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Mississippi Marine Brigade

Remember our Clark County patriots. Some lie in national cemeteries. Some sleep in hometown graves. Some never made it home. But all have something in common. They made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country, our freedom and our quality of life.


COMBS, William A      Private      Margaretta      123d IL Infantry Co. F, Sep 6, 1862      Trans. to Miss. Marine Brigade, Jan 1, 1863

CROUCH, Sylvester      Private      Martinsville      123d IL Infantry, Co. G. Sep 6, 1862   Tr. to Miss. Marine Brigade, Jun 14, 1863.

DOTSON, William H      Private      Casey            123d IL Infantry, Co. G Sep 6, 1862      Tr. to Miss. Marine Brigade, Jan 1, 1863. 

The unit was organized in early 1863 and consisted of about 350 officers and men, including boat crews which used nine small light-armored boats fitted as rams. The brigade reached the fleet above Vicksburg on 29 May 1863. On 14 June 1863, the unit joined Brig. Gen. Joseph Mower's expedition to Richmond, LA and skirmished with the Confederates, losing 3 wounded. On 20 June 1863, Admiral David Dixon Porter reported that two 10-pdr. Parrott rifles placed by the brigade on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River had much annoyed the Confederates for two or three days. Gen'l Ellett ordered work begun on a casemate fort on the point opposite the city of Vicksburg, MS on 19 June 1863. The fortification was completed in four days being covered with a thickness of railroad iron. A 20-pdr. Parrott gun was emplaced within and opened fire on the city the morning of 23 June 1863. The Confederates responded firing 17 rounds from 5 different guns. The fort was further strengthened by adding another thickness of railroad iron. Fire from the Parrott gun in the fort was maintained until the end of the siege with a total of 98 rounds being expended. Considerable damage to the Confederates was accomplished especially by stopping work at the foundry and machine shop. The fort was repeatedly struck but without material damage and without loss of life. The fort was erected and the gun put into position under the direction of Lt. Col. George E. Currie. The gun was commanded and sighted by Capt. Thomas C. Groshon in person. The brigade also placed a brass Dahlgren in a casemate near the 20-pdr. Parrott. On 25 - 30 June 1863, a detachment of the brigade on the steamer John Rains, formed a part of an expedition to Greenville, MS under the command of Lt. Col. Samuel J. Nasmith of the 25th Wisconsin Infantry. At Goodrich's Landing on 30 June 1863 the brigade lost 1 officer (Capt. Wright) KIA .

A ruling of the Judge-Advocate General, dated 11 Jun 1863, seems to make the brigade a "special contingent of the Army and not the Navy," but as late as 23 July 1863, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wrote: "They (the officers and men of the Marine Brigade) are not subject to my orders." By order of the Secretary of War the army assumed full jurisdiction over the brigade in October of 1863. [Refer to page 664, Volume 6 of the WPA Monumentation Books.]

MISSISSIPPI MARINE BRIGADE (M.M.B.) or the 1st M.M.B. as it was later named was a UNIT RAISED DIRECTLY BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, and thus, falls into a small category known as "US VOLUNTEERS" and so is not a state volunteer regiment. The names of those who served in the MMB will not be on any state list. Almost certainly requires searching the National Archives personally to locate a soldier, or hiring a knowledgeable researcher to do so. The staff there may not respond positively if extra steps are involved in the search. If soldier or dependents received a Federal Pension, the name will appear on the nationwide Union pension index. This microfilm index arranges in alphabetical order the index cards for every soldier with a federal pension file from the Civil War to World War I.


The US Navy wasn't the only part of our nation's military with ships during the Civil War. The Army had ships too, mostly transport vessels rented or purchased from commercial shippers to move troops and supplies along navigable rivers. They were vital in an era before the invention of aircraft and trucks, and before our rail system had advanced beyond its infancy.

However, the Army also had WARSHIPS. It operated river patrol gunboats and also a strange variety of ship known as a "ram". This vessel came in a couple designs. The first being a genuine military design on the order of a heavy ironclad, while the other was a conversion of a wooden commerical steamboat into an offensive military weapon.

What these two types had in common was a large, heavily reinforced bow with which they rammed enemy ships. The traditional military-style ram was equipped with armor and carried artillery, and was the far superior ship overall. But the often unarmed wooded steamboats had greater maneuverability and could go much faster. And when a ram crashed into the unprotected side of a wooden vessel belonging to the enemy, particularly if the ram was traveling at the higher speeds attained by steamboats, the enemy ship was likely to sink. These rams didn't need artillery; they simply battered a hole into the side of an enemy ship, then pulled away and let the water rush in.

In time the army recognized that these converted steamboats had another advantage over the military style rams. Because they were large and had been designed to carry cargo in peacetime, they were also capable of carrying troops and horses during the war, which meant they could be used for amphibious assaults. The idea was to pack these rams with soldiers and horses and send them out to patrol a river, especially the Mississippi River. From their roaming patrol stations, they could quickly deploy to hotspots along the river from which rebel cavalry and partisans were attacking Union vessels with artillery and small arms fire.

Upon arriving near the hotspot, the ram would offload their soldiers onto the riverbank, from which point they would advance in hopes of battle. Sometimes they got it, although usually the rebels took flight before significant fighting occurred. Thus, typical fighting for a ram's soldiers consisted mostly of short skirmishes, both on land and from their ships.

The ships themselves were operated by sailors, with the soldiers serving in a capacity similar to that served by US Marines aboard Navy vessels. The steamboat rams, however, did not go to sea as Navy vessels often did. Rather, they operated only on rivers. In fact, they were limited almost entirely to the Mississippi River and it's tributaries.

The Mississippi River rams and other transport vessels were originally organized into a squadron called the "ELLET RAM FLEET", named after Charles Ellet, who proposed the unit and was it's first commander. The men that volunteered to serve aboard these vessels and the ships they served on, were known as the MISSISSIPPI MARINE BRIGADE, or the M.M.B.. The men were U.S. VOLUNTEERS as opposed to the far more numerous "State Volunteers" or the "Regular US Army", the permanent, standing peacetime army of the United States.

Conditions on the ships were not always good. Being situated on a river, there was an abundance of flies and mosquitos during warm weather. Further, the ships were powered by steam which meant that the ship's boilers were always fired up..a fact that undoubtedly made the hot summer days and evening aboard these vessels even hotter.

Among the major complaints of the men of MMB was the quality of their drinking water. Being river-borne soldiers, their drinking water was usually taken from sources along the riverbank, contributing to discomfort and chronic symptoms.

There were many administrative problems, and there were political problems, as well. Further, the concept of the amphibious operation had never been fully developed to its potential, so in August 1864, the War Department terminated the command.

A decision was made to relieve or discharge the officers, scatter the vessels among various ports, and remove the M.M.B. troops from the ships turning them into a standard, fighting regiment based in Vicksburg. This is the point where the
"1st" was added to their unit name.

The soldiers were accustomed to water patrol and resented their change in status. Some men refused to fight or even work, and legal questions were raised as to the army's proper authority to change the conditions of service for which the men were recruited. In the end, the War Department decided it was easiest just to discharge the whole bunch. Consequently, in December 1864 the 1st M.M.B. began to disband, with the last group of soldiers receiving their discharges in January 1865.

Unfortunately, for family members seeking information on an ancestor who may have served in the MMB, that regiment was notoriously lacking when it came to record keeping. Often soldiers were unable to get a pension because their records were non-existent in the files of the War Department in Washington, D.C.

Likewise, Archives at the state level, do not include a list of the men from that state who served during the War in the MMB, since it was a Federal unit, not a State unit.

Organized at Jefferson Barracks, MO, January and February, 1863, for duty in Western Waters. Attached to District of Northeast Louisiana, Dept. of the Tenessee, October, 1863, to April, 1864. District of Vicksburg, Miss., to August, 1864.

SERVICE.--Action at Little Rock Landing April 26, 1863. Beaver Dam Lake, near Austin, May 24 and 28. Expedition from Young's Point, La., to Richmond, La., June 14-16. Richmond June 15. Grand Luxe, Ark., June 16. Expedition from Snyder's Bluff to Greenville June 29-30. Bayou Tensas June 30. Expedition from Goodrich Landing to Griffin's Landing, Cat Fish Point, Miss., October 24-November 10. Operations about Natchez December 1-10. Rodney December 17, Fayette December 22. Rodney December 24, Port Gibson December 26. Grand Gulf January 16-18, 1864. Expedition to Grand Gulf February 15-March 6. Lima Landing, Ark., February 22. Red River Campaign March 10-May 22. Fort DeRussy March 14. Worthington's and Sunnyside Landings, Fish Bayou, June 5, Old River Lake or Lake Chicot June 6. Indian Bayou June 8. Coleman's Plantation, Port Gibson, July 4. Port Gibson July 7. Consolidated with 1st Infantry, Missisippi Marine Brigade, August, 1864.

Battalion lost during service 2 Officers and 15 Enisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 38 Enlisted men by disease. Total 56.

History of the
1st Infantry, Missisippi Marine Brigade (after the consolidation)

Duty in District of Vicksburg until February, 1865. Mustered out February 1, 1865.
Battalion lost during service 11 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 161 Enlisted men by disease. Total 173.

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