Mississippi 21st Infantry Regiment



 

HISTORICAL NOTES:

    These companies all tendered themselves, independently, to President Davis for service to the close of the war, and on being accepted went to Virginia as rapidly as possible. Companies A, B, C, D and E were organized in Virginia into the First Battalion Mississippi Volunteers, to command which Captain William L. Brandon was promoted as Major. There was considering transferring and orders for transfer, between this command and Taylor's Second Battalion, another command made up, like this, of companies tendered independently for the war. Such tenders were encouraged, in preference to enlistments for one year. Brandon's battalion was ordered to Manassas July 21. September 16, 1861, Captain Green's Vicksburg company, then at Richmond, was ordered, as soon as armed, to proceed to Manassas, and with Captain Dudley's company, already there, to be united with Brandon's battalion to form a regiment under the command of Col. B. G. Humphreys.

    It was first called the Sixth and is listed as the Seventh in the army returns of August, 1861, about the time that it was assigned to Beauregard's Seventh Brigade, with the Thirteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Regiments. The regiment was ordered to Leesburg November 9. In December President Davis ordered the Twenty-first called back from Leesburg and brigaded with the Twelfth, Sixteenth and Nineteenth, under General Griffith. This Johnston declined to do, saying he had sent the regiment to Leesburg to form a Mississippi brigade with the Thirteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth under Griffith. The regiment, thus brigaded, remained at Leesburg until March 9, 1862, when they started back to the Rapidan. April 7 they were ordered to the peninsula, where they were stationed near Yorktown. On the retreat May 3 Companies E and F were detached for the rear guard.

    They were on picket duty on the Chickahominy and under fire at the battle of Seven Pines, suffering some loss.

    In the seven days' campaign before Richmond the brigade was ordered in pursuit of the enemy down the York River Railroad, and near Savage Station June 29, came under artillery fire, in which General Griffith was mortally wounded. The Twenty-first was ordered to the support of General McLaws and gave the enemy several volleys about dark. At Malvern Hill, July 1, while the brigade was forming under fire from artillery and gunboats, Major Moody was seriously wounded. Late in the evening, when the brigade made its desperate attack upon the strong Federal line, Lieutenant-Colonel Brandon, commanding the regiment, was severely wounded, causing the loss of a leg. Capt. W. C, F. Brooks then took command and brought the regiment off the field in good order.

    The casualties were 23 killed and 83 wounded. After this battle the brigade was commanded by General Barksdale.

    They took the cars for Hanover Junction August 21st, forded the Potomac at Leesburg and after passing through Fredericktown marched for Harper's Ferry.

    They participated in the scaling of Maryland Heights by the brigades of Barksdale and Kershaw September 12 and 13, with some skirmishing, and reached the field of Sharpsburg on the 17th after the battle had been raging a few hours. The extraordinary fatigues of the campaign had reduced the effective strength of the regiment to 18 officers and 182 men, of whom 6 were killed and 56 wounded in this bloody battle. The Twenty-first was distinguished in the driving of the enemy from the woods in front of the brigade, beyond which the Twenty-first and Seventeenth pursued some distance in an open field. Captain Sims commanded in the battle, but Colonel Humphreys arrived near the close of the fight and "his timely presence cheered and animated the whole brigade."

    After the retreat to Virginia they were ordered to Fredericksburg November 18. At the beginning of the battle of Fredericksburg, December 11, 1862, the Twenty-first had an honorable part in the remarkable performance of Barksdale's brigade in checking until late in the evening the building of pontoon bridges from the opposite shore and the crossing of the Federal advance. The right wing, Companies A, Lieutenant W. Wolcott; C, Lieut. J. J. Lengofield; H, Lieut. S. B. Bryan; F, Capt. William Henry FitzGerald; G, Capt. W. H. Dudley, all under the command of Maj. D. N. Moody, took position in the town in support of Major Govan of the Seventeenth, and from four in the morning till some time after noon were exposed to the heaviest fire of artillery they had ever experienced. Lieut. S. B. Bryan was killed. The remaining companies, under Colonel Humphreys, were stationed in the town to support Colonel Fiser's wing of the Seventeenth. After the enemy had effected a landing Humphreys' men were in a hot fight in the streets. Capt. R. C. Green was killed in command of his company. Captains Gibson, Sims and Stamps with their companies checked the Federal advance and held it until about seven in the evening. The regiment lost 8 killed, 25 wounded and 13 captured.

    In the Chancellorsville campaign, in the following spring, Barksdale's brigade was in battle at Fredericksburg again, while the remainder of the army, except Early's division, defeated the main body of the Federal army at Chancellorsville. Barksdale started with three of his regiments, leaving the Twenty-first to picket the river, to join Early in a march to the other battlefield May 1, when the enemy, who made a feint of withdrawing across the river, gave signs of staying. The brigade returned and occupied a line of three miles, the Twenty-first being posted between the Marye house and the Plank road, and three companies being sent later to aid the Eighteenth behind the stone wall at Marye's house. This time the line was too thin to hold that famous position, and the Federal attacks, though several times repulsed, were finally successful. "Marye's hill was defended by but one small regiment, three companies and four pieces of artillery," Barksdale reported. "A more heroic struggle was never made by a mere handful of men against overwhelming odds." Sedgwick's entire corps was engaged in the operations about Fredericksburg, and the final and successful attack on Marye's hill was made by two columns of seven regiments of Howe's division. The casualties of Howe's division, including, however, the next day's fighting at Salem Heights, amounted to 1,515. Howe reported the capture of two stands of colors, artillery, the camp equipage and some 200 prisoners. The casualties of the Twenty-first were 3 killed, 25 wounded. A part of the regiment, not reported, was taken prisoners.

    The regiment fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the evening of July 2, 1863, with Barksdale's brigade, at the peach orchard on the Emmitsburg road south of the town. At six o'clock, after a stubborn battle, Sickles was driven from his position by the assault of Barksdale's Mississippians and Wofford's Georgians. The wheat field then became the arena of a desperate struggle. "Barksdale, conspicuous on horseback, led his Southern riflemen, who singlehanded had barred the passage of the whole Federal army at Fredericksburg, right into the hostile mass, where he fell mortally wounded, and whence the remnants of his gallant troops cut their way back with difficulty through the enveloping masses of Blue infantry." (Battine's "Crisis of the Confederacy.") Barksdale's loss in killed and wounded was the heaviest of any in Longstreet's corps, and was surpassed during the three days' battle of Lee's entire army by only three brigades, Davis' Mississippi brigade and two North Carolina brigades. A Federal report testified that the fire of twenty-five cannon were concentrated to drive back Barksdale's men and recover a battery they had taken. "When all that was left of Bigelow's battery was withdrawn, it was closely pressed by Humphreys' Twenty-first Mississippi, the only regiment which succeeded in crossing Plum Run. His men had entered the battery and fought hand-to-hand with the cannoneers; one was killed while trying to spike a gun, and another khocked down with a hand spike while endeavoring to drag off a prisoner." This was at the base of the rocks of Round Top. This regiment lost 16 killed and 87 wounded. Thirty-three men were left in the field hospital when the army retreated. After the death of Barksdale, Col. Humphreys was promoted as Brigadier-General and William L. Brandon became Colonel.

    August 10, 1864, the regiment took the cars at Hanover Junction for Richmond, and thence proceeded by rail to North Georgia. They marched from Ringgold in the night of September 19, and fought in the battle of Chickamauga the next day, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel D. N. Moody.

    When General Longstreet reached the field on the 19th he was told the left wing would be under his command and the right wing would advance, the whole movement being a wheel upon his extreme left as a pivot. When he rode over the line at dawn on the 20th General McLaws had not yet arrived from Richmond and his brigade, Kershaw's and Humphreys', were not yet on the field. He directed Hood to use the two brigades as support of his division, thus making that division the main column of attack, and Kershaw was given command of the two brigades, which were soon in line. The battle began, but the right wing made no headway, and then Hood went in and broke the Federal army in two, but himself fell desperately wounded. At three in the evening Longstreet asked for help, but Bragg could not give any from the right. Rosecrans' right had rallied and was strongly posted on the heights from the Vidito house to the Snodgrass house. At the latter place, the key to the battlefield, Kershaw and Humphreys made a gallant attack, but they were not strong enough for the task. Hence Longstreet told them to hold their ground in front, while Stewart and Buckner attacked on the flank. This combination worked, and at dusk the victory was complete. General Humphreys reported that the brigade captured during the day over 400 prisoners, 5 stand of colors and 1,200 small arms. The. casualties of this regiment were 7 killed, 43 wounded.

    The brigade moved toward Chattanooga September 22 and was posted on the fortified line of siege until November 4th, when they left the foot of Lookout Mountain for the march to Knoxville. They crossed the Tennessee River at Loudon and encountered the enemy at Campbell's Station, where the picket line was engaged on the 16th, invading Knoxville on the 20th. In his report of the campaign General Longstreet mentioned "Brigadier-Generals Anderson, Humphreys and Bryan for their gallant assault on the enemy's fort at Knoxville on November 29." General McLaws wrote, "My special thanks are due to Brigadier-General B. G. Humphreys, who commanded the assaulting column, composed of parts of his own and Bryan's brigade, for his zeal, courage and coolness in conducting that assault, and for his activity, energy and earnestness in the performance of all his duties on every occasion. I take pleasure in recommending him for promotion."

    The Twenty-first was on picket duty during the assault. The brigade left Knoxville December 4, on the sixteenth advanced to the Clinch Mountain Gap and captured the camp of the One Hundred and Seventeenth Indiana, and on the 20th went into winter quarters at Russellville, Tenn. The following spring they were moved into Virginia, camping at Gordonsville April 19 to May 4.

    In the battle of the Wilderness, after the arrival of Longstreet's corps from Bristol, May 6, Kershaw's division, including Humphreys' brigade, was in the lead, arriving just in time to take the place of Heth's division, in which was Davis' brigade. In the gallant stand then made, in the presence of sudden disaster, which was completely turned into victory, Humphreys' brigade shared in one of the most memorable exploits of Longstreet's corps. The casualties of the Twenty-first on this day were 27 killed, 85 wounded and 1 missing. Colonel Moody was in command. After the night march to Spottsylvania on the 7th, Humphrey’s and Kershaw relieved the staggering troops of Stuart, overborne by the Federal infantry, and again saved the position essential to success.

    On the last of May, the lines continually .grinding down toward Richmond, Kershaw's division was moved toward Gaines' mill to connect with Hoke, and next day came the furious assault by Grant for the purpose of cutting in between Hoke and Kershaw. But Kershaw held and occupied the salient upon which fell the whirlwind of war on the memorable third of June, called the battle of Cold Harbor. Assault after assault is repulsed. The casualties May 8 to June 5 were 4 killed, 17 wounded, 11 missing. June 17 Kershaw's division crossed the James on a pontoon bridge near Drewry's Bluff and marched to Petersburg, in danger of capture. They were in battle on the Petersburg lines June 17 and 18. After that came the occupation of the lines of Petersburg and Richmond throughout the long siege.

    August 16 they were moved to valley to reinforce Early, aided in driving the Federal force back to Winchester, advanced to Charleston with skirmishing, fell back to Winchester, advanced toward Berryville September 3, with Kershaw's division, and encountered and repulsed the Eighth corps, in which battle General Humphreys was severely wounded and disabled. The brigade was ordered to Gordonsville and back again, was in action at Brown's Gap September 20, and in the battle of Cedar Creek, October 19, where the loss was heavy. Among the killed was Lieutenant-Colonel Sims, then thirty-one years of age. who had entered the service as Second Lieutenant in Brandon’s company. He was buried by the ladies of Winchester, but his body was subsequently removed to the family cemetery at Sligo.

    In the Shenandoah campaign the Federal reports were that the brigade was about 800 strong. The October returns show Major George L. Donald in command of the brigade. In November the regiment returned to Richmond, near which it was posted on the Darbytown road until the evacuation. In the final returns of the brigade, which it was the intention to consolidate in one regiment. was commanded by Col.. William Henry FitzGerald, succeeded by Capt. Gwin R. Cherry. who surrendered a brigade of 20 officers and 231 men at Appomattox, the Twenty-first being commanded by Lieut. Benjamin George

FIELD OFFICERS:

    Colonels -- Benjamin G. Humphreys, promoted Brigadier-General; William L. Brandon, promoted Brigadier-General; Daniel N. Moody.

    Lieutenant-Colonels -- W. L. Brandon, promoted; D. N. Moody, promoted; John Sims, killed at Cedar Creek; William Henry FitzGerald.

    Majors -- Moody, promoted; Sims, promoted; FitzGerald, promoted.

    Adjutant -- D. H. Montgomery, 1864.

    QuarterMaster -- Bryant, William J. Listed as Captain and Post Quartermaster of the 7th Congressional District and 1st Lieutenant and A. C. Q. for the 21st Infantry. REF: Microfilm M232 Roll 5.

ROSTERS:

    Company A -- Volunteer Southrons of Vicksburg, aka Vicksburg Southrons (raised in Warren County, MS)
    Company B -- Jefferson Davis Guards, aka Jeff Davis Guards, & aka Manlove’s Company (raised in Warren County, MS)
    Company C -- Stephens Rifles, aka Stephens Guards (raised in Lawrence County, MS)
    Company D -- Jeff Davis Guards (raised in Wilkinson County, MS)
    Company E -- Hurricane Rifles (raised in Wilkinson County, MS)
    Company F -- Tallahatchie Rifles (raised in Tallahatchie County, MS)
    Company G -- Madison Guards (raised in Madison County, MS)
    Company H -- Warren Volunteers (raised in Warren County, MS)
    Company I -- Sunflower Guards (raised in Sunflower County, MS)
    Company K -- New Albany Greys (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)
    Company L -- Vicksburg Confederates (raised in Warren County, MS)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

REFERENCES:

    Howell, H. Grady. For Dixie Land I'll Take My Stand
    Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898


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