The Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry

The Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry: Civil War Letters and Reminiscences

Compiled and Edited by Robert G. Evans
Copyright Date: 2002
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvnp7
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    The Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry
    Book Description:

    They fought in the Shenandoah campaign that blazed Stonewall Jackson's reputation. They fought in the Seven Days' Battles and at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, in the Wilderness campaign, and at Spotsylvania. At the surrender they were beside General Robert E. Lee in Appomattox. From the beginning of the war to its very end the men of the Sixteenth Mississippi endured.

    In this collection of their letters and their memories, both historians and Civil War buffs will find the fascinating words of these common soldiers in one of the most notable units in the Army of Northern Virginia.

    Gathered and available here for the first time, the writings in this anthology include diary entries, letters, and reminiscences from average Mississippi men who fought in the war's most extraordinary battles. Chronologically arranged, the documents depict the pace and progress of the war. Emerging from their words are flesh-and-blood soldiers who share their courage and spirit, their love of home and family, and their loneliness, fears, and campaign trials.

    From the same camp come letters that say, "Our troops are crazy to meet" the enemy and, "It is not much fun hearing the balls and shells a-coming." Soldiers write endearingly to wives, earnestly to fathers, longingly to mothers, and wistfully to loved ones. With wit and dispatch they report on crops and land, Virginia hospitality, camp rumors and chicanery, and encounters, both humorous and hostile, with the Yankee enemy.

    Many letters convey a yearning for home and loved ones, closing with such phrases as "Write just as soon as you get this." Though the trials of war seemed beyond the limits of human endurance, letter writing created a lifeline to home and helped men persevere. So eager was Jesse Ruebel Kirkland to keep in touch with his beloved Lucinda that he penned, "I am on my horse writing on the top of my hat just having met the mail carrier."

    Robert G. Evans is a judge of the Thirteenth Circuit Court of the State of Mississippi. He lives in Raleigh, Miss.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-692-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Robert G. Evans
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xx)

    In 1861, war came to the South, bringing dreams of glory to Mississippi’s men and boys. They enlisted by the thousands. Before the war’s end, some eighty-two thousand Mississippians would “see the elephant,” and their dreams would become nightmares.¹

    Some enlisted in answer to glory’s call and others to defend what they saw as an unconstitutional assault on their property rights and their right to live free in a country of their own making. Since the “property” was slaves, planters rightly saw the assault as synonymous with abolition. Additionally, the federal government, controlled by Northern business, placed high tariffs on...

  6. The Writers
    (pp. xxi-1)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
  8. Chapter 1 “A common enthusiasm and eagerness for the fray . . .”
    (pp. 3-11)

    Among the many bands of volunteers who first responded to the Southern tocsin in the spring of 1861, my fortune was cast with the “Crystal Springs Southern Rights,” a company made up equally of Hinds and Copiah County boys and organized at Crystal Springs, Mississippi early in April ’61. Our captain was Parson J. C. Davis of Utica, Hinds County [Mississippi]. . . . He faithfully promised all that he would take care of all the boys. . . .¹

    After its organization, the company occasionally met at Crystal Springs for drill and to receive new members until the 23rd...

  9. Chapter 2 “What the Yankees don’t kill will die of disease . . .”
    (pp. 12-31)

    Lynchburg, Virginia, August 6th, 1861

    Dear Brother,

    I take the present opportunity of dropping you a few lines to let you know that I am well at present, and I hope that these few lines may reach you all enjoying the same blessing of life. I would have sent you a letter before, but the mail was stopped for a few days on account of the abolitionists finding out what was going on, nearly all of East Tennessee being abolitionist. There is Federal volunteers being formed near Knoxville. We lay over at that place about twenty-eight hours and met with...

  10. Chapter 3 “We . . . fear no danger”
    (pp. 32-51)

    Camp near Centreville, Virginia, October 21st, 1861

    My Dear Lucy,

    Ma, I am lying on my cot while I write, where I have been since the night of the 17th. I wrote Fannie I was fearful of rheumatism again but am glad to say tis only in mild form. Nothing but my left foot and knee swelled, but I tell you, dear Lucy, I have suffered intensely with my leg and foot although I had all the attention and kindness that I could desire both night and day. I have thought of and missed you all the time (no nursing...

  11. Chapter 4 “. . . have you all winked out?”
    (pp. 52-70)

    Camp E. K. Smith near Manassas, Virginia, January 2nd, 1862

    My Dear Lucy,

    After every effort, I failed in getting . . . a leave of absence, which you know both disappointed and annoyed me. But I am not alone, there are many in the same situation. Hence I have no more reason to complain than they who are equally desirous of seeing their homes and families. . . .

    On the 27th about ten o’clock, I awoke with a hard chill which continued at least two hours. I called Jim, the Negro boy, had a fire made, sent for...

  12. Chapter 5 “. . . deluded victims of Northern fanaticism . . .”
    (pp. 71-83)

    While in company drill this morning, received marching orders again. Struck tents immediately and marched at noon, re-crossed the mountains and encamped tonight one and one-half miles below Luray, having traveled six miles since noon. Saw “Old Jackson” today for the first time. He was stopped at a house and came out, by request, as we passed by. The Sixteenth gave him a good cheer. He was clad in an old sunburnt coat and cap.

    Wednesday morning, May 21st, 1862, New Market, Page County, Virginia

    My Dear Wife,

    I had the pleasure on Sunday last on our march from the...

  13. Chapter 6 “. . . a regular war of extermination”
    (pp. 84-99)

    On the 26th [of June], we moved with the army from Ashland in a southerly direction, passing to the east of Mechanicsville in the afternoon, and at four p.m. heard distinctively the volleys of artillery and musketry in the engagement of General Hill with the enemy. Before sundown, the firing was not more than two miles distant. . . .²

    We were then at Pole Green Church [near Hundley’s Corner, about four miles northeast of Mechanicsville]. . . . The Yankees made a bold stand at Cold Harbor, fully determined to hold the place. . . . As we were...

  14. Chapter 7 “. . . we swept everything before us”
    (pp. 100-110)

    Camp near Gordonsville, Virginia, August 15th, 1862

    My Dear Sallie,

    I sent you a short letter. . . . It was written about midnight by a candle in the open air. That night . . . I did not sleep a wink. . . . At one o’clock, we took up line of march and by daylight we were in Richmond, having marched eight miles. Then we took the train, and at two o’clock p.m., we were in Gordonsville, having moved our whole brigade a distance of eighty miles in about twelve hours. . . . We bivouacked under the...

  15. Chapter 8 “. . . a little town in Maryland”
    (pp. 111-120)

    Marched out to Little River Turnpike and thence within three miles of Fairfax Court House. Musketry this evening on our right. The Battle of Chantilly was fought in which the Federals’ General Kearney was killed. Heavy rain, completely soaking us. Camped in a pine grove with orders to have our guns and ourselves ready for any emergency, or in other words, to sleep under arms with one eye open. Rested quietly.²

    The sun rises bright and warm. “Get ready to move” is the order again this morning, so oft repeated. The many who had become bare-footed from the long march...

  16. Chapter 9 “The valley is strewed with blue . . .”
    (pp. 121-131)

    Efforts are being made to get our brigade transferred to the south. . . .

    His Excellency Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States

    The undersigned officers of the several regiments comprising Featherston’s Brigade of R. H. Anderson’s Division would respectfully ask, if not in your judgment inconsistent with the public defense and efficiency of the same, that the brigade be transferred for winter operations to the State of Mississippi.

    The following considerations make it desirable that such a transfer should be made. In case of serious illness on the part of any of the officers or men of the command requiring...

  17. Chapter 10 “Everything wears such a cheering aspect . . .”
    (pp. 132-145)

    Pleasant day. Amused ourselves by rolling ten-pins with cannonballs. . . .

    Orange Court House, Virginia, January, 1863

    Dear Ma,

    Yours of the 12th November came duly to hand and was received by me with gladness. . . . So you have got plenty to eat and wear. . . . That is more than any of the people up here have. Speaking of something to eat, we are getting rather at a low ebb in that line. We have not drawn any meat in three days, this is the fourth one. We draw one-fourth pound for tomorrow. I do...

  18. Chapter 11 “. . . enough to make the Old Master weep”
    (pp. 146-165)

    On the evening of the 29th [of April], being then in camp . . . near the U.S. Ford, we were advised by our scouts at . . . Ely’s Ford and Germanna Bridge, that the enemy had crossed in heavy force at those points and were advancing on the Ely and Plank Roads towards Chancellorsville. Upon consultation, we concluded to leave five companies of my brigade, the Nineteenth Mississippi, and one regiment of General Mahone’s Brigade to watch and defend the U.S. Ford while we moved our brigades to Chancellorsville. On reaching that point, we posted my brigade on...

  19. Chapter 12 “. . . a hard fight in Pennsylvania . . .”
    (pp. 166-187)

    Company C went forward this morning as skirmishers. Halted our line on the railroad. Some of the company voluntarily went forward and engaged in sharpshooting. Towards evening, we are withdrawn, our brigade having orders to move up to the Howison House. Very warm. Rained this evening. Lay in trenches all night. The enemy that crossed are lying close to the mouth of Deep Run and don’t seem to be at all hostile. . . .

    Company C on the front again. Cannonading in direction of Culpeper Court House. Our army has all left Fredericksburg, except our (Hill’s) Corps. Most of...

  20. Chapter 13 “. . . not very pleasant work, but it has to be done”
    (pp. 188-207)

    Heard this evening that our Color Corporal W. J. Sweeney died of his wound at Richmond on July 30th. No braver or more gallant soldier ever trod a battlefield. He was ever gay and cheerful, whether in camp, or in battle. One by one our brave are cut down. . . .

    Received pay for May and June. Had peas and potatoes today, scarce articles in the fare of “Lee’s poor Miserables.” A great many convalescents are returning to camp. The President’s amnesty proclamation is bringing in some [deserters]. I feel very badly from a cold caught a few nights...

  21. Chapter 14 “. . . we must take it the best we can”
    (pp. 208-220)

    Marched at seven a.m. Passed through Madison Court House, turning to the right along the base of the Blue Ridge. Marched across the country, following no particular road and camped a little after dark in an unknown locality. The campaign has now so far developed itself that it seems evident we are making a flank movement to get in rear of the Yankee army. The sorghum fields on our route are suffering extensively. There is nothing else in the country to eat. The nights continue cool.

    The enemy are reported all gone. Started early and took our backtrack a few...

  22. Chapter 15 “. . . the men wouldn’t come to time”
    (pp. 221-230)

    Bid adieu to our comfortable homes at four a.m. and started towards Orange Court House. The roads are hard frozen and slippery. Many a laugh is occasioned at the expense of some unfortunate fellow slipping down. But sometimes it is not so amusing when a loaded gun goes off by contact with ice. . . . After traveling a mile or two towards the Court House, it is discovered that we have taken the wrong fork of the road. This is a very common thing for General Harris to do. We face about and make good time for the Plank...

  23. Chapter 16 “. . . we will have other fish to fry in a day or two”
    (pp. 231-246)

    Orange Court House, Virginia, January 14th, 1864

    Dear Ma,

    . . . I was glad to hear that you all were getting along well with plenty to eat and wear. I hope you may always have such. As for myself and Wilse, we are getting along finely, plenty of good clothes and lots of C. S. money. There is no news worth writing from this country. No movements being made in the army on either side except that General Meade is being reinforced from the armies down south, which will not trouble us until next spring, and then we will...

  24. Chapter 17 “. . . the place received the appellation Bloody Bend”
    (pp. 247-263)

    Sermon by Reverend Walthall soon this morning. All packed up and ready to fall in. . . . Formed line and left camp at three p.m. The enemy have crossed down above Germanna Ford and fighting is in progress by Ewell’s Corps. Longstreet is coming up from Gordonsville. . . .

    Fell in at two a.m. this morning, marched out to the Plank Road at Vidiersville, and proceeded thence down it towards the scene of yesterday’s engagement. Marched slowly till daylight and then increased our speed to a rapid gate. . . . We commence passing scores of our wounded...

  25. Chapter 18 “. . . a man cannot be too good to die for his home, his country”
    (pp. 264-271)

    Rested an hour or two this morning and again resumed the march. Kept on briskly all day, crossing the North Anna [River], encamping a few miles on the other side. Day very warm. I suffered severely today, and it was with great difficulty that I could travel. Had it not been through fear of being captured by the enemy’s cavalry, I would have stopped. Slept in the woods just after crossing the river, being unable to reach my command. Had a high fever and was delirious.

    Arose today at dawn and made out to reach the brigade in camp. They...

  26. Chapter 19 “Mining and blowing up is all the talk . . .”
    (pp. 272-282)

    In camp twelve miles from Richmond, June 18th, 1864

    Dear Marie,

    Your welcome letter came duly to hand and was received by me with joy. First, Marie, let us render thanks to kind Providence for the preservation of your brother through the fiery ordeal where so many brave boys sacrificed their lives on their country’s altar. Poor boys. God grant they may be in a better world.

    Well, Marie, we are through one campaign with the Northern hero, General Grant, who is precisely where General McClellan was after the Seven Days Battle in front of Richmond two years ago—in...

  27. Chapter 20 “. . . daily there was a list of casualties”
    (pp. 283-292)

    No change in atmosphere. The Yankees admit their defeat on Saturday [in the Crater]. The boys all indulging in apples, onions, peas, pies, and etc. Their money will soon all be spent. . . .

    Occupied our new position in the trenches. Some of Company C had a very narrow escape this evening from an enfilading shell. It exploded in my tent and wounded Mike Noll. . . .²

    One day there was a detail of men working on the breastworks. Directly after the work was started, the bullets commenced to whistle around them, killing one man and wounding two....

  28. Chapter 21 “. . . Fort Gregg will never be surrendered”
    (pp. 293-303)

    Brigadier General Joseph Finegan, Commanding Mahone’s Division:

    General:

    I have the honor to respectfully report the result of my tour on picket as division field officer of the picket-line of Mahone’s Division. . . . Everything remained quiet on the line.

    I regret to have to report a loss of nine men by desertion—seven from the Florida and two from the Virginia brigades. These desertions are becoming amazingly numerous, and I beg leave to submit for your consideration what I esteem to be the main cause of this dissatisfaction, and is, in my opinion, the controlling influence that prompts...

  29. Chapter 22 “. . . the loss of all–save honor”
    (pp. 304-308)

    The evacuation [of Fort Whitworth] was accomplished but not without loss, as the enemy made every effort to intercept the retreat. The brigade . . . took positions in the newly formed line, the enemy making no attempt to press his advantage at this point of the lines with infantry but brought artillery and kept up a constant fire throughout the remainder of the day [April 2nd].

    The disaster to the Army of Northern Virginia was fully realized by officers and men, and it was apparent that Richmond and Petersburg . . . were to pass into the hands of...

  30. Postscripts
    (pp. 309-312)

    Samuel E. Baker—Colonel Samuel E. Baker was killed at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864.¹

    Buxton Reives Conerly—After the war, Conerly moved to Marshall, Texas, and wrote extensively about his wartime experiences and possibly authoredAn Historical Sketch of the Quitman Guards, Company E, Sixteenth Mississippi Regiment, Harris’ Brigade, by One of the Quitman Guards

    LukeWard Conerly—Captured in the Shenandoah Valley on June 27, 1862, and confined in a Washington, D.C. prison for forty days, Conerly rejoined the Sixteenth after his parole (or exchange). He was wounded at Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864, but survived the...

  31. Notes
    (pp. 313-342)
  32. Bibliography
    (pp. 343-352)
  33. Index
    (pp. 353-365)