This regiment was enlisted for three years or the war, had its rendezvous at Jackson, and was organized May 13, 1862. W. B. Shelby, of Brandon, being elected Colonel; Ross, of Jackson, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Quin, of Pike County, Major. Corinth was then occupied by the army under General Beauregard, invested by the army under General Halleck, which took possession May 30, upon the withdrawal of Beauregard to Tupelo. About this time the Thirty-ninth was sent to Grenada, where it became a part of the brigade of Gen. John B. Villepigue, who had been associated with the Mississippi troops at Pensacola, and had just returned from gallant service at Memphis. June 12, 1862, Gen. Villepigue, at Grenada, reported that 154 sick of the regiment were there, left when the regiment advanced, unarmed except forty-one defective flintlock muskets. When Villepigue was ordered with his brigade to Vicksburg, June 23, 1862, it was directed that Col. Shelby's Regiment should remain under the command of Col. W. H. Jackson, to protect the northern border.
Company I, Capt. Randel, was part of the command of Gen. M. L. Smith at Vicksburg, during the bombardment of May 20 to July 27, 1862. (VanDorn's list). This company was with the troops that Breckenridge took to Camp Moore, La., immediately after the failure of the Federal attack on Vicksburg, and in the attack on Baton Rouge, August 5, 1862, was attached to the Fourth Louisiana. Casualties, killed, 1; wounded, 1. General Breckenridge returned to Jackson with his command in August.
The regiment, in Villepigue's Brigade, of Lovellís Division, was part of the army of General VanDorn, which advanced to the Tennessee border when Gen. Sterling Price occupied Iuka in September, and fell back and was joined by Price after the battle of Iuka, then again advancing at the close of September to attempt the capture of Corinth, held by Rosecrans. In the battle of Corinth, October 3-5, 1862, Villepigue's Brigade, including the Thirty-third and Thirty-ninth Mississippi, took part in carrying the outer line of rifle pits on the 3d, were engaged slightly on the 4th, and on the 5th at Hatchie bridge, on the retreat, the brigade skirmishers checked the pursuit. General Villepigue mentioned for conspicuous gallantry, Colonel Shelby, "who rallied his men at great personal risk from a partial disorder into which they had been thrown by a flank fire of the enemy." The brigade casualties were 21 killed, 76 wounded, 71 missing.
After this calamitous battle the brigade was ordered from Oxford to reinforce the garrison at Port Hudson, La., near which place, on the march, General Villepigue died November 9.
January 7, 1863, "the consolidated regiment, consisting of the Thirty-ninth and First Mississippi Regiments, commanded by Col. W. B. Shelby," was assigned to the brigade command of Gen. Beall, on duty in the breastworks at Port Hudson. Captain Wilson was Provost Marshal of the post.
Their first engagement during the siege was May 25, when the Federal army began the investment, the first assault was May 27, and up to June 1 the regiment had 2 killed and 4 wounded. Adjutant J. S. Melvin, June 4, reported the position of the regiment, right to left: "Capt. J. H. Cofer, two companies Thirty-ninth, near Lieut. Harman's gun, 80 men; Wilkins' battery, 40 men; Major R. J. Durr, six companies Thirty-ninth, 285 men; Captain William Weathersby, two companies Thirty-ninth, on ridge in front of my left, 100 men." June 11 the Federal skirmishers pushed into the lines and occupied the slaughterhouse, and two companies of the Thirty-ninth were sent to drive them out. Colonel Shelby's Regiment occupied an important position and was relied upon for faithful service. He was commanding the left wing of the brigade June 8 and reported the shelling of the mortars so heavy as to drive his cannoneers from their guns. June 14 an assault was made and repulsed with heavy loss to the enemy, including General Paine, severely wounded. June 20 Colonel Shelby was again menaced, but the enemy failed to charge. Additional artillery was sent to his support. He had two guns of Herrod's battery, First Mississippi Artillery, and others.
The regiment was surrendered with the garrison July 8, 1863. The surrender was unconditional, but General Banks carried out an informal agreement and paroled the non-commissioned officers and privates. The commissioned officers were sent to Johnson's Island.
The regiment was in parole and exchange camp at Enterprise, Lieut.-Col. W. E. Ross commanding the nucleus of a brigade including his regiment, Miles' Louisiana legion and artillery, when Sherman advanced to Meridian February, 1864. The troops at Enterprise were then sent to Mobile. In March the regiment was with Gen. James Cantey's Division at Pollard, Ala. In April the Thirty-ninth was attached to the brigade of Gen. C. W. Sears, moved from Mobile to Selma, and this brigade, with Cockrellís Missourians and Ector's Texans and North Carolinians, formed Gen. S. G. French's Division of the Army of the Mississippi, under Lieut.-Gen. Leonidas Polk, known as A. P. Stewart's corps after the death of General Polk at Pine Mountain. They moved to the support of General Johnston in Georgia, leaving Tuscaloosa May 8, and Sears' Brigade reached the vicinity of Resaca May 16, as Johnston was falling back across the Oostenaula. Thereafter they were under fire every day but one until the close of August. Their casualties during this time were, at New Hope Church, 2 killed, 5 wounded; at Latimar House, 6 wounded, 3 missing; at Kenesaw Mountain, 7 killed, 18 wounded, 5 missing; at Smyrna, 1 killed, 1 wounded, 6 missing; at the Chattahoochee, 3 wounded, 2 missing; siege of Atlanta, 4 killed, 33 wounded, 11 missing; at Lovejoy's Station, 1 killed, 1 wounded. Total, 15 killed, 67 wounded, 27 missing. The regiment was commanded during the campaign by Lieut.Col. W. E. Ross, Maj. R. J. Durr.
General Hood advanced the army late in September to destroy the railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta. Stewart's Corps crossed the Chattahoochee, moved to Lost Mountain October 2, and tore up the track near Big Shanty, after which, on the night of the 4th, French's Division marched to fill the cut at Allatoona. This cut was defended by redoubts and a star fort, on opposite sides of the road, occupied by a small garrison which was reinforced to about 2,000 men two hours before French's arrival. At daylight French placed his brigades and demanded a surrender, which was refused by General Corse. French then attacked with about 2,000 of his division and artillery, Sears' Brigade advancing from the north and rear on both sides of the road. A desperate hand to hand fight drove three of Corse's regiments into the works, against which the Mississippians pushed up, taking such shelter as could be found, and sweeping the works with a deadly fire. Major Edson, Fourth Minnesota, reported that two Confederate regiments charged his position with desperation, but were forced back, excepting small detachments of each that pushed forward and took shelter in a narrow ravine, where he captured "80 prisoners, including 1 field and several line officers, with the colors of the Thirty-fifth and Thirty-ninth Mississippi Infantry."
During the fight of four hours Corse was in communication with Sherman at Kenesaw Mountain by signal flags, and Federal troops were sent to cut off French's Division, fearing which French withdrew in time to save his command, after heavy losses; in Sears' Brigade alone 425 were killed, wounded and missing. The casualties of the Thirty-ninth, Major Durr commanding, were 11 killed, 24 wounded, 77 missing. Lieut. G. H. Moore and 21 others of Company I were among the captured.
After this, Stewart's Corps destroyed the railroad between Resaca and Dalton. French's Division captured the blockhouse at Tilton, October 13, and next was in battle before the Federal works at Decatur, October 26-29, moving thence to Tuscumbia. They crossed the Tennessee River November 20, marched against Schofield's Federal command at Columbia, and on November 29 moved with Stewart's Corps toward Spring Hill, marching till late that night under confusing orders. They followed closely upon the Federal troops as they retreated to Franklin on the Harpeth River, and attacked them in a strong position about four in the evening, December 30. The first line was carried, but in advancing across an open space against the second line of works, the Confederate troops were exposed to a destructive crossfire of artillery, and the attack failed with a terrible loss of life. Some of Sears' Brigade pressed forward to the ditch around the inner line of works, where many of them remained, separated from the enemy only by the parapet, until the Federal army withdrew. Among these "foremost of the forlorn hope" were the following of the Thirty-ninth: Capt. E. G. Liles, commanding the regiment; Sergt. E. Carleton, acting adjutant, twice wounded. Company A -- Sergt. J. F. Newsom; Privates D. J. Drummond, S. M. Brooks, H. D. McNease, William B. Hemphill, S. A. Farmer, killed. Company B -- Sergt. W. W. Thacker, Corporal J. S. Donnell, wounded; Private T. Speaks (w). Company C-- First Lieutenant G. W. Elliott (w), Private Tom Waters. Company D -- Sergt. D. M. Adams (k), Corporal J. S. Ware (w), Privates R. Wilner (w), J. S. Smith (w), J. D. Sims (w), M. Williams (w), B. Chaney (w), G. R. Sims, M. C. Nichols, M. Russell, Thomas Parks, J. M. Loper. Company E -- Private R. J. Williams (w). Company F -- Capt. M. Townsend (k), Corporal William Hutson, Privates D. J. Grubbs (k), A. Hutson, J. B. Mahoffy, Joseph B. Garrett. Company G -- Corporal E. T. Kersh, Private Jacob D. Kersh. Company I -- Corporal J. P. Hodges (k), Privates J. D. Jones (k), R. Crisswell, E. Dockery, J. T. Hodges (k), J. Neely. Company K -- Second Lieut. W. D. Coney, Sergt. B. F. Elzey.
The casualties of Sears' Brigade were 30 killed, 168 wounded, 35 missing. The remnant marched to Nashville, and was detached to support Forrest in the siege of Murfreesboro. They were in battle at Overall's Creek December 4, and before Murfreesboro December 7-December 9 the brigade effective was 210 men. Marching back to Nashville over icy roads, many barefooted, they fought in Walthallís line December 15-16. Walthall's two division remnants were almost surrounded before they gave way. December 26 they crossed the Tennessee River, marching thence to Northeast Mississippi.
French's Division was ordered to report to General Maury at Mobile, February 1, 1865. The return of March 10 showed the Thirty-ninth Regiment commanded by Capt. C. W. Gallaher.
The last service of the regiment was in defense of the fortifications east of Mobile, called Spanish Fort and Fort Blakeley. These works, after much fighting, were carried by assault by the army of General Canby, the final action being at Blakeley April 9, 1865, and the 5,000 prisoners taken included most of the remnant of the Thirty-ninth. They were paroled after the capitulation of Lieut.-Gen. Richard Taylor, commanding the department, at Citronelle, Ala., May 4, 1865.
Colonel -- W. B. Shelby. Lieutenant-Colonel -- William E. Ross. Majors -- W. Monroe Quin. resigned; R. J. Durr.
Howell, H. Grady. For Dixie Land I'll Take My Stand
Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898