REPORT 3

 Report of Col. Giles A. Smith, Eighth Missouri Infantry, commanding First Brigade
 
 

HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., SECOND DIV., FIFTEENTH A.C., 
Young’s Point, La., March 28, 1863


     CAPTAIN:  I have the honor to report the movements of the First Brigade in the expedition up Steele’s Bayou, Black Bayou, and Deer Creek.
     The Sixth Missouri and One hundred and sixteenth Illinois Regiments embarked at the mouth of Muddy Bayou on the evening of Thursday, March 18 [19], and proceeded up Steele’s Bayou to the mouth of Black; thence up Black Bayou to Hill’s plantation and junction with Deer Creek, where we arrived on Friday at 4 p.m., where we joined the Eighth Missouri, Lieutenant Colonel Coleman commanding, which had arrived at that point two days before. General Sherman had also established his headquarters here, having preceded the Eighth Missouri in a tug, with no other escort than two or three of his personal staff, reconnoitering all the different bayous and branches, thereby greatly facilitating the movements of the troops, but at the same time exposing himself beyond precedent in a commanding general.
     At 3 o’clock on Saturday morning, the 20th [21st] instant, General Sherman having received a communication from Admiral Porter, at the mouth of Rolling Fork, asking for a speedy co-operation of the land forces with his fleet, I was ordered by General Sherman to be ready with all the available force at that point to accompany him to his relief; but before starting it was arranged that I would proceed, with the force at hand (800 men), while he remained, again entirely unprotected, to hurry up the troops expected to arrive that night, consisting of the Thirteenth Infantry and One hundred and thirteenth Illinois Volunteers, completing my brigade, and the Second Brigade, Col. T. Kilby Smith, commanding.
     This, as the sequel showed, proved a very wise measure, and resulted in the safety of the whole fleet. At daybreak we were in motion with a negro guide. We had proceeded but about 6 miles when we found the enemy had been very busy felling trees to obstruct the creek. All the negroes along the route had been notified to be ready at nightfall to continue the work. To prevent this as much as possible, I ordered all able-bodied negroes to be taken along, and warned some of the principal inhabitants that they would be held responsible for any more obstructions being placed along the creek.
     We reached the admiral about 4 p.m., with no opposition save my advance guard (Company A., Sixth Missouri) being fired into from the opposite side of the creek, killing 1 man and slightly wounding another. Having no way of crossing, we had to content ourselves by driving them beyond musket-range, and proceeding with as little loss of time as possible, I found the fleet obstructed in front by fallen trees and in rear by a sunken coal-barge, and surrounded by a large force of rebels with an abundant supply of artillery, but wisely keeping their main force out of range of the admiral’s guns. Every tree and stump covered a sharp-shooter, ready to pick off any luckless marine who showed his head above decks, and entirely preventing working parties from removing obstructions.
     In pursuance of orders from General Sherman, I reported to Admiral Porter for orders, who turned over to me all the land forces in his fleet, about 150 men, together with two howitzers, and was instructed by him to retain a sufficient force to clear out the sharpshooters, and distribute the remainder along the creek for 6 or 7 miles, to prevent any more obstructions being placed in it during the night. This was speedily arranged, our skirmishers capturing 3 prisoners.
     Immediate steps were now taken to remove the coal-barge, which was accomplished about daylight on Sunday morning, when the fleet moved back toward Black Bayou. By 3 p.m. we had only marched about 6 miles, owing to the large number of trees to be removed. At this point, where our progress was very slow, we discovered a long line of the enemy filing along the edge of the woods and taking position on the creek, about 1 mile ahead of our advance. Shortly after, they opened fire on the gunboats from batteries behind the cavalry and infantry. The boats not only replied to the battery, which they soon silenced, but poured a destructive fire into their lines. Heavy skirmishing was also heard in our front, supposed to be three companies from the Sixth and Eighth Missouri, whose position, taken the previous night to guard the creek, was beyond the point reached by the enemy, and consequently liable to be cut off or captured.
     Captain (Elias K.) Owen, of the Louisville, the leading boat, made every effort to go through the obstructions and aid in rescuing the men. I ordered Major Kirby, with four companies of the Sixth Missouri, forward, with two companies deployed. He soon met General Sherman, with the Thirteenth Infantry and One hundred and thirteenth Illinois, driving the enemy before them and opening communication along the creek with the gunboats. Instead of our three companies referred to engaging the enemy, General Sherman had arrived at a very opportune moment with the two regiments mentioned above and the Second Brigade. The enemy not expecting an attack from that quarter, after some hot skirmishing retreated. General Sherman immediately ordered the Thirteenth Infantry and the One hundred and thirteenth Illinois to pursue, but after following their trace for about 2 miles they were recalled. We continued our march for about 2 miles, when we bivouacked for the night.
     Early on Monday morning, March 22 [23], we continued our march, but owing to the slow progress of the gunboats did not reach Hill’s plantation until Tuesday, the 23d [24th] instant, where we remained until the 25th [26th], then re-embarked and arrived at Young’s Point on Friday, the 27th instant. Below you will find a list of casualties.*
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GILES A. SMITH 
Colonel Eighth Missouri Volunteers, Comdg. First Brigade.
Capt. C. McDONALD,
      Assistant Adjutant-General

P.S. – I forgot to state above that the Thirteenth Infantry and One hundred and thirteenth Illinois, being under the immediate command of General Sherman, he can mention them as their conduct deserves.

G.A.S.


*Shows 1 man killed and 3 men wounded.
 

Sources:
Text and Maps:
THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A COMPILATION OF THE OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE UNION AND CONFEDERATE ARMIES PREPARED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR, BY BVT. LIEUT. COL. ROBERT N. SCOTT, THIRD U.S. ARTILLERY AND PUBLISHED PURSUANT TO ACT OF CONGRESS APPROVED JUNE 16, 1880.
The US Government Printing Office
Volume: XXXVI: Pages 430-667
Photographs:
NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
Washington Navy Yard
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
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