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.
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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.