Doc. 38. battles of Tupelo, Mississippi: fought July 13, 14, and 15, 1864.
Lagrange, Tenn., July 22, 1864.The expedition was composed of two divisions of infantry — the First and Third of the Sixteenth Army corps. The First commanded by Brigadier-General Joseph H. Mower, the Third by Colonel Moore, of the Twenty-first Missouri, one brigade of cavalry commanded by Brigadier-General Grierson, and one brigade of colored troops, Colonel Bouton, commanding; aggregate strength about thirteen thousand. The whole commanded by Major-General A. J. Smith. The expedition left Lagrange, Tennessee, July fifth, passing south near Salem, through Ripley and New Albany to Pontotoc, where it arrived on the eleventh. At Cherry Creek, six miles north of Pontotoc, on the evening of the tenth, the advance of cavalry encountered the enemy in force of perhaps a brigade, and skirmished with them, killing a few rebels, and having one or two on our side wounded. Before this, on the eighth, the cavalry had a brush with a party of the enemy north of Ripley, in which a Confederate was killed. On the morning of the eleventh, the enemy, a brigade strong, was found in our front, a few miles north of Pontotoc. Our cavalry dismounted and advanced as skirmishers, and two infantry brigades of the First division were deployed in line of battle, but the enemy fell back without any decided resistence. Our army advanced, and at noon occupied Pontotoc. We remained in bivouack at the south end of the town, and out on the Okalona road during the twelfth, our position indicating that we should advance to Okalona. On the morning of the thirteenth the line of march was resumed, but not as had been expected on the Okalona road, but back through Pontotoc and out on the Tupelo road, which bears a little north of east from Pontotoc. The enemy, we learned, had taken up a strong position, and fortified it, on the Okalona road, six or eight miles from Pontotoc. Two or three brigades, however, were in our immediate front at Pontotoc, and so soon as they discovered that we were moving out on the Tupelo road our rear, south of the town, was attacked. Colonel Bouton's colored brigade, consisting of the Fiftieth, Sixty-first, and Sixty-eighth regiments, United States African Infantry (commanded respectively by Major Foster, Colonel Kendrick, and Colonel Jones), and battery I, Second United States light artillery, Captain Smith, four pieces, was in the rear, charged with covering it. The Seventh Kansas cavalry, Colonel Herrick, was also in rear. The enemy harrassed our rear during the entire day's march from Pontotoc to Harrisburg, the field of battle proper, which is about a mile and a half west of Tupelo. The distance from Pontotoc to Harrisburg is eighteen miles, Colonel Bouton, colored brigade, and Seventh Kansas cavalry, succeeded in protecting the rear of the train and column. In doing this they had frequently to form lines of battle, and may be said to have kept up a running fight the whole eighteen miles' march, but sustained only slight losses. Two miles out on the Tupelo road Colonel Bouton ambushed with two companies of the Sixty-first, which held their fire until the head of the rebel column was within fifteen yards, when two volleys were poured in that sent them reeling back. Prisoners taken next day said that this fire killed a captain and four men and wounded eight. About five miles out, the enemy brought forward a battery, and commenced shelling the rear, annoying the negro brigade while crossing a stretch of bottom land. On gaining higher ground beyond the bottom, the negro brigade was formed in line of battle, with battery in position, and the Sixty-eighth regiment in reserve. The enemy advanced cautiously, partly through a corn field,, and got quite near our line, when the Fifty-ninth and Sixty-first opened on them, the Sixty-first having an enfilading fire with decided success. The enemy fell back without any persistence of attack. Thus a succession of attacks, which were invariably repelled, were made on the rear, until the column was within about five miles of Harrisburg, when the enemy got on the flank and opposite the head of our column. The supply train had been got forward well towards the head of the column, and was being guarded chiefly by Third brigade, Colonel Wood, of First division. About three o'clock the enemy's main attack of the first inst. was made on the right flank of the column, and was successfully repelled by the Seventh Minnesota, Colonel Marshall, and the Twelfth Iowa, Colonel Stibbs, of Colonel Wood's brigade. Dr. Smith, of the Seventh Minnesota, who was near the advance of the right, was instantly killed by a shot through the neck. The train was thrown into confusion, a few of the mules killed, and two or three wagons disabled by teamsters abandoning them. The Seventh Minnesota drove the enemy back partly through an old field, out of range of the road, while the Twelfth Iowa, further back, met the enemy at close quarters in woods, and repulsed him. The Sixth Indiana battery fired a few shots. Thus the train was protected until it passed this point of attack. The Twelfth Iowa had one man killed. The Seventh Minnesota, besides losing Dr. Smith, had fifteen wounded, two dangerously. The Fourth brigade, Colonel Ward's, of First division, which was in rear of supply train, participated in this affair — I do not know with what casualties, but not many. Captain O'Donnell, of General Smith's staff, had a horse killed under him while he was giving orders to the Seventh and Twelfth. A scattered fire from the enemy extended  further along the column, in the advance and rear of this point of attack, but not with any serious effect. Very soon after this flank attack, a fight opened at the head of our column. The enemy had planted a battery on the right of the road, commanding the road, and had lines of infantry in advance of the battery. The First brigade, Colonel McWilliams, and the Second brigade, Colonel Wilkins, engaged the enemy and drove him out of range of the road, except his battery, which continued to play with some effect until the entire column passed. In the column on the road, one man in the Seventh Minnesota lost a leg by a solid shot, and one in the Twelfth Iowa had his head shot off. A very heavy musketry fire on both sides was kept up for half an hour or longer, but it was late, and our only object at that hour was to get forward and into a good position for the grand fight that was expected and did follow next day. Our losses were slight. I cannot state them accurately, nor name the particular regiments of the First and Second brigades that were in the fight at the head of the column. The Ninth Minnesota, of the Second brigade, I know was in. It encountered a party of about thirty rebels, who mistook our line for their own, and before they discovered their mistake were cut down to the last man by a volley from the whole line of the Ninth Minnesota. One of our batteries was for a time in position on the right of the road, and poured a deadly fire of canister into the enemy at short range. The battery lost several horses. General Smith selected a grove on the east of the cluster of houses that constituted the village of Harrisburg for our camp, which was the battle-field of the fourteenth and fifteenth. The road from Pontotoc to Tupelo runs east and west. The First division, General Mower's, was camped on the north side of the wood. The Third division, Colonel Moore's, was located on the south side of the wood. The train was parked on the road well toward the eastern limit of our camp, between the divisions and the hospital near a little stream in the woods. The negro brigade was on southeast side of camp, on the left of the Third division, covering the corral on that side. No attack was made during the night of the thirteenth. The battle opened July fourteenth. At three o'clock in the morning the troops were up and under arms until broad daylight, when they were permitted to get breakfast, but without laying aside their accoutrements. At six o'clock the enemy drove in our pickets, and our lines of battle were formed to receive him. Let me describe the ground more fully. Our army was in the centre and most elevated part of an area of partly open and partly wooded ground that the eye could take it within a radius of from one to two miles. At this distance on all sides continuous woods limited the vision. From our central position the ground descended by successive undulations or ridges in every direction. Groves of trees and underbrush were interspered with cornfields, and old fields overgrown with weeds and bramble over this area of three miles square; the Tupelo road, as stated. lying east and west directly through our camp. The ground occupied by our camp was wooded, and declined slightly toward the east, or rather it was the head of a little valley that opened toward the east, so that the interior of our lines was lower than the circular crest in which our lines of battle were formed, giving us a decided advantage. It was a magnificent position in which to receive the attack of the enemy. The superior generalship and good judgment of General Smith, in selecting this position, were fully attested by the impregnability of our lines when assaulted, and the comparatively small loss we sustained, considering the heaviness of the enemy's fire. Our lines may be described as having the shape of a horse shoe, with the top to the west on the road and open between the heels toward the east. The First division, General Mower's, constitutes the right of the line; its left, Colonel Wood's brigade; the Third, extending from the road northward, bending around to the east, facing west and northwest; the Fourth brigade Colonel Ward's, on the right of the Third, fronting north northwest, while the Second brigade, Colonel Mekin, the First brigade, Colonel McMillan, were still further to the right, fronting north and northeast. The brigades were not extended in one continuous line, but two or more lines deep. The ground was open in front of the First division line, except at the northwest angle, the centre of Colonel Wood's brigade. The Third division, Colonel Moore, was on the left, south of the Pontotoc road, forming a semicircle around south and east. Colonel Bouton's negro brigade was on the extreme left of the Third division. The First brigade, Colonel Murray, had the right of the Third division line; the Third brigade, Colonel Wolf, next; while the Second brigade, Colonel Gilbert's, was somewhat in rear near the train. The battle opened about six o'clock, in the morning — our pickets being driven in and the enemy advancing in heavy force and extended lines from the west and northwest. The Twelfth Iowa, Lieutenant-Colonel Stibbs commanding, with two companies of the Seventh Minnesota, constituting the first line of Colonel Wood's brigade, immediately on the right of Pontotoc road, received the first fire of the enemy, and for about an hour held its position, receiving and delivering as heavy a musketry fire as troops were ever under. Their ammunition being exhausted, the second line on the west front of Colonel Wood's brigade, composed of eight companies of the Seventh Minnesota, Colonel Marshall commanding, advanced and relieved the Twelfth Iowa, receiving an equally heavy, and delivering an equally effective fire with that of the Twelfth. The Seventh Minnesota had never been in a Southern battle before, (it had been engaged in  the Minnesota Indian war two years,) and it received the highest encomiums for the veteran firmness with which it received the shock of battle. On the right of the Seventh Minnesota and Twelfth Iowa, and Thirty-third Missouri, Lieutenant-Colonel Heath, and the Thirty-fifth Iowa, Colonel Hill, their lines nearly at right angles with former were engaged, but not so heavily as the left of the brigade. The right of Colonel Moore's division, on left of road, was also engaged. The enemy, as we were afterwards told by prisoners, were led to believe that General Smith's army was composed entirely of one hundred days troops and negroes, and they expected to walk right through and over us. Hence, the persistence and recklessness with which they again and again rallied to the charge, and tried to reach and break our lines. But the storm of fire that swept from our compact lines was more than mortal man could endure, and every time they charged forward, it was but to recoil, leaving their pathway strewn with dead. They moved in heavy masses around to their left — our right — where they were met with musketry from the right of General Mower's division, the First, Second, and Fourth brigades, and a furious artillery fire from Hilmen's battery, company M, First Missouri, manned by the Sixth Indiana, Captain Miller, and the battery of company E, First Illinois light artillery. In the road, on left of Colonel Wood's brigade, guns of the Second Iowa battery were posted and did earnest work. The Third Indiana battery, on the left of the First brigade of the Third division, in position south of Pontotoc road, was also engaged. The roar of artillery was terrific. For three hours--from six o'clock until nine--the battle raged — heaviest in front of Colonel Wood's brigade of General Morris's division, as before described, and as the list of casualties surely indicates — when repulsed and beaten at all points, the enemy fell back and drew off. A charge of Colonel Wood's brigade, the Thirty-third Missouri and Thirty-fifth Iowa, on the right, and the Twelfth Iowa and Seventh Minnesota on the left, was made, which swept over the field, capturing prisoners, driving the enemy and rendering the victory complete. It was too hot, and the men too much exhausted, to pursue far the retreating foe. In front of the lines of Colonel Wood's brigade lay the rebel Colonel Harrison, of the Sixth Mississippi cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Nelson, of the same regiment, and several line officers, and a great part of their command. Colonel Faulkner's body lay in front of Colonel Moore's division on the left. A Major McKay was also killed. Prisoners say that the attack on the morning of the fourteenth was made by seven thousand of the enemy's best troops, and that many men were shot down by their own officers in driving them to the charge. One fellow said he had been in seventeen battles, but was never under such a heavy musketry fire before as that they encountered from us. The success that had attended General Forrest's army in repelling Grierson's and Morgan L. Smith's column that was moving to co-operate with General Sherman in the Meridian expedition, and his late decided victory over Sturgis, had emboldened the enemy to believe that any Federal force could be beaten, and in consequence they fought more confidently of success. Our losses were light compared with that of the enemy and for the severity of the fight. We had a magnificent position. Our lines being sheltered in good part in edge of woods, the enemy exposed himself in open ground on our left and in a corn-field on the right. A strip of woods somewhat covered his centre. A flag was shot down by the right companies of the Seventh Minnesota, but picked up by company B of the Thirty-third Missouri. It is to be sent to the Merchants' Exchange, St. Louis. On the thirteenth the Fourteenth Wisconsin took a flag, the color-bearer of which was shot down by the Twelfth Iowa. Colonel Alex. Wilkin, of the Ninth Minnesota, commanding the Second brigade of General Mower's division, was shot dead, the ball entering his left side, passing through his heart. Lieutenant A. A. Burdick, quartermaster of the Twelfth Iowa, was killed by an elongated ball from a rifled cannon that passed through an oak twenty inches in diameter before it struck him. It also killed his horse. The horses of Colonel Marshall and Adjutant Trader, of the Seventh Minnesota, were both shot as they were being led to the rear. General Mower fearlessly exposed himself in all parts of the field, wherever his presence seemed needed. One of his orderlies was killed by his side. General Smith saw all that was going on, but the perfect dispositions that had been made for battle, with the advantageous position selected by him, left little to be done during the engagement. On the evening of the fourteenth the enemy attacked the extreme left of our lines held at that time by a skirmish line of Colonel Bently's brigade. The skirmishers were driven in on the main line, when the latter in the centre, and Colonel Gilbert's brigade, of the Fourteenth, twenty-seventh, and thirty-second Iowa, and twenty-fourth Missouri on the left, and a part of Colonel Wolf's brigade on the right, charged on the enemy and drove him back with great slaughter. This work was brief, but as gallant as any of the day. A skirmish down the Pontotoc road occured about sunset, brought on by our sending out to bring in a piece of artillery of the enemy that we had disabled. It was some distance out from our line, but too near for the enemy to get it  away. They tried to prevent our getting it by shelling the party that was bringing it off. Our artillery was brought into play, and a duel was kept up for some time. We were successful in getting the gun. On the morning of the fifteenth General Smith decided to move out on the homeward march. Our subsistence was almost exhausted, and our ammunition not abundant. The cavalry went out west on the Pontotoc road, while the train moved out towards Tupelo, turning off north on the Old Town road. The enemy was in force in the woods a mile and a half west of our position. They moved out and drove our cavalry back. General Mower's division was formed in a line on the ground it occupied the day before, and partly on that held by the Third division, left of the road. The centre being on the Pontotoc road. Orders were given to fix bayonets and hold fire until the enemy advanced within fifty yards, the men lying low to conceal our position. The enemy advanced rapidly, with heavy musketry and shelling us vigorously, while only our artillery replied. It was a little trying to lie quietly and receive a heavy fire, but it did us little damage, owing to our defenses and lying low. They came to the crest of a ridge two hundred yards in our front, but the experience of the day before was fresh in their memory, and not a step further would they come. They discovered our purpose and were not to be trapped. When this was apparent. we were ordered to charge them, which was done with a yell, but they did not wait for us. We pursued them nearly a mile and then shelled them with visible effect. In a line of skirmishers thrown out at this time, Lieutenant Louis Hardy, commanding company E, Seventh Minnesota, was killed. He was a gallant fellow, but went into the fight imprudently in full uniform, a conspicuous mark for sharp-shooters. The Third division, with the train, had got miles away by this time, and the First division was called in and took up the line of march homeward. The army went into camp on the Old Town road, about five miles from the battle field. As our rear was getting into camp, the enemy came up and opened on us with artillery. Colonel McMillan's brigade of the First Ohio was in the rear, composed of the rearmost regiments, the Seventy-second and Ninety-fifth Ohio, and One hundred and fourteenth Illinois, which charged the enemy with a rapid musketry fire, that made him pay fearfully for this last attack. If our men had not been so weary they could have taken his battery. This was the last of the fighting. The enemy's dead in the aggregate, by count and careful estimate, was certainly five hundred. The usual proportions would give the wounded at two thousand to twenty-five hundred. We took about two hundred and fifty prisoners. This would make his loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, nearly three thousand. Add to this an indefinite number of missing, stragglers, and conscripts, glad of an excuse to escape to their homes, parties of whom were heard of along our homeward march, and his total loss would swell to probably four thousand. Wounded rebel officers said that the whole force of the enemy was about fifteen thousand. Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee commanded in person. Prisoners said that General Forrest and General Lee disagreed, and that if Forrest had his way we should not have been so successful. The following are our losses, obtained from official resources; In First division, General Mower's, First brigade, Colonel McMillen: killed, fifteen; wounded, seventy-four; missing, four. Total, ninety-three. Second brigade, Colonel McClure, (succeeding Colonel Wilkin, who was killed): killed, four; wounded, twenty-two; missing, four. Total, thirty. Third brigade, Colonel Wood: killed, twenty-four; wounded, one hundred and eighty-six; missing, seven. Total, one hundred and ninety-three. The following is a detailed statement of losses in this brigade, which suffered the heaviest of any brigade in the battle, viz.: Twelfth Iowa, Colonel Stibbs: killed, nine; wounded, fifty-three; missing, one. Total, sixty-three. Seventh Minnesota, Colonel Marshall: killed, nine; wounded, fifty-two; missing, one. Total, sixty-two. Thirty-third Missouri, Lieutenant-Colonel Heath: wounded, one; missing, twenty-eight. Total, twenty-nine. Thirty-fifth Iowa, Colonel Hill: wounded, five; missing, thirty-four. Total, thirty-nine. Fourth brigade, Colonel Ward: killed, six; wounded, forty-six; missing one. Total, fifty-three. Total loss in First division, Three hundred and seventy-one. Total loss of Third division, commanded by Colonel Moore, One hundred and thirty-nine. I am unable to give the loss in detail of the Third division. The aggregate above is official. Negro brigade, Colonel Bouton commanding; killed, fifteen; wounded, fifty-seven; missing, thirteen. Total, eighty-five. Total loss of the army, (exclusive of cavalry loss), Five hundred and five. The cavalry loss I regret I have not been able to ascertain. I am informed it is not large — probably does not exceed fifty. They experienced no hard fighting, but did good service in front, on flanks and in rear, and had frequent skirmishes with the enemy. They destroyed eight or ten miles of the railroad north and south of Tupelo, including considerable trestle work.