My initial approach to this subject is to consider briefly the questions: When? Where? What? Why? Who? How? in order to afford the setting for the details to be added through the discussion.
The title adequately answers the “When?” element, the years from 1861 into 1865, known variously as the Civil War, the War for Southern Independence, and the War Between the States.
We are, of course concerned primarily with Attala County as the place, but of necessity we must at times note events that occurred in other areas. The county boundaries then were the same as they are now and as they have been since the county was established in 1833. The towns and communities have changed somewhat with the designation of some, for instance McAdams and Sallis, and with the passing of others, as Bluff Springs, Attalaville, Valena and Burkettsville.
“What?” has to do with the events of the bloody conflict that tried our nation, particularly the happenings and mode of life of the people of the county during the 1861-1865 period.
It is not my intent to dwell on the “why?” or the causes of the War Between the States, but I think it in order to state that the majority of citizens of Attala county supported the Confederacy because they believed in the way of life that existed then. Also their ideals of government, particularly their belief in the rights of the states, were under encroachment by the federal government. They considered it their duty to defend those beliefs and ideals.
The “Who?” question requires a brief look at the population of Attala county at the time. It was made up largely of people of two origins. Whites were mostly of Anglo-Saxon descent, having migrated into the area after 1830 when the region was ceded to the United States by the Choctaw Indians under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit. These Whites came from the older states, particularly Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia. A scattering had lived previously in the Mid-west, New England, and Middle Atlantic states. A still smaller number were foreign born, including Irish, Canadians and some from the European mainland. According to the 1860 census there were 9,270 Whites in the county.
The Negro population was, of course of African origin, but it is not likely that many of the 4,890 black slaves were born on that continent. Most of those not born within the state were brought into the county by their masters in their trek from other slave-holding states.
How did the people live? The county was basically an agricultural society. Virtually the only industry was directly related to agriculture, including that conducted within the homes and on the plantations. Businesses were those establishments required to supply materials not produced locally. No banks are shown to have been in operation within the county. The professionals included lawyers, doctors, and perhaps a dentist or two. The labor force consisted of the slaves and family members of the farmers and business operators.
Although the 1860 census shows 692 slaveholders in the county, nearly half of that number, 310 owned no more than three slaves. When considered in comparison with some of the other areas of the state, Attala county had no truly large slaveholders. The 1860 census indicated the largest to have been Judge R. S. Hudson, 96; William M. McWillie, 82; Robert Clark, 68; Andrew Hanna, 59, and F. M. Bloomberg, 54.
Most of the farmers with only a few slaves used them as supplemental labor, and they and their family members worked alongside them in the fields. It also appears that in many of the situations in which ownership was limited to one or two, the slaves were used for domestic help.
At the onset of the war the political leanings of Attala county were predominately toward the Democratic Party, but there was division as to which of the three segments would prevail. In the general election of 1860 the county cast 1,030 votes for John C. Breckinridge, the ardent States Righter; 525 for John Bell, whose platform was for preserving the Union against all odds, and only five votes for Stephen A. Douglas, the Free Soil compromiser.
Thus, it appears from that election return that the county feeling was approximately two to one in favor of States Rights and secession if required to preserve those rights. Yet in the choice of delegates in December, 1860, to the Special Convention that met in Jackson on January 7, 1861, the county sent two representatives who were unalterably opposed to secession. The vote favored the Unionists 651 to 614.
E. H. Sanders, a farmer and owner of 16 slaves, was elected with John W. Wood, a lawyer and owner of one slave. Sanders served on the Committee of 15 that drafted the Articles of Session, but he opposed every action brought before the committee that pointed toward the eventual break with the Union. He did, however, after adoption of the Articles of Session, affix his signature to the document. Wood was absent from most of the convention sessions, apparently because of illness. He was not present on the day for signing, and he is said to have made the statement that he would not have signed had he been in attendance. He and Dr. John J. Thornton of Rankin county were the only delegates who did not sign the document which took the state from the Union.
Secession having been accomplished, Attala countians entered into the war with enthusiasm. There were efforts to organize companies for the war in most areas of the county. The first unit accepted into state service was the Minute Men of Attala County, at Kosciusko, on April 19, 1861. L. D. Fletcher was the first commander. The Minute Men mustered into Confederate service May 13-15, at Corinth and later became Company D, then Company I of Col. William Barksdale’s 13th Infantry Regiment. The company participated in the first Battle of Bull Run and in virtually every major campaign with the Army of Northern Virginia during the four years that followed. Nine members were carried on the company surrender roll at Appomattox.
The next company accepted by the state was the Long Creek Rifles of Bluff Sprngs on April 27, 1861, with orders to Corinth for Confederate service May 21. Commanding the Rifles at this time was Capt. Lampkin S. Terry. The unit was designated Company A, 15th Infantry Regiment and as such participated throughout the war with the Army of Tennessee.
Other units formed as the war progressed included:
Rocky Point Rifles, Capt. T. J. Love, Company B, 2nd Battalion,
later 48th Infantry Regiment.
Center Marksmen, Capt. Henry Jamison, Company K, 4th Regiment.
Benela Sharpshooters, Capt. Robert Middleton, Company I, 4th Regiment.
Attala County Yellow Jackets, Capt John B. Moore, Company B, 4th Regiment.
Dixie Heroes, Capt. W. V. Davis, Co. D, 30th Regiment
Company G, 30th Infantry Regiment, Capt. Sam Young.
Confederate Rebels, Capt. R. B. Campbell, Co. C, 40th Regiment.
Campbell Guards, Capt. J. A. P. Campbell, Co. K, 40th Regiment.
Attala Guards, Capt. George P. Wallace, Co. D, 40th Regiment.
Attala Rebels, Capt. R. B. Campbell, Co. F, 2nd Regiment,, Alcorn’s Brigade, Army of 10,000.
Pillow Guards, Capt. D. A. Ellington, Co. I, 1st Regiment, Alcorn’ Brigade, Army of 10,000.
Attala Rangers, Capt. Samuel Williams, Independent Company, State Troops, Minutemen, 1862.
Davis Guards, Capt. Dave Love, Company L, 1st Regiment, Minutemen, 1862.
Attala County Cavalry Company, Independent State Troops, 1863.
The records indicate that eleven companies were in Confederate service, while the remaining five were state troops only.
We have no exact record of the total number of men Attala county furnished for the war. However, on Feb. 20, 1863, the official report of the county Police Court showed that 1,526 were in service. A year later the report showed 1,705, and in February, 1865, the aggregate was 1,748. Assuming that one-half of the county’s white population of just over 9,200 in 1860 was male, it appears that there were approzimately 4, 600 white males of all ages in the county. The records indicate that more than one of every 3 white males had some Confederate service during the four-year period.
What did this cost in war-connected deaths and injuries? Again we have no exact data, but records, letters, and newspaper references of the time are filled with the accounts of losses. Three sons of Joseph Shuler never returned, each killed on a different battlefield. Although this number of deaths from a single family was unusual, it is certain that hundreds of Attala County families suffered the loss or serious injury of sons, husbands, and fathers.
In 1867 the county record shows that there were 112 destitute widows and 357 orphans eligible for aid afforded through public funds. We have no record of how many other widows and orphans were not on the list of destitute.
In our consideration of the prevailing sentiment for the Confederacy we must not assume that public support of the war was either unanimous or unwavering. As time passed, there were signs of discouragement and discontent, along with frequent controversies because of conscript laws and eligibility for service exemption. One citizen in November, 1862, stated that he would not care if all the soldiers would throw down their arms and come home because they were treated so badly. When President Jefferson Davis proclaimed a day of prayer for March 27, 1863, another commented, “I have no objections to meeting and praying…But I don’t intend to fast and pray just because Jeff Davis tells me to do so. When they were instigating this war, they didn’t call on the churches to pray them into it, and now they needn’t call on them to pray’em out of it. I don’t owe allegiance to Jeff Davis not Abe Lincoln.” In January, 1865, a lady living on or near the Big Black was quoted as stating that she wished Jeff Davis was dead.
Although there were no battles or skirmishes recorded within the county, there were several incidents when Federal troops passed through or near the area. Since no Confederate forces opposed them, their stays were brief and involved a minimum loss to citizens.
During the Grierson cavalry raid through the state, April 17 to May 2, 1863, Attala Countians became quite apprehensive. They boxed and hid their meat and other goods that could be moved to safety, but fortunately the cavalry passed down farther to the east.
Following the fall of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863, there was considerable movement of refugees, both civilian and military, through Kosciusko. Judge Jason Niles recorded in his diary on July 13-17 that the woods and roads were filled with wagons, mules, Negroes, and soldiers.
Then in February, 1864, General William T, Sherman conducted his infamous campaign across the state in which he left a path of desolation from Jackson to Meridian and for several miles in all directions from those cities. On the 23rd two citizens, Tom Presley and Jim Rimmer, reported having been seized and forced to direct a Yankee detachment to the Philadelphia road. Judge Niles again recorded that the town was “all astir” and that he took the precaution to hide some papers. Many citizens left the area. Next day Abe Boyd and John Tilton were fired on, but apparently no injuries were incurred.
Also on February 24 a band of Yankees made a 38 minute sweep through Kosciusko. They reportedly went to stables looking for horses, broke open the courthouse door, took three mules and a horse from Dr. Lewis, relieved Dan Comfort of $4,000 to $5,000 in cash, and took his Negro boy, a horse and goods from his drugstore. The visitors also took horses or mules from Jim Rimmer, Andy Addkison, Mr. Tipton, and Mr. Hawkins, as well as meat from a person identified by Judge Niles as Joab. Some members of the detachment paused briefly at Campbell’s Tavern for refreshments.
There was further concern on the 25th when it was reported that Yankees were conducting burning operations nearby. These reports proved to be incorrect, and citizens felt easier after Henry Jamison and Ed Cates brought in assurances that no burning had occurred. Later a detachment of Confederates from L. S. Ross’s cavalry lent a further feeling of security, as did the passing, next day of Southern troopers from Brig. Gen. George B. Cosby’s cavalry.
Another scare came in late November after Federal raiders were reported west of the Big Black River. Judge Niles told of excitement in Kosciusko on the night of November 28, following reports that Clark’s bridge over the river had been burned. Again the people took to their favorite hiding places with such goods as could be conveniently carried.
There was a further period of concern at the end of December when news came in that Bankston and Greensboro in Choctaw county had been destroyed. It was also reported that Winona, Vaiden and West Station had felt the enemy’s wrath. Again Attala county was fortunate in the her people were spared the torch that brought loss and suffering to neighboring areas.
It is possible that the county suffered as much from the operations of Confederate and State forces as directly from the Yankees. A primary function of the state troops during the last two years of the war was to enforce the conscript laws and to gather stock and supplies for the army. Their operations were at times hampered by active opposition from citizens.
For example in late September, 1863, a cavalry detachment stationed at Kosciusko was fired on on the Scoopa Chitta, not far from Albert Mitchell’s place. This incident apparently resulted in deaths of members of both the militia and the bushwhackers. Also several conscripts escaped from the Kosciusko jail at the same time. Petty thievery was reported in connection with a cavalry encampment west of town on February 2, 1864, at which time Ike Scarborough’s saddle was taken. On March 8 more “stealing” was indicated. As the war entered its final weeks, Judge Niles told on March 21, 1865, that the cavalry was taking up men and “stealing” horses and mules.
Indications are that the militia was quite diligent in its search for deserters and conscript dodgers. They apparently operated under shoot-to-kill orders for those who ran from them.
It is sometimes difficult from available records to determine which acts of crime were related to military activities and which were purely civil and personal. Sandwiched in with actual events of violence were those reports that sometimes proved to be incorrect. For example, on February 2, 1863, Judge Niles recorded tht Abram Myer and Lewis Glazier, “Dutch Jews,” had been captured and hanged for trading with the enemy. Then on June 12, he noted that Meyer had just returned from Philadelphia, New York and Memphis.
The hanging of Nathan Sweat in Yockanookany Swamp on October 6, 1863, was apparently motivated by some remarks he had made, considered to be disloyal to the South. A Missourian was said to have been responsible for the deed.
At least one killing, that of a Mr. Boyd by Jim Hutchinson, may have been due to political differences since it occurred on election day, October 3, 1864, at the Burk’s box.
Swift retribution sometimes followed close on the heels of a crime. It was reported that a man named Gibbs waylaid and killed Robert Johnson as he was returning from Scribner’s Mill, east of Lobutcha, on the last day of 1864. On the following Sunday night a crowd hanged Gibbs to a pine limb near his home in the lower part of the county.
From January, 1862, until September 5, 1864, there was no session of the Circuit Court in the county. However, it appears that probate and equity matters were conducted routinely throughout the war. At the conclusion of the fall term of Circuit Court in 1864, Judge Robert S. Hudson complimented the grand jury on the conduct of business. He also commented favorably on the ability of the Confederate government to exercise its civil powers despite the disruptions and hardships of war.
How were living conditions in the homes, with hundreds of men away at war, with normal commerce hampered, and under the threats of extensive social and economic revolution? As is always the case, some suffered and felt the press of the times more than others. It does not appear, however that most Attala countians experienced the hunger and physical dangers at home that beset fellow Mississippians in the areas devastated by the war. Farming was generally not interrupted, so food was available, even if the prices of many commodities did rise drastically.
In July, 1861, shortly after the was began, Dr. E. Y. Fleming sold through a New Orleans Factor eight bales of cotton for $443.21, approximately 12 cents per pound. On May 1, 1865, Mr Niles paid $1.00 per pound, in Confederate money for a bale weighing 450 pounds. In the fall of 1865, after the war’s end, Dr. Fleming sold 10 bales for the John S. Sallis estate for $1, 395.63, approximately 31 cents per pound in U. S. currency.
Some commodity prices reported by Judge Niles for various purchases during the period follow:
$1.57 to $1.65 per bushel
20 cents per lb.
$1.25 per yard
$12.00 per lb.
$2.50 per gal.
$2.00 per bushel
$5.00 per lb.
90 cents per lb.
$20.00 per bushel
$12.00 per bushel
$13.00 per gal.
Calf skin boots and
two pr. women's shoes
$8.00 in silver
$1.00 per lb.
Mr. Niles indicated in his trading notes on Dec. 22 and Dec. 26, 1863, that the value ratio of Confederate money to gold was about 15 to 1. he paid Sam Williams $150.00 Confederate money for $10.00 gold, then later paid the same individual $140.00 for eight dollars gold.
But not everyone was so fortunate as to have gold, or even an ample supply of Confederate money. The Board of Police report of destitute dependents of soldiers for February 21, 1864, showed 1,747 persons on the roll. In June, 1864, one lady related that she had only a little corn meal for food and that she had had no meat for months.
In Kosciusko, and most likely in other communities also, a semblance of normal activities continued, even during the darkening days of 1864 and 1865. Churches continued to hold services, including a General Methodist Conference in November, 1863.
Christmas of 1863 was observed in Kosciusko by various parties with eggnog served. A concert lasted until 1 a.m. on June 15, 1864, and a children’s party at Christmas in 1864 extended until 3 a.m.
With the coming of the war’s end, the Reverand Mr. Newman preached to his Kosciusko congregation on “The Miienium” on April 30, 1865. We have no record of the content of his sermon, but if he proclaimed that the expected period of joy, serenity, prosperity, and justice described in Revelations 20:1-5 had arrived, it may be that he and others were sorely disappointed in the further sufferings and uncertainties that followed during the period termed The Reconstruction.
The above article is undated and is available in the Attala County Library, Kosciusko, Mississippi.
copyright © 2006 by Dale Sallis Fleming. All rights reserved.