previous next

Doc. 56.-battle near Coffeeville, Mississippi.

Brigadier-General Tilghman's report.

headquarters First division, First corps, A. W. T. December 6, 1862.
Lieutenant-Colonel F. Ivey, A. A. General:
Colonel: I have the honor to make the following report of the action of the fifth instant, between the Federal advance guard, near Coffeeville, and the troops placed under my command by Major-General Lovell, commanding First corps.1

At about half-past 2 o'clock P. M., on Friday afternoon, fifth instant, whilst engaged in the town of Coffeeville with the various duties of my command, I learned that the enemy, emboldened by their successes heretofore, had pushed their advance within one mile of the town, and that having commenced skirmishing with our rear guard of cavalry, Major-General Lovell, commanding First corps, had gone out with a portion of my division to check them, I immediately rode out with a portion of my staff and body-guard, to the point selected by General Lovell, on which to form, and found that he had pushed forward a portion of the First brigade, under General Baldwin, on the right of the main road to Water Valley, whilst the Ninth Arkansas, of General Rust's division, commanded by Colonel Dunlop, was placed in line of battle on the left of the same road. Colonel A. P. Thompson, commanding brigade, of the Second dlvision, had also been ordered to place the Third Kentucky regiment of his brigade upon a road leading out from Coffeeville to the west of the main road spoken of, in order to watch our left flank. Upon the main road and in rear of the First brigade, upon a small eminence, four pieces of artillery had been placed, being part of Captain Bouchard's company of the Point Coupee artillery; whilst at three hundred yards to the rear of this battery two Parrott guns from Captain Hedden's battery, of my own division, were placed on a still higher point, and in a position not to endanger the infantry or the battery in front, should occasion present itself to open upon the enemy. Before reaching the point at which General Lovell was stationed, I heard brisk cannonading, and on joining General Lovell, near where the tear battery was placed, found that it proceeded from our advanced, battery, which was being replied to by a rifle gun of the enemy.

I immediately reported for orders to General Lovell, who directed me to ride with him to the position held by the advanced battery. On reaching that point and finding that the enemy had obtained the exact range of our guns, I retired, with General Lovell, to the rear battery, and was immediately ordered to open fire with the Parrott guns, at short intervals. This was done, and in a few moments the fire of the enemy's battery ceased.

I then asked permission of the Major-General commanding to press the enemy and drive them back, and upon receiving his orders to do so, with information that General Rust had been ordered to manoeuvre on my right with parts of two of his brigades, rode rapidly to the front, ordering, at the same time, the Fourteenth Mississippi regiment, under Major Doss, which had been held in reserve, to move up at doublequick and take position on the extreme right of my line. The cavalry, under Colonel Jackson, numbering about seven hundred, were placed at my disposal also. The proper disposition of the forces was soon made; orders were given to General Baldwin, on the right, and to Colonel A. P. Thompson, of the Second division, who had assumed the direction of the Ninth Arkansas, of his own brigade, to deploy the right companies from each regiment, as skirmishers, one hundred paces in front of the main line. A greater distance was not deemed prudent, as the woods were very dense and the enemy known to be in close proximity. The cavalry was formed in the main road and ordered to move with caution in rear of the main line. The line of skirmishers being formed and everything prepared, orders were given to the men to hold their fire until within fifty yards; to move with caution until the enemy was reached, but then to press them with all their energy. The command, “forward,” was given, and both skirmishers and the main line moved. The line had not advanced two hundred yards before the enemy opened on our left a brisk fire. This was answered first by a yell along our whole line, the men moving rapidly and with great enthusiasm until they were within good range, when the Ninth Arkansas, directed by Colonel A. P. Thompson, and the Eighth Kentucky, under Colonel H. B. Lyon, opened fire in return. Very soon the fire extended towards out right, along the Twenty-third Mississippi, under Lieutenant Colonel McCarley, and the Twenty-sixth Mississippi, under Major Parker. The order to press the enemy was fully carried out, and they were [660] not allowed time to breathe, and though making two gallant stands in the first mile, they were driven from their positions, without our men faltering for a moment. The tactics of the enemy did them great credit; their whole force consisted of mounted infantry, armed with Colt's, Smith's, and Sharp's most approved weapons, with two pieces of artillery. The country over which they had to pass was an alternate wood and field. On being driven to the edge of a field, they mounted and retreated across it, dismounting and sending their horses to the rear. They had all the advantage of position, being covered by the woodland, whilst our men advanced across the open field. At these points the fire of the enemy was terrific, but nothing could stop the onward movement, and our men moved forward without slackening their pace in the least. Having driven the enemy for more than a mile, it occurred to me that should the troops of General Rust's command not have moved to their left far enough to guard my right flank, that I might run some risk of being outflanked. To guard against this, I detached Lieutenant Barbour, commanding my bodyguard, with a portion of his men, with orders to move at full speed to my extreme right and take position, with his men well extended, and watch my right flank. No. sooner had he reached the point and commenced moving up with our main line than he was fired upon by the enemy. Lieutenant Barbour immediately sent a courier informing me of the fact, when I ordered the Fourteenth Mississippi, under Major Doss, to move at double-quick, by the right flank, until he reached the point occupied by Lieutenant Barbour, then to assume his original front and press them again. During all this time the enemy were interruptedly driven from every position, and forced back to a point three miles from Coffeeville, when, on reaching a commanding position, they opened fire from their artillery again, supported by the severest fire of musketry we had yet encountered. The heaviest fire was encountered by. the Ninth Arkansas regiment and the Eighth Kentucky regiment. Their efforts were, however, useless; nothing could check the advance of our men, and the position was carried without a moment's delay, just at dark.

It occurred to me a few moments before this, that a dash of our cavalry might have secured the piece of artillery in its last position; but it would have involved a heavy loss of life, not warranted under the circumstances, and I did not give the order. Having already driven the enemy much further than was ordered by a message from General Lovell, I gave order to halt and cease firing, very much to the chagrin of both officers and men, who, notwithstanding the severe duties and deprivations of the last week, seemed to forget everything but the desire showed by all to repay the injuries suffered by them during their long and barbarous imprisonment at the North.

The Fourteenth Mississippi, Major Doss commanding, towards the close, became too far separated from the main command, but was abundantly able to take care of itself, and drove back the enemy in their front, killing and wounding a number, among them Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough, who was shot dead within twenty paces of our line. This regiment also captured seventeen prisoners, with all horses, arms, and accoutrements. The loss on our part, as stated in my note to Major-General Lovell, of the sixth instant, is known to be accurately as follows: Killed, seven; wounded, forty-three. That of the enemy, thirty-four killed; among them Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough and a Second-Lieutenant, who gave his name as Woodbury (of the Third Missouri) just before expiring. The wounded of the enemy could not be accurately ascertained, inasmuch as all who were not too badly wounded were removed on horseback as fast as they fell. Estimating their wounded by the number killed, in the same ratio as that known to exist on our part, the wounded may be given at two hundred and thirty-four, which, from the number seen in the act of being removed, is under rather than over the actual loss. Sixteen of their severely wounded fell into our hands. Thirty-five prisoners, with seventeen horses and all their arms and accoutrements, were captured.

Among the prisoners were one Captain and several non-commissioned officers The wounded on both sides were removed at once to Coffeeville, and every care taken of them. The dead were buried next morning. The body of the Federal Lieutenant was decently buried, and the headstone marked so that it could be recognized. The body of Lieutenant-Colonel McCullough was not secured. The command returned to its first position near Coffeeville, and bivouacked in line of battle. The whole affair was a complete success, and taught the enemy a lesson I am sure they will not soon forget. The troops behaved in the most gallant manner; officers and men emulated each other. All did their duty nobly. I take especial pleasure in mentioning the names of Brigadier-General W. E. Baldwin, of my own division, and Colonel A. P. Thompson (commanding brigade in General Rust's division). These officers in command on my right and left, displayed the greatest good judgment and gallantry. The brunt of the battle was borne by the Ninth Arkansas, Colonel Dunlop ; Eighth Kentucky, Colonel H. B. Lyon; the Twenty-third Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel McCarley; and the Twenty-sixth Mississippi, under Major Parker.

I have seldom seen greater good judgment and impetuous gallantry shown by any officers or men. The cavalry, under Colonel Jackson, maintained the most perfect order, and were always in position to answer any summons. The batteries engaged rendered the most efficient service up to the time of my ordering the advance. The first shot fired, from the Parrott guns of Captain Hedden's battery, under the direction of Captain Culbertson, Chief of Artillery [661] of my division, wounded Colonel Misner, and killed his orderly and three men. These facts were related by a non-commissioned officer among the prisoners.

My thanks are especially due to those of my personal staff who were present. Major Watts, Inspector-General; Major Halliday, Chief Commissary; Lieutenant George Moorman, Aide-de-Camp; Lieutenant Tilghman, Aide-de-Camp ; rendered the most efficient and valuable service.

I notice with great pleasure, also, Lieutenant Barbour, commanding my body-guard, together with Lieutenant Lundy, of that company. These officers and their men rendered me great aid. The timely service of Lieutenant Barbour, on my right wing, may have saved us probably from serious injury. The whole force engaged on our side may be stated as not exceeding thirteen hundred men, whilst the enemy is known to have had not less than five regiments, numbering not less than thirty-five hundred men. Enclosed I have the honor to submit a correct list of the killed and wounded on our side.

I regret the absence of Captain Powhatan Ellis, Chief of Staff, during the action. He was engaged at my headquarters in an important business; and I was thus deprived of his valuable services. The same may be said of others of my staff who were absent on duty at various points.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lloyd Tilghman. Commanding First Division, First Corps, Army West Tenn.

Casualties in the Action.

First brigade--First division--First corps. W. E. Baldwin,
Twenty-sixth Mississippi, Major Parke commanding3317
Eighth Kentucky, Colonel Lyon commanding16411
Twenty-third Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel McCarley commanding214420
Fourteenth Mississippi, Major W. L. Doss commanding 3 3
Second brigade--Second division--First corps. Colonel A. P. Thompson, commanding.   
Ninth Arkansas Volunteers117119
Grand Total7431060

I certify that the above is a correct return, as reported.

Lloyd Tilghman, Brigadier-General, commanding First Division.

1 See Volume 6, Rebellion Record, Documents, page 235.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
5th (2)
December 6th, 1862 AD (1)
6th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: