previous next

Chapter 12:

After the battle of Corinth and the extrication of the army from the cul-de-sac between two rivers and two opposing armies, in which it had been caught, by the coolness and practical military sense of General Price, the First and Second Missouri brigades encamped on the 12th of February, 1863, near what had once been the pleasant little city of Grand Gulf, to rest, reorganize and recuperate. General Bowen assumed command of the First brigade, with the First and the Third Missouri cavalry still in the Second brigade, under General Green. But General Bowen, being the ranking officer, was shortly after assigned to the command of the division, and Colonel Cockrell was again in charge of the First brigade. Here they remained during the rest of the winter and well into the spring, varying the monotony of camp life by occasional incursions into the country on the west side of the Mississippi, and, fortifications having been constructed on the river side of the camp and armed with heavy guns, in fighting Federal ironclad gunboats.

In one of these fights Col. William Wade was instantly killed. His battery, which had served in the Missouri State Guard, was the first organization to go into the [117] Confederate service—in December, 1861. During the two years and more that had elapsed he had been on constant duty, and on account of his soldierly qualities and his distinguished services, he had been promoted from captain of a battery to colonel of artillery. There was not a more popular or a more deserving officer in the Missouri command, and every soldier felt his death as a personal loss.

The gunboat fight in which Colonel Wade had been killed was designed on the part of the Federals to clear the way for crossing General Grant's army from the west to the east side of the river, thus enabling him to attack Vicksburg from the south and east. The crossing was effected just below the mouth of Bayou Pierre. General Pemberton, who was in command at Vicksburg, sent two small brigades, Tracy's and Baldwin's, composed mostly of new recruits, to reinforce the Missourians. Gen. Martin Green, with 1,500 men, met Grant's army on the south bank of Bayou Pierre and resisted its advance all night. In the morning, after he was reinforced by Tracy's and Baldwin's brigades, and after a two hours fight in which General Tracy was killed, he retired slowly and in good order to a range of hills southwest of Port Gibson, where General Bowen met him and took command.

Early on the morning of the 1st of May the Third, Fifth and Sixth Missouri infantry were marched to within striking distance of the field of battle and held in reserve. The Second infantry was left to defend the trenches at Grand Gulf, and the First was posted on the north bank of Bayou Pierre near its mouth to prevent the enemy crossing and getting in rear of the little army. The Sixth was detached and sent to report to General Green, who had become engaged on the new line. Green's command constituted the right wing and Cockrell's the left wing. There was no center. In a short time the right wing was forced back, and it became apparent that the enemy [118] were about to secure possession of the bridge across the bayou and block the only line of retreat of the army. Generals Bowen and Cockrell in person led a charge of the Third and Fifth on the right to relieve the pressure on the left. The men crossed one ravine twenty feet in width and twelve feet in depth successfully, and soon came to another, equally as wide and deep, which was swept by the artillery and musketry fire of the enemy. This they could not cross, but fell back in good order to the first ravine and held the further side of that. In an hour's fight they lost in killed and wounded twenty per cent of their number. But the charge accomplished its purpose, because it relieved the pressure on Green's wing and left the way open for retreat In its nature the charge was a forlorn hope. It was a desperate move of one part of the command to save the remainder. In the final charge by Green on the left, the enemy was checked and Bowen given time to withdraw the right wing, which was followed by the left, the Sixth being the last to retire.

As soon as the bridge was crossed, the command halted and threw up earthworks to hold it against the enemy. But on the night of the next day the position was abandoned, and on the 4th Bowen effected a junction with Pemberton on the Big Black, and immediately proceeded to construct fortifications to protect the railroad bridge across that river. The fortifications being completed, the army moved eastward and on the 15th of May bivouacked on Baker's Creek. The Federal and the Confederate armies were camped within a mile of each other, and their camp fires at night showed the location and gave an approximate idea of the strength of each. Pemberton's force consisted of the divisions of Loring, Bowen and Stevenson. Loring's division was about 6,000 strong and Bowen's less than 5,000. Stevenson's division was larger, consisting of three brigades, and was about 7,000 strong. The battle line was formed across the road, with [119] Loring on the right, Stevenson on the left and Bowen in the center. The Missourians, however, were moved about from point to point during the morning, and at noon were formed on a ridge in a cornfield, about a mile from their original position. After an artillery duel of half an hour between the batteries of Walsh and Landis and a section of Guibor's and a greater number of Federal guns, in which the enemy were worsted and finally compelled to withdraw, Grant hurled a heavy infantry force against Stevenson on the left, and after an hour's fighting drove him back in confusion. Bowen's division was ordered to support Stevenson and restore the broken line. As the Missourians passed General Pemberton they cheered him bravely and plunged into the fight, Cockrell leading the First brigade in front, with Green at the head of the Second brigade close behind him. From the firing of the first gun the fighting was desperate. The ground in dispute was a section of high hills and deep hollows. The line forced its way, though stubbornly opposed, and in a short time recaptured the artillery lost by Stevenson's division and captured one of the enemy's batteries. The lines were so close and the fighting was so furious that there was no place for artillery. It was man to man and musket to musket. The ground was fought over three times. As the enemy was borne back the Missourians were confronted with new lines, and recoiling temporarily before these, they renewed the assault, and at one time fought their way to within sight of the enemy's ordnance train, the wagons of which were being turned and driven to the rear.

In this extremity Grant began to mass troops on both flanks of the division and Bowen found himself confronted by an enemy greatly stronger than his command, consisting of the two Missouri brigades and the Twelfth Louisiana regiment, not exceeding 5,000 men. The enemy was on three sides, leaving only his rear open. Under these circumstances it was necessary for Bowen to [120] fall back. As it was, one Federal regiment got in his rear, but coming in range of Landis' battery it was driven back the way it came by his fire. The loss of the division was terrible. The dead and wounded of both armies lay in piles on the hillsides and in the hollows. The division, at the most critical point, had been hurled into the struggle where it was hottest, and left to fight it out unaided. Loring's division was not engaged, but he and Stevenson lost all their artillery, while Bowen did not lose a gun. In the retreat Loring made his way to General Johnston's command. Among the killed of Bowen's command was Colonel McKinney, who was an exchanged prisoner, captured in north Missouri while recruiting, and was making his way to the TransMissis-sippi department. He had about 100 men with him, and had attached himself temporarily to the Fifth Missouri infantry. Among the mortally wounded was Lieutenant-Colonel Hubbard of the Third infantry. The Confederate loss in the battle is given at 1,250 killed and wounded, and 2,000 prisoners, and the Federal loss as 1,580 killed and wounded.

From this stricken field Pemberton fell back to the railroad bridge across the Big Black river, and his men occupied the fortifications they had constructed there a few days before. The First Missouri brigade was on the right of the railroad, the Second Missouri brigade on the left, and Vaughn's brigade in the center. Stevenson's division was held in reserve on the opposite side of the river. Landis' battery was placed on the bluffs overlooking the fortifications, and the other eighteen guns of Bowen's artillery were planted in the redans and on the parapets of the fortifications. Stevenson's guns, although recaptured by the Missourians at Baker's Creek after they had been lost, had been left on the field, because there were no horses to haul them away.

At daylight on the morning of the 17th the enemy opened fire with some heavy guns, which were answered [121] by Bowen's lighter artillery. Then an assault was made on the First Missouri brigade, and repulsed. Then Sherman's corps in solid columns, six lines deep, assaulted Green's brigade on the left, and was received with a withering fire. But at this critical moment the center broke and fled to the rear, leaving a wide gap, between Bowen's right and left wings. At once the Federals dashed past Green's brigade and filled the opening left by Vaughn's brigade. Green's brigade was surrounded and more than half of it captured. Among the prisoners were Colonel Gates and most of the men of his tried and veteran regiment. Those of the brigade who escaped did so by swimming the river. The men of the First brigade remained in the rifle-pits until ordered out by Colonel Cockrell, and then it was a foot race between them and the Federals for the bridge. The Missourians won it, though some of them were overtaken and had to surrender. Some of the artillerists refused to leave their guns, and were captured in the act of loading and firing them. All the artillery was captured, because, by an order of General Pemberton, the horses had been taken to the other side of the river and the guns could not be moved. The loss of the Confederates in this affair was estimated at 260 killed and wounded and 3,000 prisoners, and that of the Federals at 300 killed and wounded. The prisoners were afterward exchanged and returned to their commands at Demopolis after the fall of Vicksburg. Col. Elijah Gates escaped two days after his capture, but could not reach his command at that time. The advance of the Federals was stopped by the arrival of Gen. M. L. Smith's division from Vicksburg, which formed on the brow of the hill and allowed the remnant of the beaten army to pass through it. By night the troops reached Vicksburg, worn, broken and their ranks decimated, after having fought as valiantly as soldiers ever did. The First Missouri brigade was reduced to 1,600—more than one-half—and the Second Missouri brigade to 1,200. [122]

Vicksburg was the focal point of the war in the west. It commanded the navigation and commerce of the Mississippi river, and as long as it was held by the Confederates kept a practical line of communication open between the Trans-Mississippi department and the government at Richmond, and the armies in Virginia and the West. The prolonged and desperate fighting that had taken place around it, in the effort of the Federals to reduce it, had made it an object of interest to both sections and to the civilized world. The town extends along the eastern bank of the river about a mile and a half, and back from the river about a mile. It stands on an elevated plateau between the mouth of the Yazoo on the north and of the Black on the south. Immediately on the river is a bluff. On the lower side of the town a creek, which winds its way through swamps and bottoms, empties into the river, and makes approach from that direction difficult. High hills extend along the river for a mile above. The river at this point makes a bend and a peninsula opposite the town. It was through the isthmus which connects the peninsula with the main land that the Federals attempted to cut a canal and turn the current of the river.

The intrenchments around the city were about six miles in length and two and a half in width at the widest part, and were semi-circular in form. Extending along the river front were thirty-one heavy guns, and on the hills in its rear, and north and south of it, were a multitude of forts and redans, and a labyrinth of intrenchments and rifle-pits. In the defense of the town Stevenson's division was posted on the right, Smith's on the left, Forney's in the center, and Bowen's was held in reserve, its duty being to succor those that needed help the most and strengthen the line where it was weakest. On the evening of the 18th the enemy appeared in force and drove in the outlying pickets. They soon found the weakest point in the line and opened a heavy fire on it, [123] and the First Missouri brigade was ordered to the threatened point. It bad six men killed or wounded—Colonel Cockrell being among the wounded—which was the first blood of the siege. The next morning the batteries of the enemy opened, but the guns of the besieged did not reply. These guns were manned principally by the Missourians from .the batteries of Walsh, Landis and Lowe, whose guns had been lost at Black river, and it has been remarked as singular that they had orders not to fire except when charged by the enemy's infantry, though there was no lack of ammunition, immense quantities of it being surrendered with the town. On the 19th the Missouri brigades were armed with Enfield rifles, very much to their satisfaction, and the First Missouri Confederate infantry, in a fight on the left, captured the battleflag of the Eighth Missouri Federal infantry. The cannonading from the gunboats and the land batteries, as well as the musketry firing, was incessant, but the besieged took no active part in the uproar, except when their works were charged. On the 22d the Federals of Gen. Frank Blair's division made three fierce assaults on the stockade on the left of the line, but were repulsed each time with great loss by the First Missouri brigade. The Third Missouri infantry, though protected by breastworks, lost fifty-six killed and wounded, and the other regiments of the brigade lost in proportion. This experiment was so disastrous to the Federals that they did not make another attempt to storm the works during the siege. But they were at work with their picks and spades, under cover of constant fire from their gunboats and sharpshooters. On the 27th five ironclads steamed down the river, headed by Commodore Porter's flagship, the Cincinnati, and at the same time four other ironclads appeared from below and opened a vigorous fire on the upper and lower batteries. The largest of the Confederate guns were trained on the Cincinnati, and with such effect that it was disabled and sunk before it could get [124] out of range. A few days after the enemy made some demonstration of removing its armament, but a volunteer expedition from the First Missouri cavalry, led by Captain Barkley, reached it in yawls, under cover of night, and burned it to the water's edge, the enemy all the time cannonading them from the peninsula. General Pemberton complimented them for their daring act in general orders.

About the middle of June it became known that the supply of food was failing. When the siege commenced it had been announced that there were provisions enough in store to last six months, and in less than a month the assistant quartermaster wrote: ‘The last of our beef has been issued, the bread is made of corn, rice and beans ground and mixed into a meal; we cannot possibly hold out over twenty days on half rations.’ Even the sick had nothing better than soup made of lean mule meat stewed. A barrel of flour sold for $400. The only means of communication of the besieged with the outer world was by means of couriers who floated down the river past the gunboats, covered with driftwood, or picked their way through interminable and miasmatic swamps, with the likelihood of being shot at any moment. But General Bowen received his commission as major-general by these means, and General Pemberton got dispatches from General Johnston. In the meantime the siege was pressed desperately, the parallels approaching in some places so closely that the men could talk with each other, and frequently gave each other warning when to look out for danger. Hand-grenades were used instead of bombshells, and everything betokened the coming of the end. The fort on the Jackson road was blown up by the explosion of a mine by the enemy, and the Federals attempted to charge through the opening, but were repulsed by the Sixth Missouri and the Third Louisiana. Col. Eugene Irwin, commanding the Missourians, was killed at the head of his regiment He was a brave soldier and an [125] accomplished gentleman, and was beloved and honored by all who knew him. About the same time Gen. Martin E. Green was killed in the trenches while reconnoitering one of the enemy's batteries. Since the beginning of the siege he had lived in the trenches with the men, always ready to perform any duty that evolved upon him. He was a great soldier of the sturdy, simple type, and the Confederacy could have better afforded to lose a more pretentious officer.

On the 1st of July another mine was exploded under the fort on the Jackson road, with terrible results to the Missouri troops. The Sixth Missouri was on duty there. The Second had just been relieved, and the men were in camp in a hollow a hundred yards to the rear. The men of the Sixth, Colonel Cockrell among them, were blown bodily into the air. The Second formed just behind the ruins and stood prepared to meet a charge for more than an hour, with fifty pieces of artillery playing on them and not a Confederate gun firing in reply. The Second lost forty men killed and wounded, most of them killed, and never moved from their place or fired a shot. The enemy, taught by former experience, did not attempt a charge. Among the killed of the Second regiment was Lieutenant-Colonel Senteney, a brave and popular officer.

On the 2d of July the last rations were issued. They were mule meat. All hope of outside aid was abandoned. The first note looking to a surrender was sent on the 3d of July. The correspondence continued until nine o'clock on the 4th, when General Pemberton went out and had a personal interview with General Grant, in front of the Federal line, which lasted for an hour and a half. Both commanders are reported to have been very much at their ease. Grant might well have been. The result was the unconditional surrender of the town and the army. The army comprised 23,000 men, three majorgen-erals, nine brigadier generals, more than 90 pieces of artillery and about 40,000 small arms. Of the men 6,000 [126] were in the hospitals, and nearly as many more were crawling around in what were called convalescent camps. The fall of Port Hudson followed closely after that of Vicksburg, and the Trans-Mississippi department was isolated and the Confederacy split in twain.

When Vicksburg was first invested General Pemberton had requested the non-combatants, especially the women and children, to leave the city, and informed them that he would request General Grant to pass them through his lines, which he had no doubt he would do. But the request was generally, if not entirely, unheeded. The inhabitants preferred to remain and share the fate of their city and their friends. They had become accustomed to the turmoil and danger of the bombardment—for Porter's fleet had kept up an intermittent fire on them for months, and they had learned by experience how to protect themselves. They excavated holes in the hills—underground habitations, in fact, which frequently consisted of several rooms, comfortably furnished—into which they could retire when the danger was great Nor were they actuated by any morbid sense of curiosity in remaining. The women felt they had a duty to perform and they performed it. The defenders of the town were falling daily and hourly. The hospitals were. crowded with the sick and wounded. The accommodations for their comfort were of the rudest description. There was a dearth of nurses and of medicines. Then, like gleams of light and sunshine, the women came to their relief, without noise or ostentation or display. Simply dressed, patient, tireless and sympathetic, they hovered around the beds of the sick and wounded, not only during the day but through the long watches of the night, and nursed back to life and health and strength many a stricken hero. The noble devotion of the women of the South to the cause of suffering humanity makes the brightest page of the history of the war.

After the surrender President Davis telegraphed to [127] General Pemberton his thanks to the soldiers of the Missouri division for their gallantry during the siege, their prompt obedience to orders at all times, and especially for their service as reserves in strengthening every weak point and position. But the gallant commander of that division, who had made it the thunderbolt in war it was, was dead or dying. General Bowen was taken sick at Vicksburg shortly after the surrender, but was conveyed with the army as far as Raymond, when his sickness assumed such an aggravated form that he was compelled to stop. He grew worse, and died at that place on the 13th of July. He had attained the rank of majorgen-eral, and his reputation in the army, not only as a scientific soldier but as a hard fighter, was very high. Of the younger general officers he was among the most prominent. He was complimented by Beauregard for the part he took at Shiloh, and by Breckinridge for his service at Baton Rouge, and he saved the army by the stubbornness with which he held the rear after the battle of Corinth. His high reputation was increased by the determined fight he made at Port Gibson with a small force, and at Baker's Creek and on the retreat to Black river. He was a strict disciplinarian, but he had the affection as well as the esteem of his men. He ranks among the first and best of Missouri's hard-fighting, self-sacrificing soldiers.

On the 13th of September, 1863, notice of the exchange of the prisoners surrendered at Vicksburg was received at Demopolis, where they were quartered. Col. F. M. Cockrell had in the meantime been promoted to brigadier-general. The regiments of the First and Second brigades were consolidated into one brigade, which was afterward known as the Missouri brigade, and was put under his command. The First and Third cavalry made a regiment, with Gates, colonel; Samuels, lieutenant-colonel; Parker, major. The First and Fourth infantry had, before that time, been consolidated. The Second and Sixth infantry were consolidated, with [128] Flournoy, colonel; Carter, lieutenant-colonel; Duncan, major. Colonel Hudspeth of the Sixth was retired because of wounds. Maj. T. M. Carter, by right of seniority, was entitled to the command, but waived his claim, as did other officers, in favor of Captain Flournoy. The First and Third infantry were consolidated, with Mc-Cown, colonel; McDowell, lieutenant-colonel; Williams, major. Colonel Gause was sent west of the Mississippi on recruiting service, and Lieutenant-Colonels Bevier and Garland were ordered to Richmond to take charge of exchanged Missouri prisoners of war. Thus six regiments of infantry and one of dismounted cavalry were consolidated into four regiments, which constituted what was known distinctively as the Missouri brigade.

At the same time the batteries of Wade, Guibor and Landis were consolidated into one four-gun battery, with Guibor, captain, and Walsh, McBride and Harris, lieutenants. The three batteries which were consolidated contained originally 375 men. At the end only 60 were left. The officers at the close of the war were A. W. Harris, captain, and J. Murphy, S. M. Kennard and J. Dickenson, lieutenants. These batteries were not alone nor singular in the number of men lost. The new consolidated brigade under Cockrell was but little more than 2,000 strong, but in it were all the Missourians left of the 8,000 who crossed the river with General Price, except a few who got permission to return to the west side. This remnant General Cockrell as diligently drilled and disciplined and perfected in the duties of the soldier, in the camp at Demopolis, as if they had been that many recruits. On the 16th of October the brigade won a premium for the greatest proficiency in tactics in a grand division drill held by General Johnston, and not long afterward it was reviewed by President Davis, who complimented it highly on its soldierly appearance, the machine-like perfection of its movements and the splendid record it had made. [129]

About the first of the new year, 1864, the brigade was ordered to Mobile, because of a supposed mutiny among the troops there, which proved to have been more imaginary than real. While there some of the regiments took part in a competitive drill of regiments from the States of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri, with Generals Hardee and Maury as judges, in which the First and Fifth Missouri won the prize, which was a silk flag presented by the ladies of Mobile. After this the brigade returned to its old camp at Demopolis, was rearmed with the finest guns and the best equipments the Confederacy could afford, re-enlisted for the war, and was ready to do its duty with a heart for any fate. [130]

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

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

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1864 AD (1)
September 13th, 1863 AD (1)
February 12th, 1863 AD (1)
December, 1861 AD (1)
October 16th (1)
July 13th (1)
July 3rd (1)
July 2nd (1)
July 1st (1)
June (1)
May 15th (1)
May 1st (1)
27th (1)
22nd (1)
19th (1)
4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: