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James Gunn Jeffress is believed to have been born in 1822 in Lunenburg County, Virginia; the son of Thomas Jeffress, Sr. and Mary Jane Gunn. They had three children, Richard, Thomas, Jr. and James. In 1842 James Jeffress married Jane M. Crymes in Lunenburg County, Virginia and the 1860 Mississippi census reveals that by 1860 Jeffress was living in De Soto County Mississippi. According to military records, Jeffress enlisted as a private in the 2nd Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, Company D, which was also known as the 4th Calvary Regiment. He is also listed as having served as the Assistant Commissary Officer of Field and Staff of that same regiment. Records for May and June 1862 reveal Jeffress was present for duty during that period and that on June 30, 1862 was promoted to the Regimental Commissary of the 4th Mississippi Cavalry. The next known record of him shows up on September 9, 1863, in a letter from the Office of Chief Commissary of Supply at Meridian, Mississippi; as Captain Jeffress, and having apparently been promoted again.   Confederate Service Records lists Jeffress as  J. G., Mississippi, 2nd Cavalry Company “D” Assistant Commissary Supply. Unfortunately, he was erroneously listed as a Private. 

The Fourth Mississippi Cavalry was organized in late 1862 by the consolidation of two previously formed Mississippi Cavalry Battalions; Hughes' Mississippi Cavalry Battalion and Stockdale's Mississippi Cavalry Battalion. Both of those units reappeared individually later in the War, but in both cases they were second organizations formed by the same commanding officers and given their previous designations. As with many other Civil War units, the Fourth Mississippi Cavalry was often known, and written about, using a variety of name designations, derived from the names of their respective commanding officers; often causing confusion as some officers led more than one unit at different times.

The 4th Mississippi Cavalry was also known as the 2nd Battalion Mississippi Cavalry, Pope Walker’s Battalion, the Mississippi Cavalry, Charles Baskerville’s Mississippi Cavalry, Thomas R. Stockdale's Cavalry , C. C. Wilbourn's Cavalry , Cornelius McLaurin's Cavalry, James M. Norman's Cavalry , James Gordon's Cavalry , J. L. Harris' Cavalry (James Lyons Burks Harris), James Ruffin's Cavalry, J. F. White's Cavalry, R. C. Love's Cavalry, Charles Hoover's Cavalry, H. L. P. McGee's Cavalry & as the Alabama and Mississippi Battalion Confederate Cavalry; which eventually became part of the 8th Confederate Cavalry.

The Fourth Mississippi Cavalry spent its entire enlistment period in the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana and as a result it was subsequently renamed, the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.

The Fourth Cavalry Regiment with Maj. Thomas R. Stockdale commanding was listed in Wirt Adams' Brigade under Maj.-Gen. S. D. Lee. Stockdale's Battalion was with the brigade in a stand made against McPherson's column of Sherman's army near Champion's hill on February 4, 1864; when Sherman was on the march to Meridian, MIssissippi. When Adams was compelled to fall back toward Baker's Creek, Stockdale made a charge on the Federal flanking column. Adams wrote, regarding Wood’s Regiment and Stockdale’s Battalion that; "nothing could surpass the unflinching steadiness and courage of these commands".

The relentless fight on the morning of February 5th at Baker's Creek bridge was made by Griffith's Arkansas Regiment, “Stockdale's Battalion” and King's Battery, who engaged the whole Federal line. Maj.-Gen. S. D. Lee, who was with the brigade, stated "offering the most determined resistance and maintaining their position until the last moment, Colonel Griffith and Major Stockdale, as usual, distinguishing themselves by their gallant and fearless bearing…,the enemy poured a severe volley into Major Stockdale's Battalion, acting as rear guard." Adams wrote, "Major Stockdale, Captain Muldrow and Captain Yerger were the most conspicuous and gallant participants…” By order of General Forrest on March 3rd, the Brigade was broken up and the Fourth was assigned to Gen. Starke's Brigade. That brigade reached Selma, Alabama during a battle on April 2, 1865, but was unable to take part, and retreated to Livingston, Alabama.

The Fourth Mississippi Cavalry ended its career officially attached to Forrest's Cavalry Corps. It is assumed the regiment remained in Mississippi watching for Federal raids into that state when Forrest's command moved into Alabama against Wilson's Alabama raiders. The regiment was included among the Confederate troops of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana that surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama on May 4, 1865. Records indicate that the regiment's members were paroled at Columbus, Mississippi in mid-May, 1865.

In June of 1863 Captain Jeffress sent a dispatch letter to General Cooper, Adjutant General of the Confederate States of America, from Canton, Mississippi, handing in his resignation from Confederate service; which was promptly refused. In his dispatch Jeffress stated;

“I respectfully tender my unconditional resignation as Commissary of the 4th Regt. Miss. Cavalry for the following reasons: Having not long since lost my wife which leaves my three small children without anyone to provide for them and more recently the enemy having destroyed all the provisions I had for the support of my family and my business which requires my immediate and prompt attention being in every respect torn to pieces. For the above reasons I would respectively ask that my resignation be received. I have in my home twelve hundred dollars belonging to the Government which I will turn over to the proper officer. Otherwise I am not indebted to the Confederate States and have not been absent at any time without leave.”

Very Respectfully,

Your Obt. Svt.

L.G. Jeffress

Capt. & A.C.S. 4th Regt. Miss. CAv.

Captain Jeffress was eventually granted his discharge and he left the military to work for the New York Life Insurance Company. As an employee he was transferred to and arrived in Sydney, Australia aboard the San Francisco mail steamer “City of Sydney”; as a representative of the firm on August 23, 1883. He was at that time about sixty-two years of age and his past experiences was a major factor in the company sending him to Australia. Upon arriving in Sydney with General Josiah Howell, also a New York Life official, Jeffress established an office and a local board of directors in Sydney; since it was the major city of New South Wales. The “Argus” news publication reported that Jeffress and Howell were preparing deeds for the purchase of land in the area and for the erection of palatial offices; determined to take Sydney and New South Wales by storm and then move on into Victoria. Likewise, the “Australasian Insurance and Banking Record” stated that the arrival of Colonel Jeffress and General Howell had begun what they described as the “long-threatened invasion of our continent by the life companies of America”.

James Gunn Jeffress died tragically, supposedly in an accident, when he fell to his death from the cliffs at Coogee, New South Wales on September 22, 1884; almost one year after his arrival to Australia. At the time of his death Jeffress was married and living with his family and son at Darlinghurst, Sydney and had been described by associates, and his son Ernest Gun Jeffress, as having been depressed over being superseded as manager of the Insurance Company by General Howell. He had left his home for a walk, saying he would be back for lunch and was last seen at 1 O’clock in the afternoon sitting on a bench in the Coogee reserve, facing the ocean. Death had resulted from a fractured skull and the City Coroner at a formal inquest declared he died of an accidental fall.

James Gunn Jeffress was buried in Waverley Cemetery near Coogee in the Church of England Section 2, grave number 1004. He was survived by his wife and children of a previous marriage before arriving in Australia. His son Ernest who had only been visiting his father, from the U.S, when the accident occurred, returned home seventy-three days later on December 4, 1884; aboard the ship “William T. Campbell”.

 

Adjutant General Office, Mississippi, correspondence,

“Australasian Insurance and Banking Record”, 1968

Dick Dobbins, Civil War Data Systems

"Fourth Mississippi Cavalry", author unknown,

The Harold B.Simpson Confederate Research Center, Hillsboro, Texas

“Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789-1903”, Gov. Pub.

James W. Thompson, Lunenburg County, Virginia

“Letts’s Australasian Diary and Almanac for 1885”

"Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898", Dunbar Rowland, 1988

New South Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Records

“Official Army Register”, 1842 – 1976, Gov Pub

“Sydney Morning Herald”, newspaper, September 23, 1884

“Southern Historical Press”, reprint. Easley, South Carolina. 1989

"Source Records From Pike County, Mississippi 1798-1910"; Luke Ward Conerly, 1909.

“The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records

 of the Union and Confederate Armies”, Gov. Pub.

 

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