Rebel reports and narratives.
General Breckinridge's report.
Headquarters in the field, near Comite River, August 6, 1862.I desire to express to you briefly my sense of your gallant conduct in the late operations. Baton Rouge, from the character of the ground, could not be taken and held while the enemy commanded the river. Accordingly the Arkansas was to engage the gunboats and floating-battery, while you were to whip the enemy on land. Unfortunately the machinery of the Arkansas became so injured that she could not reach the scene of action. Your part of the work was nobly done. After marching all night through a country destitute of water, you attacked an enemy superior to you in numbers, admirably posted, and supported by the fire of their fleet, you forced them from their positions, taking prisoners and several flags; killing and wounding many; destroying most of their camps, and large quantities of public stores, and driving them to the bank of the river, under cover of the guns of their fleet. The inability of the Arkansas to reach the scene of conflict prevented the victory from being complete; but you have given the enemy a severe and salutary lesson. And now those who so lately were ravaging and plundering this region, do not care to extend their pickets beyond the sight of their fleet. You have proved again what has been so often demonstrated in this war, that the soldiers of the confederate States, fighting in a just cause, are superior to their enemies.
To the Officers and Soldiers under my Command:
To the Officers and Soldiers under my Command:
Lieutenant Reed's account.Lieut. Reed, of the ram Arkansas, gives the following particulars:
The Arkansas left Vicksburgh at two o'clock Sunday morning, August third, and steamed leisurely down the river, having ample time to reach Baton Rouge at the appointed hour. When she arrived within fifteen miles of Baton Rouge, her starboard engine broke down. Repairs were  immediately commenced, and at eight o'clock were partially completed, though she was not in a condition to engage many of the Yankee vessels on account of the injury received. At four o'clock, almost to a minute, General Breckinridge opened the attack on Baton Rouge. A messenger was despatched at eight o'clock to ascertain the strength of the enemy's fleet, and the Arkansas proceeded to a point five miles above Baton Rouge, when she was cleared for action. We learned from the guerrillas on shore that there were only three gunboats. On rounding the point the starboard engine again broke down, and the ship drifted ashore in sight of Baton Rouge, on the Arkansas side. Repairs were immediately commenced, and the ship got afloat at five o'clock the same evening. The, engineer reported that the engines were unreliable. It was determined to make a trial trip up the river to ascertain the strength of the engines — proceeded some five hundred yards up the river when her engines again broke down more seriously than ever. The crew were engaged all night in repairs. Next morning at eight o'clock the lookouts reported the Federal fleet coming up. The ship was moored head down-stream, and cleared for action, and in this condition was determined to fight to the last. At nine o'clock the Essex came round the point and opened fire. At this moment the engineers reported the engines ready, and that they would last half a day. The lines were cut, and the Arkansas started for the Essex with the intention of running her down. Proceeded about three hundred yards in the direction of the Essex, and the larboard engine suddenly stopped. She then makes for the bank, her stern down, the Essex pouring a hot fire into her. In this condition we opened fire with the stern. The Essex continued to advance, and when within four hundred yards the crew of the Arkansas were ordered ashore, and the vessel fired. After all hands were ashore the Essex fired upon the disabled vessel most furiously. In an hour after her abandonment the fire communicated to her magazine, and all that remained of the noble Arkansas was blown up. Lieut. Stevens was in command of the Arkansas, and displayed remarkable coolness under the most perilous and distressing misfortunes. Our informant, Lieut. Reed, states that but for the misfortune to her engines the expedition would have been a most brilliant success, and the Yankees would have been driven from New-Orleans in a few days.
Grenada “appeal” narrative.
camp on Comite River, Thursday, Aug. 7, 1862.On Saturday, July twenty-sixth, we received marching orders, and on Sunday the train left for Jackson. Thence by the New-Orleans Railroad, we were quickly spirited to Tangipanoa, in Louisiana, seventy-eight miles from the Crescent City, and sixty from Baton Rouge. This point--one of those railroad mushroom towns, located in the pine woods of St. Helena parish--was to be the base of our operations. Camp Moore was in the immediate vicinity, where for several months the Louisiana troops had been fitted for active duty in the field. It was now occupied by a regiment or two, with one battery, and some odds and ends of cavalry, the whole under the command of Ruggles. Upon the arrival of Gen. Breckinridge, he assumed chief command, and the troops were separated into two divisions. To Gen. Clarke were assigned Gen. Ben. Hardin Helm's brigade, consisting of the Fourth and Fifth Kentucky, Fourth Alabama battalions and Thirty-first Mississippi regiment, Col. Stratham's brigade of Tennessee and Mississippi troops, and Cobb's Kentucky and Hudson's Mississippi batteries. To Gen. Ruggles were given his old force, the Fourth Louisiana, Col. Allen; Louisiana battalion, Col. Boyd; the Partisan Rangers, and Semmes' battery, together with Preston's brigade, commanded by Colonel A. P. Thompson, of the Third Kentucky, composed of the Third, Sixth and Seventh Kentucky, and Twenty-sixth Alabama regiments. These troops were mostly war-worn veterans, but their long marches and the arduous picket-duty at Vicksburgh had nearly decimated their ranks, so that they were but skeletons of regiments. It was now announced that a descent upon Baton Rouge, and the possession of the Mississippi River was contemplated. The plan was a very feasible one, notwithstanding our limited land forces. Gen. Breckinridge was to attack the enemy in the rear of the town, and destroy or capture his troops, while the ram Arkansas would engage the gunboats, and prevent their rendering any assistance to their comrades on shore. The Arkansas had been repaired, her crew renewed, and she was again ready for action. We waited at Tangipanoa several days to ascertain definitely that she was prepared. In the mean while the quartermasters were busy hiring teams, and engaging transportation. But with all their endeavors, their success was in no way commensurate with the wants of the army. At last we were off. Gen. Van Dorn had telegraphed Gen. Breckinridge that the Arkansas was ready, and there was no obstacle to our success but the long, sandy, blazing road of sixty miles. The boys stepped gayly away to the sound of music's inspiriting strain,, their battle-flags streaming proudly, and their hearts pulsating quickly at the prospect of punishing the foe. Yet one third of the small number with which we had left Vicksburgh were prostrate with sickness, and it appeared as if more troops remained than went forward. The heat was terrible, and the men fell out of ranks rapidly. Almost every farm-house on the roadside was converted into a hospital. On Sunday, the third inst., Gen. Breckinridge advised Gen. Van Dorn that he would be prepared to attack Baton Rouge at daylight the following morning. Gen. Van Dorn replied that the Arkansas would not reach a position where  she could participate in the fight until Tuesday morning. It was then definitely determined that the attack should be made at daylight on the morning of the fifth, the ram Arkansas, of whose steady and uninterrupted progress down the river we had constantly been advised, cooperating with the troops. At ten o'clock, Monday night, August fourth, the troops, about two thousand four hundred in all, advanced from their camp on Comite River. The men were in the finest spirits and confident of accomplishing their purpose before breakfast-time. The march of ten miles over a smooth, sandy road, between well-cultivated plantations, was conducted with quiet and order. But about dawn there occurred one of those terrible misadventures that are frequently the harbingers of disasters and gloom. While the column was advancing about three miles from the city, the road skirted on one side by a dense piece of woodland, and the other by a field of sugar-cane, there came a terrible volley of musketry from the woods where a party of Partisan Rangers had been posted. It was evident at once that there was a mistake, but the confusion incident upon the alarm could not be obviated, and several casualties occurred. Brig.-Gen. Helm's horse fell into a ditch and disabled that gallant young officer, his leg being badly mashed. The troops were thus deprived of his valuable services in the field, and he was compelled to remain restive away from the scene of action, while his bold boys were winning fresh laurels. Capt. Alexander A. Todd, (a brother of Mrs. Lincoln,) of Gen. Helm's staff, was instantly killed, and Captain Willis S. Roberts, commanding the Fourth Kentucky, dangerously wounded. Capt. Todd was a young gentleman of fine accomplishments, great personal daring, exceeding amiability, and the warmest home affections. But the evening before he wrote to his mother, and just before the accident he was conversing with Lieut. L. E. Payne, ordnance-officer of the brigade, communicating the messages he wished conveyed home in case of his fall. Brave boy! he met his end serenely, and his body was interred with tender and loving hands. Cobb's Kentucky battery was also rendered hors du combat, the gun-carriages and caissons being broken, and the pieces rendered unmanageable. This was exceedingly unfortunate from the great experience and intrepidity of Capt. Cobb and his cannoniers. At Shiloh the battery was admirably manned, and at Vicksburgh, while in command of Lieut. Graces, it successfully drove back one of the enemy's gunboats. Order being restored, the column advanced and soon the line of battle was formed. General Clarke's division occupied the right, and that of Gen. Ruggles the left. The advance was made in four lines, that of the left over a very rough country, across ditches, through sugar-cane, over fences — a very fatiguing and exhausting march. It was ten minutes of five o'clock when we first brushed the enemy. They were in good position, under cover, and opened out upon our advance with considerable precision and effect. It was, however, but the work of a moment to dislodge them. Like so many coveys of partridges, they started up and flew rapidly before our advancing columns, the boys giving vent to exulting cheers, as with fixed bayonets they followed the retreating Yankees. The morning was quite foggy, and a heavy mist hung over the entire landscape, rendering it difficult to plant our batteries so as not to operate either upon one or the other of our wings. Our town lines were then converging toward a common centre, the enemy fleeing toward his camps. But it was not without loss that we thus drove them in. They sought every possible covert-place, and, rallying, gave a peppery salute to our men. Their batteries were also admirably handled, and belched forth devastating columns of canister, grape, shrapnel, shell, and solid shot. One by one, however, they were forced to give back. Limber up, and to the rear march, was the constant order, and had it not been obeyed, all their guns would have fallen into our possession. As it was, the Fourth Louisiana charged a battery twice, each time at considerable loss, and were finally forced to lose their trophy, their commander, Col. Allen, falling, shot through both legs. This somewhat demoralized the regiment, which had already been distinguished for its good conduct. Capt. Hughes, commanding the Twenty-second Mississippi, fell dead while leading a charge; Col. Sam. Boyd, of the Louisiana battalion, was severely wounded in the arm; the gallant Thirty-first Mississippi, while charging ahead, lost its colors, but the battle-flag was immediately grasped by a lieutenant, who, bearing it aloft, was shot down, and a third man seized it, receiving a death-wound. But onward went the left. Gen. Ruggles was conspicuous for daring, and his aid, Col. Charles Jones, of Louisiana, while delivering an order, was struck down by a shell and seriously wounded. Our troops were now in the camps, and though tempting enough, none stopped to pillage. The Third, Sixth, and Seventh Kentucky regiments were going ahead like a hurricane. Nothing could stop their fearful and determined progress. The more obstinate the resistance the fiercer their onset. Overwhelming as were the odds against them, they pressed forward, mostly at a “charge bayonet,” yelling like madmen. Col. A. P. Thompson, of Paducah, fell, wounded severely through the neck, and Adjt. R. B. L. Soery was wounded dangerously. Other officers went down, but the men marched ahead. After the fall of Col. Thompson, Colonel Ed. Crossland, who had been leading his brave Seventh wherever the fire was hottest, assumed command of the brigade, and he discharged this difficult duty with equal bravery and skill. Capt. Bowman led the Third Kentucky, and did it gallantly, Major Johnson not reaching the field until it was well-nigh won. Lieut.-Col. Coffer was in command of the Sixth Kentucky during the first of the action, conspicuous for his daring, but weak from sickness, and scarcely recovered from a terrible wound received at Shiloh, he was  forced to yield his position to Major W. L. Clarke. This young officer was quite equal to the task. He was intrepid, skilful, and prudent, and brought his men safely out of more than one tight place. The Thirty-fifth Alabama, which had never before been under fire, acted with all the coolness of veterans. Its commander, Col. J. W. Robertson, was as self-possessed as on a dress-parade, and led his brave men into every danger. Falling from the effects of a sunstroke, the command devolved upon Lieut.-Col. Goodwin, a young officer of great promise. The conduct of this brigade (Preston's) was preeminently noble, and I regret that its General could not have been present to have shared its perils and enjoyed its constant succession of triumphs. Unfortunately he is confined to his bed with typhoid fever, at the residence of a friend, near Clinton, Miss. Colonel Thompson, however, as Acting Brigadier, proved a gallant and intrepid commander. Of the members of his staff, Capt. W. P. Wallace, aid-de-camp, was wounded early in the action, having his ribs broken; and Lieut. Charles Semple, ordnance-officer, was shot with grape through the leg, being this heroic officer's second wound in the war, the first having been received at Fort Donelson. Major J. R. Throckmorten, Brigade-Quartermaster, rendered invaluable services in removing the wounded. He courted dangerous positions, and captured a lot of Government horses and mules. But this was nothing for a man who had been under fire in nine severe battles. Dr. J. W. Thompson, Brigade-Surgeon, was remarkably efficient in organizing and conducting his field-hospital arrangements. While the left was thus forcing the enemy into town, the right wing, under Gen. Charles Clarke, did not lag behind. Gen. Breckinridge was himself with this division, and his presence had a magical effect upon the men. There was no danger he did not share with them. His tall form seemed ubiquitous — here, there, and every where in peril, where there was an enemy to drive or a position to gain. Of the gallantry and noble bearing of his young son Cabell I should not speak, were it not that he is as modest as he is meritorious — a worthy scion of a noble stock. Gen. Breckinridge led personally several charges, and toward the close of the action, coming up to the Fourth and Fifth Kentucky, who had fallen back utterly exhausted, he drew his sword, and with one appealing look said, in his clear, musical tones: “My men, charge!” This charge is described to us by an officer who participated, as one of the most signal and effective acts of the battle. The men rushed forward in no particular order, firing at and pursuing the enemy, with a determination that could not be thwarted, driving them farther than they had yet been driven. But during the whole engagement the Fourth and Fifth Kentucky displayed the utmost gallantry, worthy of the laurels they had won at Shiloh. Better men never followed a flag or faced an enemy than compose these two regiments. Col. Thomas H. Hunt, of the Fifth, was in command of the brigade, and received a serious shot in the left hip while actively engaged on the field. He is a model soldier and the beau ideal of an officer, and his fall occasioned a pang of regret in the minds of all his men. Lieut.-Col. Caldwell and Capt. Cripps Wickliffe were worthy of their regiment, which exhibits the heaviest loss of any on the field. The Fourth Kentucky was without field-officers, but under Capt. Miller it proved a host, bearing through the heat of the fray its tattered and bullet-riddled banner, now thrice consecrated to glory by baptism of fire and blood. I speak of the Kentucky regiments more in detail, because I know more of their conduct, and for the reason that they bore the brunt of the fight. But this was only in accordance with the promise of Gen. Breckinridge, who, in a brief address a few days before, told his “brave, noble and ragged Kentuckians” that he would lead them wherever there was danger. During the frequent pauses of the fight, when the roll of musketry and the sharp crack of artillery were hushed, all ears were strained to catch some note of intelligence from the ram Arkansas. Long since she should have been engaging the enemy's gunboats, which had already poured a dreadful rain of shot and shell into our midst. But there was no welcome sound from the guns of our little vessel. Upon all tongues were the queries, “Where can the Arkansas be? Why is she not here?” and there came the unwilling thought, has she failed us, and can all this deadly, terrible struggle have been for naught? We had already driven the enemy one and a half miles from the position where he was first encountered. We had seized all his camps, and forced him through the suburbs of the town. Then came the last charge, and right nobly did our exhausted soldiers discharge their duty. Wayworn, covered with dust, and consumed by the heat of battle, the gallant boys plunged headlong again into the fight, and before them fled the Yankees. In vain did they bring up their reserve. We drove them all quite to the river, completely under the protection of their gunboats, many of them taking to the water. It was then that Gen. Breckinridge ordered a recall. He had received a message that it would be impossible for the Arkansas to participate, then, in the engagement, but that by two o'clock she could take a part. Slowly and with reluctance our troops fell back, although exposed to the heavy firing of the gunboats. About one mile and a half from the town they were halted, and the poor, wearied, jaded fellows threw them-selves upon the ground to rest. It was in this last charge that General Charles Clarke had his hip badly shattered, and at his own request, he was conveyed to a house in town Captain Yerger, his aid, remained with him, and both were afterward made prisoners. Throughout the whole engagement, Gen. Clarke's conduct was notable for its intrepid daring. He could have easily been removed, but he knew that the wound was a fatal one, and preferred remaining behind Upon the fall back, Gen. Breckinridge ordered the various camps and stores of the enemy to be  destroyed. This was accordingly done, and a vast amount of property was burned. There were huge piles of pork, beef, bacon, flour, whisky, molasses, and sugar, quantities of clothing, at which our troops looked wistfully, all given to the flames. The encampments were those of the Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New-Hampshire, Michigan, and Indiana regiments. There was an air of comfort about all of the tents, and luxurious appointments in many of them. The sutler's stores were crowded with delicacies. But nothing escaped. Many letters, pictures, and documents were picked up, but the boys brought away no booty. Had our means of transportation been more extensive, we could have brought off a month's supply for our army. Gen. Breckinridge intrusted the delicate and important duty of holding the field to Capt. John A. Buckner, his Adjutant-General. This officer, who had, during the morning, rendered himself a conspicuous target for the enemy, remained behind with a battery and seventy-five men. With this small force he maintained his position until near sundown, when the whole army was withdrawn to its present position. While thus posted, a flag of truce was sent from the enemy's lines, requesting permission to bury the dead, which was instantly granted. Later in the day, another flag approached, with a document addressed “To the commanding officer of the confederate forces outside of Baton Rouge.” This was from Col. Cahill, and disclaimed the right of the officer sending the first. It appears that after Gen. Williams (who was chief in command) was killed, and Colonels Keith and McMillan had fallen, there was a controversy among the Federals as to the ranking officer, but the succession finally devolved on Cahill. One of the most hotly contested points of the field was a graveyard, from which the enemy had poured a galling fire, but which was finally wrested from them. Here the Sixth Kentucky found shelter, and suffered most of its loss. Truly it might have been remarked: “In the midst of life we are in death.” As we drove the Yankees into the town, they sought the protection of houses, from the windows of which they discharged murderous volleys upon our troops. In one house where they had lodged themselves, they forced a man, holding an infant in his arms, to walk up and down a porch, while they fired from behind him. They knew that our men would not risk slaying the innocent man and child even to wreak vengeance on such dastards. Both engines of the ram Arkansas having been badly broken, there was no recourse left Lieut. Stevens, her commanding officer, to prevent the notable little craft falling into the hands of the enemy but destroying her. She was accordingly fired, and at half-past 9 o'clock yesterday (Wednesday) morning exploded with a most terrible uproar. For some hours before the Essex and three sloops of war had been firing at her with their heaviest guns, but all their shot glanced harmlessly from the impenetrable sides of the invincible Arkansas. Her position was such that neither of her batteries could be brought to bear on the enemy. Only one gun was fired as a parting salvo, when her officers and crew escaped to the Louisiana shore. Although pressed by a body of Federal cavalry, most of them have reached our lines, bereft of every thing they possessed except the clothing upon their backs. As the burning fragments of the Arkansas floated down the river, the Yankee boats speedily fled to get out of harm's way, so that the ill-fated ram was a terror to the valiant sailors, even though a battered wreck. Yesterday afternoon Major Haynes, of the Quartermaster's Department, proceeded to Baton Rouge, under a flag of truce, for the purpose of visiting General Clark. He was met outside of town, blindfolded, and the covering over his eyes not removed until he was taken into the arsenal building, the window-shutters of which were closed. He was not permitted to see General Clark, but learned that he was still living and well cared for. The enemy acknowledge the loss of Gen. Williams, Colonels Keith and McMillan, and about eight hundred killed and missing. The expedition has not proved a complete success, owing entirely to the Arkansas not having cooperated. Had not that vessel met with an unfortunate accident, the victory would have been one of the most brilliant of the war. The land forces accomplished all that was possible. They drove a largely superior force of the enemy from strong and well-chosen positions two miles through the city, to the shelter of their gunboats. They captured a number of prisoners, more ammunition than we used in the battle, a quantity of horses, and destroyed more than half a million dollars' worth of Government property. In excellence of plan and brilliancy of execution — in the personal prowess of the men, and the heroic daring of the officers, the history of the war affords no better example. General Breckinridge fought the battle with small but trusty forces, and achieved what scarcely any other man could have done — a victory over double numbers, at small loss of life, in the face of four of the enemy's gunboats. Our loss in killed and wounded will not reach three hundred. I send you the lists of the casualties in such regiments as I have been able to visit. We are now comfortably encamped on the Comite River, while the wounded have been removed to Greenwell Springs — most delightful locations.