Artifacts

Battle of Harrisburg: 150 Years Ago

On July 14, 2014, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1864 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

Major Robert C. McCay. Accession number:  1962.210.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Major Robert C. McCay. Accession number: 1962.210.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

The last major battle fought in Mississippi during the Civil War was the Battle of Harrisburg, also known as the Battle of Tupelo, on July 14–15.  Still concerned about protecting his vital supply line in Tennessee, U.S. Major General William T. Sherman sent Major General A.J. Smith with fourteen thousand men down from LaGrange, Tennessee, to keep Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Mississippi. Eight thousand Confederate troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee and Forrest engaged Smith’s forces near Tupelo on the morning of July 14. Smith’s troops repulsed several uncoordinated attacks made by Lee and Forrest.

However the heat and lack of supplies took its toll on the Federal troops, and Smith began retreating toward Memphis on July 15, camping near Old Town Creek in the late afternoon. Confederate forces launched a surprise attack, but the Federal troops were able to form a defense and force a Confederate retreat to the town of Harrisburg. Confederates suffered a loss of 1,300 casualties, including Forrest, who was out of commission for several weeks, while Federal losses numbered 648.

Major Robert C. McCay's sash. Accession number: 1962.210.2 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Major Robert C. McCay’s sash. Accession number: 1962.210.2 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Pictured above is Major Robert C. McCay commander of the Thirty-Eighth Mississippi (mounted) Infantry, which fought in the Battle of Harrisburg. The Thirty-Eighth suffered heavy casualties during the battle, and Major McCay was killed. He was wearing the sash pictured above when he died.

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Artifacts: Lowe Handpress

On June 18, 2014, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, brings us this post about interesting artifacts in the Museum Division collection.

Lowe handpress. Accession number: 1981.12.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

Lowe handpress. Accession number: 1981.12.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

This Lowe handpress belonged to Mr. Harry Kersting, who was probably the last professional wood engraver in Jackson. He moved to Mississippi in 1955, at the age of eighty-one, from Cincinnati, Ohio, to be near his daughter and her family.

The Lowe press was patented by Samuel Lowe of Philadelphia in 1856. It was a small, amateur press that was first exhibited at the Fair of the American Institute at the Crystal Palace in New York in 1857, where it was awarded a prize for being inexpensive and easy to use.

 

The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1864 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

Battle flag of the 19th Mississippi Cavalry Battalion. Accession number: 2001.19.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Battle flag of the Nineteenth Mississippi Cavalry Battalion. Accession number: 2001.19.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

In order to aid his advance into north Georgia, U.S. Major General William T. Sherman knew he had to protect his vital supply line, the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and he realized one of the greatest threats to it was Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had moved 3,500 cavalrymen towards the vital railroad. In order to draw Forrest back to north Mississippi, Sherman ordered Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis and his troops to move from Memphis to Mississippi, thus forcing Forrest to move his cavalry to meet him.

On the morning of June 10, the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads began near Baldwyn between Sturgis’ troops, which consisted of a three-brigade division of infantry and a division of cavalry (about 8,500 men), and Forrest’s significantly smaller cavalry corps. By the afternoon, the Confederates had decimated the Union line and forced a retreat back towards Memphis. The battle resulted in 2,600 U.S. casualties, with Confederate casualties numbering a much smaller 495. Although a decisive victory for Forrest, Sherman’s goal of keeping him away from the supply line was successful.

Pictured above is the battle flag of the Nineteenth Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, which was engaged in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. The Nineteenth Cavalry Battalion was formed in 1863, under the command of Lt. Col. William Duff for the defense of north Mississippi and was transferred in January 1864 to the command of Colonel Jeffrey Forrest. The Nineteenth later became part of the Eighth Mississippi Cavalry. The flag, which was made by the women of Oxford, was captured on July 13, 1864, at Camargo Cross Roads by the Fourteenth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. William Barr, of Oxford, was carrying the flag when it was captured. The flag was donated to the Department of Archives and History by the state of Wisconsin in 1943.

Cavalry carbine. Accession number: 1960.52.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Cavalry carbine. Accession number: 1960.52.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Arms from Britain such as the cavalry carbine pictured above were heavily imported by the Confederacy during the Civil War. The carbine’s shorter length was made for cavalry use and could have been used in engagements such as the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.

Sources:

http://www.nps.gov/brcr/index.htm

http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/ms014.htm

http://www.mississippiscv.org/MS_Units/8th_MS_CAV.htm

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Artifacts: Collodion Photography

On May 14, 2014, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, brings us this post about interesting artifacts in the Museum Division collection.

Photography studio chair, ca. 1875. Accession number: 1964.61.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

Photography studio chair, ca. 1875. Accession number: 1964.61.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

Reverse of photography studio chair, ca. 1875. Accession number: 1964.61.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

Reverse of photography studio chair, ca. 1875. Accession number: 1964.61.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

This circa 1875 chair was used in a photographer’s studio during the time of collodion, or wet plate, photography. The metal brace on the back of the chair held the subject’s head steady for the ten to fifteen seconds required for proper exposure of the plate.

Ambrotype portrait. Accession number: 1960.205.1t (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

Ambrotype portrait. Accession number: 1960.205.1t (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

The collodion process was used to produce a positive image on a sheet of glass, which was called an ambrotype. In the 1860s, the ambrotype declined in popularity due the introduction of the tintype, which also used the collodion process to put a positive image on a thin sheet of iron instead of glass. Pictured above is an ambrotype of a young woman who is probably member of Crutcher or Shannon families of Vicksburg and a tintype of an unidentified young man.

Tintype of unidentified man. Accession number: 1983.39.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

Tintype of unidentified man. Accession number: 1983.39.1 (Museum Division collection, MDAH)

 

Battle of the Wilderness: 150 Years Ago

On May 5, 2014, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1864 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle in the Overland Campaign, initiated by the newly appointed leader of the federal armies, General Ulysses S. Grant. The Overland, or Wilderness, Campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in northern Virginia throughout May and June 1864. Fierce fighting in the dense woods during the Battle of the Wilderness led to almost thirty thousand casualties in the two days of fighting. Although the battle was technically a draw, U.S. forces lost significantly more soldiers than the Confederates. Determined to reengage Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Grant—instead of retreating as had his predecessors—turned his army toward Spotsylvania Courthouse, where they continued to fight the next day.

Henry A. Magruder's shirt. Accession number: 1962.251.2 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Henry A. Magruder’s shirt. Accession number: 1962.251.2 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

This shirt was worn by Henry A. Magruder when he was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness. Born in 1841, in Sharon (Madison County), Mississippi, Magruder served with the Madison Light Artillery, which was also known as Ward’s Battery.  Magruder survived his injury and returned home to Mississippi after the war.

Captain Silvanus Jackson Quinn's dictionary. Accession number: 1960.332.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Captain Silvanus Jackson Quinn’s dictionary. Accession number: 1960.332.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Captain Silvanus Jackson Quinn, Company A, Thirteenth Mississippi Regiment, kept this dictionary and a package of letters from home in his breast pocket. They reputedly saved his life when he was shot during the Battle of the Wilderness.

Sources:

http://www.nps.gov/frsp/wildspot.htm

http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/va046.htm

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