Where Gen. Barksdale died

hummelbaugh_house-0603Gen. William Barksdale was wounded several times near Plum Run on the Gettysburg battlefield in the late evening of July 2, 1863. He was carried to this home of shoemaker Jacob Hummelbaugh on Cemetery Ridge by several Union soldiers who’d been detailed to find him.

Here he was laid out in the yard to await his turn with the surgeons who had tranformed the home into a hospital. Finally, one of them, Alfred T. Hamilton of the 148th Pennsylvania, came out, looked Barksdale over and pronounced his chest wounds mortal. He died that night and was buried in the yard until his remains were retrieved in 1866 and taken home to Mississippi. He was reburied in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson.

Via Mississippians In The Confederate Army.

Posted in Battles: Gettysburg, Gen. William Barksdale, Mississippi, The Commanders | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A piece of the 13th’s puzzle saved

“Today, on the 152nd anniversary of the battle, the Civil War Trust is proud to announce that we have successfully saved the site of the Jackson House at Ball’s Bluff. Thanks to the generosity of our members we have raised the $50,000 needed to preserve these three acres where the Battle of Ball’s Bluff began.”

Among the units fighting at the house on Oct. 21, 1861, and on the somewhat larger battlefield later was the Minutemen of Attala. They were the 13th Regiment’s only involvement in the relatively small fight on the bluff near Leesburg. Its political repercussions would haunt the Lincoln administration and the Union army for the rest of the war.

“My company continued to advance until we reached the fence just left by the enemy who continued to fire upon us from the field and house, the fire being constantly returned by my men.” —from Captain Lorenzo Fletcher’s after action report on the Minutemen.

Posted in Battles: Leesburg, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Sherfy Farm Today

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs it looked about this time last year from the approximate point at which Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade began its charge around 6 p.m. on July 2, 1863, the subject of historian Phillip Thomas Tucker’s new book.

Tucker thinks Minutemen of Attala Private Newton Nash was killed just east of Plum Run, behind the trees in the far distance. No one knows for sure but I’ve always thought he died closer to the Sherfy Farm since his friends buried him the next day and they would not have had access to Plum Run on July 3. Photo by Jo Anzalone, a descendant of Winston Guard’s Private Jonathan James McDaniel who was also in the charge but survived.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Gettysburg, Nimrod Newton Nash | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy…

No descendant of a 13th Mississippi soldier or aficionado of the regiment could fail to be pleased and intrigued by historian Phillip Thomas Tucker’s new book Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.

Tucker insists (properly, I think) that the more famous but wholly inconsequential Pickett’s Charge of July 3 upstaged Barkdale’s because it was later promoted by influential Virginians who were seconded by Yankees who didn’t want to discuss the near-penetration of their lines in strength by rude Mississippi frontiersmen. Pickett’s Charge has been sullied of late by a dispute over whether its namesake actually participated.

Tucker quotes General John Bell Hood writing post-war: “…no shaft marks the spot where [Barksdale fell because] Federal authorities refused to allow the point they reached [the western slope of Cemetery Ridge] to be designated by appropriate stones, but that gallant charge is written upon the hearts of his countrymen…”

Tucker cites this blog several times as a source for some of the soldier commentary in his very readable, driving narrative, particularly the literate, introspective letters Minutemen of Attala Private Newton Nash wrote home to his wife Mollie. Newt was killed in the charge and buried the next day in an unidentified farmer’s garden by Minutemen comrades. Some of his descendants are uncertain whether his remains are still there. He’d previously written Mollie that he didn’t want them recovered should he be slain anywhere in the war.

My main criticism of the book, besides its sometimes overwrought prose, numerous cliches and constant repetition of the same modifiers, is that Tucker makes General Barksdale almost a saint, “a father” to his subordinates, without mentioning his regrettable traits.

It’s not entirely wrong, of course. Newt, for instance, once wrote Mollie that he planned to borrow Barksdale’s horse for the afternoon. But entirely missing is “Old Bark’s” penchant for drunkenness, his furious cursing of the 13th regiment on its march to Leesburg in 1861, his temporary dismissal for it, his subsequent restoration to command, possibly by his old Mississippi friend President Jefferson Davis, and Richmond’s refusal to allow his senior officers to resign in protest.

Newt commented on the matter several times, though he subsequently decided that Barksdale had redeemed himself. For a political general with little military experience, the former Congressman and newspaper editor was always brave and leading from the front, not least in the murderous Malvern Hill disaster, which wasn’t his fault, as well as at Gettysburg where his death in the charge rightfully immortalized his name.

Otherwise, Tucker’s examination of the charge from the Rebel and Union sides seems much more thorough than previous efforts, relying in the modern manner on soldier memoirs, diaries and letters as well as senior officer reports. There are only a few obvious mistakes. He creates a company, the Columbus Rifles, for the 13th that didn’t exist and, in the end, mistakenly puts Newt and his brother-in-law Frank M. Ross in the brigade’s 17th regiment. But I recommend the book, in paper or in its cheaper ebook format. Tucker is a Defense Department historian so he has the resources and expertise for a tactical history and he has demonstrated both in previous books on other military subjects.

You should enjoy the book for what there is in it to enjoy, which is most of it. It’s an overdue view of the 13th and the rest of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade, though, of course, it’s primarily focused on Gettysburg. It’s certainly better late than never, and may even inspire future analyses by others who disagree with it.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Gettysburg, Battles: Malvern Hill, Correspondence, Gen. William Barksdale, Nimrod Newton Nash, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Barksdale’s Brigade at Fredericksburg

MsBdeUnion Captain Andrew Joseph Russell took this photograph of a portion of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade in Fredericksburg on April 8, 1863. They were posing for Russell— said to be the first official U.S. Army photographer—at the town end of a destroyed railroad bridge crossing the Rappahannock River. The photo may include some 13th Regiment soldiers, making it theirs and the brigade’s only known surviving photo of the war.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Fredericksburg | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Digital regimental soon in paperback

A book of this digital regimental is in the works and should be available in paperback at Amazon before the end of the year. It will have some additional material but for the most part be a recapitulation of what’s here on the Web.

The tentative title is The Bloody Thirteenth, which is not very original, i.e. the bloody part. It has been used by other authors writing about other regiments. But it was the appellation given the regiment by its survivors, according to one man’s memoir, so it’s historically appropriate.

I’ll keep the price of the book as low as possible, figuring that most people who’ll be interested in it will be descendants of the men who served in the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, and I want to do them a favor, not try to pay my bills off their interest in their heritage.

One advantage of the book form is that while it will be the regiment’s history as related here on the site it will be from start to finish instead of finish to start as is the format of a blog. Much easier to read in the usual way. If I could figure out how to turn the posts here around so they began with the regiment’s muster in 1861 first, instead of the surrender at Appomattox, I’d do it. If any reader knows how, I’d appreciate the advice.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Humpreys Mississippi Brigade | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

George M. Mott’s message to Abe

mott_frnt_backRocky Lockley emails that he and Jason Hinton were relic hunting when they made this extraordinary find near Brucetown, northeast of Winchester, Virginia, where the 13th camped in October, 1862, after the Battle of Sharpsburg. He explains:

“An Enfield bullet was recovered that at first glance seemed just like all the others except it had its nose cut down to be more like a snub-nose. When this bullet was being cleaned up with water and a toothbrush the engraved letters started coming out.

“After calming down a little [he saw that] the letters formed a name and a message. G.M. Mott was carved from bottom to top on one side and “To Old Abe” was carved on the other!! After searching the internet for less than 5 minutes I had a hit that showed George M. Mott, Company E [The Alamutcha Infantry], 13th Mississippi, had been a part of the entire war.”

Mott, according to his tombstone, was a medical doctor when he died in 1906 in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. Grady Howell’s muster listing shows Mott entered the war as a private and was a 2nd Sergeant when it ended. Independent historian Jess McLean found that Mott was a 21-year-old student living near Marion, Mississippi, when he joined in 1861 as a sergeant, being later demoted to private before rising again. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, two miles south of Converse, Louisiana, which is south of Shreveport.

Posted in H. Grady Howell Jr., Jess N. McLean, The Alamutcha Infantry | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Gettysburg’s 150th

I’m not sorry to be missing Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary these next three days. Too much of the occasion will be taken up by reenactment events, which reenactment participants call “impressions.” But too many of the reenactors are too corpulent and all of their uniforms too clean to give a true impression of the ragged, lean and hungry Rebel and Union soldiers who fought in the plowed fields and orchards south of the Pennsylvania town on July 1-3, 1863.

The 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, of course, fought at Gettysburg on July 2, as the color regiment of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade. Their experiences before and after their share in the battle also are interesting—particularly their approach to the field and the disconsolate retreat back to Virginia after, by some estimates, 49 percent casualties. All of that has been recorded fairly dispassionately in various posts here.

I attended the 125th anniversary of Gettysburg, back in 1988, which, mercifully, was much less attractive to the costumed and so all of the fields were quiet on the appointed days and more appropriate for commemoration of tens of thousands of killed, wounded and missing, some of them my own ancestors, all of whom were Rebels. On July 2, I walked from attack point to attack point down Seminary Ridge sticking small Rebel battle flags in the ground beside the monuments for their Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia units.

Thus the event should be remembered on both sides, it seems to me, with whatever reconciliation and emancipation commemorations the park service decides is appropriate. It wasn’t the first battle the Rebels lost but it was the largest up to that time that the Union had clearly won, so it did provide the push for what President Lincoln later called “a new birth of freedom.”

These reenactor bonanzas annoy me because they turn into carnivals leavened only by the sulfur smell of the genuine black-powder rifles and cannon, of which there will be more than the usual number this week. Firing blanks of course, which do not provide the real sound—an ear-splitting crack—and so merely add to the phoniness. At least the Brit’s Telegraph says there will be enough cannon to give an approximation of the original scene. The Telegraph’s reporting, ironically, is probably the most complete we’re likely to get. American news media are hobbled by their political focus on history, especially Civil War history since it concerns African slavery.

And therein is an interesting detail the Telegraph reporters found: several black reenactors portraying “civilians” at Gettysburg—presumably, in a few cases, representing the real servants/slaves who followed their Rebel “marsters” to war. I saw one such black reenactor—only one—in 1990 at the 125th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox. He was sitting with some white reenactor Rebels.

Good for them, the black reenactors, I mean, few of them as there are, for having the guts to buck contemporary racial politics to add some truth and verisimilitude to the circus: the three-ring parade of incongruously pot-bellied and double-chinned white soldiers in their spanking-new uniforms and far too many hoop-skirted women for anything like accuracy. All they need is a steam calliope on iron-rimmed wooden wheels playing Danny Boy.

But enough of the curmudgeon. It’s all very, very good in at least one respect. It’s really not possible to ever bring back the real days of 1863. Thank goodness.

UPDATE:  According to some Civil War bloggers who attended, as I expected there was little or no major news media reporting of the Gettysburg anniversary from Gettysburg. Which is quite an oversight, considering the thousands of folks who showed up to hear the lectures and walk the fields, even when it was raining. However, thanks to Breitbart News, the Internet was there and these five hours worth of discussion and reenactment videos are the result. Have a look.

Posted in Battles: Gettysburg, Reenactors | Tagged , | 3 Comments