A Brief History of the 26th Miss
By Dunbar Roland *
The companies of this regiment were organized under the leadership of Arthur E. Reynolds, a lawyer of Jacinto, beginning in the summer of 1861, for three years or during the war. The claim is recorded in the regimental record, obtained by Col. Power in Virginia, that this was "the first regiment which left the State for the war." Reynolds was unanimously elected Colonel September 10, 1861, and served till the close of the war.
The regiment was in camp at Iuka until December 3, 1861, when it was ordered to Union City, Tenn., whence it moved December 28 to report to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston at Bowling Green, Ky. From Bowling Green they marched to Russellville February 6, and thence to Fort Donelson, where they arrived February 13, and were engaged in battle until the surrender February 16, when all became prisoners of war. The commissioned officers were confined at Camp Chase and Johnson's Island, Ohio, for six months and then exchanged at Vicksburg. The non-commissioned officers and privates were at Camp Morton, Indianapolis, and exchanged September 15, 1862, at Vicksburg. Many died during the imprisonment.
In the battle of Fort Donelson, February 15, the regiment was brigaded with the Twenty-sixth Tennessee and Twentieth Mississippi, under Colonel Baldwyn, who gave honorable mention to Lieutenant-Colonel Boone and Major Parker. The aggregate of the regiment was 401. In the six hours' fight their casualties were 11 killed, 78 wounded. A large number of the men escaped the surrender and returned to Mississippi. After the exchange of the prisoners the regiment was reassembled at Jackson, and sent to Holly Springs after the defeat of Van Dorn at Corinth. The Twenty-sixth, under Major Parker, was part of the command of General Lloyd Tilghman which, after the retreat from the Tallahatchie River before the advance of Grant's army down the Mississippi Central Railroad, administered a severe check, at Coffeeville, December 5, 1862, to the pursuing cavalry brigades. Tilgham [sic] reported that the brunt of the battle was borne by the Ninth Arkansas, Eighth Kentucky, Twenty-third and Twenty-sixth Mississippi, adding, "I have seldom seen greater good judgment and impetuous gallantry shown by any officers and men." The casualties of the Twenty-sixth were 3 killed, 3 wounded, 1 missing.
The regiment was part of the garrison of Fort Pemberton on the Yazoo River, but soon rejoined the brigade at Jackson, and thence accompanied it to the Big Black bridge. May 1 the Twenty-sixth and Fifteenth Regiments were sent under the command of Colonel Reynolds, to reinforce General Bowen's command at Grand Gulf, toward which point Grant was seen to be moving on the Louisiana shore. After a forced march of two nights and a day, without rest, they reached Bayou Pierre to find Grant's advance landed and about to cross that stream. This advance they checked long enough for Bowen to make his escape from a dangerous position. Thence the regiments rejoined the army of General Pemberton, with Tilghman's brigade held a position on the right of the army in the battle of Baker's Creek (Champion's Hill), May 16, 1863 (the Twenty-sixth had 2 killed, 5 wounded, 10 missing in this battle), and were cut off and compelled to march to Jackson and join the forces under Gen. J. E. Johnston. They took part in the defense of Jackson July 9-16, 1863. In August Colonel Reynolds was made chief of the conscript bureau in Mississippi, and the regiment was engaged in this duty until called together again at Meridian on the occasion of Sherman's campaign against that city in February, 1864. They fell back with the Confederate troops to Demopolis, Alabama, where Colonel Reynolds received orders late in March, 1864, to report to Gen. J. R. Davis in Virginia. He and his regiment joined Davis' Mississippi brigade of the army of Northern Virginia, at Orange Courthouse, April 12th, and on May 4 broke camp to march into the battle of the Wilderness. May 5-6 they were one of Stone's four Mississippi regiments that finally stood almost alone in the face of the Federal army until Longstreet came on the field. Their later battles were Tully's Mill, May 10; Spottsylvania Courthouse, May 12; Hanover Junction, May 23; Cold Harbor, June 2-3; Gaines' Mill, May 5; Weldon Railroad, August 18-19; Fort McRae, October 1; Hatcher's Run, October 27; besides many skirmishes and fighting in the entrenched lines. The casualties May 5-25 were 20 killed, 46 wounded, 3 missing; in the battle of August 18-19, killed, 7; wounded, 38; among the wounded being Colonel Reynolds and Adjutant Conner; at Jones' Farm, October 2-3, 2 killed, 12 wounded, 5 missing.
Roll of honor--Bethesda Church--Corporal A. J. Garrett and Private W. A. Stephens. Weldon Railroad--E. Cothran, W. H. Ross, Peter Harden, A. R. Waite, J. G. Ruthven, G. P. Willis, S. M. Whitaker, David Matthews, G. M. Rowan, Joab Hale (killed).
The brigade was in battle March 25, 1865, on the Petersburg line and on April 2, when the line was broken, the record of these gallant regiments closed. Very few of these gallant men were able to follow Lee to Appomattox.
* Source: Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi 1803-1898 The Reprint Company, Publishers: Spartanburg, SC 1988