Monday, December 31, 2012 12:00 AM
Many stories were later recalled and written concerning the stay of the Mississippians at Camp Fisher during the winter of 1861-1862.
One of the best storytellers was Private Wiley Pierce Heflin of Company D. He was twenty-seven years of age when he enlisted in the Neshoba Rifles at Neshoba Springs, Miss., in April 1861.
Heflin, with the help of a Miss Annette Batson, penned his life story in 1905, after "loss of sight," but with a mind "not impaired in the least."
The work that he dictated "by knowledge, experience and recollection" was entitled, "Blind Man on the Warpath."
Heflin wrote: "There are always in the army some men who have just sense enough to do whatever they are told and resolution enough to stick to whatever they say.
"On one occasion when the pickets were posted around the encampment, one of those kind of men happened to be posted on the road leading from our encampment to the depot, who had orders to let no one pass there without a pass from Brigadier General Whiting.
"He quietly rested himself on the corner of a fence, when up rides General Johnston and a part of his staff. The sentinel at once halted him and demanded his pass. The general told him he didn't have to carry a pass. The soldier told him not to go by without one.
"Then [Brigadier] General [Daniel Harvey] Hill remonstrated with him, told him that he was General Johnston, the head commander. At that time the soldier replied, 'It don't make a damn bit of difference who you are. You can't pass here without a pass from General Whiting.'
"The general asked if he did not have orders to salute superior officers. The sentinel says 'What?' 'Don't you have orders to salute, present arms to superior officers when they come around?'
"'Oh,' said the sentinel, 'There was some such orders as that when we first came out, but that is played out.' So the general had to call for the corporal of the guard to pass him by."
Private Nathaniel "Nat" Davidson of Company I, a twenty-eight year old soldier from Monroe County, expressed his thoughts concerning a move from Camp Fisher in a letter home, dated Dec. 23, 1861: "We are well fixed up for winter having built comfortable cabins and but it seems that we will have to leave and go to Centerville... but Lt. Col. Liddell (commanding) says he will not leave if there is any other chance.
"It woluld [sic] indeed be an outrage for us to leave our comfortable quarters when the bad weather is just setting in - we have had very fair weather up to the last few days.
"In fact I am told by old setlers [sic] that this fall has been more favorable, than for ten years past."
Even though winter camp life was dreary and sometimes depressing, compared to the rigors of the march and the daily fear of death, Private Tom Wilkins of Company E, the Prairie Guards noted that "living in our log hut was sheer comfort."
At first the Mississippians relaxed and slept, but began to use their sewing kits, nicknamed "housewives," to mend their tattered uniforms.
The boys quickly devised the "hole rank" system - one hole in seat of britches indicated a captain; two holes a lieutenant; and the entire seat gone, a private!
Another major problem at Camp Fisher was the infestation of lice that caused great discomfort to all ranks, regardless of the number of holes.
The "grey-backs" were so bad one soldier wrote this camp poem:
"Now I lay me down to sleep, While the grey-backs o'er my body creep; If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord their jaws to "Break!"
Civil War Veterans
Kelly, John Isaac Miller - Private; Second Lieutenant; First Lieutenant; enlisted April 24, 1861, at Philadelphia, Mississippi in Company D; age twenty; student; received $50.00 bounty for re-enlistment at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Va., Fe. 7, 1862.
Elected second lieutenant at re-organization, April 21, 1862; wounded in the arm and left hip at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; hospitalized at Chimborazo Hospital #4 at Richmond, Va., June 1, 1862.
Transferred to private quarters, June 6, 1862; furloughed home as disabled and returned to company, January 1863; promoted to first lieutenant, Jan. 12, 1863; not present at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; admitted with a gunshot wound to the General Hospital at Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 11, 1863 to Jan. 5, 1864; furloughed for thirty days, Jan. 5, 1864.
Furloughed for sixty days by the Medical Examining Board at Lauderdale, Miss., July 27, 1864; wounded in the arm at Hatcher's Run, Oct. 27, 1864.
Operation (three inch excision in upper left ulna), Oct. 27, 1864; Muster Roll, November-December 1864: "Dropped from the Roll Dec. 6, 1864; retired, Feb. 9, 1865.
World War II Veterans
Lee, Robert Erskine, Sr. - Private to First Lieutenant; enlisted on April 29, 1941 at Camp Shelby, Miss., in the United States Army; age 25; farmer/hardware store employee; nicknamed "Bob."
Served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at an Armored Force Officers Candidate School at Fort Knox, Ky., July 1942 to Oct. 23, 1942; re-enlisted on Oct. 24, 1942.
Discharged as a corporal to accept appointment as second lieutenant at Fort Knox, Nov. 23, 1942.
Served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations as a tank commander (in charge of a tank platoon of five tanks and 25 men) with Company B of the 44th Tank Battalion, Seventh Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division, May 1944 to October 1945.
Participated in the campaigns in New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, and on Leyte and Luzon, Philippine Islands; commanded Tank Unit 1203-9 and spearheaded the attack (tank named the "Ole Miss") that freed thousands of United States Prisoners of War from Santo Tomas International Center near Manila, Feb. 3, 1945.
Wounded (shrapnel in neck when tank hit a land mine) in action on Luzon, Philippine Islands, April 18, 1945; the First Cavalry Division was the first military unit to march into Tokyo, Japan, September 1945.
Awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with four bronze service stars), Bronze Arrowhead, Philippine Islands Liberation Medal (with two bronze service stars), World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart and the Bronze Star; discharged at Camp Shelby, Feb. 14, 1946.
Demobilization; re-enlisted on Aug. 6, 1946; served again in the American Theatre as an infantry unit commander with Headquarters Company of the Third Regiment Infantry Replacement Training Center; discharged at Fort McClelland, Ala., Nov. 14, 1946, convenience of the government.
Assigned to the Officer's Reserve Corps, November 16, 1946; described as six feet and one-half inches tall, weighing 155 pounds, with reddish-brown hair and brown eyes.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350
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