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Operations in the Trans-Mississippi Department in June, 1868.
[continued from September number.]

The following report ought to have been published just after the letter of General E. Kirby Smith in our September number, and the endorsements which follow that letter were originally on this report. But we, unfortunately, had not at the time a copy of it, and are now indebted to the courtesy of Colonel Scott, of the Archive Bureau at Washington, for this report and the explanatory letter which follows.

Report of General R. Taylor.

District West Louisiana, Richmond, 8th June, 1863.
Brigadier-General W. R. Boggs, Chief of Staff:
General — I have the honor to report the events of the past few days. As soon as I learned of the capture of Richmond by Captain McLean, of Harrison's battalion — viz: on the night of the 3d ultimo--I. ordered General Walker to push on a force of two hundred infantry to insure holding the bridge, adding to it two guns of Harrison's artillery. This force crossed the Tensas in a flat which I had secured the day before and reached Richmond at [498] sunset on the 4th. On the same day General Walker camped three miles from Dunlop's, on Tensas. I had succeeded in collecting material for a bridge (there being but one flat, the one above mentioned, on the river), and on the morning of the 5th commenced the work, superintending it in person. At 4 P. M. a substantial bridge was completed, when I pushed on to this point, sending notice to General Walker of the completion of the bridge. Arriving at dusk, I soon met Major Harrison from below. He reported the parish of Tensas and Lower Madison clear of the enemy. One of his companies, under Captain McCall, attacked on the morning of the 4th a negro camp on Lake Saint Joseph. He found them some ninety strong; killed the captain (white), twelve negroes and captured the remainder. Some sixty women and children in the camp were also secured. Captain McCall had sixty men. Major Harrison brought off some few arms, medicines, etc., from Perkins, Surget's Basin and Carthage, all of which points he found abandoned by the enemy. At several places much property had been burned. To finish the operations of Harrison's cavalry: On the morning of the 6th,whilst awaiting Walker's arrival, the en emy's cavalry was reported to me to be approaching from Milliken's Bend. Major Harrison with a hundred men advanced to meet them. Three miles distant he found them drawn up, one hundred and forty strong, charged them at once, broke their line, killing eight and capturing a lieutenant and twenty-four privates, and pursued them until fired upon by infantry in sight of the Bend.

I cannot speak too highly of Major Harrison as a cavalry officer I do not think he has a superior in the service. Accordingly I have ordered some unattached companies to report to him to raise his command to a regiment. If furnished with anything like adequate means, he will protect thoroughly this section of the State. The night of my arrival at this place — viz: the 5th--was spent in procuring intelligence of the enemy's positions on this side the river. I found that this line of transit had ceased to be of importance to the enemy since he had established his right flank on the Yazoo at Hames' Bluff, and almost all the stores had been removed. Transports in large numbers were flying up the Yazoo. At Lake Providence the enemy had a few companies (perhaps four) and a large number of negroes drilling. Below that point to Milliken's he had a number of plantations at work under the new system. At Milliken's there was a negro brigade of uncertain strength, and. four companies of Tenth Illinois cavalry (the force encountered by Harrison). There was a deadly feud between these negroes and the cavalry, and their camps were considerably separated; the negroes up the river. Between Milliken's and Young's Point (opposite the mouth of Yazoo), a distance of eleven miles, tents were scattered in large numbers, most of them empty or occupied by sick and convalescents. At Young's were some five or six hundred men, detachments and convalescents. Some wagons and mules were immediadely on the river's bank, evidently for convenient shipment up the Yazoo. Below Young's, around the point to opposite [499] Vicksburg, and across by the Plank road to Bedford, there were a few pickets and some small bands of negroes. Harrison had cleared everything below Bedford.

All these facts were completely established during the night of the 5th, and early on the 6th, before Walker's division arrived at 10 A. M., as the enemy knew nothing of the presence of so large a force, believing Richmond to be occupied by Harrison's command alone, I determined to act at once. Accordingly General Walker was directed to cook two days rations and be ready to move at 6 P. M. The distances from Richmond to Young's and Milliken's respectively are twenty and ten miles, and the road is common for five miles from Richmond. The intense heat of the weather rendered a night march desirable, and an attack at early dawn lessened the risk of annoyance from gunboats. I instructed General Walker to send one brigade to Young's, one to Milliken's and hold the third in reserve at a point six miles from Richmond. Twenty men from Harrison's command, acquainted with the country, were selected to accompany each of the attacking columns. My signal officer, Lieutenant Routh, with a party of his men, was ordered to accompany the column from Young's and make every effort to communicate with Vicksburg, and the great importance of so doing was impressed on all. The two columns, after clearing the points aimed at, were to march up and down the river respectively to Duckport, nearly equi-distant from Young's and Milliken's, where a road struck off from the river and fell into the Richmond road near the point of divergence mentioned above.

Arms, ordnance stores, medicines, etc., were ordered to be saved, and all other property, for which transportation could not be provided, was to be burned. Major-General Walker and his brigade commanders appeared to enter heartily into this plan, and as no troops were to be engaged except their division, I deemed it proper to leave the execution of it to them. McCullough's brigade was selected for Milliken's; Hawes' for Young's, and Randall's was to be in reserve at the intersection of the roads. General Walker decided to accompany this last. Despite my efforts the troops did not move until an hour after the appointed time. McCullough reached Milliken's about dawn, drove in the enemy's pickets and in obedience to orders attacked with the bayonet. The enemy, after a sharp struggle, was driven from his first position, a large levee covered by a hedge, with very heavy loss in killed. He retreated behind a second levee and under the bank of the river, near a small gunboat and two or three transports. Strict orders had been given to drive the enemy into the river, so as to permit no time for escape or reinforcements. On mounting the second levee in pursuit, our men came in sight of the gunboat and transports (mistaken by them for gunboats), and at once fell back and could not be induced to cross the levee. Confusion ensued, and the gunboat, which at the beginning had no steam up, brought her one gun to bear in the direction of our troops. McCullough dispatched to General Walker, four and a half miles distant, for assistance. Walker moved up [500] with Randall's brigade and some artillery, and found that McCullough had withdrawn out of reach of shells. After examining the position, General Walker reported to me that three additional gunboats, attracted by the firing, had arrived, that he could find no position from which to use his artillery, and that the prostration of the men from the intense heat prevented him from marching down to Duckport as directed. It is true the heat was intense, the thermometer marking ninety-five in the shade, but had common vigor and judgment been displayed the work would all have been completed by 8 A. M. McCullough's brigade lost some twenty killed and perhaps eighty wounded. A very large number of the negroes were killed and wounded, and unfortunately some fifty, with two of their white officers, captured. I respectfully ask instructions as to the dispositions of these prisoners. A number of horses and mules, some few small arms and commissary stores were also taken. In this affair General McCullough appears to have shown great personal bravery, but no capacity for handling masses.

I turn now to Hawes' operations: No report was received from him till late in the evening of the 7th--Lieutenant Routh, signal officer, returned and informed me that General Hawes was falling back; that he had asked General Hawes if any attempt was to be made to communicate with Vicksburg, in sight with a good glass, and received a negative reply. Lieutenant Routh then attempted to make his own way down the point, but meeting some armed Yankees and negroes was forced to return. Shortly after Lieutenant Routh's report, a man of the signal corps arrived with some “memoranda,” which General Hawes directed him to read to me. From these it appears that General Hawes reached the rear of Young's, one mile distant, at 11 A. M. on the 7th; that he had consumed seventeen hours in marching nineteen miles over a good road without impediments. It further appears that a more favorable condition of affairs was found at Young's than General Hawes was told to expect, for late as he arrived he surprised the enemy. A number were found fishing some distance from the camp, and two or three were captured at this peaceful work. Two shots were fired by the enemy, both taking effect, one killing a horse and the other severely wounding in the arm one of the guides of Harrison's cavalry. General Hawes formed his line of battle, advanced in the open field to within half a mile of the enemy and then retired. I quote from the “memoranda” : “He was satisfied he could carry the position, but did not think it would pay.” General Hawes then returned to the junction of the roads in less time than he had taken to advance, leaving, as General Walker reported to me, over two hundred stragglers behind. Harrison's cavalry was sent to bring in these. They were, however, in no danger, as the enemy at the time were rushing aboard their transports and burning stores. General Walker desired me to see General Hawes to learn the reason of his conduct. I declined, directing his report <*>o be written out, and informing General Walker that I should expect [501] him to endorse fully and freely his own opinion upon it. Colonel Bartlett, with about nine hundred men, was ordered to march on Lake Providence, with instructions to break up the camps of negroes in that vicinity, who were being organized and drilled by the enemy, and thence push his cavalry down to Milliken's Bend, breaking up the plantations in cultivation by agents or contractors of the United States Government. On the 5th he was at Floyd, building a bridge across the Macon, distant about twenty-five miles from Lake Providence; since that date I have received no report from him. If he succeeds in the operations entrusted to him the west bank of the Mississippi river, from the mouth of Red river to the Arkansas line, will be free from the presence of the enemy. I shall use every exertion, by placing an adequate force of cavalry and light artillery on the bank of the river, to annoy and interfere with the navigation of the stream by transports, upon which Grant is dependent for his supplies by way of the Yazoo river.

As soon as Tappan's brigade can reach Richmond, I shall withdraw Walker's division to operate south of Red river.

An additional cavalry force is needed in this section, and I have the honor to request that Captain Nutt's company of mounted men may be immediately ordered to report to Colonel Harrison, in accordance with the understanding which I have with the Lieutenant-General Commanding on this subject. I regret exceedingly that I am unable to report results commensurate with the force employed on this expedition; much greater loss ought to have been inflicted upon the enemy, and the stores which he burned ought to have been captured for our use.

I beg the Lieutenant-General Commanding to believe that I used every personal exertion in order to insure success. Myself and staff acted as pioneers, bridge builders, scouts, quartermasters and commissaries. General Walker's division was suddenly and secretly thrown within six or eight miles of the enemy's line of camps on the Mississippi river; information of the most reliable character furnished to it of the enemy's strength and position, which in every instance was fully verified. Nothing was wanted but vigorous action in the execution of the plans which had been carefully laid out for it, to insure such successes as the condition of affairs would admit. Besides, the division commander had weeks before expressed to the Lieutenant-General Commanding his ardent desire to undertake this or a similar expedition. Unfortunately, I discovered too late that the officers and men of the division were possessed of a dread of gunboats, such as pervaded our people at the commencement of the war. To this circumstance, and to want of mobility in these troops, are to be attributed the meagre results of the expedition. I leave this evening for Monroe and Alexandria, to look after affairs in the southern portion of the State, which are every day increasing in interest.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. Taylor, Major-General Commanding.


Letter from General R. Taylor.

headquarters District West Louisiana, Washington, October 15, 1863.
Brigadier-General W. R. Boggs, Chief of Staff:
General — It has just been brought to my attention by Major-General J. L. Walker, that the language of my report touching operations near Milliken's Bend reflects on him. He learns this from one of his staff just from Richmond. As I have not a copy of the report before me to verify the original words used, I respectfully ask the Lieutenant-General Commanding to convey to the War Department the statement that nothing in the report was intended to reflect directly or indirectly on General Walker. The plan was mine, and the position held by General Walker was strictly in accordance with my orders. The misconception existing at Richmond is calculated to injure unjustly a meritorious officer, and I ask that this communication be forwarded.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. Taylor, Major-General.

First endorsement:

Headquarters Department Trans-Mississippi, Shreveport, Louisiana, 1st November, 1863.--Respectfully forwarded.

E. Kirby Smith, Lieutenant-General Commanding.

Second endorsement.

Adjutant and Inspector-General's Office, December 4th, 1863.--Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.

H. L. Clay, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Third endorsement:

Noted-File with report, 8th December, 1863.

J. A. S., Secretary.

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