Friday, January 14, 2022

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Nasmith to Lieutenant Colonel John A. Rawlins, July 1, 1863

Snyder's Bluff, Miss., July 1, 1863.

SIR: In compliance with orders dated Headquarters Department of Tennessee, June 25, 1863, addressed to "commanding officer of expedition against Greenville," I have the honor to report the following:

I started from Snyder's Bluff, in the afternoon of June 25, 1863, with the following troops, to wit: Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry, 600 strong, four pieces Fourth Ohio Battery, and three companies Fifth Illinois Cavalry, 200 strong, under Major Farnan, and proceeded to Young's Point. Here I was joined by three gunboats and the John Raines, of the marine fleet, having on board 50 infantry and 100 cavalry. The boats were detained till noon the 26th to coal, when I proceeded up the river. Arriving at the foot of Island No. 82, the cavalry disembarked and proceeded by land to Greenville. Here I disembarked, and proceeded with the cavalry to the foot of Island No. 84, distant 21 miles by land. Searching the country to find signs of the enemy, I arrived at Carter's plantation June 27, evening. The transports, with the infantry and artillery, came around by water. Not being able to find or hear of any enemy on this side the river, I am satisfied, from information received from reliable sources, that there has been no enemy near Greenville, on the Mississippi shore, for nearly four weeks; previously to that time there was a small force encamped on Deer Creek, distant 10 miles from Greenville. We found at the foot of Island No. 83 embrasures cut in the levee for three guns, and across the point—3 miles distant—for two guns; that a road had been cut across the point, connecting the two places; that they were in the habit of running the guns across the point while the boats were going round, and firing on the same boat at the two points.

I embarked with the cavalry June 28, and proceeded across the river to Spanish Moss Bend, on the Arkansas shore. Arriving there, all the troops were ordered to disembark, and did so, with the exception of those on board steamer John Raines. Major Hubbard, commanding the troops on the boat, did not obey the order. I proceeded at 1 p.m., 28th, for Gaines' Landing, with the infantry, artillery, and 200 cavalry. I had heard firing the night before at Gaines' Landing, and supposed there was a force on the bend between there and where we had landed. The distance between the point where we had landed and Gaines' Landing is 10 miles. My object was to capture the force between us and Gaines' Landing, on the bend. We had proceeded but 3 miles when we encountered their pickets. We followed them, skirmishing, to Gaines' Landing, where they changed their course, proceeding back from the river. It then being dark, and learning from various sources that their force was largely superior to mine, having no guide and being unable to obtain one, and there being several roads, cut through the woods from the river, in our rear, my force not being large enough to guard the roads and attack the enemy in front, I thought it prudent to retire to our transports.

From what I deem reliable information, the enemy had at Cypress Bend and Gaines' Landing, and points in the vicinity, from 4,000 to 5,000 troops, with eight pieces of artillery, to wit, two pieces 9-pounder rifled Parrott guns, two 16-pounder rifled brass, two 12-pounder brass howitzers, one 6-pounder rifled brass, and one 6-pounder smooth-bore. They have no caissons with their cannon. They have two full regiments of infantry, and the balance of the force cavalry. Their main camp is back of Lake Chicot. Said lake, as nearly as I could ascertain, is 10 miles back and up the river from Gaines' Landing, and so situated that the forces at Cypress Bend or other point on the river can readily be re-enforced from this point. The distance from Gaines' Landing to Cypress Bend, by land, is variously estimated at from 15 to 30 miles; by water, it is 50 miles. I also learned from good authority that all the forces in Arkansas, under Generals Price, Marmaduke, and other commanders, are ordered to the vicinity of Milliken's Bend, and that on June 27 seven regiments passed through Monticello, Ark., about 40 miles from Gaines' Landing. The forces on the river in vicinity of Cypress Bend are under command of General Gorman [?] or Graham [?], and Colonels Clark and [George W.] Carter, of Cape Girardeau notoriety.

I caused to be destroyed on Spanish Moss Bend from 12,000 to 20,000 bushels of corn, one mill and cotton-gin, used by the rebels for grinding corn.

On the morning of the 30th, I proceeded down the river. Hearing in the afternoon that they were fighting at Lake Providence, and needed help, I reported myself to the general commanding, who wished me to lie over night, fearing another attack in the morning. In the morning the cavalry marched through to Goodrich's Landing, seeing no enemy, but noticing the effects of what had been done the day before, the enemy having gone.

Major Farnan, commanding the cavalry, reports that the scenes witnessed by him in marching from Lake Providence to Goodrich's Landing were of a character never before witnessed in a civilized country, and the rebel atrocities committed the day before were such as the pen fails to record in proper language. They spared neither age, sex, nor condition. In some instances the negroes were shut up in their quarters, and literally roasted alive. The charred remains found in numerous instances testified to a degree of fiendish atrocity such as has no parallel either in civilized or savage warfare. Young children, only five or six years of age, were found skulking in the canebreak pierced with wounds, while helpless women were found shot down in the most inhuman manner. The whole country was destroyed, and every sign of civilization was given to the flames.

The cavalry embarked at Goodrich's Landing, and the expedition, except the marine boat, came to Chickasaw Landing. The battery was debarked there and was ordered to join its command. The two boats, with cavalry and infantry, came to Snyder's Bluff, and to camp. The boats were ordered to report to master of transportation, at the landing.

Before closing this report, it is proper that I should say that the portion of the Marine Brigade which accompanied me proved to be entirely worthless. At no time were my orders obeyed willingly, and the officer in command was disposed to find fault and cavil when any real service was required of them. They failed me altogether when most wanted, and, instead of being any assistance to me, they were, to use no harsher language, a positive injury to the expedition.

I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,

Lieut. Col. Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry, Comdg. Expedition.
Lieut. Col. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
        Assistant Adjutant-General.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 24, Part 2 (Serial No. 37), p. 516-8

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