previous next

Sherman's advance on Meridian — report of General W. H. Jackson.

Headquarters cavalry division, Benton, Miss., March 21, 1864.
Major,--In compliance with orders from the Major-General commanding I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command, consisting of three brigades, commanded respectively by Brigadier-Generals Wirt Adams, L. S. Ross, and Colonel P. B. Starke, during the late advance of Sherman's army from Big Black to Meridian and its return to Vicksburg.

The enemy commenced crossing Big Black on the afternoon of the 3d February; were met by Colonel Wood's regiment, Adams's brigade, [157] near Champion Hill on the morning of the 4th. At the same time Starke's brigade was resisting one corps of the enemy on the Messenger's Ferry road. The entire force of the enemy was about thirty thousand infantry and twelve hundred cavalry. Heavy skirmishing was kept up until the enemy reached Jackson, on the 5th. Ross's Texas brigade had been left on the Yazoo river to defend that country. The behavior of officers and men of Adams's and Starke's brigades in resisting the advance was excellent. On arriving at Jackson my command moved out ten miles on the Canton road, and remained there until the enemy commenced crossing Pearl river, moving in the direction of Brandon. On the 7th February I moved with Starke's brigade to the rear of the enemy, near Brandon; Adams's brigade accompanied Major-General Lee on the flank of the enemy. There was but little opportunity to accomplish anything in the rear, except to skirmish heavily with rear guard, pick up stragglers, &c. The enemy moved in good order, well closed up, with wagon train of each brigade in rear of their respective brigades. At Decatur Woods's and Dumonteil's regiments, Adams's brigade, made a dash on a wagon train and succeeded in killing a number of men and mules, but were compelled to abandon wagons captured, as enemy had force of infantry in front and rear. of train. The command fought the enemy at Meridian, where the brigade of General Ross joined my command from the Yazoo country, which it had well protected, having fought three times their number and repulsed enemy on land, the men using their six-shooters, on foot, at the distance of twenty-five paces; at the same time the section of King's Missouri battery, commanded by Lieutenant Moore, drove back the gunboats.

All praise is due the fighting Texans and King's battery, and their gallant leader, General Ross, for their noble defence of the Yazoo country. At Meridian Adams's brigade was assigned temporarily to Ferguson's division.

On the 16th I moved with two brigades towards Columbus, Miss., to reinforce General Forrest, and arrived at Starkesville on the 23d. The raiding party from the north, under General Smith, retired the day before, upon hearing of the approach of Major-General Lee's command. On the 24th, in compliance with orders, I moved my division in pursuit of Sherman's army, on way to Canton. I detached Ross's brigade at Kosciusko to proceed to and protect the Mississippi Central railroad and Yazoo country.

February 27th we reached Sharon, Miss., and Starke's brigade encountered the enemy and fought them in gallant style, capturing a [158] number of horses, mules and wagons. The enemy were scattered in parties of thirty and forty, foraging and pillaging through the country. I therefore adopted the plan of detaching regiments to operate against them. This succeeded admirably, Colonel Peirson with his regiment (First Mississippi) being very successful — captured a number of the enemy, killed and wounded many, and brought off nine wagons and teams. The officers and men of Croft and King's batteries deserve great praise for their promptness in the execution of orders and gallant behavior in presence of the enemy.

The enemy remained about Canton three days, my command skirmishing with them daily, killing and capturing many, striking principally at their foraging parties, my object being to confine the enemy, as far as possible, to their lines, and prevent, in a great measure, their destruction of the country. In this I was successful. On the 28th, having previously assumed command of Ferguson's division, consisting of his own brigade, commanded by Colonel Earle, and Adams's brigade, I made the following disposition of the command, viz:

Adams's brigade on left flank of enemy, Starke's on right and Ferguson's in rear. In this manner they pursued the enemy to within a short distance of Big Black, capturing fifteen wagons and teams and one hundred and fifty prisoners, killed and wounded numbers, also captured fifty cavalry horses and equipments, notwithstanding the enemy was aware of our presence, and moved in fine order, without straggling. The effect was to confine them closely to the road on which they were moving.

I beg leave to call the attention of Major-General Lee to the part performed by Lieutenant Harvey and his gallant band of forty scouts; he was everywhere doing good service, killed and captured of the enemy four times his own number. His daring coolness and judgment eminently fit him for promotion and much larger command. I commend him to the notice of the Major-General commanding.

The loss in my division during the campaign was two hundred and twenty-five killed, wounded and missing; that of the enemy, about four hundred prisoners, with as many killed, with a large number of mules, horses, wagons, arms and equipments captured.

I am informed by my staff officers, just returned from Vicksburg on a flag of truce, that Federal officers admit a loss of three thousand missing. The number of their killed will never be known, as a great many were killed while out from the main body, plundering and burning houses.

Troops never behaved more gallantly or soldierly than those of my [159] command during the entire campaign, and I think that everything that could possibly have been done was executed by the command of Major-General Lee.

My thanks are due General Ferguson for his gallantry, energy and prompt compliance with all orders, while temporarily under my command. To my brigade commanders, General Adams, General Ross and Colonel Starke my thanks are especially due for efficiency and zealous discharge of every duty and their noble bearing on the field. Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the heroic spirits who follow them.

I respectfully refer to the detailed reports of the brigade commanders for the losses, captures, &c.

I would call the attention of the Major-General commanding especially to that portion of General Ross's report referring to the capture of Yazoo city, which I consider a perfect success.

My thanks are also due the members of my staff, Captain George Moorman, A. A. G., Captain Thomas B. Sykes, A. I. G., Major W. R. Paul, Q. M., Major A. P. Glover, C. S., Major I. F. Simmons, Paymaster, for gallantry and efficiency on the field.

My aid de camp, Lieutenant James R. Crump, was killed while gallantly leading my escort company in a successful charge against a party of marauding Yankees near Sharon, Mississippi, February 26th, 1864. He was a brave and noble officer.

Very respectfully,

W. H. Jackson, Brigadier-General Commanding. To Major Wm. Elliott, A. A. and I. General.

Report of General Richardson.

Headquarters West Tennessee brigade, Benton, Miss., March 7th, 1864.
Major,--On the 23rd of February, I received an order from Major-General S. D. Lee, commanding cavalry west of Alabama, to move my brigade to Grenada “for the protection of the public property at that point, and to guard against raids from Yazoo City.”

I started from Tampica on the morning of the 24th, and hearing that evening that the enemy was raiding unrestricted over the country between the Yazoo river and the M. C. R. R., from Greenwood to Lexington, I moved rapidly to surprise and chastise him. [160]

I reached Elliott Station on the evening of the 25th, and preparing three days rations, leaving my train except my ambulances, taking only my effective men and horses, then numbering six hundred, and the rifle section of Thrall's battery, I started at noon on the 26th February to Carrollton, hoping that by moving all night, I would be able to pass between a party of negroes led by white officers, then raiding about Black Hawk, and their gunboats and transports at Sidon, and cutting them off from their boats, would be able to capture and destroy them. I marched all night, and next morning learned that these negroes had returned to their boats. I moved on to Sidon on the east bank of the Yazoo river, and finding that the enemy had gone down the river on his boats, I sent scouts to Tchula to find the locality, if in that neighborhood. My scouts reported that eleven transports and three gunboats had proceeded down the river to Vicksburg and that one transport and two gunboats were reported west of Honey Island loading with cotton. My information derived from citizens and our soldiers captured, and who had escaped, showed pretty conclusively that this armada was composed of twelve transports and five gunboats, the Eleventh Illinois infantry, one regiment of negro cavalry, and one regiment of negro infantry, variously estimated at from one to two thousand men. It also apppeared that their object was to take cotton, stock, and negroes and corn, and to hold and navigate the Yazoo river for the purpose of drawing from its rich granaries subsistence for the army at Vicksburg. Feeling that the supplies of the Yazoo valley were of great value to the country, I deemed it of vast importance to punish the enemy and drive him, if possible, from this river, that we might preserve its rich abundance of army supplies for the use of the Confederate forces, with which I believed it was designed to hold and occupy this region of country. Accordingly, so soon as I received the information that three boats were west of Honey Island, I moved to Tchula, thence towards the foot of Honey Island; but before I reached this point, my scouts returned from a thorough reconnoissance of Honey Island, reporting that all the boats had descended the river to Vicksburg.

Believing now that the enemy had returned to Vicksburg, I moved from Yazoo Bottom to rear Lexington, determined to return to Grenada by slow marches, resting my men and horses.

I received now several dispatches from Brigadier-General L. S. Ross, from the vicinity of Benton, indicating the presence of the enemy at Yazoo City. I moved in that direction, and on the evening of the 4th of March formed a junction with him at the Ponds, six miles east [161] of that city. My effective force was now reduced to five hundred and fifty men, and that of General Ross was about one thousand men. I found General Ross well informed as to the position of the enemy, his works of defence, and the typography of Yazoo City and environs. He made full (as I afterwards saw to be), true, and accurate explanation, giving me the benefit of his valuable information upon these points. He reported to me as the ranking officer, but on account of his superior information as to the defences and approaches of and to Yazoo City, I declined to assume the command, making him my equal in rank, both agreeing to consult and cooperate. At 8 o'clock, A. M., on the 5th of March, we moved from our camp at the Ponds, determined to reconnoitre the enemy's position, and feel of him in force, and, if the opportunity should appear favorable, to capture the city and works.

At 10 o'clock, A. M., we commenced the attack. Colonel Mabry was ordered to attack on the Plank road; Colonel Jones to carry the left central redoubt; Colonel Hawkins to carry the extreme right redoubt. These officers belonged to General Ross's brigade, and their dispositions were made by him.

Acting under General Ross's advice, I placed Captain Thrall's section of artillery on a point about one thousand yards from the right central redoubt, and opened upon it. Captain Thrall soon obtained the range, and his shells seemed to burst right over the works. General Ross now moved on the Plank road to the left, commanding the left wing. Colonel Hawkins, commanding the First Texas Legion, very soon drove the enemy from the extreme right redoubt, and this gave me a much better position for Thrall's section, also opened one of the main roads into the city, exposed the camp of the Eleventh Illinois regiment and the north side of the main redoubt, which it now appeared the enemy intended to hold if possible. General Ross had now captured his two redoubts on the left of the main or right central, and had placed his section of artillery (Lieutenant Johnson commanding) in a good position at easy range, and was playing it upon the main central with good effect. This work was the largest and strongest of all the works; had in it one piece of artillery; was flaunting the United States flag, and now became the special object of our attention. We had now four pieces throwing shells at this work. One of my pieces, however, soon disabled itself by its recoil. I received a message from General Ross, saying that he had thrown the forces of his wing, to-wit: Colonel Mabry's, Colonel Jones's, and the Twelfth Tennessee cavalry, Colonel Neeley commanding, around the east and [162] south sides of the fort, and the shells which went over the works fell among our own men. I now saw that I could complete the investment of the work, and storm and take the city. I ordered Major Ross, commanding Sixth Texas, to move up a wooded ravine and attack the north side. I ordered Colonel Hawkins, commanding First Texas Legion, to move on the jagged slope of the bluffs, clear it of the enemy, swing on his left, and extend the arc of a circle, formed by Major Ross, to the north and west. I ordered Colonel Thomas Logwood, commanding the Fifteenth Tennessee cavalry, to move through the upper edge of the city, and Major John Thurmond, commanding Fourteenth Tennessee cavalry (Colonel Neeley's right), to move centrally through the city. These officers, and their commands, promptly and gallantly executed these orders, and in twenty minutes we had completed the circle around the main redoubt, and swept the heights above the city, except the main redoubt, and had taken the city by storm, except the tier of buildings fronting the river, under the immediate cover of their two gunboats, in which a number of the enemy had posted themselves, and were firing from the windows of the houses. In driving the enemy from one of these houses, the gallant and accomplished gentleman and soldier, Major J. G. Thurmond, fell dead, shot through the head, leading his regiment, the gallant Fourteenth Tennessee cavalry. He is dead. His deeds place him in the ranks of that honored few whom we delight to recognize as the bravest of the brave.

Two gunboats now opened their batteries upon us in the city and rained down showers of balls from exploding shrapnells. Captain Thrall now placed in position, on one of the streets, in fifty yards of a brick house occupied by the enemy, his piece, and opened upon it with terrible effect. I held the city for three hours, destroying quartermaster's stores and cotton, not without, however, a continuous struggle with the enemy's sharp-shooters, posted in houses and his gunboats, until the latter were silenced. Colonel Logwood having driven the enemy from the upper part of the city, by gallant and impetuous charges, had wheeled his regiment upon its left and closed the circle of investment, and commanded the sally post of the main central redoubt. About four o'clock in the evening General Ross reported to me, in the city, the progress made against the central redoubt, and the refusal of the enemy to surrender the main redoubt. We concluded that to carry the work by storm would sacrifice too many valuable lives, and was not worth the price. Two boats of re-inforcements were approaching the city; our ammunition was nearly exhausted; we had felt the [163] enemy heavily; had damaged him very much; it was nearly night; we determined to withdraw.

We captured mules, horses, clothing and ammunition, and seventeen prisoners. The loss of my brigade was thirty-seven killed and wounded; of the two brigades sixty-four. The enemy's loss from all I can gather, must have been over one hundred, though he stated it to citizens at two hundred and forty-three.

The enemy has been compelled to evacuate the city, and it is hoped that he will abandon the idea, heretofore entertained, of opening the Yazoo river, and drawing cotton, negroes, stock and supplies from its rich valley.

The Fourteenth Tennessee cavalry was under my immediate observation, and it gives me great pleasure to commend the gallantry of both men and officers. The Fifteenth Tennessee cavalry and its gallant and dashing Colonel Logwood behaved well — not a man or officer straggling from it to the rear. Its flag bore and now bears ten bullet holes through its folds and one through its staff, as honorable mementoes of the fierce struggle it passed.

I cannot close this report without mentioning, in terms of commendation, the promptness to carry my orders and the gallant bearing throughout the entire day, of Captain W. E. Reneau, Acting-Inspecting General on my staff, and Lieutenant V. B. Waddell, picket officer of my brigade. My Aid De Camp Lieutenant J. T. Joyner and Volunteer Aid J. M. Lucas bore my orders promptly. It gives me great pleasure to commend the gallantry of Brigadier-General L. S. Ross and his entire brigade of Texans. I desire also to commend Captain Thrall and his men and officers for their bravery and good firing on this occasion. The Captain was wounded in the city after it was captured, standing by his piece, by a sharp-shooter of the enemy. Lieutenant C. Adams, my ordnance officer, was also wounded in the city.

I have the honor to be,

R. V. Richardson, Brigadier-General. To Major Holt, A. A. General.

Report of Colonel P. B. Starke.

Headquarters First brigade, I. C. D., Near Livingston, Miss., March 13th, 1864.
Captain,--I have the honor to report that at 5 o'clock, A. M., on the 4th ulto., whilst near Brownsville, Miss., I received an order from [164] General Jackson, directing me to move my brigade to Reynolds Ponds, on the road leading from Queens Hill to Clinton, and to be there by daylight. As soon as the order reached me I moved my command, and took position at the Ponds a little after sun-rise. A short time afterwards I was notified by the pickets at Queens Hill, that the enemy were approaching in force. I threw forward the First Mississippi regiment, and one piece of artillery, under command of Colonel Pinson, of First Mississippi regiment, to Colonel Jos. E. Davis's place, one mile in advance of my position, to force the enemy to develop his strength as far as practicable. A short time after they had taken position the pickets were driven in, and about 10 o'clock they became hotly engaged with him, and after a spirited resistance against his infantry, artillery and cavalry, deployed in line of battle, they were forced to fall back in rear of position taken in the morning, which was held by the Twenty-eighth Mississippi regiment, under Major McBee, Ballentine's regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, and Crafts Battery, until the enemy came against them in line of battle, ten to one in number, across an open field, and their skirmishers forced the withdrawal of the battery, and of the Twenty-eighth, which was dismounted, and were being flanked on both sides. I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, with his regiment mounted, to hold the position until those troops were withdrawn, and had taken position in the rear, in the meantime they were exposed to a heavy fire from the artillery and infantry, and a rapid advance of the enemy's whole line. Night coming on I withdrew the command to the Ponds near the Wells's place, and bivouaced for the night, the enemy having halted at Reynolds Ponds. He commenced his advance at daylight the next morning, and attacked my pickets; I ordered forward Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, with his regiment to re-inforce them, who became hotly engaged upon arriving on the ground, and were forced back to the position I was occupying at Wells's with the other two regiments and battery. The enemy in heavy force advanced rapidly in line of battle, on this position, and a brisk engagement took place. At this time General Jackson came on the field from the Bolton depot and Clinton road, running parrallel with the one I was on, where General Adams with his brigade had been resisting the approach of the other army corps of the enemy, and directed in person the firing of my artillery. The enemy here had pushed on their column on the Bolton and Clinton road, until they became opposite my position, (the roads here converging closely together,) and opened a cross fire upon me from that road. While they were playing on my position with their artillery from the front they were [165] still advancing, with the same force I had been contending with the day before, with their centre, and deploying their wings forward on the right and left of my position. At this moment I was ordered by General Jackson to withdraw my command two miles east of Clinton, on the Jackson road, and take position there, ordering at the same time my artillery to Clinton.

By the time I had taken this position, the columns of the enemy's force had united at Clinton, where they became engaged with General Adams's brigades. I was then ordered by General Jackson to move my command nearer to Clinton, which was done and held the position, until General Adams's command retired and took position at the tombstone, about one-and-a-half miles in my rear, when I was ordered by General Jackson to withdraw my command, and take position near the breast-works west of Jackson. Apprehending that the enemy might make a flank movement on the road leading from Clinton via Mississippi Springs to Jackson, I sent some scouts to ascertain if such was the case; they not reporting, I sent out a company from the Twenty-eighth, under Captain Ratcliff, who reported immediately, that they were advancing on that road in force, with infantry, cavalry and artillery, and were then nearer Jackson (the point we were falling back to) than the position held by our troops. I immediately sent a staff officer to inform General Jackson of the fact, and that I would withdraw my brigade and try to get to Jackson before the enemy and intercept him there, he meeting up with General Lee delivered the message to him; I withdrew the brigade by regiments (my battery not having been ordered back to me at this time) in their regular order to Jackson, when I received an order from General Lee to move my column out on the road leading from Jackson to Canton. Here the roads and streets were much obstructed by large numbers of stragglers and hangers on of the army in their flight. I moved my column to reach the bridge, where the roads leading from Clinton intersects the Canton and Jackson road, supposing the enemy might move in that direction from Clinton, (as they had troops enough to make any move they chose,) and intercept the passage of our trains across the bridge. On reaching Hanging Moss creek, four miles north of Jackson, I came up with General Lee's Quarter-master in charge of all the trains, halted my command, took position, and at this time was joined by General Lee, who informed me that General Ferguson was guarding with his brigade the road leading from Clinton to the bridge, when I bivouaced at this point for the night, and remained for three days until it was discovered that the enemy were crossing Pearl river, at Jackson, in the direction of Meridian. [166] After crossing Pearl river I was under the immediate command of General Jackson, and was marching in the rear or flank of the enemy for several days, and became again engaged with him near Meridian on the 14th ult. The First Mississippi was placed in line on the road leading from Meridian to Demopolis, and a mounted squadron from the Twenty-eighth Mississippi regiment on right of road near hospital, and skirmished briskly with them at that point, when they fell back to a position in the rear of the Twenty-eighth Mississippi regiment, which was formed in line dismounted. This regiment then engaged them and fell back in rear of Ballentine's regiment, which was formed in line mounted; the enemy in the mean time keeping up a brisk fire from his artillery and infantry.

I then withdrew my brigade and formed it in line on the west side of the railroad, their right resting on it, which position I held until the enemy had advanced in force, when I withdrew my command on the road leading from Meridian to Demopolis and skirmished with him there; when compelled to fall back, did so on the road leading from Meridian towards Lauderdale Springs, and bivouaced for the night at------. My artillery was not present this day, having been ordered back towards Enterprise by General Jackson, they not being able to keep up with the column, which was moving rapidly towards Meridian, in order to reach that point before the enemy. I remained in the vicinity of Meridian for three days, and then proceeded to Lauderdale Springs via Almucha, moving from that point to Starksville via Macon to meet the column advancing down the Mobile and Ohio railroad, from Tennessee, under command of Generals Smith and Grierson. Upon arrival at Starksville it was found that they had been driven back by General Forrest.

I was then ordered by General Jackson to move my brigade to the vicinity of Sharon and Canton, via Kosciusko, which I did, arriving at Sharon on the 27th ultimo. I saw no more of the enemy until my arrival there, and as their column was marching on the road leading from Ratcliff's Ferry to Canton, which passes within a short distance of this place, my advance guard soon became engaged with him. I sent forward Ballentine's regiment, who commenced skirmishing with him, but a superior force coming up, soon compelled it to fall back, which it did in good order, and I left a squadron of the First Mississippi regiment in the edge of the town to cover its retreat and fell back to a good position about one mile to the rear, where I had placed my artillery (a section of King's battery), and there formed a line of battle. This position I held until dark, when I fell back five miles for water [167] and forage. At an early hour next morning I again marched to Sharon, and with Ballentine's regiment and the artillery I took the direct road to Canton, sending Colonel Pinson, with the First Mississippi, off on my right, and Major McBee, with the Twenty-eighth Mississippi regiment on my left, with instructions that when I met and engaged the enemy, they should close in on the flanks. About two miles from Sharon I met the enemy and skirmished with him for some hours, but hearing nothing from the other two regiments, and night coming on, I fell back to Sharon, when I learned that Major McBee had met with a column of the enemy that occupied his whole attention and prevented him from joining me. Colonel Pinson likewise met a large foraging party and engaged them, and after a spirited contest, succeeded in routing them and driving them from their wagons, of which he captured nine with their teams (60 mules) killing and wounding some, and taking fifteen prisoners. I again fell back to my old camp, and on the following morning attacked the enemy at the same place as on the previous day, sending Major McBee on my right to attack his flank if an opportunity offered. This, however, was impossible from the nature of the ground, and the position of the enemy, who now brought up a large force of infantry and artillery, and I was again compelled to fall back before a greatly superior force. The next day being extremely cold and rainy, I could do nothing more than send out scouting parties to watch the movements of the enemy.

On the following day, being the 2d of March, I ascertained that the enemy were leaving Canton, and I pursued them as rapidly as my jaded horses would permit of my doing. General Ferguson being in their immediate rear I took the upper Vernon road from Canton and kept on their flank without coming in contact with them until I came within four miles of Brownsville. Here I determined to attack their train, and disposed my forces accordingly. This was at a point where the road that I was traveling and the one taken by the enemy came within a mile of each other. I sent Major McBee with the Twenty-eighth Mississippi regiment to charge the train as soon as he saw a favorable opportunity, and afterwards ordered Colonel Pinson, with the First Mississippi regiment, to form in his rear and be ready to support him or cover his retreat, as the necessity of the case might determine, at the same time sending Colonel Ballentine with his regiment towards Brownsville, on the road that I had been marching on, to strike them on the flank. Before, however, Major McBee concluded to attack the train the enemy's rear guard, consisting of seven regiments of infantry and three regiments of cavalry, came up and formed a line of battle [168] and commenced skirmishing with him, and this force being greatly superior to my whole command, and night coming on, I fell back a few miles for water and forage, and early the next day the rear guard of the enemy's column crossed Big Black and I then fell back to this place in obedience to orders.

My whole loss during the different engagements from February 4th to March 4th was as follows: Killed, wounded and missing, 49.

I captured and killed 128 Federal officers and men.

Enclosed you will find Lieutenant Harvey's (commanding my scouts) report of operations during the raid.

There were many instances of personal gallantry in the different skirmishes, but the behavior of both officers and men was marked by such courage and determination in holding every position assigned them, against overwhelming numbers, that I will make no discrimination in this report.

Lieutenant Harvey's report shows that he brought to bear his usual undaunted courage and extraordinary energy and judgment.

I am, Captain, very respectfully,

P. B. Starke, Colonel Commanding Brigade. To George Mormon, Captain and A. A. General.

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 Places (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: