Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Mississippi: Marine Brigade and USCT

The next section in the forth quarter, 1863 summary has a heading of “Mississippi”:

0339_1_Snip_MS

Even a cursory read of Civil War history tells us Mississippi was decidedly “Confederate.” Indeed, the second state to secede. There were unionists in Mississippi… not a whole lot in number… enough to constitute a battalion of mounted infantry starting in 1863. However, what we see listed under this heading are not white unionists but rather troops serving in a unit named for the river “Mississippi” and former slaves organized into a colored regiment. So basically the clerks put anything with “Mississippi” in the name under the heading, regardless of origin or classification.

We’ve discussed the Mississippi Marine Brigade (MMB) in earlier posts. I still wish a full, proper history of this interesting unit were out there to reference. Those I’ve come across are either dated (the typical post-war unit histories) or what I find as somewhat superficial (focusing too much on the Ellets and less on the subordinates). As I’ve said before, the MMB was not from Mississippi… were not marines… and really not a brigade. Many have tried to spin this organization as a precursor to the Vietnam War era “Brownwater Navy.” But I think that once one gets past the surface, those stories diverge considerably.

At the end of 1863, the MMB operated out of Nachez, Mississippi as an independent command within the Seventeenth Corps. Brigadier General Alfred W. Ellet commanded the brigade. His nephew, Colonel John A. Ellet, commanded the ram fleet Major David S. Tallerday commanded the 1st Infantry Regiment MMB. The 1st Cavalry Battalion fell under Major James M. Hubbard. And Captain Daniel Walling commanded a battery of artillery. During the fall months of 1863, the MMB saw active service keeping the Mississippi River safe for navigation. In two significant actions, one at Goodrich Landing in October and the other outside Natchez in early December, the MMB operated with sections of artillery against Confederate troops. So we turn to the listings to see what artillery they had on hand:

  • 1st Battery MMB: On the US Steamer Baltic with six 3-inch rifles. Also known as Battery C, Segebarth’s Pennsylvania Marine Artillery. Captain Daniel P. Walling commanded.
  • Section of 1st Battery: On board US Steamer Diana with two 12-pdr heavy field guns.
  • 2nd Battery MMB: Indicated at Natchez with no artillery, but with a note I think reads “entered in first January.” There is no record of a second MMB battery. So this line is suspicious to say the least.
  • Company F, 1st Infantry, MMB: On the US Steamer Diana with four 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

These summary lines indicate the MMB had twelve field artillery pieces (so long as one agrees with the designation of the “heavy” 12-pdr as a field piece). However, an abstract from returns for the Army of Tennessee dated January 1864 has the MMB with six heavy artillery pieces and no field artillery. As with many wartime records, I think we see loose application of definitions in play here.

Inside of these lines clearly labeled MMB is one simply indicating “2d Arty.” This is distinct from the MMB, not having that abbreviation, nor dittos carrying from a line above. It does seem to match with an entry seen in the previous quarter that I believe for the 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery, African Descent – a USCT regiment. Indeed, that regiment had postings to both Natchez and Vicksburg as indicated on the station column for this line entry. As such, I will transcribe this line for that regiment:

  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery, A.D.: At Natchez with two 12-pdr field howitzers.

Allow me to go a bit deeper with the 2nd Mississippi Heavy, as… well… heavy artillery doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion, and colored heavy artillery regiments get practically none!

According to the post return for Natchez in December 1863, the 2nd Mississippi Heavy had ten organized companies with 31 officers and 844 men reporting for duty (296 men were sick, detailed, or in confinement). At that time, Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert A. McCaleb commandedthe regiment. But in January, Colonel Bernard G. Farrar took command, having formerly led the 30th Missouri Infantry. Specific to Company I, which appears on the summary line, Captain Harbert Harberts, formerly of the 46th Illinois Infantry, commanded. Lieutenants James W. Steele and Robert Lang (both also from the 46th Illinois) were other company officers. I plan to follow up with another post specific to the 2nd Mississippi Heavy detailing the officers assigned and other interesting things from the rank and file.

For now, let us turn to the ammunition reported on hand. Starting with the smoothbore:

0341_1_Snip_MS
  • Section on Steamer Diana: 38 shot, 88 shell, and 157 case for 12-pdr field guns.
  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi HA: 100 shell and 88 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company F, 1st Infantry MMB: 138 shell and 941 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

On to the next page:

0341_2_Snip_MS
  • Section on Steamer Diana: 88 canister for 12-pdr field guns.
  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi HA: 100 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company F, 1st Infantry MMB: 149 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

To the right is an entry for Hotchkiss rounds:

  • 1st Battery, MMB: 62 time fuse shells for 3-inch rifles.

More Hotchkiss on the next page:

0342_1_Snip_MS
  • 1st Battery, MMB: 101 percussion fuse shells and 366 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Skipping forward a couple pages, the next entry line is for Schenkl projectiles:

0343_1_Snip_MS
  • 1st Battery, MMB: 2,024 case shot for 3-inch rifles. A healthy quantity for six guns.

On to the small arms:

0343_2_Snip_MS
  • 1st Battery, MMB: 20 Colt navy revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.

Lastly, there are a couple entries for fuses and match:

0345_1_Snip_MS
  • 1st Battery, MMB: Two yards of slow match.
  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi HA: 450 friction primers.

I would say that from the entries under Mississippi we find two interesting units. One is rather well known as a unique and somewhat unorthodox formation… though I would argue misunderstood even if well covered by historians. The second is rather obscure, with really no attention from historians. Both have wartime stories we should explore.