The retreating Confederates were not hard to follow. Numerous accounts tell of the trail of bloody footprints left in the ice and slush of the roads south of Nashville that were put there by shoeless soldiers who marched along clad only in rags. After Nashville, there was not much left of the 33rd Mississippi Infantry. A count done on 21 December 1864 revealed 68 "effectives" out of a total of 84 men. It was a far different regiment from the almost one thousand men strong group who had assembled on the fields at Grenada back in 1862.
On 20 December the army had reached Columbia, Tennessee, and what was left of Featherston's Brigade was tasked with being the rear guard of the army and holding off the pursuit of Gen. Wilson's Yankee cavalry. Gen. Featherston's Brigade was temporarily consolidated with Gen. Quarles Brigade for this defense with Gen. Walthall in overall command of the infantry rear guard. Despite all the suffering and privation the men of the 33rd Mississippi had been through they still were brave soldiers and continued to fight on. The action of the rear guard was complimented by the Yankee commander, Gen. Thomas, when he wrote, "with the exception of the rear guard (Hood's) army had become a disheartened and disorganized rabble of half-armed and barefooted men. The rear guard was undaunted and firm, and did its work bravely to the last."
The rear guard tried to delay the Yankee cavalry with ambushes and delaying tactics. On Christmas Day at Anthony's Hill, Tennessee, the rear guard bloodied the Federals with a volley and then a charge while the rest of the army was crossing the Tennessee River at Florence, Alabama. Pvt. Van Kees said it was, "some little fiteing. On 26 December1864 there was another brief fight for the rear guard. The Federal horse soldiers came up on a group of Rebels who where out in the open. The Yankees charged and did capture some of the Southerners, but the main force of the Confederates were hidden in ambush and suddenly rose up, charged the Yankees, and captured several troopers and horses. What a humiliation that must have been for a few cavalrymen. At the height of their triumph over the Rebel army, to be captured and sent off to a prison camp to spend the last few months of the war must have been total ignominy.
The next day the 33rd Mississippi marched to the Tennessee River at Bainbridge, Alabama. On the 28th the regiment crossed the river and marched on for the next two days to Tuscumbia, Alabama. From there they followed the rail line to Iuka, Mississippi, and arrived on New Year s Eve. On New Year's Day, 1865 the regiment had a holiday and rested in camp. The next day the regiment was on the march again and went to Burnsville, Mississippi. From there they went to Tupelo, Mississippi, where they camped 3 miles west of town. On 13 Jan. 1865 the men moved the camp 3 to 4 miles south and camped near the railroad at Verona, Mississippi. It had been raining and sleeting almost constantly for several days. The remainder of January, 1865, was spent moving from Verona to Okolona to West Point, and then to Meridian. On 1 Feb. 1865 the regiment was ordered to take the cars to Mobile, Alabama. The few men remaining in Featherston's Brigade knew they were heading to the Carolinas and would be up against their old nemeses, Gen. William T. Sherman. For many Confederate soldiers it was just too much. Desertions became frequent and soldiers proclaimed their own decision about the fate of the Confederate States of America by removing themselves from the war and going home.
From Mobile the 33rd Mississippi ferried across Mobile Bay to the Tensas River and on up to the railroad at Tensas, Alabama. From there they took the cars through Pollard and Montgomery, Alabama, over to Columbus, Georgia and there on to Macon and Milledgeville, Georgia, where they got off and marched to Augusta, Georgia. They arrived on 11 February 1865. Within two days the men of Featherston's Brigade were ordered to march northward to Graniteville, South Carolina. They were in poor condition for a march and the column stretched for miles over the bad country roads. On 21 February 1865 Loring's Division was ordered to move north of the Saluda River to near Newberry, South Carolina. The command situation in this Confederate Army of Tennessee was in disarray during all of this time. Gen. J. B. Hood had resigned and Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard had no central command authority and was not able to pull together the scattered Confederate forces which stretched from Texas to North Carolina and was unable to put together a coherent defense against Gen. Sherman.
On 23 February 1865 Gen. Joe Johnston was again appointed to head up the Army of Tennessee. Featherston's Brigade soldiered on, leaving Newberry, S.C., on the 23rd for a train ride to Pomoria, S.C.. From there they hiked to Unionville, S.C., and remained there until 3 March 1865. They then marched to Chester, S.C., reaching it on 5 March. At Chester they "took to the cars" northward to Charlotte, North Carolina, and on through Salisbury, Greensborough, Raleigh and Smithfield to reach Goldsboro. They arrived on 9 March 1865 and were marched to Kinston, North Carolina, that same day. These movements were in response to Gen. W. T. Sherman's march northward from Savanna, Georgia, into South Carolina, and his campaign to link up with other Federal forces. The problem for Gen. Johnston was that he did not know exactly where Gen. Sherman was heading. Gen. Sherman had divided his forces into two columns. This caused Gen. Johnston to keep his forces divided also. The 33rd Mississippi had withdrawn from Kinston on 10 March and transferred to Smithfield, North Carolina. On 18 March 1865 the regiment headed southeast to the town of Bentonville. They were heading into their last fight as an organized regiment.
On 19 March 1865 the pitifully small Army of Tennessee numbered about 4,000 men. They were deployed to the right of the Goldsboro Road and began to probe south through the woods. They then took a defensive position in the woods and awaited the Federals. The federal XIVth Corps moved to the attack and were repulsed by Stewart s men. They held their positions until mid-afternoon when the 33rd Mississippi and the remainder of the Army of Tennessee moved out to attack. One officer witnessed the charge and related, "It was a painful sight to see how close their battle flags were together, regiments being scarcely larger than companies and a division not much larger than a regiment should be."
Despite their small numbers the men of Featherston's Brigade who were there were the toughest of the tough. They slammed into Gen. Henry Slocum's XIVth Corps and pushed them back for over a mile. The Federals rallied in a pine thicket which was supported by trenches, a swamp, and the arriving XXth Corps. Here the two sides fought it out as isolated groups rather than organized regiments. The fighting continued into the night until the Confederates accepted the fact that the Yankees were not going to retreat any further. The Southerners then returned to their original positions. On the 20th, fresh Federal forces arrived at the battlefield. There were no new forces for the Confederacy. The two sides spent the day shooting at each other from behind trees. This continued on the 21st while the Confederate wounded were sent to the rear.
On the 22nd the Rebel army began its retreat. The Battle of Bentonville had cost it 2,600 men while the Federals lost 1,637. The Confederates retreated to Smithfield, North Carolina, and huddled around camp fires until 28 March 1865. Featherston's Brigade was then ordered to head for Charlotte, North Carolina, on that day. The brigade had reached Salisbury by 31 March 1865 and was ordered to stop there to defend the crossings of the Yadkin River. On 31 March 1865 an organizational chart of Johnston's army showed Featherston's Brigade as being commanded by Major Martin A. Oatis and the 33rd Mississippi as being commanded by Lt. George B. Lenoir. On 1 April 1865 Gen. Beauregard telegraphed to Gen. Johnston that he had ordered Featherston's troops to Greensborough to oppose a reported Federal cavalry force led by Gen. George Stoneman. The men of Featherston's Brigade spent the first week of April at Greensborough but there was little fighting. On the 8th Gen. Stewart received orders to consolidate the depleted regiments.
On 9 April 1865 the 33rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment officially ceased to exist. It was consolidated along with the 1st Mississippi Infantry Regiment, the 1st Mississippi Battalion, and the 22nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment into one regiment to be designated as the 22nd Mississippi Regiment. Maj. Martin A. Oatis was promoted to Colonel and was named as commander. It was a meaningless change. On that same day Gen. R. E. Lee had surrendered to Gen. U.S. Grant. Gen. Joe Johnston realized the futility of more resistance and entered into surrender negotiations with Gen. W. T. Sherman. The surrender was signed on 26 April 1865 near Hillsborough, North Carolina, and the remaining old 33rd Mississippi Confederates were paroled, their papers listing them as members of the 22nd Mississippi Infantry.
The few men remaining with the Army began to make their way back to Mississippi as best they could. Many more of the regiment who were absent at home wounded made their ways to nearby Federal posts and signed the oath of allegiance. Many men of the 33rd Mississippi would bear the physical scars of war for the rest of their lives. All would carry the mental scars of war. For they all had experienced the worst things that one man could inflict on another man.
"We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. In our youths, our hearts were touched with fire."