THE PRAIRIE GUARDS

 

Written by D.C. Love of Crawford, Mississippi, 1890

 

(transcribed from the book, "A History of the Scales of Northeast Mississippi", by Charles M. Scales)

 

 

At a meeting of the survivors of the Prairie Guards, Company E, 11th Regiment Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., Wm. Boone, H.W. Carr, H. Crouch, A.J. Erwin, F.H. Erwin, A.J. Halbert, D.C. Love, J.T. Morgan, P.W. Nash, W.W. Scales, J.L. Sherman, P.S. White, C.S. Wilkens, and T.J. Wilkens, were present.

 

 

On Motion, Capt. A.J. Erwin was made President, and D.C. Love, Secretary. Minutes of the meeting of Dec. 20, 1888, were received and adopted.

 

 

A permanent organization was effected, and the following were elected officers for one year: Capt. A.J. Erwin, President; W.W. Scales, First Vice President; Dr. F.H.H. Erwin, 2nd Vice Pres.; A.J. Halbert, Sec.; D.C. Love, J.T. Morgan and C.S. Wilkins, Executive Committee.

 

 

On motion of W.W. Scales, it was RESOLVED that this organization be called the "Prairie Guards of the Army of Northern Virginia". D.C. Love was appointed to prepare, from the material collected by Orderly Sgt. A.J. Halbert, a Historical sketch of the Company and to have it published in the Columbus Dispatch.

 

 

The Exec. Committee was instructed to make all arrangements for celebrating the next meeting.

 

 

The Meeting then adjourned, to meet at Crawford, Apr. 27, 1890.

 

 

 

 

THE SKETCH

 

 

The citizens of the State of Mississippi cherished the principles of the Declaration of the Independence, and regarded the Constitution Of the United States as the palladium for their liberties. Mississippians assisted in teaching foreigners, in the severe school of war, to respect the flag of the whole country, and they also taught their children to love and to defend it.

 

 

But in 1861, a political party which despised those principles, gained control of the Gov’t., and was pledged to the abolition of slavery, which was recognized by the Constitution. The fanaticism of this party was such that the lives and property of those who differed from it were unsafe in the Union. And when, on the 9th day of Jan., 1861, Mississippi withdrew form the Union, her sons were displaying the patriotism inherited from their Revolutionary sires.

 

 

On the 8th day of Feb.1861, the States which had withdrawn form the Union, organized a Confederate Government. This Government, known as the Southern Confederacy, did not desire war with the Northern States, and only undertook it after every peace proposal was refused.

 

 

The Prairie Guards, an Infantry Company, was raised in and near Crawford, Miss., was among the first to offer its services to the State. It was composed of the flower of the manhood of this section, was handsomely uniformed, and under the drilling of its captain, J.T.W. Hairston, a graduate of V.M.I., soon learned to move with military precision. It immediately became the pet of the ladies of this community. As a token of their appreciation, they purchased and presented it with a banner.

 

 

It was an occasion of thrilling interest; a large crowd was present to witness the ceremonies. This Company was mustered into the service of the State for one year by Capt. W.W. Humphreys, and the flag was presented and accepted with addresses suitable to the occasion.

 

 

Thus on that day, April 27, 1861, was unfurled to the glad breezes that fan the broad prairies of East Mississippi, the Banner of Prairie Guards. It was unlike the one which their fathers had fought, to them it was a banner in the sky. The old had not only ceased to protect their lives and property, bit it now floated over 75,000 troops, marshalling to carry and sword into the homes of their families and friends. The cherished of their youth had become the enemy of their old age; it had waved over the "land of the free and the home of the brave", but its mission now was subjugation and pillage. With strong hearts, tho sad, they and their mothers, too, were ready to say farewell to the "Star Spangled Banner", and to send forth their sons to battle for the cause of constitutional liberty.

 

 

The Prairie Guards, when mustered into service, had for their officers:

 

 

J. T. Hairston, Captain

 

W.H. Gray, 1st Lieut.;

 

A.H. Ledbetter, 2nd Lieut.;

 

H.P. Halbert, 3rd Lieut.;

 

Thos. Carr, Ensign;

 

Ed Sanders, Orderly Sergeant.

 

 

Shortly after this, they were ordered to

 

 

Corinth, Mississippi

 

 

Here it united with The University Greys, The Coahoma Iuvincibles, The Prairie Rifles, the Neshoba Rifles, The Noxubee Rifles, The Lamar Rifles, Chickasaw Guards, Van Dom Reserves, and The Carroll Rifles. These ten Companies in May 1861 organized the 11th Miss. Reg. of Volunteer Infantry, by electing J. Moore, Col.; P. F. Liddell, Lieut. Col.; and S. F. Butler, Major. The Prairie Guards became Co. E of the 11th Reg.. From Corinth the regiment was ordered to

 

Lynchburg, Virginia

 

 

Where it was mustered into the Confederate States Army on May 13, 1861. Leaving Lynchburg, it was sent to

 

 

Harpers Ferry

 

 

A Brigade composed of the 11th and the 2nd Miss., 4th Ala., 1st Tenn., and 6th No. Car. was formed and placed under the command of Gen. B.E. Bee. After evacuation of Harpers Ferry, the army retired to Winchester, where we were sent to reinforce Gen. Jackson.. On July 19th , Johnston’s Army left Winchester to reinforce Beauregard at

 

 

Manassas

 

 

The Brigade, except eight companies of the 11th Miss., was in the engagement next day. The next day these companies were transported by railroad cars to the field but arrived too late to take part in the battle. After staying at Bull Run for a few days the regiment was sent to Camp Fisher, where Gen. Whiting succeeded Gen. Bee, and the Brigade went into winter Quarters.

 

 

Mar. 9, 1862. Whiting’s Brigade went to

 

 

FREDERICKSBURG

 

 

and from there to

 

 

YORKTOWN

 

 

On May 4th we evacuated Yorktown and the next day Whiting’s Division, composed of his own and Hood’s Brigade, made a march of 35 miles to oppose Franklin's Corps, who were driven back under the cover of their gunboats on May 7th.

 

 

THE BATTLE OF SEVEN PINES

 

 

May 30th was the date of the first battle in which Co. E. engaged, with the results in our favor. Our Co. lost 2 killed: J. W. Beekham and Smith Lee; and 9 wounded. Gen. Johnston was wounded and command passed to Gen. Smith.. Shortly after Gen. R.E. Lee was placed in command of this army corps. In June Whiting's Division was sent to reinforce Jackson in the valley, and under Jackson on the 25th moved with him to

 

 

MECHANICSVILLE

 

 

and after a severe battle the enemy retired. Here the two Hills and Longstreet renewed the attack on the 27th, and when Jackson crossed the creek higher up, the enemy retreated to

 

 

GAINENS MILL

 

 

This battle opened June 27th by A. P. Hill, and Longstreet shortly after joined in on the right. About 4 p.m. Jackson arrived and filled in the gap between them. Whiting’s front was a wooded creek whose bank was lined with skirmishers, in back of whom was an entrenched line of infantry, and behind them a second line on the hill with fourteen guns. We carried thru the works, captured the guns, and beat off a counter attack by cavalry. Our Co. lost killed, J. E. Halbert and Wm. Norwood, wounded seven. On the 28th President Davis visited the 11th Miss, and made a very complimentary speech to our Brigade. Jackson’s forces on the 30th overtook the enemy at

 

 

WHITE OAK SWAMP

 

 

Here we were exposed to heavy artillery fire, but we crossed the creek and pursued the enemy. Here Whiting's Div. saw for the first time Gen. R.E. Lee, and was much impressed by his bearing. About 3 miles down the road, with the 11th Miss. at the head of the column, shells began bursting over our heads, as we had overtaken the enemy at

 

 

MALVERN HILL

 

 

Whiting occupied the left and suffered very little in this battle. B. Tomlinson of our Co. E was wounded. While here Gen. Whiting was promoted and Gen. Hood was placed in command of our Division. Hood’s Div. was placed under Gen. Longstreet, and on the 29th Longstreet pursued the enemy and came upon the field of

 

 

MANASSAS

 

 

In the battle P.W. Nash lost a leg and M.M. Wms. wounded. The next day Co. E was thrown forward as skirmishers and after firing all their cartridges fell back before a line of infantry, with five wounded. It was here we saw Jackson at bay with Pope hurling his solid masses against him. After a long while, the old Southern yell was heard, their flags darted forward in one of those charges so enlivening to us and so terrifying to the enemy. Longstreet's now advanced and as our regiment swept on, John Grizzle of Co. E. was killed. Pope’s army escaped to the fortifications around Washington, and Hood's Div. went on to Hagerstown, Md.. On Sept. 7, they Were sent back to support D. H. Hill, and during the night crossed the Antietam and took possession at

 

 

SHARPSBURG

 

 

Hood became engaged and Law’s Brigade formed the second line. The battle lasted into the night and Col. Liddell of the 11th Miss. was killed. This battle has been described as one of the most stubborn of the war, since a large detachment of Lee’s army were absent at Harpers Ferry, we were fearfully outnumbered. The 11th Miss. lost Col. F. Butler, Maj. Sidney Evans, and several Co. Commanders. The color bearer, Thos. Kidd, was killed and our flag was lost.

 

 

In our Company Jno. Donley and Jos. Howarth were killed and J. P. Halbert, Captain and Walter W. Scales were wounded. ;

 

 

A few weeks later the 2nd and 11th Miss. were sent to Richmond and united with the 42nd Miss. Reg. and the 26th Miss. Batt. to form Joseph R. Davis Mississippi Brigade. The Brigade went to

 

 

GOLDSBORO, N. C.

 

 

Where a warm battle was raging a few miles across the river. Our stay here was most pleasant as we had saved their homes from destruction. We soon learned the "Tarheel vernacular" and when we were called back to Va. they made their last expression, "You’unses must come back soon". Our Miss. Brigade was sent to Fredericksburg and placed in Heth’s Div. of A.P. Hill's Corps. It started on the Pennsylvania Campaign about the first of June. On July 1st, Heth struck the enemy about two miles from

 

 

GETTYSBURG

 

 

and drove his broken columns thru the town and out toward Cemetery Ridge. During the battle of the 2nd, it was held in reserve. In the assault on Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd, it was commanded by Pettigrew, and was on the left of Pickett's Division. Historians devote pages to the description of Pickett's gallant charge. This is well, such deeds should never be forgotten. They tell us that Heth’s Division wavered and gave way on the left. This is so, but they do not stop to explain why it was so.

 

 

The records of Co. E. 11th Mississippi show, and no doubt other companies of Heth’s suffered as much, that Co. E went into battle with 39 men, rank and file. Of this number 15 were killed: H.P. Halbert, Capt.; T.J. Mims, 2nd Lieut.; Pleas Goolsby, 3rd Lieut.; Thos. Carr, Orderly; W.B. Allen; John Ball; G.W. Edwards; L. Huccaby; Jno. Jones; Lib Martin; Jno. Mirares; Jas. Moorehead; Fletch Norwood; D.C. Wilkens; and Henry Wilkens.

 

 

Wounded and discharged: W.H. Belton, 1st Lieut.; H. Cruch; J.L. Edmunds; A.J. Halbert; Nat Howard; W.O. Jones; J.D. Loves; T.M. Powell; J.L. Sherman; and Jno. K. Woods.

 

 

Wounded: A.J. Erwin; J.C. Halbert; Jehu Kirksey; J.D. Love; Thos. Moorehead; Walter W. Scales; H.B. Thatpe; David Turner; Thomas Wilkens; J.H. White; and M.M. Williams.

 

 

Corporal J.T. Morgan was the only man able for duty the rest of that day.

 

 

On the eve of making this charge, Sgt. Carr detailed W.W. Scales to go with canteens for water. Scales, believing he could not get back in time for the charge, called for volunteers to go in his place. C.W. Cooper and G.W. Broadfoot volunteered and were not in this battle.

 

 

G.W. Broadfoot was captured and died in prison at Point Lookout, Maryland. Those who were badly wounded were left in the field hospital, and were captured when the Army fell back. Those who were able to walk or to bear transportation in wagons were sent back to Virginia in what was called the Wounded Train, which was escorted by Imboden’s Cavalry.

 

 

J.D. Love was captured in the retreat. Lee’s Army retired on the night of the 5th, and took a position at Hagerstown to allow time to lay a pontoon bridge across the Potomac. The last of his army crossed on the 14th, after a delaying action and the loss of a few men there.

 

 

The Division rested until Dec. 6th, and after recuperating, was called to fight the battle of

 

 

MINE RUN

 

 

The night before the battle Co. E was placed on the picket line, and to fire for a little while should the enemy advance, and then to fall back, so as to draw him under fire of our batteries and against our breastworks. The attack on our part of the line was so feeble that we did not retire. On another part of the field the enemy did advance until our Artillery opened up on them, when they retired and Meade then re-crossed the river. Lee's Army then went into winter quarters at Orange Court House. In the quarters of the 11th Miss. the boys built cabins for themselves, and a church and a theater. The Regimental band and Prof. Tomlison of Co. E formed a theatrical Troupe, and the winter passed cold, but quietly.

 

 

As spring began the papers were full of General Grant, and predicted that Lee’s little Army would be overwhelmed by the first stroke of the great "Hammerer from the West."

 

 

Grant crossed the Rapidan on Lee's left on the morning of May 4th, and the his Army of the Potomac was on its seventh "ON TO RICHMOND" march. The same day Heth’s Division moved down the road toward the wilderness. The next morning the 11th Miss. deployed across the road, and advanced, the rest of the command following in column. A few miles further on we struck the enemy's cavalry, who fought us on every hill for several miles. Towards the middle of the evening we came upon the enemy’s infantry, and

 

 

THE BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS

 

 

was opened. Heth’s Division was at one time almost entirely surrounded, but Anderson's Div. arrived on the field and relieved the pressure. On the morning of the 6th the enemy renewed the battle, while Kershaw’s Division was relieving Heth's which was to have been held in reserve that day. Some confusion was caused and a part of our Davis Brigade under Col. Stone, remained on the line and took a very active part in the severe fighting that followed. This battle like the preceding day, lasted into the night. After its close and far to our right, there was heard an indistinct sound, then becoming louder and louder, as each division passed it down the line; then dying away to our left until it was lost in the murmuring waters of the Rapidan. If was the CONFEDERATE YELL. It told us that another victory had been won. It told Grant that his hammering process had only welded Lee's lines. In this engagement Co. E suffered: killed John Allen and John Turner; wounded P. McGuire, B.B. Tomlinson, G.B. Triplett, and T.J. Wilkens.

 

 

The next morning Co. E was thrown forward as skirmishers, or rather as scouts, being deployed at intervals of fifty yards. We passed over the battlefield and were surprised at the number of the enemy dead. His wounded had been removed and further on we came upon strong earthworks along the road to Richmond, but they were deserted. That evening Heth’s Division started for

 

 

SPOTTSYLVANIA COURT HOUSE

 

 

The 11th was in this battle of the 12th, but being sheltered by strong breast works, suffered little. C.S. Wilkens of Co. E was wounded. The next day the battle of

 

 

PO RIVER

 

 

was fought, in which Col. Green of the 11th Miss. was killed, and T.S. Scales of Co. E was wounded.

 

 

June 2nd under Gen. Early, the division fought the battle of

 

 

BETHESDA CHURCH

 

 

In which our regiment suffered considerable loss. Dennis O'Sullivan lost a leg and died later in Richmond. In the general action at

 

 

COLD HARBOR

 

 

On June 3rd, Heth’s was held in reserve. During the remainder of June and most of July his command was in the entrenched line, where picket firing took place occasionally. Grant sprung his mine at Petersburg on July 30th, and the division was put on the march for

 

 

PETERSBURG

 

 

For several days we occupied the trenches near the mine, where sharp shooting went on continuously. From this position the Davis Brigade was sent down the Jerusalem plank road to drive away a large force of cavalry, which it did with very little resistance. About this time 3rd Lieut. A.J. Erwin was promoted and T.S. Scales was elected 3rd Lieutenant.

 

 

In our next battle of Aug. 18th and 19th Rueben Craig of Co. E was captured and 2nd Lieut. A.J. Erwin was wounded. The battle of

 

 

THE DAVIS HOUSE

 

 

followed toward the last of the month, when Thos. Wilkins of Co. E was wounded and captured.

 

 

The Brigade fought another battle shortly after this, but its name is unknown. On the extreme right of the line the 11th Miss. threw up breast works easily repulsed the attack. Next followed the battle of

 

 

HATCHERS RUN

 

 

On Oct. 27th, in which D. C. Love of Co. E was wounded. The intervals between these last five mentioned battles were passed in the trenches and rifle pits in front of PETERSBURG, where the firing was continually kept up. During the remainder of the year on the right of the line where our brigade was stationed there was frequent picket firing and our post duty was heavy. In the winter Dr. F.H. Irwin was commissioned Asst. Surgeon of the Regiment, 1st Lieut. AJ Irwin was promoted to Captain of Co. E and 3rd Lieut. T.S. Scales was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Some of the men secured short furloughs and visited their homes, but to those in the trenches, it was a long, dreary winter; hardly a day passing without some burdensome duty to perform.

 

 

On the 25th of March, 1865, the skirmish line in front of Davis' Brigade was attacked by a strong force, and part of the line was carred for a short while. Jehu Kirksey and Chas. S. Wilkins were captured. The 11th Miss. was sent to support the skirmish line, and a hard contest battle of several hours ensued. The 11th held the line until night fall and then returned to its position behind the works. The loss of the regiment was heavy at this engagement, considering that at the time its strength consisted of only sixty-four men. Lt. Col. R.O. Edwards lost his right arm and Capt. Nelms of Co. G was wounded.

 

 

On April 1st the 11th, commanded by Geo. W. Shannon was moved to the right and took position near Hatchers Run. On the second the enemy appeared in strong force both in the rear and on the right flank of the Regiment, having succeeded in breaking the lines on our left. Major Evans then moved the Regiment to about 200 yards to Hatchers Run, and there disbanded it. A few of the men made their escape by swimming the stream. Major J.J. Evans of Davis’ Staff was shot at twice while swimming, but escaped unhurt. Elbert Thompson of Co. F crossed safely on a floating log, but Ira Russell of the same company was shot while swimming and was compelled to return.

 

 

Frank Hope, the color bearer tore the flag of the Regiment into shreds, tied them to the flag staff, and threw them into Hatchers Run.

 

 

About this time the Regiment was entirely surrounded and all the members surrendered, including the following members of Company E: C.S. Cooper, John C. Love, James Norwood, W.W. Scales, Sam Stevens, H.B. Thatpe, G.B. Triplett, and M.M. Williams.

 

 

Thus closed the military service of THE PRAIRIE GUARDS, Company E, 11th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteer Infantry, Army of the Confederate State of America.

 

 

Material is not at hand to give a full account of the prison experience of members of this Company. It would be a dark page and one by no means complimentary to the professed Christianity and enlightenment of the age.

 

 

There are some at this day are preaching forgetfulness of the past, but the survivors of The Prairie Guards are not ashamed of the past. No stone however humble marks the resting place of those who fell. They sleep in unknown graves in the swamps of the Chickahominy, at Sharpsburg, at Gettysburg, and in the Thickets of the Wilderness.

 

 

Their names do not illume the historic page, but they are not yet forgotten, and at each returning anniversary we propose to call the role and tell them when, and why, they died.


Modified last on Thursday, 24-Jul-2003 12:10:01 MDT