Doc. 88.-fight at Liverpool heights, on the Yazoo River.
Vicksburgh, Miss., Sunday, March 13, 1864.One of the most successful expeditions ever recorded of our operations in this vicinity, was that sent out on the first of last month, commanded by Colonel James H. Coates, of the Eleventh Illinois infantry. The force consisted of the Eleventh Illinois infantry, Eighth Louisiana infantry, and First Mississippi cavalry--the two latter being colored troops. Lieutenant H. H. Dean, Adjutant of the Eleventh Illinois, kindly furnished me with the following particulars of the campaign: On the thirty-first ultimo, the expedition left Haines's Bluff, and ascended Yazoo River on transports, convoyed by three gunboats, and on the fourth arrived at Liverpool Heights, within eighteen miles of Yazoo City. At this point they found the enemy posted in a strong position on a high bluff, and he immediately opened fire on the gunboats, which were in advance, striking them several times, and putting two shots through one of them. The Eleventh Illinois disembarked immediately, and attempted to storm the position of the enemy, but were repulsed with a loss of five men killed and twenty-eight wounded. The gunboats opened an effective fire upon the enemy while the infantry reembarked, and the fleet ran the blockade in the night, with a loss of six men wounded. From this time there was continued skirmishing along the river till the ninth, when our forces reached Yazoo City, where a detachment surprised and captured five rebel pickets. On the eleventh, Colonel Coates reembarked, and proceeded up the river to Greenwood, and found Fort Pemberton evacuated by the enemy. The First Missouri cavalry, Colonel Osband commanding, went out from this point, had a fight, lost five men, and went to within five miles of Grenada; and ascertaining that Forrest was at that place in force, retraced his steps and joined the main command. Several days were spent in loading cotton, which was found along the river-shore, and after having secured one thousand six hundred bales, the expedition returned to Yazoo City on the twenty-eighth. Immediately upon arriving there, Major Cook went out with a small cavalry force, and encountered a brigade of Texas cavalry, numbering one thousand five hundred, commanded by Brigadier-General L. S. Ross. A sharp fight ensued, in which Major Cook lost nineteen prisoners, and Colonel Jones, of the Texas cavalry,was killed. On the next morning, while out on a reconnoissance, a party of our troops found eight of the bodies of colored soldiers taken prisoners the day before. The clothing was stripped from their bodies, and all were shot through the head. Colonel Coates established his headquarters in the town, and eight companies of his regiment, commanded by Major McKee, took possession of the earthwork, on a commanding point, a half-mile distant from the city. Thus matters stood till the fourth instant, when General Ross sent in a communication, asking what would be the treatment of prisoners if taken by negro soldiers. Colonel Coates replied that they  would be treated with the respect due prisoners of war. On the night of the fourth, Ross was reenforced by a brigade of Tennessee troops, numbering eight hundred men, commanded by Brigadier-General R. V. Richardson; and at seven o'clock on the morning of the fifth, an attack was made upon Major McKee, who held the redoubt, while a portion of the enemy went to the left, flanking his position, and entered the town, and came within twenty feet of Colonel Coates's headquarters before they received a check from our men, who were pouring a deadly fire upon them from the windows. Here was almost a hand-to-hand conflict, which lasted four hours, when finally our sharp-shooters had picked off all their gunners, and completely silenced the guns which had riddled Colonel Coates's headquarters with shot and shell at a range of only a few paces, and the rebels began to fall back. A light field-piece had been sent from the gunboat Matamora to the town, when the fight began; but the squad sent with it ran at about the first fire, and permitted it to fall into the hands of the enemy, who only had it a moment, till some of the Eleventh boys retook it, and manned it through the fight. While the fight was progressing in the town, the rebels had Major McKee completely surrounded, and were throwing shot and shell into his works with terrible precision. After they had, as they supposed, obtained every advantage, Richardson sent a message to Major McKee, saying they had taken all the rest prisoners, and demanded his surrender. The Major replied to him that he had “no idea of doing any such thing, but that if he wanted them, to come and get them.” They renewed the attack, and several times came up within a few paces of the earthwork, and were as often repulsed with heavy loss. A second message came from General Richardson, demanding an immediate surrender, saying that “for God's and humanity's sake, he ought to surrender — that he would not be answerable for the actions of his men if they had to take the place by assault, and that he would storm it and take it in ten minutes.” The Major replied to him: “That he had better come and take them; that they never would surrender — that he might storm and be--.” He further told him that he was sorry his demand was coupled with such a threat; that if the fight went on with that understanding, he should kill every man he captured. At this juncture, our forces in the city had it all their own way, and were driving the enemy rapidly before them, and a general rout of the enemy ensued, and the fight ended at five o'clock in the afternoon. Our loss was one lieutenant and seven men killed, twenty-four wounded, and thirteen prisoners in the Eleventh Illinois; and the colored troops lost two commissioned officers killed, four wounded, ten enlisted men killed, sixty-one wounded, and six missing. The redoubt held by Major McKee was one hundred and fifty feet square, and during the fight, over fifty shells exploded inside the works. Colonel Coates's fighting force was seven hundred men; that of the enemy, according to their own admission, two thousand three hundred. Major Thiemer, of the Tennessee troops, was killed within twenty feet of Colonel Coates's door. The loss of the enemy is not known, but it was far greater than ours. All speak in terms of the highest praise of the gallantry of Major McKee, of the Eleventh Illinois, and Major Cook, of the First Missouri. All did their duty nobly; but I have not space to relate individual acts of heroism. Lieutenant-Colonel Peebles, of the Eighth Louisiana infantry, led his troops in the most gallant manner, and the colored soldiers fought like devils. There seemed to be a mutual understanding between them and the enemy that they should take no prisoners. This is considered here by military men, as it certainly was, one of the most gallant and successful struggles of the war on our part, and, therefore, I have given greater space to it than I should otherwise have done. The enemy had eight field-pieces in the fight — our troops one small one!