Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 7, 1863

June 7, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 16

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 11

Battle of Milliken’s Bend


---Under a plan proposed by the War Department in Richmond, and planned by Gen. Edmund Kirby-Smith, chief of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, three columns of Southern infantry marched against three separate points believed to be key to Grant’s supply line at Vicksburg.  (What Richmond did not know---nor apparently did Kirby-Smith---is that Grant no longer maintained a supply line on the west bank of the Mississippi River, and brought his supplies directly by ship to his new base on the Yazoo River near the Vicksburg lines.)  These columns are commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, a Louisianian, the son of Gen. (and later President) Zachary Taylor, and veteran of Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign the previous year.  Taylor objects to the plan, arguing that no recent intelligence shows that the Yankees still kept a supply line on the west bank; he believe that his column should attack the scantily-garrisoned New Orleans, since most of Banks’ army is besieging Port Hudson.  But Taylor’s plan is rejected. 

John G. Walker, CSA

Taylor has John G. Walker’s division of Texas troops to use for this campaign.  Walker advances from Richmond, Louisiana, and splits his columns.  (One column has already marched on Lake Providence, but never arrived.)  Walker splits his division in two, sending one part toward reaches Young’s Point, just opposite the spot where the Yazoo entered the Mississippi---but these troops find the Union garrison in a cozy fortification, watched over by three Union gunboats.  The third column, a brigade under Henry McCulloough, strikes the supply depot at Milliken’s Bend, garrisoned by a brigade of black troops, ncluding some recently raised regiments of contrabands, ill-trained.  McCullough’s troops surge forward, in the face of stiff volleys from the black men in blue, and were able to flank the Federals, mowing down the Negro troops in large numbers on the exposed levee.  However, in spite of the heavy losses, and their compromised position, the negro troops refuse to back down: they do not break.  Soon, the USS Lexington and Choctaw appear on the river, and begin to shell the Rebels.  The African Brigade is also reinforced by the 23rd Iowa Infantry Regiment.  The Federals rally, and push the Rebels back inland, and pursue, inflicting scores of casualties on their former assailants.  McCullough withdraws to Walnut Bayou, having captured some Federal troops and a few white officers.  These black are sold into slavery, although Gen. McCullough makes a gift of several of them to one his officers.  There are rumors that the Rebels have massacred some black prisoners, but no firm evidence exists for this.

The Union troops under Col. Lieb suffer over 600 casualties; McCullough’s Texans suffer 185.  Union Victory.

---Sergeant Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, records in his journal the news about the fight at Milliken’s Bend:

Sunday, 7th—The rebels made an attack on our forces at Duck’s Point, Louisiana, where, it is reported, two negro regiments met the attack and captured two hundred prisoners and five pieces of artillery. Who says that the negro will not fight? I say he will fight! Arm the negroes and let them fight for their liberty! There are some Northern troops with them at Duck’s Point, and together they make a strong garrison.

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