Chickasaw Bayou (12)

by Dan O'Connell on February 12, 2014 · 0 comments

December 29 – Indian Mound

At Indian Mound the Federal commander decided on a different tactic. Ordered to force a crossing, COL Giles Smith, opted away from the blunt force trauma of a massed assault in favor of a more precise approach. The 57th Ohio and the 13th U.S. Infantry were deployed on the sides of the road to suppress the Confederates on the other side of the bayou. Under this covering fire Co. F of the 6th Missouri and twenty pioneers would cross and cut an opening through the steep embankment. Once the passage was finished the remainder of the 6th Missouri would force a lodgment and allow the 8th Missouri, 116th Illinois, and 13th US Infantry to pour across. To prevent the Confederates from rushing reinforcements to the site Landram’s brigade of BG A. J. Smith’s division would demonstrate against the Vicksburg road.

About noon Landram began his demonstration by pushing his brigade toward the race course. Awaiting the Federal advance at the obstacles was the 61st Tennessee. The thick abatis and the fire from the defenders quickly reduced the demonstration to mere skirmishing. The weak effort on the Vicksburg Road allowed the 60th Tennessee to move over and assist the defenders at Indian mound. An artillery barrage signaled Giles Smith to begin his pinpoint attack. The small working party quickly realized that they could not accomplish the original task under the storm of fire that met them at the embankment. Using the embankment for cover they began tunneling through rather than trying to complete a road through. Smith grew impatient at the slow progress and decided to send the 6th Missouri onto a narrow path he located near the work party. The 6th rushed across the bayou but the path would only accommodate two men abreast. The narrow path immediately drew fire and the advance was halted. With no way to advance the 6th huddled against the embankment seeking cover from the fire pouring down from the first line of Confederate rifle pits on the top of the embankment.

As the fight for Indian Mound was developing the misdirected portion of Thayer’s brigade arrived from the Lake House Road. The men fell in on the left of the 13th U.S. Infantry. Realizing he had linked with the wrong element, COL Abbott of the 30th Iowa asked Steele for further instructions. He received orders to march the brigade back to the Lake House. The useless marches were the full extent of their participation in the grand assault.

At the embankment the two sides were so close that their rifle barrels touched. The 31st Louisiana at the top of the embankment had the natural advantage and the 6th was suffering badly. Giles Smith realized that they had to be recalled or destroyed. He added the 8th Missouri to the edge of the bayou to add cover fire the retreat of the 6th. The ill-conceived rush to the narrow path cost the 6th Missouri the bulk of the brigade’s casualties with 14 killed and 43 wounded. The retreat of the 6th finished just as darkness fell. To support the action at Indian Mound and the Vicksburg Road the Marmora and Romeo moved to the head of Old River. The two vessels alternated shelling in the direction of the city and the shore. They returned around 4 p.m. as the Union retreat was ending. Operations against the Chickasaw Bayou crossings were over.

Sherman contemplated further action but determined that any more attacks on Chickasaw Bayou would “be fatal to a large proportion” of his command. Alternate plans were discussed with Admiral Porter but a plan to attack Synder’s Bluff was cancelled when fog kept the boats tied to shore. Two days of small clashes between Confederate patrols ended the action. On January 2nd the Federal convoy departed for Milliken’s Bend. The failed campaign cost Sherman’s expedition 1776 casualties (206 Killed, 1005 wounded, and 563 missing) Confederate losses were reported at 57 killed, 120 wounded, and 10 missing. It was, in every respect a total Confederate victory.

Chickasaw Bayou (Campaign Series)

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