Chickasaw Bayou (7)

December 28 – Blake’s Levee

Overnight of the 27th-28th the Confederate line received its first appreciable reinforcement. Three brigades of troops arrived. Two brigades arrived from Grenada (Vaughn and Gregg) and one from middle Tennessee (Barton). These troops were rushed to the threatened area. BG John Vaughn’s three regiment brigade formed a line covering the abatis near the race course while BG John Gregg’s Tennesseans were held in reserve. BG Seth Barton’s Georgians reinforced the 31st Louisiana at Indian mound. The Confederate command structure was also altered with the new arrivals. Vaughn would command the left, Barton the center, and Lee, who had done so much to preserve the situation, would manage the right. The changes happened just in time for the next Union push at the Chickasaw Bayou crossings.

The action of December 28th started in Lee’s sector. At Blake’s Levee he prepared to meet Steele’s expected assault. At the point where the levee changed direction in a sharp angle Lee posted two 12lb Napoleons from Company A, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery to cover the abatis dropped in the path of the advancing Federals. Supporting these guns were seven companies of the 46th Mississippi supplemented by a company from the 26th Louisiana. Additionally a three gun section of Co I, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery was stationed at the River Road to cover the angle on the levee.

MG Steele advanced his column in an early morning fog until they struck the abatis. Stopped on the narrow avenue of approach the Federals became easy targets for the Confederate riflemen. Steele conducted a personal reconnaissance and realized no advance could be made until the obstruction was cleared. Pioneers were moved forward and attempted to clear away the fallen timber but the fire from the Confederate rifle pits proved too much and the effort was halted. Steele called for four guns of Co F, 2nd Missouri Light Artillery. Try as they might they could not dislodge the well protected enemy infantry. CPT Landgraeber turned his guns, instead, on the Confederate artillery at the angle. They exchanged fire and one of the Missouri guns was disabled with a broken axle. But COL Withers sought to protect his valuable asset and their dwindling supply of ammunition. He ordered them out of action and to seek what protection they could for themselves and their guns until an enemy advance.

Steele believed the disappearance of the Confederate artillery cleared the way for his infantry. He ordered COL Francis Hassendeubel’s 17th Missouri to attack and drive the pesky enemy infantry away. They would be followed by the massed brigades of Hovey and Thayer. The execution of the plan turned out to be quite a bit more difficult than anticipated. No sooner did the 17th step out of the protective wood line than they were met by a storm of rifle fire and canister from the reappearance of LT Frank Johnston’s two Mississippi Napoleons, that were ordered back into action by Withers. Hovey, accompanying the 17th instantly realized the effort was doomed and put the 17th under cover. He returned to Steele and explained the impossibility of the task.

Steele placed the 1st Battery, Iowa Light Artillery adjacent to Landgraeber’s gun. An artillery duel ensued that was joined by the Confederate guns on River Road. After exchanging fire for some time the Union pieces managed to quell the enemy fire. The respite allowed Steele to gather his forces and await instructions. While Steele waited two additional companies of the 46th Mississippi were moved into the Confederate line . But there would be no more action at Blake’s Levee as Sherman ordered Steele to abandon the enterprise and return to the boats. By morning of the 29th the Federals were gone.

Chickasaw Bayou (Campaign Series)





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