In Memory of my Grandfather,Willie Parkes Whitten
This page last updated February 11, 2000.
When the Confederacy took up arms and called on Mississippi for volunteers, she gave her best men -- many of which were "the flower of the youth and manhood of Winston County." In the words of Judge H. Cornwell, "The spirit of the revolutionary forefathers was more than reproduced on the hearts of the sons of Winston, and the call to arms was quickly responded to from every hamlet within her border."(1) These gallant men were the Winston Guards, the first company to leave Winston County for the seat of war. But who were these men? What was their role in the war? And what happened to them as a result of this experience?
The Winston Guards were organized and mustered into the service of the state of Mississippi on March 16, 1861 at Louisville, Mississippi by Lieutenant William H. Gray of the Prairie Guards. They were designated as Captain Bradley's Company, Mississippi Volunteers under the command of Captain John M. Bradley of Louisville. (2) The company numbered about one hundred men when they left the county in May 1861, and others joined later as recruits to bring the number to approximately one hundred eighty men total.
According to the 1860 Mississippi Census for Winston County, Captain John M. Bradley was a merchant at Louisville. He lived at the Hughes Hotel with George W. Bradley, another merchant, and Joseph L. Bradley, a clerk, probably his two brothers. John and Joseph joined the Guards when the unit was organized in March 1861, with John being elected Captain and Joseph Third Lieutenant. George joined later on April 1, 1862 at Lee's Mill, Virginia. (3)
Neville Edmonds was a lawyer at Louisville. He joined the Guards in March 1861, was elected First Lieutenant, and in April 1862, was promoted to Captain of the company. Alex and William B. Johnson were both farmers. Their father was James Johnson, one of the area's wealthy planters. He owned one-thousand-forty acres, a horse gin, a grist mill, and a blacksmith shop. William joined the company in March 1861, but Alex did not enlist until March 1863 at Enterprise, Mississippi. (4)
Judge H. Cornwell was a student teacher at the Louisville Academy when he enlisted in March, 1861. He was appointed Sergeant in April 1862. Finally, Pleasant W. Whitten was a farmer at Louisville. He was married with several small children when he enlisted at Corinth on May 16, 1861. (5)
The men of the Winston Guards represented many different occupations. The majority (about one hundred nine) were farmers, and the others were merchants, dry goods clerks, students, teachers, carpenters, tanners, printers, shoemakers, mechanics, stage drivers, ditchers, millers, etc. These men came from all parts of Winston County and some parts of neighboring counties. Most of the men were from Louisville, but there were also men from Noxapater, Webster, Rome, Coopwood, New Prospect, Buck Horn, and other small communities of the area. There seems to have been little of an economic division between the officers and the enlisted men. Of the fourteen original officers, there was one merchant, one lawyer, one ambrotypist, three clerks, one wealthy blacksmith's son, three sons of wealthy farmers, one hotel owner's son, and three sons of farmers of average wealth. Among the enlisted men, there was greater economic diversity. Values of personal estates ranged from $200 to $65,000. (6) The conclusion drawn from these statistics is that the Winston Guards were not just a company of poor farmers sent off to fight the "rich man's war." When Winston County was called upon to send volunteers, no one class of her citizens hesitated. Both wealthy and poor alike responded to their country's call of duty.
On the morning of May 13, 1861, the Winston Guards assembled on Main Street near the Hughes Hotel to receive the silken battle flag handmade by the ladies of Louisville. Miss Lou Covington addressed the assembly of family and friends who had gathered to see their men off for war. (7) When the Guards left Louisville, they made their way to Macon where they boarded the train to Crawfordville en route to Corinth. They arrived at Corinth on May 16, 1861 and were designated as Company B of the Thirteenth Mississippi Infantry under the regimental command of Colonel William Barksdale. Later, on April 26, 1862, the regiment was reorganized and the company letter changed to Company A. After nine days in Corinth, they were ordered to Union City, Tennessee to drill until July. On July 11, they left Union City on their way to Virginia, arriving at Manassas Junction, Virginia on July 20, just in time for the battle at Manassas on July 21, 1861. (8)
The battle of Manassas was a "baptism of fire" for the Guards. Thomas D. Wallace, only sixteen when he enlisted in March 1861, described the horror of the battle in his diary. The regiment apparently reached the battle site after the fighting was well under way because Wallace described how soldiers who had been "shot to pieces" passed them as they moved forward to the battlefield. He could hear the cries and moans of the wounded all around . The official war records say that Colonel Barksdale's Thirteenth regiment joined Col. Jubal A. Early's two regiments from the Sixth Brigade after the battle was under way. The combined regiments attacked the enemy's extreme right flank and drove the enemy off the hill. After the battle, records show that Barksdale's regiment suffered only six wounded. (9) This battle was certain to change the lives of the men of the Winston Guards. They had lost their innocence. As time progressed, Thomas Wallace, who had been so shocked by the battle at Manassas, would eventually become so hardened that the battle at Leesburg seemed just a skirmish.
After Manassas, the Guards stayed at the Stone Bridge for a week before moving on to Centreville, Virginia, arriving there on August 1, where the entire regiment suffered an epidemic of typhoid fever. Eight men died there of the typhoid, and two more died of measles. Three more men died of measles when the company moved to Leesburg a week later. At one point, there were so many sick men that only eight men were present for duty -- barely enough men for camp guard. (10)
In late August, the Guards moved to Ball's Mill near Leesburg. Because the enemy had crossed the river at Ball's Bluff and Edward's Ferry, the regiment was sent as a reserve on October 21 to hold against enemy forces there. The next day they attacked a large enemy force at Edward's Ferry and drove them back to the river. In correspondence to Brigadier General Nathan G. Evans, Colonel W. H. Jenifer remarked, "This regiment, though not in the [Leesburg] engagement on the 21st, held one of the most important positions, and prevented the enemy from flanking us." (11)
After the battle, they moved outside Leesburg and built their winter quarters where they stayed until they were ordered to Rapidan Station in March 1862, to Richmond and the Peninsula in April, and to Garnett's Farm in May. On June 15, 1862, they were ordered to the York River Railroad near Richmond. The beginning of the Seven Days Battles (June 25 - July 1) found them ordered to the front. They took part in the battles of Garnett's Farm, Savage Station, and Malvern Hill. Joshua Moore and Clem Wilkins were wounded at Garnett's Farm, and four others were wounded and five killed at Malvern Hill. Among the dead at Malvern Hill was Joseph Bradley. (12)
In late August, the regiment marched for Maryland. They fought at Maryland Heights on September 12-13, 1862, wounding one, then at Sharpsburg (also called Antietam) on September 16-17, 1862. They played an important part in the battle of Sharpsburg. The Thirteenth Regiment, part of William Barksdale's Third Brigade, reached Sharpsburg on the morning of September 17, after the battle had been raging for several hours. Many men had fallen out from fatigue, and only eight hundred men were left for the fight. These soldiers attacked the enemy who occupied the woods in front of them, the woods from which Brig. Gen. Jubal A. Early's forces had just been driven. They drove the enemy through the woods, across an open field, and forced them to abandon their artillery on the nearby hill. Enemy losses were heavy, and Barksdale's brigade held the battlefield area until they recrossed the Potomac River with the main army on September 18. Casualties in the Thirteenth Mississippi were eight killed and fifty-five wounded. Captain Neville Edmonds died from his wounds in October. (13)
Once the army had crossed the Potomac, the Thirteenth Regiment went back into Virginia and camped near Brucetown until November, when they were ordered into Fredericksburg for picket duty. When the enemy crossed the river on December 11, 1862, the Thirteenth engaged them in the streets of Fredericksburg. (14) Enemy losses were heavy, and Lewis E. Woodruff of the Guards was killed. The unit stayed at Fredericksburg for the remainder of the winter; were engaged again on May 3, 1863, for the second battle of Fredericksburg; and marched for Pennsylvania in June.
The Thirteenth Regiment arrived at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1863, and fought near Cemetery Hill at the Peach Orchard. This was probably the severest battle the Guards participated in during the war. Thousands were wounded on both sides. Of the Guards, twelve were wounded, six were killed or died from wounds, and twenty were taken prisoner. Among those who were killed or who died from wounds were Major John M. Bradley, George W. Bradley, and Brigadier General William Barksdale. Five prisoners died in captivity, and the remaining fifteen prisoners were divided up and sent to David's Island, New York Harbor; Point Lookout, Maryland; and Fort Delaware, Delaware. This was the first time a significant number of the Guards had been captured. Those who could returned to Virginia. (15)
In September, the Guards left Virginia for Georgia, arriving at Chickamauga on the night of September 19. They fought in the battle there on September 20, and were then sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee to stay until November. On November 16 and 29, 1863, the Guards fought in the siege of Knoxville, losing four to wounds and six to captivity. The six prisoners were taken first to Camp Chase Military Prison at Louisville, Kentucky, and then were transferred to Rock Island, Illinois.
During the winter and early spring, the regiment slowly made its way back to Virginia. Their first battle of 1864 was at Wilderness, Virginia on May 5 through May 7. In that battle, four were killed and eight wounded. A quick succession of events led them through the battles of Spotsylvania Court House, where John E. Liddell was killed and Joe A. Harris was captured; Horseshoe Bend; Hanover Junction; Cold Harbor; and on to Petersburg on June 21-22, 1864, where William J. Horton and Austin G. Lowrey were killed. The men took a long-needed rest at Petersburg after having not been relieved since the beginning of the campaign. They stayed in the Petersburg area until they were placed in another campaign beginning with Berryville, Virginia on September 3, 1864. This campaign took them through Charlestown and Rockfish Gap, and ended with Cedar Run, Virginia (also known as Strausburg) on October 17, 1864. Stephen Krebs was wounded at Strausburg, and nine people were captured. Most of these men were taken to Point Lookout, Maryland. (16)
When the campaign closed in October, the regiment was ordered to Richmond for the winter. As the war drew to a close, eleven people were captured at Harper's Farm, Virginia on April 6, 1865, and the remnant of the regiment surrendered with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Only nine men of the original Winston Guards were present at this surrender. What had happened to all the others? Out of the one-hundred-eighty men who began with the Guards, thirty-three were killed in battle or died as a result of wounds. Thirty-five men died from disease, the three most common diseases being typhoid fever, measles, and pneumonia. Twenty-eight people had been discharged, six as a result of the Conscription Act of August 1862, one for being over age, and the other twenty-one for disability due to wounds or illnesses. Five men were at home on furlough at the time of the surrender; nine people deserted, three of whom joined a calvary command in Mississippi while home on furlough; and two men retired because of disability. Of the sixteen that surrendered, nine were at Appomattox, four were at Columbus in May 1865, and the other three surrendered at different places in June. At least three of the Guard's original members left no record and were never accounted for. The remaining forty-nine Guards were captured. They were taken to David's Island, New York; Point Lookout, Maryland; Fort Delaware, Delaware; Elmira, New York; Rock Island, Illinois; and Johnson's Island. Those who were not paroled, exchanged, or otherwise released during the war, took the oath of allegiance to the United States and were released by the end of June 1865.
The Guards left for battle thinking they would be back relatively soon. After this "breakfast spell", which had turned into four long years of war, was over, what was next for the Winston Guards? In the hyperbolic words of Judge H. Cornwell:
With a halo of glory surrounding that army of heroes that the world never before saw, and with a fame as broad as the heavens and as solid as the earth, and on their tattered uniforms and hungered conditions, their faces were turned wearily toward their ruined and wasted homes, but with a consciousness of feeling that every duty had been discharged and that every promise had in good faith been kept. (17)
Those who survived to return home were not the same; neither were their homes. Many had to rebuild their homes and their lives. The eight men mentioned at the beginning of this history suffered an especially hard fate.
Captain John Bradley was promoted to Major in June 1862 and was wounded at Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862. He was also promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on July 2, 1863, the same day he received his fatal wound at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He made it to Williamsport, Maryland during Lee's retreat, but died there July 28, 1863.
George W. Bradley was wounded and captured at Gettysburg, and then died there of wounds on July 10, 1863. Joseph L. Bradley was killed at Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. Neville Edmonds was promoted to Captain of the company in August 1862 and was wounded at Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862. He died of wounds at Winchester, Virginia on October 10, 1862. Alex Johnson fought only at Fredericksburg, but he died June 6, 1863 at Raccoon Ford, Virginia. His brother William was promoted to First Lieutenant in October 1862 but resigned in March 1864 at Knoxville, Tennessee; he was then discharged at Greenville, Tennessee. After the war, he became a representative in the state legislature and was elected sheriff of Louisville, dying in August 1894. (18)
Judge H. Cornwell was appointed Fifth Sergeant in April 1862, and was wounded at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. In January 1864, he asked to be transferred to Mississippi because he wanted to organize a calvary from those in Winston County who were not eligible for conscription. He planned to join Nathan Bedford Forrest's command in north Mississippi. He was denied the transfer, and was later captured at Strausburg on October 19, 1864. He was taken to Point Lookout, Maryland and exchanged March 17, 1865. After the war, he came back to Louisville where he died at home on March 12, 1914. (19)
Pleasant W. Whitten served through the battle at Malvern Hill and was discharged at New Winchester, Virginia on September 28, 1862 by the Conscription Act of August 1862. He returned to Louisville where he farmed with his family until he died in a house fire in April 1880. (20)
This, then, is the story of the Winston Guards. In May 1861, these men left Winston County as idealistic volunteers fighting for what they believed to be the independence of their new country, much as their forefathers had done in 1776. During the four years that followed, these men went through a "baptism of fire and of blood." Many met death and would never return to their wasted homes, but those that did were changed. I believe they were no longer innocent, no longer idealistic, but they believed that they had done their best. They returned knowing that they had to pick up their lives and begin to rebuild. A quote from the 1898 Winston County Journal gives a good conclusion to their history. "The gallant dead of this grand old company are mingling with dust of many hard fought fields in unknown and unmarked graves. But few of their comrades are left to tell the story of the deeds of daring and heroism of their fallen braves....Peace to its dead and all honor to its living." (21)
A List of the Battles of the Winston Guards
First Manassas, Virginia --------------- July 21, 1861
Leesburg, Virginia -------------------- October 21-22, 1861
Seven Days Battles
Sharpsburg, Maryland ---------------- September 16-17, 1862
First Fredericksburg, Virginia --------- December 11-15, 1862
Second Fredericksburg, Virginia ------ May 3-4, 1863
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ------------- July 1-3, 1863
Chickamauga, Tennessee ------------- September 19-20, 1863
Knoxville, Tennessee ----------------- November 16, 29, 1863
Wilderness, Virginia ------------------ May 5-7, 1864
Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia --- May 9, 13, 1864
Horseshoe Bend, Virginia ------------ May 12, 1864
Hanover Junction, Virginia ------------ May 26, 1864
Cold Harbor, Virginia ----------------- June 3, 5, 1864
Petersburg, Virginia ------------------- June 21-22, 1864
Berryville, Virginia -------------------- September 3, 1864
Rockfish Gap, Virginia ---------------- September 28, 1864
Cedar Run (Strausburg), Virginia ------ October 17, 1864
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