Battle of Milliken's Bend, Madison Parish, LA June 7, 1863
Compiled and Notes Added by Richard P. Sevier ([email protected])
Official Confederate and Union Reports
The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Chapter XXXVI - 1880
Actual Battle Report - Brig. Gen. McCulloch June 8, 1863
Report of Events During June 3-8, 1863 - Maj. Gen. Taylor
General Walker's Report June 10, 1863
By early June 1863 things were relatively quite in Madison Parish. Grant's attempts to build canals to divert the Mississippi River from Vicksburg or to create new supply routes had ended in failure. Most of the 30,000 plus Yankee troops that had been stationed in the Milliken's Bend area left in late March 1863, on a march to the south along the east side of the parish (for the route of this march click here) with the ultimate goal to capture Vicksburg from the east. These troops were currently participating in the Siege of Vicksburg.
In May 1863, the Confederate General defending Vicksburg - General J. C. Pemberton - requested troops to help relieve some of the pressure on Vicksburg from the Louisiana side. To accomplish this Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith commanded Major General Richard Taylor to move up the Tensas River to Madison Parish. Taylor gave Major General John Walker's Texas Division the job of disrupting Grant's supply line from Milliken's Bend to New Carthage, reopening Confederate supply lines into Vicksburg, and sending reinforcements over to Pemberton if possible. Walker's division contained three brigades commanded by Brigadier Generals Henry E, McCulloch, Hawes and Horace Randal. The plan was for McCulloch to attack Milliken’s Bend, J. M. Hawes to attack Young's Point, several miles downstream from Milliken's Bend, and Randal to remain in reserve in Richmond.
Thus followed the Battle of Milliken's Bend on June 7, 1863, a little publicized, bloody, hand-to-hand encounter in which over a thousand casualties resulted in a very short time. This battle marked the first major conflict between Union black troops and the Confederate Army.
Even though the Confederates inflicted heavy losses on the Yankees, the entire operation was a failure. The Confederates were in the process of taking Milliken's Bend when Yankee gunboat fire forced them to retreat. Hawes' attack on Young's Point failed to materialize when he mistook some of the transports on the river for gunboats and retreated, apparently after only two shots were fired, deciding that the Yankee positions were too strong.
Location map (1863) showing Milliken’s Bend’s relation to Vicksburg - Library of Congress
General Walker then returned his troops to his headquarters in Richmond where, in retribution, Grant ordered General Joseph A. Mower to capture and burn the little city to the ground on June 15, 1863. For a map of Richmond see Richmond 1839.
Modified Confederate map of the Battle of Milliken’s Bend
Battle of Milliken’s Bend Drawing that appeared in Harper’s Weekly
Battle of Milliken’s Bend from Harpers Weekly July 4, 1863 (Ironically the date of the fall of Vicksburg)
Letter from Henry Dick Lester (Sr.) to his father dated June 8, 1863
Many thanks to Mary Kay Lester Forbes of Salisbury, North Carolina who provided the following letter her grandfather sent to his father the day after the battle. Henry Dick Lester was only 13 when he joined the army and was 15 when he fought in the Battle of Milliken’s Bend. Unfortunately portions of the old folded letter were illegible.
Camp 10 mi from Millicuns Bend (Millikens Bend) above and opposite Vicksburg June 8 63
My Dear Pa
Since writing to you near Delhigh (Delhi) I have again had an opportunity of wreaking my vengeance on our foe. Day before yesterday we marched about 10 mls to within one mile of Richmond. Here we recd orders to cook three days rations and be ready to march at 7 o clock that evening. When the time arrived we took up the line of March for the Yankee camp on the ____ I believe___ (paper badly folded here) ___ Beans. We marched all night and just about every advance ? was fired into by their Pickets who soon ran (run) off. After going about a mile further we were again shot at. We were now surrounded on all sides by Rose Hedges and in passing through the gaps we lost a good many. When in about a half mile of the levy behind which the enemy were postured and between which ran ? the River the camps were pitched. We formed a very poor line of Battle. Our Regt being a full 75 yds ahead of the rest who line to force a way through the Hedges. Soon the order was given to charge the levy/behind which are some cotton bales were posture a Regt of Negroes with a large number of Yankees ( paper badly) ____ some ten steps of the levy? When by common consent the Regt had ____In a an ____persuing thier advantage a Fed Officer arose and spoke to his men “Aim low boys and give them Hell, give them Hell, give them Hell) When at the third time I took deliberate aim at his breast two inches below and to the right of the second button and sent a ball and then buckshot in him. He fell with the word “Hell” on his lips. In the meantime they opened a destructive fire on us which killed my 3rd Lt. Thos J Benuin ? wounded Capt Persig ? Persy ? killed one _____ and ______ seven other. We charged the Levy and fought Bayonet crossing Bayonet for full one minute. My antagonist was a huge Negro who fired and missed me and then clubbed his gun and tried to strike me. I slapped my Bayonet through him twice he then struck at me. I threw up my gun in him to ward off the blow and (paper badly folded here) _____ he _____ and struck me over the shoulder which darn near breaking the shoulder blade. I then sent my Bayonet clear through him and finished fired into him as Div lines which blew him all to pieces. We continue firing where ever we could see a way I killed ? four that I know of for certain and captured two negroes one belonging to Col Dabney ? name ? Raymond and the other to Mr. Zalladay or Zallvuay living near Jackson, Miss
We left the field about 12 n and came back to our old camps. We then continue to reinforce. Genl Haws who was still skirmishing on the River and got about a mile in swimming ? when orders to cook two day ration. My shoulder is very stiff and sore this morning. D_____ you _____ to summer? La. I will write again soon. Your son
SERIES I PART II VOL 24 CHAP. XXXVI OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN LOUISIANA. Pp. 467-470
HEADQUARTERS McCULLOCH'S BRIGADE,
Richmond, La., June 8, 1863.
According to orders, on the night of the 6th my brigade took up the line of march for Milliken's Bend, to attack the Yankee force at that place.
We advanced to within about 1 1/2 miles at 2.30 a.m. on the 7th instant, when the enemy's pickets fired upon my cavalry scouts and skirmishers. The cavalry scouts fell back precipitately upon the skirmishers, amid the fire of the enemy, which led the skirmishers to suppose them a portion of the enemy's cavalry; consequently they fired upon them, killing two of their horses and wounding a third. Fortunately no man was killed or wounded by this fire. My skirmishers immediately pressed forward, driving the pickets of the enemy before them. We advanced but a quarter of mile farther when the enemy's skirmishers in considerable force opened upon us under cover of a thick hedge. A portion of the command was immediately thrown in line, moved forward, and drove the enemy from his lurking place to the next hedge, about 600 yards farther; and thus the fight or skirmishing continued from hedge to hedge and ditch to ditch, until within 215 paces of the main levee on the bank of the Mississippi River, where the charge was ordered. Here we encountered a thick hedge, which could not be passed except through a few gaps or breaches that had been made for gates and pass-ways. These had to be passed by the troops the best they could, never fronting more than half a company, before a line could be formed to charge the levee, which was the breastwork of the enemy, 10 feet high, and in several places had a layer of cotton bales on top, making a very formidable and secure work of defense. The line was formed under a heavy fire from the enemy, and the troops charged the breastworks, carrying it instantly, killing and wounding many of the enemy by their deadly fire, as well as the bayonet. This charge was resisted by the negro portion of the enemy's force with considerable obstinacy, while the white or true Yankee portion ran like whipped curs almost as soon as the charge was ordered. There were several instances in this charge where the enemy crossed bayonets with us or were shot down at the muzzle of the musket. No charge was ever more gallantly made than this, and the enemy were not only driven from the levee, but were followed into their camp, where many of them were killed.
In this charge Colonel [Richard] Waterhouse with his regiment distinguished themselves particularly, not only by a gallant and desperate charge over the levee, but they drove the enemy (leaving the camp covered with the dead) to the very bank of the river, and within short and direct range of the gunboats of the enemy. In fact, from the beginning to the end of the engagement, the colonel behaved in the most gallant manner, and his officers and men seemed to catch the enthusiasm of their commander, and did their duty nobly and gallantly upon every portion of the field
Colonel [R. T. P.] Allen's regiment was immediately on the left of Colonel Waterhouse, and Colonel [William] Fitzhugh's regiment (under the command of Lieutenant Colonel [E. P.] Gregg) was immediately on the left of Colonel Allen. Both of these regiments, officers and men, conducted themselves in the most praiseworthy and gallant manner, advancing coolly and steadily, forming and charging in the most gallant style under a heavy and destructive fire of the enemy, during all of which the officers distinguished themselves for coolness and courage, and their men for a determination to conquer or die.
Colonel Allen was slightly wounded, but never left his post. Lieut. Col. Gregg and Major [W. W.] Diamond, of Colonel Fitzhugh's regiment, were both wounded too badly to admit of their remaining in command, which left the regiment without a field officer, but did not destroy their usefulness or dampen their ardor; upon the contrary, seemed to make them fight the more fiercely; and under the command of Captain [J. D.] Woods (senior captain) and their respective company commanders, they continued to fight steadily on until the close of the action.
Colonel [George] Flournoy's regiment was not in the principal charge upon the enemy's works, but performed good service afterward, assisted by small portions of the other three regiments, in driving the enemy from an angle in the levee, and log and brush barricade which commanded a considerable portion of our line, and from which they were pouring a heavy fire upon us. This position was of too much importance to the enemy to be given up without a desperate struggle, while we were suffering too much by its occupation by them to allow its continuance; hence they were driven from it by assault with considerable slaughter. During the balance of the day this important point was held by Colonel Flournoy's regiment, and although they were more exposed to the fire of the gunboats than any other portion of my command, the regiment behaved itself well and sustained its character for courage and gallantry.
Major [R. D.] Allen, of Colonel Allen's regiment, was placed in command of the skirmishers during the advance, and as his command and that of Colonel Flournoy was not under my immediate observation during the whole engagement, I have called upon them for official reports, which I respectfully forward, and to which beg leave, respectfully to call the attention of the major-general commanding.
There were too many instances of individual coolness, courage, and gallantry to mention in this report; but the services of Captain [G. T.] Marold, of Colonel Flournoy's regiment, and Private [A.] Shultz, of the band, of the same regiment, deserve notice. During the engagement some fears were entertained by a portion of the officers of the command that the enemy would or were attempting to turn our left flank. To quiet this apprehension and drive some negroes from some houses from which they occasionally fired a shot at us, Captain Marold was sent out with his company and captured 19 negroes, all of which were at or in the vicinity of the houses from which we had been several times fired at by negroes. Some of them fired at officers of my staff while making reconnaissance of ditches, hedges, and fields in and about our battlefield. These negroes had doubtless been in the possession of the enemy, and would have been a clear loss to their owners but for Captain Marold; and should they be forfeited to the Confederate States or returned to their owners, I would regard it nothing but fair to give to Captain Marold one or two of the best of them.
Mr. [A.] Shultz being on duty with the surgeon's infirmary corps, he was sent with Dr. Cocke's horse to a house for some cistern water for the wounded. When he arrived at the house, he found himself surrounded by a company of armed negroes in full United States uniform, commanded by a Yankee captain, who took him prisoner. The captain asked him where the main body of our troops were. He pointed at once to the southwest, in an entirely different direction from where we were then engaged with the enemy. The captain then observed that, only a portion of our command being present, it might be possible for him to get through our lines to the transports. Shultz told him he could easily do so, and proffered to show him the way to avoid us. The Yankee suffered himself to be humbugged by our German youth, or young man, and he led him and his entire company of 49 negroes through small gaps in thick hedges until they found themselves within 60 yards of Colonel Allen's regiment, who took them all prisoners without the fire of a gun. Thus by his shrewdness the young Dutchman released himself and threw into our hands 1 Yankee captain and 49 negroes, fully armed and equipped as soldiers, and, if such things are admissible, I think he should have a choice boy from among these fellows to cook and wash for him and his mess during the war, and to work for him as long as the negro lives. And as the horse of Dr. Cocke was lost in the praiseworthy effort to procure water for our wounded, another of these fellows might be well and properly turned over to him to compensate him for his loss.
My loss in this engagement was 44 killed, 130 wounded, and 10 missing. Several of the wounds are mortal, and many others so serious as to render recovery doubtful, while in proportion to the number more are severe and fewer slight than I have ever witnessed among the same number in my former military experience. This makes my casualties 184, embracing 2 officers killed, viz, Lieut. Thomas Beaver, of Colonel Allen's regiment, and Lieut. B. W. Hampton, of Colonel Fitzhugh's regiment, and 10 wounded, viz, Colonel Allen, Lieutenant-Colonel Gregg, Major Diamond, Captains [E. P.] Petty, [S. J. P.] McDowell, and [J. H.] Tolbert, Lieutenants (T. H.] Batsell, [D. M.] Waddill, [G. A.] Dickerman, and [James M.] Tucker, which is an exceedingly heavy loss, but nothing to compare with that of the enemy. It is true that no certain or satisfactory estimate could be made of the loss of the enemy, but I know, from the dead and wounded that I saw scattered over the field in the rear of the levee, and those upon and immediately behind it, it must have been over a thousand.
My full strength on the battle-field did not exceed 1,500 men, while that of the enemy must have been over twice, if not three times, that number, backed by three gunboats that were kept constantly playing shot and shell upon us during the whole engagement.
The attack was made under verbal orders from Major-General Taylor "to engage the enemy before day and carry his works at the point of the bayonet," which orders were doubtless based upon information received which led him to believe that there was only one battalion of Yankee cavalry and one of negro infantry at the camp, without any batteries of field artillery or gunboats, while I have no doubt that the enemy were fully apprised of our approach, had made full preparations to receive us, and had received a re-enforcement of three transport loads of troops during the night before. I was entirely misinformed by our guide with regard to the ground over which we had to advance. Instead of finding it a smooth, open field without obstructions, I found the ground exceedingly rough, covered with small running briars and tie vines, through which infantry could scarcely march, and so much cut up with ditches and obstructed with hedges that it was impracticable to make any well-regulated military movement upon it; and; under all the circumstances, I would not have been the least surprised if we had made an entire failure; and nothing but the best and bravest fighting, under the providence of God, could have crowned our efforts with even partial success.
During this engagement the officers and men of my command behaved most gallantly, deserving the gratitude of the country and highest commendation of their commanders; and I am perfectly satisfied that there is not a troop in the Confederate States of the same number that could have done better fighting under the same circumstances.
During the day's fighting Captain [Benjamin E.] Benton, assistant adjutant-general, and Major [J. H.] Earle, brigade commissary and acting aide-de-camp, and Maj. W. G. King, brigade quartermaster, of my regular staff, rendered me great service; and Capt. W. D. Mitchell, forage master, who acted as volunteer aide-de-camp, also, who bore frequent and important messages for me during the day to different portions of the field, frequently under heavy fire. Captain Benton and Major Earle were about my person except when absent under orders, and were exposed to the fire of the enemy from beginning to the close of the battle. Both of these officers acted with great gallantry throughout the day. Captain Benton participated in every forward movement and charge, moving amid the troops on horseback, constantly urging them on to the enemy.
Great credit is due the surgical corps of the brigade and Surgeon [E.J.] Beall, of the division, for efficient services to the wounded; especially to Dr. [William P.] Head, of Colonel Fitzhugh's regiment, and Dr. [William J.] Cocke, of Colonel Flournoy's regiment, who were not only the most active and energetic in their attentions to and operations on the wounded, but went upon the field at the beginning of the fight, and organized their respective corps and put them in operation. My thanks are tendered to the medical officers of Colonel Randal's brigade for the kind and efficient services rendered my suffering companions in arms on the day of the battle.
Many thanks to Betty George and Tim Wilkinson for the Casualty List of Colonel Flournoy’s 16th Texas Infantry and for the records of the two Boren brothers who fought in the Battle, one of whom was killed.
Records of Alexander Boren
Records of Isham Boren
Accompanying this report will be found a complete list of the killed, wounded, and missing, made from the reports of regimental commanders. My loss is truly deplorable, and my very heart sickens at its contemplation. But the scathing ordeal through which my little brigade was compelled to pass has increased my confidence in and love for them, and makes me anxious to see them have at least one fair chance to meet the enemy where they can gain a complete victory to compensate them for the gallant fighting they have done and always will do when called upon to meet the foe.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. E. McCULLOCH,
Brigadier- General, Commanding Brigade.
Maj. R. P. MACLAY, Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General.
Return of Casualties in McCulloch's brigade in the engagement at Milliken's Bend, June 7, 1863
Killed. Wounded Missing.
Command. Officers Men Officers Men Officers Men Total
16th Texas 2 5 7
17 t h Texas* 1 20 4 61 3 92
19th Texas 2 11 6 19
16th Texas Cavalry** 1 18 6 41 1 67
Total 2 42 10 121 1 9 185
*Lieut. Thomas Beaver killed. **Lieut. B. W. Hampton killed.
SERIES I PART II VOL 24 CHAP. XXXVI OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN LOUISIANA. Pp. 457-461
CONFEDERATE PLANS AND REPORT OF EVENTS DURING JUNE 3-8, 1863
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF TRANS-MISSISSIPPI,
Shreveport, La., June 17, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to forward herewith Major-General Taylor's report of the operations of his forces in North Louisiana from June 3 to 8. I respectfully call the attention of the War Department to the ability and energy displayed by that gallant officer in the discharge of his duties as district commander.
Major-General Walker's division, Tappan's brigade, together with Colonel [Isaac F.] Harrison's and Colonel [Frank A.] Bartlett's commands of cavalry are still in the country opposite Vicksburg. Major-General Taylor, with his forces in Lower Louisiana, is personally superintending the operations on this side of the Mississippi for the relief of Port Hudson. He has been instructed to throw provisions into Port Hudson and Vicksburg whenever it is possible to do so. Under My instructions, be has placed himself in communication with General Johnston, and be will use every effort to co-operate with him in his operations for the defense and relief of Vicksburg and Port Hudson.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH,
Lieutenant- General, Commanding.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.
DISTRICT OF WEST LOUISIANA, Richmond, June 8,1863.
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 3d ultimo [instant], I ordered General [J. G.] Walker to push on a force of 200 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 sunset on the 4th. On the same day General Walker encamped 3 miles from DunIap'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 [Isaac F.] 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 90 strong. Killed the captain (white), 12 negroes, and captured the remainder. Some 60 women and children in the camp were also secured. Captain McCall had 60 men. Major Harrison brought off some few arms, medicines, &c., from Perkins', Surget's, Casin, 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, while awaiting Walker's arrival, the enemy's cavalry was reported to me to be approaching from Milliken's Bend. Major Harrison, with 100 men, advanced to meet them. Three miles distant he found them drawn up, 140 strong; charged them at once, broke their line, killing 8 and capturing a lieutenant and 24 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 of the river. I found that this line of transit had ceased to be of importance to the enemy, since he established his right flank on the Yazoo, at Haynes' Bluff, and almost all the stores had been removed. Transports in large numbers were plying up the Yazoo. At Lake Providence the enemy had a few companies (perhaps four), and a large number of negroes arriving. 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 the 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 the Yazoo), a distance of 11 miles, tents were scattered in large numbers, most of them empty or occupied by sick and convalescents. At Young's were some 500 or 600 men, detachments and convalescents. Some wagons and mules were immediately on the river bank, evidently for convenient shipment up the Yazoo. Below Young's, around the point to opposite 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 20 and 10 miles, and the road is common for 5 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 6 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 to 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 equidistant 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, &c., 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. [Henry E.] McCulloch's brigade was selected for Milliken's, Hawes for Young's, and [Horace] Randal'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. McCulloch 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. McCulloch dispatched to General Walker, 4 1/2 miles distant, for assistance. Walker moved up with Randal's brigade and some artillery, and found that McCulloch 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 95 degrees in the shade; but, had common vigor and judgment been displayed, the work would all have been completed by 8 a. m.
McCulloch's brigade lost some 20 killed and perhaps 80 wounded. A very large number of the negroes were killed and wounded, and, unfortunately, some 50, with 2 of their white officers, captured. I respectfully ask instructions as to the disposition of these prisoners. A number of horses and mules, some few small-arms, and commissary stores were also taken. In this affair General McCulloch 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 [S. M.] Routh, signal officer, returned and informed me that General Hawes was falling back; that be 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, I mile distant, at 11 a.m. on the 7th; that he had consumed seventeen hours in marching 19 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 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 200 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 to be written out, and informing General Walker that I should expect him to indorse fully and freely his own opinion upon it.
Colonel [Frank A.] Bartlett, with about 900 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 25 miles from Lake Providence. Since that date I have received no report from him. If he succeeds in the operations intrusted 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 [L. M.] Nutt's company of mounted men may be immediately ordered to report to Colonel [Isaac F.] Harrison, in accordance with the understanding which I have with the Iieutenant-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 6 or 8 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 this 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 meager 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,
Brig. Gen. W. R. BOGGS, Chief of Staff
SERIES I PART II VOL 24 CHAP. XXXVI OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN LOUISIANA. Pp. 462-465
HEADQUARTERS WALKER'S DIVISIONI
Richmond, La., June 10, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to forward herewith the reports of Brig. Gens. H. E. McCulloch and J. M. Hawes of the operations of their respective brigades in this vicinity. In regard to the former, nothing could have been more admirable than the gallantry displayed by officers and men, and the failure of complete success was owing principally to the want of local knowledge and the incompetency of the guides. The great strength of the position and the extreme difficulty of carrying it by a coup de main will be better understood by referring to the accompanying rough diagram (see attached map).
As soon as the enemy's pickets were encountered, it seems General McCulloch formed his brigade in line of battle and advanced upon the enemy, who were posted behind the hedges, so as to fire through the openings. Upon reaching the hedges it was found utterly impracticable to pass them except through the few openings left for convenience by the planter. In doing this, the order of battle was necessarily broken, and the frequency with which this became necessary before reaching the first levee, behind which the enemy in superior force was found posted, exposed the brigade to a galling fire, while broken in column in order to pass through the openings in the hedge. Owing to these frequent interruptions in the advance in the order of battle, the brigade reached the open space between the last hedge and the first levee, about 25 paces in width, in some confusion, and the ensemble of the movement upon the enemy's position was thus necessarily lost, the deficient regiments having reached this open space at different periods. Notwithstanding the galling and destructive fire of the enemy, three regiments were formed and led against the enemy, securely posted behind the first levee, drove them from its cover, and followed them across the open space between the two levees, using the bayonet freely. At the second levee, however, our men encountered the main force of the enemy, entirely covered from our fire, and, after a gallant effort to carry this position, were compelled to fall back behind the first levee, which we continued to hold until the wounded were sent to the rear, and the men, exhausted by the excessive heat of the day and want of water, were withdrawn in good order by General McCulloch. Randal's brigade, which, by General Taylor's orders, was held in reserve 6 miles from the field, was hastened forward, upon Brigadier-General McCulloch's request for re-enforcements, but did not reach the scene of action until General McCulloch, having several times failed to carry the second levee, had drawn off his brigade.
In the meantime the enemy's gunboats (four in number) had taken position so as to rake the open space between the second levee and the river with grape and canister; and had our men succeeded in gaining this open space, the enemy, by retiring to the water's edge, would have given their gunboats complete command of the position. Under such circumstances it would have been folly to have persisted in the attack, which could only have resulted in a fearful sacrifice of life, and after making a personal reconnaissance, as far as practicable, and otherwise gaining the best information possible, I determined not to order another assault; but, having sent off the wounded and rested the troops for several hours near the battlefield, in the cool of the evening withdrew the two brigades, sending McCulloch's back to this place and taking post with Randal's, 4 miles in advance, to cover the road along which General Hawes' brigade would return from Young's Point.
In regard to the operations of the brigade of the last-named officer, I have only to remark that my orders to him were peremptory to attack the enemy at Young's Point. Our information of the strength and position of the enemy at that place was so recent, and was thought so entirely reliable, that I did not think it necessary to attach any conditions to this order. The failure to carry out my instructions can only be defended by the existence of circumstances entirely at variance with those supposed to exist, and upon which the order was based. The loss of several precious hours in finding a bridge, which would have brought on the attack in the heat of an excessively hot day; the exhausted condition of the men, who would have gone into action under a burning sun after an almost continuous march of nearly 30 miles; the strong position of the enemy, defended by three gunboats, are the reasons assigned by Brigadier-General Hawes. I am satisfied that the conviction must have been overpowering that the attack would fail after a useless sacrifice of life, or he would not have taken the responsibility he did.
In conclusion it must be remembered that the enemy, behind a Mississippi levee, protected on the flanks by gunboats, is as securely posted as it is possible to be outside a regular fortification.
I am, sir, respectfully, &c.,
J. G. WALKER,
Maj. E. SURGET, Assistant Adjutant-General.
Union Reports of the Battle of Milliken's Bend
SERIES I PART II VOL 24 CHAP. XXXVI OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN LOUISIANA. Pp. 446-448
Report of Brig. Gen. Elias S. Dennis, U. S. Army, of attack, (7th) on Milliken's Bend
Headquarters Department OF The Tennessee
Near Vicksburg, Miss., June 16, 1863.
GENERAL: Herewith I have, the honor of inclosing Brig. Gen. E. S. Dennis' report of the battle of Milliken's Bend, La. Fought on June 7, together with a list of casualties.
In this battle most of the troops engaged were Africans, who had but little experience in the use of firearms. Their conduct is said, however, to have been most gallant, and I doubt not but with good officers they will make good troops.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT,
Brig. Gen. LORENZO THOMAS,
Adjutant- General of the Army.
HEADQUARTERS NORTHEAST DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA 1863.
Young's Point, La., June 12, 1863
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that, in accordance with instructions received from me, Colonel Lieb, commanding the Ninth Louisiana, African descent, made a reconnaissance in the direction of Richmond on June 6, starting from Milliken's Bend at 2 a. m.
He was preceded by two companies of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry, commanded by Captain Anderson, whom be overtook 3 miles from the Bend. It was agreed between them that the captain should take the left side of Walnut Bayou and pursue it as far as Mrs. Ames' plantation, while Colonel Lieb proceeded along the main Richmond road to the railroad depot, 3 miles from Richmond, where he encountered the enemy's pickets and advance, which he drove in with but little opposition, but, anticipating the enemy in strong force, retired slowly toward the Bend. When, about halfway back, a squad of our cavalry came dashing up in his rear, hotly pursued by the enemy. Colonel Lieb immediately formed his regiment across an open field, and with one volley dispersed the approaching enemy.
Expecting the enemy would contest the passage of the bridge over Walnut Bayou, Colonel Lieb fell back over the bridge, and from thence to Milliken's Bend, from whence he sent a messenger informing me of the success of the expedition, and reported the enemy to be advancing. I immediately started the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry to their assistance, and Admiral Porter ordered the gunboat Choctaw to that point.
At 3 o'clock the following morning the enemy made their appearance in strong force on the main Richmond road, driving the pickets before them. The enemy advanced upon the left of our line, throwing out no skirmishers, marching in close column by division, with a strong cavalry force on his right flank. Our forces, consisting of the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry and the African Brigade (in all, 1,061 men), opened upon the enemy when within musket-shot range, which made them waver and recoil, a number running in confusion to the rear; the balance, pushing on with intrepidity, soon reached the levee, when they were ordered to charge, with cries of "no quarter!"
The African regiments being inexperienced in the use of arms, some of them having been drilled but a few days, and the guns being very inferior, the enemy succeeded in getting upon our works before more than one or two volleys were fired at them. Here, ensued a most terrible hand-to-hand conflict of several minutes' duration, our men using the bayonet freely and clubbing their guns with fierce obstinacy, contesting every inch of ground, until the enemy succeeded in flanking them, and poured a murderous enfilading fire along our lines, directing their fire chiefly to the officers, who fell in numbers. Not till they were overpowered and forced by superior numbers did our men fall back behind the bank of the river, at the same time pouring volley after volley into the ranks of the advancing enemy.
The gunboat now got into position and fired a broadside into the enemy, who immediately disappeared behind the levee, but all the time keeping up a fire upon our men.
The enemy at this time appeared to be extending his line to the extreme right, but was held in check by two companies of the Eleventh Louisiana Infantry, African descent, which had been posted behind cotton bales and part of the old levee. In this position the fight continued until near noon, when the enemy suddenly withdrew. Our men, seeing this movement, advanced upon the retreating column, firing volley after volley at them while they remained within gunshot. The gunboat Lexington then paid her compliments to the fleeing foe in several well directed shots, scattering them in all directions.
I here desire to express my thanks to the officers and men of the gunboats Choctaw and Lexington for their efficient services in the time of need. Their names will be long-remembered by the officers and men of the African Brigade for their valuable assistance on that dark and bloody field.
The officers and men deserve the highest praise for their gallant conduct and especially Colonel Glasgow of the Twenty-third Iowa, and his brave men, and also Colonel Lieb, of the Ninth Louisiana, African descent, who, by his gallantry and daring, inspired his men to deeds of valor until he fell, seriously though not dangerously wounded. I regret to state that Colonel Chamberlain, of the Eleventh Louisiana, African descent, conducted himself in a very unsoldierlike manner.
The enemy consisted of one brigade, numbering about 2,500, in command of General [H. E.] McCulloch and 200 cavalry. The enemy's loss is estimated at about 151 killed and 300 wounded. It is impossible to get anything near the loss of the enemy, as they carried the killed and wounded off in ambulances. Among their killed is Colonel [R. T. P] Allen, Sixteenth [Seventeenth] Texas.
Inclosed please find tabular statement of killed, wounded, and missing; in all, 652*. Nearly all the missing blacks will probably return, as they were badly scattered.
The enemy, under General [J. M.] Hawes, advanced upon Young's Point while the battle was going on at Milliken's Bend; but several well-directed shots from the gunboats compelled them to retire.
Submitting the foregoing, I remain, yours, respectfully,
ELIAS S. DENNIS
Brigadier-General, Comdg. District Northeast Louisiana.
Lieut. Col. JOHN A. RAWLINS, Assistant Adjutant-General
*Or 11 officers and 90 men killed, 17 officers and 268 men wounded and 2 officers and 264 men captured or missing.
SERIES I PART II VOL 24 CHAP. XXXVI OPERATIONS IN NORTHERN LOUISIANA. Pp. 453-454
JUNE 7, 1863.
The enemy attacked Milliken's Bend; commenced driving the negro regiments, and killed all they captured. This infuriated the negroes, who turned on the rebels and slaughtered them like sheep, and captured 200 prisoners. I also hear they captured five pieces of artillery. The Choctaw and Lexington were there.
DAVID D. PORTER,
UNITED STATES MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON, Flag-ship Black Hawk, June 7, 1863.
DEAR GENERAL: Last night, or early this morning, the rebels, supposed to amount to 3,000 or 4,000 strong, attacked Milliken's Bend, and nearly gobbled up the whole party. Fortunately, I heard of it in time to get the Choctaw and Lexington up there just as the attack commenced. The rebels got into our camps and killed a good many negroes, and left about 80 of their number killed on the levee. Our troops (mostly negroes) retreated behind the banks, near the water's edge, and the gunboats opened so rapidly on the enemy that they scampered off, the shells chasing them as far as the woods. They got nothing but hard knocks.
The moment I heard of it, I went up in the Black Hawk and saw quite an ugly sight. The dead negroes lined the ditch inside of the parapet, or levee, and were mostly shot on the top of the head. In front of them, close to the levee, lay an equal number of rebels, stinking in the sun. Their knapsacks contained four days' provisions. They were miserable looking wretches. I had no sooner got there than the dispatch boat brought me a letter from the general commanding here, informing me that the rebels had appeared near the canal in force. I hurried back, and found all the vessels having guns ready to receive them, and heard nothing of the rebels. It was a false alarm, but the steamers had all gone off for Young's Point.
There are about 300 troops here in all, not counting the blacks. I think we should have 1,000 men near the canal and at Young's Point, arid I recommend moving everything from Milliken's Bend to the latter place. We can defend it much better. Those fellows will be scouting about here for some time, and it is no longer safe to run teams across to the vessels on the other side. I think the rebels are in force there. When the brigade comes, I will land them, but I hear they are at Memphis waiting for troops.
The Twenty-ninth Iowa (I think it was) behaved well today. It stood its ground against great odds, and kept the enemy out of the camps until the men could form and get into some kind of order.
I think we want more force here, and everything at Young's Point moved over on the opposite side of the river, near the mouth of the Yazoo, where there is a good landing.
Very truly, yours,
DAVID D. PORTER,
SERIES I VOL 24 PART I CHAP XXXVI GENERAL REPORTS Pp 95-96
REAR OF VICKSBURG, June 10, 1863 7 a.m.
VIA MEMPHIS, June 16-10:30 a.m.
(Received June 23-1:30 a.m.)
A portion of W. S. Smith's division has arrived at Haynes' Bluff. I have from Dennis the particulars of the fight of the 7th instant at Milliken's Bend. There was no fighting at Young's Point, Captain Townsend, commander of convalescents, having drawn up his men so cunningly that the rebels, who were within sight in line of battle thought themselves greatly outnumbered and withdrew. At the Bend, the battle began soon after daybreak and lasted about three hours. The rebel force was a division of Texans, about 2,000 strong, who marched from Pine Bluff, April 30, and arrived at Alexandria after General Banks had left there, and then were then ordered this way. They were commanded by General J. G. Walker, with Generals H. E. McCulloch, J. M. Hawes, and Randal under him. They had no artillery. Our forces, who also had no artillery, consisted of Ninth [Eleventh] Louisiana (colored), Col. E. W. Chamberlain, and Twenty-third Iowa, Col. S. L. Glasgow, in all about 1,000 men.. General Dennis describes the battle as the hardest he has ever seen. It was fought mainly hand to hand. After it was over, many men were found dead with bayonet stabs, and others with their skulls broken open by butts or muskets.
The Ninth Louisiana lost 62 killed and 130 wounded; the Eleventh, 30 killed and 120 wounded; the Twenty-third Iowa, 26 killed and 60 wounded; the Ninth has also a great number missing. Of the rebels, we buried 130. General McCulloch died on the field from the effects of a wound. (This can't be true since General McCulloch filed his report on June 8, 1863 and made no mention of his own demise.)
"It is impossible," says General Dennis, "for men to show greater gallantry than the negro troops in this fight." He does not know whether it is true that the rebels murdered their negro prisoners.
Col. H. Lieb, who was wounded, behaved admirably; Colonel Chamberlain badly.
General Grant has ordered Mower, with his brigade, to Milliken's Bend, and the enemy there will be cleared out beyond Tensas and in the neighborhood of Monroe.
C. A. DANA.
Hon. E.M. STANTON,
Secretary of War
Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette
Cairo, Friday, June 12, 1863
On Saturday last our force at Milliken’s Bend consisted of about 717 troops and 800 negro volunteers - some 1,500 or 1,600 in all. On Saturday evening the alarm was brought the commander of the post that a large force of rebels -- some 3,000 in all -- were outside the works at no great distance, marching upon the fortifications. The commander immediately sent out his cavalry and held the colored troop for reserves, in case the cavalry had to fall back. It turned out well that this precaution was taken, for, after engaging the enemy arid finding they were about to be overpowered, the cavalry did fall back and joined the colored infantry. A battle then took place, which was waged on both sides with terrific fury. The rebels pressed forward on the white and black troops opposed to them with all their strength. Our troops had no artillery, and the rebels had. Yet, after a struggle of some hours, the enemy were driven off, leaving a great number on the field slain and wounded. Their retreat was not followed up, our men being so much exhausted. Our forces fell back to their works, and preparations were made for defence (sic). In the evening the steamer St. Cloud came up from below, and learning the bad state of affairs returned for reinforcements of artillery and a gunboat. Both were started up, and the gunboat Choctaw arrived upon the spot early on Sunday morning, to find that the rebels had returned. During the night they had busied themselves in gathering a large number of mules together, and when day broke, started them forward, using them as a means of protection, while they followed close behind. They were promptly met by our troops this time behind their breastworks. Gradually the rebels moved their line, sacrificing their mules to the rifle shots, and opened upon the works with rifles, shotguns and artillery, but they made little by their strategy. They had got fairly engaged when the gunboat Choctaw came in for her share in the fight, using with effect her heavy guns, charged with shell. An unfortunate shot from the Choctaw, it is said, killed several members of the negro regiment. It was owing to the fact that she was not able to raise her guns sufficiently to fire above them. This was remedied. The fight continued and when the Choctaw succeeded in getting range, she sent such a storm of shot and shell into the rebel ranks that, after being once or twice rallied, they broke in disorder and fled taking off their dead and wounded. It was impossible for my informant to learn the extent of our loss, but it must have been heavy. One hundred colored men fell. The enemy's loss was also considerable, and up to the latest dates on Monday, when the steamer Niagara left for Memphis, they had not returned to renew the attack. Should they do, sufficient reinforcements in artillery have been forwarded to give them sudden and effectual quietness.
And from the July 4, 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly
(Although Vicksburg surrendered July 4, 1863, word had not yet reached Harper’s Weekly)
THE FIGHT AT MILLIKEN'S BEND
Mr. Davis also sends us a sketch of the sharp fight at
Milliken's Bend, where a small body of negro troops
with a few whites were attacked by a larger force of rebels. A letter from
TWENTY-SECOND DAY IN REAR OF VICKSBURG, June 9, 1863.
Two gentlemen from the Yazoo have given me the following particulars of the fight at Milliken's Bend, in which negro troops played so conspicuous a part.
My informant states that a force of about 1000 negroes and 200 men of the Twenty-third Iowa, belonging to the Second Brigade, Carr's Division (the Twenty-third Iowa had been up the river with prisoners, and was on its way back to this place), was surprised in camp by a rebel force of about 2000 men. The first intimation that the commanding officer received was from one of the black men, who went into the colonel's tent, and said: "Massa, the secesh are in camp." The colonel ordered him to hove the men load their guns at once. He instantly replied: "We have done did dat now, massa." Before the colonel was ready the men were in line, ready for action. As before stated, the rebels drove our force toward the gun-boats, taking colored men prisoners and murdering them. This so enraged them that they rallied and charged the enemy more heroically and desperately than has been recorded during the war. It was a genuine bayonet charge, a hand-to-hand fight that has never occurred to any extent during this prolonged conflict. Upon both sides men were killed with the butts of muskets. White and black men were lying side by side, pierced by bayonets, and in some instances transfixed to the earth. In one instance, two men—one white and the other black—were found dead, side by side, each having the other's bayonet through his body. If facts prove to be what they are now represented, this engagement of Sunday morning will be recorded as the most desperate of this war. Broken limbs, broken heads, the mangling of bodies, all prove that it was a contest between enraged men; on the one side from hatred to a race, and on the other, desire for self-preservation, revenge for past grievances, and the inhuman murder of their comrades. One brave man took his former master prisoner, and brought him into camp with great gusto. A rebel prisoner made a particular request that his own negroes should not be placed over him as a guard. Dame Fortune is capricious! His request was not granted.
The rebels lost five cannon, 200 men killed, 400 to 500 wounded, and about 200 prisoners. Our loss is reported to be 100 killed and 500 wounded; but few of this number were white men.
© 1999 Richard P. Sevier ([email protected])