Mississippi at Gettysburg
by William A. Love
Transcribed from Publications of The Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. IX, 1906, pp. 25-51. Footnotes omitted.
[Men from DeSoto County formed Company I, 17th Mississippi Infantry, Barksdale's Brigade, and Companies B, C and D, 42nd Mississippi Infantry, Davis' Brigade. Other men from DeSoto County served in Co. I, 19th Mississippi Infantry raised in Marshall County, and some probably served in other companies of both the 17th and 19th Mississippi Infantry regiments.]
It is not the purpose of the writer to discuss technically the maneuvers of the two armies leading up to Gettysburg, or to describe specifically the battles that followed, but rather to recount the deeds of Mississippians who shared the glory of victory and bitterness of defeat in those sanguinary struggles.
It is appropriate, therefore, in the outset to refer to the difficulties encountered in securing first-hand information from actual participants. Forty years and more have come and gone; the commercial and industrial strides following a rehabilitated country have separated far and wide the survivors, and the great conqueror death has been ever on the march.
Gettysburg was the only battle of the War between the States fought north of Mason and Dixon's line. Although its fields of operation have been visited by tourists from all quarters and studies in its tactical and strategical maneuvers by military men of the world, it is less understood, more misunderstood, in the South than is any other battle of this great conflict.
This is probably due to the fact that the Pennsylvania campaign consumed but eighteen days, consisting of a rapid march into the enemy's country, a three days' battle and a retrograde movement, followed by defensive operations to the close of hostilities. The disastrous results to the South immediately following the war precipitated such a struggle for civil and political existence as to overshadow for a time everything else. So the history of Gettysburg is mainly the work of Northern writers. True, the part performed on the afternoon of the third day by one division of General Longstreet's corps has received the attention of many Virginia contributors to military literature, but as that division did not reach the firing line until after 15,000 Confederate soldiers had been killed, wounded, and captured, and as its companion division of General Hill's corps suffered in that action equally, if not worse, in casualties, it is evidently unfair to accept is exploits, however grand and glorious, as a complete history of even one of the half dozen separate and distinct battles fought around Gettysburg. Nor is it fair for North Carolina historians to claim superiority for their troops in the third day's battle on the basis of losses which it is evident were sustained for the most part in the battle of the first day.
Soldiers of twelve Southern States share the honors of victory and the grandeur of defeat in that defensive-aggressive campaign, and it is only a question of time when they will assume their proper place in history.
Mississippi was represented on the fields of Gettysburg by infantry brigades of Davis of Heth's division, Hill's corps, consisting of the Second, Eleventh, and Forty-second Mississippi regiments ad the Fifty-fifth North Carolina regiment, which was temporarily assigned to it; Barksdale's brigade of McLaw's division, Longstreet's corps, consisting of the Thirteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Twenty-first regiments; Posey's brigade of Anderson's division, Hill's corps, consisting of the Twelfth, Sixteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-first regiments; Ward's Mississippi battery (the Madison Light Artillery) of Poague's battalion, which was attached to Pender's division. In addition to these infantry-artillery forces from Mississippi, the Adams County troop of cavalry, the Chickasaw Rangers, and the Kemper County cavalry of Hampton's brigade, Stuart's division, also took part in the battle of Gettysburg.
These troops were, in the main, veterans, having volunteered before hostilities began and having participated in most of the great battles in Virginia, from first Manassas to Chancellorsville. They had met the Army of the Potomac under every condition of warfare and had experienced every phase of fighting, both offensive and defensive, not infrequently meeting the enemy in the open, where they disproved more than once the Napoleonic axiom that "success is always on the side of the strongest battalions." Time and again had they assisted in driving back "on to Richmond" demonstrations, and now "the finest army on the planet" was outgeneraled and beaten at Chancellorsville and compelled to seek cover behind the Rappahannock. The time seemed auspicious for another aggressive movement, forcing further retirement, but after a long delay invasion instead was determined upon and the necessary strategic maneuvers were executed and the initial move of the campaign made.
On crossing the Potomac into the enemy's country there was in the rank and file that buoyancy of spirit, firmness of purpose, and self-confidence characteristic of an invading and hitherto invincible army. In morale it was unsurpassed, and, except in point of equipment, a stronger and more reliable force, numerically considered, never existed.
Since the Mississippi commands were in different divisions, and fought separately and on different ground in the several battles, they are treated consecutively and in the order of their engagements.
From a diary kept by G. W. Bynum of Company A, Second Mississippi, penciled on the line, on the march, and in the camp, the following extracts are made:
"June 10, 1863. - We have been lying in the entrenchments (at Fredericksburg) for three or four days. All quiet except an occasional shot from the artillery. General Lee has gone up towards Culpeper Courthouse with Longstreet's corps.
"June 14. - The Yankees this side of the river fell back last night, and we moved up near Falmouth, which is situated on the opposite side of the Rappahannock, two miles above Fredericksburg.
"June 15. - The enemy's pickets retired last night, except their videttes. Tom Arnold, Corporal Patrick and myself went across the river to reconnoiter. The few videttes fell back when they saw us wading the river. When we appeared in the streets of Falmouth I never saw a happier people. The old men and ladies happily met us with a cordial handshake, their eyes brimming with tears of joy. We went through the village to the enemy's camp on Stafford Heights, and then returning found the brigade (Davis's) on the march. To-night we are camped near the Wilderness battle-field.
"June 17. - Arrived at Culpeper about 10 o'clock and camped.
"June 18. - March continued to-day. Very warm and disagreeable. Several of the boys were overheated and fell out of ranks, Brother Turner among them. We are now camped on a high hill on the north side of the Rappahannock.
"June 19. - Still on the march. Camped to-night within seven miles of Front Royal.
"June 20. - Crossed the Blue Ridge and waded the Shenandoah river. Camped in three miles of Front Royal.
"June 21. - Left the Winchester pike and passed through White Post, and are now camped near Berryville. General Longstreet's corps is here also.
"June 22. - Rested to-day.
"June 23. - Left camp this morning about noon; passed through Berryville and Reppan, and now we are camped near Charlestown, a place made famous by the hanging of John Brown.
"June 24. - Passed through Charlestown and are now in two miles of Shepherdstown on the Potomac.
"June 25. - Crossed the Potomac by wading and passed through the battle-field of Sharpsburg, which was fought September 17, 1862. Much sign of the conflict is visible. The low mounds which cover the bones of those who fell, the furrowed ground and scarred trees, all speak more plainly than words of that terrible conflict. I saw the ground over which we charged on that memorable occasion and the very spot where I was wounded. Sad, sad thoughts are recalled by again reviewing the old battle-ground. To-night we are camped near Hagerstown, Md.
"June 26. - To-day we crossed over into Pennsylvania. The people appear to be badly frightened on account of our presence.
"June 27. - To-day one year ago we were fighting around Richmond. To-night a large portion of Lee's army is across the mountain. We are now camped at the base of Cumberland Mountain, near Greenwood, Pa.
"June 28. - Remained in camp cooking rations. Our army is pressing a number of horses into the Confederate service.
"June 29. - Marched across the mountain and camped near Cashtown. Saw where Longstreet's corps destroyed Thad. Stevens's iron works.
"June 30. - Remained in camp to-day. Raining."
This concise diary might be continued with interest to survivors of the Second regiment, and indeed of the rest of Davis's brigade, for they marched together and fought together; and it might also furnish valuable data for the use of future historians, but as the writer confines himself to the personal experiences and observations of the participants in the battle of Gettysburg, the extract serves his present purpose. A diary is far more reliable than recollections and in many instances preferable to official reports.
THE FIRST DAY'S BATTLE.
On June 30th, General Heth, in camp at Cashtown, secured permission to send to Gettysburg for supplies, principally shoes, of which his troops were in great need. General Pettigrew's North Carolina brigade was selected for the duty. Advancing in that direction, he soon discovered the enemy and withdrew, as his force was too small to bring on an engagement. The next day, July 1st, the brigades of Archer (Tennessee) and Davis (Mississippi) were ordered forward. On passing Pettigrew's men the Mississippians were told that they would have only Pennsylvania militia to fight. But at the point where the Chambersburg pike [also known as Cashtown road] crosses Marsh creek, three miles west of Gettysburg, they encountered two brigades of Buford's cavalry. Skirmishers were thrown forward, and the great battle of Gettysburg was on.
Archer advanced on the south and Davis on the north of the pike, supported by artillery. Additional cavalry was hurried to the front, and, joining Buford's dismounted force, endeavored with carbines to check the advance. The advantage of rapid-fire guns and the protection afforded by fences, trees, etc., made the resistance more formidable than would be expected from militia; but the impetuous Southerners pressed onward and drove the enemy back to Willoughby Run. Here they encountered Gambles cavalry brigade, also dismounted and supported by artillery, and the fight became stubborn and long drawn out.
General Reynolds, commanding the First Union corps, with Wadsworth's division, now arrived and took position in the rear of the cavalry. The leading regiments of Cutler's brigade, in relieving the cavalry, came into action confronting the Second and Forty-second Mississippi and the Fifty-fifth North Carolina, commanded respectively by Colonels Stone, Miller, and Conally.
The Eleventh Mississippi was left at Cashtown guarding the trains and did not participate in this battle [July 1st.]
Realizing the magnitude of resistance, but remembering the achievements of the past, the Mississippians nerved themselves for the arduous task, and with that inimitable "rebel yell" rushed forward to within almost bayonet reach before the steady lines of Cutler gave way. The advance continued a over well defined line of dead and wounded Federals. Many prisoners were captured, together with two beautiful silk flags.
After the repulse and while crossing an old abandoned railroad cut, orders were given for a new alignment, and during the partial confusion incident thereto a Wisconsin regiment, marching on the left flank of Archer, changed front, and, charging up the cut, captured Major Blair and a number of men belonging to the Second [and Forty-second] Mississippi. Archer being in the woods, his right was overlapped by Meredith's Union Brigade, which, taking him in the flank and rear, captured him and a large portion of his brigade.
General Reynolds, while personally directing the extension of his line, was killed in front of the woods. Why these two Confederate brigades were ordered or allowed to fight their way into the midst of the First Union corps without proper or timely flank support, has not been explained by historians.
Reinforcements, however, afterwards arrived, and the Confederate battle lines were extended and the enemy driven through Gettysburg in great confusion, losing over five thousand prisoners.
Early in the action, when the boys were "drivin' 'em," as in the early days of the war, the gallant Colonel Conally of the Fifty-fifth North Carolina was wounded, and when asked by Major Belo of the same regiment if seriously hurt, replied: "Yes, but the litter-bearers are here; go on and don't let the Mississippians get ahead of you."
Colonel Stone of the Second was wounded, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Humphreys. The Forty-second Mississippi was comparatively a new regiment, having been organized in May, 1862, and Gettysburg was its first "baptism of blood." If any doubt existed as to its fighting qualities, they were dispelled that day. Colonel Miller was an early volunteer, and commanded Company G "Pontotoc Minute Men," in the Second, until the formation of the Forty-second, and on this occasion fought his regiment fully up to the high standard set by the Second and Eleventh.
The loss of Davis's brigade in this day's action was not separately reported, but included in the general returns for the campaign. It is generally estimated, however, that two-thirds of the loss of the regiments engaged was sustained on that day.
For nearly six hours had these two brigades marched and fought, and it was doubtless the sight of their worn and depleted condition, as well as that of Heth's other brigades, that deterred General Lee, who arrived on the field in the afternoon, from forcing the fight beyond Gettysburg and thus reaping the reward their gallantry had so dearly won.
Near the scene of its last action the brigade made camp for the night, and anxiously awaited orders for the morrow.
SECOND DAY'S BATTLE.
Barksdale's brigade was camped at Greenwood, sixteen miles from Gettysburg, and at 9 o'clock A.M., July 1st, under hurry orders, marched in that direction. Owing to the congested condition of the Chambersburg pike, over which Ewell's corps and supply trains were moving, the brigade marched by the most direct route, regardless of roads, on by-paths, through fields, over rocks and hills, and finally reaching, after midnight, a point on Plum Run, north of the town, there halted for rest and sleep. At sunrise on the 2d, it formed a line of battle in the suburbs of the town, where it lay inactive for two or three hours. It then formed column and marched by the right front, then counter-marched and took position between Wofford, who was on his right, and Wilcox, who was on his left, and behind a small elevation in a skirt of timber fronting the "Peach Orchard," then occupied by Graham's brigade of Sickle's Union corps. In front, 600 yards away, was a battery, which the impetuous Barksdale asked permission to charge immediately, but his request was denied. The brigade was formed in the following order from right to left: The Twenty-first regiment, under Colonel Humphreys; the Eighteenth, under Colonel Griffin; the Seventeenth, under Colonel Holder, and the Thirteenth under Colonel Carter.
Artillery was posted on the right, fifty yards in front. Men were ordered to tear away a plank fence within 200 yards of the enemy, which was done without molestation. Caps were taken from the guns and orders given for movement in closed ranks. At a signal the artillery opened fire, and for half an hour the fight was fast and furious.
General Longstreet makes the following statement about this interesting period of the struggle: "I rode to McLaw's; found him ready for his opportunity, and Barksdale chafing in his wait for orders to seize the battery in his front. After additional caution to hold his ranks closed, McLaw ordered Barksdale in. With glorious bearing he sprang to his work, overriding obstacles and dangers. Without a pause to deliver a shot, he had the battery."
A further advance was ordered and continued. The regiments on the left, the Thirteenth and Eighteenth, encountered Seely's U.S. battery, strongly supported by infantry, while the regiments on the right, the Twenty-first and Seventeenth, met the New York Excelsior brigade. Another charge, and victory again perched upon the banners of the gallant Mississippians. Although the enemy was being steadily driven back, reinforcements moved promptly to cover their retreat.
Next to be encountered was Willard's splendid New York brigade, as it advanced to cover the left of Humphreys's retiring line. Having recently entered the field with the step and precision of a dress parade, though in "rough uniform and with bright bayonets," these veterans, now covered with dust and blackened with the smoke of battle, with ranks depleted by shot and shell, and faint from exhaustion, responded with cheers to the clarion call of the intrepid Barksdale as he "moved bravely on, the guiding spirit of the battle." Mounted and with sword held aloft "at an angle of forty-five degrees," he exclaimed: "Brave Mississippians, one more charge and the day is ours!" But the resistance was too great, and, besides this, he was being outflanked by Willard. Orders were given for a recall, but Barksdale either did not receive it or failed to obey before he fell mortally wounded. He died defiant and unyielding, a costly though willing sacrifice upon the alter of patriotism.
All the field officers of the brigade were either killed or wounded except Colonel Humphreys of the Twenty-first, who assumed command.
General Longstreet makes the following statement:
"When General Humphreys, who succeeded to the Barksdale brigade, was called back to the new line he thought there was some mistake in the orders, and only withdrew as far as a captured battery, and when the order was repeated retired under protest."
Neither Barksdale nor Humphreys had had the advantage of military training, except in the actual theater of war; but no troops were ever led by truer or braver officers, and no leaders ever had more loyal or determined followers. Whatever history may say of the gallantry and prowess displayed on the rocky slopes and green fields of Gettysburg, whether at the so-called "high-water mark of the Confederacy" or elsewhere, no incident can surpass in grandeur the glorious achievement of the Griffith-Barksdale-Humphreys brigade, and no spot on that bloodstained field is a more hallowed spot than that "where Barksdale fell." The loss of the brigade during this brief afternoon fight, which closed with the setting sun, was 750 killed, wounded, and missing. This fact indicates not only the character of the opposition, but the fighting qualities of the brigade, which we are told put almost one thousand of the enemy out of action in its victorious march.
Mississippians justly prided themselves on marksmanship. The bear hunters of the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, the deer hunters of the pine woods, and the small game hunters of the East Mississippi prairies were ready marksmen and invincible except against great odds.
When brigaded with the Fourth Alabama, Sixth North Carolina and Second Mississippi, under General Whiting, Colonel Pender, of the Sixth North Carolina, reported to headquarters that a hog had been killed within the lines of the Eleventh Mississippi. General Whiting inquired what evidence he had of this. Colonel Pender stated that he heard the report of the gun inside their lines and heard the hog squeal. "I am satisfied that you are mistaken, Colonel," replied General Whiting, "when a Eleventh Mississippian shoots a hog it don't squeal."
Posey's Mississippi brigade, composed of the Twelfth regiment, under Colonel Thomas; the Sixteenth, under Colonel Baker; the Nineteenth, under Colonel Harris, and the Forty-eighth, under Colonel Jayne, was at Chambersburg and marched to Cashtown, where its division, Anderson's and Hill's reserved artillery, were halted. At the opening of battle it marched to the scene of action, taking position in the rear of Seminary Ridge. Late in the afternoon of the second day it advanced against the right of Humphrey's Federal division and drove in its skirmishers under a strong musketry resistance in front of an enfilading artillery fire. Here it established a picket line, which was maintained until late into the night, when it retired to the line behind Pegram's artillery, where it remained in support throughout the eventful hours of the third day. This brigade remained on the ground until the night of the fourth day, when it was withdrawn and formed the rear guard of the army until Lee's formation in front of Meade at Hagerstown, Md.
This splendid veteran brigade had already won high honors on hotly contested fields and only needed an opportunity to add fresh laurels to its well earned reputation. The gallant Colonel Nat H. Harris later became its commander, and its history closed with Appomattox.
CAVALRY ACTION ON THE THIRD DAY.
The Pennsylvania campaign may be properly said to have commenced on June 9th, on which date was fought the great cavalry battles on and around the plains of Brandy Station, south of the Rappahannock River, between the forces of Stuart and Pleasanton. Little has been said concerning the conspicuous part played by the small force of Mississippi cavalry belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, their division chief having been censured by early historians of the war for the failure of Lee at Gettysburg. This opportunity cannot, therefore, be lost to attempt tardy justice to this able commander and his gallant body of troopers, as brave as ever strided horse or drew blade in defense of any cause.
That the Confederate Government did not appreciate the importance of cavalry at the commencement of the war, and afterwards did not make adequate provision for its maintenance, is clearly set forth by the condition of acceptance of the first volunteer company from Mississippi to go to Virginia. General Will T. Martin, then as now a prominent citizen of Natchez, Miss., not unlike a large and substantial class in Mississippi, favored the Union, or rather union under the constitution and laws of the United States, but opposed fanaticism, visionary theories of a "higher law," and insurrectionary measures. Visiting Washington in the winter of 1860, he heard the debates in Congress, read the newspapers, and caught the trend of divided public sentiment. Realizing that the "irrepressible conflict" was fast approaching, and acting upon the principle that "forewarned is forearmed," he went directly to New York and to New England and purchased full and complete equipments for a cavalry company. On reaching home he immediately set about the work of organization. Men and horses were voted upon and all of either that were in any way undesirable were "black-balled." Shortly after the inauguration of President Davis at Montgomery, General Martin tendered the services of his company, the Adams County troop of cavalry. He received the following reply from Adjutant-General Cooper at Richmond:
"Have all the cavalry wanted in Virginia. No money for cavalry transportation."
Companies of infantry and artillery were leaving for the front. The cavalrymen were called "aristocracts" and "too fine to fight." Besides their showy equipments, they had tents, cooking utensils, a big lot of servants, and were fully supplied with Saratoga trunks. But in addition to these things they had the real "sinews of war," or the wherewith to go to war, in the form of a large "company fund." The taunts of the populace were provoking. Despairing of Government aid for transportation, the fine steamer "Mary Keene" was chartered for Memphis, Tenn., and the troopers, bidding adieu to families and friends, left for the scene of conflict. Among the many to inspect and admire the company en route was N. B. Forrest, a man destined to reach great prominence in the profession of arms by rising rapidly from private to lieutenant-general by meritorious service alone. Before commencing an inspection of this company he courteously explained that he wanted to raise a "hoss company."
Chartering a train of cars at Memphis, the command in due time lined up in front of General Cooper's office. The commander then entered and engaged in the following conversation:
"I presume this is General Cooper. I am Captain Martin of the Adams County troop of cavalry, from Natchez, Miss. I did not think you had cavalry enough in Virginia. You could not pay transportation, we could, and are here."
"Where is your company?" asked General Cooper. "In the street in front of your office," said Captain Martin. "What?" exclaimed General Cooper, in astonishment. "Yes; come and see it," suggested Captain Martin.
General Cooper and President Davis inspected the company, and in accepting it declared it the best equipped command then to enter the service. In this way the Adams County Troop became Company A and formed the neucleus of the "Jeff Davis Legion." The following companies coming in later completed the organization: Company B, "Chickasaw Rangers," Chickasaw County, Miss.; Company C, "Kemper Cavalry," Kemper County, Miss.; Company D, Alabama; Company E, Alabama; Company F, Georgia.
Captain Martin was made major, then lieutenant-colonel of the Legion, and commanded it until after the Maryland campaign, when he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and sent to Bragg's army. In 1863 he became major-general and served in that position to the end of the war. At the opening of the Pennsylvania campaign the "Jeff Davis Legion" was officered as follows: J. F. Waring, of Savannah, Ga., lieutenant-colonel; Wm. G. Conner, of Natchez, Miss., major; Richard E. Conner, of Natchez, Miss., captain and adjutant; T. Jeff Adams, of Adams County, Miss., captain of Troop A; Wm. G. Henderson, of Chickasaw County, Miss., captain of Troop B; and R. M. Avery, of Kemper County, Miss., captain of Troop C.
On the morning of June 9, 1863, General Pleasonton's cavalry crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly and at Kelly's fords in strong force, and a general engagement ensued, Stuart being compelled to bring into action his entire strength of 8,000 men to contest the field with Pleasonton's force of 12,000. The battle lasted all day, with varying fortune. During the night the enemy recrossed the river. When the army of General Lee took up its march for the Potomac, Stuart, as usual, went forward to cover its advance. On June 17th he found himself confronted by his old antagonist, Pleasonton, at Aldie. Then followed a series of battles covering a period of three days, in which charges and counter charges were frequently made with conspicuous gallantry. In these engagement the "Jeff Davis Legion" bore an important part.
Company B sustained the loss of Lieutenant Fisher, killed, and of Captain Henderson, seriously wounded.
Stuart's loss was over five hundred, including many valuable officers. Col. Frank Hampton, of South Carolina; Colonel Sol Williams, of North Carolina; Major Wheloke, of North Carolina; Captain Farley, the noted scout and staff officer, and many others were killed. General W. H. T. Lee, Col. M. C. Buter, and Maj. Heros Von Borcke, the Prussian officer, were wounded.
In obedience to orders from General Lee for crossing the Potomac with a part of his command, Stuart assembled at Salem the three brigades of Hampton, Fitz. Lee, and W. H. F. Lee (then in command of Colonel Chambliss). The brigades of Robertson and Jones, numbering 3,000 and under command of the former, were left at Middleburg, in observation of the enemy on the usual front, with orders to report its movements to Generals Lee and Longstreet. It was deemed entirely practical at that time for Stuart to march directly to the Potomac through the intervals of the Union Army corps, Colonel Mosby, the veteran scout and partisan commander, having reported them as stationary. At an early hour on June 25th Stuart crossed the Bull Run mountain at Glasscock's Gap and marched in the direction of Seneca ford on the Potomac. At Haymarket he encountered Hancock's corps, which was in motion and was occupying every road leading to the Potomac. The day before Longstreet's corps had marched to the Potomac at Williamsport in full view of the enemy on Maryland Heights, which set the Army of the Potomac in motion. Had Stuart moved a day sooner, or Longstreet a day later, the history of Gettysburg, or of the Pennsylvania campaign, would no doubt read differently.
Here, however, was a condition facing Stuart which, although perhaps unexpected, was not unprovided for. Having discretionary orders in directing the movements of the three brigades under his personal command, and believing that General Robterson would report the withdrawal of the enemy from his front and promptly follow in the wake of General Longstreet, Stuart chose to march by the rear and right of Hancock, hoping by hard riding and hard fighting, if necessary, to form a juncture with Ewell on the Susquehanna before the moving armies should join battle. Barring the unavoidable delays caused by battles, destruction of public property, and convoying wagon trains and paroling prisoners, the instructions of General Lee were fully complied with, both in the letter and in the spirit. The failure of General Robertson to report the withdrawal of the enemy from his front, while justly censurable, is no reflection upon Stuart, only in so far as it illustrates a mistake in the selection of an officer for observation. Observation in military usages implies reports; otherwise it would be useless and senseless duty imposed. The records show no reports from General Robertson for that critical period. When his whereabouts were finally made known he was ordered to take his proper place with the army.
It appears, therefore, that it was not so much the lack of cavalry that disconcerted General Lee's plans as the absence of Stuart himself and a failure to make use of the cavalry he had at command. Stuart, though remarkably resourceful, could not personally be on both sides of the Potomac, nor on both sides of South Mountain, at the same time. It is interesting to note just here the positions of the several Confederate cavalry forces on the 30th of June, when the accidental meeting of the two great armies occurred. Stuart, with his thin and weary squadrons, was fighting off the two strong division of Kilpatrick and Gregg, whose presence was deemed necessary for the protection of Meade's right flank, while Buford's division watched its front. Jenkins's Confederate brigade was at Heidleburg, ten miles away, and a part of it was twenty miles away. Imboden's brigade was at Hancock, thirty miles away, and Robertson's and Jones's brigades were lying idle in Virginia.
Gen. A. L. Long, General Lee's biographer, wrote that, when at Fredericksburg, Va., General Lee selected Gettysburg as the probable point of contact of the two armies in the Pennsylvania campaign. But surely on the 30th of June General Lee was not intending to precipitate battle there. Otherwise the "eyes of the army" should have been turned in that direction, even though "the knight of the black plume" was off on a "wild ride."
However, Stuart's ride of 150 miles ended at Gettysburg on the evening of the 2d of July, where he rested under the protection of the infantry - the first and only real rest within eight days. On the morning of the 3d, reinforced by the brigade of Jenkins, he moved by the left of the army and attempted to reach the rear of the enemy, then massed on and behind Cemetery Heights awaiting another assault by a part of the Army of Northern Virginia. Three miles east, on the Hanover road, he encountered the Union cavalry. Dismounting a part of his force to engage the enemy's skirmishers, he moved to the right under cover of the woods, and then advanced. Here he was confronted by a strong cavalry force, supported by artillery. Realizing that his object could not be attained without a fight, preparations were made for forcing the issue. The skirmish line in front of Hampton was hotly engaged and in the act of giving way when the order came to charge. With horses jaded and men worn out and sore from hard riding, a charge was a desperate and uncertain undertaking, but with characteristic bearing these veterans drew sabre and moved forward. Before Hampton's line was well under way, a reserve mounted force of the enemy, as yet unseen, advanced, at the sight of which the Southern horsemen raised a yell of defiance and dashed madly onward. Soon the lines clashed together, when every man fought for himself, on the offensive or on the defensive, as opportunity or circumstances demanded. The commanding form of the dauntless Hampton was conspicuous as he dealt blow after blow, on the right and on the left, as the Union troopers assailed him. Members of the Kemper County troop rallied to his rescue, just as a sabre strike rendered him hors de combat. In this melee the gallant John Bunlap, of Scooba, Miss., lost a leg.
During the almost daily conflicts in Virginia, prior to the advance into Pennsylvania, there was a tacit agreement between Lieutenant-Colonel Waring and Major Conner that the latter should lead the charges of the "Jeff Davis Legion" in the enemy's country, and right nobly did he perform his part. Taking position in front, he ordered it forward and led his willing followers into the very focus of the fight, where, amid the rattle of pistols and clash of sabres, he seized a guidon of the enemy, and when ordered to surrender drew his pistol and killed two of his assailants before being himself killed. Such conduct, under the circumstances, requires an explanation, which is given by his brother, Captain Conner, adjutant of the Legi0on, who, after being himself unhorsed by a sabre blow and trampled over by the contending squadrons, escaped, and is to-day engaged in the active affairs of life at Natchez. Major Conner was a prisoner in the early part of the war and had frequently vowed that he would never again surrender, and fulfilled it by bravely courting death instead.
The thin platoons of Hampton were outnumbered and worsted, but responded to the rally call and retired to their original position, where under a long-range fire they awaited with Stuart's other brigades the result of that "supreme attempt to wrest victory from Cemetery Heights," and ready to "follow up victory or mitigate defeat." Here Jordan Moore, of Kemper County, was shot through and through, and his orderly sergeant, N. P. Perrin, placed him against a tree, gave him a canteen of water, bade him "good-bye," and marked opposite his name on the roll, "Killed in action;" but within two months Moore appeared in camp sound and well and served to the end of the war. The losses of Stuart were: Hampton's brigade, 92; Fitz. Lee's, 50; W. H. F. Lee's, 41, showing that Hampton bore the brunt of the battle.
Following that glorious defeat came the arduous task of guarding the flank of the retreating army to the Potomac. Many were the encounters on the march that will never find a place in history, as many a cavalryman died in bushes while on scouting or outpost duty will have as a record of service the one doleful word, "Missing," and thus be denied the poor privilege of a last resting place among hero comrades who lie
"Where blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep in the ranks of the dead!"
Between Boonsboro and Williamsport, when holding back a force of federal infantry and artillery marching to the latter place in an attempt to cut off the retreat of General Lee, mention is made of two other Mississippians who gave their lives to the cause, the gallant James H. Perrin, of Company C, and the polished gentleman and superb soldier, Thomas Metcalf, of Company A.
The opinion expressed by General Sedgwick, his classmate, friend, and "enemy," that J. E. B. Stuart was the best cavalry general "ever foalded in North America" may be a correct one, and will doubtless stand uncontradicted, but when the cavalry exploits of the civil war are completely and truthfully written there will appear as a close second the name of the man who wanted to raise "a hoss company" - N. B. Forrest. In considering this indulgent comparison it should be remembered that Forrest had the great advantage offered by nearly two years of service, the like of which the lamented Stuart was unfortunately denied. Time and opportunity are essential requisites to a well rounded and successful career in war. Much of the lustre that embellishes the name of Lee came as a result of achievements after his defeat at Gettysburg.
Ward's Mississippi Batter (The Madison Light Artillery), Company A of Poague's battalion, was attached to Pender's division, Hill's corps.
During the third day's battle it occupied a position nearly opposite the center of the Union line on Cemetery Heights and about a half mile to the west. The officers in command were George Ward, captain; T. J. Richards, first lieutenant; F. George, second lieutenant; T. K. Kearney, third lieutenant.
The battery was in reserve until the formation for Longstreet's assault, when it was advanced to the main line of artillery. It consisted of two twelve-pound Napoleons and two twelve-pound howitzers. The howitzers being too short to reach the heights, were sent to the rear. The Napoleons were in action during the cannonade, but did not advance in support of the assault, their last round of ammunition having been expended before the infantry moved. No casualties are given for separate batteries, but that of the battalion were: Killed, 2; wounded, 24; missing, 6. The amount of ammunition expended was 657 rounds, and the number of horses killed or disabled, 17.
DAVIS'S BRIGADE IN LONGSTREET'S ASSAULT [THIRD DAY].
While there had been severe fighting in the early morning on the left and around Culp's hill, the battle lines were practically the same as at the close of action on the second day, with possibly some advantage in advanced position on the left, and certainly as regards strengthened fortifications and reinforcements in the Federal center. Pickett's fresh division had now arrived. Although no material advantage had been gained since the enemy occupied the Heights on the night of the 1st, General Lee now ordered preparations for another assault. The two divisions assigned this hazardous duty were those of Pickett (Virginia), of Longstreet's corps, and Heth, of Hill's corps, their formation and movements being under the direction of General Longstreet. Accordingly the divisions were placed in position behind Seminary Ridge, Pickett on the right and Heth on the left, with such supports as were deemed necessary on the flanks and in the rear. Heth having been wounded on the first day, his division was now under Pettigrew, the senior brigade commander, and was formed in the following order from right to left: Archer's (Tennessee), under Colonel Frye (Archer being captured); Pettigrew's (North Carolina), under Colonel Marshall; Davis'' (Mississippi), and Brockenbough's (Virginia).
The Eleventh Mississippi, under Colonel Green, had joined its brigade (Davis's) on the night before. The position of this brigade for the assault was just below the crest of Seminary Ridge, in a skirt of timber, the Fifty-fifth North Carolina on the right, the Eleventh Mississippi on the left, with the Second and Forty-second Mississippi in the center.
At 1 o'clock p.m. the signal guns were fired by the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, followed by the batteries along Seminary Ridge, which were replied to by the Federal batteries on Cemetery Hill. For two hours this world-renowned artillery duel continued. Officers had been sent to the crest to view the field beyond and to inform the troops of the situation in front. So every private knew what a herculean task was being imposed upon them, but never for a moment did they cower. W. W. Scales, of Company E, Eleventh Mississippi, was detailed to go for water. Believing that he could not return in time for the assault, called for a volunteer to take his place, and found one. Scales went in, and to-day enjoys the honor of being enrolled among the twenty-one of his company that were wounded. The Mississippians suffered from the very beginning. Lieutenant Featherston, of Company F, and Jerry Gage, of Company A (Eleventh Mississippi), were killed while lying in position. Finally, after a long and anxious delay, the order was given to advance, and the line moved forward, slowly but steadily. Reaching the crest and coming in direct range of the enemy's artillery, the ranks were thinned at every step. Five men of Company E, "Prairie Guards," were put out of action by the explosion of one shell. The assaulting line as formed not being parallel to the enemy's works, the left had a greater distance to cover than the right; but quickening their step the Mississippians soon could not fairly be considered as "supports," or as in echelon formation, as they were fully abreast throughout the whole line. Before reaching the Emmitsburg road, which crosses diagonally from right to left the intervening space, Brockenbrough's brigade halted. This being quickly observed by the enemy, an enfilading fire was directed against Davis's flank with telling effect. Soon most, if not all, of the field officers were either killed or wounded. No one seemed to be in command. It had become a soldiers' battle, in which the Southerners' watchword, "The grave of a hero or victory," was being gloriously exemplified. Captain John Moore, of Company A, "University Greys" (Eleventh Mississippi), was in front, facing the regiment and trying to close up the fearful gaps being cut in the line, when Lieut. A. J. Baker, of the same company, shouted, "For God sake, John, give the command to charge!" (They were classmates at Oxford, and while red blood was flowing so profusely red tape was for the moment forgotten). "No," replied Moore, "I cannot take the responsibility;" whereupon Baker himself gave the command the thin line rushed forward to the stone wall as individuals rather than as an organization.
True, many of Davis's brigade "gave way," leaving blood behind and bringing marks of Federal lead and iron with them, but almost an equal number went down to rise no more, or rising to find quarters in Northern prisons. Lieutenant Belton, of Company E, Eleventh Mississippi, "gave way" with a grape shot lodged in his mouth which it required the services of a surgeon to remove. Only recently he answered the "last roll" in far away California.
The Eleventh Mississippi was the only fresh regiment in Heth's division that participated in this assault. Its strength has been variously estimated from three hundred to four hundred, and its loss is generally placed at thirty-two killed and 170 wounded. While this is official and doubtless based on reports, the number of killed is evidently incorrect, for it is positively known that the "Prairie Guards," Company E, lost fifteen killed; the "Noxubee Rifles," Company F, lost eight killed; and the "Van Dorn Reserve," Company G, lost eleven killed, making thirty-four and leaving seven companies unaccounted for.
The writing of this article, in his efforts to make a correct record, has ignored the spiteful and unjust criticisms of certain historians, both North and South, who have had much to say of the "raw," undisciplined "cowards," "men of common clay," "who fled the field" on the left, causing failure and disaster to those on the right of the assaulting column. The facts here given are based on the manuscripts of surviving participants, now in the possession of the writer. This form of historical data could be extended would time and opportunity permit.
There may be some people in these "piping days of peace" who entertain doubts of the reliability of recollections of such distressing circumstances. Others may condemn the rashness of action in the face of such danger; but the veteran Confederate soldier, accustomed to such surroundings, was not deterred from the performance of duty by a sense of danger, an element ever present in battle. He went forward with faith in himself and in his comrades, bequeathing his reputation as a heritage to his family and his country.
In order that the uninformed reader may gain an intelligent conception of the situation at that time, it is necessary to state that a part, a great part, of the Army of the Potomac was posted on and behind Cemetery Hill, its main object of defense being a stone wall, with a prolonged structure of wood and earth. This stone wall forms an irregular line north and south. Near the center it recedes eighty yards, speaking from the Confederate position. Just within this angle of the wall and to the south of it stands the "copse of trees" which was the objective point of the assaulting column. Upon it was trained the Confederate artillery with great effectiveness.
To the left or north of the angle is the Bryan barn, a frame building standing in the wall, that is the wall touches it on either side. This barn is the front of the position of the left of Heth's division, and is the "high-water mark" of Mississippians for that afternoon, being forty-seven yards beyond the point beyond the point where General Armistead of Pickett's second line fell, a hero of heroes.
This statement is made in the face of historical assertion and even of official reports to the contrary, but the following fats are given to substantiate it: Lieutenant A. J. Baker, of Company A, "University Greys" (Eleventh Mississippi), was wounded when within ten feet of the stone wall and twenty feet to the left of the barn, and was captured by troops coming from the left flank. This enfilading fire was more destructive to Davis's force, especially to his left regiment, than to that in front. DeGraffenried, a brother of ex-Congressman DeGraffenried, of Texas, and of the same company with Baker, crossed the wall, was wounded, returned and made his way to the rear.
Lieut. W. P. Snowden, of Company G, "Van Dorn Reserves," was wounded and captured near the wall. His company went in with forty-five men. Five of them returned unhurt, eleven were killed, and twenty-nine wounded.
Capt. J. T. Stokes, Company F, "Noxubee Rifles," was wounded within twenty steps of the wall, and the few remaining of the company went on. John J. and Frank A. Howell, brothers, reached the wall together. The former went over, was captured and died a prisoner. The latter was wounded and returned. Lieutenants Brooks and Woods were captured, leaving but a few privates and no commissioned officer.
Captain Halbert, Lieutenants Mimms and Goolsby, of Company E, "Prairie Guards," were killed, and Lieutenant Belton was wounded. Corporal John Morgan and Private John Sherman reached the wall. Sherman was wounded and Morgan returned with him unhurt. This company entered the assault with thirty-seven, rank and file. Fifteen were killed and twenty-one wounded, leaving only Corporal John Morgan to voluntarily "give way." Company A, "Tishomingo Rifles" (Second Mississippi), had but four men left after the assault - George Reynolds, C. Farris, N. M. and G. W. Bynum. Company E, of the same regiment, went in the first day's battle with forty-two men, and lost in killed, wounded and captured all except one lieutenant and six men. This skeleton company went into the assault on the third day, and only R. C. Jones and S. B. Scott returned. Company B, "Senatobia Invincibles" (Forty-second Mississippi), entered the first day's battle with sixty-one, rank and file. At the close of action on the third it had but nineteen men.
The showing of these three companies indicates the probability, if not the absolute truth, of the statement of Colonel Venable, of General Lee's staff, that it was a mistake to reckon Heth's division in planning the assault, for it suffered more on the first day than was reported and had not recuperated. Be that as it may, it is a fact that many of Heth's wounded were present on the third day, the sight of which, it is reported, made General Lee shed tears and say "They should not be here." It was not for Heth's people to say when and where they should or should not fight. Had the spirit of Stonewall Jackson been present the division would have slept on Cemetery Hill on the night of the first day. But once in the speculative field, it might be added, and that hill might have proved a Vicksburg or an Appomattox.
Of the Fifty-fifth North Carolina, the right of Davis's Brigade, but meager information is at hand, but it is certain that Captain Satterfield, of Company H, Lieutenant Falls, of Company C, and Sergeant Whitley, of Company E, reached the wall, and it is a reasonable conclusion that others accompanied them, as also in the case of the Mississippians named. So far as is known, no field officer of the brigade reached the wall. Lieutenant-Colonel Humphreys, commanding the Second, and Colonel Miller the Forty-second Mississippi regiments, and Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, commanding the Fifty-fifth North Carolina regiment, were killed. Colonel Green of the Eleventh Mississippi was wounded, but the adjutant of the brigade, Captain Magruder, brother of Gen. J. Bankhead Magruder, was killed on the wall just to the left of the Bryan barn, while urging others by order and example to do their duty as he saw it. Thus the fact is established by living witnesses that this mere skeleton of the Davis brigade went as far as human strength and endurance could go, unaided by a miraculous interposition in their behalf.
They cannot be appropriately linked unto a steel-pointed spear, piercing the vitals of the enemy line and causing consternation and dismay, but rather unto common humanity, moving under the impulse of an inherited spirit to do or die in the effort to gain victory in a just cause.
While Mississippi joins North Carolina in praise of her peerless Pettigrew, and Virginia in her love for her fearless Armistead, she will ever remember with pride the place where Magruder died, where Barksdale fell, and where the dauntless Conner sacrificed his valuable life.
Southern historians of the civil war period have assigned various and conflicting reasons for the failure at Gettysburg, and as time goes by others are being advanced.
The latest contribution on the subject is by La Salle Corbett Pickett, widow of General George E. Pickett, C.S.A. Says Mrs. Pickett, in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, recently published in various newspapers and periodicals:
"Longstreet assented to the invasion only on the condition that it should still be a campaign of defensive tactics.
"He (General Pickett) was equally loath to carry on an aggressive campaign of invasion of the North when it was proposed.
In the light of these statements, the reason assigned by General Lee himself for the failure is given:
"As to the battle of Gettysburg, I must again refer you to the official accounts. Its loss was occasioned by a combination of circumstances. It was commenced in the absence of correct intelligence. It was continued in the effort to overcome the difficulties by which we were surrounded, and it would have been gained could one determined and united blow have been delivered by our whole line. As it was, victory trimbled in the balance for three days, and the battle resulted in the infliction of as great an amount of injury as was received and in frustrating the Federal campaign for the season."
Gettysburg, though unquestionably the pivotal battle of the War between the States, was by no means the Waterloo of the Confederacy, for hostilities not only continued for almost two years, but according to Federal statistics the Army of the Potomac, later appropriately called "Grant's Army," lost in round numbers 10,000 more men after than before and including Gettysburg. Besides, immediately after the battle and during the retreat, Lee was ever ready to give Meade a Roland for an Oliver.
That the army had just cause for doubt and discouragement its experience and condition fully attested. General Lee, whose faith in his men was unbounded, thought proper, however, on the occasion of his stand at Hagerstown, Md., to inform himself of the real condition and spirit pervading his troops. The duty of gaining this information was assigned the general officers.
Of the picturesque General Lafayette McLaw's visit to Barksdale's brigade, let Major Robert Stiles in his Four Years Under Marse Robert relate:
"He was on horseback, riding, as I remember, a small, white pony built horse, and as he rode up into the circle of flickering light of campfire to talk with the men, he made quite a marked and notable figure. The conversation ran somewhat in this line:
"Well, boys, how are you?" "We are all right, General!" "They say there are lots of those fellows over the way there." "Well, they can stay there; we ain't offerin' to disburb 'em. We've had all the fighting we want just now; but if they ain't satisfied and want any more, all they've got to do is to come over and get their bellies full." "Suppose they do come, sure enough, boys? What are you going to do with them?" "Why just make the ground blue with 'em, that's all; just manure this here man's land with 'em. We ain't asking anything of them, but if they want anything of us, why, just let 'em come after it and they can get all they want; but they'll wish they hadn't come ." "Well, now, I can rely upon that, can I?" "You just bet your life you can, General. If we're asleep when they come, you just have us waked, and we'll receive 'em in good style." "Well, good-night, boys. I'm satisfied."
The appearance of "Lee's Miserables" on the retreat was prepossessing in one respect only. Their muskets were clean and their bayonets bright, and a firm and undaunted spirit everywhere abounded. With clothing dirty and ragged, shoes worn and broken, and hats dilapidated and covered with dust, they came homeward-bound with jests, jokes and repartee that enlivened the march even under such distressing conditions. Twitted on his shaggy attire by won group of residents gathered on the roadside to see the "Rebels" pass, the jolly Neely Nance, of the "Noxubee Rifles," apologetically explained that at the South it was the custom to put on one's worst clothes on "hog-killing days."
When passing through the little village of Greencastle, Pa., a bevy of young ladies appeared on the sidewalk flaunting United States flags. Two, with the national colors folded and crossed over their shoulders, were especially demonstrative. To an army composed largely of students of the professions and men of culture, men versed in the amenities and civilities of life, this spirit of aggression displayed by ladies (even under the adverse circumstances) was a subject of interest and admiration. But such a display was bound sooner or later to meet a rebuff. Every army, every command has its untutored, uncouth "diamond in the rough." Marching on sullenly, weary and hungry, came one of these specimens. Observing this demonstration of hostility, he halted and quietly observed, "See here, gurls, youens better take off them durned flags; we old Rebs er hell on breastworks." The two over-patriotic "gurls" retired under the first fire amid the laughter of companions and good natured cheers of the soldiers.
After crossing the Potomac, and scrambling up the bank, Gabe Smither, of the "Lamar Rifles" (Oxford, Miss.), in passing the regimental band, said to the leader: "Stewart, by blood, play Dixie."
Soon the quick notes of that ever inspiring air wafted upon the breeze, when followed a roll of the "rebel yell" of defiance that meant too plainly to the enemy on the other side hat there was yet remaining strength, determination, and fight in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Outgeneralled and outnumbered, but not conquered; defeated, but by no fault of its own; a great loser, but inflicting greater loss, it remembered with pride former victories and accepted this reverse as but "a ripple on the stream of its destiny."
As so it battled on, with varying fortune, to the distant and bitter end. The world knows the result. With brigades shrunken to less than battalions, and companies in some instances to the one-man unit, the climax came, when all was lost save honor and the consciousness of duty well and faithfully performed.
Of the 16,000 Mississippians who went to the Army of Northern Virginia during the years 1861 - 1865, the records of the closing scenes at Appomattox make this woeful numerical showing: Davis's brigade, 75; Harris's brigade, 382; Humphrey's brigade, 257. These figures include the details serving in the various departments. Corp. Wm. L. Taylor, of Yazoo County, was the only member of Company B, Eighteenth Mississippi regiment, to answer roll call at the final round-up. Other companies made little better showing and some not so good. Mississippians in Virginia were peculiarly unfortunate in being sacrificially assigned in battle; nor were they less unfortunate at Gettysburg.
Davis's brigade, as has been already stated, fought its way unsupported into the First Union corps on the first day, losing heavily in killed, wounded and captured. Barksdale's victorious advance of the second day proved abortive for lack of timely support. Davis, again on the third day, was ingloriously forsaken in the assault and left to advance under both front and flank fire, and then cursed for having "given way." At Falling Water, on the Potomac, Heth's division formed the rear guard. To Gen. Fitz. Lee was assigned the duty of protecting the infantry, but under a misapprehension of the situation he passed to the ford below and crossed, thus precipitating a battle between Heth and Union cavalry, in which the heroic Pettigrew was mortally wounded.
To Heth's division, then, of which Mississippians formed a part, belongs the honor of fighting first at Gettysburg and last at Falling Water, on the Potomac.
DeSoto County Coordinator: Tim Harrison
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