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Doc. 89.-siege of Port Hudson.

A rebel narrative.

Mobile, July 20, 1863.
We have conversed with an officer who succeeded in passing out from Port Hudson while the surrender was taking place on Thursday, the ninth instant, from whom we have been furnished with details of the siege which will not fail to prove interesting to our readers.

The initiatory steps of the siege may be reckoned from the twentieth of May, when General Augur advanced from Baton Rouge. His approach being reported by our cavalry, on the [337] twenty-first, General Gardner sent out Colonel Miles, with four hundred cavalry and a battery, under orders to proceed to the Plain Store, six or seven miles from Port Hudson, and reconnoitre. About four miles from Port Hudson he encountered the enemy, and a severe action ensued of two and a half hours duration, with a loss of thirty killed and forty wounded on our side. At night, in pursuance of an order of recall from General Gardner, our forces fell back within the fortifications.

At the same time Colonel Powers's cavalry, some three hundred strong, were engaged on the Baton Rouge and Bayou Sara road, a mile and a half or two miles from Colonel Miles. No communication has been had with them since, and their loss is unknown.

On the morning of the twenty-second, the enemy pushed his infantry forward within a mile of our breastworks, and at the same time it was reported by the cavalry scouts that General Banks, who had recently completed his Teche campaign, was landing troops at Bayou Sara, (twelve miles above,) and moving in the direction of Port Hudson. From Saturday the twenty-third, to Tuesday the twenty-sixth, inclusive, the enemy was engaged in taking his position for the investment of our works. This being completed, on the morning of the twenty-seventh he advanced with his whole force against the breastworks, directing his main attack against the left, commanded by Colonel Steadman. Vigorous assaults were also made against the extreme left of Colonel Miles and General Beale, the former of whom commanded in the centre, the latter on the right.

On the left, the attack was made by a brigade of negroes, comprising about three regiments, together with the same force of white Yankees, across a bridge which had been built over Sandy Creek on the night of the twenty-fifth. This force was thrown against the Thirty-ninth Mississippi regiment, commanded by Colonel Shelby. About five hundred negroes in front advanced at double-quick, within one hundred and fifty yards of the works, when the artillery on the river bluff and two light pieces on Colonel Shelby's left opened upon them, and at the same time they were received with volleys of musketry from five companies of the Thirty-ninth. The negroes fled every way in perfect confusion, without firing a gun, probably carrying with them, in their panic flight, their sable comrades further in the rear, for the enemy themselves report that six hundred of them perished. If this be so, they must have been shot down by the Yankees in the rear, for the execution we did upon them did not exceed two hundred and fifty; and, indeed, volleys of musketry were heard in the direction of their flight. Among the slain were found the bodies of two negro captains with commissions in their pockets.

The First Alabama, Lieutenant-Colonel Locke, and the Tenth Arkansas, Colonel Witt, engaged the enemy outside the works, in the thick woods, and fought most gallantly, but were compelled by the heavy odds brought against them to fall back across the creek, and within the works. In this action Colonel Witt was captured, but was not fated to remain long a prisoner, being one of the daring band who effected their escape from the Maple Leaf, while on their way to a Yankee prison.

Colonel Johnson, with the Fifteenth Arkansas regiment, numbering about three hundred men, occupied a hill across Sandy Creek, which he had been fortifying for the previous week. About five thousand of the enemy came against this position, moving down a very narrow road, and many of them succeeded in gaining the breastworks, but they were repulsed and compelled to fall back into the woods, leaving eighty or ninety dead in front of the works.

On General Beale's left, consisting of the First Mississippi and the Forty-ninth Alabama, the enemy advanced in strong force, and were driven back with great slaughter. The repulse on Miles's left was decisive.

About three o'clock the Yankees, true to their knavish national instinct, raised the white flag, and under it attempted to make a rush with their infantry. This being reported to General Gardner, he sent orders to the different commanders not to recognize any white flag unless sent by the Federal commander himself. At sunset, the firing ceased, after a hotly contested engagement of twelve hours, during the whole of which our men had behaved with unflinching gallantry, and had completely repulsed the enemy at every point. Every man along the entire line had done his duty nobly. While this assault was going on, all the gun and mortar-boats kept up an incessant firing upon the lower batteries, but without inflicting any damage.

On the twenty-eighth, General Banks sent a flag proposing a cessation of hostilities, for the purpose of burying the dead, which was granted. About three o'clock P. M., the truce ceased, and the enemy, in heavy force, made a furious attack upon the First Alabama, which was gallantly repulsed.

From this time till June thirteenth, heavy skirmishing was constantly kept up, the men were behind the breastworks night and day, and one could scarcely show his head an instant without being made the mark of a sharp-shooter. Many were sick from exposure to the sun and other causes. The enemy were, meanwhile, engaged in digging ditches, erecting batteries, and advancing their parallels. The gun and mortarboats kept up a continual fire by night and day, more, it would seem, for the purpose of exhausting the garrison by wakefulness than from any hope of direct advantage.

Saturday, the thirteenth of June, a communication was received from General Banks, demanding the unconditional surrender of the. post. He complimented the garrison and its commander in high terms. Their courage, he said, amounted almost to heroism, but it was folly for them to attempt to hold the place any longer, as it was at his will, and he demanded the surrender in the name of humanity, to prevent the sacrifice of [338] lives, as it would be impossible for his commanders to save the garrison from being put to the sword when the works should be carried by assault. His artillery, he said, was equal to any in extent and efficiency, and his men outnumbered ours five to one. He knew to what a condition they were reduced, as he had captured General Gardner's courier sent out with despatches to General Johnson. As these despatches were in cipher, it is probable that Banks exaggerated the amount of information he had derived from them.

General Gardner replied that his duty required him to defend the post, and he must refuse to entertain any such proposition.

On the morning of the fourteenth, just before day, the fleet and all the land batteries which the enemy had succeeded in erecting at one hundred to three hundred yards from our breastworks, opened fire at the same time. About daylight, under cover of the smoke, the enemy advanced along the whole line, and in many places approached within ten feet of our works. Our brave fellows were wide awake, and opening upon them with “buck and ball,” drove them back in confusion, a great number of them being left dead in the ditches. One entire division and a brigade were ordered to charge the position of the First Mississippi and the Forty-ninth Alabama, and by the mere physical pressure of numbers some of them got within the works, but all those were immediately killed. Every regiment did its duty nobly, but this was the main attack. After a sharp contest of two hours, the enemy were everywhere repulsed, and withdrew to their old line, but heavy skirmishing was kept up most of the day.

After this repulse, General Banks sent no flag of truce to bury his dead, which remained exposed between the lines for three days. At the end of that time General Gardner sent a flag to Banks, requesting that he would remove them. Banks replied that he had no dead there. General Gardner then directed General Beale to send a flag to General Augur, and request him to bury the dead of his division, which lay in front of the First and Forty-ninth. Augur replied that he did not think he had any dead there, but he would grant a cessation of hostilities to ascertain. Accordingly parties were detailed to pass the dead bodies over to the Yankees, and two hundred and sixty odd were removed from this portion of the works, and with them one wounded man, who had been lying there three days without water, and was fly-blown from head to foot. It was surmised that Banks was unwilling that his men should witness the carnage which had been committed; but if that were the case, he only made matters worse by this delay, for much exasperation was manifested at the sight of the wounded man, and a great many were heard to say that, if that was the way the wounded were to be treated, they wanted to be out of the army. A great many of the dead must have perished during the three days interval. In front of Johnson, Steadman, and elsewhere, none were buried, and the bodies of the slain could be seen from the breastworks on the day of the surren der, twenty-six days after the fight.

During the rest of the month there was heavy skirmishing daily, with constant firing night and day from the gun and mortar-boats, and the works were generally drawn close to our line, which, it may here be remarked, was about three miles in extent, and in the centre some three fourths of a mile from the river. Batteries of Parrott guns had been erected across the river, which were well served by the United States regulars, and maintained a continuous and very effective fire upon our river batteries, disabling many of the guns. On the land side a formidable battery of seventeen eight, nine, and teninch columbiads was established one hundred and fifty paces from our extreme right, one of seven guns in front of General Beale's centre; one of six guns in front of the First Mississippi, on the Jackson road; and seven guns and mortars were planted in front of Colonel Steadman, From these a fire was maintained day and night, doing but little damage to our men; but, as the siege continued, most of our artillery was disabled, only about fifteen pieces remaining uninjured at the time of the surrender.

During the siege of six weeks, from May twenty-seventh to July seventh, inclusive, the enemy must have fired from fifty to seventy-five thousand shot and shell, yet not more than twenty-five men were killed by these projectiles. They had worse dangers than these to contend against, but against them all they fought like heroes, and did their duty cheerfully. Several buildings were burned by the enemy's shells. among which was the mill, entailing a loss of two or three thousand bushels of corn.

About the twenty-ninth or thirtieth of June the garrison's supply of meat gave out, when General Gardner ordered the mules to be butchered, after ascertaining that the men were willing to eat them. Far from shrinking From this hardship, the men received their unusual rations cheerfully, and declared that they were proud to be able to say that they had been reduced to this extremity. Many of them, as if in mockery of famine, caught rats and ate them, declaring that they were better than squirrels.

At the same time the supply of ammunition was becoming exhausted, and at the time of the surrender there were only twenty rounds of cartridges left, with a small supply for artillery.

The hardships, privations, and dangers of the situation were diversified by many exciting incidents. One day our men were rolling ten-inch shells over the ramparts to explode against the enemy's works, which were not more than fifteen feet off, when a rush was made at our breastworks by about two hundred of the enemy. Two companies were hurried to the spot, and they were driven back. Of some sixteen who had gained the interior of our works every one was killed.

Mining was resorted to by the enemy; and after the surrender they said that they had a charge of three thousand pounds of powder already [339] laid under the lower river battery. This, in fact, consisting of a single pivot gun, was the key to the whole position, as it commanded both the river and the land approaches, and against this the heaviest guns of the enemy, and their most vigorous efforts by land and water, were directed. Their story, however, is somewhat doubted.

But if the enemy mined, the garrison countermined and succeeded in blowing up the works in front of the First Mississippi.

Some time between the twentieth and thirtieth of June, a singular circumstance occurred one night about eleven o'clock, after a heavy fire. The water commenced running up-stream, and in half an hour rose six feet. In one place about twenty feet of the bluff disappeared, carrying away one of our river batteries. The roar of the water could be heard like distant thunder. If this were an earthquake — and it is difficult to give any other explanation — it must have “rolled unheededly away,” so far as the enemy was concerned, for no notice of it has appeared in any of the Yankee papers.

We are obliged to omit incidents generally, including the brilliant sortie and spiking of the enemy's guns, but merely remark that the story about Banks's capturing fifteen prisoners on that occasion, and sending them back, for whom Gardner liberated, a like number of Yankee prisoners, is merely a Yankee romance — in short, a lie.

On Tuesday, July seventh, salutes were fired from the enemy's batteries and gunboats, and loud cheering was heard along the entire line, and Yankees who were within conversing distance of our men, told them that Vicksburgh had fallen. That night, about ten o'clock, General Gardner summoned a council of war, consisting of General Beale, Colonels Steadman, Miles, Lyle, and Shelby, and Lieutenant-Colonel Marshal J. Smith, who, without exception, decided that it was impossible to hold out longer, considering that the provisions of the garrison were exhausted, the ammunition almost entirely expended, and a large proportion of the men sick, or, from exhaustion, unfit for duty. A communication was sent to General Banks, stating what had been heard from the men, asking for official information as to the truth of the news, and stating if it were, that General Gardner was ready to negotiate terms of surrender. General Banks's reply was received just before day, inclosing a letter from General Grant, announcing the fall of Vicksburgh. General Banks asked General Gardner to appoint commissioners to arrange with those on his part the terms of surrender, and Colonels Miles and Steadman, and Lieutenant-Colonel Smith were appointed.

General Banks demanded an unconditional surrender, as in the first instance, but finally agreed that officers and soldiers should retain their private property (in which negroes were not included.) A demand for a parole of the garrison was refused. General Banks said he would grant such terms with the greatest pleas. ure, but the orders of the Secretary of War forbid it.

The surrender was fixed to take place at seven o'clock on the morning of the ninth. At six o'clock the garrison were drawn up in line, and two officers of General Gardner's staff were sent to conduct the Federal officer deputed to receive the surrender. This was General Andrews, who entered the lines shortly after seven o'clock, on the Clinton road. General Gardner met him at the right of our line and delivered up his sword, observing that he surrendered his sword and his garrison since his provisions were exhausted. General Andrews replied that he received General Gardner's sword, but returned it to him for having maintained his defence so gallantly.

Meantime the enemy's infantry moved down in front of our line, both wings resting on the river, and completely encircling the little garrison, as if to cut off any attempt to escape. About that time our informant succeeded in passing through the lines, and evading the enemy's outposts. A great many of the garrison — probably several hundred--had made an attempt to escape the previous night, but the guard of the enemy was so strict that they could not pass out.

The number of the garrison which surrendered was between five thousand and six thousand, of whom there were not more than two thousand effective men for duty. During the siege about two hundred had been killed and three hundred wounded, besides several deaths from sickness. Among the officers killed were Colonel Pixley, of Arkansas, Captain Boone, of Louisiana, and Lieutenant Simonton, of the First Mississippi, besides a few others with whose names our informant was not familiar.

The universal feeling in the garrison is, that General Gardner did every thing in his power to foil the enemy and protract the siege, and only succumbed to the direst necessity. The garrison, too, have made a noble record. Even the enemy's accounts, upon which we have been entirely dependent for nearly two months, bear testimony to heroism unsurpassed during the war; but much yet remains to be told, and not a word of it but will reflect the greatest honor upon those devoted men.

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