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Chapter 2:

  • Purchase of arms
  • -- organization of State troops -- Jefferson Davis commander-in-chief -- troops at Corinth-First hostilities on the Mississippi.

Adjutant-General W. L. Sykes of Mississippi, in his report to Governor Pettus, dated Jackson, January 18, 1861, for the year ending December, 1860, and from January 1, 1861, to January 17th inclusive, among other things, said: ‘The Mississippi legislature, being duly impressed with a sense of her insecurity, and aroused by the action of John Brown and his confederates at Harper's Ferry in their attempt to stain and drench the soil of Virginia in innocent blood, made an appropriation in December, 1859, of $150,000 for the purchase [of arms in order to prepare to meet effectually such a fanatical raid, should an attempt be made to perpetrate such an act within her borders. * * * Within the past two months the political excitement awakened by the election of a Black Republican to the Presidency being unprecedented and without parallel in this country, * * * companies are organized and have been organizing at the rate of seven or eight per week, numbering from fifty to sixty men. The number of companies organized up to the 16th of January, 1861, dating from January 1, 1860, amounts to 65. * * * The number of commissions issued to officers of volunteer companies approximates 255. Of this number, 65 were issued to captains and 190 to lieutenants. * * * The number of men regularly organized into uniformed companies of volunteers amounts to 2,027, armed. Of the thirty-eight companies unarmed, allowing 50 men for an average of [11] each, we have 1,900 unarmed volunteers, which number added to the number of armed men, gives an aggregate of 3,927 belonging to the volunteer companies, which approximation will vary but little from the correct number. The number of arms in the hands of the troops amounts to 2,127 stand: of rifles, 1,256; of percussion muskets, 391; of flint, about 60; of pistols, 462; of sabers, 370. The number of men, subject to military duty, as far as reported, amounts to 39,263.’ The military age was from 21 to 45.

In his message to the legislature, November 4, 1861, Governor Pettus said: ‘From the report of the adjutant-general herewith transmitted, it will be seen that Mississippi now has in the Confederate service 22 regiments and one battalion of infantry, one regiment and fourteen companies of cavalry, and eleven companies of artillery, amounting in the aggregate to about 23,000; the number not definitely stated for the reason that several of the regiments have no muster-rolls on file at the adjutant-general's office. To this estimate should be added a considerable number of independent companies tendered directly to the Confederate authorities and ordered to Missouri, Kentucky or Virginia, probably fifteen companies, making the number over 24,000. When this number shall be farther increased by the thirty companies enlisted for the war, now in camp in the State, and the companies now rapidly sending in their tender of service under the recent call of Maj.-Gen. A. S. Johnston for ten thousand troops, the aggregate will exceed 35,000, which is probably a larger proportion of the adult male population than any State or nation has sent to war in modern times; and when it is remembered that not one of all these thousands has been required by law to enter the service, or constrained by any force save their patriotic desire to stand between the State and her enemies, Mississippi may well feel proud of her volunteer [12] defenders and cheerfully bear any burden necessary to cherish and sustain them.’

The money appropriated by the legislature for defense not being immediately available, patriotic citizens from all parts of the State came forward with tenders of money and services, regarding their offerings, says Governor Pettus, ‘as donations.’ ‘Col. Jeff Davis and Hon. Jacob Thompson have guaranteed the payment in May or June of $24,000 for a purchase of arms.’ The Mobile & Ohio railroad company ‘has tendered me the free use of the road for the transportation of troops and munitions of war whenever the State may require it; placing at the disposal of the governor of the State extra trains when required, free of all charge. The Mississippi Central railroad company, through the president, W. Goodman, has tendered the services of all men now employed.’

On January 23, 1861, the convention provided for a military board, to consist of the governor, a majorgen-eral and four brigadier-generals, who should have charge of the organization and management of troops for the defense of the State. Under the ordinance adopted, they were to enlist, and muster into service as early as practicable, one division of volunteers ‘consisting of four brigades; each brigade to be composed of two regiments, and each regiment of ten companies of infantry or riflemen, and each company of not less than forty-eight nor more than 100 men; also not exceeding ten companies of cavalry of not less than 50 men each, and not exceeding ten companies of artillery of not less than 60 men each.’ One major-general and four brigadier-generals of volunteers were provided for, ‘to be elected each in succession’ by the convention; ‘one colonel, one lieutenant-colonel, and one major for each regiment, one captain and three lieutenants for each company, who shall be elected by a majority of the volunteers within their respective commands; and that the [13] division, brigade and regimental officers shall appoint their own staffs, and each captain shall appoint as many sergeants and corporals as may be necessary.’ It was further provided: ‘that the volunteers, after being mustered into service as provided for in the first section of this ordinance, shall be considered as on furlough, subject, however, to be drilled at such times and places within their respective counties as their company officers may order, until called out for drill or actual services by their major-general.’

On the same day that the above ordinance was adopted, the following proceedings on the floor of the convention (see Journal of State convention, 1861) were had: On motion of Mr. Chalmers the convention proceeded to the election of a major-general by ballot. The president appointed Messrs. Gholson, Anderson and Beene to act as tellers. Upon the first ballot Jefferson Davis received 88 votes, Reuben Davis 1 vote, Earl Van Dorn 1 vote; whereupon Jefferson Davis was declared major-general.

Mr. Davis was then in Washington City. Returning home, he found his commission, dated January 25, 1861, at Jackson, awaiting him. He gave a few days to the work of dividing the State into military districts, apportioning the levy of troops and the formation of a staff, before retiring to his plantation, where he was when called to the Presidency in the following month. It is well known, however, that Mr. Davis neither sought nor desired the latter position. Perhaps it ought to be stated here, in passing, for the benefit of the uninformed only, that while Mr. Davis ‘was a firm believer in the right of secession, he was never a leader in the councils which urged the expediency of the exercise of that right,’ and that ‘the State seceded by its own act, through its own convention, through no agency of his.’

The language above quoted is that of a memorial of his own people1 (the first legislature, fresh from the [14] people, that assembled in the State just after the war, in 1865 addressed to the man by whose order Mr. Davis had been shackled and thrown into a military prison. The memorial states that if vengeance was to be visited upon any one, it should be visited upon them and not upon him; and that in the event that prison, exile or the grave—no matter the place—was to be his portion, it would be ‘a Mecca at whose shrine we would feel bound every day and year to remember that he was sacrificed for the people among whom he was born, with whom he was educated, whose prejudices and opinions he entertained, and whose fate and fortunes he wished to share.’

A major-general elected, the convention then elected in their order, Earl Van Dorn, Charles Clark, James L. Alcorn and C. H. Mott as brigadier-generals. Mr. Davis having been elected to the presidency of the Confederate States, Gen. Earl Van Dorn was promoted to the command of the Mississippi volunteers. On assuming command he promulgated General Orders No.1, dated March 2, 1861, in which the following appointments and elections were announced to the division: Richard Griffith, brigadier-general, vice Van Dorn appointed major-general; Beverly Mathews, adjutant and inspector-general, vice Griffith appointed brigadier-general; William Barksdale, quartermaster-general; Samuel G. French, chief of ordnance. The following assistant adjutant-generals were appointed: P. F. Liddell, first; H. H. Miller, second; J. N. Davis, third; John Mc-Quirk, fourth; Melancthon Smith, fifth.

The first call was for four regiments, and the enlistment was very rapid. After several regiments had been furnished to the Confederate States, the organization of Mississippi volunteers was continued until eighty companies had been formed and ordered into camp at the four brigade places of rendezvous—Iuka, Enterprise, Corinth and Grenada. [15]

On May 21, 1861, the following companies were ordered to proceed forthwith to Corinth and report to Maj.-Gen. Charles Clark, commanding:

Choctaw Guards, Capt. J. W. Hemphill.

Long Creek Rifles, Capt. L. S. Terry.

Shubuta Rifles, Capt. R. J. Lawrence.

Cherry Creek Rifles, Capt. John B. Herring.

McClung Rifles, Capt. Edgar Sykes.

Confederate Rifles, Capt. Jos. M. Jayne.

Winona Stars, Capt. Thomas Booth.

Magnolia Guards, Capt. John M. Lyles.

Water Valley Rifle Guards, Capt. B. H. Collins.

Burnsville Blues, Capt. J. C. Walters.

Grenada Rifles, Capt. W. S. Statham.

Gainesville Volunteers, Capt. J. B. Deason.

Summit Rifles, Capt. J. D. Blincoe.

Vicksburg Southrons, Capt. D. N. Moody.

Enterprise Guards, Capt. R. Stuart Wier.

Columbus Riflemen, Capt. Wm. E. Baldwin.

Wigfall Rifles, Capt. W. F. Brantley.

Beauregard Rifles, Capt. John W. Balfour.

Madison Guards, Capt. Thomas M. Griffin.

Oktibbeha Rescue, Capt. A. J. Maxwell.

Benton Rifles, Capt. W. H. Luse.

Confederates, Capt. O. R. Singleton.

Confederate Guards, Capt. W. S. Featherston.

Westville Guards, Capt. George J. D. Funchess.

Yalobusha Rifles, Capt. F. M. Aldridge.

Quitman Rifles, Capt. J. W. Wade.

Hamer Rifles, Capt. C. F. Hamer.

Mississippi Rangers, Capt. John McQuirk.

Pettus Rifles, Capt. Marmaduke Bell.

Mississippi College Rifles, Capt. John W. Welborn.

Crystal Springs Southern Rights, Capt. J. C. Davis.

Adams Light Guard, No. 1, Capt. Robert Clarke.

Adams Light Guard, No. 2, Capt. S. E. Baker.

Quitman Invincibles, Capt. John F. McGowan. [16]

Monroe Guards, Capt. F. M. Rodgers.

Benton Relief Rifle Guards, Capt. B. G. Lawrence.

Rough and Readies, Capt. H. E. Williamson.

Burt Rifles, Capt. E. R. Burt.

Beauregard Rifles, Capt. A. S. Lee.

Agency Rifles, Capt. John M. Ware.

Quitman Guards, Capt. Samuel A. Matthews.

Lexington Guards, Capt. L. R. Page.

Wilkinson Rifles, Capt. C. Posey.

Jasper Grays, Capt. J. J. Shannon.

Meridian Invincibles, Capt. W. F. Crumpton.

Claiborne Rangers, Capt. J. Taylor Moore.

Clayton Guards, Captain Vaughn.

Rankin Rough and Readies, Capt. E. J. Runnels.

Panola Vindicators, Capt. Geo. P. Foote.

Buena Vista Rifles, Capt. T. L. Rogers.

In the month of August, 1861, the organization of the eight regiments ordered to be raised by the ordinance of the convention, adopted January 23d, was completed. These were put under command of Reuben Davis as major-general, and Brigadier-Generals Alcorn, Absalom M. West, John M. O'Farrell and Charles G. Dahlgren. As soon as the new brigades were ordered into camp there arose a storm of indignation at the supposed useless extravagance of maintaining such a military body. This was intensified after the victory at Manassas, which was taken by many as the end of the struggle against coercion.

It appearing to the legislature that the troops were being kept in camp merely for drilling, a joint resolution was adopted and approved January 17, 1862, disbanding the sixty-day troops then at Bowling Green and Union City, the brigade under command of Gen. Reuben Davis at Corinth, and the brigade under General Alcorn at Holly Springs. And, incredible as it may appear, it is nevertheless true that Governor Pettus received a telegram from Richmond, in response to a private inquiry, to [17] the effect that his troops in camp were not needed and should be sent to their homes. Fortunately another telegram soon followed, demanding that the troops be turned over to the Confederate States at once, as an unexpected emergency had arisen.

The first service of the Mississippi troops was at Vicksburg, which is distinguished as being the place where the first shot was fired on the Mississippi as well as the last where a decisive struggle was made for the control of the river.

At this time, January, 1861, it was proposed that the Mississippi river should remain a free and unobstructed channel of commerce for the North as well as the South. The Louisiana convention so declared, and Governor Pettus also recommended that ‘the most prompt and efficient measures be adopted to make known to the people of the Northwestern States that peaceful commerce on the Mississippi river will neither be interrupted nor annoyed by the people of Mississippi.’ But the great likelihood of some cause of irritation arising from the joint use by the two nations of the great river made itself at once apparent. The United States still maintained forts and arsenals in the territory of Louisiana, and might reinforce these by way of the river. Such an act would be an act of war, and for the protection of the South it was necessary to prevent it as the victualing of Fort Sumter was prevented. Consequently, when Governor Pettus was advised by Governor Moore of Louisiana, early in January, that he had reason to believe that an expedition would be sent down the Mississippi to reinforce the military strength of the United States in Louisiana, he was compelled to act, though without the intention of disturbing peaceful commerce. What was done is related by Governor Pettus in his message to the extra session of the legislature in the summer of 1861. He ‘sent Capt. J. F. Kerr, with 16 men of the Jackson artillery company, and ordered Capt. H. H. Miller [18] to call out the volunteer companies of Vicksburg, and take such position as would enable him to prevent any hostile expedition descending the river. On January 10th, Captain Kerr arrived at Vicksburg and—with the Vicksburg Southrons, Capt. L. Moore; the Vicksburg Sharpshooters, Capt. Horace Miller; and the Warren Guards, Captain Brown—proceeded to Fort Hill, above the city, and erected a fort on the bluff. On the next day the steamer O. A. Tyler, from Cincinnati, appeared in the river and, attempting to pass on her way down, was fired on by Captain Kerr. This was the first shot fired during the war on the Mississippi river.’

When it was learned that the forts and arsenals below Vicksburg were in the hands of Louisiana, the military force at Vicksburg was withdrawn and the river was permitted to flow unvexed to the gulf. This action, with the facts distorted and the motives misunderstood, caused great excitement in the Northwest, which seemed to be as ready to go to war for the river as for the Union.

1 See Senate Journal, 1865, Mississippi legislature, appendix, p. 21.

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