primary department is in charge of Miss. Lizzie D. Hunt, and is well conducted. The intermediate department is taught by Misses Dickey and Stubbs, and the more advanced scholars are in charge of Miss. Minnie Hanson. This school is well managed. It was the first established for the colored people in this city, is the largest school, and the pupils, on the whole, constitute a better class than any other in Vicksburg. The school numbered, in December, 300; average attendance, 198.
In the Baptist Church, is a school taught by Misses Burnell and Hibbard, and Mrs. Edwards. It numbers 227, average attendance 136. It is under the auspices of the “Northwestern Freedman’s Aid Commission.” This school has the great disadvantage of having but one room, and the confused noise of three distinct and simultaneous exercises, comingling with a multitude of voluntaries from the little urchins, must discipline the teachers minds to self possession and control. The teachers deserve much credit for “patient continuance in well-doing.”

Primary School for Freedmen Vicksburg

Freedmen’s school at Vicksburg – Harper’s Weekly, June 23, 1866

On Washington Street, over the Freedmen’s store, is another school, taught be Misses Stowe and Case; under the patronage of the “National Freedman’s Relief Association,” numbering, in December, 115; average attendance, 70. If anybody in Vicksburg wants to be amused gratis, let them call in at this school and hear the singing of “original negro minstrels,” and see them gymnasticate. It is better than the Theatre, because it is useful as well as amusing. There is an industrial school in this building, taught by Miss Green, under the same auspices. This is regarded as one of the most important schools, in which instruction is given not in letters only, but in the economy of life. It is an excellent institution, embracing fifty persons, with an average attendance of thirty. 310 garments were made in December, besides any amount of mending. Thirty-seven of the fifty wee paid for their labor. The rest were learners.
Near the Prentiss House is another school of seventy-two, with an average attendance of forty, taught by Miss Barnes, under the auspices of the same society, which also ministers largely by the gift of clothing gratuitously, and also in the way of trade, at about cost prices, under the able management of their efficient and gentlemanly superintendent Mr. E. Wilkes, to the wants, the necessities and the comforts of this people. The last named school was mainly gathered by the industry of their excellent and devoted teacher.

Prentiss House Vicksburg

Illustration showing the Prentiss House at Vicksburg – Harper’s Weekly, August 1, 1863

Adjoining this is another school taught be Miss Brown, from the mission of the “United Presbyterian Church.” It numbers eighty-five, and the attendance averages sixty. This school is well managed. It is very orderly, and the progress it has made is highly creditable. The pupils in this school belong to the more destitute class, which makes the success of the school more striking and commendable.
In the Episcopal Church is a large school also sustained by the U.P. Mission. It has three rooms and better than almost any other. Misses Glasgow, Gibson, and Hammond, are the teachers. In December, there were 138 pupils enrolled, with an average attendance of seventy-five.
There is another school at DeSoto, the village opposite this city, sustained by the National Society, which may be reckoned among the Vicksburg schools, as the teachers go from this place, and reside here. They have taught so far in very poor, insufficient and uncomfortable rooms. But a new building, thirty by fifty feet, is commenced, and will greatly facilitate the work, and increase the comfort and success of these skillful and self-denying teachers, laboring among the most destitute and neglected of the colored population. They have 200 pupils enrolled; average attendance 125. Misses Skinner and Wright, and Mrs. Dr. Varney are the teachers.
The whole number enrolled in Vicksburg was 1,137; average attendance 704. This is a very encouraging exhibit, and it is only the beginning. It would be impossible to sustain these schools for even a single month, but for the benevolent contributions of the various boards and Freedmen’s societies already referred to. The greatest want now is, of more and better schoolrooms.
The financial aspect is not very flattering, and yet the amount for December (including a little in November,) if regarded as the first fruits of a new system among the lately enslaved, it not to be despised. Up to December 31st, 1864, it amounted to $171.55. Small indeed, but the seed of a growth not easily estimated. On the whole, here is food for great encouragement! – What would have been thought of the prediction, three years ago, that this should so soon be in Vicksburg? Darkiedom is in the ascendant, and the fogies may as well clear the way. As the “Herald” of the times we simply chronicle it is great step of progress, as a matter of public interest.
We understand that Chaplain Hawley, the Superintendent of Colored Schools, for this District, has appointed Chaplain Buckley, of the 47th regiment U.S.C.I., assistant for this city, to whose industry and efficiency much of this success is due. – [Vicksburg, (Miss.) Herald.

The previous article mentioned a “Miss Wright” as being one of the teachers in a Freedmen’s Bureau school at Desoto Point, Louisiana, just across the river from Vicksburg. She was Savira Wright of Clinton, Massachusetts, an experienced teacher who felt so strongly about the importance of educating freedmen that she left her home and family and made the difficult journey to wartime Mississippi. I did a little looking, and was rewarded to find that Savira wrote several letters back to her hometown newspaper describing her work. I found the following article in the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph (Gloucester, Massachusetts), May 13, 1865:

THE FREEDMEN – The work of improving the condition of the freed blacks, both as regards education and in respect to their physical comfort, is being vigorously carried forward in all of the Southern States, under the auspices of the National Freedmen’s Relief Association and other benevolent agencies at the North- The work is a gigantic one, and of course these agencies are unable to cover all the ground at this early stage of affairs. The only marvel is that they are enabled to accomplish so much. – They are doing a glorious work, and the amount already achieved is an earnest of what we may expect in the future.
Miss Savira Wright, well known in this town, a teacher in the school at De Soto, opposite Vicksburg,


Vicksburg National Military Park Text Panel Showing the relationship of DeSoto Point to Vicksburg

Miss., narrates some of her experiences, in a letter to the General Superintendent of the Department of the Valley of the Mississippi, which we find in the April number of the National Freedman, and publish for the gratification of our readers.
Vicksburg, Miss., Dec. 3d, 1864.
Dear Sir – On Monday, the 28th, I went to De Soto, according to your directions. I spent that day and a part of the next in visiting the people and the remainder of Tuesday and the whole of Wednesday in assisting Miss Skinner in the school. I called at about twenty different places; at seven of them I found persons very much in need of clothing. Miss Skinner went with me to the store; but we could obtain nothing with which to relieve their necessities. We were told there was nothing to be given away, except some men’s clothing. That which is most needed is for children from six to twelve years of age. The warm weather has been very favorable for them the past week; if it should be cold they would be obliged to remain at home; they could not go to school without more comfortable clothing.
I found one woman with five children of her own – the eldest only six – and a niece twelve years of age, dependent upon her. Her husband has been dead three months. She “was raised” in Richmond, Va. She says: “Dat was a big city, sure as you was born. Dey use me well – neber whip me. I never had no mother; ‘spec’ she died when I was a little bit baby. Sold down south jes cause I was young; dey sell the young folks, an’ keep de ole folks an’ de children. – Spec dey has to work now; but dey got little ‘pendance to lean ‘pon. Ise got no ‘pendance but the Lord; I just ‘pend on him. Some days I gets work an’ gets somthin for de children, an’ some days I nothin for um to eat; but I trusts de Lord – he’ll take care of me.”
Most of the people have a commendable spirit of independence. They are proud to say they “neber had nothing from de government. – Jes give me a chance and I’ll take care of myself and my family.” It would be impossible to give a full account of what I hear and saw in those two days. I listened with the deepest interest to the story of many a life of toil under a hard master; of whippings at the post; and then of the joyful time when the “Yankees” came and made them free. Many expressed a desire to see their old homes again, but none wished to return to their former condition; they were willing to suffer, if need be, that their children might enjoy the blessings of freedom.
Yours respectfully,

Savira Wright
May 13, 1865

This next letter by Savira was published in the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph, June 10, 1865:

We publish in another column a letter from Miss E. P. Bennett, who is teaching the Freedmen at Roanoke Island, under the auspices of the National Freedmen’s Relief Association, supported in part by some of our citizens interested in the good work. The description of Roanoke Island, and the condition of the blacks and whites, are exceedingly interesting. We shall publish in our next issue a continuation of this letter, giving interesting information respecting the schools, etc., and have made arrangements for future letters from the same source, which will keep our readers posted on the progress of the work at that point.
We also publish an interesting letter from a teacher at Vicksburg, Miss., who is known to many of our readers, and from whom we shall receive similar favors from time to time. We have perfected arrangements for regular correspondence in relation to the Freedmen’s cause from Charleston, S.C., Newbern and Roanoke Island, N.C., Townfield, Va., and Vicksburg, Miss., and shall make this a speciality of our paper for the present. The Freedmen’s Cause is one in which our people have a great interest. For four years our soldiers have been fighting to liberate the bondsmen – for this has been the issue, to perpetuate and strengthen slavery by the South, and to defeat their machinations by the North. To this end our best blood, our tears and our treasures have been expended freely.

May 23d, 1865.
Just at present there is nothing unusual occurring in this department. The schools are in good condition, and the pupils making rapid progress. Some changes have occurred recently, particularly in the schools connected with the National Freedmen’s Relief Association. – A High School has been established, of which Mr. J. H. Zelie of New York is principal and Miss Wright and Mrs. Hart assistants. The pupils are not very advanced as yet, but are making good use of their privileges, and we have every reason to hope for great and good results. Mr. Zelie is also superintendent of the N.F.R.A. Schools, and is a most efficient and zealous worker. Rooms have been secured in the old Vicksburg Hotel, to which several of the schools have been removed. They are light, airy, pleasant and comfortable, qualities which were wanting in those previously occupied, except in some cases the second.
De Soto, where we formerly had a school, has become a part of the Mississippi River, with the exception of a little hillock, crowned with a few cabins, which are still inhabited. By its overflow more than two thousand Freedmen were driven from their homes, to seek shelter elsewhere, leaving behind everything they could not carry on their heads, – their usual mode of conveyance.
I wish I could give you a true picture of our life here in Dixie, but that is impossible; no one who has not experienced it can realize its strange, wild nature. It is life indeed, so full of new experiences, of change; every day something new to be seen – something to be learned.
A few days since a rebel soldier remarked – “Dixie is the best country God ever made.” I could have answered – “You are right, God made it a glorious country, you and your comrades have laid it in ruins; but when peace is once more fully established we will show you what Yankee enterprise and Northern institutions can make of so good a country.
I must not forget to tell you of a scene I witnessed two days ago. Nearly a thousand sons of the Southern Chivalry marched through the streets, dressed in almost every style of garment known since the days of Noah, though nearly all of the same color – grey. They were rough, ragged and filthy, and were guarded by colored troops, dressed in their neat suits of Uncle Sam’s blue. A proud day it was for the dusky blue-coats. The next day two of them came to our door with a note signed by two of the prisoners, in which they said that they had nothing to eat, and begged us to send them something. We questioned the guards, who said nothing had been furnished them since their arrival at the barracks. The ladies of the household sent such food as they had, with a note stating that it was from Union ladies. – They considered that in doing so they were fulfilling the command of our Lord, “Do good to them that hate you.” There are thousands of rebel soldiers in the city, awaiting an exchange. They are no more conquered in spirit than they were in the most hopeful days of the Confederacy, and say that they will yet fight it out, though it be not for many years to come.
Last Friday evening we received a call from Lieut. Thomas Stephens, 3d Texas Cavalry, C.S.A., in his full uniform of rebel gray. He said that he had engaged in this contest from a sense of duty, and had discharged that duty so far as was in his power; had fought the Yankees with all his might at every opportunity. He acknowledged that they were completely whipped, but not subjugated, and never would be; declared they would yet be independent, if it took years to accomplish it; they would never live under the United States government. He said – “We had the better of you for two years, but when you brought Europe, Asia and Africa against us, it was too much. There are no braver men on the face of the earth than the Yankees, but I claim that we are equally brave. I once honestly thought that one Southerner could easily whip five Yankees, but that idea is ‘played out’ long ago; one is enough for me to engage with.
He expressed his detestation at the manner in which our soldiers in their hands had been treated, and denounced in the strongest terms the assassination of the late President, saying he respected Abraham Lincoln, and if he must live under our government, would prefer him to any other man in the country for president. He said he knew Jeff Davis was not captured, one of his own company pulled the oars of the boat that took him across the Mississippi, about two weeks ago, and he was now with Kirby Smith in Texas. No doubt they found it necessary to invent some such story to preserve the last remnant of their waning hope. He pitied the colored people, and thought them worse off than when they were slaves. We were obliged to acknowledge that most of the race are possessed of less of the comforts of life than when with their masters, but we would like to have him ask them which condition they preferred. At this moment a colored sergeant called at the door, and the question was put to him. A response came through the open door from a comrade waiting without, “Tell him no, no, NO, ebry time.”

[Editor’s Note: Lieutenant Thomas S. Stephens enlisted in Company B, 3rd Texas Cavalry, on June 13, 1861. He was captured at Jackson, Mississippi, in July 1863, and sent to Johnson’s Island Prisoner of War camp. Because of poor health, Stephens was exchanged in October 1864, but before this happened, he was required to fill out a questionnaire. Apparently Stephens had a good sense of humor, because where the document asked why he had been captured, the Lieutenant replied, “Being a Rebel soldier.”  Another question asked, “Do you sincerely desire to have the southern people put down in this war, and the authority of the U.S. Government over them restored?” To which Stephens wrote tersely, “I do not.” After being exchanged, Stephens returned to his regiment, and served until the unit surrendered in May 1865. – Compiled Service Record of Thomas S. Stephens, 3rd Texas Cavalry.]
I notice in your paper allusion to the loss of the Sultana, whereby some fourteen hundred of our noble prisoners from Andersonville and Cahawba met with a sudden and awful death. I visited their camp a short time before they left Vicksburg, and at some future time may give you an account of what I saw and heard there. My letter is sufficiently long this time.

Savira Wright was born about 1836 in New Hampshire, and she moved to Clinton, Massachusetts, with her family, sometime prior to 1850. She is listed with her parents, Henry and Lois, and siblings in that census. – 1850 U.S. Census, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

By 1859, Savira was employed at Leonard Grammar School in Gloucester, Massachusetts, serving as principal of the institution. She may have worked at more than one local school, as the newspaper also listed her as principal of the grammar department at Lane School. In 1862, the young teacher was principal of Parsons School in Gloucester, a job she held as late as September of that year. – Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph, March 26 & 30, 1859, April 5, & September 13, 1862.

The first mention I can find of Savira Wright in connection with Vicksburg is the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph article of April 1, 1865. She worked in Freedmen’s schools around Vicksburg until the fall of 1865, when she took a job as principal of the junior department of the Freedmen’s school in Washington, D.C., located on the corner of 14th and M streets.- Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph, October 28, 1865. Her time in Vicksburg was short, but Savira Wright’s letters to her hometown newspaper shed some light on the hard work done by numerous individuals to help former slaves prepare for a life of freedom.


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The Court Does Therefore Sentence…

I found the following letter in the correspondence of Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, and thought it was very interesting, as it gives a detailed description of the punishment meted out by a court-martial to Private Henry Taylor of the 16th Mississippi Infantry. The hapless soldier was convicted of theft, and his sentence was both swift and sure:

Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia
23d January 1863
Gen. Order No. 8
And the court does therefore sentence the said Henry Taylor Co. F, 16th Miss. Regt. to have one half of his head shaved immediately after the publication of his sentence, and thereupon be marched, his head so shaved, his hat off, wearing a barrel shirt on which shall be hung an overcoat and which shall be distinctly labelled “thief” and the Rogues March beaten on a drum, before him, up and down every regiment of his brigade when on any parade once, then to be sent to the Mississippi Penitentiary provided the Governor of Mississippi will receive him, and there to be confined for two years. But if the said Governor shall not receive the said accused, then to be sent to the Va. Penitentiary and there confined for the said two years, and to be kept on bread and water for fourteen days immediately after the publication of this sentence unless sent to the penitentiary.
By Command of General
R.E. Lee
R.H. Chilton
A.A. & I. General

J.W. Pegram
Headquarters, Dept. of Henrico
Richmond, Va., April 9, 1863


Civil War Soldiers Forced to War Barrel Shirts as Punishment – The soldier on the far right has a sign with the word “Thief” written on it. (


A copy of the court-martial was sent to Governor John J. Pettus, along with this cover letter:

To his Excellency
The Governor of
The State of Mississippi
I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of an order from General Lee publishing the sentence of the Court Martial in the case of Henry Taylor, Co. “F” 16th Miss. Regt. He is now confined here awaiting your decision as whether he can be received in the State Penitentiary of Mississippi. I have the honor to request that you will let me know your decision.
Very Respectfully,
Your Obdt. Servant,
Jno. H. Winder
Brig. Genl. Comdg.

I did a little research on Private Taylor, and found him in the 1860 United States Census for Jasper County. The 18 year old was living with his mother, Elizabeth, age 36, his brother J.Z., age 8, and sisters E.A., age 11, and Elizur, age 5. Elizabeth Taylor listed her occupation as farmer, and Henry was described as a “day laborer.” In fact, the family was just barely making enough to keep body and soul together: Elizabeth listed the value of her personal estate at $100, and the column for value of real estate owned was left blank, so the family may have been renting the plot of land they were working.

Henry Taylor enlisted in the “Jasper Greys,” Company F, 16th Mississippi Infantry, on March 3, 1862, at Paulding, Mississippi. His service record shows nothing out of the ordinary until the muster roll for January-February 1863, when he was listed as “In arrest or confinement.” In the next muster for March-April 1863, the private is listed as “In prison by sentence of court martial.”

Although Confederate authorities attempted to turn Taylor over to the State of

Castle Thunder 2 LOC

Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond, Virginia. (Library of Congress)

Mississippi, apparently the transfer never took place. On September 22, 1863, Taylor was sent to General Hospital No. 13 in Richmond, suffering from constipation. After receiving treatment, there was a notation that he was returned to “Castle Thunder.”


Castle Thunder was a notorious prison in Richmond that housed all manner of criminals. The facility was known for its brutality toward prisoners, so Taylor’s time there was most likely very unpleasant.

There was one final notation made in Taylor’s service record, giving a hint to his fate: “Released from confinement, Dec. 1, 1864.” I did a little more research, and found the following concerning Taylor in the General Orders and Circulars of the Confederate War Department, 1861 – 1865:


By the end of 1864, the Confederacy badly needed soldiers in the field, even those convicted of theft. I have not been able to find out where Private Taylor was transferred, but I do believe that he survived the war. I found a Henry Taylor, age 26, living in Jasper County, living with an Elizabeth Taylor, age 21, who may be his sister. The veteran was making his way just as he had before the war, scratching out a living on a small farm in Mississippi.

The letters concerning Henry Taylor’s court-martial were found here:

John J. Pettus Correspondence
Series 757
Folder 10, Box 944
Mississippi Department of Archives and History

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A Letter from Vicksburg During the Siege

I found the following letter, written by a civilian resident of Vicksburg during the 1863 siege, in the Natchez Daily Courier, June 30, 1863. As civilian accounts written during the siege are somewhat rare, I wanted to share this very interesting letter:


Republic of Vicksburg, June 13th, 1863

  Friend F. – An opportunity is just offered me, through a friend, of communicating with the “outside barbarians,” of which I gladly avail myself.

I am not scarred, nor shelled, nor starved out of existence yet, as you perceive; nor even driven to live on worse fare than beef and bread, with the customary concoction of corn coffee. Indeed, no one here is starving – nor any fears of it entertained. The idea of surrender, for any cause, is never dreamed of here. The hissing abominations flying upon the city in every direction produces a pleasing (?) excitement to aid digestion and break the monotony of our isolation. They fly right and left, up and down, almost incessantly except during the midday heat – which is made up for with renewed vim at sundown. Then they boom loud enough to wake Hannibal or Hugh O’Neil, if they slept this side of the Atlantic.


Modern illustration by Jerry McWilliams of Vicksburg during the siege. The point of view is from Sky Parlor Hill, where Antonio Genella had his residence.

From the enemy’s works, back of the city, Parrott shells are often thrown as far as the river, while, simultaneously, the mortars, from their cover of woods beyond the Peninsula, send the bombs, in bursting fragments, to the remotest ends of our Republic.

Numerous caves have been constructed in the sides of the hills within the lines by citizens for the protection of their families. Compared with the fury of the bombardment since the investment, the casualties are very small. In the intrenchments, the danger is very little – unless to the over-curious, who are, duck like, given to popping their heads over the breastworks, which the Yankee sharpshooters promptly pop at, frequently popping their heads over the breastworks, which the Yankee sharpshooters promptly pop at, frequently popping the owner into eternity.

Vicksburg siege caves

Illustration of Vicksburg Siege Caves

But the tedium and monotony of trench duty is its most disagreeable feature. There is an unceasing din of sharpshooters’ rifles kept up daily along the lines, doing little damage. On the river front, little of importance has occurred. The boats sometimes shell our batteries at long range from below – none venturing near since we sunk the ironclad Cincinnati, on the 27th ult. She sailed boldly down under the upper battery. Soon found in a sinking condition, she was put up stream and abandoned. Within an hour she sunk to the hurricane deck.


U.S.S. Cincinnati

Yours, very sincerely,

A. G*****


Although the writer of this letter is only identified by the first and last initials of his name, I can make a guess as to who he was. “A.G.” is probably Antonio Genella, a very prosperous Vicksburg merchant.

Antonio Genella was born in Switzerland, and immigrated to the United States as a young

Genella Ad

Ad for Antonio Genella’s store from The Eastern Clarion, August 9, 1861

man.  He ended up settling in Vicksburg, and by the time of the Civil War he had made his fortune as a merchant specializing in fine china. On the 1860 Census for Warren County, Genella listed the value of his real estate holdings at $40,000, and the value of his personal estate at $100,000. In 2016 dollars, Genella’s net worth would be over 3 and a half million dollars.

During the Civil War Genella apparently did a booming business with the Confederate Medical Department, supplying them with literally hundreds of different items for their soldier’s hospitals in Vicksburg. During the siege of Vicksburg, Genella was able to keep his doors open, but not without some difficulties; the Portland Daily Advertiser (Portland, Maine), noted on July 25, 1863: “Gen. Pemberton, it is said, refused to allow citizens to draw from the army stores, insisting that the private stock in the city should be used for that purpose. Mr. Genella, a prominent merchant in this city, being accused of extortion in this matter, publishes a card in vindication of his character.”

Genella Bill 2

Ad from Antonio Genella to the Medical Superintendent of the Port of Vicksburg for goods supplied by his firm in May 1862. Confederate Citizens File, National Archives.

After Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863, Genella remained in the city; the Richmond Enquirer of January 13, 1864, noted that the enterprising gentleman had managed to reopen his store. To keep his store open during the Yankee occupation of Vicksburg, Genella apparently established a close relationship with the city provost marshal. In fact, some felt his business dealings with the provost marshall, whose last name was Wardell, were not entirely above board.


Broken Plate dug from a privy pit in Vicksburg originally sold by Antonio Genella. (Author’s Collection)

In 1865 The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War issued a report about the activities of the provost marshal in Vicksburg; one witness told the committee, “That the provost marshal of Vicksburg, Wardell, is a thorough secesh friend; that the said Wardell sells passes to the rebels to get through the lines…That every storekeeper in Vicksburg has to bribe said Wardell by sums from $500 to $2,000 to carry goods through the lines; that one merchant, A. Genella, is Wardell’s especial protege; that said Genella is a rank secesh, and that before the attack on Vicksburg, by General Grant, said Genella offered $5,000 to the battery that may sink the first Yankee cannon-boat.”

Antonio Genella managed to weather these storms, and after the war ended his kept his business intact. The old merchant passed away on June 12, 1871, and is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg.


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