Mississippi Marine Brigade – Part 9

Return to Goodrich’s Landing, Natchez, and more raiding.

Shore duty for the marines ended on 18 October with an alert to “get ready to go back on board the boats.” At the request of BG John Hawkins, commander of the District of Northeast Louisiana, the brigade was ordered back to Goodrich’s Landing as reinforcements against another rumored Confederate strike there. On 19 October the Adams, Baltic, Fairchild and Horner unloaded the marines and a single company of cavalry with one artillery piece were sent out to feel for the enemy.

This small band was badly dispersed after tangling with a band of guerillas commanded by John Jarrette and failed to return as expected. LTC Currie sent the entire cavalry party out on a search that eventually found the lost troopers but accomplished little else. During the five day search Ellet returned from leave and upon the return of his cavalry loaded the command back onto the boats and moved up to Griffith’s Landing, Mississippi. The brigade conducted more raids here that included a few minor scrapes with local guerilla bands. Reacting to the burning of a Union supply vessel, Allen Collier, Currie personally led a patrol to the home of CPT William Montgomery, the local partisan chieftain. After allowing the removal of clothing and a few other articles the house was burned in retaliation. Montgomery, not surprisingly, called the act “cowardly” but his wife took a more pragmatic view stating that “This is no more than I expected when I heard what my husband had done.”

BGWirtAdamsThe next center of activity for the Mississippi Marine Brigade was Natchez where BG Wirt Adams was expected to attack “with a considerable force.” On 5 December the brigade once again departed Vicksburg to reinforce a threatened Union garrison. After rushing ashore on the following morning the cavalry found none of the expected enemy presence east of the city. It would become a regular pattern of chases and near misses with the “wily Adams” that produced nothing in the way of significant confrontation. The effort was abandoned as the threat diminished and the brigade returned to the usual routine of raiding operations. The most interesting episode during this time was the fight for a wagon train of confiscated cotton.

On 14 March, 1864 near Rodney the brigade was directed to the haul by a local, acting for a reward. The train of 25 wagons was loaded and prepared to make camp at Red Lick. As the teams were being unhitched another gentleman appeared to warn the commander, Major J. R. Crandall, that a trap was being set by local forces under Major Roberts. The Federal officers met and decided to race for the safety of the boats than remain and face a standing fight. After traveling two difficult miles in the growing darkness and light rain the train fell victim to “as well planned and executed and ambush…made during the war.”

In classic fashion the Confederate troops allowed the advance guard to pass and then threw a hasty obstruction across the road. When the main body of the train, escorted by Company D of the Cavalry, reached the obstacle they came under fire from elevated positions on both sides of the road. The troops caught in the kill zone quickly regained their composure and returned fire. Two messengers were sent; the first to recall the cavalry advance and the second to hustle the trailing infantry up to support the beleaguered train. The courier heading for the cavalry was cut down but the advance responded to the sound of gunfire and returned on their own. All were captured but one man. Several of the captured men made good an escape but twelve men remained prisoner. The tide finally changed with the arrival of the infantry and the ambushers were driven off but not before they set the loaded wagons on fire. The loss of the cotton was coupled with the loss of the captured men, one mortally wounded and six seriously wounded, and seventeen lost horses.

Mississippi Marine Brigade (Campaign Series)


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