1863 April 4: Fort Pemberton (Miss.), Mount Sterling (Ky.), and Other News
The main war news column from The Polk County Press of April 4, 1863.
A little south of Helena, Arkansas, the Coldwater River, a tributary of the Tallahatchie River, combines with the Yalobusha River to form the Yazoo River at Greenwood, Mississippi. The Yazoo then flows 188 miles and joins the Mississippi River just above Vicksburg. Confederate General John C. Pemberton, for whom Fort Pemberton was named, ordered General William W. Loring to stop the Union Army from breaking the levee at Greenwood. Loring built a fort a few miles upstream from the point where the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha Rivers combine to form the Yazoo, making a barricade of cotton bales covered with dirt and mounting a pair of heavy guns. This hastily-constructed earthwork was named Fort Pemberton. Sometimes you may see it referred to as Fort Greenwood.
From rebel sources we hear that the Yazoo expedition has succeeded in capturing Fort Pemberton, which is the principal rebel fortification on the Tallahatchie.
It is stated that Fernando Wood² is pecuniarly [sic] a bankrupt—a receiver having been appointed on his estate. Real estate and political speculations are the cause.
The rebels propose to hang the editor of the “Southern Union,” of Milledgeville, Ga., because it contained an article in favor of the reconstruction of the Union.
One of the colored men killed by the mob in Detroit was a fugitive slave who had acquired a good character by his honesty and industry, and who had labored hard to earn sufficient to purchase his wife and children, who are still slaves in Virginia. He had nearly acquired the needed amount, when he was murdered. His savings were all consumed by the fires kindled by the mob.
We have the welcome intelligence that Farragut [David G. Farragut] has passed Port Hudson with his entire fleet. He ran by on the night of the 14th, losing only a single vessel, which ran aground and was destroyed. Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks] with his army was within five miles of the enemy’s fortifications on the 15th, and before this time the rebel stronghold is probably in our possession, either by a surrender or evacuation. This is the reverse in the Southwest spoken of by the Richmond papers, and the news “which created a sensation in the rebel Congress.”³
The rebel army on the Rappahannock is falling back to defences near Richmond. This is an open confession of weakness that Hooker [Joseph Hooker] will be likely to use to advantage.
General Burnside [Ambrose E. Burnside] has taken command of the Department of Ohio, with headquarters at Cincinnati, vice General Wright, whose nomination was rejected by the Senate.4
We met with a reverse at Mt. Sterling, Ky.,5 on Saturday, by which we loss two hundred men who were taken prisoners. A force from Lexington marched on Sunday to retrieve the disaster, and at last accounts the fight was progressing.
Our forces under Col. Hall6 of the 105th Ohio, 1400 strong, were attacked at Milton, Tenn., 15 miles northeast of Murfreesboro, by the rebels under command of the notorious John Morgan [John Hunt Morgan]. Morgan’s forces were defeated with a loss of 40 killed, 150 wounded and 120 prisoners.
The rebels under Breckenridge [sic: John C. Breckinridge], Marshal, and Morgan are invading Kentucky, and our forces are being massed to receive them. Burnside commands in person.
We have confirmation of the report that the rebels are falling back from Fredericksburg to defenses near Richmond, and that ordnance and machinery for the manufacture of arms is being removed to Georgia.
The news from Vicksburg and the Yazoo is not of a definite character. Faragut [sic] on board his flag-ship Hartford is near Warrenton, which is eight miles below Vicksburg. The beating back of the remainder of our fleet, which is mentioned, probably refers to the first attempt to pass Port Hudson with which we were regaled by the rebels. It should not be considered as a denial of the passage of the fleet; on the contrary another dispatch says two of Farragut’s gunboats are below Vicksburg.
1. Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, published under the direction of Redfield Proctor, Stephen B. Elkins, and Daniel S. Lamont, Secretaries of War, by George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph W. Kirkley, Board of Publication ; compiled by Calvin D. Cowles (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895). Available in Special Collections, UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center (E 464 .U6), or digitally at Ohio State University’s eHistory.
2. Fernando Wood (1812-1881) was a Democratic politician. He served as mayor of New York City (1855-1857 and 1860-1862) and as a U.S. Representative from New York (1841–1843, 1863–1865, and 1867–1881). Wood was one of many New York Democrats sympathetic to the Confederacy because he wanted the profitable Southern cotton trade to continue, even suggesting that New York declare itself a free city in order to continue the trade.
3. Port Hudson will not fall until July 9, 1863.
4. Horatio Gouverneur Wright (1820-1899) graduated from West Point and was a career military officer, serving primarily as an engineer. During the Civil War he served as a chief engineer at the First Battle of Bull Run and the Port Royal expedition. In 1862 he commanded troops in Florida, which led to his appointment as a major general of volunteers and commander of the Department of Ohio. He played a major logistical role in the repulse of Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky in 1862. But the U.S. Senate did not confirm his appointment as major general and as a brigadier general, he was not considered eligible to command a department. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside was sent to relieve him. Wright, reporting to Burnside, briefly remained in command of the District of Western Kentucky until May 1863 when he was given a command in the Army of the Potomac. His first battle in division command was Gettysburg in July 1863.
5. Mount Sterling served as a supply depot and the base for the Union Army operating in the Eastern Kentucky mountain counties. At 2 o’clock in the morning on Sunday March 22, 1863, Confederate cavalry from General Morgan’s command attacked Mount Sterling with 800 men and captured the town.
6. Albert S. Hall, colonel of the 105th Ohio Infantry, will die of disease on July 10, 1863.