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