Report of Col. William L. McMillen, Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, Commanding Infantry Division
JUNE 1-13, 1864.--Expedition from Memphis, Tenn., into Mississippi.
MEMPHIS, TENN., June 22, 1864
CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders, I moved with my command (the First Brigade, First Division, Sixteenth Army Corps) on the morning of the 1st instant to the depot of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, where the Ninth Minnesota Infantry, which had been temporarily assigned, joined the brigade. The troops were embarked on the cars, the artillery and train going by road, the former reaching a point near La Fayette, when we camped for the night.
On the morning of the 2d instant, by order of Brigadier-General Sturgis, I was placed in command of all the infantry connected with the expedition, which was organized as follows: First Brigade, Col. Alexander Wilkin, Ninth Minnesota Infantry, commanding- Seventy-second Ohio Infantry Veteran Volunteers, Lieut. Col. Charles G. Eaton commanding; Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry Volunteers, Lieut. Col. Jefferson Brumback commanding; One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry Volunteers, Lieut. Col. John F. King commanding; Ninety-third Indiana Infantry Volunteers, Col. De Witt C. Thomas commanding; Ninth Minnesota Infantry Volunteers, Lieut. Col. J. F. Marsh commanding; Company E. First Illinois Light Artillery, Capt. John A. Fitch commanding: section Sixth Indiana Battery, Capt. M. Mueller commanding. Second Brigade, Col. George B. Hoge, One hundred and thirteenth Illinois Infantry, commanding-Eighty-first Illinois Infantry Volunteers; Ninety-fifth Illinois Infantry Volunteers; One hundred and eighth Illinois Infantry Volunteers; One hundred and twentieth Illinois Infantry Illinois Volunteers; Company B, Second Illinois Light Artillery, Capt. F. H. Chapman commanding. Third Brigade, Col. Edward Bouton, Fifty-ninth U. S. Infantry (colored), commanding-Fifty-fifth U. S. Infantry (colored), Maj. E. M. Lowe commanding; Fifty-ninth U. S. Infantry (colored), Lieut. Col. Robert Cowden commanding; Battery F, Second U. S. Artillery (colored), Capt. C. A. Lamberg commanding.
During the organization of the infantry division, the large supply and ammunition train was brought up by the cavalry and turned over to me for safe conduct. The cavalry moved on the same day in the direction of Lamar, and the next morning at 3:30 o'clock the infantry was in motion in the same direction. From this time until the morning of the 10th instant nothing of importance occurred beyond the difficulties constantly encounters in consequence of heavy rains daily, causing the streams to be much swollen and the roads almost impassable, together with the embarrassment we labored under in procuring forage, our line of march being through a country destitute of supplies. Our progress was necessarily slow and laborious, giving the enemy ample opportunity to ascertain our force and make arrangements to meet us with superior numbers.
On the evening of the 9th we reached a point on the Ripley and Fulton road, fifteen or sixteen miles from the former place, where we camped for the night, marching on the morning of the 10th in the direction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, expecting to strike it at or in the vicinity of Guntown. I had proceeded some five miles with the head of the column, and halted to permit the wagon train to cross the Hatchie River and close up. The road through the bottom land of this stream was almost impassable, and we found it impossible to put it in good condition. Whilst waiting at the head of my column to hear from the rear, I was informed by General Sturgis that General Grierson, commanding Cavalry Division, had struck the enemy beyond Brice's Cross-Roads, some five miles in advance, and was ordered to move my leading brigade up as rapidly as possible to the support of the cavalry, leaving the other two brigades to come up with the train. I accordingly ordered Colonel Hoge, commanding Second Brigade, in advance that day, to move up in quick time without any reference to the column in his rear, and sent my quartermaster to close up the train and have it,, with the brigades of Colonels Wilkins and Bouton, move up as rapidly as possible. I accompanied the advance brigade, and, en route to the field, received repeated and urgent orders to move up as rapidly as possible, as the enemy was developing a large force and driving our cavalry back. Colonel Hoge's advance regiment, the One hundred and thirteenth Illinois Infantry, reached the cross-roads between I and 2 p.m., and went into action at once on the right of the Baldwyn road, relieving Colonel Warning's brigade of cavalry, which had been forced back to within a short distance of Brice's house. As fast as Colonel Hoge's regiments came up, they deployed on the right of the Baldwyn road, extending the line in a semi-circular form in the direction of the Guntown road, relieving the cavalry as they took position. As soon as the regiments took their position in line, skirmishers were thrown forward, and the men told that the enemy was in their immediate presence in force, and that they must be prepared to meet a heavy attack soon. The skirmish line was established along the whole front by Captain Fernald, Seventy-second Ohio Infantry, acting aide-de-camp, under a constant fire from the enemy. Chapman was ordered in battery in the open ground about Brice's house, and directed to open upon the enemy over the heads of our men. Son after Hoge's brigade was placed in position, the First Brigade, Colonel Wilkin, came up, the Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry in advance. This regiment was immediately placed in line on the left of the Baldwyn road, with instructions to assist the regiments of Hoge's left in holding that road, and to govern itself by the movements of his brigade. The One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry coming next, was placed on the right of Hog's brigade, completing the line to the Guntown road, and relieving the cavalry to that point. The Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, Colonel Thomas, was placed on the right of the Guntown road, over which it was very evident the enemy was then advancing to attack. The Seventy-second Ohio Infantry and Mueller's section of the Sixth Indiana Battery were posted on an eminence in the rear of Brice's house, to keep the enemy from getting possession of a bridge a short distance back, and cutting us off. Battery E, First Illinois Light Artillery, Captain Fitch, and the Ninth Minnesota Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Marsh commanding, were held in reserve hear the cross-roads. Colonel Bouton's brigade of colored troops had charge of the train on that day, and not yet come up.
The arrangements mentioned above had not yet been fully completed before the enemy made a furious attack along the whole line and on each flank, developing the fact that his force was far superior to that portion of ours then engaged. My extreme right, after a sharp and bloody contest, was forced back, and I was obliged to throw in the only regiment I had in reserve to drive the enemy back and re-establish my line at that point. This work was gallantly performed by the Ninth Minnesota, under the heroic Marsh, and I desire here to express to him and his brave men my thanks for their firmness and bravery, which alone saved the army at that critical moment from utter defeat and probable capture. As the enemy on our right was being driven back by the Ninth Minnesota and Ninety-third Indiana, I directed Captain Fitch to put one section of his battery in position on the Guntown road and sweep it with grape and canister. Soon after our success on the right, the regiments on the left and left center gave back in considerable confusion, the rebels following them in force up to the road over which we had advanced, and from which they were kept by the Seventy-second Ohio and Mueller's battery posted in our rear. I endeavored, aided by my staff, to rally the different regiments and get them to advance to their original position, but failed, succeeding, however, in forming a line along the Baldwyn road and at right angles with it, parallel to the Fulton road, in which position I fought until again flanked on the left and greatly exposed to captured of the troops engaged. At this time I sent word to General Sturgis that I was hard pressed and that unless relieved soon, I would be obliged to abandon my position. I was informed that he had nothing to send me, and that I must use my discretion as to holding my position. It had been evident for some time that the troops could not remain in that position long, as the enemy were fast closing around us. I, therefore, determined to retire, and in order to do so directed Captains Fitch and Chapman to open a rapid fire with grape and canister along the roads and through woods in our immediate front, and to maintain it until the infantry were well under way, and that I would form another line a short distance in the rear to keep the enemy from the cross-roads until they could get their pieces away.
This new line was a prolongation of that occupied by the Seventy-second Ohio Infantry, and was formed by that regiment, the Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, and about 200 dismounted men of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry, under Captain Curry, who reported to me for orders on the field, and rendered valuable and gallant service in assisting to hold the enemy in check until the retreating column had passed. The main portion of the First and Second Brigades, which had been hotly engaged with the enemy for nearly three hours, now retired under cover of this new line, and continued to march by the flank to the rear. Just after crossing a small stream about a quarter of a mile in the rear of the cross-roads I met the Fifty-fifth U. S. Infantry (colored), Maj. E. M. Lowe commanding. I posted his regiment on the left of the road, with instructions to hold his position until the troops then engaged should retire, when he could bring up the rear, which was done on a ridge near a white house about one and a half or two miles from the battle-field. This line was formed by portions of the First and Second Brigades, the whole under command of Colonel Wilkin, and Colonel Bouton was informed by Lieutenant Barber, of my staff, that he could fall back and take up a new position in the rear of the line, my object being to retire by successive lines. In the mean time the wagon train and artillery were moving to the rear as fast as possible. When Colonel Bouton fell back the enemy followed him up in heavy force, and the line established at the while house soon fell back to another position in the rear, when a stand was made and the enemy repulsed. In this affair the Ninth Minnesota again took a conspicuous part, and the colored regiment fought with a gallantry which commended them to favor of their comrades in arms. I desire to bear testimony to their bravery and endurance, as well as the gallantry of Colonel Cowden and Major Lowe, commanding regiments. This checked the pursuit and ended the fighting for that evening. The whole column was then put in motion for Ripley. Upon reaching the crossing of the Hatchie the wagon train was found stuck and the road completely blockaded, so that the artillery had to be abandoned after long, continued, and laborious effort on the part of battery commanders and the men generally to get it through. I arrived at Ripley, in company with the general commanding, about 5 a.m. on the morning of the I Ith instant. I at once commenced the reorganization of my division. At 7:30 a.m. I reported my command reorganized and in tolerably good shape, with the exception that many of the men had thrown away their arms during the retreat, and that those who had arms were short of ammunition. I was directed by General Sturgis to move out on the Salem road in rear of the First Brigade of cavalry, then in advance. Before the troops all left the town of Ripley the enemy made a furious attack upon the place, gaining possession of the road on which we were marching and cutting my command in two. In this attack the colored regiments and a part of Hoge's brigade were engaged, and, until overpowered by superior numbers, fought bravely. That portion of the column cut off moved out on a road leading north from Ripley, and under the brave and successful leadership of Colonel Wilkin succeeded in reaching Memphis. The enemy followed and fought our retreating column to the vicinity of Collierville, which place we reached on the morning of the 12th instant, having marched some ninety miles without rest.
As nearly as I can ascertain at the date of this report, the following table will exhibit the casualties of the Infantry Division.
In conclusion I beg to bear testimony to the courage, fidelity, and efficiency of my staff during the battle of 10th. As has always been the case they performed their whole duty. My orderlies, Francis De Freitas, of the Seventy-second [Ohio], deserve especial mention for their conspicuous gallantry and intelligent performance of every trust.
I have the honor to forward herewith official reports of commanding officers of brigades, to which you are respectfully referred for a more particular notice of those officers worthy of mention.
I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. L. McMILLEN, Colonel Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, Corndg. Division.
Capt. W. C. RAWOLLE,
Aide-de-Camp, U. S. Army, and actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen.