Report of Brig. Gen. Peter J. Osterhaus,
Commanding Ninth Division, Thirteenth Army Corps, including operations May 2-23.
MAY 16, 1863.--Battle of Champion's Hill, or Baker's Creek, Miss.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXIV/2 [S# 37]
HEADQUARTERS NINTH DIVISION,
Big Black River Railroad Bridge, Mississippi, May 26, 1863.
Lieut. Col. WALTER B. SCATES,
A. A. G., Thirteenth Army Corps.
PART I.--The day after this battle [Port Gibson, May 1] the Ninth Division, together with the Tenth, Twelfth, and Fourteenth Divisions, of the Thirteenth Army Corps, marched to Port Gibson, waiting there for the construction of a bridge across Bayou Pierre.
On May 3, the line of march was taken up again for Willow Springs, and the corps went into camp at the forks of the roads to Jackson, Vicksburg, and Grand Gulf.
On the morning of the 5th, my command was ordered to proceed on the Jackson road. Being in the front, the Second Illinois Cavalry was attached temporarily to it. We had passed Rocky Springs and Big Sandy Creek when my advance was halted by a fire from a rebel picket. I ordered the Second Illinois Cavalry to attack, which they did boldly, Lieutenant Stickel dashing on the enemy, who proved to be in number superior to his company; but his attack was so energetic and quick that the rebels could not find time to form. The lieutenant and his men were among them with drawn sabers and drove them for 5 miles, killing and wounding 12 and taking some 30 prisoners.
This is without doubt one of the most brilliant cavalry engagements of the war, and Lieutenant Stickel deserves the highest praise for skill and bravery shown.
My division encamped on both sides of the Big Sandy Creek, covering all the roads leading to the Big Black River ferries and to the enemy's line in front and flank.
The whole army corps came up during the next few days, and after having had the honor of a review by Generals Grant and McClernand on May 9, we again moved forward on the 10th toward the enemy's lines. The whole Thirteenth Army Corps marched on the Jackson road, and when on Five- Mile Creek was ordered into bivouac, the Forty-ninth and Sixty-ninth Indiana being thrown forward as advance guard beyond Auburn (old) to the fork of the roads to Edwards Station and Raymond. My scouts brought information of the enemy's cavalry appearing near Fourteen-Mile Creek, and we consequently marched for that point on May 12, General Hovey's division leading. This general's approach compelled the rebel force to yield their position to us. They fell back on the Edwards Station road, while our corps received the general's order for the next morning to march toward Raymond, but, if possible, on a road hiding this movement of the corps from the observation of the enemy. Such a road was found and made practicable by the corps of pioneers attached to the army corps. Soon after midnight my division was at Raymond, where I received orders to garrison the place. I took such measures as secured it against any surprise of the enemy. All the other United States forces concentrated here advanced farther on the Jackson road.
I had to remain at the post of Raymond only until 4 a.m., May 15, when the general commanding the army corps ordered my division, except two regiments--the Fifty-fourth Indiana and the One hundred and twentieth Ohio Infantry, which were to be left as garrison--to march toward Bolton Station, on the Jackson and Vicksburg Railroad. At 8 o'clock Captain Campbell, of the Third Illinois Cavalry, captured that place, destroying the bridges on the railroad and on the public roads leading to it, and took some prisoners.
All reports and information obtained here confirmed the fact that large bodies of rebel forces were within a few miles of us and prepared to give us battle. They were formed east of Edwards Station, defending all the roads converging at that important railroad station. In order to take up the position assigned to me in the order of battle by the general commanding the army corps, I left Bolton, marching back on the Raymond road about 3 miles, where I took a road branching off there for Edwards Station, and bivouacked on the same ground which the enemy's cavalry had just left. Cavalry vedettes and patrols thrown forward developed the enemy in immediate vicinity. His pickets fell back, but a large body of mounted infantry appeared soon after and pressed into the line of my infantry pickets. The regiment in reserve, Forty-second Ohio, advanced at once to support these pickets, and after a lively engagement the enemy's forces retired and left us without further annoyance for that evening.
The plan of attack for the next morning placed me in the center of our line; General Hovey, Twelfth Division, on my right, on the direct Bolton and Edwards Station road; General Smith, Tenth Division, on my left, on the Raymond and Edwards Station road; and General Carr, Fourteenth Division, following me as reserve on the same road I was marching on.
I left camp on the morning of May 16, precisely at 6 o'clock, with all those safeguards in front and flank which the enemy's vicinity rendered indispensable. Captain Campbell, who had the advance, pushed vigorously forward. By 7.30 o'clock the report of cannon on my left was heard, and cavalry patrols which I had sent out in that direction reported that General Smith had engaged the enemy on the Raymond road. In order to co-operate with him, I advanced rapidly to a point where the road leaves the open fields and enters a very broken section of timbered land, behind which the enemy was formed, apparently in very strong numbers.
PART II.--The casualties on May 1 and the garrisoning of Raymond reduced my division as follows:
First Brigade, General T. T. Garrard commanding.--The Seventh Kentucky Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Lucas commanding; Forty-ninth Indiana Infantry, Col. James Keigwin commanding; Sixty-ninth Indiana Infantry, Col. Thomas W. Bennett commanding; One hundred and eighteenth Illinois Infantry, Col. J. G. Fonda commanding.
Second Brigade, Col. D. W. Lindsey commanding.--The Sixteenth Ohio Infantry, Captain Botsford commanding; Forty-second Ohio Infantry, Major Williams commanding; One hundred and fourteenth Ohio Infantry, Colonel Cradlebaugh commanding; Twenty-second Kentucky Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Monroe commanding.
Artillery.--The First Wisconsin Battery, six 20-pounder Parrotts; Seventh Michigan Battery, six 10.pounder Rodman.
Cavalry.--Companies A, E, and K, Third Illinois Volunteers, Captain Campbell commanding.
Infantry, 2,386; artillery, 218; cavalry, 100. Total, 2,704.
With this force of 2,704 men, I entered upon one of the most difficult terrains (grounds) for the passage of troops which can be imagined. A chaos of ravines and narrow hills, sloping very abruptly into sink-hole- like valleys, diverge in all directions. All is covered densely by trees and brush, except the public road, which winds its track in bizarre curves, and follows the hills and valleys, without permitting at any point an open view of more than 50 or 100 yards. This very broken terrain has, on the south side of the road, a general tendency to slope off, being about 1 mile wide. It terminates at a narrow little creek. Passing over this stream, the land becomes smoother again, and opens on large fields, which extend all across from the creek to the road direct from Raymond to Edwards Station, on which General Smith's division was marching. The space between the road occupied by me and the Bolton and Edwards Station road, on my right, on which General Hovey's division was advancing, is, from its described nature, utterly impracticable for any military movements, except in a dispersed and loosely connected line of skirmishers.
From General Hovey's division I was about 1 mile off, while General Smith's column was at least 4 miles separated from me to my left and to the rear. His progress was checked more vehemently than that of General Hovey's and my own.
To the First Brigade, General Garrard commanding, I gave the order to advance. Only one section of Lanphere's battery I took along with the brigade, as there was hardly any prospect for artillery to be used on the ground before us.
To prepare against any attack by the enemy on my flank, or his breaking out from any point which in this very difficult terrain might have escaped my notice, I deployed the Second Brigade, with two sections of the Seventh Michigan Battery and the First Wisconsin Battery, on an open and commanding ridge in the field which the advancing First Brigade was leaving behind.
The Third Illinois Cavalry, commanded by Captain Campbell, led the way carefully, and, supported by the skirmishers of the Seventh Kentucky, we advanced into the timber and against the enemy, who had again selected one of his favorite positions in the brush to give us battle. The ground now became so rough that I had to withdraw the cavalry (Third Illinois), and afterward employed it in finding my connections with General Smith on my left, and in watching the enemy's movements toward that flank of my position. I have derived a great deal of good from the captain's zeal.
The Seventh Kentucky, with the Forty-ninth Indiana Infantry and one section of Lanphere's battery, formed the advance, and, driving the enemy's skirmishers from one ravine to another, they advanced slowly against his main position, about 1 mile beyond the position occupied by the Second Brigade in the field. I found a comparatively good range for the section of artillery, and concluded to place it in battery there, supported by two companies of infantry, and keeping them in readiness for any emergency, the pieces loaded with canister, in order to secure a rallying point in case my advancing infantry had to fall back. The Seventh Kentucky on the right and the Forty-ninth Indiana on the left of the road advanced about I mile beyond this section of artillery, when the fire and resistance of the enemy became very fierce. I dispatched immediately the Sixty-ninth Indiana and One hundred and eighteenth Illinois Infantry to deploy on the left of the road to re-enforce these regiments. Gallantly the line so strengthened advanced, forcing several of the enemy's positions by their impetuous charges up and down the hills.
By this time General Hovey was also engaged, and apparently the main forces of the enemy were concentrated against his and my positions. The artillery played heavily on us, but without any injury to the troops, the very broken ground and thick timber exposing them only to very short range of infantry.
We advanced until we came to a clearing again in the timber. Here the road on which General Hovey was advancing runs into the road I was fighting on, and here the enemy made a most desperate attempt to prevent the junction of the divisions. We could see his columns advancing in great numbers, and I considered it prudent to strengthen my line by adding the Forty-second Ohio Infantry to the First Brigade, and the One hundred and fourteenth Ohio Infantry (both of the Second Brigade) to support the artillery (one section) in lieu of two companies of the Forty-ninth Indiana, which I ordered to join their regiment in front.
Fearing the enemy might try to benefit by the open ground on my left flank, described above, and the backward position of General Smith, I made a reconnaissance in that direction, and found large numbers of them (infantry and artillery)massed on a commanding elevation, apparently in expectation of General Smith's attack. Occasionally the enemy threw shell in the direction of their march.
In order to secure my flank, and co-operate with General Smith, I ordered Colonel Lindsey, with the two remaining regiments of his brigade (Sixteenth Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky Infantry), to take a position in the edge of the timber and open fire against the enemy's position. These two regiments were by no means adequate to repel or resist the numerous force of the enemy, and I therefore applied to Major-General McClernand for re enforcements from General Carr's division, which was in my rear, and on the ground occupied until lately by the Second Brigade. A regiment was ordered to the support of Colonel Lindsey, and this excellent officer deployed his line and attacked the enemy vigorously. Debouching from the timber; he charged the retreating infantry to the very muzzle of the battery covering them.
The promised support was not yet on hand to follow up this attack; therefore the colonel ordered his regiments to fall back into the timber again and await re-enforcements.
I refer to the colonel's report, and take great pleasure to commend the action of that meritorious officer. The direction of the enemy's retreat on that flank was such that he fell (rather unexpectedly to both parties) on the left of the First Brigade, which was advancing and fighting on the main road under General Garrard. Though I had advised this officer of the operations on the left, the information could not be communicated in time to the troops on his left, therefore the appearance of the enemy on their flank stopped for some time the advance of our troops.
General McClernand, who saw the effect of this presumed flank attack, immediately strengthened General Garrard's position by two regiments of General Carr's division. At the same time General Lawler's brigade (also of General Carr's division) was ordered to support Colonel Lindsey. The enemy, becoming convinced of the small force under the colonel, had opened a raking artillery fire on him. A few rounds from General Lawler's artillery were enough to silence his guns and compel him to remove them to safer quarters. Thus strengthened on all sides, the whole line advanced, and after a short but very brisk fire the enemy, already nearly broken by the severe assaults made by my troops, yielded his position.
The main army of the enemy made for Big Black River Railroad Bridge, but a large body of his right wing tried to make good its retreat in another direction. They were perseveringly followed by Colonel Lindsey and General Smith, whose division fell in with Colonel Lindsey's brigade during the pursuit. Thousands of the enemy were found scattered everywhere, and fell into our hands as prisoners of war. In one instance, Colonel Lindsey, with the Sixteenth Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky Infantry alone, took more prisoners than the whole number of his brigade combined; also a number of cannon and small-arms became ours. We pressed the enemy to Edwards Station, where our army corps bivouacked for the night.
At 4 o'clock next morning (May 17) the line of march was taken up again, General Carr's division leading. Our onward march was not interfered with until the head of the column debouched from a piece of timber land, about 2 miles east of the Big Black River Railroad Bridge. General Carr's division at once deployed on the right of the road, while I executed the order to deploy my division on the left of the road, connecting with General Carr. I ordered Colonel Lindsey (Second Brigade) forward, and he deployed into line as soon as the terrain permitted this maneuver to be executed, while the First Brigade (General Garrard's), deployed by battalion in mass, formed the second line. Ad-vices from the left informed me that large numbers of the enemy were on that flank, and I accordingly had the First Brigade change front to the left, so that it formed an obtuse angle to the line of the Second Brigade. Skirmishers thrown out in front and flank engaged the enemy at once. We advanced over the open ground to within 500 yards of the enemy's works protecting the Big Black River Railroad Bridge. Before attempting a farther advance against the fortifications, which appeared to be very extensive and very strongly garrisoned, I ordered the First (Foster's) Wisconsin Battery forward. My first intention was to plant it at the salient point formed by the lines of the Second and First Brigades, but a closer survey of the grounds and the enemy's works caused me to bring this heavy battery to the right of the Second Brigade, and near the railroad, where it had a direct fire on the strongest part of the enemy's works, and on that point where the greatest masses of the enemy appeared to concentrate.
My movements must have attracted the attention of the enemy. He opened a heavy fire on us before we had the pieces in battery, and while I was directing Captain Foster where to plant his first piece, the first shell exploded in our midst, disabling Captain Foster and myself and exploding the limber-box of the piece. I was now able to remain on the field but a short time, during which the gallant men of Foster succeeded in bringing their pieces in position, while the enemy played on them most terribly. I was compelled to yield the command of the Ninth Division to General A. L. Lee, and it is to his report I refer for the part taken by the command in the storming and taking of the Big Black River fortifications, with all their cannon, ammunition, and several thousand prisoners.
For the number of killed and wounded for these two days (16th and 17th) I refer to the nominal list accompanying this report.
PART III.--Elated by these glorious victories, the men hastily threw a bridge over the Big Black River in the evening and night of the 17th, and early in the morning the Ninth Division crossed the river and followed the enemy, who had gained more than twelve hours' time over us by burning the railroad bridge, and thus causing our delay until a new one could be built. Every step forward showed the utter confusion of his retreat; the road was literally strewn with the debris of the dissolved army.
The Thirteenth Army Corps left at Mount Alban the main Jackson and Vicksburg road, turning south, and, marching over several plantation roads, reached the road leading from Hall's Ferry to Vicksburg. On this avenue we approached the city, and at nightfall we came within sight of its extensive fortifications. Numerous flags floating over the works proved that the persisting leaders of the enemy would try a last attempt to rally their men to fight again, and to save, if possible, the stronghold of rebeldom on the Mississippi River. We bivouacked on a very narrow little creek, about 2 miles from the line of fortifications.
Orders received on May 19 placed the Thirteenth Army Corps on the left wing of the army, which prepared to invest the city. My division was to form the extreme left, and General Smith's the right of our first line, while General Carr, deploying his division in the center of us, took the second line. Such were our instructions.
Notwithstanding I was hardly able to move about on horseback, I considered the circumstances imperative for me to take command of the division again. Assigning to General Lee, who had reported to me for permanent duty, the command of the First Brigade, lately under General Garrard, which officer was ordered to a command at Helena, Ark., I at once proceeded to make, as far as possible, a reconnaissance of the grounds which were to be the field of operations for the Ninth Division.
At the little creek we had bivouacked on, the ground on the left of the road rises gradually, and, forming a plateau sloping from west to east, is converted into fields planted with corn. At the west end of the plateau it abruptly sinks into a deep valley again. At the margin of this valley the plateau reaches its highest elevation, and runs almost parallel and on the same lead with that ridge in front (west) which the enemy had covered with his fortifications. The distance between the plateau and the fortifications does not exceed 1,500 yards, but the interval is very broken indeed. The main figures of this intermediate ground are two ridges running almost parallel with the fortified line and with the west side of the plateau, but hardly on any point high enough to mask these from each other. The ridges are very steep, creating three narrow valleys, in each one of which is a small running stream. These hills and valleys are by no means regular, but, on the contrary, variously intersected by cross valleys and gorges, making a passage over them very difficult. To go straight forward over them with artillery is out of the question, except by pulling them up and down by hand; though on the south end of that section of terrain where the described three valleys converge, the slopes appeared to offer some practicability for military movements, and I was informed that I could find there a plantation road which connected the Hall's Ferry and the Warrenton and Vicksburg roads.
The main Baldwin's Ferry road, on which the Thirteenth Army Corps was approaching, turns on the highest ridge of the plateau to the right, and, following the undulations of the ground, enters the line of the enemy's fortifications in front of the position assigned to General Smith's division. Preparatory to further movements, I ordered my division to advance in the following order:
The First Brigade, under General Lee, deployed into line of battle to the edge of the valley (west end of the plateau), with one section of 20-pounder Parrotts (Captain Foster's battery) on the right, and two sections of the same on the left. The Second Brigade, under Col. D. W. Lindsey, deployed into line, by battalions in mass, in the rear of the First Brigade. Being placed on the extreme left, I ordered a strong line of pickets thrown out on that flank, supported by the left battalion of the Second Brigade, in order to prevent any surprise from that side. Lanphere's battery was kept in reserve, supported by the cavalry. The right section of Fosters battery was opened by 10 o'clock on a battery in front of General Smith, where we could see a party of the rebels at work. The distance was at least 2,500 yards, but the projectiles from these superior guns reached the object and dispersed the working party.
All the forts in my front were fully manned, and a number of guns were in view, but they did not fire even when Foster's battery, on the left of General Lee's brigade, to find their range, threw several shells among them. Their guns remained silent. I ordered General Lee to advance his line into the valley, leaving only a support to the batteries, and, as far as he found no resistance with skirmishers, feeling the way carefully. The general descended into the valley and marched up the next ridge, passed the next valley, and was debouching from a small strip of timber in order to ascend the second line of hills. Here his troops came in view of the enemy, who then opened with shot and shell, though without doing any injury. The general halted under the shelter of the many ravines. Colonel Lindsey's brigade followed this forward movement, under orders to support and strengthen any part of General Lee's line if necessary.
Shortly before this, I received orders from corps headquarters to prepare everything for a general assault at 2 p.m. After having advised my brigade commanders of this order, Captain Lanphere's battery was brought forward to support the assault, and unlimbered on an eminence on the left of Foster's battery (four guns). Both batteries were to open fire on the enemy's works and wherever he should show himself. The forward movement of the infantry had left the batteries without an effective support in ease of a flank attack, and I therefore ordered Captain Campbell's cavalry to proceed on the plantation road mentioned above, leading to Warrenton and Hall's Ferry, scour all the country south, and apprise me of anything that might transpire in that direction.
At 2 o'clock all the batteries fired three volleys, and the infantry began the advance. They climbed the steep hills before them in most brilliant style, and marched over the brow of the ridge through a most raking fire.
The extremely irregular ground and the situation of the objects of attack made the direction of the advance of the First Brigade bear to the left, and, of course, it created a gap in the line of attack between mine and General Smith's command, on my right. Under my orders and instructions, Colonel Lindsey, commanding the Second Brigade, at once inserted his brigade in this opening, and the whole division now advanced steadily and gallantly against a most fearful fire from the enemy's rifle-pits and batteries, which commanded (mostly by cross-fire) every hill, every ravine, gully, and gorge leading to the fortifications.
Many a brave man sank down under the hail-storm of iron and lead, and among them that most gallant officer, General A. L. Lee, who, so shortly connected with the division, had shown so many military virtues, was wounded; but the victors at Port Gibson, Champion's Hill, and Big Black River marched forward and held the ground gained. They came within 300 or 350 yards of the enemy's works, and, availing themselves of every swell and nook of the ground, opened now on their part a murderous fire, compelling the rebel gunners very soon to leave their guns.
By the wounding of General Lee the command of the First Brigade devolved on Col. James Keigwin, Forty-ninth Indiana Infantry.
The artillery, from its position described above, supported movements of the infantry with a well-directed fire; but in order to bring the batteries to a more effective range, I selected a hill at least 500 yards nearer the rebel works for a battery, and at once ordered one section of Lanphere's battery to be brought forward. The pieces had to be drawn up the very steep hill by hand, and as soon as one piece was in position it was opened on the enemy.
The feasibility of establishing a battery on the steep hill being thus demonstrated, I ordered a breastwork to be built during the night on the same spot for two sections of Lanphere's battery. I laid the faces of this work out so that we could rake every battery in our front.
After nightfall a strong force of sharpshooters and reserves were detailed to occupy and hold the ground gained by our first attack on Vicksburg. The other troops were withdrawn and bivouacked in the valleys and along the little streams of water in them, carefully hiding their camp-fires.
On next morning, May 20, I had the pleasure to witness the opening of the battery which, by the energy of Captain Lanphere and the zeal of his men and the pioneers, was completed during the night. It was the first battery constructed, and the farthest in advance. The brilliant practice of the gunners kept all the enemy's guns silent.
During the night one section of Captain Foster's battery was ordered to take position in General Smith's line by Major-General McClernand.
In the early part of the morning the infantry had formed again in their respective places they occupied yesterday, but behind the line of sharpshooters, who kept up a very lively fire with the enemy in the rifle-pits.
It appeared very desirable, after the successful construction of the battery last night, to have also the 20-pounder Parrott guns of the First Wisconsin Battery brought forward. In my efforts to find a suitable site for this battery, I was assisted by Colonel Keigwin, and on his suggestion I ordered it placed on a high ridge to the left, and a little in advance of the Lanphere battery. A pioneer detail prepared the necessary earthwork. Notwithstanding the rebel sharpshooters maintained a fire of great precision on the spot all day, the four guns opened from this second battery before night in masterly style.
On May 21, the fire was kept up by both batteries at intervals and by the skirmishers, the masses of infantry being kept out of the enemy's range and view.
While we were at work to advance our lines, the enemy did not lose any chance to strengthen and enlarge his works and repair damages. Guns either disabled or withdrawn from the forts one day reappeared on the next morning, either on their old or new fortifications. They opened them ordinarily at early morning, when the prompt and precise fire from our guns soon forced them to their usual quiet and silence again.
Our skirmishers advanced over this difficult ground slowly but steadily, so that on the evening of May 21 they were at no place more than 300 yards from the enemy's works, and at some points within 200 yards of them. This variation in intervals was exclusively owing to the ground, which, after passing the valley separating us from the fortifications, became more rough and rugged than before. The slope which was immediately before my men was almost perpendicular, and promiscuously cut up by ravines and water-drains, some of which were not more than 6 or 7 feet wide and 10 or 15 deep. All timber was cut down and converted into the most intricate abatis and extending almost all along my immediate front. Besides these natural and artificial impediments, the enemy's rifle-pits and forts were so skillfully arranged that their fires defended every approach, exposing an assaulting party to a front and flank fire at murderous ranges.
By 6 p.m. (May 21) an order from headquarters of the army corps advised me officially of a general assault, to be made on the next morning (May 22) at 10 o'clock by the whole line. In obedience to this order, 1 immediately met my brigade commanders, to come to a thorough understanding as to the anticipated attack. After subjecting all the ground to a very minute survey, in order to ascertain and agree upon the best point of attack (this very puzzling choice, according to the order, having been left to every division 'commander), I selected the very steep acclivity directly in front of Captain Lanphere's battery as the point of my attack for sundry reasons, viz: There was a well-covered approach to it, where the storming columns could form, and the obstructions appeared less than at any other point on my front; furthermore the point selected was in supporting distance of General Cart, who had relieved General Smith, on my right. Another prominent and principal feature seemed to be that the slope was here divided by spurs, running out and dividing the terrain into three sections, and thus affording some shelter to the troops while they made the escalade.
I ordered columns of divisions at half distance to be formed for the attack, in order to have the necessary pressure and connections on the point of attack, without the danger of the lines being broken, which deployed lines in this terrain could not have avoided. The intervals and fronts of the columns were to be well covered by sharpshooters. The columns were formed as follows:
First. Right Column.--The Twenty-second Kentucky Infantry and the Forty-second Ohio Infantry.
Second. Center Column.--The One hundred and fourteenth Ohio Infantry and Forty-ninth and Sixty-ninth Indiana Infantry.
Third. Left Column.--The Seventh Kentucky Infantry and One hundred and eighteenth Illinois Infantry.
The Sixteenth Ohio Infantry was deployed as skirmishers.
The One hundred and twentieth Ohio Infantry was retained as the extreme left, with orders to deploy, at the hour of attack, a very strong line of skirmishers on that wing, and open a heavy fire, and make all such demonstrations which could divert the enemy's attention from the point of our main attack. The artillery kept up a heavy fire on the enemy's works since early daybreak, preparatory to the assault.
Precisely at 10 a.m. the column moved forward, breaking over all obstructions at the foot and in the slope of the hills, and against a terrific fire from all the rifle-pits and forts. The Seventh Kentucky, leading the left column, advanced to the top of the hill, and marched over the naked brow of it through murderous fire from the great redoubt on the left. They suffered heavily. All the columns reached the top of the hill, and came within so short a distance from the works that all orders and commands given on the enemy's side could be distinctly understood by our men. The officers and men acted most courageously, but, finding that new obstacles not seen before would impede their farther advance, the column halted to rest, availing themselves of the irregularities of the ground for shelter. The sharpshooters and leading divisions of the columns maintained a very well-directed fire against the enemy, causing their gunners to leave their guns, and preventing their infantry from showing themselves, except for moments.
Under the most scorching sun, our men kept their dangerous position all day. Several attempts made to push farther on, and, if possible, reach the enemy's line, only developed more and more the exceedingly` difficult task before us. By the result being the same all along the whole line, it was demonstrated that the feasibility of taking the forts by assault was more than doubtful. The troops of my division held the ground gained, and when night came on were withdrawn, leaving, though, strong pickets and a line of sharpshooters on the most advanced points.
Colonel Cradlebaugh, One hundred and fourteenth Ohio Infantry; Major Finley, Sixty-ninth Indiana; Captain Barber, Forty-second Ohio Infantry, and many other officers and men were wounded or killed on this eventful day. I refer to the list of casualties annexed for the details of losses. They are heavy.
With May 22, my operations before Vicksburg came to a close, as I received orders on the next day to proceed with a part of my command and some cavalry, temporarily attached, to Big Black River Railroad Bridge, as the enemy were making some efforts to collect a new army, under General Johnston, with the spoken-out intention to raise the siege of Vicksburg.
In recapitulation of the narrative of three weeks' work--from May 2 to May 23--I state that the Ninth Division, most all the time in front and within feeling distance of the enemy, marched over 125 miles, took a prominent part in the great battles of Champion's Hill and Big Black River, and since then was, without being relieved an hour, in the front line of the army investing Vicksburg, and on all these memorable occasions never flinched from their severe duty, but were always ready to strike.
To enumerate those who distinguished themselves is impossible, when every man showed himself willing to die for our cause. In mentioning the names of General Lee and Colonels Lindsey and Keigwin, my brigade commanders, and those of Colonels Bennett, Sixty-ninth Indiana; Fonda, One hundred and eighteenth Illinois; Spiegel, One hundred and twentieth Ohio; Cradlebaugh, One hundred and fourteenth Ohio, and Lieutenant-Colonels Pardee, Forty-second Ohio; Monroe, Twenty-second Kentucky; Lucas, Seventh Kentucky, and Major Hawhe, Forty-ninth Indiana Infantry, the regimental commanders; Captain Lanphere, Seventh Michigan Battery; Lieutenants Nutting and Hackett, of the First Wisconsin Battery, and Captain Campbell, Third Illinois Cavalry, I endeavor to express the greatest obligations I feel to them for their great zeal, promptness, and courage exhibited in executing orders. The hearty and brave assistance of these and all secured us victory.
The wounded sufferers were, under the circumstances, promptly and kindly cared for. The arrangements for field hospitals and the ambulance corps, under Lieutenant [Joseph D.] Moody, were perfect, and it is again my duty and pleasure to thank Dr. [Joel] Pomerene and the surgeons of the division most sincerely.
In conclusion, I am compelled to state that almost all the artillery rifled ammunition was very inferior. At moments of the highest importance the batteries would have to cease firing, for our deficient missiles were more dangerous to our own men than to the enemy; also infantry ammunition can bear improvement.
I annex some sketches prepared by the topographical engineer, F. Tunica, attached to the Ninth Division: No. 1, showing the whole route made by command since leaving Carthage, La., to our position in the rear of Vicksburg, Miss; No. 2, topography of the battle-field of Big Black River Bridge, May 17.
I hope to be able to procure also topographical sketches of the battlefield of Champion's Hill and the scene of the operations of the Ninth Division in the rear of Vicksburg, Miss.
Submitting all this to you, 1 am, colonel, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
P. J. OSTERHAUS,
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