Friday, December 28, 2012

150-years-ago -- BATTLE OF CHICKASAW BAYOU, Mississippii

Brig. Gen. Stephen Dill Lee
(Library of Congress)
Report of Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, C. S. Army, Commanding Provisional Division, of operations December 25, 1862—January 2, 1863.
Headquarters Lee's brigade, Vicksburg, Miss., January, 1863.
Major — I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the troops under my command during the recent conflict with the enemy, resulting in his abandoning his attack upon the city of Vicksburg.
                The enemy's transports commenced making their appearance near the mouth of the Yazoo on Christmas day, when, in compliance with orders from Major-General [M.L.] Smith, I took charge in person of the defense of the swamp from the city to Snyder's mills. Between that point and the city runs the Swamp road at the foot of the bluffs,--the average distance of the road from the Yazoo being about two and a half miles. The country between the road and the Yazoo is heavy bottom — and intersected by sloughs and bayous — containing the plantations of Captain W. H. Johnson, Mrs. Lake and Colonel Blake; the first two being below Chickasaw, which bayou separated Mrs. Lake's plantation from Colonel Blake’s. The bayou runs back from the Yazoo and makes the half way point between the city and Snyder's mills. A lake and swamp run almost parallel to the road from near the city to Snyder's mills, and at an average distance from it of about one-third of a mile, giving but five points through which the enemy could reach the River road from the Yazoo, except by throwing a pontoon bridge across the lake. These points, commencing next to the city, are--first, at the race course, two miles from the city, by a road leading to Johnson's; next, at the Indian mound, four miles from the city, where the lake is dry for two hundred yards; next, at the Chickasaw bayou on Mrs. Lake's plantation (a good road running along the bayou from the Yazoo); next, at Colonel Blake's house, running back from the Yazoo almost to the road, one mile beyond Chickasaw bayou; and at Snyder's mills, thirteen miles from the city, where we have extensive fortifications. Commencing about two miles short of Snyder's mills is an impenetrable swamp. The abatis of fallen timber at the race course was an almost impassable barrier to the enemy. My arrangements were as follows: One regiment, (the First Louisiana, Col. S.R. Harrison), and two guns at the mound; four regiments and a battery at Chickasaw bayou, and a regiment between the mound and the bayou. Rifle pits were hurriedly thrown up at the mound and at the bayou, and timber felled across the lake for an abatis. The enemy's gunboats had possession of the Yazoo for about a week before the arrival of the transports on Christmas day.
On the 26th they landed in force at Johnson's, and at a point two miles above (one mile below Chickasaw bayou), driving in our pickets. Colonel [W.T.] Withers, with the Seventeenth Louisiana, two companies of the Forty-sixth Mississippi and a section of Wofford's battery, was directed to hold them in check near Mrs. Lake's plantation. This he did in good style, driving them from the open field into the woods.
Early on the morning of the 27th, the enemy appeared in force and attacked Colonel Withers with violence. The Colonel retired for a short distance up the bayou to a piece of woods and held his ground against a largely superior force. The enemy also appeared in force in the woods in front of the Indian mound, driving in our skirmishers across the lake. They also appeared on Blake's levee; at the same time attacking our batteries at Snyder's mills. They evidently had excellent guides, attacking us at every point where it was possible to reach the road.
Pvt. Theogene Chaisson, Co. E, 26th Louisiana
Infantry (Copy print, M. Jones Collection)
On the morning of the 28th the enemy again attacked the woods held the previous day by Colonel Withers, but now by the Twenty-eighth [Twenty-ninth] Louisiana volunteers Col. Allen Thomas, being at least a brigade and a battery of six guns. Colonel Thomas held his ground against this greatly superior force from about daylight till 12 p.m., when he retired in good order. The enemy were highly elated by their success and followed rapidly, but a volley from the Twenty-sixth Louisiana, Col. [Winchester] Hall, near the edge of the lake and in temporary rifle pits, brought them to their usual prudence, and allowed the gallant Twenty-eighth to move in safety. Colonel Hall held his pits in his advanced position against a vastly superior force with great coolness and effect. The enemy also attacked Colonel Morrison at the mound in heavy force, and placed several batteries in position opposite to him, which kept up a continuous fire.
The enemy on the evening of the 26th had appeared in considerable force at the levee, and gave me much uneasiness. During the night of the 27th I increased my force at that point, and placed Colonel Withers, First battery, Mississippi artillery, in charge of its defense — he having at his disposal the Forty-sixth Mississippi regiment, Seventeenth Louisiana, and Bowman's battery. This arrangement was made none too soon. Early on the morning of the 28th the enemy appeared in force on the levee with artillery, but was handsomely held in check and driven back by Colonel Withers' command — the Forty-sixth Mississippi and two Napoleon guns under Lieutenant Johnson doing admirable service.
On the 28th the enemy, who had landed a small infantry force in front of Snyder's mills, disappeared from that point; only two gun-boats amusing themselves by firing at long range on our works. Their force in front of my position at Chickasaw bayou had greatly increased on the evening of the 28th, and it was evident that my position would be attacked next morning. During the night my command was reinforced by two regiments, and my line of battle fixed.
 Before daylight on the 29th Colonel Hall's regiment was withdrawn from its advanced pits and the dry crossing left open to the enemy, as it was desired he should attack my position in front.
Early on the morning of the 29th the enemy cautiously examined the advanced pits (vacated), not understanding, apparently, why they had been abandoned. He was exceedingly cautious. About 9 a. m. he attempted to throw a pontoon bridge over the lake to my left. This was soon thwarted by a few well directed shots from the section of Wofford's battery and a section of guns commanded by Lieutenant Tarleton, of Major Ward's artillery battalion. As soon as the attempt to pontoon the lake was discovered, my line of battle was pushed to the left by two regiments to throw them in front of the threatened point. The two regiments were the Forty-second Georgia and Twenty-eighth Louisiana. At the same time Colonel Layton's Fourth Mississippi was ordered to join me from Snyder's mills, as no enemy was at that point. About 10 A. M. a furious cannonade was opened on my position by the enemy — he at the same time arranging his infantry to storm my position. At 11 a. m. his artillery fire ceased, and his infantry, six thousand strong, moved gallantly up under our artillery fire (eight guns), crossing the dry lake at two points, one being in front of the vacated pits, and the other about two hundred yards of my lines. Here our fire was so terrible that they broke, but in a few moments they rallied again, sending a force to my left flank. This force was soon met by the Twenty-eighth Louisiana, Col.  Allen Thomas, and the Forty-second Georgia, Colonel [R.J.] Henderson (sent to the left) in the morning, and handsomely repulsed. Our fire was so severe that the enemy laid down to avoid it. Seeing their confusion the Twenty-sixth Louisiana and a part of the Seventeenth Louisiana were marched on the battle-field, and under their cover 21 commissioned officers and 311 non-commissioned officers and privates were taken prisoners, and four stands of colors and 500 stands of arms captured.
The enemy left in great confusion, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. About 80 of their wounded were treated in our hospital. Their dead on the field numbered 200. Many of their wounded were allowed to be carried off by their Infirmary corps immediately after the fight. In this day's fight their casualties could not have fallen short of 1,000. Immediately after the battle the fire of their sharpshooters was redoubled — they would not allow my command to care for their wounded.
The troops under my command behaved with great gallantry — officers and men. It will be impossible to notice the conduct of all deserving mention. Besides the regiments already mentioned for gallantry, I would mention the Third, Thirtieth and Eightieth Tennessee regiments, occupying the pits when the enemy made their most formidable attack. They displayed coolness and gallantry, and their fire was terrific.
No reports having been received from the colonels, no names can be given as deserving of especial notice, but every one did well. Col. [Edward] Higgins, commanding the important post at Snyder's mills, deserves great credit. He commanded only as an old soldier could. Though often threatened he was always cool and self possessed, and exhibited in his dispositions great judgment.
I would particularly mention Colonel Withers, who exhibited high soldierly qualities and great gallantry, first in holding the enemy in check after landing, and in repulsing him when my right flank was threatened; his dispositions were excellent.
Colonel Allen Thomas, Twenty-eighth Louisiana, exhibited great gallantry, and with his regiment did splendid service. Col. Hall, Twenty-sixth Louisiana, showed great coolness and gallantry. Col. Henderson, Forty-second Georgia; Cols. [C.J.]  Clack and [James J.] Turner, Third and Thirtieth Tennessee; Col. Rowan, Eightieth Tennessee; Colonel Easterling, Forty-sixth Mississippi, and Col. [Robert] Richardson, deserve favorable notice.
Of the artillery, I would particularly mention Maj. [B.R] Holmes.
Captain Wofford exhibited great gallantry and coolness, and to him is due more credit than to any one else for such defenses as were at Chickasaw Bayou, he having planned and executed most of them. Lieutenants Johnston, Duncan, Tarleton and Weems behaved well.
Of my personal staff, I am pained to announce the death of Capt. Paul Hamilton, assistant adjutant-general, who was killed on the 29th by the explosion of a caisson by a shell from the enemy, while executing an order. He was the most promising young officer it has been my fortune to meet. He was but twenty-one years of age, but had been in thirty battles. He was brave to a fault, always present in danger in the path of duty. His gallantry was only excelled by his modesty and strict performance of every trust confided to him.
Maj.  Donald C. Stith, Brigade Inspector, behaved with gallantry and coolness under fire, and did good service. Lieut.  Henry B. Lee, aide-de-camp, showed great bravery. He was wounded in the hand bearing an order. Maj. [W.O] Watts, Capt. W. H. Johnson and Lieut. [S.S] Champion, volunteer Aids-de-Camp, acted gallantly, and were of great service.
I would also mention Corporal Champion, of Captain Johnson's company, in charge of couriers, for his bravery. He carried several important orders under heavy fire.Dr.  Smith (a civilian seventy years of age) acted as Aid-de-Camp and did good service.
Inclosed is a list of casualties—Thirty-six killed, 78 wounded, 3 deserted. Total, 124.
            Major-General Maury arrived on the morning of the 30th and assumed command. The report of my future operations will be sent through him.
Please find enclosed reports of Colonels Withers, Higgins, Thomas and Morrison.
I am, Major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Stephen D. Lee, Major-General , C. S. Army, commanding on Yazoo.
Major J. G. Deveraux, Asst. Adjt.-Gen., Second Dist., Departments Miss. and E. La.
[Official Records: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Series 1, Volume 17 (Part 1) 680-684.]

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