Following the surrender of Vicksburg the brigade fell into a period of idleness. Sickness filled the hospital boat, Woodford, and Ellet found it a perfect time to grant leaves. To take up time with the rest of the command Ellet conducted a number of unauthorized raids that ired both Porter and Grant. The good feelings that followed the surrender of the city quickly dissipated. Porter continued his attempts to rid himself of the troublesome command and Grant noted that the conduct of the brigade was “bad.” He wanted the boats moved to the Army quartermaster department for use in moving men and supplies and the men converted to conventional forces under a new commander. Secretary of War Stanton, however, did not agree and ordered Halleck to reject the proposal. By late August the continual complaints and requests from Grant to shift the command to his control finally won over Stanton. The control of Ellet’s command shifted to the Army with the proviso that they not be broken up as Grant suggested.
The first order from Grant sent the brigade on its strangest mission and probably one of the strangest missions of the war. With orders not to open his instructions until they had landed Grant sent the brigade to Port Gibson. On arrival there the orders were unsealed. The brigade was to round fifty of “the most aristocratic women” and return them to Vicksburg. The marines travelled out to the nearby plantations and ordered all the women to report or the houses would be burned. Amongst “great weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth” the women were herded aboard for the journey to Vicksburg. When the women were handed over the marines discovered that they were to be used as bargaining chips to secure the freedom of “a number of northern school teachers” that had been captured by Confederate troops. The negotiations lasted about thirty days before the exchange was conducted.
When LTC Currie returned from his 60 day leave he found Ellet gone and Major Hubbard in charge. Currie was discouraged by the lack of activity and ordered the boats to patrol the river from Greenville, Mississippi to Napolean, Arkansas. He also decided to mount the remaining infantry on confiscated mules. The increased number of animals required extensive retrofitting of the boats for more stable space.
The first chance to test the new mounted men came on 9 September when CPT Edward Hughes’ mounted infantry was sent out near Bolivar Landing to scout the area. They returned in less than an hour dragging a stage coach behind them with four gentlemen aboard. When the coach was searched $1.2 million in Confederate currency was discovered. Also found was a draft for $1 million more from a Louisiana bank. The money turned out to be , as the captives admitted, the payroll for General E. Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi Department. Another paymaster was captured shortly thereafter denying Smith’s troops a total of $3,252,340 in pay. The brigade was ordered to Vicksburg on 24 September so that the boats could be used as transports, as Grant had requested. The Marines enjoyed garrison duty until 18 Oct.Mississippi Marine Brigade (Campaign Series)
- Mississippi Marine Brigade-Intro
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 2
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 3
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 4
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 5
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 6
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 7
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 8
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 9
- Mississippi Marine Brigade – Conclusion