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A Short History of Coffeeville During The Civil War

 

Read at a meeting of the U.D.C.

by Mrs. W. L. Kennedy in 1928.

 

 

Soon after Mississippi seceded from the Union, and it was realized that the Civil War was inevitable, there was organized at Coffeeville a company of soldiers composed almost entirely of men in and near the town.

 

Frank L. Aldridge, a leading attorney of the town (killed at the battle of Shiloh), was elected Captain. Edward C. Walthall, afterwards Major General and later U.S. Senator from Mississippi, was elected First Lieutenant of the company. Capt. J. L. Collins is the only member of the company now living in Coffeeville. The names of all of the members of the company can be found in the Historical Archives in Jackson.

 

Perhaps in no period of its history was the old town of Coffeeville stirred to greater depths than in the month that intervened between the time of the organization of the company and the day on which the boys left for the war.  The rattle of sabers -- strutting in brand new uniforms -- daily drill, dress parades, proud fathers, brave mothers with secret foreboding, high period of patriotism and adventure, hero worshippers, whispering lovers, love tokens, plighted troths and a constant round of parties and entertainment crowded into one hectic month that ended in a great ball and banquet in the old courthouse located in the center of the public square where the negro Baptist Church now stands.

 

The battle flag of the company was made by ladies of the town, and presented by Miss Bettie Martin, a very talented and beautiful young lady of Coffeeville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The company immediately mustered into the 15th Mississippi regiment, commanded by Col. Farrell, a native of Ireland, and a man of thorough military training. He was killed at the head of his regiment a short time afterwards at the Battle of Fishing Creek in Kentucky.  The company was engaged in nearly all the important battles fought south of Virginia.

 

The first call to arms took all the young unmarried men, and as the war progressed, all the men able to bear arms went; until there were left only very old men, the women and children and the negro slaves.

 

There were no daily papers to be had in those days. The railroad had just reached the town and was then being operated solely in the interest of the army. The only means of getting news was from some passing regiment, or from some wounded soldier on furlough. The only means of transportation was by horseback or the family carriage. Ladies rode side saddles and wore long riding skirts.

 

The fashion in women’s dress during the war was very tight-laced corsets, tight fitting bodice, wide sleeves, very large bustle, padded hips, very wide skirt that reached the floor, long trail and the skirt inflated with the wide hoop skirt. Hair dress in large chignon covered with net and long pendant ear rings. Stern modesty forbade the exhibition of any part of the bodies lower limbs except the end of the toes.

 

The fashion in men’s dress was stove pipe hats, blue or black broadcloth cutaway frock coat with brilliantly flowered vest, trousers to match coat and shop made boots that fitted so tightly a boot jack was necessary to get them off.  Young men wore the military mustache shaped like the handle bars of a bicycle, and carried light walking canes. Older men wore mustache and side burns and full beards. All wore plain gold rings or seal rings on their left little finger.

 

Gentlemen on being introduced to a lady were expected to stiffen the body, bow from the hips down with the body and limbs forming a right angle triangle. The lady acknowledged the introduction by dropping a curtsey -- the depth of the curtsey being commensurate with the importance of the gentleman introduced.

 

The favorite songs during the war were “Lila Dale,” “Lorna,” “Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me," and “Dixie.” The favorite instrumental music was “MoNey Musk,” “8th of January,” “Haste To The Wedding,” “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” “Leather Britches,” and with “Silver Waves” for a classic.

The dance was confined almost to the Square Dance, Quadrilles and Loucers. Occasionally two bodies danced the waltz together, but purely as a matter of exhibition and not enjoyment.

(Some of the songs and dances mentioned are featured in another section called "Early History, found on the home page.)

 

No young lady’s literary education was complete unless she was converse with “Jane Eyre”, “Ivanhoe”, Theo Moore’s “La La Rook” “The Scottish Chiefs” and “The Lady of the Lake”.

 

Coffeeville had only two churches at the time of the war, the Presbyterian and Methodist.  The Presbyterian church was a brick structure located on Tillatoba Street on the lot now occupied by the negro Zion Methodist church. The Methodist church was a large frame building located about where the D. E. Kelley (Later, Francis Franklin.) residence now stands and facing west on Tennessee Street. There was one resident pastor- Rev. R. S. Thomas of the Presbyterian church. The Methodist church was served by a Circuit Rider. There were two doors of entrance to the churches -- ladies entrance and gentlemen’s entrance. Gentlemen escorted their ladies to the left hand door, parted with them, then went in the right hand door and sat on the men’s side of the church. All the churches were supplied with horse blocks and hitching racks. (A horse block was usually several large field rocks or a granite block, or some such platform from which the lady riders could dismount in a graceful manner.)

 

There were only three streets in Coffeeville leading north and south. One running the east side of the square, the north end of which was called Oklahoma Street, the south end called Church Street. One running through the west side of the square, the north end of which was called Tennessee Street and the south end Main Street. The third was a short street leading from the old Presbyterian church to the Ballard home, where the Jim Womacks now live. (The current site of Coffeeville industries.)

 

Coffeeville Academy was a frame house consisting of two large rooms, one for boys and one for girls, and was located on Tillatoba Street, about one hundred yards east of the cemetery.  The school was conducted by Miss Steen, a spinster from Virginia, who laid great stress on deportment.

 

The principal place of gathering and resort of the town for news and entertainment was Baker’s Tavern, a hostelry famous all over North Mississippi. It was a relay station for stage coaches, and in its day housed and entertained some of the most prominent men of the country, notably ex Col. Henry S. Foote. S.S. Prentiss, Jefferson Davis, L.Q.C. Lamar, President James K. Polk and Mrs. Polk.

 

In the first months of the war Coffeeville suffered from nothing save loneliness and lack of social enjoyment.  And then as time wore on, news began to filter in of the sick, the wounded and the dead.  Soon there was scarcely a household but had its woes.

 

Food began to grow scarce at home as well as in the army. Women accustomed to silks and fine linens thought themselves fortunate in the possession of home spun woolens and cottons.

 

And then came the dreadful report that Grant and his army had reached Holly Springs and Oxford on his invasion of the south, and then for two days the passage through town of Gen. Price’s ragged and hungry army retreating south before him. Every house on Tennessee Street was decked with Confederate flags as the army marched through. Women lined the streets and cheered them as they passed, divided their scanty stores of food with them, and expecting and fearing the invading host at any moment hid the balance and all of their valuables.  Soon after, the 7th Illinois Regiment with one other regiment harassing Price’s rear, fought the Battle of Coffeeville against the rear guard of the retreating Confederates, on the hill just north of town on the old Water Valley road.

 

The next day the Methodist church was filled with the wounded of both armies, the church having been converted into a hospital. The ladies acted as nurses -- but nurses with scarcely medical aid or supplies. About all they could do was shroud the dead and comfort the dying. One of the wounded, a federal soldier, was a boy of sixteen years old who when he knew he was not to get well, asked one of the ladies to write a letter for him to his mother. She wrote the letter as he dictated, held his hand as he signed it, and later gave the letter, his pocket knife and a ring to a Yankee officer passing through who promised to forward them to his mother. She never knew whether the mother got them or not. The young soldier was buried in the cemetery, but the location of his grave and his name are forgotten.

 

During Grant’s stay in Holly Springs and Oxford the town was constantly raided and pilfered by Yankee troops. One party after tearing up beds and ramsacking a certain body’s house, and finding nothing of great value, began carrying off the cooking vessels. They overlooked a small frying pan. While the lady stood in the kitchen congratulating herself that she had at least that much left, a long lank red haired Yankee walked in, snatched the frying pan and made off with it. The lady became desperate, ran after him, caught his coat tail just as he was going over the rail fence enclosing the back yard. Planting her feet against the bottom rail she held him fast, while his comrades cheered her and jeered him. He, in disgust, finally tossed the pan back over the fence and said, “Damn you, take it and go to hell with it.”

 

Being entirely unprotected, the town swarmed with hostile soldiers. The ladies of the town met that afternoon, appointed a committee to wait on the Yankee captain, and demanded his protection. He received them with every courtesy, apologized for the rude conduct of his soldiers and that night stationed guards at every home, and personally inspected the guards that night and the next morning.

 

During Grant’s stay in Holly Springs and Oxford there was a frequent and mysterious visitor at Coffeeville, believed by everyone to be a Confederate spy. It was his custom to stop at the front gate of Dr. Corrogee (who was an invalid) and talk to him. Invariably there came on a band of Yankee troops in pursuit of him. He would sit on his superb black horse until they got just short of range, when he would put spurs to his horse and in a moment was lost to the sight of them. One evening just after he had again outraced his pursuers, gunfire was heard at the outskirts of town on the Grenada road, and the next morning beside the road under a cedar tree on the old Langham place, between Cypress Creek and town, was a newly made grave. The Confederate was never seen or heard of again and it was supposed that he had been ambushed, killed and buried there by Yankee soldiers.

 

During the war Rev. Thomas lived where Capt. Collins now lives; Col. Golliday lived at the Golliday home near the cemetery; Capt. Aldridge where S. D. Boyle now lives; Judge Doctor Thomas lived at the Vick Allen place; L. Newberger lived on the corner of the block just southwest of the public square. The Baker Tavern was on the Northwest corner of the square. The Tulley home was just back of the tavern. Col. D. L. Herron lived in the house on Tenn. St. that burned a short time ago, belonging to Mrs. Durant, John Corrogee lived on the same street in the house now occupied by G. W. Armstrong (now known as the Russel Bailey house). Job Riddick lived on the place now owned by Jim Womack. Col. D. M. Rayburn lived in what is now the poor house. Henry Riddick lived on the lot now owned by R. L. Broadstreet. Tilly Carr lived in a house in the block and adjoining the negro Zion Church. Mr. Miller lived in the Doc. Jones house. Lawyer Thomas lived in the lot now occupied by the A. A. Bryant home. Tom May lived on the W. L. Kennedy lot. Col. G. W. Bellomy lived on the block now occupied by the white school building. The County Jail was located on the Herman Langham lot. Thomas Wars lived on the lot now occupied by D. B. Sayle. Dr. Going lived on the Mrs. Morrison’s lot. John Kelley lived in the brick house south of and near the Bob Pittman home on Oklahoma Street. The Huberts lived on their farm just north of and adjoining town (belonging to the Harris negroes now). Dr. Shade Bell Lived on his farm just west of and adjoining town. Nearly all of the houses mentioned have burned. There are not over three of the names mentioned represented in Coffeeville at the present time.

 

Coffeeville suffered great losses at the Battle of Shiloh. Among the killed was Col. Blythe (of Blythe’s Battalion), a distinguished lawyer of Coffeeville who was Ex. U.S. Consul to Spain.

***

 

Get a feel of old Coffeeville by listening to these songs that were popular Coffeeville in the mid to late 1800's, and see how they danced in those days.

The flag is a copy of the original Yallabusha Rifle flag the ladies of Coffeeville presented to the young men before they marched off to war. It was captured by a Minnesota regiment on January 19, 1862 at the Battle of Fishing Creek, AKA The Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky. As a gesture of good will, the people of Minnesota returned it after the turn of the century and it is now kept in a climate controlled vault near the state capital in Jackson.

 

The soldier replicas with their flag were given their own display at the Mill Springs Battlefield Museum, near Nancy, Kentucky.

 

The link shows a re-enactment of a grand ball during war times, probably similar to the one the people of Coffeeville had at the courthouse in old town before they left for war.  Many never returned and are buried in long-forgotten and unmarked graves from Mississippi to Virginia. Try to imagine yourself in this room -- at the old courthouse in Coffeeville -- for this is as close as you will ever come to experiencing the grand ball in Coffeeville before the young men left.

Left, CS Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman who helped command the Confederate troops at the Battle of Coffeeville. Center, CS General Mansfield Lovell who planned the Battle of Coffeeville and commanded the troops with General Tilghman. Right, Union Colonel T. Lyle Dickey, who commanded the Union troops at the Battle of Coffeeville.

                                                                      Battle of Coffeeville, Confederate Report

 

                                         (From the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, page 504, chapter XXIX.)

 

Report of Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, C. S. Army, Commanding First Division, First Corps, Army of West Tennessee, on engagement at Coffeeville, Mississippi on December 5, 1862.

 

HDQRS. FIRST DIV., FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF WEST TENN., December 6, 1862.

 

COLONEL: I have the honor to make the following report of the action of the 5th instant between the Federal advance guard, near Coffeeville, and the troops placed under my command by Major General  [M.] Lovell, commanding First Corps:

 

At about 2.30 o'clock on Friday afternoon, 5th instant, while engaged in the town of Coffeeville with the various duties of my command, I learned that the enemy, emboldened by their successes heretofore, had pushed their advance within 1 mile of the town, and that, having commenced skirmishing with our rear guard of cavalry, Major-General Lovel, commanding First Corps, had gone out with a portion of my division to check them. I immediately rode out with a portion of my staff and body guard to the point selected by General Lovell on which to form, and found that he had pushed forward a portion of the First Brigade, under [Brigadier] General  [W. E.] Baldwin, on the right of the main road to Water Valley, while the Ninth Arkansas, of General Rust's division, commanded by Colonel Isaac L. Dunlop, was placed in line of battle on the left of the same road.  Colonel A. P. Thompson [Third Kentucky], commanding brigade, of the Second Division, had also been ordered to place the Third Kentucky Regiment, of his brigade, upon a road leading out from Coffeeville to the west of the main road spoken of, in order to watch our left flank.

 

Upon the main road and in rear of the First Brigade, upon a small eminence, four pieces of artillery had been placed, being part of Captain  [Alcide] Bouanchand's company of the Point Coupee Artillery, while at 300 yards to the rear of this battery two Parrott guns from Captain  [W. H.] Hedden's battery, of my own division, were placed on a still higher point and in a position not to endanger the infantry or the battery in front should occasion present itself to open upon the enemy.

 

Before reaching the point at which General Lovell was stationed I heard brisk cannonading, and on joining General Lovell, near where the rear battery was placed, found that it proceeded from our advanced battery, which was being replied to by a rifle gun of the enemy. I immediately reported for orders to General Lovell, who directed me to ride with him to the position held by the advanced battery.  On reaching that point and finding that the enemy had obtained the exact range of our guns I retired with General Lovell to the rear battery, and was immediately ordered to open fire with he Parrott guns at short intervals. 

 

This was done, and in few moments the fire of the enemy's battery ceased. I then asked permission of the major-general commanding to press the enemy and drive them back, and upon receiving his orders to do so, with information that General Rust had been ordered to maneuver on my right with parts of two of his brigades, rode rapidly to the front, ordering at the same time the Fourteenth Mississippi Regiment, under Major W. L. Doss, which had been held in reserve, to move up at double-quick and take position on the extreme right of my line.

 

The cavalry, under Colonel  [W. H.] Jackson [Seventh Tennessee Cavalry], numbering about 700, were placed at my disposal also. The proper disposition of the forces was soon made.  Orders were given to General Baldwin, on the right, and to Colonel A. P. Thompson, of the Second Division, who had assumed the direction of the Ninth Arkansas of his own brigade, to deploy the right companies from each regiment as skirmishers 100 paces in front of the main line; a greater distance was not deemed prudent, as the woods were very dense and the enemy known to be in close proximity.  The cavalry was formed in the main road and ordered to move with caution in rear of the main line.

 

The line of skirmishers being formed and everything prepared orders were given to the men to hold their fire until within 50 yards, to move with caution until the enemy was reached, but then to press them with all their energy. The command forward was given and both skirmishers and the main line moved. The line had not advanced 200 yards before the enemy opened on our left a brisk fire. This was answered first by a yell along our whole line, the men moving rapidly and with great enthusiasm until they were within good range, when the Ninth Arkansas, directed by Colonel A. P. Thompson, and the Eighth Kentucky, under Colonel H. B. Lyon, opened fire in return.  Very soon the fire extended toward our right, along the Twenty-third Mississippi, under Lieutenant Colonel Moses McCarley, and the Twenty-sixth Mississippi, under Major T. F. Parker. The order to press the enemy was fully carried out.  They were not allowed time to breathe, and though making two gallant stands in the first mile they were driven from their positions without our men faltering for a moment. The tactics of the enemy did them great credit. Their whole force consisted of mounted infantry armed with Colt's, Smith's, and Sharps most approved weapons, with two pieces of artillery. The country over which they had to pass was an alternate wood and field. On being driven to the edge of a field they mounted and retreated across it, dismounting and sending their horses to the rear. They had all the advantage of position, being covered by the woodland while our men advanced across the open field. At these points the fire of the enemy was terrific, but nothing could stop the onward movement, and our men moved forward without slackening their pace in the least.

 

Having driven the enemy for more than a mile it occurred to me that should the troops of General [Albert] Rust's command not have moved to their left far enough to guard my right flank, I might run some risk of being outflanked. To guard against this I detached Lieutenant  [J. G.] Barbour, commanding my body guard, with a portion of his men, with orders to move at full speed to my extreme right and take position with his men well extended and watch my right flank.   No sooner had he reached the point and commenced moving up with our main line than he was fired upon by the enemy.  Lieutenant Barbour immediately sent a courier informing me of the fact, when I ordered the Fourteenth Mississippi, under Major  [W. L.] Doss, to move at double-quick by the right flank until he reached the point occupied by Lieutenant Barbour, then to assume his original front and press them again.

 

During all this time the enemy were uninterruptedly driven from every position and forced back to a point 3 miles from Coffeeville, when on reaching a commanding position they opened fire from their artillery, again supported by the severest fire of musketry we had yet encountered.  The heaviest fire was encountered by the Ninth Arkansas and the Eighth Kentucky Regiments. Their efforts were, however, useless; nothing could check the advance of our men, and the position was carried without a moment's delay just at dark.

 

It occurred to me a few moments before this that a dash of our cavalry might have secured the piece of artillery in its last position, but it would have involved a heavy loss of life, not warranted under the circumstances, and I did not give the order.

 

Having already driven the enemy much farther than was ordered by a message from General [M.] Lovell, I gave the order to halt and cease firing, very much to the chagrin of both officers and men, who, notwithstanding the severe duties and deprivations of the last week, seemed to forget everything but the desire showed by all to repay the injuries suffered by them during their long and barbarous imprisonment at the North.

 

The Fourteenth Mississippi, Major Doss commanding, toward the close became too far separated from the main command, but was abundantly able to take care of itself, and drove back the enemy in their front, killing and wounding a number, among them Lieutenant-Colonel [William] McCullough, who was shot dead within twenty paces of our line.  This regiment also captured 17 prisoners, with all their horses, arms, and accouterments.

 

The loss on our part, as stated in my note to Major-General Lovell of the 6th inst., is known to be accurately as follows: Killed 7; wounded, 43.  That of the enemy 34 killed, among them Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough and a second lieutenant, who gave his name as [Thomas J.] Woodburn, of the Third Missouri [Seventh Kansas], just before expiring.  The wounded of the enemy could not be accurately ascertained, inasmuch as all who were not too badly wounded were removed on horseback as fast as they fell.

 

Estimating their wounded by the number killed in the same ratio as that known to exist on our part, the wounded may be given at 234, which from the number seen in the act of being removed is under rather than over the actual loss. Sixteen of their severely wounded fell into our hands. Thirty-five prisoners, with 17 horses, and all their arms and accouterments were captured.  Among the prisoners were one captain and several non-commissioned officers. The wounded on both sides were removed at once to Coffeeville and every care taken of them. The dead were buried next morning.  The body of the Federal lieutenant was decently buried; marked on the head-stone, so that it could be recognized. The body of Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough was not secured.  The command returned to its first position near Coffeeville and bivouacked in line of battle.

 

The whole affair was a complete success and taught the enemy a lesson I am sure they will not soon forget. The troops behaved in the most gallant manner. Officers and men emulated each other. All did their duty nobly.

 

I take especial pleasure in mentioning the names of Brigadier General W. E. Baldwin, of my own division, and Colonel A. P. Thompson, commanding a brigade in General Rust's division. These officers, in command on my right and left, displayed the greatest good judgment and gallantry.

 

The brunt of the battle was borne by the Ninth Arkansas, Colonel I. L. Dunlop; Eighth Kentucky, Colonel H. B. Lyon; the Twenty-third Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel McCarley, and the Twenty-sixth Mississippi, under Major T. F. Parker. I have seldom seen greater good judgment and impetuous gallantry shown by any officers or men.

 

The cavalry, under Colonel  [W. H.] Jackson, maintained the most perfect order and were always in position to answer any summons.

 

The batteries engaged rendered the most efficient service up to the time of my ordering the advance. The first shot fired from the Parrott guns of Captain Hedden's battery, under the direction of Captain  [Jacob] Culbertson, chief of artillery of my division, wounded Colonel Mizner and killed his orderly and 3 men.  These facts were related by a non-commissioned officer among the prisoners.

 

My thanks are especially due to those members of my personal staff who were present. Major  [W. O.] Watts, inspector-general; Major [E. W.] Halliday, chief commissary; Lieuts. George Moorman and [Lloyd] Tilghman, [jr.], aides-de-camp, rendered most efficient and valuable service.

 

I notice with great pleasure also Lieutenant  [J. G.] Barbour, commanding my body guard, together with Lieutenant [E. C.] Lundy of that company. These officers and their men rendered me great aid.  The timely service of Lieutenant Barbour on my right wing may have saved us possibly from serious injury.

 

The whole force engaged on our side may be stated as not exceeding 1,300 men, while the enemy is known to have had not less than five regiments, numbering not less than 3,500 men.

 

Inclosed I have the honor to submit a correct list of the killed and wounded on our side.

 

I regret the absence of Captain Powhatan Ellis, [jr.], chief of staff during the action. He was engaged at my headquarters on important business, and I was thus deprived of his always valuable services.

 

The same may be said of others of my staff who were absent on duty at various points.

 

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

 

LLOYD TILGHMAN,

Commanding  First Division, First Corps, Army of West Tennessee.

 

43         10 Lieutenant  Colonel  E. IVY,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

 

[Inclosure.]

 

Command.                    Killed. Wounded. Missing.

 

FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST

DIVISION, FIRST CORPS.   

 

26th Mississippi Regiment.    3        3        1                                                            

 

8th Kentucky Regiment.        1        6        4                                    

 

23rd Mississippi Regiment.    2       14        4

 

14th Mississippi Regiment.             3      

                                

SECOND BRIGADE, SECOND   

DIVISION, FIRST CORPS.   

 

9th Regiment Arkansas         1       17         1

Volunteers. 

 

Total.                        7    

 President Lincoln's letter to Fanny McCullough after her father was killed near Coffeeville.

Executive Mansion

Washington, December 23, 1862

Dear Fanny,

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake.

You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer, and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend,

A. Lincoln

           Lt. Colonel William McCullough, 4th Illinois Cavalry

  Killed in a rare night ambush to end the Battle of Coffeeville.