Chickasaw Bayou (9)

by Dan O'Connell on January 22, 2014 · 0 comments

December 28 – Indian Mound

On the trails and road leading to the crossing at Indian Mound the 116th Ohio labored overnight to clear the obstructions. By 4 a.m. all that remained was the abatis at the immediate crossing. The night’s work allowed six guns of Co B, 1st Illinois Artillery to take a position covering the crossing. Once established they targeted two guns of Co E 1st Mississippi that were dug in on the far side bank. As the sun rose Union sharpshooters added their fire to the effort and drove the Confederate gunners from their pieces.

Despite losing their artillery support the 31st Louisiana managed to keep the Union fatigue parties from their work clearing the last of the abatis with a withering fire. BG Davis Stuart correctly assumed that enemy was reinforcing their position and consulted with division commander BG M. L. Smith. Smith sent Stuart to Sherman who instructed him to prepare to assault the crossing in concert with Morgan’s effort on the Lake House Road. In preparation Smith decided to conduct a personal reconnaissance of the situation. As he rode forward to view the crossing he was wounded in the hip by a rebel sniper. Division command fell to Stuart who in turn passed his brigade duties to COL Thomas Kilby Smith of the 54th Ohio. Across the bayou the 62nd Tennessee moved into position behind the 31st Louisiana. But the Tennesseans did not remain long. As DeCourcy pressured BG Lee at the Lake House crossing they were sent to his assistance. Their place was taken by the 40th Georgia from Barton’s Brigade. Later Barton sent the 40th Georgia from the left of his line to Lee’s assistance and replaced them with the 3rd Tennessee. To match the enemy reinforcement Stuart called up COL Giles Smith’s brigade.

Stuart ordered Kilby Smith to continue the work of clearing the obstacles from the road to the crossing. The work parties were easy targets for the rebel sharpshooters and, under growing casualties the work progressed slowly. In an effort to clear away the enemy riflemen Smith had his regimental commanders send up their best marksmen to the bank of the bayou. The plan failed to achieve success because the Confederate position enjoyed a slightly elevated position that gave their riflemen a natural advantage. Each time A Federal would rise up to take aim he would dangerously expose much of his upper torso. Casualties among the work parties and infantry continued to grow. Failing with infantry Smith brought up another battery, Co A, 1st Illinois Light Artillery.

Before the enemy could be cleared away with artillery orders arrived from Sherman that Morgan had begun his crossing and it was time to make a push at Indian Mound in support. This order was anticipatory at best. Morgan had not attacked but unaware of this Stuart ordered Smith to move forward. Smith massed his brigade with the 54th Ohio in the lead and was about to initiate the assault when BG A. J. Smith arrived and assumed command of the division. Stuart briefed Smith that the proposed attack was totally impracticable given the strength of the enemy position. Rather than continue with dubious chances of success Smith decided to continue the work of clearing the way under cover of his artillery. He called for volunteers to act as pioneers.

As the Union attack stalled while the change of command took place the Confederate position was reinforced by four guns of Co A, 14th Mississippi Light Artillery. As the 30 man party of volunteer pioneers from the 54th Ohio moved forward these guns roared into action. Their primary target was the Union artillery who eagerly engaged in a duel with the enemy gunners. Unfortunately for the work party three rounds from a Union battery fell short and exploded in their midst killing three and wounding several others. Coupled with further losses from the Confederate snipers Smith decided to recall the effort and the troops were ordered into bivouac for the night.

On the Vicksburg Road patrols from COL William Landram’s brigade, of A.J. Smith’s division, encountered the 61st Tennessee covering the abatis there. Under orders not to become unnecessarily engaged the Federal probes retreated. The final action of the 28th was a foray into Old River by the tin-clads Marmora and Forest Rose. The boats were to lend their fire to assist A. J. Smith’s advance if possible. After a short and ineffective barrage they returned having accomplished nothing more than ground the Forest Rose. With a tow from Marmora the boat was freed and the two vessels returned to the Yazoo by 2 p.m. What was intended to be a concentrated effort at all crossings failed to materialize when none of the subordinate commanders initiated their attack for one reason or another. After three days the Union advance had only made it to the near bank of the bayou.

Chickasaw Bayou (Campaign Series)

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