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Doc. 117. expedition to pass Christian, Miss.

General Butler's report.

headquarters Department of the Gulf, ship Island, April 13, 1862.
To the Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
sir: I have the honor to report my safe arrival at Ship Island on the twenty-first of March, after a series of casualties, set forth in my last report from Port Royal to the General commanding the army, but from there no further accident.

For three days after my arrival a storm prevented the landing of either troops or stores. Upon consultation with Flag-Officer Farragut, I was informed by him that he would probably be able to move in seven days.

Accordingly, by dint of the most strenuous labor of my troops day and night, I had embarked and ready for embarkation six thousand of my best men to support his operations, a force judged to be sufficient for the advance, to be at once supported by the remainder of my disposable force. After waiting four days with troops on ship-board, I learned from the Flag-Officer that the storms and low water at the bar had prevented his getting his ship into position. For sanitary reasons I disembarked the troops, and shall reembark to-morrow, and shall sail for the Head of the Passes, when I am informed that the navy will be ready for operations.

I have pleasure in reporting the safe arrival of all the troops assigned to this department. The last regiment from the North arrived last night, the Connecticut Thirteenth Volunteers, except Nim's battery, the only drilled corps of artillery given me, which had, for some unexplained reason, been detained at Fortress Monroe. During my enforced delay by shipwreck Gen. Phelps had sent away both the Constitution and Fulton steamers, so that I am much crippled for transportation; but “where there is a will there is a way,” and I shall be able, by means of sailing vessels under tow, to make my way up the Mississippi.

But for ulterior movements on the coast, one, at least, of these steamers will be of the last necessity, as well as several light-draft steamers for which I had made requisitions on the Quarter-master-General. In the mean time I have sent a regiment and a section of a battery, under the direction of Major Strong, my chief of staff, to cooperate with the Navy, to demand an apology for an insult to our flag of truce, sent on an errand of mercy with a shipwrecked passenger, as well as to destroy the position of a regiment of the enemy at Pass Christian. This service was gallantly performed, and the proper apology made at Biloxi.

The town surrendered into our hands, and the rebels at Pass Christian, an equal force and four pieces of artillery, driven from their camp, which, with its materials, was burned. No lives were lost, and only two of our men were wounded. I trust my next despatch, by the first opportunity [431] of sending by a mail-steamer, will give an account of a large and as successful an operation. I think it due to the good conduct of the brave men of that expedition to ask to have published the general order upon that subject inclosed.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding.

headquarters, Department of the Gulf, ship Island, April 12, 1862.
General orders, No. 10.

The Major-General Commanding desires publicly to testify his approbation of the gallant courage and good conduct of the Ninth regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, Col. Cahill commanding, and a section of the Sixth Massachusetts battery, under Capt. Everett, in the recent expedition to Biloxi and Pass Christian, as exhibited by the report of the staff-officer in command of that expedition. Of their bravery in the field he felt assured. But another quality, more trying to the soldier, claims his admiration. After having been for months subjected to the privations necessarily incident to camp-life, upon this island, these well-disciplined soldiers, although for many hours in full possession of the rebel villages, filled with what to them were the most desirable luxuries, abstained from the least unauthorized interference with private property, and all molestation of peaceful citizens.

This behavior is worthy of all praise. It robs war of half its horrors; it teaches our enemies how much they have been misinformed by their designing leaders as to the character of our soldiers and the intention of our government. It gives them a lesson and an example in humanity and civilized warfare, much needed, however little it may be followed.

The General commanding commends the action of the men of this expedition to every soldier in the department. Let it be imitated by all in the towns and cities we shall occupy — a living witness that the soldiers fight only for the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of the laws.

By command of Major-Gen. Butler.

George C. Strong, Assistant Adjutant-General.

A correspondent at Ship Island, Miss., writing April eleventh, gives the following account of this affair:

The Ninth Connecticut regiment arrived very early on the morning of the fourth instant, near Pass Christian, and anchored, waiting for day-light. At about four o'clock in the morning three rebel gunboats — the Oregon, Pamlico, and Carondelet — came down from Lake Borgne, without showing any lights, and opened fire on our gunboats. While the Oregon and Pamlico engaged the New-London and Jackson, the Carondelet (a new boat carrying seven guns) ran within a thousand yards of the Lewis, and commenced firing shells into her. Two of the shells struck the Lewis, one of them passing through the officers' cabin, slightly wounding Capt. Conant, of the Thirty-first Massachusetts, who was present as a volunteer, and the other passing through the smoke-stack. For some little time the Lewis could do nothing to extricate herself from her perilous position, as for some reason, her anchor would not come up. Capt. Jones, the navigator of the steamer, got an axe and cut the cable, and the Lewis swung into a position, where she could bring the two six-pounder steel rifled Sawyer guns that had been placed on her, to bear on the Carondelet. The guns were manned by one section of Capt. Chas. Everett's Sixth Massachusetts battery, and the first shot was fired by Lieut. J. H. Phelps, and struck full in the Carondelet. He and Captain Everett fired ten or twelve shots, two of which certainly struck the rebel steamer and drove her off, and after the troops landed at Pass Christian, they were told that the Carondelet put in at that place in the retreat, and left the pilot who had both legs shot off. The Captain and four of his men were killed by the guns on the Lewis, and the machinery of the Carondelet was badly injured. The Carondelet, supposing that the Lewis was entirely unarmed, expected to have an easy job of sinking her, with her valuable freight of human lives; but when those rifled guns began to speak, the valiant Carondelet left incontinently. In the mean time, the Oregon and Pamlico, and the New-London and Jackson had been blazing away at each other, and kept up the fire for an hour and three quarters, when the rebels made their usual brilliant advance on Fort Pike, the Oregon going off with one wheel, having the other badly injured by the guns of the New-London and Jackson. The New-London received one shot, which slightly splintered her cutwater, and another that cut one of the chains of her davits, but nothing to cripple her in the slightest. A little before noon the Lewis approached the wharf, and as she drew near it was discovered that the end of the pier was covered with a large number of bales of hay, covered with tarpaulin. Smoke was seen to arise from behind the hay, the rebels being engaged in an attempt to burn the pier to prevent the landing of our troops. Capt. Everett threw a few shells from his two rifled guns at the wharf, and the gunboats, seeing the firing from the Lewis, and the smoke arising from behind the hay, supposed the rebels had a battery on the wharf, and consequently they opened a fire on the town. Several of their shot passed through a few houses and demolished considerable property, but injured no one. The Ninth Connecticut regiment then landed, and after leaving a guard at the wharf to protect the Lewis, and, if necessary, to cover the retreat of our troops, the regiment took up the line of march, with the two rifled guns on the right, drawn by a company of soldiers to each. Colonel Cahill, with Major Strong, chief of General Butler's staff, at the head of the main column, Capt. J. H. French, of General Butler's staff, in command of two companies, deployed his men as skirmishers on the right of the road, [432] while Lieut.-Col. Fitzgibbon and Major Frye, of the Ninth Connecticut, each deployed two companies to the extreme right and left through the woods to cover the flank of the enemy if he should make his appearance. When within about a mile of the encampment, Captain French discovered through the woods a piece of artillery in position, and saw the flashing of sabres. Immediately after, the enemy opened upon the main column with their artillery and rifles. Captain Everett's guns were at once placed in position, and, under direction of Major Strong, the fire of the rebels was returned with interest, and after an exchange of a dozen shots and three or four volleys of musketry, the rebels fled.

As soon as Lieut.-Col. Fitzgibbon and Major Frye heard the firing, they hurried their commands toward the centre, hoping to flank the enemy; but the fight was so short that they arrived too late to assist in the skirmish. Our troops followed up the success for some distance, but the rebels having mules attached to their artillery, succeeded in eluding capture or destruction. It is thought the enemy must have lost some men in killed and wounded, but nothing positive respecting that is known. On our side one man was severely wounded. A Minie ball passed directly through his left arm, below the elbow, shattering it badly, and probably necessitating amputation. He was a private, named John Leonard, of Capt. Duffy's company A, and resides in New-Haven. After the gallant fellow was shot, he picked up his gun with his right hand, and leaning it on the stump of a tree, fired one more shot at the rebels. Drs. Gallagher and Avery, of the Ninth, are doing their best for the unfortunate man, and hope to save his arm.

As the rebels fled they attempted to burn a bridge over a small piece of water, lying between their camp and the place of the skirmish; but our troops were too fast for them and prevented it.

At about five o'clock in the afternoon, our troops reached Camp Suggville, (the name of the rebel camp.) There they found evidences of the most sudden departure. Dinners cooked and waiting to be eaten; clothing and trinkets lying about in profusion, and everything denoting a sudden stampede. The camp was most luxuriously furnished, the tents were of the best pattern, and the officers' quarters were supplied with feather-beds, and superior trunks well filled with good clothing, all betokening unusual comfort for the soldiers' life. As our officers had been informed that two sections of artillery had left in the morning for Mississippi City, to meet our troops, whom they supposed would march up from Biloxi, and as they would probably soon return and cut off our retreat to the wharf, while the troops that had been dispersed would have gained accessions to their ranks, and would renew the charge, and especially as it was getting dark very fast, Major Strong, who was the director of the expedition, decided that it was unsafe to attempt to carry off the camp equipage and other valuables, and ordered everything to be destroyed; and it was done effectually by fire.

A number of cavalry-horses were shot because they could not be brought off.

A handsome silk State flag, which had been presented to the Third Mississippi regiment, by the ladies of Harrison County, was captured by the Ninth regiment, and brought off as a trophy. As the regiment marched through the town, one of the ladies bemoaned its loss, weeping profusely. She said she didn't think the Southern soldiers were cowards; but she couldn't see how they could allow that flag to be taken. She had helped make it.

The troops reembarked on the Lewis about nine o'clock, on the evening of the fourth, and anchored out in the Sound until the next morning. While the regiment was on shore, a half-dozen men of the guard, left at the wharf, saw a schooner beating up; they jumped into a boat, pulled out to the schooner, and captured her. She was laden with army stores. This prize, with a little sloop, taken the day before in Biloxi Bay, was brought to Ship Island, on the evening of the fourth, by the Jackson.

About a dozen bales of the hay on the wharf were put on board the Lewis, and as there was no room for more, the balance, nearly a hundred bales, was thrown overboard. At Biloxi there was a large quantity of old iron junk on the wharf, waiting to be sent to New-Orleans, to be cast into munitions of war. This was also thrown overboard. In the tent of Col. Deason, of the Third Mississippi regiment, the annexed letter was found, with the pen with which it was written yet full of ink. It was written by the Lieutenant-Colonel, T. A. Mellen, and was intended to be flashed over the wires to Gen. Mansfield Lovell, at New-Orleans. It gives some information of the number of troops, but is otherwise valueless, except as a specimen of secession literature. In the Colonel's tent there were also found a number of silk dresses, giving the idea that a lady, probably the Colonel's wife, had been sharing his camp-life.

pass, April 4, 3 P. M.
Major--Gen. M. Lovell: At two o'clock on the morning of the third, Capt. Green, commanding post, was ordered, by Colonel Deason, to join him immediately, with his command, as the enemy, two thousand strong, had landed at Biloxi. Capt. Green left at sunrise, and reached the vicinity of Handsboro by eight o'clock, with the whole command, and was halted, by Col. Deason's orders, until two o'clock of this morning, where having arrived, I moved forward en route to Biloxi. As I passed through Handsboro, I was informed the enemy had left. I started on return for the Pass, at seven A. M., and when five miles from my camp, my advance-guard informed me that three gunboats and one transport were approaching Pass Christian wharf. They began shelling the town at once, and are now landing men in considerable force — about five hundred, I think. Two of their boats are aground by the wharf, and with present condition of tide, likely to stay so until morning. An effort was made [433] by us to burn the wharf, but failed, owing to shelling the men at work. The inhabitants of Pass Christian are generally leaving for the woods and back country, and as soon as I can learn from my reliable runners that the women and children are out of danger, if the enemy remain on shore, I wish, if at all prudent, to attack them toward evening. My men will then be rested from their march, and I may avoid their guns in ships. At present they have stopped shelling. Col. Deason has been notified of the landing. I have for duty one hundred and sixty infantry, one section Brown's artillery, and Norman's cavalry. The New-London, Calhoun, Water-Witch, and Lewis, are the boats. They will either take or destroy all of the stores. What shall I do?

T. A. Mellens, Lieutenant-Colonel.

The Ninth regiment, of Connecticut, and the section of the Sixth Massachusetts battery, behaved admirably throughout the whole expedition.

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