[Manuscript compilation of official reports for the Battle of Port Gibson.]. George Francis McGinnis, James A. Mitchell.
[Manuscript compilation of official reports for the Battle of Port Gibson.]
[Manuscript compilation of official reports for the Battle of Port Gibson.]

[Manuscript compilation of official reports for the Battle of Port Gibson.]

In the field, Port Gibson, Mississippi, May 1863. 4to (8” x 12”), lightly lined sheets fastened together at top. 33 pp. of manuscript.

A compelling brigade battlefield report composed in the immediate wake of the Battle of Port Gibson (Mississippi, 1 May ‘63), an assault that set the stage for Grant’s pivotal siege of Vicksburg; the eight reports of Army of the Tennessee regiments and batteries chronicle extensive combat; the capture of Confederate colors; the taking of hundreds of rebel prisoners and guns; casualties, and more.

Likely transcribed by a regimental brigade clerk, this fascinating document comprises highly detailed reports submitted by regimental and battery commanders with a prefatory brigade report by Brig. Gen. George F. McGinnis (1826–1910), Commander of the 1st Brig., 12th Div., 13th Army Corps of the Army of the Tennessee. Included here are the official reports for each of the following regimental battery commands: the 11th, 24th, 34th and 46th Indiana; the 2nd and 16th Ohio; and the 29th Wisconsin. All reports record combat and provide accounts of the participation of these regiments and batteries in the Battle of Port Gibson. Commanders whose companies endured serious casualties append lists of the killed and wounded, and often record the specific nature of injuries.

The seven regimental reports were written by the following commanders: Col. Dan Macauley (11th Indiana Inf.); Col. Wm. J. Splicely (24th Ind. Inf. Vols.); Col. R. H. Cameron (34th Ind. Inf., AKA “Morton Rifles”); Col. Chas. R. Gill (29th Regiment Wis. Inf.); Capt. James A. Mitchell (16th Ohio Inf.); Col. Thos. H. Bringhims (46th Ind. Inf.); Lieut. Aug. Beach (2nd Ohio Bat.).

The Battle of Port Gibson—in which the Union prevailed—was fought near Port Gibson, Mississippi during Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign. On 30 April ‘63, the Army of the Tennessee—composed of the 13th and 17th Corps—crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsbur, some thirty miles south of Vicksburg. Grant sought to move east toward the capital at Jackson, Mississippi to prevent the Rebel Army (commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston) from reinforcing Vicksburg. Port Gibson—ten miles east of Bruinsburg on the Bayou Pierre River—was the best route of approach and thus became the Union’s primary target.

Intense fighting broke out around midnight on 1 May when Union forces came upon Rebel Maj. Gen. John Bowen’s men in the brush around Port Gibson. After a brief cessation, the battle continued again at dawn. The fighting continued for the majority of the day as multiple Confederate lines suffered under the weight of the Union assault. After a rebel counterattack was thwarted in the late afternoon the Confederate forces retreated for good. 131 of Grant’s men were killed and 719 were wounded (of the 23,000 engaged); 60 Confederate men—including Gen. Edward Tracy—were killed and 340 were wounded of some 8,000 engaged. While Grant lost more men, his victory enabled his army to secure a foothold on Mississippi soil.

In turn, Grant launched his campaign deeper into the interior of the state, and started moving his army inland and eastward towards Jackson without resistance. Revealing the Confederate’s inability to defend the line of the Mississippi River, the Union victory forced the Confederate evacuation of Grand Gulf, precipitating the fall of Vicksburg. “Local lore has it that Union forces marching through Mississippi spared the town of Port Gibson from the torch because it was too beautiful to burn” (American Battlefield Trust).

SOME REPRESENTATIVE PASSAGES:

May 6 1863; Brig. Gen. George F. McGinnis “The balance of my brigade moved rapidly to the front, and were soon within range of a rebel battery, supported by a brigade of Infantry…a fearfully destructive fire was poured upon them that Col. Cameron, very properly, and with much coolness and judgment, halted his command and protected them from the enemy’s fire behind the brow of the hill…the 11th Ind. which had been in reserve, moved to the front in double quick…the gunners and horses were shot down and the brigade in support turned their backs upon us and fled in confusion from the field. The result of this gallant dart…was the capture of the two twelve pounder Howitzers, three Caissons, three wagons, loaded with ammunition, three stand of colors, several horses, and over two hundred prisoners.”

Col. Dan Macauley, 11th Ind. Inf. “My command was immediately ordered forward to support the 2nd …took up a position in the ravine and on the brow of the hill, and opened fire upon the enemy. At this point the conflict was terrific and was kept up without any intermission whatever, for an hour and thirty-seven minutes, when the enemy finding that they could not drive us from our position, retreated in dismay and made no further resistance on that part of the field. During this last engagement I received information that the rebels…”

“The 24th Ind. and 29th Wisconsin stood the brunt of this engagement, occupying the front and most dangerous position. It was here that their heaviest loss occurred owing to the nature of the ground on which they moved…The expressions of admiration in which the two batteries were handled, the precision and rapidity with which they were fired, were frequent and well deserved. Officers and men are entitled to much praise…”

“I cannot refrain however from special mention of the 29th Wisconsin, not that they fought longer or more gallantly than others; not that are more brave, or better disciplined, but that it is a new Regiment and this was the first time that they had been engaged with an enemy, or that any of their men had even been under fire. They fought like veterans and suffered severely as their report of casual this will show.”

“A deep ravine, choked by an almost impassable canebrake and undergrowth was before no through which with great exertion, we succeeded in forcing our way… [there] was stationed a rebel battery, supported by a heavy force of infantry.”

Col. Wm. J. Splicely, 24th Ind. Inf. Vols. “At about daylight on the morning of May 1st 1863. Here we formed in line, stacked arms, and commenced breakfast. At about 7 O’clock A.M. while eating, our whole line was assailed by a terrific shower of shot & shell from the enemy’s batteries. Our line was soon formed…[we] moved rapidly over the hills and ravines and dense thickets of cane, vines, and underbrush.”

“We moved forward at double quick time, formed in line in a deep gulch or ravine & were soon engaged with the enemy…The battle at this point raged fiercely for one hour & a half; my men standing up like veterans under this terrific fire the whole of that time. Here it was that I lost most of the killed & wounded of my command. About 3 o’clock PM the enemy gave way and left us in possession of the field.”

Col. R. H. Cameron, 34th Ind. Inf. “After a fatiguing night march from Brewers Borough Miss[issippi]. we halted at a small creek, at daylight for a cup of coffee, within sound of the enemy’s cannon…we moved up and formed in line of battle in a ravine where not only the enemy’s shells but rifle bullets fell in it very thick. Here we had Lieut. Poling of Comp. “E” and Sergeant Hallace of Comp. “H” seriously wounded.”

“After a hot fire for fifteen minutes the 11th Ind. came to our relief and both Regiments advanced with a shout upon the rebel guns…At this point it was impossible to distinguish the 11th Ind. from my own regiment, except by their uniform, as they were indiscriminately mixed with each other and the enemy.”

Col. Chas. R. Gill, 29th Reg. Wis. Inf. “The well directed fire from my Reg. prevented the advance of this part of his line one foot. I produced fearful slaughter in the enemies ranks…I take great pleasure and pride in informing you that although he position of the regiment was a trying one, being unexpectedly attached & so situated that it could not change position to advantage no man flinched—all faced the enemy bravely while their comrades fell dead & wounded at their sides…The night before the battle the Reg. had marched all night with knapsacks, four days rations in harisacks & one hundred rounds of ammunition to each man.”

Capt. James A. Mitchell, 16th Ohio Inf. “In front of the Battery the enemy appeared in large numbers, in the bushy field, beyond the ravine.—Formed Battery & commenced firing immediately, with what effect could not be seen, as the enemy were concealed in the grass & bushes. From this point about a mile to the east on a high hill commanding a full view of the field was what appeared to be the enemy’s post of observation or Head Quarters…”

“During the action up to about 4 P.M. when the enemy disappeared from the Battery’s front the men were exposed to a brisk fire from the enemy’s sharpshooters said to be posted in the trees—although the gun carriages were struck several times by rifle balls, yet strange enough none of the m[en] or horses were injured.”

A rich compilation of reports, composed in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Port Gibson.

REFERENCES: American Battlefield Trust. May 1, 1863 The Battle of Port Gibson and Port Gibson at battlefields.org

CONDITION: Short tears, some staining and soiling, mainly on the first and final few pp.; last leaf frayed along bottom edge; contents generally quite clean, formerly rolled up, a few missing letters to a few pp.

Item #5491

Price: $5,500.00