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of the

Steamship Hartford, 26 9-inch and i lo-inch guns.

Gunboat Kineo, i ii-inch and 4 32-pounders.

.Steamship Richmond, 23 g-inch guns.

fiunboat Gennessee, with battery of ii-inch and 9-inch guns, num-
ber not known.

Fortification and Siege of Port Hudson. 309

Gun-boat Monongahela, i 200-lb. rifled; i ii-inch, and several
9 inch guns.

Steamship Mississippi, 20 8-inch and i ir-inch pivot, with a 20-lb.
Parrott, and several 12 and 24-pounder howitzers in tops.

The Essex, ironclad, gunboat Sachem, and six mortar boats, each
carrying i 13-inch mortar, arranged around and across the point
below Troth's landing.

About 2 P. M. the line of mortar boats behind the point opened
fire, and continued to increase their range, until they threw their
shells inside the breastworks, and as far up as General Gregg's head-
quarters. They continued to shell until 6 o'clock P. M., when they

About II o'clock P. M. the mortar boats again opened a heavy
fire. Signals to notify us of the approach of the enemy were made
from Troth's landing and the opposite bank, and the men and offi-
cers went gallantly to their guns. About half-past 11 Lieutenant-
Colonel P. F. de Gournay, commanding left wing, opened upon the
advancing enemy. The six vessels first named, closing up in single
file, opened their heavy broadside fires as they approached our batte-
ries. The engagement now became general ; the enemy's guns num-
bered between ninety and one hundred, all of the largest calibre.
* * * * * Instructions given to light fires on the oppo-
site side of the river were not carried out. **=(=**

The fleet now closed up on the flag-ship and came within easy range
of our batteries, taking the channel close under the bank, our plung-
ing shot telling with deadly effect. *****

The flag-ship, with a gunboat on her port side, came so near to
our battery that a pistol shot would have taken effect on her deck at
this moment. Owing to the want of reliable friction tubes, we were
compelled to use the priming horn and port fires, which, at best, are
unreliable in a dark night from imperfect priming; besides, port fires
give evidence of our position to the enemy.

The Hartford and gunboat passed up under a heavy fire.

As soon as the RicJnnond turned our point, and had received
several shots, I perceived that she was crippled, and had commenced
drifting down the river. A most terrific fire was directed upon her
with telling effect. Another vessel was crippled in the same manner,
and, as she fell past our batteries, cried out not to fire, that they were
in a sinking condition, but did not acknowledge a surrender, and we
continued to fire.

The Mississippi, the last of the line, had her rudder shot away and

310 Southern Historical Society Papers.

became unmanageable and fell asiern, grounded on the opposite side;
and so deadly was the effect of our shot, she was deserted by her
crew (three hundred in number), who landed on the other side of the
river, forty-five of whom have since been taken prisoners. * *

We soon discovered flames issuing from the Mississippi that lighted
up the river, and, as she drifted down, her heated guns and shells
exploding caused a terrific noise.

About half-past four in the morning her magazine exploded, and
she sunk to the bottom (some miles below). A few minutes past two
(A. M.) the engagement ended. I cannot close this already long
report without expressing my high appreciation of the promptness,
coolness, and gallantry of Colonel J. G. W. Steedman and Lieutenant-
Colonel P. F. de Gournay, commanding the right and left wings of
the heavy artillery, and also to their officers and men.

I beg leave also to recommend to your favorable consideration
Captain James A. Fisher, First Tennessee battalion art'f.; Lieutenant-
Colonel E. S. M. Lebuton, volunteer aid, and Captain Ls. Girard, of
the Ordance Department, who acted aids and assistants to me during
the engagement. Their services were invaluable to me, and they con-
ducted themselves in a manner worthy of the cause for which they
fought. Mr. H. B. McGruder, of the Signal Corps, lit the only fire
on the opposite side, which he must have done under a heavy fire,
and for which he deserves your notice.

In concluding, General, I must congratulate you upon commanding
such gallant men as man your heavy batteries ; with them you will
never know defeat.

I am, General, respectfully,

Your most obedient servant,

[Signed] Marshall J. Smith,

Liejitenant- Colonel and Chief of Heavy Artillery.

The mortar fleet kept up a continuous rain of bomb-shells upon
our batteries, which, in the absorbing duties and interest of the fight
with the ships in front of us, were totally unheeded ; not one of them
entered a battery nor injured a man. We had one lieutenant slightly
wounded in the arm and a private wounded in the foot, botn of them
by pieces of exploding shells from the fleet. These were our entire
casualties. Not a gun was struck or injured in any way.

After this, General Banks returned to Baton Rouge and com-
menced his campaign against General Taylor.

Fortification and Siege of Port Hudson. 31 1

The necessity of obtaining a store of provisions now became more
apparent ; forage, particularly, becoming scarce. But little could be
had from the opposite side of the river on account of Banks's inva-
sion, and, to increase the difficulty m that quarter, some of General
Dudley's cavalry came up the Pointe Coupee shore and burned a
small steamboat we had on False river.


We were collecting a large lot of corn in Mississippi, but transpor-
tation was scarcely to be had, and when we were ready to commence
bringing it down the Grierson raid was announced, and orders were
sent to let it, the corn, remain where it was, lest it might be discov-
ered on its way and destroyed.

Nearly all the cavalry at Port Hudson was sent up through Wood-
ville to Liberty, with orders to attack wherever they could find the
enemy. Grierson made a movement toward Liberty, and our cav-
alry formed their line of battle and waited for his attack. This viola-
tion of General Gardner's orders enabled Grierson to get a long
start on a new track, heading for Greensburg, on the Baton Rouge
and Tangipahoa road. When it was learned at Port Hudson that
Grierson had escaped our cavalry, two regiments of infantry and a
section of artillery were dispatched to occupy the Tangipahoa and
Baton Rouge road and intercept him, should he try to get in that
way. At night they halted and bivouacked within eight miles of the
bridge they were ordered to seize and hold.

At Greensburg, Grierson's column was ambuscaded by a company
of Wingfield's cavalry, and he lost a lieutenant-colonel, major and
some others. News of this affair, and of the route they were taking,
reached General Gardner late in the evening, and he at once dis-
patched a courier to our infantry, with orders, in case they had
reached their destination that night, to proceed without loss of time.
This dispatch failed to reach its destination, and Grierson's whole
column crossed the bridge at daylight, within a few miles of our ap-
proaching infantry, and got safely into Baton Rouge.


Events now began to thicken in the department. The enemy,
having successfully passed a fleet by the Vicksburg batteries, were
enabled to cross over an army from the opposite bank and threaten
Vicksburg from the lower side, its most vulnerable part. General
Joseph E. Johnston had come to Jackson to look after affairs in our

ol2 Southern Historical bociety Papers.

quarter, and the order came to evacuate Port Hudson and send its
garrison to the assistance of Jackson and Vicksburg. Rust's and
Buford's brigades were sent off on the 4th of May, Gregg's followed
on the 5th, and Maxey's brigade took up its line of march on the
8th. Miles's Legion was the next to follow.

The only troops remaining were Beall's brigade and the heavy ar-
tillery. These movements were not made without information quickly
reaching the enemy, and, in the hope of capturing our rear-guard, or
at least of preventing the destruction of our works and heavy guns,
a rapid advance on the place was commenced. General Gardner had
not got beyond Clinton, Louisiana, when he learned tnat General
Augur had left Baton Rouge with his division to attack Port Hudson,
and that General Banks, instantly abandoning his Louisiana campaign,
was approaching the Mississippi river at Bayou Sara by forced
marches, dispatched to Colonel Miles to return at once with his Legion ;
and preparations were made to withstand a siege Some provisions
were obtained from the opposite side of the river, and, in presence of
the fleet above and below us, three hundred head of beef, four hun-
dred head of sheep, and four hundred bushels of corn crossed the
river to Port Hudson up to the night of the 21st May, when the place
was finally closed on all sides. The Eleventh Arkansas regiment,
Colonel J. L. Logan, were mounted to act as cavalry, and serve out-
side in harassing the rear of an investing force.


On the morning of the 8th May their mortar boats were brought
up to a position on the left bank, about four and a half miles below
the town of Port Hudson, and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon they
opened fire for the purpose of getting the range of the river batteries,
so as to bombard them durmg the night. These batteries were
eleven in all, numbered from right to left. The shells fell principally
around Batteiies 10 and 11, which were Lieutenant McDowell's bat-
tery of one 32-pounder and Lieutenant Kearney's Parrott gun. The
longest range mortars threw some shells up to Lieutenant Rodri-
guez's battery Cg) of one 8-inch howitzer, and a few fell as high up
as Captain Coffin's battery (8) of two rifled 24-pounders.

During the two hours' practice of the mortar boats no damage was
done to us.

At eleven o'clock that night the mortar fleet commenced the bom-
bardment, which it kept up until the i8th of June.

Fortification and Siege of Port Hudson. 313


On the 9th, Colonel de Gournay sent to Troth's landing one 24-
pounder, one 20-pounder Parrott, one 12 pounder and one 6-pounder
rifle pieces to fire on the gun-boats. Thirty rounds of ammunition
were allowed for the larger guns arid fifty for the smaller — Captain L.
J. Girard having command of one section. All but the two outer
mortar boats were concealed by a neck of woods, but the Essex was
lying close up, and the Richmond 2ind a gun-boat were at a short dis-
tance. At four o'clock in the morning, by the dim light of a half
moon, the fight commenced. At the end of two hours and a half we
had fired away all our ammunition, and ceased fire; the enemy fol-
lowed suit.

Our loss was one killed and no one wounded. None of our guns
were injured.

Our weight of metal was not heavy enough to attack such vessels
as the Richmond and Essex, and we could not get a position where
we could reach the mortar boats with any effect.

On the same night occurred the first loss of life from the bomb-
shells. A soldier, standing on the parapet of Battery No. 9, was
struck about the neck by a descending shell, carrying him head fore-
most through the wooden floor of the battery into the ground be-
neath, leaving only his feet sticking out. On the afternoon of the
17th of May, a bomb-shell entered near the crest of a parapet, at
the lower part of the fortification, burying itself in the ground under-
neath a spot where four men of Colonel de Gournay' s command
were sitting. The shell exploding, threw thein into the air, killing
three and wounding the fourth. Two other soldiers lost legs by being
struck with pieces of burstmg shells, and this is the entire chapter of
casualties caused by forty- three days' bombardment


On the 20th of May, the approach of General Augur's division was
announced by some slight brushes with our cavalry pickets, and the
same night General Banks commenced crossing the river with his
army at Bayou Sara. On the 21st Colonel Powers, with a body of
our cavalry, a few companies of infantry and Abbay's Mississippi
battery of light artillery, were skirmishing pretty heavily all the
morning near Plains's store with Augur's advance — General Dudley's
brigade. To relieve Colonel Powers' s cavalry, and enable them to

314 Southern Historical Society Papers.

get safely away and join Logan, General Gardner sent an order at
noon to Colonel W. R. Miles to take four hundred men with a light
battery and reconnoitre the enemy. The infantry marched out, sup-
ported by Boone's Louisiana battery. Colonel Miles threw out two
companies on the right, under Major James T. Coleman, and three
companies on the left, under Lieutenant-Colonel F. B. Brand. Major
Coleman, with his two companies, commanded respectively by Cap-
tains Dejean and J. B. Turner, made a considerable detour through
the wood, almost unobserved by the enemy.

There were two pieces of light artillery playing upon us from an
open field. Coming out from an apple orchard upon the flank of this
section. Major Coleman took the guns, although it was to be done
in the face of the whole Federal line, but was immediately driven
back by heavier forces, after suffering heavy loss.

For about an hour the fight raged with much spirit. Finding
that he was outflanked on both sides and likely to be surrounded.
Colonel Miles sent Lieutenant Harmanson with a section to outflank
the enemy's left. This order was so well obeyed as to break the
movement which was about to encircle our small force, and after hav-
ing picked up and sent from the field all of the wounded he had
ambulances for. Colonel Miles fell back in good order, meeting on
his return General Beall, who had gone out to his support in case he
should be hard pressed. Without further exchange of shots our
troops all retired within their intrenchments.

On that day Colonel Miles reported a loss of eighty-nine in killed,
wounded, and missing. Captain J. B. Turner and Lieutenant Craw-
ford, of St. Tammany, and Lieutenant J. B. Wilson, of New Orleans,
were killed. Lieutenant Pearson and four men of Abb ay's battery
were killed. The gallantry of Major Coleman received deserved
praise, as did also the skill and tried courage of Colonel Miles, and
the fight was looked upon with extreme satisfaction by all the troops
in garrison.


On the next day Colonel Wingfield's cavalry commenced skirmish-
ing with the advance of Banks's army, which had been rapidly
crossing the river, and were moving down upon us from Bayou Sara,
only thirteen miles distant. It had generally been supposed that no
attack in force would ever be attempted through the swamp above
Port Hudson, nor through the heavy timber back of the town,
through which ran Sandy Creek. Fortifications had not been erected

Fortijicdtion and Siege of Port Hudson. 315

there, nor were they considered necessary. But it having become
apparent that the enemy preferred to overcome the natural obstacles
of the woods rather than the artificial ones in the shape of fortifica-
tions, General Gardner had sent a good part of his forces to meet
him, giving the command, from the left of our breastworks to the
river above, to Colonel J. G. W. Steedman, of the First Alabama
regiment, an officer who proved himself fully equal to the responsi-
bility. The troops under his command were the Fifteenth Arkansas,
Colonel B. W. Johnson ; the Tenth Arkansas, Lieutenant-Colonel
Vaughn ; First Alabama, Lieutenant-Colonel M. B. Locke and Major
S. L. Knox; Eighteenth Arkansas, Lieutenant- Colonel J. C. Parish;
Thirty-ninth Mississippi, Colonel W. B. Shelby, and one company
of Wingfield's cavalry, dismounted, under command of Lieutenant
O. N. Daliet. The left wing had also Herrod's battery, and a section
apiece from Bradford's and the Watson battery.

Colonel Steedman, to make his position secure, had rifle-pits hastily
thrown up on the ridges and spurs of high ground, but the valleys
and gorges had no such protection. They were principally choked,
however, with fallen timber.


Captain T. Friend Wilson, A. A. G. :

Sir, — On Friday, the twenty-second of May, I was ordered
with my regiment (First regiment Alabama volunteers), to take posi-
tion a half mile in advance of the main works of Port Hudson, on
the road leading by the commissary depot, grist mill, &c. , in the
direction of Aberger's field. At this point, Wingfield's battalion of
cavalry and one section of the Watson battery was ordered to re-
port to me. The same day I received an order from the Major-
General commandu-ig, placing me in command of the left wing of
the defences of Port Hudson, including the advanced work in com-
mand of Colonel Johnson (Fifteenth Arkansas), on the right, and
extending to the river on the extreme left.

My orders were to observe the enemy and to oppose his advance
upon our works, but without risking a serious engagement. Through
the energy of Lieutenant-Colonel Wingfield, commanding cavalry,
I soon learned that the enemy had completed the investment of Port
Hudson, and was reconnoitering every possible approach to our
defences. I at once threw forward a line of skirmishers, consisting

316 Southern Historical Societij Papers.

of four companies of the First Alabama, under command of Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Locke. For two days there were frequent skirmishes
with the enemy's advance guard along my whole front.

On Sunday afternoon, the 24th May, I was ordered by the Major-
General commanding to determine the enemy's strength, if possible,
and drive him from my front.

After receiving reinforcements, consisting of a battalion each from
the First Mississippi and Fifteenth Arkansas regiments, commanded
respectively by Major Johnson and Lieutenant Colonel Lee; also
the battalion of the Provost guard, commanded by Captain J. R.
Wilson, ihis force was pushed forward until dark, but only en-
countered a few of the enemy's pickets or skirmishers. At the first
fire these parties fell back upon the main body, and I did not think
it prudent to advance further that night, but after placing pickets
upon this advanced line withdrew my command to its original posi-
tion. This line of pickets was not disturbed until about Monday
noon, when ihe enemy advanced in heavy force from the direction of
Aberger's fields. I advanced my whole line about five hundred
yards to a favorable position and formed line of battle ; the section
of the Watson battery, Lieutenant i'oledano, commanding the
road, the infantry ambuscaded to the right and left under cover of
the crest of a hill and logs and brush thrown up temporarily for the
purpose. In front of this line of battle was an open space of about
ten acres, but thickly studded with heavy timber, the undergrowth
having been cut down for camping purposes. My force at this time
numbered about six hundred. Two companies from each flank hav-
ing been thrown forward as skirmishers, soon encountered the enemy;
heavy skirmishing at once began; the enemy pushed forward boldly,
our line slowly retreating until they reached the open space fronting
my line of battle, when, in obedience to previous orders, they flanked
right and left and took position in line of battle. Lieutenant-Colonel
Locke ( First Alabama), commanding righi wing, and Major John-
son, First Mississir)pi, commanding left wing, were ordered to keep
their men under cover and concealed until orders to fire were re-
ceived from me. The enemy 3'elling and shouting rushed forward
into the open space selected for the battle-ground. This advance,
consisting of a heavy line of skirmishers, soon discovered our artil-
lery, and at once took cover behind the numerous trees and began
sharpshooting the artillery horses and cannoneers. Hoping the
mam body of the enemy would advance I reserved our fire, but soon
found that the artillery was suffering too severely. I ordered the

Fortification and Siege of Port Hudson. 317

line to fire — at the first volley the enemy retreated through the woods
in great confijsion.

My line of skirmishers was immediately thrown forward, but v did
not come in contact with the enemy for a half mile. In about two
hours the enemy again advanced in heavy force, drove in our skir-
mishers, came in range of the main line, and engaged it heavily,
while two heavy bodies of infantry attempted to flank us on both
flanks. All the troops on the flanks, not absolutely needed to repel
the attack in front, were deployed to the right or left to defeat this
move of the enemy. The battle now raged on the whole line. I
received urgent and repeated calls from both flanks for help. I
ordered Colonel Johnson, who was commanding the reserve, to send
two companies to the right, and two companies to the left, which
order was promptly obeyed. The enemy continued to mass his forces
at those points, and to press us hard at the same time in the centre.
At this time I received reinforcements of two hundred men (five
companies) of the Thirty-ninth Mississippi regiment, under command
of Captain Collum. One hundred of this battalion I ordered to
support the extreme right, the other hundred to the extreme left.
Thus reinforced the right repelled every attack ; but in consequence
of my inability, from want of troops, to extend our line to Sandy
Creek, the enemy marched a body of troops around the extreme left
and seriously threatened our rear.

At the same time that I received this report from my left, Lieu-
tenant Toledano, commanding section of artillery, informed me that
one of his guns was spiked from a defective friction primer, and that
the ammunition for both guns was exhausted. I ordered the artil-
lery to the rear to receive supplies of ammunition and to take po-
sition on my original line of battle, a half mile in advance of the mil).
I gave with great reluctance the order for the infantry to retire. They
were troops (excepting my own regiment ) which I had never seen
under fire, and the battalions were not under command of their
habitual commanders, but junior commanders — m several instances
captains. I feared the enemy would press us at the moment of re-
treat, and convert it into a* rout, but I was agreeably surprised. The
whole line fell back in perfect order, and was reformed promptly on
our original line.

The artillery, replenished with ammunition, took position in the
centre commanding the road. The enemy showing no disposition
to advance upon our new line, our skirmishers were sent forward and
met the enemy in force, and the skirmish was renewed. Night being


Southern Historical Society Papers.

near at hand I determined to hold the position undl dark. To do
this I was compelled to advance nearly my whole line. The fight
became very severe, both parties being under cover of the heavy
timber, brush, ravines, &c.

Darkness terminated the contest. After establishing a line of
pickets I withdrew the main body to the rear and within the line of

The enemy's demonstrations on this day convinced me beyond a
doubt that he had determined to attack our lines in the vicinity of
our commissary depot, arsenal, &c.

Up to Monday night, the 25th of May, no works of any description
had been thrown up to defend this position, extending from Colonel
Johnson's advanced work, on the right of my command, to a point
within five hundred yards of the river on the left, including a space
of three-fourths of a mile. There was not a rifle-pit dug nor a gun
mounted on Monday night.

I reported my convictions to the Major-General commanding.
The evidence was satisfactory to him, and he ordered all the available
tools, negroes, &c , to be placed at the disposal of the chief engineer.
The work was promptly laid out by Lieutenant Dabney, and ere the
dawn of day of Tuesday, considerable progress had been made. A
battery of four pieces had been mounted during the night on the hill
in the immediate vicinity of the commissary depot, which, since that,
has been called Commissary Hill. The emergency being great, this
work was pressed with energy all day Tuesday and Tuesday night, so
that, by Wednesday morning, an imperfect line of rifle-pits had been
thrown up to protect the most exposed points on the left wing.

Two pieces of siege artillery were removed during Tuesday night
frfim the heavy batteries on the river and mounted on this line — one
rifled 24 pounder, under command of Lieutenant Sandford, Company

Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 33 of 61)