By Kevin McKinley
Guest Writer 

The men of Armistead's Regiment


February 7, 2019

A tombstone at Montgomery Hill Cemetery near Boatyard Lake.

In times of old, great armies made up of men and animals moved across our piney woods and fields in search of battle and plunder.

Whereas such opening sentences serve to stir the imagination and curiosity it doesn't tell the personal stories of thousands of individual soldiers who were the spoke in the wheel, metaphorically speaking; these were the men who camped along the creek banks and rode patrol along our railroads and dirt roads during the period 1861-1865 during a time which many of us refer to as The War Between The States.

In his book Armistead's Regiment, Christopher Lyons of Carrollton, Texas, documents many of the men who were in the cavalry regiments known as the 16th Confederate Cavalry and also known as the 12th Mississippi Cavalry during the war. Many of these men served in our area and we walk in their footprints, often unknowingly, every day.

The regiment was formed of Alabama and Mississippi unassigned cavalry companies after Sherman's raid to Meridian in February 1864. They were assigned to Colonel Charles G. Armistead's Brigade, which was comprised of Colonel Ball's 8th and Lewis' Battalion, Alabama Cavalry.

After being involved in some horrific areas of combat, the regiment found itself operating in the relative peace of the Canoe Station area in November and December 1864. The men patrolled the area between Blakely and Pollard and southward to Pensacola. These were not the first men to be assigned to the Canoe area.

Former Jefferson Davis Community College instructor John Powell once told this writer of the presence of five Confederate camps in the Canoe area. At that time, in the early 1990s, none of the camps had been located, yet today, due to the hard work of Mr. Judson Cardin, we know of the existence of Camp Hunter, which existed in the area around today's Freewill Cemetery and the old Mineral Springs.

Armistead's men would have enjoyed the cool waters of the spring, and waking up on a quite winter's morning in the Canoe area when the silence weighs on the soul. They may also have been homesick their loved ones as the lonesome whistle from the steam locomotives plied up and down the tracks through the area.

Yet their garrison life reflections were shattered with the roar of the rifle's shot when, on December 16, 1864, blue clad Union troops from Pensacola attacked Pollard in a brazen raid which destroyed the railroad tracks and several governmental structures.

Armistead and Brig-General St. John Liddell, located at Blakely, caught up to the Yankees six miles south of Pollard. Liddell gave the following account: "I take pleasure in bringing to your notice the gallantry of Col. Armistead and officers and men of his Command, who bore the brunt of the fighting during the night as well as the day. I found them always willing and ready. I bear personal witness to the energy and resolution of

Capt. Winston who led the column at night regardless of ambuscades."

Later, the regiment operated out of Blakely in January 1865 and was redesignated the 12th Mississippi Cavalry on March 24, 1865. On March 25th, Armistead and Ball made a stand at Cotton Creek and at Canoe Creek against Steele's overwhelming force of 13,000 which had marched out of Pensacola some days earlier.

It was during this time that Armistead and Ball withdrew towards Williams (Station). Meanwhile General Clanton made a gallant stand at Bluff Springs which nearly cost him his life.

Armistead retreated towards Belleville, then Montgomery. Part of his regiment, which was under the command of Lt. Col. Spence, skirmished with Canby and Steele's forces during the last days of the war. Major General Dabney H. Maury-CSA- wrote, "General Canby (Union) occupied nine days in marching twenty miles, with no force in front except five hundred cavalry under Col. Spence (CSA)." Spence's men went on to cover the rear guard of the evacuation of Mobile and participated in the Battle at Whistler's Bridge on April 13, 1865.

At State Line Station the regiment gave consideration to crossing the Mississippi and joining Confederate forces on the other side and continuing the fight. Realizing the war was over, the men hid their weapons in old hollow pine trees and logs. As they surrendered at Citronelle on May 4, 1865, they closed the book on the history of Armistead's Regiment. Armistead had been a practicing attorney before the war and he went to Jackson, Mississippi following the war, he is buried in Jackson.

In order to attach a personal connection to the men who were assigned to Canoe Station, below is the muster roll of the officer's and noncoms of this company (time and space will not allow a full dissertation of the rest of company's men) Lynch's Company I; which was assigned to Canoe Station, November -December 1864:

Capt. James D Lynch, Lt. Thomas H. Collins, 2d Lt. William White, 2d Lt. Thomas Strong, 1st Sgt. B.C. Miller, 2d Sgt William Gerdine, 3d Sgt. Taylor Crump, 4th Sgt. Howard Brame, 5th Sgt. James Rife, 1st Corporal George Jordan, 2d Corporal George Washington Lyon(s).

For more information, buy the book Armistead's Regiment, available at Amazon for $19.98 by searching for Armistead's Regiment Confederate Cavalry Mississippi. I found this book to be highly informative as to our local level and gave exceptional biographical sketches of men who served in our area.

Shadows and Dust Volume III: Legacies is available for purchase in the amount of $30.00+$5.00 shipping and handling to PO Box 579 Atmore, AL 36502 or visit Lulu;, Barnes and OR at the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama or by calling 251 294 0293.


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