Statements of Confederate Staff Officers
May 16, 1863.--Battle of Champion's Hill, or Baker's Creek, Miss.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXIV/2 [S# 37]
DEMOPOLIS, ALA., August 20, 1863.
SIR: Your telegram has been received. In compliance with your request, namely, that I shall give you a written statement of the orders carried by me in the battle of Baker's Creek, I make the following statement:
The first order I carried to Major-General Loring in the forenoon was that you had not given any orders in relation to his ordnance wagons.
The second, to Major-General Loring, was later in the day, about p.m., as well as I could judge. The order was that he (Loring) should hold himself in readiness to re-enforce Stevenson.
The third order carried by me was at the time that you had rallied the Fifty-sixth and Fifty-seventh Georgia Regiments, who were in the corn-cribs, and you were leading them into action. This order was that I should go and bring Loring to that point; that Stevenson's right was very hard pressed, and to hurry up as soon as possible. On my way to his headquarters, I met General Buford on his way to the front. To my inquiries as to the whereabouts of Loring, I was told he was in the rear. When quite near his headquarters, I was informed that he had gone on, and that I must have met him ; whereupon I retraced my steps. In answer to my repeated inquiries, I was informed that he had followed along a fence in a westerly direction and at right angles to the road over which I had traveled. I followed his trail a half mile or so, when I overtook him and delivered your order; whereupon he baited (he was at the head of Featherston's brigade) and asked me the road. I told him he was on the wrong road and going in the wrong direction; instead of going north, he was going west. He then asked that I should lead the way and he would follow me. To which I replied that I was unacquainted with the roads, with the exception of the one over which I had traveled. He then gave the word "forward," and continued in a northwesterly direction, but in a short time turned in a northeastern course and came up to the extreme left of Stevenson's division. At this point we were met by Mr. Taylor, who delivered a more recent order from you. At this time and point I left him (Loring), and did not see him again. This was the last order which I carried on the field.
I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. H. BRYAN.
MOBILE, ALA., July 30, 1863.
Lieut. Gen. J. C. PEMBERTON.
GENERAL: In obedience to your request, conveyed through General [T. H.] Taylor, I have the honor to send you the following extracts from my diary. I would call your attention to the fact that I always wrote the orders I delivered in my book as soon as they were delivered, and cannot be mistaken either as to the time of their delivery or the language of the orders. I carried several unimportant orders during the morning before 10 o'clock:
* * *
The enemy were hard pressed at first, but about 2 o'clock General Stevenson sent for re-enforcements. General Pemberton sent me with this order to Generals Loring and Bowen:
Tell General Bowen to move up at once to assist Stevenson, and tell Loring to move his division--leaving Colonels [T. M.] Scott and Adams' cavalry at the ford--also to the assistance of Stevenson, and crush the enemy.
The order was carried to each. General Bowen rode up himself, and reported that the enemy were in heavy force in his front, and General Loring sent a major on his staff to report that the enemy were in his front, moving in heavy columns. At this time the enemy were driving back General Stevenson, and General Pemberton sent me with an order to General Bowen to move one brigade to Stevenson's left, and added, "Tell General Bowen to follow it up with another brigade." After I returned from General Bowen, General Pemberton sent me to General Loring to tell him that there were no troops between his left and Stevenson's right, and not to let the enemy come in. General Loring left Tilghman's brigade on his right, and closed up the gap with Buford's and Featherston's brigades.
* * * * * * * * * *
I forgot to say that General Pemberton, in answer to the reports from both Generals Bowen and Loring that the enemy were moving in their front, had sent me with an order for them to move at them at once and crush them, and then return to the assistance of Stevenson. This brought the remark from General Loring, which he had communicated to General Bowen, that he would seize the proper moment and attack the enemy.
* * * * * * * * * *
The above, general, is all that I can say in regard to the orders I carried during the day. I gave a full copy of my diary for the day to Lieutenant-Colonel [L. M.] Montgomery, who has left it with his papers in Demopolis..
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. McRAE SELPH,
Assistant Adjutant and Inspector General.
DEMOPOLIS, ALA., July 29, 1863.
After line of battle was formed, I went forward to line of skirmishers (cavalry), to ascertain, if possible, on what point the enemy was moving his heaviest force. Colonel [Wirt] Adams, commanding, thought the main attack would be on our left, but seemed not to be confirmed in this belief. The skirmishing was equally severe on the right and left, and no definite conclusion could be formed as to which was the advance of the bulk of the enemy's force. A second time I went to Colonel Adams, conveying the order for him, when forced to retire, to fall back with his whole command in front of the strongest column of the enemy.
At this time (I should think about 9 a.m.) I found Colonel Adams with all his cavalry about retiring on a by-road just to the left of the Raymond road. The infantry skirmishers in this road and on its right I ordered to retire, as their flank was exposed on the left, by the withdrawal of the cavalry.
My next message of importance was to General Stevenson--after the skirmishing had become very fierce on his front, and when the enemy seemed to be wavering and the fire there somewhat receding--to advance at once if the enemy faltered and push him vigorously. This, I should judge, was at 12.30 o'clock.
General Bowen (in the center) and General Loring (on the right) were ordered to advance together on the force in their front and drive them from the position. This order I carried myself to General Bowen, and heard it sent several times by different staff officers to General Loring. We were looking every moment for the advance, not comprehending why there was delay, until after some time (say three-fourths of an hour) since the order had been first sent. General Bowen rode up and said he was merely waiting to see the left of General Loring's division advance to put his command in motion (this explanation he had before sent by an officer), and seemed to feel confident of his ability to drive the enemy before him, and said further, that he understood from General Loring that the enemy seemed so strong in his (General Loring's) front that he would wait, hoping that they would advance and attack him in his position--a strong one.
Meanwhile Stevenson (on the left) was hard pressed, and called for re-enforcements. Bowen was ordered to his support, and Loring to move to the left with two brigades to take Bowen's position in the center; this about 1.30 or 2 o'clock. This important order I heard urgently and repeatedly sent, and two or three of General Loring's staff officers who rode up meantime were sent immediately back with these instructions. There seemed to be great delay in obeying this order. No movement was made from the left to the center, which was very much exposed during this interval. I was then absent from General Pemberton for, I suppose, two hours, urging the troops to the, advance, and endeavoring to push up the stragglers. When I returned, finding him near the center of the line, I learned that our extreme left had been driven back, and that we were about being heavily flanked there. The order to retreat was given. To convey this to him, I sought General Loring, who, I was informed, was making his movements to the left by a rear road, and found him with his troops in motion near the position I last saw occupied by General [S. D.] Lee, who commanded the left brigade of Stevenson's. A staff officer ([ think Colonel [W. T.] Withers) rode up when I had delivered my order and said that a force was advancing on what had been our center, and would cut off some of Stevenson's troops unless combatted. General Loring said he would move to that point.
After Bowen's and Stevenson's forces had crossed the creek, General Loring covering their retreat, General Bowen took position to cover the ford, and General Lee, with the remnants of three brigades, started up to the bridge for its defense.
After giving these instructions from General Pemberton, I left the field to rejoin him, which I did at the fortifications at Big Black Bridge.
J. C. TAYLOR,
MONTGOMERY, ALA., July 31, 1863.
Lieut. Gen. J. C. PEMBERTON.
SIR: In pursuance of orders, I beg leave to make the following statement of orders carried, and what else I did by your command on May 16, at the fight designated as Baker's Creek, and also on May 17, at the Big Black:
The first order given to me was to see that the troops were all drawn up in line of battle; after which the wagons were ordered to return to Edwards Depot, so as to take the road to Clinton. General Stevenson was then ordered to move back toward same place, moving along with wagons. I was then sent with an order to Brigadier-General Buford (whose men were in line of battle in a peach orchard) to fall back to the hill in his rear about 8 o'clock, so as to make a continuous line with the balance of Major-General Loring's division. Then I was sent to halt General Stevenson, as the appearances were at that time that the attack would come from more toward the right. This was done, and General Stevenson formed his line of battle on the crest of a hill in a large field. I think this line was formed about 9 o'clock. About 10 o'clock I was sent by yourself to place advance skirmishers in front of General Stevenson's division, which was done. By this time the skirmishing between our pickets and the enemy's was increasing, and from the direction appeared to be moving toward General Stevenson's left, or Lee's brigade. Between 11.30 and 12 o'clock the attack began in earnest, and was evidently to be on our left. The first order I carried, 1 believe--except of those given to General Stevenson, almost in your presence, to move his brigades (Barton's and Cumming's) still to the left--after the attack was one to General Bowen to send one of his brigades at once to the support of General Stevenson. General Bowen returned with me to you, and told you that he was threatened and was afraid to weaken himself. In a short time I again carried an order for one of his brigades and moved it up, reporting the fact to General Bowen. About this time (2.30 o'clock) our men commenced straggling back in large numbers, and you sent me with your couriers to rally them. This I did for some time, until it was useless to try any longer. I then returned to you, and was sent to hurry General Loring up and to see where he had gone. I went to the left, in company with Colonel [J.] Thompson, and found that General Loring had moved to the left. This was told us by his couriers, who were posted across the old field to stop stragglers. We then returned to let you know, and found the army all falling back in great confusion. I tried for some time to gather the men together, but without success; some were too much exhausted to do anything, and others would not. I then got some twenty couriers and went to join you. After getting to Edwards Depot, I was ordered by you to stop the troops and to hold the road where the road crosses the railroad to Raymond. This I did, stopping the troops and turning them over to their different commands. Generals Barton and Cumming kept this place until ordered back. I then went back to join you at the Big Black.
On the morning of the 17th, after an early breakfast, you ordered me back to the bridge (was then at Bovina), and to place four pieces of artillery in position. This I did, placing two Napoleon guns and two 6-pounders. Other guns were afterward brought up by Colonel [W. T.] Withers, chief of artillery, who then took charge of the whole. By this time our troops had broken and run from the works on the east side of the Big Black, and were crossing in great confusion. Again was the attempt made to rally the troops, but in vain. After trying to get them formed in some order on the bluff, I returned to where the artillery was firing, and remained until the order came to fall back. I then returned with the troops into the lines of the city of Vicksburg.
This is as near as I can now recollect the amount of orders carried by me on the fields. There were, perhaps, some unimportant ones I do not now remember.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. H. TAYLOR,
ENTERPRISE, July 21, 1863.
Lieut. Gen. J. C. PEMBERTON.
Until very lately I was not aware that you expected those members of your staff who were with you in the military movements in front of Vicksburg to furnish you a statement of the part they bore in the same. I seize the first opportunity to comply with your request, so far as observations and experiences enable me to do so.
After the landing of the enemy at Bruinsburg and the battle of General Bowen at Port Gibson, and the falling back of our troops to Big Black at the railroad bridge, and across that stream below the bridge, you resisted persistently the desire expressed in various quarters of the army to cross the Big Black River and to give him battle. For several days it was believed very generally that the enemy would attempt to cross the Big Black River at what are known as the lower ferries, and move upon Vicksburg from the south with their gunboats, attacking Warrenton on one side, the column moving on Edwards Depot or the railroad bridge on the other. The almost total want of cavalry not only kept you in ignorance of his movements, but deprived you of all means of annoying or retarding him in his movements.
About May 11, information was received that at least one corps of the enemy's forces was moving on Raymond, and the probability was (though I do not think it was certainly known) that a division, if not a corps, was moving on Edwards Depot.
On the evening of the 12th, you left Vicksburg for Bovina, having previously ordered Major-Generals Loring and Stevenson to bring all of their divisions to Edwards Depot. I accompanied you to Bovina, and we reached there on the night of May 12.
The next day the troops, consisting of Loring's, Stevenson's, and Bowen's divisions, were drawn up in line of battle in front of Edwards Depot. They remained all the 13th in line, and nothing was seen of the enemy.
On the 14th, a communication was received from General [J. E.] Johnston, then at Jackson, informing you of the presence of the enemy in Clinton, and indicating a forward movement as desirable. Immediately a council of war was called, consisting of all the general officers. I was present at that council, and heard your views and those of the different officers expressed. You stated at great length, and to my mind with great force, that the leading and great duty of your army was to defend Vicksburg; the disposition and numbers of the enemy and your forces; the bad effect of a defeat, and the probability of such result if you moved forward. After canvassing it, there was not a voice in favor of moving on Clinton. But inasmuch as the enemy had moved in force on Jackson, leaving, as was supposed, only a single division on the Big Black, it was first suggested by General Loring, and afterward acquiesced in by all the other officers, that it would be wise and expedient to move the next day on the southern, or Raymond, road to Dillon's, which was on the main leading road by which the enemy carried on his communication, give battle to the division left in the rear, and then effectually break up the enemy's communications. In this council it seemed to be taken for granted by all the officers that the enemy was then engaged in an effort to reduce Jackson, and was, therefore, too far removed to participate in the expected fight. You gave in to the views of the officers with reluctance, and expressed yourself as doing so against your convictions. But being present and hearing everything said, I did not see how you could have done otherwise with any expectation of retaining your hold upon the army. It had been intimated to me again and again (yet I am frank to say I can trace the remark to no particular or responsible source) that you were averse to a fight with the enemy, and that everybody believed the time for active operations had come. Though possessed of your views and concurring in them, yet this feeling had so great an influence on me that I believed at the time that a fight was inevitable, and so expressed myself to you.
On the 14th, a heavy rain fell and raised the waters of Baker's Creek, over which we had to pass in going to Dillon's, so that it could not be crossed without swimming. This necessitated the delay for the construction of a bridge. Before this was completed, General Loring came to you and suggested that a bridge was standing on the middle Raymond road over which the troops could pass, and that beyond the bridge there was a fair road leading into the road it was intended to take. The suggestion was adopted, and the troops immediately put in motion. General Loring's division moved in front, General Bowen's in the center, and General Stevenson's in the rear.
That night (15th)all troops crossed the bridge over Baker's Creek, and General Loring reached the lower road, General Tilghman's brigade being thrown forward of Mrs. Ellison's house, on the lower Raymond road. About 10 o'clock at night the troops bivouacked on the road connecting the two Raymond roads. We spent the night of the 15th at Mrs. Ellison's.
Next morning about 7 o'clock a courier arrived from General Johnston, bringing the information that he had evacuated Jackson and had withdrawn in the direction of Canton, and, as I understood, desiring you to move in a direction to unite your forces or to enable you to co-operate with him. This led to an order forthwith to countermarch and move in the direction of Brownsville. About the time the army was ready to take up the line of march, firing commenced in front, and soon it was ascertained that the force was too large to be long resisted by our picket force. The whole train moved on the countermarch, preceded by the brigade of Colonel [A. W.] Reynolds, which now became, under the new order, the advance guard. General Loring's brigade was drawn up in line of battle first in the lower road. He fe11 back then a half mile, and reformed in the rear of the entrance of the military road with the Raymond road. For some time it was doubtful whether the main attack would be in the middle Raymond road, on which our left (Stevenson's division) rested, or on our right, held by Loring's division. Our position along which our lines were formed was, in my judgment, a favorable one. It soon became evident, however, that the main attack was going to be on the left, and the fighting had not continued long before information was received from General Stevenson that he was hard pressed. Your headquarters having been selected to the left of the center of the line, ready access was had to the whole line. While the fighting was progressing in great fierceness on the left, a demonstration was made on the center, which was soon checked by a few well-directed shots from a battery of Bowen's division. Soon after you ascertained that the main assault would be made on the left, orders were sent to Bowen to fall on the left with all his force. His division came up at a double-quick, and charged on the enemy in fine style, driving him back for more than half a mile. At the same time orders were sent to General Loring to follow up the movement of General Bowen. When there was some delay at his coming, you directed me to carry the order, which I did at the full speed of my horse. The order I delivered was that "General Pemberton desires you to come immediately and with all dispatch to the left, to the support of General Stevenson, whatever may be in your front."
General Loring replied by asking me if General Pemberton knew that the enemy was in great force in his front. I replied I did not know whether General Pemberton knew the fact or not, but I knew I repeated the order correctly, and it' he did not comply with it the responsibility was his, not mine. I returned to your headquarters and repeated the conversation. Soon after it was discovered that some two regiments had broken, and I went to endeavor to rally them. You soon came up, and by a few appropriate words addressed to them: closing by proposing to lead them back yourself if their officers did not, the regiments rallied, and the officers petitioned you to let them lead them, which they did. We then moved along in their rear far into the front, and on finding the enemy was making a flank movement to our left, the inquiry was made again, "Where is Loring?" and some of the staff were sent to hunt him. On returning to headquarters, General Buford, with his brigade, was met, and after you had pointed out to him the position he was to take, you again directed me, if possible, to find General Loring. General T. H. Taylor and myself undertook to do so. We were gone for some time before we ascertained where he was; but finding he had gone on a road we did not know to the left, we returned to report the fact to you. Upon our return we met with General Stevenson, who informed us you had gone in the direction of the late headquarters of General Loring. As the enemy was reported to us to have got in between where we supposed you to be and ourselves, we moved in what we believed to be a direct line to the lower bridge. In this we had no guide, and struck the creek some distance above it, and found it most difficult to get across. We succeeded, however, and I joined you at Edwards Depot. After making the necessary arrangements to protect your rear, you then returned to the intrenchments in front of the railroad bridge, and after remaining there, awaiting General Loring, for several hours, making the necessary dispositions for the contemplated attack the next day, at a late hour of the night we reached Bovina.
The next day (Sunday, 17th) we returned to Vicksburg, when immediately the different portions of the fortifications were manned by our troops.
Being near your person throughout three several days of trial, I was struck with admiration at the prompt manner in which you discharged every duty devolved upon you in your responsible position.
I am with great respect, your obedient servant,
Demopolis, Ala., July 29, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report the part taken by myself in the battle of Baker's Creek, on May 16.
Soon after the skirmishing commenced near Mrs. Ellison's house, I was ordered to report to General Loring that you had been informed that a large column of the enemy were approaching on his right. About an hour after this I was ordered to direct General Loring to collect all the spades and picks and cut down the sides of the banks of the ford at Baker's Creek, on the road leading from Mrs. Ellison's to Colonel Withers' plantation. About 10 or 11 a.m. I was directed by you to order General Stevenson to halt his command until further orders. I found General Stevenson at the houses about 200 yards to the left of your headquarters in the field, and the order was immediately executed.
Soon after the skirmishing began in front of General [S. D.] Lee, I was sent forward to ascertain if he could maintain his position; or if he needed re-enforcements. His reply was, "he thought he could hold his position for the present." His skirmishers were at that time falling back, but soon afterward went forward again. Soon after this I was ordered to order up one brigade of General Bowen's division to reenforce General Stevenson. Just before the command was ordered to fall back, and just after you had seen General Stevenson, where the battle was raging most terribly, I was directed by you to indicate the line of battle for Brigadier-General Buford, who came up with his brigade. I directed him to go forward to the road in which you saw General Stevenson at the time he informed you there were between 60,000 and 80,000 men in his front. When you and staff were retiring from the field, you ordered me to direct General Tilghman to halt his command, and I had just given the order when you rode up. I gave no more orders until you and staff arrived at the bridge which crosses the railroad at Edwards Depot, where you were informed by Major [Howell] Webb, adjutant and inspector general to Major-General Stevenson, that two brigades were approaching Edwards Depot, on the road running parallel with the railroad from Edwards Depot (the road taken by the command in marching out toward Clinton), one of these commanded by Brigadier-General Barton; the other commander I do not remember. You then directed me to order General Barton to form a line of battle, with his right resting on the railroad in such a manner as to protect the depot. Immediately after you left for the intrenchments at Big Black, Major Webb informed me that this was a mistake; that no troops of ours were on this road.
About this time an officer in command of six companies of the Twentieth Mississippi (mounted)reported to me that he had been sent to Edwards Depot to guard the wagon trains, which were at that time retreating across Big Black. I directed this officer to deploy his men as skirmishers, and keep the enemy in check as long as possible. I then rode to the intrenchments at Big Black, and informed you what I had done.
This includes the verbal orders conveyed by me on the 16th. I carried none on the 17th.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. C. TUPPER,
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