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On September 5, 1862 the order was given by General Price to move forward. Marching day and night the 3rd Texas Cavalry entered Iuka, Mississippi on September 14th. The 3rd Texas was assigned to Major General Henrys Little’s Division and on September 19th they were ordered to deploy as skirmishes by Brigadier General Price. As they deployed forward they were hit by cannon fire. Captain Will Green of Company I told his men to be steady and at that moment, he was decapitated. As his Lieutenant took command he too was hit and killed by grapeshot. The order was given to charge the Yankee artillery.
" Unhindered, the Yankee cannoneers poured grape shot and canister into the gray masses. Private John Sherrod died instantly and Will Bonner, the regimental color bearer, was cut down a few feet in front of a Federal battery, the Confederate Battle flag sill clutched in his hands. At the head of the charge, Lieutenant Dan Alley pressed on. With sabres, ramrods and gun butts, the attacker grappled fiercely with the enemy artillerymen on the crest of the hill. Most conspicuous on the field was Private Rush Wallace, son of a San Augustine Judge. Hopelessly surrounded at one point in the action, he refused to surrender but fought his way out of the trap and back to his own lines."
The Texans sustained their assault and drove the enemy some six hundred yards to the rear. The 3rd Texas lost 33 killed out right, 74 wounded and out of 388, one out of every four fell that day. The then Colonel of the 3rd Texas, Mabry was wounded three times. The Colonel was captured and was offered a chance to sign a letter of exchange. He didn’t like the wording and refused to sign it. He was placed in a Yankee prison camp but later released on an exchange.
General Sterling Price was born in Virginia in 1809. He led a regiment of Missouri troops during the Mexican War in 1847. He was Governor of Missouri from 1853 to 1857. Price was not considered a highly skilled General and though promoted to Major General in 1862, his career was unimpressive. He is credited with defeats at Iuka and Corinth. He did better during the Red River campaigns in 1864.
He lead an unsuccessful cavalry raid into Missouri in 1864 and was turned back. He went into Indian Territory and at the war end, refused to surrender. He exiled himself and some of his command to Mexico immediately after the war. In 1866 he returned to Missouri and died in 1877.
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Texas (Cavalry) Brigade at Oakland
The 3rd Texas was assigned along the Tallahatchie River and fended off repeated attempts to outflank the army as they were on mounted guard duty to guard the flanks. They were engaged in several skirmishes. The 3rd Texas was now part of a mounted force called the Texas Brigade. Lt.Col Griffith now commanded this brigade. The Texas Brigade consisted of 1,264 cavalrymen and four artillery pieces. General Van Dorn ordered the brigade to intercept enemy raiders and drive then off. Griffith’s Texas Brigade chased had engaged and chased the Yankee to a place called Oakland. The engagement lasted about an hour and Company C of the 3rd Texas distinguished itself. The Texan’s charged the battery "with a wild, defiant shout" and seized it. They were able to haul off several wagon loads on Union supplies before being force to pull out.
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Holly Springs and the great Cavalry Raid
Several of the Confederate Cavalry commanders petitioned Pemberton for permission to raid Holly Springs. There was a rifle manufacturing plant there and they wanted to disrupt the rail lines and shipment as well. Grant had accumulated thousands of tons of supplies there. General Pemperton liked the idea and ordered Van Dorn to assemble a force. There were three brigades assembled to participate and consisted of Col. Red Jackson’s Tennesseans, Col. Robert McCullough’s Missouri and Mississippians and Col. Griffith’s Texans. They marched in the dead of winter in rain and mud and reach the outskirts of Holy Springs. They were being lead by General Van Dorn himself. At dawn on the 20th of December 1962 they pounced upon the town of Holly Springs. The Texans broke into a gallop and rent the chill silence of early morning with their wild rebel yell. The distant roar grew louder as the galloping hooves and clanking sabers drew near. The Texas Brigade approached from the east, swept through the infantry camp at the depot, and dashed onto the heart of the town. As the Texans poured across the campground near the depot, the terrified Yankees dashed out of their tents in their underwear and finding themselves surrounded, without firing a shot. The raiders circled the courthouse, captured its occupants and began to look around them in the early morning light.
The capture of the stores and equipment was complete and vast. There were long trains loaded with rations and clothing. Heaps upon heaps of boots, blankets, whiskey, cigars, canned goods, unopened cases of carbines and pistols. Hundreds of bales of cotton lined the court house square as the towns people came out and shouted, "Hurrah for Van Dorn", "Hurrah for the Confederacy!" " Hurrah for Jeff Davis." For about ten hours the Cavalry Brigade ran carefree through the streets and most of the equipment that could not be taken out was destroyed and burned. The trains burned, the quartermaster’s stores and some 1500 prisoners were taken. Many of the confederate horses were in very bad shape and were gleefully exchanged for excellent mounts formerly of the Yankee cavalry. Within twenty-four hours the Cavalry Brigade was gone from Holly Springs, much to the anger of General Grant who had dispatched a force to meet them, but it arrived late.
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General Van Dorn soon organized his newly formed cavalry corps into two divisions of two brigades each. The Texas Brigade, which included the 3rd Texas Cavalry was part of the 2nd Division under the commanded of Colonel John W. Whitfield. Van Dorn’s Cavalry Corps was to fight as a wing of cavalry and be under the direct command of General Braxton Bragg and the Army of Tennessee. Under this command, General Van Dorn issued his famous order number 5. It stated in part, " Cavalry knows no danger-knows no failure; what it is ordered to do it must do." The newly formed Cavalry Corps traveled several days in the dead of winter and soon met up with the Army of Tennessee.
Two Generals now commanded the two wings of cavalry under General Bragg. They were Generals Van Dorn and Joseph Wheeler. The two Generals had identical missions and were on both wings, (sides) of the army and in front, when it moved forward. Van Dorn on the left wing near Duck River and Wheeler on the right. This formed a total front of about eighty miles long. Texas Cavalry was well represented in this combined cavalry, as under Wheeler’s Command was the 8th Texas Cavalry and the 11th Texas Cavalry. Van Dorn had the 3rd Texas Cavalry, 6th Texas Cavalry, 9th Texas Cavalry and the 27th Texas Cavalry.
The various cavalry commands were engaged in skirmishes through out this period and are too numerous to mention. These were a result of patrol and recons coming up on enemy cavalry and vice versa. It should be also noted that Nathan Bedford Forrest was also, at first, part of Van Dorn’s command and the cavalry at Van Dorn’s disposal was 6,300.
Thompson’s station was actually a series of battles. One of these battles occurred at Thompson Station on March 4, 1863 and it was making point that the other battles and skirmishes were so called. At Thomson’s station, a railroad junction, a Yankee force of 2,837 men and some one hundred wagons entered the north side of the village and a contingent of Van Dorn’s cavalry was already in position as the open shots took place. As battle progressed the Rebel contingent of Cavalry was dismounted and formed a battle line supported by artillery. The Yankee cavalry charged and was halted by the Rebels. General Van Dorn arrived on the scene with the rest of his cavalry and the Rebel cavalry out numbered the Yankees. The Yankees attempted to extricate its wagons and send them toward the rear and on to Franklin when the rebel cannons opened up. Only thirty-nine escaped their cannonade. On the morning of the 5th of March, Van Dorn ordered Forrest and his command to a hill on the extreme right. Colonel Whitfield then ordered the Texas Brigade to the extreme right. At 10 am the Yankee commander ordered a charge against superior numbers. As the Federal troops drew within two hundred yards the 3rd Texas Cavalry was ordered to fire and charge. "Unleashing a shattering volley upon the ranks of Indiana infantrymen, the Texans checked and repulsed the attack." The Federals fell back to dug in positions and were charged three times by the Texans.
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Earl Van Dorn achieved the rank of Major General. He was the nephew of President Andrew Jackson and was noted for his ego and an adequate field commander. Van Dorn was a "ladies man" and this fault was to be his undoing. He was stalked a jealous husband who Van Dorn had angered by having an affair with his wife. The husband sought him out and shot him dead on the afternoon of May 7, 1863. General Van Dorn was 42 years old. The 3rd Texas Cavalry was among those that attended the funeral.
With Van Dorn dead, Bragg divided up his command and the Texas Brigade was now under the command of Brigadier General John W. Whitfield and consisted of 1,815 troops of the 3rd Texas, 9th Texas and 27th Texas Cavalry Regiments. The other brigade of the division consisted of about a thousand Mississippians and was commanded by Brigadier General George B. Cosby. These two brigades formed a cavalry division that was commanded by General "Red" Jackson. On May 19th 1863, General Bragg ordered the cavalry division, consisting of 3,019 horsemen to proceed to Vicksburg to help defend the city. The troops rode more than 375 miles in two weeks. This was, at times, more than 35 miles a day. The main body arrived at Canton Mississippi on June 3rd. Vicksburg was under siege by General Grant and there were some 71,000 Federal troops taking part.
John Wilkins Whitfield was born in Franklin Tennessee on March 11, 1818. He fought as a Captain in the Mexican War of 1847 with the Tennessee Infantry Regiment. Whitfield came to Texas in 1861 and entered the Confederate army as a Major and commander of the 4th Texas Cavalry, which later merged with the 27th Texas Cavalry. This consolidation became known as Whitfield’s Legion. He was promoted to Brigadier General on May 9th 1963. After the war he was a delegate to the constitutional conventions of 1866 and 1875. He died in Hallettsville on October 27, 1879.
By the time Jackson’s Cavalry Division arrived, General Joseph Johnston has decided that the forces around Vicksburg were to large to attack head on. Johnston, instead planned diversionary attacks in the rear with the hope of weakening certain points of Grants line and allowing for a possible break out of Confederate forces in Vicksburg. The first action was to attempt to chase some of Grants Cavalry after they had plundered Mechanicsburg. The Texas Brigade was unsuccessful but did pursue as close and as long as they could have.
As the Confederate Forces probed the rear of the Yankee lines for a soft spot in which to attack, there was time to reflect. Religion took the forefront in most of the camps. Leisure time was spent listen to religious leaders and reading the bible. There was a surge of evangelism among the men and Sunday congregations grew. This refection of the spirit soon grew and helped the spirit of the men as the war went on.
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