Thursday, April 25, 2013

The "Brent Rifles" a/k/a Company K, Mississippi 38th Infantry: Sergeant William F. Stovall, my 2nd cousin 5x removed

General Earl Van Dorn's "Army of Tennessee" Flag

The Mississippi 38th Infantry Regiment was organized in Jackson, Mississippi in May of 1862.  Its men were recruited from the Counties of Holmes, Tishomingo, Alcorn, Wilkinson, Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River, and Marion.  Company K was also known as the "Brent Rifles" and was raised in Pike County, Mississippi.  Fleming W. Adams was elected as Colonel of the Mississippi 38th.  Shortly after its organization, the Unit was ordered to join General P.G.T. Beauregard's Army of the Mississippi at Corinth, Mississippi.   On May 29th, Beauregard ordered the Army of Mississippi to pull back to Tupelo.  Disease began to run rampant in the Mississippi 38th, so much that they were ordered to Columbus, Mississippi on July 1, 1862 to gather new recruits.  By August, the Regiment was back up to full strength, containing approximately 963 men.  The Unit was attached to Colonel John D. Martin's Brigade of Brigadier General Lewis Henry Little's Division in Major General Sterling Price's Army of the West. 

Brigadier General Lewis Henry Little

In September of 1862, Colonel Martin's Brigade consisted of the 36th, 37th & 38th Mississippi, and the 37th Alabama Infantry Regiments.  On September 19th, the Brigade took part in the Battle of Iuka, Mississippi.  General Little ordered Colonel Martin to advance the 37th and 38th Mississippi Infantry Regiments on the right, directly behind General Louis Hébert's command.   Due to their proximity behind Hébert's troops, the 37th and 38th were ordered not to return fire.  The Regiments were tasked with taking a Union Artillery Battery in their front.  Sometime during the battle, Colonel Fleming Adams was wounded.  Due to his injury, Adams was deemed "unfit for duty".  His first battle in the Civil War was also his last.  In his only post battle report, Colonel Adams said:  "My command never fired a shot, because I had been so ordered, but it was under a very heavy fire, and acted, with but few exceptions, with coolness and courage."

Following Colonel Adams injury, Lieutenant Colonel Preston Brent assumed command of the Regiment.  In his after battle report dated September 23, 1862, Lieutenant Brent stated: "The regiment advanced gallantly to the charge until it reached the top of a hill in full view of the enemy's battery, when it was halted and ordered to lie down."  Although the Regiments never fired, they were under heavy fire the entire time they were engaged.  Following the Battle of Iuka, Lieutenant Colonel Brent reported a loss of 4 killed, 1 mortally wounded, and 2 wounded, including Colonel Adams.   Little's Division suffered greater casualties during the Battle of Iuka.  At approximately 5:45 pm, while sitting on his horse behind the front line, Brigadier General Lewis Henry Little was struck in the head by a bullet and was killed instantly.  

Battle of Corinth, Miss., October 4, 1862. Hand-colored lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1862.

Following the Battle of Iuka, General Sterling Price's 17,000 troops linked up with General Earl Van Dorn's 10,000 troops and moved in the direction of Cornith. Mississippi, where a large Federal force under the command of General William S. Rosecrans lay waiting.  The Confederates were tasked with disrupting Federal communications and supplies.  On October 3, 1862, the combined Confederate force under the leadership of the more senior officer, Earl Van Dorn, attacked the Federal position at Corinth. 

Major General Earl Van Dorn

On the first day of fighting, the Confederates succeeded in driving the Federal army from the rifle pits they were occupying.  The Confederates exploited a gap in the Union line and pressed the Federals to fall back to their inner fortifications.  Colonel Martin's Brigade charged the outer works of the Federal line at an angle where they were exposed to an enfilading fire from musket and cannon.  Several members of the Brigade were killed in the charge, including Colonel Martin. 

On the second day of fighting, the combined Confederate force continued to press the Federals back, storming Federal Batteries Powell and Robinett.  As fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued, Confederates briefly incurred into the town of Corinth before being repulsed.   After Federal counter charge helped recapture Battery Powell, General Van Dorn ordered the Confederates to retreat.  Van Dorn's army was spared due to Rosecrans decision not to immediately pursue.  The Mississippi 38th Infantry Regiment suffered 4 killed and 4 wounded in the Battle of Corinth. 

Brigadier General Louis Hébert

Following the Battle of Corinth, the Mississippi 38th was sent to Snyder's Bluff on the Yazoo River, just north of Vicksburg. Mississippi where they were they were placed under the command of Brigadier General Louis Hébert in the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.  Other Regiments in Hébert's Brigade included:  the 3rd and 21st Louisiana, 36th, 37th, and 43rd Mississippi Infantry Regiments and the 7th Mississippi Battalion.  Due to their proximity north of Vicksburg, the Brigade didn't participate in the early battles of the Vicksburg Campaign.  Following the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Champion's Hill, the Brigade would finally enter the action. 

Hébert's Brigade remained on the Yazoo Bluff until May 17, 1863, when they were ordered to report to the front lines of Vicksburg.  On May 18th, the Mississippi 38th took up a position covering the Jackson and Graveyard roads.  On May 22nd, Ulysses S. Grant ordered a Federal assault on the Confederate works that covered the Jackson road and the Stockade redan.  The Mississippi 38th played a part in repulsing the attack, suffering only light casualties.  Captain William Larkin Faulk of Company B mentioned the events of May 22nd in his personal diary:  "Heavy artillery firing during the night and up to 8 o’clock this morning.  7 o’clock p.m. – The enemy made a desperate charge on line commencing at 10:30 o’clock and was kept up around the lines until dark.  The enemy made tremendous exertions to force our lines but with God’s assistance, we have been able to hold it."

The Mississippi 38th was moved to the right flank of the Louisiana redan on June 2, 1863 and was positioned between the 3rd and 21st Louisiana Infantry Regiments.  On June 25th, Federal forces blew up mines under the redan.  According several sources, the Confederates occupying the redan had prior knowledge of the potential mine blast and were able to get to a safe distance before the mine exploded. 

Illustration of the mine explosion on June 25, 1863

The explosion on June 25th caused only light damage to the redan.  Members of the Mississippi 38th were said to have been engaged in both fighting and repairing the redan at the same time.  Captain Faulk of Company B wrote about blast in his personal diary:  "The enemy attempted to blow up the parapet of the 3rd Louisiana and partially succeeded, and threatened us with a charge.  We remained in the ditches all night."

Siege of Vicksburg. The fight in the crater of Fort Hill after the Union explosion June 25, 1863. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Following the unsuccessful attempt at destroying the Louisiana redan, Grant ordered a new mine to be dug.  A second explosion occurred on July 2nd, this time taking out most of the redan.  However, Federal forces were still unable to overtake the Confederate position and were pushed back with heavy losses. 

On July 3, 1863, after a nearly month and a half long siege, Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton sent a note to Grant to request terms for a formal surrender.  Grant initially took the stance that caused his nickname and demanded an "unconditional surrender" but later reconsidered, not wanting to feed the nearly 30,000 hungry Confederates in Union Prison Camps.  Grant offered parole to the Confederate forces, with the condition that they never again take up arms against the United States. 

On July 4th, the Mississippi 38th stacked arms in front of the works they had so gallantly defended.  The men then marched toward the rear of their camp and were paroled.   Captain Faulk of Company B wrote in his diary:  "Another meeting of the officers on each side about 10 o’clock last night and still another about three o’clock this morning, the result of which was our surrender at 10 o’clock today. How humiliating it si for us to be compelled to submit to such an enemy, and that too on the 4th of July; but we have done all that men could do – we held them 48 days on very scant rations and we would have continued to hold the place had our rations held out. The Feds and our men are mixing together and talking good humoredly."  During the Vicksburg Campaign, the Mississippi 38th suffered 35 killed and 39 wounded.  The Mississippi 38th was reassembled at the Parole Camp in Enterprise, Mississippi where they remained until they were officially exchanged in December of 1863.

Picture of the Louisiana redan taken shortly after the fall of Vicksburg

In January of 1864, by order of Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, the Mississippi 38th was mounted and became a Cavalry unit.  The Regiment was consolidated with the Mississippi 14th Infantry Regiment and the Mississippi 3rd Cavalry.  

Colonel Hinchie P. Mabry

The consolidated Regiment was assigned to Colonel Hinchie Parham Mabry's Mississippi Cavalry Brigade.  The other Units in Mabry's Brigade were the 4th, 6th and 14th Mississippi Cavalry Regiments.  The Brigade was engaged in operations against Federals around Yazoo City up until June of 1864 when they were ordered to North Mississippi to prepare for the Union invasion of that region. 

Mabry's Brigade arrived in Okolona, Mississippi on June 13, 1864.  Upon their arrival, they were assigned to the command of Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest.   Confidence in their new commander was high.   Forrest had just returned from one of his greatest victories at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads on June 10th. 

General Nathan Bedford Forrest - Library of Congress

Forrest's victory at Brice's Crossroads caused the Federal Army to shift their strategy.  Union General William T. Sherman was engaged in Georgia during the Federal defeat.  Sherman's supply line solely depended on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad.   If Forrest could disrupt the supply line, Sherman's Georgia Campaign could grind to a halt.   Sherman now seemed poised to try and handle the threat from Forrest.  On June 16, 1864, Sherman issued the following order to Major General James B. McPherson, who was the Commander of the Department of the Tennessee:

"I wish you to organize as large a force as possible at Memphis, with Generals A. J. Smith or Mower in command, to pursue Forrest on foot, devastating the land over which he has passed or may pass, and make him and the people of Tennessee and Mississippi realize that although a bold, daring, and successful leader, he will bring ruin and misery on any country where he may pause or tarry.  If we do not punish Forrest and the people now, the whole effect of our past conquests will be lost."

Federal Major General Andrew J. Smith was tasked to command the mission to destroy Forrest.  On July 5, 1864, he led a force of nearly 14,000 men and 24 pieces of artillery out of La Grange, Tennessee and headed south into Mississippi.  Forrest's Corps included roughly 7,500 Cavalry, 2,100 dismounted Cavalry who served as Infantry and about 20 pieces of artillery.  

On July 9th, Mabry's Brigade moved from Saltillo to Ellistown, Mississippi, which was about 15 miles Northwest of Tupelo.  Upon their arrival, the Brigade was temporarily assigned to Brigadier General Abraham Buford’s Division.  Many Regiments in Buford's Division were engaged with Federal forces

Mabry's Brigade performed a blocking maneuver on July 11th to prevent the Federals from taking Okolona.  The Brigade was held in reserve during the skirmishing at Pontotoc on July 12th.  The Federals began to shift their interest and head for Tupelo.  Mabry's Brigade, with Forrest at its head, began to press the rear guard of the retreating Federal army.  Forrest ordered Mabry to force his way into the town of Pontotoc.  Mabry's Brigade led a tremendous charge into the town, pushing aside two Federal units. 

The Federal column continued to push towards Tupelo.   The Mississippi 38th continued its pursuit of the retreating Federals until roughly 2:00am on the morning of July 14th, when Mabry's Brigade pulled up to the town of Harrisburg and found the Federal Army drawn up in a line of battle, preparing to receive an attack.

The Federal position was very formidable, running nearly a mile an a half along the crest of a ridge that provided an excellent view of the surrounding landscape.   Mabry's Brigade faced an uphill challenge.  Not only would they have to attack uphill, they would also be subjected to heavy musket and artillery fire.  The Mississippi 38th dismounted and was deployed on the extreme Confederate left.  Just after 8:00 am on the morning of July 14th, the Confederates were ordered to attack.  As the Mississippi 38th cleared the woods and moved out in the open, they were immediately targeted by Federal cannoneers.  Shot and shell began to tear holes in the Confederate line.   The Regiment regrouped and continued their advance on the Federal line.  When they began to advance with 300 yards of the Federal position, Infantry fire began to pour into their ranks.  Colonel Mabry's after battle report stated:  "I immediately ordered a charge, but the heat was so intense and the distance so great that some men and officers fell exhausted and fainting along my line, while the fire from the enemy’s line of works by both artillery and small-arms was so heavy and well directed that many were killed and wounded.  These two causes of depletion left my line almost like a line of skirmishers." 

Although they incurred heavy casualties, the Mississippi 38th pressed on.  When the unit reached within about 60 yards of the Federal line, many of the men who had survived the intense Union fire sought protection in a small depression in the ground.  After exhausting every round of ammunition, the men began to fall back.  Reinforcements from Colonel Tyree Bell's Tennessee Brigade began to draw attention away from the Mississippi 38th.  Once the coast was clear, the Mississippi 38th withdrew from the field of battle.  Their casualty count for the Battle of Tupelo was 21 killed, 51 wounded and 3 missing.  The casualties of the Mississippi 38th were the highest in the Brigade. 

The Regiment participated in the action at Concord Church on December 1, 1864.  On January 2, 1865, they skirmished at Lexington and Verona.  From February through May of 1865, the Mississippi 38th took part in the final Campaign in Alabama during Wilson's Raid.  Their last major engagement of the war was at Sipsey Bridge on March 29, 1865.  The Mississippi 38th surrendered with General Richard Taylor on May 4, 1865 at Brewersville, Alabama. 

My 2nd cousin 5x removed, William F. Stovall fought in nearly every engagement that the Mississippi 38th participated in.

William F. Stovall was born in Marion County, Mississippi on March 8, 1843.  He is my 2nd cousin 5x removed.  His older brother Robert D. Stovall, served in the "Quitman Guards" a/k/a Company E, Mississippi 16th Infantry Regiment.  William enlisted as a Corporal in the "Brent Rifles" a/k/a Company K, Mississippi 38th Infantry Regiment on April 26, 1862 at the age of 19. 

1st Muster Roll for William

Sometime before July 1of 1863, William was promoted to Sergeant.  He was captured and taken prisoner on July 4, 1863 during the Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi. 

POW Roll for William showing rank of Sergeant

On July 8, 1863, William received formal parole from Federal authorities, vowing not to take up arms against the United States again. 

William's Parole Paper

Following his parole, William returned to duty and was listed as present and accounted for through June 30, 1864.  No further records are in his service file. 

Last Muster Roll for William

On February 9, 1922, William Stovall was listed as living at the Old Soldiers Home in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

1922 Letter regarding William's Civil War Service

William F. Stovall lived an additional 60 years following the end of the Civil War.  He died on July 12, 1935 at the Old Soldiers Home in New Orleans, Louisiana.   His burial location is not known at the time of this entry.

Here's my relation to William:

William F. Stovall (1843 - 1925)
is your 2nd cousin 5x removed
Thomas Peter Stovall (1814 - 1899)
father of William F. Stovall
Drury Stovall (1770 - 1858)
father of Thomas Peter Stovall
Josiah Stovall Sr. (1749 - 1798)
father of Drury Stovall
Rebecca Stovall (1772 - 1852)
daughter of Josiah Stovall Sr.
Phoebe Blackwell (1812 - 1860)
daughter of Rebecca Stovall
Martha Anne Currin (1834 - 1917)
daughter of Phoebe Blackwell
Phebe Lucy Daniel (1862 - 1946)
daughter of Martha Anne Currin
Valeria Lee Moss (1890 - 1968)
daughter of Phebe Lucy Daniel
Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis (1918 - 1977)
daughter of Valeria Lee Moss
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
daughter of Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce


  1. Hey, great blog! BTW, do you know anything about a Samuel Johnson Forester in the 55th NC? He was my great-great-grandfather, and I'm trying to find any information on him that I can.

    1. Samuel J. Forester - Captain, Company B, NC 55th Infantry Regiment. Enlisted in Wilkes County, NC on May 19, 1861. Resigned September 25, 1862. Resignation accepted by Colonel Connally, NC 55th.

    2. Hey, thanks! I didn't even know you responded. Wow, he wasn't in the Army very long, was he? Family legend supposed that he stayed the whole duration of the war.