Mississippi Governor Benjamin Grubb Humphreys


This is the official painting from the online site of the Mississippi State Archives, from Humphreys’ brief tenure as Mississippi’s twenty-sixth governor immediately after the war, which has a curious history.

He was a wealthy Delta planter and slave owner who formed a company in 1861 that became part of Barkdale’s Mississippi Brigade’s 21st Regiment, was later elected to be the regiment’s colonel and, after Barksdale was killed at Gettysburg, was promoted by Richmond to brigadier and took over the brigade. Which he maintained until he was disabled at Berryville in late 1864 and went home to his Delta plantation on wounded furlough.

Where he found the invading Yankees had burned everything and run off many of his slaves.

Humphreys was elected governor in October, 1865, six months after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, by the surviving white men of the state. He served until his re-election in June, 1868, when occupying federal troops removed him on orders from Washington. They replaced him with Adelbert Ames, a Union general from Maine who commanded the occupation.

While Humphreys was governor, the Mississippi legislature passed the Black Codes, which limited the civil rights of the freed slaves and denied them the right to vote. The codes were the forerunner to the Jim Crow segregation laws. The Legislature also refused to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery. Both actions contributed to Humphreys being removed.

Curiously, the National Governors Association’s Humphreys bio today has him “seriously wounded” at Gettysburg, which he was not. Presumably they never heard of Berryville. The association’s bio also says Humphreys “resigned” from office. There is no hint that his departure was forced by the federal government.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Berryville, Gen. Benjamin G. Humphreys, Humpreys Mississippi Brigade, Slavery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Captain Lorenzo Dow Fletcher


Captain Fletcher, a veteran of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Mexican War and a post-war gold-rush Forty-Niner, organized and recruited the Minute Men of Attala, the first company from Attala County. He led them in the Battle of Leesburg, particularly at Ball’s Bluff where they were the only participating unit of the 13th Regiment which gave him the chance to write an after-action report for Colonel Barksdale.

The federal 1860 Slaves Schedule Census apparently names him as owning 18 slaves, ranging in age from a 2 yr old male to a 50 yr old male.

The photo is from a family Web site, possibly taken after the war, though he is said to be wearing his Confederate uniform. Proof that if you wait long enough, all sorts of valuable things turn up on the Internet. Fletcher commanded the Minute Men until the regiment’s reorganization in the spring of 1862 when he apparently was not re-elected captain and took an officer’s privilege of going home. The family site has no hint of what he did for the rest of the war.

His brother Private Isaiah D. Fletcher was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.

UPDATE:  13th Regiment descendant Elaine F. Boatin, who wrote a novel that includes Fletcher at Ball’s Bluff, sent a document showing that in October, 1862, Fletcher was appointed a first lieutenant “drill master” at a camp of instruction for conscripts at Brookhaven, Mississippi, east of Natchez.

He still may have been there in April, 1863, when Grierson’s Raiders (about 1,700 Union cavalry from Iowa and Illinois) sweeping Mississippi from north to south in Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign, defeated about 500 Brookhaven Rebels, half of them armed conscripts from the camp. The raiders burned the camp, and tore up the railroad that ran through town and burned its cars and telegraph. Fletcher survived. The 1870 census, Elaine says, has him a married Attala County farmer with six children.

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The Bradley brothers at Gettysburg

The Civil War blog Battlefield Back Stories has a poignant tale of the Bradley brothers, John and George, who were killed at Gettysburg. Both had started out in the Winston Guards of Louisville, Mississippi, as had their younger brother, Joseph, who’d been slain at Malvern Hill the year before.

All three were officers but John Marion Bradley, who began the war as captain of the Winston Guards, had risen the highest, to lieutenant colonel, leading the regiment as second-in-command to Colonel James W. Carter. Carter, originally captain of the Kemper Legion, had replaced Colonel William Barksdale when he was promoted to brigadier general after Malvern Hill. Barksdale commanded the Mississippi brigade of the 13th, 17th, 18th and 21st regiments at Gettysburg.

John Marion was 36, and his elder brother Second Lieutenant George W. Bradley of the Winston Guards was 44 when they died. John Marion was killed leading the regiment from the front beside Col. Carter. George, in front of the Winston Guards, was seriously wounded, left behind when Lee’s army retreated and died a week later. The Guards’ designation as Company A meant it was in the center of the regiment’s battle line.

John Marion, then a major, was commended by General Joseph B. Kershaw in his after-action report on the Battle of Maryland Heights in September, 1862: “…I am much indebted to [the 13th’s] Major Bradley for his brave and efficient handling of our advanced skirmishers….”

Five days later, Bradley would be seriously wounded, shot in both legs, at the Battle of Sharpsburg. Yet he was sufficiently recovered a year later to take part in the 13th Regiment’s share of the famous but fateful charge of Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade on the Union lines at Gettysburg.

Posted in Battles: Gettysburg, Battles: Malvern Hill, Battles: Maryland Heights, Battles: Sharpsburg, The Kemper Legion, The Winston Guards | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Lauderdale Zouaves

Zouave troops were common on both sides of the Civil War, ordinary Americans who chose to distinguish themselves by unusual and presumably expensive uniforms: baggy red pantaloons, embroidered jackets and fez or low turban hats cocked on the backs of their heads.

The 13th Regiment had its own unit of them in the Zouaves of Lauderdale Station, Mississippi. One of them, Michael Quinn, apparently is the only 13th Regiment soldier who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Their original captain was Kennon McElroy, in 1861 a 21-year-old University of Mississippi graduate who would command the regiment after Gettysburg and be killed at Knoxville, Tennessee on Nov. 29, 1863.

Their romantic uniforms commemorated the French colonial soldier who distinguished himself in the Crimean War of 1855. Of which it was written in 1862:  “…he knows he is looked upon by his officers, by France, and by the world, as a soldier to whom nothing should be impossible; and he would rather die than disappoint the expectation formed of him; his is a corps d’elite, and every Zouave considers himself a ‘death or glory man.’”

Via The Zouave Archives.

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Mollie L. Campbell Nash


Minutemen of Attala Private Nimrod Newton Nash’s wife Mollie L. Campbell whom he married in 1855. She was the principal recipient of most of his good letters which lend so much verisimilitude to The Bloody Thirteenth and an understanding of the Civil War from the Confederate side.

Mollie L. Campbell Nash was the daughter of a Methodist minister and the sister of one of the Minutemen’s last commanders, Charles H.B. Campbell. He went on permanent wounded furlough in November 1863 when he lost an eye at the Battle of Fort Sanders in Knoxville, TN. Newt had been killed at Gettysburg back in July.

This photograph, apparently taken in the late 1850s, was provided by Newt’s descendant Weldon Nash of Dallas, TX.

Posted in Battles: Fort Sanders, Battles: Gettysburg, Nimrod Newton Nash, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reprise: Captured At Saylor’s Creek

One hundred and fifty years ago this morning, on a cloudy Thursday, the Army of Northern Virginia fought its last battle.

It was little more than a skirmish, actually, though it extinguished Humphreys’ Mississippi Brigade and most of the 13th Regiment. Then, it was forgotten by almost everyone, in favor of Lee’s famous surrender at Appomattox three days later. Historians ever after generally dismissed Saylor’s Creek with a few sentences, and most of them continue to do so.

It was worth a lot more than that to the survivors.

It began when all but a handful of the few score remaining soldiers of the 13th Regiment, among thousands more from the rest of Lee’s army, were pinned on a hillside across a marshy stream by Union cavalry commanded by Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

They had gotten into the box in a roundabout way, through a series of delays brought on by their half-starved condition and much straggling and its consequent disorganization.

The 13th, and the rest of Kershaw’s division was still nominally a part of Longstreet’s Corps, but Longstreet had taken Field’s division to Petersburg and retreated with it west from there. Farther north, Kershaw’s division of  three greatly-diminished Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina brigades, had retreated through Richmond and joined up with Ewell’s Corps, mainly reservists, artillerymen-turned-infantry, and sailors and marines from the scuttled James River fleet. They had all trudged west together through a steady rain. Both the north and south wings of the army of about 35,000 soldiers converged on Amelia Courthouse on Wednesday, April 5.

It was less marching than a kind of semi-organized straggling. Historian Joseph T. Glatthaar: “Their physical deterioration from poor conditioning prevented thousands from keeping up…Thousands dropped out of the retreat march, some falling into Yankee hands and others working their way toward home.”

“We stopped at Amelia all the morning,” recalled artillery commander Porter Alexander, “reorganizing commands & waiting for the rear to close up.”

A planned prepositioning of rations, much anticipated by men retreating on empty stomachs,  was nowhere to be found. The troops spent most of the rest of the day hunting for food for themselves and forage for their horses and mules but without much success in a country stripped bare after four years of invasion and war.

Kershaw’s division was at the rear of the retreat. When they approached the Appomattox River, which was in flood stage from spring rains, no pontoon bridges were available and, Glatthaar reports, they “had to trudge southward and plank the Richmond & Danville Railroad bridge to cross.”

All the delays gave Union Cavalry General Phillip Sheridan plenty of time to get jis troopers ahead of Lee’s retreating army and flank and funnel all of it eastward.

“The march was resumed soon after dark and kept up all night,” wrote13th 21st Mississippi Regiment memoirist J.S. McNeilly in 1913. “But delayed by transportation trains, artillery, and the attempts of the Federal cavalry to break in on them, daylight found the command only a few miles from Amelia Courthouse.

“The morning of the fateful 6th of April found the retreating troops in pretty bad shape—tired, sleepy, and oh! so hungry! In such condition the straggling was bad, and would have been worse but for the proximity of the Union cavalry and the apprehension of Northern prisons.”

The dawn skies were cloudy and threatening more rain, when they reached marshy Saylor’s Creek. There was an extended halt which lasted for several hours.

Historian Robert K. Krick: “Federal cavalry were in front with the road blocked.”

Before they could decide how to proceed, Glattner summarized, “a combination of Union infantry, artillery and cavalry enveloped both Confederate flanks and utterly crushed them. [Generals] Anderson, Pickett and Bushrod Johnson escaped. Ewell stayed behind trying to rally his whipped men, and fell into Union hands.”

But as McNeilly remembered it for the Mississippi Historical Society, the crushing came after the cornered troops put up a stiff fight, killing and wounding scores of Yankees. He said a defense line was thrown out on the south side of the creek, across the Deatonsville Road.

Kershaw stationed the Mississippi Brigade “now of less than four hundred men, commanded by Lieut. Col. Fitzgerald , on some high ground north of the creek, to check the enemy’s advance as long as possible.

“This rear guard was assailed immediately and vigorously in front and on both flanks….When the brigade was forced back, Col. Fitzgerald took another position, where, with a few men, he held back the advance until surrounded and captured, that the brigade might withdraw across the creek without disorder or disaster.”

Which could have been pretty hard, such a withdrawal, because as he goes on to say, the marshy creek was then waist deep and had steep banks.

“The conflict was so close that a Federal officer rushing to the front to seize the colors of the 21st Mississippi, fell as he was shot, at the feet of the slayer.”

Another Union officer on horseback was more successful, until his horse was killed and the flag recovered. “…[T]he colors were recovered by color bearer Trescott,” McNeilly wrote,“and burned by him that night, as were the colors of the 13th.”

There were other versions of what happened to the 13th Regiment’s last of several battle flags, in addition to McNeilly’s assertion that it was destroyed. One is that of Corporal Charles Derille Eastland of the Winston Guards. He offered his story of what happened to the flag in a letter to Confederate Veteran magazine long after the war.

‘If the Federal soldier who captured the flag of the 13th Mississippi Regiment April 6, 1865, in the battle of Harper’s Farm or Sailor’s Creek will write to me,” Eastland wrote, “I shall be glad to tell him who shot him through the right shoulder as he ran off with the flag.”

A third version is that the banner was taken from its staff, folded and secreted under the shirt of a 13th Regiment soldier at Saylor’s Creek and survived the war with him. That one makes the most sense, because a tattered 13th Regiment battle flag was preserved at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson. Independent historian Jess McLean photographed it for the cover of his history of the regiment. And a portion of the photograph forms the top of the home page of this blog.

According to McNeilly the deadly capture-the-flag business soon ended and “Maj. Costan, of Gen. Kershaw’s staff, rode up and called for the firing to cease, as all were surrounded and had been surrendered.”

McNeilly goes on to say that the 13th’s Captain Hugh D. Cameron, originally a private in the Alamutcha Infantry, who was “the only one of the four regimental commanders unwounded, commanded the brigade when it was finally rounded up.” He  said Lieut. Col. Fitzgerald was severely wounded, which apparently was why Cameron had assumed command. They both survived the war.

Among the captured soldiers of the 13th Regiment, for whom McLean was able to find records, were Captain Slyvanus Jackson Quinn of the Secessionists, the regimental brass band’s original drum major; Privates William Henry Hailey and Wilson West of the Kemper Legion; Private Charles Wesley Kendall of the Spartan Band; and 2nd Lieutenant Marcet R. Watkins of the Newton Rifles. But there must have been a few score others for whom records no longer exist.

Glatthaar concludes: “The Saylor’s Creek disaster marked the beginning of the very end for Lee’s army. Not only did it lose 8,000 men and large numbers of guns and wagons, but the battle was emblematic of the collapse of the army’s fighting prowess.”

McNeilly admitted as much: “…the sole ray of light that relieved the gloom of being prisoners of war, was that we were also ‘prisoners of hope’—the hope of a square meal. But that hope was dissolved in disappointment and a rainy night.”


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Nimrod Newton Nash

Newton Nash

Newt Nash was a rifleman in the 13th Mississippi whose letters home to his wife Mollie go a long way to illuminating the Civil War from the Confederate viewpoint.

Copies of the letters, transcribed by Newt’s descendants, were given to me by Weldon Nash of Dallas, an old Aggie who faithfully reads from some of them every year on July 2, the Battle of Gettysburg’s famous second day. It was the day Newt was killed in the regiment’s charge on the Union lines. Weldon also sent me this copy of Newt’s photograph, apparently taken in the late 1850s.

I’m sure Weldon will be pleased to see Newt here which I hope will stimulate interest in his eloquent letters, most of them quoted verbatim in my history of the regiment—-cheap at 99 cents in digital format.

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“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.

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