Richard Wesley Cole was a seventh-generation American whose family got caught up in America’s Civil War. He enlisted as a foot soldier with the 3rd Mississippi State Infantry in October 1863 and, less than a year later, became a horseman with George’s Regiment, Mississippi Cavalry, which later became the 5th Mississippi Cavalry in General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry Department. Richard proudly rode with Forrest until Richard was killed on 12 April 1864, at the Battle of Fort Pillow in Lauderdale County, Tennessee.
Richard’s story is a history of his family, a partial history of the 5th Mississippi Cavalry, the 22nd Mississippi Infantry, and the 30th Mississippi Infantry, and is a history of the war itself seen through the eyes of Richard and his family.
When news reached Black Hawk, Mississippi, that Confederate troops in South Carolina had fired on Fort Sumter, the men and boys of the village were excited about the possibility of war with the North and bragged that if war came, it wouldn’t be long before the Yankees were defeated and sent scurrying back home. The men and boys misunderstood what war would be like, but Richard’s wife, Eliza, didn’t and her worst fears would be realized as the war decimated her family.
Eight days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, a volunteer state militia company was formed in Black Hawk. Richard’s oldest son, a son-in-law, and two future sons-in-law enlisted with the company. Richard’s second son ran away from home in February 1862 and joined the Confederate Army. Eight months later, Richard left home for the war.
Richard and his family lived through the most tumultuous period in our Nation’s history. They experienced firsthand the hardships and horrors of a nation at war with itself and it affected them for the rest of their lives.