Mississippi Marine Brigade – Conclusion

The Final Chapter

After briefly supporting the Banks’ Red River Campaign with the Autocrat, Baltic, Diana, Raine and a portion of the cavalry the Brigade was ordered to once again patrol the Mississippi between Milliken’s Bend and Goodrich’s Landing to cover for the units that had departed on Sherman’s Meridian Expedition. The separation of the boats for use as individual resources spelled the de facto end to the brigade. In June and July of 1864 the last actions of the brigade took place in raiding Greenville and with the support of the 52nd USCT again at Rodney, Mississippi. Neither operation produced anything of importance.


In August the new commander of the District of Vicksburg, MG Napoleon Dana, reacting to complaints of corruption, ill-disciplined behavior, personnel irregularities and unauthorized actions ordered Ellet to prepare “descriptive rolls” for his entire command. The Brigade was disbanded against Ellet’s protest and consolidated as the Marine Regiment under a new commander. The Mississippi Marine Brigade was no more. Ellet’s vision of a hard hitting, mobile strike force never materialized and accomplished little of the original promise that encouraged Washington authorities to allow its formation.

The failure of this concept can blamed on three primary reasons:

1. Lack of Oversight
The inability of local commanders to get control of the Brigade because of its unique position with Washington left Ellet to act as he wanted when he wanted. Without a command presence and operational oversight from local authorities the Brigade very quickly forgot its primary mission – to pose a military threat to the Confederate partisans and para-military operations in the area – and instead became little more than cotton raiders.

2. Poor Leadership and Troops
This cannot be emphasized enough. The troops here were selected from the poorest available men. The leadership was even more suspect. Without a doctrine to guide the new concept the leaders and men were free to act as they saw fit. This type of unrestrained activity requires the highest order of training and discipline from both the men and their officers. The Mississippi Marine got neither.

3. Failure to Adhere to the Founding Principals
Instead of confronting the Confederate threat in the area of operations, as they were designed to do, the Brigade often found reasons to do exactly the opposite. Ellet often used his command to raid inland, usually without authorization, away from the enemy even though they made their presence clear.

Finally the Brigade was a loose cannon for the local commanders. Unable to get control of Ellet and his men they filed protests and negative reports about their operations from the very beginning of their existence. Eventually even the stoutest supporter had to see their failures. The end of the Brigade was a direct reaction to their own actions. They aggravated everyone they came into contact except the enemy they were built to confront. Counter-insurgency efforts by the United States military learned some valuable lessons here. Unfortunately most concerned what not to do.

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies
Volume 23
Ellet, Alfred; Welles, Gideon; Stanton, Edwin
Volume 24
Porter, David; Fitch, Leroy; Ellet, Alfred; Streight, Abel;
Volume 25
Porter, David; Ellet, Alfred; Welles, Gideon
Official Records of the War of Rebellion
Volume 23
Hurlbut, Stephen; Dodge, Grenville, Rosencrans, William; Streight, Abel; Warren, William; Goodman, W. A.
Volume 24
Halleck, Henry; Chalmers, James; Ellet, Alfred; Grant, U. S.; Hurlbut, Stephen; Porter, David; Mower, Joseph; Nasmith, Samuel, Walker, J. G.; Reid, Hugh
Volume 30
McPherson, James; Stanton, Edwin
Volume 31
Currie, George; Porter, David; Adams, Wirt; Ellet, Alfred; Gresham, Walter

United States Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860-1941, Andrew J. Birtle, Center of Military History, 1998
A Savage Conflict – The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War, Daniel E. Sutherland, University of North Carolina Press, 2009
Ellet’s Brigade – The Strangest Outfit of All, Chester G. Hearn, Louisiana State University Press, 2000
History of the Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade, Warren D. Crandall & Isaac D. Newell, Buschart Brothers, St. Louis, 1902
In the Saddle with the Texans – Day-by-day with Parson’s Cavalry 1862-1865, Edited by Anne J. Bailey

Internet Resources

Mississippi Marine Brigade (Campaign Series)


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