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Doc. 30. battle at Brice's cross-roads, Miss.


General Sturgis' report.

Memphis, Tenn., June 24.
sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the expedition which [163] marched from near Lafayette, Tennessee, under my command on the second instant.

This expedition was organized and fitted out under the supervision of the Major-General commanding the district of West Tennessee, and I assumed command of it on the morning of the second of June, near the town of Lafayette, Tennessee, in pursuance of Special Orders No. 38, dated Headquarters, District of West Tennessee, Memphis, May 31, 1864, and which were received by me on the first instant.

The strength of my command, in round numbers, was about eight thousand men, and composed as follows:

Cavalry.

First brigade--Colonel G. E. Waring, jr., Fourth Missouri, commanding; strength, one thousand five hundred.

Second brigade.--Colonel E. F. Winslow, Fourth Iowa, commanding; strength one thousand eight hundred, with six pieces of artillery and four mountain howitzers — the division commanded by Brigadier-General B. H. Grierson.

Infantry.

First brigade.--Colonel A. W. Wilkins, Ninth Minnesota, commanding; strength, two thousand, with six pieces of Artillery.

Second brigade.--Colonel G. B. Hoge, One Hundred and Thirteenth Illinois, commanding; strength, one thousand two hundred, with four pieces of artillery.

Third brigade.--Colonel E. Benton, Fifty-ninth United States colored infantry, commanding; strength, one thousand two hundred, with two pieces of artillery.

My supply train, carrying rations for eighteen days, consisted of one hundred and eighty-one wagons, which, with the regimental wagons, made up a train of some two hundred and fifty wagons.

My intentions were substantially as follows, viz.: to proceed to Corinth, Mississippi, by way of Salem and Ruckersville, capture any force that might be there; then proceed south, destroying the Mobile and Ohio railroad to Tupelo and Okolona, and as far as possible toward Macon and Columbus, with a portion of my force; thence to Grenada and back to Memphis. A discretion was allowed me as to the details of the movement, when circumstances might rise which could not have been anticipated in my instructions.

Owing to some misunderstanding on the part of the Quartermaster, as to the point on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad at which some forage was to have been deposited from the cars, there was some little delay occasioned in getting the column in motion.

The following incidents of the march are taken from the journal, kept from day to day, by one of my staff, Captain W. C. Ravalle, A. D. C., and A. A.. G.:

Wednesday, June 1.--Expedition started from Memphis and White's Station toward Lafavette.

Thursday, June 2.--The General and staff left Memphis on the five o'clock A. M. train, and established headquarters at Leake's house, near Lafayette, and assumed command. Cavalry moved to the intersection of the State Line and Early Grove roads, six miles from Lafayette. It rained, at intervals, all day and part of the night.

Friday, June 8.--Ordered the cavalry to move to within three or four miles of Salem. Infantry marched to Lamar, eighteen miles from Lafayette. Owing to the heavy rains during the day, and the bad condition of the roads and bridges, the train could only move to within four miles of Lamar, and did not get into park until eleven o'clock P. M., the colored brigade remaining with the train as guard.

Saturday, June 4.--Informed General Grierson that the infantry and train, under the most favorable circumstances, could only make a few miles beyond Salem, and to regulate his march accordingly. Train arrived at Lamar about noon; issued rations to the infantry and rested the animals. It rained heavily until one o'clock, P. M., making the roads almost impassable. Moved headquarters to Widow Spight's house, two miles west of Salem, and Colonel Hoge's brigade of infantry to Robinson's house, four miles from Salem (west).

Sunday, June 5.--Infantry and train started at half-past 4 A. M., and joined the cavalry, two miles east of Salem, at 10 A. M.; issued rations to the cavalry, and fed the forage collected by them. Infantry remained in camp during the day. Cavalry moved to the intersection of the LaGrange and Ripley and the Salem and Ruckersville roads. Colonel Joseph Karge's 2d New-Jersey, with four hundred men, started at six P. M., with instructions to move via Ripley to Reinza, to destroy the railroad; to proceed north, destroy bridges on the Tuscumbia, and to join General Grierson at Ruckersville. Heavy showers during the afternoon.

Monday, June 6.--Infantry and train moved at four o'clock A. M., on the Ruckersville road; commenced raining at five A. M., and continued at intervals all day. Progress very slow. Marched thirteen miles, and made headquarters at Widow Childers', at intersection of the Saulsbury and Ripley and the Ruckersville and the Salem roads. Cavalry moved to Ruckersville. The advance guard of the infantry encountered a small party of rebels about noon, and chased them toward Ripley, on the LaGrange and Ripley road.

Tuesday, June 7.--Upon information received from General Grierson that there was no enemy near Corinth, directed him to move toward Ellistown, on the direct road from Ripley, and instruct Colonel Karge to join him by way of Blackland and Carrollsville. Infantry moved to Ripley, and cavalry encamped on New Albany road, two miles south. Encountered a small party of rebels near Widow Childers', and drove them toward Ripley. In Ripley met an advance of the enemy and drove them on the New Albany road. Cavalry encountered about a regiment [164] of rebel cavalry on that road and drove them south. Several showers during the afternoon, and roads very bad.

Wednesday, June 8.--Received information at four o'clock A. M. that Colonel Karge was on an island in the Hatchie River, and sent him five hundred men and two howitzers for reinforcements. Winslow's brigade of cavalry moved six miles on the Fulton road. Infantry and train moved five miles on same road. Colonel Waring's brigade remained in Ripley awaiting the return of Colonel Karge, who joined him at five o'clock P. M., having swum the Hatchie River. Rained hard during the night.

Thursday, June 9.--Sent back to Memphis four hundred sick and worn-out men, and forty-one wagons. Cavalry and infantry moved to Stubbs', fourteen miles from Ripley; issued five days rations (at previous camp); rained two hours in the evening.

Friday, June 10.--Encountered the enemy at Brice's cross-road, twenty-three miles from Ripley, and six miles from Guntown.

* * * * * * * *

At Ripley it became a serious question in my mind as to whether or not I should proceed any further. The rain still fell in torrents — the artillery and wagons were literally mired down, and the starved and exhausted animals could with difficulty drag them along. Under these circumstances I called together my division commanders, and placed before them my views of our situation. At this interview, one brigade commander (Colonel Hoge) and two members of my staff were incidentally present also. I called their attention to the great delay we had undergone on account of the bad condition of the roads, the exhausted condition of our animals, the great probability that the enemy would avail himself of the time thus offered, to concentrate an overwhelming force against us in the vicinity of Tupelo, and the utter hopeless-ness of saving our train of artillery in case of defeat, on account of the narrowness and general bad condition of the roads, and the impossibility of procuring supplies of forage for the animals. All agreed with me in the probable consequences of defeat. Some thought our only safety lay in retracing our steps and abandoning the expedition. It was urged, however, (and with some propriety, too), that inasmuch as I had abandoned a similar expedition only a few weeks before, and given as my reason for so doing, “the utter and entire destitution of the country,” and that in the face of this we were again sent through this same country, it would be ruinous of all sides, to return again without meeting the enemy. Moreover, from all the information General Washburn had acquired, there could be no considerable force in our front, and all my own information led to the same conclusion. To be sure, my information was exceedingly meagre and unsatisfactory, and had I returned, I would have been totally unable to present any facts to justify my course, or to show why the expedition might not have been successfully carried forward. All I could have presented would have been my conjectures as to what the enemy would naturally do under the circumstances, and these would have availed but little against the idea that the enemy was scattered, and had no considerable force in our front. Under the circumstances, and with a sad foreboding of the consequences, I determined to move forward, keeping my force as compact as possible, and ready for action at all times, hoping that we might succeed, and feeling that if we did not, yet our losses might, at most, be insignificant, in comparison to the great benefits that might accrue to General Sherman by the depletion of Johnston's army to so large an extent. On the evening of the eighth, one day beyond Ripley, I assembled the commanders of infantry brigades at the headquarters of Colonel McMillen, and cautioned them as to the necessity of enforcing rigid discipline in their camps, keeping their troops always in hand, and ready to act on a moment's notice; that it was impossible to gain any accurate or reliable information of the enemy, and that it behooved us to move and act constantly as though in his presence; that we were now where we might encounter him at any moment, and that we must, under no circumstances, allow ourselves to be surprised. On the morning of the tenth, the cavalry marched at half-past 5 o'clock, the infantry at seven--thus allowing the infantry to follow immediately in rear of cavalry, as it would take the cavalry a full hour and a half to clear their camp. The habitual rules of march were as follows, to wit: Cavalry, with its artillery, in advance; infantry, with its artillery, next; and lastly, the supply train, guarded by the rear brigade, with one of its regiments at the head, one near the middle, and one, with a section of artillery, in the rear. A company of pioneers preceded the infantry, for the purpose of repairing the roads, building bridges, &c.

On this morning I had preceded the head of the column, and arrived at a point some five miles from camp, where I found an unusually bad place in the road, and one that would require considerable time and labor to render practicable. While halted here to await the head of the column, I received a message from General Grierson that he had encountered a portion of the enemy's cavalry. In a few minutes more I received another message from him, saying the enemy numbered some six hundred, and were on the Baldwin road; that he was (himself) at Brice's cross-roads, and that his position was a good one, and he would hold it. He was then directed to leave six hundred or seven hundred men at the cross-roads, to precede the infantry on its arrival, on its march toward Guntown, and with the remainder of his force to drive the enemy toward Baldwin, and then rejoin the main body by way of the line of the railroad, as I did not intend being drawn from my main purpose, Colonel McMillen arrived at this time, and I rode forward toward [165] the cross-roads. Before proceeding far, however, I sent a staff officer back, directing Colonel McMillen to move up his advanced brigade as rapidly as possible without distressing his troops. When I reached the cross-roads, I found nearly all the cavalry engaged, and the battle growing warm, but no artillery had yet opened on either side. We had four pieces of artillery at the cross-roads, but they had not been placed in position, owing to the dense woods on all sides, and the apparent impossibility of using them to advantage.

Finding that our troops were being hotly pressed, I ordered one section to open on the enemy's reserves. The enemy's artillery soon replied, and with great accuracy — every shell bursting over and in the immediate vicinity of our guns. Frequent calls were now made for reinforcements, but until the infantry should arrive, I had, of course, none to give. Colonel Winslow, Fourth Iowa cavalry, commanding a brigade and occupying a position on the Guntown road, a little in advance of the cross-roads, was especially clamorous to be relieved and permitted to carry his brigade to the rear. Fearing that Colonel Winslow might abandon his position without authority, and knowing the importance of the cross-roads to us, I directed him, in case he should be overpowered, to fall back slowly toward the cross-roads — thus contracting his line and strengthening his position. I was especially anxious on this point, because, through some misunderstanding, that I am unable to explain, the cavalry had been withdrawn without my knowledge from the left, that I was compelled to occupy the line, temporarily, with my escort, consisting of about one hundred of the Nineteenth Pennsylvania cavalry. This handful of troops, under the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse, behaved very handsomely, and held the line until the arrival of the infantry.

About half past 1 the infantry began to arrive. Colonel Hoge's brigade was first to reach the field, and was placed in position by Colonel McMillen, when the enemy was driven a little. General Grierson now requested authority to withdraw the entire cavalry, as “it was exhausted and well-nigh out of ammunition.” This I authorized as soon as sufficient infantry was in position to permit it, and he was directed to reorganize his command in the rear, and hold it ready to operate on the flanks. In the meantime I had ordered a section of artillery to be placed in position on a knoll, near the bridge, some three or four hundred yards in the rear, for the purpose of opposing any attempt of the enemy to turn our left.

I now went to this point to see that my orders had been executed, and also to give directions for the management and protection of the wagon train. I found the section properly posted, and supported by the Seventy-second Ohio infantry, with two companies thrown forward as skirmishers, and the whole under the superintendence of that excellent officer, Colonel Wilkins, of the Ninth Minnesota. While here the wagon train, which had been reported still a mile and a half in the rear, arrived. It was immediately ordered into an open field near where the cavalry were reorganizing; there to be turned round and carried further toward the rear. The pressure on the right of the line was now becoming very great, and General Grierson was directed to send a portion of his cavalry to that point. At this time I received a message from Colonel Hoge that he was satisfied the movement on the right was a feint and that the real attack was being made on the left. Another section of artillery was now placed in position, a little to the rear of Colonel Wilkins, but bearing on the left of our main line; and a portion of the cavalry was thrown out as skirmishers. The cavalry which had been sent to the extreme right began now to give way, and at the same time the enemy began to appear in force in rear of the extreme left, while Colonel McMillen required reinforcements in the centre. I now endeavored to get hold of the colored brigade, which formed the guard to the train. While travelling the short distance to where the head of the brigade should be found, the main line began to give way at various points. Order soon gave way to confusion, and confusion to panic. I sent an aid to Colonel McMillen, informing him that I was unable to render him any additional assistance, and that he must do all in his power with what he had to hold his position until I could form a line to protect his retreat.

On reaching the head of the supply train, Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse was directed to place in position in a wood the first regiment of colored troops I could find. This was done, and it is due to these troops to say here that they held their ground well, and rendered valuable aid to Colonel McMillen, who was soon after compelled to withdraw from his original line, and take up new positions in the rear. It was now five o'clock P. M. For seven hours these gallant men had held their position against overwhelming numbers, but at last, overpowered and exhausted, they were compelled to abandon not only the field, but many of their gallant comrades who had fallen to the mercy of the enemy. Everywhere the army now drifted toward the rear, and was soon altogether beyond control. I requested General Grierson to accompany me, and to aid in checking the fleeing column and establishing a new line. By dint of entreaty and force, and the aid of several officers whom I called to my assistance, with pistols in their hands, we at length succeeded in checking some twelve or fifteen hundred, and establishing a line, of which Colonel Wilkins, Ninth Minnesota, was placed in command. About this time it was reported to me that Colonel McMillen was driving the enemy. I placed but little faith in this report, yet disseminated it freely for the good effect it might produce on the troops.

In a few minutes, however, the gallant Colonel McMillen, sad and disheartened, arrived and reported his lines broken and in confusion. The [166] new line, under Colonel Wilkins, also gave way soon after, and it was now impossible to exercise any further control. The road became crowded and jammed with troops; the wagons and artillery sinking into the deep mud, became inextricable, and added to the general confusion which now prevailed. No power could now check or control the panic-stricken mass, as it swept toward the rear, led off by Colonel Winslow, at the head of his brigade of cavalry, and who never halted until he had reached Stubbs', ten miles in rear. This was the greater pity, as his brigade was nearly, if not entirely, intact, and might have offered considerable resistance to the advancing foe. About ten o'clock P. M., I reached Stubbs' in person, where I found Colonel Winslow and his brigade. I then informed him that his was the only organized body of men I had been able to find, and directed him to add to his own every possible force he could rally as they passed, and take charge of the rear — remaining in position until all should have passed. I also informed him that, on account of the extreme darkness of the night, and the wretched condition of the roads, I had little hope of saving anything more than the troops, and directed him therefore to destroy all wagons and artillery which he might find blocking up the road and preventing the passage of the men. In this way about two hundred wagons and fourteen pieces of artillery were lost, many of the wagons being burned, and the artillery spiked and otherwise mutilated; the mules and horses were brought away. By seven o'clock A. M., of the eleventh, we had organized at Ripley, and the army presented quite a respectable appearance, and would have been able to accomplish an orderly retreat from that point but for the unfortunate circumstances that the cartridge-boxes were well-nigh exhausted. At seven o'clock the column was again put in motion on the Salem road, the cavalry in advance, followed by infantry. The enemy pressed heavily on the rear, and there was now nothing left but to keep in motion so as to prevent the breaking up of the rear, and to pass all cross-roads before the enemy could reach them, as the command was in no condition to offer determined resistance, whether attacked in front or rear.

At eight o'clock A. M. on the twelfth the column reached Collierville worn out and exhausted by the fatigues of fighting and marching for two days and two nights, without rest and without eating. About noon of the same day a train arrived from Memphis, bringing some two thousand infantry, commanded by Colonel Wolf, and supplies for my suffering men, and I determined to remain here until the next day, for the purpose of resting and affording protection to many who had dropped by the roadside through fatigue and other causes. Learning however, toward evening that the command at White's Station had information of a large force of the enemy approaching that place from the southeast, and knowing that my men were in no condition to offer serious resistance to an enemy presenting himself across my line of march, I informed the General commanding the district by telegraph, that I deemed it prudent to continue my march to White's Station; accordingly, at nine P. M. the column marched again, and arrived at White's Station at daylight next morning.

This report having already become more circumstantial than was anticipated, I have purposely omitted the details of our march from Ripley to White's Station, as they would extend it to a tiresome length, but would respectfully refer you for them to the sub-reports herewith enclosed.

Casualties-Cavalry.

 killed.wounded.missing.total.
Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.
First Brigade 22 51 134 207
Second Brigade 122521593123
Total 34210311933330

Casualties — Infantry.

 killed.wounded.missing.total.
Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.
First Brigade238101452581137994
Second Brigade554  1840723441
Third Brigade11093131816012400
Total819113276511378721835

Total Infantry and Cavalry.

 officers.men.
Killed8215
Wounded15379
Missing521,571

Total Killed, Wounded, and Missing.

Officers75
Enlisted Men.2,165

It is difficult to furnish any accurate estimate of the losses of the enemy, but they are supposed, by the principal officers of my command, to be fully as great as our own in killed and [167] wounded, and by many supposed to largely exceed ours. I need hardly add, that it is with feelings of the most profound pain and regret, that I find myself called upon to record a defeat and the loss and suffering incident to a reverse at a point so far distant from the base of supplies and reinforcements. Yet there is some consolation in knowing that the army fought nobly while it did fight, and only yielded to overwhelming numbers. The strength of the enemy is variously estimated by the most intelligent officers, at from fifteen thousand to twenty thousand men. A very intelligent sergeant who was captured, and remained five days in the hands of the enemy, reports the number of the enemy actually engaged to have been twelve thousand, and that two divisions of infantry were held in reserve. It may appear strange that so large a force of the enemy could be in our vicinity, and we be ignorant of the fact; but the surprise will exist in the minds of those only who are not familiar with the difficulty (I may say impossibility) of acquiring reliable information in the heart of the enemy's country. Our movements and numbers are always known to the enemy, because every woman and child is one of them; but we, as everybody knows who has any experience in this war, can only learn the movements of the enemy, and his numbers, by actually fighting for the information. That our loss was great, is true, yet, that it was not greater, is due in an eminent degree to the personal exertions of that model soldier, Colonel W. L. McMillen, of the Fifty-ninth Ohio infantry, who commanded the infantry, and to the able commanders under him.

While I will not prolong this already extended report by recording individual acts of good conduct, and the names of many brave officers and men who deserve mention, but will respectfully refer you for these to the reports of division and brigade commanders, yet I cannot refrain from expressing my high appreciation of the valuable services rendered by that excellent and dashing officer, Colonel Joseph Karge, of the Second New Jersey volunteers, in his reconnoissance to Corinth, and his subsequent management of the rear guard during a part of the retreat, fighting and defending the rear during one whole afternoon, and throughout the entire night following.

To the officers of my staff--Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Hope, Nineteenth Pennsylvania cavalry, commanding escort; Captain W. C. Ravalle, A. D. C. and A. A. A. G., whose horse was killed under him; Captain W. C. Belden, Second Iowa cavalry A. D. C.; Lieutenant E. Caulkins, Seventh Iowa cavalry, A. D. C.; Lieutentant Samuel Oakford, Nineteenth Pennsylvania cavalry, A. D. C.; Lieutenant Dement, A. A; Q. M.; Lieutenant W. H. Stratton, Seventh Illinois cavaly, A. A. C. S.--whose names appear in no other report — I am especially grateful for the promptness and zeal with which my orders were executed at all times, and often under trying and hazardous circumstances.

I am, Major, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

S. D. Sturgis, Brigadier-General, commanding. To Major W. H. Morgan, A. A. G., Headquarters District W. T., Memphis, Tenn.


Surgeon Dyer's account.

headquarters Eighty-First Illinois, Memphis, Tenn., July 6, 1864.
At my request Dr. Lewis Dyer, of the Eighty. first regiment Illinois infantry volunteers, and Acting Surgeon-in-Chief, division Seventeenth Army Corps, on the expedition, has prepared a paper on the late retreat of General Sturgis' command from Guntown, Mississippi, to Memphis. I am taking notes and sketches of persons and things, for a permanent history of the regiment in particular, and of the war in general.

This article was written for my own personal use and benefit; but being prepared with so much care and ability, I have no doubt you will gladly insert it in your journal, which circulates extensively among the friends of our pet regiment in Southern Illinois.

Yours truly,

W. S. Post, Chaplain, Eighty-first Illinois.

headquarters Eighty-First Illinois infantry volunteers, Memphis, Tenn., June 30, 1864.
Rev. William S. Post, D. D., Chaplain Eighty-first Illinois Infantry Volunteers:
dear sir: You have of course heard of our defeat under General Sturgis at Guntown, Mississippi, the other day. I wish I could give you some idea of the scenes enacted on that occasion — the awful fight, the repulse, the defeat and rout. It was a new chapter in the history of the Eighty-first--a new and bitter experience to both officers and men — and as they believe, a needless one. Never before, in all their deadly conflicts with the enemy, had they suffered defeat. And the recollection is all the more bitter now that the day was lost to us, not by the numbers or prowes of the enemy, but by — well, it might be as safe not to say.

In speaking of the Eighty-first, the coolness and self-possession of its officers, and the bravery and desperate fighting of its men, I have no intention of intimating the least thing in disparagement of other troops. The regiment was marched upon the field and placed in position under a general and vague order, and finding it needlessly exposed to the enemy's deadly fire, with no adequate support, its commanding officers changed it for a better position, which position it held until entirely out of ammunition, when, being harassed by a galling flank fire, it fell back some three hundred yards, to a line with the artillery, when, being replenished with ammunition, it continued the fight for hours, and until it was almost surrounded by the enemy. [168] The precision with which the order to take the new position was executed, the determined valor of the men, the seizing and bearing off a stand of the enemy's colors, and finally the manner in which the regiment was retired from the field, afforded a fine exhibition of military discipline and soldierly bearing.

In this battle, the infantry especially engaged the enemy at the greatest disadvantage. The troops were hurried upon the field, having already marched all day at a rapid pace for miles, under a broiling sun; and before reaching the scene of conflict, they were shorn of half their strength from heat and exhaustion. As I rode along from regiment to regiment, and saw the numerous cases of sun-stroke and the scores and hundreds of men, many of them known to me as good and true soldiers, falling out by the way, utterly powerless to move forward, it was a sad, a fearful reflection that this condition of so many would ensure defeat and terrible disaster.

The cavalry had been for hours hotly engaged with the enemy, who was in strong force and occupied a well-chosen position. Although they had behaved nobly, they were now in urgent need of support, and hence the order despatched to commandants of regiments five miles in the rear, to “hurry up;” and on that memorable day — a hot summer's day in a Southern clime — they did “hurry up.” Our troops did all that troops could do under the circumstances — fought bravely, desperately, but were compelled to give way — to fall back. And it was now obvious that no preparation had been made in anticipation of a possible defeat. Two hundred and fifty wagons had been permitted to crowd far to the front, greatly endangering their own safety in case of a repulse, blocking up the road against the running of ambulances, and interfering with any necessary movement of the troops to the rear.

Most of the commands, on falling back, intermingled with the great number of those who had been unable to reach the field, and being greatly disorganized, all turned their faces to the rear, and joined in a common retreat. And now began the difficult task of wheeling around the teams and wagons. You have heard teamsters yell at their mules, crack their whips, and sometimes-swear, haven't you? Well, they did all these things on this occasion, and whatever else teamsters properly may do. At all events, Bedlam let loose could hardly excel in the noise and commotion you would have witnessed had you been there, in their efforts to get out of range of the enemy's guns.

Stretcher-bearers and ambulances could now reach the gory field no more, and although comparatively few of the fallen had been brought off, there now remained no alternative; the dead and wounded alike must be abandoned to the victors. Our hospital being under fire, the enemy having flanked us, our suffering men were taken to a new location three fourths of a mile further back, and again laid upon the green grass, while the Surgeon bestowed such attention as it was possible to do under the circumstances. In less than thirty minutes, however, we found ourselves under the necessity of moving again. And so, lifting the poor mangled fellows into the ambulances once more, the drivers were directed to fall into the retreating column, and follow on until further orders.

All efforts to form a new line of battle that day were unavailing, except for a few minutes, once or twice. The army was now rapidly retreating — marching to the rear — I should say, changing front, and with rapid strides seeking to go the furthest possible in the shortest space of time. Every body seemed to be in a hurry. The road was not wide enough — it was filled up to overflowing from fence to fence, with wagons, ambulances, artillery, horsemen, and footmen — everybody trying to get ahead of everybody else, as though everbody else were in their way. Then, there were two columns of cavalry to the left, moving parallel to the road, their files not very well dressed, to be sure, but still making good time. The infantry, poor fellows, seemed light of foot, by the way they plodded along on either side of the road, dodging through the brush, over logs and gulleys, constituting a dense body of flankers to the column that filled the road. But there was a sad deficiency of arms among them, having left their guns at Guntown.

This rapidly-moving army of living creatures, consisting of men, horses, negroes, mules, wagons and artillery, would every few minutes receive a fresh impetus from the shot and shell of the enemy, as they came crashing and screeching over our heads and bursting among us. Good heavens! what a spectacle! Five thousand infantry, three thousand five hundred cavalry, four batteries, two hundred and fifty wagons, and all the appurtenances thereunto belonging — every man, horse and wagon bent on getting to some distant place before anybody else did!

But O, the roads They had been well-nigh impassable in places when we were advancing toward the enemy, and now, while advancing from him, and just as night was throwing her dark mantle around us, these horrid roads must be travelled over again. No stopping to repair them now. O, no! our errand was too pressing for that. Well, perceiving no advantage in staying behind, but a strong probability of some disadvantage, and being well mounted, I proposed to my ever faithful “John” that we go forward. He quickly responded that “he would stick by me if I would by him,” and with this understanding we pushed on — travelled all night, amid such darkness, some of the time, as only dwells in these benighted regions of the Prince of Darkness.

We arrived at Ripley, thirty miles distant from the battle-field, soon after daylight. Not doubting but we had pretty much led the van, you can imagine my surprise on finding there a brigade of cavalry, as well as many of the artillery and infantry. They might truly be called [169] light artillery and light infantry, so far as arms and munitions of war were concerned. In a brief space of time most of the army had come up. But everything was out of joint and in a sad plight. Some men had hats on, and some hadn't. Some rode horses and mules with saddles and bridles, and some didn't. A great many, having exhausted their ammunition the day before, had thrown away their arms and accoutrements, as useless encumbrances in their flight.

The wagon train had all been lost. A caisson having stuck fast, the road was completely obstructed, and all the wagons and ambulances, with commissary stores, ammunition, hospital and medical supplies, and officers' baggage, were necessarily abandoned. The officer in charge of the ambulance train, and the surgeons who were along, exhausted every means in fruitless efforts to bring it forward, but after two hours of toil were compelled to leave it. There in the wilderness, in the darkness and gloom of midnight, our wounded companions were taken out and gently laid upon the bosom of mother earth — the precious trust left to the tender mercies of the pursuing foe I In anticipation of such an event, I had, just before night, addressed a respectful note to the surgeons of the Confederate army, requesting their kind offices in behalf of such of our wounded men as we could not remove, and I have already learned with much satisfaction that these men have received the kindest treatment.

We had not long been at Ripley before the pursuing column was upon us. Our cavalry, with a short supply of ammunition, quickly formed in line of battle, while several shattered regiments, without ammunition, hastened to their support. After a vigorous show of resistance, maintained for some time, our dispirited troops slowly fell back. Quite a number of men, with only flesh wounds, had managed, by the aid of horses and mules picked up on the road, to keep along with their friends to this place. But here it became necessary to leave the graver cases, and, acting under an order from the division commander, I detailed two assistant surgeons to remain in charge of them. The citizens to whose houses they were taken gave every assurance that our wounded, whether white or black, should be well cared for — and I have good reasons for believing this promise has been fulfilled. It was here I joined for a brief period my own regiment, from which I had necessarily been separated for a time. I had seen it as it moved unflinchingly into the hottest of the fight, but had heard little of its casualties. I knew not who of my friends and companions had fallen, and great was my joy to meet my Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel, Adjutant, Captain, and Lieutenant, not one missing, though some of them wounded. I need hardly say it was to me an affecting meeting.

My duties to others, which hitherto had called me everywhere, appeared now to be wholly at an end. I had now at my command neither ambulance, dressings, medicines, nor instruments. I had “turned over” all my supplies to the “rebs;” and believing in the philosophy that teaches that “self-preservation is the first law of our nature” I resolved to put it into practice. and so John and I mounted our horses, agreeing we would not stop until we reached Memphis, notwithstanding the distance was seventy-five miles, and our horses had not been fed for twenty-four hours. As we passed rapidly by many a weary footman, and some who were more poorly mounted than we, but one idea seemed to engross their mind — and that was, that salvation depended wholly on works, wholly on getting within our lines before the “rebs” caught them; and I confess I shared largely in this feeling myself, as my poor horse would testify, could he speak.

As “birds of a feather flock together,” and as “misery loves company,” so the stragglers who had managed to mount themselves, from all regiments, and of all complexions, began to consolidate their forces, until we numbered about one hundred and fifty, without counting mules. As good fortune would have it, we were soon overtaken by about an equal number of cavalry, who had been cut off from their main body. They had but two or three rounds of ammunition, and we had neither arms nor ammunition — but it was proposed by us, and accepted by them, that for purposes of mutual protection, we keep together. I was appointed to the command of the “regiment of mounted men without arms,” with an imperative order to keep my men from straggling. And so we rode on and on, weary and sleepy, and hungry. One of my darkies fell asleep on his mule, and then he fell on to his head in the middle of the road. This awoke him, when he mounted again and came on. We had travelled all the night before, and were now entering upon another, and finding it a delusive hope to reach Memphis without stopping, it was concluded to halt for a few hours during the night, and rest ourselves and animals; and on arriving at a place three miles west of LaGrange, at one o'clock at night, having travelled over all the by-roads and cow-paths in the country, we “went into camp.” This consisted in lying down without your supper, upon a blanket if you had one, and upon the ground if you hadn't.

At dawn of day, having been perfectly refreshed by a hard shower, we started off on our march, without “surgeon's call,” and without breakfast. At Moscow, we crossed Wolf river where it divides into two branches, making an island. The branch nearest us was bridged; we passed over it to the island and pulled it up after us — the bridge, not the branch — in order that we might bridge the other. This was abetter philosophy than the Irishman's, whose blanket being too short at the bottom, lengthened it with a piece cut from the top. It was now nine o'clock A. M., and we still had twenty-four miles to make before reaching our lines at Collierville. But we were encouraged. We felt sure we had outstripped every body else in this race for dear [170] life and liberty, and if any were saved we should be of the number. I had very little doubt myself but I should “live to fight another day,” if not “to run away.”

About the middle of the afternoon we came in sight of our picket lines, and truly glad were we. It had, however, all along been a troublesome question to me as to the reason I should assign for having left the wounded behind, and, in fact, everybody else. The truth is, my friend, I couldn't repress the feeling that I had acted very cowardly, and I almost wished myself back again, even at the price of my liberty. But on arriving at the station at Collierville, what was my astonishment and relief to see hundreds of infantry and thousands of cavalry, who had arrived before us; and to settle all questions of cowardice, here were two Brigadiers, a score of Colonels and Lieutenant-Colonels, including my own, and other commissioned officers without number, all of whom had eclipsed us in this extraordinary race.

You know, Chaplain, I keep a fast horse, and am a pretty fast man, but I am compelled to admit that both horse and rider were distanced this time.

I am, dear sir,

Very truly yours,

L. Dyer, Surgeon Eighty-first Illinois.


Colonel McMillen's letter.

headquarters, First brigade, First division, Sixteenth Army corps, Moscow, Tenn., June 24, 1864.
General: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the twenty-second instant, requesting me to give you a statement in writing, setting forth my views of the causes of our defeat at Brice's cross-roads, my knowledge of your general management of the campaign, and whether or not, in my opinion, you were to blame for the failure of the expedition, and if so, to what extent.

I respectfully submit the following statement:

First--As to the causes of the defeat.

In my opinion, they are to be sought in the nature of the campaign you were charged with conducting. The expedition consisted of five thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry, with a train of more than two hundred wagons, making some four thousand six hundred animals to be subsisted. Rations for the same were transported in the wagons; but, after leaving Lafayette, you were entirely dependent on the country for forage. The line of march was through a country devastated by the war, and containing little or no forage, rendering it extremely difficult, and for the greater portion of the time impossible, to maintain the animals in a serviceable condition. The roads were narrow, leading through dense forests, and over streams rendered almost impassable by the heavy rains which fell daily, from the time we left Memphis until our return. The country was new to you, and I know the difficulty you constantly encountered in obtaining information concerning roads and the crossing of streams. Almost every man and woman along the line of march is an enemy, eager to communicate information of our force and movements, but professing entire ignorance as to the position or number of the enemy. Laboring under all these disadvantages, you moved against an enemy who possessed long lines of railroad with which to concentrate troops and supplies at any point you might threaten. It only had to await your arrival near the railroad, and, with a superior force, overpower your army, and drive it back with a heavy loss in men and material. Either you were obliged to abandon the object of the expedition before reaching the immediate presence of the enemy, or overpower him with that portion of your army which could be spared from guarding the long line of wagons. The latter you attempted, but failed in, from the simple fact that the enemy developed a heavier force than you could bring into action.

The engagement itself was, as far as I know, managed as well as circumstances would permit; was fought with spirit, even desperation, and and with no loss of consequence in material or men (except the killed and wounded).

You were, however, defeated and obliged to retreat over an impassable road, during a dark night and with exhausted animals and men. Under these circumstances, trains and artillery were abandoned in order to save a heavier loss in men.

Second--As to your management of the campaign. I have never known greater efforts to be made by any commanding officer to conduct a column of troops in an orderly and compact manner, than were made by you. I know that you were extremely anxious that the troops should be kept well in hand, ready for any emergency, and that every precaution was taken to prevent surprise. I also know that every means was taken by you to obtain information as to the movements of the enemy and its strength, and that your efforts in this line were extremely unsatisfactory. On the day of the battle, the column was as well closed up as the nature of the road over which we were moving would permit, and the troops were put into position as fast as they could come up.

Before closing, General, I desire to bear testimony to the important fact, that, when we reached Ripley, your judgment and the judgment of officers high in command, would have turned you back, had it not been that your orders to proceed were positive, and for the reason that only a short time before you had conducted another expedition to near the same point, and had returned because you considered further progress extremely hazardous, if not impracticable. In the face of this decision, you were sent through the same country, encumbered with a heavy train, without, so far as I know, discretionary powers, and you went on to meet the disaster your better judgment told you was [171] imminent should we encounter an enemy in force beyond Ripley.

As to the slanderous charges with which the country is being flooded concerning you personally, they are simply false, and beneath your notice or mine.

W. L. Mcmillen, Colonel Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, commanding. To Brigadier-General S. D. Sturgis, U. S. V. William C. Ravalle, Captain, Aide-de-Camp, and A. A. A. G., U. S. A.


Colonel Waring's letter.

headquarters First brigade, cavalry division, Sixteenth Army corps, White Station, Tennessee, June 23, 1864.
Brigadier-General S. D. Sturgis:
General: I have received your letter of this date, asking me to state my opinion of the manner in which you conducted yourself in the recent expedition into Mississippi, and of the extent to which the failure of that expedition is to be attributed to your fault.

In reply, I beg to state, that while I was not informed of the precise orders under which you proceeded, and had no means of knowing the full import of the information which you received of the position, strength, and intentions of the enemy, so far as I was able to judge of the objects of the expedition, and of the forces opposed to us, I at no time doubted that it was your duty to go on and to engage the enemy wherever he might be found.

On the day of the battle of Brice's cross-roads, I commanded the head of the column, and found it impossible to get any but the most vague information concerning the rebel force in our front, until we actually reached the field where the battle was fought. Even here it seemed doubtful that we would meet with serious opposition.

It became necessary to send out patrols to procure fuller information. The patrol toward Baldwin almost immediately struck a strong picket of the enemy, and was reinforced before the numbers opposed to us could be known. We were engaged by a force which I thought, as did General Grierson, must be met by my whole brigade, and I at once took up the only good position for more than a mile to our rear.

I think that you were right in desiring to hold this position, and nothing for the first two hours of the battle indicated that it could not be held until the whole infantry force came up. Indeed, it was held until my brigade was relieved by the head of the column. Even when I fell back to a new position, I saw no reason why the battle should not be decided in our favor.

From this time until the retreat I was with you, and I had occasion to observe your management of the battle. Here, certainly, was no cause for the unjust criticisms which have been passed upon you. You were cool and energetic, and certainly did all that lay in your power to make the engagement successful; and, when defeat was evident, you did all that could be done to prevent the disaster which followed. I am confident that, owing to the force and vigor of the enemy's pursuit, it was impossible to save the train, or the artillery which was behind it, on the retreat, and that any decided stand made with the intention of rescuing the infantry, which was last engaged, would have resulted in the capture of the entire force. The only plan by which any of the infantry could be saved, was the one which they instinctively adopted — that of taking to the woods and finding their own way to our lines.

Had you taken the grave responsibility of turning back the expedition at Ripley, you would have avoided the disaster of the battle. Whether or not you ought to have done so, I cannot decide, not knowing what your information was; but I am sure, that if you had, the unfavorable comments of the discontented would have been tenfold more loud and annoying than they now are.

The rude character of the country through which we moved rendered all tactical precautions, except a simple advance guard, impossible, while it was so utterly barren that an immediate advance or retreat was necessary to procure forage for teams and cavalry horses.

Not turning back, you had but one course to pursue; to find the enemy where you could, and to fight him on his own ground and on his own terms.

This you did as well as you could, and I am ready to testify, with a full knowledge of the circumstances of the battle and the defeat, that you acquitted yourself nobly and well, and that you merit the commendation of all who have a right to express an opinion in the matter, as you have already received that of your comrades, who saw you under the trying circumstances of action and defeat.

I wish that any word of mine could arrest the slander that you were under the influence of liquor during the fight, but such calumnies travel too fast for honest refutation to overtake them; and on this score I can only offer you the modified consolation of saying, that I and my staff, who saw much of you before, during and after the battle, are ready to brand that falsehood as it deserves whenever it may appear before us.

Be good enough, General, to accept the assurance of my personal regard, and command my assistance whenever it may be of service.to you.

Very respectfully and truly yours,

Geo. E. Waring, Colonel Fourth Missouri Cavalry, commanding. W. C. Ravalle, A. D. C.


A National account.

Memphis, Tenn., June 15, 1864.
In justice to the brave troops engaged by Brigadier-General Sturgis in the late disastrous battle with the rebel Forrest, at Brice's crossroads, [172] near Guntown, Mississippi, I, an eyewitness and participator in the engagement, with present facilities for full data and information in regard to the object, force, conduct, and management of the expedition, the valor with which our troops fought, and the manner in which the retreat was conducted, cannot refrain from submitting the following truthful narrative of events, just as they occurred, for publication:

General Sturgis was ordered to strike the line of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at a point south of Corinth, destroy the same, and engage any forces of the enemy in that vicinity. The forces composing his expedition were four thousand seven hundred infantry, with sixteen pieces of artillery, in three brigades, under Colonel McMillen--three thousand three hundred and fifty white troops, and one thousand three hundred and fifty colored; General Grierson's division of cavalry: First brigade, under Colonel Waring, probably one thousand two hundred strong, with two rifled guns and two sections of mountain howitzers (attached to Fourth Missouri cavalry); Second brigade, under Colonel Winslow, numbering one thousand five hundred men, with two rifled guns; Tenth Missouri cavalry and two rifled guns; Seventh Wisconsin light artillery. About two hundred wagons, loaded with supplies and ammunition, composed the train.

The morning of the tenth of June found this little army, complete in organization, in good spirits and undoubted efficiency, encamped together at Stubbs' plantation, on the Ripley road. At 5:30 o'clock A. M., Colonel Waring's brigade took the advance on the Fulton road, Winslow's brigade following, the infantry and trains marching behind. Two miles beyond Stubbs' the army crossed a swamp, known as the Hatchie River, covered with water, and abounding in small creeks meandering the road in great diversity The artillery and train was moved into the swamp without any attempt being made by pioneers to render the crossing better, and before all of the train had made the passage the clearing through which the road ran was so badly cut up as to render a recross-age impossible. Two hours work would have sufficed to construct a road upon which the artillery and train could have been recrossed with ease.

At ten o'clock, A. M., twenty-three miles from Ripley, about eighteen miles from Tupelo, and six miles from Saltillo, at the cross-roads at Brice's plantation, half a mile east of a deep creek, passable only by a bridge, and while the train was but in part across the Hatchie swamp, the advance encountered the enemy, which it immediately engaged.

At twelve o'clock the Second brigade of cavalry moved into position, half a mile in advance of the point of intersection of the Fulton and Pontotoc road, defending this position. The engagement had now assumed a general character, the enemy apparently in great force, pressing with vigor upon the whole line, while the artillery was hotly engaged. At two o'clock P. M. the enemy had succeeded in forcing our cavalry back a quarter of a mile from its first position, but the retirement was made in good order, and the new line was steadily held. At this period the infantry, exhausted by a march of five miles during the heat of the day, at as fast a gait as it was possible to move them, arrived and relieved the cavalry, which was ordered by General Sturgis to fall back across the creek.

The infantry went into the fight with bravery and determination, but exhausted by their forced march, and outnumbered and outflanked by their fresher foe. Fresh batteries were placed in position, and added their thunders to the horrid tumult. The dead and wounded had been carried to the rear for several hours. Now the ghastly throng grew more numerous as the tide of battle surged with greater fierceness along the line. Stragglers, many of them wounded, came in numbers from our right, and from the approaching sounds and rebel cheers, it seemed certain that the rebels had turned that flank. General Sturgis had arrived upon the field at 1:30 o'clock P. M., yet, at the moment of which I write, numbers of our teams were occupying the bridge of the deep creek toward the enemy, and being parked in the field upon its eastern bank. At three o'clock P. M., the rebels made a fierce attack along the whole line, outflanking our troops to the right and left, and driving them back in disorder.

The Fourth cavalry, in the rear of the Second cavalry brigade, had not yet succeeded in crossing their horses over the crowded bridge, and perceiving the retreat of the infantry, they were dismounted and formed upon the crest of the hill upon the eastern bank of the creek. Here, with their carbines, under a deadly fire of musketry and artillery, they fought for thirty minutes, covering the retirement of their horses, and saving the fragments of two infantry regiments threatened with complete annihilation or capture by the victorious rebels, I wish to remark in this place that I was informed by an officer of prominence, that while our entire army was in full retreat, and a great portion had already crossed the creek, General Sturgis told him that Colonel McMillen was driving the enemy.

At four o'clock P. M., that portion of the army not killed, wounded, or captured, was west of the bridge retreating in disorder, the First brigade of cavalry taking the advance of the retreating column. The negro brigade formed first west of the creek, and gave the rebels a check, after which it fell back with the receding masses. General Sturgis now ordered the Second cavalry brigade to endeavor to get ahead of the column and stop the retreat, and it accordingly proceeded to Stubbs', two miles west of the Hatchie, and ten miles from the crossroads, formed line in front and to both flanks, effectually stopping all except the First brigade, which had gone on. In the meantime a remnant of an infantry brigade had made a stand four or [173] five miles west of the creek, effectually stopping the rebel pursuit.

About nine o'clock P. M. the Hatchie swamp was completely choked with artillery, caissons, wagons, ambulances, and dead animals, the debris of a broken army, and General Sturgis, two miles ahead at Stubbs', said that he did not expect to save any artillery, wagons, or supplies, and ordered all to move forward except the Second cavalry brigade, directing Colonel Winslow to halt at Stubbs' until all the army had moved past, and then take the rear of the column as far as Ripley, saying that at that point or just beyond he would reorganize.

At 2:30 o'clock A. M. of the eleventh inst., Colonel Winslow, supposing the army all past, moved his brigade slowly in the direction of Ripley, but hearing that a portion of the brigade which protected the rear the previous night was yet behind, the cavalry was halted at a creek east of Ripley, and waited for the infantry to come up and pass. Here, as the infantry moved past, the enemy made a vigorous attack upon the rear guard, which was gallantly met by the Third and Fourth Iowa cavalry.

The column then moved slowly toward Ripley, at which place it was fiercely attacked by the enemy in the rear, while the roads north and south of the town were occupied in force.

Here, again, the Third and Fourth Iowa cavalry deploy, manoeuvring by squadrons and battalions, meeting the foe with volley for volley, and sending the bullets back into their ranks with a fierceness and rapidity more than equal to their own. The colored brigade was again pushed into action, but after firing a few volleys without checking the rebel advance, it retreated down the Salem road.

The column was then moved out of Ripley, and the Third and Fourth Iowa again took the rear, fighting severely for several hours. Twenty miles from Colliersville, the Second brigade, being out of ammunition, was relieved by the Second New Jersey, and at nine o'clock A. M. of the twelfth inst., having marched seventy-five miles in fifty-two hours--men without rest, and horses without forage — the remnant of the army arrived at Colliersville. The First cavalry brigade had saved its howitzers. The Second had saved all its artillery, ambulances and wounded, and accompanying the cavalry were a few infantry mounted on mules, horses, etc., and a few who had marched from the battle-field on foot.

Here General Sturgis said we would rest until the next morning, and collect stragglers, and as a reinforcement of two thousand fresh infantry met us there, and we were not attacked, I do not see why it was not done; but at dark the tired troops were marched seventeen miles to White Station, where they arrived at daylight the next morning. Here General Sturgis ordered a detail of his exhausted cavalry to proceed back to Colliersville and cover some stragglers reported to have arrived there.

Our loss in this battle was probably one thousand killed and wounded--most of the wounded falling into the enemy's hands--sixteen pieces of artillery, two hundred wagons, and one thousand five hundred prisoners. After the abandonment of the trains, most of the infantry was out of ammunition, and the cavalry had but a few rounds left, with no source of supply All of the troops under my personal observation fought with valor and determination worthy of more glorious results, and after the entire army was defeated and running back, the men were cool and collected, marching without organization to be sure, but without panic. A little judgment upon the part of the commander of our forces would, in the opinion of all military men present at the retreat, have saved our artillery and trains; and I am satisfied that, with a supply of ammunition, the Second brigade of cavalry, which stood so stanchly when all else was demoralized, could have protected the van. A rally of the entire force could, I think, have been made within four miles of the battle-field, enabling us to bring off the greater portion of our artillery and train, and saving from capture hundreds of our exhausted men.

I cannot close this narrative without awarding my meed of just praise to the lion-hearted commander of the Second cavalry brigade, who, amid the tumult of battle, the horrors of defeat, and the aggravation of horrors upon the retreat, was cool, collected, and ready for any emergency. His strong sense and ripened judgment never forsook him, and, better than all, he served to infuse his own spirit and devotion to duty into his gallant command.

I have no inclination to extend this narrative into a criticism upon the General commanding. I have made some plain statements plainly, without comment. They will, I think, prove as damning as the more labored denunciation could be. The Tenth Missouri was the only artillery that was brought safe to Memphis. The First brigade of cavalry was composed of the Second New Jersey, Fourth Missouri, Nineteenth Pennsylvania, Ninth Illinois, and Seventh Indiana regiments of cavalry, Colonel Geo. E. Waring, commanding. The Second brigade, Third and Fourth Iowa, Tenth Missouri, and Seventh Illinois cavalry, Colonel E. F. Winslow commanding.



Another account.

camp fifty-Fifth U. S. Colored infantry, Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tenn., June 24, 1864.
sir: I wish to give you some particulars of the defeat and disastrous rout of our forces in the expedition under General Sturgis--particulars that fell under my own observation, for I was in the midst of them during their occurrence.

On the tenth, the skirmishing in front became quite severe, but our cavalry slowly drove the rebels back, until they arrived within about two miles of Guntown, when their defence became more obstinate, and our cavalry was compelled [174] to fall back. Colonel Hoge's brigade of infantry being in the advance, was immediately ordered to the front on a double-quick, and the day being very warm, many became over-heated and exhausted, and were compelled from faintness to lie down by the roadside. I have it from the lips of those who were in this brigade, that not more than two thirds of their men reached the battle-field. As soon as this brigade had formed in line of battle the rebels came down upon them with great fury in three lines of battle. They withstood this impetuous and overwhelming force bravely for over half an hour, when the enemy performed a flank movement, and their only alternative was to retreat or be captured. By this time, however, the Second brigade had arrived, and was brought immediately into action, and were successful in checking the assault of the enemy and in holding him at bay for nearly an hour. In the interim the train had been hurried up and corralled in an open field not more than half a mile from the battlefield. The Third brigade (colored) had in the morning been disposed along the train, four men to each wagon, as a guard; as fast as this brigade could be assembled by companies they were ordered to the front, and were soon confronting the enemy in deadly conflict.

By the time this brigade had all arrived on the field, the other brigades were fleeing to the rear in considerable confusion and disorder, many throwing away their arms and accoutrements before they were fairly out of sight of the enemy.

As soon as the panic was discovered the train was ordered to retreat; but as the enemy's artillery had attained almost a perfect range of the field where the wagons were corralled and the road upon which the retreat was ordered, many of the teamsters unhitched their mules, and soldiers, mounting them, rushed frightened and panic-stricken to the rear, their pace being somewhat accelerated by the close proximity of shot and bursting shell. In this way the road became blocked, and at least two thirds of our supply and ammunition train was either destroyed or captured. The Third brigade held the enemy in check until the most of the artillery and the remainder of the train had succeeded in getting a mile or so to the rear; but they were soon overwhelmed and flanked on three successive lines of battle, and were compelled to retreat precipitously.

By this time our army was in a perfect rout, and every one who was not disabled rushed to the rear, while many of the wounded who could ride were mounted on mules and with difficulty pressed their way along with the crowd. Night now coming on, the enemy ceased their pursuit. Never was darkness more welcome or distance more enchanting to the view, than to that devoted army on this occasion.

It is impossible to give anything like a correct estimate of the number of killed or wounded in this engagement, as they nearly all fell into the hands of the enemy. It is supposed, however, that they will number over five hundred. Our loss in prisoners was considerable, as many of our men, after becoming panic-stricken, rushed to the woods in all directions, and were gobbled up by the rebel cavalry.

What was left of our army continued their march all night long, and what remained of our artillery and train becoming blocked and stuck in crossing the Tallahatchie river, was abandoned.

About six o'clock the following morning we reached Ripley, and found that our fleeing forces had halted, apparently for a rest. Every man appeared to be going on his own hook, and caring for no one but himself. We had been here scarcely more than an hour when an ominous firing was heard on the south and east of the town, showing that the enemy were still in hot pursuit. At this indication the most of the cavalry started to the rear, together with the infantry, who were without arms or ammunition, and the wounded who were mounted. That portion of the infantry who had retained their arms prepared for resistance near the centre of the town. On came the rebels with most hideous yells, and a severe fight ensued, which lasted nearly two hours, when our forces were completely routed and driven to the woods. While fighting at this place, large numbers of men and women secreted in the houses, fired upon our men from the doors and windows, and Colonel McCraig, of the One Hundred and Twentieth Illinois, was shot dead in this manner while bravely urging on his men. Our men becoming enraged at the sight of this, poured a volley among them, killing and wounding several women. After this engagement, our forces made no resistance as a body, but kept constantly retreating and skirmishing. I would say, however, that the Third Iowa cavalry made themselves very useful as a rear guard, and would compliment their coolness and bravery amid the heat and excitement of this disastrous retreat. The appearance of the road over which we retreated but too plainly indicated how serious was this disaster. It was completely lined with hats, boots, shoes, coats, saddles, and harness, while there was no end to arms and accoutrements.

A man would pick up an old horse or anything that was ridable, and mounting it, would soon ride it down and leave it by the road-side; another man being almost exhausted, seeing the animal, would mount it again, and by the assistance of a stick or spur would urge it along for a mile or two further, until finally the animal would drop by the road-side and was then left to die. In this manner the greater portion of what was left of our army fled for two days and nights without food or sleep, and reached Memphis on Sunday, the twelfth, having performed a march of one hundred and twenty miles in that time, which required ten days to accomplish when going out. Every day since, men have been straggling in, and the experience of some is almost heart-rending. A colored man from my [175] own company, who reached this place last evening, reports that he and two others were captured by the rebels near Lagrange, Tennessee, and were tied together with a rope, and then shot. His two companions fell dead, while he was only wounded in the left arm, and by a dexterous movement slipped the rope over his head and miraculously escaped to the brush while they were firing at him. This is but a single instance among many that might be mentioned.

To the colored troops this has been but a reenactment of the Fort Pillow massacre. Reports reach us from all quarters, of the brutal murder of our colored soldiers and their officers, who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the enemy. That our government does not institute retaliatory measures for such barbarous treatment of its soldiers, is becoming the wonderment of all, and of vital interest to the officers in our colored regiments.

These troops, in the late expedition, were under the command of Colonel Edward Bouton, of the Fifty-ninth United States infantry, and received many compliments from white regiments for their bravery and unflinching obstinacy in repelling the enemy while on the retreat from Guntown. As a general thing the colored soldiers retained their arms and accoutrements, and many a white soldier has said since our return that he owed his escape to the colored troops.


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