12th Mississippi Infantry

 

(from Dunbar Rowland’s "Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898"; company listing courtesy of H. Grady Howell’s "For Dixie Land, I’ll Take My Stand’)

 

Company A -- Charlie Clark Rifles [also listed as Co. H] (raised in Jefferson & Copiah Counties, MS)

Company B -- Natchez Fencibles (raised in Adams County, MS)

Company C -- Raymond Fencibles [also listed as Co. A] (raised in Hinds County, MS)

Company D -- Pettus Relief, aka Pettus Rifles (raised in Copiah County, MS)

Company E -- Sardis Blues [also listed as Co. F] (raised in Panola County, MS)

Company F -- Durant Rifles [also listed as Co. I] (raised in Holmes County, MS)

Company G -- Vicksburg Sharpshooters [also listed as Co. E] (raised in Warren County, MS)

Company H -- Claiborne Guards [also listed as Co. K] (raised in Claiborne County, MS)

Company I -- Satartia Rifles [also listed as Co. G] (raised in Yazoo County, MS)

Company K -- Lawrence Rifles [also listed as Co. C] (raised in Lawrence County, MS)

 

Colonels -- Richard Griffith of Jackson, commissioned May 16, 1861, promoted to Brigadier-General; W. H. Taylor; M. B. Harris, wounded and disabled; S. B. Thomas, wounded and captured. Lieutenant-Colonels -- William H. Taylor of Jackson, promoted; Merry B. Harris, promoted; S. B. Thomas, promoted. Majors -- John R. Dickens; William H. Lilly, 1 May, 1862, killed by accident 19 February, 1863; S. B. Thomas, promoted; James R. Bell, 1864. - Adjutant -- W. H. Capers of Claiborne; Sergeant-Major E, H. McCaleb of Claiborne; Surgeon M. S. Craft of Hinds; Assistant Surgeon -- Clark; Commissary John A. Galbraith of Jefferson; Quartermaster -- Bristoe of Yazoo; Chaplain A. A. Lomax of Copiah. (Rietti.)

The companies for the organization of this regiment were assembled at Camp Clark, near Corinth, the post being under the command of Gen. Charles Clark, Army of Mississippi.. Balloting by companies for regimental officers began May 16, and seven ballots were taken before all of them were chosen. Capt. Henry Hughes, of the Claiborne Guards, was the favorite of a large part of the regiment for Colonel. Finally the selections were: Colonel, Griffith; Lieutenant-Colonel, Taylor; Major, Dickens. After the regiment was ready for service it was sent to Union City, Term., to cooperate in General Polk's campaign against St. Louis, but the imminence of conflict in Virginia caused its transfer to that department. On July 9, 1861, telegrams were sent to General Polk and General Clark, asking that the regiment be sent to Lynchburg without delay. It started July 16, and did not arrive in time for the battle of Manassas. . The regiment was posted in northeastern Virginia, and during the winter of 1861-62 was quartered near Centreville, attached to the Alabama brigade under General Rodes. President Davis planned to make the Twelfth part of a Mississippi brigade, which was to be under the command of Gen. Charles Clark. But Clark was needed in the West, and Colonel Griffith, who had been Adjutant of President Davis' regiment in the Mexican War, and also a General in the State army, was promoted as Brigadier-General and assigned to command of the First Mississippi Brigade. It appears to have been the President's plan to form two Mississippi brigades to be part of a division for Major-General Van Dorn, but General Johnston opposed this as impracticable at that time, and it was never effected. The Twelfth did not become a part of the brigade of which its first Colonel was commander.

The first battle of the Twelfth was fought as part of Rodes' brigade, after the army had been transferred to Richmond to meet the advance of McClellan from the Peninsula. Under Col. W. H. Taylor they began the attack of Rodes' brigade in the battle of Seven Pines and supported by the Fifth Alabama pressed forward under heavy fire into an abatis, and from there into the Federal rifle pits, where they heroically held their ground between the Confederate and Federal batteries. General Rodes mentioned specially the gallantry of Colonel Taylor, Captain Hastings (Company H) and Sergeant Robert Hall. After General Rodes was wounded in this bloody fight Col. John B. Gordon took command of the brigade. The brigade of four regiments carried 2,200 men into action and lost 241 killed and 853 wounded. The loss of the Twelfth was 41 killed and 152 wounded.

It is told in Rietti's Annals that Gen. D. H. Hill, their division commander, complimented the regiment after this battle, in person, saying in conclusion: "Within the limits of your State resides my only brother, and in your soil rests the remains of my dear departed mother. I had always intended to remove her remains to North Carolina and let them mingle with the ashes of her ancestors, but, Mississippians, since I witnessed your brave conduct on last Saturday, they shall sleep in your soil forever."

In the Mississippi Archives is a roll, evidently prepared in Virginia before the Peninsular campaign, in which the Twelfth is credited with "1,013 men, rank and file." It was one of the largest regiments at Seven Pines.

In June, 1862, the Second Mississippi Brigade was formed, under Gen. W. S. Featherston, including the Twelfth, Nineteenth and Taylor's battalion. In the opening of the battle of Savage Station, June 29, on the York River Railroad, General Griffith, in command of the First Brigade, received a mortal wound. He was borne from the field and died the next morning.

The Twelfth was in battle June 27 (Gaines' Mill or Cold Harbor) on Beaver Dam creek and on the Chickahominy near Gaines' house. Under heavy artillery fire they charged up a hill, driving the Federal line through a forest and capturing a battery. Maj. W. H. Lilly, in command, was wounded at the head of his regiment, and Captain Thomas then took command. June 30, in the battle of Glendale or Frazier’s farm, the brigade went into battle at five in the evening and sustained the attack of a large force of the enemy. The casualties of the regiment in the two battles were 34 killed, 186 wounded and 5 missing. Among the killed were Capts. J. Dobbins and J. E. Vawter, and Lieuts. T. W. Crump and W. B. Thomas.

In the second Manassas campaign the brigade was in Wilcox's division of Longstreet's corps. General Wilcox reported the gallant action of the Twelfth and Sixteenth, near Kelly's ford on the Rappahannock, August 21. Supported by the other regiment the Twelfth repulsed the charge of a large body of Federal cavalry, the deadly fire of the Mississippians throwing the enemy into great confusion. In the battle of August 30 the brigade had a gallant part fighting in the vicinity of the stone house, and the brigade loss was 26 killed, 142 wounded.

The brigade took part in the capture of Harper's Ferry and the battle of Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862, but there are no official reports of the regiment. The casualties were 6 killed, 53 wounded. (See Sixteenth Regiment.)

In the battle of Fredericksburg, December, 1862, the regiment, under Col. W. H. Taylor, were three days and nights in line of battle, under artillery fire, which caused them the loss of eight men wounded.

In January General Posey took command of the brigade, which was a part of Anderson's division, Longstreet's corps. They remained near Fredericksburg, with occasional picket duty on the Rappahannock River, until posted at the United States ford in February.

When the Federal army began to cross near Fredericksburg and above, the two brigades moved to Chancellorsville, leaving a guard at the ford. From Chancellorsville Anderson withdrew them to the crossing of the old Mine and Plank roads, where they threw up intrenchments and were reinforced. On the morning of May 1 General Jackson came up and Posey's brigade joined him in the flank movement, arriving near the Federal entrenchments around Chancellorsville about midnight. Next day, in the evening, Posey's brigade attacked the enemy, appearing in strength at the furnace and "gallantly maintained its position against great odds," and during the night constructed breastworks. On the 3d the brigade took its place in line of battle, "pressed forward with spirited impetuosity," and drove the enemy from his entrenchments around Chancellorsville. Next day they marched to Fredericksburg and aided in the defeat of the enemy there also. "Where all performed their part with so much zeal and courage it is almost impossible to make a distinction, but Brigadier-General Posey and his brave, untiring, persevering Mississippians seem to me to deserve especial notice," wrote General Anderson. "Their steadiness at the furnace on Saturday evening, when pressed by greatly superior numbers, saved our army from great peril, while their chivalrous charge upon the trenches on Sunday contributed largely to the successes of that day. After three days of incessant occupation, Saturday night was again passed by them in hard work upon entrenchments in front of the furnace, while the others had an opportunity to take some rest." The Twelfth fought as skirmishers for the brigade May 1, and in this gallant action with the Federal skirmish line Lieut.-Col. M. B. Harris, commanding the regiment, was severely wounded. Major S. B. Thomas commanded in the charge on the 3d. The loss of the regiment was 3 killed, 38 wounded, 23 missing.

At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Posey's brigade was in the attack of A. P. Hill's corps upon the Federal positions in the peach orchard and toward the heights of Little Round Top and the Devil's Den. The Mississippi brigade was ordered to support Wright's Georgia brigade. "Wright's men bore the starry cross on their standards to the crest of the ridge, which they held for ten memorable minutes." They believed that if they had been supported the victory was won. But through some fatality they were not supported in that extreme advance. In fact, Posey had been instructed to send only two of his regiments. The Twelfth was held in reserve through the battles of the 2d and 3d. The casualties of the regiment were seven wounded.

With the brigade the Twelfth was in line of battle near Hagerstown, a week or more, and then, with the army, fell back into Virginia and behind the Rapidan. From a two months' rest near Orange Courthouse they were called in October to thwart the maneuvers of General Meade. The flank movement of Hill's corps across the Rappahannock was effective, but while the brigade was under the fire of artillery at Bristoe Station, on the 14th, General Posey was mortally wounded. Colonel Harris, of the Nineteenth, was promoted to the command. They were in line of battle on Mine Run in November, passed the weary winter of 1863-64 on the Rapidan, and left their camp May 5 to go into the battle of the Wilderness. They advanced from the plank road, charged and repulsed two Federal columns that threatened to outflank the brigades of Davis, Perry and Law, and then, in line with these brigades, Harris' men fought through the day, repelling all attacks and capturing many prisoners. Many brave men fell in the gallant charge with which the day's work was begun. After the trying quick-time march to Spottsylvania Courthouse, }lay 9, the regiment was in battle at the Po River bridge, but its main fight, one memorable in the annals of America, was with the brigade in the Bloody Angle, May 12-13. The casualties of the regiment May 6-12 were 13 killed, 32 wounded, 13 missing. They moved from their station across the Po River to recover the line that Johnston had lost to Hancock, were led toward the point of greatest danger by Lee himself, until they prevailed on the General to go back, and they, with the help of other brigades, closed the dangerous gap in the line with their bodies, and held it from seven in the morning of the 12th to three in the morning of the 13th, without food, and always in danger of being without ammunition, for it was worth a man's life to leave the shelter of the earthworks and the ditches running with water from a steady rain. Lieutenant Bow was among the killed, whose gallantry was conspicuous. It was almost a continuous battle or its equivalent from May 5. They fought on the North Anna May 24, skirmished on the Totopotomoy later, took position on the lines, close to the Federal line at Cold Harbor June 3, and there was engaged in constant battle under fire of sharpshooters and artillery. There Captain Hannegan, an accomplished officer and brave soldier, was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. The brigade marched into the Petersburg lines June 18, and was in battle in front of that line on the 22d, on the Weldon Railroad on the 24th, and then returned to the trenches where, on the next day, Col. M. B. Harris was shot by a sharpshooter in the head, the character of the wound being such as to deprive his regiment and country permanently of his efficient and gallant services. A casualty report in June showed 10 killed, 20 wounded, 8 missing. They were under heavy fire in the battle of the Crater July 30, took part in the battle of Derbytown Road, north of the James, August 18; and in the battle of Ream's Station on the Weldon Railroad, August 21, the Twelfth and Sixteenth entered the new Federal entrenched line across the railroad, and being overwhelmed many were captured. The Federal command attacked was Gen. E. S. Bragg's brigade of Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan regiments, posted on the left of the railroad fronting the Vaughan road. He reported the capture of six field officers, fifteen line officers and 101 enlisted men, two stands of colors and a number of wounded men. Among those wounded and captured were Col. S. B. Thomas, Major Bell, Adjutant Howard McCaleb and Captain Joseph Johnson, of the Twelfth. In August, up to and including this battle, the regiment reported 4 killed, 26 wounded, 63 missing.

The next battle was at the Hatcher's Run bridge for the defense of the Boydton plank road, and again on this road, at Burgess' Mill, the brigade fought in support of Gordon's corps February 6, 1865. This was part of a campaign of seven days, in intensely cold weather, in which great endurance and determined courage were shown by the men.

The brigade served on the Swift Run line and at the time of Sheridan's raid in Richmond. From the former position they marched early in the morning of April 2 to Petersburg, whence they were sent at double quick to the place where the line of General Wilcox had been broken. Reporting to Wilcox near the Newman house on the Boydton plank road, they saw the Federal troops as far as the eye could reach, moving in great and imposing force to seize the advantage gained. The Mississippians actually went into line of battle to meet this demonstration so adroitly as to give an impression of considerable numbers, when they were not stronger than one full regiment, if as strong. But an order soon reached Harris not to sacrifice his men, but occupy the earthworks near him. The Twelfth, under Lieut.-Col. James H. Duncan of the Nineteenth, who had been assigned to command it, and the Sixteenth, in all about 150 men (Harris' Diary), were put in Battery Gregg and the other two regiments in Battery Whitworth.

Gen. John Gibbon, commanding the Twenty-fourth Army Corps, reported: "At 6:50 A. M. an order was received from Major-General Ord directing me to send all my available force to the support of the Sixth corps, which had broken through the enemy's line near Fort Welch. I at once ordered the whole of Foster’s division and two of Turner's brigades to move to the right, and almost immediately afterward Harris' (West Virginia) brigade of Turner's division carried the enemy's line in front of them and, pushing down forward Birney's division, we occupied the enemy's line and met the Sixth corps coming down from the right, sweeping everything before them. Harris' brigade was now pushed up toward Petersburg, followed by that portion of the Sixth corps which had come down the line and by Birney's division. On reaching the vicinity of Fort Welch, where the Sixth corps had broken through, I found Foster (three brigades Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New York regiments) already in line of battle perpendicular to the enemy's old line and confronting two strong works, Forts Gregg and Baldwin (Whitworth), which the enemy had erected to protect his right of the town. Harris' brigade was formed on Foster's left, and as soon as they arrived Turner's two other brigades were formed in rear of Foster. As the Sixth corps came up it went into position, two divisions on my left and one on my right, and as soon as they reached within supporting distance Foster's line was ordered to charge the works in its front. The troops moved steadily and rapidly forward, under a very heavy fire of both artillery and musketry, and gained Fort Gregg, to find it surrounded by a deep, wide ditch partially filled with water and flanked by a fire from both right and left. Turner's two brigades were pushed rapidly up in support from the second line, whilst Harris at the same time rushed against Fort Baldwin. The enemy made a most desperate resistance, and it was not until Fort Gregg was almost entirely surrounded and our brave men had succeeded in climbing upon the parapet under a most murderous fire, that the place was finally taken by the last of several determined dashes with the bayonet, Harris and a portion of the First division at the same time carrying Fort Baldwin. This assault, certainly one of the most desperate of the war, succeeded by the obstinate courage of our troops, but at a fearful cost. Fifty-five of the enemy's dead were found inside Fort Gregg, whilst my own loss during the operations of the day, most of which occurred around these two forts, was 10 officers and 112 men killed and 27 officers and 565 men wounded. We captured two pieces of artillery, several colors and about 300 prisoners." Gen. Robert S. Foster reported the capture of Fort Gregg "with two guns and the entire garrison of 250 officers and men," and he said, "The fighting on both sides at this point was the most desperate I ever witnessed, being a hand-to-hand struggle for twenty-five minutes after my troops had reached the parapet. Fifty-seven of the enemy's dead were found inside the work."

It may be surmised that a large part of the regiment was not in Fort Gregg. At least forty, according to Rietti's Annals, were surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. under command of Sergt. William Brown, Company K, after all the attrition of the Appomattox campaign.

 

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