16th Mississippi Infantry during the Chancellorsville Campaign, May 1863

By the Liberty Rifles Research Committee

 

Major General Richard H. Anderson

Major General Richard H. Anderson

Brigadier General Carnot Posey

Brigadier General Carnot Posey

In an effort to lend a hand in putting together your impressions for the upcoming 150th Anniversary of Chancellorsville Living History, the following collection of sources ranging from diaries and journals, to photographs and memoirs, has been compiled in hope of turning a fine lens on the “Wilkinson Rifles,” Company K of the 16th Mississippi Infantry, Posey’s Brigade, Anderson’s Division, 1st Corps, A.N.V. Our research endeavors are not put forth as restrictions, rather as guides to assist you in developing your impression. We encourage you to not only look at our compiled research, but to conduct your own research, and interpret the whole as you see fit. Our suggestions and findings are as follows:

  • Jackets – A good hodge-podge of Non-descript Jackets and Frocks – “Brown Jeans” if possible, other jeans or satinettes are completely acceptable. Richmond Depot Type I’s and Type II’s.
  • Trousers – Military and Civilian, “Brown Jeans” if possible
  • Footwear – CS, Civilian, Federal
  • Leathers – CS and Federal
  • Headwear – Hats, a few caps
  • Arms – Mix of Enfield and Springfield Rifles
  • Haversack – CS and Federal
  • Canteen – CS and Federal
  • Baggage – Civilian Blankets, Federal Blankets – Knapsacks or Blanket Rolls. Oilcloths, tarps and Federal Rubber Blankets as well as Federal Shelter Halves. Overcoats were still being used, CS/Civilian preferred, Federal acceptable.


CLOTHING

While the following accounts are very descriptive about what Co. K received in late December 1862 in the way of clothing, what Co. K and the 16th Mississippi looked like during the Battle of Chancellorsville is somewhat less clear. It is likely that, given the nature of winter quarters, and light duty throughout late winter and early spring, a good deal of the December 28th, 1862 quantity of “bountiful clothing” sent from Wilkinson County would still be reasonably intact and in use by Co. K during the Chancellorsville Campaign, well worn to be sure. The Wilkinson Manufacturing Company, established in 1851 and owned by Judge Edward McGehee, produced uniform cloth for the men of Wilkinson County until Federal Cavalry burned down the factory in July of 1863. There is only one description of McGehee’s cloth and that comes from Pvt. David Holt in the fall of 1861, that it was “Brown Factory Jeans.” To be sure, this description comes a little over a year and a quarter before Co. K received their clothing from home, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that similar material was being produced for the suits that many of the “boys” were said to be “strutting around in.” It is also evident by accounts that men continued to receive items sporadically from home through the late winter/early spring of ’63. Posey’s Brigade, throughout the spring of ‘63, was also drawing clothing sporadically. It is likely that these men were starting to see clothing from the Richmond Depot.

Pvt. Harry Lewis, Co. K, 16th Miss., in a letter to his mother, January of 1863

"We received our clothing and shoes on the 28th of December, and they came just at the right time, for we needed both and thankfully received them.  After the distribution of the clothing, the whole company, ragged and dirty as they were, manfully withstood the appreciation of cold water and promptly displayed, to the envy of the other companies of the regiment, their new duds, and many were the shouts that loudly arose for the ladies of Wilkinson County........The weather is extremely cold, today being the most severe of the winter thus far, but thanks to our homemade overcoats and abundant supply of tarps recently received, we managed to keep quite comfortable.  Fletch and I have five blankets and our overcoats...the whole company have more blankets and clothing than they can carry to save their lives.  I only wish our whole army were as well provided for, even our regiment.  It would be a matter of no small import.  I can tell you I am pleased with my new overcoat.  It fits me well, and the pockets are the most convenient I ever saw..."

Diary of Cpl. John Louis Whitaker Phares, Co. K, 16th Miss., December 27, 1862 entry

"Shoes sent from home arrived today. There were welcome, as our boys were in great need of them. The boys were _____, each fellow eager to open [his] bundle to see what it contained from home."

Pvt. James T. Downs, Co. D, 21st Mississippi, in a letter to his mother, December 27, 1862 (Two Companies of the 21st Miss. were raised in Wilkinson County and received clothing from the aid society on the same day as Co. K of the 16th Miss.)

"We remained in town Christmas Day, and yesterday until late in the evening when our company was sent to camp to draw clothing, our clothing from home having arrived and this morning nearly all the boys except myself can be seen strutting about in a new suit and even I drew a pair of pants, drawers and a shirt so you will see that I am most bountifully supplied with clothing – having an old and new pair of pants, four shirts, three pr. drawers, five pr. socks, a coat and a tolerable god pair of shoes. The boys are all well and seem to be in fine spirits since receiving such a bountiful supply of clothing from the kind citizens of Wilkinson County and especially from the ladies military aid society."

Pvt. Harry Lewis, Co. K, 16th Miss., in a letter to his mother, February of 1863

"I received a pair of gloves by Kann.  They are very neat, and I am much obliged as they came just at the right time.  The gloves Miss. G. made for me were of more service than any I ever had before, I believe.  Thanks to her industry."

‘Grandfather's Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V’, March 5-7, 1863

"Package received of clothing and cookies (cookies crushed)."

Diary of Pvt. Franklin Lafayette Riley, Co. B, 16th Miss., jots a note on March 20, 1863

"2 Sh'ts, 1 hat, & ambro"

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., March 25, 1863

"Dull in camp. Worked at Commissary report today. Order read at dress parade yesterday for the troops to prepare for the summer campaign by sending back their surplus baggage."

‘Grandfather's Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V’, April 10-11, 1863

“Guess I better not be taken. I’m not a spy, but some of my equipment is Federal Issue. In fact, this is true of most of us.”

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., April 27, 1863

"Today has been a beautiful spring day, warm enough to lay off our overcoats.”

Diary of Posey’s Adjutant, A.J. Peel, 19th Mississippi, May 2nd, 1863

“We were ordered back a mile early this morning. We drew 2 days rations and clothes...”

Pvt. Davey Holt, Co. K, 16th Miss., ‘A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia’, May 4, 1863

“Dressing [this] morning was a simple matter, and consisted in dusting my jacket a little and putting my hat on straight.”

‘Grandfather's Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V’, May 7, 1863

6 Months pay received, plus clothing. “I am rich.”

Corporal Rice Bull, 123rd New York Infantry, as he lay wounded on the field, Bull describes the oncoming line of Confederates on May 3rd.

“They made a soldierly though not a handsome appearance, as no two uniforms were exactly alike in style or color or material.”

An Edwin Forbes sketch of Confederate Prisoners taken at Chencelloresville

An Edwin Forbes sketch of Confederate Prisoners taken at Chencelloresville

 

ARMS

Pvt. J.J. Wilson, Co. K, 16th Miss., in a letter to his brother, October 2nd, 1862

"We have armed our regiment off of the battlefield with their Enfield and Springfield rifles, the best gun that the Yankees have in service"

The Inspection Report of Harris’ Brigade (Formerly Posey’s) in November of 1864, also shows an even mix of Springfields and Enfields, confirming Wilson’s claim above.

On the nights of May 1st and May 2nd, 1863, Posey’s Brigade is well documented to have spent both nights lying on arms. While sleeping with accoutrements on can be somewhat less than comfortable, in this case, it is very well documented and can provide you as a historian with a unique experience in matching accounts with a physical experience. Both nights, the 16th Mississippi was within a few hundred yards or less of the Federals and skirmishing was kept up through the night.

‘The Veteran’s Story … Dedicated to the Heroes Who Wore the Gray’ (Regimental History of the 16th Miss.), The night of May 1, 1863

“We halted near a large furnace, formed a line and were ordered to rest on our arms.”

Diary of Posey’s Adjutant, A.J. Peel, 19th Mississippi, Night of May 2nd, 1863

“We halt and sleep on our arms in 150 yards of the enemy”

Diary of Cpl. John Louis Whitaker Phares, Co. K, 16th Miss., Night of May 2nd, 1863

“We lay on our arms. Skirmishing went on all night.”

 

FOOD

Regarding what the 16th Mississippi was eating during the Chancellorsville Campaign, the accounts are both abundant and descriptive. Throughout the winter and spring of 1863, The Army of Northern Virginia was suffering from a lack of foodstuffs and a poor infrastructure to distribute what little they had. Take note of the resourcefulness of the soldiers to supplement what appears to be an otherwise consistently bland and deficient supply of rations. The house special that spring appears to have been predominantly flour and bacon. Other items that make an appearance are rice, molasses, wild onions, beans, salt beef (beef looks to be a rarity at this time) and vinegar. Another particular note of interest is the role of fish, particularly shad, to supplement rations. Between March and May, the shad run on the Rappahannock River provided a bountiful and much needed supplementation to the Army of Northern Virginia’s Commissary problems. From Sears’ ‘Chancellorsville’ “That spring the run of shad on the Rappahannock was a godsend, and hungry Rebels seined them by the wagonload.” Sears also makes note that on May 1st, A.P Hill’s Division had to leave behind 2 wagon loads of “fresh fish just seined from the Rappahannock. The marchers were told to take all they wanted for later cooking.”

NOTE: Pvt. Higgins was attached to the Brigade Commissary and therefore, is particularly descriptive of rations being issued to the troops.

Pvt. James M. Higgins. Injured at Sharpsburg, rejoined Co. K in January 1863. Image supposed to have been taken between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Pvt. James M. Higgins. Injured at Sharpsburg, rejoined Co. K in January 1863. Image supposed to have been taken between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., March 19, 1863

"Slept quite cold last night, rose early this morning.  Rations were issued to our Regiment very early - things are getting very tight in the way of food.  One pound of flour, a quarter pound of bacon (no beef) per person..."

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., March 20, 1863

"Some of the boys in our band got a squirrel up a tree and cut the tree down - and being seven or eight in number, they soon caught it.  We had for a variety today a pot of apple dumplings which, being very well sweetened with sugar, tasted very well indeed, and our rations being only bacon and flour - and not very plentiful, it was a great acquisition to our humble dinner"

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., March 21, 1863

"Got a cup of genuine coffee today"

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., March 23, 1863

"We drew rations of flour and bacon, and for variety some molasses, but it was a little sour.  Speaking of rations reminds me that yesterday our sutler brought into camp some turkey, already dressed, which he sold to some hungry members of our regiment at the very moderate sum of 'two dollars per pound'."

Robert E. Lee in a letter to Secretary of War Seddon, March 27, 1863

"The men are cheerful, and I receive but few complaints; still, I do not think it is enough to continue them in health and vigor, and I fear they will be unable to endure the hardships of the approaching campaign. Symptoms of scurvy are appearing among them, and to supply the place of vegetables each regiment is directed to send a daily detail to gather sassafras buds, wild onions, garlic, lambs quarter, and poke sprouts, but for so large an army the supply obtained is very small. I have understood, I do not know with what truth, that the Army of the West and that in the Department of South Carolina and Georgia are more bountifully supplied with provisions. I have also heard that the troops in North Carolina receive one-half pound of bacon per day. I think this army deserves as much consideration as either of those named, and, if it can be supplied, respectfully ask that it be similarly provided.

I have the honor to be, with great respect,
your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE, General."

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., April 5, 1863

"We gave out rations to the Regiment for two days - flour, bacon, rice, molasses, and vinegar."

‘Grandfather's Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V’, April 9, 1863

"Package received: cookies, biscuits, dried fruit, salt meat & gloves. Originally sent to Anderson’s Brigade, not Anderson’s Division."

‘Grandfather's Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V’, April 10, 1863

"Some trying to drain a pond for fish."

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., April 11, 1863

“Received salt beef and beans for rations today in addition to our ration of flour.”

Pvt. J.B. Crawford, Co. K, 16th Miss., in a letter to his wife, April 23, 1863

"You wanted to know what I had to eat and do.  I have flour and bacon to eat and have to watch the Yankey."

Diary of Cpl. John Louis Whitaker Phares, Co. K, 16th Miss., April 26, 1863

“Had a good time on picket duty today. The enemy came down to water’s edge across the river while we were fishing on our side.”

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., April 27, 1863

“The sutler of our regiment had his tent closed up today by the board of examiners for charging exorbitant prices. Tis said that the stock of merchandise will be sold out at auction tomorrow”

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., May 1st, 1863

"The rations for our Brigade were cooked yesterday evening and sent forward by the men who were detailed to cook..."

Diary of Pvt. James M. Higgins, Co. K, 16th Miss., May 2nd, 1863

"Rations were started to the Regiment this morning at daylight - consisting of hard bread, ham and sugar."

Diary of Posey’s Adjutant, A.J. Peel, 19th Mississippi, May 2nd, 1863

“We were ordered back a mile early this morning. We drew 2 days rations and clothes...”

Diary of Posey’s Adjutant, A.J. Peel, 19th Mississippi, May 9th, 1863

“Add, Pryor and McNeill went fishing and caught a mess of Purch and Eels…We had butter and fish for supper.”

‘Grandfather's Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V’, May 7, 1863

“Went fishing – caught 6 fish. Bank was lined with fisherman, some seining.”

 

SOURCES

Arliskas, Thomas M., Cadet Grey and Butternut Brown

Burleson, Susan Downs, The Tented Field: A Family's Civil War Letters

Denkler, Kirk (principal), Andrews, Harris J., and George, Philip B., Voices of the Civil War: Chancellorsville

Dobbins, Austin C., Grandfather’s Journal: Company B, Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Volunteers, Harris' Brigade, Mahone's Division, Hill's Corps, A.N.V.

Evans, Robert. G., The 16th Mississippi Infantry: Civil War Letters and Reminiscences

Field, Ron, The Confederate Army 1861-65 (1): South Carolina & Mississippi

Higgins, Pvt. James Marshall, Diary. Bound Volume #119, Richmond National Battlefield Park Library

Holt, David, A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia

Lightsey, Ada Christine, The Veteran's Story: Dedicated to the Heroes Who Wore the Gray

Peel, Adjutant A.L., Diary. http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~peel/peelmay.html

Phares, Cpl. John Louis Whitaker, Diary. http://mississippiconfederates.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/the-diary-of-john-louis-whitaker-phares-company-k-16th-mississippi-infantry/

Riley, Pvt. Franklin Lafayette, Diary. Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania National Military Park

Sears, Stephen W., Chancellorsville