‘Knapsacks Packed and Ready to Move Forward’: The Diary of Christopher Adams, 18th Mississippi Infantry

 

The grave of Christopher Adams in Rose Hill Cemetery, Meridian, Mississippi. (Findagrave.com)

In August 1927, Mrs. Henrietta Adams, age 76, filled out an application with the Lauderdale County Chancery Clerk to obtain a Confederate widow’s pension from the state of Mississippi. Her husband, Christopher Adams, had died in 1907, but his service as a soldier in the Confederate army made her eligible for the benefit.

Widows that sought a pension from the state were required to show proof that their husbands had served in the Civil War, and to meet this requirement, Mrs. Adams brought to the courthouse the diary kept by her spouse during the conflict. The Chancery Clerk looked over the manuscript and made a transcription of the first few pages of its contents, which he included with the pension application.

Christopher Adams had enlisted in the “Confederates,” Company C, 18th Mississippi Infantry, in the spring of 1861 when he was 23 years old. He started his military service as a private, but in September 1861 he was elected 2nd lieutenant. Adams served in this capacity until April 1862, when his regiment underwent a reorganization, and he was not chosen to continue his post as an officer. Discharged from the 18th Mississippi, Adams returned home to Madison County, and eventually enlisted as sergeant in Company D, Wirt Adams Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry. He survived the war and mustered out with his regiment in 1865. (Compiled Service Record of Christopher Adams, Company C, 18th Mississippi Infantry, and Compiled Service Record of C. Adams, Woods’ Regiment of Mississippi Cavalry, accessed on Fold3.com, February 23, 2021)

The following is the excerpt from the diary of Christopher Adams that his wife Henrietta submitted with her application for a Confederate Widow’s Pension:

STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

COUNTY OF LAUDERDALE

This is to certify that I have examined a diary furnished by Mrs. Henrietta E. Adams, purported to the diary of Christopher Adams while in the Confederate Army, and quote the following from said diary:

MONDAY, MAY 27, 1861: – “Left home there was a large crowd escorted us to the depot and we left at 8 o’clock amid immense cheers. Northing occurred during the night of interest; there was a large [crowd?] all along the road. We received numbers of beauquests [sic] from the ladies. There is about 5,000 troops here, principally Mississippi and Alabamians. One regiment left camp this morning…”

EDITORS NOTE: In 1903 William W. Rucker, a former sergeant in the “Confederates,” wrote a reminiscence for the Clarion-Ledger about the 18th Mississippi Infantry. In his story he quoted the following article that had appeared in his local paper in 1861 when the regiment left for the war: ‘On Monday evening last, at 8 O’clock, the ‘Confederates,’ Captain O.R. Singleton, took their departure for Corinth, there to await further orders. For the last two months we have been accustomed to seeing crowds at the depot to witness the departure of our own companies and the passage of others on their way to the scenes of active operations, but never before have seen such a crowd as assembled at the depot on this occasion. The ‘Confederates,’ to the number of about one hundred of as gallant men as ever shouldered a musket, and their wives, sisters, fathers and brothers, to the number of not less than one thousand people, were all assembled here under the most solemn and impressive circumstances – to bid farewell to each other, for months, or for years – or perchance, for ever! The scenes of leave taking between wives and husbands – for a large proportion of this company were married men – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers – were indeed affecting, and drew tears from every eye.’ (Weekly Clarion-Ledger, May 7, 1903, page 2)

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1861: – “Got to Corinth at 3 o’clock. Marched from the depot to the Camp Grounds, was escorted by the Madison Guards and the Beauregard Rifles.”

WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 1861: – “Drilled this morning 3 hrs. More troops arrived. Broke rank until 3 o’clock. 3 o’clock drilled 2 hours.”

THURSDAY, MAY 30:- “Stood guard all night. Didn’t get up until 8 o’clock. 16 companies on the field…”

MONDAY, JUNE 10:- “Left Corinth for Virginia, had to go in stock car.”

FRIDAY, 14:- “Got to Lynchburg early in the morning.”

SATURDAY, 15:- “Went out to drill and was ordered from our camps to Manassas Junction. Struck tents at 12, marched into town and stayed over night in Lynchburg.”

MONDAY 17:- “…Took 3 Yankee prisoners as spies. Wrote to D.H. Gilmer.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 18th Mississippi Infantry reached Camp Walker near Manassas, Virginia, on June 18, 1861. They were then brigaded with the 17th Mississippi Infantry and 5th South Carolina Infantry, all under the command of Brigadier General David R. Jones.

SUNDAY 23:- “There were several guns fired at about one o’clock A.M. and the alarm ran into camp the Brigade was immediately on the field prepared for service. 6 a.m. this turned out to be the firing at the spies attempting to burn a bridge.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: A member of the 18th Mississippi Infantry identified only as “Old Musket” wrote the following account of the bridge burning incident: ‘On the 23d last month, about two O’ Clock in the morning, our pickets captured a federal officer and two privates, a few miles from here, and a horseman galloped in our camp reporting the enemy within a few miles of us. The men were aroused from their slumbers by the cry of to arms! to arms!! Ammunition was immediately distributed among them and it was astonishing with what promptness they took their position in ranks each and every one looking cool, calm and determined, although they were suddenly aroused in the night, not dreaming an enemy was near them; not a man failed to be at his post. The alarm proved to be a false one, originated from some scouts of ours firing upon some men they suppose intended to burn a bridge on the rail road, near this camp.’ (American Citizen, July 13, 1861, page 2)

FRIDAY July 12, 1861:- “Have all our knapsacks packed and ready to move forward at a moment’s warning. No particular news as to the war.”

WEDNESDAY 17th, 1861:- “Packed up and put out in the direction of Centerville. Camped on Bull Run and stayed during the next day. At night we began to throw up breastworks. Finished throwing up breastworks about ¼ to 12 o’clock the fight began at Blackburn Ford. We lost 11 killed, 63 wounded. Killed 140. (estimated).

The foregoing taken from a few pages of said Diary; there being many other references to his connection with the Confederate army.

Witness my hand and official seal, this the 3 day of Sept. 1927.

J.B. Holland, Chancery Clerk

Henrietta Adams’ pension application was successful; in 1928 she was listed in the Lauderdale County Pension Rolls as a “Class 2 Widow,” which entitled her to $150.00 per year. In 2021 dollars, this is the equivalent of $2,294.58, and this sum must have been a great source of comfort to the aging widow. Henrietta Adams ended up drawing this money for quite a long time; she lived to the age of 93, passing away on June 10, 1944, having spent some 16-odd years on the pension roll. (Confederate Pension Rolls, Lauderdale County, Series 354, Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

I did a good bit of research, but I could not locate a published copy of Christopher Adams’ diary, or even find a copy of it in any library or archive. For now, the few brief entries from his wife’s pension application are all that are known to survive. I hope his diary is out there, somewhere; perhaps in the hands of one of his descendants. The manuscript could tell us much about how one Mississippian experienced the war.; just four days after the excerpt in the pension application ends, the 18th Mississippi Infantry fought in the First Battle of Manassas. It was the regiment’s first battle, and I very much want to read Adams’ account of this action.

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