Report of Maj. Gen. Frank P. Blair, jr., U.S. Army,
Commanding Second Division, including operations since May 7.
MAY 19-JULY 4, 1863.--The Siege of Vicksburg, Miss.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXIV/2 [S# 37]
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, FIFTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Vicksburg, Miss., May 24, 1863.
Maj. Gen. WILLIAM T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Fifteenth Army, Corps.
GENERAL: On the return of my division from the Yazoo River, on May 2, after making the feigned attack upon Haynes' Bluff, I was ordered to remain at Milliken's Bend, to guard that post, and to construct a new road across the peninsula for the transportation of supplies to Grand Gulf, until relieved by other troops from Memphis. I remained at Milliken's Bend with my division, performing the duties assigned me, until the morning of May 7, when I received your orders to march with two brigades of my division to Grand Gulf, and join your corps, then marching against Jackson, Miss.
I commenced the march on the morning of the 7th, with the First and Second Brigades, commanded by Col. Giles A. Smith, of the Eighth Missouri, and Col. Thomas Kilby Smith, of the Fifty-fourth Ohio, and left the Third Brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Ewing, to garrison Milliken's Bend and to complete the new road from Young's Point across the peninsula to a point on the river below Warrenton.
I arrived at Hard Times, opposite Grand Gulf, at 1 o'clock on May 10, a distance, by the road, of 63 miles. I had great difficulty in procuring transportation across the river, but succeeded in crossing both brigades by 10 o'clock on the night of the 11th, and took up my line of march on the morning of the 12th for Jackson.
I was ordered to escort a large supply train, consisting of 200 wagons, and this, with my own train, delayed my march, and I did not reach Raymond until the evening of the 15th. I marched, under your instructions, from Grand Gulf, by the road to Willow Springs, Rocky Springs, Commissioner's Creek, and Auburn, to Raymond.
On the evening of my arrival at Raymond, I received orders from General Grant to move, with General A. J. Smith, commanding a division in General McClernand's corps, on the lower road to Edwards Depot, on the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad, where it was expected that we should meet the enemy in force. General McClernand ordered General Smith to take the advance.
On the morning of the 16th, I moved with my division, at the hour named, on the line indicated, and, when a short distance from Raymond, heard the report of General Smith's guns, who had come in contact with the enemy. I immediately pressed forward to his support. Both divisions then pushed forward against the enemy, who was in considerable force in our front and on the right, from which point he opened on us with a battery of heavy guns, to which we replied from a section of 10. pounder Parrott guns, belonging to General Smith's command.
At this moment an order reached me from General McClernand to the effect that we should not bring on a general engagement until we received further orders, and that we should open communications with Generals Osterhaus and Cart, commanding divisions in the Thirteenth Army Corps, who were marching by the road to Edwards Depot, on my immediate right. On receiving this order, my own division and that of General Smith were immediately disposed on high and commanding ground on the right and left of the road; but this disposition was hardly completed before we heard the report of musketry and heavy guns on the right, indicating a severe engagement, and, upon consultation with General A. J. Smith, it was resolved to move forward to the support of the divisions engaged.
As the troops were being put in motion, a staff officer arrived from General McClernand, informing me that General Hovey, on his extreme right, was heavily engaged with the enemy, and ordering me to throw out one brigade to the right to connect with General Osterhaus left, and to move forward the other brigade in supporting distance of General A. J. Smith, who was ordered to move forward by the road. This order was executed by throwing out the First Brigade, Col. Giles A. Smith, to the right, while the Second Brigade, Col. Thomas Kilby Smith, moved with the column of General A. J. Smith.
As soon as the right of my First Brigade reached the left of General Osterhaus', we moved forward in the direction of Edwards Depot, and soon ascertained that General Hovey was driving the enemy before him. A portion o his flying columns endeavored to make good their retreat by crossing my front and that of General A. J. Smith, the rear guard making a stand at different points to check our advance and enable the main body to escape with the artillery, ammunition, and baggage. General A. J. Smith pressed forward and attacked vigorously by the road, and my First Brigade, under Col. Giles A. Smith, moved rapidly in line of battle, driving the enemy's skirmishers through the thick forests and over very broken and difficult ground.
About dark the enemy planted a battery in front of my First Brigade, and made a stand. He had previously opened fire from a battery in front of General A. J. Smith. Col. Giles A. Smith then ordered Maj. Dennis T. Kirby, of the Eighth Missouri, with two companies of infantry, to make a detour to the left and endeavor to flank the enemy's battery, which movement was soon discovered, and the enemy fled precipitately, leaving his caissons, filled with ammunition, and five or six wagons, also filled with cannon ammunition, and throwing away their small-arms, and a short distance beyond he abandoned two six-gun batteries, which fell into our hands the next morning, having been found by Capt. D. W. Ballou, of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry, in a swamp or morass through which the enemy attempted to escape. I immediately turned over these guns, consisting of five 6-pounder brass guns, five 12-pounder brass howitzers, two 12-pounder iron guns, with their caissons, and five wagon loads of cannon ammunition and two wagon loads of small-arms, to Capt. E. M. Joel, quartermaster of my division, with orders to impress teams and bring them up, which order, I am happy to say, was promptly executed, and the guns, cannon ammunition, and small-arms turned over to Col. J. Condit Smith, chief quartermaster of the Fifteenth Army Corps, who now has them in his possession.
We captured during the day and the morning of the 17th about 300 prisoners, a number of whom surrendered themselves and expressed great satisfaction at having an opportunity to escape from the brutal tyranny of the rebel service, into which they had been conscripted.
Early in the morning of the 17th, I was ordered by General McCler-nand to move forward by Edwards Depot to the Black River Railroad Bridge, where the enemy had Inade a stand; but upon reaching Edwards Depot I received an order from General Grant to proceed to Bridgeport and join the other two divisions of your corps which were expected to arrive there at 10 o'clock, taking with me a pontoon train for the purpose of bridging the Black River at that point.
I reached that point soon after 10 a.m., found that the bridge of boats had been destroyed by the enemy, who had left a small party, strongly intrenched, to dispute our passage. Captain Wood's battery, First Illinois Artillery, was placed in position, by your order, and opened fire, when the enemy displayed a white flag and surrendered themselves. The pontoon bridge was then laid across the river, and my division crossed over and bivouacked for the night 2 miles from the river.
On the morning of the 18th, I took the advance and marched to the intersection of the Jackson and Benton roads, which was regarded as an important point, and held it until the other two divisions of your command closed up with my rear, and then, by your order, I again moved forward, and after slight skirmishing brought up to the enemy's works on the right and left of the Graveyard road. The pickets of the First Brigade, under command of Capt. Charles Ewing, Thirteenth Regiment U.S. Infantry, pressed forward during the night to within 100 yards of the enemy's intrenchments, driving those of the enemy within the line of his fortifications.
About midnight of the 18th, the Third Brigade of my division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Ewing, joined me before the works of Vicksburg, having marched from Grand Gulf (by Raymond)to this place, a distance of 85 miles, in three days. General Ewing's brigade was assigned position on the right of my division, his right resting on the left of General Steele's division (First Division, Fifteenth Army Corps). His left connected closely with the right of my First Brigade, commanded by Col. Giles A. Smith, who held the center of my line and occupied the ground in front of the stockade near the bastion, which commands the Graveyard road. The Second Brigade, Col. Thomas Kilby Smith commanding, held the left of my line, the right resting on the left of the First Brigade: and its line of battle extending across the Graveyard road.
During the morning of the 19th, the entire line of skirmishers of my division was pushed forward, with a view of obtaining a closer position and of reconnoitering the ground.
At 2 p.m. the signal was given for an assault, and my whole division dashed forward, and, wherever the nature of the ground was not insuperable, reached the enemy's intrenchments, and in several instances planted our flags upon his works. Two regiments of General Ewing's brigade, the Fourth Virginia and Forty-seventh Ohio, succeeded in approaching very near the enemy's works. The Thirteenth U.S. Infantry, Capt. E. C. Washington, and One hundred and sixteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Col. N. W. Tupper, of the First Brigade, Col. Giles A. Smith commanding, pushed forward to the bastion. The One hundred and twenty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Col. Hamilton N. Eldridge, and Eighty-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Col. Benjamin J. Spooner, of the Second Brigade, commanded by Col. Thomas Kilby Smith, also succeeded in reaching the same ground, but the heavy fire of the enemy, who, not being pressed in any other quarter, were strongly reenforced in our front, made it utterly impossible for them to make a lodgment in the works. They held their positions, however, with the utmost tenacity until night, when they withdrew.
The 20th and 21st were employed in skirmishing with the enemy, reconnoitering the ground, and improving our position.
On the 22d, I received an order to renew the assault at 10 o'clock in the morning. I massed my division in the ravine to the left of the Graveyard road, where it debouches upon that road as it passes across the valley immediately in front of the bastion. A volunteer storming party, consisting of 2 officers and 50 men from each brigade of the division, was to lead the assault.. General Ewing's brigade and the brigades of Cols. Giles A. Smith and Thomas Kilby Smith were to follow in the order in which they are named, and to charge across the road by the flank.
At the signal the volunteer storming party, led by Capt. John H. Groce, of General Ewing's brigade, dashed forward in gallant style, and planted the flag of the Union, which was borne by Private Howell G. Trogden, of the Eighth Missouri, upon the bastion of the enemy. The leading regiment of General Ewing's brigade, the Thirtieth Ohio Volunteers, went forward with equal impetuosity and gallantry, but the next regiment, the Thirty-seventh Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, faltered and gave way under the fire of the enemy, which was far from being severe on this regiment, and was, in fact, directed upon the head of the column. The men lay down in the road and behind every inequality of ground which afforded them shelter, and every effort of General Ewing and Lieut. Col. Louis von Blessingh to rally them and urge them forward proved of no avail. Both of these officers exposed themselves very much in the effort to encourage this regiment, and they were seconded in their efforts by the officers of the regiment.
Lieut. A. C. Fisk, aide-de-camp to General Hugh Ewing, was conspicuous in his efforts to encourage and animate them to go forward to the assistance of their gallant comrades, who could be seen already upon the very intrenchments of the enemy, and Sergt. Maj. Louis Sebastian, Thirty-seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, went along the whole line of the regiment, exposing himself to the heaviest fire of the enemy, exhorting and remonstrating with the men and urging them forward; but it was all in vain. They refused to move, and remained in the road, blocking the way to the other regiments behind, and I was finally compelled to order the Forty-seventh Ohio and Fourth West Virginia forward by another route, to the left of the road. These regiments advanced with commendable spirit and alacrity, and reached a position to which most of the Thirtieth Ohio, so long unsupported, had been compelled to recoil and shelter themselves, and which was less than 150 yards from the bastion. I then ordered the brigade of Col. Giles A. Smith forward by the same route, to the left of the road, as that taken by the last two regiments of General Ewing, and as soon as this brigade went forward it was followed up by the brigade of Col. Thomas Kilby Smith; but this route, while it was better covered from the fire of the enemy, led through ravines made almost impassable with abatis of fallen timber, and did not admit of anything like a charge. I therefore directed Col. Giles A. Smith to go forward as rapidly as the nature of the ground would admit, and to assault whenever he found it practicable to do so, and directed Col. Thomas Kilby Smith to follow close up and support any movement Col. Giles A. Smith should make. Col. Giles A. Smith pushed forward, following the ravine to the left of the position of General Ewing, and reached a ridge about 100 yards from the enemy's intrenchments.
At this point he found General Ransom, commanding a brigade of the division of General McPherson's corps, who had approached by a ravine from the left of my position, and who, from the nature of the ground, was able to advance his brigade under cover still nearer to the enemy's works than that of Colonel Smith. General Ransom and Colonel Smith communicated with each other, and determined to make a simultaneous assault. It was late in the afternoon before these brigades were able to reach the positions which I have referred to, so difficult and toilsome was the nature of the ground over which they moved, rendered still more so by the abatis and artificial entanglement thrown across it by the enemy. Both brigades went forward with a cheer when the signal was given to advance, and the sharpshooters from Ewing's brigade and our artillery opened upon the enemy at the same time with considerable effect; but, after reaching the face of the works of the enemy, they encountered a most fatal and deadly enfilading fire from the enemy's guns on the left, which came crashing through the ranks, while in front they were met by an obstinate resistance from an intrenched foe, and it was found impossible to advance. Both brigades, however, maintained pertinaciously the ground they had won, and Col. Giles A. Smith's brigade still retains it, having fortified the position, and, under orders since given by you, the position has been materially strengthened and advanced.
I cannot speak too highly of the courage and conduct of the officers and men of the First Brigade in this desperate assault, which, however, was fully equaled by that of General Ransom's brigade, of which I think it proper to speak, as the brigade was co-operating with one of my own, and was separated by the character of the ground from the corps to which it belonged. The officers and men of both brigades displayed a courage and coolness which could not have failed to win success in a less unequal struggle.
The active operations of the day were closed by an impetuous assault of the brigade of General Mower, of General Tuttle's division, in your army corps, which rushed forward by the flank on the same road which had been attempted in the morning by the brigade of General H. Ewing. The attack was made with the greatest bravery and impetuosity, and was covered by a tremendous fire from our batteries, and by the sharpshooters of Ewing's and Giles A. Smith's brigades, and its failure only served to prove that it is impossible to carry this position by storm.
I have omitted to mention that one regiment, the Fifty-fifth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, from the brigade of Col. Thomas Kilby Smith, participated in the charge made by the brigades of Col. Giles A. Smith and General Ransom, and that the balance of that brigade gave as efficient a support to the movement as the nature of the ground admitted.
I desire to mention in terms of the highest commendation the conduct of the three officers commanding the brigades of my division throughout the two affairs of the 19th and 22d, and the almost continuous fighting which intervened. Col. Giles A. Smith deserves to be especially distinguished, and his thorough soldiership brought to the notice of the Government in order that he may receive promotion for his distinguished gallantry and meritorious conduct. In the affair of the 19th, Col. Giles A. Smith received a slight wound in the hip from a musket-ball. He remained, however, at his post at the head of his brigade throughout that day and the ensuing days of combat up to this time, leading his brigade to the assault, and attending to every detail of duty under circumstances which you know to have been most trying. I understand that Col. Giles A. Smith has heretofore been recommended for promotion by his commanding officers on account of his gallantry and good conduct in the field. I take this occasion to renew the recommendation in the strongest terms, and trust that you will do this officer the justice to bring his conduct to the notice of the Government.
I refer also, with the greatest pleasure, to the notices which have been made to the gallantry and good conduct of the following-named officers and men of the First and Third Brigades of my division by the commanding officers of those brigades, and have to express my regret that I have received no detailed report from the commanding officer of the Second Brigade, Col. Thomas Kilby Smith, which would enable me to do similar justice to the brave officers and men of that brigade: Col. George B. Hoge, One hundred and thirteenth Illinois; Col.N. W. Tupper, One hundred and sixteenth Illinois; Lieut. Col. David C. Coleman, Eighth Missouri; Lieut. Col. James P. Boyd, One hundred and sixteenth Illinois; Maj. Dennis T. Kirby, Eighth Missouri, who also deserves especial mention for his gallantry and efficient services at the battle of Champion's Hill, on the 16th instant; Col. Augustus C. Parry, Forty-seventh Ohio; Col. James H. Dayton, Fourth West Virginia; Lieut. Col. Louis von Blessingh, Thirty-seventh Ohio ; Lieut. Col. George H. Hildt, Thirtieth Ohio; Lieut. Col. Ira Boutell, Sixth Missouri ; Maj. George R. Clarke, One hundred and thirteenth Illinois, Maj. A. Froman, One hundred and sixteenth Illinois; Maj. Charles Hipp, Thirty-seventh Ohio; Capts. E. C. Washington and Charles Ewing, Thirteenth U.S. Infantry; Lieut. George H. Stockman, Sixth Missouri; Lieutenant Gesahwind, One hundred and sixteenth Illinois; Lieut. Isaac B. Halsey, acting assistant quartermaster of the First Brigade; Capt. John H. Groce and Lieut. George E. O'Neal, of the storming party; Sergeants [Joseph] Brooks [5th] and Davis, Thirtieth Ohio; Capts. Gordon Loftand, Theodore Voges, J. W. Cornyn, and Lieuts. A. O. Fisk, Henry Mcintyre, James H. Odell, and Emmett Headington, of General Ewing's staff, and Corporals [Francis M.] Clendenin and [John W.] Boley, Fourth West Virginia, and Sergeant Hilton and Private Trogden, of the Eighth Missouri.
Of the bravery and efficient services of the above-named officers and men I can speak in the highest terms, as many of them came under my personal observation, and I cordially indorse the recommendation of their respective commanding officers, hoping they will speedily receive the promotions which are so well merited; and I would recommend that the medal of honor voted by Congress be presented to all the enlisted men mentioned, also to all the non-commissioned officers and privates composing the storming party on the 22d.
I append a recapitulation of the casualties in my command to date, full lists, giving name, company, and regiments of officers and men, having been forwarded to your headquarters.
I inclose herewith reports of brigade and regimental commanders as far as received.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
FRANK P. BLAIR, JR.,
Major-General, Commanding Second Division.
P. S.--I will forward a supplemental report as soon as I have received a detailed report from the commanding officer of the Second Brigade of my division.
Recapitulation of the Casualties in the Second Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, in the assault on the works near Vicksburg, Miss., May 19 and 22, 1863.
Aggregate Staff ---- ---- 1 ---- ---- ---- 1 Second Brigade 1 53 28 210 ---- 2 294 Third Brigade 4 37 10 149 ---- 1 201 Co. A, 1st Illinois Light Artillery 5 69 24 282 ---- 6 386 Co. B, 1st Illinois Light Artillery ---- 1 ---- 1 ---- ---- 2 Co. H, 1st Illinois Light Artillery ---- 2 ---- 1 ---- ---- 3 8th Ohio Battery (section) ---- 1 ---- ---- ---- ---- 1 Teilemann's [Illinois] cavalry ---- ---- 1 ---- ---- ---- 1 Co. C, 10th Missouri Cavalry Volunteers ---- ---- 1 ---- ---- ---- 1 Total 10 163 65 643 ---- 9 890
HEADQUARTERS FIFTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Camp, Walnut Hills, Miss., June 6, 1863.
In reviewing and submitting the report of General Blair, I can only say the facts are so fully and clearly stated that nothing can be added. I take great pleasure in indorsing all he says of the conduct of his men and officers during both assaults of May 19 and 22, for, from my position on both days, I had this division in full view. If any troops could have carried and held the intrenchments of Vicksburg, these would.
I recommend to the notice of the President the names enumerated by General Blair as worthy of promotion in their line of profession; and the storming party that volunteered to scale the works, and did do so, and remain on the exterior slope amid that fierce conflict, merit not only the medal of honor, but more substantial reward.
In justice to Col. T. Kilby Smith, who commanded the Second Brigade, the absence of whose report is noticed by General Blair, I explain that I know he prepared a report, and showed it to me about May 24, at the time General Blair was absent, detached toward Yazoo City, and, now that General Blair has returned, Colonel Smith happens on detached duty at Milliken's Bend, by order of General Grant. His report will be sent in to department headquarters with this, if Colonel Smith can be heard from, and the officers and men named by him as worthy of special notice will be entitled to the same honors as are accorded to those of the other brigades.
In making special mention of Col. Giles A. Smith, commanding First Brigade, I but repeat former expressions of praise. An officer who is always present with his command, who carries a severe wound without a flinch or the loss of a minute's duty, and who takes a pride in studying his chosen profession, deserves the special notice of his commanders, without a just cause for the envy of any other. Being in command of a brigade, and worthy of it, he should have the rank.
W. T. SHERMAN,
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