Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 4

Tennessee Interlude

The requested speed of action for the trip to Tennessee was not forthcoming. The Brigade spent the next ten days at Cairo, Illinois and Memphis reportedly coaling and finding Tennessee River pilots. The unexpected delay caused Ellet another rift with a superior officer. He failed to coordinate with MG Stephen A. Hurlbut, District Commander at Memphis, who was involved in the coordination of the assets necessary for the Streight raid. Unclear of the exact status of Ellet’s command Hurlbut believed that he deserved the courtesy of a report from The Mississippi Marine Brigade commander and asked BG Grenville Dodge to reprimand Ellet for failing to do so. The tardy unit also irritated the local Naval commander, Lieutenant Commander Leroy Fitch, who had two gunboats tied up awaiting the Marine Brigade arrival. Finally on the 15th of April Ellet arrived at Fort Henry.


The first mission for Ellet’s fleet was the transport of 1250 mules intended for use in the Streight Raid from Fort Henry to Eastport. Another two days were spent loading the stubborn creatures aboard the boats. Unloading the cargo proved equally challenging. The mules conducted an uprising of their own and stampeded down the gangways and into the nearby forest. More time was lost rounding up the mules and as a result of the cumulative delays the expedition started well behind schedule.

With the unsavory task of transporting the mules finally out of the way, BG Dodge decided that the brigade could assist in his planned movement in support of the Streight raid by making a demonstration at Savannah, Tennessee. The Savannah episode proved to be another disappointing performance by Ellet’s men. The boats departed Eastport, leaving the town in flames, and moved not to Savannah, but toward Clifton. Detachments were sent out on both sides of the river and the fleet made its way slowly up the river destroying production capacity, collecting horses, and seizing cotton. The lackluster affair was highlighted by the sinking of the tug Cleveland, which was accidentally rammed by the Diana. The stricken vessel was raised by the sailing master on the Autocrat but the lost time allowed the river to fall to dangerous levels for navigation. It was decided to return with little accomplished for their efforts.

The voyage back down the Tennessee required the passage of shoals created by the confluence of the Duck River. The boats would not be able to execute any evasive maneuvers while traveling this section of the river. This fact was well known by a local Confederate commander, Major R. M. White of the 6th Texas Cavalry, who placed an artillery battery to take full advantage of the situation. As the parade of boats made the passage of the shoals they were pounded by the Confederate guns. A brief response was mustered from the boats but they could not stop to dismount soldiers while in the treacherous waters. The Autocrat was severely battered and the Diana somewhat less so. Finally on the far side of the shoals the signal was given to land the boats and download the cavalry. The sight of a powerful force emerging from the boats and the appearance of the timber-clad gunboat Lexington with guns blazing caused the 6th Texas troopers to have second thoughts about the engagement and they retreated hurriedly. “Several times the Marine cavalry overtook and had a brush with the rear guard of the escaping column.” The chase lasted about 12 miles until the Marines arrived at the home of LTC Thomas Woodward where they found a feast laid out in anticipation of the capture of the boats, that were mistakenly thought to be unarmed supply vessels. The running skirmish ended there as the Marines ate the feast and helped themselves to a well-stocked pantry. The first real combat experience for the brigade left 9 Confederates dead and Major White mortally wounded with a loss of two Marines, SGT Cavender, Co H Inf., and PVT Winchell, Co A Cavalry and another who had his foot amputated by an artillery round.

The falling waters in the Tennessee River gave Ellet a perfectly good excuse to head back to Cairo to make repairs and await further orders. The brief battle in Tennessee had given his men some confidence and he wanted to give them an opportunity to use it. He avoided Porter and requested orders directly from Stanton asking “what course to pursue?”

Mississippi Marine Brigade (Campaign Series)


5 responses to “Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 4”

  1. Winfield Mayne Avatar
    Winfield Mayne

    I am a relative of 1st Lt. Lee Roy Mayne, Adj of Cavalry Btn (5 companies) of the Miss Marine Brigade. He was lost the night of 8 April 1863 along with close friend 1st Lt. Thompson W. McCune, asst Adjutant of Infantry assigned to MMB. (10 companies). Both were lost in an incident at Island 26 north of Memphis while Mayne on BALTIC and McCune aboard JOHN RAINE was coming along side to deliver paperwork from St. Louis. I found McCunes grave in Memphis and believe the several remains recovered with him at Island 30 likely included “unknown” remains of Lt. Mayne. Have mega info (morning reports, roster, photos, orders etc ) if there is anything of interest you might want. Winfield Mayne (named after Lt. Maynes brother Winfield Scott Mayne. I have toured Island 26 owned by Nathan Bedford Forrest Shoat and largely as it was–above the flood plane.

  2. Tom Turpin Avatar
    Tom Turpin

    My great x 2 grandfather AC Byerly was a member of the MMB. I have an original photo from August 1864 of their encampment at Vicksburg. What kind of info do you have? Where are you located?

    1. Winfield G Mayne Avatar

      Sorry to appear so late in responding to your 2015 message but was not on this web site but briefly and only caught your info by chance while checking some other leads. I am near Omaha/SW Iowa and have a great deal of historical info on MMB I would be happy to share. Might send me a phone number or mailing address and will give you more specifics. Winfield Mayne re 1st Lt. LeRoy Mayne, Adj Cavalry

  3. Amy McVay Abbott Avatar

    Seeking information for Lewis R. Long, transferred to MMB from Indiana 88th Infantry on March 2, 1863. Never heard from again.

    1. Winfield Mayne Avatar
      Winfield Mayne

      I have his enlistment record into MMB at St. Louis on March 30, 1863. Died on Sep. 10 1863 from disease and was buried at Mound City National Cemetery. He was assigned as Pvt to Company I of MMB. I have info on elaborate Gold Watch and 88th engraving that may shed added light on that issue. Email an address I can send to or call if you prefer 712 826 4003 Winfield Mayne

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