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Civil War Spymasters

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  • Tony Gunter
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2007
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      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
      retreat.

      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
      McPherson.

      Interestingly enough, Russell's unit, the 22nd Mississippi Infantry:

      1) was Loring's lead unit on Pemberton's hare-brained march to
      Dillon's Plantation.

      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
      him.
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