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

November 23 - December 4, 1864 - Expedition from Vicksburg to Yazoo City, Miss and Skirmish at Big Black Bridge (November 27), and Action at Concord Church (December 1).

CONTENTS

Report of Maj. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby, U. S. Army, commanding Military Division of West Mississippi

ADDENDA - GENERAL ORDERS, No. 303. WAR DEPT, ADJT, GENERAL'S OFFICE

Report of Maj. Gen Napoleon J. T. Dana, U. S. Army, commanding Districts of West Tennessee and Vicksburg

GENERAL ORDERS No 6. HQTRS DEPT. OF THE MISSISSIPPI Memphis, Tenn, December 21, 1864

Reports of Col. Embury D. Osband, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, commanding expedition

Report of Maj. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby, U. S. Army, commanding Military Division of West Mississippi.

 

HDQTRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF WEST MISSISSIPPI New Orleans, LA, December 9, 1864

 

On the 25th Ultimo I reported that movements co-operative with General Sherman's operations would be made from Vicksburg and Baton Rouge for the purpose of cutting Hood's communications with Mobile.* The expedition sent from Vicksburg, and consisting of about 2,000 cavalry and 8 pieces of artillery, commanded by Col. E. D. Osband, Third Colored Cavalry, returned on the 4th instant, having met with a complete success. After an admirable executed feint movement on Jackson on the 24th, the expedition started for the Big Black Bridge on the Mississippi Central Railroad, which was reached on the 27th and after a stubborn resistance captured and destroyed. This cuts Hood's army off from the large quantities of supplies and stores accumulated at Jackson, Miss, and makes that railroad, which was his main reliance, unavailable to him for months to come. Besides this important bridge and trestle-work, the following property was completely destroyed: 30 miles of track, wagon bridge over the big Black, Vaughn, Pickett, and Goodman stations (railroad depots and buildings,) 2,600 bales of C. S. cotton, 2 locomotives, 4 cars, 4 stage coaches, 20 barrels salt, 166,000 worth of stores at Vaughn Station. The expedition was considerably harassed on its return by large bodies of the enemy's troops, but suffered no material losses, and brought back more recruits that the entire loss in effective men.

Maj. J. B. Cook, commanding the Third Colored Cavalry, distinguished himself and his regiments greatly by the gallantry with which the force guarding the Big Black Bridge were driven off from behind their strong stockade on the opposite side of the river. Our men had to charge across the bridge dismounted with nothing but railroad ties for a path, and in the face of a sharp fire. I have announced Major Cook, in general stores, as promoted to the vacant lieutenant-colonelcy of the regiment, subject to the approval of the President. General Davidson's expedition, which left Baton Rouge on the 27th, has not yet been heard from directly, but to judge from the meager accounts received through rebel sources, I have reason to believe that he has been successful. He had caused quite a panic in Mobile and was reported as devastated the country generally. After accomplishing the purpose for which he was sent, he will probably come out at Pascagoula or some other point of the gulf. Lieutenant Earl, commanding a special party of scouts, and whom I recently recommended for promotion by brevet, has, I regret to say, fallen into the hands of the enemy. On the 30th of November, while passing through Fayette, Miss, on an expedition to co-operate with Generals Dana and Davidson, he was fired upon from a house in the town and wounded severely in the face and breast. His case was so critical that he would not let his men take him away, and the rebels have since then moved him into the interior. If he survives I shall use every exertion to have him exchanged at an early day.

E. R. S. Canby,
Major-General, Commanding
Maj. Gen. G. W. Halleck
Chief of Staff of the Army, Washington, D. C.

ADDENDA

WAR DEPT, ADJT, GENERAL'S OFFICE

GENERAL ORDERS,
No. 303
The following General Orders, No. 81, from the headquarters Military division of West Mississippi, is approved by the President of the United States:

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF WEST MISSISSIPPI
New Orleans, La, December 9, 1864
GENERAL ORDERS,
No. 81

Subject to the approval of the President of the United States, Maj. J. B. Cook, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, is hereby promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of that regiment to date from the 27th of November, 1864, in consideration of the gallantry displayed by him on that day, when, with his men dismounted and having nothing but railroad ties for a path, he charged over the Big Black bridge, near Cantos Miss, in the face of a heavy fire, drove off the rebel force stationed on the opposite shore behind a strong stockade, and destroyed the bridge, by which the main line of the rebel General Hood's communications with his depots in South Mississippi and Alabama were effectually cut off. The major-general commanding the Districts of West Tennessee and Vicksburg styles this affair as "one of the most daring and heroic acts of the war."

By order of Maj. Gen E. R. S. Canby:

C. T. CHRISTENSEN
Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General
By order of the Secretary of War:
E. D. TOWNSEND

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Report of Maj. Gen Napoleon J. T. Dana, U. S. Army, commanding Districts of West Tennessee and Vicksburg

HDQRS DISTRICTS OF WEST TENNESSEE AND VICKSBURG
Vicksburg, December 4, 1864

SIR. I have the honor to transmit herewith the reports of Col. E. D. Osband, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, commanding Cavalry forces District of Vicksburg, of the cavalry expedition sent by me from Vicksburg on the 23d ultimo, as projected in my letter to Brig. Gen. J. W. Davidson, chief of cavalry Military Division of West Mississippi, of 18th ultimo, and my letter to you of 22d ultimo.

Leaving Vicksburg at daylight on November 23, the expedition, consisting of 2,200 cavalry, eight pieces of artillery, and a pontoon train, arrived at Big Black River at 1 p.m. same day, and laid the pontoon bridge over the Big Black. On 24th the Eleventh Illinois and Second Wisconsin Cavalry, Major Dale, Second Wisconsin, commanding, crossed and proceeded scouting toward Jackson, returning and recrossing at night without meeting the enemy, although subsequent information satisfies me that some 3,000 of the enemy were in line of battle on the Jackson road to contest the advance. The bridge was taken up, started back to Vicksburg under escort, and the column moved toward Yazoo City on morning of 25th marching thirty-seven miles that day, bivouacking near Mechanicsburg; marched thirty six miles on 26th, bivouacking near Benton; struck the Big Black bridge on 27th and reached Yazoo City on 29th. The last of the troops returned to Vicksburg tonight December 4. The entire plan, as detailed by me to yourself and General Davidson, was completely carried out by Colonel Osband, completely deceiving the enemy, and the expedition was a signal success; he brings back more recruits than his entire loss in effective force, and reports the destruction of the very important long railroad bridge and trestle at the crossing of the Mississippi Central Railroad over the Big Black River, Near Canton Miss, thus cutting off the supplies and stores accumulated at Jackson, Miss from Hood's Army, and severing railroad communications between Corinth, Jackson, Meridian, and Mobile; this together with the burning of piles and sore houses full or corn and grain, and 30 miles track, wagon road bridge over Big Black Vaughn Station (railroad depot and buildings) Pickett Station (railroad depot and buildings), Goodman Station (railroad depot and buildings), 2,600 bales of C. S. cotton, 2 locomotives, 4 cars, 4 stage coaches, 20 barrels salt, $166,000 worth of stores at Vaughn Station makes it one of the heaviest blows lately dealt the rebellion, as it directly affects the efficiency of Hood's army now on the Tennessee River, dependent on this railroad and these supplies. Information just received for a deserter shows that there were at least two brigades of cavalry and one brigade of infantry closing in on Colonel Osband at Yazoo City, thus confirming his impressions of the superiority of the rebel forces.

Requesting that Colonel Osband's well-deserved mention of officers and commands may receive the attention of the major-general commanding division.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

N. J. T. DANA,
Major-General
**********************
I cannot close this report without calling attention to Maj. J. B. Cook, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, for some time past in command of the regiment. The intelligence, industry, and devotion to the service with the long list of gallant deeds constantly enacted by Major Cook, entitle him to consideration, while in my judgment the best interests of the service demand his rapid advancement. The charge over the railroad trestle-work and bridge by dismounted cavalry, led by Major Cook, was one of the most dashing and heroic acts of the war. As an act of simple justice, I recommend his immediate promotion to the lieutenant-colonelcy of his regiment now vacant.

N.J. T DANA.
Major-General
Lieut. Col. C. T. Christensen
Asst. Adjt, Gen, Hdqrs. Mil. Div. West Miss., New Orleans, La.
*************************

HQTRS DEPT. OF THE MISSISSIPPI
Memphis, Tenn, December 21, 1864 GENERAL ORDERS No 6

The following communication from the general commanding Military division of West Mississippi is published for the information of this command:

New Orleans, LA, December 9, 1864
Maj Gen. N. J. T. Dana
Commanding Districts of West Tennessee and Vicksburg, Memphis Tenn.

GENERAL: Your report of the 4th instant has been received, and I learn with the sincere gratification of the successful results of the expedition sent by you on the 23rd of last month for the destruction of the rebel General Hoods most important line of communication. Be please, general, to accept my thanks for the skill with which you planned the details of this expedition and the excellent precautions taken to insure its perfect success, and convey to the officers and me, who shared its honors and dangers and especially to Colonel Osband and Lieutenant-Colonel Cook, of the Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, and Major Dale of the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, who was seriously wounded while leading his men against a superior force of the enemy, my warmest acknowledgement of the gallantry, the rapidity of movement, and the exemplary good order which marked throughout one of the most successful expeditions of its kind that has been undertaken during the present war.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ED R. S. CANBY
Major-General Commanding
The major-general commanding department assures his officers and men that merit, gallantry, and enterprise shall always meet with recognition and reward.

By order of Maj. Gen. N. J. T. Dana:

T. H. HARRIS
Lieutenant Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General
==============================================================

Reports of Col. Embury D. Osband, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, commanding expedition.

HEADQUARTERS EXPEDITION
Yazoo City, December 1, 1864
CAPTAIN. I have the honor to report that I burned the railroad bridge on Sunday last (November 27) and thirty miles of railroad on Monday, and reached here without serious loss on the 29th at 1 p.m. I rested yesterday, but I still find my stock much disabled. Haring rumors of the concentration of the enemy for my capture, I sent this morning detachments on each road, all of which found some portions of the enemy. The Second Wisconsin, 250 strong, found about 1,500 of the enemy, part cavalry and part infantry; no artillery was used, but I know they have four batteries. From 25 to 50 of the Second Wisconsin were killed, wounded, and missing. Major Dale was severely wounded in the ankle. At 4 p.m. judging that with so large a force in my front I could not move to Vicksburg on this side the river, I commenced crossing to the other side. I judge that I shall have my command is the saddle on the west bank of the Yazoo River by 3. A.m. tomorrow, and expect to reach the month of the Big Sunflower by noon tomorrow. I desire you to send to me at that point transports sufficient for my command and the gun-boat Vindicator, although transports unattended can come with safety to this point. I anticipate no trouble here tonight and believe I can make the movement successfully without loss. I am compelled to send the Shenango with sick and wounded although the rebels may have batteries at Liverpool and Sartesia The Prairie Bird will assist her as much as possible. I believe the present movement of the Confederate forces quite formidable, and may be Vicksburg in view, although the destruction of the railroad will prevent rapid movement for some days. Almost of these troops operating against me came over the railroad from Grenada, and perhaps higher up. I trust the transports will be sent immediately, as I have no rations.

Respectfully,

E. D. OSBAND
Colonel, Commanding Expedition
One of the transports should bring me 10,000 rations and four days, forage for 2,200 men and 2,500 horses and mules, unless transports enough to take the whole command are sent, when the forage will not be needed.

Respectfully,

E. D. OSBAND
Colonel, &c
Capt F. W. Fox
Assistant Adjutant General

===============================================================

HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY FORCES
Vicksburg, Miss, December 4, 1864

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that, pursuant to the order of the major-general commanding, I moved with my command to Big Black railroad bridge on the morning of the 23d of November. Desiring to make a feint of attack on Jackson, Miss, the pontoon bridge was laid on the morning of the 24th and a scout of two regiments was sent out under Maj. N. B. Dale, Second Wisconsin Cavalry Volunteers who proceeded to Baker's Creek, meeting no force of the enemy. On the 25th of November, leaving the pontoon bridge in charge of the Fifth U. S. Colored Artillery (heavy) the command moved toward Benton and camped at Wesley Chapel, moving, on the 26th of November, to within three miles of Benton, and still found no enemy. On the morning of the 27th of November we marched at daylight, and the advance of a column, under Maj. J. B. Cook, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry, cut the telegraph on the railroad beyond Deasonville, and in sight of Vaughn Station, at 12:30 p.m. The railroad bridge across Big Black by four miles below, without any approach save the railroad track, and artillery could not be taken to it. Other expeditions had attempted to burn it, and failed. Since the attempt of General McArthur last May it had been strengthened by a stockade this side the river, the approach to which was over the railroad trestle work twenty-five feet high. I sent the Third U. S. Colored Calvary, Major J. B. Cook commanding to burn it. He advance his men, dismounted down the track, with one company proceeding him on each flank in the swamp below. When some distance from the bridge the skirmishing became warm, and the back of the river and the recently erected stockade were carried with some difficulty. Repeated volleys at thirty yards' range falling to dislodge them from the stockade on the other side of the river. Major Cook formed three companies on the trestle-work, and, with only the railroad ties for a path, charged and carried the stockade under a heavy fire, the enemy only retiring when his advance was literally inside the stockade. Being heavily reinforced from Ways' Bluff Station, one mile distant, the Confederates attempted to regain their lost ground, and failed. When brush and dry trees had been gathered sufficient to burn the heavy timbers, the long trestle-work beyond the bridge, and the half mile on this side, were fired, the wind favoring, the whole of the trestle work and the major part of the bridge were consumed, repeated volleys from our men keeping the rebels from interference. The rebels left three dead, our loss, three wounded. This gallant affair reflects great credit upon Major Cook and the officers and men under his command.

In the meantime, the balance of the men had not been idle. The Fifth Illinois Cavalry, Col. John McConnell commanding, tore up and burned one mile of track, bending every rail and throwing away the chairs. The Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, Major Burbridge commanding tore one mile and a half of track, burning and vending every rail. They also burned railroad supplies at Vaughn Station $106,000 worth of railroad supplies (as per bill), 100 bales C. S. A. cotton 20 barrels salt, 4 stage coaches, large piles of grain, &c. On Monday, the 29th, Major Burbridge proceeded to Pickett Station burning all trestle work, railroad buildings, 1,200 bales, C. S. A. cotton together with large amounts of wheat and corn. The command moved toward Goodman, burning long lines of high and important trestlework. When two miles from Goodman, I sent forward the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry and Fifty Illinois Cavalry, under Col,. John McConnell, to burn railroad there. One battalion Fifth Illinois Cavalry, under colonel McConnell's orders proceeded to wagon road bridge over big Black, and although meeting fully their number of Confederates, drove them across the bridge and burned it. Colonel McConnell burnt railroad buildings at Goodman, 1,300 bales C. S. A. cotton, large amounts of corn, and wheat, 2 engines and 4 cars. The railroad is destroyed for thirty miles and cannot be repaired by the Confederates in two months with any force at their command. The importance of this must be apparent. The Black River Valley groans with its weight of corn, wheat, cattle and hogs. The railroad was finished to Jackson, Tenn, and supplies were being hurried to Hood's army. Three trains of infantry were sent to the relief of Jackson the night preceding the one in which the bridge was burnt, who will now be compelled either to walk back or wait. On the 29th of November, retracing our steps, we occupied Yazoo City at 1 p.m. our pickets being strongly attacked a few hours later. It is probable that the city would have been occupied by the enemy had we not taken possession as we did. The 30th was given to resting our tired horses.

Rumors coming of an advance of the enemy, our lines were strengthened. So numerous became these rumors that the order to march out at daylight of the 1st of December was countermanded, and instead scouting parties sent out on all the roads for information. The enemy was found on each road in more or less force, but strongest on the Vicksburg road, on which I had sent Major N. Ha. Dale with 250 men of the Second Wisconsin Cavalry. He moved at daylight, and driving before him a few of the enemy passed the junction of the Yazoo city and Benton roads. Here, at some negro quarters, some strength was shown by the enemy, and two companies were dismounted to dislodge them. Finding these about to be flanked, two other companies were dismounted and sent to their assistance. Just beyond these quarters a dense undergrowth of scrub oak commenced, and when the enemy were driven back to this, they appeared in great numbers, and suddenly charging our men, drove them, capturing a part of Company E, Second Wisconsin Cavalry. Major Dale being previously wounded in the ankle, fainted from loss of blood, and pain, but despite this, the detachment reformed and twice repulsed the charges made upon them, with loss to the enemy. The command was withdrawn without confusion. Careful officers estimate the number of the enemy at form 1,500 to 3,000 men, and their loss at 75 men killed and wounded. Our loss was 5 enlisted killed, 1commissioned officer wounded, 8 enlisted men wounded, 1 commissioned officer missing, 24 enlisted men missing. From the fact that a portion of this force was infantry, that they occupied a very strong position, that lay directly in my road, and that I could not flank because they used no artillery, although having plenty, I determined I ought not to risk defeat without a base to fall back upon, or supplies of any kind in case delayed, and therefore commences crossing the Yazoo River with my command at 4 p.m. At 8 a.m. of the 2d, we finished crossing in safety, and moved to the mouth of the Big Sunflower, where they now await transportation to this city. The Shenango was fired into at Short Creek, and one enlisted man of the fifth Illinois Cavalry severely wounded.

I desire to return my thanks to Captain Gorringe, of the Vindicator; Captain Burns, of the Prarie Bird, and each commanding officer of each regiment and battery, for their full co-operation and cheerful and prompt obedience to all orders issued.

During the entire march the most perfect order has been maintained, winning even from the Confederate citizens encomiums on our discipline. The men returned in excellent health, but many valuable horses are broken down. The loss of hay for three months past is painfully apparent, and many valuable animals have been lost on account of their diseased condition cause by lack of hay. Hay at any price is economy to the Government, and adds to our efficiency fully one-third to one-half.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

E. D. OSBAND
Colonel, Third U. S. Colored Cavalry,
Commanding Cavalry Forces, District of Vicksburg

Capt F. W. Fox
Assistant Adjutant General

SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Reports - Union | Tags: Mississippi , Tennessee , Alabama , Washington , Illinois , Wisconsin
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