Bygones of Monroe:
Letter from the Sixth Michigan
Their Conduct before Port Hudson
List of Killed and Wounded
In the Field near Port Hudson
Second Division, 19th Army Corp
May 31st, 1863
Ed. Commercial: Dear Sir – The Mich. 6th with the rest of the 2nd Division of the 19th Army Corps arrived in front of Port Hudson May 25th under the command of Gen. T.W. Sherman. Gen Banks with the other Divisions had already arrived and consequently all was excitement and confusion. Orderlies were riding from point to point with the utmost rapidity carrying orders; and one would imagine by the way they rode that the success of the 19th army corps depended upon the fleetness of their blooded steeds. Gen. Sherman’s Division consisted of two Brigades, one commanded by Gen. Neal Dow and the other by Gen. Nickerson. The whole number of troops contained in this Division were a little less than six thousand and those contained in the other Divisions are said to number a little less than twelve thousand making in all a little less than 18,000 Infantry which was supported by the 21st Indiana Artillery, 21st New York Battery and 1st Vermont Battery with several other Batteries in Grover’s and Weitzel’s Divisions whose numbers I have not learned. They have also one cavalry regiment. The plan adopted by Gen. Banks for the attack of this stronghold was to surround the outer works of the enemy and make a simultaneous demonstration from every point at once. Gen Sherman’s Division was therefore placed on the left extending nearly to the centre. Gens. Grover, Paine and Weitzel on the right.
The organization of the several Divisions was effected on the morning of the 21st and consequently our batteries opened fire upon the enemy’s works which continued throughout the day and night, returning the fire occasionally with a good deal of energy but without much effect. The 27th was the day decided upon by Gen. Banks to make a general attack and consequently every ones heart beat with anxious solicitude for the result as the undertaking without better preparation was considered inpracticable by Gen. Sherman, who entered a strong protest against Gen. Banks. But Gen. Banks in return sent a positive order to Gen. Sherman to have the programme in his Division carried out in full, let the results be what they might.
The programme was to have the artillery and batteries open fire at seven and continue till 1 PM when the infantry were to assault the enemy’s works.
The time arrived, fierce cannonading commenced and continued until 1 PM when it ceased and the Infantry advanced.
The 15th New Hampshire and the 25th Connecticut were to take the lead in our Brigade supported by the Mich. 6th and 128th New York, Gen. Neal Dow in command. To assault the enemy’s works it was necessary for our infantry to travel over a cleared field of ½ mile in width facing the enemy’s guns, which was placed behind one of the most formidable fortifications in the confederacy. The command was given to advance, which was performed in good style, but had not advanced more than 20 rods before they received a shower of shot and shell which made them skedaddle in double quick time to a place of safety; and as they could not be rallied again, it became necessary to call upon the brave men of Michigan to perform the task. The call was responded to with accustomed promptness showing the 9 months men that they came to fight for the restoration of their Country’s liberty - and not see the country get the bounty money.
The programme was now changed. The Mich. 6th and 128th New York were to make an advance. However, before the advance was made, Gen. Sherman called for 30 volunteers from each Regiment to accompany the contrabands with the scaling ladders so as to scale the works, should they be successful in their perilous undertaking. The Mich. 6th responded by 69 privates, and two officers stepping forward to command them – Capt. Montgomery of Co. H and Lieut. Beals of Co. C. The 128th had 50 men, 26th Conn none, 15th New Hampshire 1.
The orders to advance were given – the brave men stepped forward apparently as fearless as though there was no foe to meet, no friend to part with, determined as they were that only death should make them falter from the triumphant march over ramparts of the enemy’s works. On, on they went notwithstanding the enemy’s shot and shell were playing in torrents amongst them. The Mich. 6th and 128th NY followed close in the rear of those noble volunteers who had so gallantly offered their lives as a sacrifice to their country.
Gens. Sherman and Dow were at the head of the advancing regiments and while urging them on to death and glory both of them received a rifle ball through the leg. Gen. Dow’s was a flesh wound and not serious.
Col. Clark then took command of the Brigade, and with his coolness urged them on, notwithstanding it seemed as though the very air was shot and shell; however he did not succeed in inspiring the 26th Conn. and the 15th N.H. regiments with courage enough to rally from their inglorious retreat. Therefore the Mich. 6th and 128th N.Y. were the only regiments that represented the 1st Brigade on the bloody field of battle.
But Col. Clark was not destined to have command long, for he was soon thrown from his horse by the concussion of a cannon ball and was so much injured that he was unable to get off the field for a long time. Capt. Spitzer of Co. C then stepped forward and waved his sword, and urged the men on notwithstanding that nearly one third of those engaged had already been either killed or wounded. But on they went till they had planted the Star Spangled banner within ten rods of the enemy’s works.
Gen. Nickerson who had now taken command of the Division, seeing there was no hope of succeeding, ordered them to retreat, which they did with sorrowful hearts, for they had gained nothing but lost much. The regiments in the other Brigades did well – yet none so daring – none so brave as the gallant sons of Michigan. The next day a flag of truce was granted to bury the dead and see if any wounded men were yet in the field. While performing this sad duty Gen Beal and a major of the confederate army came out and talked freely with our men. They both enquired what regiment that was that advanced so near their works. When told that it was the Mich. 6th, they said ah, yes we have heard of that regiment before. They also said that it was one of the most daring and gallant charges that they had ever witnessed, and that it pained them to be compelled to fire upon such brave men. They also said that while it showed bravery on the part of our men, it showed indiscrimination and want of judgment on the part of the commanding officers – which many of us are fully convinced of.
Since the fight we have been reinforced with 6000 more troops and quite a number of large siege guns. They, with the gunboats and the various batteries are playing upon the enemy’s fortifications all the time.
I send you a list of the killed and wounded of the Mich. 6th. The number killed and wounded in the whole corps was a little less than 1800 men:
List of Killed and Wounded
Co. A – Capt. E. A. Griffin, slightly, arm; Corp. Francis Swift, severely, shoulder; Private. J. R. Cowels, slightly; Private J. Thompson, shoulder, slightly; C. Lenz, slightly.
Co. B – Orderly, O.R. Pomeroy, killed; Sarg. J. Yaw, killed; E. Heff, Killed; I.P. Mathews, killed; Pearce, killed; 1st Lieut. P.B. Lawler, right shoulder, severely; Corp. Geo Forbs, head, slightly; H. Beach, slightly; H.P. Landon, slightly; L.H. Mathews, slightly.
Co. C –L.B. Banker, killed; Sarg. L. Fox, neck, slightly; Corp. H.C. Parsons, back, severely; Corp. W, M. Connor, leg, amputated; Corp. F. Lamison, head, mortally; I.H. Collar, bowels, severely; B. Ball, both legs, slightly.
Co. D – 1st Lieut. J. Clark, killed; C. Carter, killed; G.W. Pierce, killed; H.B. Harman, killed; 2nd lieut. Mellvain, leg slightly; Corp. G.W. Alfred, leg; A. Yoorhies, leg; J.G. Allison, slightly; J. McIntosh, slightly; N.M. Culver, arm, slightly; A.B. Frakes, back, severely; I. W. Hall, face, severely; J. King, arm, slightly; A.D. Arsborn, foot, slightly; L. D, Randal, slightly; J.P. Steadman, shoulder, severely.
Co. E. – Corp. G. Blashfield, arm, severely; G. Plant, side, slightly; Freeman Upham, side, severely; G. Morgan, shoulder, severely; James Johnson, leg, slightly; Wm. George, slightly.
Co. F – Jacob Munley, leg, severely; J. Meker, arm, slightly.
Co. G – James Booker, killed; E. Crane, killed; Luke Maloy, killed; Sargt. F.B. Seymour, slightly; Corp. M.C. Wood, slightly; Corp. S. Ruose, slightly; J. Rollins, severely; Theodore Weede, slightly; James Frew, slightly; Brown Wynne, slightly, Peter Wynne, severely
Co. H – Capt. P.D. Montgomery, side, severely; Sargt. H. Watch, leg, severely; Corp. S. W. Bailey, leg amputated; M. Bosworth, arm amputated; Isaac Ames, head and back severely; Chas. H. Barnett, foot, slightly; Jas. Borager, bowels, mortally; John Egington, hip, severely; A. Goosbeck, finger, slightly; M. McCormick, both legs, slightly; J.S. Prescott, leg, slightly; F. Pierce, right arm, severely; Wm. H. Scott, right shoulder; E.G. Whitcomb, back severely.
Co. I – Sargt. Geo. Leighton, killed; Sargt. H. Bascomb, shoulder slightly; Corp. Nelson Nethaway, head mortally; W. C. Hopkins, slightly; Sam F. Cowers, slightly; A. Strictland, severely; B. Swoup, arm, severely.
Corp. Geo. Atherson, killed; M. Cutshaw, killed; L. Borst, killed; Capt. A. W. Chapman, leg, severely; Corp. Chas. Mayers, leg slightly; Corp. John Carr, slightly; Abner Taylor, head, slightly; F. Bobnancamp, slightly; James Cutshaw, severely; Wilson Rutledge, slightly; E. Joy, slightly; Franklin Schroeser, slightly; W. Potman, severely; P. Boark, slightly; N. Brott, slightly.
Gen. Dwight takes the command of the 2nd Division. Col. Clark is in command of the 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division. We are all sanguine that Port Hudson in time must fall but how long that time will be, God only knows for it is one of the strongest fortifications without any doubt in America. Deserters say they have plenty of provisions. If so we may have to serve out the remainder of our enlistment around the fortifications of Port Hudson. It would be quite a pleasant place to stay however, were it not for the compliments they send us night and day in the shape of huge shells.
Yours Truly, J.W.M.
(Monroe Commercial, June 25, 1863, Page 1 Column 4 &5)