Report of Col. Thomas Kilby Smith, Fifty-fourth Ohio Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., SECOND DIV., FIFTEENTH A.C.,SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by four regiments of the Second Brigade, under my command, in the late expedition in aid of Admiral Porter. (The Fifty-fifth Illinois was ordered on special service the 15th instant, under command of Brigadier-General Ransom, and did not report back to my command till the 26th instant.)
Camp opposite Vicksburg, March 27, 1863
On the morning of the 17th instant, the brigade was embarked at Young’s Point upon transports, and, proceeding up the Mississippi River, landed at Eagle Bend, from whence a bridge and road sufficient for the passage of infantry was constructed to Steele’s Bayou by details from the division.
On the evening of the 19th, the brigade was debarked, and, marching to Steele’s Bayou, bivouacked near its intersection with Muddy Bayou. At this time I placed the command with Lieutenant-Colonel Rice, of the Fifty-seventh Ohio, the senior officer of the brigade, and, in company with Generals Sherman and Stuart, proceeded up Steele’s Bayou in a tug, to reconnoiter and prepare the way for the transit of troops. The bayou was tortuous and overhung with trees, whose branches seriously impeded the passage of transports. Great skill and constant vigilance on the part of navigators was required to keep these from irreparable injury; the sinking of a boat would have been fatal to the expedition and resulted in disaster to the gunboat fleet.
I remained with General Stuart, aiding him in facilitating the embarkation and debarkation of troops until the whole division was landed at the mouth of Black Bayou. By misunderstanding, I was prevented from joining my own brigade at Hill’s plantation, 2 miles above, it having marched before my arrival at that point, where I expected to meet it with the residue of the troops. The brigade, therefore, remained under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Rice, to whose report, forwarded herewith, I respectfully refer for its proceedings from the evening of the 21st to the morning of the 24th instant. While I was mortified at being separated from my soldiers, my perfect confidence in the ability of this fine officer left me no apprehension as to his conduct of the command.
You will observe by his report that, on the morning of the 22nd, the brigade marched up the east bank of Deer Creek, and having, in cooperation with the First Brigade, extricated Admiral Porter and his gunboats from their perilous position, returned to Hill’s plantation at 11 a.m. of the 24th instant. Here it bivouacked.
At noon on the 25th instant, I ordered the Eighty-third Indiana, Colonel Spooner commanding, to take position on Fore’s plantation, a mile or more distant from Hill’s, as an advance post, a body of cavalry and regiments of infantry from the enemy making demonstration in that direction. With these a sharp skirmish ensued, and Private William Lathrop, of Company G, Eighty-third Indiana, was killed, the only casualty or accident of any kind I have to report.
In the engagement the regiment sustained its high reputation, and for minute particulars I respectfully refer you to the report of then Captain (now Lieutenant-Colonel) Myers.
At the close of the evening, the Eighty-third was withdrawn from the front, and the following day (26th) the brigade was embarked, with other troops, upon the transports Silver Wave and Eagle, and after an exciting passage through the bayous into the Yazoo, debarked at the lower landing of Young’s Point on the 27th, from whence it marched, in good order, to camp on the levee.
It is usual, in reports of this character, to compliment officers and soldiers, and because the custom is common the compliment loses value; yet I cannot, in justice to the hardy veterans of the Second Brigade, let the opportunity pass without once more testifying to the courage, constancy, and uncomplaining fortitude that sustains them under every exposure, fatigue, and privation. The whistling of bullets is as familiar to their ears as household words. Danger they scorn, and the cheerfulness with which they encounter hardships is beyond all praise.
Respectfully referring to the accompanying reports of regimental commanders, with request that they be returned at some future time for copy, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
THOS. KILBY SMITHCapt. C. McDONALD
Col., Comdg. Second Brig., Second Dix., Fifteenth Army Corps.
A.A.G., 2d Div., 15th Army Corps, Dept. of the Tennessee.