A Sketch of the History of the Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment: The End: Petersburg and Capture at Hatcher's Run
In what would be his final flanking maneuver, Grant brilliantly shifted his army south of the James River and moved on Petersburg. This move caught Lee by surprise and he reacted with caution. He maintained Hill’s Third Corps north of the James until June 18th. By that point in time, he was finally convinced that Petersburg was truly Grant’s objective. During the next six weeks, the 2nd Mississippi, as a part of Davis’ Brigade, crossed the James River five times in response to Federal threats, but did not engage in battle.
Davis’ Brigade was being held in reserve in Petersburg on August 18th, when the Federal V Corps seized the tracks of the Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern. Heth moved at noon with Davis’ and Henry Walker’s Brigades to throw back the Federal incursion. The brigade had, however, detached about a third of its strength to continue working on Confederate entrenchments.
The Confederates covered the three miles in the intense summer heat and deployed in line of battle on both sides of the railroad. Davis was to the right, or west side, of the tracks. The Confederates, facing south, could only see Union skirmishers stretched across a cornfield. Logic told them that a line of blue infantry awaited them in the woods beyond, but they had no idea that their two under-strength brigades were about to assault an entire Union corps.
Screaming their Rebel yell, the gray line moved to the charge. Although the Federal brigade of Brigadier General Joseph Hays was deployed and ready about 30 yards into the woods, Davis’ Brigade overlapped both flanks of the Federal line and sent them reeling back in disorder. Regrouping, the regiments of the brigade continued their advance and ran into a second Yankee defensive line some 40 yards beyond the first. The Federal brigade of Colonel Nathan Dushane loosed a deadly volley into the gray lines and forced them back about 50 yards. The Union advantage was only temporary however, as the Confederates also managed to flank his position and soon put Dushane’s men to disordered flight. The Federal V Corps commander, Major General Gouvernor Warren, reacted quickly to these initial Southern successes. He rapidly assembled a strong defensive line backed by a heavy concentration of artillery in a clearing on the other side of the woods. When Davis’ men emerged from the woods, they suddenly found themselves facing triple their strength of infantry “stiffened” by several artillery batteries. By 2:30 p.m., the Confederate offensive had played out and the men constructed a line of entrenchments to defend their gains while awaiting reinforcements.
The next day, August 19th, both sides fed more men into the battle around Globe Tavern. Thinking the Federals had weakened their lines to concentrate their main effort in fighting to the east, the 2nd Mississippi and other regiments of Davis’ Brigade were ordered to assault the lines to their front. They carried out the order, but found the Federal entrenchments just as strongly manned as the previous day. The attack was beaten back and the Confederates returned to their own lines. The remainder of the day passed without major activity in Davis’ sector. The following day, Davis’ Brigade was relieved by reinforcements. However, by this time the Federal troops had a firm grip on the railroad and could not be driven off. Thus, Lee lost another vital artery into the Richmond-Petersburg stronghold. Grant had paid a high price for the Weldon line, but was slowly tightening his grip on Lee’s army.
As might be expected, the morale of Lee’s army was deteriorating rapidly with extended duty in the Petersburg trenches. However during an August inspection of the brigade, the Inspector General found “…the arms and accouterments in very bad condition in all the regiments except the Second, Col. J. M. Stone, and Eleventh, Maj. R. O. Reynolds. In the Second they were good; in the Eleventh very good, clean inside and bright outside…” Thus the fighting spirit of the two veteran Mississippi regiments in Davis’ Brigade remained unbroken (although receiving praise, the 2nd never seemed able to outshine its sister regiment in the eyes of the Inspector General’s office).
As a part of Grant’s Fifth Offensive late in September 1864, his army attacked both Confederate flanks along the Petersburg-Richmond line. On the Federal left, the V and IX Corps tested the gray defenses. Heth’s Division, positioned in reserve near the center of the Petersburg defenses, rushed to counterattack the Federal incursion. Heth was able to blunt the Union assault on September 29th before Davis arrived to help. On the following day, Heth planned an attack against what he believed was a Federal V Corps’ flank that was “in the air.” As the situation developed however, the general quickly discovered that he had been mistaken.
In a punishing rainstorm, the division deployed on either side of Squirrel Level Road, facing south. Instead of a coordinated attack, Heth fed his units into action piecemeal against Warren’s Federals. In contrast to the open flank he expected to find, Heth discovered to his dismay that the Union line had been bent back on the right so that it now faced north, squarely across the path of the attacking Confederates. The strongly entrenched Federals sent the Confederates streaming back in utter disorder.
The Petersburg front remained fairly stable until October 27th, when the 2nd Mississippi fought its last battle of 1864. Hancock’s and Warren’s corps, under orders from Grant, moved to circle the left of the Confederate line and interdict the Boydton Plank Road. In a repeat of previous such moves, elements of A. P. Hill’s Third Corps intercepted the Federals at Burgess’ Mill and drove them back.
For the next five months, the 2nd Mississippi settled into the “routine” of trench warfare. Many aspects of their life in the trenches would become familiar to their grandchildren in France more than fifty years later. Few casualties were suffered, but constant diligence was required because enemy sharpshooters and artillery shells, especially the high-trajectory mortars, were an ever-present threat.
By early 1865, the 2nd Mississippi was reported to be under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Blair, who had been promoted and exchanged following his capture in the Railroad Cut at Gettysburg. However, Blair would once more be taken prisoner at Hatcher’s Run during the fighting on February 5-7, 1865. Colonel Stone was dispatched with a detail of several men on January 8, 1865 to return to Mississippi. He was to recruit and try and round up absentees in an attempt to rebuild the brigade’s depleted numbers. Several companies of the regiment were consolidated at this time because they had been so severely reduced. The 2nd Mississippi probably mustered fewer than 150 effectives at this point in time. Command of the regiment was placed in the hands of the one captain still present with the regiment, William F. Harvey of Company K.
On March 25, 1865, Lee decided to gamble on an attack against Fort Stedman to try and break Grant’s stranglehold on Petersburg. Major General John B. Gordon was to lead the attack. As a diversion, elements of Davis’ Brigade demonstrated against the Federals at Hawks’ Farm. Gordon captured the fort, but could not hold it against the overwhelming Federal counterattacks.
Less than a week later, Grant’s army launched an all-out series of attacks that were intended to break Lee’s thin lines at Petersburg and finally end the siege. On April 1st, Federal cavalry and infantry moved well around the Confederate right flank and launched an attack on Pickett’s section of the line at Five Forks. The gray line crumbled, and Grant secured a hold on the Southside Railroad. Richmond was now untenable.
The following day, the Federal army initiated attacks all along Lee’s Petersburg lines, penetrating in many areas and causing the Southern defenses to disintegrate. In the area where Heth’s Division was positioned, east and northeast of Burgess’ Mill, the Union VI and II Corps pushed through the gray defenders and began to roll up the line from their right to left, driving west. The 2nd Mississippi was in position near the southern end of the line at Hatcher’s Run, which was swollen from recent rains and impassable to infantry. When the Federals broke through to the regiment’s left, the 2nd Mississippi was trapped with Federal troops converging on three sides and the raging stream to their rear. Pressed back to the bank of Hatcher’s Run, most of the regiment would be taken prisoner, but a few desperate individuals may have made it across the rushing water to freedom only to be surrendered a week later at Appomattox Court House.
For the ninety-nine proud veterans of the 2nd Mississippi trapped on the east bank of Hatcher’s Run, captivity was only minutes away. The men had one final task to accomplish on behalf of their regiment, however. They were determined that the colors of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Volunteers would never again become a Yankee trophy. Private Nathaniel M. Bynum tore the flag from its staff and hid it inside his jacket. He would keep it securely hidden while a prisoner of war until paroled and released from Ft. Delaware.
And so, as the last ragged Rebel soldier was led away from the rushing waters of Hatcher’s Run and into captivity, the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, one of the hardest fighting units in the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia, passed into Civil War history.
 O.R., 40, pt. 2, pp. 662-663.
 O.R., 42, pt. 1, pp. 428-429.
 Ibid., p. 455.
 Ibid., pp. 474, 480-481.
 Ibid., p. 504.
 O.R., 42, pt. 2, p. 1273.
 Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, vol. 3 (New York, 1974), p. 561.
 Ibid., p. 573-574.
 Sibley, The Confederate Order of Battle, Volume 1, pp. 174, 184, 193, 212. Stone never made it back to his regiment. He was with a group of several hundred men on their way back to their units at Petersburg, when Stoneman’s cavalry raided Salisbury, NC in mid-April 1865. Stone, combative to the end, agreed to help lead a defense of the town with these men and the local defense troops. However, outnumbered and outflanked by Stoneman’s rapidly moving forces, most of the defenders were taken prisoner. Stone was sent to Johnson’s Island where he was paroled on June 25, 1865. He was elected Mayor of Iuka later that same year.
 Jubal A. Early and others, eds. Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 15 (Richmond). pp. 284-285. CMSR. In addition to the 99 members of the regiment captured at Hatcher’s Run on April 2, 1865, one officer – the surgeon, James J. Holt, the Quartermaster Sergeant, J. M. Cayce, and 18 privates were listed on the April 9, 1865 Appomattox parole rosters for the 2nd Mississippi. Most of these men were probably on detailed or detached status from the regiment at the time. Few, if any, from the group captured at Hatcher’s Run escaped.
 Letter, Bynum to Rowland, August 1, 1916, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Acc. No. 68.42. In 1916, George Washington Bynum of Corinth, Mississippi, who, along with N. M. and four other brothers, were members of Company A, sent the tattered battleflag to the Mississippi State archives in Jackson. He wrote the following letter to the archives director, Dunbar Rowland:
You have one flag of the 2d Miss. in your keeping which was captured in the famous railroad cut at Gettysburg July 1, 1863 and returned by the Government some years since; this one I send you was supplied by the QuarterMaster’s Department on July 2 , and was courageously borne through shot and shell to the ramparts of Little Round Gap, Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 and on the retirement of Gen. Lee from Pennsylvania through all the bloody battles of Virginia until the Surrender of the Regiment April 2, 1865 at Hatcher’s Run, where my brother, N. M. Bynum tore it from the flag staff, concealed it beneath his little gray jacket and carried it through prison at Ft. Delaware. W. H. Byrus [he actually means W. H. Byrn], the color bearer, brought it home from prison.
Michael R. Brasher
Besides being the self-published author of Civil War books, I am the great-grandson of Private Thomas Benton Weatherington, one of the 1,888 Confederate soldiers from northeast Mississippi that served in the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. A lifelong Civil War buff, I grew up near the Shiloh battlefield in West Tennessee. I received my MA in Civil War Studies from American Military University. I also hold degrees in Electrical Engineering and an MBA which I draw upon to help shape my own unique approach to researching and writing Civil War history. As former president and co-founder of InfoConcepts, Inc., I was the co-developer of the American Civil War Regimental Information System and Epic Battles of the American Civil War software. I developed and maintained the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment website from 2002 until 2015 and now maintain the 2nd Mississippi Facebook page. I am also writing a regimental history to be released in the near future. I am a retired Air Force officer and now reside in Huntsville, Alabama.