Welcome to what I hope will become the first comprehensive Web journal about the 13th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry Regiment, C.S.A.—aspiring to be a sort of digital regimental.
I am the proprietor, Dick Stanley, a descendant of one of the regiment’s soldiers, the Rev. Edward P. Stanley, a pre-war farmer who owned no slaves (though his stepfather owned a few) and a postwar Methodist minister and circuit rider.
He was a private in The Minute Men of Attala, which was raised in Kosciusko, Attala County, in the spring of 1861. Edward P., who lost a leg to a cannonball in the Battle of the Wilderness, was my great grandfather on my father’s side.
Today Kosciusko is best known (when it is, indeed, known at all) as the native home of Oprah Winfrey.
The Minute Men have been long forgotten by most of the town and, to a large extent, by history itself. I hope to remedy that here. But the blog will not be just about the Minute Men. It will endeavor to bring all of the companies of the regiment back to life. On their own and as a part of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade. Via my considered selections from, as it says in the blog’s subhead: the available history, rosters, diaries and letters.
Also by reviews of the various books, articles and essays that have been published about them. Very few, to date, unfortunately. We’ll change that here, in part, with this blog journal.
They were a fascinating bunch, it has always seemed to me, and deserve to be known for more than allegedly (as the modern refrain goes) fighting to perpetuate chattel slavery of human beings. Some certainly may have been. With, I admit, little more than the intuition of a fellow combat veteran (South Vietnam, 1969-70) I believe that most of them likely were not.
Historian James M. McPherson, in his superb For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought In The Civil War, seems to agree.
As one reviewer of the book put it, referring to both Rebel and Union fighting men: “….on the whole, they were driven by noble ideals of honor; duty; and devotion to God, country, home, and family.”
“The Mississippi troops were among the finest in the army,” writes Jason Silverman in his 2010 biography Shanks: The Life and Wars of General Nathan G. Evans, C.S.A. The 13th served under Evans in the fall and winter of 1861-62.
“Most of the men were bear hunters from the swamps and canebreaks of their native state and were as tough as the bears they hunted. As could be expected from the outdoor life that they led, the Mississippians, hardly without exception, were excellent marksmen.
“Their enthusiasm was irrepressible; laughter, shouting, singing, or the Rebel yell burst indifferently from their lips. It was a common saying that the sick man in Barksdale’s camp made more noise than any full regiment in the army.”
I’ll stay away from contemporary arguments on such issues as the existence/myth of Black Confederates (though I feel certain there were some). Also the alleged intentions of Neo-Confederates and/or heritage groups perpetuating the Lost Cause rather than honoring their forebears—not many of whom, I am convinced, gave a whit about the Confederacy, per se.
But I could be wrong. Minute Men Private Nimrod Newton Nash, a small-time farmer and slave owner whose available letters to his wife, Mollie, I will use, was expressly loyal to his new country.
I was raised on the Lost Cause and what University of Virginia historian Gary Gallagher calls the Reconciliation Cause. It was only when I began to notice that neither took seriously what Gallagher calls the Union Cause and the Emancipation Cause that I began to see the complexity and contradictions of the war and its confusing place in public memory.
Just common sense tells me that, whatever they joined to do, the men of the 13th ultimately were fighting for each other and to protect their homes and kin from Union military blockade and invasion.
McPherson’s book, an analysis of thousands of letters and hundreds of diaries from men on both sides within the context of their sentimental Victorian culture, adds such “motivating forces” as simple manhood and the fear of being called coward by the people at home.
And, especially from Gettysburg forward, as McPherson’s collection shows, hatred and revenge for Yankee destruction of the South were prime motivations for Rebels continuing to fight.
Some of the contemporary arguments may intensify with the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial. As the Lost Cause, Reconcilliation Cause and Union Cause do battle with the modern interpretation which prefers to see the Emancipation Cause as paramount.
I think a lot of Americans who have no ancestry on either side (and that is most Americans nowadays) are going to be surprised at the intensity of feeling left over from that 150-year-old war. And the news media is likely to make it worse by lazily trotting out all the old one-sided arguments: North good, South bad, etc. Or, very occasionally, the equally one-sided argument that the North was all bad and the South was all good.
Hollywood, as always, will be of no help. From the Lost Cause hagiographic Gods and Generals to what Gallagher calls “the feminist anti-war” movie Cold Mountain, the war’s facts and complexities will rarely emerge in movies or television. Even the otherwise remarkable Glory contains no hint of white Union commitment to the Union Cause, which was keeping the republic whole.
You may say, as some modern historians (seeing everything through the prism of race, class and gender) do, that it was largely a white man’s war, with only token participation of women and minorities. (Although, by the end of it, there were about 180,000 U.S. Colored Troops, and thousands of women North and South had put aside their Victorian petticoats to boldly serve as nurses.) And the country is changing now, demographically, and so why should the old white male issues be of concern any longer?
Well, indeed, they may not be, not for too many more years. Yet I am reminded of a young woman’s comments on a Civil War book forum at Amazon that she was spellbound when she visited Gettysburg for the first time. Her main interest was the Rebels. Where were they buried? She couldn’t find any in the National Cemetery.
Her surname was Nguyen. So you never know.
Meanwhile, I’ll explore the history of the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. Chronologically, in regimental history fashion. With occasional, pertinent sidebars to mix it up. With as much complexity and contradiction as seems fitting, and there was more than a little.
So enjoy your visit. Particularly if you are descended from any of the regiment’s soldiers, or just (perhaps like Ms Nguyen) you have an interest in the original regiment of Gen. William Barksdale–which became the color regiment of his famous Mississippi Brigade. It was, as independent Mississippi historian H. Grady Howell Jr. has said of the brigade: “A premier Mississippi unit.”
If you wish to contact me, you can leave a comment on a post, or email me at scribbler AT texasscribbler dot com. If you are a descendant of a member of the regiment, I sincerely hope you will consider sharing photos, letters, diaries or other information.
P.S. I also blog at www.texasscribbler.com, where you will find controversy aplenty, as I enjoy expressing my contrary political views after years of being muzzled by various Democrat editors. And there’s also this brief description of me:
“Retired Texas newspaperman (politics, crime, science, medicine, technology), married father of a young son, antique rose gardener, new adult student of the violin, independent publisher, and Vietnam combat veteran (MACV, I Corps, 1969)”
I also write a promotional blog for my independently-published, professionally-edited historical novel, Knoxville 1863, at www.knoxville1863.com, which you may find of further interest because part of it is about the 13th Mississippi.
The novel’s ebook version is currently available at just 99 cents a copy.
Last updated: December 8, 2012.