With the 11th Mississippi at Seven Pines
On the afternoon of May 31, 1862, Co. F of the 11th Mississippi, the Noxubee Rifles, went into action at the Battle of Seven Pines. As part of General William H.C. Whiting’s division, the Mississippians under the command of Colonel Philip F. Liddell slammed into General John Abercrombie’s brigade of Couch’s division and soon found themselves locked into a hard fight in attempting to charge a Federal battery that raked their lines.
“We were then thrown into line and ordered to charge,” remembered Corporal James D. Feemster. “The battery was half a mile distant and between us and them was a dense wood and a pond of water nearly waist deep covered with bushes and briars so that it was almost impossible to get through it at all.” The Mississippians attack quickly bogged down in the thick brush and briars of the swamp and casualties quickly mounted, Feemster numbering among the wounded. “I was struck just before dark by a ball, part of the loading of a shell. It entered my jaw just by my ear and passing between my upper and lower jaw before it reached the corner of my mouth. I had it extracted the next evening and it will be well enough in a week longer for me to rejoin my regiment,” he noted. The regiment would end up losing 195 casualties in their unsuccessful engagement at Seven Pines.
During the Battle of Seven Pines, the 11th Mississippi was attached to Whiting’s brigade under the command of Colonel Evander M. Law along with the 4th Alabama, 2nd Mississippi, the 6th North Carolina, and Balthis’ Virginia battery. Corporal Feemster’s letter first saw publication in the June 18, 1862 edition of the Macon Beacon.
Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia
June 5, 1862
Here I am at old Chimborazo Hospital again but will be able in a few days to bid it another adieu and I hope a final one. I can only write you a short letter tonight as I have other letters to write and Mr. L. Dupree leaves early in the morning.
I will give you a brief account of our fight of Saturday the 31st ultimo. The fight opened about 11 a.m. and closed at night. From the best information I can gather, our forces numbered 20,000 and that of the enemy 40,000. The battle was fought in Chickahominy swamp six or seven miles from Richmond. On the night previous to the fight, we had a very heavy fall of rain which overflowed the river covering the swamp and low grounds with water, rendering the roads almost impassable.
The enemy was attacked in their camps and driven from their position, leaving their camps and a considerable amount of ammunition and army stores. Our brigade was held in reserve and was not let into the fight until in the evening. We were then sent to the right wing where it was thought the enemy would send a heavy force to regain their camps and retrieve their lost fortunes. We came upon their camps when they immediately opened a heavy and destructive fire on us from their batteries. We had no artillery to engaged them, the nature of our ground being such that we could not use it.
|General William H.C. Whiting|
General Whiting, seeing that they were likely to make sad havoc of our men with their eight pieces of artillery first ordered the 6th North Carolina regiment to charge and take the battery. They made the charge but were driven back with heavy loss. He then came to the 11th Mississippi and asked us if we would not take the battery and the answer was yes. We were then thrown into line and ordered to charge. The battery was half a mile distant and between us and them was a dense wood and a pond of water nearly waist deep covered with bushes and briars so that it was almost impossible to get through it at all. [Law’s brigade hit General John Abercrombie’s brigade of General Darius N. Couch’s division which included the 65th N.Y., 67th N.Y., 23rd, 61st, and 82nd Pennsylvania regiments.]
During all this time the enemy was pouring the shot and shell into us like hail. By the time we reached the field beyond, our line was so badly broken that we were led back to reform. We were taken into open ground, our line immediately reformed, and led to the charge a second time but this time through the open field. Colonel Philip F. Liddell snatched up the colors and asked the boys to follow him. On we went amid a perfect storm of bullets and shells.
“When all of a sudden there came a noise as though all of the fiends of hell broke loose and revealed to us that the enemy was not more than 40 yards distant. They poured a volley into our ranks, keeling our men over like chaff. But we got no order to fire. The enemy was in a thicket so we could not get a shot at them; only three of our companies fired at them. The rest of us could not fire for fear of killing some of our own men. The Rebels sent two more volleys into us in quick succession and cut our men and officers down like straw.” ~ Private Thomas Beardmore, Co. K, 23rd Pennsylvania
We had advanced more than halfway when there was a regiment of the enemy thrown down on our right. We then halted and were ordered to fire, but after firing a few rounds, we were ordered to retreat. In this position, the enemy had at least four to one besides a battery of eight pieces. The prisoners say the battery was guarded by four regiments and these were in trenches. It was in this charge that we lost so many men. On every side could we see the wounded, dead, and dying, shot and mangled in every possible form. We still held their ground that night, sleeping in their camps.
|Private Joseph Lattimore Dupree of Co. F of the 11th Mississippi also numbered amongst the wounded at Seven Pines.|
You can form some idea of the fire we were exposed to when I tell you that we were not exposed longer than an hour and during this short time we lost 195 men killed and wounded; I happened to be among the number wounded. I was struck just before dark by a ball, part of the loading of a shell. It entered my jaw just by my ear and passing between my upper and lower jaw before it reached the corner of my mouth. I had it extracted the next evening and it will be well enough in a week longer for me to rejoin my regiment.
In the list of killed you will find the names of Iley Fant and George Hopkins, two nobler victims never died for liberty. W.J. Fant is among the missing; he was told that Ily at fallen and he went back him where he was either killed or taken prisoner. All of our wounded are doing well. Madison Bell is shot through the breast. I saw him today and he is doing well and I am in hopes he will recover.
Jas. D. Feemster
List of the killed, wounded, and missing of Co. F, 11th Mississippi Regiment in the battle near Richmond, Virginia, May 31, 1862
First Sergeant Iley W. Fant Killed
Second Sergeant James F. Farrant slight wound
First Corporal James D. Feemster slight wound
Second Corporal D.C. Farmer slight wound
Private George W. Hopkins Killed
Private James R. Spann Mortally wounded
Private Madison Bell Severely wounded
Private Dudley Bell Severely wounded
Private J. Davis Severely wounded
Private R. Mahorner Severely wounded
Private H. Mahorner Severely wounded
Private E.J. Carter Severely wounded
Private W.H. Tate Severely wounded
Private T.W. Freeman Severely wounded
Private J.F. Jones Severely wounded
Private T.F. Glass Severely wounded
Private C.M. Bowen Severely wounded
Private Joseph L. Dupree Severely wounded
Missing and supposed killed: William Price, W.J. Fant, F.M. Hill
Killed, wounded, and missing: 21
|The colors of the 11th Mississippi were captured during Pickett's Charge; note the battle honor for Seven Pines at the left.|
Letter from Corporal James D. Feemster, Co. F, 11th Mississippi Infantry, Macon Beacon (Mississippi), June 18, 1862, pg. 1
Letter from Private Thomas Beardmore, Co. K, 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, East Liverpool Mercury (Ohio), June 19, 1862, pg. 2