Claiborne County MSGenWeb: Memoirs of the Battle of Port Gibson

Introduction: The following prose was written by my Great Grandmother Nannie Cordelia Robinson (McDougall) Hawkins while serving as President of Stonewall Jackson Chapter of the U. D. C. in Swan Lake, MS (Tallahatchie County). Nannie was born 24 June, 1850 in Port Gibson, MS. Daughter of Daniel McDougall and Susan Calhoun Piles. Her Grandfather Nicholas Allen McDougall moved to Port Gibson about 1820 and subsequently served as Magistrate for a number of years.

Submitted by Herbert F. Clark, II 21 Jan, 2009.


“Memoirs of the Battle of Port Gibson”


Oh! If we just did not forget!

So many shattered memories yet,

As sad and hopeless, come to me,

As signals from wrecked ships at sea,

All help though willingly essayed,

Alas! Is powerless to aid.

So with my efforts to detain,

Sad memories fraught with so much pain,

I find attempt, sometimes in vain.


But there are a few salient facts,

For vengeful foe, as vengeful acts,

Of Federal leaders, and their bands,

Inflicting wounds with powerful hands.

Tho’ then a girl, thoughts come to me,

Of the dark days of ‘-63.


All day we heard the cannon roar,

Port Gibson’s every heart was sore,

With anxious thoughts about our men,

Who were so bravely fighting then.

For just three miles away,

We gave Grant fight to win the day.

By Bruinsburg we heard he came,

Bent on a large and great campaign.

For “On to Vicksburg” was the cry,

If our brave boys will let him by.

Right here my treacherous memory fails,

In trying to give exact details.

And I, not then my teens attained,

May forget victories we had gained,

Tho’ cruel acts, among a host,

Intrude like Banquo’s pallid ghost.



I do remember tho’, quite clear,

Our reinforcements drawing near,

For Gen. Tracey’s brave command,

Were marching on to take a hand,

In deadly strife, to save our town,

And would so gain deserved renown.

But if defeat should be their fate,

We’d hold their course inviolate,

And still we’d hear the cannon roar,

And many did our God implore,

To grant success unto our arms,

And silence all our wild alarms.


An incident lives with me yet,

Tho’ mingled with naught of regret.

Our teacher with rebuke most stern,

Taught us a lesson we should learn,

Attached to us full share of blame,

Three school-mates at Brashear Academy,

Were making music on so sad a day,

She took this as evidence,

We felt no proper reverence,

T’was not because we did not feel,

The question of our country’s weal,

The’ sound of music hath the power,

To sooth one in a trying hour,

Our young hearts felt most keen the strain,

That jostled many an older brain,


But what has stopped the cannon’s roar!

“Retreat” is heard for all is o’er,

The sun is down, the night is here,

We’ll burn the bridge o’er Bayou Pierre,

To stop Grant’s army from pursuing,

And keep them from the fight renewing,

By this detention hold him back,

From hastening on the Vicksburg track,


A soldier friend in haste rides up,

Altho’ he has not time to sup,

My thoughtful mother has a plate,

Of supper for him at the gate,

With thanks he says good by at last,

And for the bridge he rides full fast,

To cross it ere ‘tis set on fire,

A stern necessity so dire,

He scarce had time to reach the goal,

Before a sight that tried our soul,

For leaping bright into the air,

We saw the blaze of fire there,

Our last vain hope was snatched away,

The Yankees would march in next day,

And take possession of our town,

And flaunt their claims to great renown,

Our troops were on the farther shore,

Of Bayou Pierre, with weary march before,

For Vicksburg off at rapid rate,

Prepared to meet a soldiers fate.


But what was our experience

In giving Yanks obedience?

Many people fled the town,

While many staid and stood their ground,

They gave us guards, but anyhow,

They turned in many a hog and cow,

Because they tore our fence away,

And foraged on us night and day,

In gardens, orchards, and kitchens too;


Pulled flowers red and white and blue

And made them wreaths around their hats,

But after while stopped all that,

I noticed when their General came,

Their conduct was not just the same.

A General rode up to our fence,

And asked if his men gave offence,

Said he wished no harm to any person,

We later heard ‘twas General McPherson.

He addressed the ladies standing there,

‘Twould seem he wished to be quire fair.


And so Grant’s army marched away

To Vicksburg; I think ‘twas the very next day.

Built pontoon bridges and put them afloat,

Which answered for both bridge and boat,

On the waters of our Bayou Pierre,

So they could cross then without fear,

An act of Grant’s deserving blame

Should make his laurels “droop with shame”.

Two Confederate prisoners carried great, long plank,

On their shoulders to the Bayou bank,

I saw them pass, walking in the middle of the street,

And thought what craven treatment for conquerors to mete,

This was the lumber the pontoon bridge to make,

The sight of which, with childish anger, made us quake.


In the trials of our home life,

Which we suffered in the fours years strife,

We used dome rare expedients,

In making up ingredients,

For things to drink, and things to eat,

To make our home-made fare complete.

For coffee we used parched meal bran,

Made palatable, as one can,

With sugar burnt to add a relish,

This was not used very lavish.

Dried sweet potatoes also made,

Good coffee too, by which we staid.

And many other substitutes

Were used when we were destitute.


Our soldiers acts of bravery of which we are so proud,

We would tell in stone and history, also proclaim aloud.

In the annals of the histories of former distant days,

Can we find a grander model for which to claim our praise,

Than the peerless Southern soldier, we’ll give homage to always?

There’s a vivid mental picture impressed upon my mind,

Of a brave and gallant soldier as any one can find,

On a raid into Port Gibson of a Federal band,

He was ordered by a Yankee to “Halt” and keep his stand,

“Cobb’s scouts don’t surrender” he with resolution said.

The Yankee fired; the bullet was buried in his head.

He said he’d rather die, I heard,

Than yield unto a Yankee’s word.

The Chevalier Bayard in days of old,

Left as great a character as history e’re told,

So Robert E. Lee with a conscience stainless,

Gave to posterity a record blameless.

Brave Stonewall Jackson filled the place

Of executive ability; a model for every race.

Noble Sir Philip Sidney left a character to revere.

Our Albert Sidney Johnston left the same example here.

The water that Sir Philip refused his dying thirst,

He gave a wounded comrade that he might drink it first.

Our Peerless Albert Sidney, carried wounded from the field,

Sent his surgeon to heal his enemy, before his pain was healed,

Returning from his mission trying to save the Federals breath,

The surgeon found his chieftain, where he left him, bled to death.


Not withstanding these sad memories we entertain so oft,

Let us cultivate the attributes that lead our soldiers aloft.

Bear no malice; bear no hatred; no revenge within our heart,

Let us make ours a great country, of our life work a part.

Montgomery’s U.S. history records these words of force,

Which coincide with Gen. Joe Wheeler’s illustrious course.

“Do not bring up your children in hostility”,

Said Gen. R. E. Lee of glorious ability,

“To the government of the United States”.

And let us be loyal to his heroic mandates.


Mrs. Nannie McDougall Hawkins

President Stonewall Jackson Chapter U.D.C.

Swan Lake, Miss.,

Formerly of Port Gibson Miss.




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