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and a large force was thrown against onr left, where skirmish
a ing became heavy about ten o'clock, and the battle began in earnest along Stevenson's entire front about noon.
At this time Major-general Loring was ordered to move for ward, and crush the enemy in his front, and General Bowen was directed to co-operate with him in the movement. The movenient was not made by Loring. He replied that the chemy was too strongly posted to be attacked, but that he wonld avail himself of the first opportunity of successful assault. The opportunity never came to him.
Stevenson's troops sustained the heavy and repeated attacks of the enemy. Six thousand, five hundred men held in check four divisions of the enemy, numbering, from his own statement, twenty-five thousand men. Such endurance has its limits. The only reinforcements that came to the relief of these devoted men were two brigades of Bowen, among them Cockrell's gallant Missourians. This was about half-past two o'clock. The combined charge of these forces for a moment turned the tide of battle. But the enemy still continued to move troops from his left to his right, thus increasing his vastly superior forces against Stevenson's and Bowen's divisions. Again orders were despatched to General Loring to move to the left as rapidly as possible leaving force enongh only to cover the bridge and ford at Baker's Creek. He did not come. He seems still to have been engaged with the movements of the enemy in his front, and to have supposed that they were endeavoring to flank him.
In the mean time the contest raged along Stevenson’s lines, the enemy continuing his line movement to our left. Here were displays of gallantry, which, unable to retrieve the disaster, adorned it with devotion. Here fell the gallant Captain Ridley, commanding a battery, refusing to leave his guns, single-handed and alone fighting until he fell, pierced with six shots, receiving, even from his enemies, the highest tribute of admiration. Nothing could protect the ariillery horses from the deadly fire of the enemy; almost all were killed, and along the whole line, the pieces, though fought with desperation, on the part of both officers and men, almost all fell into the hands of the enemy. In this manner the gums of Corput's and Johnston's batteries, and Waddell's section, y lost.
Doulle shotted, they were fired until, in many instancias, swarms of the enemy were in amongst them. Officers and inen stood by them to the very latest moment that they could be served.
About 5 o'clock P. m., a portion of Stevenson's division broke and fell back in disorder. General Pemberton rode up to Stevenson and told him that he had repeatedly ordered two brigades of Loring to his assistance. The brave commander, who had fought the enemy since morning, replied that the relief would be too late and that he could no longer hold the field. “Finding,” says General Pemberton, “that the enemy's vastly superior numbers were pressing all my forces engaged steadily back into old fields, where all advantages of position would be in his favor, I felt it too late to save the day even should Brigadier-general Featherstone's brigade of General Loring's division come up immediately. I could, however, learn nothing of General Loring's whereabouts ; several of my staff officers were in search of him, but it was not until after General Bowen had personally informed me that he could not hold his position, and not until I had ordered the retreat, that General Loring, with Featherstone's brigade, moving, as I subsequently learned, by a country road, which was considerably longer than the direct route, reached the position on the left, known as Champion's Hill, where he was forming line of battle when he received my order to cover the retreat. Had the movement in support of the left been promptly made, when first ordered, it is not improbable that I might have maintained my position, and it is possible the enemy might have been driven back, though his vastly superior and constantly increasing numbers would have rendered it necessary to withdraw during the night to save my communications with Vicks
* In a correspondence which ensued between the Richmond authorities and General Pemberton as to the cause of the defvat, the Secretary of War wrote, in a letter dated October 1st, 1863: “I should be pleased to know if General Loring had been ordered to attack before General Cummings' brigade gava way; and whether, in your opinion, had Stevenson's division been promptly sustained, the troops with him would have fought with so little tenacity and resolution as a portion of them exhibited ? Have you had any explanation of the extraordinary failure of General Loring to comply with your reiterated or ders to attack? And do you feel assured your orders were received by himn 1
But the disaster of the day was not yet completc. The retreat of the Confederates was by the ford and bridge of Baker's Creek. Bowen's division was directed to take position on the left bank, and to hold the crossing until Loring's division, which was directed to bring up the rear, had effected the passage. The intelligence of the approach of Loring was awaited in vain. Probably another unfortunate misapprehension had occurred. He had covered the retreat with great spirit. It was in this part of the contest that Brigadier-general Lloyd Tilghman, one of the bravest officers in the Confederate army, fell, pierced through his manly breast with a fragment of a shell. He was serving with his own hands a twelve-pound howitzer, trying to dislodge a piece which was annoying the retreat. It is said that General Loring was under the impression that a force of the enemy had got in the rear of the bridge, and that Stevenson had been compelled to continue his retreat in the direction of Edwards' Depot. At any rate, he resolved to make his retreat through the east, turn Jackson, and effect a junction with the forces of General Johnston, then supposed to be near Canton. He succeeded, but with the loss of his artillery.
Pemberton had retired from the battle-field with a demoralized army. It had lost nearly all of its artillery; it was weakened by the absence of General Loring's division; it had already shown the fatal sign of straggling; and, worse than all, it had conceived a distrust of its commander, who had carried his troops by a vague and wandering march on the very front of the concentrated forces of the enemy.
On Sunday morning, the 17th of May, the enemy advanced in force against the works erected on the Big Black. The river, where it is crossed by the railroad bridge, makes a bend somewhat in the shape of a horse-shoe. Across this horse-shoe,
His conduct, unless explained by some misapprehension, is incomprehensible to me."
To this General Pemberton replied, on the 10th of November: "General Loring had been ordered to attack before General Cummings' brigade gave way and the order had been again and again repeated; and, in my opinion, had Stevenson's division been promptly sustained,' his troops would have deported themselves gallantly and creditably. I have received no explanation of the extraordinary failure of General Loring to comply with my reiterated orders to attack; and I do feel assured that my orders were received by him.'"
at its narrowest part, a line of rifle-pits had been constructed, making an excellent cover for infantry, and, at proper intervals, dispositions were made for field artillery. The line of pits ran nearly north and south, and was about a mile in length. North of, and for a considerable distance south of the railroad, and of a dirt-road to Edwards' Depot, nearly parallel with it extended a bayou, which, in itself, opposed a serious obstacle to an assault upon the pits. This line abutted north on the river, and south upon a cypress brake, which spread itself nearly to the bank of the river. In addition to the railroad bridge, which had been floored for the passage over of artillery and wagons, & steamer, from which the machinery had been taken, was converted into a bridge, by placing her fore-andaft across the river. Between the works and the bridge, about three-quarters of a mile, the country was open, being either clear or cultivated fields, affording no cover should the troops be drawn froin the trenches. East and north of the railroad, the country over which the enemy must necessarily pass was similar to those above described ; but north of the railroad, and about three hundred yards in front of the rifle-pits,' a copse of wood extended from the road to the river. Our line was manned on the right by the gallant Cockrell's Missouri brigade, the extreme left by Brigadier general Green's Missouri and Arkansas men, both of Bowen's division, and the centre by Brigadier-general Vaughan's brigade of east Tennesseeans, in all about four thousand men, as many as could be advantageously employed in defending the line with about twenty pieces of field artillery.
The position was one of extraordinary strength, yet this position was abandoned by our troops, almost without a struggle, and with the loss of nearly all that remained of our artillery.
It would be well if this page could be omitted from our martial records, and its dishonor spared. But it is easily told, and the charitable reader is already prepared for it. Early in the morning the enemy opened his artillery at long range, and very soon pressed forward, with infantry, into the copse of wood north of the railroad; about the same time he opened on Colonel Cockrell's position with two batteries, and advanced a line of skirmishers, throwing forward a column of infantry,
which was quickly driven back by our batteries. Pretty heavy skirmishing was, for awhile, kept up along our whole line, but presently the enemy, who had massed a large force in the woods immediately north of the railroad, advanced at a run with loud cheers. Our troops in their front did not remain to receive them, but broke and fled precipitately.
The retreat was disgraceful. It soon became a matter of sauve qui peut. A strong position, with an ample force of infantry and artillery to hold it, was shamefully abandoned, almost without resistance. Between the troops occupying the centre and the enemy there was an almost impassable bayou. They fled before the enemy had reached that obstacle. In this precipitate retreat but little order was observed, the object with all being to reach the bridge as rapidly as possible. Many were unable to do so, but effected their escape by swimming the river; some were drowned in the attempt. A considerable number, unable to swim, and others too timid to expose themselves to the fire of the enemy by an effort to escape, remained in the trenches, and were made prisoners. A captain, who disgraced the Confederate uniform, laid down in the rifle-pits, and was captured by the enemy. Another behaved more bravely. Captain Osborne, of the Thirty-sixth Georgia, took his place just behind his line, and, with drawn revolver, swore he would shoot the first unwounded man who turned his back. The consequence was that his company, and the fragment of another, were soon left alone in the field where the steady line of the enemy were advancing under the smoke of their own murderous fire. Completely flanked, and in peril of capture, he gave the order to "march a retreat," but still with revolver and voice checking any unwise or unbecoming haste. When satisfied with his distance, he halted his company, and dressed the line; just then General Cumming rode up, and, taking off his hat, said: "Captain, I compliment you upon having the only organized body of men on the field."
Lieutenant-general Pemberton rode up and down the lines trying to rally the men; but his courage was not well rewarded. One of his staff threatened to shoot a runaway with his pistol. "Bigger guns than that, back there," said the soldier, and went on.