Thursday, December 26, 2013

Please, Not In My Back

Site of  Magnolia Church1

     In the spring of 1863 the Union army, under the command of Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, was moving across the Mississippi near Port Gibson.  Early on the morning of May 1st, as Company E of the 29th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment neared the Old Magnolia Church, James B. Ireland was seriously wounded.
   Years later as James was applying for a pension a surgeon wrote, 
" . . . [James] received a musket ball in his back on the right side below the ribs which lodged against the spine from which position it was extracted. A permanent lameness of the back is the result."2
   As a result of the wound, James Ireland spent some time in Mary Ann Hospital in Grand Gulf, Mississippi.3
    The nature and location of the wound makes one think about the circumstances of the battle. Was the wound a result of friendly fire?   Was he shot from the front as he twisted and turned around tress and rocks?   Did the Union troops pass by some Confederate soldiers who shot James from the back?   Was James' unit retreating at the time?   
     The Military History of Wisconsin (Quiner 1866) says "After changing direction to the left, in an open ravine, and before the left wing was yet upon the new direction, the regiment was assailed by a heavy fire from the enemy on the top of a ridge, across the ravine, and also from woods on the right. They were forced to halt in this position. The ground on the left did not permit the left wing to form in line to repel the attack. The right wing was faced by the rear and opened fire."5  This account of the battle sounds like many other battles where there is action from all directions. In this account, James B. Ireland is listed as one of the wounded. 
     James B. Ireland recovered from his wound received at Port Gibson and returned to his unit, only to be wounded a year later at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads.2

Daily Ohio Statesman4

1.  "Battle of Port Gibson - National Park Service." 2006. 17 Dec. 2013 <>

2.   Record for Rhoda  Ireland; Civil War Widow Pension Data File, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park,MD

3.   List of Wisconsin Soldiers at Mary AnnHospital, Weekly Wisconsin Patriot, Madison, Wisconsin, 27 June 1863

4.  Daily Ohio statesman. (Columbus, Ohio), 10 May 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

5.  E.B. Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, (Chicago, Illinois: Clarke & Co., 1866) (accessed December 26, 2013), chap. 37.

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