Mississippi: A Documentary History

By Bradley G. Bond | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
WARTIME MISSISSIPPI

In the spring of 1861, white Mississippians, with few exceptions, looked forward to the start of the Civil War. Men and boys rushed to enlist in local militia companies; women and girls formed sewing circles to supply the new soldiers with clothing and company flags. So many volunteers enrolled in the state militia that Governor John Pettus, knowing the state could ill afford to keep and maintain a sizable army, turned away large numbers of volunteers. The flush of victory at Fort Sumter in April 1861 and the rout of the Union army at Manassas strengthened the faith of Mississippians, who believed the Confederate States would conquer the forces of abolition before the crop gathering season ended. But the realities of the Civil War—both those realities known most plainly to soldiers (death, destruction, disease) and those known best by civilians (taxes, conscription, inflation, restrictions on trade)—soon visited Mississippi, dampening enthusiasm for the war.

Bloody military campaigns involving Mississippi citizens, some as combatants, others as civilians, diminished the ebullience of 1861. The Shiloh, Tennessee campaign, which spilled over into Corinth and northeastern Mississippi, brought the hardships of war into the region of the state least supportive of secession. In July 1863, dual Confederate defeats at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Vicksburg claimed the lives of many Mississippians, as did the Atlanta campaign in 1864. The long siege of Vicksburg in particular left Mississippi soldiers and civilians with the acrid taste of warfare in their

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