11th Mississippi Infantry
A Brief History
by
Stephen R. Davis

The 11th Mississippi was formed at Corinth, Mississippi, on May 4, 1861. It was composed of ten companies from the northern portion of the state. Its members were all volunteers and were significantly more affluent and literate than the average Confederate soldier. Students from the University of Mississippi comprised most of Company A, the University Greys, and part of Company G, the Lamar Rifles. The 11th and 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiments were the first two Mississippi units to be forwarded to the Virginia front, arriving at Harpers Ferry on May 16. A month later General Joseph E. Johnston pulled his Confederate forces at Harpers Ferry back a few miles to Winchester, which is where the 11th Mississippi was when Brigadier General Irvin McDowell?s Union army invaded Virginia.

Johnston rushed his forces to reinforce General P. G. T. Beauregard at Manassas. Only part of the 11th Mississippi arrived in time to take part in the battle of First Manassas (or First Bull Run) on July 21. Companies A and F, under Lieutenant Colonel Philip Frank Liddell, fought as part of Barnard Bee?s Brigade. They suffered the loss of 7 killed and 21 wounded in the battle. The rest of the regiment, including Colonel William H. Moore, were on a separate train which was delayed and did not reach Manassas until after the battle.

On the day after First Manassas, Colonel Moore accidentally shot himself in the foot with his own pistol. Temporarily disabled, he went back to Mississippi and later submitted his resignation. (After Moore recovered he became Colonel of the 43rd Mississippi and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Corinth.) The 11th Mississippi saw no further combat in 1861 and spent the winter in camp along the lower Potomac River near Dumfries, Virginia.

In the spring of 1862 the Federal Army of the Potomac under Major General George B. McClellan moved by water to the Virginia Peninsula. Johnston?s Confederate army followed, and April 1862 found the two armies occupying siege lines at Yorktown. Here the 11th Mississippi, like many other Southern units, re-enlisted for the duration of the war. The men were permitted to reelect officers. The popular Philip Liddell was confirmed as Colonel, but many company officers were not so lucky. Those who had been defeated typically resigned and went back to Mississippi to raise new commands.

Johnston retreated up the Peninsula through the month of May before McClellan?s larger but sluggish army. On May 31 Johnston struck back in the battle of Seven Pines (or Fair Oaks). It was a mismanaged, confusing battle. When Federal forces appeared unexpectedly on the Confederate left flank, a number of regiments, starting with the 11th Mississippi, were thrown piecemeal against a well-supported Yankee battery. The regiment entered the battle with a strength of 504 men and lost 20 killed and 100 wounded. Another casualty of Seven Pines was General Johnston, severely wounded very near to the 11th Mississippi. The next day General Robert E. Lee took command of the force he would name the Army of Northern Virginia.

 Lee planned a coordinated assault against McClellan using his army and that of Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. As part of a ruse, the 11th Mississippi and several other units under Brigadier General W. H. C. Whiting were transferred by rail to Jackson?s Valley Army, only to turn around within hours and march secretly back to the Richmond area. Lee struck the Federal right wing on June 26, 1862, and forced it back several miles. On the 27th Jackson?s forces joined Lee?s in a battle at Gaines? Mill (also known as Gaines? Farm or the First Cold Harbor). Lee?s attacks against the Federal entrenchments had been futile until sunset when he ordered Whiting?s Division to make a frontal assault. Law?s Brigade (of which the 11th Mississippi was a part) and Hood?s Texas Brigade charged side-by-side and broke the Union center, capturing numerous cannons and leaving the Confederates in possession of the battlefield. The 11th Mississippi suffered fearfully, losing 18 killed, 142 wounded, and 3 missing out of about 400 men engaged.

Following Gaines? Mill, McClellan retreated to James River with Lee in pursuit. (Note: By tradition it is "James River" and not "the James River.") On July 1, the Federals made a stand at Malvern Hill. Here a frontal attack failed against the massed Federal artillery. The 11th Mississippi did not take part in the charge, but nonetheless suffered 1 killed and 20 wounded from long range cannon fire. After the battle McClellan withdrew further down river and eventually evacuated his forces from the Peninsula. Whiting, a habitual drunkard, relinquished command of his division to its senior brigade commander, Brigadier General John B. Hood. Colonel Evander M. Law was promoted to Brigadier General and formally given command of the brigade which contained the 11th Mississippi. Finally, Hood?s Division was reassigned from Jackson?s command to the wing commanded by Major General James Longstreet. (Later that year Jackson?s and Longstreet?s "Wings" would be redesignated as "Corps" and the two men promoted to Lieutenant General.)

Not long after defeating McClellan on the Peninsula, Lee moved his army north to meet another Federal army under Major General John Pope. The Confederate commander deftly maneuvered Jackson?s Wing around Pope?s army, forcing the brash Yankee general north to the old battlefield at Manassas. On August 29, 1862, Longstreet?s Wing with the 11th Mississippi joined Jackson with the battle of Second Manassas (or Second Bull Run) already underway. Hood?s Division conducted a probe on the evening of the 29th and a full scale assault the following afternoon. During the successful attack of the 30th the 11th Mississippi became separated from the rest of Law?s Brigade, but fought on under the leadership of Colonel Liddell. The regiment lost 9 killed and 69 wounded out of a total strength of about 300.

Following his victory at Second Manassas, Lee immediately launched a counter-invasion of Maryland. The Federals, meanwhile, reconstituted Pope?s and McClellan?s armies as the Army of the Potomac, again under McClellan?s command. The Yankee general moved with unaccustomed aggressiveness after his troops found a document indicating that Lee had divided his forces in an attempt to occupy western Maryland and capture Harpers Ferry at the same time. On September 14, Hood?s Division was part of a small Confederate force which fought a successful delaying action against McClellan at South Mountain. The battle gave Lee time to concentrate his scattered divisions along the banks of Antietam Creek.

On September 16 McClellan?s army began arraying itself opposite Lee?s lines. During the night the Yankees began feeling the Confederate left flank. Hood?s Division responded by expelling the Federal skirmishers from the woods, but was in turn shelled heavily in the dark by artillery. During the shelling Colonel Liddell was severely wounded. He died several days later in a Maryland house.

 The battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam) began in earnest the following morning with a full scale assault on the Confederate left. Hood?s Division was again ordered to counterattack, this time into a cornfield adjacent to the woods where it had fought the night before. Hood?s charge was successful, but at a fearful price in casualties. Later he was thrown back out of the cornfield, but by this time additional Confederate brigades were on hand to repel the attackers. The 11th Mississippi lost 8 killed an 96 wounded at Sharpsburg, a figure which is at least half of the total number of its men present on the battlefield. The battle itself ended in a tactical draw, with Lee withdrawing his army across the Potomac into Virginia the evening of the following day.

On November 8, 1862, the badly depleted 2nd and 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiments were detached from the Army of Northern Virginia and ordered to Richmond to form the nucleus of a new brigade to be commanded by the Jefferson Davis? nephew Joseph. Francis Green became Colonel of the regiment, replacing Liddell. Davis? command wintered in North Carolina as the 11th Mississippi regained its strength. In the spring of 1863, Lee detached two divisions, Hood?s and Pickett?s under Longstreet?s overall command, to counter a threat from Federal forces gathering along the coast of Virginia south of James River. Davis? Brigade joined Longstreet in Virginia for a campaign against Suffolk which featured more foraging than fighting.

In May 1863 the 11th Mississippi rejoined the newly-reorganized Army of Northern Virginia. Davis? Brigade remained intact but was now part of a new division commanded by Major General Henry Heth and a new corps commanded by Lieutenant General Ambrose P. Hill. Since the departure of the Mississippians the army had fought and won two battles, Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville, and primed for another invasion of the North. On June 25 the 11th Mississippi again crossed the Potomac onto enemy soil in an invasion which would culminate in the battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg opened on July 1 when Heth?s Division, approaching the town in search of shoes, unexpectedly encountered John Buford?s Federal cavalry.  The 11th Mississippi, however, was not with the rest of the division, having been left behind to guard the baggage train. Davis? Brigade suffered heavy losses in a seesaw action against Buford and the Union I Corps until other Confederate units arrived, turning July 1 into a promising Rebel victory.

On July 2, Lee attacked both Federal flanks, keeping Heth?s Division idle in the center. Heth himself had been wounded on July 1, and his division was now temporarily commanded by J. Johnston Pettigrew. That evening the 11th Mississippi rejoined its brigade. The following day,  Robert E. Lee ordered a full-scale assault on the Union center, hoping to repeat the successes he had won at Gaines? Mill and Second Manassas. Again the 11th Mississippi was in the front line of assault. The attack was made by Pickett?s, Pettigrew?s, and Trimble?s Divisions, but is generally known only as "Pickett?s Charge." Davis? Brigade was the second leftmost in the attack, but when the brigade to its left faltered, it became the left flank of the attack. The 11th Mississippi was leftmost in the brigade, and thus presented its open flank to Federal artillery and infantry fire. Casualties were horrific.

 In a valiant and futile last charge, the 11th Mississippi reached the stone wall at Gettysburg, behind which were Federal soldiers four ranks deep. The colors of the regiment, and many of its men, were captured there at the wall. Others, the wounded and the few not wounded, felt their way back across the deadly mile they had just crossed. The 11th Mississippi had lost 103 killed, 166 wounded, and 41 captured. There were only 40 men left unwounded. Company A, the University Greys, had earned a special mark of fame by losing 100% of their number in the charge.

Lee retreated from Gettysburg the following day, intending to recross the Potomac into Virginia as soon as possible. But flood waters on the Potomac kept him pinned on the north bank for several days. The Federal army, cautiously led by Major General George Meade, was content only to watch Lee until the river fell and he began his withdrawal. Heth?s Division was the army?s rear guard, and in the vulnerable last moments of the withdrawal bore the brunt of an assault by Federal cavalry. In the battle of Falling Waters, as the engagement was known, the 11th Mississippi suffered still more casualties.

Despite its losses, the 11th Mississippi was far from destroyed as a fighting force. Upwards of 200 members had been absent from the regiment at Gettysburg for one reason or another, and many rejoined their comrades in the ensuing months. Most of the wounded recovered, and many of those captured were exchanged before the end of the year. No major engagements occurred in Virginia for the rest of the year and well into the next. It was not until May 1864 that the Army of the Potomac, under Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, made a serious attempt to challenge Lee?s army.

Grant and Lee collided on May 5 in the Wilderness, a tangle of woods and brush south of the Rapidan River. As at Gettysburg, Heth?s Division was in front as A. P. Hill?s Corps encountered Union infantry along the Orange Plank Road. Heth deployed his brigades with Davis on the left and the 11th Mississippi once again on the brigade?s left flank. The regiment fanned out until its men were fighting ten yards apart in an attempt to keep the Yankees from working their way around the left. In this they were successful, but Hill?s Corps as a whole succumbed to an attack by fresh Union troops the following morning. The 11th Mississippi was one of the few regiments which did not flee the field, and was still standing firm when Longstreet?s Corps arrived and counterattacked, throwing the Yankees back once again.

After the Wilderness, Grant edged south toward Richmond, but Lee circled in front of the Federal army and entrenched at Spotsylvania. The 11th Mississippi was initially deployed on the far right of the Confederate lines, but on May 10 was pulled out of the lines with several other regiments and marched across the army?s rear to counter a Federal thrust against the left flank. In the ensuing action, known as Talley?s Mill or Po River, the Confederates "flanked the flankers" and convinced Grant to give up on that flank and concentrate his attentions on another part of the line. The small victory was not without its price, however, as Colonel Francis Green of the 11th Mississippi was mortally wounded. Green?s place was taken by Major Reuben O. Reynolds. (Another casualty of the action was this author?s great-great-grandfather, Private Robert B. Harrison of Company D, whose arm was shattered by a minie ball and later amputated.)  The heaviest fighting at Spotsylvania took place two days later, but the 11th Mississippi?s role was limited to skirmish action.

After Spotsylvania, Grant continued to shift his army to Lee?s right, moving closer to Richmond in a southeastward spiral. The battles of North Anna and Cold Harbor were both Confederate tactical victories, but did not stop the determined Federal commander. The 11th Mississippi took part in both battles, suffering moderate casualties while repelling a pointless and bloody attack by Grant at Cold Harbor. Grant?s movements stopped in June 1864 by which time he had circled halfway around Richmond, crossed James River, and come up against the Confederate entrenchments at Petersburg.
 The siege of Petersburg lasted for more than nine months. In addition to several sharp engagements, the 11th Mississippi suffered continual attrition in the trenches from sharpshooting, disease, starvation, and desertion. Grant made several attempts to outflank his opponent in one
direction or another. One of the most significant occurred on August 18, 1864, at the battle of Weldon Railroad (or Globe Tavern). A. P. Hill?s Corps was the army?s mobile reserve, and Heth?s Division led the counterattack against one Federal lodgment south of Petersburg. In a charge into and through a wooded area, Davis? Brigade broke two successive Union brigades, then entrenched and held the ground it had taken in the face of an enemy force three times its size. The 11th Mississippi had lost 10 killed and 30 wounded in the action.

Twice more in 1864ùon September 30 at Squirrel Level Road and on October 27 at Burgess? Millùthe 11th Mississippi participated in counterattacks against Grant?s flanking movements. Both actions temporarily halted the Federal advance, but could not stem the inexorable tide encircling Petersburg. After October there came four months of relative inactivity, during which Reuben O. Reynolds was officially promoted Colonel, replacing Francis Green. On March 25, 1865, however, Colonel Reynolds was put out of action in a skirmish action meant as a diversion for a desperate Confederate assault elsewhere on the line. In the action of Hawks Farm, Reynolds lost his arm and turned command of the regiment over to Lieutenant Colonel George Shannon. The 11th Mississippi now numbered just 64 men.

Less than a week later, Grant struck the Confederate lines a series of massive blows which ended the siege of Petersburg and sent Lee and his army fleeing westward to Appomattox. The heaviest assaults came on April 2 when Union forces concentrated on the attenuated Confederate right flank and broke the line in several places. The 11th Mississippi held its line, but was forced to retreat when outflanked to the left and right. The regiment could not go far, however, because it was trapped by Hatcher?s Run, whose swollen waters were too high to ford. Some of the men swam to safety through a hail of rifle fire, but most were too weak to swim the turbulent stream. This remnant soon had no choice but to surrender, and so on April 2, 1865, the career of the 11th Mississippi came to an end.

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For a much more detailed history of the 11th Mississippi, see my article "'...Like Leaves in an Autumn Wind': The 11th Mississippi Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia" in Volume Two, Number Four of Civil War Regiments. You can order a copy from Morningside Bookshop at
1(800)648-9710.