Report of Maj. James C. Foster, Fifty-ninth U. S. Colored Infantry, of expedition from La Grange, TENN., to Tupelo, MISS., July 5-21, 1864
HEADQUARTERS FIFTY-NINTH U.S. COLORED INFANTRY,
Memphis, Tenn., July 24, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my regiment in the late expedition into Mississippi under command of Major-General Smith:
In obedience to orders received from headquarters District of Memphis I left camp at 5 a.m. June 27, and marched to Memphis and Charleston Depot, where I embarked at 8 a.m. and proceeded by train to Moscow, Tenn, and reported to Col. E. Bouton, commanding First Brigade, U.S. Colored Troops, who instructed me to go into camp and await further orders. On the morning of the 28th of June I received orders to break camp at 8 o'clock the following morning and march to LaGrange, which I did, reaching that place at 11 a.m., and went into camp south of town in the bottom. Here I remained until July 5, when I was ordered to break up camp at 5.30 p.m. and march to Davis' Mills, five miles south. The march was resumed next morning and continued daily, passing through Ripley, Miss., on the 8th instant, crossing the Tallahatchie on the 9th, reaching Pontotoc on the 11th, where the entire force rested on the 12th.
On the morning of the 13th the entire expedition started out, taking the Tupelo road. The Sixty-first U.S. Colored Infantry was in rear of all except cavalry, my regiment next to Sixty-first. Soon after leaving camp the enemy attacked our rear, and about 11 a.m. I was ordered into position on the left of the road to check his advance. Battery I Second U.S. Colored Artillery, was on my right, and the Sixty-first U. S. Colored Infantry still to the right of the battery. After waiting in this position a few minutes, and the enemy not approaching, the Sixty-first U.S. Colored Infantry and one section of the battery were withdrawn, and I was ordered to support the remaining section of the artillery, under Captain Smith. To this end I placed two companies to the left, under Capt. H. Fox, and three' companies on the right, under Capt. N. R. Smock, holding the remainder of the regiment in reserve. By the cloud of rising dust it was evident the enemy was advancing in force. Captain Smith opened on them with his battery, but with what effect I could not tell. The enemy was coming up on both flanks when I sent two companies, under Capt. M. M. Covan, about 120 yards to our right and one company, under Lieut. Jacob Schwartz, the same distance to the left of the road. The rear of our column being now some distance in advance Captain Smith withdrew his battery, and I was ordered to retire with my regiment, leaving a strong skirmish line to protect the rear. I then ordered Capt. H. Fox to deploy Companies B and H as skirmishers, and sent orders to the other companies to fall back and join the regiment in a wood a short distance in the rear. But before the movement began the enemy fired on us, which we returned with considerable effect, checking the advancing column after a few minutes' sharp fighting. My entire command fell back in good order, without further interruption, except from a few shells which passed over or fell around us without effect. Several times during the day I was ordered into position for attack, but each time was ordered to retire before the enemy came in reach of our rifles. The march was continued until 9 p.m., when we reached Harrisburg and encamped for the night.
Early the next morning I was ordered to take a position in the edge of an open field south of town, on a slight elevation, with a thick growth of timber in front. This position I held without serious opposition until dark, when was ordered to retire with my regiment about 300 yards to the edge of the timber to camp, which I did, leaving my picket-line to occupy the old line of battle. About 10 p.m. it became evident my picket-line was being driven in, and I was ordered to move forward and occupy my old line, which I did after a sharp little fight. This position I held until 8 a.m. next morning, when was ordered to retire to wagon train. After resting here a few minutes the wagon train commenced moving out on the Ellistown road, and I was ordered to distribute my command through the train, one company to twenty wagons. We marched in this order to Old Town Creek, where we camped for the night.
Early the next morning we resumed the march, taking the road to New Albany. The return march had now fairly begun, which was continued by way of New Albany and Salem, reaching La Grange, Tenn., on the 20th instant, where we remained until the evening of the 22d, when we embarked on railroad train for this place, which we reached about 1 a.m. the 23d of July.
The following is a correct list of casualties :(*)
All officers and soldiers of my command behaved with great gallantry on every occasion of meeting the enemy.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES C. FOSTER,
Major Fifty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry, Comdg. Regiment.
Lieut. A. F. AVERY,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Brigade, U.S. Colored Troops.