Doc. 80.-fight at Mississippi City, La. March 8, 1862.
A correspondent gives the subjoined account of this affair:
Owing to the large increase of troops at Ship Island
, and the meagre facilities for encamping them, Gen. Phelps
determined to send an officer to reconnoitre Mississippi City, with a view to establishing a camp at that point.
An order was procured from the senior officer
of the Ship Island
squadron, Capt. James Alden
, of the sloop-of-war Richmond
, for the gunboat Calhoun
, Capt. E. J. De Haven
, to proceed to Mississippi City, under orders of Col. E. F. Jones
, of the Twenty-sixth Massachusetts, who had been assigned the command of the expedition by Gen. Phelps
On Saturday, the eighth inst., at two o'clock P. M., fifty men each from companies B and I, Massachusetts Twenty-sixth, embarked on board the Calhoun
, with forty rounds of cartridges and a day's rations.
Company B was commanded by Capt. E. S. Clark
and First Lieut. William H. Lamson
, and company I by Capt. John Pickering
and First Lieut. C. E. Drew
A cutter from the Richmond
, with eleven armed sailors, commanded by Master
's Mate R. P. Swan
, of the Vincennes
, but temporarily attached to the Richmond
, accompanied the Calhoun
A few officers from the Richmond
, Capt. Howes
, of the Black Prince
, and your correspondent, were the only guests.
We also had a prisoner from New-Orleans
, who was to be landed at Mississippi City, and allowed to return to New-Orleans
After the embarkation of the troops a considerable delay occurred in getting up steam, so that it was half-past 3 when we got under way. In about an hour we arrived at our destination, and the draft of the Calhoun
being only six feet and a half, we were able to run directly up to the wharf.
As we approached the village, we saw a man on horseback riding rapidly away from the place.
Excepting two or three other persons whom we could see, the place seemed utterly deserted.
The two companies were immediately landed, and the march up the wharf — which was three quarters of a mile long, and eight feet wide — commenced.
When about a third of the way to the shore, we found the planks torn up for about thirty yards. The cross-ties were left standing, but in some instances were cut nearly through.
A few men were detailed to tear up the outside planks, and lay them along the ties; and in fifteen minutes we had a twelve-inch walk over the gap. We met no other obstruction until we were nearly to the end of the pier, when suddenly we discovered another gap, worse than the first.
The piles on which the pier stood, had been cut away for some sixty feet, and the outer end of the plank-walk had dropped into the water, eight or ten feet below, while the inner, or shore end, hung to the remainder of the pier by one corner.
Searching two small houses on the wharf, we found three short flights of steps, which we lashed to a board, and lowered to the broken pier, and passing lightly down the steps, and over our frail bridge, we were soon gathered on the beach of Mississippi City.
Everything seemed as quiet as the grave, and, anticipating no danger, the muskets of the soldiers were not loaded.
The spot where we landed is about a mile and a half above Mississippi City, towards Biloxi
Like most of the gulf-towns of Mississippi
, it is of very little consequence except as a resort for the wealthy citizens of New-Orleans
The houses are stretched along the beach, and some of them are fine residences.
In a straight line from Harrison
's wharf, (where we debarked,) a broad sawdust road runs up through the village to Hansboroa, a town two miles distant. A little less than a quarter of a mile up this road, on a gentle acclivity, a piece of thick pine woods commences and extends further back than I can say. The reason why I am unable to speak definitely on this point will appear in a later part of this letter.
Accompanied by Capt. Clark
and his company, we marched up the beach, to the right of the wharf, and visited several houses, but, with one exception, we found no one with whom we could exchange a word.
The houses had the appearance of having been very recently abandoned.
We finally found an Irishman and his whole family, and the Irishman told us there was something of a force over at Hansboroa, consisting of cavalry and artillery.
Beyond this, the man was exceedingly reticent.
We then returned to the head of the wharf, and were told by Capt. Pickering
that there were evidences of cavalry up the road.
ordered Capt. Pickering
to leave one half of his company at the wharf, and deploy the other half on the beach to the left.
was ordered to deploy one half of his company up the road, and to march up with us toward the woods with the other half.
We had gone but a half-dozen rods when we saw in the woods about a dozen horsemen wheeling into position, and Col. Jones
caught a glimpse of the ammunition-box of a caisson.
He immediately gave the order to retreat to the wharf, and called in the platoons that were deployed to the front and left flank.
The men retreated in good order and formed in line at the wharf.
They were then ordered to retreat in platoons to the Calhoun
All but the last platoon had left the shore and were on the wharf when we heard the report of a gun, and in a moment canister shot was rattling around us like hail.
The last platoon then moved toward the wharf in side-step, to prevent the enemy from discovering our retreat.
As soon as all were on the pier Col. Jones
gave the order for the “double-quick — steady.”
We all started on a quick run, but our progress was impeded by the breaks in the wharf, though — owing to the prudent thoughtfulness and fore-sight of Mr. R. P. Swan
, commanding the Richmond
's cutter — our passage over the outer gap was greatly facilitated.
After we had gone ashore it occurred to Mr. Swan
that we might be in some hurry to return; so, without waiting for orders, he sent some sailors to lay extra planks over the gap. Mr. Swan
's conduct was most creditable, and Col. Jones
did not fail to thank him for his prudence.
While crossing the pier the enemy fired six times at us with canister and round shot, but not a man was injured, though one was struck in the thigh with a spent canister-shot, which made a slight abrasure of the skin and then fell into his boot.
He did not stop to remove the ball, but carried it to the steamer in his boot.
The shot fell directly around us, and one charge of canister scattered the dirt all over Col. Jones
If the enemy had thrown shell as well as they threw shot, very few of us would have been left to have told the story.
Just before we reached the Calhoun
, Mr. Swan
fired a shell at the rebels from the twenty — four--pounder Parrott
on. the steamers after-deck, and after we were on board we threw two or three more shells, one of which appeared to burst right in the piece of woods where the battery was planted.
We could not, of course, see what damage was done by the shell.
The men behaved thoroughly well.
There was no confusion, and Col. Jones
's only complaint is that he could not hurry them enough.
In crossing the broken places in the pier there was no pushing or disorder of any kind.
The only regret of the men was, that they were obliged, for prudential reasons, to retreat without getting a chance to fire at the enemy, while, at the same time they are unanimous in their praise of their commander.
Of Col. Jones
's conduct I can speak decidedly, and of my own knowledge.
Throughout the whole affair he was perfectly cool and collected.
Not an excited word escaped his lips.
Until the last platoon had moved towards the wharf he stood on the shore trying to discern the movements of the rebels through his glass, and when all had left he followed at the rear.
He was the last man to cross the pier and the last man to get aboard the Calhoun
papers, with their usual conscientious regard for the truth, will probably have an account of a splendid battle at Mississippi City, in which several hundred will be said to have been killed on the Union
side, and Gen. Butler
will be sure to be reported as having been present.
The simple truth is this: We went for the single purpose of reconnoitring, and suddenly catching sight of a battery masked in the woods, and night rapidly drawing near, Colonel Jones
did the only thing to be done under the circumstances.
We could form no idea of the force of the rebels; we only knew that they were using two guns, and had us in the very worst position.
If they had dared to come suddenly out of the woods and plant their pieces at the head of the road before we commenced the retreat, they could have enfiladed us, mowing us down like grass.
was attended on the expedition by the members of his staff, namely, Dr. J. G. Bradt
, Adjutant George E. Davis
, Quartermaster James Munroe
, and his Quartermaster
's Sergeant, Mr. Stone