Correspondence from N. J. T. Dana to Maj. C. T. Christensen
Helena, Ark, August 15, 1864
Maj. C. T. Christensen,
Major: On the 7th instant I inspected the post and garrison at Milliken"s Bend. The latter is composed of the Forty-Sixth U. S. Infantry (colored) and Battery C, Second U. S. Artillery (colored); aggregate effective force, 603. The former is a fine regiment, in excellent condition and discipline. There were many haversacks and canteens wanting, but the general condition was very good. Sanitary condition pretty good. They had six mule teams and one four-mule team. Two companies of this regiment are mounted on horses loaned by the owners of leased plantations for the purpose of scouting. The battery has four field pieces but no horses, and the men are also armed and equipped as infantry. Clothing arms, and equipments, good; discipline and instruction, indifferent. Officers not good and reported intemperate. The fort is sufficient and can be readily defended for the force which is here, but there is not sufficient to justify the setting aside of any for a reserve force. The officer doing duty here as post quartermaster and commissary as a new beginner, and although he has been at work for two months, he has as yet not rendered any accounts. He has no clerk or white man to assist him. The commander of the Post, Colonel Wood, is a good and efficient officer, and has not permitted supplies to pass his lines as freely as at other posts on the river. During the last three months $23,079.69 are reported to have passed. I have ordered the lines to be entirely closed, as will be seen by the copy* of the letter of instructions to Colonel Wood, herewith inclosed.
The Mississippi Marine was lying about two miles above Milliken"s Bend, and was inspected on the afternoon of August 7. This is an organization gotten up under the special orders of the Secretary of War for peculiar services, and I make no suggestions of changes or recommendations for it. It is now far below it"s original number, and its means of transportation are proportionately too great. The boats, however, are used in the District of Vicksburg for the transportation of other troops. Indeed, the Marine Brigade is now so in sufficient in number when all together that it is not sufficient of itself to compose any important expedition. The aggregate effective force capable of being thrown ashore now is 613, composed of ten companies of mounted infantry and four companies of cavalry. There is, besides, a company of artillery, but they have neither guns, arms, nor horses those which they formerly had having been taken by Major-General McPherson for a battery when his army moved into the field. Brigadier-General Ellet, with a staff of eleven officers command this force. It"s fleet consists of six large steam transports and three tow-boats, three small steam tugs, two small rams, and six barges for cavalry, one of which latter is unserviceable. These will carry with ease for a short trip 5,000 men, 2,000 horses, 130 wagons, and 1,909 tons of freight. They will carry when the troops are quartered on board as at present, 1,800 men, 1,042 horses, twenty wagons, and 650 tons of freight. I herewith submit a list* of the boats, and would suggest that if wanted elsewhere two transports, two barges, one tow-boat, and one tug could easily be spared by General Ellet and still leave him ample means to move his own command and the reserve force of Vickburg, if suddenly required for a short trip. Still, the boats, if not indispensable elsewhere, are as well preserved and cared for in the hands as they would be anywhere. As a means of transportation they are always available where they are. The costs of this force are great, the largest transports costing at $100,000 each per year. The quartermaster and commissary of the force were examined, and their departments found to be in good condition.
The troops inspected were as follows: First Regiment Mounted Infantry-Inspected august 7, at 4 p.m. Aggregate effective, 543, with 289 serviceable and 54 unserviceable horses. The horses are unusually good. Considering the irregular service the regiment has been engaged in it was in a good condition as to arms, equipments, and accouterments. Discipline and sanitary condition good. First Battalion Cavalry-Inspected at 5.30 p.m August 7. Aggregate effective, 247, with 174 serviceable and 42 unserviceable horses. The horses were very fine and the arms, equipments, and clothing good, but they are very short of officers. Sanitary conditions good. Battery-Inspected August 8. Aggregate able-bodied, 122; neither teams nor horses. Rams Switzerland and Mosaic: In good order and effective both as gun-boats and rams; artillerists, crews, and officers good. Aggregate effective 64.
It is my duty to report that one the 15th of May last, Mr. A. Hagewisch, of New Orleans, shipped from Yazoo City to Vicksburg, by the transport Fairchild of the Marine Brigade, by order of Brigadier-General Ellet, 129 bales of cotton, and the said Hagewisch has made affidavit to Capt. G. Q. White, assistant quartermaster of the brigade, that he paid Capt John R. Crandall, of the cavalry (who commanded that steamer) $25 per bale freight on the same, but Captain White received from Captain Crandall only $5 per bale for the same. Captain Crandell was absent from the command during my visit.
GOODRICH"S LANDINGI visited this post on the 8th instant. It is defended by an earthwork on the bank of the river, and has a sufficient garrison of about 1,140 effective who are armed. It is not recommended to set aside any reserve force at this post.
The following is the result of the inspection: Sixty-sixth U. S. Infantry (colored)-Aggregate effective strength, 524. Sanitary condition not good; sick, 126. Arms, equipments, and clothing good; discipline and instruction not bad. Officers tolerable. This regiment has been in bad condition, but is improving. It has two wagons, two horses, and thirty-four mules. Fifty-first U. S. Infantry (colored)-Aggregate effective force, 429. This regiment was in good order as to arms, equipment, clothing, and discipline. Instruction fair. Officers pretty good. Camp and police guard. Sanitary condition not bad. They had six-mule teams and four horses. First Battalion, Third U. S. Cavalry (colored)-Aggregate able-bodied, 252, of which only about 100 are mounted on horses and mules are armed. I refer to my report from Vicksburg regarding the Second and Third Battalions of this regiment; the same remarks will apply to this. Battery D, Second U. S. Light Artillery (colored)-Aggregate effective 87. They have four captured brass pieces with caissons and an outfit of mules. It is a pretty good company, in good order and progressing in instruction and drill; they handle their guns well. The post quartermaster and commissary departments were found in order; the former had four horses; eight mules, and ten wagons.
The same system of open lines and the same liberty of passing goods into the rebel dominions which has existed at the other posts on the river were found here. The quantity of supplies permitted to go out has been constantly increasing here. In May, $5,164 was passed out; in June $15,096, and in July, $24,331. I put a stop to this by issuing the same instructions as were issued at Milliken"s Bend.
MOUTH OF WHITE RIVERAt this place I found one company of infantry, which belonged to a brigade stationed some distance up White River. Their effective force is about forty men, and they are guarding about 200 bushels of commissary stores which lie on a band. They also guard a wood-yard. There is a trifling stockade for defense. So long as gun-boats remain at the mouth of the river this command will probably be safe; but as these boats are not under the military control and may leave for some other locality on a sudden call, I consider this detachment entirely unsafe. Either a stronger garrison should be left there in a strong redoubt or this one should be withdrawn. There was a store there on shore, and I ordered the captain in command to compel the owner to leave by the first boat.
HELENA, ARKI arrived at this place on the 11th and commenced inspected on the 12th. The present commander, Colonel Crooks, Sixty Minnesota Infantry, is an efficient soldier. He has been in command only a few days and has in that time introduced important reforms. He has many irregularities to correct, and will proceed with this work in the administrative department as fast as he can find the time. He has already closed his lines before arrival here, and is very strict in the enforcement of his regulations. The quartermaster"s department demands his attention, and it will receive it. There are too many clerks and other employees there. I herewith inclose a copy* of my letter of instructions to him.
I received, very unexpectedly, on the night of the 13th, orders to assume command of the District of Vicksburg, and as I must leave here for that post on the first boat I now discontinue my inspection and leave this part incomplete.
The health of the troops here is very bad indeed. This appears to be the most deadly place on the river. This fact, together with that of two of the largest regiments here now, being 100-days men, whose times expire in less than a month, renders it injudicious to recommend any reserve force here for offensive operations. The Sixth Minnesota should be immediately removed to Vicksburg to regain its health enough to make it effective. The effective force here now is about 3,100 men.
The following inspections are made; Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry-Inspected at 4.30 p.m. August 13. Aggregate effective, five companies, 326; 377 serviceable and 6 unserviceable horses. The regiments has heretofore had private horses, but they have recently been bought by the Government and in fine condition. This regiments is almost entirely unarmed, having only 185 carbines and accouterments, most of which are condemned. They require 300 sets of horse equipments, 400 carbines and accouterments, and 343 pistols. Sanitary condition good. Battery E. Second U. S. Artillery (colored)-Inspected August 13, at 6 p.m. Aggregate effective, 108. Sanitary and general condition good. They have two 3-inch rifled ordnance guns and two captured 12-pounders, eighty-three horses, and three six-mule teams in good condition. They are improving in drill and progressing well. Fifty-sixth U. S. Infantry (colored)-Inspected at 8 a.m. August 12. Aggregate effective, 780 of which 581 are at Helena and the remainder at two points four and fourteen miles below have guarding a district of plantations. They are in very indifferent condition as to discipline and officers. The colonel was lately killed in action. The major, at present commanding, was hardly responsible for the condition of the regiment, as he had only commanded it for about five days. Arms dirty and in bad order, with the exception of Company I, Capt Mohrstadt, which was in good order. Two companies on parade without knapsacks. Many deficiencies in haversacks, canteens, and cartridges. Instruction of officers in drill and tactics very deficient; knapsacks very poor and badly slung. General appearance unsoldierlike. The regiment has good material, and its bad condition is the fault of its company officers. Sanitary condition bad, and its sick report large. They have four six-mule team, and four-mule team, one two-mule team, one two-mule ambulance; two other mules and one horse, which latter was ordered to be turned over to cavalry. Sixtieth U. S. Infantry (colored)-Inspected at 10 a.m. August 12. Arms in tolerable order. Clothing, equipments, and accouterments good. Drill and instruction pretty good. Discipline good. Officers tolerably good. General appearance rather creditable. Sanitary conditions not good. This regiments garrisons the batteries of Helena. It has twelve-six-mule teams, and one two-mule ambulance, three extra mules and seven horses, two of which where ordered to be turned over to the cavalry. One hundred and forty-third Illinois Infantry-Inspected at 4 p.m. August 12. Aggregate effective 684. It is a regiments of 100-days; men, who term of service expires in a month. In tolerable condition for a regiment of that class. Arms in good firing order. Equipments good. Sanitary condition not good. It has three six mule and one two-horse ambulance. Sixth Minnesota-Inspected at 6 p.m. August 12. Aggregate effective 325. Aggregate present 937. This is an old and most excellent regiment, with a fine set of intelligent and will-instructed officers. The colonel is an excellent and educated soldier. The regiment left Cairo for this place two months ago with over 900 strong and hearty men for duty. They have been terrible afflicted at this unhealthy spot till the sick-list is now 598. It has increased in the last two days forty-five and there are a number of deaths daily. The regiment is fast going to destruction under the scourge of sickness which has assailed it, and officers and men are disheartened. Not 100 men could now march ten miles. To save this fine body of men and render them effective for the field they should be moved and kept in garrison where there are good hospitals till they are reinvigorated. I recommended that they be immediately ordered into garrison at Vicksburg. They would there probably be effective with 600 men in October. They have one four-mule wagon, one four-mule ambulance, and one extra mule. Thirty-fifth Missouri Infantry-Inspected at 8 a.m. on August 13. This regiment was inspected at ten minutes notice and entirely unprepared. There were five companies on outpost duty six miles from here guarding fords; arms, smooth-bore, muskets, caliber .69; not in good order. No field officers with the regiment and it appears to be neglected. The material is good, but it exhibits the lack of good officers and wants instructions and discipline. Many haversacks, canteens, and cartridges wanting. It has three six-mule teams and one two-horse ambulance. The horses were ordered to be turned over to the quartermaster"s department for cavalry service. Forty-seventh Iowa Infantry-Inspected at 9.30 a. m. August 13. A regiment of 100-days" men. Aggregate effective 537. Sanitary conditions bad, having a sick report of 310. Considering the ignorance of the officers and the general lack of buoyancy in the regiment owing to their belief that they were to fall victims to a bad climate, the condition of it was not so bad as was to have been expected. On the whole that portion fit for duty was not bad when we speak comparatively as of a militia regiment of such a short term of service, with officers uneducated in the profession. Their arms were not in good order, mostly dirty and rusty. The colonel (Sanford) although reported not be alarmingly ill, has taken advantage of a slight sickness to abandon a regiment of cowards, one-third of whom are sick and some dying daily, to go North on a week"s leave with the consciousness that it would be impossible for him to be back at it"s expiration. The time of the regiment expires in four weeks from the day of inspection. They had one two-mule ambulance and one horse. The assistant surgeon had a public horse which I ordered him to return to the quartermaster.
I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. J. T. DANA
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Volume 41. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.