Day 2 – Forenoon
When it became obvious that there would be no assault on the 10th Churchill adjusted his defenses for the attack he expected in the morning. The new Confederate line would anchor its right on the fort and extend westward toward Post Bayou. Inside the fort the sailors were joined by four companies of the 19th Arkansas and the Arkansas Infantry Battalion. The remaining 19th Arkansas troops aligned adjacent to the fort with Garland’s Texans on their left. The line was extended by Deshler’s Brigade, but it would not reach the bayou. The 15th Texas was ordered to refuse their line.
Using the information gained by the cavalry reconnaissance McClernand was determined to complete the encirclement of the fort by pushing troops to the bayou as well. About 2230 he ordered Sherman to have Steele’s division there by daylight. Steele’s men were awakened and began an arduous night march through the broken terrain. Elsewhere the Union troops settled in for an uncomfortable night. The 55th Illinois recalled;
“Blankets and overcoats had been left on board the transports in the expectation of immediate engagement, and the night set in freezing cold and threatening snow. Of course no fires were allowed to be built under the circumstances. The suffering in consequence during the night was extreme.”
As dawn broke BG Hovey’s brigade of Steele’s division formed the far right of the Union line at the bayou. They were ordered to sweep down the left bank of Post Bayou until they reached the river, thus completely surrounding the fort. Colonel Deshler realized the danger and adjusted with his available resources. With no reserves he thinned his main line by removing two companies from each of his regiments. This contingency force, under LTC Sebron Noble, was sent to the far left to fill the gap between the 15th Texas and the bayou. As soon as they arrived they opened on the mass of Federal troops in their front. BG Hovey sent two regiments of Missouri infantry (17th and 3rd) to challenge Noble’s men. A severe firefight developed during which the Confederate position was fixed. Hovey halted his advance to report the new information and waited for the plan for the final assault to be matured. The pause allowed time for Deshler to reinforce his left with 120 Texas Rangers and Louisiana cavalry troopers. Churchill also rotated six companies of the 19th Arkansas from the far right to the far left. The resulting gap between Garland’s right and the fort was filled by extending the 6th Texas to the right. To strengthen Deshler’s main line two 6-pounders and two 10-pounders were rolled into position at the center of his brigade. The Confederate line was in place but exceptionally thin in spots and woefully outnumbered.
To the left of Hovey the rest of the Union line headed back toward the river. Next in line was the 1st Iowa Battery then Thayer’s brigade. They were supported by Blair’s brigade that by virtue of the large casualties suffered at Chickasaw Bayou formed the reserve. BG David Stuart’s Division held the line on Thayer’s left with G. A. Smith’s brigade in front and T.K. Smith’s brigade behind. Troops from Morgan’s XIII Corps continued the line with Burbridge’s brigade tied into the line on G.A. Smith’s left with the 96th Ohio supporting the 17th Ohio Battery at a hastily built redan with Colonel Landrum’s brigade behind. The sole brigade of Osterhaus’s division present, Sheldon, finished the line at the river. The waiting game continued while the Federal plan and deployments were completed.Arkansas Post (Campaign Series)
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