Conclusion and Assessment
The Confederate defense of Chickasaw Bayou was ultimately successful for a number of reasons:
1. The choice of landing area for the Federal forces was poor, probably as a result of inadequate terrain knowledge. The rush to depart left little time to conduct a thorough reconnaissance. Dependence on the naval reports after just one night of reconnaissance was a mistake. There was no probe beyond the immediate shore and landing area. The Confederate leaders must have been delighted to see a numerically superior enemy moving into the strength of their defense. They reacted and swiftly and correctly to the situation.
2. The first Federal troops did not come ashore until nearly noon. Given the short December days it left very little time for expansion of the beachhead before dark. Failure to act aggressively allowed time for Lee to solidify his defense at the Bayou.
3. The decision not to challenge the landings was critical to their success. Not only did they lack the necessary force to ensure success of such an action but moving away from the area deprived the Union forces of another advantage. By staying away from the Yazoo River they took away from Sherman’s forces any fire support they might expect from the gunboats.
4. Col. Withers delaying force managed to dictate the early action by forcing the Federals to deploy, thus denying them the opportunity to expand their beachhead. It also allowed time for final preparations to be made to the primary defense line behind Chickasaw Bayou.
5. Confederate forces wisely deployed to cover the available high sped avenues of approach. The use of abatis and covering fire, adhering to the tenet that an uncovered obstacle is no obstacle at all, were effectively used. These easily constructed barriers paid huge dividends by preventing a rapid approach to the crossings on a very narrow front thereby denying the Union forces their numerical advantage.
6. Without wasting valuable manpower the Confederate leaders removed any possible alternate crossing locations by covering them, not with men, but the zone of influence from a few well-placed guns, an excellent use of a force multiplier. The fire from just four pieces rendered the enemy’s mobility asset (Patterson’s engineers) ineffective long enough to move reinforcements into the threatened area along shorter interior lines.
The fight at Chickasaw Bayou is a classic example of how a outmanned defense can use terrain, counter-mobility operations, and proper supporting tactics to frustrate and defeat the intentions of a more powerful enemy.Chickasaw Bayou (Campaign Series)