Civil War Spymasters
- I am perplexed by the correspondence captured from J.R. Russell, 22nd
Mississippi Infantry, to one of his men, W.C. Wells.
Russell, apparently a resident of Hinds County, had been named
Pemberton's Chief of Scouts in Hinds County as Grant moved inland,
and had been tasked with ferreting out the federal dispositions. He
sent a dispatch, dated 6 p.m. May 10th at Roach's, detailing
McClernand's dispositions to W.C. Wells, presumably another resident
of Hinds County, by way of a man named "Rause" or "Ranse," who was
also named in the correspondence. Wells, of course, was supposed to
carry it on to General Loring at Edwards. Russell complained to
Wells about his missing scouts, telling Wells to instruct any of the
scouts he should run across to look for him *at home.*
The direct route to Edwards would have taken a rider dangerously
close to the area covered by Union patrols the next day, and
apparently either Ranse/Rause or Wells fell into the hands of
McClernand's patrols the next day, and McClernand passed the
correspondence on to Grant.
Why would scouts, fully cognizant of the penalty for their
activities, be using their real names in scouting reports with their
families living nearby and federal sorties canvassing the area?
I'm beginning to wonder if McPherson's cavalry managed to capture
J.R. Russell at Roach's or at his house in civilian clothing and then
gave him the choice of death or some service to the federal army ...
maybe with a member of his family as collatoral? McPherson's cavalry
swarmed past Roach's the very next day, and Russell doesn't show back
up in the O.R. until after the siege, and several bizarre events
occur surrounding McPherson's move to Raymond:
1) Wirt Adams received an order allegedly from Bowen that doesn't
show up in the official correspondence (verbal?) to move with his
entire command to Edwards ... Pemberton, of course, had ordered Wirt
Adams to leave his command at Raymond scouting all the roads towards
Utica and Auburn. Wirt Adams' move to Edwards left Raymond
completely uncovered except for a five-man detachment.
2) After a light skirmish with Sherman's men near Dillon's which left
the bridge over Fourteen Mile Creek destroyed, Wirt Adams wastes most
of the afternoon playing cat-and-mouse with Sherman while 7 miles
east John Gregg's brigade is fighting for its life. Adams' command
(plus the 20th Mississippi Mounted Infantry) doesn't show up in
Raymond until around 5 or 6 p.m., after Gregg's brigade is in full
3) Johnston's memoirs claim that he gave the order for Pemberton to
attack the federals at Clinton to a Captain Yerger, who was to ride
to Pemberton's HQ and deliver the order. Yerger claimed that he rode
all night, but found most of the fords between Jackson and Bovina
swollen by a downpour. Exhausted, he stopped at a local (Hinds
County) inn, and claimed to have handed off the order to a "member of
Pemberton's staff" who was staying at the same inn. While this
sounds far-fetched, I don't see any reason why Yerger would have
second thoughts passing the order off to Pemberton's Chief of Scouts
for Hinds County! Of course, the order went directly to General
Interestingly enough, Russell's unit, the 22nd Mississippi Infantry:
1) was Loring's lead unit on Pemberton's hare-brained march to
2) camped within spitting distance of a federal artillery unit the
night of May 15th, without realizing that the unit was federal until
it began firing at them the next morning.
3) was with Loring during the equally hare-brained attempt to march
south from Champion Hill.
I'll have to pull Russell's service record and see what I can find on