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Doc. 192.-battle of Champion Hill, Miss.

Colonel Spicely's report.

headquarters Twenty-Fourth Indiana Vols., Champion Hill, Miss., May 17, 1863.
Captain Jos. H. Linsey, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First Brigade.
sir: In pursuance to orders, I have the honor to report the part taken by the Twenty-fourth regiment Indiana volunteers, in the battle of Champion Hill, Mississippi, on the sixteenth day of May, 1863.

On the sixteenth instant, at six o'clock A. M., we moved from our camp near Bolton's Depot, four miles from the distant battle-ground, in the direction of Edwards's Depot, at which point the enemy were reported to be in force.

My command being in advance, I was ordered by General McGinnis, commanding brigade, to move three companies of my command to the front. I immediately sent companies C, F, and I to the advance, and again resumed the line of march.

At about ten o'clock in the morning, as we approached the hills, we were apprised by our cavalry advance that the enemy were posted in force in front, on Champion Hill. General McGinnis then ordered me to form my line of battle on the right of the road leading to Edwards's Depot. At half-past 10 A. M. our line of battle as a brigade was formed, and ready for action. A few minutes after I was informed by a signal-officer that there was a force of the enemy manoeuvring to the right. I immediately sent companies A and K to the right, and company G in support of the skirmishers in front. They had hardly deployed in line before firing commenced on our right, the enemy making an effort to turn it. At half-past 11 A. M. I was ordered to advance in line of battle, and by two o'clock my command was in close contest with the enemy, whose force exceeded ours by more than five times our numbers. Our line advanced from where it was first formed near sixty rods, across the timber, when I discovered the enemy in large force, moving to my right, and making an effort, as I supposed, to capture our batteries, stationed in the field to the right. I at once halted my command, and poured a galling oblique fire into his flank. This, with the destructive fire of the artillery, checked for a time their advance.

By this time the action became general along the whole line, and very severe. From the edge of the timber we drove the enemy, step by step, for near eight hundred yards, over deep ravines [616] and abrupt hills. At this time the rebels were heavily reenforced, and again the struggle commenced, the most desperate and destructive of the day. While engaged actively with the enemy, I received notice through Captain Cavin to come to the support of the centre of our line, which was sorely pressed by the left flank, and in a few minutes became again engaged with the enemy in strong force. This point I contested against superior numbers for near an hour, under the most galling fire I ever witnessed. Again the enemy massed their forces, and threw their whole weight upon the right and centre of our line, and here my men fell by scores, but yet with determined bravery held the enemy in check, and again it became necessary for me to change my position, as the enemy's fire was converging upon my lines. I moved to the rear about seventy-five yards, and again opened fire upon the rebels, who were still pressing forward.

Here we stood before a destructive fire fifteen minutes, when I was compelled to change my position, and again for twenty minutes we fought ten times our number. At this time word came to me that the left of the division was giving way, and that our troops to the right were overwhelmed, or nearly so. I again fell back and formed a line, returning the enemy's fire, which was kept up for a considerable time. Here it was that our colors fell. The gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Barter, believing that the bearer was wounded, rushed forward, seized them, and waved them with cheers in the very face of the enemy. The flag-staff was shattered, and Lieutenant-Colonel Barter severely wounded. Being entirely out of ammunition, and overwhelmed in front, my command fell back near three hundred yards, and here the Eleventh and Twenty-fourth formed a new line, replenished their cartridge-boxes, and again advanced to the field. By this time we were sufficiently reenforced, and in less than an hour the enemy gave way, leaving our gallant troops in full possession of Champion Hill.

But amid our rejoicing over this great victory, we are called upon to mourn the gallant dead.

Captain Felix G. Wellman, of company B, Second Lieutenant Jesse G. Cain, of company A, and twenty-seven others of my command fell at their post, nobly and gallantly performing their whole duty. Let their names be inscribed in the hearts of our people, and their memories revered as noble patriots and gallant soldiers.

I shall feel the loss of these men, together with the loss to the service of the gallant Lieut.--Colonel Barter and Lieut. J. H. Baldwin, who are so severely wounded as to leave me without the benefit of their valuable assistance for a considerable time. I desire also to make mention of Capt. N. J. Bolton; Lieut. Daniel Smith; Lieut. Fred. T. Butler, and Assistant-Surgeon T. C. Williams, who were severely wounded while engaged in the gallant performance of their duty. Adjutant S. R. Henderson, and Capt. Hugh Irwin; Lieut. Smith, company C; Capt. F. M. Downey; Lieut. Frank Robbins, commanding company F, after Lieut. Baldwin fell; Capt. Chas. Jenkins; Capt. John B. Hutchens; Capt. Benj. F. Summers and Capt. Redburn, with their subordinate officers, are deserving special notice for the ability and zeal with which they performed their duty.

The men, without exception, did gallant service, and stood up to the galling fire of an over-whelming force for three hours and twenty minutes, like veterans, and Indiana and the country generally may well feel proud of the gallant men engaged in the greatest battle of the war.

My loss in killed and wounded was two hundred and seven out of a force less than five hundred men.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

W. T. Spicely, Colonel Commanding Twenty-fourth Indiana Volunteers.

Cincinnati commercial account.

in camp, on the battle-field, near Edwards's Station, Miss., May 16, 1863.
Four engagements in sixteen days show that the campaign in Mississippi is progressing in terrible earnestness; but their results indicate that it will soon close in triumphal success. We have defeated the rebels in four successive battles on fields of their own choosing, and before to-morrow night we will probably increase the number to five. At Thompson's Hills, at Raymond, and at Jackson, they met us, and essayed to stop our progress, but signally failed. To-day they again gave us battle, and victory.

I am at a loss to know by what name to designate the battle-field of to-day. The engagement may be known, officially, hereafter as the battle of Baker's Creek, as that stream runs within a very short distance of our first line of battle ; or it may take its name from Edwards's Station, on the Vicksburgh and Jackson Railroad, within a few miles of which the scene of conflict was.

The casualty list of to-day's battle shows an engagement much more severe than any one of the previous three fought since our debarkation at Bruinsburgh. As yet, I have no data from which to form a just estimate of the number of killed and wounded on our side. From the verbal statement of officers who were in the fight, and from my own observation on the field, I think it likely that our entire loss will reach three thousand.

The situation last night was about as follows: General Hovey's division held the advance on the main Vicksburgh road, the same road that leads to Edwards's Station; behind them were General Logan's and General Quinby's divisions. General Sherman, with two divisions of his corps, was at Jackson, but was understood to have marching orders for this morning; Generals McArthur, Osterhaus, and Blair, with their respective divisions, were in the vicinity of Raymond, or to the left of Hovey. The rebels, in heavy force, variously estimated at from fifteen to fifty thousand, were near Edwards's Depot, which is within a couple of miles of Big Black bridge, and said to be strongly fortified. We [617] have not fought our way to their fortifications yet, and I can only say of them what I hear from others. Wirt Adams's rebel cavalry had been watching our movements since the fall of Jackson, and had probably formed a very correct opinion as to the point at which we were about to strike. I do not think General Grant anticipated a very formidable stand at this place. Black River bridge is only important to the rebels as being necessary to hold their communication between Jackson and Vicksburgh. With Jackson in our possession, and the railroad destroyed at several points, it was thought they could gain nothing by fighting for the bridge, which is the only object of the battle commenced to-day. I say commenced to-day, because I believe it will be continued to-morrow, and may last still longer.

General Hovey's division of McClernand's corps held the advance on the night of the fifteenth. The rebels were known to be awaiting our approach, in the vicinity of Edwards's Station. This morning, at about seven o'clock, General Hovey commenced moving toward Big Black River. A company of cavalry was thrown out as an advance-guard. They had proceeded but a short distance, when they were met by the enemy's cavalry, supposed to be a part of Wirt Adams's regiment. After a little skirmishing, the rebels fell back. Our cavalry did not follow them up. At about nine o'clock, the ground chosen by the rebels was reached. General Hovey's division was halted and formed into line of battle. Skirmishers were thrown out and advanced toward heavy timber, where the rebels were drawn up to check us. They soon commenced exchanging shots, and kept up a fire, light and heavy, at intervals, for two hours.

The rebels having the choice of position, selected for their battle-field the most advantageous ground within several miles of Edwards's Station. They made a good selection, as they always do. To reach their lines from the road on which we were travelling, our men had to cross two open fields and ascend a steep slope, exposed to their fire from the woods, and unable to return it so as to do execution. It was the best position for defence that they have selected in Mississippi as yet.

General Hovey's division having thrown out a strong skirmish line, advanced over the open space that lay between them and the enemy. The first brigade under General McGuiness, consisting of the Eleventh, Thirty-fourth, Twenty-fourth, and Forty-sixth Indiana and Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, took the right, and the Second brigade, under Colonel Slack, composed of the Forty-seventh Indiana, Fifty-sixth Ohio, Twenty-fourth Iowa, and two other regiments that I cannot name just now, were on the left. Advancing halfway to the woods, the lines halted, while the skirmishers kept up a brisk fire. The rebel skirmishers were well posted under good cover, and were not easily compelled to fall back upon their main body; and not until our skirmish lines had been strongly reinforced, did they yield sufficiently to show us the situation of their lines.

Thinking the rebels would emerge from the woods to drive our men from the crest of a hill upon which they had to advance, General McGuiness gave orders to his brigade commanders: “If they come out to keep you from that hill, fix bayonets and send them back with a charge.” The soldiers expressed great satisfaction in hearing this. The Eleventh Indiana, especially, wanted to fix bayonets and go at them with cold steel; they were anxious to go into the woods after the rebels in case the rebels failed to come out of the woods after them. If the mountain wouldn't come to Mohammed, Mohammed proposed to go to the mountain. I do not believe any bayonet-charge was made during the day, except by the Thirty-second Ohio, on the right.

The ground upon which General Hovey had to operate was such that he had to keep his lines contracted and receive the full fire of the enemy, who was pouring in reinforcements and concentrating them upon his exposed ranks from a heavy timber cover. Hovey had not yet been reinforced, though he had seen the impossibility of holding his position, and had sent for support. The firing became terrible. Such an awful rattle of musketry as was kept up between Hovey's division and the almost concealed foe, was not heard upon the bloody fields of Shiloh or Donelson.

Hovey held his ground with heroic tenacity for an hour and a half. Had he given way at first, the rebels would have turned our left, and the consequences could not have been other than disastrous. After a long and desperate struggle with an enemy of more than twice his numerical strength, and at every disadvantage of position, he was compelled to give way. He was forced back half a mile — retreating in excellent order, expecting every moment to meet reinforcements, and quickly regain his lost ground. He retreated about half a mile, until, reaching a favorable point, he re-formed, obtained support from General Quinby's division, and commenced another forward movement.

The Third division of the Seventeenth army corps arrived at the scene of action while Hovey was skirmishing with the enemy. General McPherson rode over the ground in the vicinity of the rebel lines, and saw an excellent chance for Logan to operate on the right. The rebels observed this movement on their left, and formed a line behind a fence in the woods. The Second brigade of Logan's division, under General M. D. Leggett, was thrown upon the right of Hovey, the Twentieth Ohio regiment in the advance. As General Leggett advanced with his command, the rebels opened a heavy fire, but failed to make him give way a single inch. The Twentieth, Seventy-eighth, and Sixty-eighth Ohio and the Thirtieth Illinois, composing his command, stood their ground like veterans. General Leggett wished to move forward, but was not permitted to do so, lest he should expose Hovey's right, which he [618] was intended to cover. The rebels came out of the woods at one time, and were forming for a the Thirtieth Illinois, every man of whom dashed at them, and drove them back in confusion.

In the afternoon, on the extreme right, the Eighth Illinois and Thirty-second Ohio charged upon a battery and captured every gun. The Thirty-second will be remembered as one of the regiments surrendered by Colonel Tom Ford, at Harper's Ferry. They displayed great bravery during the engagement, and acted well every part assigned to them.

Lieutenant-Colonel Snook, of the Sixty-eighth Ohio, was killed after the formation of his command into line of battle, and before his regiment had fired a single volley. One of his men had called his attention to a rebel flag, at the edge of the woods, about three hundred yards in front. He walked to the crest of a hill, at the foot of which his command was resting, and, while looking at the flag, was shot in the side. He staggered down the hill and expired in about half an hour.

The result of Logan's fighting was the capture of two batteries of artillery, and the utter rout of the enemy's right. The three brigades of the Third division, commanded by Generals John E. Smith, M. D. Leggett, and John D. Stevenson, nobly sustained the reputation they have long held as true soldiers and brave men. The Ohio brigade was skilfully handled by General Leggett, who is one of the most efficient brigadiers in the Western army. De Golyer's Eighth Michigan battery did splendid execution, driving back the rebel column several times. Captain De Golyer is spoken of in the highest terms by his superior officers.

While Logan and Hovey were busy on the right and centre, Osterhaus and Carr were doing their work finely on the left. They took a full share in the engagement. Osterhaus opened the fight early in the morning. He could not get a very good position for his battery, while the enemy were so situated that they could bring their guns to bear directly upon his advancing columns.

These two divisions were held at bay during a portion of the day, but finally forced their way forward and drove the rebels back. The casualties in the commands of Generals Osterhaus and Carr were much smaller than in Hovey's and Logan's divisions.

General A. J. Smith occupied a position on the extreme left. There was a gap of two miles between him and General Carr. He was not engaged until late in the day, when Logan began to press the rebels on our right, compelling them to move toward him. He sent for reenforcements several times, but did not receive them, and was thrown almost entirely on the defensive. His men acted bravely, however, succeeding, during the day, in capturing two thousand prisoners and twelve pieces of artillery. The rebels, severely punished on our right, fled to the left, only to fall into the net which General Smith's division acted as. Smith's command consists of two brigades — the First under General Burbridge, composed of the Twenty-third Wisconsin, Eighty-third Ohio, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Indiana, and Seventeenth Ohio battery; and the Second under Colonel Landrum, embracing the Nineteenth Kentucky, Forty-eighth Ohio, Seventy-seventh, Seventy-ninth, and One Hundred and Thirtieth Illinois, and the Chicago Mercantile battery. The Mercantile claims to have killed General Lloyd Tilghman, with a shell from one of their guns. They say rebel prisoners inform them of the fact.

General Quinby's division of McPherson's corps came up in the rear of Logan's command, and was immediately ordered to the position which Hovey, with Spartan zeal, was endeavoring to hold against an immensely superior force. His support was needed and timely, and soon turned the tide in our favor. Quinby's men were resolutely resisted, but pressed the enemy steadily from the moment of their entrance on the field of action until victory crowned their labors in the evening. Their loss was very heavy.

During the desperate struggle on the left, in which Hovey's division fought against double their numbers, at great disadvantage, the rebels made an attempt to charge the Sixteenth Ohio battery, and would have succeeded in capturing it but for the alacrity with which the pieces were limbered and run to the rear. Our infantry had been driven back, and the battery was left without support. The rebels started for it on the double-quick, and got within a hundred yards of it, when it started at full speed to join our retreating column. A volley of musketry from the enemy mortally wounded Captain Mitchell, commander of the battery. It was thought at first that he was taken prisoner, as his horse came into our lines riderless. He has since been found, however.

Early in the afternoon, a section of company D, Second Illinois artillery, under Captain Rogers, advanced to dangerously close proximity to the rebel lines, and opened two twenty-four pound howitzers, to drive the rebels from a position from which they were about to advance upon our men. They filed out of the woods in excellent order, and formed in front of the battery and within three hundred yards of it. They then marched steadily forward toward the guns, and were about to give their first volley to our battery men, when a double load of canister scattered among them, causing at least fifty to fall. Captain De Golyer's Eighth Michigan battery opened on them also, and gave them several loads of James's rifled shells. The effect of our artillery fire was all that could have been desired for us. It broke the ranks of the rebels, and compelled them to fall back in great disorder. They ran into the woods like a flock of frightened sheep, as load after load of grape and canister burst among them. I have never witnessed a more thorough rout than that which the rebels met with in their attempt to get possession of Captain Rogers's guns. [619]

Shortly after the commencement of the general engagement, the rebels brought a battery of four to bear upon the First brigade of General Hovey's division, and were inflicting serious punishment with it. Having stationed it upon a very formidable point on a commanding ridge, General McGuiness ordered it charged. The Eleventh Indiana and Twenty-ninth Wisconsin being in front, had the hazardous task assigned them. They marched cautiously up a high slope to within seventy-five yards of the guns, and then made a dash at the pieces. The rebel gunners performed their duty manfully, standing by their guns till they were driven away with bayonets or clubbed with muskets. The Eleventh and Twenty-ninth were not to be driven back, however, or denied the object for which they started. As one of the men said afterward: “They were told to take the guns and they were bound to do it, or lose every man among them.” About two minutes after this, the Forty-sixth Indiana made a charge upon a battery of four guns, a short distance from the scene of the first capture, and in one gallant dash took it, and every man belonging to it. The rebels made a desperate effort to recapture those batteries, but did not succeed. Our men, when subsequently compelled to fall back on the left, spiked all the guns which they could not get away.

From statements made by prisoners and citizens, I think a just estimate of the rebel force will place the figures at thirty thousand. Pemberton was in the field in person. The confederate troops were from Georgia, South-Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri. Bowen's command, which we whipped at Port Gibson, was there. A large portion of it was captured, among them fifty men and a captain from Gates's regiment of dismounted cavalry. The rebels concentrated three fourths of their men upon three divisions of our army, those of Logan, Hovey, and Quinby, so that they had really about seven thousand men more than we had in the engagement.

The result of to-day's fight was a complete victory for General Grant's forces, and the total rout and demoralization of the rebel army. Our loss will reach three thousand in killed, wounded, and prisoners. During the early part of the engagement the rebels carried off all their wounded. From the number of their dead found upon the field, and of wounded who fell into our hands while they were falling back, it is fair to say that they lost three thousand in killed and wounded. We took about two thousand prisoners and upward of twenty pieces of artillery during the day.

There were many instances of heroism in the battle to-day, which ought to entitle the actors to the admiration of the country, and embalm their memories in the hearts of every patriot. Lieutenant Perry, of the Forty-seventh Indiana, was with his company under the hottest fire of the engagement. His regiment occupied such a position that his command was very much exposed and was suffering dreadfully. One of his comrades suggested to him that he ought to avail himself of a little cover immediately in his rear. Perry looked at him calmly but resolutely, and said: “No, sir. The Forty-seventh never gives back an inch.” A moment afterward he was shot through the heart and expired without a groan. Two of his men, on seeing him fall, wept like children.

The Lieutenant-Colonel of the Tenth Missouri was shot through the heart while waving his sword to urge his men forward to a charge, which they executed with splendid success.

An officer was sent to General Logan to inquire how the contest was going in his front. Logan sent back word: “Tell General Grant that my division cannot be whipped by all the rebels this side of hell. We are going ahead, and won't stop till we get orders.”

When our left was giving way before the over-whelming force of the enemy a few men became panic-stricken, and it was feared the contagion would spread. The Colonel of the Twenty-fourth Indiana rode to the rear, having received a wound in the hip. He rallied the terror-stricken by a few words of encouragement: “Don't be discouraged, men. They are driving us now, but we'll have them whipped in an hour. We are taking Vicksburgh to-day, boys, and if you all do your duty it's bound to fall.”

On the rebel side an instance of valor occurred, in the conduct of Captain Riddle, of a Mississippi battery, who remained by the side of his guns after all his horses had been shot, and his comrades killed, wounded, or routed. He staid at his post, fighting against an infantry charge with a revolver, until pierced by half a dozen bullets.

In the battle of to-day the rebels did not depart from their uniform practice of barbarity to our wounded. In more than twenty instances they bayoneted, clubbed, or shot our wounded who had fallen into their hands. I saw two or three men dead upon the field, who had been shot in the ranks and afterward run through the breast or abdomen with a bayonet, while found lying upon the ground or leaning against a tree. Several of our officers and men were witnesses to these inhuman acts. They saw their comrades butchered, but dare not remonstrate lest they themselves should share the same fate. On one occasion a regiment of rebels ran their bayonets through six of our wounded, after an unsuccessful charge on one of our batteries.

The Twenty-fourth Iowa is called a Methodist regiment. The colonel and several of the captains are Methodist preachers, and a majority of the soldiers are members of the Methodist Church. They did some of the best fighting of the day, yesterday. They went into the battle full of enthusiasm, and not one of them flinched during the engagement. Their major was wounded late in the day. He walked from the field, and, on his way to the hospital, captured a stalwart confederate, and compelled him to carry him on his back to the Provost-Marshal's headquarters. It was a laughable sight to see Major Wright riding [620] his captive into camp. The casualty list of the Methodists is very large, and shows that they stood up to their work like true soldiers. On returning from the battle-field in the evening they held a religious meeting, at which the exercises were very impressive. As I write they are filling the woods with “Old hundred.”

Indiana was more largely represented in the fight to-day than any other State. The troops that were exposed to the heaviest fire were from the Hoosier State. Among them were the famous Zouaves formerly commanded by Lew Wallace. Just before Hovey was driven back the Forty-sixth Indiana advanced, with the Eleventh, far beyond other troops, with no supporting force on either flank, and took six pieces of artillery, driving the rebels from their guns by a hand-to-hand fight. The rebels immediately inclosed them on three sides in overwhelming numbers. They had two lines, and our wounded, when they passed over, say this column was eight deep. There was nothing left for our men, of course, but to fall back, which they did in excellent order. After retreating a short distance they rallied and held the enemy in check till reinforcements came up, when they in turn drove the enemy along their whole line. Indiana has just cause to feel proud of the deeds of her sons in the hard-fought battle of the sixteenth.

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