previous next

Operations of the cavalry in Mississippi, from January to March, 1864.-report of General S. D. Lee.

Headquarters Lee's cavalry, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, April 18th, 1864.
Colonel,--The following is submitted as my report of the operations of the cavalry under my command during the recent campaign in Mississippi. During the latter part of January the enemy commenced to concentrate a large force at Vicksburg, bringing large reinforcements from Memphis and above, and evacuating the Mississippi and Central railroad. To oppose this force, Jackson's division was in position as follows:

Ross's Texas brigade was guarding the Yazoo river and Mississippi Central railroad, posted at Benton. Starke's Mississippi brigade was at Brownsville, watching the crossings of the Big Black, opposite Vicksburg. Adams's brigade was moved from the vicinity of Natchez to Raymond.

About the 28th of January the enemy commenced their demonstrations up Yazoo river with their boats, and moved their cavalry up towards Mechanicksburg. Their demonstrations continued daily to the [98] 5th of February, and were handsomely met by the gallant Texans under Ross, fighting their gun boats and infantry, and repulsing them on every occasion.

At Liverpool two small regiments and a section of artillery of King's battery, under Lieutenant Moore, repulsed three large regiments of infantry of the enemy, supported by their gun boats. The enemy charged in gallant style, and were repulsed twice; the second time the Texans using their six-shooters at twenty paces. The two regiments were the Sixth and Ninth Texas. The gun boats and transports went down the Yazoo on the 5th, abandoning for a time any attempt to land troops. On the evening of the 3rd of February, while their demonstrations were going on on the Yazoo, the enemy commenced crossing the Big Black rapidly at the railroad bridge and at Messenger's Ferry, six miles above. They advanced towards Clinton on the two roads from the two crossings; and, on the 4th, Adams's and Starke's brigades engaged them, and it was soon discovered, after heavy skirmishing, that there were at least two corps of the enemy, one on each road. Their force was estimated at twenty thousand.

On the 5th, at dawn, the enemy advanced in heavy line of battle on both roads, and it was discovered by their developments, and from prisoners, that their army consisted of McPherson's and Hurlbut's corps, and a brigade of cavalry, numbering in all about twenty-six thousand men. The advance of the enemy was rapid, the open country enabling him to march his force with ease on several roads.

The two brigades were steadily driven back to Jackson, where they arrived about dark.

Too much praise cannot be given officers and men for the gallant manner in which they fought this superior force, every man knowing, by actual observation, the strength of the enemy.

Jackson was occupied by the enemy on the morning of the 6th, my command having passed through the city the previous evening, taking the Canton road, to cover Canton and enable General Loring to cross with his division over Pearl river to Brandon from Canton. Brigadier-General L. W. Ferguson's brigade, which joined me at Clinton on the 4th, took the road from Clinton to Madison Station. On the evening of the 6th, finding the enemy made no advance towards Canton, the four brigades were put in position to cross Pearl river, in case the enemy should do so at Jackson; and a regiment was sent to Brandon to cover that place and watch the crossings at Jackson. Late, on the 7th, I ascertained the enemy were crossing, and, early on the 8th, crossed Pearl river. [99]

Sent Ferguson's brigade to Morton to cover Major-General Loring's front, and ordered Jackson, with his two brigades (Adams's and Starke's), to move on the flank of the enemy at Brandon and Pelahatchee stations; at the same time ordered Ross to abandon the Yazoo country and join his division, as the enemy were moving on Meridian. Jackson's two brigades did their work handsomely, driving in the enemy's foraging parties and compelling them to march on one road. It was impossible to damage the enemy much as he marched in perfect order, his trains being divided between the brigades and kept in close order. On the night of the 9th I received an order, while in rear of the enemy at Pelahatchee Station, from the Lieutenant General to cover the M. and O. R. R. south of Meridian, to enable him to return to Mobile its garrison, which he had withdrawn, as he then believed the enemy would move on Mobile and not on Meridian. On the 11th, four miles south of Newton Station, I met General Ferguson, who had been ordered to the same position as myself by the Lieutenant General, and for the same object. I at once ordered him to the Decatur and Meridian road to place himself in front of the enemy, as it was then evident that he was moving on Meridian and not Mobile. On the 12th, with a part of Adams's brigade, a dash was made on the flank of the enemy at Decatur, disabling a train of about thirty wagons. The infantry of the enemy advanced in line of battle in a few moments after the dash, showing that they marched with every precaution.

The proximity of the infantry of the enemy would not allow the wagons to be brought over. On the 13th an order was received from the Lieutenant-General to cover the M. and O. R. R. above Meridian. At the time of the receipt of this order the position of the enemy and his advance rendered it impossible to comply with the order in time to effect the object desired, and, with Jackson's two brigades, I moved to Chunky Station, and during the night received an order to move to Meridian to cover the retreat of the army from that point to Demopolis. Only one brigade could reach Meridian owing to the rapid advance of the enemy, the other being compelled to make a detour to the right. The enemy occupied Meridian about 3 P. M. on the 14th of February, Starke and Ferguson's brigades skirmishing heavily with them at Meridian. By an order of the Lieutenant-General commanding, on the 14th, I was placed in command of all the cavalry west of Alabama, and at once put myself in communication with Major-General Forrest. In retiring from Meridian my command moved towards Old Marion. On the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th the enemy engaged himself destroying the railroad north, south and east from Meridian, putting [100] two divisions of infantry at work in each direction. The roads were destroyed for about twelve miles each way. Attempts were made to stop the work but their heavy force made it of no avail.

Ross's brigade arrived at Doleville on the 16th, and skirmished with the enemy on the 17th, near Old Marion. On the evening of the 17th I received an order from the Lieutenant-General to move with my disposable force to join General Forrest, who reported that the enemy's cavalry force, 8,000 men, were moving on him. On the morning of the 18th the four brigades moved towards Starksville, the point indicated by General Forrest, leaving only Colonel Perrin's Mississippi regiment to cover Demopolis and observe the enemy. The command moved as rapidly as the jaded condition of the horses would admit, and at daylight on the 23d arrived at Line Creek, where General Forrest was on the 22d, and found, much to my surprise and regret, that the enemy had commenced to retreat twenty-four hours previously.

On the 19th, Forrest moved from Starkesville, through West Point, towards Aberdeen, and again retired before the enemy, across the Suckatinchie Creek. The enemy, on reaching West Point, heard of my approach on the 21st, and immediately commenced their retreat. Forrest, on the 22d, in the evening, commenced the pursuit, and caught up with their rear-guard, inflicting severe punishment on them, capturing six pieces of artillery and many prisoners. My command was much disappointed at the result of this action, having anticipated a fight with their own arm of the service and with equal numbers. I had been led to believe from General Forrest's reports that the force of the enemy was superior to our combined commands, and that the difficulty was in avoiding a general engagement till my arrival. Not having received General Forrest's report, I am not able to explain his move on the 19th to fight the enemy, and again retiring before him without concentrating and giving battle with his entire force.

I feel confident, however, that this gallant officer acted with judgment and to the best interests of the service. On the 24th I ordered General Jackson, with his own division and Ferguson's brigade, to move towards Canton and harass General Sherman, who was then retiring from Meridian towards Vicksburg. General Jackson encountered the enemy near Sharon, driving in his foraging parties and hastening his march to Vicksburg. His work was well done, capturing about 2C wagons, and killing and capturing about 200 of the enemy, the last of whose forces recrossed the Big Black on the 4th of March. Brigadier-General Ross, with his brigade of Texans, was sent to the [101] Yazoo country by Brigadier-General Jackson, and Richardson's brigade of Tennessee and Forrest's cavalry were sent by my order to Grenada, from Starkesville on the 24th. General Ross, about the 28th of February, while going into camp near Benton, was charged by about 80 negro cavalry from Yazoo City. About an equal number of the Texans charged them, and before they got to Yazoo City (10 miles), 75 of the negroes were caught and killed, as they continued to offer resistance and to run. On the 5th of March, Brigadier-Generals Richardson and Ross, cooperating, attacked Yazoo City, drove the enemy from all the redoubts except one, and took possession of the city, capturing many stores and a few prisoners. The enemy having concentrated in the strongest redoubt, it was not considered prudent to assault it, as it was defended by about 400 infantry and surrounded by a ditch. Generals Ross and Richardson retired from the city about sunset, and the enemy evacuated the place the next day. This was a gallant affair and caused the enemy to withdraw from the Yazoo river. I cannot speak in too high terms of the officers and men of my command. They were in the saddle almost continually from the 1st of February to the 4th of March, undergoing great fatigue and fighting a large army of infantry (for Sherman had only a brigade of cavalry with him), with a gallantry and spirit which cannot be too highly commended. I would especially commend to the favorable notice of the Lieutenant-General commanding, the good conduct and soldierly qualities of Brigadier-General W. H. Jackson, commanding a division, to whose assistance and action much of the credit of the recent campaign is due. Brigadier-Generals Adams and Ross and Ferguson deserve my thanks for their distinguished gallantry on the field and the able management of their commands. Colonel P. B. Starke, commanding brigade, showed skill and gallantry on every occasion, and won my confidence. For the parts taken by the different regiments and for instances of individual gallantry, I refer to the enclosed reports. I will, however, mention a few seeming to deserve especial notice. On the 4th of February, near Bolton's depot, my position was being flanked by a cavalry brigade of the enemy — seeing the danger, and to give time to meet the attack, Major W. H. Bridges, P. A. C. S., was detached, with the two escort companies of General Jackson and myself, numbering about 90 men. That gallant officer, with his select band, attacked the vastly superior force of the enemy with a boldness and daring I have not witnessed before during the war. The advance was checked and many lives saved by the good conduct of that officer and the two companies. I regret to state that in effecting the object [102] for which he was sent, he received a mortal wound, and is now lost to his country. A more daring spirit has not fallen during the war, nor one who has been more regretted by his comrades. Lieutenant Harvey, comanding scouts of Starke's brigade (40 in number), killed and captured 150 of the enemy, and he has established an enviable reputation for gallantry and efficiency. To the members of my personal staff, I am indebted for their gallantry and efficiency.

I would particularly mention Major William Elliott, Assistant Adjutant-General, and Lieutenants J. D. McFarland, S. M. Underhill and N. S. Farish, Acting Aides. Major G. B. Dyer, C. S., and A. G. Quaite, Quarter-master, performed their duties to my satisfaction. Assistant Surgeon D. W. Boothe, Medical Department, was constantly with me, and, in addition to his regular duties, displayed gallantry in transmitting orders, under fire frequently. The loss of the enemy was about 400 prisoners and 300 killed and wounded. Enclosed are the reports of the General officers of my command, and a list of killed, wounded, &c.

I am, Colonel, yours respectfully,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 4th (2)
24th (2)
22nd (2)
6th (2)
5th (2)
4th (2)
April 18th, 1864 AD (1)
March, 1864 AD (1)
January, 1864 AD (1)
March 5th (1)
February 28th (1)
February 14th (1)
February 5th (1)
February 4th (1)
February 3rd (1)
February 1st (1)
January 28th (1)
January (1)
21st (1)
19th (1)
17th (1)
16th (1)
15th (1)
14th (1)
13th (1)
12th (1)
11th (1)
8th (1)
7th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: