A Brief History of the 1st Mississippi Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry


Click here for a roster of the 1st Mississippi Volunteer Infantry

This page has been created in co-operation with the MSGenWeb Project of DeSoto County Mississippi

General:

The 1st Mississippi Volunteer Infantry served its term of service within the continental U.S. during the Spanish American War.

The History:

Following President McKinley's first call for volunteer on April 21, 1898, the First Missisippi Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service at Jackson, Mississippi between May 16 and May 26, 1898. At the time of mustering in, the regiment had forty-four officers and 947 enlisted men.

On May 30, 1898, the regiment left Jackson and proceeded to Camp Thomas, on the grounds of the former Civil War battefield of Chickamauga, Georgia, arriving on May 31 without arms or ammunition. The regiment was assigned to the Third Brigade, Second Division of the Third Army Corps. The Third Brigade was initally commanded by Col. Lucius Kendall of the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry, who was succeeded by Brig. Gen. Charles P. Mattocks on June 29. The other regiments in the brigade were the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry and the 52nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry.

While the regiment was at Camp Thomas, an armistice was agreed to between the U.S. and Spain on August 13, effectively ending the fighting, though a final peace treaty would not be signed until December 10, 1898. During its time at Camp Thomas, the men of the regiment were involved in being equipped, trained, and drilled. The regiment received uniforms on June 11, and was eventually equipped with Springfield Rifles, probably a reference to the outdated "trapdoor" rifle given to many of the rear-line regiments. One source, a Massachusetts newspaper commented that the regiment "made a good impression at Chickamauga [Camp Thomas]. Many of the men come from homes within sight of the gulf, and, if not all immunes, are all acclimated for service in Cuba." This was referring to an errant belief that men from this area of the country would be immune to Cuba's tropical diseases...a faulty theory which, luckily for the regiment, it never had to try out. Also, another witness mentions listening to the 1st Mississippi regimental band practicing in camp. Unfortunately, the review of the performance is not good, being described as "Rotten, Rotten," with the band leader's facial expressions indicating that he appeared to agree with the soldier-critic..

However, throughout the summer, conditions at the camp began to worsen as the camp swelled to a city of thirty thousand men, with inadequate sanitation and supplies. Disease climbed to alarming proportions. By the end of July and into August, the U.S. Army began relocating regiments to other, more healthy sites. Initially, it was aparently intended to sent the regiment to Anniston, Alabama, but, instead, the regiment was relocated to Lauderdale Springs, back in its home state of Mississippi, on September 8. Tensions must have been running high because on Septmber 6, Private Kinney of Company H assaulted Col. Govan and threatened to shoot the regiment's adjutant, acts for which he was court-martialed and imprisoned. Comments had been made that 1st Mississippi's camp lacked control since Govan was too lenient with his men.

Given the unhealthy conditions, and the apparent lack of need for troops, the First Mississippi was one of a number of regiments that requested to be released from service. The regiment was given a thirty day furlough, beginning on September 30. The furlough was eventually extended to November 28.

At the conclusion of its furlough, the regiment was sent to Columbia, Tennessee, where it was finally mustered out on December 20, 1898, ten days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, ending the war. On the train trip from Columbia, Tennessee, it was reported that many in the regiment were drunk, shooting up houses en route, and taking shots at indivduals. Reportedly, one child, George Thomas was killed and his mother, Lucy mortally wounded by the guns of the regiment. Both were African American.

During it term of service, the regiment lost two officers and twenty-nine enlisted men to disease. In addition, one enlisted man was killed in an accident, fourteen ten men were discharged on disability, and twenty-eight men deserted.



Bibliography:

"Bits of War News," North Adams Evening Transcript. North Adams, Massachusetts,  July 7, 1898.

 "Breaking Camp," Portsmouth Herald. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, June 1, 1898.

"Chickamauga Gossip," Evening Democrat. Warren, Pennsylvania, June 16, 1898.

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol. 3, 224, 225.

Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) 530-534, 600.

"Grant as a War Strategist," Nebraska State Journal. Lincoln, Nebraska, June 12, 1898, 3. (uniforms)

"Ludwig Writes Again," Nebraska State Journal. Lincoln, Nebraska, June 16, 1898, 6. (band)

"Negro Boy Killed by Soldiers," Naugatuck Daily News. Naugatuck, Connecticut, December 22, 1898, 1.

"Soldier Wanted to Shoot," New York Times. September 7, 1898, 2.

Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

"---- ----  Ended. Investigation Board Will Now Tackel [sic] Northern Camps," Idaho Daily Statesman. Boise, Idaho, November 10, 1898 (discipline)


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