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Chapter 12:

During the active military operations of 1864, the greater part of the military strength of Mississippi had been drawn to the army under Johnston and later under Hood. When General Polk went into north Georgia, where his life was soon to be sacrificed for the cause of the Confederacy, he took with him the Mississippi infantry which had served theretofore in the defense of the State, and they, added to the brigades which had fought under Bragg, formed a considerable part of the army which wrestled bloodily with Sherman all the way from Dalton to Atlanta in the summer of 1864.

In the organization of Johnston's army of Tennessee, Anderson's and Walthall's Mississippi brigades were assigned to Gen. T. C. Hindman's division of John B. Hood's corps. Anderson's brigade, commanded by Brig.-Gen. Wm. F. Tucker, and later by Col. Jacob H. Sharp, included the Seventh Mississippi infantry, Col. Wm. H. Bishop; Ninth, Lieut.-Col. Benjamin F. Johns; Tenth, Lieut.-Col. George B. Myers; Forty-first, Col. J. Byrd Williams; Forty-fourth, Lieut.-Col. R. G. Kelsey; Ninth battalion sharpshooters, Maj. William C. Richards. General Walthall's brigade was made up of the remnants of the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-seventh regiments, consolidated under Col. R. P. McKelvaine, the Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth under Col. William F. Brantly, and the Thirty-fourth under Col. Samuel Benton. [212]

Hardee's corps included in Jackson's brigade, Walker's division, the Fifth Mississippi, Col. John Weir, and the Eighth, Col. John C. Wilkinson; and in Brig.-Gen. Mark P. Lowrey's brigade of Cleburne's division were the Thirty-second, Col. William H. H. Tison, and Forty-fifth, Col. Aaron B. Hardcastle. Col. Melancthon Smith was in command of Hardee's artillery, in which were included the Mississippi batteries of Turner and Shannon. Stanford's battery was attached to Hood's corps, and Darden's battery to the reserve. The Thirty-seventh Mississippi, Col. Orlando S. Holland, from the department of the Gulf, was attached to General Cantey's command, subsequently in Major-General Walthall's division.

In the army of Mississippi, commanded after the death of Polk by W. W. Loring, and then by A. P. Stewart, were found in Loring's division the brigade of Gen. W. S. Featherston: Third regiment, Col. T. A. Mellon; Twenty-second, Maj. M. A. Oatis; Thirty-first, Col. M. D. L. Stephens; Thirty-third, Col. Jabez L. Drake; Fortieth, Col. Wallace B. Colbert; First battalion sharpshooters, Maj. James M. Stigler;--and the brigade of Gen. John Adams: Sixth regiment, Col. Robert Lowry; Fourteenth, Lieut.-Col. W. L. Doss; Fifteenth, Col. Michael Farrell; Twentieth, Col. William N. Brown; Twenty-third, Col. Joseph M. Wells; Forty-third, Col. Richard Harrison. In French's division was the brigade of Gen. Claudius W. Sears: Fourth regiment, Col. Thomas N. Adaire; Thirty-fifth, Col. W. S. Barry; Thirty-sixth, Col. W. W. Witherspoon; Thirty-ninth, Lieut.-Col. W. E. Ross; Forty-sixth, Col. William H. Clark; and the Seventh battalion, Capt. W. A. Trotter. The Mississippi batteries of Cowan, Hoskins and Yates were attached.

The cavalry brigade of Gen. Frank C. Armstrong was mainly composed of Mississippians—the First regiment, Col. R. A. Pinson; Second, Maj. John J. Perry; Twenty-eighth, Maj. Joshua T. McBee; Ballentine's regiment, [213] Lieut.-Col. W. L. Maxwell; while in Ferguson's brigade were the Ninth Mississippi cavalry, Col. H. H. Miller; Eleventh, Col. Robert O. Perrin; Twelfth battalion, Col. Wm. M. Inge.

The Mississippians under Cleburne and Walker gallantly took part in the opening struggle of the campaign at Rocky Face mountain. Walthall's brigade, supported by Tucker's, held position on the left of Hood's corps at Resaca, and maintained their ground under a heavy artillery fire two days, during the first repulsing three assaults of the enemy. Walthall had in line 1,158 men, and lost 49 killed and 118 wounded, but inflicted a loss of perhaps 1,000 upon the enemy. Among the killed was Lieut.-Col. A. J. Jones, Twenty-seventh regiment. Tucker's brigade in the rear also suffered, General Tucker being severely wounded and giving the command to Colonel Sharp. Lieutenant Shannon, commanding Swett's battery, was conspicuous for gallantry, and this may be said justly of all the men engaged.

Near New Hope Church, May 27th, M. P. Lowrey's brigade was distinguished at Pickett's mill. General Cleburne in his report, after giving great praise to Granbury's Texans, said: ‘My thanks are also due to General Lowrey for the coolness and skill which he exhibited in forming his line. His successive formation was the precise answer to the enemy's movement in extending his left to turn our right. Time was of the essence of things, and his movement was the quickest. His line was formed under heavy fire, on ground unknown to him and of the most difficult character, and the stern firmness with which he and his men and Baucum's regiment drove off the enemy and resisted his renewed attacks, without doubt saved the right of the army as Granbury had already done before.’

On June 9th, at Moore's mill, Colonel Farrell, with the Fifteenth Mississippi and two companies of the Sixth, [214] captured a number of men from an Ohio regiment, whose attack they had repulsed.

At Kenesaw Mountain, June 27th, Loring's corps occupied the crest of the mountain and repulsed several assaults of the enemy, with heavy loss to the Federals. Featherston's skirmishers, the First battalion, under Major Stigler, and the Third regiment, Major Dyer, behaved with great coolness and courage, defeating the enemy's attacks. The skirmish line of Adams' brigade, Colonel Lowry's Sixth regiment, was equally distinguished in repulsing a heavy attack in the morning. Sears' brigade, under Col. W. S. Barry, also had a creditable part in this memorable defeat of Sherman. General French asserted, regarding this battle, that whatever credit is due for the complete repulse of the assaulting column at Little Kenesaw belonged exclusively to the brigade of General Cockrell and the left of General Sears, then commanded by Colonel Barry.

At Peachtree Creek, July 20th, Featherston's brigade charged the enemy and drove him from the first line of intrenchments, but being subjected to a severe fire and not being supported, except by Scott's brigade, was compelled to retire two or three hundred yards to a sheltered position, which they held till night, when they were withdrawn. Adams' brigade was on picket duty, but joined the division after dark. French's division was held in reserve. Walthall was in command of his division and put it into the fight on the center with great spirit.

The loss of Featherston's brigade, 616 out of an effective total of 1,230, makes it conspicuous as the most actively engaged command of this battle, the first after General Hood took command. Col. J. L. Drake, the only field officer with the Thirty-third, a gallant and excellent officer, Featherston wrote, fell beyond the enemy's first line of works, leading his regiment in the charge and displaying the highest qualities of a true soldier. Col. T. A. Mellon, Third regiment, and Maj. [215] M. A. Oatis, Twenty-second, were both severely wounded after gallantly leading their commands to the enemy's first line of works. The same misfortune befell Col. J. W. Drane, commanding the Thirty-first; Maj. F. M. Gillespie, next commanding the Thirty-first, was killed; and in the Fortieth, Lieut.-Col. George P. Wallace, commanding, was severely wounded, losing an arm, and Maj. W. McD. Gibbens was killed. Indeed, every regimental commander but one was killed or wounded. Adjt. W. J. Van de Graaf, Thirty-first, seized the colors of his regiment after two or three color-bearers had fallen, and bore them till he also was shot down with the colors in his hand. Adjt. C. V. H. Davis lost his life in the same gallant duty with the colors of the Twentysec-ond regiment. The Thirty-first regiment in this fatal assault lost every field officer and captain killed or wounded, leaving the 50 men that remained out of the 215 engaged, under command of Lieutenant Shaw, of Company G.

Gen. M. P. Lowrey's brigade was conspicuous in the flank attack of Hardee's corps upon Sherman's army before Atlanta, July 22d. His men had not enjoyed rest or sleep for two days and nights; had fought at Peachtree creek and thence had been hastily withdrawn to guard the Confederate right, and many good men fell exhausted during the weary march toward the Federal rear. The charge they made was magnificent, but it was fatal, as that of Featherston's had been two days before. The Eighth Mississippi lost their gallant colonel, adjutant, and many other valuable officers and men near the works. The Thirty-second rushed forward almost to the works, when one third of the command fell at one volley, and two color-bearers were killed in quick succession. The Fifth lost 66 men, the Eighth 87, Thirty-second 86, Third battalion 37.

In the battle of Ezra Church, July 28th, the third of the bloody sacrifices about Atlanta, Walthall's old brigade, [216] under Colonel, now General, Brantly, and Sharp's brigade, participated in the first attack, and ‘acted with great gallantry,’ a compliment not unreservedly given to their comrade brigades. Sharp's brigade lost 214 men and Brantly's 126.

Gen. Patton Anderson now took command of the division including Sharp's and Brantly's brigades, and they intrenched on the line they held after the battle of the 28th, with Featherston's division, in which were the Mississippi brigades of Adams and Barry. The enemy brought their skirmish line up within sixty yards, and mounted a cannon with which for several days the Mississippians were much annoyed, occasionally being buried in their rifle-pits by the dirt thrown up by the shells, until the sharpshooters compelled the removal of the gun. There were many instances of courage and daring. On one occasion, Anderson wrote, Brantly's men, by rolling logs ahead of them and by digging zigzag trenches, approached so near the enemy as to be able to throw hand-grenades over his breastworks; and on another occasion Sharp's pickets held their position against a line of battle after those on their right and left had given way.

Finally the flanking movement of Sherman brought Lee's corps south to Jonesboro. In the battle there on the 31st of August, Gen. M. P. Lowrey commanded Cleburne's division, Hardee's corps, and Col. John Wier led his brigade. Lowrey's men swept everything from their front on the first day, and Sharp and Brantly made a resolute assault upon the enemy posted on a hill, exhibiting great gallantry and suffering heavy loss.

In Hood's operations against Sherman's communications in north Georgia, Stewart's corps, the old army of Mississippi, took the most conspicuous part, and it was French's division which made the sanguinary and famous attack upon the Federal garrison at Allatoona, October 6th. The Confederates kept up an assault upon the Federal [217] redoubts from seven in the morning until two in the afternoon, and after losing 800 out of 2,000 men were compelled to retire by the approach of Sherman, who had signalled Corse, commanding the garrison, ‘Hold the fort, for I am coming.’ Sears' brigade lost 37 killed and 114 wounded and 200 missing. Among the killed was Col. W. H. Clark, Forty-sixth regiment; Colonel Barry, Thirty-fifth, and Major Parkin, Thirty-sixth, were among the wounded.

Nowhere in the course of the great war was the reckless valor of the Mississippians more brilliantly illustrated than on that gloomy November evening when the army of George H. Thomas, brought to bay on the Harpeth river, was fiercely assailed by the Confederates. At this battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, the armies of Mississippi and Tennessee lost so many brave officers and men that the fact they were afterward able to besiege Nashville, rather than their defeat there, is a matter of wonder. The Mississippi brigades of Cheatham's and Stewart's corps went forward in the general assault. The enemy was driven from his outer works and fiercely assailed in his second. The ground over which Loring's division advanced was obstructed by a deep railroad cut and an abatis and hedge, but otherwise open and swept by a terribly destructive cross-fire of artillery from the works and the opposite side of Harpeth. The men, however, pressed forward again and again with dauntless courage, Stewart reported, to the ditch around the inner line of works, which they failed to carry, but where many of them remained, separated from the enemy only by the parapet, until the Federal army withdrew. The loss of the divisions of Loring, French and Walthall was over 2,000, including many of the best officers and bravest men. Gen. John Adams was killed, his horse being found lying across the inner line of the enemy's works. Generals Scott, Cockrell, Quarles and Walthall were all disabled. Colonel Farrell, Colonel Brown, Colonel [218] Stephens, Colonel Dyer, Colonel Adair and Major Magee were wounded, and Col. W. W. Witherspoon was killed. Four Mississippi regiments lost their colors under the most gallant circumstances. The color-bearers of the Third and Twenty-second, General Featherston reported, planted their colors on the enemy's works and were wounded and captured. The color-bearer of the Thirty-third was killed some fifteen paces from the works, when Lieut. H. C. Shaw carried them forward, and when in the act of planting them on the works was killed, his body falling in the trench, the colors in the works. The flag of the Fifteenth was also lost, after four men had been shot down in bearing it. Sears' brigade, foremost amid the forlorn hope, fought with wonderful intrepidity. The names of the officers and men of this brigade who reached the main line of the enemy's works are now honorably recorded in the war records of a reunited people. With the same heroism the Mississippians of Cleburne's division had fought, and many of them died with Cleburne. Colonel Tison and Col. John Weir were among the severely wounded.

The division of Gen. Edward Johnson came up to the battlefield in the darkness of the evening and charged upon the works, moving against the enemy under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, and gaining portions of the intrenched line. Gen. S. D. Lee reported: ‘The brigades of Sharp and Brantly (Mississippians) and Deas (Alabamians) particularly distinguished themselves. Their dead were mostly in the trenches and on the works of the enemy, where they nobly fell in a desperate hand-to-hand conflict. Sharp captured three stand of colors. Brantly was exposed to a sharp enfilade fire. These noble brigades never faltered in this terrible night struggle.’ Among the killed were Col. W. H. Bishop and Maj. G. W. Reynolds. Lieut.-Col. W. H. Sims, Capt. J. M. Hicks, Lieut.-Col. J. M. Johnson, all [219] regimental commanders, were wounded, and Maj. J. K. Allen reported missing.

At Nashville Sears' brigade was attached to Walthall's division, which, with Loring's, fought creditably in the battle. Loring's division occupied a line one mile long, across the Granny White pike, on the left of the army. On the 15th of December, after the redoubts in front had been lost, Loring's men were ordered to re-form in line at right angles to their former position, to check the rush of the exulting enemy. ‘This was gallantly and successfully done by this fine division,’ General Stewart reported. Brigadier-General Sears late in the day lost a leg and was captured. On the next day the repeated assaults of the enemy were repelled with vigor until about the middle of the afternoon. The brigades of Sharp and Brantly fought with determination and coolness under Gen. Edward Johnson during the two days, as their heavy losses abundantly testify, Sharp losing 30 killed and 81 wounded and Brantly 76 killed and 140 wounded.

During the retreat General Walthall, with Featherston's brigade and several others, Featherston's brigade including seven Mississippi regiments, now having an effective total of 411, formed the infantry of the famous rear guard under Forrest, which fell back slowly, repeatedly striking effective blows at the enemy, marching through the snow and ice, many of them barefooted, but saving the remnant of the army from destruction.

During all this campaign, as during the Atlanta campaign, the Mississippi cavalrymen, under Chalmers and Jackson, were daily engaged in arduous and effective duty from November 21st to December 27th. At Spring Hill, where the opportunity to destroy Thomas' army was missed by the infantry, Chalmers' and Jackson's men, aided by Cleburne, pressed the enemy vigorously, after which Jackson struck the retreating column near its head and without support fought all night. The cavalry [220] served effectively at Franklin, and afterward captured many Federal posts and invested Murfreesboro. They held back all the Federal cavalry, defeating the enemy at Richland creek, King's hill and Sugar creek. During much of the time General Chalmers had practically independent command of a large part of the cavalry, and after Buford was wounded had charge of that division as well as his own. Armstrong's Mississippi brigade lost more heavily than any other cavalry command, its total casualties being 147.

Let us turn now to that desperate struggle in Virginia, in which the army of the immortal Robert E. Lee had held the vastly superior numbers of Grant always in its front, from the Rapidan to the James, until they filed off exhausted and intrenched south of Petersburg. Here, also, Mississippians did their full share of the desperate fighting. Humphreys brigade, after spending the winter and early spring amid great privations in East Tennessee and sharing the military operations in that region, joined Lee's army at Orange Court House, and subsequently fought with its division, commanded by General Kershaw. The brigade still included the Thirteenth Mississippi, Maj. G. L. Donald, Lieut.-Col. A. G. O'Brien; Seventeenth, Capt. J. C. Cochrane in command; Eighteenth, Capt. W. H. Lewis, Col. T. M. Griffin; Twenty-first, Col. D. N. Moody. In the Third army corps were two other Mississippi brigades; one, commanded by Brig.-Gen. Nathaniel H. Harris and later by Col. Joseph M. Jayne, in R. H. Anderson's division, later Mahone's, included the Twelfth regiment, Lieut.-Col. S. B. Thomas; Sixteenth, Col. Samuel E. Baker; Nineteenth, Col. Thomas J. Hardin, Col. R. W. Phipps: Forty-eighth, Lieut.-Col. Thomas B. Manlove. One, under Brig.-Gen. Joseph R. Davis, was assigned to Heth's division, and was composed of the Second regiment, Col. J. M. Stone; Eleventh, Lieut.-Col. Wm. B. Lowry; Twenty-sixth, Col. A. E. Reynolds; Fortyond, [221] Lieut.-Col. A. M. Nelson; and the Fifty-fifth North Carolina.

In the fight of May 12th at the ‘bloody angle,’ Spottsylvania, Harris' brigade charged and regained a portion of the captured works, which they held under an enfilading fire from 7 a. m. on the 12th until 3:30 of the next day, exposed to a constant and destructive fire of musketry and artillery, both from the front and flank. To add to their discomfiture, a cold, drenching rain filled the trenches. Man after man was shot down in the effort to bring them ammunition, but some escaped death at this work, defying a fire that cut down and hewed to splinters trees 22 inches in diameter. Courier A. W. Hancock and Private F. Dolan, of the Forty-eighth, were particularly distinguished in this service. The brigade lost some of its most valuable officers, including the gallant Colonel Baker, Lieut.-Col. A. M. Feltus, Adjt. D. B. L. Lowe and Ensign Mixon of the Sixteenth; Colonel Hardin and Adjutant Peel, of the Nineteenth; Captains McAfee, Davis and Reynhardt of the Forty-eighth, and Lieutenant Bew of the Twelfth. Maj. E. C. Councell (afterward promoted colonel and killed), Capt. Harry Smith and Private Edward Perault of the Sixteenth; Lieut.-Col. S. B. Thomas of the Twelfth, and Courier Charles Weil were mentioned for conspicuous bravery. Gen. Samuel McGowan, part of whose brigade got into a portion of the trenches, reported that his men ‘found in the trenches General Harris and what remained of his gallant brigade, and they (Mississippians and Carolinians), mingled together, made one of the most gallant and stubborn defenses recorded in history.’

Davis' brigade took part in the fighting at the Wilderness with Longstreet and during the entire campaign, held the lines east of Richmond, and in August fought with gallantry at Ream's Station.

Kershaw's division reinforced Early in the Shenandoah [222] valley after the battle of Winchester, and fought at Cedar Creek, driving back the enemy's left and holding their ground until the remainder of the army had given way. Humphreys' brigade, in the afternoon of that fateful November 19th, about 800 strong, repulsed coolly two attacks of the enemy, and then, falling back in consequence of the retirement of other commands, held their position bravely for an hour and a half. General Humphreys had been wounded September 3d, near Berryville.

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Edward Cary Walthall (11)
William F. Brantly (10)
W. S. Featherston (9)
W. W. Loring (8)
Cleburne (7)
Sherman (6)
Jacob H. Sharp (6)
John B. Hood (6)
A. P. Stewart (5)
Claudius W. Sears (5)
John Adams (5)
William F. Tucker (4)
Mark P. Lowrey (4)
Hardee (4)
Samuel G. French (4)
Patton Anderson (4)
Benjamin G. Humphreys (3)
Nathaniel H. Harris (3)
Michael Farrell (3)
Joseph R. Davis (3)
W. S. Barry (3)
W. W. Witherspoon (2)
John Weir (2)
W. L. Walker (2)
William H. H. Tison (2)
S. B. Thomas (2)
George H. Thomas (2)
James M. Stigler (2)
M. D. L. Stephens (2)
H. C. Shaw (2)
H. Shannon (2)
Nashville Sears (2)
John S. Scott (2)
Marshall T. Polk (2)
Martin A. Oatis (2)
T. A. Mellon (2)
Robert Lowry (2)
M. P. Lowrey (2)
Robert E. Lee (2)
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Jabez L. Drake (2)
Francis M. Cockrell (2)
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William H. Bishop (2)
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Samuel E. Baker (2)
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