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Rebel accounts of the battle.


Memphis appeal narrative.

Columbus, Nov. 10, 1861.
Thursday, the 7th day of November, 1861, as your columns have already announced, was an eventful day to the Confederate cause in the Northwest--“the advance of the first column of the enemy,” as a prisoner has remarked, “upon New Orleans,” though, more properly speaking, upon Columbus. Things had worn their wonted aspect of quiet up to six A. M. on that morning, with the exception of an occasional piece of impudence on the part of the Lincolnites, in the shape of near approaches with small bodies of their men to our lines, without any skirmishing, however, for some two weeks.

On the morning of the 7th, about six o'clock, boats were seen landing troops some seven miles above Columbus, on the opposite side of the river, near Hunter's Landing. Information was immediately conveyed to Headquarters. The number of the boats, however, seemed to imply that they were after larger game than was known to be in that vicinity. The Aleck Scott had frequently been seen on these marauding expeditions, but this time she was accompanied by six other boats, including two gunboats, most of them of heavy tonnage. The process of disembarkation kept steadily progressing, and by the numbers landed it became plain that our little force on the other side of the river — consisting of Col. Tappan's Thirteenth Arkansas regiment, Watson's battery, Col. Beltzhoover, and the Bolivar Troop, Capt. Montgomery, and Capt. Bowles' Cavalry, of Lieut.-Col. Miller's battalion of Mississippi Cavalry--were in imminent danger of an attack. Under these circumstances, reinforcements were rapidly sent, consisting of Col. Edward Pickett's Twenty-first, Col. J. V. Wright's Thirteenth, Col. Freeman's Twenty-second, and Col. J. Knox Walker's Second Tennessee regiments. On the landing of these troops they were hastily formed in line of battle on the border of an old field lying immediately behind the encampment of Col. Tappan's [295] regiment, skirmishers being detailed from Col. Pickett's regiment to press forward and engage the enemy at the head of the lake, Col. Freeman's regiment and Watson's battery, Col. Beltzhoover, occupying the centre, with the Thirteenth Arkansas on the right, and Thirteenth Tennessee on the left. All of this had been effected by nine o'clock, and our troops on the other side at this time may be estimated at about two thousand seven hundred men. The enemy at about ten o'clock came upon our advance, which received them with a heavy volley of musketry, and gradually fell back toward our main line, the Lincolnites following them up closely until they came within range of the main body, where they were gallantly received. Now commenced the rattling of the musketry and the roar of the artillery in earnest, our line standing firmly for one hour and a half in the face of the enemy. Our position at this time was not an eligible one, as our forces were mostly drawn up in the open field, giving the enemy the advantage of the woods, which was bordered by a heavy underbrush, and large numbers of old logs, which served them as impromptu breastworks. Two of the guns of Watson's battery had by this time become unserviceable through the stopping of the vent by their fuze, which materially impaired the efficiency of the battery, though it still continued to do noble service. Under all the circumstances, however, it was folly to maintain our position before a vastly superior force, who were steadily outflanking us, and the order was given to fall back and await reinforcements, which was not done, however, until our little force had repelled three desperate charges by the enemy.

Our forces, after falling back in good order, took up a position on the bank of the river, where they continued firing until their ammunition gave out, and they were compelled to retire under the bank in order to escape the galling fire of the enemy, who had taken Watson's battery after a desperate charge, and turned it upon our lines, charging at the same time upon the encampment which had been occupied by Colonel Tappan's regiment, and the Watson battery, setting are to the tents and throwing their lines upon the banks of the river beneath which our men lay without ammunition. It is said that as the Lincolnites came upon the bank above them, our whole force, which lay but eight or ten yards off, had but three rounds of cartridges with which to receive them.

Our men now retreated up the river to a point opposite the upper end of Columbus; here Colonel Carroll's Fifteenth (under Colonel Tyler, of San Juan notoriety) and Col. Mark's Eleventh Louisiana regiments were being landed, which forces reached the other side of the river between half-past 12 and two.

At eleven o'clock A. M. orders were received for two companies of the first battalion Tennessee Cavalry, Colonel Logwood, to cross the river, and Captain Taylor's Memphis Light Dragoons and Captain White's Tennessee Mounted Rifles (being companies A and B, of the battalion) were detailed and marched under Colonel Logwood. In crossing the river, the two companies were compelled to take separate boats, and Captain Taylor's company, accompanied by Colonel Logwood, reached the other side before our forces had retired up the river. Taking a position on the left wing with Captain Montgomery's Bolivar Troop and Captain Bowles' Cavalry, under Colonel Miller, as sharpshooters and videttes, that portion of our cavalry, when the charge was made, were cut off from the main body and were obliged to retreat down the river. Captain White's company were delayed some hour or more in crossing, and made the other side at a time when the landing for disembarking our reinforcements had been removed further up the river, and were consequently with the main body at and after the time of landing.

As soon as it became apparent that our troops had deserted their camp on the Missouri side, and while the flames were issuing from them, surrounded as they were, the famous pivot gun Lady Davis was turned loose upon them from this side, and Stewart's and smith's batteries opened fire from a position on this side of the river, opposite them. The Lady Davis fired two shots.

About this time the Ingomar was coming up the river, and the guns of the enemy being turned against her, she was compelled to fall back and postpone her landing. The batteries on this side of the river, however, kept up such an incessant firing that the enemy were compelled to retire from the river bank and take position farther back and within the cover of the woods. By this time our reinforcements had landed, and were drawn up in line of battle on the bank; Colonel Smith's First (One Hundred and Fifty-fourth) Tennessee regiment, and Colonel Blythe's Mississippi battalion, being in transit across the river.

The falling back of the enemy from the river was the turning tide in the affairs of the day.

Gen. Pillow, now at the head of Col. Tappan's, Freeman's, Pickett's, Wright's, Russell's, and Mark's Eleventh Louisiana regiments, attacked the enemy in three desperate charges between twelve and two o'clock, each time repulsed and rallied by General Pillow in person. Wherever the battle raged the fiercest, there was seen their indomitable leader, overseeing and directing even the details of the engagement.

In the mean time, a flank movement under General Cheatham was being effected, under the immediate direction of General Polk. This movement was intended to cut the enemy off from their boats by throwing our right wing between the river and the head of a little lake that runs parallel with the river some mile from each other. Captain White's Tennessee Mounted Rifles were on the extreme right of this movement, with Carroll's Tennessee regiment [296] and Blythe's Mississippi battalion; soon followed on their landing, by Col. Smith's First (One Hundred and Fifty-fourth) and Neeley's Fourth Tennessee, in their order, on his left, commanded by General Cheatham.

While this flank movement was being effected, and before our forces had fully gained the position it was designed they should occupy, Gen. Pillow, with the forces under his command, made an irresistible charge upon the position of the enemy, driving every thing before him, and completely routing them. They made two partial stands as they were pursued by our troops, but finally broke into a perfect stampede, and the victory was ours, though the enemy's loss was not near so heavy as it would have been had the design of our flank movement been fully carried out, and our forces placed in the position they were designed to occupy before the breaking of their column. Capt. White's Tennessee Mounted Rifles being first to move, had, however, gained the point where the enemy were to embark before they reached it in large numbers, and taking a position between the gunboats and the enemy's hospital, where they could not be shelled without the shots taking effect upon their own sick, they kept up a brisk fire upon them as they retreated past. Smith's and Carroll's regiments, and Taylor's, Montgomery's, and Bowles' Cavalry soon came up, and the havoc is said to have been frightful. As the enemy gained ground in the commencement of the engagement, they had kept a large number of wagons and ambulances engaged in carrying their dead and wounded off the field, and this will make it impossible for us ever to approximate the number of their killed and wounded. Besides, a galling fire was kept up upon them even after they had reached their transports, and as we crowded upon them every shot from our ordinary muskets even seemed to take effect.

Captain White's company captured two surgeons, two captains, and fourteen men from the Lincolnites, and recaptured three of Colonel Wright's regiment, when within two hundred yards of the boats.

It is a remarkable fact that not a man was lost of the cavalry corps engaged, and but two slightly wounded.

Two companies of the First Tennessee battalion of cavalry, Colonel Logwood, were kept on this side as a reserve, in anticipation of an attack on this side of the river. Captain Ballentine's company, the Shelby Light Dragoons, and Captain Green's (formerly Major Hill's) company, were stationed on the hill above Columbus, and the battle went on before them like a panorama.

Captain Taylor's Cavalry, the Memphis Light Dragoons, captured 24 prisoners, among whom was Brevet Brigadier-General Dougherty, Colonel of the Seventh Illinois regiment, who had been shot in the early part of the day — about the time of the taking of the Watson battery by the enemy. Colonel Dougherty has since had his leg amputated twice, the first operation being unskilfully performed.

Captain Dashiel, of Pickett's regiment, was carried off the field wounded.

General Fouke, an “M. C.” of some little distinction, was commander of a brigade on the field, and it is said that in retreating on to the boat a colonel of one of our regiments, who was formerly his personal friend, prevented a soldier of his regiment from shooting “his honor” through excess of courtesy, he being a “distinguished visitor.”

It is a remarkable thing that out of the sixteen horses lying dead on the field after the battle was over, nine were white. All the white horses on the field, with the exception of General Pillow's and Colonel Logwood's, were killed. Every man on General Pillow's staff lost his horse, and a number of them had two horses shot under them. Geo. Pillow, a son of General Pillow, had his horse shot no less than seven times, and was afterward himself injured by the falling of the staging while getting a six-pound gun off of one of the boats. Mr. H. P. Woodlock, Gen. Pillow's orderly, had two horses shot under him. Captain Jackson, of the artillery, acting aid to General Pillow, was shot through the thigh and the spine injured.

Captain J. H. Morgan and Captain R. W. Pittman, of Somerville, of Wright's regiment, were both wounded.

General McClernand's horse was shot under him in the engagement, though it is thought he was uninjured.

Generals McClernand, Grant, and Fouke were in command of the enemy, and it is thought all escaped uninjured.

Major McClurken, of the Seventh Iowa regiment, is a prisoner. He is badly shot in the head, three inches of the skull being shot away, with the brain protruding.

Brevet Brigadier-General Fouke was here yesterday, under a flag of truce, to ask, and received, permission to bury their dead.

Colonel Tappan's Arkansas regiment lost thirteen killed, forty-three wounded, and twenty-three missing.

An incident Of heroic conduct is related in connection with the first heavy charge that our columns made upon the enemy, which, as an incident of the battle, should not go unrecorded. When the two columns came face to face, Colonel Walker's regiment was immediately opposed to the Seventh Iowa, and David Vollmer, of Captain Stokes' company, belonging to Colonel Walker's regiment, drawing the attention of a comrade to the Stars and Stripes that floated over the enemy, avowed his intention of capturing the colors or dying in the attempt. The charge was made, the centre of Walker's regiment, Captain Stokes' position, facing the centre of the Iowa regiment. As the two columns came within a few yards of each other, young Vollmer and a young man [297] by the name of Lynch both made a rush for the colors, but Vollmer's bayonet first pierced the breast of the color-bearer, and, grasping the flag, he waved it over his head in triumph. At this moment he and Lynch were both shot dead, and as Vollmer fell, emulating the ardor of these chivalrous young men, Captain J. Welby Armstrong stepped forth to capture the colors, when he also fell, grasping the flagstaff. These colors are now at General Pillow's office.

The loss of Russell's brigade is as follows:--Second regiment, 18 killed, 64 wounded, 33 missing. Thirteenth regiment, 28 killed, 70 wounded, 48 missing. Fifteenth regiment, 10 killed, 10 wounded, and 4 missing--making a total of 56 killed, 147 wounded, and 85 missing.

A steamer, bearing a flag of truce, came to Columbus to-day, (Nov. 8,) bearing Mrs. Dougherty and other ladies, who came down to see their husbands, who are prisoners in our hands.

We have one hundred prisoners in our possession who are uninjured, and about the same number of wounded are in our hospitals. The enemy are reported to have one hundred and two of our men at Cairo, a large number taken from our hospital on the other side.

Two gentlemen, residents of Austin, Texas, passed through Columbus to-day, who were taken prisoners in New York on landing from a vessel from South America. After being held for some time, they were released, and after making their way through Canada came down through St. Louis, and were at Cairo on the 6th--the day of the battle. They report that transports were continually plying between this point and Cairo on that day, full of dead and wounded, who were received and borne away from the boats at Cairo by the citizens. They further report that there are two gunboats finished at St. Louis, and six on the stocks. They bring a Chicago Tribune, which has the candor to say the battle on the 6th was terrible on both sides. In the midst of the battle our batteries were turned upon the gunboats, whenever they showed themselves around the bend above. It was plain that several of our balls from Major Stewart's battery struck the boat, but the amount of damage was not known at the time. These gentlemen now bring the report, which is confirmed, that the gunboat Lexington has since sunk from the effects of her injuries.

official report of killed.--Gen. Russell's Brigade.

 Killed.Wounded.Missing.Total.
Second Tennessee186433115
Thirteenth Tennessee287048146
Fifteenth Tennessee1010424
 
Total loss in General Russell's brigade5614485285
Thirteenth Arkansas, Col. Tappan13432279
 
Loss in 4 regiments,65187108364

The above is the loss in four of our regiments as officially announced.

The loss in the others has not yet been announced, but if upon the same ratio it must have been over a thousand.



Memphis avalanche account.

We have received from our highly intelligent military friend, Major Bledsoe Harmon, who has just returned from a visit to Columbus, the following particulars of the late engagement:

From ten to twelve regiments of the enemy effected a landing on the Missouri side, about five miles above Columbus by land. Information of it was immediately brought in by the pickets of Tappan's regiment, encamped opposite Columbus, and communicated to General Polk, who immediately began preparations to send reinforcements to Tappan, steam having to be raised for the transportation of the troops across the river. In the mean time the enemy came down at double-quick, and attacked Tappan's regiment, which had to fall back; when Pillow arrived with Pickett's, Wright's, Knox's, Walker's, and Freeman's regiments, and gave the enemy battle in an open square of about 700 acres, on which the trees had been felled, the Federals being concealed in the surrounding woods and brushes.

Our troops fought here at a great disadvantage, being exposed to the fire of the skulking Federals without having a fair chance at them, but yet they made a gallant struggle, until, their ammunition running out, they were compelled to return to the river. The Federals then fell upon Tappan's camp, plundering and burning, and turned Watson's battery, which they had taken from us and posted below them, on the steamers which were transporting our troops across. But a battery on the Kentucky side silenced its fire while the one hundred and twenty-eight-pounder on the hill above Columbus, sending a few shots among the main body of the Federals, sent them howling back to the woods. These shots, it is said, were found several miles distant.

In the meanwhile, General Cheatham brought over Marks', Russell's, and Carroll's regiments, and, with Pillow, renewed the fight. A flank movement was executed by Cheatham, in which Marks' Louisiana regiment did good service, which threw the enemy into disorder, and a disorderly rout ensued, the Federals flying to their boats, four or five miles distant.

Colonel Smith's regiment, with Col. Blythe's, having also gotten over, the former was despatched in pursuit of the enemy, while Blythe's was afterward to follow to support it. Captains Taylor's and White's companies of cavalry, of Logwood's battalion, also joined in the pursuit, which was led by Generals Polk, Pillow, and Cheatham, the slaughter of the flying Federals being great.

But it was when they reached their boats and embarked on the L. M. Kennett, supported by their gunboats, that the butchery was most terrific. Packed together on the boat, lying at [298] the shore, in dense masses, Smith's regiment poured on them for half an hour, from a distance of only eighty yards, an incessant fire. An immense number were killed and wounded, the gutters around the boat filled with torrents of blood, which crimsoned the river around for a considerable distance, and the decks so slippery that the men could scarcely stand. Those who approached the wheel were shot down as fast as they appeared, so that they were compelled to move the boat into the stream without guidance.

The guns of the gunboats, lying close to the shore, shooting too high, were inefficient, until they got into the river, when Col. Smith withdrew his men. So hasty was the retreat of the boats that all the cables were cut, leaving us a full supply of them.

The battle throughout was exceedingly fierce. The fire on Pillow's force in the first instance was tremendous. The Federals fought with unusual bravery. They were picked men — the very flower of the forces on the Mississippi — their best marksmen. Only our superior generalship and the desperate courage of our men gave us the victory.

Captain John Morgan estimates the loss of our entire army at about one hundred killed and less than two hundred wounded. The enemy lost about four hundred killed and seven hundred wounded. We have ninety-one prisoners and over one hundred of their wounded in our hands. He says that McClernand's haversack was found upon the battle-field, and his nice snack eaten by our men. It was well understood that the plan of the enemy was to take the Missouri side and erect fortifications, while seventeen regiments were to move upon Columbus from the other side, and, making a simultaneous attack, take the place and capture the Confederate army. From some cause the enemy did not approach from the Kentucky side, and to this fact the enemy attribute their discomfiture.


L. P. Yandell's account.

Columbus, November 10.
My dear father: I know you have been impatient to hear from me since news reached you of the battle, but I have not had time till this morning. Thursday morning two gunboats, with five steamboats, landed six or eight miles above us on the Missouri shore, and were seen to disembark infantry, artillery, and cavalry in large numbers. Troops were thrown across from our side of the river about eight or nine o'clock, and about eleven o'clock the battle commenced and raged till three or four o'clock P. M. The gunboats came down within range of our camp and commenced throwing shot and shell about eight o'clock. One or two shots fell inside our line--one piece near my tent. Hamilton's artillery replied to the boats, and they soon moved out of range, when Captain Stewart, with his Parrott guns, went two miles up the bluff and opened on the boats. Most of his guns threw over the boats, and the enemy's balls did not reach us. Adjutant Hammond and I were with Captain Stewart, and helped the men to place the guns in position a number of times. They were just going to fire one of the guns, when Hammond and I retired some ten or twelve yards. The gun was fired — the explosion was terrific — and some one yelled out “Two men killed!” I rushed up immediately and saw at once that they were killed. The gun had exploded into a thousand atoms. One of the men had his right arm torn to pieces, and the ribs on that side pulpified, though the skin was not broken. He breathed half an hour. The other poor fellow received a piece of iron under the chin, which passed up into the brain — the blood gushing from his nose and ears. He never breathed afterward. A third man received a slight wound of the arm. The fragments of the gun flew in every direction, and I can only wonder that more of us were not killed. A horse hitched near mine received a glancing wound from a piece of the gun.

Our brigade was ordered under arms about noon — or rather, it was kept under arms all the morning, but I was ordered across the river about noon. Our men were previously anxious to be led over soon in the morning; but Gen. Polk would not allow it, as he expected an attack from this side of the river — which was certainly the plan of the enemy, but it was not carried out.

We did not get on the ground till the enemy were in full retreat, and we never got near them; in fact, only one regiment of our brigade pursued them at all, and they only for a mile or two. I went with Col. Scott's regiment, belonging to Col. Neeley's brigade. When about two miles out we were ordered back, as the enemy had reached his boats. I had fifty or eighty men detailed from Scott's regiment to scour the woods with me to pick up the wounded. We found none but Federals, but they were in such numbers we could only take back a few and return for the others. In one cornfield they were lying, dead and wounded, as thick as stumps in a new field. I saw sixty or seventy, and others report as many as two hundred in this field. They were mostly of the Sixth Iowa regiment, and some of the Twenty-seventh Illinois. The Lieutenant-Colonel and three captains I know to have been killed, or wounded and taken prisoners. The Seventh Iowa was almost annihilated. The scene upon the battle-field was awful.

The wounded men groaned and moaned, yelled and shrieked with pain. I had opium, brandy, and water, with which I alleviated their torture, and, poor creatures, they were exceedingly grateful. I was out until two o'clock that night with Col. Neeley and a battalion of the Fourth regiment picking up the wounded. In the woods and in the field the dead were so thick that it required careful riding to keep from tramping their bodies. The [299] only means I had of knowing the road that night was by the corpses I had noticed in the afternoon. In one place there were eleven bodies lying side by side; further on were five; in another place were fifteen near together. These were the only groups that I noticed, but I sometimes found six or eight within a space of twenty yards. Some of the poor creatures had crawled to the foot of trees, and laid their heads upon the roots and crossed their arms; others lay upon their backs with arms and legs outstretched; some were doubled up, and, in fact, they were in every imaginable position. As to the variety of expression depicted upon the faces of the corpses, of which I heard so much, I saw nothing of it. They all looked pretty much alike — as much alike as dead men from any other cause. Some had their eyes open, some closed; some had their mouths open, and others had them closed. There is a terrible sameness in the appearance of all the dead men I have ever seen. The only faces which were disfigured were those that were burned, or shot, or blackened with powder.

There were not many wounds from cannon balls or shells, but I saw almost every variety of wounds from musket and rifle balls. I saw almost all the battle from our camp, which is on top of the high bluff. The Missouri side is low and flat, and much of the battle-ground is open. The battle swayed back and forth many times. Once our men were driven clear under the river bank, having got out of cartridges. For several hours General Pillow held the enemy in check with two thousand men, the enemy having seven thousand infantry, four hundred and fifty cavalry, and I don't recollect their artillery. Pillow acted with great bravery. So did Polk and Cheatham, but they were not in the fight for several hours after Pillow. Pillow's escape is miraculous. Every one of his staff officers had his horse shot under him. One of them, Gus. Henry, had two shot under him. One of his aids was shot through the hip, and his horse was riddled with balls. Pillow wore a splendid uniform, very conspicuous, and rode the handsomest gray mare in the army. As we watched the fighting from the bluff, and saw our men advance and retreat, waver and fall back, and then saw the Arkansas troops' tents on fire, and the Stars and Stripes advancing toward the river, and some of our men crowding down to the very water's edge, I tell you my feelings were indescribable. The scene was grand, but it was terrible, and when I closed my eyes about four o'clock next morning, I could see regiments charging and retreating — men falling and yelling — horses and men torn and mangled — and myriads of horrid spectacles. It was a bloody enjoyment, but we do not know the loss on either side yet.

It is roughly estimated that we lost two hundred and fifty in killed, wounded, and missing, and the enemy five hundred in killed and wounded. An immense number of horses were killed. I rode over the battle-field yesterday. For several miles the trees are torn and barked by balls, and many horses lie upon the ground, some torn open by shells and others riddled by balls. You can see innumerable stains of blood upon the ground. Where poor, gallant Armstrong was killed, there were eleven dead bodies. At the time of his death, he had a cap upon his sword waving it, rallying his men. My friend Captain Billy Jackson was shot in the hip while leading a portion of Russell's brigade. I think he will recover. I am afraid Jimmy Walker (James' son) will not recover. I think he is shot through the rectum.

The day before the battle, Jackson, Major Butler, of the Eleventh Louisiana regiment, Wilson, of Watson's battery, Lieut. Ball, of same regiment, and Major Gus. Henry, and myself dined at Gen. Pillow's. Butler was shot through and died yesterday. Lieut. Ball was dangerously injured, and Henry had two horses shot under him. Jackson I have spoken of. I have given you but a poor account of what I saw, but I have not time to go more into details now, and I am out of kelter besides. You will see a full account in the papers of the fight. I wish the war would close. Such scenes as that of Thursday are sickening; and this destruction of life is so useless. I believe we shall have some terrible fighting very soon on the coast, in Virginia and in Kentucky. Much love to mother and sister when you see them. Mr. Law gave me the letter.

I am your devoted son,


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