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

How about four Parrott rifles on Maryland Heights?

Well, it’s undoubtedly a good thing that the Civil War Trust wants to save Harper’s Ferry. Or, at least, thirteen acres of it. And it’s also a good thing that hikers are keeping the Maryland Heights 200 feet above the town as nice as possible.

But how about putting up there four Parrott rifle cannon (replicas will do) and a plaque saying the 13th Mississippi Regiment had a hand in dragging the guns up onto those rocky heights that helped bring the Union troops in the town to their blue knees?

“Fire was opened at once,” Gen. McLaws wrote in his official report, “driving the enemy from their works on the right side of Bolivar Heights and throwing shells into the town.”

History gave credit for the Union surrender to Stonewall Jackson and A.P. Hill, which the brigade’s irritated 17th Regiment diarist Robert A. Moore saw coming in 1862: “Kershaw’s and Barksdale’s Brigades doing the fighting and Gen. T.J. Jackson & his troops getting the credit.”

It’s not too late for a little redress, eh Civil War Trust?

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Maryland Heights | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Confederate Memorial at Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery, where the murdered President Kennedy is buried, along with thousands of American military careerists and a comparatively few war heroes who get most of the place’s publicity, has a little-known Confederate side.

“For many years following the war, the bitter feelings between North and South remained, and although hundreds of Confederate soldiers were buried at Arlington, it was considered a Union cemetery. Family members of Confederate soldiers were denied permission to decorate their loved ones’ graves and in extreme cases were even denied entrance to the cemetery.”

At least one of the 482 Rebel graves there today is that of a 13th Regiment private, Michael Quinn of the Lauderdale Zouaves. He was a Union POW who had died in captivity when he was buried at Arlington in about May, 1864, according to research by independent historian Jess McLean.

Quinn’s grave and the others only became accessible to relatives and friends after the turn of the twentieth century. In 1914, a 32-foot monument was erected with a “frieze of life-sized figures depicting mythical gods and Southern soldiers,” the whole of it designed by Moses Ezikiel, a Confederate veteran and sculptor from a colonial-era Jewish family of Richmond.

Posted in Jess N. McLean, The Lauderdale Zouaves | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Separate Tables, Please


For generations, Americans basically had one prominent painting/lithograph of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. The work of Louis Mathieu Guillaume, which was sold at National Park Service bookstores, it showed General Lee sitting amicably at the same table with General Grant.

It was a fiction intended to help reunite the country. It didn’t work very well.

Finally, back in the mid-1980s, the old print was replaced with the one excerpted above by artist Thomas Lovell. It was made from participant descriptions of the actual scene and it is now sold in park service bookstores along with the fictional one. You can take your pick.

This one has the advantage, not only of being accurate, but of helping to explain why North-South political and social animosity endured for more than a hundred years after the war. And in some, mostly minor ways, still does.

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The Guns of 1864

It’s worth remembering, in this sesquicentennial year of the war, that in 1864, as the May issue of the American Rifleman magazine puts it “more and more repeating rifles—[seven-shot] Spencers and ‘sixteen shooter’ Henrys—made their way into Union units.

“The South was being overwhelmed by superior numbers and firepower. If 1863 was the year of the rifle-musket in America’s bloody Civil War, then 1864 was the year of the repeater.”

It’s a bit misleading to refer to these rifles as “repeaters” since they were semiautomatic not fully automatic. But semiautomatic was new and devastating enough.

The dwindling ranks of the 13th Mississippi Regiment, augmented by recovered wounded, late volunteers and a few conscripts, encountered semiautomatics often enough to notice the trend—including at the First Battle of Deep Bottom in July just north of the James River east of Richmond.

There, continues the magazine, dismounted Union cavalry of Gen. Phillip Sheridan, wielding Spencer carbines, “smashed an attack by four Confederate infantry brigades and pushed them from the field in disorder.”

Well, yes, except that the brigades (which included Gen. Joseph Kershaw’s South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi regiments) were so diminished in numbers that they hardly deserved being called “brigades.”

And while the lever-action, breech-loading Spencers, firing self-contained (primer, powder and bullet in one package) .56-56 copper-rimfire cartridges, carried the day as long as the Rebels were advancing in the open, once they had retreated to their rifle pits to load and aim their single-shot rifled muskets, they halted the Union advance.

The 13th and the rest of the Mississippi Brigade weren’t so lucky in September at Berryville in the Shenandoah Valley. There they again encountered Sheridan’s Spencer-armed cavalrymen but this time, they were not only routed but their brigade commander, Gen. Benjamin Grubb Humphreys, was wounded and went home from the war for good.

Posted in Battles: Berryville, Battles: First Deep Bottom, Gen. Benjamin G. Humphreys | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment