Chickasaw Bayou (5)

December 26

Early on the 26th the transports headed for the Yazoo under guard of the gunboats. The convoy ran unopposed to the vicinity of Johnson’s Plantation where they tied up to disembark. BG George Morgan’s division led the expedition ashore at the eastern limit of the Johnson property. After a brief bombardment by the gunboats to clear the forest Morgan sent Col. John DeCourcy’s brigade down the road to Chickasaw Bayou in an effort to secure a plantation owned by Mrs. Anne Lake. Deep in the trees Col. William Withers, with the 26th Louisiana Infantry, two companies of the 46th Mississippi, and Co D, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery lay in ambush. Withers planned to delay the Federal advance as it tried to push into the Lake Plantation. The 26th Louisiana deployed as skirmishers with orders to hold their fire until the Union column was well into the kill zone. The surprise was unfortunately negated when one jittery gunman let loose an early round.

At the warning of a threat DeCourcy brought his men into line of battle. When the outnumbered Confederates became hard pressed Withers brought up a 12 lb. howitzer to rake the exposed flank of the Federal line. The fire was just enough to hold back the enemy surge. DeCourcy , advancing without artillery support, had nothing with which to combat the enemy artillery and decided against a vigorous pursuit. He pulled his men back and put them into bivouac. The two hour fight cost DeCourcy’s brigade 2 men killed and 13 wounded. Withers took advantage of the respite by retiring to a position south of the plantation.

BG Frederick Steele’s division was landed in front of the burned out shell of the Johnson house. After disembarking the men Steele pushed out with BG Frank Blair’s brigade. Led by the 13th Illinois their goal was to move down the main road towards Vicksburg. They encountered only minimal resistance from Confederate cavalry. In the rout of one cavalry patrol one man was captured. From the prisoner they learned that they were less than two miles from the northern fortifications of the city. Responding to orders not to approach too closely to the defenses Blair called a halt. After setting out a strong picket line the men established camp. The remainder of the division remained at Johnson’s Plantation to unload the transports.* When this task was completed they also went into camp.

BG M. L. Smith’s two brigade division came ashore just west of Steele. Col. Giles Smith’s brigade unloaded equipment and supplies while BG David Stuart’s men marched out to extend Blair’s line. The last to arrive was BG A. J. Smith’s brigade that was hung up waiting for Burbridge’s brigade to return from their mission to destroy the railroad. They did not arrive until midday on the 27th.The 26th came to a close with the Federals accomplishing little more than getting the men ashore and establishing a base of operations before dark. Withers, despite the failure of his ambush, had succeeded in stalling the Union advance long enough to allow night to intervene.
*The expedition was ordered to land commissary and ordnance supplies to support five days of operation.

Chickasaw Bayou (Campaign Series)





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