Doc. 177.-fight at Morganzia, La.
headquarters Second division, Thirteenth army corps, Morganzia, La., Sept. 30, 1863.Since the occupation of Morganzia by our forces, an outpost, consisting of the Twenty-sixth Indiana, Nineteenth Iowa, and about one hundred and fifty cavalry, under Major Montgomery, has been established some nine or ten miles from this place, in the direction of the Atchafalaya, under the command of Colonel Leake. The cavalry had been posted about two miles in advance of the infantry, with instructions to advance daily and skirmish with the rebels across the Atchafalaya. The object of this post was simply to hold the rebels in check. Yesterday about four thousand five hundred of the enemy, commanded by General Green in person, crossed the Atchafalaya. They then divided into three detachments, and advanced on both flanks of Colonel Leake and the front of Major Montgomery. After skirmishing some <*>me with the Major, they brought a piece of artillery against him and compelled him to fall back. He attempted to join Colonel Leake, but was unable. After considerable skirmishing, he succeeded in cutting his way out, with a loss of five men. About the same time that Major Montgomery was attacked the enemy engaged both flanks of Colonel Leake. The forces under Colonel Leake were taken completely by surprise, the enemy having advanced within one hundred yards and opened upon them before they were aware of their presence. Both regiments immediately formed into line of battle, and the engagement soon became general. Against overwhelming odds this little detachment obstinately contested every foot of ground. The enemy, for some unknown reason, did not use any of their artillery against our infantry; but not so with us; for, charged as heavily as they were with grape and canister, they did frightful execution. After two gallant charges, in which many of our bravest men fell, our forces fell back behind a levee near by. Here the enemy pressed us so closely that our line became broken, and every man fought for himself. Just as our men were beginning to recover themselves, the third detachment, which had engaged Major Montgomery, appeared in our rear, and the whole of the enemy closed upon our force, thus completely surrounding them. It was impossible for our men to stand the galling fire which was poured into them from every side, and rather than surrender, the order was given for every man to save himself as best he could. They were not slow in taking the hint, and broke for the bushes. A portion of them succeeded in escaping; but the majority were taken prisoners. Among the latter were Colonel Leake, reported wounded, and Lieutenant-Colonel Rose. This short but furious engagement lasted about two hours, and for the fierceness with which it raged, in proportion with the forces engaged, has never been equalled. From the obstinacy which the superior force of the enemy encountered, they estimated our force to be at least two thousand, when in reality it was but a little over five hundred. This report is corroborated by a number of persons who participated in the engagement, but were afterward captured. Our whole loss will not fall short of four hundred in killed, wounded, and taken prisoners, and two pieces of artillery.
Morganzia's Landing, September 30.We are still “snooping around” here, as Captain Gray says, with no immediate prospect of getting away, and no great present chance of doing any good. I will tell you why we came here. Nearly a month ago a transport was fired into near this place, which is very favorably located for enterprises of that description, the river being unusually narrow right here. The perpetration of the outrage having been reported to headquarters in New-Orleans, General Herron was forthwith ordered to proceed here with his division; and I suppose he was to stay here and keep the rebels back from the river, as he has done but  very little else. On arriving at this place, which is twenty-five miles above Port Hudson, and thirty miles below the mouth of the Red River, we landed on the west side, and sent out the Second brigade, (ours is the First,) to feel of the rebels. The brigade started in the morning, taking a road that ran directly back from the river, and soon came upon a small rebel force, which commenced skirmishing and falling back. About ten miles out they turned off on a road that leads to the Atchafalaya (Shafalar) River, and soon entered the timber, which is very dense and effectually conceals every thing twenty rods distant. Here they began to contest our advance more earnestly, and at about nine o'clock our troops found themselves in the midst of darkness, on the bank of the Atchafalaya, in front of a fort of considerable size, and mounting several pieces of artillery-how many they could not tell; so they fell back for the night, and sent back for reenforcements. The next day we went out, got in sight of the fort, staid over night, and marched back in the morning. It was understood that a rebel force, numbering from seven thousand to twelve thousand, were strongly intrenched on the other side of the Atchafalaya, which is about nine hundred feet wide at that point, with steep banks and very muddy near the water. We had no means of crossing, and they were too strong for us if we had; so General Herron contented himself with sending out a force of about six hundred men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Leake, to act as an army of observation. They were encamped about three miles distant, and were daily employed in skirmishing with rebs, who crossed the river on a small flat-boat. Colonel Leake has been out there about three weeks. Day before yesterday it began to rain a little, and the night following was dark and drizzly. Under the cover of darkness the rebels crossed over seven regiments of infantry and some cavalry, and marching in a large circle, surrounded our little force, which, after a sharp fight, was captured. Very little is known about the matter, for a certainty, at the present time. I hear that Lieutenant-Colonel Leake is slightly wounded by a ball which killed his horse; but there is no telling as yet, except that it is certain he is wounded and a prisoner, as also is Lieutenant-Colonel Rose, of the Twenty-sixth Indiana. There was only one man from any company in our regiment out on that duty, the force being mainly composed of the Nineteenth Iowa and Twenty-sixth Indiana, two pieces of artillery, and some cavalry. When the troops were ordered into line, the Thirty-seventh Illinois was ordered out to see what was going on, and the gunboats fairly swarmed here; but the rebels only came over to take Lieutenant-Colonel Leake's command, and having accomplished that, scampered back as fast as possible. As far as is now known, we sustained a loss of fourteen killed and about forty wounded. No blame can be attached to Lieutenant-Colonel Leake for having been thus surprised. The place is peculiarly favorable to the performance of such a feat. The camp was surrounded by cane-fields and weeds, which were so thick that a hundred thousand men might be concealed within a mile distance, and you not suspect the presence of a single man. Besides, the Colonel's force was entirely inadequate to guard against a surprise so easy of accomplishment. It is a result that every body here has foretold since he has been out there. General Herron was relieved by General Dana, and left us just in time to be able to say: “I was not in command at the time.”