Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
					Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

JUNE 1

JUNE 1-13, 1864.--Expedition from Memphis, Tenn., into Mississippi.


Proceedings of a Board of Investigation.  


MEMPHIS, TENN., July 28, 1864--2.15 p.m.

The Board met pursuant to adjournment.

The members all present; also the recorder.

The minutes of the preceding session read and approved.

Col. EDWARD BOUTON sworn and examined.

By the PRESIDENT:

Question. State your name, rank, and regiment; the length of time :you have been in the service, and the position you occupied on the late expedition under General Sturgis.

Answer. Edward Bouton; colonel Fifty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry; I have been in the service two years and eight months; on the late expedition under General Sturgis I commanded my brigade of colored troops.

Question. How were the animals of your brigade supplied with forage on the march?

Answer. We started out with about one day's rations of grain, which we made to do for two days. After that we depended on grazing, a little green corn and green wheat, and got two or three sacks of old corn.

Question. Do you know of any corn or other forage being guarded for the benefit of citizens?

Answer. Yes, sir; I know of corn having been guarded at two places and I think three. Guards were stationed with instructions to let no one in. In one place I ordered the corn to be taken, notwithstanding the guard. 

Question. How much of the time on the march out did your brigade guard the train?

Answer. Four days out of eight on the march out.

Question. Was the march from La Fayette to Stubbs' made as rapidly as it could have been?

Answer. No, sir; it was not.

Question. How much sooner could it have been made?

Answer. We were seven days marching from La Fayette to the camp near Stubbs'. We could have made the same march easily in four days over the same roads, and could have gained another half day by taking the best roads.

Question. Do you mean that the train could have been got through in that time?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. How much was the march retarded by the train not keeping up?

Answer. The train delayed the column on one day five hours on account of the heavy rains and bad roads, and one hour each on two other days on account of the pioneer corps having slighted their work and not repaired the road so that the train could pass. I do not know that the column was delayed by the train at any other times.

Question. State what orders you received and the operations of your brigade on the 10th of June.

Answer. First was the order of march, to distribute four men to each wagon of the general supply train. The Fifty-fifth was distributed along the train. The Fifty-ninth and Lamberg's battery were in the rear of the train. We marched in this order, keeping as well closed up as possible, until about 11 o'clock, when we first heard artillery firing in our front. At 2.30 o'clock, as the head of my column reached the crest of the hill, near the white house, I first came in sight of the battlefield. This was about 900 yards this side of the creek. At this point the officers in charge of the train received orders to corral the train. They commenced parking the train. Part of the train was run forward to the field just this side of the creek, and they had not finished parking that part of it when they commenced moving it out again. At this point I ordered my men to leave the wagons and form companies and to come forward as rapidly as possible by the flank of the train. While they were forming companies I went forward to the creek. At this time the cavalry were coming back from the front; in fact, I met some of them back nearly as far as the white house. From the point where I was I discovered a gap in our main line, through which the rebels were approaching. I went back, brought up two companies of the Fifty-fifth, under Captain Ewing, and posted them in that gap under a heavy fire. Every commissioned officer of those two companies was killed or wounded in ten minutes. The men stood their ground until I sent an officer to bring them back. I then went back and got seven companies more of the Fifty-fifth, brought them up, and posted them a little to the right and rear of the other two companies, so as to hold the ground where the other brigade was giving away. I then went back to the ridge by the old house, met the other company of the Fifty-fifth, which I told to wait there for orders. I sent a staff officer back to bring up the battery and the Fifty-ninth as quickly as possible. At this point I met Colonel McMillen. He said, "Colonel, where are your troops; what are you doing, and what are you going to do?" I told him what I had done, and the arrangements I had made. I told him I was going to put the battery in position on the ridge near the old house, put the Fifty-ninth in position on its right and the company of the Fifty-fifth on its left, bring the other companies of the Fifty-fifth to that place, and fight the enemy as long as I had a man left; to which he said, "That's right; if you can hold this position until I can go to the rear and form on the next ridge you can save this entire command. It all depends on you now." That was the only order I received during that day after leaving camp in the morning. I did not see Colonel McMillen or General Sturgis after that until 11 o'clock that night, when I overtook them at the Hatchie bottom. I formed line on the ridge in accordance with the plan I suggested to Colonel McMillen, and immediately opened on the enemy with my battery, to cover the retreat of the other troops. The right of my line, being more advanced than the other portion, became almost immediately  engaged with the enemy, and my whole line was warmly engaged as soon as our retreating troops had passed to the rear, which was about twenty minutes after the battery was first opened. We held that ridge, I think, about twenty minutes after that. They charged forward with their infantry to within fifteen paces of my battery and shot down many of the horses, so that I was obliged to retire the battery, leaving one caisson. My line fell back about 100 yards, the battery, by my orders, moving to the rear. We fell back, forming one position after another, till we reached the ridge this side of the white house, where we formed line for the fifth time at about sundown. This position was about 800 yards in the rear of our first position. Colonel Wilkin, with parts of the Ninth Minnesota and One hundred and fourteenth Illinois, had been during this time on my left, conforming more or less to my movements. I did not see him after this, but I think he moved to the rear. I don't think we staid in this last position over fifteen minutes. We then charged them and drove them back 500 yards, to within 300 yards of where we first formed. It was dark and they outflanked us on both flanks and we were obliged to fall back. With about forty men I was there cut off from my brigade and surrounded by the enemy, and did not get clear from them until about 9 o'clock, when, by making a large circuit, I rejoined my brigade, which was retreating along the road, at about 10.30 o'clock, and at 11 o'clock I overtook General Sturgis and Colonel McMillen as they were crossing the Hatchie bottom.

Question. At what time on the 10th and at what point did you first see the enemy, and where were they?

Answer. It was about 8 o'clock in the morning when we had marched about one mile and a half from the camp near Stubbs' I saw a squad of rebel cavalry on a road about a mile to the right of the road we were on. Back of this squad I saw a column of rebel cavalry passing. I saw similar squads of rebel cavalry two or three times subsequently on our right before we got to the battle-field.

Question. What did you learn about there being a parallel road on the right near where you saw this rebel cavalry?

Answer. I learned from the forage party of our cavalry and from several citizens that there was a parallel road on our right. I think they said it was called the ridge road to Baldwyn. The citizens said we might have struck it shortly after leaving Ripley, and it was distant from one to four miles from the road we were on, and that it led to Baldwyn Station. I was told the crossing over Hatchie bottom on this road was a better crossing than the one on the road we were on.

Question. When you saw General Sturgis at the Hatchie bottom, what orders did he give you and what did he say?

Answer. When I first came up to General Sturgis I said, "General, for God's sake don't let us give it up so." He said, "What can we do?" I told him to give me the ammunition that the white troops were throwing away in the mud and I would hold the enemy in check until we could get those ambulances, wagons, and artillery all over that bottom and save them. I told him that if he would give me one of those white regiments to help me lift the wagons and artillery over, that I would stake my life that I would save the whole of them. He said, "For God's sake, if Mr. Forrest will let me alone I will let him alone. You have done all you could and more than was expected of you, and now all you can do is to save yourselves." As I moved on my troops picked up ammunition which had been thrown away by the white troops during the night. At early dawn, just about five miles from Ripley, the rebels came on and fired into the rear of our column and also into the flanks. We formed and repulsed them and continued doing so while falling back the next mile, in about an hour's time. We were then relieved by a battalion of cavalry, for which I had asked General Grierson when we were first attacked. We then moved on to Ripley, where I commenced to reorganize my brigade so as to be able to send on my wounded and disarmed men. About this time I got orders from Colonel McMillen for my brigade to more out in the rear of the infantry column on the Salem road. Just as I commenced reorganizing my brigade for this purpose the enemy came charging in furiously at the lower end of the town, broke the line of cavalry which had held them in check, which compelled me to throw my brigade immediately in line without any reorganization. Using sparingly what little ammunition we had, and using the bayonet and clubbed musket whenever opportunity offered, we held them in check until nearly all of the other brigades had moved out. The troops got separated and retired by two separate roads.

Question. What officers were in charge of the supply train during the expedition? 

Answer. Lieutenant Stratton had charge of the commissary stores and Lieutenant Livings had charge of the ordnance stores. Lieutenant Shattuck and Lieutenant Dement each claimed to have charge of the supply train.

Question. Did you hear any dispute between Lieutenants Dement and Shattuck concerning who had charge of the supply train?

Answer. I did. I heard a dispute between Shattuck and Stratton. There seemed to be a misunderstanding and difficulty as to who should control the movement of the train.

Question. Were you present at a conversation between General Sturgis and several other officers, on the retreat this side of Ripley, concerning the route they should take?

Answer. I was not. I was with my command at that time attending to the wounded´┐Ż

Question. State what you know about guards being placed over water to prevent the soldiers from getting it to drink.

Answer. Guards were placed at houses and prevented my colored soldiers from going in to get water from the wells and cisterns, from the time we left La Fayette Station until we arrived at Stubbs', except it may be at a few poor peoples' places.

Question. By whose orders were these guards placed for that purpose?

Answer. They said they were stationed by Colonel McMillen's orders.

Question. What did Colonel McMillen say about it

Answer. He said he had not instructed the guards to prevent them from getting water. He said also that the men did not need to visit the houses for the purpose of getting water, as there was water enough to be had without.

Question. Could the men get water at other places?

Answer. A portion of the time they could, but it was not very good, being surface water.

At 5.30 p.m. the Board adjourned till 2 p.m. to-morrow.



Return to Index - Battle of Brice's Crossroads

Return to Freedom Fighters - United States Colored Troops


LWF Communications
Trotwood, Ohio

 

Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Reports | Tags: Mississippi , Illinois , Minnesota
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1864, Ark, Bouton, Cavalry, Edward, Fifty-ninth, GE, Hatch, Illinois, La, Lieutenants, Memphis (Tennessee), Minnesota, Mississippi, Nathan Forrest, Ohio, Old, Salem, Tennessee, Ward,