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

God’s Red Clay

Elaine F. Boatin, a great grandaughter of Private John Nicholas Ford of the Minutemen of Attala, is a distinguished novelist and short story writer whose work is published under the name Elaine Ford. She is finishing a new historical novel about her paternal ancestry’s 19th Century history in Alabama and Mississippi.

The novel, “God’s Red Clay,” includes a chapter on Private Ford’s participation in the 13th’s Leesburg fight in and around Ball’s Bluff in October, 1861, where the Minutemen were commanded by Captain Lorenzo Fletcher, a Mexican War veteran who had recruited most of them back home in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

Although she uses fiction techniques to make her story come alive, Elaine sticks to the known facts about her ancestor, including that he was wounded in the preliminaries to the Ball’s Bluff fight and rescued by a “devoted slave,” probably  the 12-year-old boy, Major, held by his father.

There were other such relationships, slave/servants who, like Major, apparently were sent off to war (starting with the American Revolution) with their young masters and charged with their protection. How devoted they were is open to question.

Here is an excerpt of the story:

“When finally they reach the foot of the slope, they discover a deep ravine. It seems to be at right angles to the direction they’ve been heading. ‘With any luck,’ Fletcher says, ‘this will lead us east to the bluff and the 8th Virginia.’ They clamber down into it, mostly sliding on their bottoms. The going in the ravine is somewhat easier.

“However, they soon understand that it’s not one ravine only, but a series of intersecting ravines wending this way and that. For some reason, Fletcher’s pocket compass is of no use. He keeps staring at the thing, shaking it, swearing. ‘Could be the iron in these here clay walls is confounding it,’ Jim White says.”

Read the rest here.  Elaine is a retired professor of writing and literature at the University of Maine. Her web site at the link also contains a compendium of her other books, including her latest, a collection of short stories reflecting her wide experiences.

Posted in Battles: Leesburg, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dixie & The Bonnie Blue Flag

This is the music and the way it was played, i.e. by a brass band, that the men of the 13th heard  before, during and even after the war for the ones who had survived. Nowadays Political Correctness has pretty much stopped it from being played in public. Fortunately, we have YouTube to compensate.

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Praise for The Bloody Thirteenth

Elaine F. Boatin, a retired University of Maine literature and writing professor, recently posted a review of our new regimental history on its sales page at Amazon. She is a descendant of the regiment’s Private John Nicholas Ford:

“First, a disclaimer. My great-grandfather served in the 13th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a member of Company D, the Minute Men of Attala, and so did two of his brothers. I therefore have more than a casual interest in this new book by Dick Stanley about the “Bloody Thirteenth.” That said, I found this a very readable book, one that brings the Civil War to life in a way that a straight history of campaign strategy, or statistics about the numbers of casualties from disease and wounds, cannot.

“Stanley is fortunate in having diaries, letters, and memoirs to draw on, and he skillfully weaves quotes from them into his narration. The focus is on the ordinary soldier’s experience of the war: the mundane details of blisters, lice, poor diet, mud, endless marching, comradeship, homesickness—as well as the horrors of battle.

“When Private Newton Nash, also of the Minute Men, whose wonderfully eloquent letters to his wife Mollie have been providing intimate texture to the narrative, is killed at Gettysburg, I wept as if I’d known him. My guess is that anyone interested in the Civil War or, indeed, in any war as it is actually lived by those fighting on the ground, will find this book enlightening and moving reading.”

Elaine, who is also a novelist and writer of short stories, is finishing her own new book, a novel about her 19th century Southern ancestors and their lives in Alabama and Mississippi. It includes a chapter on Private Ford’s wounding in the Leesburg fight. More about the novel later.

Posted in Nimrod Newton Nash, The Bloody Thirteenth, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Digital regimental now in paperback and ebook


A 366-page paperback narrative of this digital regimental is now available for sale at Amazon here, and also here as an ebook.

Both contain some additional material not found in this Web version but otherwise are faithful reproductions of it. The title comes from Private Thurman Early Hendricks of the Minutemen of Attala. He wrote in a memoir that, in early 1863, its veterans called the regiment “The Bloody Thirteenth.”

An advantage of the paper and ebook formats, in addition to providing lasting, personal copies of the history, is that they can be read from beginning to end instead of finish to start as is the format of a blog. Much easier to read in the usual way. The ebook also is searchable and the paperback has an index of many of the regiment’s soldiers, for the convenience of descendants wishing to see what’s available about their ancestor. Enjoy!

UPDATE:  The ebook version has been reformatted to the interior appearance of the paperback to make it easier to read. The reformatting eliminated the index but, of course, it’s still searchable. And a mere 99 cents! Don’t be confused by Amazon’s “look inside” feature for the ebook. It still retains the old formatting.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, The Bloody Thirteenth, Thurman E. Hendricks Diary | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Cooking in one pot

You might have a hard time imagining how creative one could be cooking with one pot or skillet over an open fire—no matter how creative you were in scrounging up the makin’s from sometimes pitifully small rations.

Comes Clarissa Clifton to help you out. Her good recipe book “One Hearth, One Pot” is short but valuable, and her explanations will help you conjure a full picture of a 13th soldier or his mess’s servant/slave cooking in camp or at makeshift stops on the march from one battle to the next. Chicken, hoe cakes and sweet potato biscuits. Yum.

“Remember,” she writes in her introduction, “most of the basic home recipes we cook today come from the open hearth…This cookbook focuses on the techniques of cooking used by slaves and the yeoman class of farmers.”

Ms Clifton, who does living history, open-hearth cooking demonstrations for visitors at foundation-owned historic plantations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Roswell, Georgia, has a second cookbook in the works.

Posted in Slavery, The Journey | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mississippi uniform buttons


Apparently from a solider in I Company, which was the letter name of the 13th’s Minutemen of Attala, though I have no idea whether the buttons are from one of them.

UPDATE:  Winston Cameron of Winchester, Virginia, a descendant of Captain Hugh Cameron and First Lieutenant John Cameron, both of the Alamutcha Infantry, thinks the I on the buttons more likely stood for Infantry.

Posted in Mississippi, The Minute Men of Attala | Tagged , | 1 Comment

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Gettysburg, Captured at Saylor's Creek, Gen. William Barksdale | Tagged , | Leave a comment