Col. Francis M.
Cockrell, Second Missouri Infantry
MAJOR: Herewith I send you my official report of the battles of Baker's Creek, Big Black, and the siege of Vicksburg. I beg the leniency of the lieutenant-general for not having sent it sooner. I hope it is in time yet. It is very difficult to make out reports extending through so long a space of time. The movements of the First Brigade (Missouri Volunteers) during this siege from point to point, and portions of it being thrown to the support of every brigade occupying a line of trenches, and the many varied incidents connected therewith, would alone make a large volume. I have condensed as much as I could.
In my reports of Baker's Creek and Big Black I have been more particular in stating in full various matters, such as the manner of bivouacking the night previous to the battle; the movements of the enemy in my front next morning up to the time I was ordered to re-enforce General Stevenson; my call for re-enforcements, and answer of the lieutenant-general as to what troops were expected to re-enforce my line, and the affair at the crossing of Baker's Creek, and my delay there until the gaining of the road by the enemy, causing me to travel my course alone for some distance. I did this because I felt it to be my duty toward the lieutenant-general. I have prepared the whole report in a great hurry, and send it to you as soon as completed.
I have the honor, major, to be, most respectfully, your obedient soldier,
F. M. COCKRELL,
Maj. R. W. MEMMINGER,
MAJOR: In consequence of the death of my gallant and lamented division commander, Maj. Gen. John S. Bowen, I respectfully beg leave to submit to you the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade (Missouri Volunteers), Bowen's division, composed of the following-named infantry regiments, to wit: The First Missouri Infantry, composed of the First and Fourth Regiments, consolidated; the Second Missouri Infantry; the Third Missouri Infantry: the Fifth Missouri Infantry; the Sixth Missouri Infantry; Captain [Henry] Guibor's battery; Captain [John C.] Landis' battery, under command of Lieutenant [John M.] Lan-gan, and the Wade Battery, under Lieutenant [Richard C.] Walsh, in the battles of Baker's Creek and Big Black, and during the siege of Vicksburg.
This brigade bivouacked near the battlefield of Baker's Creek on the night of May 15 last, and immediately threw forward to the distance of over 100 yards a strong line of pickets, and early on the morning of the 16th instant changed position to the front and left of the first line, and threw forward far in advance of the battle line five companies of skirmishers: Captain [Martin] Burke's company (D), First Missouri; Captain [T. B.] Wilson's company (G), Second Missouri; Captain [Patrick] Canniff's company (F), Fifth Missouri; Captain [W. C.] Adams' company (G), Third Missouri, and Captain [Jepthah] Duncan's company (E), Sixth Missouri, all under command of Lieut. Col. F. L. Hubbell, of the Third Missouri Infantry. Our cavalry soon engaged the enemy a mile or more in front of this brigade, and slowly retired to the rear through my line.
Soon after this a line of the enemy appeared about 1,200 yards in my front, when Lieutenant Langan and Lieutenant Walsh opened on them and drove them from the field, and immediately the enemy brought forward a battery, and replied lively to our batteries, disabling one of Lieutenant Langan's 12-pounder guns and killing 4 men by the explosion of one shell, and very soon afterward disabling the other 12-pounder gun. Both these disabled guns were carried safely from the field.
The enemy's battery soon withdrew, and we remained in the same position unengaged with the enemy until about or after 1 p.m., when I received an order directly from Lieutenant-General Pemberton to move and re-enforce Brigadier-General [S. D.] Lee, on the left of Major-General Stevenson's line. I moved in quick and double-quick time toward the designated line, but before arriving there I received another order to move to Major-General Stevenson's right, and, moving by file right, I attempted to gain that portion of his line; but in consequence of his troops giving way, and the exposure of my line moving by the left flank to the fire of the enemy, rapidly advancing, I immediately on the left, by file into line, formed the brigade in line of battle under a heavy fire, resting the right of the Fifth Infantry on the left of General Cumming's brigade, which had been giving way, but had apparently rallied behind a cut in the road near Captain [James F.] Waddell's battery, then rapidly firing, and moving to the left of my line to place the Second Missouri Infantry in position.
And before having completed this I received information from Captain [R. L.] Maupin, acting on my staff, that the right of the brigade was falling back, and hastening thither I found that this brigade on my right had almost wholly disappeared, and that the enemy had captured Captain Waddell's battery and were occupying the ground and road just previously occupied by this brigade of Major-General Stevenson's division, and were firing a most destructive enfilading fire into the brigade from right to left, and that in consequence of this fearful fire portions of the Third and Fifth Missouri Infantry Regiments had fallen back a short distance. I ordered them to regain their first line, which was quickly done. Then I ordered the brigade to charge the heavy, strong lines of the enemy, rapidly advancing and cheering, flushed with their success and the capture of our guns; and in the most gallant, dashing, fearless manner, officers and men With loud cheers threw themselves forward at a run against the enemy's hitherto victorious lines. And just at this time the First, Missouri Infantry, coming up, was placed on the extreme right, and most gallantly charged a very superior force of the enemy immediately in their front, at the same time being exposed to such a destructive raking fire from the enemy on their right--all the troops on the right having fallen back--that Colonel [A. C.] Riley had to change the front of his two right companies. Soon the enemy's lines in front of this brigade were checked, and after a very stubborn resistance and a very destructive fire from my whole line, firing continuously in its rapid advance, they were severely repulsed and driven back. At this time Lieutenant-Colonel Hubbell, with the before-named five companies of skirmishers, who withdrew from the front of my former position after the brigade had moved, came up, and, forming in rear of center of the brigade line, most cheeringly joined in the charge and overtook our lines.
Fresh troops of the enemy were rapidly thrown in front of our lines, and were immediately engaged and repulsed. This fearful strife was kept up uninterruptedly for two and a half hours. The soldiers of this brigade fired away the 40 rounds of ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and instead of abandoning the field took from the cartridge boxes of their fallen and wounded soldiers, and even stripped the slain and wounded of the enemy, with whom the ground was thickly strewn, of all their cartridges, many of them firing 75 to 90 rounds. Captain Waddell's battery was recaptured, and this gallant, fearless officer immediately, with the assistance of one or two men, opened his battery on the fleeing enemy. A battery of the enemy attempted to check the impetuous advance, and was quickly charged and captured, but could not be brought off on account of the horses being killed. When all the ammunition in cartridge-boxes and that gathered from the slain and wounded of friend and foe was exhausted, the troops gradually began to fall back.
In the early part of the engagement, I sent two of my staff officers for ammunition, but the ordnance train could not be found. Colonel [James] McCown, of the Fifth Missouri Infantry, sent his major after ammunition, but he likewise failed. Col. A. C. Riley, of the First Missouri Infantry, in his official report to me, states that his ordnance sergeant started to him to supply ammunition fired away by his men, but was ordered across Baker's Creek by General Stevenson. Captain Guibor's battery, under Lieutenant [William] Corkery, was placed in position on the left of the brigade, and did effective service in saving the left of the brigade from being flanked. Lieutenants Langan and Walsh, with their batteries, did good service on the right of the brigade in checking the enemy in his attempt to gain the rear of our right flank.
At this time I received notice through Captain [W. B.] Pittman, of Brigadier-General Green's staff, that there was-an order to retreat, which I delayed communicating, hoping that Major-General Loring's division might still arrive in time to push forward the successes and advantages so gallantly and dearly won, having met with and been informed by the lieutenant-general commanding, in answer to my request for re-enforcements, that he had not a man until General Loring should arrive.
In the mean time the enemy were rapidly advancing on the right, in order of battle almost perpendicular to our own, and I was thus forced to withdraw, which was done in good order. Retreating to and crossing Baker's Creek, I there received an order from General Bowen to remain in position, so as to protect the crossing and enable General Loring's division to cross over, and then to move on to Big Black. While delaying here, the enemy, having crossed the creek above us, advanced and placed a battery in position to command the road from this crossing to Edwards Depot, and immediately a brisk fire was opened from this battery.
A short time after this battery began to fire, I heard commands given to troops at the crossing, indicating that they were marching back. I immediately hastened to the crossing, and found Major-General Stevenson and staff and Colonel [T. M.] Scott's Twelfth Louisiana Regiment going back with the belief that the enemy had gained the road and cut them off. I informed General Stevenson that this brigade was there and what my orders were. He and Colonel Scott's regiment immediately crossed over, and Colonel Scott moved on. After this regiment passed, seeing no other troops coming to cross (not even stragglers), and believing that the enemy probably occupied the road to Edwards Depot, I moved the brigade, leaving the road to Edwards Depot to my right, and after marching under cover of darkness through plantations, along and across ravines, and leaving Edwards Depot to my right, I intersected the road from Edwards Depot to Big Black, and then marched inside, and by direction of Brigadier-General Vaughn bivouacked in rear of the defenses south of the railroad. Soon after leaving my position at the crossing of Baker's Creek, I saw Colonel Scott's regiment marching back, and was informed that General Loring had ordered this regiment back to his division, south of Baker's Creek. I ordered the batteries of this brigade not to halt at' the crossing, but move rapidly to Big Black, and not a gun was lost.
In this battle this brigade suffered heavy losses in killed, wounded, and missing, as will appear by the following statement:
Among the slain of this well-embattled field must ever be held in lively remembrance the brave and fearless Captains [W. C. P.] Carrington and [Norval Spangler and Lieutenant [T. J.] Dobyns, of the First Missouri Infantry, and Captain [William P.] McIlvane, of the Third Missouri Infantry; and among the wounded (who afterward died), Lieut. Col. F. L. Hubbell, of the Third Missouri, commanding five companies of skirmishers, and Captain [H. G.] McKinney, of the Fifth Missouri Infantry, and Lieutenant [R. S.] Rankin, of the First Missouri Infantry.
I cannot speak with too much praise of the gallantry, coolness, and dashing, fearless, and even reckless impetuosity shown by the officers and soldiers of this brigade in forming their line of battle under heavy fire, with the troops on their right and left falling back past them in disorder and contusion, and an enemy greatly outnumbering them rapidly advancing, cheering and flushed with their hitherto successful charges and their capture of the guns, and then, in the midst of these, in throwing themselves into the breach with continued cheers, and driving the enemy back 500 to 600 yards, and recapturing Captain Waddell's battery and a battery of the enemy.
With special commendation I mention the names of Colonel Riley and Lieutenant-Colonel [Hugh A.] Garland, of the First Missouri Infantry, and Lieutenant-Colonel [Pembroke S.] Senteny and Major [T. M.] Carter, of the Second Missouri Infantry, and Colonel [W. R.] Gause and Major [J. K.] McDowell, of the Third Missouri Infantry, and Colonel McCown, Lieutenant-Colonel [R. S.] Bevier, and Major [O. A.] Waddell, of the Fifth Missouri Infantry, and Major [Stephen] Cooper, commanding the Sixth Missouri Infantry.
Capt. Upton M. Young, acting
with me, was severely wounded at the post of duty and danger.
In crossing the bridge I lost 2 men killed by the enemy's shell. Captain Guibor's and Lieutenant Walsh's batteries were necessarily abandoned. Lieutenant Langan's battery not being in the trenches, was saved, and the section of 24-pounder howitzers being posted on the west bank of the river, did valuable service in checking the enemy until we crossed. Soon I received orders to march to Vicksburg, which was done the same evening.
Capt. T. B. Wilson, of the Second Missouri Infantry, Company G, claiming to have been exhausted, did not go with his company into the battle of Baker's Creek, and, having made his way to Big Black, joined his company in the rifle-pits early on the morning of the 17th instant, and, when his company was ordered to fall back, abandoned his company and remained lying in the rifle-pits, and was captured by the enemy, and while a prisoner stated to Col. Elijah Gates, of the First Missouri Cavalry (who was also a prisoner), that he (Captain Wilson) intended to take the oath and then go to fighting the enemy as a guerrilla. Such conduct merits a dismissal in disgrace and such an officer should not remain in the way of gallant and efficient officers now commanding his company.(*)
I have the honor, major, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
F. M. COCKRELL,
Maj. R. W. MEMINGER,
COLONEL: Your favor asking information in regard to the battle of Baker's Creek is at hand, and I hasten to give you what information I possess.
On May 15, the army moved from its position, south of Edwards Depot, back to Edwards Depot, and thence eastward near the railroad track, and crossed Baker's Creek on a bridge near and south of the railroad track, and moved eastward a short distance, and then moved to the right and south of the railroad. I was then colonel commanding First Brigade, in Bowen's division. We bivouacked that night between 9 and 10 o'clock near where the battle was fought next day, and while bivouacking discovered a number of lights, which I supposed to be the camp-fires of the enemy. This was the general conversation among officers and men of any brigade, that these lights were the enemy's campfires, and were supposed to be in the direction of and to the south of Clinton, Miss. I had no official information in reference to them.
About 7 a.m. 16th instant, a brisk cannonade began between our cavalry (Col. Wirt Adams' regiment, I believe) and the enemy, about 1 mile in front of my brigade on the road toward Raymond, Miss. Bowen's division formed the center of line, Major-General Loring's division the right, and Major-General Stevenson' the left, and I presume Major-General Stevenson's division covered and protected the bridge across Baker's Creek, over which our army had just passed.
On the morning of the 16th, then, we had this road and bridge across Baker's Creek, and the ford on Baker's Creek leading from Edwards Depot to Raymond, Miss., which was in rear of and covered from right wing, and over which we retreated that evening after our defeat, General Stevenson's division having been driven from the bridge referred to on his left. After about one hour's cannonading between the cavalry and enemy above referred to, this cavalry retired through my line, and about 10 a.m. a line of the enemy appeared in my front, distant about half a mile, and I opened on them with two of my batteries, and soon engaged and drove away a battery of the enemy. This was the first cannonading between our lines and the enemy, except the cavalry skirmish referred to, and, in fact, the opening of the battle. The enemy never advanced farther in my front. Between 11 and 12 o'clock the firing began on General Stevenson's front, skirmishing and cannonading as I judged from the sound, and I suppose it was nearly 12 m. before General Stevenson's line became hotly engaged. About 1 p.m was ordered to his support.
After the defeat we crossed over Baker's Creek at the ford referred to, General Tilghman's brigade holding the enemy in check on our right till we crossed, Loring's division excepted. After the defeat our army (except Loring's division) crossed over Baker's Creek, and I would say that, in my opinion, our whole army could safely have crossed back over Baker's Creek after the cannonading between the cavalry referred to and even after the engagement between my batteries and the enemy referred to. After crossing Baker's Creek, there could have been, in my opinion, no trouble in reaching Edwards Depot (only a short distance), and with Baker's Creek then between us and the enemy.
I had no official information as to the nearness of the enemy on the evening of the 5th instant (the evening before the battle), and can only give my own observations. As to the time the battle began, I only speak from recollection, but think I am very nearly correct; and as to whether the army could have reached Edwards Depot by returning as soon as the presence of the enemy was discovered, I can only give my own opinion from my knowledge of the position of our own lines and the two crossings referred to.
I have the honor, colonel, to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
F. M. COCKRELL,
Col. B. S. EWELL,
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