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The Belt of Desolation I

January - December 1863

By Andrew Brown

Chapter I

After Grant returned to Memphis in January 1863 the pattern of the war in the west changed abruptly. Assuming rightly that his attack on Vicksburg would keep most of the Confederate forces in the region occupied, Grant advanced the Union front from the old Corinth - Bolivar - Memphis line to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, at the same time giving up the Mississippi Central south of Grand Junction. On January 29 he moved south to assume active direction of the Vicksburg. campaign, leaving north Mississippi and west Tennessee to be watched by the 16th Corps under Gen. S. A. Hurlbut, with headquarters at Memphis. Hurlbut kept a strong garrison at Corinth and smaller cavalry units at Pocahontas, Saulsbury, Grand Junction, Lagrange, Collierville, and Moscow on the railroad. His total force was about 20,000 men, mostly cavalry; he was opposed by Confederate and Mississippi troops that on paper totaled about 10,000 infantry, Cavalry, and artillery; but because of the chaotic conditions prevailing throughout the area, and the necessity of taking the better troops to southern and central Mississippi, were far from effective.

The line held by the Federal troops was a fluid one, as they not only had to keep a close watch on the movements of the Confederates in Mississippi but were also charged with keeping order in west Tennessee, which throughout the war contained great numbers of Confederate sympathizers despite its location behind the Federal lines. Hurlbut's tactics therefore consisted principally of sending cavalry scouts, normally of regimental strength or less, south from the railroad


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for the purpose of keeping the Confederate troops occupied, and thus away from west Tennessee; capturing prisoners and otherwise obtaining information; and last but far from least., gathering forage and subsistence from the region. These Union raids extended from Lagrange and Grand Junction as far south as Salem and Holly Springs, and from Saulsbury and Pocahontas to Ripley, and one or two occasions, New Albany.

During the first three months of 1863 that old bane of Tippah County, the mud, was friendly for once and only one Federal party got as far south as Ripley; that was on January 29 when about 150 men of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry raided the town. Their main purpose appears to have been the taking of horses and mules, but they also captured Lt. Col. Lawson B. Hovis and a private of the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers, and recaptured several Union soldiers.1 After that visitation, during which no private homes were disturbed, the town enjoyed a respite until March 22, then the First Tennessee Cavalry (Union), Col. Fielding Hurst, came in from Pocahontas and remained all day. This regiment, composed entirely of Tennesseans and Mississippians, was the first such "Tory" organization to venture so far south.2 Their trip, like that of the Seventh Illinois in


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January, was for the purpose of taking horses, mules and cotton; Colonel Hurst himself superintended the stealing of two bales of Orlando Davis' cotton. It was during this raid that Colonel John H. Miller, who was attempting to organize the scattered cavalry companies dotted all over north Mississippi into larger units for State Service, was killed. Miller was warned of the raid, and attempted to escape down the Cotton Gin Road and into a lane leading to the residence of H. W. Stricklin,3 As he turned into the lane he was suddenly

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confronted by two Union soldiers and two Confederate prisoners. The presence of the Confederates deceived Colonel Miller and he was forced to surrender. He gave his pistols to one of the soldiers and the group started toward Ripley. Before they had gone far Miller seized one of his pistols from his captor and pulled the trigger; but the weapon miss fired and the Colonel was shot twice and instantly killed by the other Union soldier. His body was taken to Ripley and kept there overnight. The next day,4 after the Federal troops had returned north, Mrs. M. J. Buchanan, who had lived for a number of years in Pontotoc and who knew Colonel Miller and his family well, carried his body in a wagon, with only a trusted slave for company and protection, over the dangerous 38-mile road to Pontotoc for burial.

On the day after Colonel Miller's death Ripley was occupied for about 24 hours by 500 to 600 men of the Seventh Illinois, who came from Lagrange. This unit was guilty of more barbarities than any that had visited Ripley up to that time. They burned the north side of the square and one private house, and broke


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all the window panes on every side of the square. They broke into Orlando Davis' law office and threw his law books into the street in a heavy rain and scattered his papers; they also set fire to his office, but one of their of their officers put it out.5 Three days later Colonel Hurst's notorious First Tennessee came for about four hours, indulging in their specialty of horse stealing. On this trip they managed to arrest Davis, but after holding him for the duration of their visit at Spight's Hotel they released him without oath or parole.6

With the onset of spring weather and the drying up of the roads, the activities of the Union troops increased in April, when four raids went as far south as Ripley, and in May when the number increased to seven. The raid of April 27 penetrated to Molino, where the Federal troops under Colonel Hatch skirmished with Col. Smith's Rangers.7 During May most of the incursions to Tippah were made by Colonel Hatch's Second Iowa. The worst day experienced by the citizens of Ripley up to that time was May 5, when Hatch's men passed through from the south, each one leading a stolen horse or mule. A little later another regiment, the 56th Ohio, passed through and took Rev. C. P. Miller and A. Brown, Sr., as prisoners to Memphis;8 and still later a regiment of infantry came in from Saulsbury, camped overnight, and returned the next day to Lagrange.9


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On May 20 Hatch went as far south as Salem, where he skirmished with about 300 of Smith' s and Sol Street' s men.10

During the first three months of 1863 there was practically no opposition to the Union cavalry raids into north Mississippi. Pemberton had been forced to take practically all the Confederate infantry to the defense of Vicksburg, and in March Van Dorn took most of the cavalry, including all the better trained units, into middle Tennessee. Only a skeleton force was left in the ten northern counties of Mississippi, which were placed in the Fifth military District of the State under the command of Brig. Gen. Jas. R. Chalmers, who had been recommended to Pemberton by Governor Pettus as the best of the men available.11 Chalmers stepped into a well-nigh impossible task.  Not only was he expected to protect the citizens of the ten counties that comprised his district from the incursions of Union troops who outnumbered his force several times over; that was probably the smallest of his problems. His other duties were to create an army out of the heterogeneous mass of independent companies, a few raised for the Confederate army but most for State service, that were scattered over his district; to supply his army when and if he could raise one,


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in a region from which nearly everything movable had been stripped; and to keep order and, in particular, to enforce the laws against trading with the enemy, even though such trading had been the rule rather than the exception before he assumed command.

While Chalmers was attempting to create a Confederate army in the northern ten counties of Mississippi, Maj. Gen. S. J. Gholson of the State army was also attempting to combine the numerous companies of State troops into workable units. A clash of interests was inevitable, because nearly all the troops in Chalmers' district except the Partisan Rangers were in State rather the Confederate service. A tremendous amount of querulous letter-writing went on between Chalmers, Gholson, the superior officers of both generals, and the governor of Mississippi, during the spring and summer of 1863. All of this correspondence resulted in many promises but not too much actual cooperation between the armies of the Confederacy and those of Mississippi. 12 Under stress, however, of Federal invasions, a more or less informal modus vivendi was worked out under which Chalmers defended the western part of District No. 5 from headquarters at Panola with the Rangers and some State troops, while Gen. Daniel Ruggles of the Confederate army, commander of District No. 1 with headquarters at Okolona, looked after the eastern part with a force composed entirely of State troops. Though Ruggles headquarters were at Okolona, he actually spent much of his time and kept much of his force at Columbus, where they were too far from the front to be of much service. In


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a letter to General Pemberton dated April 29 Secretary of War Seddon pointed out that primarily because of the topography but partly because of the distribution of the defending troops, Union invasions usually followed the Ripley - New Albany line, which was a considerable distance from Chalmers' headquarters at Panola and even farther from Ruggles' base. He suggested that the troops then at Columbus be moved to Tupelo, which was done.13 Ruggles then set up a line which ran in general from Bear Creek on the Alabama line through Bay Springs, Tupelo, Birmingham,14 Pontotoc, Rocky Ford, and westward to the line held by Chalmers. From this line Ruggles ranged as far north as Ripley and Baldwyn, which thus were often occupied by outposts of one army or the other. The defense lines of Chalmers and Ruggles were far from inpenetrable, because they lacked the power to carry the fighting to the enemy; but after the defense system was set up it did curb to some extent the incursions of the enemy.

The most concentrated activity of Union troops in Tippah County during the entire war was in June 1863, when all of the county, but especially that part within reach of the Saulsbury - Pontotoc road, was thorougly overrun. Ripley was visited 13 times during the month by units ranging in size from two men to more than 1,000. The town was "captured" once by troops under Colonel Mizner from Corinth, on June 8. With their usual detailed knowledge of everything that went on inside the Confederate lines, the Federals learned that many men of Falkner's


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regiment had come home to gather the wheat crop, and surrounded the town at night in an unsuccessful attempt to surprise and capture some of them.15 The next day Hatch's command passed through on their return from a sweep from Lagrange to Holly Springs, Hickory Flat, and Orizaba. They burned three houses in the last-named town, and carried back with them through Ripley a considerable number of negroes in wagons and buggies and on mules, as well as many leading horses and mules.16

The most persistent of the Union visitors in June were Col. Jesse L. Phillips and his Ninth Illinois Cavalry, who were usually accompanied by companies or platoons of "Tories" from Mississippi and west Tennessee. On June 8 Phillips left his headquarters and ranged as far south as Ruckersville, taking in the raid 10 loads of forage, four mules, two horses, 97 sheep, and 38 cattle. He reported that there was no force at Ripley except Falkner's regiment, which he said was scattered in the Hatchie Hills; he added that a few of Chalmers' men were south of Ripley. On his way back to Pocahontas he was followed by 20 or 30 of Sol Street's men, who hung on his flanks but did not attack.14 On the basis of his experience during this raid Phillips considered the region to be so lightly defended that he could roam through it at will. Accordingly on June 12 he moved from Pocahontas with about 300 of his own regiment and several groups of Tories. This group was composed of "by far the most inhuman and barbarous men, and the most


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consummate rogues, that ever visited the place. They searched every house for plunder three or four times, taking everything valuable such as clothing, jewelry, blankets, cutlery, tools, etc. They said they were making war on women and children and that they would burn all the houses in the county before they were done. They forced all stout, able-bodied negro men to go with them, said they needed them to stop bullets. They remained in town two hours and left going south. On their way they burned the balance of Orizaba and went on to New Albany and burned the whole town up."18 At New Albany Phillips was attacked by General Ruggles who chased him 12 miles north of Ripley before calling off his pursuit. At Ripley Phillips captured C. P. Bond and W. A. Boyd and carried them off as prisoners; he also took a heavy mail near the town.19

On June 18 Phillips again swung south into Tippah County. With about 300 men he went to Ripley, "consulted his friends", and returned to Ruckersville where he was joined by three companies of Tories.20 The following day, with 600 men, two pieces of artillery, six wagons and two ambulances, he passed through Ripley and camped a considerable distance south of town. Hearing that Col. C. R.


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Barteau's regiment was near, Phillips left for Oxford at 1 AM on the 20th; but Barteau and his Tennesseans caught him at Mud Creek and inflicted about 100 casualties, then followed him to Rocky Ford where they captured most of the Federal equipment. Phillips retreated through Orizaba and Ripley, carrying 25 wounded soldiers with him.21

There was little activity on the part of the Union troops in July and August, probably because the fall of Vicksburg on July 4 made it unnecessary to create diversions in north Mississippi. There was, it is true, more or less continuous small-scale activity in the northern part of the county near the railroad, where Sol Street's company and other small units harassed the Federal troops to some extent. But during the two months only three Federal units penetrated to Ripley, all met Confederate opposition, and none went south of the county seat: this contrasts with 13 visits in June, 6 in May, and 7 during the first three months of the year. Union activity increased somewhat in September when six parties came to Ripley, all of them small except one. The exception was on September 9, when the Seventh Kansas came into town from one direction and about 200 men from the 11th Illinois and Hawkins' West Tennessee Cavalry entered from another road. The two parties fired on each other and there was a little excitement but unfortunately from the Confederate standpoint, no damage was done. On this day no damage, other than the standard carrying off of horses, mules, and negroes was done to the citizens.22

While the Vicksburg campaign was in progress Chalmers was of necessity left much to his own devices. Neither Pemberton, who was bottled up in Vicksburg


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before May was over, not Gen. Joe Johnston, who took over command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisana in the same month, was in a position to send any help whatever. But after Pemberton's surrender Johnston took an active part in directing military movements throughout the state. One of his earliest steps was to place Gen. Stephen D. Lee over all the cavalry in Mississippi, which he did on August 3.23 What Lee found when he took stock of the situation in north Mississippi was far from comforting. An inspection in late August showed that Ruggles had four regiments of cavalry, a 6-gun battery, and an effective force of 1,648 men. Considering the handicaps under which it operated, his command was on the whole in good condition. As to Chalmers' five regiments and three brigades of cavalry, all were reported to be much demoralized; the returns showed an aggregate of 896 present as against 2,331 absent. The inspecting officer reported that "there is little or no discipline and drills are unknown . . . the command is in need of everything. The Quartermaster and Commissary reported that north Mississippi was almost drained of supplies, and referred to the approximately 60 miles between the railroad and the Confederate's Tupelo-Pontotoc-Panola line - the northern one and one-half tiers of counties of the State - as "neutral ground".24

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On September 1 Johnston abolished the five military districts into which Mississippi had been divided, thus giving Lee more latitude than had been possible under the old "compartment" system. During the month conditions in Chalmers' command improved somewhat, and on October 3 he reported 151 officers and 1,600 men present far duty; aggregate present 2,108, aggregate present and absent, 3,147. On October 2 two small brigades of Tennessee and Kentucky troops under Generals R. V. Richardson and S. W. Fergusen had joined the command at New Albany, after being inspected there by Gen. J. E. Johnston; these were included in the October 3 return.25 On October 4 Chalmers began a series of raids on the Memphis and Charleston railroad in the vicinity of Collierville, Tennessee, and on October 12 wired Johnston that he tore up the railroad in four places, burned an enemy camp and took a considerable quantity of stores, and brought off 20 wagons, 5 colors, and 105 prisoners. His losses were 13 killed and 115 wounded, and the one thing that gave the Confederates the most pleasure was that the attack was made and successfully completed under the eyes of General Sherman himself and his escort, who happened to be passing through Collierville at the time.26

Chalmers' raid against the railroad was the first offensive movement on the part of the Confederates in north Mississippi since the attack on Corinth,


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exactly a year before; and for the rest of the year considerable pressure was kept on the Federal troops. But while the strictly military situation was improving, the lot of the residents in the "neutral ground" was no better; as an example of the destitution throughout the area, when Johnston proposed to Chalmers that Richardson make a diversion against Pocahontas while Chalmers himself attacked Collierville, the brigadier general was forced to reply, "No forage or subsistence east of Salem. Whatever is done must be done quick and return far subsistance".27

On November 15, 1863, Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest was placed in command of the Confederate forces in west Tennessee, which at that time was entirely within the Union lines. As he had to create an army before he could even enter his assigned district, he made temporary headquarters at Okolona, where he was ably assisted in his operations by General Lee. No sooner had the "Wizard of the Saddle" reached Mississippi than the Federal commanders learned of it; and although the time had not yet come when his name inspired the paralysis it later brought to the Union troops and their commanders, they yet recognized that here was a true fighter, and divined that his destination was to be west Tennessee which Chalmers' raids had shown was no longer inviolate. They had not long to wait before Forrest swung into action. Late in November the Cenfederates made a series of demonstration against the Memphis and Charleston Railroad and at the same time assembled in the Tupelo- Pontotoc - New Albany area units of Forrest's and Lee's men. General Hurlbut, commanding at Memphis, accordingly and as it turned out most obligingly moved Col. Hatch's force from Lagrange and Saulsbury


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westward to protect the Moscow area, and sent Colonel Mizner from Corinth on a wide swing south and west to find out what was going on in that part of the country. Mizner, with about 900 men from the Third Michigan, the Seventh Kansas, and the Second Alabama (Union) regiments, left Corinth on the 26th and camped that night at Blackland. The next day he went to Carrollton and later to Ellistown, where he captured a Confederate officer and ten men engaged in conscription - one of the few instances, during this period, when the Conscription Bureau attempted to operate that far north. On the 28th the Union force camped at Molino; then marched past Dumas to a point on the Fulton road about five miles southeast of Ripley, and finally to Oriziba. While at Orizaba Mizner was told that Forrest and Lee were at New Albany and that the men were cooking six days' rations; his somewhat exaggerated estimate of the number was 6,000 men. Realizing that something larger than normal was up, he moved to Palmer's (the present Palmer school) where he was able to obtain forage for his animals; then, on December 1 he retired to Ripley.28 He left the Third Illinois, which had replaced the Second Alabama, on picket duty five miles south of Ripley as well as in the town itself. The other two regiments were drawn up at the fairgrounds (just north of the present north Main street crossing of the railroad), the Seventh Kansas covering the Middleton road, the Third Michigan the Pocahontas road. At about 2 PM General Lee's cavalry, under Ferguson, came up the New Albany road driving the Third Illinois before it, and when it met Misner's main force

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drove it helter-skelter up the Pocahontas road as far as Ruckersville, which was reached about dark. During the might Mizner withdrew farther north to Jonesboro but the next day, finding that he was not followed, returned cautiously to Ruckersville and finally to Ripley before going back to Pocahontas. While he was thus countermarching Lee's men had turned west from Ripley toward Salem and Forrest's force, which had marched north from New Albany to Salem leaving Ripley on their right, went on to Saulsbury, still screened by Lee's troops, and slipped into Tennessee while most of the Union troops were kept busy near Moscow on the west and Pocahontas and Ripley on the east and southeast.29 The movement throughout was well planned and perfectly executed, and caught the enemy flatfooted. During the campaign Miznor was kept out of the way; two miles of track near Saulsbury and a 100-yard trestle between Lafayette and Moscow were destroyed, thus cutting the railroad at two important places; and in the fighting at Moscow two Federal regiments were driven into the Wolf River with casualties, according to Lee's report, of 175 killed, drowned or wounded and 40 captured, and 100 horses killed and 40 captured. And most important, Forrest was by December 7 well inside Tennessee and the greatest year in the career of that magnificent soldier had begun.30

During 1863 there had been hardly a day when some part of Tippah County had not been the scene of fighting, and as the year ended the only food, forage, and livestock left in the area were in those isolated places which the armies


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had been unable to find. How bad the situation was is indicated among many other pieces of evidence by Mizner's report of the Ripley - Pocahontas fight. He wrote, "But, few horses were found in the country, which were taken to mount prisoners and turned over to the Quartermaster at Corinth. Most of them are unfit for cavalry service."31 Nevertheless the year ended on a note of hope. Insofar as a final Confederate victory was concerned the hope was illusive; but for the citizens the worst was over. It is true that during 1864 and 1865 there would be invasions by blue-clad men that would do serious damage; but the brunt of the Federal effort was being shifted eastward to Tennessee and Georgia, and because of the change the period of almost continuous raiding and fighting in north Mississippi was over. Conditions during the remainder of the war, while never enviable, were much more endurable than they had been during the tortured months of 1863.

Notes of Chapter I

1. Davis, 10; O. R. Ser. I, Vol. XVII, Pt. II, p. 334; Hovis was sent to Gratiot Street prison, St. Louis, on Feb. 15; to Camp Chase, Ohio, Feb. 24; to Fort Delaware, April 10; and to City Point, Va., for exchange May 29. His prison records describe him as 36 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and having blue eyes and sandy hair. (A. G. O., Service Record of L. B. Hovis). The orthography of both his native town and the county seem to have given his captors considerable trouble. The town is given once as "Ripperly," the county as "Tipperary".
2. Davis, 11; Before the end of 1862 the Federal commanders had recruited several companies and larger units in Tennesse and Mississippi, among them the "Tippah and Mississippi Rangers", which were probably incorporated into the First Tennessee Cavalry (Union).

Hurst was considered by the Confederates to be a renegade of the worst sort, and even allowing for the natural bias of statements made about him during his life, it appears that he and his regiment were primarily a band of plunders intent only on lining their own pockets. Hurst's service record (A. G. O.) gives an outline of his career. He lived near Bethel Tennessee and owned a considerable number of slaves. For some reason not stated he was imprisoned by the Confederates early in the war, and upon his release enlisted in the Federal army, even though he was a "very old man" (52 years). To make his old bones more comfortable, he was attended throughout the war by two of his slaves, Lloyd and Sam. On August 11, 1862, he was appointed Colonel by Governor Andrew Johnson, and raised the First Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. He soon made himself as unpopular with the Federal troops as with the Confederates; two of many instances will suffice. On April 16, 1863, a Colonel Rice, commanding at Purdy, wrote his superior officer that Hurst was at Purdy for the purpose of destroying property, and was carrying off furniture and burning houses. Rice very naturally wanted to know where Hurst got the authority for such actions and was told promptly that he had no authority. A more serious case was reported by Colonel Hatch on July 24, 1864. Hurst had collected $5,000 in gold from the citizens of Jackson, Tennessee under threat of burning the town; the money was ostensibly to reimburse the regiment for losses it had suffered at the hands of the citizens. Hurst, however, deposited the $5,000 to his private account at the bank of Pitser Miller ∓mp;mp;mp; Co. of Memphis and refused to return the money even when ordered to do so by Hatch. He was also reported to be short in his ordnance accounts. As to his regiment, one Federal general wrote that Hurst's tactics encouraged desertion, and that "the entire outfit should be mustered out and re-enlisted as soldiers". Probably because of Johnson's influence, the numerous charges against Hurst were never pressed, but he was discharged "for disability" in January 1865.
3. Known in 1854 as the Gaillard place. The lane in question, which leads to the side and back of the house, can still be traced.
4. Davis states that Miller was killed after he surrendered, which is true as far as it goes but does not give the entire story, which is in Southern Sentinel, Aug. 8, 1894. The account of Miller's burial and Mrs. Buchanan's trip is from the same source.

Colonel Miller, a Presbyterian minister, was captain of the Pontotoc Dragoons, mustered into service Feb. 22, 1861. In June he was elected Lieutenant Colonel of a battalion of six companies (the First Mississippi Cavalry Battalion) which was on duty at New Madrid in August 1861, and from that time to April 1861 was assigned to Cheathan's Division of Polk's Corps. He fought with credit at Shiloh, but on April 12 resigned because three companies from his command were taken from him and placed in another organization. He fought the transfer somewhat acrimoniously all the way up to Beauregard but lost. In June 1862 Beauregard recommend that he be authorized to recruit a company of Partisan Rangers, but instead he entered State service.
5. Davis, 12
6. Davis, 13
7. Davis, 17; O. R. Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. I, p. 529
8. Davis, 20, 21. Both men were returned unharmed within a few days.
9. Davis, 22
10. O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, p. 424
11. Before the war Chalmers had been a prominent lawyer of Holly Springs, as had his father before him. He had taken an active part in the operations of the volunteer military companies organized in 1859 and 1860 and had commanded the north Mississippi brigade of those troops. A captain at the outbreak of fighting, he was promoted to Colonel in April 1861 and to Brigadier General in February 1862. He had fought creditably at Shiloh and Murfreesboro, being severely wounded in the latter battle, and he accepted his Mississippi appointment before his wound had healed (Biographical Dictionary of the American Congress, 1774-1949, Government Printing Office, 1949; p. 962 (hereinafter cited as Biog. Dict.)
12. For example of the difficulties between Chalmers and Gholson, see 0. R., Ser. X, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, p. 737 et seq. Gholson was a resident of Monroe County, Mississippi. He was U. S. District Judge 1839-61; was a member of the secession convention in 1861, and brigadier general and later major general in of State troops until June 1863, when he became a brigadier general in, the Confederate service. He lost an arm in the fighting around Eqypt during Griersons raid in 1864, and died at Aberdeen in 1883 (Biog. Dict., p. 1205)
13. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. LII, Pt. II, p. 460. Panola, Chalmers' headquarters, was about a mile from the present town of Batesville.
14. A former postoffice northwest of Tupelo, now known as Birmingham Ridge. The city of Birmingham, Ala., had not been founded at this time.
15. Davis, 28; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. III, p. 994
16. Davis, 31
17. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXlV, Pt. II, p. 472. For an account of Sol Street's company, see below, p.).
18. Davis, 32. The leaders of the Tory bands are given as Blount, Jachinias, Harris, and Obion May.
19. Davis, 34; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, pp. 472, 482. Falkner, with part of his regiment followed Phillips from New Albany to Ripley but did not go north of the town. Ruggles was highly critical of his part in the engagement. See below, p.
20. Davis, 35. The names of the Tory leaders were given as Read, Waldrup, and May.
21. Davis, 36.
22. Davis, 39-49
23. Stephen Dill Lee was a South Carolinian who, graduated from West Point in 1854. He was made brigadier general after the battle of Antietam, and Major-General when placed in command of the cavalry in Mississippi; still later he was promoted to Lieutenant-General and placed in command of the Department of Mississippi, Alabama, and East Louisiana. In 1865 he married Miss Regina Harrison of Columbia, Miss. He was, the first president of Mississippi A. ∓mp;mp;mp; M. College (now Mississippi State College) and was one of the most distinguished of the State's adopted sons. He died at Columbus in 1908.
24. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXX, Pt. IV, p. 555
25. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXX, Pt. II, p. 763; Hancock, Richard R., History of the Second Tennessee Regiment CSA, Nashville, 1887, p. 265
26. Chalmers to Johnston, Oct. 12, 1863; in C. M. R., Telegrams sent, Chalmers' command, Ch. 2, vol. 236 1/2, p. 62
27. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. III, p. 597
28. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXX, Pt. I, p. 580. Mizner reported that he sent the Alabama troops back because of the poor condition of their horses. Actually the combat record of the regiment was very poor, especially when compared with that of the other regiments on the expedition. It is most likely that when Mizner realized that he might have to fight he wanted the Alabama troops out of the way.
29. Davis, 50; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. I, pp. 578-582
30. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. I, p.589
31. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. I, p. 582


The Belt of Desolation II

January - December 1863

By Andrew Brown

Chapter II

One of the many ironies of the War between the States is that the Confederate government, which went to war to maintain the rights of the individual States against the encroachments of the Federal Government, was well on its way to becoming the most highly centralized regime on the American continent before two years of fighting had passed. Loyal citizens found their lives so circumscribed by controversial and unpopular legislation, much of it passed by the Congress, in secret session and without any attempt to prepare the people for it, that anything approaching a normal mode of life was impossible even in the most favored parts of the new nation. In such overrun regions as north Mississippi conditions were infinitely worse, and it is no small wonder that the citizens felt that they were caught between the upper and nether millstones of plundering by the Yankees and confiscation by their own government.

Although the Conscription law was passed in April 1862 its enforcement in north Mississippi was almost completely ineffectual until about the middle of November, when the Conscription officers with a great flourish swooped down on the First Partisan Rangers and scattered the regiment without obtaining in exchange more than a handful of soldiers for the regular army. After that fiasco the prestige of the Bureau shrunk still more, until on January 16, 1862, General Bragg placed its activities in the western area in charge of Gen. Gid J. Pillow. Pillow, whose part in the Fort Donelson surrender had made his name anathema to most Southerners, promptly settled down in Huntsville, Alabama and began to bombard the state offices of the Bureau with letters that were at once bombastic and petulant. When he learned that deserters and evaders of the Conscript law


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were flocking into north Mississippi he demanded that Pemberton send him cavalry units to round then up, oblivious of the fact that Pemberton did not have the cavalry to send; and when he found that in this same no-man's land Governor Pettus had net only authorized the enlistment of companies for State service but was actually obtaining some recruits, he complained bitterly: "Officers of the Bureau report to me that there are thirteen companies of cavalry raised under orders of Gov. Pettus in the border counties next to Tennessee.  This is all in violation of the law and is breaking down my efforts to enforce the conscript law and get volunteers from the region . . .  Gen. Bragg's order is positive, but I cannot control the movements authorized by Gov. Pettus".

Obviously Pillow considered the raising of troops a function of Gid J. Pillow alone, and to prove his point he managed to institute a reign of terror that led to his removal by the Richmond authorities. Even before he had written the letter quoted above, he knew that general Pemberton had written Governor Pettus that the enrolling officers would not interfere with the enlistment of state troops in northern Mississippi;2 and not long afterward the Governor and President Davis agreed that no effort would he made to enforce the Conscription law in the ten northern counties of Mississippi, where neither the State nor the Confederacy possessed any real authority. This policy was adhered to until the early part of 1864, when Federal troops gave up the railroad between Corinth and Collierville. Thus throughout 1863 Tippah County was free from the activities


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of the Bureau. But the surcease was not an unmixed blessing; refugees, knowing that they would be reasonably safe there, flocked into the region and thus strained the already depleted resources of the area. But this was only the beginning.

In April 1863, almost exactly a year after it had passed the Conscription Law, the Confederate Congress enacted a number of laws that cost the government much of its support throughout all parts of the south; these were the income. tax law, the tax-in-kind law, and the Impressment act. All of them were regarded by the extreme States-rights men as long if not final steps on the road to despotism, and were received with disgust by the large number who felt, rightly wrongly, that the burdens of the conflict were being unevenly distributed.3  To make matters worse, no effort whatever was made to prepare the people for the passage of the laws, or to explain them after they were passed; and it is no exaggeration to say that the enactment of these laws, regardless of their possible necessity from the standpoint of revenue and obtaining essential supplies - dealt the morale of the Southern States a blow from which it never recovered.

The income tax was modest, especially by comparison with the rates in effect in 1854; but it was a new type of tax and hence automatically abhorrent. After an initial exemption of $500 and other exemptions for dependents and other reasons, the tax was 5 percent on annual incomes between $500 $l,000. The rate on incomes of from $1,000 to $5,000 was 10 percent; on $5,000 to $10,000, 12 1/2 percent; and more than $10,000, 15 percent.4 The tax-in-kind was


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levied on most agricultural products and averaged after exemptions about ten percent of the crop, to be turned over to the tax collectors at specified places. Distasteful from the beginning because it entered granaries and took provisions, the tax became even more unpopular because of the evils attended upon its collection. Many unauthorized agents, some connected with the military and other imposters intent only on filling their own barns, took advantage of the tax-in-kind act as well as the Impressment act to victimize the farmers. As far as Tippah County is concerned, there is little doubt that the Confederacy did not collect much from either the income tax law or the tax-in-kind act during 1863, as the country was for all practical purposes outside the Confederate lines and enforcement of the laws was impossible. There are no adequate records of amounts collected in 1864 and 1865 after Federal pressure had lightened; but it may be assumed that after the armies of both sides, and the impressing agents and the tax collectors had finished, not much was left for the inhabitants.

The Impressment act was passed on April 6, l863, before the enactment of the tax bill. It added no new principle to the 1aw - the Government's right to take what it needed, under proper safeguards, has been admitted from time immemorial - but this law dropped the level of taking from the courts to what might be called actual operating levels. It provided that "forage, articles of subsistence, or other property absolutely necessary" for the operations of the army might be impressed under orders from Generals commanding brigades and larger units, commanders of detached parties and posts, the Quartermaster-General, the Surgeon General, and the Commissary General. If the owner and the impressing officer could not agree upon the value of the property each was to appoint an


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appraiser, and those two would appoint a third; the three men would then assess the value of the property. Impressment of slaves was to be made under the laws of the state in which the owner lived; and within each state a committee was to be appointed with authority to fix the maximum price of impressed articles.5  The state committee were conscientious in some areas, less so in others but as an almost invariable rule this early attempt at price-fixing resulted in authorized prices that were considerably less than the true market value, and accordingly there was endless controversy between the impressment officers and the property owners.

The law provided that impressed goods were to be paid for when taken or, should that be impossible, a certificate was to be given which would be redeemed as soon as possible by the disbursing officer in charge of the district. In actual practice, particularly in such overrun areas as Tippah County, the impressing officer was not likely to have money with him and thus had no choice but to give certificates which the government was notoriously slow in paying. Such a condition, taken in conjunction with the raids by Union troops who left, if they left anything, certificates payable after the war "upon proof of loyalty", was bad enough. But worse things followed. The country was filled with imposters who were generally grouped somewhat unjustly under the general term "Partisan Rangers", but whose actions "resembled more the conduct of Bedouin tribes than of American citizens and soldiers".6 Because of the pressure of the Vicksburg


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campaign it was impossible for the authorities to do much about the situation in north Mississippi until General Lee went into the area in August. Astounded by what he learned, Lee reported to Johnston on September 1 that the soldiers in the district had not been paid regularly, many for six or eight months, and that "the state of political feeling of the people is unhealthy . . . Much of the bad political feeling is due to the non-payment of debts contracted by the army".7 Johnston immediately wired the Quartermaster General at Richmond that so many debts of the Quartermaster-general's department had been left in north Mississippi as to produce great inconvenience, and recommending that a competent officer be sent to audit and pay them."8 A few days later he wired Adjutant-General Cooper to the same effect. There is no record of what results, if any were obtained, but not until the end of the year were the Confederates able to exercise much control over the area, and in all probability not many of the debts were ever paid.

Another most weighty factor in creating the "bad political feeling" to which Lee referred was the government's attempt to enforce the laws against trading with the enemy. Almost as soon as the fighting started the Confederate Congress passed stringent laws against such trade, designed particularly to prevent cotton from getting into northern hands. On August 16, 1861, President Lincoln countered with a rather mild executive order providing that trade with the seceding states could be carried on only under permits issued by the Secretary


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of the Treasury. But the northern states had things that the southern states need, and the southern states had things (particularly cotton) that the northern states needed; and under those circumstances the American spirit of free enterprise found ways for the needful commodities to be channeled, by some means or other, into the areas where they were most in demand. Thus it was that from the capture of Memphis in June 1862 until about March 1863 trading between the Federal occupiers of Memphis and the Confederates in north Mississippi and west Tennessee proceeded at a brisk pace The Confederate authorities, thanks to their preoccupation with Grant at Vicksburg, were not able to do anything about the situation, and the Federals apparently did not care to do so. Many are the tales of how contraband articles were smuggled through the lines; one of the best concerns a coffin full of medicines for Van Dorn's army at Holly Springs that made the journey from Memphis in a proper hearse accompanied by a suitable number of mourners in carriages.9 Another but not as well authenticated tale relates that Grant, learning that his old West Point friend Van Dorn was running short of whisky, sent a few cases of the best with his compliments. Sherman encouraged the trade between the lines as long as he was in direct command at Memphis. He pointed out to Grant that the Federals had two things the Confederates needed - salt and money - whereas the Confederates had the cotton that the north could hardly do without.10 After Sherman left and Hurlbut too over, however, things go rapidly out of hand and on March 31, 1863, Secretary Chase, doubtless

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prodded by a statement in the New York Herald to the effect that $12,000,000 worth of supplies had passed through Memphis into the Confederacy in eight months, issued an order that held up all shipments destined for Memphis at Cairo until Hurlbut should put his house in order.11

At first the Confederate government took the attitude that trade with the enemy was a civil offense and the army was forbidden to interfere unless articles of direct value to the military were concerned. But as the list of civilian necessities was much the same as the list of military necessities except for the absence of arms and ammunition, it was not long before the commanders in the field began to confiscate shipments coming through the lines. Pemberton for a while attempted to control the trade; but the War Department at Richmond still insisting that trade was a civil matter, refused to back him and he was forced by the courts to return a considerable amount of confiscated material.12 When Chalmers took command of the Fifth Military District of Mississippi one of his first acts was to station the First Partisan Rangers between Hernando and Memphis with orders to confiscate all material coming out Memphis destined for people within the Confederate lines. But Chalmers' force was so small that he could not stop more than a trickle of the supplies that were coming through, or of the cotton that was working its way northward. But he did the poor best that he could until after the fall of Vicksburg when General Johnston took a hand and made further attempts to stop the traffic. But in the meantime Chalmers, who


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had been living with the problem while Johnston was viewing it from afar, changed his attitude completely. More quickly than those in the rear, he realized that Memphis was the only source of a tremendous amount of essential supplies and that regardless of the theoretical merits moral niceties of the situation the cold fact was that Memphis in the hands of the Federals was of much more value than Memphis in the hands of the Confederates would have been - this because with Union forces holding the river, supplies could not have reached a Confederate Memphis, whereas they were pouring into the city while it was held by the Union forces. Later in the year Chalmers wrote: "...When I first came into this district I thought that any man was a traitor who would sell cotton to the enemy for any purpose; I now believe that people on the border who have been compelled to trade with the enemy for subsistence are more patriotic and more liberal to our soldiers than those in the interior, and that they have been greatly misrepresented . . .They were dependent upon their cotton crops to buy everything . . . They were cut off in the middle of summer (by the capture of Memphis) without having made preparations for such an event. They could not at once make blankets, shoes, and clothing; they were not stock-raisers, and above all they could not make or obtain salt, without which they could not live and even if they could have purchased salt within the Confederacy the railroads were occupied by the enemy and they could get no transportation for it. Under these circumstances they traded with the enemy and the husbands, sons, and fathers of the women in north Mississippi were supplied with many articles . . . that came from the enemy lines. Salt was obtained from the same source, and almost every pound of meat that our army consumed from March until Vicksburg fell in July, was cured by salt bought from the enemy. The people have cheerfully given all they could spare to the army. .·. and while they have been doing all in their power for the soldiers, they have literally been burned up by both armies. Our people burned their cotton, the enemy burned their granaries and drove off their cotton. . . They have no obtaining the actual necessities of life except their cotton. If then their pittance of cotton is burned, their little carts . . . and their oxen . . . are seized . . . we may drive to desperation and disloyalty a people who have been true under every reverse of fortune . . ."13

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Chalmer's. ideas on trading with the enemy brought him into sharp conflict with General Johnston. The correspondence between the two was long and at times acrimonious, and in the battle of semantics Chalmers makes a much better picture for posterity than does Johnston. "Old Joe", the idol of the common soldier, was a good field officer, but was nothing if not a martinet in administrative matters. There is good reason for believing that his failure to recommend Chalmers, for promotion to Major General in the summer of 1863 was due to the brigadier's refusal to knuckle under on the question of trading with the enemy.

Before Chalmers wrote the letter quoted above he issued on November 10, General Orders No. 71, to which he had given considerable thought and which shows the efforts he made to assist in the trade and at the same time serve the best interests of the Confederacy. In part the order reads "Whereas . . . II . . it is well known that the loyal citizens residing north of the Tallahatchie River have and can obtain considerable quantities of salt, provisions, blankets, clothing, and other articles of prime necessity to the army and the country that cannot be obtained south of the river in quantities equal to the demand. Therefore it is ordered that whenever any loyal citizen of the Confederate States shall bring any of the above enumerated articles or any others of prime necessity to the army or the country within our lines and south of the Tallahatchie River he may receive cotton or any other article of produce in exchange therefor and may convey the same to his home without molestation, Provided, however that he does not reside within the enemies lines. But this order does not authorize the transportation of any cotton that has been purchased with money or obtained by any other means than exchange for said articles of necessity as are above mentioned. III. Whenever any officer commanding a brigade is satisfied that a loyal citizen of the Confederate States has actually delivered articles of necessity as above described within our lines and south of the Tallahatchie River and has exchanged the same for cotton at prices not exceeding those fixed upon such articles by the Board of Commissioners for the state of Miss. under the impressment law he will grant a pass alloying the citizen to transport the cotton so obtained to his home Provided that he does not reside within the enemy's lines. The pass will specify the number and


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marks on the bales allowed to be transported. No permits to take cotton to points within the enemy's lines or for cotton obtained otherwise than by exchange as allowed by this order will be granted under any circumstances.

"IV. Any cotton found on its way to the Federal lines shall be burned and the wagons confiscated. And any person who may be detected in attempting to purchase cotton for U. S. Treasury notes (commonly called "Greenbacks") shall be arrested and the notes confiscated to the use of the Confederate government.

"V. No part of this order shall be so construed as to interfere with the execution of previous orders directing that all cotton liable to be captured by the enemy shall be burned.14" No sooner did Johnston see this order than he ordered it revoked, which was done on the 18th by General Order 77. Doubtless at Johnston's insistence, part of the order stated, "Detachments will be sent north of the Tallahatchie River from each brigade, with orders to burn all cotton found on its way to the enemy and to confiscate and bring to these headquarters all wagons and team used in transporting it.15

General Order 71 is particularly interesting because it admits that the Confederate forces were not in effective control of the country north of the Tallahatchie - an area that included most of Tippah County - and that in that region trading with the enemy went on practically without interference. His setting up of a class of "loyal citizens" living north of the river as official intermediaries in the traffic was novel and doubtless shocked the sensibilities of many besides General Johnston; but Chalmers at least had the courage to face facts and act on the basis of things as they were, not as he thought they should be.


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Conditions changed rapidly late in 1863, after Johnston turned over command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana to Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk. Polk, as well as Lee and Forrest, displayed little enthusiasm in braking up the trade with Memphis, and in addition, public opinion throughout the state was beginning to assert itself. In November for example, a bill to legalize blockade-running had passed the lower chamber of the Mississippi legislature and only with difficulty was killed in the upper house.16 Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, took a hand in the controversy, and in November wrote Chalmers that "Trade in time of war is an admitted evil, but to starve a people and alienate their feelings may be in the end a worse evil".17 In another letter he quoted General Washburn, then commanding at Memphis: "Memphis in the hands of the Federals is more valuable to the South than Nassau".18 And finally, after much backing and filling, Judge Alex M. Clayton, whose district included north Mississippi decided in May 1864 that in such areas as the Confederate government was powerless to protect the citizens it likewise lacked authority to punish them.19 This eminently realistic decision, while not exactly giving legal sanction to the contraband trade, admitted that the authorities could do nothing about it and thus clarified the situation immensely. By November 1864 the practice of trading


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with Memphis was totally condoned but actually encouraged, and the once villainous contraband trader had actually become a hero in popular estimation. This was true not only because the hard consideration of living had overruled the niceties of politics, but because it had become plain that the Confederacy gained much more from the traffic than did the Federals. The latter acquired cotton which it could, if necessary, have done without; the former obtained numerous items of military supplies and equipment, medicines, shoes clothing, blankets, and above all salt, without which the citizens could scarcely have survived. As an indication of the extent of the trade, it was estimated that from the capture of Memphis unit June 1864, between 20 and 30 million dollars of supplies had reached the Confederacy through the town. In Tippah County, as well as other communities, the foundations of some sizable fortunes were laid by trading in Memphis during the war. Although the facts in each case were generally known it is noteworthy that except for some wild charges accompanying political brawls in later years, no man was condemned because he indulged in the trade. Under conditions as they existed, it was recognized that the traffic was essential to the very existence of the country.

Notes on Chapter II 1. Pillow to Adjt. Gen., State of Mississippi, March 18, 1863;  C. M. R., Ch. I, Vol. 269, Orders and letters of Gen. Gid J. Pillow, commanding the Conscription Bureau, Army of the Tennessee, 1863; pp. 171-172
2. Bettersworth, J. K., Confederate Mississippi, Baton Rouge, 1943 (hereinafter cited as Bettersworth), p. 76
3. Tatum, Georgia Lee, Disloyalty in the Confederacy, Chapel Hill, 1934 (hereinafter cited as Tatum), p. 20
4. O. R., Ser. IV, Vol. II, pp. 513-524
5. O. R., Ser. IV, Vol. II, pp. 469-471
6. Seddon to Pemberton, April 29, 1863; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. LII, Pt. II, p. 460
7. O.R. Ser. I, Vol. XXX, Pt. IV, p. 556
8. Telegrams sent, Gen. J. E. Johnston's command; C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol 236 3/4, p. 45
9. Parks, Jas. F., A Confederate Trade Center under Federal Occupation, Memphis, 1862-1864, In Journal of Southern History, Vol. VII, p. 299, 1941. (hereinafter cited as Parks)
10. Same, pp. 295-297
11. Same, p. 304
12. Bettersworth, pp. 194-195
13. Chalmers to Jacob Thompson, O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. III, pp. 833-834
14. C.M.R., General Orders issued by Brig. Gen. Chalmers March 10, 1863 - Aug. 7, l864; Ch. 2, Vol. 299, pp. 373-374, Nov. 10, 1863
15. Same, pp. 379-380
16. Betterworth. p. 182
17. C.M.R., Papers of Eminent Confederates, Chalmers papers
18. Bettersworth, p. 186
19. Same, p. 187


The Belt of Desolation III

January - December 1863

By Andrew Brown

Chapter III

When the Conscription Bureau swooped down on the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers in November 1862 the days of that organization appeared to be irrevocably numbered. But there was a certain magnetism about Falkner that held at least part of the regiment with him and in spite of all the Conscription Bureau could do he had, when 1863 opened, a hard core of 75 to 100 men and many of the better officers, whom the enrolling officers either had not been able to touch legally or had failed to catch physically. With this group as a nucleus Falkner began, in February, to rebuild the regiment, after the necessary authority for its reorganization had been obtained from the Secretary of War by Congressman J. W. Clapp of Holly Springs. This authority gave Falkner the privilege of including such conscripts as belonged to the regiment when it was first organized unless they had in the meantime enrolled with some other organization, and carried the further proviso that the regiment should be organized as a regular Confederate army unit and not as Partisan Rangers acting independently.1 The first provision enabled many of the regiment to return, for most of them had escaped from the conscription net anyway; the second was merely a statement of what Falkner preferred. At this stage of his career he looked askance at guerrilla warfare and attempted with some success to act within the regular army organization.

Falkner called the regiment to reassemble at Pontotoc, as Tippah County was so overrun with Yankee soldiers that a rendezvous there was out of the question. On March 5 he wrote Clapp a letter which, for the self-assured Falkner, was almost contrite. He assured him that his assistance would always be remembered with


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gratitude and told of his prospects; he had 400 men with him and more were coming in daily, he expected to be able to arm his men with captured weapons, and he was acting under written orders from and reporting directly to General Pemberton. Further - and here the old Falkner exuberance broke through - he was confident that he could recruit a brigade within the enemy's lines and asked in an indirect but not particularly subtle way for authority to do so.2

Clapp visited Mississippi early in March and upon his return to Richmond wrote to Seddon under date of March 17. He said that he could corroborate Falkner's statement that it would be possible to raise a brigade within the enemy lines and asked for authority to do so, pointing out the extremely bad conditions in north Mississippi and the dire need of the citizens for protection such a brigade would afford.3 He made out a strong case, but Seddon took no action. But in the meantime Falkner continued to collect his regiment, after the first rush, however, the men came in slowly and the Colonel, before the middle of March, was forced to stretch his authority to the point of sending out one half of his men to arrest the other half. The Rangers were armed, some with muskets, some with rifles, and some with shotguns which Falkner wrote were obtained "within the enemy lines".4 The reorganization


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of the regiment was still incomplete when, on March 17, a staggering blow fell on its commander Falkner, who had previously dealt only with the Lieutenant-General commanding the department, was ordered to report to Brigadier General Chalmers.

For reasons which appear foolish to these unacquainted with the military hierarchy but which were very real to Falkner - and to Chalmers too, for that matter - the order was a body blow. Falkner was, six years older than Chalmers, and had ranked him, as Brigadier-General of the Mississippi militia, before the war. When the fighting broke out both men were captains, and they were promoted to Colonel about the same time. But in March 1862, while Falkner was being pushed out of the colonelcy of the Second Mississippi, Chalmers was promoted to Brigadier General. Further, when Falkner had asked Chalmers for a recommendation during his own campaign for a generalship, he had received a polite but hardly enthusiastic reply. Now that he was being placed under Chalmers, he poured out his woes to Clapp, on March 18: "I have Just received orders from Gen. Pemberton to report to Gen. Chalmers at Panola. Gen. C. has been placed in command of the 10 northern counties of the state . . . I cannot help feeling that great injustice has been done me. The sting of mortification is now owing to the fact that I am to be commanded by Gen. C. He is a brave and efficient officer, but is my Junior in age and is not my seignor (sic) in service. I served 12 months as a lieutenant in the Mexican War and entered the present service when he did. He has been brig. gen. 12 months while I have been neglected and ignored by the government . . ." The letter continued in the same plaintive vein. General Johnston's recommendation was again brought up - apparently Falkner never learned that Joe Johnston's friendship was a liability were Jefferson Davis was concerned - and Falkner listed the regiments in north Mississippi which in his opinion should be brigaded, presenting his claims as commander of this potential brigade. After saying that he would be willing to serve as junior brigadier under Chalmers, and


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that he would obey orders and "do my whole duty as I have always done", He concluded: "Now, Mr. Clapp, I appeal to you as a true and tried patriot to urge the Hon. Secretary to do me justice".5 The letter was referred to the President "at the special request of Mr. Clapp" but again no action was taken.

It should not be thought that Falkner's campaign for a generalship began only after he had been ordered to report to Chalmers. On January 7 of that year he had written to Clapp from West Point on the subject, and on the following day, from Mobile, he wrote former governor J. J. McRae who was then in Richmond. McRae tried to help; on January 30 he wrote Davis, saying among other commendations that "when on a visit to the Peninsula in April last Genl. Johnston expressed to me personally his regret at the defeat of Col. Falkner the reorganization of the regiment . . ." - a statement ,not calculated of course, to help Falkner's campaign with Davis.6 On February 7 Falkner wrote James Phelan, Senator from Mississippi, a letter that must be classed as one of his more imaginative efforts. He wrote that he had served 18 months in the Mexican War and had been severely wounded there; that he had been defeated at the reorganization of the Second


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Mississippi "by a combination of demagogues"; and that he had raised 1,000 men in 15 days and armed them by captures from the enemy.7 He added that he had fought with Price at Iuka (this was the fight at Peytons Mill) and with Van Dorn at Corinth (when he helped in cutting the railroad north of that town); and that he had been recommened for a generalship by Generals Clark, Chalmers, Hindman, Price, Smith, and Johnston. Phelan sent Falkner's letter, with a sort of round-robin recommendation signed by Israel Welch, Reuben Davis, E. Barksdale, J. W. Clapp, H. C. Chambers, and O. R. Singleton, to Seddon on April 2. Like all preceding efforts, this one seems to have expired somewhere between the offices of Secretary Seddon and President Davis.

Immediately after reporting to Chalmers Falkner was ordered to proceed to Coldwater Depot and place "a company of cavalry pickets on the Memphis and Hernando plank road near Horn Lake Creek and one company on the Holly Ford road as near the first as possible . . . and send out scouting parties every day upon the byroads leading to Memphis to arrest all parties attempting to carry on illicit trade with the enemy, and with special instructions to seize all horses and mules that come out of Memphis and bring them to these headquarters".9 At the same time he was placed


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in command of the First Brigade, Fifth Military District, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana; at last he was commanding a brigade, albeit a small one. He made his dispositions as ordered and maintained headquarters at Coldwater until April 8 when the Union commander at Memphis sent out a detachment to find out what was going on in an area which they were in the habit of controlling without any arguments. Falkner sent a battalion across the river to feel then out, telegraphing Chalmers that he would fight the Yankees if he thought he could whip them, otherwise would hang on and annoy them as much as possible. Later in the same day he crossed the river and chased the enemy as far as Noconnah, only five miles from Memphis.10

The reincarnated First Mississippi Partisan Ranges thus won their first skirmish with the enemy. But within a week after the chase to Nonconnah some members off the regiment had found their homesickness, or their proximity to the fleshpots of Memphis too much for them. So many men went absent without leave that on April 15 Company I, Captain Young, was ordered to "proceed at once to arrest and bring back all deserters and men absent without leave from the regiment wherever found..." Falkner meanwhile remained in camp just south of Horn Lake Creek and about 7 miles north of Hernando, accumulating a considerable amount of sorely needed supplies. On April 18 the Rangers were attacked in this camp by the 12th Wisconsin Cavalry under Col. George E. Bryant. After a short but bitter fight they were forced to retire southward after losing about 40 men killed and 72 captured, including seven officers, and about 70 stand of arms; two companies were practical annihilated. In addition all the supplies


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and the wagons and ambulances transporting, them were lost. The Union casualties were given at 20 killed and 40 to 50 wounded, which shows that at least the Confederates made a fight of it. They retreated to Coldwater, where they crossed the river and held the crossing against Bryant's attempts to pursue farther.11

During Falkner's short and checkered military career he had participated creditably in one victory - First Manassas - and had acquitted himself satisfactorily in the fighting around Corinth, Iuka, and Rienzi in the fall of 1862. The fight at Hernando was the first decisive defeat he had suffered, and he took it to heart far more, on the basis of the scanty official records, than he should have. Charmers, who had suffered a much worse defeat at the hands of Sheridan near Booneville in June 1862, profited by his experience and remained a useful officer throughout the rest of the war. But Falkner was not made of such stern stuff.12 Shortly after the skirmish he seems to have reported sick, and except


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for a few days in June when his record was not creditable, he was never again in active charge of any part of the regiment, though he held titular command until his final resignation on October 31, 1863. His downward steps may be traced from Chalmers' order books. On April 27 Lt. Col. M. C. Young was ordered to report to Falkner for "temporary assignment as Lieutenant Colonel (Lieutenant Colonel Hovis, captured in January, had not yet been exchanged).13 On May 13 Major Park was ordered to "remain in charge of four companies of the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers at this post (Panola) and to assume command of it;14 and on May 30 Lieutenant Colonel Young was addressed as commanding the regiment.15

In reporting the disposition of his forces on May 25, Chalmers wrote that three companies of the First Partisan Rangers were on the Coldwater River; one company was on a scout near Lagrange; four companies were in Tippah County; and nearly all of the two remaining companies had been lost at Hernando.16 The final blow to Falkner came on May 30 when Chalmers reorganized his district. Falkner was dropped as commander of the First Brigade, and his regiment were placed in a brigade under Col. Robert McCulloch.17


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Most if not all of the men in the four companies reported on May 25 to be in Tippah County were on furlough to gather the wheat crop. Apparently Falkner also was in county, as on June 3 sent to "Col. Falkner, 1st Miss. Regt., Tippah County" an order to collect all men whose labor was not absolutely necessary to harvest the wheat and take position south of the Tallahatchie near Rocky Ford to defend the crossings against an anticipated enemy attack; the letter pointed out that the furloughs would expire within a few days anyway.18  Falkner in some way assembled about 200 men and complied with the order; but on June 7 asked permission to return to Tippah and Marshall Counties, presumably to recruit men and horses for his command. Chalmers granted the authority but asked him not to go until after June 12. He pointed out that Falkner had no authority to purchase horses for him cavalry, "but in view of the fact that the enemy are making frequent raids into the country seizing all the horses they can find, you may impress horses suitable for cavalry service, giving your receipt therefor . . ."  He ended the letter by urging Falkner to "collect all the men possible either by conscription or otherwise."19 On the next day, in reply to another letter from Falkner, Chalmers instructed him to watch the impending Federal attack closely and if the enemy swung east of the Ripley - New Albany line to notify General Ruggles commanding the First Military District from headquarters at Okolona, meanwhile harassing the Yankees in any way he could.20 Apparently


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Falkner lost no time in doing this, as Ruggles moved promptly to Pontotoc. On June 13 the Federal invasion force, commanded by Col. Phillips, advanced toward New Albany, and Ruggles accordingly started north from Pontotoc about midnight of that day. Before he reached New Albany he found out that Phillips had only about 500 men and two guns and was retreating northward after doing considerable damage in the town; he then sent Colonel Boylos with 400 men and Falkner with his 200, in pursuit. The two attachments took different roads to Ripley, Boyles reaching it first about 2.00 PM. Learning that Phillips had passed through about five hours before he continued his pursuit without stopping, leaving word for Falkner to meet him at a feeding place about 12 miles out, probably in the vicinity of the present Povidence school. His intention was to follow Phillips to Pocahontas if necessary and attack him where ever found. But after waiting for Falkner at the "feeding place" until 11 PM, he was told that Falkner "could not for some reason proceed beyond Ripley" and was forced to call off his chase and return southward. In reporting the affair Ruggles reported bitterly, "It is believed that with the cooperation of Col. Falkner the expedition would have resulted most successfully."21

After their inglorious part in the pursuit of Phillips the Partisan Rangers were not heard from in reports for about six weeks; apparently all to many of them had returned to the safe haven of the Hatchie Hills while their Colonel, residing now at Pontotoc because Ripley was too close to the enemy lines for safety, attempted to recover both his command and his health. His efforts were


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not notably successful; the improvements were so slow, in fact, that a little more than a month after the Phillips fiasco he wrote a most revealing letter to Chalmers: "Pontotoc, .Miss. ,Jul. 20, 1863, Sir: I desire through this channel to approach you as my friend. Your uniform kindness to me in days long since as well as the friendship mannifested (sic) toward me while under your command prompt me to make this appeal direct to you. I do not mean to flatter you when I say that I know of no officer in the Confederate service that has been actuated by a higher patriotism than yourself. I believe the first wish of your heart is the success of the cause in which we are engaged. Believing this, I am encouraged to ask you to order my regiment to be detached from the brigade to which it now belongs with orders to report to me and that I may use it for the purpose of operating against the enemy in north Miss. I feel sure that I can accomplish more good in that way than in any other. The Regt. is being (sic) small, and I know that I can make a large Regt. if allowed to act independently. The conscripts are ordered out up to the age of 45 years and the militia is called out and I believe I can soon have a thousand men provided you will grant my request. I am informed that some of my men have deserted since I left. I regret it very much. It would not have happened if I had been present. Since the fall of Vicksburg it is evident that a large portion of our state will be overrun by Yankees and our best plan is to fight on the "guerrilla style". This is one of my many reasons for making the request which I hope will meet with your approbation. I do not complain of my Government at the bad treatment I have received but I do think I am entitled to a better position than to command one hundred and fifty men. If you conclude to grant my request, please order my Regt. to report to me at this place and I assure you sir that you will never have cause to regret it. My health is yet feeble but is improving slowly. Hoping sir that my application will have a favorable answer, I am sir your friend and obedient servant. W. C. Falkner, Col.22

Chalmers' thoughts as he read this missive must have been interesting. Here was a man who had disdained guerrilla tactics, yet was asking to be placed on the guerrilla level in the teeth of the determined opposition of the authorities to any increase in the number of organizations engaged in such duty. Nor could the General have missed the tone of the letter; Falkner, who in the past


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had been self-assured almost to the point of arrogance, had become fulsomely obsequious. But in other things the writer was the same old Falkner. He brushed off responsibility for desertions from his regiment, despite the fact that Captain Young's company had been detailed, while Falkner was still actively in charge, to arrest deserters and men absent without leave; and he still insisted that he could raise a thousand men in the face of the cold fact that his command had shrunk to 150. His persecution complex was as strong as ever, for while his record cast doubts on his qualifications for a colonelcy, he berated the authorities for not giving him a generalship.

Chalmers undoubtedly realized even before he received Falkner's letter that the Colonel's usefulness to the army had ended. Being as much a realist as Falkner was a dreamer, he made the best of a bad situation and without appearing to grant Falkner's request detached him for an indefinite period. His adjutant wrote Falkner on July 23: "I am directed by the Brig. Genl. commanding to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 20th inst. and to say to you in reply that it is impossible for him to detach your Regt. permanently from the brigade so as to give you the independent command which you desire but that he has ordered it (with the exception of Capt. Young's co. now on special service) to report to you for recruiting duty ∓mp;mp;mp; will allow it to remain detached as long as he can do so consistently with the service."

"In addition to recruiting your numbers he expects you to operate against the enemy ∓mp;mp;mp; to forward to him any information that you may obtain of the movements and plans of the enemy. You will forward monthly reports on the first day of the month showing the condition and number of your Regt. ∓mp;mp;mp; also a report of your operations."

"The Genl. desires me to express his acknowledgements for the good opinion you are pleased to entertain of him ∓mp;mp;mp; his best wishes for your success".23


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Falkner's "recruiting" assignment might have lasted indefinitely had not Gen. S. D. Lee, upon assuming command of the cavalry in the District on August 4, ordered Chalmers to recall all his organizations that were on special duty. Chalmers on the same day ordered Falkner to support Col. John McGuirk of the Third Mississippi Cavalry.24 This order must have been another blow to the rank-conscious Falkner, as McGuirk's commission dated back only to June 1863; and there is no indication that Falkner paid any attention to the order, if indeed he ever received it.

On August 14 Chalmers again wrote Falkner that a Federal raiding party was advancing toward Water Valley and ordered him to prevent it from crossing the Tallahatchie River or, if that should not be practicable, to attack the enemy in flank and harass his movements as much as possible. Falkner did not receive this order until after the 17th, when the raid had already caused the evacuation of Grenada.25 Thus Falkner's regiment was "out of packet" during the Grenada expedition which resulted not only in the evacuation of that town with the loss of a great quantity of badly needed stores, but also in the destruction of the Mississippi Central Railroad over a considerable length of lines.

On August 24 Falkner was reported to have 240 men and to be moving from Pontotoc County toward Grenada, arresting deserters.26 In the meantime Lee, with the backing of Johnston, was putting increasing pressure on Chalmers to get his demoralized force into fighting trim, and on August 27 again wired him from


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Okolona, calling his attention to the number of absentees from his command and urging that they be recalled.27 There is no record of any direct demand on Falkner from Chalmers at this time; but Falkner undoubtedly knew what was going on and realized that he was caught between the upper and nether millstones of Lee's and Chalmers' demands that he return his regiment to the front and his own inability to assemble more than a fraction of his command. Faced with that dilemma, on August 29 he resigned.

The effective date of the resignation was to be August 31, the reason "ill health". The accompanying medical certificate signed by surgeon W. D. Carter of the First Partisan Rangers, stated that Falkner was "unable to perform military duty in consequence of general debility, internal hemorrhoids and indigestion, the effects of which this officer has suffered for the past (4) four months. I further declare my belief that this officer will not be able to resume his command in a less period than (3) three months under the most favorable circumstances".28

One cannot help but note that according to the certificate the Colonel's physical troubles began about the time of the Hernando affair; this suggests that the ailments listed may have been to some extent psychosomatic. Further, the surgeon's opinion that the colonel could recover his health in three months is of interest. In view of the illnesses described - the Confederate army was filled with officers and men who fought on under worse handicaps - and the favorable


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prognosis, it would appear that Falkner should merely have asked for sick leave. And there is good reason for believing that Falkner had just that objective in mind; with his penchant for histrionics, he expected and planned that his resignation would be refused and sick leave recommended. He did not, however, leave this desired consummation to Johnston, who in happier days had given him strong recommendations, or to Lee or Chalmers. What went on behind the scenes is not of course known definitely, but on August 31 Falkner wrote to Chalmers a letter that explains itself:

"On the 29th inst. I tendered my resignation on account of ill health. On the 30th a petition was drawn up and signed unanimously by the officers of my command expressing unwillingness to part with me as their commander and earnestly requesting me to withdraw my resignation. I replied that I was very reluctant to retire from the command but my condition was such that it was absolutely necessary for me to retire for a while at least in order to recuperate my health, but that I felt reluctant to ask for a leave of abeyance for such a length of time as it was thought would be required for me to recover my health, but I assured them that if the leave could be granted I would cheerfully withdraw my resignation. I am informed that a petition (which I have not seen) was then sent to you asking you to grant me 60 days leave of absence and that you cheerfully approved it. I beg leave sir to present you my heart felt grattitude (sic) for this manifestation as well as many others of kindness to me and to assure you that no officer in the army is more anxious to continue in the service under your command than myself. My resignation is therefore withdrawn with a pledge of honor to return to duty as soon as the condition of my health will allow. I have the honor to be with esteem, Your very obedient servant, W. C. Falkner, Col."29

Whether or not Chalmers "cheerfully" approved the application as Falkner so blandly assumed, the colonel went on leave and took no further part in the activities of his regiment. As to the condition into which the command had fallen, the best commentary is found in a letter from Johnston's adjutant to Chalmers dated September 6:


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". . . You will keep the partisan rangers directly under your eye, that a better state of discipline can be established in this corps. . . . Many of the captains are in the habit of giving their men furloughs for two or three weeks at a time without referring them to higher authority. This system must be put a stop to . . . and to do this, at the first opportunity dismount some of the partisans and send them to headquarters. . . . Particular attention must be paid to the subject of passes. The General met a good many of Falkner's men going through the country with very irregular passes. Stop this and hold the officers strictly accountable . . . The resignation of Col. Falkner has been withheld for the present. . . ."30

The criticism of the Partisan Rangers in the first part of the letter quoted above applied to all the ranger troops and not merely to Falkner's regiment which was the best-known of such organizations but not the only one. The last part, however, was aimed directly at the First Partisan Rangers, and the remark that Falkner's resignation had been withheld for the present, coming as it did from Joe Johnston's headquarters, had an ominous ring. It is known that Johnston was in north Mississippi at the time the letter was written, but there is no record that he ever saw Falkner, though the colonel most likely made some effort to contact him. But regardless of whether the two men met, Falkner used up the 60 days sick leave due him and on October 25 again sent in his resignation on the same ground of ill health that he had given in August. It was effective October 31 - seventeen years to the day after he had resigned from the army in Mexico, also because of "ill health". Chalmers' endorsement reads, "Respectfully forwarded and recommended. Col. Falkner has not been in command of his regiment since 14th last May."31 This might be interpreted as meaning that Falkner had


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been in "ill health" since May 14, but it is more likely that Chalmers was referring to Falkner's loss of control over his men.

After Falkner's resignation he simply dropped out of sight and as far as the records show took no further part in the fighting and had no further connection with the Confederate or state armies. Legends that he commanded the Seventh Mississippi Cavalry and that he fought under Forrest have no foundation in fact. The Seventh Mississippi was merely the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers under a new name, officially given it Aug. 1, 1864.32 After the change of designation it was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hyams of Missouri. Both as the First Partisan Rangers and as the Seventh Mississippi Cavalry the regiment fought with Forrest in 1864 and 1865, but at that time Falkner had no connection with it.

Two facts have led to much confusion as to Colonel Falkner's military career in the last half of 1863 and in 1864 and 1865. One was the Confederate custom of referring to a regiment by the name of its colonel instead of by its number; for that reason the First Partisan Rangers and, later, the Seventh Mississippi, were often referred to as "Falkner's Regiment", even long after his connection with it had ceased. The second was the remarkable similarity in the names of Col.


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W. C. Falkner of Ripley, Mississippi, and Col. W. W. Faulkner of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, whose career is of sufficient interest to justify a brief outline of it. He had organized a company of Partisan Rangers in Kentucky in May 1862 and after being captured in the Island No. 10 campaign and exchanged, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the spring of 1863 and sent to Mississippi until conditions should be ripe for his return to west Tennessee and Kentucky. He obtained from Pemberton authority to take with him into Tennessee a mountain howitser; but when he reached District No. 5 with his precious artillery, Chalmers refused to let him take it out of the state. Faulkner thereupon wrote his congressman, Hon. J. D. C.Atkins, a long letter which contained a complete list of his troubles. Among other things he wrote:

". . . I see what they are working for. There is a petty little tyrant commanding the Fifth Military District of Mississippi here, who is working every way he knows to hold me in this District south of the M. ∓mp;mp;mp; C. R. R. notwithstanding my orders from the Secy. of War (to go into Tennessee and Kentucky). . . . I talked pretty plain to Brig. Gen. Chalmers. I told him I did not and would not mix up with his fireside militia ∓mp;mp;mp; state troops . . ."

Eventually Faulkner got authority to take his howitzer across the State line and in the fall went into Tennessee. But before he was able to work his way northward he was stationed for a while at Ripley, commanding various small bodies of scouts or, at times, without a command. With two men of almost the same name identified with the same small town, it is not surprising that there are several references in the Official Records for which it is impossible to say which man was intended.

W. W. Faulkner organized a regiment behind Federal lines in west Tennessee and Kentucky, which he brought out with Forrest in December 1863. On January 28, 1864, his regiment was mustered into Confederate service as the 12th Kentucky and he was promoted Colonel as of that date. He participated in all of Forrest's campaigns until he was wounded


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at the battle of Harrisburg, and on August 17 went on sick leave. Early in 1865 he was killed by a band of deserters near Dresden, Tennessee.33

Because of the remarkable similarity in the names of the two men, and the fact that W. W. Faulkner came late into Mississippi and to Ripley just as W. C. Falkner was fading out of the picture, it is perhaps understandable that the Mississippian has received a share of the credit, particularly in regard to Forrest, that rightfully belongs to the Kentuckian.

Notes on Chapter III

1. Falkner to J. W. Clapp, March 5, 1863; Clapp to Sec. of War Seddon, March 17, 1863; in C.M.R., Papers of Confederates, RG-109, Seddon papers.
2. Falkner to Clapp, March 5, 1863, op. cit.
3. Clapp to Seddon, March 17, 1863, op. cit. Seddon's endorsement on the letter reads, "For conference with the President, JAS"; an interesting sidelight on Jefferson Davis' insistence on handling every detail of the government.
4. Falker to Chalmers, March 17, 1863, C.M.R., Papers of Confederates, Chalmers papers, Box 2, (RG-109) Falkner's claim that he had armed his men from within the enemy lines is an exaggeration unless it be considered that the northern counties of Mississippi were within the enemy lines. Actually the weapons were probably the property of the men who used them.
5. Falkner to Clapp, March 18, 1863; A. G. O., Service Record W. C. Falkner. Falkner's constant harping on his Mexican War records, which lasted 10 instead of 12 months, included no actual fighting, and ended under a cloud, is difficult to understand unless it be assumed that he possessed unusual ability to rationalize his actions. His "memories" of events in his past were always rosy, and his estimates of the future were so colored by his vanity as to be unreliable. These characteristics may explain in part why Jefferson Davis, who knew him personally, so insistently ignored his demands for promotion.
6. Falkner to J. J. McRae, Jan.8, 1863; Falkner to J. W. Clapp, Jan. 7, 1863; J. J. McRae to Jefferson Davis, Jan. 30, 1863: A. G.O., Service Record W. C. Falkner.
7. Falkner's debatable Mexican War record has been mentioned in a note, above. As for his regiment, he had raised not 1,000 men in 15 days, but a maximum of 750 men in 45 days; and he had not armed them by captures from the enemy, unless all Federal and Confederate reports of his activities in the fall of 1862 are erroneous.
8. These recommendations were those Falkner received in 1862. See above, p
9. C. M. R., Special Orders and Circulars, Chalmers' command, Ch. 2, Vol. 299, p. 11.
10. Falkner to Chalmers, April 8, 1863: C.M.R., Ch. 2, Vol. 291, pp. 15, 25, Telegrams Received, Chalmers command.
11. S.O. 39, Special Orders Chalmers command, C. M. R. Chap. 2, Vol. 199, p. 33, April 15, 1863. ( order detaching Co. I to arrest deserters). O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. III, p. 765; Same, Pt. I, pp. 557, 562
12. Falkner made no report of the Hernando skirmish, and Chalmers' report to Lee was confined to a terse recital of Falkner's losses; his very silence on other aspects of the fight should probably be interpreted as implying censure. Falkner's loss of control over his regiment after the fight also leads inescapably to conjecture as to his conduct on that occasion. It can only be said that after the war it was widely rumored in Tippah County that on one occasion Falkner was threatened with court-martial for insubordination and cowardice, and statements to the general effect that he "was great on dress parade, but when a fight came he usually turned it over to Hovis" had wide circulation. (Hovis was not at Hernando). It should be remembered, however, that it was almost impossible to obtain any opinion on anything relating to Falkner for forty years after his death - everything was colored either in favor of or against him. But his actions between the battle and his resignation six months later were such as to add fuel to the fires of suspicion.
13. C. M. R., Special Orders Chalmers' Command, Ch. 2, Vol. 199, S. O. 44, p. 39
14. Same, S. O. 46, p. 45
15. Same, S. O. 60, p. 54
16. C. M. R., Letters from Gen. Chalmers, Ch. 2, vol. 289, p. 97
17. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. III, p. 934
18. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. III, p. 944
19. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 289, Letters Chalmers Command, p. 120
20. Same, p. 123
21. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, p. 482. Chalmers' endorsement on Falkner's resignation (see below, p. ) reads, "Col. Falkner has not been in command of his regiment since 14th last May". It seems clear, however, that Falkner was personally in command during the Phillips affair.
22. C. M. R., Papers of Confederates, Chalmers file
23. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 289, Letters Chalmers Command, p. 178
24. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXX, Pt. IV, p. 497
25. C.M.R., Ch. 2, Vol. 289, Chalmers letters, pp. 207, 211-212.
26. Same, pp. 211-212
27. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 7 1/2, Record of Telegrams sent, Dept. of Miss. and East Louisiana; no. 1284, p. 58.
28. The original resignation and medical certificate, as well as the later (October) resignation and certificate, are in A. G. O., Service record of W. C. Falkner.
29. C. M. R., Papers of Confederates, Chalmers papers, file
30. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXX, Pt. IV, pp. 609-610
31. A. G. O., Service record W. C. Falkner
32. But see O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, p. 334, in which a Federal officer reported the capure, on Jan. 29, 1863, of Lt. Col. Hovis and a private of the "7th Mississippi Regiment". This was 18 months before the change became official. It is possible that the number was given the regiment informally at reorganization, in view of the fact that one of the conditions of Falkner's authority to reorganize was that the regiment should be placed in the regular Confederate army organization. There is no further reference to the Seventh, however, between Jan. 29, 1863 and the date of the actual change.
33. Lindsley, J. B., Ed., The Military Annals of Tennessee, Confederate; Nashville, 1886; p. 781. Faulkner was one of the most successful of the Partisan Ranger leaders, and the endorsements on his various promotion contain more than routine recommendations from such men as Generals Polk, S. D. Lee, Buford, and Forrest. Forrest's endorsement on the recommedation for promotion to colonel is a long and, for Forrest, a glowing tribute. He emphasized especially his remarkable ability to get men into the service. (See A. G. O., Service record W. W. Faulkner)


The Belt of Desolation IV

January - December 1863

By Andrew Brown

Chapter IV

During September 1863 the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers were a thoroughly demoralized outfit, so much so that Chalmers complained that "absence without leave keeps half of my partisan companies looking up the other half".1 Early in October, however, after it became clear that Col. Falkner would not return to duty, Lieutenant Colonel Hovis took active command of the regiment. It is most unfortunate that the excellent record of the capable and courageous Hovis has been dimmed by the flamboyant Falkner legends with the result that he has never received the credit that is rightfully his. He had been appointed Adjutant of the Second Mississippi in 1861, and after Falkner's defeat at the reorganization had returned to Mississippi with him. When the Rangers were organized he was elected captain of Company B on September 2 was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. In the battle at Rienzi in August 1862 he commanded the battalion that surprised and drove in Sheridan's pickets, and he served competently throughout the first phase of the regiment's history. On January 29, 1863, he was captured at Ripley, but was exchanged about the end of May or the first of June. He returned to duty some time before August 10.2 and in September began to round up the scattered Rangers. By the first of October he had assembled about 300 of them, and with these and the Buckner battery, consisting of four small


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guns under Lieutenant Holt, he reported to Colonel McGuirk at Holly Springs. He was immediately placed on outpost duty, watching the movements of the Union General Hatch - the same Hatch who as Colonel of the Second Iowa had raided Tippah County so many times - who was moving south from Lagrange toward Holly Springs and Salem. Taking advantage of Hatch's absence from his bases Chalmers took most of his brigade north to attack Colliervlle, leaving McGuirk and Hovis at Salem. Hovis placed two dismounted companies on a hill commanding the Ripley road, where he was attacked by Federal cavalry but held his position until Chalmers could be recalled; the combined forces then drove the Yankees back to Lagrange. In Chalmers' attack on Collierville on October 11 Company F of the Rangers, Capt. H. L. Duncan, acted as advance guard and captured 15 pickets on the edge of town. The regiment then pushed into the town itself and attacked the Union fortified camp at its west edge. Hovis reported that when his men got within 75 yards of the camp they were fired on, whereupon "my men stopped to fire and ruined everything. I immediately ordered the regiment to dismount and charge on foot which was done, I am proud to say, in gallant style. I was ordered by the Colonel commanding (McGuirk) to burn the camp and property which could not be got away (a large amount) which was executed."3 McGuirk's report of the affair mentions premature firing which, however, did not "ruin everything" as Hovis feared, and praised the behavior of the regiment, adding a touch of human interest: "Lt. Col. Hovis became very hoarse from his exertions in rallying his men".4 Although

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it is doubtful if Hovis knew it while he was hoarsely leading the attack, he was being observed by no less a personage than Sherman himself who, with his escort was on his way from Memphis to Corinth when the Confederates struck. Sherman's comments on the behavior of his troops during are decidedly on the acid side.

After the Collierville victory McGuirk and Hovis acted as rearguard during Chalmers' retirement into Mississippi, and were involved in some heavy fighting at Byhalia and Wyatt, where they recrossed the Coldwater and Tallahatchie Rivers.

On October 20 Hovis was ordered to take those men of his command who had arms and ammunition to Oxford, and the unused men to the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad to assist in repair work; Hovis was placed in charge of the rebuilding program.5 On October 22 the strength of the regiment was given as 310;6  and on October 30 it was ordered to report to McCulloch's brigade, to which it had been attached before Falkner's resignation.7

On November 3 Chalmers again attacked Colliervllle, this time unsuccessfully. McCulloch's brigade was in the center of the line and was engaged in hard fighting. On the retreat the Rangers, fighting dismounted, held the ford of the Coldwater River against the enemy until dark, with a loss of 13 men wounded.8


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On December 4, as part of the brilliant movement by Lee and Chalmers that shook Forrest loose into Tennessee, McCulloch's brigade attacked the Federals under General Hatch at the State Line crossing of the Wolf River at Moscow, Tennessee, after doing considerable damage to the railroad on the way up. It decisively defeated two cavalry regiments with severe loss before withdrawing after Forrest was safely on his way north. In this battle the Confederates encountered the first negro troops they had met - an organization that gloried in the name of "Second Regiment West Tennessee Infantry (African Decent)". The reports of the Southeners do not mention the colored troops, which probably means that they had little or no close contact with them. Federal reports, on the other hand, speak of the behavior of the dark-skinned warriors in terms so glowing as to make their veracity suspect.9

During the Moscow fight Hovis was severely wounded. He was taken to his home at Ripley, where he died on March 26, 1864.10 It is not too much to say that his death was the heaviest blow his regiment suffered during its variegated existence. He never sought the limelight; but in whatever task he was engaged he did a through, efficient job. His achievement in assembling the Partisan Rangers after the debacle at Hernando and the resignation of Falkner, and welding them into an efficient unit, was truly outstanding; and the quality of his military leadership is evidenced by the fact that during his brief tenure of command, the records contain only praise for the fighting qualities of the regiment. Colonel Hovis was a brave man, a capable soldier, and an inspiring leader.


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After the wounding of Hovis the regiment, then under Major Park, was assigned to the task of arresting deserters,11 but soon reverted to its old habits and became so weakened by absences without leave that on January 8, 1864, Chalmers consolidated what was left of it with the 1st and 4th companies of the 18th Partisan Rangers, naming Colonel Hovis as commander, Lt. Col. A. H. Chalmers of the 18th as second-in-command, and Major Park of the First Rangers as Major.12 As Hovis was at that time incapacitated by his wound, this arrangement placed Lieutenant Colonel Chalmers, the General's brother, in active command; whereupon the First Rangers showed their disapproval in typical ranger fashion and went home practically in masse. In January Chalmers wrote to Lee:

"On last night one hundred and thirty, being most of the effective men present in the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers, deserted."

"I have take steps to have them arrested and if I succeed shall dismount the regiment and send it to the Lieutenant-General commanding."

"This regiment has been straggling and going home without leave more or less ever since I have had command of them. Last fall I succeeded in getting about three hundred and fifty together under Lt. Col. Hovis and he kept two hundred fifty to three hundred for duty for several months. He was badly wounded recently at Moscow. The Col. (Falkner) has resigned and the Major could not or would not control the men but permitted them to straggle off until he had but seventy-six men for duty when he reached this place. I had applied for a Col. to command them and Genl. Lee sent me Col. Stith of the Provisional army but he declined reporting to me for this duty because he had been requested by the officers of the regiment to do so. I then made a temporary consolidation of the regiment with the 18th Mississippi Battalion and placed Lieutenant Colonel Chalmers in command. He had collected about one hundred seventy-five of them when the desertion took place."


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"I would be glad to have the approval of the Lieut. Genl. Commanding to the proposed measures and if possible to get about four good companies to mount on their horses.

"I am respectfully yours, Jas. R.. Chalmers, Brigadier General"13

The record does not show what success, if any, Chalmers had in arresting the deserters. Shortly after the letter was written he was placed under the immediate command of Forrest, who proceeded with his accustomed vigor to put his various units into fighting trim. The "temporary consolidation" of the First and 18th Rangers was allowed to lapse, and the First regiment was again placed under command of Major Park in McCulloch's brigade.14 On March 12 Forrest sent the regiment to Corinth by rail, with orders to "breast the country" from Corinth to Holly Springs and Oxford, to arrest all stragglers, conscripts, deserters, all men absent without leave, and to collect all unattached squads and companies of cavalry. They were also instructed to catch if possible the men who were stealing and impressing horses without authority. And after having done all these things, they were to establish a courier line from Waterford to Saulsbury and another from Oxford to Pontotoc to connect with that of Gholson from Pontotoc to Tupelo.15  Theirs was a stiff order, but they evidently carried it out; at least there were no recorded complaints from Forrest, from whom lightnings would have flashed had the regiment failed in its assignment. In later months, under the stern discipline


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of Forrest, made "good hands" for the rest of the war. In April 1864 they demonstrated against Memphis while Forrest attacked Fort Pillow.16 In June they were sent to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but were recalled to Columbus just before the battle of Brice Cross Roads, which they missed by a few days. In July the regiment opposed the advance of Gen. A. J. Smith at Ripley, fell back before him, and participated in the battle of Harrisburg. On July 19 the name of the organization was changed to the Seventh Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry.17 In 1865 it was again sent to Alabama and the remnant of the regiment, then commanded by Captain Thomas Ford, surrendered at Mobile in May of that year.

Notes on chapter IV

1. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 289, Letters seat, Chalmers command, pp. 227-228. This letter was from Chalmers to Pillow, Sept. 10, 1863, in reply to one of Pillow's numerous pleas for a cavalry regiment to round up conscripts.
2. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 207, Telegrams sent, Chalmers Command, p. 205. This telegram, dated August 10, appointed Hovis to sit on a court martial.
3. Rowland, pp. 784-786
4. O. R. Ser. I, Vol. XXX, Pt. II, p. 765
5. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 199, Special Orders Chalmers command: S. O. 160, p. 63
6. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 289, Letters of Chalmers Command, p. 240
7. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 199, Special Orders Chalmers Command, S. O. 165, p. 151
8. Rowland, p. 786
9. Rowland, p. 786; O. R.
10. A. G. O., Service record of Lawson B. Hovis.
11. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. III, pp. 828-829
12. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, Pt. II, p. 530
13. C. M. R., Letters sent, Chalmers Command; Vol. p.
14. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXII, Pt. III, p. 660
15. Same, pt. III, p. 616
16. Same, p. 759
17. O. R.


The Belt of Desolation V

January - December 1863

By Andrew Brown

Chapter V

Many references have been made in the preceding pages to the prevalence of straggling, absence without leave, and desertion in the Confederate armies in general and the First Partisan Rangers in particular. Although the subject of desertion is not properly a part of this account, it is impossible to evaluate conditions in north Mississippi during the war without taking it into consideration, and for that reason it is here discussed briefly.

Both the Union and Confederate armies were plagued with unauthorized absences from the ranks to a degree that is difficult to understand today. In the mellow afterglow of the fighting, the subject, being unheroic and therefore unpopular, has generally been ignored. Southerners have been willing to admit that same Yankees might have "left the command", while the Northerners have taken the attitude, without being very belligerent about it, that desertion and absences without leave were amiable failings confined largely to Rebels. The truth, however, is that every American army from the Revolution to the Spanish-American war was faced with serious desertion problems, and the Civil war forces were no exceptions. The discipline of the armies of World War I and II was not even dreamed of in 1861-65.1

The reasons back of the typically lax American army discipline of the time as opposed to the stricter European type, stemmed from fundamental contrasts between the social systems of the two continents. In European armies the officers were drawn from "upper" classes who were accustomed to being obeyed not only in camp but in civilian society as well; the enlisted men, on the other hand, came


Desolation V

from a group who expected to be commanded. But in the United States there were no arbitrary class distinctions and every man was brought up to believe that he was as good as anybody else. This spirit of equality extended from the social system into the armed forces. In the militia, and later in the volunteer companies that comprised the bulk of the Confederate and Union armies, the officers gained their rank not because they were members of a superior caste, not in all too many cases because they possessed the qualifications of officers, but merely because the men liked them well enough to vote them into command. For this reason the men of both the North and the South, though they possessed great skill with their weapons and were brave and resourceful in combat, could never be disciplined in the modern sense. The numerous English and other European observers of the war usually agreed in expressing in various words the opinion that the armies on both sides were composed of some of the best fighters and at the same time the worst soldiers (in the European sense) that the world has ever known.

Reliable figures on the number of desertions in the Confederate and Union armies are impossible to obtain because of the incomplete records and the lack of uniformity in reporting. One set of figures gives about 100,000 desertions from the Confederate army, 200,000 from the Federal; another estimates that one out of every nine Confederate soldiers, and one out of every seven Union soldiers "left the command" at one time or other. But these figures do not mean too much; what really matters is the reasoning back of the defections. In the case of the Confederates, several reasons are obvious. The Southerner's lot in camp, because of the perennial shortage of food, supplies, and equipment, was harder than most Union soldiers could ever imagine. Also, as much of the


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fighting took place close to the soldiers' homes, the temptation to take French leave, with or without the intention of returning, was strong. This was especially true when the soldier's families were suffering hardships equal to those of the men in the ranks. Further, the Southerm was an even more rugged individualist than his Northern opposite number, and it is not hard to realize that he would feel that, once he had done his duty in the fighting and the immediate danger was over, there was no reason why he should not go home rather than sit around a camp with nothing to do. That the officers, while condemning in theory the practice of going home without permission, accepted it as a fact is shown by the ridiculously light sentences imposed in most commands for absence without leave and even for desertion. The practice was simply a part of army life and was considered by the men, if not always by the "brass", as a venial rather than a mortal sin.

The tolerant attitude toward leaving camp did not apply, in either army, to skulking in battle; the same men who laughed at slipping off from camp for a few days at home were unforgiving where cowardice in the face of the enemy is concerned. Perhaps as good an example as any to show that in the Confederate Army absence without leave from camp and bravery in battle were not incompatible is the record of one regiment during and after the battle of Corinth.2 This organization organized in north Mississippi, came from the vicinity of Jackson, Mississippi to Van Dorn's army in time to join in the attack. During the battle in which Confederate bravery was of such Homeric stature that practically every northern report marveled at it, this regiment was outstanding even among the many heroic groups who hurled themselves against the fortifications. It penetrated into the heart of the town,


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and retired only after all its supporting units had been driven back. During the retreat it was caught in the deadly cross-fire at Davis Bridge but extricated itself. Until it had retired from the bridge and was in a relatively safe position, it kept together except for rather heavy battle losses; but after the fighting was over, and not until then, the men left the ranks in such numbers that only one officer and about 60 men were present when the regiment reached Ripley. The reason was simple; the men had gone to their nearby homes, which they had not seen for many months. A few weeks later most of them were back in the ranks.

Another result of the individualism that characterized the Confederate armies was their reaction to different commanders. Lee, beloved and trusted by his men, had less trouble with desertion and absence without leave than most of the army leaders. This was true also of such brilliant officers as Jackson and Forrest, who were never beloved as was Lee, but in whom the soldiers had an almost superstitious confidence. The attitude worked in reverse also; just as Pickett's men surged forward at Gettysburg because they believed that, with Lee, they were invincible, so the troops who retreated in panic from Missionary Ridge left their posts because they had no faith in Braxton Bragg. On a smaller scale, the history of the First Mississippi Partisan Rangers furnishes an example of the ways in which one regiment reacted to its different commanders.

From its organization until it was broken up by the Conscription Bureau Colonel Falkner kept the Rangers well in hand. They fought well if not always successfully and although the men were enlisted from the area over which they fought, there were no abnormal complaints of absence without leave and desertion. When, however, the Conscription Bureau scattered the regiment, it not only broke up the organization but destroyed to some extent the confidence of the men in their leader; both they and he had believed that he could fend off the Bureau. As a result,


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even after the Colonel had obtained authority to reorganize under most favorable terms, he was never able to assemble much more than half the original group despite liberal use of his powers of arrest. After the rout at Hernando he was less and less able to control his men, and when he eventually resigned he left companies of a thoroughly demoralized regiment scattered over several counties in north Mississippi. On the other hand, Lieutenant Colonel Hovis was able to assemble most of the men, and to lead them through the hardest fighting they had ever done, while at the same time keeping them in good discipline. After the wounding of Hovis, when Chalmers put an outsider in command, the men simply went home; when the change was allowed to lapse, they returned. What might have happened from there on is conjectural had they not come under the command of Forrest, under whom they settled down and for the rest of the war made a good record. In brief the Rangers, under Falkner until they lost confidence in him, under Hovis until his untimely death, and under Forrest, fought well and had only the usual Confederate trouble with absences from the ranks; but after Falkner's misfortunes and Hovis' wounding, they scattered to the four winds. There could be no better example of the effect of leadership upon the actions of the rugged individualists who composed the armies of the Confederacy.

Notes on Chapter V

1. Probably the best summary of discipline and desertion in the Confederate armies is in Wiley, Bell I., The Life of Jonny Reb, pp.
2. The 35th Mississippi; see Rowland, p. 700


The Belt of Desolation VI

January - December 1863

By Andrew Brown

Chapter VI

During the tug-of-war between the Confederate War Department and the State in the latter half of 1862, a large number of companies were organized in northern Mississippi for State service under authorizations granted by Governor Pettus. Many of these organizations were later grouped into battalions or regiments, others simply disappeared and were heard from no more; only a few participated as companies in the actual fighting. One of the best known and for a short time one of the most successful of these detached units was the "guerrilla" company of Sol Street.

Solomon C. Street, usually known as Sol Street, enlisted in Falkner's Magnolia Rifles, later Company F of the Second Mississippi, on March 4, 1861. At that time he was 30 years old and by trade a carpenter. On May 10, at Lynchburg, Virginia he was promoted to Third Sergeant, a rank which he held until July 31, 1862 when under the terms of the Conscription act he furnished a substitute and was according discharged from the Army of Northern Virginia. Returning to Mississippi, he obtained authority from the governor to recruit a company of cavalry and on December 15, 1862, was commissioned Captain of Company A, Second Mississippi Cavalry. He never served, however, with that regiment. Almost immediately he was detached for "service along the M. ∓mp;mp;mp;. C. Railroad" and began a six-months-long career of making life miserable for the Union troops stationed along that much disputed line.1

Technically Street's company was a unit of State troops on Confederate service, detached to a certain area. Actually it operated independently though on


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occasion it cooperated with the regular army and ranger units. Not to put too fine an edge on it, it was essentially a group of guerrillas, whose purpose was to harass the Union troops in every possible way. That the Federal leaders, while complaining of the guerrilla nature of Street's attacks, yet treated his men on most occasions as bona-fide belligerents is due to the two facts that the Union forces in west Tennessee contained groups of equally questionable status, and that the Yankees knew that any attempt to handle the "irregulars" in the summary manner usually reserved for guerrillas would be met by swift and ruthless retaliation on prisoners in Confederate hands.

The number of men who served in Street's company is not definitely known. No muster rolls are extant, and indeed it is doubtful if any were ever made. In 1894 survivors made up from memory a roster of 69 officers and men, seven of whom were killed in action. The names are:2

Solomon Street, Captain       J.H. Mauldin, First Lieutenant
Wm. Reed, Second Lieutenant   Elliott Street, Third Lieutenant
                R. B. Mitchell, Orderly Sergeant

John Cup             T. J. Grace             Wm. Bolling, Sr.
- - Hursey           Andy McElwain           Luther White (killed)
Dan Dean             John Robinson           Wm. Campbell
John Crisp (killed)  - Caraway (killed)      Jesse Barton
Wm. Roten            Wesley Davenport        Cal Hopkins
James Moddy(killed)  R.J. Thurmond           Pete Burns
Wash Tiplet          Jack Parks              Jack Tudor
Wm. Reaves           Wm. Street              J.K. Robinson
William Paul         Ed Saunders             Albert Fowler
Andy Erwood          Sam Redferrin           Dugan Park
John Park            Daniel Street           Ike James
Alex Bolling         Wm. Bolling, Jr.        Joseph McElwain, Jr.
John Clemmer(killed) John Keith              Andy Deen
James Barnett        Wm. Turney              William Crisp (killed)
Will Morrow(killed)  Robert Elam             Luke Hopkins
Wm. Hopkins          Joe Hovis               James Stewart
Wood Tudor           George Yopp             J.Q. Guinn
M. T. B. Cutbirth    John Kesterson          Allan Reed
Tom Shay             J.A. Ford               Berry Smith
Bit Fowler           Newt Clark              Elbert Welty
Tom Smith            A.J. Park               John L. Rutherford
James Reed


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According to survivors of the band, the largest number who ever served in any one of Street's raids was not more than 30. The method of operation was much like that of the better known Ranger Mosby of Virginia; the use of small striking parties that could be called together readily, coupled with excellent intelligence of the operation of Union troops. Operating as they did in a country of divided loyalties, it was essential that the members of the band know the politics and allegiance of practically every man in the northern part of the county and of adjacent parts of Tennessee.

Street's first recorded brush with the enemy was on January 25, 1863, when Major D. M. Emerson led a detachment of the First Tennessee Cavalry (Union)


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and independent companies of "Tippah and Mississippi Rangers"3 on a scout from Bolivar toward Ripley. About 15 miles south of Bolivar the expedition was ambushed by Street's band, who killed one Union soldier before being driven off. Emerson wrote that the "guerrilla" men were dressed partly in Federal uniforms, which indicates that the garments must have been acquired in some previous raid. Emerson respected them enough to return to Bolivar without reaching his objective.

Street returned to the vicinity of Ripley, probably to the west Tippah bottoms west of town from which he operated during much of his career. Three days after Emerson's expedition Lt. Col. Edward Prince led a detachment of the Seventh Illinois Cavalry from Lagrange in search of him.4 The intended victim was nowhere to be found when Prince got to Ripley, but the raid was successful for the Federals in that they captured Lieutenant Colonel Hovis of the First Partisan Rangers.

By the middle of February the Union leaders had learned that Street's band was likely to turn up anywhere between Pocahontas, Bolivar, and Mount Pleasant, and anywhere north of the Ripley-Salem line.5 It hung on the flanks of the many


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Union scouting parties into north Mississippi, striking wherever there was a change to do any damage. On February 25, for example, they captured two privates and two sergeants, stragglers from the Seventh Illinois, about seven miles from Saulsbury.6 A little later the Union General Hamilton sent a spy to the band, who returned with a report that the heavy guns at Vicksburg were being dismantled and the place evacuated.7 As the report was completely false and as Street's men had scant means of knowing what was going on in Vicksburg in any event, it is clear that Street's men recognized the spy for what he was and sent him home loaded with plausible but erroneous information.

March was a busy month for Street's company. For some time they had eyed with envy, for they were short of almost every kind of equipment, the provision and supply-laden trains that ran over the Memphis and Charleston and the Mississippi Central Railroads. They knew that on the Memphis and Charleston every station was guarded and the line was so closely patrolled that it was out of the question for their small group to do any damage. Through a Tennessean named Prewitt, however, they learned that the Mississippi Central was not guarded so closely, and that a pay train would run from Bolivar to Grand Junction on March 21. Street decided to capture this train; and on the night of March 19 his band left their camp on West Tippah and rode all night, crossing the Memphis and Charleston near Saulsbury and hiding in the woods all day of the 20th. Prewitt acted as a guide. After nightfall he led them to a cut about three and a half miles north of Grand Junction through which the railroad passed


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on a sharp carve. Leaving their horses with holders a considerable distance away they removed the outside rails of the curve and hid in the bushes until the train should arrive. Shortly after sunrise a train entered the cut from the north and before the engineer realized what was happening the locomotive and five cars had piled up against the side of the cut. Street's men immediately emerged from cover and rushed the train, firing as they came. There were 20 to 25 negro soldiers aboard who, when they saw the onrushing Confederates, stood not on the order of their going but ran off into the woods, where most of them were captured soon afterward.

Within a few minutes it became clear to Street's men that the wrecked train was not the pay train they had intended to capture, but a construction train carrying a considerable amount of supplies. When the pay train did come along a little later its engineer saw the wreck far enough ahead to stop, back up, and escaped toward Bolivar. The Federal paymaster, however, jumped when it seemed that his train would ram the wreckage and was captured.8

When the firing in the cut was heard at Grand Junction, Lieutenant Colonel Loomis with a detachment of the Sixth Illinois Cavalry was sent out to investigate. This crowded the Confederates for time, but they took as much material as they could carry off and set fire to the cars before beginning a leisurely retreat toward their base near Ripley. After he reached the scene Looms attempted to pursue but gave up after he had followed only a short distance.9 He reported


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that the raiding party consisted of three companies of Forrest's cavalry and part of Street's detachment, about 100 men in all. Chalmers said that it was made up of about 80 men of "Street's and Wilson's" companies, and that 16 white men, as well as "16 free Americans of African descent" were captured;10 thus did the Confederate general pay his respects to the fairly recent Emancipation Proclamation. Among the captives was the paymaster, who was mounted on a mule during the retreat and, not being accustomed to horseback travel over rough roads, suffered severely before he reached the Confederate camp.11

On the day after the capture of the train near Grand Junction and possibly in part because of the affair, Col. Fielding Hurst of the First West Tennessee Cavalry (Union) took about 100 of his cavalry from Pocahontas to Ripley on the horse and cotton-stealing raid that resulted in the death of Colonel Miller (see above, p. ). Street, back at his camp on West Tippah, assumed that Hurst would spend the night in Ripley and moved into town after dark with the intention of capturing the pickets and doing whatever other damage he could. To his surprise he found that Hurst had gone back to Pocahontas. He immediately followed, going down Muddy Creek bottom to head off the enemy. His guide was Thomas J. Grace, who suggested that Street ambush the Federals at a steep hill about a mile south of Jonesboro. This was done, the Confederates waiting for the main body to pass and then closing in and capturing the rear guard of eight men. These were disarmed and sent to Ripley in charge of a detail commanded by R. J. Thurmond. Street then took another short cut across the country


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while Hurst was trying to find his missing rearguard and struck again at the Keith place about one and a half miles south of Pocahontas. Here Street formed his men in column of fours and charged the Federals recklessly, leading them to believe that they were being attacked by a superior force instead of by only 25 or 30 men. Eventually, however, the disparity in numbers began to tell, especially as much of the Confederate's powder had been wet in the trip through Muddy bottom, and Street was forced to retire. Remarkably enough, none of the Confederates was killed in the skirmish; one was wounded and two were captured on the return trip to Ripley. The losses of the Federals, other than the eight men captured, are not known. It is interesting to note, also, that by the time Hurst's report of the affair reached Memphis Street was said to be "desperately wounded" - not the first nor the last time that he was erroneously reported so disabled.12

On April 2, according to Hurst's report, he dispersed a "gang of guerrillas" near Pocahontas and captured 21 prisoners, stores, horses, and mules.13 It is possible that some of these men may have belonged to Street's company or to a similar organization commanded by Captain Sam White. Apparently Hurst made the statement that he would refuse to recognize the men as prisoners or war, for on April 3 Chalmers sent him the following letter:

"Information has reached the Genl. commanding this military district that you have refused to recognize members of Capt. Street's company captured by your Regt. as prisoners of war and by his direction I have the honor to inform you that Capt. Street commands a regular organization of State troops turned over to the Confederate service and Consequently they are as much entitled to the courtesies of war as any organized body of troops


Desolation VI

in either service. In case of a persistent refusal to extend to them such courtesies, the Genl. will retaliate upon your command, some of whom are now prisoners in our hands. I have the honor to be W. H. Carroll, Jr. A. A. Genl." To: Col. Hurst, U. S. A.14

The day before he sent his warning to the notorious Hurst, Chalmers made the only recorded effort to incorporate Street's company into a larger unit. On April 2 he ordered "Capt. Solomon O. Street, commanding Citizen Guards of Tippah County" to assembled his company at New Albany, and to order all other independent companies in his vicinity to assembled at the same place for the purpose of being organized into a battalion or regimemt.15 So far as is known Street paid no attention to the order, but for several months longer continued to operate as a lone wolf in northern Tippah County, sometimes in company with Capt. White's company. He appears next in the record on May 20 when a force of about 300 Confederates, including Street's company, was attacked unsuccessfully at Salem by General Hatch.16

Late in May an accident occurred which highlights the bitter enmity between the Union troops operating in north Mississippi and Street's company. 0n the 27th Gen. Sooy Smith, commanding the Union cavalry in Memphis, charged that two of Street's men, named as Kesterson and Robinson, had murdered Union prisoners in


Desolation VI

cold blood, adding that "their excuse that the prisoners were trying to escape was so notoriously false that your own men heaped upon them the execration they so richly deserved". Smith demanded that the two men be turned over to him, threatening that if this were not done he would place in irons, and shoot four of the prisoners he then held from Street's command. He added that if Street could prove the charges false the men would be released from confinement.17

Street replied on June 4 that the men, who belonged to the 12th Michigan, were shot while trying to escape and turned the matter over to General Ruggles. Ruggles wrote Smith on June 6 that he was having the case investigated, that he did not like Smith's prejudging of the case, and was therefore having four prisoners from Smith's command placed in irons. 18

The final disposition of the Kesterson-Robinson case is not to be found in the records and it is probable that the only result was a deepening of the bad feelings between the Yankees and Street's men. In August the former took matters into their own hands; Street reported on the 24th that in the course of an attack upon an enemy forage train on the Ripley-Pocahontas road Private John Carraway of Captain White's cavalry and Private Moses Crisp of Street's company were captured, taken to the bridge, and deliberately shot (another account says that they were tied to trees and shot). Ruggles reported the case to General Lee, advising him that two Federal prisoners, W. P. Monterey and W. H. Beasley, were being held as hostages until the case should be


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investigated. Lee wrote Ruggles on September 16 that he thought retaliation was necessary, but as in the former case there is no record of any final disposition.19 In all probability the accounts were merely allowed to stand as balanced.

The affair on the Pocahontas road was almost the last, if not the last of Street's fights in Mississippi. Early in August General Stephen D. Lee had reopened the question of forming the scattered companies in north Mississippi into larger units, just as Chalmers had done in April. But unlike Chalmers at that time, Lee had the whole-hearted support of the Department Commander, General Johnston, and was also helped by the fact that after the fall of Vicksburg the Union pressure shifted from west Tennessee to the Chattanooga areas; this gave the Confederates in the west an opportunity to consolidate their forces, which they had been unable to do before. And as for Street, it is clear that he had no intention of being integrated into regular army forces and fighting in the regular way. Like Mosby he was not one to be tied down by the regular army discipline, especially as he had been strikingly successful in operating in his own way. When it became apparent that Lee meant business about the reorganization, on September 1 Street resigned his commission in the Mississippi forces and moved a few miles north into Tennessee. He was succeeded as Captain of Company A, Second Mississippi cavalry (from which he had been detached for service against the railroad) by W. W. Mauldin.20

In Tennessee Street raised a sizable command, in all probability considerably larger than he had commanded in Mississippi, and continued to harass the


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Union forces in that State. On November 20 he was attacked by a detachment of the Second Illinois under Capt. F. Moore, who reported, "I attacked the devils at Meriwethers Ferry at noon yesterday. I whipped them and killed 11 men and also took Col. Sol. G. Street and 55 men, also one wagon load of arms and some horses. My loss none except one wounded".21 Street had been reported killed, wounded or captured so many times - it was a poor month during 1863 when some Union commander did not report that something unpleasant had happened to the "noted guerrilla" - that this account is distinguished only by the fact that it happened to be true. Street, along with 29 men (not 55) had in fact been captured, but made his escape.22 As for the implied promotion, that too was an old story; even before he left Mississippi the Federal reports persisted in referring to him as "Major" or "Colonel" in place of his mere humble title of captain, which may be interpreted as a strong if indirect compliment to Street's ability to make the enemy think they were being dogged by more men than was actually the case.

On February 5, 1864, General Forrest incorporated the 16th Tennessee cavalry and Street's band of irregulars into the 15th Tennessee Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Stewart, and appointed Street Major.23 He served with that regiment until May 4 of the same year, when he was killed in Hardeman County, Tennessee. Thus ended, in action, the career of one of the most colorful and, in his own orbit, one of the most successful fighters for the Confederacy in the western states.

Notes on Chapter VI

1. A. G. O., Service record of Solomon G. Street
2. Southern Sentinel, August 23, 1895; R. J. Thurmond was not in the list published in 1894. He is included because of his participation in the Jonesboro fight.
3. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. I, p. 331. This is the only reference in the Official Records to this organization, though there can be no doubt that some men from the northern part of the county served with the Union troops. In all probability the organization was largely an informal one.
4. Davis, 10; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, p. 334
5. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. I, p. 349
6. Same, p. 340
7. Same, Pt. III, p. 106
8. Southern Sentinel, Sept. 6, 1895 and August 8, 1935. See also O. R. Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. I, p. 485 for General Hurlbut's report of the fight.
9. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. I, pp. 471-472.
0. Same, p. 471
11. Southern Sentinel, Aug. 8, 1935, op. cit.
12. Southern Sentinel, August 30, 1895; O.R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. III, p. 147.
13. A. G. O., Service record Fielding Hurst.
14. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 207, Letters ∓mp;mp;mp; Telegrams Chalmers Command; pp 39-40
15. C. M. R., Ch. 2, Vol. 299, Special Orders Chalmers Command, S. O. 26, April 2, 1863, p. 17.
16. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXIV, Pt. II, p. 424.
17. O. R., Ser. II, Vol. V, p. 714
18. O. R., Ser. II, Vol. VI, p. 224.
19. O. R., Ser. II, Vol. VI, p. 224.
20. A. G. O., Service record Sol. G. Street; Rowland, p.
21. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXI, Pt. I, p. 570
22. A. G. O., Service record Sol. G. Street.
23. A. G. O., Service record Sol. G. Street.


Brown Index

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