31st Mississippi Infantry

[formerly 6th Battalion Mississippi Infantry (Orr’s)]

 

(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’)

 

 COMPANIES OF THE 6TH BATTALION MS INFANTRY (ORR’S):

Company A -- Orr Guards [J.A. Orr] (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)

Company B -- Dixie Guards, aka Avent Company, & aka Avent Rebels (raised in Choctaw County, MS)

Company C -- Capt. Hill’s Company, aka Chickasaw Guards, & aka Old Chickasaw (raised in Chickasaw County, MS)

Company D -- Dixie Rebels (raised in Calhoun County, MS)

Company E -- Calhoun Tigers (raised in Calhoun County, MS)

Company F -- Capt. Orr’s Company [H.C. Orr] (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)

Company G -- Capt. Jenning’s Company (raised in Itawamba County, MS)

Company H -- Jackson Rifles (raised in Choctaw County, MS)

Company I -- Capt. McWhorter’s Company (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)

 

COMPANIES OF THE 31ST MS INFANTRY:

Company A -- Orr Guards [J.A. Orr] (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)

Company B -- Dixie Guards, aka Avent Company, & aka Avent Rebels (raised in Choctaw County, MS)

Company C -- Capt. Hill’s Company, aka Chickasaw Guards, & aka Old Chickasaw (raised in Chickasaw County, MS)

Company D -- Dixie Rebels (raised in Calhoun County, MS)

Company E -- Choctaw Rebels, aka Choctaw Greys (raised in Choctaw County, MS)

Company F -- Calhoun Tigers (raised in Calhoun County, MS)

Company G -- Orr Guards [H.C. Orr] (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)

Company H -- Capt. Jenning’s Company (raised in Itawamba County, MS)

Company I -- Jackson Rifles (raised in Choctaw County, MS)

Company K -- Capt. McWhorter’s Company (raised in Pontotoc County, MS)

 

Filled from Orr's Sixth Battalion.

Colonels -- John A. Orr, elected to Congress; Marcus D. L. Stephens, wounded at Franklin. Lieutenant-Colonels -- M. D. L. Stephens, promoted February 17, 1864; James W. Drane. Majors -- H. E. Topp, killed at Jackson; James W. Drane, promoted;

Francis M. Gillespie, killed at Peachtree Creek; Thomas J. Pulliam. Surgeons -- J. M. Blackwell, H. C. Orr. Assistant Surgeons -- H. C. Orr, J. R. Ford. Adjutants -- J. N. Campbell, J. C. Rasberry, W. J. Vandegraff. Quartermasters -- L. S. Boiling, B. F. Fitzpatrick. Commissaries -- B. F. Fitzpatrick, Simon Myers.

This regiment was raised by Col. J. A. Orr, assisted by Lieut.-Col. M. D. L. Stephens, who had served one year in Virginia with the Seventeenth Regiment.

There are no muster rolls in this department, the companies are not entered in the Register of Commissions. The above list is from the recollections of Colonel Stephens, whose manuscript regimental history is drawn upon for this sketch. [Transcriber’s Note: The above lists of companies are from H. Grady Howell’s "For Dixie Land, I’ll Take My Stand" and not Col. Stephens’ recollections.]

While this regiment was being mustered in at Saltillo, the men could hear the roar of the cannon at the battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862. April 11 they arrived at Corinth under orders to report to General Breckenridge, commanding the Reserve Corps, and were assigned to a Kentucky Brigade commanded by Colonel Trabue. The regiment was engaged in skirmishing during the advance of the Federal army on Corinth, and after the evacuation May 29 were on guard at Twenty Mile Creek until the sick and wounded had been carried past, after which they followed the army to Tupelo. Breckenridge was ordered to the support of Vicksburg, then under bombardment by a river fleet, and the regiment reached the vicinity of Vicksburg June 16, moving into the city July 1. At the close of the attack, in the latter part of July, the brigade, then under General Helm, moved to Camp Moore, La. Colonel Orr being sick, Lieutenant-Colonel Stephens was in command of the regiment. August 1 they marched to attack the Federal force at Baton Rouge, expecting the cooperation of the ram Arkansas, the passage of which through the Federal fleet they had witnessed at Vicksburg. Early in the morning of August 5 a body of partisan rangers in their front, galloping back, produced some confusion, which led to rapid firing for a few minutes. General Helm was disabled by a fall from his horse. His Aide-de-camp and brother-in-law, Lieutenant Todd, brother of the wife of President Lincoln, was killed, and several men of the Thirty-first were killed or wounded. At daylight, under command of Gen. Charles Clark, the attack was made, and the Federals were forced back to the grove in rear of the penitentiary, where a stubborn resistance was made. The Arkansas was lost some distance up the river and the battle was in vain. General Clark was dangerously wounded and captured. Major H. E. Topp, commanding the Thirty-first, was commended for gallant conduct. The casualties of the regiment were killed and mortally wounded, 16; wounded, 31.

The troops returned to Jackson, Miss., and about September 1 moved to Gray's Creek, north of Holly Springs, where there was a reorganization and the First, Third, Twenty-second and Thirty-first Mississippi formed Rust's Brigade, under command of Colonel Stephens, while General Rust commanded the division until General Loring took command. The Federal troops occupied Corinth and neighboring points and were concentrating at Grand Junction and LaGrange, Tenn. The regiment took part in Van Dorn's advance in September and the brigade had a light skirmish at LaGrange, after which they retired to Holly Springs, where Colonel Stephens was post commandant during the battle of Corinth, October 3-4, 1862, his regiment remaining there on guard. However, they advanced as the army was retreating and met the enemy at Chewalla Creek. When General Grant advanced from Memphis down the Central Railroad they fell back from Holly Springs to the Tallahatchie River and thence in December to Coffeeville, where they participated in the battle of December 5, Colonel Orr commanding the brigade and Stephens the regiment. The brigade pursued the Federal advance back to the main army at Water Valley, and then retired to Grenada. Van Dorn's raid to Holly Springs followed and Grant retreated to Memphis. The regiment was then sent to the support of S. D. Lee at Chickasaw Bayou. The brigade was met at Edwards as it moved to Vicksburg by General Featherston, who took command, the brigade then including the Fifteenth, Twenty-second, Thirty-first and Thirty-third Regiment and Rayburn's Battalion. Featherston’s Brigade was ordered to Snyder's Bluff March 19 on account of the Federal reconnaissance by General Sherman and Admiral Porter on Rolling Fork and Deer Creek, and toward the close of the ten days' operation the Thirty-first joined the Twenty-second and Thirty-third at the scene of action. Colonel Orr then taking command of the Confederate forces with Featherston. After an unique campaign in the flooded swamps with the Federal gunboats that were crowding their way through the bayou, the gunboats

escaped into Black Bayou, and the regiment took steamer for Fort Pemberton, confronted by a Federal fleet. Late in April they moved to Grenada, whence the regiment was ordered again to Edwards. May 3 Colonel Orr at Edwards was ordered, "on the arrival of Featherston, with his brigade, your regiment and Snodgrass' Alabama Regiment will go to the Big Black bridge."

Grant landed at Bruinsburg May 4, and May 5 the brigade advanced toward Port Gibson in support of General Bowen, thence returned to Edwards, and participated in the battle of Baker's Creek May 14. They were with Loring’ Division, on the right of the army, under artillery fire, while the battle was fought on the left at Champion's Hill. Late in the day the brigade was moved to the left, and the Thirty-first was placed in position by Gen. S. D. Lee, where they held the enemy in check while the Confederate troops retreated across the creek. When Loring began to fall back, after sunset, his way was cut off. Featherston's Brigade formed behind the division artillery and repulsed two attacks of the enemy, and then moved as silently as possible, passing the Federal camps, to Crystal Springs, and two or three days later reached Jackson, and soon went into camp at Canton. During the early part of July they were with Johnston's army near the Big Black River, retreating thence to Jackson after the surrender of Vicksburg, July 4. At Jackson they intrenched on a hill north of the residence of Colonel Withers, and Sherman rapidly following, his intrenched line was established at the Insane asylum. An assault was made by the Federals and repulsed, and in this action Major Topp was mortally wounded and several others of the regiment killed or wounded. After the hostilities at Jackson, July 9-16, the brigade retreated across Pearl River in the night, and went in line of battle near Brandon to meet pursuit.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stephens was commanding the regiment, in Featherston's Brigade, Loring's Division, army of General Polk, concentrated at Canton, when Sherman began his march from Vicksburg to Meridian in February, 1864. The division moved to Morton and fell back to Demopolis, Ala.

Early in March, 1864, they moved to Montevallo, Ala., with the army under General Polk. They arrived at Resaca, Ga., at the beginning of the battle of May 12-15, and several men were wounded while getting off the train by the artillery fire. The regiment, with its fine band, was rushed at once into the thick of the fight, and havoc resulted in the musical corps as well as among the companies. On the last day the regiment marched at the head of the line led into battle by General Johnston. The retreat across the river to Calhoun Station followed. They went into line of battle and were under artillery fire at Cassville, crossed the Etowah River, and in the latter part of May fought on the New Hope Church line, the first of a long series of almost daily battles or skirmishes, extending as the armies sought to outflank each other, over the Kenesaw Mountains to Marietta, where Sherman was repulsed in the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, June 27. Falling back early in July the regiment was in the skirmish at Smyrna Church, July 4, and was under fire several days on the Chattahoochee River, which they crossed July 16. General Hood then took command, and the army was ordered to assault the Federal troops along Peachtree Creek July 20. The regiment first drove back the Federal line in its front and gained the main position, where they were outflanked and suffered terrible losses in attempting to hold their position. Colonel Stephens being sick, the regiment was commanded by Lieut.-Col. J. W. Drane until he fell severely wounded in five places, giving the command to Major F. M. Gillespie, who, already bleeding from a severe wound, led on until shot down near the Federal line -- a gallant officer and true patriot. Adjutant W. J. Vandegraff, a gallant and accomplished officer, took up the colors of the regiment after two or three bearers had been shot down, and fell with the colors in his hand, supposedly mortally wounded and was left on the field. Every Captain on the field was killed or wounded, and First Lieutenant Shaw, of Company G, took command until Capt. T. J. Pulliam joined the regiment with a detachment that had been on picket duty. Of the 22 company officers in the action 17 were killed, wounded or captured. Out of a total of 215 in battle, officers and men, 164 were killed, wounded or missing. The commander of the One Hundred and Thirty-sixth New York reported the capture of the battle flag of the Thirty-first Mississippi (see Thirty-third Regiment). Dennis Buckley, of the New York Regiment, according to the reports, knocked down the color bearer with a musket and wrenched the colors from him. Seven stand of colors were lost at the same time.

Following are the casualties among the company officers at Peachtree Creek:

Company A -- Killed: Capt. John B. Ketchurn, Lieut. J. C. Morrow, Sergt. J. M. Johnson. Wounded and captured: Lieut. J. W. Prude.

Company B -- Wounded: Capt. S. M. Thornton, Lieut. W. A. Womack, Lieut. W. A. McCarty.

Company C -- Killed: Lieut. W. D. Carradine. Wounded: Lieut. James T. Pulliam.

Company D -- Missing: Lieut. Thomas Lyles.

Company E -- Lieut. S. M. Bobbs, Sergts. J. S. Bridges, J. J. Cudley.

Company G -- Wounded: Capt. J. F. Manahan.

Company H -- Wounded: Capt. G. W. Naron, Lieut. W. M. Foster.

Company I -- Missing: Capt. C. W. Richards, Lieut. J. C. Hallum.

Company K -- Missing: Capt. G. W. Lewdon, Lieut. P. G. McGraw.

Besides those named of the field and staff, Sergt.-Major G. T. Hightower and Ensign J. V. Bailew were also severely wounded.

The regiment was on duty on the battle field of July 22, east of Atlanta, and actively participated in the battle of Ezra Church, July 28, west of the city, after which it was on duty during the siege, intrenching and skirmishing, until the evacuation at the close of August. The regiment was commanded during the Atlanta campaign by Col. M. D. L. Stephens, until the battle of Ezra Church, when Colonel Stephens took command of the brigade, and General Featherston of Loring's Division.

In the October, 1864, campaign on the Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad, Featherston's Brigade captured the Federal post at Big Shanty, was with Loring's Division in the capture of Acworth, and with Stewart’s Corps in the destruction of the railroad between Dalton and Resaca, after which they moved through the mountains to Gadsden, Ala., skirmished at Decatur, October 26-29, where the regiment had several killed and wounded. Thence they moved to Tuscumbia.

At the beginning of the Atlanta campaign Polk's Army of the Mississippi had an enrollment of over 40,000 and an aggregate present of over 25,000. November 6, under the title of Stewart’s Corps, its return was 26,714 present and absent, aggregate present 12,684. The corps crossed the Tennessee River November 20 and marched against Schofield at Columbia, on the 29th, making a movement toward Spring Hill to support Forrest and Cheatham, held at bay by Stanley's Federal Division. In a confused night march they never reached their destination. Hood believed that if they had, history would have been different. November 30 they followed Schofield to the strong intrenchments in front of Franklin, on the Harpeth, and suffered frightful losses in the assault. Out of 250 men in the Thirty-first Regiment, 45 were killed and about 100 wounded. The Thirty-first advanced to the attack across the railroad and through an abatis, under heavy fire, and then fixed bayonets and charged. One after another ten color bearers had been shot down until Color Sergeant Spence Neal carried the flag. When he was shot he gave the flag to Colonel Stephens, who, with the few then able to advance, charged up to the trenches and was in the act of planting the flag on the works when his thigh was shattered by a rifle ball and he fell in the ditch. He gave the flag to Sergeant Hunter, who was shot as he took it, but managed to obey the order to carry the colors to the rear. An Illinois soldier came out of the works and adjusted a bandage to prevent Colonel Stephens from bleeding to death, and when the Federal army retreated that night he was carried across the river and left warmly wrapped and with a fire at his feet to be found by his men next day.

Thomas' army was safely concentrated at Nashville, and Hood began fortifying a line around that city. Loring's Division held the front of Stewart's position, a line of one mile in length across the Granny White pike, supported by redoubts on five hills. Capt. Robert A. Collins was in command of the Thirty-first December 10. December 15 Thomas attacked and carried two of the redoubts, capturing many. Loring's Division gallantly formed a second line to meet the flank attack. December 16 they repulsed every attack until a fiercer assault was successful on their left. At Columbia, December 20, Featherston's Brigade was selected as one of the seven to be commanded by Walthall as the infantry rear guard, remaining in the face of the enemy until the remainder of the army had marched two days. December 21 the regiment had a total strength of 93 officers and men. On the retreat from Columbia they fought gallantly, checking pursuit at Anthony's Hill and Sugar Creek, December 25-26. They crossed the Tennessee River December 28, and marched to winter quarters near Tupelo.

A month later the return was 20,071 present and absent, aggregate present 8,909.

About the 1st of February, 1865, the remnant of Loring's Division began the movement to reinforce General Johnston in the Carolinas, Sherman having marched to Savannah from Atlanta. They were ordered forward from Augusta, Ga., to Newberry, S.C., February 25. In the Carolina campaign they participated in the battles of Kinston, March 10, and Bentonville, March 19, on the latter day making a gallant charge and suffering heavy losses. Organization of army under Gen. J. E. Johnston, near Smithfield, N. C., March 31, 1865, shows Major-General Walthall in command of Stewart's Corps, former Army of the Mississippi; Featherston's Brigade commanded by Maj. Martin A. Oatis; the Thirty-first Regiment by Capt. John F. Manahan. Major Pulliam, however, was with the regiment. April 9 the Third, Thirty-first and Fortieth Mississippi were consolidated as the Third, Col. James M. Stigler commanding. [Transcriber’s Note: The 1st Battalion MS Sharpshooters and the 22nd MS Infantry were also part of the 3rd Consolidated MS Infantry.] An Arkansas Brigade, consolidated in one regiment, was added to the old Featherston Brigade.

Hostilities were suspended April 18, and the army was surrendered near Durham Station April 26.

 

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