Masters of the Field: A Confederate Artilleryman at Chickasaw Bayou

To provide another viewpoint of the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, today’s blog post gives an account from “Marion” of Battery A, of Major Matthew S. Ward’s 14th Mississippi Battalion Light Artillery. This battery took position atop Chickasaw Bluffs on the evening of December 28, 1862 and played a key role in repulsing the Federal assault the following day, utilizing Hughes breech-loading guns.

            Marion’s account was originally published the first page of the January 7, 1863 issue of the Memphis Daily Appeal which at that time was being published in Jackson, Mississippi.

Bivouac near Vicksburg, Mississippi
January 4, 1863

Editors Appeal: As Company A, Ward’s artillery Battalion participated in the memorable battle of Monday last near Chickasaw Bayou, I desire a short space in your columns to make a brief mention of the gallant band of heroes who repulsed the Yankees when they made their terrible, ineffectual charge on that day.

On the evening of the 28th, our battery was ordered to the support of General [Stephen D.] Lee, who occupied a strong position near Indian Mound in the vicinity of Chickasaw Bayou. In endeavoring to affect a passage up the valley or river road, our progress was partially interrupted by a Yankee battery of four guns opening upon us from the left and which up to that time had remained undiscovered by our forces. As soon as our critical position was perceived by Lieutenant Tarleton, commanding our battery, he saw that our only safety consisted in silencing the guns of the enemy, we being entirely unsupported by infantry. To this end we pitched into ‘em and in about 30 minutes the Yankees concluded to advance backwards and left us masters of the field. In this engagement our battalion commander Major M.S. Ward was slightly wounded by a fragment of a shell but remained throughout the engagement as cool and calm as when pleading a citizen’s case at the bar.

The second section of our battery, under the command of Lieutenant J.A. Tarleton, formerly of the famed Washington Artillery, reached their position under General Lee on the night of the 28th while the first section under Lieutenant Perkins was ordered to the support of General Pemberton. On the morning of the 29th, the second section opened upon the enemy’s battery about 1,000 yards distant across and on the north side of Chickasaw Bayou, which immediately drew the fire of seven Parrott guns upon the devoted second section. They poured a perfect shower of shot and shell over and around us. A shell from the enemy soon crashed one of our guns, which, however, was immediately repaired and in effective operation. Another shell, soon after this accident, struck a limber chest, causing a fearful explosion and killing Captain Hamilton, acting adjutant general on the staff of General Lee. Strange to tell, though several of our brave men were stunned and stricken to the earth by the fearful shock, none of them were seriously hurt. Later in the day, our largest and best gun was disabled but actively repairing all damages, we kept up the ball as fast as any troops on this field.
Chickasaw Bluffs

About 2 p.m., the Yankees seemingly becoming desperate, made a dashing and determined charge upon our breastworks. As they emerged from the timber, our guns poured shells into their ranks with murderous effect and as they drew nearer, grape and canister were substituted for shell when they were seen to waver, stagger, and finally ran in magnificent confusion leaving the field over which they fled literally covered with their dead and wounded. But the Yankees did not escape so easily as they expected. Our infantry, seeing their confusion, immediately left their breastworks and pursuing the frightened scoundrels, succeeded in capturing 500 of the invaders, among the number several commissioned officers. The 3rd Tennessee made a brilliant and magnificent charge and right nobly was Fort Donelson avenged, for among the captured they recognized in the features of many the hateful Dutch guard who kept the 3rd Tennessee in durance vile for seven long and dreadful months at Camp Douglas. While the infantry was attending to their pets, the battle raged furiously, the cannonading was kept up incessantly till finally night closed upon one of the hardest contested battles of this war. It is estimated that we killed, wounded, and captured 1,500 of the enemy whilst ours will not reach 100. So much for breastworks.
Unidentified Confederate artilleryman 
Library of Congress
Throughout Tuesday and the following night, the enemy suffered their wounded and dead to remain on the field, choosing rather that their deluded victims should linger and due for the want of attention that to submit to the acknowledgment of defeat by sending in a flag of truce. On Wednesday, however, they sent in a messenger with a flag of truce asking permission to bury their dead, and General Lee graciously gave them until 5 o’clock to perform their melancholy but neglected duty. At the expiration of that hour, hostilities were again commenced and for several hours occasional shots were interchanged.

We are again in camp and in good health. The boys are cheerful and eager for a renewal of the affray whenever it may come.


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