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Friday, January 6, 2012

Meebo Musters Up The Military

Confederate artillery defending Charleston, 1863
Last week, I received a reference request from one of our Meebo patrons. (You remember Meebo, right? We're mlcreference if you need to ask a question!) This particular patron wanted to know about:
  1. The difference between a regiment and a battalion
  2. Harper's Regiment, CSA in Mississippi
I found my first answer in Dictionary of Military Terms:
A battalion is a tactical unit of one branch of a ground army's combat arms, varying in size and composition but generally in the range of 500 to 1,000 troops and usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel. It normally consists of three to five of the basic combat units of its branch (company for infantry, battery for artillery, company or troop for armor). Three or four battalions are usually combined to form a regiment or a brigade (Dupuy et al. 30-31).
A regiment is a military unit, particularly of infantry, cavalry, or artillery, that can be either administrative or operational... Since the late 18th century a regiment, commanded by a colonel, has usually been an operational unit of two or more battalions, and has functioned most often as a component of a division. In the modern US Army, until the mid-1960s, infantry regiments consisted of three battalions, in strengths varying from about 1,500 to 3,000 troops." (Dupuy et al. 208).
Finding Harper's Regiment in Mississippi proved a much larger task. Here are a few potential candidates:
  • Harper's Battalion
    13th Mississippi Battalion Infantry
    Major N. B. Harper
    (Rowland 219)
  • Harper's Reserves
    36th Mississippi Infantry, Company C
    Lt. Col. S.G. Harper
    Formed from men of Newton, Lauderdale, and Smith Counties
    Mustered 20 February 1861
    (Rowland 319)
  • Harper's Battery
    Part of "Jefferson Flying Artillery"
    Captain William L. Harper
    Formed in Jefferson County May 6, 1861
    Mustered into state service at Fayette, MS April 1861
    (Rowland 479)
I relaize that not all of these are regiments, but I think it is important to keep yourself open to the idea that your source could be partially incorrect. Also, tt's possible that there are additional military units with a "Harper" moniker. A better idea of where your ancestor was located prior to and directly after the Civil War would help. Bible records, the Census (both Federal and State), and pension applications will provide you with more details. Please feel free to contact the Mississippi Library Commission Reference Department again if you have further questions!

Dupuy, Trevor N., et al. Dictionary of Military Terms. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 2003. Print.
Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1978. Print.

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