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[567] assured that there was no important force in his front, I dispatched several staff officers in rapid succcession to Major-General Loring, ordering him to move all but one brigade (Tilghman's, which was directed to hold the Raymond road and cover the bridge and ford at Baker's Creek) to the left as rapidly as possible. To the first of these messages sent about two P. M., answer was returned by Major-general Loring that the enemy was in strong force in his front and endeavoring to flank him.

Hearing no firing on the right, I repeated my orders to Major-General Loring, explained to him the condition of affairs on the left, and directed him to put his two left brigades into the fight as soon as possible. In the transmission of these various messages to and fro, over a distance of more than a mile, much valuable time was necessarily consumed, which the enemy did not fail to take advantage of. About four o'clock P. M., a part of Stevenson's division broke badly and fell back in great disorder, but was partially rallied by the strenuous exertions of myself and staff, and put back under their own officers into the fight; but observing that large numbers of men were abandoning the field on Stevenson's left — deserting their comrades who, in this moment of greatest trial, stood manfully at their posts — I rode up to General Stevenson, and informing him that I had repeatedly ordered two brigades of General Loring's division to his assistance, and that I was momentarily expecting them, asked him whether he could hold his position. He replied that he could not; that he was fighting from sixty thousand to eighty thousand men. I then told him I would endeavor myself to find General Loring, and hasten him up, and started immediately with that object. I presently met Brigadier-General Buford's brigade, of Loring's division, on the march, and in rear of the right of Bowen's division.

Colonel Cockrell, commanding the First Missouri brigade, having in person, some time previously, urgently asked for reinforcements, which (none of Loring's troops having come up) I was then unable to give him, one regiment of Buford's brigade was detached at once, and directed to his support; the remainder of Buford's brigade was moved as rapidly as possible to the assistance of General Stevenson. Finding that the enemy's vastly superior numbers were pressing all my forces engaged steadily back into old fields, where all advantages of position would be in his favor, I felt it to be too late to save the day, even should Brigadier-General Featherstone's brigade, of General Loring's division, come up immediately. I could, however, learn nothing of General Loring's whereabouts; several of my staff were in search of him, but it was not until after General Bowen had personally informed me that he could not hold his position longer, and not until after I had ordered the retreat, that General Loring with Featherstone's brigade, moving, as I subsequently learned, by a country road, which was considerably longer than the direct route, reached the position on the left, known as Champion's Hill, where he was forming line of battle, when he received my orders to cover the retreat. Had the movement in support of the left been promptly made when first ordered, it is not improbable that I might have maintained my position, and it is possible the enemy might have been driven back, though his vastly superior and constantly increasing numbers would have rendered it necessary to withdraw during the night, to save my communications with Vicksburg. Early in the day, Major Lockett, Chief Engineer, had been instructed to throw a bridge across Baker's Creek, on the Raymond road. The stream had also fallen sufficiently to render the ford practicable. The retreat was ordered to be conducted by that route, and a staff officer immediately dispatched to Brigadier-General Tilghman, who was directed to hold the Raymond road at all hazards. It was in the execution of this important trust, which could not have been confided to a fitter man, that the lamented General bravely lost his life. He was struck by a fragment of shell, and died almost instantly. Although, as before stated, a large number of men had shamefully abandoned their commands, and were making their way to the rear, the main body of the troops retired in good order. On reaching the ford and bridge at Baker's Creek, I directed Brigadier-General Bowen to take position with his division on the west bank, and to hold the crossing until Loring's division, which was directed to bring up the rear, had effected their passage.

I then proceeded at once to the intrenched line covering the wagon and railroad bridges over the Big Black, to make the necessary arrangements for holding that point during the passage of the river.

In his official report, Major-General Stevenson says: “On my arrival, about sunset, at the ford on Baker's Creek, I found that the enemy had crossed the bridge above, and were advancing artillery in the direction of the road on which we were moving; one battery had already taken position, and was playing on the road, but at right angles and with too long a range to prevent the passage of troops. Here I found on the west side the brigades of General Green and Colonel Cockrell, of Bowen's division, who had there halted and taken up position to hold the point until Loring's division could cross. I found Colonel Scott, of the Twelfth Louisiana regiment of Loring's division, halted about one-half mile from the ford, on the east side, and directed him to cross. I there addressed a note to General Loring, informing him of what I had done, telling him of the change I had caused Colonel Scott to make in his position, stating that, with the troops then there and others that I could collect, I would hold the ford and road until his division could cross, and urging him to hasten the movement. To this note I received no answer, but in a short time Colonel Scott moved off his regiment quickly in the direction ”

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Loring (14)
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