JULY 5-21, 1864.--Expedition from La Grange, Tenn., to Tupelo, Miss.
Report of Col. Edward Bouton, Fifty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry, commanding First Brigade, U.S. Colored Troops.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, U. S. COLORED TROOPS,
Memphis, Tenn., July 25, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the late expedition to Tupelo, Miss., under command of Maj. Gen. A. J. Smith:
On the 18th day of June, 1864, I moved from Memphis with the Sixty-first and Sixty eighth U.S. Colored Infantry, and Battery I, Second U.S. Colored Artillery (Light), by military railroad to a point four miles west of La Fayette, Tenn., where the troops were disembarked and marched to La Fayette Station, at which point my command was disposed of so as to guard the railroad bridges, &c., four miles west and one mile east, and camped at this place until June 28, 1864.
On June 27, 1864, I brought out from Memphis the Fifty-ninth Regiment U. S. Colored Infantry via railroad to Moscow, Tenn.
I moved with my command to La Grange, Tenn., June 28 and 29, a part being transported by railroad and the remainder marching. My brigade, as here organized, consisted of the Fifty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry, Maj. James C. Foster commanding; Sixty-first U.S. Colored Infantry, Col. F. A. Kendrick commanding; Sixty-eighth U.S. Colored Infantry, Col. J. B. Jones commanding; Battery I, Second U.S. Colored Artillery (Light), Capt. Louis B. Smith commanding. Total strength, 1,835 enlisted men and 64 commissioned officers; total aggregate, exclusive of brigade staff; 1,899; the men in light marching order, with rubber blankets only, and supplied with forty rounds of ammunition in boxes.
On the 3d day of July I received my transportation via rail from Memphis, which enabled me to make a supply train for my brigade of twenty-six wagons, which I loaded with 100 rounds per man reserved ammunition, nine days' rations, and nine days' grain and forage for stock. In compliance with orders, I moved with my brigade at 4 p.m., July 5, to Davis' Mills, Miss., six miles distant, where we went into camp at dark.
July 6, moved at 4 a.m., marching in rear of column, guarding general supply train, in which order, with very little changes, we marched to Pontotoc, Miss., which point we reached by easy marches July 11, 1864, passing through Ripley and New Albany.
On the 12th day of July was in camp at Pontotoc, south of town, near the Okolona road. About 2 p.m. ten or fifteen bushwhackers approached my camp and fired on some men picking berries, wounding a private belonging to Fifty-ninth U. S. Colored Infantry. Sent company C, Fifty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry, commanded by Capt. H. Fox, and drove them off without casualties.
On July 13 the column moved at 4 a.m., going eastward on Tupelo road. At about 6 o'clock, in compliance with orders from Captain Hough, I threw forward the Sixty-first U. S. Colored Infantry to occupy the ridge south of Pontotoc, occupying ground vacated by the Third Division in moving out, and guarding the approach on Okolona road. A few moments after 7 the advance of the enemy's column came up on this road, and became engaged with the advanced guard of the Sixty-first Regiment, consisting of Company A, Captain Jean commanding, but were soon repulsed with loss of 2 men. The entire column, including supply train, having now gotten under way, I moved out with my brigade, Colonel Herrick with a portion of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry being in rear as rear guard to column. My column was only well out of town before the cavalry in rear were attacked, apparently in strong force. The rear of my column was about two miles out from Pontotoc, when Colonel Herrick sent me word that they were coming too fast for him, and he must have help. Company A, Sixty-first U. S. Colored Infantry, had at this time been back with the cavalry, skirmishing with the enemy's advance for nearly a mile. Seeing a desirable location close at hand, I ordered Colonel Kendrick, commanding Sixty-first U. S. Colored Infantry, to ambush them with two companies, which was done with perfect success, under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Foley, of that regiment. The enemy's column coming within twelve paces of this ambush received a well-directed volley, which emptied 15 or 20 saddles and threw his column back in confusion. About a mile farther on I ambushed them again with partial, but not so complete success. About five miles from Pontotoc, as the rear of my column had passed down a hill and forded a small stream, he came forward suddenly in heavy force, and driving the cavalry forward on my flank, planted a battery on the hill and commenced shelling my column furiously, doing, however, but little damage. I moved forward under this fire until I gained the ridge on opposite side of bottom, where I put my battery in position and answered them at about 800 yards range. I threw the Fifty-ninth U. S. Colored Infantry in line on right of the battery and the Sixty-first on the left, holding the Sixty-eighth in reserve. The enemy approached this time very slowly, and only engaged it at long range. As the train was moving on so as to open quite a gap, I sent forward the Sixty-eighth to close on the train, soon followed by the Sixty-first Regiment and one section of battery, finally withdrawing the other section of the battery and one wing of the Fifty-ninth Regiment, having the other wing concealed by thick brush to ambush them as they advanced. The enemy quickly approached this line by moving forward in heavy force through a corn-field, feeling their way with scattering shots until within fifteen yards, when they were met by a deadly volley, quickly followed by others, which seemed to tell on them with terrible effect, throwing them back in confusion. This line was now withdrawn. In retiring it was fired upon from both flanks, which fire was promptly returned. At this point I discovered a heavy column of the enemy moving rapidly forward on my right flank, showing three battle-flags, which information I immediately sent forward by an orderly to General Mower. About one mile from this ridge I again formed line, but the enemy not coming to engage me for some time I withdrew all but seven companies of Sixty-first Regiment, which were advantageously posted, and soon engaged the enemy closely and successfully. At this point I discovered a column on the left flank. The column on the right also developed greater strength than before, which information I immediately sent forward to General Mower by my adjutant, stating that if the train was not moved quickly forward it would be attacked. This message had scarcely reached General Mower when the attack on train was made. From this point I continued forming lines and holding the enemy in check, and ambushing him at every favorable point, using the Fifty-ninth and Sixty-first Regiments, holding the Sixty-eighth in reserve on account of its being a new regiment and inexperienced in field service, until just dark, when within about four miles of Tupelo, the Fifty-ninth and Sixty-first had become so fatigued and completely worn out that I was compelled to put two companies in ambush of Sixty-eighth, relieving them at a little distance with two more companies. These four companies reserved their fire until the enemy were close on them, and delivered it with good effect and retired in good order. At this point I was relieved by Lieutenant-Colonel Burgh, with one battalion of Ninth Illinois Cavalry and one battalion of Second Iowa Cavalry, who held the enemy in check, so as to allow my column to move on to camp unmolested except by a few shells at long range. The rear of my column reached camp about 9 p.m., and went into camp in open field near supply train. Our casualties, as far as could be ascertained, this day were 1 killed, 7 wounded, and 9 missing. As my men fell back several times through thickets, deployed as skirmishers under pretty severe fire, I presume most of the missing were killed, and their fate not known to their comrades. Fighting in the manner I did, with my men concealed and under cover, I was able to punish the enemy pretty severely and suffer comparatively no loss. The cavalry in our rear, under Colonel Herrick, fought with bravery and determination, but was unable to hold the enemy in check when he came on with such impetuosity and such superiority of numbers.
On July 14, soon after daylight, in compliance with orders from Captain Hough, I formed my brigade in line on ridge, about 1,200 yards from old field, where supply train was corraled, my right connecting with the left of Colonel Wolfe's brigade and fronting in a southerly direction. During the main engagements this day only the extreme right of my main line, consisting of Sixty-first Regiment, was engaged. My skirmishers' line was vigorously engaged full half the day. My line was continually under fire from the enemy's artillery during the main engagement, and suffered considerably from the effect of shells, especially the Sixty-first on the right. Twice in the afternoon I took forward a portion of Battery I, Second U, S. Colored Artillery (Light), and shelled the enemy's cavalry and sharpshooters out of the timber in our fronts, where they were lodged in considerable force. At about 7 p.m. I withdrew my line to a ridge some 700 yards to our rear, skirting a strip of timber, leaving a heavy skirmish line on the ridge, where my line had been formed during the day. This line became engaged soon after dark, and at about 9.30 p.m. was advanced upon by the enemy in force and driven back nearly to the ridge on which my brigade lay. I immediately threw my brigade forward and charged up the hill, firing, with fixed bayonets, repulsing the enemy and driving them from our front, and occupied our former line at about 10 p.m. I should judge the enemy suffered considerable loss from this repulse, as they were carrying off their killed and wounded with ambulances nearly all night.
On July 15, at about 9 a.m., in compliance with orders, I withdrew to the old field in bottom where the supply train had been corraled, the line I left being held by cavalry. My brigade was to follow the Third Division and guard supply train. My train, Battery I, and Fifty-ninth Regiment had moved out and Sixty-first was just moving when the cavalry was driven from their position and forced back to the timber. I received orders to bring back the Sixty-first and hold them and the Sixty-eighth in readiness to meet any movements of the enemy. The enemy still advancing and driving in the cavalry, I formed Sixty-first and Sixty-eighth Regiments in line next to timber, and advancing through it in line of battle some 300 to 400 yards, found the enemy occupying ridge where my line had rested previous to its being attacked the night before. I immediately charged, firing, with fixed bayonets, forcing the enemy from this ridge and driving them back 800 or 900 yards and beyond my old line, punishing them severely. This charge was made in splendid style by Sixty-first and four companies of Sixty-eighth. After occupying this position a short time, I withdrew to ridge near the timber. After about an hour, as the enemy did not again show themselves in force, I moved out, in compliance with orders, on Ellistown road and camped on Old Town Creek, some five miles from the battlefield.
On July 16 marched at 5 a.m. in center of column, guarding ambulance and supply train, in which general order of march we moved to La Grange, Tenn., which point we reached about 6 p.m. July 20, passing near Ellistown, through New Albany and Salem, Miss. Sending my wagon train and artillery horses by State Line road, and transporting troops by railroad, my brigade arrived in Memphis on the night of 22d and morning of 23d of July.
I think the officers and men of my command are deserving of credit for the manner in which they discharged their duties during the entire expedition. Though not heavily engaged during the main battle of the 14th they faithfully executed every order, and met whatever force opposed them with a will and determination highly commendable.
I think the work done by my brigade in rear of column, on the 13th, was a severe test of the soldierly qualities and power of endurance of my men. We moved at 4 a.m., marched about twenty miles, went into camp at 9 p.m.; were seventeen hours under arms without rest. Some of my command was under fire over half the time and was in line of battle an average of over ten times. During the day my column was full three hours under fire of artillery in rear or on flanks, and moved steadily with men closed in ranks without wavering.
Our casualties were as follows.(*)
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Lieut. CHARLES P. BROWN,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., U. S. Colored Troops.
*Nominal list (omitted) shows 1 man killed and 8 men wounded of the Fifty-ninth; 1 officer and 5 men killed, and 4 officers and 36 men wounded of the Sixty-first; and 1 man killed, and 3 officers and 3 men wounded of the sixty-eighth; total, 62.
Return to Expedition to Tupelo
Return to Freedom Fighters