A Sketch of the History of the Second Mississippi Infantry Regiment:
The Peninsula Campaign: Part II
Shortly after the Battle of Seven Pines, Davis appointed General Robert E. Lee to the command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Stonewall Jackson’s recent smashing victories in the Shenandoah Valley against combined Federal forces three times as large as his own helped shape Lee’s evolving plan to defeat McClellan. Wishing to maintain his options both in the Valley and in front of Richmond, Lee decided he would reinforce Jackson with Chase Whiting’s two brigades. The trip took almost a week. Private Sam Hankins of Company E related a stressful incident during a portion of the trip made by rail:
"At Farmville, Va., we came to the noted long and tall bridge. This bridge had been reported unsafe, and the travelling public between Richmond and Lynchburg would go through Danville, Va., many miles out of the way, to avoid it. We had to risk it, though; and knowing about its being condemned, I had been dreading the danger for some time. I was on top of the car (my usual place) when we arrived at the bridge, and when near its center the train came to a standstill. I looked over the edge of the car far down into the valley, where cattle grazing looked as small as sheep. The engines began to puff and blow and slip, then a slack was followed by a quick jerk, when it seemed that the frail structure was giving way and sinking beneath me. This slacking and jerking lasted one hour, though it appeared to last longer than the war (four years). Conjectures were rife as to the cause of the delay. It was my greatest fright during the war. However, we passed over in safety."
On June 16th, Whiting linked up with Jackson’s “Army of the Valley” at Staunton.
That same day, Lee sent orders to Jackson to join his forces near Richmond. Thus, instead of starting out on another of Jackson’s legendary Valley campaigns, the new arrivals were shocked to learn they were to start back in the direction they had just come. The 2nd Mississippi, first by rail, then on the march, headed toward Richmond now as part of Major General Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Army. Although their destination was the subject of intense speculation, it soon became apparent to the men that Richmond was their goal. The trip to the Shenandoah Valley had only been part of an elaborate ruse.
By June 25th, Jackson gave priority to closing up his strung-out column of march. As a consequence, units of his army in the advance did little more than mark time that day. Sergeant A. L. P. Vairin of the 2nd Mississippi, in the vanguard, recorded, “June 25 Wednesday. Clear. 6 a.m. marched 3 miles & rested til 12 a.m. then marched 1 mi. to Ashland and filed off toward Richmond 1 ½ mi. & rested.... Camped for the night, drew 2 days rations of crackers...”
By June 26th, Jackson’s troops were near the fighting at Mechanicsville between Major General A. P. Hill’s Division and the isolated Federal V Corps commanded by Major General Fitz John Porter. Hill launched a strong attack, but was repulsed with heavy losses. Porter, believing his position to be untenable, retreated to the east.
The Confederates followed Porter the following morning with Jackson’s command on the left wing. Jackson moved with uncharacteristic slowness causing the Confederate battle plans to go awry. A. P. Hill again fell upon the Federals without adequate support. The Union troops were heavily entrenched on high ground behind Boatswain’s Swamp. The battle fought here would carry the name of a nearby landmark called Gaines’ Mill.
Piecemeal attacks against Porter’s center and left had only resulted in heavy Confederate casualties and units being repulsed or pinned down. The rear of the Confederate lines became so chaotic and confused that entire units trying to move forward against the Federals became separated and lost in a sea of human flotsam – wounded and stragglers. Whiting’s Division was the last to arrive on the battlefield. It made its way to a position behind A. P. Hill, just to the right of the Confederate center. As the sun was beginning to fade from view, Lee ordered Whiting forward against the entrenched Federals.
When Colonel Law received the order to advance, he moved out with his brigade in two lines. In the front line was the 11th Mississippi on the left and 4th Alabama on the right. In the rear line was the 2nd Mississippi and 6th North Carolina, respectively. The Texas Brigade formed on Law’s left, also in two lines. Hood’s first line contained, from left to right, Hampton’s Legion, the 5th Texas, and 1st Texas, with the 18th Georgia and 4th Texas in the second line.
After the advance began, General Hood saw that a gap was developing between Law’s right and the left of Brigadier General George E. Pickett’s brigade of Virginians who were moving forward with Law. Hood took personal command of the 4th Texas and maneuvered it across Law’s rear to fill the gap. Apparently some of the men of the 18th Georgia also followed the Texans.
The Federal position chosen as the focus for the attack was a formidable one. Boatswain’s Swamp (actually more of a sluggish stream) flowed at the bottom of a wooded ravine. Behind this stream, the Federals had entrenched in two strong lines, one on the bank of the stream, and the second at the top of the ravine where the woods opened into a field. The stream, with 10-foot banks in places, effectively served as a defensive moat. Earlier the Federals had cleared trees to give them better fields of fire and to construct breastworks, fronted by an abatis of sharpened limbs. To the rear of the second Federal line, the terrain rose to a plateau that was occupied by artillery batteries and additional reserve troops. The Federal troops facing Whiting’s men belonged to Brigadier General John H. Martindales’s Brigade of Brigadier General George W. Morell’s Division, V Corps, Army of the Potomac.
As the 2nd Mississippi advanced with the rest of the brigade, they initially came under artillery fire from the Federal batteries unlimbered on the plateau, but soon were also subjected to heavy musketry. As Whiting reported after the battle:
"...and the whole line, consisting of the Fourth and Fifth Texas, Eighteenth Georgia, Eleventh Mississippi, Fourth Alabama, and Sixth North Carolina, the Second Mississippi being held in partial reserve, but advancing with the line, charged the ravine with a yell, General Hood and Colonel Law gallantly heading [leading] their men."
According to a private in Company E, 2nd Mississippi, the regiment was more involved in the fighting than its “reserve” status would indicate:
"We moved some three or four hundred yards, halted, and came to a front, when Gen. W.C. Whiting, commanding our brigade, gave the order, “Come on!” (not go on). He was seated on his spirited dapple gray. We gave the Rebel yell and across that field we rushed, while men were falling thick and fast. Our orderly sergeant was killed and our second lieutenant wounded. Our third lieutenant being on detached duty, our second sergeant took command of the company."
The charge by Hood’s and Law’s brigades broke the Federal lines and put the defenders to flight, leaving the Confederates in possession of several pieces of artillery, discarded equipment and accouterments and almost two entire Yankee regiments as prisoners of war.
The 2nd Mississippi officially suffered casualties of 21 killed and 79 wounded. It is not known with certainty how many men it took into action. Company E reportedly carried 76 men into the engagement. With its heavy spring recruiting, and accounting for losses at Seven Pines, the regiment may have numbered between 750-800 men during the fight at Gaines’ Mill. “The Second Mississippi, Col. J. M. Stone,” added Whiting in concluding his report of the battle, “was skillfully handled by its commander and sustained severe loss.”
 Hankins, Samuel W. “Simple Story of a Soldier,” Nashville: Confederate Veteran, 1912, p. 24.
 O.R., 11, pt. 3, p. 594; Sears, Gates of Richmond, p. 153.
 Ibid., pp. 174-75.
 A. L. P. Vairin Diary, June 23-25. Jackson, MS: Department of Archives and History.
 O.R., 11, pt. 2, pp. 222, 490-491, 553.
 Ibid., p. 492; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 212-213.
 O.R., 11, pt. 2, pp. 492-493, 555.
 Robert U. Johnson and Clarence C. Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (New York, 1881), vol. 2, p. 363.
 O.R., 11, pt. 2, p. 568.
 Ibid., pp. 300-302, 306-310; Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp. 213-215.
 O.R., 11, pt. 2, p. 563.
 Hankins, Simple Story, p. 26.
 Sears, Gates of Richmond, pp.240-247.
 Ibid., p. 28; O.R., 12, pt. 2, p. 565.
Following Gaines’ Mill, the Federal commander deceived Lee as to his intended line of retreat. Instead of falling back on his original York River base, McClellan implemented a complex and risky change of base across Lee’s front, south to the James River. Lee however, was never able to firmly come to grips with McClellan’s rear guard and bring the Army of the Potomac to bay on terms favorable to the Confederates. On July 1st, the final battle of the Seven Days, Malvern Hill, was fought. Here the 2nd Mississippi was not actively engaged, but was forced to endure sharpshooter and artillery fire to which they could not effectively reply. The regiment reported losses of 1 killed and 10 wounded, almost all caused by the massed Federal artillery.
At the conclusion of the Seven Days, Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia into two “wings” (this was prior to official approval for an army corps organization). These wings were placed under the command of Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet. Although Whiting’s Division had been part of Jackson’s command, it was detached on July 13, 1862, and later assigned to Longstreet’s wing. The division was placed under the command of the senior brigadier, John B. Hood, when Whiting took an extended sick leave from the army. After Whiting was transferred, Hood was given permanent command of the division. The brigade containing the 2nd Mississippi remained under the temporary command of Colonel Law. He was officially promoted to the rank of brigadier general on October 2, 1862.
 O.R., 11, pt. 2
 O.R., 12, pt. 3, p. 915; Warner, Generals in Gray, p. 175.
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.