Submitted by C.J. Johnson
The 15th Mississippi included three companies primarily from Choctaw County – Company D – Wigfall Rifles; Company I – Choctaw Guards; and Company K – Choctaw Grays; all formed in the spring of 1861. They reported to Camp Clark at Corinth for training, and by the summer of 1861, were in Union City, Tennessee, under the command of Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer.
In late 1861, they were back and forth between Tennessee and Kentucky. In January 1862, they were sent to join General Albert Sidney Johnston’s forces at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
In the reorganization of General Johnston’s forces on February 23, 1862 at Murfreesboro, Colonel W. S. Statham was assigned to command the Zollicoffer Brigade, which included the Fifteenth Mississippi under Major Brantley, as well as the Twenty-second Mississippi.
From Murfreesboro, the brigade moved down into Mississippi to participate in the Battle of Shiloh in early April. The following account is from Dunbar Rowland’s book, Military History of Mississippi 1803 – 1898.
“Statham’s Brigade was part of Breckenridge’s “reserve corps” in the organization before the battle of Shiloh, and in that battle fought under his immediate command, participating in the capture of Prentiss’ Division, and at the close of the first day were on the front line, occupying the heights overlooking the Tennessee River, under fire of the gunboats.
There was a reorganization in May, and re-enlistment for two years… The brigade, under command of Colonel Statham, composed of the Fifteenth, under Lieutenant-Colonel Farrell, and Twenty-second Mississippi, with four Tennessee regiments, served in support of Vicksburg, with the forces under General Van Dorn, during the naval bombardment of June and July, 1862. While on this service Colonel Statham died. (Rietti’s Annals.)
The Fifteenth was posted on the present site of the National Cemetery, July 15, 1862, the day that the battleship Arkansas came down the Yazoo and ran through the Federal fleet above Vicksburg, and witnessed that memorable scene. (L. P. Carr.) Following is the return of the Fifteenth in Fourth Brigade, “Breckenridge’s Division, Army of the Mississippi, Vicksburg, July 20, 1862 :” Col. W. S. Statham; Lieutenant-Colonel, M. Farrell; Major, J. R. Binford; Adjutant, J. A. Binford, Jr.; Acting Quartermaster, B. J. Dudley; Acting Commissary, Lieutenant, G. F. Crawford; Assistant Surgeon, Dr. Fleming.”
Elsewhere in early July 1862, on July 2, Earl Van Dorn was given command of the Military District of Mississippi. On the same date, President Lincoln called for 300,000 more volunteers for a 3 year enlistment.
The following day, Sterling Price assumed command of the Army of the West. On July 4th, John Hunt Morgan led a Rebel raid into Kentucky.