RUTHERFORDs of TIPPAH COUNTY MISSISSIPPI and OUR KIN
This web site updated 1 Jan 2011
Capt. William Williamson Rutherford
William W. Rutherford
Co. A, 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry
Following the evacuation of Corinth, Mississippi, in late
May, 1862, by the Confederate forces, northeast Mississippi was completely
defenseless against the enemy and soon felt the heel of the invader; live stock
disappeared and homes began to go up in smoke.
To slow down the raiders, home guard units sprang up everywhere.
Captain Solomon G. Street, lately of the Army of Northern Virginia CSA,
was commissioned by the State to raise a company in Ripley, Mississippi.
The company was called the Citizen Guards of Tippah County and
officially, Company A. 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry.
In late December 1862, William W. Rutherford, age 29, enlisted in
Street’s Company at Ripley for a term of 12 months.
The company was organized and put in saddle in February 1863 with 123
members. Though organized as part
of a regiment, while under Street’s command the company operated independently
from it…..and more often, while on raids against the enemy, only a portion
(picked men from the company) followed Street.
From February until April 1863, the company earned quite a reputation
from its exploits against the enemy. During
this time William himself was on detached duty, probably with Captain Street;
when most of the company’s energy was spent against Union foraging
parties coming from Tennessee and out of Corinth.
The men were dressed in makeshift uniforms from their homes with a little
captured Federal blue mixed in; they were armed with their personal firearms,
mostly shotguns and squirrel rifles. (See
record of Isaac James)
On Apr 18, 1863, Union General H. B. Grierson began a raid with 1700
troopers from La Grange, Tennessee destined for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, via
Mississippi. On that day the 2nd
Iowa Cavalry (vanguard of Grierson’s command) rode through Ripley and
exchanged shots with the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry.
Proceeding to Houston, Mississippi, the 2nd Iowa separated
from the main body and struck out for Macon.
The 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry, reinforced with the 2nd
Tennessee Cavalry Battalion and Inge’s and Ham’s Mississippi Battalion,
intercepted the Yankee cavalry at Palo Alto on April 22.
The short contest that ensued was about equal (500 men apiece) but the
Union troopers were forced to turn back towards its main column, whereupon the 2nd
Mississippi State Cavalry was given the job of pursuit.
The Mississippians followed them closely, and caught up to them at Camp
Creek, near Birmingham (NW of Tupelo) where a two and a half hour engagement was
fought before the Federals burned the bridge crossing and ended the pursuit on
April 24. On the 27th,
the regiment was in Chickasaw County, near Prairie Mound.
On May 5, 1863, the regiment was camped at Tupelo with Rebel forces of
Generals D. Ruggles and S. J. Gholson when that command was attacked by
Cornyn’s Union Brigade of Dodge’s Cavalry Division,
(the attack was a diversion for another being made in north Alabama) in
the small battle the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry was under
artillery fire for the first time. But
when night came to the battlefield, the Federal commander thought that he was
outnumbered and withdrew from the area. In
late May the regiment was back in Tippah County where Street’s Troopers had a
brush with Union Cavalry at Salem (6 miles NW of present day Ashland).
On June 4, the regiment was turned over from State authority to
Confederate, but before the inspecting officer arrived, many of the men had
disbanded; probably because of Street himself, who had no regard for Confederate
service. The next day New Albany
was burned by the blue coats; the day before the burning (before they disbanded)
the regiment had been camped there! What
was left of Street’s command was reported to have followed the 9th
Illinois from Ripley to Pocahontas without attacking, on June 9. The men that remained with the regiment were pulled together
and directed to concentrate at Pontotoc for inspection. The men that showed up were placed in General J. R.
Chalmer’s command to confront the Union raid being made on Grenada,
Mississippi, and fought a skirmish there August 17.
In late August 1863, the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry was
re-organized at West Point, Mississippi, and more companies from Carrollton were
added to it. William W. Rutherford
was acting commander of Company A, as Sol Street had left the command.
(In September 1863, Street officially resigned his commission and joined
the 15th Tennessee Cavalry as it’s Major.
Many men from his previous Mississippi command followed him.
This regiment was with General N. B. Forrest’s command when it was
involved in a skirmish at Bolivar, Tennessee on May 2, 1864, when Street was
murdered by one of his own men. The
assailant stated later, after he deserted, that Street had killed his father for
the purpose of robbery.) On October
1, 1863, Rutherford was officially elected as Captain by the remaining men of
the company and immediately took over the duties of that office.
In December 1863, Captain Rutherford and his company were stationed in
Tupelo. In February 1864, Union
General W. S. Smith led a raid from Memphis toward West Point across the State
line; his purpose was to destroy anything of value to the
Confederates…….especially the railroads.
The war in north Mississippi had become one of arbitration and
desolation. General N. B. Forrest,
commanding all the Rebel cavalry in north Mississippi, sent Gholson’s Brigade
of State Troops, about 1600 men, (Brigade was made up of 2 regiments and 2
battalions, including the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry) to Palo Alto
“to watch any movements of the enemy from the direction of Houston.”
Ten miles south of Okolona, some of Gholson’s troops “made a warm
fight” for the enemy before retiring. General
Forrest defeated Smith’s Union column with his own command near Pontotoc, then
sent Gholson’s Brigade after they came up, on the pursuit of the enemy most of
the way back to Memphis
In March the whole 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry totaled only
350 men from the previous April’s 650 (from the previous 925 in February
1863). On April 9, 1864 the
regiment was in Aberdeen, Mississippi, guarding 550 prisoners with other forces,
that Forrest had captured in Tennessee. Though
his enlistment had expired, Rutherford stayed on and was re-elected Captain;
Colonel William L. Lowry was made the regiment’s commander.
In the latter part of April William Rutherford re-enlisted for two more
years along with most of the regiment and on May 5 the regiment was finally
transferred into Confederate service, though it kept it’s State designation.
It was then placed with the rest of Gholson’s Brigade in Buford’s
Division of Forrest’s Cavalry Corp, though only temporarily. At the time Gholson’s Brigade numbered about 2300 men
In June the regiment was transferred for a short into General Wirt
Adam’s command which was in the vicinity of Jackson, Mississippi, and arrived
in time to participate in an attempt to cut off a Union expedition as it
retreated from the Capitol toward Vicksburg.
When the opposing forces met, there was a severe fight near Jackson on
July 6, and on the 7th, the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry
was conspicuous in a fight about two miles east of Clinton, making a bold but
ineffectual attempt to capture a battery (of artillery).
The regiment lost 31 out of 110 men according to one newspaper account.
At the beginning of July 1864, Atlanta, Georgia, an important railroad
center, was placed under siege by the Union Army under General William T.
Sherman. Because of the casualty
drain on the Confederate Army of Tennessee in the city, many troops were brought
in from other theaters of war. In
the middle of July, the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry was brought in
with the rest of Gholson’s Brigade by rail, and placed in the trenches under
fire. On July 27, General John B.
Hood, commanding the Rebel Army, noted a gap in the Union siege lines where a
Union Army Corp was moving south toward the last open rail lines coming into the
besieged city; General Hood ordered an attack at once.
Gholson’s Brigade (including the 2nd Mississippi State
Cavalry) was temporarily attached to Reynold’s Brigade, Walthall’s Division
of Stewart’s Army Corp for the battle. The
assault opened the morning of the 28th with elements of two army
corps smashing against a recently erected salient of earthworks manned by
Logan’s and Blair’s Union Divisions. Walthall’s
Division (containing the 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry) was in the
center of the Rebel attacking line and struck the Union works just south of Ezra
Church (10 miles west of Atlanta) from where the battle gets it’s name.
Though the confederates attacked in earnest, they were slaughtered in the
open, losing 5000 men in the battle that lasted all day; the Union loss was
slight. The 2nd
Mississippi State Cavalry fought on foot and had 10 casualties.
It was the largest and bloodiest battle the regiment was ever to fight
in. Gholson’s Brigade at the
battle numbered only 450 men, of which 144 became casualties.
(After the battle the brigade totaled less than a standard regiment of
men; so to avoid confusion, the individual designations will no longer be used
and the command involving William W. Rutherford will be just termed Gholson’s
Following the battle of Ezra Church, Gholson’s Brigade was remounted
and served as cavalry for the remainder of the Atlanta Campaign. From August 1 to the 31st, the Brigade was in
position southwest of Atlanta, covering the railroad lines as General Hood
stretched his proud army from Atlanta to Jonesboro, Georgia twenty miles.
During the month there was considerable fighting on the lines at Utoy
In late August, General Sherman moved part of his army around the west
side of the city to completely severe the rail lines leading in. This led to the Battle of Jonesboro on August 31 and
September 1, 1864. The confederates
lost heavily and part of Gholson’s Brigade was engaged in the futile attempt
to roll Sherman away. The railroads
were finally cut and the Rebels evacuated the second most important city in the
South, on September 2, 1864. From
Jonesboro the Rebels fell back to a position at Lovejoy Station. (Five days later, General Sherman ordered all civilians
residing in the city out of their homes and onto the roads of oblivion.)
From Lovejoy Station General Hood moved his 45,000 men across the
Chattahoochee River and into Alabama.
By September 19, Gholson’s Brigade was stationed at Opelika, Alabama
and was assigned with other cavalry units as the rear guard of the army as it
struck back into Georgia, and at Sherman’s only supply line…..the railroad
north of Atlanta.
The confederate Army of Tennessee recrossed the Chattahoochee near
Newnan, Georgia about September 27, and on the 28th, Gholson’s
Mississippi Brigade was temporarily assigned to Ross’ Texas Cavalry Brigade of
Jackson’s Division. On the 30th,
the Mississippians were placed on the division’s right flank, guarding the
army’s rear, when they crossed the Sweetwater and went into camp at Powder
Springs, Georgia (NW of Atlanta, 30 miles).
It began raining on October 1 and on the 3rd, Gholson’s
Brigade was in a heavy skirmish with the enemy on Mud Creek, near Powder
Springs; the 9th Texas Cavalry had to be called up into the fight
before the Yanks were repulsed and the shooting died down.
The rain was still falling on October 4; but the cavalry in the rear of
the army was in constant contact with the enemy.
On October 5, 1864 an attack was made by part of Hood’s Army on a
fortified post on the railroad at Allatoona, but was defeated. The sad army then moved back into Alabama, later to begin the
disastrous Tennessee Campaign of November-December, 1864.
On October 4, 1864, Captain Rutherford was detailed for forty days to
return to north Mississippi for the purpose of arresting and returning all
absentees and deserters from his (Gholson’s) cavalry brigade. Captain Rutherford was accompanied by Lieutenant S. N. Rye to
Mississippi and they most probably returned to the Ripley area.
When the Army of Tennessee began its dark Tennessee Campaign, Gholson’s
Brigade was sent back to Mississippi to refit for the upcoming spring campaign
in that area. In the middle of
December, Gholson’s Brigade (only 250 men) met the advance of another Federal
raid by General H. B. Grierson on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and fell back to
Egypt. There they were reinforced
by 700 men from Mobile, before they were attacked by superior numbers on
December 28. The Yanks were held in
check until they mounted a charge, which over ran the Rebel position behind the
railroad embankment. General
Gholson was wounded (disabled; lost an arm) with about 20 of his men; the blue
coats lost about 150 men in killed and wounded.
It is most probable that Captain Rutherford did not take part in this
fight. On February 18, 1865, the
brigade was under command of Colonel Lowery at Palo Alto when the command was
ordered to be consolidated into one regiment (finally), to be commanded by
Colonel Ashcraft and assigned to Armstrong’s Brigade, Chalmer’s Division of
Forrest Cavalry Corp. Companies A,
H, and F of the old 2nd Mississippi State Cavalry became Company K,
It appears Captain Rutherford was still absent from his command at the
end of February, as on March 3, 1865, a Union raid comprising 2700 well armed
and mounted men left Germantown, Tennessee for the desolated area of north
Mississippi, and the lead regiment, the 2nd Arkansas (Union) came
through Ripley and captured three men enlisting others into their commands on
March 6th; one of these men was Captain Rutherford.
As a prisoner of war he was first sent to Memphis, and arrived there 11
March. On March 28, 1865, he was
sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he was exchanged (for a like Union
prisoner) to the Rebels on April 3, at about 11 am at Camp Fisk.
The last of his regiment (Companies A, D, and K, Ashcraft’s Regiment)
was with General Forrest at Selma, Alabama on April 2 1865, when they were
assaulted; many being killed, wounded, captured or scattered.
The Army of Northern Virginia under General Lee surrendered April 9 at
Appomattox Court House, Virginia. When
the news reached the Deep South, the remaining Confederate soldiers east of the
Mississippi River were officially surrendered by General Richard Taylor (son of
ex-President Zach Taylor) at Citronelle, Alabama (near Mobile) on May 4, 1865.
Captain Rutherford must have been in the vicinity of Jackson, Mississippi
when the news came and he finally went home (no record of his parole or oath of
Family legend has it that William Rutherford was once wounded near his home after he had done in a Yankee and hid in a hollow log to escape capture. If so it had to have been while under Sol Street’s command.