April 12-13, 1862.-expedition to Bear Creek, Ala.
Reports.No. 1.-Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, U. S. Army. No. 2.-Maj. Samuel M. Bowman, Fourth Illinois Cavalry.
No. 1.-report of Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, U. S. Army.
headquarters Fifth Division, Camp Shiloh, April 14, 1862.Sir: I have the honor to report that in obedience to verbal orders from General Grant, ratified in person by General Halleck, I embarked on board the transports Tecumseh and White Cloud, during the evening of the 12th instant, 100 men of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, under command of Maj. S. M. Bowman, and the brigade of General Fry, and, escorted by the gunboats Tyler and Lexington, Commanders Gwin and  Shirk, proceeded up the Tennessee River to Chickasaw Landing, where all the troops were disembarked at 7 a. m. the 13th instant. By my orders Major Bowman proceeded rapidly on the road to Iuka, the enemy's pickets retreating before him, and destroying themselves by fire a road bridge across Bear Creek, which I had ordered General Fry to destroy, to secure the right flank of the movement on the Bear Creek bridge. This bridge, about 7 miles from Chickasaw, being destroyed, Major Bowman proceeded rapidly up the road 8 miles farther, and on approaching the railroad bridge across Bear Creek he found it guarded by the enemy. He dismounted his men and advanced along the track, with flankers in the swampy ground, and drove the enemy from the bridge into the cut beyond and from that to the west; then, with axes which had been provided, he began the destruction of the trestle work to the east of the bridge, and with fire destroyed the bridge itself. This latter consisted of two spans, of 110 feet each, which were burned and fell into the river. With axes and fire he destroyed three pieces of trestle work of an aggregate length of 500 feet, also tearing down about half a mile of telegraph wire, rolling it up, and throwing it into the river. He gathered ties and other timber, made bonfires, and piled on them the railroad iron, so as to bend it and render it useless for future repairs. While so employed the head of General Fry's column of infantry arrived and assisted in this work of destruction. They jointly destroyed Bear Creek Bridge and 500 feet of trestle work, that cannot be repaired in a month. Bear Creek is very bad in itself, and the swampy bottom is impassable to wheeled vehicles, so that the breach is vital to the operations of an enemy. Having thus fulfilled well their orders, Major Bowman and General Fry returned to Chickasaw with their commands, reaching the boats about 9 p. m., having marched about 30 miles. Having thus succeeded in the main purpose of the expedition, I wanted to proceed 20 miles farther up the Tennessee, and there make another break, as well as to push on to Tuscumbia Landing and Florence. At Florence there is a very fine bridge for a branch railroad that connects Florence with Tuscumbia, with a road bridge underneath, but it was the unanimous opinion of all the pilots that the gunboats and even one of the transports could not pass Bee-tree Shoals or Colbert Shoals, both rock bottom, on which it would not do to risk the gunboats. Having no personal knowledge on the subject, and bound to defer to the opinion of pilots who had navigated the Tennessee for thirty years, I was reluctantly compelled to abandon the latter part of your design — the destruction of the Florence Bridge. I am still ready to undertake it with boats of light draught, made secure by some field pieces and bales of hay, or to march by land from Waterloo, just above Chickasaw to Florence. Our cavalry, under Major Bowman, moved finely on this occasion, and the column of General Fry sustained their well-earned reputation for steadiness and discipline. I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
Report of Maj. Samuel M. Bowman, Fourth Illinois Cavalry.
headquarters Fourth Illinois Cavalry, Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., April 14, 1862.General: On receiving your order at Chickasaw on yesterday morning about 8 o'clock to take my command, there present, and proceed to destroy the bridge of the Charleston and Memphis Railroad across Bear Creek, I proceeded at once to execute the order. My command consisted of 100 picked men of the following companies of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry: Company E, Captain Rockwood; Company G, Lieutenant Harper; Company H, Lieutenant Fisk; Company L, Lieutenant Merriman, and Company M, Lieutenant Allshouse, with 20 men each. We took the Chickasaw and Iuka road as far as Bear Creek, driving the enemy's pickets across that creek, who, supposing we were the head of a column advancing on Iuka, fired the bridge across the creek in order to impede our progress. We then dashed up the creek at full speed to the vicinity of the railroad bridge designated. I placed a, mounted platoon at the point where the road crosses the railroad track to prevent the passage of cars from the east and to guard us on that side, and marched the balance of the force into a swamp within a quarter of a mile of the bridge, where I dismounted the men, a part of them to fight on foot and a part to use axes. I ordered one platoon, under command of Captain Rockwood, to march down by the side of the railroad toward the bridge, and another, under command of Lieu tenant Fisk, to march in the same direction on the track, and at, the same time placed two platoons, one under Lieutenant Callon and the other under Lieutenant Merriman, in the swamp as near as possible to the bridge, to act as sharpshooters, and then ordered an advance on the bridge, firing at the enemy's guard wherever seen. The guard appeared to be about 150 strong, and seemed quite unwilling to yield the occupancy of the bridge, and contended as long as they could against us. At the same time a party of choppers, under Lieutenant Harper, commenced cutting away the trestle work, and in half an hour from the time we arrived on the ground the bridge was on fire and a span of the trestle work over the swamp cut away, and in an hour more we had totally destroyed the bridge and 500 feet of trestle work. We also destroyed the telegraph poles and sunk the wire of about half a mile of the telegraph line along the side of the railroad. We killed 4 of the enemy's guard and 1 horse, took 2 cavalrymen prisoners, and returned to the boat before sundown without injury to my command. Every officer and every man under my command did his duty on the occasion. I have no stronger words to express my entire approbation of the conduct of all concerned. The bridge was 240 feet in length, in two spans, with stone piers and abutments, left standing. We had no means of destroying these. The trestle work was likewise on stone piers, left standing. Length of bridge destroyed, 240 feet; length of trestle work, 500 feet, and length of telegraph wire, half a mile. I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,