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1864 August 30: “No doubt you have ere this heard of the brisk little fight we had at Clinton”

August 30, 2014

The official history of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry in E. B. Quiner’s Military History of Wisconsin (Chicago, 1866), chapter 53, pages 925-6, has this to say about the expedition described by Jerry Flint in the letter below.

On the 25th of August [1864], the regiment accompanied an expedition to Clinton.  On reaching the Comite River at Olive Branch, they found the rebels had destroyed the bridge, and were drawn up on the opposite side with three pieces of artillery.  Three hundred men of the Fourth, were dismounted in order to cross the river to fight them on foot.  They moved down the river a few rods and crossed on a log which had broken in two in the middle, forming an angle, which compelled the men to get astride the tree and slide down to the water, climbing up on the other side by the branches, and arriving on the opposite shore in safety.  The enemy found himself flanked and withdrew his forces and artillery.  Major Craigue swam the river with 100 men and started in pursuit, the rest of the regiment following as soon as possible.  Major Craigue ran the rebel force into Clinton with his advance guard, and gave them no time to recover, pressing right on without waiting for support.  On reaching Clinton his ammunition being expended, he remained on the outskirts of the town to wait for reinforcements.  While they were coming up, the rebels improved their time in running.  The balance of the force cam up about noon and took possession of the town.  The Fourth returned to Baton Rouge by the way of Green Hill Springs.

Two other expeditions to Clinton were undertaken in the months of October and November, which were both highly successful.

Following is Jerry Flint’s description of the August expedition to Clinton.  Jerry was the 2nd lieutenant in Company G of the 4th Wisconsin Cavalry.  The original letter is in the Jerry E. Flint Papers (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, University Archives and Area Research Center.

Camp 4th Wis Cavalry
Magnolia Grove¹ Aug. 30, 1864

Dear Mother

                          One evening a week since, I had seated myself to write to you, when suddenly an order came to prepare ourselves with rations and ammunition for an expedition to start early the next morning.  Accordingly I throwed [sic] my writing material [to] one side and have had no opportunity to resume my writing until now.

No doubt you have ere this heard of the brisk little fight we had at Clinton [Louisiana].  After marching all night we attacked them in their position across the Comite River² and drove them away.

Our force consisted of 3 Regts. of Cavalry and four pieces of Artillery.  The Rebs had about the same number of men, but much more Artillery.  The 4th Regt. had 12 wounded but none killed.  The wounded, were all from three companies.  Co. “G” had none shot, but one man was seseverly [sic: severely] bruised but he has been taken to the Hospital.  His name is Patrick Oniel,³ one of my recruits.

He was one of the advance and while they were making a charge he became seperated [sic] from our boys, and surrounded by a dozen Rebs.  He couldn’t very well manage them all and finally one struck him with the butt of his gun on the head which knocked him off his horse, insensible.  After this he was run over by several horses.  He is doing well now and says he run one of them through.  His Sabre showed that he told the truth.

The Rebs finally fled and we went into the town, stayed two days and returned to Baton Rouge.

Weather was so hot that several horses fell dead by the heat.

David Lovell has just returned bringing a letter from Phin,4 also a Paper of tea.

Rest assurred [sic] I was thankful, for Knowles and myself were just out and unfortunately without money to buy more, having had no money pay since my return from Wisconsin.

My health is splendid, near better, and as long as I am blessed with that I am good for anything else.  A man once sick in the army will ever after appreciate good health.

Whitefield is exceedingly well.  He got into a pretty hot place in the fight the other day but bore his part well.

He can beat me all to smash forageing [sic], chickens and honey stand no show5 when he is after them.

Strange he will be an oddity with other men.

He often speaks of you and expresses a great desire to see you.  Tender my respects to Grandmother.  Also to Uncle J and Aunt L.

Tell Phin that I will answer his letter soon.

I suppose you will think this a poor specimen of a letter, at least I do.

Your Boy Jerry

Magnolia-Mound-Plantation-Louisiana1.  Possibly Jerry means Magnolia Mound plantation, which was near Baton Rouge. Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Or he might mean they were camped in a Magnolia grove.
There is a Magnolia Grove plantation, but it is near Greensboro, Alabama.
2.  The Comite River is a tributary of the Amite River, with a confluence near the city of Denham Springs, Louisiana, east of Baton Rouge.
3.  Patrick O’Neil, from Hudson, enlisted December 16, 1863, and lived to muster out on July 8, 1865.
4.  Phin is Jerry’s brother, Phineas C. Flint.
5.  Today we would say: “stand no chance.”

Jerry Flint letter of August 30, 1864, from the Jerry E. Flint Papers (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center

Jerry Flint letter of August 30, 1864, from the Jerry E. Flint Papers (River Falls Mss BN) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls University Archives & Area Research Center

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