Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 6


The Mississippi Marine Brigade finally made its way to Young’s Point on 29 May and Porter, acting on a request from Grant, ordered them to occupy Haines Bluff until relieved. Pemberton, completely overestimating the size and combat power of the brigade, saw the move as a threat to the water batteries located nearby and ordered BG John Bowen to send BG Green’s brigade and a regiment from MG Martin Smith’s command to protect the vulnerable artillery. Porter also ordered Ellet to use his fleet to support the movement of reinforcements into the area from Memphis.

Ellet disembarked only his infantry force at Haines Bluff. The cavalry was taken to Marion, Arkansas where they conducted raids into the countryside. Ellet reported that the raids netted seven prisoners and wagon loads of contraband. When the brigade boats returned with the fresh troops on 8 June they were disembarked at Young’s Point. This was a change to the original plan caused by the Confederate attack of Milliken’s Bend. Grant was concerned that the force, estimated to be 4000 men, could somehow manage to help Pemberton’s trapped command escape across the river and sent some of the new troops, BG Joseph Mowers’ brigade, to harass Confederate MG Walker’s men. Once Mowers men were landed Ellet’s brigade was essentially unassigned to any real responsibility and it freed Ellet to conduct operations of his own design.

The first of Ellet’s plans included the infantry company of Captain Newell (Company A) who had been furnished with Spencer repeating rifles. Interested to see what the capabilities of the new weapon was, Ellet had the men attempt to dig a rifle pit on the peninsula at De Soto Point. The effort created an immediate reaction from the Confederate water batteries across the river and the effort was quickly abandoned. The levee, however, formed a natural shield and allowed the men to move freely along it to find advantageous firing positions and then move before they could be targeted by the artillery. The target of these infantrymen was the water detail that came down to the river each day to draw water for the Vicksburg defenders. As the water detail neared the river on the morning of 14 June the Spencer’s opened fire. Even at this extreme range the sound of shots drove the detail from the river. Pemberton could not be without water so an artillery barrage of thirty minutes followed in an effort to drive the pesky sharpshooters away. Repeat performances occurred throughout the day as every time the water train approached the river they would be engaged by Ellet’s men followed by yet another artillery barrage. The whole affair probably amounted to little more than an annoyance that wasted valuable ammunition on both sides.

MarineMasked BatteryOppositeVicksburg

Ellet had also sent his cavalry off on a scout of Richmond, Louisiana in search of Walker’s Confederates. On the 14th Major Hubbard reported finding the enemy and a plan was put together at a conference between Porter and Grant aboard the Black Hawk. Ellet was directed to act in concert with Mowers’ brigade in a two pronged advance against Richmond. On the morning of the 15th the Marines reinforced by the 15th Minnesota began the march from Duckport. The movement had been observed by Walker’s scouts and he established a well hidden line of skirmishers to greet them about two miles outside of Richmond. The initial attack stopped the column and Walker aggressively attacked with the 18th Texas despite being badly outnumbered. The attack pushed the Marines and Minnesotans back onto Mowers’ approaching column and the fight became an artillery duel. As the batteries pounded away at each other the Union infantry maneuvered around the Confederate position and managed to dislodge them. As they retreated they burned the bridge behind them. Mowers’ men rebuilt the bridge but the Union commanders opted not to pursue and satisfied themselves with burning the town. The total Union casualties were reported as one killed and 11 wounded.

Back at the levee LTC Currie had conducted a reconnaissance and discovered a large smelting operation that was turning spent Union shells and scrap into ammunition for the Confederate guns. He asked for and received permission from Porter to try and mount the 20 pound Parrot rifle from the B. J. Adams into an emplacement on the peninsular to knock out the foundry . From the 19th to the 22nd a gun pit was constructed, casemated with railroad iron, camouflaged and the gun hauled in and mounted. Despite being constantly under return fire the position proved effective. On the 25th Paxton’s Foundry and shop were destroyed by twenty rounds from the Parrot. On the 26th the position grew to two guns with the addition of a 12 pound howitzer from the brigade’s artillery detachment. The position remained intact and harassed the Vicksburg defenders until the surrender.

Mississippi Marine Brigade (Campaign Series)


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