Report of Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson, C. S. Army, commanding Division.
MAY 16, 1863.--Battle of Champion's Hill, or Baker's Creek, Miss.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXIV/2 [S# 37]
HEADQUARTERS STEVENSON'S DIVISION,
Demopolis, Ala., July 29, 1863.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my division from its advance from Vicksburg to the capitulation of the city. It has been delayed to this time by the constant occupation of myself and my subordinate commanders during the siege of Vicksburg and by the march which followed its capitulation.
At about 5 p.m., on May 15, my division, being the rear of the army, left its position in line of battle near Edwards Depot, with the view of cutting the enemy's line of communication with his depot of supplies and forcing him to give us battle on our own ground. We reached the head of the column in bivouac on the Raymond road at 3 o'clock, and there halted for the night.
At sunrise I was summoned to appear at headquarters, where I was informed by the lieutenant-general commanding that he had received instructions from General Johnston to join him near Canton as soon as possible, and that he had decided to move at once, in pursuance thereto, toward Brownsville, on the north of the railroad, by the route as far as the railroad by which we had advanced the previous night. He directed me to move the trains as rapidly as possible to a point at least 3 miles beyond the Jackson road, and there halt them, arranged to the right and left of the road in such a manner as would afford an uninterrupted passage to the infantry and artillery. I immediately caused the trains to be turned, and, in charge of my Fourth Brigade (Colonel [A. W.] Reynolds), to be moved rapidly to the rear, in accordance with the instructions I had received. Colonel Reynolds was directed to place one regiment in front of the train, and to form the remainder of his brigade in line of battle, covering the Clinton and Raymond roads, there to remain until relieved by the next brigade in his rear. It was intended to hold these roads by the brigades as they successively arrived until the passage of the entire army could be effected. The success of this movement depending mainly on the speedy relief of the road from the obstruction caused by the presence of the train, I dispatched two of my staff officers (Majors [Howell] Webb and [J. W.] Anderson) to superintend the operations of those in charge of the train. About 9.30 a.m. the latter reported that the road was open, the trains having been placed as ordered, and free for the passage of the troops. This fact I immediately communicated to the lieutenant-general commanding.
About 9 a.m., Lee relieved Reynolds on the Raymond and Clinton roads, and in a very short time his skirmishers were engaged by those of the enemy. A brisk skirmish of about three-quarters of an hour developed our position to the enemy, who at once changed his direction by the right flank, with the view of turning our left. My three brigades (the fourth, Colonel Reynolds, having moved off with the train) were immediately drawn up in order of battle, Barton on the right, Cumming in the center, and Lee on the left, as previously stated. The line of the march was a cross-road from the Clinton to the Raymond road, intersecting the former nearly at right angles. It was at this fork that my left rested. The enemy, in columns of divisions, moved steadily around our left, forcing it to change direction to correspond, and their movement was so rapid as to keep my line (a single one) in constant motion by the left flank. Of this fact I informed the lieutenant-general commanding, and from time to time every apparent increase of force or additional movements by the enemy was promptly reported. Finding that they were about to concentrate on the left with the larger part of their force, still moving a column to the flank, as I had no reserve, I moved General Barton (my right brigade) by the rear to the extreme left. At the time this order was given the lieutenant-general commanding was notified of the fact, and was informed that the enemy had massed a large force on the left, which would doubtless be the main point of attack. My line had now been moved to the left, until two regiments of the center, now the right (the Fifty-sixth Georgia, Colonel [E. P.] Watkins, and the Fifty-seventh Georgia, Colonel [William] Barkuloo). occupied the Raymond and Clinton roads, with an interval of 300 yards between them and the remainder of their brigades. This separation was necessary to protect the right and rear of the new line, now threatened by these roads. This new line, upon which the attack was made, was formed as follows: The right rested at the angle of the original line, composed of three regiments (the Thirty-sixth Georgia, Colonel [Jesse A.] Glenn; the Thirty-fourth Georgia, Colonel [J. A. W.] Johnson, and the Thirty-ninth Georgia, Colonel [J. T.] McConnell), of Cumming's brigade. Lee's brigade (the Twentieth Alabama, Colonel [Isham W.] Garrott; the Twenty-third Alabama, Colonel [F. K.] Beck; the Thirtieth Alabama, Colonel [Charles M.] Shelley; the Thirty-first Alabama, Lieuten-ant-Colonel [T. M.] Arrington) occupied the center, and Barton's brigade (the Fortieth Georgia, Colonel [Abda] Johnson; the Forty-first Georgia, Colonel [William E.] Curtiss; the Forty-second Georgia, Colonel [R. J.] Henderson; the Forty-third Georgia, Colonel [Skidmore] Harris, and the Fifty-second Georgia, Colonel [C. D.] Phillips) the left, the left resting on Baker's Creek, near the bridge. A portion of Captain [James F.] Waddell's battery was posted at the angle of the lines to defend the approaches by the Clinton and Raymond roads, and the remainder, with two pieces of Captain [J. W.] Johnston's battery, on the left of Cum-ming's brigade. Captain [S. J.] Ridley, with a portion of his battery, was on the left of Barton, as was also Captain [Max. Van D.] Corput's battery. My line, as will thus appear, was necessarily single, irregular, divided, and without reserves. Under the supposition that the army was to move forward in pursuance of the instructions given in the morning, this ground was not reconnoitered with a view to taking up a position for battle until we were on the move facing the enemy.
At about 10.30 a.m. a division of the enemy, in column of brigades, attacked Lee and Cumming. They were handsomely met and forced back some distance, when they were re enforced, apparently by about three divisions, two of which moved forward to the attack and the third continued its march toward the left, with the view of forcing it. The enemy now made a vigorous attack in three lines upon the whole front. They were bravely met, and for a long time the unequal conflict was maintained with stubborn resolution. But this could not last. Six thousand five hundred men could not hold permanently in check four divisions, numbering, from their own statements, about 25,000 men; and finally, crushed by overwhelming numbers, my right gave way and was pressed back upon the two regiments covering the Clinton and Raymond roads, where they were in part rallied. Encouraged by this success, the enemy redoubled his efforts and pressed with the utmost vigor along my line, forcing it back.
At this time (about 2.30 p.m.) Bowen's division of Missouri and Arkansas troops, General Green on the right and Colonel [F. M.] Cockrell on the left, arrived, gallantly charged the enemy, supported on the left by a portion of Cumming's and Lee's brigades, and drove them back beyond the original line.
In the mean time the enemy had continued his movement to our left, and fell upon Barton in overwhelming numbers. He charged them gallantly, but was forced back, and the enemy, following up his advantage, cut him off entirely from the rest of the division.
It was here that the lamented Major [Joseph W.] Anderson, my chief of artillery, fell, in the fearless discharge of his duty. In the very front of battle the brave soldier, the noble gentleman, met his death.
Here, too, the gallant Ridley, refusing to leave his guns, single-handed and alone fought until he tell, pierced with six shots, winning even from his enemies the highest tribute of admiration.
Nothing could protect the artillery horses from the deadly fire of the enemy. Almost all were killed, and along my whole line the pieces, though fought with a desperation on the part of both officers and men which I cannot praise too highly, almost all fell into the hands of the enemy. In this manner the guns of Corput's and Johnston's batteries and Waddell's section were lost. Double-shotted, they were fired until in many instances the swarms of the enemy were in among them. Officers and men stood by them to the very latest moment that they could be served, and to Captains Corput and Johnston and Lieutenant [T. Jeff.] Bates, their subordinate officers and men, I desire to return the thanks which their gallantry has made their due. On the extreme right the guns under the immediate command of Captain Waddell were fought and lost in the same manner, but retaken by the Missourians. This brave officer, assisted by Lieut. G. D. Wise, ordnance officer, fought one of them with his own hands until Bowen, too, retired.
Early in the day the Forty second Regiment of Georgia Volunteers (Colonel [R. J.] Henderson, of Barton's brigade) had been sent to hold the bridge over Baker's Creek. Barton now moved to this point, held it for a time, and finally crossed and took up position near Edwards Depot, which he held until nearly dark. Here he was joined by many officers and men of Cumming's brigade, who, when driven from their position by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, had retired by the same route he took.
The two regiments of Cumming's brigade which I have before mentioned were kept on the Clinton and Raymond roads; and, thus separated from their brigade, joined Green's brigade of Bowen's division in the charge upon the enemy, and remained with them until they retired. When re-enforced by Bowen's division and the enemy were being driven, I informed the lieutenant-general of the fact, and asked that Loring's division might be sent up at once.
The attack of Bowen's division upon the enemy was made about 2.30 p.m. During the attack of the Missourians, and when the enemy were pressing back our left, thus re-enforced, I met the lieutenant-general on the field, and stated to him that unless Loring's division was brought up we could not hold the field. He replied that it had been repeatedly ordered to come forward, and that he would go in person and hasten their movement.
About 4 p.m. Buford's brigade, of Loring's division, arrived, but not until the enemy had taken possession of the Raymond road and turned upon him two captured batteries. Several pieces of Withers' artillery from a ridge nearly opposite opened a brisk fire and soon silenced them. About this time I received orders from the lieutenant-general commanding to withdraw the troops in order to Big Black Bridge. I dispatched this order to my brigade commanders, and seeing that our right and rear were exposed, I immediately went in that direction in order to ascertain if, as had been reported to me, the enemy were making a movement to cut us off by the route which we were about to take. On my return I found that Major-General Loring had arrived, and that the troops were retiring in good order--Lee with his brigade, and that portion of my division which had not been forced to move by the bridge, followed by the two brigades of Loring, Bowen having passed by a route a short distance to the right.
On my arrival (about sunset) at the ford on Baker's Creek, I found that the enemy had crossed the bridge above, and were advancing artillery in the direction of the road on which we were moving. One battery had already taken position and was playing on the road, but at right angles and with too long a range to prevent the passage of troops. Here I found on the west side the brigades of General Green and Colonel [F. M.] Cockrell, of Bowen's division, who had there halted and taken up position to hold the point until Loring's division could cross. I found Colonel [Thomas M.] Scott, of the Twelfth Louisiana Regiment, of Loring's division, halted about one-half a mile from the ford on the east side, and directed him to cross. I there addressed a note to General Loring, informing him of what I had done, telling him of the change 1 had caused Colonel Scott to make in his position, stating that with the troops then there and others that I could collect I would hold the ford and road until his division could cross, and urging him to hasten the movement. To this note I received no answer, but in a short time Colonel Scott moved off his regiment quickly in the direction of his original position, in obedience, I was informed, to orders from General Loring. Inferring from this that General Loring did not intend to cross at that ford, he having had ample time to commence the movement, I suggested to General Green and Colonel Cockrell to move forward to the railroad bridge. My command reached that point at about 1 o'clock that night and bivouacked near Bovina.
In the action of the next morning my command took no part. After the enemy had made their successful attack upon the intrenchments upon the east side of the river, I received orders from the lieutenant-general to place one of my brigades in position on the heights of the west bank, to cover the crossing of the troops who had occupied the intrenchments. This duty was assigned to and executed by the command of Brigadier-General Lee.
At about 10 a.m. I received orders to take command of the army and conduct its retreat to the fortifications around Vicksburg. The brigade of Brigadier-General Baldwin, of Smith's division, was assigned to the duty of bringing up the rear. Just before getting into the works, I was joined by the brigade of Colonel Reynolds, to whom, as I before stated, had been intrusted the charge of the trains of the whole army. He had crossed the Big Black after much difficulty and delay, occasioned by the absence of any facilities for so doing, at Bridgeport. By a mistake in the transmission of the order, the regiment of Colonel Beck dee's brigade) remained at the river, resisted the attempts of the enemy to cross until 11 o'clock that night, and only withdrew upon the receipt of a peremptory order. The retreat was conducted in a leisurely and orderly manner, and the troops entered the line of fortifications about 3 p.m.
As censure has been cast upon my division for not having fully maintained their position at the battle of Baker's Creek, it is due to them and myself that I should here record facts connected with other parts of this army which, in my opinion, contain the explanation, in part at least, for this failure.
My division started early on the morning of the battle, under the supposition that the army was about to retrace its steps to join General Johnston north of the railroad, and with that view was weakened by sending one brigade to the rear in charge of the whole baggage train. Knowing that this movement exposed our flank to the enemy for several miles, I presumed the army would move quickly as soon as the road was free of trains, and accordingly gave my attention (until the engagement commenced) solely to the roads herein referred to, which were the only ones by which the enemy could strike us. At 9.30 o'clock the road was open, but I was directed to retain my three brigades in line of battle until further orders.
The enemy engaged us at about 10.30 o'clock. Finding that the main attack was upon me and in vastly superior force, I dispatched that information to the lieutenant-general commanding, and from time to time repeatedly asked for re-enforcements. The three divisions composing our army occupied a line of not exceeding 2 miles, one of them (Bowen's), at least, being within hearing of the musketry of the enemy in my front.
Re-enforcements (Bowen's division) arrived at about 2.30 p.m. Loring's division did not arrive in time to engage the enemy. The three brigades of my division engaged were about 6,500 strong. The strength of the enemy, according to their statements, was more than four times that number. The non-arrival of re-enforcements for my division early in the day, in my opinion, was mainly the cause of our failure. As to the reason therefor it is not for me to express an opinion here.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was the fortune of Brigadier-General Lee to open and bear the brunt of the battle of Baker's Creek, on which occasion he had three horses shot under him, and give the splendid repulse, which he did, to the only decided assault of the enemy upon my line at Vicksburg. To Colonel Reynolds, as I have before stated, was intrusted the duty of carrying off the trains of the entire army on the day of the battle of Baker's Creek--a charge which he performed with the efficiency and fidelity which was to be expected of an officer of his skill and experience. Without an exception, during the bloody day of Baker's Creek and during the memorable siege of Vicksburg the field officers of my command behaved with a gallantry and zeal which won my unqualified admiration and esteem.
It is with deep regret that I record the loss, in the battle of the 16th, of Col. Skid. Harris, Forty-third Georgia Regiment. He was killed at the head of his regiment.
I am under obligations to Maj. H. Evans, Capt. E. R. Smith, and Lieut. George D. Wise (who, by the recent change of commanders in their brigades, were temporarily without assignment) for their services on the field of Baker's Creek. Much against their wishes, Maj. H. M. Mathews, ordnance officer, and R. Orme, assistant quartermaster, of my own staff, were left in Vicksburg when the division advanced to Baker's Creek, as their services as the chiefs of their respective departments could not be dispensed with there.
Pre-eminently distinguished throughout the action of Baker's Creek, especially for his indefatigable efforts in rallying the broken regiments and taking them again into action, was my chief of staff, Maj. J. J. Reeve. For his active assistance to me on that occasion, and the gallant and intelligent discharge of his duties day and night during the siege of Vicksburg, I am greatly indebted to him.
Major [H.] Webb, my inspector-general, rendered most important services in superintending the removal and securing the safety of the large train that followed the army to the creek.
Capt. J. W. Mathews, acting assistant adjutant-general; Chief Surg. H. M. Compton, and Lieutenant [Henry T.] Botts, aide-de-camp (whose horse was shot under him at Baker's Creek), were prompt, daring, and energetic in the discharge of their duties.
Col. G. A. Hayward, aide-de-camp, has my sincere thanks for the many important services he has rendered me. Always ready for the discharge of duty, he was distinguished for his gallantry on the field of Baker's Creek, and after the investment of the city bore important information to General Johnston, by whom he was retained until the capitulation.
Mr. D. E. Norris, telegraph operator, and Private A. T. Sullivan, my secretary, accompanied me upon the field of Baker's Creek and rendered important services.
Accompanying, please find a tabular statement of the casualties of my division in the different actions, &c., in which it participated up to June 16. The absence of subordinate officers renders it impossible for me to give my whole loss during the siege of Vicksburg.
I am, major, respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. L. STEVENSON.
Maj. R. W. MEMMINGER,
Return of Casualties in Stevenson's Division at the battle of Champion's Hill, or Baker's Creek, May 16, 1863.
Aggregate Division staff 1 --- --- --- --- --- 1 Barton's brigade 3 55 11 95 28 709 901 Cumming's brigade 7 114 16 253 16 589 995 Lee's brigade 2 42 9 133 24 580 790 A W Reynolds' brigade --- --- --- --- --- 152 152 Waddell's battery --- 9 --- 10 --- 5 24 Total 13 220 36 491 68 2,035 2,863
Ordnance and Stores at Baker's Creek, [captured] May 16.
10-pounder Parrotts complete 2 12-pounder iron howitzers complete 2 6-pounder bronze guns complete 5 3-inch rifled guns complete 2 Caissons 8 Sets lead harness 28 Sets wheel harness 19 Small-arms 2,834 Accouterments 2,834 Rounds 12,000
This page last updated 10/28/01
RETURN TO BATTLE OF CHAMPION'S HILL OFFICIAL RECORDS PAGE