Page images
PDF
EPUB

which, until quite recently, they had ardently supported

Large numbers of negroes were here furnished for the various regiments of colored troops which at this time were being raised at Vicksburg and other points. In this manner their accumulation on the hands of the military commander was in a measure avoided, and the freedmen were made of important use to the Government.

While the Ninety-fifth was in camp at Natchez, General McArthur, commanding the division, paid a visit to his troops at this post, and, on invitation from Colonel Humphrey, attended a dress parade of this regiment. The colonel had duly prepared his men for such exhibition, and by constant drill had trained them to proficiency in this beautiful military exercise. He caused the colors to be escorted to and from the parade ground strictly in accordance with the tactics, a part which other regiments seldom performed, but which always adds interest to the parade, and shows a due respect and protection for the flag of the Union — ever to be defended and never surrendered. The general expressed himself greatly pleased with the appearance of the regiment, and he and his staff joined in the opinion that they had never witnessed a more perfect dress parade during the service.

A Natchez many of the officers and enlisted men obtained leave of absence and furloughs, and improved the opportunity of visiting their homes in the North. After the surrender of Vicksburg, General Grant decided, with great liberality and kindness, that these favors should be extensively granted to the troops who had followed him through the recent campaigns which they had helped him crown with success. As there was to be no farther general campaign in the Southwest during the fall, most of the soldiers could enjoy these privileges of visiting home without detri. ment to the service.

About the middle of October, 1863, the brigade, (now commanded by Brigadier General Thomas K. Smith,) was ordered from Natchez to Vicksburg. The regiment remained at the latter place during the fall and winter, assisting in constructing the Federal fortifications around the city, and performing garrison, picket and other duties. It had now been in the service a little over one year, and had become greatly reduced in numbers by deaths in battle and from disease, discharges, and transfers to other commands. The President, during the same fall, called for three hundred thousand more men to fill up the depleted ranks in the field, and recruiting parties were sent North by the different regiments for this purpose.

Early in November, 1863, Captain C. B. Loop, of Company“B,” Captain James Nish, of Company “I,” and Captain A. S. Stewart, of Company “ A,” accompanied by several non-commissioned officerswere detailed to proceed North and obtain recruits for the Ninety-fifth. They forwarded a large number to the regiment during the same winter, filling it to more than a minimum number,

CHAPTER V.

Expeditions from Vicksburg in Spring of 1864 - Sherman's March

to Meridian Colonel Coates' defense of Yazoo City — The Red River Expedition - Taking of Fort DeRussey - Ninety-fifth detailed to destroy the works Arrival at Alexandria — March to Grand Ecore - Ascending the River on Transports — Battle of Pleasant Hill — Retreat ordered by General Banks — Return of the Fleet – Running Batteries at Vandares - Ninety-fifth as Rear Guard of Banks' Army - Two Days' Fight at Clouterville - Retreat to Alexandria - Battle of Yellow Bayou - Evacuation of the Red River Country - Return of the Ninety-fifth to Vicks burg.

EARLY in the spring of 1864, several expeditions were organized at Vicksburg for the purpose of visiting certain interior sections of the Confederacy, where the Federal arms had not yet penetrated, where rebellion was yet defiant, and from whence it continued to receive important means of support.

The first of these was organized by General Sherman, and set out from Vicksburg in the fore part of February, in the direction of Montgomery, Alabama. It consisted of the 16th Army Corps, under Major General Hurlbut, and the 17th, commanded by Major General McPherson. Crossing the Big Black river at the bridge, this force swept on toward Jackson, the two corps taking different roads. The enemy were found in position three miles out from Jackson, and were attacked and routed by the advancing Federal columns. The army crossed Pearl river upon pontoons, and advanced rapidly as far east as Meridian, Mississippi, where important railroad communications, arsenals and Confederate stores were successfully destroyed.

This expedition was absent about twenty days, and having accomplished its objects, returned to Vicksburg in the latter part of February.

General Sherman, prior to leaving Vicksburg on the Meridian "raid," sent Colonel James H. Coates with the Eleventh Illinois, a colored regiment, and a small force of cavalry, up the Yazoo valley, with orders to proceed cautiously and attract the attention of a force of rebel cavalry known to be in that vicinity watching the movements going on at Vicksburg. This cavalry was under Ross and Richardson, and they intended to make a dash upon the lengthy wagon train of General Sherman's army. It was Colonel Coates' mission to divert their attention, and prevent the consummation of their object. Ascending the Yazoo with his small command, to Sartatia, he here encoun

« PreviousContinue »