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1864 August 27: The 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry and General Slocum’s Expedition to Jackson

August 28, 2014

The following column is from the August 27, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.  Company D of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry was primarily from northwestern Wisconsin, Company L was from Eau Claire, and Company M had a lot of men from Prescott.

By way of a quick explanation of the expedition this letter describes, the following is from Dunbar Rowland’s Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898

“When General Slocum [Henry W. Slocum] made his expedition from Vicksburg to Jackson, in July, 1864, Scott² and Powers³ moved at the call of General Adams [Wirt Adams], and skirmished with the advancing enemy near Clinton.  Slocum pushed on and occupied Jackson July 5, and Adams collected the Scott and Powers Regiments and Gholson’s4 Brigade, north of the city, and moved to intercept Slocum on the retreat to Clinton, bringing on the engagements of July 6-7.  The enemy was severely punished and Scott and Powers pursued as far as Edwards.”

OUR ARMY CORRESPONDENCE.

From the Second Cavalry—Its part in General Slocum’s Expedition.

CAMP 2D WIS. CAV., VICKSBURG, MISS, }
July 27th, 1864. }

Eds. State Journal :—I see by reading a letter written by a correspondent of a Chicago paper giving an account of an expedition which started from this place on the first of this month for Jackson, Miss., under command of Brig. Gen. Dennis,5 that the troops that took the most active part in skirmishes and did some of the most stubborn fighting while out, were left entirely out of the ring and that none got praise or scarcely mention save Illinois regiments.  Therefore, I may not present much that is new in regard to the general details of the expedition, yet I hope to show that the 2d Wisconsin Cavalry has been “tried in the fire” and not found wanting.  The following are some items from a journal kept by one of the soldiers :

On the 1st of July, ’64, our regiment with two days rations, took the advance of the grand column of cavalry, artillery and infantry, beside a large train of wagons.  Co. “C” taking the advance of the regiment, met the enemy’s pickets about three miles to the other side of Big Black River, skirmishing with them, drove them back to Champion Hill, and from the road where the command camped.  On the morning of the 4th the 2d Cavalry formed the rear of the column ;  Co. “F” the rear guard.  The advance by a brisk little fight, drove the enemy from Clinton.  The enemy appearing in the greatest force in the advance, the Second was ordered to the front and took up a position three-fourths of a miles in advance of the column on the Jackson road and prepared to camp for the night.  The enemy fell back out of sight, when the boys began strolling out from camp for blackberries which were abundant, when the rebels advanced, fired a volley in among the unsuspecting straglers [sic] when they ran back for their arms and rallied under command of Lt. Hamilton,6 of Co. “F,” and drove the rebels back about two miles.  The enemy formed in line to check them, but lost both ground and men, seven of them being killed to one wounded on our side.  Our men returning to camp the rebels soon followed and secured a safe position behind a railroad grading.  Capt. Ring,7 with about seventy-five men, relieved the Lieutenant with his volunteer force, and finally thinking that as it was near night, the rebels would not make further demonstration, fell back to camp, when to the surprise of all, Col. Scott,² (rebel) with about six hundred men, charged into the camp of the Second, compelling the men to saddle their horses and form their line of battle under the enemy’s fire.  Cos. C, M, F, forming quickly, held the enemy at bay from their own ground, but the left, more unfortunate, gave back when the rebels took possession of their supper of hot coffee, hard tack, forage for horses, &c.  A few volleys from the companies that held the ground on the enemy’s flank compelled him to fall back, and then the whole regiment charged in line, breaking that of the rebels, and the 5th Illinois cavalry on the left of our line, being all mounted, followed up the rout.  All hostilities then ceased for the night.

On the morning of the 5th the 11th Illinois cavalry taking the advance, skirmishing immediately commenced, and one of their Captains and a sergeant were killed.  Infantry now took the front, and cavalry took another road to protect the infantry’s flank ;  the 5th Illinois still keeping the main advance of the cavalry, while the 11th Illinois cavalry and Companies L, H and B of the 2d Wisconsin were deployed on the right of the road as skirmishers.  After advancing about three miles, Companies I and C of the 2nd reinforced the right and advanced still another mile, when the rebels were discovered in considerable force on a commanding eminence, and in possession of a peach orchard, across an open field.  Lieut. Hamilton in command of Companies M, F, I and C to the right, and the 11th Illinois on the left, our gallant men moved on in the shower of bullets as though it was a hail storm though they brought death to many as they “zipped” through the air, and the wounded pressed back to the rear.  Our boys fought rapidly and long enough to empty their cartridge boxes.  The rebels fell back, slowly until they could support and use their artillery.  Our men then advanced dismounted, in support of our artillery, under a severe fire from the enemy.  The infantry making a flank movement on the rebels, they were compelled to abandon their position and retreated through the city of Jackson, a part of them across Pearl river.  The Mayor come out to our forces with a flag of truce and surrendered the city to them and we marched in and took possession.

Major Gen. Slocum, who with his staff officers overtook the expedition at Champion Hill, and had assumed chief command, learned by rebel dispatches from Gen. Adams to Col. Scott, and captured by our scouts, that the former would reinforce the other with three thousand men if he could hold the Yankees a short time.

Having accomplished all that was intended by the expedition and having a limited supply of rations, our forces on the afternoon of the 6th, commenced the march back towards Vicksburg.

Gen. Slocum ordered Major Richmond,8 who was in command of the 2d cavalry, to move to the front, and subsequently ordered Lieut. Hamilton, in command of five companies, to remain as rear guard to the main column.  As soon as our forces were on the move the rebels dashed upon them from all sides.  Fierce fighting commenced in front, and the Lieutenant with his five companies being ordered to the front moved along by a road on the left of the main force, when the rebels opened upon him with shell from their battery, many of the shots striking on all sides but doing no great damage, and he formed for battle under cover of a grove of timber.  The 5th Ill. and 3d Miss. (colored) cavalry were in line of battle on the crest of a hill, and protected somewhat by a fence repulsed three desperate charges made by the rebels.  They, in one of these, discovering that a portion of our forces were negroes, the rebel commander leading the charge was heard to give the order to kill every d–d one of them, when a negro sergeant shot him dead on the spot, and a well-timed volley from these troops staggered the rebels and they fell back in disorder.  Lieut. Hamilton with his detachment of the 2d received orders and formed his men near a railroad embankment, while shell from the rebel battery was passing through his line, and he then moved under constant fire farther to the front to hold in check an expected charge by the enemy, and in his new position was exposed in open and easy range of their guns, but the boys with great coolness closely watched the shells as they came with their scream of death and avoided them as much as possible by running to the right or left to give them room to pass, but did not break their line of battle.  There were only five horses injured, and the men escaped unhurt.  The whole line continued [_] rapid and fierce fire until after dark.  The cavalry having done most of the fighting this day, were relieved by the infantry and fell back and rested for the night on their arms.

On the morning of the 7th, as soon as barely light, the ball opened again, and Gen. Slocum with true courage and ability, disposed of his forces that he succeeded in cutting through the enemy’s line, and saving his long train of wagons and his troops from disaster.  Companies F and M, on the right, and C and I on the left of the road, advanced on the enemy dismounted, and closely followed by our reserved forces, forced the rebels back four miles when they fell upon the rear of the column and by a desperate charge on the train, succeeded in cutting our forces in two, despite the efforts of the 5th Illinois’ cavalry to prevent it, when the 3d Battallion [sic] of the 2d Wisconsin cavalry was ordered back and opened the communication by blank movements on the rebels.  Brisk skirmishing continued at various points, until our forces reached Clinton, when the 2d was again ordered to the advance, and drove the enemy across Baker’s Creek where the rebels succeeded in destroying the bridge, and Capt. Ward [sic],9 of Co. C, with a volunteer force from the regiment, in about two hours, succeeded in reconstructing a temporary crossing, and our forces moved on without any other important event except to be constantly harrassed [sic] on all sides by small squads of the enemy, until they reached Big Black River where they found quiet and safety.

The total loss to our forces was then supposed to be about one hundred and seventy-five in killed, wounded and missing, and that of the enemy was acknowledged to be more than three hundred.  By the above, which I believe to be correct, your readers can see that the gallant 2d Cavalry played a very conspicuous part, never flinching at any place and really deserving more credit than the troops who were the especial favorites of a correspondence who could not chronicle gallantry save that exhibited by the troop0s from his own State.  All who were with this expedition deserve all honor for their bravery.

Yours respectfully,               H. B.

1.  Military history of Mississippi, 1803-1898: Taken from the Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi, compiled by Dunbar Rowland (originally published 1908; reprint in 1978 by Reprint Co. of Spartanburg, S.C.).
2.  John Sims Scott, colonel of the 1st Louisiana Cavalry. Scott raised the 1st Louisiana cavalry regiment starting in June 1861, and the regiment was mustered in September. The 1st Louisiana Cavalry was one of the most heavily endowed regiments, receiving some $500,000, largely from Louisiana planters, as many of the troopers of the Regiment were sons of planters or their relatives. Some of the more notable engagements the regiment participated in were Nashville, Elk River, Richmond (Ky.), Munfordville, Stone’s River, Murfreesborough, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Big Hill (Ky.), Perryville, and Danville (Ky.).  General Richard Taylor surrendered his army, which included the 1st Louisiana Cavalry Regiment, to General E.R.S. Canby near Citronelle, Alabama, on May 5, 1865. Final parole was at Gainesville, Alabama, on May 12, 1865. For more on Scott and the 1st Louisiana Cavalry, see They Rode with Forrest, by Michael R. Bradley (Pelican Publishing Co., 2012).
3.  Frank P. Powers, colonel of the 14th Arkansas. There are few records of Powers’ service during the Civil War, with the exception of his leadership at the Battle of Plains Store during the Siege of Port Hudson. On May 21, 1863, Powers commanded his forces in the Battle of Plains Store (La.). This Union victory closed the last Confederate escape route from Port Hudson.
4.  Samuel Jameson Gholson (1808-1883) was a lawyer in Mississippi before the Civil War and served multiple terms in the Mississippi House of Representatives (1835, 1836, 1839) and also in the U.S. House of Representatives (1836-1838). His had an often stormy tenure, including a severe dispute with Henry A. Wise of Virginia that nearly resulted in a duel. Gholson next served as federal judge in Mississippi (1839-1861), resigning when Mississippi seceded. He was an advocate of states’ rights and served as a member of Mississippi’s secession convention. When the Civil War broke out, Gholson enlisted as a private in the Monroe County Volunteers, which became Company I of the 14th Mississippi Infantry. He rose through the ranks to captain, colonel, and brigadier general. At the Battle of Fort Donelson, he was severely wounded and surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces. After his exchange, Gholson returned to active duty and fought at Iuka and Corinth. By mid-1863 he was a major general of Mississippi State Troops and in 1864 became a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. He was placed in command of a brigade of cavalry attached to the division of General James Chalmers (under General Nathan B. Forrest). While serving in the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, Gholson was severely wounded in a fight with Union cavalry on December 27, 1864, at Egypt, Mississippi. The amputation of his left arm ended his combat duty for the rest of the War.
5.  Elias Smith Dennis (1812-1894) served in the Illinois House of Representatives (1842-1844) and in the Illinois State Senate (1846 -1848). In 1857 President Buchanan appointed him Kansas Territory Marshal for the Leavenworth area, but was dismissed in 1858. When the Civil War started, Elias was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 30th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to colonel in May 1862 and to brigadier general of Volunteers in November 1862. During the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign, he was accused of selling army provisions to the Confederates while his own men were underfed. Despite that, he was placed in command of the District of Northeast Louisiana. Troops from his command participated in the Battle of Milliken’s Bend (June 7, 1863). Elias served as the commanding officer of Union militia in Louisiana until the end of the war.
6.  Roswell R. Hamilton, from Richland Center, was commissioned 1st lieutenant of Company F, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, on December 23, 1861, and served until his term expired on February 5, 1865.
7.  George W. Ring, from Milwaukee, was the captain of Company I, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry. He enlisted October 25, 1861, promoted 1st lieutenant November 26, 1861, promoted captain September 24, 1862, and promoted major of the 2nd February 15, 1865. He mustered out when his term expired on February 25, 1865.
8.  George N. Richmond, from Portage, was originally the captain of Company E. He became the major of the Third Battalion on March 4, 1863. Richmond was “dismissed” November 17, 1864.
9.  Myron W. Wood, from Lancaster, was the captain of Company C, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry. He enlisted October 31, 1861, promoted to 1st lieutenant December 7, 1861, promoted to captain July 21, 1862, and promoted to major February 1, 1865. He was “dropped” October 19, 1865, and then honorably discharged by order of the War Department.

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