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.

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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

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