Report of Brig
Report of Brig. Gen. Elias S. Dennis, U.S. Army, of attack (7th) on Milliken's Bend and action (9th) near Lake Providence.
HEADQUARTERS NORTHEAST DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA,
Young's Point, La., June 12, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that, in accordance with instructions received from me, Colonel Lieb, commanding the Ninth Louisiana, African descent, made a reconnaissance in the direction of Richmond on June 6, starting from Milliken's Bend at 2 a.m.
He was preceded by two companies of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry, commanded by Captain Anderson, whom he overtook 3 miles from the Bend. It was agreed between them that the captain should take the left side of Walnut Bayou and pursue it as far as Mrs. Ames' plantation, while Colonel Lieb proceeded along the main Richmond road to the railroad depot, 3 miles from Richmond, where he encountered the enemy's pickets and advance, which he drove in with but little opposition, but, anticipating the enemy in strong force, retired slowly toward the Bend. When about half-way back, a squad of our cavalry came dashing up in his rear, hotly pursued by the enemy. Colonel Lieb immediately formed his regiment across an open field, and with one volley dispersed the approaching enemy.
Expecting the enemy would contest the passage of the bridge over Walnut Bayou, Colonel Lieb fell back over the bridge, and from thence to Milliken's Bend, from whence he sent a messenger informing me of the success of the expedition, and reported the enemy to be advancing. I immediately started the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry to their assistance, and Admiral Porter ordered the gunboat Choctaw to that point.
At 3 o'clock the following morning the enemy made their appearance in strong force on the main Richmond road, driving the pickets before them. The enemy advanced upon the left of our line, throwing out no skirmishers, marching in close column by division, with a strong cavalry force on his right flank. Our forces, consisting of the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteer Infantry and the African Brigade (in all, 1,061 men), opened upon the enemy when within musket-shot range, which made them waver and recoil, a number running in confusion to the rear; the balance, pushing on with intrepidity, soon reached the levee, when they were ordered to charge, with cries of "no quarter!"
The African regiments being inexperienced in the use of arms, some of them having been drilled but a few days, and the guns being very inferior, the enemy succeeded in getting upon our works before more than one or two volleys were fired at them. Here ensued a most terrible hand-to-hand conflict of several minutes' duration, our men using the bayonet freely and clubbing their guns with fierce obstinacy, contesting every inch of ground, until the enemy succeeded in flanking them, and poured a murderous enfilading fire along our lines, directing their fire chiefly to the officers, who tell in numbers. Not till they were overpowered and forced by superior numbers did our men fall back behind the bank of the river, at the same time pouring volley after volley into the ranks of the advancing enemy.
The gunboat now got into position and fired a broadside into the enemy, who immediately disappeared behind the levee, but all the time keeping up a fire upon our men.
The enemy at this time appeared to be extending his line to the extreme right, but was held in check by two companies of the Eleventh Louisiana Infantry, African descent, which had been posted behind cotton bales and part of the old levee. In this position the fight continued until near noon, when the enemy suddenly withdrew. Our men, seeing this movement, advanced upon the retreating column, firing volley after volley at them while they remained within gunshot. The gunboat Lexington then paid her compliments to the fleeing foe in several well-directed shots, scattering them in all directions.
I here desire to express my thanks to the officers and men of the gunboats Choctaw and Lexington for their efficient services in the time of need. Their names will be long remembered by the officers and men of the African Brigade for their valuable assistance on that dark and bloody field.
The officers and men deserve the highest praise for their gallant conduct, and especially Colonel Glasgow, of the Twenty-third Iowa, and his brave men, and also Colonel Lieb, of the Ninth Louisiana, African descent, who, by his gallantry and daring, inspired his men to deeds of valor until he fell, seriously though not dangerously wounded. I regret to state that Colonel Chamberlain, of the Eleventh Louisiana, African descent, conducted himself in a very unsoldierlike manner.
The enemy consisted of one brigade, numbering about 2,500, in command of General [H. E.] McCulloch, and 200 cavalry. The enemy's loss is estimated at about 150 killed and 300 wounded. It is impossible to get anything near the loss of the enemy, as they carried the killed and wounded off in ambulances. Among their killed is Colonel [R. T. P.] Allen, Sixteenth [Seventeenth] Texas.
Inclosed please find tabular statement of killed, wounded, and missing; in all, 652.(*) Nearly all the missing blacks will probably return, as they were badly scattered.
The enemy, under General [J. M.] Hawes, advanced upon Young's Point while the battle was going on at Milliken's Bend; but several well-directed shots from the gunboats compelled them to retire.
Submitting the foregoing, I remain, yours, respectfully,
ELIAS S. DENNIS,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. District -Northeast Louisiana.
Lieut. Col. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
[Index Page - Union Reports]