Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant George G. Smith: April 23, 1864

On the march at six a. m. Rebels had crossed Caney river at the ford and taken possession of three high hills on the opposite bank, and planted a battery of six guns on the highest one, next to the ford, and our artillery were unable to dislodge them. So a force of infantry, one regiment of which was the First Louisiana, were ordered to move up the river, about two miles, cross over and threaten their left flank and rear. After crossing we passed through a deep swamp. On the first hill we saw nothing of the enemy until we came to the foot, where there was a wide field. We found the enemy here in force. A regiment of Zouaves from New York city charged on them and they retreated up the second hill followed by the pu[r]suing regements. Between this hill and the third one next the ford there was a narrow field through which ran a stream of water crossed by a bridge. General Birge ordered a company of mounted infantry, belonging to the thirteenth Connecticut Volunteers commanded by Lieutenant Mesner to cross the bridge and ride through the field and then followed with the Second brigade marching by the flank; the First Louisiana on the right. A short distance beyond the bridge to the left was a shallow ravine. As soon as the First Louisiana was across and filed to the left, toward the ravine, the rebels opened a destructive fire of grape and musketry into Lieutenent Mesner's company, and the First Louisiana from the opposite hill. The company of mounted infantry was literally cut to pieces, and Lieutenant Mesner was pierced with three bullets, and died soon after. The First Louisiana fell back into the ravine. General Birge came riding back, hatless, and ordered the men to lie down in the ravine. Captain Felton and myself, did not obey orders: we wanted to see what was going on, and the writer of this came very near paying the penalty for his curiosity with his life. There was a small hickory sapling about as large as ones arm, standing about three feet in front of us. A bullet struck it, about breast high, penetrating it about half way through, i stood just in line and had it not been for that sapling, these pages never would have been written. The Second and Third brigades were soon on the move, charging up the steep hill, but the birds had flown. A messenger came stating that the troops were crossing the ford, and we marched round the base of the hill to it, and encamped on the bank of the river. I have been told by those that were fighting by the ford, that they drove the enemy from the hill: but I always thought the Second and Third brigade, creeping around on their left flank, and threatening their line of retreat, had something to do with it: for their position above the ford and plain below, was so far above them that artilery must have been entirely ineffective, and musketry could not reach them: so that a flank movement was the only remedy as I believe. We lost one hundred and fifty in killed and wounded. The First Louisiana had six wounded, none killed.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 100-3

No comments: