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.

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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

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Bragg: The man who knew no fear

It’s safe to say that the 13th Regiment’s most reviled time of the whole war was when they served under Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg in Tennessee. Bragg was a small man.

His chief, post-war published critic Sam Watkins said it best: “Bragg was the great autocrat…He loved to crush the spirit of his men. The more of a hang-dog look they had about them the better was General Bragg pleased. Not a single soldier in the whole army ever loved or respected him.”

Probably not coincidentally, Bragg was also the losingest of the Confederate generals. So much so that after the war he was the inspiration for a derisive portrayal of a Confederate general in the 1956 Broadway musical Li’l Abner: None other than Jubilation T. Cornpone.

The first stanza of Jubilation’s song: “When we fought the Yankees and their annihilation was near, who was there to lead the charge that took us safe to the rear? Why it was Jubilation T. Cornpone, old toot-your-own-horn pone. Jubilation T. Cornpone, a man who knew no fear.”

Posted in Battles: Chickamauga, Gen. James Longstreet, Gen. William Barksdale, Siege of Knoxville | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Send clothing, food to our soldiers in Virginia

Many a Rebel, including some in the 13th Regiment, had been killed or wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg, in Maryland in mid September, 1862, and the survivors, retreating back into Virginia near Winchester had to contend with frosty temperatures in scant clothing and little food to eat.

Hence this newspaper editorial back home in Canton, east of the Delta.

“The weather among the mountains in Virginia is already cold to the men who do duty for us with only tattered, dirty and threadbare garments upon their manly limbs.  Let the people, then, everywhere, and in whatever circumstances, commence the good work as soon as possible, and never leave off until one of the best and bravest armies in the world shall have been furnished with all the comforts it may be in our power to bestow.

“There are none so indigent that they cannot contribute something to the relief of such troops as ours.  Let it be remembered that though destitute as they are represented to be and though many of them have gone without food for days together, and that at a time when they were making long marches and fighting bloody battles with the enemies of our country, still they are cheerful, patient and resolute as ever, and are ready now, as they have been at all times, to assert their birthright to be free.  If the invader thinks differently he has only to seek them where they are, and he will soon be cured of his folly.”

—Oct. 31, 1862, American Citizen newspaper, Canton, Mississippi

(Canton today is on the state’s “blues trail” and home to a Nissan automobile plant.)

Via Poore Boys In Gray

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Reprise: The 13th at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry

The 13th regiment spent an uncomfortable Sunday, Oct. 20, [1861] entrenched at Goose Creek on the Leesburg turnpike near Edwards Ferry. They were wet from drizzling rain, cold without the blankets they had left with their baggage at Fort Evans and there was nothing to eat. All they had was the anticipation of what everyone in the Seventh Brigade thought sure was to be a fight.

Pvt. Henley, the Spartan Band summed it up:

“The marching and countermarching for the last four or five days, the privations and hardships incident thereto, and the feigning and complaining of sickness had considerably reduced our numbers. But nevertheless the few remained brave and undaunted as ever…The roads were in wretched condition, slick and muddy….A drizzling and wetting rain still falling….”

Most of the rest of the brigade, also in rifle pits nearby, were in the same fix. Except for the artillery and most of the cavalry, which were in and around Fort Evans a few miles to the northwest. A company of the 17th Mississippi regiment also was on picket duty near Ball’s Bluff as it had been since late August.

Read the rest here.

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Catch your hat full of grapeshot


The yellowish tinge to the iron balls of this canister round fired by 12-pounder Napoleon cannon is from the sawdust they were packed in. You can see at a glance how badly a body could be torn by these things moving at high velocity. The 13th Regiment encountered canister at Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Knoxville, the Wilderness and others.

Years after the war Private Judge E. Woodruff, a onetime lieutenant of the Winston Guards, told Confederate Veteran magazine that the canister at Gettysburg, particularly from the federal guns at the Peach Orchard, was so thick “It seemed as if you could hold up your hat and catch it full of grapeshot.”

Posted in Battles: Gettysburg, The Winston Guards | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment