Brig. Gen. John E. Smith, U.S. Army, commanding First
Brigade, Third Division
On the 2d day of May, about 10 a.m., I received orders from Major-General Grant to move out with my command and cross the south fork of Bayou Pierre, at the ford about 3. ½ miles east of Port Gibson, and gain the main road from Port Gibson to Vicksburg, which I accomplished about 2 p.m., halting near the residence of the rebel Col. B. G. Humphreys, Twenty-First Regiment Mississippi Volunteers. I found no enemy, but discovered in store about 7,000 or 8,000 pounds of bacon, which was secured and distributed to the troops. This proved a valuable acquisition to our limited supplies.
The division having crossed at Port Gibson, now, 5 p.m., moved up. At this point I fell in with my command and moved with it. Bivouacked on the north fork of Bayou Pierre, near the Grindstone Ford. The suspension bridge at this place, which had been fired and nearly destroyed by the enemy, was promptly repaired, through the energy of the division commander, and made ready for the crossing of troops by 4 o'clock of the morning of the 3d, at which time, having the advance, I crossed with my command. We moved up the opposite slope by flank until we reached the residence of an intelligent planter, who assured us that there was no enemy in the vicinity, they having all passed the day before. I had not moved far before a field piece posted in a commanding position, and masked by the heavy woods which covered the summit of the hill, opened fire with shell. I immediately deployed into line on both sides of the road, throwing forward a heavy line of skirmishers. While in line, 3 men of the Twenty-third Indiana were wounded by a shell. Cavalry were at this time sent forward to reconnoiter. Receiving orders, I also moved forward in line to the summit of the hill, without any further resistance.
The cavalry returning, reported the enemy in full retreat. A halt was now ordered to rest the men, who were exhausted by the fatiguing march in line up a steep ascent, broken by deep ravines, and in many places through dense growths of cane. Having thrown out pickets while resting my command, brisk firing was heard on my left, in the direction of the post stationed on the road leading to the residence of Alfred Ingraham. I ascertained that our pickets were attacked, and immediately ordered the Thirty-first Illinois, Colonel McCook commanding, to their support, where they soon became sharply engaged Being in heavy timber, it was impossible to estimate the number of the enemy, who were thought to be in force. As a precautionary measure, I ordered the Forty-fifth Illinois, Colonel Maltby, on the left, and the Twenty-third Indiana, Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, on the right, to the support of Colonel McCook, and, after a spirited skirmish, succeeded in dislodging the enemy., who hastily retreated on the Grand Gulf and Vicksburg road, leaving their dead on the field. Our casualties were 2 slightly wounded.
We halted for a short time near the residence of Professor Ingraham, where on the following day Major-General McClernand had his headquarters. In pursuance of orders from Major-General McPherson, I moved toward Grand Gulf, and reached the intersection of the main road from Grand Gulf to Vicksburg, where I received orders to join the division, moving toward Hankinson's Ferry, on the Big Black. I arrived there, after a fatiguing march of 19 miles, at 11 p.m.
Bivouacked near Hankinson's Ferry three days, giving the men ample time to rest and clean themselves, which they needed very much after the severe marches in the heat and dust, which at times was suffocating. Nearly one-third of the command at this time had no shoes, having worn them out on the march, and in consequence were very foot-sore. This, together with their want of supplies, which at times were very short, were subjects of pleasantries with the men, who consoled themselves with the prospect of a fight every other day to make amends for their privations.
In compliance with orders, when about 3 miles from Raymond, about 10 a.m. of the 12th, I formed in line on the right of the road, moving the thirty-first Illinois by the flank to protect the right of the brigade, and throwing forward to the right and front a heavy line of skirmishers. The enemy's advance were discovered posted in a ravine, protected by the dense timber and undergrowth, and also by a branch of Fourteen-Mile Creek-- at times a considerable stream with steep banks--but now with only about 24 feet of water, and affording an excellent cover for the enemy. With all these advantages of position in his favor, our skirmishers advanced steadily to the attack, the line also advancing as follows: The Twenty-third Indiana on the right, the Forty-fifth Illinois, the One hundred and twenty-fourth Illinois, and the Twentieth Illinois. The Thirty-first Illinois was still marching by the flank on the right through the woods. The Twenty-third Indiana, being in advance of the line, were suddenly attacked by the unseen foe.
Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, finding his command exposed without support, withdrew, and formed on the right of the Twentieth Illinois. The enemy, rushing forward, encountered the Forty-fifth Illinois, thinking they were alone, and attempted to cut them off, but Colonel McCook, of the Thirty-first, had, unperceived by the enemy, moved upon their flank, and opened fire upon them with such effect that they were driven from the right, and massed their forces in the center, evidently endeavoring to cut through, but here they were opposed by the Twentieth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Richards commanding, on the left of the brigade, and the Twentieth Ohio, Colonel Force commanding, on the right of the Second, who maintained their positions under a galling fire nearly two hours.
Among the bravest of the brave who fell at this point was Lieut. Col. E. Richards, commanding the Twentieth Illinois. This regiment, their ammunition nearly expended, and one-third of their number killed and wounded, was relieved by the Eighth Illinois, who proved themselves worthy successors of the Twentieth Illinois.
The line from the Twentieth Ohio, on the right of the Second Brigade, to my right, now the Thirty first, Illinois, sustained the attack of the whole of the enemy's forces. The line was ordered forward and charged, which they did handsomely, completely routing the enemy, who fled precipitately through Raymond, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. General Gregg sent in a verbal request, under a flag of truce, for permission to carry off his wounded, which was not granted. I was now ordered to form column by regiments and move to Raymond as rapidly as possible. Arriving there, we were halted.
Too much praise cannot be awarded to the men and officers of the First Brigade, as well as the Twentieth Ohio, of the Second Brigade, and the Eighth Illinois, of the Third Brigade, who were under my observation, for their gallant conduct in this engagement.
Among the many brave men who were wounded, I regret the loss, temporarily, of Colonel McCook's valuable services, and trust that he will soon be able to resume his duties. Colonel Maltby, of the Forty-fifth Illinois, although so unwell that he was obliged to ride in an ambulance, as soon as the enemy was known to be in force to dispute advance, mounted his horse and assumed command of his regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, of the Twenty-third Indiana, handled his regiment admirably, seconded by his adjutant, Lieutenant Gleason.
To my staff, Captain [Wimer] Bedford assistant adjutant-general; Captain [Milton H.] Lydick, Lieutenants [Syria M] Budlong and [Joseph W.] Miller, I am much indebted for the efficient manner in which my orders were executed.
[portions after May 12, 1863 are not included by the editors]
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