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

Expedition from Memphis, Tenn., into Mississippi.

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

Proceedings of a Board of Investigation. 


MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Capt. A. T. REEVE duly 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. A. T. Reeve; captain, Fifty-fifth Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops; I have been in the service a little less than three years; upon the late expedition I acted as field officer for my regiment and second in command.

Question. What part did your regiment take in the fight on the 10th of June?

Answer. My regiment was in the advance of the brigade of colored troops, and was disposed of through the train four men to each wagon as the train guard, there being 160 wagons in the train. Beyond Hatchie Swamp, not less than two miles this side of Tishomingo Creek, and before we reached the white house, we received an order, I think from Colonel Bouton, to leave the train, close up our men, and move them to the front as first as possible. The two advance companies, I and B, were sent forward and put into line with the white troops, I think by General Sturgis' order, to a point just beyond the Tishomingo Creek. The remainder of the regiment was placed in line of battle on the left of the road and at right angles with it--in the edge of the timber this side--to the Tishomingo Creek bottom. When our regiment formed this line the white troops were falling back, and we were in line from five to ten minutes before we were engaged. I think this was about 4 o'clock. We were attacked directly on our front, the two companies that were in the advance falling back and forming on our line. We fought from twenty to thirty minutes and were then compelled to give away on account of a movement being made on each flank. The regiment  was ordered to retreat by Major Lowe, who was wounded just about that time. He turned the command over to me, and we retreated about a quarter of a mile and formed on the left of the Fifty-ninth Colored Troops, which we found in line. Our right rested on the right of the road and covering the road. We held this position for probably from a half to three-quarters of an hour, and until we were flanked by a heavy infantry force on our left, when we moved by the right of companies to the rear, by order of Colonel Bouton, and across an open field for a distance of sixty or eighty rods, about the last half of which distance we were obliged to make on double-quick to escape the punishment of the enemy. We formed in the edge of the timber on the brow of a small hill immediately after crossing a field, and put every man in line that was able for duty. Many of the men were nearly exhausted. Our left just covered the road. We fought there from a half to three-quarters of an hour, a little ammunition having been sent us to that point; I don't know by whom, but I think from General Grierson. We were able to keep the rebels from crossing the field in our front until a force of them' came around on our left. Nearly all of our officers and many of our men were unable to do their duty from sheer exhaustion. We fell back to avoid being flanked, a distance of about eighty rods, where Captain Lamberg's section of artillery was in position, and formed immediately on his left. We were in that position but a few moments before we were attacked in front and on the left so heavily that we were unable to hold our position. This position was in the woods, and such that, from Captain Lamberg's position, he couldn't see the enemy on the left on account of the brush. When I saw that we were unable to protect his guns, I rode up to him and told him that he would have to move his guns as quick as possible, as there was an overwhelming force on my left. He succeeded in moving his guns, leaving, I think, one caisson. We moved into the road, which was considerably blocked up with wagons and teams; most of the wagons were without mules; some tipped over two I saw with the covers on fire. We moved back a short distance, perhaps sixty or eighty rods, to a white house, where some of the white infantry had halted, and formed a line on the left of the road. As we were leaving our last position we were again nearly out of ammunition, and met some cavalry bringing us ammunition. I learned that it was sent by General Grierson. We smashed the boxes in the road, and I ordered my men to take enough to fill their cartridge-boxes as they passed along. We rested a few moments in the rear of this line of white infantry, and moved back as they were forced back. From this time I saw nothing that acted very much like an organization, but it looked like a regular stampede. The last line of cavalry formed by a fence. It was now becoming dark. During this retreat I don't know that there was any cavalry acting on our flanks. I gathered up what I could of my men during the night, stopping occasionally when the men were tired out to rest, and calling out the number of my regiment as the troops passed by. On reaching Ripley at sunrise the next morning I reported a total of 300 men to Colonel Bouton; probably 250 of them were fit for fighting. At this time we had about forty rounds of ammunition. Many of my men secured ammunition when it was sent back to us, and many others from the train as we passed it.

Question. During the night while retreating to Ripley what was your position in reference to the rest of the troops?

Answer. We were mixed in, near the rear.

Question. Where was this train from which some of your men got ammunition, and was it moving or was it stuck in the bottom?

Answer. I don't know exactly, but I think they got it before the train got to the Hatchie bottom.

Question. How many armed men had you in your regiment when you got to Ripley?

Answer. I judge I had about 250.

Question. Was the Fifty-ninth there at Ripley with you?

Answer. It was. They reached there about the same time, about sunrise on the morning of the 11th.

Question. What did you do at Ripley?

Answer. We remained at Ripley about three-quarters of an hour, when I received an order from Colonel Bouton to fall my men in and move out on the Salem road, immediately in rear of the Fifty-ninth Colored Troops. Before we were able to move, as our men were falling in, General Grierson rode in on the Guntown road and told me that I must get these men out as soon as possible; that the enemy were closing  in all around us. He spoke to me two or three times before the Fifty-ninth moved, to get my men out as fast as possible; that they must go immediately. I mounted as many of my disabled men as possible on mules. Before we got out of the town the Fifty-ninth filed to the left and went into line facing to the east, and I formed a line on their left without orders. There were white troops formed on my left. We were immediately engaged by dismounted men. We fought probably from twenty to thirty minutes. The troops on my left gave way and I was attacked on my left flank by rebels who took possession of some houses and a large church. We retreated across an open field, or common, to the woods, forming a line just over the brow of a little hill, just before entering the brush. Finding that we had no support we fell back just as the enemy came up. At this time my regiment and the Fifty-ninth were in line together and fell back into the timber in line. Here about 250 of these regiments were separated from the rest and surrounded by the enemy in this woods. Captain Foster and myself were with them, and I took command. We finally got out and away from them and struck for the north. We moved by the way of Saulsbury and Grand Junction, keeping in the woods all the way. From near Saulsbury to Moscow we were constantly skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry. They charged on us two or three times, but we repulsed them. At Moscow we got out of ammunition, and we scattered through the woods, every man going in for himself. From this point till we reached Germantown the loyal citizens of Tennessee turned out and hunted us with bloodhounds as we passed along. I reached Germantown on the 15th, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. A good many of my men got in about the same time. We there found some of our cavalry. We passed a rebel camp in the vicinity of Collierville, which was said to be Bell's brigade of rebel cavalry.

Question. At the time you formed your line at Ripley did you see General Sturgis, General Grierson, or Colonel McMillen there

Answer. I did not see General Sturgis or Colonel McMillen. I saw General Grierson a few minutes before we went into line.

Question. What white troops formed on the same line?

Answer. I cannot say for certain. I think the Ninth Minnesota went into line when we first went into line; I do not know what other regiments. At the time we fell back into the timber there was a light line of cavalry formed on our left flank that skirmished a little.

Question. Where was Colonel Benton at this time?

Answer. I can't say.

Question. Did you see the rebel line of battle as it crossed the Tishomingo Creek?

Answer. I saw it after it had crossed, but not when it was crossing.

Question. What was the strength of the line?

Answer. I could not judge, because I could only see their line at different points on account of the woods, brush, &c.


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Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Commentary | Tags: Mississippi , Tennessee , Minnesota
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1864, Ark, Bouton, Cavalry, Fifty-ninth, German, Hatch, Maine, Memphis (Tennessee), Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Old, Salem, Tennessee, Ward,