Archive for April, 2011

The Companies of Bridge’s Sharpshooter Battalion and Henry

Henry W. Bridges was a Ranger in 1855 at 19. He followed his captain into Mexico on a punishment mission and  ran into an ambush.  A few Rangers were killed and wounded and 63 of the Mexicans.  Look for “Callahan’s Expedition” if you are interested. In 1861 Henry had a Company and was ordered with other Ranger Companies into the frontier to seize Union Forts. His were in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). No problems with the forts, the Union had abandoned all of them. All over the United States. They conceded the forts in southern States. All but one at Charleston Harbor. That too is history.

Around the end of August 1861, Texas ran out of money, and called home the Ranger Companies. In Dallas a regiment was forming. Many of these Rangers went there. Companies I and K joined almost intact from their Ranger duty.  The only thing they needed was clothes. Theirs were gone from the duty in the I.T., but their towns Athens and McKinney gave them gray uniforms. Thus, Companies I and K of the 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment were born.

Bridge’s Company  I, went through the rigors of training and living together as a large body. They fought Indians in the I.T. and then at Elkhorn Tavern (Pea Ridge) and at the first Corinth, MS and the dreaded enemy, disease. Many a soldier died from smallpox, mumps, measles, typhoid fever, malaria and pneumonia, and one they knew little about, infection.  In May 1862 the Company was designated a Sharpshooter Company of the 6th Cavalry.  Soon they were joined by two other companies, Company H, 9th Texas Cavalry Regiment and Company B, 27th Texas Cavalry Regiment. There was probably a company from the 3rd Texas Cavalry, but it has not been identified. Casualties from the 3rd at Corinth II are small, making it likely that the 3rd may have supplied only a few men,

Bridges trained his new Battalion and was promoted to Major. Additional men came from other units to fill out his companies. They were assigned to Colonel Phifer’s Infantry Brigade. Next Bridges battalion was attached to Ras Stirman’s Battalion of Arkansas Sharpshooters, to form a regiment. Both Stirman and Bridges were promoted on 1 August 1862. The unit was designated the 1st Arkansas Sharpshooter Regiment, All in grey, said Colonel Stirman to his sister.  Lieutenant Colonel Henry W. Bridges was the Deputy Commander.

The units first battle was at Corinth, Mississippi on the 3rd and 4th of October 1862. They were probably used as skirmishers on the 3rd and suffered a lot of casualties. On the 4th they were used as straight Infantry, but were way down in strength.  They were on the far left of Phiffer’s Brigade and only had one battery to their front. This they quickly took down and with other brigade troops troops they went to the center of the Town. Colonel Stirman planted his flag in front of the Tishomingo Hotel. With him was Major White of the 6th Texas and Colonel Moore of the 3rd Arkansas. They were low on ammunition and troops but they had driven Rosecran’s Headquarters from its position. Now the Union 17th Iowa arrived and DuBois launched his attack. Doom for the Southern cause. Next a Union battery opened up, almost stopping the Union attack and almost killing DuBois. It did cause confusion in the Southern attack and the fire from the 17th was causing havoc. Next a regrouping, a new attack up the hill. Heavy artillery from DuBois caused the South to retreat. Stirman and White took one more look grabbed the flag and vaulted down the he battle was lost.

Where was Henry Bridges. He was severely wounded  on October 3 and was in the Hospital at Quitman, Mississippi. Had he been there it would possibly have helped. Stirman’s Regiment was caught in the initial fire at Hatchie Bridge the next day, but managed to retreat across the bridge and set up covering fire. Only the 6th and a small part of the 27th made it back with a few soldiers of Moore’s brigade.  The rest were killed, wounded or captured. The rest, led by Col Sul Ross of the 6th,  the acting Commander of Phifer’s Brigade set up a blocking action and stopped the Union in its tracks. History seems to give this win to the Union and the blocking action to Phifer, who was not there. Thus General Van Dorn was able to get his army out of the trap and escaped to fight another day.

Stirman’s Regiment was broken up. Bridges did not return to duty until 25 December and was then placed on leave. Only Company B of the 27th stayed with Stirman. They were an Arkansas Company who had been attached to Whitfield’s battalion after the Battle at Elkhorn Tavern. They did good work during the siege of Vicksburg. The remaining Texas companies returned to their regiments. They still fought together as part of the Texas Cavalry Brigade for the remainder of the war.

Henry W. Bridges returned to duty some time in March and seems to have worked for General S. D. Lee, until his death, leading a detachment of two companies against a Union Cavalry Regiment. He routed the Union forces but was severely wounded again. He was taken a few miles to the Attorney General Wharton’s Mississippi Plantation. He lived for nine days. Dying about 13 February 1864. He is buried in the Wharton plot in the Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi.

Bridges lies with heroes but is not recognized. We are planning a plaque and Ranger Cross if allowed some time this summer.  A wonderful lady named Sue Moore has dug up a lot of this data and I have tried to help, putting it into military context. She is the best researcher I have ever met. She also has good contacts at Jackson, and we may need those. I look forward to meeting her.

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