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

HDQRS

HDQRS. U.S. FORCES OPERATING FROM PENSACOLA BAY,

Camp near Blakely, Ala., April 12, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that in pursuance of Special Orders, No. 57, Military Division of West Mississippi, I arrived at Barrancas and commenced organizing the forces to operate from Pensacola Bay on the 1st ultimo.

On the 11th Brig. Gen. C. C. Andrews, with two brigades of his division, was sent to Pensacola to repair the central wharf, which, as well as the other wharves at that place, had been nearly destroyed by the rebels. This work was accomplished in a most satisfactory manner, and a railroad track laid along the wharf and up to the store-houses in town, to which our supplies were afterward taken. On the 19th a general forward movement commenced. Colonel Spurling, Second Maine Cavalry, was ordered by water to Creigler's Mills with the effective force of his regiment and that of the Second Illinois and First Florida Cavalry, aggregate 847. The rest of the command concentrated at Pensacola, as follows: Brig. Gen. C. C. Andrews, infantry and artillery, effective, 5,201; Brig. Gen. J.P. Hawkins, infantry, effective, 5,037; Brig. Gen. T. J. Lucas, cavalry, effective, 1,766. Total, 12,004. Colonel Spurling, having sent in advance a party to Milton to drive away the rebel outpost there and cover his landing, succeeded in getting his command ready to move from Creigler's Mills early on the morning of the 21st, and proceeded to carry out the instructions already reported. On the 20th the column at Pensacola moved on the road toward Pollard. The head of the column reached a point eleven miles and the rear only four miles from Pensacola that day, a heavy rain having set in which reordered the roads almost impassable. Henceforward in order to get our artillery and trains along it became necessary to corduroy the roads. The streams were higher than they had been for many years. On reaching Pine Barren Creek on the 23d we found the bridge gone, and spent all the next day in replacing it with one 300 yards long, and built on piles which the men sunk by hand, diving under the water to start them. Up to this time a few of the enemy's pickets had been encountered and dispersed. On the 25th Lucas' cavalry brigade, in advance, drove the enemy from a line of log defenses stretching across a narrow ridge over which the road passed. This work commanded the road and crossing over Cotton Creek. General Lucas was directed to push on until he should get possession of the bridge over the Big Escambia, and to pursue the enemy so closely that he could not destroy the bridge. At Mitchell's Creek the enemy partially destroyed the bridge and made a stand on the opposite bank, but was soon driven from his position. At Bluff Springs the enemy, under command of Brig. Gen. J. H. Clanton, drew up in order of battle, skirmish line dismounted. General Lucas immediately charged, completely routing the enemy, killing and wounding some, and capturing 119 prisoners. Among the latter were 18 commissioned officers, including the general commanding, who was severely wounded. Of those who escaped capture, some sought refuge in the swamps and the rest were so hotly pursued to Big Escambia bridge that some of them, not knowing that a span had been swept away by the flood, jumped into the river and were drowned with their horses. Major Perry, of General Lucas' staff, and a few of the men in hot pursuit of the rebels, also jumped off the broken pier, but escaped with the loss of their horses and equipments. The enemy had a field-work on the opposite side of the river mounting two or three pieces of artillery, which opened upon Lucas, but were soon silenced by Marland's battery and gotten off before men enough to capture them could get across the river. The work was occupied by the cavalry until General Andrews came up with one of his brigades. Detachments of cavalry had been kept out to drive in the enemy's pickets and outposts on our flanks to cover our movements and bewilder the enemy. General Lucas in the management of his command exhibited such skill and boldness as to take the enemy by surprise. The charge at Bluff Springs was headed by the First Louisiana Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Badger. Both officers and men behaved in the most gallant style. Our loss in this affair was only 1 officer killed and 1 wounded, and 1 man killed and 3 wounded. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded was much greater than ours, but the number is not definitely known. The battle-flag of the Sixth Alabama Cavalry was captured by Private Thomas Riley,(*) Company D, First Louisiana Cavalry.

General Andrews was sent early on the morning of the 26th to Pollard to take possession of Government property, collect supplies, and if possible to communicate with Colonel Spurling. Cavalry detachments were also sent out for similar purposes. Most of the corn and subsistence stores collected in the depot at Pollard for the rebel troops had been carried off by the local troops and citizens on learning that Clanton was defeated. Our subsistence stores and forage were now getting short, we having failed to get a supply up the Escambia by steamer. A bar was formed at the mouth of the river during the late freshet which interrupted navigation. The country through which we were passing was almost destitute of supplies. Spurling arrived at Pollard with his command on the evening of the 26th, having fully accomplished the object of his expedition. He cut the telegraph line and railroad track between Evergreen and Greenville before day on the 24th, and captured both the up and down trains, 2 1ocomotives, and 14 cars loaded with Government stores, which he destroyed. One hundred officers and men were taken on the train going to Mobile. Having done sufficient damage to the road to prevent its being used by the rebels he proceeded toward Pollard. At Sparta 6 more cars were destroyed and the depot with a large amount of stores burned. Before reaching Pollard he captured 20 more prisoners in skirmishes, and brought in 200 negroes and 250 horses and mules, without the loss of a man. General Clanton signed a parole for himself and the wounded men who were pronounced by the surgeons unable to travel. For the same reason Colonel  Spurling paroled Lieutenant Watts, son of the Governor of Alabama, of General Clanton's staff. On the 27th head of the column reached Canoe Station in heavy rain; roads very bad. This had been headquarters of General Armistead's brigade, composed of the Sixth and Eighth Alabama Cavalry. Armistead in his flight from Bluff Springs passed here with a few of his men, and has not been heard of since by anybody in this region. Considerable corn was found at the depot, but the citizens from the surrounding country had made the best use of the time allowed them in carrying off the rebel supplies. Some ox teams sent there for this purpose were used as beef for our troops. The roads continued to grow worse and supplies more scarce to Weatherford, which was reached by part of the command on the 29th. Two hundred picked cavalrymen, under Major Perry, were sent to Montgomery Landing to obtain information, capture a steamboat if possible, and bring back corn and cattle. This detachment rejoined the column on the 30th at the junction of the roads ten miles from Stockton, bringing beef enough for distribution. We had succeeded in communicating with the major-general commanding, and here received orders to proceed to Holyoke, but want of forage and rations compelled us to turn toward Stockton, which we reached on the afternoon of the 31st, and found in the vicinity corn and beef enough to supply the command for several days and a good gristmill.

On the 1st Colonel Spurling's command was sent ahead of the column to ascertain the best route to Holyoke to communicate with headquarters in regard to our movements, &c. About four miles and a half from Blakely and one mile from where the road forks toward Holyoke he found the road barricaded, and a strong picket or outpost, composed of cavalry and infantry, which he charged, capturing the battle-flag of the Forty sixth Mississippi Infantry and 74 prisoners, including 3 commissioned officers. Just as Lucas' cavalry and Hawkins' division were about to encamp at Carpenter's Station, information was received that Spurling was fighting in advance, and they moved rapidly to his support. The enemy was driven into his works at Blakely by the cavalry, withdrawing his outposts at Sibley's Mills, where there were several pieces of artillery in position. During Spurling's charge a horse was blown to pieces and the rider badly wounded by the explosion of a torpedo. The prisoners were made to dig up those remaining in this road. Major McEntee returned with communication from General Canby, directing me to make Holyoke that night if practicable. Hawkins' division had marched eighteen or nineteen miles, and Andrews was unable, being in rear, to get beyond Carpenter's Station before sunset. He was ordered to encamp here and tear up a portion of the railroad track. A regiment of Hawkins' division was sent to relieve the cavalry in possession of the bridge at Sibley's Mills. It was my intention to move toward Holyoke as soon as Andrews should get up in the morning, but the enemy made an attack upon our picket-lines with a strong line of skirmishers well supported. Hawkins was directed to repel this attack, which he did, advancing in line of battle, one brigade in reserve and his front covered by a line of skirmishers, until the enemy was pushed back to his works. General Andrews' two brigades now came up. As I had been informed by the general commanding that Blakely was soon to be invested, I thought it best to hold the ground we had gained, as it would deprive the enemy of his works commanding the bridge across Bayou Minette at Sibley's Mills, and would render it impossible for him to plant subterra shells on the approaches which we could hold. I directed Andrews to take position on the left of Hawkins, and reported to headquarters for further orders. The infantry of my command had now completed a march of about 100 miles from Barrancas, 70 of which the road passed over swamps and quicksands, 50 of which they corduroyed and bridged. Although they could not move with celerity enough to engage the enemy, they gave moral force to the expedition, which probably would not have been successful without this part of the command. I desire to call the attention of the general commanding especially to the following-named officers: Brig. Gen. T. J. Lucas, U.S. Volunteers; Lieut. Col. A. B. Spurling, Second Maine Cavalry; Lieut. Col. A. S. Badger, First Louisiana Cavalry; First Lieut. Alfred Shaffer, First Louisiana Cavalry; Capt. Joseph L. Coppoc, Forty-seventh U.S. Colored Infantry, for valuable services in building bridges. Attention is respectfully invited to the inclosed copies of the reports of subordinate commanders.

Very respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant,

 F. STEELE,

 Major-General, Commanding.

 Lieut. Col. C. T. CHRISTENSEN,

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Military Division of West Mississippi.

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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.

 


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Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Reports | Tags: Mississippi , Florida , Alabama , Louisiana , Washington , Illinois
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1865, 1880, 1901, 24th, 25th, 27th, 30th, Alabama, Andrews, Blake, Cavalry, Duro, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Military Division of West Mississippi, Mississippi, Montgomery, Pensacola (Florida), Railroad, Springs, The War of the Rebellion (Book), United States War Department, War Department,