The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1862 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections, for writing this series.
The Battle of Shiloh in southern Tennessee began on April 6, 1862, and became the bloodiest battle of the Civil War up to that point with almost 24,000 casualties. This flag, which has been stored in the candy jar since before it was sent to the Department of Archives and History in the early 1900s, was reputedly carried by the 6th Mississippi Regiment during the battle. A label inside the jar with the flag states that seven color-bearers were killed or wounded while carrying this flag during the battle. The 6th Mississippi sustained horrific casualties during the first day’s fighting at Shiloh. According to General Cleburne’s report in the Official Records, the 6th suffered 300 casualties of the 425 men it carried into the battle, earning the unit the nickname of the “Bloody Sixth.”
Colonel John Jones Thornton commanded the 6th Mississippi at the Battle of Shiloh. A Unionist, Thornton was sent by Rankin County to the Secession Convention in January 1861, and, though it overwhelmingly passed, he refused to sign the Ordinance of Secession. However, once Mississippi seceded, Thornton was an ardent supporter of his state. He reorganized the Rankin Guards into the Rankin Greys and when they joined the 6th Mississippi, he was elected colonel of the regiment and led them into battle at Shiloh. While carrying the sword and scabbard pictured above, Thornton was critically wounded on the first day of the battle. The scabbard has been patched where it was perforated by a bullet. Due to his injuries, Thornton was forced to resign his commission on May 25, 1862.
Now on Display
This flag is currently on display through April 29, 2012, in the exhibit A Walk Through History in the Old Capitol Museum. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9-5 and Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Artifacts from the Museum Division collection that are not on exhibit are available for viewing by appointment. Please contact Nan Prince, Assistant Director of Collections, by email to schedule an appointment.
Grady Howell, Jr., “Col. John Jones Thornton, M.D.: A Sparrow Along Upon the Housetop” (1988), from the personal papers of the author.
Robert N. Scott (United States War Dept.), The War of the Rebellion, Series 1: Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, vol. 10, part 1 (Gettysburg, PA: The National Historical Society, 1972), 580-84.
National Park Service, Shiloh National Military Park website, http://www.nps.gov/shil/historyculture/shiloh.htm.