First Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade 


 

The Orphan Brigade at Vicksburg in 1862

   Although a battle honor for "Vicksburg(h)" appears on original Orphan Brigade flags, and "Vicksburg" is listed as a battle among the company rosters in Thompson's History of the Orphan Brigade (1898), the Orphans' actions there should not be confused with the campaign in the summer of 1863 which resulted in the fall of the city. The Kentuckians of the Orphan Brigade served at Vicksburg an entire year prior, manning various positions during the defense of the city in July 1862.

   Following the battle of Shiloh, the Kentucky Brigade fell back to Corinth, Mississippi, as part of the rear guard of the Army of Mississippi. The army was reorganized while at Corinth. Various understrength companies were consolidated, particularly in the Sixth and Ninth regiments in the Kentucky Brigade. Capt. Byrne's Artillery was broken up, some of the men transferring to Cobb's Battery (Cobb also got Byrne's guns to replace his own that had been captured at Shiloh). Most galling to the Kentuckians, their Brigade was divided among Gens. Hawes and Preston. So for a time during the summer of 1862, there were two "First Kentucky" brigades.

   The Confederate forces fell back from Corinth at the end of May 1862, marching further south into Mississippi. In mid-June Breckinridge's Division was detached and sent toward Vicksburg, arriving there at the end of the month. The men went into camp in a valley near a bridge four miles out on the railroad to Jackson, and for the next month they endured the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of the Mississippi summer. The brigades were dispersed among the defenses of the city, and the 4th Kentucky Infantry was detached and sent fourteen miles south of Vicksburg to Warrenton, to guard against a land attack by the Federals.

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The Orphan Brigade camped about four miles east of the city,
where the yellow dot is on this map; the 4th Ky. Inf. was on
detached service down river at Warrenton.
(Official Records Atlas, Plate 36)

   The Kentuckians fought no pitched battles while at Vicksburg, but they were constantly on guard against the bombardment of the Federal fleets, particularly the mortar boats, whose huge shells could be seen streaking high into the air, to eventually descend and burst over the city. Undoubtedly, the most exciting moments for the Orphans came when the Confederate ironclad ram Arkansas, commanded by fellow Kentuckian Lt. Isaac Newton Brown, made a daring run through the Federal fleet and anchored at Vicksburg in mid-July. A detail of soldiers was assigned to the ship following its battles, to help recoal and resupply it. Some of the Kentucky volunteers from Cobb's Battery even helped serve the Arkansas' guns during a night battle at Vicksburg, and Caleb Allen of the 6th Kentucky Infantry actually transferred to the Navy for a time, serving on the Arkansas during her further battles.

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CSS Arkansas, as sketched by a member of her crew
(National Archives)
Follow this link to read a history of the CSS Arkansas.

   The Orphans at Vicksburg whiled away the time in the heat, amusing themselves as best they could, but with tragic results on one occasion. A couple of captured hogs provided steeds for an improvised race, but frightened by Federal shelling, the hogs became uncontrollable. One porcine steed, with Charles Edwards of the 9th Kentucky on its back, ran straight over a 50-foot bluff. Edwards suffered a broken back and died in a few minutes, but the Orphans got their revenge on his hog, which was slaughtered and eaten by Edwards' friends.

   Breckinridge's Division received orders to take Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from the Federals, and so left Vicksburg at the end of July. One doubts if any of the Orphans looked back.

------ Compiled by Geoff Walden

References: E. P. Thompson, History of the Orphan Brigade (Louisville, KY, 1898), pp. 108-121; A. D. Kirwan, Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade (Lexington, KY, 1956), pp. 42-45; J. S. Jackman, "Vicksburg in 1862," The Southern Bivouac 3 (1), Sept. 1884, pp. 1-8.


NEW KENTUCKY CONFEDERATE MONUMENT AT VICKSBURG

   On 8 May 2010, the Kentucky Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated a monument on the Vicksburg battlefield to the Kentucky Confederates who served at Vicksburg. The monument is located on South Confederate Ave., between Tour Stops 13 and 14, just south of the Alabama monument.

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URL: http://www.rootsweb.com/~orphanhm/vickburg.htm

 

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Geoff Walden: enfield577 (at) live.com
Laura Cook
: lcook62 (at) hotmail.com

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