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Chapter 13:

On January 24, 1865, Nathan B. Forrest, with promotion to lieutenant-general, assumed command of the district of Mississippi, East Louisiana and West Tennessee. From his headquarters at Verona he issued a circular giving notice of his authority and insisting upon strict discipline, the protection of the rights of citizens and the suppression, even to extermination, of the prowling bands of irregular cavalry which infested the State.

General Chalmers, stationed at West Point, was directed to get up all the Mississippi regiments as rapidly as possible for reorganization, and Colonel Lowry, commanding Gholson's brigade, and Colonel Henderson, commanding detachments of McCulloch's, were ordered to Palo Alto. General Clark, writing General Taylor at Meridian, January 28th, proposed to call out the militia of the State, as had already been done in General Hodge's district, but added that he had 2,000 stand of arms and not exceeding fifteen rounds of ammunition, and he asked for 3,000 more guns. General Taylor answered that he could provision the militia raised, but his supply of arms and ammunition was already insufficient for the Confederate troops of his department. Inspector-General Walter, having visited the northwestern portion of the [224] State in January, reported to General Cooper that ‘the condition of affairs is deplorable. Large numbers of deserters infest the country, robbing friend and foe indiscriminately. The condition of the citizen is pitiful in the extreme. Dismounted Confederate cavalry steal his horses, while a dastard foe robs him of food and clothing. Grain cannot be ground and food cannot be purchased. Our cavalry are vigilant and successful in arresting the citizen whose wants compel him to send his bale of cotton to Memphis to procure the food necessary to existence, but fail to molest the professional blockader who makes merchandise of treason.’

Late in January French's division, including Sears' brigade, was ordered to Mobile. On February 3d, Gen. Marcus J. Wright was assigned by General Forrest to command of north Mississippi and west Tennessee, and south Mississippi and east Louisiana were put under charge of Gen. Wirt Adams. General Chalmers was assigned to the command of all Mississippi cavalry, to be known as Chalmers' division, and the Tennessee and other cavalry were consolidated under Gen. W. H. Jackson.

The Mississippi cavalry commands were organized as follows: Gen. F. C. Armstrong's brigade—First regiment, Col. R. A. Pinson; Second, Col. E. Dillon; Seventh and Ballentine's regiment consolidated, Colonel Ballentine Ashcraft's regiment, Colonel Ashcraft; detachment Twelfth regiment; five companies Fifth regiment; Eighth regiment, Col. T. W. White.

Gen. Wirt Adams' brigade: Col. R. C. Wood's regiment; Thirty-Eighth, Col. P. Brent; Ninth, Col. H. H. Miller; Col. J. McQuirk's regiment; Fourteenth Confederate, Colonel Dumonteil; Moorman's battalion; Twenty-third battalion; Powers' regiment.

Gen. P. B. Starke's brigade: Fourth regiment, Colonel Wilbourn; Sixth, Ninth, Tenth and Eighth Confederate, Col. W. B. Wade; Twenty-eighth, Major McBee; [225] Eighteenth battalion and part of Fifth regiment, Lieut.-Col. A. H. Chalmers.

On February 24th it was reported by Inspector-General Girault that General Forrest had in camp at and near West Point fully 6,000 cavalry; was daily increasing his force, and taking active steps to suppress the banditti in the Mississippi swamps.

Sharp's and Brantly's brigades, about 5,000 strong together, were sent from Meridian to Augusta, Ga., early in March, General Taylor having been ordered to send every available man east for the campaign in the Carolinas. Thus stripped of all infantry troops, Mississippi was left to depend upon the cavalry that might be collected by General Forrest, and it was hoped that his genius might overcome the fearful odds against him and win a victory that would put some hope and heart into the wornout soldiers of the Confederacy. General Beauregard informed General Taylor, on March 9th, that no portion of the army could be sent him to aid in the defense of Mobile, nor could any money be sent to pay his men their long overdue wages. He expressed his opinion that desertion was now an epidemic in all the armies, and advised Taylor to remove everything valuable to Macon, ‘which probably will be the last place in the Confederacy which will be attacked by the enemy.’

Early in March a cavalry brigade marched from Memphis through northern Mississippi, traversing the theatre of the former bloody contests without opposition, though closely watched by part of Forrest's command.

The defense of the lines at Mobile, during the latter part of March and early April, was participated in by Sears' brigade under Col. Thomas N. Adaire, including the remnants of the following regiments: Fourth, Maj. T. P. Nelson; Seventh battalion, Capt. S. D. Harris; Thirty-fifth, Capt. G. W. Oden; Thirty-sixth, Lieut.-Col. Edward Brown; Thirty-ninth, Capt. C. W. Gallaher; Forty-sixth, Capt. J. A. Barwick. These troops, with [226] the other remnants of Maury's command, retreated to Meridian after the evacuation of Mobile.

Gen. George H. Thomas, with headquarters at Eastport, in the extreme northeast corner of Mississippi, late in March sent Gen. James H. Wilson with 10,000 cavalry on a raid through Alabama. Forrest led his whole command to meet him, and on the 2d of April, the day of the evacuation of Richmond, fought the battle of Selma. His men fought with the desperation of hopelessness, but they were swept from their intrenchments by superior numbers and 2,700 were captured. After this disaster, Forrest, with the remnant of his command, made up of those who were determined to struggle to the bitter end, moved to Meridian and was part of the little army of 8,000 men under Gen. Richard Taylor which awaited the issue of events in the east.

In the army of Northern Virginia during the spring of 1865, Humphreys' brigade served with Kershaw's division on the north side of the James near Fort Gilmer. On April 2d it marched through the Confederate capital, then being sacked by a mob, and overtook the rear of the retreating army at Amelia Court House. On April 6th, after holding at bay the Federal cavalry until the trains could pass by, Humphreys' brigade, under Colonel Fitzgerald, took position to cover the crossing of the division over Sailor's creek, but was soon overpowered and forced back upon the remainder of the division, which altogether numbered but 2,000 men. Being speedily surrounded by superior forces, many were captured. The remnants of the Mississippi regiments of this brigade were then commanded as follows: Thirteenth, Lieut. W. H. Davis; Seventeenth, Capt. Gwin R. Cherry; Eighteenth, Lieut. John W. Gower; Twenty-first, Lieut. Benjamin George.

General Davis' brigade was surrendered at Appomattox, including the Second, Eleventh, Twenty-sixth, and Forty-second regiments. Harris' brigade, Mahone's division, here also ended its gallant career, the regiments being [227] commanded at that time as follows: Twelfth, Capt. A. K. Jones; Sixteenth, Lieut.-Col. James H. Duncan; Nineteenth, Col. Richard W. Phipps; Forty-eighth, Col. Joseph M. Jayne. The remnant of Humphreys' brigade, at its surrender at Appomattox under Captain Cherry, numbered 20 officers and 231 men; Davis' brigade had 21 officers and 54 men; and Harris' brigade had 33 officers and 339 men.

Meanwhile the Mississippi infantry of the armies of Tennessee and Mississippi had joined the forces under Gen. J. E. Johnston for the defense of the Carolinas. Loring's division was there, forming part of Stewart's corps of three divisions, one of which was commanded by Walthall. The whole corps contained only 1,000 fighting men. Featherston's brigade, reinforced by part of several Arkansas regiments, included heroic fragments of the Third, Thirty-first, and Fortieth Mississippi, under Col. James M. Stigler; the First, Twenty-second and Thirty-third regiments and First battalion, under Col. Martin A. Oatis; and the Twenty-seventh, Maj. Q. C. Heidelburg. The brigade of Gen. Robert Lowry contained the Fifth, Fourteenth and Forty-third, consolidated under Col. Robert J. Lawrence; and the Sixth, Fifteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-third, under Lieut.-Col. Thomas B. Graham.

In Lee's corps, which was 2,500 strong, were General Sharp's brigade, the Fifth, Eighth, Thirty-second, and Third battalion, Capt. J. Y. Carmack; Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, Forty-first, Forty-fourth, and Ninth battalion, Col. William C. Richards; and General Brantly's brigade, which included with other troops the Twenty-fourth, consolidated with the Twenty-seventh, Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth and Thirty-fourth, under Col. R. W. Williamson. Swett's battery was also with this last army of the Confederacy. All these brigades fought gallantly at the battle of Bentonville, and were surrendered with Johnston's Army April 26th.

A week before the surrender of Johnston he had made [228] a ‘convention’ with Sherman, and soon after the news of this had reached Gen. Richard Taylor, he met General Canby near Mobile, and was courteously entertained. A truce of two days was agreed upon and hostilities ceased. A week later came almost simultaneously notice of the repudiation of the ‘convention’ and the renewal of hostilities, and General Taylor again met General Canby to arrange terms of capitulation. This last important surrender of the great war was made at Citronelle, Ala., May 4, 1865. In due time the men at Meridian were paroled, and officers and soldiers who had been up to that time engaged in deadly combat made friendly acquaintance and parted in peace. General Taylor's advice was asked for and relied upon by General Canby, in regard to disposition of his forces to preserve order and protect the restoration of trade and industry. ‘What years of discord, bitterness, injustice and loss would not our country have been spared,’ wrote General Taylor, ‘had the wounds of war healed by “first intention” under the gentle ministration of the hands that fought the battles? But the task was allotted to ambitious partisans, most of whom had not heard the sound of a gun. As of old, the Lion and the Bear fight openly and sturdily—the stealthy Fox carries off the prize.’

The records show that there were in the Confederate armies from Mississippi the following commands:

49 Infantry Regiments.

15 Infantry Battalions.

24 Cavalry Regiments.

16 Cavalry Battalions.

1 Regiment Cavalry Reserves.

7 Regiments State Troops.

3 Battalions State Troops.

8 Battalions State Cavalry.

1 Mixed Regiment, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee.

1 Mixed Battalion, Mississippi and Tennessee.

I Mixed Mississippi and Alabama Cavalry Battalion. [229]

1 Regiment Partisan Rangers.

1 Battalion Partisan Rangers.

5 Battalions Sharpshooters.

1 Artillery Regiment.

1 Artillery Battalion.

1 Artillery Battery.

Jeff Davis Legion, mixed Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia cavalry.

Under an act of the legislature of Mississippi, August 11, 1864, creating the office of superintendent of army records and making it the duty of that officer to collect and record the names and military status of all Mississippians in the Confederate service, Governor Clark appointed Col. J. L. Power. In his report made to the governor of Mississippi in October, 1865, Colonel Power, among other things, says: ‘To enter upon the completion of these records after more than three years of active military service, involving loss of company books and muster-rolls, seemed indeed a hopeless, endless task. * * * * * The great portion of the troops from Mississippi were in the Tennessee army, and that army, at the time of my appointment and until its final surrender, was either in line of battle or on the march, rendering it impracticable to accomplish anything in the premises.’ Colonel Power proceeded to Virginia in December, 1864, to complete the records of the Mississippi brigades in that army, but had not been able to do so when the order was given for the evacuation of Richmond.

The records of Humphreys' brigade and of thirty companies in Davis' brigade, present the following as the strength and losses of the seventy companies:

Whole number on rolls9,407
Total loss from all causes6,661

Of the 2,746 men on the rolls as present and absent accounted for, about one-third were under arms when General Lee surrendered—the remainder being absent on furlough, in prison, on detail, and for other causes. [230]

From this and other data in my possession, I have thought it might be interesting to deduce something like an approximate estimate of the total strength and losses of the troops furnished by the State of Mississippi. * * *

Whole number in service78,000
Total loss from all causes59,250
Balance accounted for8, 750

And of this number about thirty per cent were absent for various causes at the general surrender of the armies.

As to the morale of the army and the causes from which it suffered, Colonel Power says: ‘Our reverses for the last two years of the war, the despondency, speculation and extortion of many of our people at home, the inability of the government to pay the troops promptly or to furnish them with anything like adequate supplies of food or clothing, the absolute destitution of many families of soldiers and, toward the last, the seeing hopelessness of the struggle, all conspired to depress the soldier's heart.’

On October 16, 1865, the first legislature elected after the war assembled, and the first governor of Mississippi elected, in his inaugural address, among other things said:

The South, having ventured all on the arbitrament of the sword, has lost all save her honor, and now accepts the result in good faith. It is our duty to address ourselves to the promotion of peace and order—to the restoration of the law, the faith of the Constitution and the stability and prosperity of the Union; to cultivate amicable relations with our sister States and establish our agricultural and commercial prosperity upon more durable foundations—trusting that the lessons taught by the rebellion will not be lost either to the North or the South: that free men once enlightened will not submit to wrong or injustice, that sectional aggression will meet with sectional resistance, and that the price of political perfidy is blood and carnage.


The governor who uttered these sentiments was the man who so distinguished himself at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, that his great corps commander, Longstreet, in referring to the battle afterward (Southern Historical papers, vol. V, p. 65), singled him out from 13,000 of his comrades—Mississippians, Georgians, South Carolinians, Alabamians, and Texans—to illustrate the intrepid daring of all the rest in what he did not ‘hesitate to pronounce the best three hours fighting ever done by any troops on any battlefield.’ That man's name was Benjamin G. Humphreys.

I have made what I believe to be a faithful account of the military history of the troops Mississippi placed in the field in the war of the Confederacy. If I have omitted any, it is not intentional. The writer has been often tempted to stop and pay just tribute to all his brave comrades from Mississippi; but remembering he was asked to write ‘history’ and not ‘eulogies,’ checked his strong impulse to give the meed of praise to his fallen and surviving comrades. It is but just and proper, in these closing lines, that I should say that I have been largely aided by my son, Mr. Allen J. Hooker, in the collection and collation of the data on which this history is based, verified by the reports and correspondence of the Federal and Confederate officers in the field. [232]

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