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[247] Hull, of the Ninety-ninth Illinois, both of whom had had considerable experience in that line in the rear of Vicksburgh, with a fatigue-party from each of the regiments in the brigade, under cover of the darkness, dug a rifle-pit from the sand-hills on the beach, (occupied by us on the first day,) and running parallel with the enemy's works, two hundred and ten yards in length, sufficient to cover a regiment.

Sergeant Goodlander, of company F, Eighth Indiana, with a small detail from the different regiments, was ordered to move at early dawn in advance of our rifle-pit and endeavor to gain a position on the outer edge of the enemy's works. The Eighth Indiana was also moved out and ordered to lie down in the open prairie, in order to take advantage of any lodgment our advance might make. Captain Hull, of the Ninety-ninth, volunteered and accompanied the advance. The morning was bitterly cold, and our men suffered severely. Our advance moved up slowly, and cautiously took position on the outside of the work; the inside being controlled by the enemy in the sand-hills between the work and the main fort. Driving in a small picket force on the inside, (the force for protection of the works having been driven by the weather to the sand-hills,) they endeavored to rally and drive our men back, but in vain. The Eighth Indiana was immediately sent forward in small detachments, to avoid the fire of the heavy guns of the fort, and gained a safe footing in our rifle-pit arid on the enemy's work. Finding ourselves more successful than I had dared to hope, I returned to the main portion of my brigade, and immediately sent forward Colonel Lippincott, with his regiment, to the front, with instructions to take command of the force in front, and to advance as fast as prudence would allow, and to get, if possible, a position where our artillery might be made effective. Colonel Lippincott moved promptly with his command, and I soon had the pleasure of hearing from him, that he had secured a good position for our artillery. Adjutant W. W. Zener, of the Eighteenth Indiana, now on my staff, was ordered to bring up two pieces of the First Michigan battery, under command of Lieutenant Stillman, which he accomplished with despatch. The pieces were brought up, and placed in battery under a heavy fire from the fort, fortunately not very accurate, and we soon had the pleasure of seeing our shells dropping in the enemy's stronghold and driving them from their guns. Colonel Lippincott had very judiciously disposed of the two regiments, and had, previously to the arrival of the artillery, advanced several companies into the sand-hills in our front driving back the enemy nearer to his main work. I also ordered possession to be taken of an old work several hundred yards in our front, and to the left and rear of the fort, which was gallantly done by Captain McAllister, Eighth Indiana, with his company. This enabled us to move our advance on the right nearer the fort. In the mean time, I had ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Charles, Eighteenth Indiana, to move his regiment to the support of the Eighth and Thirty-third, in doing which he passed under a heavy fire of the fort, but, fortunately for him, the enemy threw nothing but solid shot, which, from their size, were easily avoided, and he gained his position with the loss of but one man. Night coming on, found four companies of the Eighth Indiana, five companies of the Thirty-third, in the sand-hills near the fort, (seven hundred and twenty-five yards, as shown by measurement;) two companies of the Eighth Indiana held the old work to our front; the balance of three regiments held the outside of the new work. The men, although the night was raw and cold, remained upon the field and in their position. A fatigue party was detailed from the reserve regiments, and proceeded to move the four pieces of the Seventh Michigan battery to the work occupied by our troops, and, by filling the ditch, placed them in a fine position. I also ordered a portion of the Eighteenth Indiana, under Captain Loues, to reenforce Captain McAllister, as I believed that to be an important point.

The Ninety-ninth Illinois and Twenty-third Iowa, who were held in reserve, were to move at daylight to our position, while a general advance of the whole brigade was to take place. These arrangements were hardly completed, when, about half-past 12 o'clock, an explosion of gunpowder in the fort warned us that the enemy were on the move. I immediately ordered an advance of the skirmishers, and found that the enemy had fled, leaving behind him his stores and ammunition, and the personal baggage of the officers. They had, however, piled a large quantity of cotton around the different magazines, after having scattered gunpowder around in different places.

The advance pushed on to the ferry, but were too late; the enemy had cut the rope, allowing the floating bridge to swing around upon the shore. They had also attempted to destroy it by piling cotton upon it and firing it, but our men were too close, and put out the fire. Six of the eight men left by the enemy to fire the trains were captured. At daylight I moved a small force across to McHenry Island, and took possession of a small earthwork, containing one twenty-four pounder gun, considerable ammunition, and some garrison equipage. In Fort Esperanza we found one one hundred and twenty-eight pounder columbiad, and seven twenty-four pounder siege guns. Two of the magazines were saved, and considerable camp and garrison equipage was in the fort, but, owing to the danger from explosion, we failed to save it. My total loss was one man killed and ten wounded; among the latter, Lieutenant George N. Fifer, Acting Aid-de-Camp, a gallant and brave officer, who fell severely wounded during our first reconnoissance. My officers and men behaved gallantly, showing that they had lost none of that coolness and bravery evinced by them upon the battle-fields of Pea Ridge, Fredericktown, Port Gibson, Champion Hills, Black River Bridge, Vicksburgh, and Jackson.

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C. E. Lippincott (3)
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