Davis's Brigade - Pickett's Charge

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
I would like to pose a question to all of you Gettysburg "hyper-experts" (which I am not). Even though I have been researching the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment for many, many years, I am still uncertain as to the true regimental alignment of Davis's Brigade during the charge. We are certain that the 11th Mississippi, which had been absent on July 1st on wagon train guard detail, anchored the left of Davis and that the 55th North Carolina was on the right. Many sources simply say the 2nd and 42nd Mississippi were in the center. Some seemingly "authoritative" sources say the 2nd Mississippi was to the right of the 11th Mississippi. Others say it was to the left of the 55th North Carolina.

Aside from the fact that I now know with some certainty approximately how many men the 2nd carried into Pickett's Charge (it was many more than the "60 muskets" often cited from Sgt. A.L.P. Vairin's postwar diary entry and I intend to expand upon this in the future), but knowing the number is much larger than often cited, it is more important to know exactly where the 2nd Mississippi was placed in Davis's line, aside from the bland statement, "the center" along with the 42nd Mississippi.

Thanks to any and all for any help...
 

infomanpa

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Pennsylvania
I would like to pose a question to all of you Gettysburg "hyper-experts" (which I am not). Even though I have been researching the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment for many, many years, I am still uncertain as to the true regimental alignment of Davis's Brigade during the charge. We are certain that the 11th Mississippi, which had been absent on July 1st on wagon train guard detail, anchored the left of Davis and that the 55th North Carolina was on the right. Many sources simply say the 2nd and 42nd Mississippi were in the center. Some seemingly "authoritative" sources say the 2nd Mississippi was to the right of the 11th Mississippi. Others say it was to the left of the 55th North Carolina.

Aside from the fact that I now know with some certainty approximately how many men the 2nd carried into Pickett's Charge (it was many more than the "60 muskets" often cited from Sgt. A.L.P. Vairin's postwar diary entry and I intend to expand upon this in the future), but knowing the number is much larger than often cited, it is more important to know exactly where the 2nd Mississippi was placed in Davis's line, aside from the bland statement, "the center" along with the 42nd Mississippi.

Thanks to any and all for any help...
From the information that you gave (contradictory primary sources), I would assume that we will never be certain.
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
Looking over my notes, I went with (left to right) 11 MS - 2 MS - 42 MS - 55 NC on July 3.

-McFarland has 11 MS on the left, 55 NC on the right.

-William Peel, 11 MS, suggests his regiment was on the left. He reached the Brien Barn.

-55 NC, Histories of the Several Regiments from NC, suggests 55 NC was on the right.

-Colonel Miller, commanding 42 MS, put his regiment on the right.

As you say, the principal controversy is to identify the left center and right center regiments between 2 MS and 42 MS. Locating no other definitive source and unable to infer the alignment from extant sources, I suppose Colonel Miller influenced my decision to assign 42 MS to the right center, leaving 2 MS at left center by default.
 

lelliott19

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This source doesn't answer your question about the alignment of the regiments, but maybe it includes some information you don't already have? Richmond Enquirer., July 24, 1863, page 1.
https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024735/1863-07-24/ed-1/seq-1/
Begins at lower half of column 6 with article entitled "42d Mississippi Regiment, Col. Hugh B. Miller, Commanding" and concludes in the top half of column 8 with casualties in K/11th MS.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
Looking over my notes, I went with (left to right) 11 MS - 2 MS - 42 MS - 55 NC on July 3.

-McFarland has 11 MS on the left, 55 NC on the right.

-William Peel, 11 MS, suggests his regiment was on the left. He reached the Brien Barn.

-55 NC, Histories of the Several Regiments from NC, suggests 55 NC was on the right.

-Colonel Miller, commanding 42 MS, put his regiment on the right.

As you say, the principal controversy is to identify the left center and right center regiments between 2 MS and 42 MS. Locating no other definitive source and unable to infer the alignment from extant sources, I suppose Colonel Miller influenced my decision to assign 42 MS to the right center, leaving 2 MS at left center by default.
Thanks Tom. I was hoping you might have some additional notes. I'm zeroing in on the details of the CMSR's in my database, trying to "slice and dice" the data so that it makes sense every way I can think of to look at it. I've concluded that at the Railroad Cut on July 1st, somewhere between 125 and 127 officers and men were captured (there's a couple of records without definitive information), some wounded and mortally wounded of course. So of the 232 total captured there (Herdegen and Beaudot, "In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg") the rest would have to have come from the 42nd Mississippi and 55th North Carolina.

At any rate, if Busey and Martin's numbers are correct, and we assume 492 "aggregate" in the regiment on July 1st (which matches fairly closely with my database estimate of 505), combine the Railroad Cut captures with the additional killed and wounded on July 1st, I arrive at a rough estimate (because of several conflicting records) of a total of 235 casualties, killed, wounded, and captured, for the 2nd Mississippi on July 1st. This would leave them with an remaining aggregate of 257 available for Pickett's Charge on July 3rd. Not all of those would be put into the line of course, deducting some percentage for sick, detached and detailed men. But the 2nd Mississippi would have still been a substantially-sized regiment and now led by Lieutenant Colonel Humphreys who was also on detached duty on July 1st, Colonel Stone having been wounded prior to the Railroad Cut, and Major Blair having been captured there.

Of the two deployment options, to the right of the 11th MS or to the left of the 55th NC, I've always leaned towards the former, to the right of the 11th. But again, I've just never been able to nail it down through any primary sources.

Thanks again!
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
This source doesn't answer your question about the alignment of the regiments, but maybe it includes some information you don't already have? Richmond Enquirer., July 24, 1863, page 1.
https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024735/1863-07-24/ed-1/seq-1/
Begins at lower half of column 6 with article entitled "42d Mississippi Regiment, Col. Hugh B. Miller, Commanding" and concludes in the top half of column 8 with casualties in K/11th MS.
Thanks Laura...the article has some interesting information. One thing I noted is that again, it gives Sgt. Frank Price of the 42nd MS credit for capture of the colors of the 149th PA on July 1st. The 2nd MS soldier who shot the 149th's color bearer, Color Corporal Henry Spayd, was Pvt. Henry ("Tobe") McPherson of Company H. The raiding party was organized by Colonel Stone and led by Lt. Atlas K. Roberts of the 2nd Mississippi. I do not know if the raiding party was deliberately organized with 42nd MS members also, or they decided on their action separately, but there is still controversy to this day as to who should get the credit for the capture of the PA colors. Accounts say that McPherson, upon shooting Spayd in the leg, not killing him, then ran forward and seized the colors from the wounded Color Bearer. Sgt. Price may have been the man that McPherson thought was Spayd's prisoner who was near him when he was shot. I suppose we will never know for sure, but McPherson was credited in his CSMR company records with the capture and was posthumously promoted to Ensign (he was killed at the Wilderness before the promotion took effect).

Anyway, thanks again for the great link!
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
I would like to pose a question to all of you Gettysburg "hyper-experts" (which I am not). Even though I have been researching the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment for many, many years, I am still uncertain as to the true regimental alignment of Davis's Brigade during the charge. We are certain that the 11th Mississippi, which had been absent on July 1st on wagon train guard detail, anchored the left of Davis and that the 55th North Carolina was on the right. Many sources simply say the 2nd and 42nd Mississippi were in the center. Some seemingly "authoritative" sources say the 2nd Mississippi was to the right of the 11th Mississippi. Others say it was to the left of the 55th North Carolina.

Aside from the fact that I now know with some certainty approximately how many men the 2nd carried into Pickett's Charge (it was many more than the "60 muskets" often cited from Sgt. A.L.P. Vairin's postwar diary entry and I intend to expand upon this in the future), but knowing the number is much larger than often cited, it is more important to know exactly where the 2nd Mississippi was placed in Davis's line, aside from the bland statement, "the center" along with the 42nd Mississippi.

Thanks to any and all for any help...
This might be a hint - or it might muddy the water.
Davis’ brigade made a charge across my farm in Virginia, 10 months after Pickett’s Charge. According to the Battlefield Trust, the formation for that charge was 11th on the left followed by the 42nd, 2nd. and the 55th on the left. There might or might not be a hint here.
I have an extensive collection of notes and copies of historical papers on the 11th. MS , but was never interested in who was directly to their right during Pickett’s charge or other specific battle tactics. My interest has always been on individual soldiers in that regiment. I will look through my notes for a hit to your intriguing question.
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
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Jan 16, 2015
My estimates are that the 2nd Mississippi arrived with 44 officers and 448 enlisted men, with 33 officers and 378 enlisted men actually going into the fight on July 1. At sundown I figure 100 enlisted (fighting) men answered present, but that number recovered to 154 enlisted men before the charge on July 3, of which four were struck down during the cannonade, leaving 150 enlisted men to go forward into the charge on July 3, and winding up with 80 enlisted men at the end of the battle. Of course I adjust estimates as new information comes up.

I appreciate your extensive research and numbers. If we subtract the typical non-combatants (11 officers and 70 enlisted men - my rule of thumb is 15 percent of overall strength) from your total of 257, we are left with 176 on July 3, broken out (approximately) as 16 officers and 150 enlisted men. The latter might be slightly augmented if some of the non-combatants were returned to the ranks, reduced by the number of sick and those confined for offenses.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
My estimates are that the 2nd Mississippi arrived with 44 officers and 448 enlisted men, with 33 officers and 378 enlisted men actually going into the fight on July 1. At sundown I figure 100 enlisted (fighting) men answered present, but that number recovered to 154 enlisted men before the charge on July 3, of which four were struck down during the cannonade, leaving 150 enlisted men to go forward into the charge on July 3, and winding up with 80 enlisted men at the end of the battle. Of course I adjust estimates as new information comes up.

I appreciate your extensive research and numbers. If we subtract the typical non-combatants (11 officers and 70 enlisted men - my rule of thumb is 15 percent of overall strength) from your total of 257, we are left with 176 on July 3, broken out (approximately) as 16 officers and 150 enlisted men. The latter might be slightly augmented if some of the non-combatants were returned to the ranks, reduced by the number of sick and those confined for offenses.
Thanks again Tom. I'd give the nod to your numbers since you have all the Gettysburg data at hand and I'm primarily working from the CMSR database. But it's good to know we're at least in the same ballpark. The company-grade officer casualties were so high at Gettysburg for the 2nd Mississippi that many of the records show conflicting dates and information, so sorting through it and trying to "adjudicate" it for accuracy is a very tedious process. But whether 150 or 176 in line on July 3rd, it's not an insignificant number, especially when considering the horrendous losses on July 1st. But it is still a lot more than was represented by Sgt. Vairin's poor post-war memory (my personal belief at any rate) when recounting only "60 muskets" taken into the charge on July 3rd. That number is more representative of the number who actually survived the battle. The 2nd Mississippi still had enough strength left to anchor Davis's line on the right at Falling Waters on July 14th, where it suffered another 20 casualties. By May 1864 at the Wilderness, the 2nd Mississippi had recovered to a strength of between 280-285 officers and men.

Thanks again!
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
This might be a hint - or it might muddy the water.
Davis’ brigade made a charge across my farm in Virginia, 10 months after Pickett’s Charge. According to the Battlefield Trust, the formation for that charge was 11th on the left followed by the 42nd, 2nd. and the 55th on the left. There might or might not be a hint here.
I have an extensive collection of notes and copies of historical papers on the 11th. MS , but was never interested in who was directly to their right during Pickett’s charge or other specific battle tactics. My interest has always been on individual soldiers in that regiment. I will look through my notes for a hit to your intriguing question.
Thanks for that information! Something else new to add to my notes. However, I have found that the brigade's regimental alignment varied from battle to battle. Sometimes the 2nd and 11th were adjacent, sometimes they were not. Sometimes the 2nd MS anchored the flank, sometimes not, so the alignment at Gettysburg may or may not have been the same as any of the battles of the Overland Campaign. Plus, in the case of Davis's Brigade, you have to remember that it added the 26th Mississippi Regiment and 1st Confederate Battalion as transfers from the Western Theater prior to the Wilderness, so that complicates brigade regimental battle alignments even further...
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
The strength and losses of Company B, 2nd Mississippi were noted in the Supplement to the Official Records (Broadfoot Publishing Company): July 1 - Went into the action with "66 men." In three days, 1 officer and 5 [enlisted] men were killed; 3 officers and 11 men were severely wounded and captured; 14 men were wounded and sent safely to the rear; 19 were missing, "making a total of 53 killed, wounded and missing" from July 1-3. In addition, 1 man was wounded on July 7, and 3 more men were "supposedly captured" on July 13.

It's unclear whether the writer meant 4 officers and 66 enlisted men, or 4 officers and 62 enlisted men.

Busey and Busey's Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg lists a total of 50 killed, wounded and missing from Company B, dating quite a few to either July 1 or 3 as follows:

Killed or mortally wounded-
1Lt John C. Lauderdale, July 1.
9 men on July 1 and 2 men on July 3.

Wounded and Wounded/Captured:
Captain John H. Buchanan, July 3; 2nd Lieutenant William C. Moody, July 3; 3rd Lieutenant Hugh L. Byrn, July 3.
10 men on July 1 and 8 men on July 3.

Captured (unhurt):
10 men on July 1 and 3 men on July 3.

The total (46 officers and men) breaks down to 30 on July 1 and 16 on July 3.

Extrapolating from 46 to 53 yields: 35 on July 1 and 18 on July 3.

Therefore I think it may reasonably be concluded that about half of Company B was lost on July 1 (which happens to accord with a statement in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War that the regiment lost half its men on July 1), while about half (of the remainder) of the company was likewise lost on July 3, which is not far from my own estimated percentage of July 3 losses among the engaged of the regiment. These are approximations of course, and one must be careful not to read too much into a single company's figures, but in this instance it appears consistent with the regiment as a whole.
 
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Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
The strength and losses of Company B, 2nd Mississippi were noted in the Supplement to the Official Records (Broadfoot Publishing Company): July 1 - Went into the action with "66 men." In three days, 1 officer and 5 [enlisted] men were killed; 3 officers and 11 men were severely wounded and captured; 14 men were wounded and sent safely to the rear; 19 were missing, "making a total of 53 killed, wounded and missing" from July 1-3. In addition, 1 man was wounded on July 7, and 3 more men were "supposedly captured" on July 13.

It's unclear whether the writer meant 4 officers and 66 enlisted men, or 4 officers and 62 enlisted men.

Busey and Busey's Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg lists a total of 50 killed, wounded and missing from Company B, dating quite a few to either July 1 or 3 as follows:

Killed or mortally wounded-
1Lt John C. Lauderdale, July 1.
9 men on July 1 and 2 men on July 3.

Wounded and Wounded/Captured:
Captain John H. Buchanan, July 3; 2nd Lieutenant William C. Moody, July 3; 3rd Lieutenant Hugh L. Byrn, July 3.
10 men on July 1 and 8 men on July 3.

Captured (unhurt):
10 men on July 1 and 3 men on July 3.

The total (46 officers and men) breaks down to 30 on July 1 and 16 on July 3.

Extrapolating from 46 to 53 yields: 35 on July 1 and 18 on July 3.

Therefore I think it may reasonably be concluded that about half of Company B's losses were on July 1 (which happens to accord with a statement in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War that the regiment lost half its men on July 1), while about half of the remainder of the company's losses occurred on July 3, which is not far from my own estimated percentage of July 3 losses among the engaged of the regiment. These are approximations of course, and one must be careful not to read too much into a single company's figures, but in this instance it appears consistent with the regiment as a whole.
Thanks again Tom. My records show 29 total casualties on July 1st from Company B (from CMSR records, some partial or conflicting) which is a bit off from the extrapolation, so the error could lie in either or both sources of data. Of those, 14 were captured, including wounded. I count 51 total for July 1-3, so I probably missed a couple in interpreting their records. So I would show 22 casualties on July 3. Again, I have only begun finely scrubbing the Gettysburg records, so I'll assume I'm the one in error until I convince myself otherwise.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
I very much look forward to this!
I have been frustrated in the past with the number of secondary source books, websites, forums, etc., that repeat the clearly proven falsehood that "the 2nd Mississippi was captured in the railroad cut." Provably false. It's been proven false, and I still see it in print and online.

Somewhere between 125-127 officers and men of the 2nd Mississippi were captured there. But there were also an additional 105-107 men (making a total of 232) taken from the 42nd Mississippi and 55th North Carolina. An additional half-truth is that most of the captured had taken refuge in the Deep Cut. The left wing of the 2nd MS was clearly fighting from where the cut's depth was perhaps 5 feet to waist deep in which was an almost perfect "ready-made" defensive position. Admittedly, the men on the right wing of the regiment ended up in the deep cut where they could not effectively fire defensively, along with most of the 42nd Mississippi. The majority of the prisoners however, seem to have been taken on the left wing. Why? Because when Davis gave the order to withdraw, Major Belo of the 55th North Carolina, which was on the 2nd Mississippi's left and effectively fighting in the open, I believe got the order. Major Blair apparently did not. So when the Iron Brigade Guard moved to attack the vulnerable "hinge" between the two regiments, the 55th NC gave way, unencumbered by having to climb out of much of a ditch of any kind, allowing the left wing of the 2nd Mississippi to be flanked. The right wing of the regiment, along with many of the 42nd Mississippi, escaped by fleeing to their right, down the deep cut and out the open end to safety. It was the left wing in the shallow cut, which was effectively challenging the charge of the 6th Wisconsin, until the 55th NC withdrew, that suffered the worst consequences. But I'm still working on pulling all of that into a supportable argument. Wish me luck... :wink:
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
I count 126 officers and enlisted men captured from the 55th North Carolina on July 1. Companies C, F, G, A, H and I suffered the most captured that day, in descending order. It appears the 55th nearly matched the 2nd Mississippi in terms of number of prisoners taken in or near the cut.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
I count 126 officers and enlisted men captured from the 55th North Carolina on July 1. Companies C, F, G, A, H and I suffered the most captured that day, in descending order. It appears the 55th nearly matched the 2nd Mississippi in terms of number of prisoners taken in or near the cut.
So if we assume the 55th NC followed the "standard" deployment of regiments in line, left to right as viewed from the rear of the regiment -- B, G, K, E. H, C, I, D, F, A -- three of those five companies would normally be deployed on the right, joining the 2nd Mississippi's left. Companies G and H (although H is basically in the center) don't fit that pattern, but we don't know if the 55th NC followed convention or perhaps varied the arrangement with respect to seniority of the company commanders. If that many were captured from the 55th NC, perhaps my original assumption that the Iron Brigade Guard struck the "hinge" where the 2nd MS and 55th NC linked, there was actually more of the right wing of the 55th NC in that portion of the "shallow" cut with the left wing of the 2nd MS. It just seems that those that could easily fall back from that end of the cut did so when the Iron Brigade Guard hit their line. When that happened, the ones who could not easily get out of the shallow cut directly to their rear were flanked on their left and either forced to close order combat or surrender when the 6th Wisconsin closed the distance during their charge.

Thanks again for that additional information Tom. Maybe the puzzle will come together sooner rather than later...
 

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
I think your reasoning is sound across the board. Here are my two draft maps that attempt to depict how it unfolded:

McPherson1020.jpg


McPherson1030.jpg
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
@Tom Elmore And your map also points to an obvious question...why would the 55th NC be falling back unless they had received orders to do so? Their line, especially the left wing of the regiment, could have easily "wheeled" to the right, swung around and overlapped the flank of the 6th Wisconsin and Iron Brigade Guard. If they had stood their ground instead of retreating, Lt. Col. Dawes might have found himself "between a rock and hard place" and regretted ordering that charge. BG Davis apparently lost his nerve and ordered his brigade to fall back rather than standing firm at a critical moment in time, resulting in the debacle at the Railroad Cut...
 
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