History - Part IV

Photo: the National Parks Service’s new Civil War Interpretive Center at Corinth, Mississippi. The museum is located on the site of Battery Robinett (reconstructed and shown at center, above) that was assaulted by members of the 37th Alabama as part of Moore’s Brigade during the Battle of Corinth in October 1862.


PART IV: January - April 1863

January 2, 1863 The 37th Alabama is relieved from its place in the line at Blake’s Levee by the 35th Mississippi.

Following the action at Chickasaw Bluffs and Walnut Heights, the 37th Alabama is placed in Moore’s Brigade, Maury’s-Forney’s Division, 2nd Military District, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.

During the next few months, the men enjoy plentiful supplies and a relatively routine lifestyle along the Sunflower River in Mississippi. They are variously posted at points, including Haines Bluff, Yazoo City, Snyder’s Hill (also Bluff) and Fort Pemberton.

January 17, 1863 - Colonel James F. Dowdell is spotted back home in Alabama on leave by a relative, Joseph Henry Harris, who had briefly served with the 37th Alabama before hiring a "substitute" (a Mr. Belcher - probably Starling V. Belcher) for $1500 to serve out his three-year enlistment. Harris writes in his diary, "Saw Col. Dowdell this evening he is looking very well, the army seems to agree with him finely."

It is likely that many of the officers and enlisted men are able to arrange to take leaves back home during the next few months the regiment spends along the tributaries of the Yazoo River. But, despite the relative calm, the dying continues. Several men are known to have died during the early months of 1863, most likely of disease.

Known Regimental Deaths January-March 1863:
- Private Joel B. Barfoot (Co F) - died of wounds (possibly from Dec actions) on Feb 13 at Columbus, MS
- Private James Harmon (Co G) - died of unknown cause Feb 3 at Saltillo, MS
- Private Eli Spence (Co I) - died of unknown cause in March 1863 at home following discharge

February 3-10, 1863 - Grant’s "Yazoo Pass Expedition" continues its probing to find an approach to Vicksburg. These attempts following the twisting and swampy Yazoo River tributaries are all repulsed. The men of the 37th Alabama are part of the force engaged against Grant, and are in place along the Sunflower River.

March 1863 - The 37th Alabama is listed in Moore’s (3rd) Brigade (Brigadier General John C. Moore)
of Major General William Loring’s Division. The Brigade also includes the
42nd Alabama (Colonel J. W. Portis); 35th Mississippi (Colonel W. S. Barry);
40th Mississippi (Colonel W. B. Colbert); 2nd Texas (Colonel Ashbel Smith); and Bledsoe’s Missouri Battery (Captain H. M. Bledsoe).

March 12, 1863 - The regiment receives its assignment to "Snyder’s Bluff." The order reads:

HEADQUARTERS MAURY’S DIVISION, Vicksburg, March 12, 1863.
Brigadier-General MOORE:

GENERAL: The major-general commanding directs me to say that you will please move at once to Snyder’s Bluff, taking with you the Thirty-seventh Alabama, Forty-second Alabama, Thirty-fifth Mississippi, and Fortieth Mississippi Regiments, and Tobin’s battery, and embark on the Magnolia for Yazoo City. You will carry with you everything you desire that will promote the efficiency and comfort of your command in active field service.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

March 17, 1863 - The 37th Alabama takes the luxurious steamer "Magnolia" on the Yazoo River. The paddle wheeler is an enormous riverboat that escaped the fall of New Orleans by being brought north to Vicksburg. Its new life as a troop transport, packed to overflowing with soldiers, is far removed from the Mississippi River excursions for which it was designed.

March 21, 1863 - Private J.R. Lassiter (Co E) is the only known casualty among the men of the regiment while on the Yazoo River (near or at Fort Pemberton). He is listed as "Killed" on this date according to a claim for deceased soldier filed by his father. Private Benjamin Gillstrap (Co E) also dies of an unknown cause, but at the Hospital at Lauderdale Springs, MS on March 28. Several other men are hospitalized at Lauderdale Springs and Private J.M. Solomon (Co C) is captured on March 28 at an unknown location.

April 1863 - The 37th Alabama is listed in Moore’s Brigade, Forney’s Division, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.

April 5, 1863 - The regiment is relieved from its post at Fort Pemberton on the Yazoo River. Private A.J. Bryan (Co K) recalled one night spent patrolling the Yazoo with Colonel Dowdell:
" ... I will state one thing that took place on the Bayou at the Yazoo city. One night our company was ordered to go down on the river to stand guard to keep the Yankees from landing. Colonel Dowdell ordered our Captain [Dr. James M. Leach] to send him a man to drive his ambulance. So the Captain sent me and I at once reported to the Colonel’s office. We hitched up and off we went on about a mile or two. We drove down to the water’s edge when the Colonel said here was a good place and ordered me to halt. I got out, loosed my horses and tied them. I then went out on the guard line and the Colonel said, ‘Get close to the water’s edge so you can hear them if they go to land, and don’t let them come out.’ I took my stand and listened the best I could until my two hours were out and not a single Yankee could I hear, and then I was off four hours. I then eased myself off to rest and lay down to sleep; in that time it came a hard rain and woke me up, when I found the water was running half way up my sides. I got up and moved myself from there to hunt a dry place, and went on some distance where I discovered a large brush heap and made for it; and what sort of brush you reckon they were, I am here to tell you they were the largest wild locust you ever saw, with thorns as long as my finger. However, I thought I would try it; so I eased up on it being very careful not to get stuck. There I dropped off to sleep and when it came my time to go on post I was ready. Thus it went on till nearly day when I happened to think of the Colonel and I went off to see what had become of him. I rambled on back to the ambulance, got close up and stopped still to see what I could hear. Everything was very still so I stepped up on the tongue and saw the Colonel was sleeping very sound. I said ‘Colonel, are you asleep?’ He said ‘Who art thou?’ I said ‘Your driver, Colonel.’ He said ‘Are the Yankees come?’ I said ‘Colonel, I don’t think there is a Yankee within five miles of here.’ He said, ’Get in and lay down till morning.’ We staid there till morning and then went back to camp unhurt. ... "

April 13, 1863 - In a letter to his wife written from "Near Vicksburg Chicasaw Byo", W.A. Stephens, of the 46th Alabama mentions he had recently encountered a familiar face from the 37th Alabama. He wrote:
"... John Culpeper [Co. B] got to his Regiment the 37 [37th Alabama] was stationed in 6 mils of us when he come he landed hear a bout the 27 of March thear Regiment is gon now up a bout Greenwood [Mississippi] that is some 200 mils a bove this [place] ..."
April 15, 1863 - The regiment is shuttled back from an assignment at Snyder’s Bluff to Fort Pemberton. The "fort" is actually a loop of land in a hairpin bend of the Yazoo River that the Rebels have cleared of its timber. Obstacles (including scuttled riverboats) are also sunk in the river to impair Federal gunboat navigation. The 37th Alabama skirmishes with Union troopers during the day, and the Yankees retire without advancing an inch. (Photo above: The Confederate encampment at Greenwood was along the treeline behind the modern building)

The 37TH ALABAMA is engaged at Fort Pemberton
Forces of Vicksburg: Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, Commanding
Forney’s Division: Major General John H. Forney
Moore’s Brigade: Brigadier General John C. Moore
37th Regiment of Alabama: Colonel James F. Dowdell

Today, the site of Fort Pemberton lies in this field, but the map of Greenwood and environs at right shows the location of its fortifications (pointed at the flag marked "Camp") includes the scuttled (deliberately sunken) "Star of the West" steamer which was submerged in the Tallahatchie River to the north of the half-buried cotton bale walls to further obstruct the river:

April 28, 1863 - Private William Araspes Culpepper (Co B), perhaps wounded again, or having never regained his health from the Corinth/Iuka Campaign of the previous fall, re-appears on the General Hospital muster roll at Lauderdale Springs, MS for March and April, and remains in the care of the Hospital - then in a private home until December 1863, therefore missing the hellish siege of Vicksburg.
Others hospitalized at Lauderdale Springs, MS in April 1863
- Private John D. Goodwin (Co C) - Hospitalized in April
- Private D. Leroy Helms (Co C) - Hospitalized April 8 and died of wounds (DOW) from unknown conflict

- Private James Price (Co C) - Hospitalized  April 8

- Private David Holland (Co C) - Hospitalized April 22, and died of unknown cause Sept 28

April 30, 1863 - Major General U. S. Grant launches another attempt on Vicksburg in the spring of 1863. Starting his Federal army south, from Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on the west side of the Mississippi River, he intends to cross the river at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, but the Union fleet is unable to silence the Confederate heavy guns there. Grant marches further south and crosses at Bruinsburg, Mississippi. Union forces come ashore, secure the landing area and, by late afternoon, begin marching inland. Grant’s gamble is that his troops can live off the land, without the tether of an established base of supply.

NEXT: History - Part V


37th Alabama Regiment of Volunteer Infantry CSA
2300 Cottondale Lane Little Rock, AR 72202

© Copyright 2007 C.C. (Chip) Culpepper