John H. Graham journals  1861-1864 (bulk 1861-1862)
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Graham, John H., b. 1840

Rank : Sgt., Lieut. (1862 April 29)

Regiment : C.S.A. 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment (University Greys). Co. A (1861-1865)
C.S.A. 28th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 April 26-1862 November 10

John H. Graham was born in Mississippi on March 1st, 1840 to a slave-owning planter family near Enterprise, Clarke Co., Miss. He entered the University of Mississippi in the Fall of 1859, and by his own account appears to have been a fine student. Motivated by a true desire to gain an education and to live a moral life, Graham became inflamed with the patriotic fervor accompanying the secession of his native state from the U.S. in January, 1861. Though still thinking of himself as a boy, he banded together with several classmates to form a militia company, the University Grays, which drilled regularly throughout the secession crisis. "Though men find graves soon enough," he wrote, "we are preparing to help them find them quicker, so take care, ye Yankees, you will be the first, we will assist" (1861 February 27). Envisioning himself as a free boy preparing to fight for liberty and to avenge the wronged rights of the South, Graham appears to have been avid for the fight and to have been typical of his college class.

The University during the secession crisis seems to have been unusually unruly, the students barely able to concentrate on their studies, and classes seem to have perpetually likely to cancellation. Graham reported one student shot by another over a woman (1861 February 22, 25); a large student fight; and an even larger, carefully orchestrated riot intended to exact revenge on a suspicious character found guilty of taking pictures for African-Americans on a Sunday (1861 April 10-13). Following one shooting incident, the University president requested that students hand over their weapons, and as Graham reported it "The boys rolled up by dozens some repeaters some revolvers some seven shooters some two or three of each some with deringers, dirks and everything you could think in that line; and in all there was enough to constitute a right respectable Arsenal" (1861 March 12). As the situation grew increasingly tense, the students' passions grew, inflamed by patriotic speeches such as that given by Howell Cobb (1861 April 16) and by the incidents of the early war, particularly the nearby "siege" of Fort Pickens. "The University will show him [Lincoln] what free boys can do" (1861 March 25), he wrote. In late April, with his family feeling the financial strain of hard times, the war actively begun, Graham and the University Grays could no longer be restrained and left school to be mustered into the Confederate Service as Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry. He was promoted to Sergeant (by January 1862) and Lieutenant (April, 1862).

The 11th Mississippi was initially stationed in the defenses of Richmond, and became one of the first regiments from the state to enter combat. At the first Battle of Bull Run, the 11th (along with the 2nd Mississippi) earned the special notice of General Jackson, who remarked that they had stood "like a stone wall" in the face of the enemy, saving the day for the Confederacy. Wintering near Fredericksburg and Ashland, the regiment found itself surrounded by a friendly populace and comparatively calm circumstances, though conditions were occasionally difficult due to the mud and illness. Graham had leisure to read widely, and several times he was able to walk away from camp to nearby farmhouses where he was greeted warmly, fed, and entertained by the ladies of Virginia.

The Spring campaigns brought the regiment into fierce combat. On May 3rd, Graham, now a Lieutenant, and his company were ordered to Yorktown, but arrived just as the city was being evacuated and were thus forced back to Richmond. They played a "bitter part" in an "evil hour" at the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) on May 31st when ordered to charge a strongly fortified redoubt in the mud and waist-deep water. The regiment sustained 192 casualties before being ordered to withdraw from the field to save their men.

Shortly after Fair Oaks, the regiment was ordered to Lynchburg to regroup, but was quickly ordered back to the Peninsula for the Seven Days' Battles. They suffered heavily at both Mechanicsville and Gaines Mills, but had little time to recover before entering into a string of almost uninterrupted combat between the Battles of Malvern Hill, 2nd Bull Run, and Antietam. Antietam was particularly devastating. The regiment was in the thick of fighting at the Dunker Church, losing its Colonel, Lt. Colonel (wounded) and Major. Graham himself was wounded in the hand. He remained with the regiment into the fall, but resigned from the service in November, 1862. His resignation request cited dropsy and the need to attend to his plantation and 20 slaves which had been left with no overseer. By August, after he had brought in a crop of corn for the Confederacy, Graham appears to have reentered the service in Col. Starke's regiment (28th Mississippi Cavalry?). With that regiment, he served as a scout for General George Blake Cosby after the Vicksburg Campaign, and was still in western Mississippi in January, 1864.