Thursday, January 12, 2017

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant George G. Smith: May 16, 1864

In motion a little after sun rise. The enemy had fallen back during the night but after advancing two miles over fences and through fields the advance cavalry came upon them in full force with about twenty pieces of artillery and seven thousand mounted infantry. They were in front of a little town called Mansura and just before you leave the prairie and enter an almost impenetrable Cypress swamp which stretches between it and bayou DeGlaze, and is passed by means of a plank road. Taylor had placed his forces across the entrance to this plank road and disputed its passage. As soon as our infantry were in supporting distance, the cavalry began to press their lines when they opened all their batteries at once. This of course discovered their position and several batteries of the nineteenth corps soon came into position and the ball was open. Four lines of battle were in rear of us, all in supporting distance, composed of the First and Third divisions of the nineteenth corps and the thirteenth. On the right General Smith came up with the sixteenth army corps formed in line continuous with ours; making them two miles long. The bellowing of cannon screaming and hissing of shot and shell, the bursting of bombs and the prancing horses of the wheeling squadrons created a scene of excitement I never before witnessed and never expect to witness again. Solid shot and shell literally rained all around us for about three hours. The country being level, afforded a clear view as far as the eye could reach until obscured by smoke. The scene was grand. Many of the enemy's shells did not burst at all and many burst in the air. Many amusing incidents happened, one of which I will relate. A shell struck the ground a few feet in front of our line and ricochetted (bounded)over our heads and struck the ground again directly under a surgeon's horse, standing there, with his rider and bounded again. The doctor leaned over one side to see what kind of a hole it made in the ground, started his horse along a step or two and sat in the saddle as though nothing had happened. Sometimes the shells would strike the ground and roll end over end a long distance. It looked as though one might put out his foot and stop them. I did not try the experiment. So long as they did not disturb me, I thought I might as well let them alone. At this stage of the battle General Grover, on a large heavy bay horse galloped out between the lines five or six hundred yards, turned in a circle, rode back to the twenty-sixth New York battery. He spoke to the commander, and they limbered up and actually flew to the front about six hundred yards and in less time than it takes to write this, unlimbered and commenced one of the most rapid fires I ever heard from a battery of four guns. I could see the shells burst directly in their faces. The enemy did not stand that long and retreated in a complete rout. I learned, however, afterwards that A. J. Smith with a heavy force was creeping round on their right flank so we cannot give the twenty-sixth New York Battery all the credit for that victory. In regard to the losses I never learned. They must have been considerable on the enemy's side, but on ours I am sure they were not heavy. It was an artillery duel and the rebels proved to be such poor marksmen that not many casualties happened to us. When our friends, the rebels took such precipitate leave of us, we found ourselves in quiet possession of the plank road through the woods, of which we made good use, as soon as we could get into files of fours and marched to within eight miles of Simsport where we went into camp for the night, quite satisfied with our day's work.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 113-7

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