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Doc. 193.-battle of Black River, Miss.

bridge across Big Black, May 17, 1863.
The battle of Big Black bridge was fought on Sunday, the seventeenth, the (lay after the battle of Champion's Hill. In this spirited engagement only the Thirteenth army corps was engaged. It is superfluous to add that the troops comprising this corps fought as they always do, excellently well. In the morning, after a night's bivouac on the hill overlooking the village of Edwards's Station, the column, with McClernand at its head, moved toward Black River bridge. The citizens who were questioned on the subject said the position was most strongly fortified at the crossing, and we naturally thought the enemy would make stubborn resistance there. We were! not surprised, therefore, to learn that our advance-guard was fired upon by the rebel pickets as the column moved toward the river.

The country between Edwards's Station and the bridge loses that hilly and broken character which distinguishes the region further east, and spreads out into a broad and fertile plain, over which we moved rapidly. There were no commanding hills whence they could pour a deadly fire into our ranks; but there were numerous patches of forest, under the cover and from the edge of which they could easily enfilade the open fields by the road-side. There was such a one a mile east of the intrenchments where the main picket-guard was stationed. Here determined resistance was first made,

General Carr's division had the extreme advance of the column, and opened and ended the engagement. Hastily deploying a heavy line of skirmishers to the right of the road, backed up by the two brigades of Carr's division in line of battle behind it, with General Osterhaus's division on the left of the road similarly disposed, General McClernand gave the order to advance. Soon in the depths of the thick forest the skirmishers of both armies were hotly engaged, while batteries of artillery, planted on the right and left of the road, poured shot and shell into the fort most furiously. The guns in the intrenchments replied with vigor and spirit. Almost the first shot dropped in the caisson belonging to Foster's Wisconsin battery and exploded its contents, slightly wounding General Osterhaus and Captain Foster, of the battery, and very seriously injuring two gunners. General Osterhaus being thus disabled, the command of his division was temporarily given to Brigadier-General A. L. Lee.

After skirmishing had continued for an hour, during which the enemy gave way and sought the cover of his intrenchments, the order was given to the several brigade commanders on the right to advance and charge the enemy's works. The order was received with cheers and shouts and the Twenty-first, Twenty-second, Twenty-third Iowa, and Eleventh Wisconsin, General Lawler's brigade, were the first to announce themselves in readiness. The order “forward” was given, and steadily and splendidly the brave boys moved up to the assault. The enemy crouched down behind the breastworks. A portion of then, stationed in a curtain on the right of the fort, whence they were able to get a cross-fire upon the column, reserved their volley until we were within easy musket-range of the intrenchments, when they swept the advancing line with their terrible fire. The brave boys lost in that fearful volley one hundred and fifty men; yet they faltered not, nor turned their steps backward. They waded the bayou, delivering their fire as they reached the other bank, and rushed upon the enemy with fixed bayonets. So quickly was all this accomplished, that the enemy had not time to reload their guns, and was forced to surrender.

The battle was ended, and the fort, with three thousand prisoners, eighteen pieces of artillery — some of them captured from ourselves, and bearing appropriate inscriptions — several thousand stand of arms, and a large supply of corn and commissary stores, fell into our hands.

The enemy had, earlier in the day, out of the hulls of three steamboats, constructed a bridge, over which he bad passed the main body of his army. As the charge was made, and it became evident that we should capture the position, they burned this bridge and also the railroad bridge across the river just above.

In the afternoon several attempts were made to cross the river, but the sharp-shooters lined the bluffs beyond and entirely prevented it. Later, the main body of sharp-shooters were dispersed by our artillery. It was not, however, safe to [621] stand upon the bank, or cross the open field east of the bridge, until after dark, when the enemy withdrew altogether.

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P. I. Osterhaus (3)
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