“The ration is complained of as being scant”

Feb. 27, 1865, is the last extant inspector’s report for the 13th Regiment and its brigade by the Army of Northern Virginia.

“The command is very well supplied with clothing. The arms and accoutrements are kept in excellent order. The ration is complained of as being scant. Soap is very much required. I would recommend an issue of soap at least once each month.

“There are no deficiencies of moment reported and hence no necessity for endorsements by heads of staff departments. Transportation in tolerably good order, heavy details in this department keep the stock down. This cannot be avoided. The wants of the command are attended to promptly.

“Owing to serious interruption in mail communications, certificates for extensions of furloughs have not been received. No officers are absent without leave, except such as have not been able to return since breaking of communications. Several officers await retirement. Papers have in all cases of this kind been already forwarded.

“Commanding officers use every means in their power to cause the return of absentees without leave. Details for picket, fatigue and guard call for about 200 men each day, thus it is difficult to exercise the men in drill, yet so necessary at this time.

“The ‘consolidation’ question is engrossing the attention of the command at present. The sooner this subject is disposed of, the better, at least for this brigade. If the exchange of prisoners is continued, we may possibly receive an accession of about 250 arms-bearing men. [The brigade was elsewhere reported having only 502 men effective for the field.]

“This command is encamped between the Darbytown and New Market Road, about 6 1/2 miles from Richmond.”

Via Blue & Gray Marching.

Posted in Humpreys Mississippi Brigade | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Delta Diary

download (1)

This short, independently-published 2008 book has nothing of the 13th Regiment in it but is nevertheless a fine explication of what was going on at home in Mississippi during the war.

Diarist Amanda Worthington was much younger than the high society South Carolina matron Mary Chesnut, the most prominent Southern writer of the war. Mary’s famous diaries captured the chaos of a slave-owning society at war, exploring the making, marking and breaking of the Confederacy from its Richmond seat of power.

The teenage Confederate belle Amanda, though less educated or worldly, nevertheless had Mary’s eye for detail and ear for social nuance in her smaller and less influential Delta planter society. Amanda is as forthright, as critical of people she doesn’t like as Mary is, and as frank about herself: “…anybody I can’t freeze must be tolerably hard to take a hint…to anyone I don’t like I can be icily cold.”

“Mr. Rodin…sang several songs for us which were torturing to our auditory nerves, as he hasn’t a particle of voice.”

“Miss Pettit…is so ugly, uninteresting, talks through her nose & I know she is common. There now, I feel relieved!”

I love her details of what they ate and wore, and their illnesses and remedies (turpentine for a sore throat, ouch!). They had to be (and were) fearful of what a headache, a fever or a sore throat might lead to–with few reliable remedies available.

It’s a wonder to me that Amanda and her sister, Mary, were always expected to dress and come to the parlor to entertain guests, including by playing the piano and singing. Even men and women they didn’t know seemed to wander in at all hours expecting to be fed and sung to.

Pity editor Troy Woods doesn’t give us at least a summary of what happened to her the rest of her life. Fortunately, there’s Google, and more material to be found, of her marriage and mothering and death. Wood’s editing also is confusing in spots. He doesn’t use brackets and so it’s hard to tell if the parentheses are his or hers. But that’s a minor matter in such a good book.

Read it, if you care to know more about part of the region that produced the 13th Mississippi’s ranks. You won’t be sorry.

Posted in Mississippi | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Girls & Guns

Only months before the surrender at Appomattox, it’s doubtful anything like the following was still occurring. Indeed, there is no record of it. But it’s worth remembering the zeal of some young Southern patriots at its peak in the war’s early days. Then even women were rumored to be organizing fighting units. Mississippi apparently was no exception.

Savannah [GA] Republican, July 19, 1861,
“The Mississippi Women.—In the Choctaw county, Miss., a company of ladies has been organized for some time under the name of ‘Home Guards,’ numbering over one hundred.  The Vicksburg Sun tells us what they have done as follows:

“They have been constantly exercising on horseback and on foot with pistol, shot gun and rifle, and have attained such perfection that we doubt if there is a better drilled company in the country.  Each one is almost a Boone with her rifle, and an Amazon in her equestrian skill.

“We have heard that one lady, (our informant, Gen. T. C. McMackin, could not give us her name,) in shooting at a cross mark, one hundred yards distant, with a rifle, struck the centre five times and broke it three times out of eight shots fired in succession.  She had a rest.  If any State can beat this, we should like to see it done.”

But one such report turned out to be a joke.

Natchez Daily Courier, April 1, 1862,
“Women in for the War. We find the following dispatch in the New Orleans True Delta of last Saturday evening.  We publish it for the information of our readers:

“Natchez, March 29.  The girls, one hundred and three rank and file, each in herself a Joan of Arc or a Maid of Saragossa, have completed their military organization, and are in for the war.  They will leave here by steamer for New Orleans on Monday morning.  Give them a warm embrace.  Hurra for Mississippi!

Natchez Daily Courier, April 9, 1862,
“All Fool’s Day.  A large number of persons took a stroll yesterday afternoon on the steamboat landing, with the fond hope of witnessing the arrival of the young female Mississippi volunteers.   But they saw nothing of the kind, though there were at that time on the levee many a Miss Volunteer of another sort.

“It was soon whispered in the crowd that they had been badly sold it being All Fool’s Day, and then one by one they all retired, very much excited against the newspapers, and more particularly the [New Orleans] True Delta, which published on Sunday, with a flaming heading, a telegram from Natchez, “from a respectable party,” in which it was announced the girls would leave that place for this city on Monday.  The female company turns out to be a military canard.–N. O. Bee, April 2.”

Via University of Texas at Tyler & Poore Boys In Gray

Posted in Mississippi | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A letter home, Jan. 25, 1865

In early 1865, the last winter of the war, the remnant of the 13th regiment was in trenches, defending Richmond, between the New Market and Darbytown roads east of the capital city.

These were days of little military activity but much privation for the remnant of the Army of Northern Virginia: there was little food or clothing as winter snows and rains pelted the troops in their makeshift shelters. Water stood several inches deep in the wet trenches. Rats and mice plagued the men.

Pettus Guards 3rd Sergeant Wilborn P. Smith wrote home on Jan. 25, commenting on a letter received from someone else at home: “…I wrote you by Wallace [1st Lieutenant William Wallace McElroy]…I expect you have been expecting me home. When Wallace left, we had a furlough started up and he felt certain that we would get them, but it failed.

“I would like to get home again very much. I suppose now we will not have one until another long year rolls around, if the war is not ended sooner…”

Posted in The Pettus Guards | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hollywood will try again soon


I can’t think of many Hollywood movies of the Civil War which have been either accurate or particularly meaningful. What historian Gary Gallagher called “the feminist anti-war movie” Cold Mountain may have been the worst of recent vintage. Or maybe I’m just hard to please.

Well, Los Angeles is going to take another shot (so to speak) with a new flicker about (perhaps) how the Civil War divided not only contemporary families but the entire State of Mississippi, as signified by defiant, Union-loving Jones County, which is north of Hattiesburg in southeastern Mississippi.

Deadline.com and Variety Magazine have announced that the long anticipated movie ‘Free State of Jones’ is the works—just eight years after Universal Studios bought the rights to my book from the University of North Carolina Press,” writes historian Victoria Bynum.

“This being the movies, I won’t likely see the [renegade leader] Newt Knight that I ‘know,’ but I do hope that I like the one that I see,” she concluded.

I wouldn’t bet on it. But you never know. If they can just avoid hiring too many over-fed, porky reenactors, that would help.

Via Poore Boys In Gray.

Posted in Mississippi, Reenactors | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Bayonet disagreement: 2010 vs 1864

“The 1870 Surgeon General’s Medical and Surgical History of the War of Rebellion listed the types of wounds treated in Union hospitals. Because the report listed fewer than 1,000 bayonet wounds, a number of historians then and since concluded that soldiers rarely fought with the bayonet and it hadn’t been of much use as a combat weapon….

“Craig L. Barry in his [2010] article “Mythbuster: The Bayonet” for Civil War News, believes the Surgeon General’s report can be read to mean that bayonet wounds were more often fatal. Therefore, soldiers with bayonet wounds never made it to a doctor…”

A hundred and forty-six years before, the 13th’s surgeon, Simon Baruch, disagreed with Barry. Writing in the July 1864 edition of the Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal he concluded: “…bayonet wounds are almost harmless when compared to the ploughed tracks which the terrible minie [bullet] bores through the tissues….A bayonet wound almost invariably heals…”

Via Poore Boys In Gray.

Posted in Humpreys Mississippi Brigade, Simon Baruch | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas 1864: A serenade by the band

There wasn’t a good Christmas noted by a 13th Regiment letter writer, diarist or memoirist after 1861 in Leesburg. That was the last one where food was plentiful with all the comforts, even if furloughs had been revoked.

Christmas 1862 was warmer than expected but they spent it on picket duty in Fredericksburg, with a brigade drill on Christmas Day.  Christmas 1863 was much worse, spent building shelters in frigid East Tennessee with the mercury hovering above zero and little clothing and few shoes. Parched corn was the usual fare.

But 1864 brought a new low “celebrated” in wet, rat-infested trenches east of Richmond. At least the remnants of the regimental brass band got a trip to the capital city:

“On Christmas our band got permission to go to Richmond on a serenade to play for some of our officers,” 3rd Sergeant Wilborn P. Smith of the Pettus Guards wrote his sister back home in Mississippi. “I…have to pay $2 for a quart of meal. I reckon you can buy a bushel for that. I have money about $150 in cash can make that do me for some time…[the rest was illegible].”

There would no Christmas 1865 as a regiment. At least the survivors would be home.

Posted in Fredericksburg, The Pettus Guards | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Mississippi’s fugitive newspapers

In late July, 1864, the 13th Regiment was in the trenches at Petersburg where they’d been since late June. So some of them may have been able to receive mail from home, including newspapers.

But many of those newspapers, if they were available, were no longer in Mississippi. They had moved on to safer environs not over-run by the Yankees. It was a common problem, according to a page one story in the “Richmond Whig” of July 22:

“Fugitive Papers.—We have in our southern and southwestern exchanges constant evidence of the extent to which our people have been driven from their homes and forced to seek refuge at some other point.

“The ‘Memphis Appeal,’ now published in Atlanta, has made three moves, starting from Memphis to a point in Northern Mississippi, from which point it moved to Jackson, Mississippi; from Jackson it moved to Atlanta, and this may not be its last move, since Sherman threatens to drive it out of its pleasant place of refuge.

“‘The Chattanooga Rebel’ being driven out when we gave up Tennessee, retired to Marietta, and finding Sherman lately in too close proximity to that town, has made another move and is now in Griffin, Ga. ‘The Knoxville Register,’ after visiting sundry places is now in Charlotte, N. C.

“Of course the Mississippi papers are very much fugitives, there being but one published regularly within the State, we think—the ‘Clarion,’ published at Meridian.  The Jackson papers are gone to Selma, Alabama, and elsewhere.  Northern Alabama papers spring up to greet us from unexpected places, still holding on to their old names.

“There has indeed been a scattering and a dispersion.  The columns of the press have literally become ‘movable columns,’ and work their way from one side of the Confederacy to another in search of a resting place.—Wilmington Journal.”

Via University of Texas at Tyler & Poore Boys In Gray

Posted in Humpreys Mississippi Brigade, Mississippi, Siege of Petersburg | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment