The Peninsula Campaign: Part I
A Sketch of the History of the Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment:
The Peninsula Campaign: Part I
General Johnston moved his troops out of winter quarters on March 8, 1862 in reaction to offensive moves by the new Federal commander, Major General George B. McClellan. Through the weekend of March 8th and 9th, the Confederates slipped quietly out of their lines and headed south to Fredericksburg. When the Federal commander later shifted his army by water to Fort Monroe, Johnston responded by moving his troops on April 5th, to Yorktown (of Revolutionary War fame). New recruits joined the 2nd Mississippi’s ranks along the way.
The regiment spent a relatively quiet month manning the defensive lines at Yorktown. During this time the regiment reorganized “for the war” and on April 23, 1862 installed newly elected officers. Captain John Marshall Stone of Company K, the Iuka Rifles, beat out Colonel Falkner on the second ballot in a close election on April 21st and replaced him in command. In the reorganizations that took place at higher echelons, General Whiting, despite reported problems with alcohol, was assigned to the command of a division that included his old brigade and the Texas Brigade under the command of Brigadier General John Bell Hood. Colonel Evander M. Law of the 4th Alabama assumed command of Whiting’s Brigade.
Johnston, establishing the same pattern of retreat that later became his “trademark,” became fearful that his position at Yorktown would be vulnerable to a turning movement by Union amphibious forces up the York River. This could be expected as soon as McClellan had his heavy artillery in place to suppress the Confederate river batteries. Johnston stayed in the Yorktown defenses only until he thought it prudent to pull out, which he did on May 3rd. He then retreated quickly up the Peninsula toward Richmond with Whiting’s Division acting as the rear guard.
The 2nd Mississippi would see its first major action under Colonel Stone at the Battle of Seven Pines (or Fair Oaks) on May 31, 1862. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac had forced Johnston to retreat all the way to the outskirts of Richmond and sat astride the Chickahominy River. Heavy rains caused the river to flood, cutting communications between two Federal corps south of the river and the rest of the Federal army to the north. Johnston hoped to throw his weight against the two isolated Union corps and destroy them. On May 31st, the Confederates advanced along two converging roads toward the enemy positions south of the Chickahominy. Nine Mile Road, the more northerly route, was the one Whiting’s Division was to take. Whiting would be behind and in support of Major General James Longstreet’s Division.
Law’s Brigade advanced on the road toward Seven Pines with the Texas Brigade in the woods to the right. Although the division was originally intended to back up Longstreet’s offensive along Nine Mile Road, Johnston ordered it forward to secure Longstreet’s exposed left flank instead. Law, in the lead, was unexpectedly hit by fire from a long-range enemy battery. Whiting halted the column and deployed Law’s Brigade to meet the artillery threat, but Johnston, insisting the Federals could not be in force this far from Seven Pines, rebuked him for his excessive caution and ordered Law to send a single regiment across the field. The 4th Alabama went forward but was soon put to retreat when a solid line of Federal infantry rose up and fired into their ranks.
At about 2:30 that afternoon, Union Major General Edwin Sumner had pushed Brigadier General John Sedgwick’s division and a battery of his II Corps across the flooded Chickahominy on rickety, makeshift bridges that most other generals would not have dared to use. These troops had met retreating elements of other Federal commands and formed a defensive position northeast of Fair Oaks. Refusing to believe that the Federals could have crossed the swollen Chickahominy in force and anxious to link up with Longstreet, Johnston continued to order piecemeal attacks.
Whiting threw three more brigades into the expanding fight at Fair Oaks, one after another, against a Federal position that was growing steadily stronger as more of Sedgwick’s men came up from the river crossing. By nightfall, the Federals had about 10,700 men in action, a substantial edge over the 8,700 Whiting brought to the fight. During the fighting late in the day, General Johnston was seriously wounded and the senior major general, Gustavus Woodson Smith, suddenly found himself in command of the Confederate army. The battle dragged on the following day, June 1st, and Smith, uncertain of Johnston’s plans and having none of his own, did not inspire confidence when queried by President Jefferson Davis. Davis would allow Smith hold the army’s reins long enough to see the present battle through, but no longer. The army, Davis decided, must have a new commander. The battle ended about 11:30 a.m. that day with little accomplished by either side except a lengthening casualty list. The 2nd Mississippi suffered a total of 37 casualties – 6 killed, 28 wounded (7 mortally), and 4 captured (including one of the wounded).
 O.R., 5, p. 529; Stephen W. Sears, To the Gates of Richmond (New York, 1992), pp. 14, 36. Most of the companies of the regiment recruited heavily during February and March of 1862. The threat of being forced into service under the new Conscription Act undoubtedly motivated many men to join up at this time. Additionally, an eleventh company – Company L, composed totally of new recruits – was added to the regiment at this time.
 Diary of Major John H. Buchanan, April 21st. Transcribed by Larry J. Mardis, Ph.D. and Jo Anne Ketchum Mardis (Tippah County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1998). Stone won by 445 votes to 410 for Falkner. On the first ballot, Captain Miller also ran. The vote count then was Stone 329, Falkner 302 and Miller 124 [224?].
Stone was born in Gibson County, Tennessee in 1831, but later moved to Corinth, Mississippi where the outbreak of the war found him involved in merchandising. Following the war, he went into politics and was twice elected Governor of the state. In 1876 he was elected by a vote of 97,727 to 47 and in 1889 elected by a vote of 84,929 to 16. He later served as president of the Mississippi Agricultural College. He died on March 26, 1900.
Falkner, apparently bitter over his defeat and not being offered a brigadier general appointment, went back to Mississippi and raised a regiment of cavalry, the 1st Mississippi Partisan Rangers (later renamed the 7th Mississippi Cavalry). He was the colonel of the regiment and served under Chalmers and Forrest. After the war, he built the Gulf & Chicago railroad, became active in politics, and wrote several books. He died on November 7, 1889, having been shot by a business associate in the public square of Ripley, Mississippi (much the same as Colonel Sartoris, his great-grandson’s famous literary character, is also killed).
Hugh R. Miller was a lawyer from Pontotoc prior to the Civil War. He was the Captain of Company G. His discharge papers listed "Superceded" by election as the reason for the discharge and was signed by Governor Pettus. Miller returned to Mississippi and raised a new regiment, the 42nd Mississippi Infantry. Miller and his 42nd Mississippi Volunteer Regiment joined Davis' Brigade during the winter of 1862 He wrote a report of the battle of First Manassas that was published in the Pontotoc Examiner newspaper.
 O.R., 11, pt. 2, p. 490; pt. 3, p. 558; Rowland, Mississippi, p. 45.
 O.R., 11, pt. 1, p. 275; pt. 3, p. 489; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 59, 66-70.
 O.R., 11, pt. 1, pp. 933-934; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 117-119.
 O.R., 11, pt. 1, pp. 989-990; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 134-135.
 O.R., 11, pt. 1, pp. 763-64, 791; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 135-137.
 Ibid., p. 137.
 Ibid., pp. 141, 144. CMSR.
To Virginia and First Manassas
A Sketch of the History of the Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment:
To Virginia and First Manassas
On May 3, 1861, the 2nd Mississippi was formally organized at Corinth with the election of regimental officers. As previously observed, the volunteer companies comprising the regiment had previously been assigned to the Second Regiment, Mott’s Brigade, State Army. William C. Falkner was elected colonel. Bartley B. Boone and David W. Humphreys were elected lieutenant colonel and major, respectively.
The new regiment was immediately transported by rail to Virginia and arrived in Lynchburg on May 9th. On May 10th, the 2nd Mississippi, with 784 officers and men was mustered into Confederate States service for one year. The arrival of the 11th Mississippi on May 13th would begin an association between the two regiments that would last almost continually for the remainder of the war. The regiment took the train from Lynchburg to Strausburg, marched about 18 miles from Strausburg to Winchester, and once again boarded cars for Harpers Ferry, arriving in camp on May 21st.
A May 23, 1861 Inspector General report on the conditions at Harpers Ferry was not very complimentary to the Second in comparison with its “sister” regiment, the Eleventh:
"The two regiments from Mississippi have with them their tents and camp equipage, but are not satisfied with their arms, which are chiefly of the old flint-lock musket altered into percussion. As usual with troops of this description, they all want rifles. They were informed that, for the present, they must rest contented with such arms as it was in the power of the Government to give them. One of these regiments (the Eleventh), under the command of Colonel Moore, is very superior to the other (the Second), under Colonel Falkner. The latter is badly clothed and very careless in its appointments. The officers are entirely without military knowledge of any description, and the men have a slovenly and unsoldier-like appearance. The other regiment seems to take much pride in its appearance, and is endeavoring to improve itself by military exercises..."
"Exposure to many cold, rainy nights had caused some severe colds among the men from the extreme South, and there were some cases of the ordinary camp diseases, but nothing very serious. The clothing of the troops is not abundant, and, in the regiment from Mississippi, under Colonel Falkner, almost every necessary is wanting. They seem to have come away from home without making proper preparations in this respect, and, indeed, it would seem that they expected to receive on their arrival in Virginia all the appointments of a soldier."
Although the 2nd Mississippi was criticized both for its lack of military bearing and readiness during its early existence in the training camps, once the fighting began, the regiment would gain a reputation as one of the best combat units in what was to become the Army of Northern Virginia.
General Joseph E. Johnston arrived to take command of the forces gathering at Harpers Ferry on May 23rd. The 2nd and 11th Mississippi were initially placed in a brigade with the 4th Alabama, Turney’s 1st Tennessee and Imboden’s Staunton (Virginia) Artillery Battery, all under the command of Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee. Because the Harpers Ferry position was exposed to Federal attack, on June 15th Johnston pulled the army back to Winchester, located about 30 miles to the southwest in the Shenandoah Valley.
By the end of June Colonel Falkner wrote in his regimental report,
"The Regiment is well posted [?] in battalion drill. It can perform all battalion maneuvers at quick or double quick time! The measles and mumps have been among my men for two months, but now the Regiment is fast improving and in 10 days will be all right again. We have 200 convalescent, who will report for duty in a few days. We are all satisfied and anxious to serve our country to the best advantage.”
The Federal commander in the east, Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, was under increasing pressure from the Lincoln administration to take the offensive, with short-term enlistments soon expiring for many of his volunteer units. He therefore marched his green army out of Washington on July 16, 1861. His objective was General Pierre G. T. Beauregard’s equally inexperienced Army of the Potomac at Manassas. The Confederates had decided to stand and fight and rely on reinforcements by rail from Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah to arrive in time to tip the balance in their favor. Portions of Johnston’s army, including the 2nd Mississippi, left Winchester for Manassas on July 18th. The troops marched to Piedmont where they boarded trains for the trip to Manassas on July 20th, arriving there the same day. Unfortunately, only part of the brigade could fit into the available railway cars. Only the 4th Alabama, 2nd Mississippi, and two companies (A and F) of the 11th Mississippi found room
Sunday morning, July 21st found the 2nd Mississippi, 4th Alabama, and the two companies from the 11th Mississippi formed in reserve behind the Confederate line along Bull Run. The balance of Bee’s Brigade was still in transit to Manassas or stuck at Piedmont. By coincidence, both Beauregard and McDowell arrived at almost identical battle plans. Each intended to feint an attack with their left, but strike the main blow with forces massed on the right flank. Had both been completely successful, the armies may very well have simply pivoted around each other allowing an unobstructed march into the respective enemy’s capital! As it turned out, the less successful commander in actually implementing his plan would win the battle. When McDowell’s attack began on the Confederate left, Beauregard thought it was only diversionary and sent only two incomplete brigades, Bee’s and Colonel Francis S. Bartow’s, to that sector. “Double-timing” almost four miles, Bartow and Bee neared the Stone Bridge when they learned that Brigadier General Nathan “Shanks” Evans was being pressed on the left. Another two miles at the double-quick brought them up to Evans who was determinedly holding his ground against an overwhelming Federal force at Matthews Hill. The blow falling on the Confederate left was no feint.
Bee brought his units into battle array extending Evans’ line comprised of the 4th South Carolina and Wheat’s 1st Louisiana Special Battalion (the famed Louisiana Tigers). The 2nd Mississippi and the 4th Alabama came next from left to right and were soon joined by Bartow’s 8th and 7th Georgia regiments, respectively, with the 7th being held somewhat to the rear in reserve. Colonel Falkner was detached with Companies A, C and K in an attempt to silence or force back an enemy battery. Therefore, only seven companies of the 2nd Mississippi were initially put into the battle line. The line began a general advance, but the Federal weight in numbers eventually became overwhelming. Forced to withdraw, the regiments of Bee’s Brigade became separated and the 4th Alabama suffered particularly heavy losses. Only two companies of the 2nd Mississippi – B and G – under the command of Captain Hugh R. Miller and a remnant of the 4th Alabama were still with Bee when the incident arose that gave birth to the legend of how “Stonewall” Jackson got his nickname. Bee fell mortally wounded while leading these men against the advancing Federal line.
The remainder of Evans’ and Bee’s brigades drifted to the rear of Jackson’s line, deployed in battle formation on the reverse slope of Henry House Hill. Here they were met by reinforcements from other parts of the field and coming straight off the cars at Manassas Junction. Seven companies of the 2nd Mississippi not with Bee reformed and Colonel Falkner reported to Beauregard for assignment. These companies were placed in line to the left of an ad hoc battalion assembled by Colonel William “Extra Billy” Smith. This battalion was made up of the one still organized company of the 4th South Carolina, the two companies of the 11th Mississippi, and three companies of his own regiment, the 49th Virginia. This command extended Jackson’s line to the left. Soon the just-arrived 6th North Carolina State Troops joined on the 2nd Mississippi’s left, reaching almost to the Sudley Road and forming the extreme left of Beauregard’s new line. It was approximately 1:00 p.m. when the 2nd reentered the battle that soon became a confused melee of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Major Chase Whiting (later promoted to Major General), who assumed command of Bee’s Brigade after he fell, gave credit to the 2nd Mississippi for the capture of Rickett’s (Battery I, 1st U. S. Artillery) Federal battery. He reported,
"Deprived of their leader with most of their field officers shot, the Brigade still enticed [entered?] the fight directed by the commanding General in person. The Second Mississippi in particular, seven companies strong, charged with other troops and captured Rickett’s Battery, all the horses of which they killed with their musketry. The honor of this brilliant feat of arms they share with a portion of the Eleventh under Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell, the Sixth North Carolina which lost its Colonel, [Charles F.] Fisher, and a portion of Colonel Hampton’s Legion."
The unit usually given credit for the capture of Rickett’s Battery is the 33rd Virginia of Jackson’s Brigade, made possible due to the confusion caused by their approach in blue Virginia militia uniforms.
Colonel J. E. B. Stuart, commanding the 1st Virginia Cavalry, wrote in his report, “Just after the cavalry charge [against the New York Fire Zouaves] our re-enforcements arrived upon the field and formed rapidly on right into line. The first was Colonel Falkner’s regiment (Mississippians), whose gallantry came under my own observation.” Although Stuart does not mention the capture of the battery, Captain John M. Stone of the Iuka Rifles, Company K, 2nd Mississippi, did write of having overrun a Federal battery during the fighting.
Attack and counterattack continued until 4:00 p.m. when the continual arrival of fresh Confederate reinforcements allowed the Southern battle line to overlap the Federal right flank. A general advance was ordered, rolling up the Union line and putting McDowell’s green troops to disordered flight. Captain Stone, who would eventually replace Colonel Falkner as the 2nd Mississippi’s commander, penned the following in a letter to his mother after the battle, “The highest ambition of my life has been realized. I have been in one great Battle for the rights of my Country.” Little could Stone have known that he would later lead the regiment on numerous other bloody fields, many of which would make First Manassas pale in comparison.
The 2nd Mississippi officially reported losses of 25 killed, 82 wounded and 1 missing at First Manassas. Although reports do not give the regiment’s strength, based on statistical estimates derived from the bimonthly muster rolls and the fact that Colonel Falkner earlier reported about 200 convalescents in camp, the regiment may have numbered 550-600 troops in the field on July 21st. Company G claimed to have carried the largest number of men into battle – 68 rank and file – when compared with the other companies in the regiment.
Following the battle, Johnston’s and Beauregard’s commands were merged under General Johnston. A Mississippian, William Henry Chase Whiting, was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Bee’s former brigade. The 2nd Mississippi saw no further action for the rest of 1861. The regiment went into winter quarters on the lower Potomac with the other units in the brigade.
 Great-grandfather of novelist William H. Faulkner. The novelist altered the original spelling of the family name. The Colonel, or at least the legend of the Colonel, apparently exerted a great deal of influence over Faulkner’s writings and is the basis for the character, Colonel Sartoris, in several of Faulkner’s novels. Several parallels can be drawn between the character Sartoris and the real-life Colonel William Falkner.
Falkner was born in Virginia in 1824 and moved to Mississippi from Tennessee at the age of 12. He practiced law and was also a published author of some note. He served with distinction as a lieutenant in the Mexican War and organized the Magnolia Rifles before being elected the first colonel of the 2nd Mississippi at its formation.
 Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army (Midlothian, VA, 1987), p. 166. CMSR. An estimate based on statistical extrapolation of bimonthly muster rolls indicates the regiment actually mustered more than 900 men on May 10, 1861.
 Davis, Leaves in an Autumn Wind, p. 270.
 O.R., 2, p. 868-869.
 Ibid., 5, p. 913. Confederate General Orders No. 15, dated October 22, 1861 established the Department of Northern Virginia and assigned Joseph E. Johnston to command. However, it was only after Lee replaced Johnston when he was severely wounded at Seven Pines on May 31, 1862 that the Confederate field forces in Virginia were commonly called the Army of Northern Virginia.
The 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment had more individuals named to the Confederate Roll of Honor – 141 individuals with 153 listings – than any other regiment in Confederate service (see Appendix C for specifics).
 Also called the 1st Tennessee, Provisional Army. This regiment is not to be confused with the 1st Tennessee Volunteers, which spent most of its career with the Western army -- the Army of Tennessee.
 O.R., 2, pp. 470-72.
 CMSR, roll 111.
 William C. Davis, Battle at Bull Run (Baton Rouge, 1977), p. 139.
 Ibid., pp. 174-175. O.R., 2, pp. 318, 474, 487-89.
 Davis, Bull Run, p. 178.
 Hugh R. Miller, The Great Battle of Manassas, The Examiner, (Pontotoc, 1861), September 13, 1861 issue.
 Davis, Bull Run, pp. 181, 186, 195, 197; O.R., 2, pp. 481, 490, 492, 559; Janet B. Hewett, Andre Trudeau, and Bryce A Suderow, eds., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1, pt. 1, (Wilmington, 1994), p. 193, hereinafter cited as Supplement; Miller, Manassas.
 Supplement, 1, pt. 1, pp. 185-188.
 O.R., 2, p. 483; Letter from John M. Stone to his mother, undated fragment, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Acc. No. Z265.
 O.R., 2, pp. 492, 495, 552; Davis, Bull Run, pp. 200-201, 214, 231-232; Stone to mother.
 O.R., 5, p. 913; Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray (Baton Rouge, 1959), pp. 334-335. Whiting’s Brigade, and the one Colonel Law would later inherit, consisted of the 2nd and 11th Mississippi, 4th Alabama, and 6th North Carolina State Troops, also called the “Old 3rd Brigade.” This brigade’s composition was an exception to the general rule of brigading units from the same state together in the Army of Northern Virginia. Earlier in its existence, it also included the 1st Tennessee Provisional Army Regiment.
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.