Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The “Bloody” Sixth Mississippi at Shiloh

          The 6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment was made up of men from Rankin, Quitman, Leake, Scott, Copiah, and Simpson counties. From Corinth they were ordered to carry five days rations and 100 rounds per man. The regiment arrived at Shiloh with only 425 men. There, they would fight in Patrick Cleburne’s brigade. 
They were in the front line attacking the Federal army near Shiloh Church in a small field known as Rhea Field. Camped there was the 53rd Ohio Infantry under Colonel Jesse Appler. The Federal soldiers were in a good position on the high ground behind their tents. The 23rd Tennessee Infantry was advancing alongside of the 6th Mississippi. All together they numbered about a thousand men. 
As the two regiments advanced from the tree line into the open, Appler’s Ohio infantry opened a devastating fire. Both Confederate regiments quickly withdrew into the cover of the forest. The 23rd Tennessee broke completely and the officers were unable to reform them. This left the 6th Mississippi to face twice their numbers alone. Colonel Thornton would pick up the colors when the color bearer went down and in turn fall severely wounded. Seven color bearer’s would be wounded in the attack at Rhea Field. 

Major Robert Lowry

Major Robert Lowry would take command and lead the 6th on another charge. He would fall with two wounds at the head of the regiment. As this charge soon died away, Colonel Appler of the 53rd Ohio panicked. He yelled, “Every man for himself!” He quickly showed them the way by turning and racing toward Pittsburg Landing. Most of the 53rd Ohio followed his example. 
Of the 425 men that went into Rhea Field, only sixty would be present to answer roll call following the fight. After the battle, when they returned to Corinth, they would only muster 100 men. The rest were either killed, wounded or missing. 
Colonel Thornton would be forced to resign his commission because of his wounds. Major Robert Lowry would survive his two wounds and later be promoted to brigadier general. He would fight through the rest of the war and surrender in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1865. But, from April 6, 1862 forward, the 6th Mississippi would become known as the “Bloody Sixth”.

The burial trench above contains the remains of many of the men of the 6th Mississippi Infantry listed below.

Burkholder, Abraham, Private; killed at Shiloh
Chandler, Wade, Private; killed at Shiloh
Miller, W. D., Private; killed at Shiloh
Myers, Isaac, Private; killed at Shiloh
Ennis, J., Private; killed at Shiloh
Strong, Claiborne F., Private; killed at Shiloh
Hall, W. A., Private; 4th Corporal; killed at Shiloh
Henry, D. F., Private; killed at Shiloh
West, H., Private, 3rd Corporal; killed at Shiloh
Childers, J. W., Private; killed at Shiloh
Cook, J. W., Private; killed at Shiloh
Derrick, Silas H., Private; wounded mortally in lungs at Shiloh
Reeves, W., Private; killed at Shiloh
Hix, Josiah, Private; killed at Shiloh
Whitehead, J., Private; killed at Shiloh
Owen, Gus Roland, Private; killed at Shiloh
James, James M., Private; killed at Shiloh
Willis, Thomas H., Lieutenant; killed at Shiloh
McLendon, Elias, Private; killed at Shiloh
Gordon, Stephen, Private; killed at Shiloh
Webb, J. M., Private; wounded mortally both legs and arms at Shiloh

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Old Stars: From Astronomer to General

       Ormsby McKnight Mitchel was born in Kentucky in 1810, but grew up in Lebanon, Ohio. He graduated ranked 15th in the class of 1829 at West Point. Despite his not finishing at the top of the class, Mitchel was considered to be a genius. He became a professor of mathmatics and astronomy at West Point after graduation, although he was only twenty years old. In 1845 he became the director of observatory at Cincinnati College. He also published the first monthly magazine in the United States that was only devoted to astronomy. 
       During his time there, he discovered highlands on Mars that are still called ‘The Mountains of Mitchel’. An impact crater on Mars is also named for him. 
       Like most highly intelligent people, Mitchel was a bit eccentric. The man was overbearing ,ambitious and quite arrogant. He stood five feet, six inches tall and possessed a fiery temper. When the war began, Mitchel was offered a colonel’s commission by the governor of Ohio, but refused to accept the position. Instead, he wrote to President Lincoln, explaining that he deserved higher rank. Lincoln promptly made him a brigadier general.
       Sometime in his life he had earned the nickname ‘Old Stars’. Most thought it was because of his astronomy work, but a rumor soon passed through camp that he was so arrogant, he wore his general’s insignia to bed. 
       He was also extremely punctual about everything. Mitchel became angry because he couldn’t get all his bugler’s to blow reveille at the exact same second. Each morning he would drop a handkerchief at precisely six. A cannon would be fired when he did this and all bugler’s would blow. He claimed he had time figured to within a tenth of a second. 
       During the Battle of Shiloh, Mitchel advanced southward from Tennessee and captured the town of Huntsville, Alabama. The report he made of this action caused him to sound like a great military leader, although the town had no defenders present. 
       His senior commander, General Don Carlos Buell stated that Mitchel’s reports are exaggerated and false, very inconsistent and only seeking to promote himself. Mitchel always sent a report to President Lincoln in order to be remembered when promotions were given. Lincoln would promote Mitchel to major general for taking Huntsville. 
       At this point, Mitchel’s career began to spiral downward. He was accused of military incompetence and corruption. He asked the war department to assign him to another area of operations and was sent to Hilton Head, South Carolina. There he was defeated by Confederate General Pierre Beauregard. Four months later he would die there of yellow fever. He rests today in Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

John Jackson Dickison: Swamp Fox of the Confederacy

        John Jackson Dickison was born on March 17, 1816 in Virginia. His father wanted him to become a soldier, but the boy proved to be prone to sickness growing up. By the time he turned 16, his father was forced to send him to live with relatives in South Carolina in the hopes that the climate there would improve his health. 
         He continued to live and work in South Carolina, serving in the militia there until 1856 when he purchased a plantation in Marion County, Florida. He began the Civil War as a lieutenant in the Marion Light Artillery, but early in 1862 he received permission to form his own company of cavalry. This unit became Company H of the 2nd Florida Cavalry and Dickison was promoted to captain.
          He would lead his men on several daring raids throughout the war, but his more famous actions came in 1864. His took fifty men and captured the Federal steamer called "Columbine" without the loss of a single soldier. A few days later at Palatka, Florida,  he took thirty men and forced a 280 man Federal detachment to retreat six miles. The Federals lost 72 men in this action while Dickison reported the loss of only two men. One of the losses was his son Charles Dickison who was killed. 
         Later in the year, he would take a couple hundred men to Jacksonville, Florida and route 380 Federal cavalrymen, capturing 150 prisoners, killing 30 while only losing 6 men of his own. Because of these actions he would earn two nicknames, "Swamp Fox" and "The Forrest of Florida".
         As the war came to a close, John Dickison surrendered to Federal authorities as a captain. His commission to colonel reached him after the surrender. Today, he is remembered as Colonel Dickison, although he never held that rank during the war. 
          He died on August 23, 1902 in Ocala, Florida and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sam Stewart and the tragic Company B, 35th Alabama Infantry at Franklin

Lagrange Military College
       Lagrange College in Franklin County, Alabama (now Colbert, County, Alabama), was known as the West Point of the South. Young men from all over the country came here for a military education. In March, 1862, the 35th Alabama Infantry Regiment was formed at the school. The majority of the officer corps and a good deal of the enlisted men came from the student body. A lot of local farmers also enlisted with the regiment. 
       The regiment would go on to see action at the battles of Baton Rouge, Port Hudson, Corinth, Champions Hill, Jackson and throughout the Atlanta Campaign. Company B would march into Tennessee with General Hood with only twenty-one men. 
At Franklin, the 35th Alabama Regiment served under General Scott, William Loring’s Division and Alexander Peter Stewart’s Corps. They would advance on the far right near the Carnton Plantation and charged the Osage Orange abates in front of the Federal breastworks. 
Captain Samuel D. Stewart led these men. The boy was from near Mobile, Alabama and was only 21 years old. Stewart was elated  at the thought of charging across two miles of open fields and hitting the Federal lines. He may have just been trying to keep his men’s spirits up. Most men knew that few of them would come out of this battle unscathed. 

Captain Samuel D. Stewart
       Stewart said, “With this open field, we’ll be able to see who gets the farthest. I know Company B will not be behind and will continue to hold their high standing in the regiment.”
The regiment marched to within seventy-five yards of the Federal line before the enemy infantry opened fire. The men charged forward and reaching the Osage Orange found that they couldn’t fight their way through the man made barrier. 
Captain Stewart was right there with his men, hacking at the tree limbs with his sword. A bullet soon struck him in the abdomen, he crashed forward into the abatis and rolled out on the ground. His men thought he was dead, but he soon rose again only to have his left ear shot off. He was carried back to the McGavock House where he suffered tremendously. Some reports state he had four bullet wounds. He would die sometime during the night. 
        Of the twenty-one men who went into action at Franklin, four would be killed, thirteen wounded and out of action, two would be slightly wounded and only two came out unscathed. Besides Captain Stewart,  Fourth Sergeant Tom Peebles, Private William Bradley and Color Bearer Robert Wheeler would die. 
Joseph Thompson and Richard D. Beaumont would both be wounded by the same cannonball. Joe Thompson would have his leg amputated at the field hospital near the McGavock House. Second Sergeant Daniel Downs and Private’s William Woodford, James O. Murphy, A. Waddy Mosely, and J.P. Cooper would all be wounded. Steve Harmon would make it on to Nashville where he would be captured. The rest of the company present at Franklin haven’t been identified yet. 
       Joe Thompson wrote following the war how the entire town of Franklin within four miles of the battlefield had opened their doors and taken in the wounded. He had nothing but the highest compliments for the people of Franklin, Tennessee. 
Today, Lagrange College no longer exists. On April 28, 1863, the Federal Army under Colonel Florence M. Cornyn burned the college down. The brave color bearer Robert Wheeler would be brought home to Tuscumbia, Alabama where he rests in Oakwood Cemetery, not far from the grave of Brigadier General James Deshler. Captain Samuel Stewart still rests today in the McGavock Confederate Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee.
Grave of Captain Samuel D. Stewart

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lewis A. Lavender rises from the grave

     While walking the grounds at Sheffield's Oakwood
Cemetery collecting names of veterans buried there
for the SCV project, I came across a Confederate
stone that had sank into the ground so far the name
was unreadable. I reported this information to Camp
Commander Todd Richardson and he thought we
should go fix the problem. Upon our arrival at the
cemetery, I was of the opinion we should go to the
main office and at least let the caretaker know our
intentions. Todd was of the opinion that getting
forgiveness would be a lot easier than getting
permission. Despite my qualms about digging in a
cemetery, we began our task.
     We weren't sure if the soldier was buried here or if this
was just a cenotaph. The distance we were forced to
dig caused me to think that we may possibly find the
answer. We finally managed to get deep enough to
pull the heavy stone from the ground and then tamped
rocks into the bottom of the hole. Hopefully this will
prevent the stone from sinking again.
     We learned the stone is for Lewis A. Lavender,
Second Lieutenant, Company C, 24th Alabama
Infantry Regiment. The 24th was organized at Mobile,
Alabama in August of 1861. Lavender was appointed
Second Lieutenant on November 8, 1861. The unit
remained in Mobile until joining the Army of
Tennessee when Braxton Bragg invaded Kentucky in
the fall of 1862. They would not see action until the
Battle of Murfreesboro where they fought in
Manigault's brigade. The 24th would remain in
Manigault's brigade for the remainder of the war.
Lt. Lavender was detached in August of 1863 and
sent home to arrest two deserters. His efficiency
report at this time states that he was an efficient
officer and attentive to his duties. He is listed as
present on every other muster roll. They fought at
Chickamauga, throughout the campaign for Altanta,
saw action at Franklin and Nashville. Out of the 680
men in the 24th Alabama in the spring of 1862, only
125 would be present to surrender. After fighting at
Bentonville, North Carolina, Lt. Lavender would be
one of those 125 men and was paroled on May 1,
     Is Lewis Lavender buried in Sheffield, Alabama? How
did his remains end up here? Did he live here at one
time? We may never know, but his marker is back up
for all to see and remember this loyal Confederate

Death of Confederate General Cobb: A Conspiracy Theory

        Confederate Brigadier General Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb was born on April 10, 1823 in Jefferson County, Georgia. Incredibly, he weighed twenty-one and one-half pounds at birth.
He attended college at what is now the University of Georgia and finished first in the class of 1841. He became a lawyer in the state of Georgia before his nineteenth birthday. By the time the Civil War began, he had accumulated a fortune worth 120,000 dollars and owned 23 slaves.
Thomas Cobb was known for his mercurial temper. During the war, he constantly complained about his superiors especially Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. He was always faultfinding and finding reasons to argue with others. Elijah H. Sutton, one of his soldiers, declared that his own men despised him. W.R. Montgomery claimed that his men admired him because he was brave and gallant.
        The brigadier seemed to be paranoid, once writing about General Lee, “Lee hates me and sneers whenever my name is mentioned.” After meeting Lee, he wrote, “Lee is haughty and boorish and supercilious in his bearing and is particularly so to me.”
He missed all major combat until December, 1862. He was present with his brigade at Fredericksburg. Ironically, his first major battle would also prove to be his last. Cobb’s brigade held the Stone Wall at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He was seen waving his hat over his head and crying to his men, “Get ready, boys, here they come.”
As to what happened next remains a mystery. According to historian Robert K. Krick, a piece of artillery shrapnel struck General Cobb in the left thigh and severed his femoral artery. General Cobb collapsed in the sunken road about two in the afternoon and bled to death. 
        In 1901, an anonymous veteran announced that General Cobb had been killed by a Confederate soldier who lived at Lost Mountain. According to this veteran, General Cobb had berated several men for stopping on a march to fill their canteens with water. Cobb had then ordered them to pour out the water, but one soldier had refused. He then told the others that he would kill Thomas Cobb when the first opportunity presented itself. 
According to this anonymous veteran, General Cobb was killed by a shot from Phillip’s Legion, the same unit that this man served with. This veteran approached the man who had made the threat against the general and asked, “Sam, did you shoot General Cobb?”
(Sam was later identified as Samuel Drake of Phillip’s Legion.) Sam replied, “Well, I got him.”
         Later in the battle, Samuel Drake was shot in the chest and carried to the field hospital. The anonymous veteran went there and asked him, “Sam, you are going to die and I want you to tell me did you kill General Cobb?”
“I did,” Sam replied, “I always do what I say I will.”
According to this anonymous veteran, he had spoken to General Cobb’s descendants after the war and they told him they had always known that Thomas Cobb was killed by one of his own men.
Historian Robert K. Krick writes, “That story cannot be substantiated and in fact is clearly inaccurate, its calm assertion lends credence to the other negative declarations about Cobb.” 
Doctor Gilmore, chief surgeon of McLaws division stated that Cobb was hit by a bullet that passed through a plank fence and a tourniquet would have saved his life. He stated that N.H. Hammond of Flippen, Georgia was within thirty feet of Cobb and can substantiate that the general died in this way. 
According to Derek Smith, author of The Gallant Dead, General Cobb was hit by either artillery shrapnel or a Federal sharpshooter. He fails to mention the friendly fire theory at all. 
        General Joseph Kershaw reported that Cobb was killed by Federal sharpshooters posted near his left flank. Colonel Porter Alexander reported that Cobb was killed by a Union sniper about one hundred and fifty yards from his front. 
        It seems fitting that a man that was so paranoid would be surrounded by controversy as to who killed him following his death. There were several Confederate generals hit by friendly fire, Stonewall Jackson being the most famous. Micah Jenkins and James Longstreet were also hit by friendly fire. Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb seems to be the only one that a witness has come forward and claimed that it was intentional. Was Cobb shot by Samuel Drake? The story seems a little far fetched and we will probably never know.