Boston Herald, April 23,1864
The battlefield of Pleasant Hill is a large open field, slightly elevated in the centre, from which its name is taken. A semicircle belt of timber runs around the field on the Shreveport side, Gen. Emory formed his line of battle on the side facing these woods, Gen. McMillan’s brigade being posted on the right, Gen. Dwight in the centre, and Col. Benedict on the left. Taylor’s battery, 1st Regulars, had four guns in the rear of the left wing on the left of the Shreveport road and two on the road in tear of Gen. Dwight’s line. Hibbard’s Vermont battery was on the right. In the rear of Gen. Emory, and concealed by the rising ground, were Gen. Smith’s tried troops, formed in two lines of battle, 50 yards apart. All of his artillery was in the front line, a section of a battery being on the flank of each, the infantry lying between them. The 13th Corps was in the rear, being a reserve, under Gen. Cameron, Gen. Ransom having been wounded the day before. Gen. Smith was commander-in-chief of the two lines, Gen. Mower being the immediate commander of the troops. Crawford’s 3rd Indiana battery was posted on the right of the 89th Indiana infantry and the 9th Indiana battery on the right of the line of battle.
Skirmishing was kept up with considerable vigor until about 5 P.M., when the rebels had completed their arrangements for the attack. At about this time, however, Gen. Emory’s line of skirmishers was driven in on the right by the rebels, who appeared in large numbers coming through the woods. They soon reached the open ground, and moved in three lines of battle to the attack. Our battery and infantry opened with terrible effect, doing great slaughter with grape and canister, while the rebel artillery, being in the woods and in a bad position, did scarcely any damage. Col. Benedict’s brigade, on the left, was first engaged, soon followed by Gen. Dwight’s and McMillan’s.
The fight was terrific. Old soldiers say it was never surpassed for desperation. Not withstanding the terrible havoc in their ranks, the rebels pressed fiercely on, slowly pushing the men of the 10th corps back up the hill, but not breaking their line of battle. A sudden and bold dash of the rebels on the right gave them possession of Taylor’s Battery and forced our lines still further back. Now came the grand coup de main. The 19th corps on arriving at the top of the hill suddenly fled off over the hill and passed through the lines of General Smith. The rebels were now but in two lines of battle, the first having been almost annihilated by General Emory, what remained being forced back into the second line.
But the two lines came on exultant and sure of victory. The first passed over the knoll and all heedless of the long lines of cannon and crouching forms of as brave men as ever trod mother earth, pressed on. The second line appeared on the crest and the death signal was sounded. Words cannot describe the awful effects of this discharge of 7000 rifles and several batteries of artillery, each gun loaded to the muzzle with grape and canister, were fired simultaneously, and the whole centre of the rebel line was crushed down, as a field of ripe wheat through which a tornado had passed.
It is estimated that 1000 men were hurried into eternity or frightfully mangled by this one discharge. No time was given them to recover their good order, but Gen. Smith ordered a charge, and his men dashed rapidly forward, the boys of the 19th corps joining in. The rebels fought bravely and desperately back to the timber, on reaching which a large portion broke and fled, fully 2000 throwing aside their arms. In the charge, Taylor’s battery was retaken also two guns of Nims’ battery, the Parrott guns, taken from us last fall at Carrion Crow, and one or two others, belonging to the rebels, besides 700 prisoners.
A pursuit and desultory fight was kept up for a mile, when our men returned to the field of battle; thus ended this fearful and bloody struggle for the control of Western Louisiana.
Worcester National Aegis and Transcript, December 19, 1863
NOVEMBER 12, 1863.
SKIRMISH AT PRAIRIE VERMILLION, LA.
A correspondent of the New York Evening Post, writing from Vermillion Bayou, La., under the date of November 12, gives an interesting account of the skirmish of Prairie Vermillion, in which the celebrated New York brigade of the 19th army corps, Col. Benedict commanding, acquitted themselves most heroically. This brigade, which is composed of the 110th, 162d, 165th, and 173d New York Volunteers, four of the best regiments from the State, had been detailed, with a cavalry division, consisting of two brigades, to support Brig. Gen. Lee, chief of cavalry, in making a reconnoissance of the enemy then concentrated at or near Carrion Crow bayou. The fact that Lieut. Col. Green of the 173d N. Y., who performed a conspicuous creditable part in the affair, is a Worcester boy, (Wm. N. Green, Jr., son of Judge Green,) will give additional interest to the perusal of the following details, in which his action is prominently mentioned:
The cavalry division, consisting of the brigade numbering eight hundred each, started from Vermillionville, to Carrion Crow Bayou, (a distance due north of twelve miles) at 6.30 a. m., and soon commenced running fight then ensued for some eight miles, ending in Gen. Lee charging them vigorously and driving them into confusion into a dense wood. Nim’s battery of light flying artillery was quickly brought up, and after shelling the woods Gen. Lee advanced his whole force in line of battle through the woods, and found the enemy drawn up in line of battle on the opposite side of a prairie about two miles in width, numbering as near as could be estimated, about seven thousand. Upon discovering that the enemy outnumbered his force four to one, and having accomplished the object of his reconnioeance, Gen. Lee ordered his cavalry to retreat.
The enemy, discovering his intentions, sent a large force to make a demonstration on Lee’s left flank, upon which the general dispatched the First (Col. Lucas’s) brigade to protect the left flack, while the General in person remained with the main column on the road.
During this time the New York brigade, having with them Trull’s Fourth Massachusetts battery, had marched, (starting at 7.30 a. m.,) through Vermillion, and proceeded to a point about three miles from that place holding themselves in good supporting distance of Gen. Lee. On the march, they captures several stragglers of the enemy. Whilst halting for a brief period, Col. Peck commanding the advance, discovered an important rebel signal station, and sent a detachment of the One Hundred and Seventy-third New York State Volunteers, under command of Lieut. Colonel Green of that regiment, who succeeded in destroying the station, and returned without losing a single man.
Soon afterwards, by direction of General Lee, the New York brigade fell back to large plain, and the One Hundred and Sixty-second and One Hundred and Seventy-third regiments were deployed in line of battle on the right of the road; the One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred Sixty- fifth on the left; directly in rear of the brigade were the batteries of Trull and Nims, well masked by a dense growth of woods, &c. A column of the enemy soon appeared, coming swiftly down the road, deploying to the right and left; they advanced unsuspectingly, not supposing for one instant that such a storm of missiles was prepared to greet them. Having advanced within good rifle range, the order was given to the batteries to fire, and the enemy was greeted with a tremendous discharge of canister and shell, which made a deep gap in their ranks. They soon brought up a section of artillery, and feebly responded to our batteries for a few moments, which continued to pour destructive volleys into their columns. Seeing it was suicide to attempt to advance his forces in the face of such terrible artillery fire, the rebel general withdrew his forces and made a slight demonstration on General Lee’s left flank. They were, however, handsomely repulsed by the first brigade of the cavalry division. They soon retreated back to Carrion Crow Bayou, after which General Lee’s whole force returned to their camps.
General Lee’s loss was about thirty killed and wounded. The loss of the New York brigade was two killed and five wounded.
The loss of the enemy is not definitely known, but their loss is supposed to have been very large. (Worcester National Aegis and Transcript, December 19, 1863, pg. 1, col. 8.)
Boston Herald, July 27, 1863
JULY 13, 1863.
THIRD MASSACHUSETTS CAVALRY.
3d Mass. Cavalry, (formerly 41st Mass.
Vols.) Port Hudson, July 13, 1863.
Long ere this letter reaches you, will have received news of the surrender of Port Hudson, but having been to the fortifications I thought I would write a few lines to you informing you of what I saw there. The breastworks are about six miles in extent, and the natural defenses of the place are good.
After entering the gate you proceed for about a mile and half, which will bring you to the landing. You there find a high bluff, some eighty feet above the river, where the rebs had their guns placed to prevent our gunboats getting by, and it certainly looks as if a few pieces of cannon could blow any ship out of the water that should attempt to pass.
On arriving at the General’s quarters I found in the vicinity a large number of rebs, who were disposed to trade confederate money for greenbacks, at the rate of ten dollars for one. Others were trying to trade articles of clothing, gold, pens, &c.
It did not seem possible that these could be the same men that a few days ago were bound to kill all of our forces that they could, but who now were as sociable and cheerful as you could wish. They all allowed that our men have fought well and for the skill displayed by our artillery men, they gave them unbounded praise.
There was one large gun in the fort that had created a vast deal of trouble to our men, and Mack’s Black Horse Battery commenced firing at it, and hit it twelve times, and the twelfth brought it. The rebs think they can shoot with the musket or rifle as well if not better than our men, but as for firing with cannon they say we are too much for them. There are some fifty-five hundred prisoners in the fort. The enlisted men will be paroled, but the officers will probably not be. There were a number of planters and their families in the fort, who had sought safety, as they thought, in going there, deeming the place impregnable. Their families were allowed to depart, and what a scene of desolation must have met their eyes when they returned to what were once their homes! Their negroes, horses and mules gone; their corn and fodder all carried off, and their furniture taken away or destroyed. By this time, probably, they have fully realized the effects of war. Col. Chickering has been appointed Provost Marshal at the Fort, and has business enough to attend to in getting the prisoners off.
Since I last wrote you, our regiment has been organized as a cavalry regiment, by an order from General Banks, June 17, 1863. We are equipped with Sharpe’s carbines, Colt’s large size pistols, and sabres. Capt. McGee’s and Capt. Cowen’s companies have been joined to us, so that now we have twelve companies. The boys were much pleased when the began to be mounted, but the funny part is beginning to wear away, and they find there is a great deal of work in being in the cavalry. But anything, they say, is better than being obliged to foot it on those long marches. The health of the men in the regiment is, as a general thing, good. Three deaths have occurred within a mouth in Co. D, (Ward XI, Guard,) and the names of the men are Horace Rathbun, Adam Armstrong and Wm. Curran. The latter formerly worked in Rand and Avery’s office, in Boston. He was the one who printed the paper in Opelousas while we were staying there.
Some of the regiments in Grover’s division have been awfully cut up in the severe actions that occurred before Port Hudson. The 91st N. Y. Vols. are reduced to one hundred and seventy-three men; the 8th New Hampshire Vols. to a still less number, while the 4th Wisconsin Vols. have also been badly cut up!
Nim’s Battery has been very fortunate so far, having several horses killed, but not a man wounded. Capt. Nims is on his taps, as usual, and ready for another brush.
Now if we can only hear as good news from Virginia as they have heard from us, everything will be lovely, "and the goose hang high." I cannot give you fuller details. And now the nine months’ troops are eager for home, and I understand that several of the regiments have been promised to be sent home by the way of Vicksburg.
Some of the rebels here will not believe that Vicksburg is in possession of our forces, they say it was impossible to take it, but they will find it is too true. At the springfield landing, a place where all the Ordnance, Commissary and Quartermaster’s stores were left for this Department, a raid was made by the rebels a short time ago. Some three hundred rebel cavalry made their appearance there one fine morning, and there was some tall specimen of walking.-Some laughable incidents occurred before the rebs were driven off. A teamster belonging to the 26th Maine Volunteers was quietly sitting on the front part of his wagon waiting for his turn to come for forage for his horses, when three rebs rode up and sung out to him "surrender you d–d Yankee, surrender." "Not by a d–d sight," says Yankee, still sitting calmly on his wagon. The rebs then turned to a negro who was sitting close by, and said to him, "harness up those mules, you d–d nigger, and do it quick too." "hold on," says Sacarapp, "Hold on, Mr. Nigger; if you undertake to harness those mules I’ll break your head." The rebs not deigning to take any more notice of Sacarapp burst out laughing and rode away, and I saw the same teamster at Port Hudson this afternoon, as clam as a clock.
One rebel Captain rode down to the gangplank of the "Suffolk," a boat that had all the ordnance stores on board, with the evident intention of attempting to blow her up, but had a bullet put through his head that stopped his career. By this time the 162d New York were on hand and the rebs began to drop from their saddles, when finding that matters were getting warm they varmosed, taking with them a number of prisoners. The whole affair did not occupy ten minutes but it was a busy time while it lasted. Some three thousand rebels have started for their homes to-day, and they seem to be much pleased to get away from Port Hudson.
How long our regiment will remain in this forsaken hole I know not, but the shorter the time the better it will suit us. The rebels had possession of a place some eight miles below Donaldsonville, where they have erected fortifications, and for some few days have stopped the boats from running between here and New Orleans. But this morning our eyes were gladdened with the sight of the North America, which came up from New Orleans. She brought the good news that the rebels were driven back from their fortifications, and the river was clear, so that in the course of a day or two we shall have letters from home; and I hope the gentleman who abstracts papers that are sent to me will be a little more liberal than he has been for the last two months. I am willing to divy with him, but this taking them all is a little to steep, and causes everything but blessings to fall on his head. Those papers were the source of a great deal of enjoyment to the sick and well men in the regiment, for after I had read them they were circulated from tent to tent and were the means of passing many a lonesome hour, but now this vandal debars us from this enjoyment by stealing the papers and I want him to stop it.
And that blessed Paymster, is he never going to make his appearance here? The first of next month there will be seven months pay due us, and if ever a man was anxiously expected, he is the man.
Now, Mr. Paymaster, if you have any bowels of compassion for sojer boys who have to smoke "old sojers" and coffee grounds in lieu of tobacco, hurry up your cakes, for we are clean broke, and it would be dusty business for any man to make his appearance in camp with any quantity of tobacco. I don’t believe there are five pounds of tobacco in the whole regiment; there is some inside the fortifications, but the sutler only asks two dollars a pound! he might as well ask two hundred, for all the good it will do the boys. Now, Major, you used to be going, going, gone, now be coming, coming, come, and favor us with the sight of some green-backs, or dire consequences will ensue.
If you want to see a busy man, you ought to have drop in quietly on Col. Chickering, the Provost Marshal. He sits at his desk al day long, in his shirt-sleeves, and he is working-some.
But of all the places to land stores, the place at the fort beats all. Imagine an incline plane from the dome of the State House in Boston to the head of West street, and you can form some idea of the ascent that teams have to make. I am not addicted to using hard words, but I must say that I have uttered some words that it would be difficult to find in the dictionary. The rebs below Donaldsonville have all been bagged by Gen. Weitzel assisted by Acting Brig. Gen. Dudley.
Hoping that the mail, when it arrives, will have the "Herald," I remain,
(Boston Herald, July 27, 1863, Pg. 4, Col. 4.)