“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.

25.Free_.Bur_.-school

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

THE COLORED SCHOOLS
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-131

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.

VICKSBURG, Miss.,
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.
S.W.

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
Sentence
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

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

Barrel_Shirt_Punishment

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. (www.wikimedia.com)

 

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
Sir
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:

Fold3_Page_434_General_Orders_and_Circulars_of_the_Confederate_War_Department_18611865

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:

Mississippian:

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.

vicksburg1863

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.

USS-Cincinnati-Footes-Flagship-Ft.-Henry-31989

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.

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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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“We were Mississippians and Resolved to Stand:” Stanford’s Battery at Murfreesboro

153 years ago today, two mighty armies, the Union’s Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General William S. Rosecrans, and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General Braxton Bragg, were locked in a bloody stalemate at the Battle of Stone’s River, Tennessee. The fighting started on December 31, 1862, and after a pause on New Year’s day, the bloodletting continued on January 2, 1863. The following account of the battle was written by Benjamin Watkins Leigh Butt, a corporal in Stanford’s Mississippi Battery of Light Artillery.

Butt sent this account to the Memphis Daily Appeal, which published it in the January 22, 1863, edition of the paper. This is the second time the writings of Corporal Butt have been featured in this blog; back in 2012 I posted a history of Stanford’s Battery written by the soldier after the war. That article can be found here: https://mississippiconfederates.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/a-history-of-stanfords-mississippi-battery/

The Battle of Stones River, or Murfreesboro as it was known by the Confederates, took a heavy toll on the Mississippi units that fought at this Tennessee killing ground. The Mississippi infantry regiments alone suffered a loss of 1,513 killed, wounded, and missing. Particularly hard hit were the 29th Mississippi Infantry and the 30th Mississippi Infantry. – Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Mississippi in the Civil War, page 96.

Benjamin Watkins Leigh Butt wrote a very descriptive account of the Battle of Stones River, that vividly recounts the suffering of the Mississippians who fought there. I am proud to be able to share it with you:

BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO’

Camp Near Shelbyville, Tenn., January 12, 1863

EDITORS APPEAL: Again by the kind hand of providence has my life been spared, and I have been permitted to pass through a series of bloody fights, unhurt. From my personal observation, and the best data I can collect, I will endeavor to give your readers a faithful account of the battle of Murfreesboro, or Stone River more properly, as it was fought along the banks of that stream.

On Friday, December 26th, the enemy, with his entire force, except a small garrison at Nashville, commenced his grand advance, our cavalry disputing his way and slowly falling back before him. On Saturday and Sunday, all the tents and equipage of our army were transferred to the baggage wagons and sent back to the rear, some two miles south of Murfreesboro’.

Monday morning found our troops drawn up in line of battle along the banks of Stone river, our center being a mile and a half northwest of town. Our right wing, Breckinridge’s division, with Cleburne’s division in reserve, was posted on the eastern bank of Stone river; while our center, Wither’s division, with Cheatham’s division as a reserve, and our left, under McCown, were on the opposite side of the stream. The distance between our advance and reserve divisions was about one thousand yards.

Federal Troops at Stones River

Federal Troops Drawn up in line of Battle at Stones River – 

http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/67300/67366/67366_batt_stone2.htm

The enemy’s lines were drawn up within a mile of ours, and during the whole of Monday there was skirmishing on our left, but with no definite or important result. Occasionally the sullen roar of a cannon, followed quickly by the shrieking of a shell, told us that the enemy was feeling, as military savants say, for our position. On Monday night it rained, and, as our front lines were not permitted to have fires, and each soldier had only a single blanket, the long night hours passed drearily away. During the night, however, temporary breastworks were thrown up along our lines, to protect the troops, in case a charge should be made by the enemy. 

On Tuesday morning skirmishing again commenced on our left, and was kept up during the day, but much heavier than on the day preceeding. Toward noon the enemy made a charge on Robinson’s battery, which was quickly repulsed. About 3 1/2 P.M. Captain Stanford was ordered to send a section (two guns,) of his rifle battery around to the left wing where the enemy had succeeded in obtaining a favorable position for his artillery. Accordingly Lieutenant Hardin took command of the section designated, and we proceeded for half a mile through a dense cedar grove, coming up immediately behind Robinson’s battery, which was engaged in a terrible conflict with a battery of the enemy only four hundred yards distant. Here we remained a few minutes for orders, while the shells were exploding among us every minute. There was scarcely a tree to be seen which was not shattered by these terrible missiles. 

Video of the author’s reenactment unit, Battery C, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, live firing a 3-inch Ordnance Rifle at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on July 2, 1993. The rifled cannon that were being fired by Stanford’s Battery would have looked and sounded much the same.

 

Presently we were ordered into a cornfield just to the left of Robinson. We unlimbered and opened immediately upon the enemy in front. As soon as we uncovered, our position exposed us to the view of another Yankee battery, on a hill to the right, some seven hundred yards distant, so situated as to give it a raking fire upon us.

For some reason or other, I fear for no good one, Robinson’s battery to our right ceased firing as soon as we had opened, thus turning the whole of the enemy’s fire upon us. In a moment our ears were greeted with a perfect hurricane of shell and cannister, the latter coming from the battery nearest us.

The enemy had every advantage of us. Our pieces were in an open field, while his batteries were partially protected by woods. Our chief advantage, that of long range, was lost by our proximity to the enemy, while his guns were of large calibre, and we were as near as he could wish. It was a rash and unwise order that sent us to such a position. But we remembered that we were Mississippians, and resolved to stand though our lives should be sacrificed in the attempt.

Stones River Illustration

Federal Artillery Firing During the Battle of Stones River – 

https://40thindiana.wordpress.com/category/stones-river/

Whiz, rattled the cannister – bang, exploded the shells around us, while the sharp crack of our two rifle pieces responded to the roar of the enemy’s twelve guns. Fortunately, providence smiled upon us. The greatest portion of the enemy’s shots were aimed too high, and passed just over us. I suppose that at least a dozen shells passed within ten feet of my head. We maintained this unequal contest for half an hour and were then ordered from the field, having fired about sixty rounds. Up to this time we had lost only two men wounded. We regarded our preservation as little less than a miracle. We had the satisfaction before leaving the field of noticing that the enemy’s battery immediately before us had ceased firing, our pieces having fired eight or ten rounds without a reply. As we were leaving the field to avoid a company of sharpshooters who were flanking us with the intention of picking off our cannoneers, one of the enemy’s pieces reopened, and about the third shot our commanding officer, Lieut. Hardin, was struck with a shell, and instantly killed. We bore him off the field, and rejoined our command without further loss.

About dark the enemy made another charge on Robinson’s battery, but it being well supported by infantry, the charge was gallantly repulsed. This ended the fighting for the day. The night closed in with a cold wind from the North, while most of our poor soldiers had to lie on the damp and frozen ground without fires.

The Great Battle of Wednesday

Finding that the enemy seemed indisposed to attack us in our position, our generals determined on Tuesday night to assault his right wing early in the morning. Accordingly Cleburne’s division was detached from our right and transferred to the left, to be ready for the attack.

The last day of the dying year dawned upon us cold, clear and beautiful. The rising sun dispelled the mists that hung like phantoms along the river banks, tinging the emerald cedars with gold, and making the frost-clad fields resplendent with myriads of miniature diamonds. But ere it had risen, the scattering fire of pickets swelling into the angry crash of opposing brigades, and mingled with the deep thundering of artillery, told us that the action had commenced in earnest on our left. So sudden and impetuous was the attack of our troops under McCown and Cleburne, that the enemy steadily gave way before them. Brigade after brigade was hurried up to reinforce their broken ranks – battery after battery was placed in position to rake our advancing troops; but vain were their efforts to hurl back the mighty onward tide, though they fought with a desperation worthy [of] a nobler cause.

On, on pressed our gallant boys, their enthusiastic cheers rising above the din of battle. About eight o’clock Withers’ left became engaged and fought as Alabamians and Mississippians know how to fight. They were seconded by brave “Old Cheat” and his Tennessee veterans. About this time Generals Polk and Bragg rode along our lines (our brigade was still in reserve), and were greeted with three hearty cheers. Bragg’s hard, grim old visage was wreathed with smiles as he announced to us that we had taken all the enemy’s batteries on our left, and that “Hardee was driving them before him like sheep.”

About 9 A. M., Walthall’s Mississippi brigade made the most desperate charge of

Patton Anderson

Brigadier General Patton Anderson commanded Walthall’s brigade at the Battle of Stones River. At that time Walthall was on sick leave – wikipedia

the day. They had to pass through an open field to attack the enemy in a cedar thicket in front, while a battery on each flank poured a murderous fire of cannister into their ranks. They pressed on to within a hundred yards of the enemy’s lines, when they were compelled to fall back before the terrific storm of lead and iron that swept down half their numbers. The 29th and 30th Mississippi regiments suffered awfully. The 30th had sixty-four men killed in five minutes. 

At this juncture Stanford’s rifle battery was ordered round to the right to silence one of the batteries that was making such havoc in our ranks. We unlimbered with a hearty good will, poured in a few rounds rapidly, and diverted the enemy’s fire. Our veterans, by this time reinforced, again charged the enemy’s lines, drove them from the woods, and took their two batteries.

By 10 o’clock the fighting was general on our left and center and for four or five hours was of the most desperate character. The enemy’s right wing had been forced back so as to form almost a right angle with his center; but here he massed his troops in such numbers as to make that point almost invulnerable. By far the hardest fighting was done in the center. For hours each army stood without giving or taking an inch, while the ground was being literally covered with the slain.

At noon we were ordered on a bid to fire upon a celebrated rifle battery that had annoyed our lines for some time. We exchanged some savagely complimentary shots, and then the aforesaid battery thought proper to take a better position. About this time a brigade in Withers’ division being ordered to charge, we accompanied it through the field for four hundred yards, where we halted and unlimbered.

Three batteries now opened upon us with a terrible fire of shell. A number exploded in the very ranks of the infantry, killing and wounding many. I was gunner of one of our pieces, and had fired but once when a cannon ball killed two men at my gun. The head of one was shot off within a foot of mine, and his brains spattered my face. We remained in this dangerous place for half an hour, but without further loss, except that of several horses, and a limber so badly shattered that we had to get another before the gun could be removed. The brigade that had charged was compelled to fall back. We then retired to our former position, and fired several more rounds, after which we were relieved by another battery, and were in the fight no more during the day. From this time, about two P.M., for an hour, the fire of the infantry almost ceased, and the action was kept up by artillery. The enemy’s right wing had been driven back for two miles, and his center forced back for half a mile. Our right was but partially and slightly engaged during the day.

Toward evening the fighting again became general with the infantry along the

6543.3.1-12

Civil War Cannister Shot – Wikipedia

center, and here the “high pressure” (Chalmers’ Mississippi brigade) made a splendid charge. Ketchum’s battery, connected with this brigade, did splendid execution. It was charged once, and had to fire double charges of cannister. During the charge it had three men killed, and eighteen wounded. The battle closed before dark, by which time the enemy’s center had been driven back fully a mile, we holding the battlefield.

The last sun of 1862 went down in blood – a sad, but fit representative of the eventful year that has just sped by on the wings of father time. While we engaged the enemy in front, Wheeler had swept round in his rear, burning about 300 wagons and taking a large number of prisoners, besides about 2,000 mules. During the night our forces were busy bringing off our wounded and securing the captured artillery. We took about forty pieces, a large number of small arms, and from 4,000 to 6,000 prisoners.

The enemy fell back during the night to a strong position, and busied himself in reorganizing his shattered forces, and throwing up breastworks. Thursday, New Year’s day, passed without any fighting except a few slight skirmishes. 

Gen. Bragg has already been censured for not attacking the enemy on Thursday. Why he did not, it is not for me to say. This much, however, can be said for Gen. Bragg. Like a good General he wants to save his men. If the “Army of Tennessee” were annihilated, we have no new troops to fill its place. An attack upon the enemy’s lines would have been attended with heavy loss on our side, and though success would probably have attended our efforts, yet the risk was very considerable.

At daybreak on Friday morning the four batteries of Cheatham’s division, Scott’s, Carnes’, Smith’s and Stanford’s, supported by Chalmer’s brigade, formed on a hill eight hundred yards from the enemy’s lines, and had a lively time during the day, shelling the enemy’s sharpshooters from the woods, and engaging a line of the enemy’s batteries in front. At times the fire of the enemy was tremendous, but being just behind the crest of the hill we suffered but little. About three o’clock P. M., we were ordered to engage the enemy’s batteries, while Breckinridge should charge their lines. He met them, and drove them back with great slaughter for a mile, when suddenly falling behind their entrenchments, and being supported by a number of batteries, our forces were compelled to fall back with heavy loss. Here the enemy took three pieces of Breckinridge’s artillery; so he lost everything that had just been gained, and was driven back to his original position. This was certainly an unfortunate move. 

If Breckinridge had had a supporting division, the result would have probably been quite different; but he had no reserves at hand. There was no fighting of account on Saturday, and Saturday evening, to our surprise, the whole army was ordered to fall back. 

We camped two miles south of Murfreesboro that night, and Sunday a part of the army marched to Shelbyville, part to Tullahoma and a portion to Manchester. There was at least one good reason for our retrograde movement. Our troops had been out for a week, exposed to the rain and cold, with but a single blanket each, and for the most part without fires. Human nature could not hold out much longer under such exposure.

The enemy slowly occupied Murfreesboro, but did not molest us in our retreat. They were evidently glad to be rid of us on any terms. Our loss in all the fights- killed, wounded and missing – will probably reach eight thousand. The enemy admits a loss of from twenty thousand to thirty thousand. We held the field for four days, buried our dead and secured all the spoils. Hence we claim the victory.

Stanford’s battery lost one lieutenant and two privates killed, and six privates wounded, two severely. We also lost ten horses. The enemy is too much crippled to fight us for a month to come. Whenever he is ready, we will welcome him again “with bloody hands to hospitable graves.”

LEIGH

In the January 31, 1863, edition of the Memphis Daily Appeal, “Leigh” included a postscript to his letter about Murfreesboro:

I wrote an account of the battle of Murfreesboro for your paper some days since, and omitted to mention the casualties in Stanford’s battery. They are herewith appended, and you will confer a favor by giving them publicity.

LEIGH

STANFORD’S BATTERY – This gallant organization from Grenada, Miss., was actively engaged in the late battle of Murfreesboro. The following list of casualties has been furnished:

Killed – Lieut. A. A. Hardin; Privates W. C. Brooks and R. H. Elliott. Wounded – Sergt. B.G. Duncan; Privates m. Hartsfield, Charley Phillips, P. L. Shumate, T. C. Rosamond, and George Sledge. None of the latter were severely hurt.

 

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Christmas with the 18th Mississippi Infantry

The following account of Christmas in the 18th Mississippi Infantry was taken from a letter published by the Memphis Daily Appeal on January 7, 1862. At the time this account was written, the 18th was camped at Leesburg, Virginia, and the men of the regiment were spending their first Christmas away from home:

While I now write, preparations are going on for ‘winter quarters,’ and the sounds

civil-war-christmas-winslow-homer

“Christmas Boxes in Camp” By Winslow Homer – Harper’s Weekly, January 4, 1862

of axes and falling timber are resounding through the weeds on every hand. Game cocks tied to the tent by one leg, are crowing defiantly in all directions – chicken-fights are progressing in every sunny spot, while violins and circles of dancers are scattered in every warm and dry location, while others roar out bachanalian and war-like strains from every tent. It is Christmas! Far away from friends and home, these brave and simple-hearted volunteers make the welkin ring with their boisterous mirth – huge logs are crackling and roaring on camp fires – pots are boiling and bubbling, and hissing for egg-nog, beef and pork are frying, and bread is baking – the regimental band has been imbibing, and is now playing away with great gusto, while some have formed setts for quadrilles to be danced by the fire light.

It is Christmas! Groups are reading the newspapers and deciding the fate and progress of the war, officers and men are hobnobbing over the social glass; negroes are busy and gaseous over a pyramid of pots and pans, while the ear-splitting laughter and incessant rolling of eyes gives positive assurance that they have made acquaintance with something stronger than water. Boxes, bales, and trunks, and parcels have come from ‘home’ – coats, and blankets, and boots, and hats are hawked about, and swapped, and sold, and tossed about, while long letters from the ‘Governor,’ and short ones from ‘sweethearts’ are read, and praised, and laughed at, while ‘payday’ coming on the morrow, cheers are given for the quartermaster, and stentorian groans for the inartistic or tardy cash. 

Snap 2015-12-24 at 16.13.18

“Christmas in Camp” – Boston Public Library

It is Christmas! Friends with mysterious bundles and parcels, hid under the coat, arrive from town, and dive therewith into the depth and recesses of the tent, and hide them under the straw – friends with turkeys and fowl, and a hundred other things, meet together and do hungry justice to the same, while songs and stories go the rounds of tents and camps, and everybody laughs, and everybody is ‘jolly’ except the poor and unfortunate frost-covered sentinel, who, with muffled form and a very red nose, walks his lonely rounds and grins at what he cannot then enjoy.

Minolta DSC

“Christmas Eve” by Thomas Nast, published in the January 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly

It is Christmas time, and even the lean, lank, solemn looking parson unbends in dignity for the occasion, and while forming one of a circle round the blazing logs, cup in hand, essays to joke, but being ‘coughed down’ for the attempt, winks ominously at the egg-nog, and apostrophises largely on the vanity of things generally. The colonel too, and the lieutenant, and the shrill-toned, brisk and soldierly adjutant smoke their Havanas on the portico of ‘headquarters’ with solemn dignity, while the French band-master electrifies a knot of youngsters with all sorts of ‘impossibilities’ on the trombone.

It is Christmas time, and coming but once a year none care for expenses. The

eggnog

Offering a toast with Egg Nog – http://www.historicarkansas.org

Yankees are the last persons thought of – cock-fighting and egg-nog, and egg-nog and cock-fighting interspersed with songs and egg-nog and story-telling are the prime order of things just now, and despite all the parson says, and nothwithstanding the ‘starchiness’ of full-blown officials, rye and ‘egg fruit’ are decidedly in the ascendant, and more than that has no baneful effect, since it simply lends to revive old associations and strengthen those bonds of brotherhood which has indissolubly linked us for ever to the fortunes of our country.

The above letter was only signed T.E.C., but fortunately I was able to figure out this these initials stood for Thomas E. Caffey, a private in Company D “Hamer Rifles,” 18th Mississippi Infantry.

Caffey enlisted in the Hamer Rifles at Yazoo City in May 1861 for 12 months service. The 25 year old was a native of London, England, and listed his occupation as teacher. At the end of his year’s enlistment, he applied for a discharge, stating he had to return to England to take care of the estate of his deceased parents. In 1864 Caffey published a book about his experiences in the war titled Battlefields of the South From Bull Run to Fredericksburg. This book is available for free download from the Hathitrust.org website.

On a personal note I would like to thank everyone who reads and enjoys my blog – your kind comments make it all worthwhile I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

 

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The Battle Banquet: The 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill

I recently picked up a curious little relic of the Battle of Champion Hill on Ebay; to be honest it doesn’t look like much more than the party invitation that it is. But this party was special; it was held on May 16, 1913, at Newburgh, Indiana, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill. To the attendees of the party, this date and this battle held a special significance, as most of them had fought for their lives on the “Hill of Death.”

Invite 2.PNG

The party was hosted by William A. Warren and his wife Lida, at their home in Newburgh. William was a survivor of the Battle of Champion Hill, having served in Company F, 24th Indiana Infantry. As part of Brigadier General Alvin P. Hovey’s division, the 24th Indiana had fought on Champion Hill itself, and had suffered grievous casualties: 27 killed, 166 wounded, and 8 missing, in a regiment that numbered less than 500 men when the battle started. William A. Warren was one of those casualties in the 24th Indiana; wounded in the right arm during the fighting, he had to have the limb amputated to save his life.

I wanted to find out a little more about the Champion Hill anniversary party, so I went to Genealogybank.com, and got lucky – the Evansville Courier & Press had detailed coverage of the event in the May 17, 1913, edition of the paper:

BOYS IN BLUE AT BATTLE BANQUET

Fiftieth Anniversary of Champion Hill Fight Celebrated at Warren Home

At Newburg Home Veterans Revive Memories of Historic Battle Scenes

The 11 o’clock Evansville suburban Newburg car was loaded with veterans, their families and friends, and received a hearty welcome at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. William Warren. The ladies hired themselves to the house, while the gentlemen gathered in groups about the grounds and enjoyed reminiscences over the time of the Vicksburg campaign until Mrs. Warren announced that dinner was ready.

William A. Warren Family

William A. Warren and Family – Findagrave.com

Three tables in the double dining room were laden with choice viands not generally found on the soldiers bill of fare at least during the Vicksburg campaign. About 60 of the veterans and their families were seated at the tables and did justice to the tempting viands spread before them. At the conclusion of the meal short readings and talks were in order.

The talk of Comrade John Rudolph, of the Twenty-Fourth Indiana, delivered with

Vicksburg Daily Citizen

July 4, 1863, note added to the Vicksburg Daily Citizen by victorious Union soldiers – Lib.wvu.edu

simple pathos, brought tears to the eyes of many, as did the remarks of Comrade Christ Wunderlich of the First Indiana battery. Comrade John Gough delivered a fine address. Miss Sadie Hill read some extracts from the last edition of the “Vicksburg Daily Citizen,” printed on wall paper, of date July 4, 1863. This last edition of the “Citizen” was “finished” by a printer of General Grant’s army on July 4, 1863, and contained the following: ‘Two days bring about great changes. The banner of the union floats above Vicksburg. General Grant has caught the rabbit. He has dined in Vicksburg and he did bring his rabbit with him.’

After dinner the guests adjourned to the grounds and formed in social groups, reviewing the incidents of the march, the camp and the battle field.

Warriors Who Were Guests

The following survivors of the battle of Champion Hill were present: C.W. Barenfanger, Eleventh Indiana; Henry Baldwin, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John Behagg, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Ralph Bonnel, First Indiana Cavalry; John F. Crisp, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Robert Day, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John R. Elderfield, Sixtieth Indiana; W.H. Ellison, Forty-Third Tennessee, Confederate; W.P. Graham, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; C.D. Heldt, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Robert Hornbrook, Eleventh Indiana; Thomas Ingle, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; August Leich, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Charles Meissner, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; George Nester, First Indiana Battery; Alexander Oliphant, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John Rudolph, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John Rohner, Twenty-Second Kentucky; W.H. Redman, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Frank Snurpus, Eleventh Indiana; Thomas Seifritz, Eleventh Indiana; August Sauer, First Indiana Battery; Joshua Seward, First Indiana Cavalry; Julius Tzschhoppe, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Christ Wunderlich, First Indiana Battery; William Warren, Twenty-Fourth Indiana.

Other veterans present were Edward Gough, One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Indiana; William Wilson, Thirty-Third Indiana; John R. Weed, Sixty-Fifth Indiana. Invited guests were Charles Hovey, son of Winston Menzies and grandson of General Alvin T. Hovey.

Souvenirs for Guests

Each guest was presented with a minie ball, picked up on the Champion Hill battlefield a few years ago by William Warren, and also with a blue and gray pencil as souvenirs of the day. Mrs. Major Menzies, daughter of General Hovey sent Richmond roses to be given to the survivors of the battle. Mr. Warren presented each survivor with a double photograph of himself, as he appeared in 1863 and at the present time.

A three-course supper was served at 5:30 o’clock. The 6:30 o’clock car brought more friends and members of Farragut Post who came to express their congratulation and good wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Warren. Refreshments were served during the evening to all present.

A pleasant incident of the evening was the presentation to Mr. Warren of a solid silver loving cup by twenty of his friends. The cup was presented by Dr. S.F. Jacobi. It was in the battle of Champion Hill that Mr. Warren lost his arm and John F. Crisp and Robert Day were wounded, and a number of the members of the Eleventh and Twenty-Fourth Indiana regiments were killed and wounded. This interesting semi-centennial celebration was much enjoyed and will be long remembered by all of the participants.

Story of the Battle

The battle of Champion Hill was the hardest fought battle of the Vicksburg campaign, and Hovey’s division bore the brunt of the fighting, losing 1,202 men and 59 officers. The Eleventh Indiana regiment’s loss was 167, and that of the Twenty-Fourth Indiana was 201.

General Grant in his Memoirs, writes: ‘The battle of Champion Hill lasted about four hours. Hard fighting preceded two or three hours of skirmishing, some of which almost rose to the dignity of battle. Every man of Hovey’s division and of McPherson’s two divisions was engaged during the battle. We had in this battle about 15,000 men absolutely engaged. Our loss was 410 killed, 1,844 wounded, and 187 missing. Hovey alone lost 1,200 killed, wounded and missing – more than one-third of his division.’

battle-of-champion-hill

Harper’s Weekly Sketch of the Fighting at Champion Hill – National Park Service

Another writer in ‘Indiana at Vicksburg’ gives the following account of Hovey’s division at Champion Hill:

‘With the enemy outnumbering him three to one, Hovey fought him with bulldog

hILL OF DEATH MARKER

Battlefield Marker Erected at Champion Hill – BattleofChampionHill.org

tenacity and fierce combativeness. He was ably seconded by his subordinate officers, as they were by the men. Vicksburg, so long striven for, was understood to hang in the balance, as it was the garrison of that citadel which contested the field. Seldom, perhaps never, was a battle more stubbornly fought. Hovey’s veterans, hard pressed, swayed backward and forward, and back again, rising and falling like a sea lashing the rocky shore. Can they hold the ground until the promised help comes? was the war cry. Again and again they rallied to the colors. At last the long-looked for reinforcements arrived. The foe was checked: one more determined charge was made on his lines, and exultant cheers proclaimed the success of that last desperate onset, and the enemy was in full retreat. The pursuit was taken up by fresh troops and Hovey’s tired heroes rested on the bloody field.’

Men that fifty years ago assembled at the call of the bugle, and in obedience to stern orders, faced each other in mortal combat, yesterday again faced each other from opposite sides of the festal board in response to the following summons:

Unfortunately this is where the newspaper article ends – it seems like the end of the article was left off by mistake, as I checked all the remaining pages of the newspaper, but could not find the remainder of the story.

I did however, in my search, find another story which mentioned William

William A. Warren

Post-War Picture of William A. Warren wearing his Grand Army of the Republic Uniform – Findagrave.com

A. Warren. In May 1900, the survivors of Company F, 24th Indiana Infantry held a reunion to remember the anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill. The Evansville Courier and Press published a story about the reunion in its May 17 edition. In the article it stated that the 24th Indiana

…lost all told, killed and wounded, 201 men. Company F went into the engagement with forty-six men and came out with twenty-two. William Warren of this city lost his arm in the engagement.”

The reunion was held at the home of John F. Crisp, and the newspaper gave a detailed account of the arrangements:

The house of Mr. and Mrs. Crisp was beautifully decorated with flags and flowers. On the outside was stretched an army camp and everything had a war like appearance. The old veterans were served with dinner and supper. Mrs. Crisp was assisted at the tables by Mrs. John Bullen, Mrs. Minnie Keller and Al Clark. The women wore red, white and blue aprons and caps. Strains of sweet music were wafted through the house and the old soldiers lived the past over again.”

After William Warren was wounded at Champion Hill, it took more than a month for the folks back home to learn of his fate. On June 23, 1863, the Evansville Journal noted:

PERSONAL – We were pleased to greet the return of Johnny Wheeler, yesterday, who arrived Sunday morning on the steamer Courier. Johnny was a member of Company F, 24th Indiana, and received two wounds in the battle of Champion Hill. He was captured by the rebels while in the hospital at Champion Hill, and paroled. He brings the glad tidings that some of our boys who were reported dead are alive and doing well – among others, William Warren.”

After Warren recovered from his wound, he was discharged from the army and returned home to Indiana. The loss of an arm did not seem to slow the young man down, and in 1864 he ran for public office. In the election results posted by the Evansville Daily Journal, April 5, 1864, for assessor, the paper noted that there were three posts to fill; the leading candidate was William Warren, Jr., with 769 votes.

The assessor’s position was just the beginning of Warren’s political career; on July 23, 1866, The Evansville Journal wrote that the Deputy Collector for the county had resigned, and that “We also learn that Captain Hornbrook, of this city, and William Warren, Jr., a gallant private soldier, who lost an arm at the bloody battle of Champion Hill, are applicants for the position. Both are competent for the place. Young Warren, since he returned home – being only one of nine survivors of one hundred noble men that constituted one of the companies of the 24th – has learned to write handsomely with his left hand and is otherwise amply qualified to discharge the duties of the office. Either of the gentlemen would be acceptable, we think, to the majority of our citizens.”

William A. Warren went on to have a very prosperous future; he served as

grave

The grave of William A. Warren – Findagrave.com

deputy collector of internal revenue for Vanderburgh County, Indiana, from 1866 – 1869, as Vanderburgh County auditor from 1878 – 1882, and by the time he hosted the 1913 reunion he was a bank president. He lived to a ripe old age, dying on January 1, 1937; he was the next to last surviving member of his Grand Army of the Republic Post. Warren is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville, Indiana.

 

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Mississippi Confederate Generals

During the Civil War there were four ranks of general in the Confederate army; from lowest to highest they were brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and full general.  There were twenty-four Mississippians who were brigadier generals, five who were major generals, and no lieutenant generals or full generals.

The brigadier generals from Mississippi were Wirt Adams, William E.

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Brigadier General William Wirt Adams – findagrave.com

Baldwin, William Barksdale, Samuel Benton, William L. Brandon, William F. Brantley James R. Chalmers, Charles Clark, Douglas H. Cooper, Joseph R. Davis, Winfield S. Featherston, Samuel W. Ferguson, John W. Frazer, Samuel J. Ghoulson, Richard Griffith, Nathaniel H. Harris, Benjamin G. Humphreys, Mark P. Lowrey, Robert Lowry, Carnot Posey, Claudius W. Sears, Jacob H. Sharp, Peter B. Starke, and William F. Tucker.

The major generals from Mississippi were: Samuel G. French, William T. Martin, Earl Van Dorn, Edward C. Walthall, and William H. C. Whiting.

HD_vanDornE

Major General Earl Van Dorn -hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu

Being a general in the Civil War could be a very hazardous job, as they were often required to be at the forefront of the attack to inspire their men and often found themselves in the thickest of the fight.  The list of killed and wounded Mississippi generals bears out the dangerous nature of their work.  Of the 29 generals who served from Mississippi, five were killed in battle and ten were wounded in action, three of them more than once.

The five Mississippi generals who were killed in action were as follows: William Barksdale, mortally wounded at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863; Samuel Benton, mortally wounded at Atlanta, Georgia, on July 28, 1864; Richard Griffith, killed at Savage Station, Virginia, on June 29, 1862; Carnot Posey, mortally wounded at Bristoe Station, Virginia, on October 14, 1863; and William H. C. Whiting, mortally wounded at Fort

Whiting

Major General William H.C. Whiting – findagrave.com

Fisher, North Carolina, January 15, 1865.

In addition, there were two Mississippi generals who died by misadventure: William Baldwin died on February 19, 1864 at Dog River Factory, Alabama, when he was thrown from his horse; Earl Van Dorn was murdered on May 7, 1863 at Spring Hill, Tennessee by an enraged husband who said the general “violated the sanctity of his home” by his affair with the man’s wife.

The ten Mississippi generals who were wounded in action were as follows: William L. Brandon at Malvern Hill, Virginia; had to have his leg amputated.  Brandon actually became a general of Mississippi state troops after he lost his leg; he was only a lieutenant colonel at the time he was wounded; James R. Chalmers, wounded at Stone’s River, Tennessee; Charles Clark, wounded at Shiloh, Tennessee and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the second wound crippled him for life; Samuel J. Gholson, wounded at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, and Egypt,

William_Lindsay_Brandon

Brigadier General William L. Brandon – Wikipedia

Mississippi; Benjamin G. Humphreys, wounded at Berryville, Virginia; Mark P. Lowry, wounded at Perryville, Kentucky; Robert Lowry, wounded twice at Shiloh, Tennessee; Claudius W. Sears, wounded at Nashville, Tennessee and had to have his leg amputated; William F. Tucker, wounded Resaca, Georgia; and Edward C. Walthall, wounded at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee.

No better example of the fighting spirit required of a Civil War general can be found than that of Brigadier General William Barksdale at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.  While waiting to be given the order to assault the federal troops in the Peach Orchard, the Mississippian were being hit by Union artillery fire.  Barksdale pleaded with his superior to be allowed to attack saying “I wish you would let me go in general; I will take that battery in five minutes.”  At 6:30 p.m. he was finally given the command to charge, and Barksdale rode up in front of the 13th Mississippi Infantry and as he turned toward the enemy one of his aides said his face was “radiant with joy.”

In a matter of minutes Barksdale’s Brigade broke the Union line and

GeneralBarksdale_zps3678f799

Brigadier General William Barksdale – The Pictorial Books of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion by Frazar Kirkland, 1866

smashed the federal brigade defending the Peach Orchard, capturing it’s commander, Brigadier General Charles K. Graham.  One Union colonel called the advance “the grandest charge that was ever made by mortal man.”  The Mississippians continued onward in the face of heavy fire, capturing an artillery battery of six guns at the Trostle Farm.  Finally federal reinforcements stopped the advancing Mississippians, and as he tried to rally his men for another charge, Barksdale was shot from the saddle and captured by the Federals.  Before he died Barksdale told a federal surgeon, “Tell my wife I am shot, but we fought like hell.”

The bravery displayed by Mississippi generals and the men they led was

General Carnot Posey

Brigadier General Carnot Posey – http://www.civilwaref.blogspot.com

not uncommon during the war, and it was often remarked on.  Major General Richard H. Anderson wrote in his official report on the battle of Chancellorsville glowing praise for the Mississippi Brigade commanded by General Carnot Posey, saying of them, “Where all performed their duty with so much zeal and courage, it is almost impossible to make a distinction; but Brigadier-General Posey and his brave, untiring, persevering Mississippians seem to me to deserve special notice.  Their steadiness at the furnace on Saturday evening, when pressed by greatly superior numbers, saved our army from great peril, while their chivalrous charge upon the trenches on Sunday contributed largely to the successes of that day.” – Official Records, Series 1, Volume 24, Part 1, 852.

 

Sources

Clark, Champ.  Gettysburg.  Alexandria, VA: Time-Life  Books, 1985.

Confederate Generals Subject File, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.

Moneyhon, Carl and Bobby Roberts.  Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Mississippi In The Civil War.  Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.

Rowland, Dunbar.  Military History of Mississippi 1803-1898.  Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1978.

United States War Department, Compiler.  War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.  73 Volumes, 128 Parts; Washington, DC: 1880-1902.

 

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“The Crowning Wave of Southern Valor:” The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee

In June 1897, William Wirt Thomson of Greene County, Mississippi,

W.W. Thomson - 1874 Miss. Legislature LOC

Photograph of William W. Thomson taken when he was a member of the Mississippi State Legislature in 1874-1875 – Library of Congress

traveled to Nashville to attend the 7th annual United Confederate Veterans reunion. After the reunion ended, Thomson took a side trip to the nearby town of Franklin Tennessee, the site where he had fought nearly 33 years earlier.

Visiting Franklin stirred up many old memories for Thomson – he had participated in the battle as the captain of Company A, “Gaines Warriors,” 24th Mississippi Infantry, seen his regiment decimated, and himself captured and sent to a prison camp for the remainder of the war.

Captain Thomson wrote an article about his trip to Franklin entitled simply “The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee,” which was published in The Pascagoula Democrat-Star on September 3, 1897 – it’s an eloquent account of an old warrior visiting the scene of his final battle:

For a distance of nearly twenty miles, the railroad running south from Nashville passes down through a valley of surpassing beauty and loveliness. Nature has been wonderfully prodigal of her beautiful scenery all along those miles of valley and mountain, and the hand and taste of man has added much thereto.

Just where this great thoroughfare crosses the Archer river, on the south side, lies a high plateau, almost level, and surrounded on three sides by this picturesque little stream. Here, in its golden setting of fields of waving grain, sets the historic little town of Franklin, with its straight, clean, tree-bordered trees radiating out from a broad, well-kept plaza or open space, around which are ranged the handsome public buildings and offices of Williamson County, out of which Franklin is the county site. Just south of the town, and stretching away to the east and west in beautiful undulations, and with a valley in its midst, is another and higher plateau, while still further south the horizon settles down on a range of wooded hills, on the crest and near the center of which, clearly silhouetted against the evening sky, stands a tree, alone, and higher than those near by. To this tree the citizen who may accompany you will point and tell you “That is Hood’s Tree.”

View North from Hood's Headquarters on Winstead Hill - Battles & Leaders

View north from Hood’s headquarters on Winstead Hill (engraving from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War)

Bathed in the haze of a summer evening, this scene so calm, so lovely, so quiet and pastoral, is so nearly a dream of heavenly loveliness, that you can scarcely be made to believe that here, thirty-three years ago, was fought the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, perhaps the bloodiest ever fought on this earth.

From that lone tree, a great Confederate commander looked down and

John Bell Hood

Lieutenant General John Bell Hood – Library of Congress

watched his grey legions – the veteran  remnants of the grandest army the world has ever seen, as they charged across the valley and up the slope to where Thomas, “The Rock of Chickamauga,” with his trained and tried troops stood waiting to receive them. With the river behind and on two sides of him, Thomas and his army were fighting for their very existence, while the flushed and victorious Confederates were rushing forward to strike what they fondly believed would be a crushing blow – a blow they hoped would end the war, and free their loved Southland from the hated invader forever. “Man proposes, God disposes.” From side to side of this beautiful valley, the tide of battle and carnage rolled, and from right to left, heroes dashed on to death, and fell. At the old gin house, and across the pike at the Carter house and the “bloody angle,” destruction stalked supreme and the demon of death held his highest carnival. Around the old gin, Missourians and Texans, Mississippians and Tennesseans, Alabamians and Arkansians – all mingled in heaps together; and amid them lay Cleburne and Adams and Granberry, general and colonel and private – heroes all, no rank, no distinction, all glorious together.

Franklin Cotton Gin

Post Civil War Photograph of the Carter Cotton Gin at Franklin – Civil War Trust

Across the pike at the Carter house, on the “bloody angle,” lay the gallant Strahl, and piled three and four feet deep in the trenches were the veterans who in other days and in other battles had followed the peerless Walthall and Tucker to victory. Here on this fateful corner, the gallant Ball planted the colors of the 24th Mississippi, and with his white girlish hand on its riven staff, lay with his face on the works, pierced with sixteen bullets, and beside him Capt. Ben Toomer, “the noblest Roman of them all.” It was a battle of the giants, and nature stood aghast, while from his place by that lone tree Hood stood and watched his matchless soldiers melt away, until the murky clouds of war and the smoke from the burning woods below, covered the valley and shut it all from view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Carter House on the Franklin Battlefield – Civil War Trust

Thirty-three years have come and gone, and the stranger who goes there now cannot imagine all this to have taken place amid the beautiful, peaceful scenes that now rise before him on every side. A dim line of yellow clay, almost level with the surface, is all that is left to mark the place where these bloody breastworks stood; and over this, at the Carter house, a few short weeks ago, Irish potatoes were growing on a soil where four hundred and twenty-four of Mississippi’s best and bravest boys poured out their life’s blood. A beautiful female seminary stands on the site of the historic old gin house, and near by Missouri, mindful of her gallant dead, has erected a chaste marble monument to their memory.

the-buildings-still-have

This outbuilding of the Carter House at Franklin is pocked with numerous holes from the bullets that hit the structure during the battle – http://www.tripadvisor.com

Irish potatoes and gourd vines mark where Mississippians fell, and other states have nothing. Can it be that it is believed that ingratitude and negligence fosters patriotism? If so, let the Southern youth visit Franklin today and grow patriotic. Greece has handed down through the ages, immortalized in story and song, her Marathon and her Thermopylae, while other grandly historic names will go ringing down through all time, but Franklin, crowned with the heroism and washed in the blood of martyrs of human freedom, will find no place in the record, and no shaft will rise to perpetuate the memory of the Southern soldier there.

It has been said that the battle of Franklin was bad generalship, and a mistake. It was neither the one nor the other. It was the inevitable. Had Hood failed to attack Thomas here, the Confederate soldier could never have been made to believe that he had not lost his supreme opportunity, and that a beaten, demoralized and routed foe had been let slip from his grasp. It was the crowning wave of Southern valor, endurance and vengeance sweeping northward, that dashed its crest into bloody foam on the breastworks at Franklin; and sixteen days later it was the undertow of defeat that drove it south again, beaten, vanquished and discomfited forever.

Cleburne

General Patrick Cleburne leading his troops at the Battle of Franklin by Don Troiani

A fortunate coincidence carried us (myself and wife) down to Franklin on the

scan0095

Souvenir ribbon from the 1897 UCV Reunion in Nashville – http://www.veteransattic.com

 

morning after the closing exercises of the grand Reunion at Nashville. Here we met the delegation from Missouri and received a generous and cordial welcome from a people as intensely loyal to the Southern cause, as they were in the days when the storm of battle was raging around them. We were met and taken from the railroad depot in carriages out to and around about the battle field, and from there to the Confederate cemetery, a beautiful spot on a tree-crowned ridge. To this peaceful, lovely spot these great-hearted people have removed, at their own expense, our dead from their graves on the field, and marked each soldier’s resting place with a neat head-stone. Standing here under the trees and amid these graves, Major Aken, a gallant Tennessee soldier, said, “We could almost wish that we, too, had been killed in battle, so that we might be buried here.” Here, George S. Nichols, of Co. B, 1st Tennessee Infantry, whose war record is written all over his honest, battle-scarred face, has stipulated that he shall be laid to rest when death’s reveille sounds to call him home. Mississippi, to her credit this much may be said, has paid these people in ample measure for their care and trouble for her dead; but Mississippi alone, of all the old Confederate states, has done this. To this people it was a labor of love for the old Confederate soldier; they have asked no return, and they never will. But this does not discharge the debt of grateful remembrance that each state owes the heroes sleeping here.

From the cemetery the ridge slopes up to the residence of Mrs. John McGavock,

Carrie Winder McGavock

Carrie Winder McGavock, wife of John McGavock, the owner of Carnton Plantation at Franklin – http://www.civilwarshades.org

 

 

and here, too, we were carried to pay a just and willing homage to one of the grandest women of the South, and were received with a gracious hospitality. On her wide veranda she pointed out the spot where five Confederate generals lay dead at the same time, and her spacious hall and rooms were crowded with Confederate wounded, to whom she ministered with her own tender hands the whole of that awful night. With a dauntless heroism she remained in her house and saw Hood’s grey and tattered veterans sweep through her yard and on down into the valley of death, and with a cheek unblanched and a heart unquailing, watched her Southern soldiers dash up against “The Rock of Chickamauga.”

At one time during the fiercest of the battle, Forrest dashed past her, through the hall and up the stairway to a portico on the second story, the most elevated position on the battle field, and there through his glass scanned the progress of the fight. What a glorious type of Southern womanhood is this gentle, quiet lady! To touch her honored hand is the privilege of a lifetime, to see her smile is like catching a sunset ray from our glorious past, and her fervent ‘God bless you’ a benediction, to receive which, royalty itself might gladly bend the knee.

From her house, along an avenue shaded by locust trees, we were carried to the

George L. Cowan

Wartime photograph of George L. Cowan, who served as part of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s escort – http://www.findagrave.com

home of her son-in-law, Lieut. Geo. L. Cowan, once a member of Forrest’s escort. Lieut. Cowan is a courtly gentleman of the old school, and under the trees around his pleasant home, his lovely wife – a worthy daughter of so honored and distinguished a mother – had spread a generous and appetizing collation, to which we all did such ample justice as might have been expected from hungry Confederate veterans. In this entertainment Mrs. Cowan was ably assisted by such other charming ladies of Franklin as Mrs. Kincaid, Mrs. March, Mrs. Duke, and the lovely Miss Mary Nichols. After an evening spent in this old Confederate soldier’s home, we were taken back to the depot in time to meet the evening train for Nashville. We departed leaving behind us kind wishes for our generous friends, and carrying with us pleasant memories that will mark this as the red-letter day of our life. Proud? Yes, prouder than ever that we had been a Confederate soldier, and that we are still spared to be a Confederate veteran.

W.W. Thomson

Leaf, Miss., August 20, 1897

While doing a little research into the life of Captain Thomson, I found another interesting story about him attached to the posting about his grave on findagrave.com. The story is apparently from a newspaper article, but unfortunately the person who posted it did  not give the date or name of the paper it was published in:

Honor in the Field

During the battle of Franklin, Major H. M. Spain captured Capt. W. Wirt Thomson,

Harrison M. Spain, 80th Indiana Infantry

Image from findagrave.com

of Co. A, 24th Mississippi Infantry, who reluctantly gave up his sword, saying that he’d rather leave his dead body on the field than surrender it as it was a present from his company and had never been dishonored. The major generously promised that if both lived until the close of the war he would return the sword. In 1874, Capt. Thomson was elected a member of the Mississippi Legislature. He wrote the Adjutant-General of Indiana for the Major’s address. A correspondence ensued and in February 1874 they met and the battlefield promise was fulfilled.

At the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30,  1864, Captain Thomson’s regiment, the 24th Mississippi Infantry, had 18 men killed, 31 wounded, 14 captured, and 1 missing. Among the captured was Thomson, who spent the remainder of the war at Johnson’s Island prisoner of war camp in Ohio. He was released on June 17, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Captain Thomson went home to Greene County, raised a family, and lived a relatively long life for that day and age, dying at 62 in 1900. He is buried in Leaf Cemetery, Greene County, Mississippi.

I am going to close this post with a link to a song about the Battle of Franklin performed by Billy Ray Reynolds for his album “Privates to the Front.” This is a modern song, but I think it is a perfect tribute to the Southern soldiers that fought at Franklin, Tennessee, so many years ago:

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“Our Families First and then Our Country” Mississippians and the Draft

By the Spring of 1862, the Confederate government was well aware that it

American Citizen, Oct. 17, 1862

List of Men Drafted into the Madison County Militia – American Citizen, October 17, 1862

could not meet its military manpower needs through voluntary enlistments. To bolster manpower in the army, the Confederate congress passed a conscription act on April 16, 1862. Under this law, all males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were required to serve three years in the military. Those already serving had their three year period begin from their date of original enlistment. “Conscription” Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, Volume 1, page 396.

The conscript law brought many new recruits into the army, but that in and of itself caused another problem. The flood of men into the military because of conscription meant that there were not enough white males left at home to oversee Mississippi’s slave population.

The possibility of a slave uprising was greatly feared in Mississippi, and with good reason. In 1860 slaves made up 55.2 percent of the population of the Magnolia State.  White Mississippians maintained a firm control over their property lest they rise up against their masters. In the years leading up to the Civil War white Mississippians watched their slaves closely for any signs of possible rebellion, and the least rumor of such an act could lead to terrible violence against blacks and any whites accused of aiding them.

With so many men marching off to war, Mississippi was drained of much of its young white male population. These men were just the ones that had always been used to maintain the system of slavery in the state. Particularly after the passage of the conscription act, Mississippians throughout the state worried that the lack of white men in their communities to police the local slaves might lead to disaster.

The Confederate Congress, in an attempt to calm the fears of many large slave owners, passed the “Twenty Slave Law” on October 11, 1862. The Encyclopedia Virginia gives a concise description of this law and the effects that it had on the white Southern populace:

The Twenty-Slave Law, passed by the Confederate Congress on October 11, 1862, during theAmerican Civil War (1861–1865), created an exemption to military conscription for the owners of twenty or more slaves. The law was controversial in much of the South, where it served to exacerbate certain social rifts and led to claims by drafted soldiers that they were fighting a “rich man’s war.” – http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/twenty-slave_law

The “Twenty Slave Law” was very controversial in Mississippi, where it created a conflict between the planter class, who saw a great need for the law, and the common people of the state, who felt that they were being forced to make sacrifices for the good of the rich.

Fortunately, there is an excellent source of information on the attitudes of Mississippians on both sides of the argument about conscription and the “Twenty Slave Law.” During the war Mississippians from all walks of life wrote to governor John J. Pettus, and many of the letters dealt with their worries about the draft and the Twenty Slave Law.

On December 23rd, 1862, William Henry Calhoun, a wealthy planter from Pontotoc County wrote to governor Pettus and explained how the conscription act was effecting his part of the state:

Verona, 23d Dec. 1862

Gov. Pettus,

I write to inform you of the condition of our county & to ask if possible a remedy.

American Citizen, October 3, 1863

Article from the American Citizen, October 3, 1863, detailing the problems caused by conscription in Attala County.

We have to complain that since & before the Federal rade into our country many, very many of our planters have left home taking in many instances none of their negroes off with them. Ours is just now a most dangerous condition, hundreds of negro men have been left in our midst either alone or with a nominal master allowed to do as they please, no restraint put upon them. This state of things will result surely in an insurrections or some other great calamity. Can you not order that where they are thus left that the men be taken charge of by the army & put to state or Confederate service. If you are not the proper person to direct this matter, will you do us the great favor to address the proper authority & have the matter attended to. Gov., act promptly for humanity sake & oblige your friend, W. Henry Calhoun, & many other citizens. – John J. Pettus Correspondence, Series 757, Box 943, Folder 6, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Two days later, Pettus received this letter from Jacob McMorris, who lived in Noxubee County. Although his writing was a little garbled, McMorris certainly made clear that the 20 Negro Law was causing problems in his county:

Mashulaville, Miss., Dec. 25th, 1862

Gov. Pettus

Dear Sir,
Though [a] humble citizen I beg leave to call your attention to what I think is inequality in the militia and as there is beginning to be dissatisfaction now is the time to put in [the] remedy. The drafted militia, I think which took place last summer complain that they are still out, and the balance of the militia all at home. What people thought of equality or a want of equality in the 20 Negro Law caused great excitement and I think many deserters, and the present drafted militia now want and ask for equality only.

Yours respectfully,

J. McMorris

 – John J. Pettus Correspondence, Series 757, Box 943, Folder 6, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

In early December Governor Pettus received the following letter from

George S. Gaines

George S. Gaines – Encyclopedia of Alabama

 

George S. Gaines, one of the early pioneer settlers of Mississippi, and a very influential businessman and politician in the southern part of the state. While very much in favor of the Twenty Slave Law, Gaines was also perceptive enough to see the need for state aid to the families of the soldiers who were far from home defending Mississippi:

Near State Line Miss.

December 2nd/62

Gov. John J. Pettus

Dear Sir,

In obedience to the request contained in your letter of the 7th ult. I addressed a letter to the judge of our probate court, urging that the Board of Police cause the 30 percent tax of the current fiscal year for the relief of indigent families of absent soldiers to the collected with the least possible delay, and that measures be taken for the judicious application of that collected for the last fiscal year as soon as it can be obtained from the Treasury at Jackson.

I took occasion in addressing Judge Napier to regret the unreasonable outcry against the late Confederate exemption law, and submitted such an argument in favor of it as I thought would relieve the members of the Police Court of their prejudices, if they entertained such, and perhaps do some good. I enclose the judges response although a private letter as it may be useful to you to know the opinions and feelings in all parts of the state on matters connected with its weal, and the defense of the Confederacy. The judge, you will perceive, is a clear headed man and doubtless his opinions are properly appreciated by the people of his county.

I have been much grieved to learn from intelligent men belonging to the militia in camp at Columbus, Miss., that complaints against the exemption law above noticed are loud and bitter in camp. I trust that time and reflection and the efforts of patriotic men may have enabled the discontents to take a more reasonable and correct view of the law, and I deem it of great importance at [this] juncture that we should be heartily united in the great work of defending the country.

I have the honor to be,

Respectfully Your Obt. Servt.,

Geo. S. Gaines

The other letter that Gaines mentioned was written to him by his friend Phillip H. Napier, a well-known reverend and judge in south Mississippi. Napier also touched on conscription in his letter, and Gaines felt his views on the subject were important enough to send on to Pettus:

Eucutta, Mississippi

November 28th, 1862

Col. George S. Gaines:

Dear Sir,

Your excellent letter of recent date – date not remembered – was handed to me by our Sheriff Mr. A. Taylor some few days ago. I heartily concur with your in every sentiment your letter contains, and would most gladly do any thing and every thing in my power to assist our country in this her almost hopeless struggle for independence. But what to do I know not.

The law exempting masters owning slaves (a certain number, twenty I believe) is a good one. It was not a hasty measure, but the result of a calm & a wise deliberation. As you say, the enormous expenses of this war must be paid by the property of the country; and as slaves are by far the most profitable operatives we possess, of course their labour must do the greatest share in defraying the expenses of the war. The slaves must be governed, and who can govern them so well as their masters? They must be worked, and who can work them so efficiently as their masters? Our soldiers must be fed and clad, and the greater part of this tremendous necessity must be met by slave labour. Hence the necessity of the “twenty negro exemption law” as it is termed. The pressing necessity of the law is as palpable to my mind as the noonday sun.

Now if our state legislature would meet and provide for the indigent families of our soldiers, and make it the duty of the representatives to see that the provisional arrangements of the legislature were faithfully carried out in their respective counties, thee would be no just grounds for dissatisfaction, and I think all murmuring and complaining would soon cease. But until this is done our soldiers and their families will be discontented. To see a large portion of the families of our soldiers living on dry bread and a scanty supply of that, when, at the same time, the future don’t promise even bread itself. I tell you sir, it is enough to smother out the last spark of patriotism both at home and in the army.

Look at the few men we have left in the country. The most of them had almost as _____ as go into the service. And why? Because their wives and children are likely to suffer for the necessaries of life in their absence. Who could enter the service with a hearty good will under such circumstances? Our country too is run mad with a desire to get rich by speculating on the necessities of the people. Poor soldiers families are compelled to pay two dollars per bushel for corn and twenty dollars per bushel for salt. Meat and other necessaries are out of the question. Men must be taught by the majesty of legislative enactment that this is no time to _____ upon and grind the faces of the poor, especially the poor soldiers of the country. These are some of the main reasons why the spirits of our people are flagging and the once buoyant hopes of our country are fading and almost dying. Can they, will they be remedied?

I saw all the surviving members of our Board of Police and read your letter to them, and urged the necessity of prompt action upon their part in view of the dangers that threaten the corn producing regions of our country. But what they will do I know not. Whether any thing at all to purpose I cannot promise you, as they did not promise me.

Our legislature must do something for the poor people of Mississippi or scores perhaps hundreds of them must starve. Our Governor ought to convene the legislature upon the spot, and let them make provisions for supplying at least the soldier’s families with corn and salt. A few steamboats might be chartered to bring the salt from the mines so opportunely discovered in Louisiana, to Vicksburg; and then there is rolling stock enough standing idle upon our railways to deposit corn and salt enough at all the different stations for all our indigent families in a very few months. This will look like we intended to maintain our independence, and do justice to our patriotic soldiers and their families. We are well able to carry on this war if all our resources are directed by legislative enactment into proper channels. The very fact that there is such a mania for speculation shows that there is ample resources unappropriated to meet all our necessities. This floating mass of wealth must be converted into proper channels to make it efficient in aiding us to work out our salvation, or it will turn up on us as it is now doing and work out our destruction. How this can best be done is for the united wisdom of our state and national legislatures to determine.

But I will cease to write to you about matters that you have deliberately matured already, and close my epistle by thanking you for the pleasant hours I have spent with you and your amiable family at your pleasant home many years agone, when I was a poor travelling preacher wandering through the pine forests of Perry, Green and Wayne; and asking you to presenting my most respectful compliments to Mrs. Gaines and daughters. Also assuring you I am with the highest esteem yours most respectfully

P.H. Napier

The letters above are all very interesting, but they were all written by members of Mississippi’s upper class. The following letter, however, was written by M.M. Fortinberry, a simple soldier from Monticello, Mississippi, who was trying to serve his country and care for his family, and finding these twin duties at odds with each other. In the 1860 United States Census for Lawrence County, Mississippi, Fortinberry was listed as 34 years old, living with his wife, Winney, and children Edward, Mary, and Mira. He listed his occupation as farmer, and valued his real estate at $1500, and his personal estate at $1500. – United States Census for 1860, Lawrence County, Mississippi, page 49.

Dec. 1, 1862

Mr. John J. Pettus
Governor of the State, Sir,
I seat myself to write you a few lines to inform you of the condition of the country here in Lawrence County. First we have failed to make a crop poor men have been compelled to leave the army to come home to provide for their families we have corn for bread we have hogs for meat but no salt to save it. Some of us is paroled prisoners got home and found our families with out any thing at all has been out 15 months come home without a dollars and now pay 1.25 cents for a barrel of corn that would make about three pecks to the barrel. I am myself at home on furlough failed to make a crop I belong to Capt. Wilson’s Co. of minite men under Capt. Quin at Mill Dale we are compelled to ask you for protection until we can provide for our families to stay in the army at eleven dollars per month and if we live to get home pay sixty dollars for a sack of salt if we can get it at that and corn at two dollars per bushel. I now have to find my brother and family until we can make a crop and by that time my means are gone. We are poor men and are willing to defend our country, but our families first and then our country. I see volunteers wifes two miles from home in Pearl river swamp calling their hogs and their husbands in Tennessee now there are men enough that has help to provide for their families and asking two dollars per barrel for corn to take our places until we can make a crop as suffer we are bound to if we don’t make a crop there is no use to depend on the charity of our neighbours for they are all in our condition. I no of soldiers wifes to be turned by men that had thousand of corn without any. This is the general feeling of the community in which I live determine to make a crop if we can now we ask you to protect us while we work our farms your immediate attention is invited to this note and an answer returned as we are force to this or starve. Fight we can’t until our families are better cared for. Wives are writing for their husband and they are coming to them on the account of their suffering condition.

Answer soon M. M. Fortinberry
Direct to Monticello, Miss.

– John J. Pettus Correspondence
Series 757, Box 943
Folder 4, MDAH

At the time Fortinberry wrote this impassioned letter to the governor, he

Woodville Republican, Aug. 27, 1864

Advertisement listing deserters from the 21st Mississippi Infantry – Woodville Republican, August 27, 1864

was a Private in Company A, 2nd Mississippi Infantry (State Troops). He enlisted in the state army on August 8, 1862, at Monticello. Fortinberry was a deserter from the army when this letter was written. In his service record it states; “Absent without leave since Nov. 20″/62.” There are only two cards in Fortinberry’s service record, and there is no indication that he ever returned to his regiment. When push came to shove, and Fortinberry had to make a choice, he chose family over country.

– Compiled Service Record of M.M. Fortinberry, 2nd Mississippi Infantry (State Troops) (Quinn’s).

On November 19, 1862, the Macon Beacon published an editorial entitled “The Exemption Law,” and the writer strongly complained about the act, calling it legislation that “discriminates in favor of the rich man and against the poor. This law seeks to make the poor man leave his helpless wife and little children to the tender mercies of an over-taxed community – to go and fight the battles of the country, while the man of wealth is to be left in the ease and luxury of home to reap all the benefit of the hard earned victories of his poorer brother whose family meantime are pinched for the commonest necessaries of life.”

The article went on to make this damning charge against the rich planters in Mississippi:

We wish to say to the wealthy men of the country – the slave owners – that that species of property brought on this war. Abolish slavery, and we had no cause of quarrel with the North. It is peculiarly and especially a war for slavery. Love of country has made the poor men of the country stand shoulder to shoulder with the rich in defence of their slaves – no sacrifices has been too great for them to make. Now, are the rich to take advantage of the stupidity of law makers and claim exemption on account of their slaves, and leave none but the poor men to fight this war through. If the rich then are tired of this war, and intend no longer themselves to fight, in the name of God let them have the honesty to say so. Don’t seek by your influence and power at home to drive the poor man to the army, to leave his family to beggary and want. But let us all unite and get the best terms that our enemies will give.”

The simple truth of the matter was that Mississippi was running out of manpower. The war of 1861 that few doubted would last more than a few months had turned into a bloody war of attrition by the end of 1862. The South, with its much smaller population than the North, found itself hard pressed to keep enough men in uniform to fight the war, much less police its large slave population. The conflict over conscription and the “20 Slave Law,” continued to divide rich and poor Mississippians as the war went on.

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Vaccination Has Been Greatly Neglected: Smallpox in Wartime Mississippi

During the Civil War, the most lethal killer of Mississippians was not bullets and shells, but the unseen bacteria and viruses that crippled, disfigured and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians. There were numerous diseases that struck Mississippians during the war years, but none was more feared than smallpox.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smallpox is “A serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination. There are two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. There are four types of variola major smallpox: ordinary (the most frequent type, accounting for 90% or more of cases); modified (mild and occurring in previously vaccinated persons); flat; and hemorrhagic (both rare and very severe). Historically, variola major has an overall fatality rate of about 30%; however, flat and hemorrhagic smallpox usually are fatal. Variola minor is a less common presentation of smallpox, and a much less severe disease, with death rates historically of 1% or less.” – http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/overview/disease-facts.asp

For Mississippi soldiers, most of whom were raised on farms or in small towns, the introduction to military life in crowded camps exposed them to many infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. In the first month’s of a new regiment’s service, it was not uncommon for hundreds of men to be struck down by pestilence.

Article from the American Citizen (Canton, Mississippi), warning of a smallpox outbreak and the need for vaccination

Article from the American Citizen (Canton, Mississippi), warning of a smallpox outbreak and the need for vaccination

Confederate military authorities were aware of the dangers posed to soldiers by communicable diseases, and they did appoint medical officers to fight their spread. One such officer was Doctor William Henry Cumming of Georgia. Appointed a surgeon in the Confederate army in July 1861, Cumming was relieved as medical director at Savannah, Georgia, in March 1862 to oversee the vaccination of soldiers in his home state. By the fall of 1862 the surgeon had been made superintendent of vaccination for the Department of South Carolina and Florida, and he used his post to spread his message on the need for vaccination to other parts of the South. – Compiled Service Record of W.H. Cumming (General and Staff Officers).

In November 1862, Cumming sent the following letter to Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, stressing the importance of smallpox vaccination and proposing a plan to increase vaccinations in the Magnolia State:

Marietta (Ga), Nov. 1st, 1862

Gov. Pettus, 

                Sir, Permit me to address you on a subject of great importance to the people of Mississippi at the present time. Living at a distance from the great thoroughfares of travel, in small villages or in widely scattered dwellings, the majority of your people have in former times felt themselves secure from the ravages of small-pox – for this reason, vaccination has been greatly neglected, being usually deemed an unnecessary precaution.

But now their condition is in this respect greatly changed – sick and wounded and disabled soldiers are returning from the camps to towns and villages and hamlets and isolated dwellings – the most secluded log house has given a soldier to the camp – these soldiers, returning from the field, may carry the infection of small-pox to the most remote and obscure abodes – as you are probably aware, this disease has already made its appearance in our army in Virginia, and has in a few cases been brought within the borders of this state.

Allow me to request that you will as Governor give to this subject your serious attention. The Governor of this state has promised me that he will make every exertion to have officers appointed and arrangements made in general accordance with the plan herewith enclosed – the tract on vaccination I consider very important, for the ignorance of the people is a great hindrance to the universal adoption of this protective measure.

I trust that you will not deem me presumptuous in this addressing you – my position as Superintendent of Vaccination for the Confederate troops within this Military Department has enabled me to see the great need of a general vaccination of the people – any aid that I can give will be cheerfully rendered, and trusting that this subject will receive the attention its importance demands, I remain

Yours Respectfully,

Henry Cumming, Surgeon, P.A.C.S.

Superintendent of Vaccination for Dept. of S.C. & Ga.

Included with Cumming’s letter was his plan for vaccinating the citizens of Mississippi:

Plan for Carrying Out the Preceding Recommendations

1st – An officer should be appointed to superintend the business throughout the State – He should direct and control the subordinate district officers, supplying them with virus and receiving their reports.

2nd – He should prepare and print and distribute a tract on vaccination giving a historical sketch of variola, inoculation and vaccination, the frequency of epidemics of small-pox and the fearful consequent mortality and the results of vaccination in countries where it has been generally adopted – He should add directions for introducing, preserving & transferring vaccine virus, a description of the stages and progress of the vaccine infection and rules for ascertaining the genuineness of vaccination – This tract should be widely distributed throughout the State not only to the Medical practitioners but to the people.

3d – He should furnish (either directly from his Central Office, or through his subordinate district officers) to physicians, planters and other suitable persons, good vaccine virus, and should see to it that every inhabited place is supplied – The officers of County Courts, Postmasters, the Members of the Legislature might all be made agents in this work.

4th – It should be the object of his constant effort to maintain an unfailing supply of reliable virus to be freely distributed to applicants.

5th – In those parts of the state where large plantations are found, the planters might be supplied directly from this office.

6th – He should be furnished with the necessary (clerical and other) assistance for the performance of this work.

7th – He should be required to report the progress, success, hindrances &c &c of his work so that his experience may be useful to others.

8th – It should be the aim of the government to finish this work before the first of June 1863

– John J. Pettus Correspondence, Series 757, Box 943, Folder 1

To increase public awareness on the need for vaccination, Doctor Cumming gave lectures to the general public. On November 28, 1862, the Daily Constitutionalist of Augusta, Georgia, reported on one such talk saying:

Dr. W.H. Cumming addressed the members of the General Assembly and citizens last night, at the Representatives’ Hall, on the importance of immediate and universal vaccination. He urged as an imperative duty, in order to prevent the loathsome disease from infecting every district and neighborhood. He called attention to the fact that while vaccination is almost universal in Europe, and children must be vaccinated before they can enter school, not one in four of our population have adopted this precaution against infection. This negligence, he remarked, results from our scattered and sparse population, which has rendered us comparatively secure against the spread of any infectious disease. He gave a learned and interesting review of the early practice of inoculation…He described the process of vaccination and made it very simple and easily comprehended,”

I have to wonder if Governor Pettus listened to the advice given by Doctor Cumming and instituted a program to vaccinate the people of Mississippi, If I can find any additional information regarding vaccination I will post it to the blog.

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