The Bullard Boys – Tragedy For A Mississippi Family

A closer examination of a single family during the war can sometimes reveal much about the universal struggles and hardships of the average soldier and civilian. One family was the recipient of a letter written by one new volunteer of the 10th Mississippi Infantry. On the cusp of conflict between the newly formed Confederacy and the Union, that soldier wrote from inside Fort McRee on the outskirts of Pensacola on April 10, 1861.

“My Dear Ann I write to you again tonight we are well (Arthur Newton & me) Arthur is on guard on the wall of the Fort. I think he is doing well he seems to be satisfied & his health is as good as it has ever been. I had gone to bed & received an order from General Gragg to have the roll called & require each officer & soldier to be present & to caution them to be on the alert as an engagement is daily expected. It has been raining hard to night and the wind is high. The waves of the Gulf lash and foam against the sides of our fort. There is four or five war ships in sight but there are strong men & I think brave hearts in this Fort men that will do their duty under any circumstances. Let me tell you when I look on these warlike preparations (as I do every day and think of my own friends at home and fret of all and above all my own dear wife and children and feeling that my cause is just my heart [grows] firm almost bold & I feel determined by the grace of god to do my whole duty, have my rights & secure the freedom of my country at whatever cost it maybe.

Our post is one of honor & will be defended bravely. I greatly desire that you keep cheerful and as contended as possible and let me caution you to [take] special care of yourself. Preserve your health and do the best you can every way and remember while I am away from you that you are constantly in my thoughts – no one shall ever say your husband was a coward and I know you had rather I should serve my country.

I have written to you almost every day but have never heard a word from home. Do write & write often give my warmest love to all the children. Kiss Bird Clay for me, tell Benny to be a good boy and take care of Ma till Pa comes home. Tell Perry & Jimmy and Gus to be the best sort of boys & show themselves men.

To Ann Bullard
Your husband till death
James G. Bullard

PS It is nearly eleven o’clock my soldiers are asleep around me. Goodnight”[1]

A photocopy of a photo of Captain James Bullard, Company B (Ben Bullard Rifles), 10th Mississippi Infantry (University of West Florida Historic Trust Archives, Pensacola, FL, Collection 1975.0130.0001)

Captain James G. Bullard (age 43) of Company B, 10th Mississippi Infantry left behind his wife of twenty years, Annis (called Ann) and their five children in Itawamba, Mississippi when he enlisted on February 4, 1861 along with his eldest son, Arthur (mentioned in his letter), for a period of twelve months beginning in March. His company, nicknamed the Ben Bullard Rifles, joined the regiment out of Jackson, Mississippi in early April and was given their first assignment to garrison Fort McRee. In the early days of separation, the cause of fighting for “hearth and home” was clear in James’ mind as he took the time to pen this letter, one of many. According to the 1860 census, the younger Bullard children were attending school and the second eldest son, Lafayette, worked on the farm with his father and elder brother. One must wonder if, at the age of 17, Lafayette envied the elder men of his family as they went off to war, or if he felt obligated to stay home and be “the man of the house” for the sake of his mother and younger siblings. The family had already suffered the loss of two children (William and Mary Ann) just two years before the secession crisis, and the death of another (Sarah) in 1847. The fragility of life might have been on James’ mind on that stormy night outside Pensacola.[2]

The Florida fortification had been occupied since January, gradually building up its armaments. Though Confederate General Braxton Bragg warned those at Fort McRee to be ready for a fight, the outbreak of the war began far away at another fort in Charleston. While Arthur was discharged on April 18, James remained at the fort to see its first bit of action.[3] A detachment of the 10th Mississippi fought at the Battle of Santa Rosa Island that October, though its inconclusive if James or any of his company participated. It’s certain, however, that he would have been present for the bombardment on the morning of November 22 as Fort Pickens, USS Niagara, and USS Richmond unleashed a storm of heavy artillery upon the Confederate fortifications. The Confederates within Fort McRee sustained extensive damage and only engaged for five hours before their guns fell silent under the pressure of the bombardment.

10th Mississippi Infantry Flag (1968.46.1, Courtesy Museum Division, Mississippi Department of Archives & History)

The 10th Mississippi evacuated Fort McRee in February of 1862 – though the rest of the Confederate forces within the fort would remain until May – and reorganized its companies into a “new” 10th Mississippi under Colonel Robert A. Smith within Brigadier General James Chalmer’s Mississippi Brigade, nicknamed the “High Pressure Brigade.” At Corinth, Mississippi, Company B became Company C by the same name (Ben Bullard Rifles) and James reenlisted for another two years beginning March 15. His son, Arthur, also rejoined the regiment on March 27. The Bullard family would, once again, have to part with those they loved and wait in anticipation for their return. The 360 men of the 10th Mississippi fought at the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862 on the far right of the Confederate line. For a more in-depth read about the performance of Chalmer’s Brigade with the 10th Mississippi, see this article by Dr. Timothy Smith. Chalmer’s Mississippi Brigade enjoyed fleeting success on the first day of battle, but were driven back with the rest of the army on April 7. The brigade walked away with 446 casualties out of 1,739 engaged.

However, for James Bullard, the greatest loss came on April 26 when his son, Arthur, died of disease in Baldwin, Mississippi at the age of 19. It’s completely possible that James stayed by his son’s bedside through his illness and suffered immense anguish as he sat down to write his wife another letter to tell her of their eldest son’s passing. The grief of losing a son and brother in the war was all too common by 1862, but that doesn’t diminish the bereavement of the Bullard household. It wouldn’t be long before Annis, Lafayette, and the rest of the clan had to hear more terrible news, because the 10th Mississippi entered its next engagement on September of 1862 at Munfordville, Kentucky.

Battle of Munfordville, Kentucky, from Sunday, Sept. 14th 1862. “Harper’s Pictoral History of the Great Rebellion”

Part of Bragg’s Army of Mississippi, Chalmers marched his men from Cave City, Kentucky to Munfordville, a station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad near a railroad bridge that crossed the Green River. The station was garrisoned by Colonel John Wilder and his three regiments, totaling more than 4,000 troops. Unaware that he was outnumbered and assuming false information that the garrison was not well supplied or manned, Chalmers demanded surrender of the station. When he was refused, he launched unauthorized frontal assaults on September 14. The 10th Mississippi was situated on the left of the first charge. James Bullard, who had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel that previous June, was one of 288 casualties that morning. There would be no more letters home to his wife and children.

Bragg would follow up Chalmer’s attempt to take Munfordville and on September 16, accepted Wilder’s surrender of the fort and its provisions. The Confederate victory had little impact in the overall campaign against Union Major General Don Carlos Buell, but the loss of the Bullard patriarch was undoubtedly devastating to the family in Mississippi. Annis lost her husband and provider, and the children lost a father that clearly cherished them – as evidence in his 1861 letter. Within one year, the Bullards lost two men in service to the Confederate army. Families across the country could empathize with their loss, but that wasn’t the end of it.

Whether out of retribution or a sense of duty, the eldest surviving son, Lafayette, enlisted in Company G of the 10th Mississippi in March of 1863; the same regiment in which his father and brother died. Did Annis beg him not to enlist? Did she predict more loss and heartache if her son followed in her husband’s footsteps? If she did, it didn’t matter. Lafyette went to war anyway. He was wounded at Chickamauga while under the division command of Major General Thomas Hindman, participating in the assault on September 20, 1863. He became one casualty out of over 18,000 suffered by the Confederates during the battle, but that one wounded soldier meant the world to the family who waited for him in Mississippi. He was later captured at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee that November and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago.

A sketch of Camp Douglas, Chicago, from Frank Leslie’s “Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War” (New York, NY, Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896)

The camp, like so many of the POW camps, was made infamous for its poor sanitation, rampant illness, and crowded conditions, resulting in the deaths of one out of every seven soldiers. If word got back to his family, it’s likely they worried for his safety within the prison camp. They had a right to be concerned. He arrived on December 6, 1864, but died of the measles on January 25, 1865, having been imprisoned for only 50 days. According to records, he was buried in Block 2 of the City Cemetery, grave 572. His name is memorialized on a 30-foot granite monument, along with the other 4,000 prisoners who were reinterred in a mass grave at Confederate Mound Oak Woods Cemetery.[4]

Three Bullard men were lost to the war and never returned to the family and state for whom they pledged to fight. Only three of Annis’ children would survive long enough to see the twentieth century and she passed on March 24, 1881, having never remarried. Annis, Fred “Bird Clay”, Daniel, and Bennet are all buried in the New Salem Cemetery in Troy, Mississippi. Their story is not so different from other families that sacrificed sons, brothers, and fathers to the Confederacy, but the nature of their deaths and service records cover a variety of wartime experiences. The collective experiences of the three include: served at a fort, suffered illness, participated in both successful and futile charges at the order of their superiors, was wounded, captured, and imprisoned. The only part missing is the navy. Their stories embody not just events of the war, but the tragedies that can befall a single family.

 

Endnotes

[1] University of West Florida Historic Trust Archives, Pensacola, FL, Collection #1975.0130.0001

[2] 1860 census: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.; Compiled service record, James Bullard, Captain, Company B, 10th Mississippi Infantry; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations , 1903 – 1927, M269, record group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C., roll 0184

[3] Compiled service record, Arthur Bullard, Private, Company B, 10th Mississippi, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations , 1903 – 1927, M269, record group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C., roll 0184

[4] Compiled service record, Lafayette Bullard, Private, Company G, 10th Mississippi, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations , 1903 – 1927, M269, record group 109; National Archives, Washington, D.C., roll 0184; PVT Lafayette Gibson “L.G.” Bullard, Find-A-Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/37530768/lafayette-gibson-bullard

About Sheritta Bitikofer

Sheritta Bitikofer is a lifelong student of history with a specific interest in the Civil War era. Along with being a wife, historical fiction author, and fur-mama of two, she is an active member of the Mobile and Pensacola Civil War Roundtables and currently pursuing a bachelors degree in US History at American Public University.
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2 Responses to The Bullard Boys – Tragedy For A Mississippi Family

  1. Tim Winstead says:

    I enjoyed the article. In my own research I found that many who survived the war, died at early ages.

  2. grandadpookers says:

    This piece represents a sobering reminder of the cost of war on families-just ponder how many times similar stories occurred in the Civil War.

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