previous next

Doc. 109.-the fight at Yazoo City.

Cairo, March 16, 1864.
From an officer just arrived from Vicksburgh, who was in the recent fight at Yazoo City, we learn particulars concerning it. The fight was one of the best contested and most desperate of the war. [456]

The Union force consisted of the Eleventh Illinois, Colonel Schofield, Colonel Coates's Eighth Louisiana, (colored,) and two hundred of the First Mississippi cavalry, Colonel Ed. Osband, (colored.) The enemy had eight regiments, under command of Ross and Richardson. The fight commenced at eight A. M., and lasted nearly till dark, when the enemy retired. Three hundred of the Eleventh Illinois were surrounded in a small fort of the bluff outside the town. A storm of shot and shell was poured upon them all day, when a summons was sent to them to surrender. They replied that they didn't know what surrender meant. The remainder of the Union force was in town, where they were met by the enemy, who had gained cover of some of the buildings. The contest raged for three hours, when the enemy retired.

Two gunboats were in the river, but could render but little assistance. The colored soldiers fought bravely, and sometimes with desperation. The Eleventh Illinois lost twenty-five--nine of whom were killed. Among them was a lieutenant whose name we could not learn.

The Eighth Louisiana lost nearly one hundred in killed, wounded, and missing. The First Mississippi cavalry lost two Lieutenants and several men. Our whole loss is set down at one hundred and thirty--that of the enemy at three hundred.

Lieutenant Ingersoll's account

camp Eleventh Illinois infantry, Vicksburgh, Mississippi, March 15, 1864.
dear C.: I am not much in the mood for letter-writing to-day, but I will try and write a short one to you. My last was written, I believe, before we reached Yazoo City, on our way down from Greenwood. Colonel Coates received orders while at Sulon to proceed to Yazoo City, take possession of the place, and send to Vicksburgh for camp equipage. When within about six miles of the city, (by land, about fourteen by the river,) Colonel Osband's First Mississippi cavalry, A. D., was disembarked, with instructions to proceed by land to the rear of the town and take possession of all the roads leading, therefrom, in order to gobble up any persons that might attempt to escape, and also to reconnoitre and ascertain what was going on in the vicinity. Major Cook, with a detachment of the First Mississippi cavalry, went out on the Benton road, leading west from Yazoo City. When out about six miles, he came upon what he supposed to be a small scouting party, but which proved to be the advance pickets of General Ross's Texas brigade. He dashed upon them, driving them back into their camp, when they opened upon him with artillery. The Major, having only about sixty men, was forced to get out of that rather lively. A detachment of Ross's brigade followed him up, and they had a running fight till they reached the hills surrounding the city, where the Major made a stand, occupying a small redoubt on the Benton road just outside the city. A despatch having been received by the Colonel, giving a statement of affairs, the Eleventh Illinois, which had just disembarked, was ordered up to the front on the double-quick, and we arrived there none too soon. The enemy fell back as soon as they saw reinforcements coming up. We skirmished with them till dark, when they fell back to their camp. We remained in the fort all night. The Eighth Louisiana occupied a fort, or rather redoubt, (there are seven of them around the city,) to the right of us about three quarters of a mile. The next day company A was ordered to report at headquarters for provost-guard. This was the twenty-ninth of February. From that time up to the fifth of March, we skirmished with the enemy every day, and our cavalry pickets were drawn in nearly every night.

A flag of truce was received by Colonel Coates from General Ross, on the fourth of March, asking if the fortunes of war should place some of his men in our possession as prisoners, what should be their treatment, etc. To which a reply was given, that such treatment depended upon the treatment our men (either white or black) received at his hands.

About seven o'clock on the morning of the fifth of March, the enemy drove in our cavalry picket, and attacked the infantry picket, which had been strengthened during the night, in considerable force, but were unable to force them to retire, and were compelled to bring up their artillery to dislodge them. Our forces then retired into the fort, ready to welcome whoever or whatever might be sent. They had not long to wait. The enemy formed their lines, which consisted of General Ross's Texas brigade, and General Richardson's Tennessee brigade, (the latter had arrived during the night,) on the ridge northeast of the redoubt held by the Eleventh Illinois, commanded by Major McKee, and a detachment of the First Mississippi cavalry, under command of Major Cook, who occupied the trenches outside of the redoubt. All this time the enemy were peppering away at the fort with a battery of six rifled pieces, and doing some damage, planting the shell inside the fort with great accuracy. After the enemy had formed, they charged down the hill and across the ravine with a yell, our boys sending a shower of bullets among them, till they got under shelter of the bluffs around the fort. They took their position on three sides of the fort, under shelter of the bluff, and within one hundred to one hundred and fifty yards.

About twelve o'clock General Ross sent a flag of truce with the demand for a surrender. Major McKee, not liking the style of the thing, returned it without an answer. When Major McKee started to meet the first flag of truce, Major Cook, supposing the flag to have been raised first on our side, called to Major McKee and said: “Major, for God's sake, what are you going to do? You are not going to surrender?” The Major's reply was: “Ask my men if I ever surrender.”

At the same time that General Ross took position around the fort, two regiments of General Richardson's command, the Fifteenth and Seventeenth [457] Tennessee, deployed to the right into a large corn-field, and on the low ground to the north of the city. Colonel Coates ordered company A out to meet them and check them as much as possible, while he sent to the Eighth Louisiana for reinforcements. We went out on the run. The men deployed in the outskirts of the town, getting behind the fences and buildings for protection. But we found two regiments most too heavy for our company, and fell back from one street to the other, the boys giving them the best they had. Prisoners taken say that they suffered severely coming through the town. We were driven back till on a line with headquarters, when we made a stand, having the advantage of a strong position, and having been reinforced by a detachment from the Eighth Louisiana, A. D., about one hundred and fifty strong, determined to hold it to the last. Company A being stationed to the best advantage, I went to headquarters to see what was going on there. Colonel Coates was in the street giving orders as cool as though nothing unusual was going on. The bullets were flying around him as thick as hail. The enemy had taken possession of the houses on both sides of the street above headquarters, and were firing from the windows and doors. The pillars in front of the building used for headquarters (formerly a bank) were speckled with the marks of bullets. It seems almost a miracle that the Colonel was not struck a dozen times. Hte escaped with only a couple of holes through his coat, and a slight scratch on the face. He was standing on the steps in front of headquarters, or in the street, all the time during the fight. About three o'clock the Colonel told Adjutant Dean and myself to take what men we could get together, go around to the left of the town and attack them on the flank, to make a diversion if possible from that part of the city. We took a few of company A that were the nearest, (the whole company being out skirmishing where they had been all day,) and a small squad from the Eighth Louisiana, with an officer from the same regiment. We went around to the left, attacking them on the flank and rear, yelling at the same time like so many Indians. Captain Kenyon (of the Colonel's staff, and Captain of company K, Eleventh Illinois,) took about twenty men that had been cut off from the fort while out skirmishing in the morning, and driven back into town, and attacked them on the right about the same time. The enemy thinking no doubt that we had been reinforced, started for the hills, every man for himself. We followed them as close as we thought advisable, considering our small force. Lieutenant Brewster moved up Main street with a twelve-pound rifled gun, which had been sent to us from one of the gunboats, with men to work it, (the captain of the gun had deserted it at the commencement of the fight, leaving it in the hands of the enemy; our men charged up the street and retook it.) From that time to the close of the fight, Adjutant Dean and Lieutenant Brewster handled the gun, sending to the gun boat for a new squad of men to work it, doing good execution. We had no idea of driving the enemy out of the town when we made the demonstration. We were expecting reinforcements from Liverpool; which had been sent for, and we wanted to keep them busy until they arrived.

As soon as the enemy retreated out of the town, those attacking the fort gradually fell back, till out of cover of the bluffs, when they broke and ran, our boys having opened a heavy fire upon them. Thus ended our fight at Yazoo City.

A second flag of truce was sent on the sixth instant, from Brigadier-General Richardson to Colonel Coates, stating that he had sent an ambulance surgeon and ambulance corps to bury his dead, and take care of the wounded, and proposing to Colonel Coates that each of them send a commissioner between the picket-lines to effect an exchange of prisoners, etc. The first point was answered that his dead had been decently buried, his wounded properly and tenderly cared for, consequently no necessity for his surgeon, etc., and declined receiving them. To the second proposition, would answer, that a cartel had been agreed upon, in which certain parties and places were named for such exchange, and as neither Brigadier-General Richardson, confederate States army, nor Colonel Coates, United States volunteers, were named as such parties, nor Yazoo City the point for such exchange, would respectfully decline your proposition.

The gist of the joke in this last was, that at that time we had none of his men as prisoners!

I don't hanker after any more street-fights. Our entire loss is about one hundred and twenty-five. The Eleventh lost ten killed, including one commissioned officer, and thirty-five wounded and missing. Company A lost five wounded and one missing. He was probably wounded and taken prisoner. Three of them were from Stephenson County. Sergeant C. H. Lutz in the wrist, Samuel Stoner in the leg, and L. Iman in the shoulder. They have been sent to St. Louis, together with “Joe” Pratt. They were all doing well when they left here. [Iman since reported dead.--Ed. Jour.]

The morning after the fight orders came from Vicksburgh to embark immediately for that place. We left Yazoo City on the morning of the seventh, arriving there on the ninth.

I have endeavored to give you a short sketch of the fight. You know my fondness for letter-writing, so it is entirely unnecessary for any apologies. Had it not been for the coolness and bravery of Major McKee, who had command in the fort, also Major Cook, First Mississippi cavalry A. D., who had command of a detachment from this regiment, and the determination of Colonel Coates to hold the place as long as he had a man to fight with, this letter would probably have been written in Libby prison and to a different metre. We learned by a gunboat officer who arrived here yesterday morning from Yazoo City, that the enemy reported having lost over four hundred killed, wounded, and missing. [458] They must have suffered severely in getting a position around the fort.

While the rebs had possession of part of the town, (and it was the largest part too,) they plundered promiscuously. Lieutenant Brewster lost all his papers, and all his clothes but what he had on. He was lucky more than once that day in saving those and in being able to carry them off himself. It seemed as though he and Adjutant Dean were bullet-proof. Captain Kenyon and Lieutenant Perriont, both on the Colonel's staff, exposed themselves almost recklessly, and escaped without a scratch. You have got to see a street-fight to comprehend it. I can't describe it. Company A did itself credit, as it always tries to do.

Rebel account.

General Lee telegraphs that Ross and Richardson attacked Yazoo City on the fifth instant, capturing many stores and destroying much cotton about being shipped.

The enemy retired to the city and held it until reinforced. They were driven out of the city, which was recaptured, while stores were being destroyed. We have quite a number of prisoners. Our loss was about fifty killed and wounded. The enemy still occupy Yazoo City and Liverpool, intrenching at the latter place.

Sherman issued a general order at Canton, in which he speaks of many regiments in his army entitled to furlough.

L. Polk, Lieutenant-General.

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 People (automatically extracted)
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.
March 5th (2)
March 16th, 1864 AD (1)
March 15th, 1864 AD (1)
March 11th, 1864 AD (1)
March 4th (1)
February 29th (1)
9th (1)
7th (1)
6th (1)
5th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: