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Gen. Mcclernand Assumes Command Op The Army Of The Mississippi—The MiliTary Situation—General Order No. 1—Submission Of Plan To Gen. Grant— The Movement Against Arkansas Post—Nature Of The Position—Illinois RegiMents In The Expedition—Preliminary Reconnoissance—The Attack Upon The Fort—Its Surrender—Details Of The Battle—Extracts From Gen. McclerNand's Report—His Order Of Congratulation—The Views Of The President— Correspondence Between Got. Yates And Gen. Mcclernand.
ON" the 4th of January, 1863, Gen. McClernand, in pursuance of orders, assumed the command of the army, styling it the Army of the Mississippi, and issued General Order No. 1, continuing Gens. Sherman and Morgan in command, prohibiting interference with private property, prescribing punishment for straggling, and covering the customary details relative to supplies and reports of corps commanders. The situation at this juncture was substantially as follows: General Grant had failed to carry out his plan of pushing forward from Oxford to Grenada, and had fallen back to Holly Springs. General Sherman's attack on Vicksburg had been repulsed. General Banks was debarred from affording co-operation with the up river movements by the obstinate resistance of the enemy at Port Hudson. In addition, the enemy at Vicksburg had been strongly reinforced and our own army was hardly in condition to move upon the latter place. General McClernand therefore adopted a new plan which he submitted to General Grant by letter, the principal features of which were the following:
General Grant was to make Memphis his base of operations, put the road from Memphis to Grenada in running order, and push forward with his column to the latter place and to Jackson, thence marching upon the rear of Vicksburg, while General Banks' forces
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and the army of the Mississippi should co-operate as was best found to be practicable. The peculiar military situation of General Grant would render an answer improbable for several weeks. In the meantime, while waiting for orders, General McClernand determined to strike a blow at the enemy near the mouth of the Arkansas river, then seriously threatening communication between Memphis and Vicksburg. Fort Hindman, better known as Arkansas Post, the key to Little Rock and the extensive country drained by the Arkansas river, was the point aimed at. In the two corps which comprised this army were the following Illinois' regiments: 13th, 113th, 116th, 35th, 127th, 77th, 97th, 108th, 131st and 118th regiments of infantry; the 3d Illinois cavalry, one company of the 15th and two companies of Thielman's Illinois battalion; companies A and B, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, and the Mercantile Battery, Captain Cooley. The army safely arrived at the mouth of the White River on the 8th of January and commenced landing, the work of disembarkation being concluded at noon of the 10th.
In the meantime General McClernand had reconnoitered the river road and a part of the levee within a short distance of the fort, and discovered that the enemy was abandoning a line of rifle-pits about half a mile above the levee, under the heavy fire of our gunboats. General Sherman's column was put in motion, and after meeting and dispersing a strong force of the enemy's pickets, the head of the column, General Hovey's brigade, encountered a swamp which was crossed with much difficulty. Witnessing the embarrassment of the troops in crossing, General McClernand reconnoitered to test the practicability of the river road. This road was found not only practicable but good, and the other division of General Sherman's corps, commanded by General Stuart, passed up this road. The rear of General Steel's division, consisting of General Blair's brigade which had crossed the swamp, was obliged to return, as any further approach to the fort could only be gained by a detour of seven miles, and the passage of a bayou by a single narrow bridge. General Sherman then hastened up the river road to General Stuart's division of his corps, the head of which he found resting within half a mile of the fort General Morgan's corps rapidly advanced in the same direction and General A. J. Smith's division soon made its appearance on the right of Stuart. General Sherman was ordered to move Stuart's division to the right, and' General Steele's when it should come up still further to the right, to let in General Smith's and General Osterhaus's divisions on the left so that the investment might be complete. General McClernand then communicated with Admiral Porter, and the gunboats moved forward, opening a furious cannonade upon the fort which was continued until after nightfall, thus diverting the attention of the enemy from the movements of the land forces. During the night General Sherman's corps was pushed forward to the bayou. General Osterhaus took a position covering the landing and the transports, and Colonel Lindsay's brigade had planted a battery on the river bank above the fort, thus cutting off escape or reinforcement of the enemy by water. ^
At half-past ten o'clock on the morning of the 11th, the two corps were in position. General Steele's division had the extreme right, with General Stuart's and A. J. Smith's division on its left. One brigade of General Osterhaus's division formed the extreme left of the line resting upon the river. Colonel De Courcey's brigade of the same division was held in reserve. The artillery was disposed as follows: Co. A, 1st Regiment Illinois Light Artillery, Captain Wood commanding, to the left of Stuart; Co. B of the same regiment, Captain Barrett commanding, on the center of the same division; the 4th Ohio between Stuart and Steele and the 1st Ohio between Thayer's and Hovey's brigades of Steele's division; the 1st Missouri was in reserve and the 8th Ohio in the rear of the center of the general line. Three pieces of the 17th Ohio battery were in front of Landrum's brigade of General Smith's division and two sections of the Mercantile battery of Chicago were with Colonel Lindsay.
Word was sent to Admiral Porter that General McClernand would advance upon the enemy's works as soon as the gunboats opened fire. At one o'clock they opened fire, which was immediately followed by the fire of artillery along both the right and left wings of the line. At half-past one o'clock, Hovey's and Thayer's brigades of General Sherman's corps, and T. E. Smith's and Giles M. Smith's brigades of the same gained a position near the enemy's
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rifle pits. Checked for a time by a severe fire of musketry, they afterwards advanced, supported by Blair's brigade as a reserve, until they had approached within short musket range of the enemy's line and found shelter within some ravines. In executing this movement General Hovey was wounded by the fragment of a shell, but continued on the field. Hoffman's battery was advanced within two hundred yards of the enemy's intrenchments and poured in a rapid and effective fire. The artillery of General Morgan's corps opened fire at one o'clock, and kept it up with telling effect—some 20-pounder Parrotts on the river bank, silencing a heavy casemated gun and some lighter barbette guns on one of the bastions. Blount's Parrotts kept up a rapid fire into the enemy's lines until A. J. Smith's division had passed to the front and rear of the enemy's works. Nine regiments detached from this division, and supported by three regiments in reserve, moved forward and drove the enemy's advance toward the open ground in front of his defences, when they sought shelter behind some cabins. The 3d Wisconsin charged and dislodged them, forcing them to flee to their intrenchments. The same regiment then moved forward until within two hundred yards of the fort.
In the meantime Colonel Sheldon under General Osterhaus's direction ordered up the Chicago Mercantile battery within two hundred yards of the enemy's defences and deployed the 118th Illinois on its right and massed the 120th Ohio on its left, the 69th Indiana being in reserve. The enemy poured a galling fire into them, to which our infantry and artillery promptly replied until the rifle-pits in front of the latter were nearly cleared. The 120th Ohio sprang forward to carry the eastern face of the fort, but failed in the attempt. At this juncture Colonel De Courcey's brigade, which had been left to cover the transports, was ordered up. At half-past three o'clock General Sherman was reinforced by the 23d Wisconson, 19th Kentucky, and 97th Illinois from General Smith's division, and took position on the right. The engagement being sharp on both sides General McClernand ordered the assault. Burbridge's 'brigade and the 12th Ohio dashed forward under a heavy fire to the enemy's intrenchments—the 16th Indiana, 83d and 120th Ohio being the first to enter the fort. Presenting himself at the entrance to the fort, General Burbridge was halted by the guard who denied that the fort had been surrendered, until he called their attention to the white flag, and ordered them to ground arms. Soon after, meeting General Churchill commanding the fort, the latter had an interview with General McClernand and surrendered.
We quote from the elaborate and lucid report of General McClernand, the closing scenes in the reduction of Arkansas Post:
"Further to the enemy's left his intrenchments were stormed by General Sherman's command, who immediately ordered General Steele whose zeal and daring, added to his previous renown, to push forward one of his brigades along the bayou and cut off the enemy's escape in that direction.
Colonel Lindsay, as soon as a gunboat had passed above the fort hastened with his brigade down the opposite shore and opened an oblique fire from Foster's two twenty and Lieutenant Wilson's two ten-pounder Parrotts into the enemy's line of rifle-pits, carrying away his battle flag and killing a number of his men. Eager to do still more, he embarked the 3d Kentucky on board of one of the gunboats to cross the river to the fort, but before it got over, the enemy had surrendered.
"Thus at half-past four o'clock, after three and a half hours' hard fighting, our forces entered and took possession of all the enemy's defences.
"To General Morgan, I assigned the command of the fort, who, as a token of the conspicuous merit of General A. J. Smith, throughout the action, assigned it to that officer. To General Sherman I gave in charge all the other defences and the prisoners outside the fort, who, in like manner, honored General Stuart, by giving them into his charge.
"Seven stands of colors were captured including the garrison flag which was captured by Captain Ennis, one of General Smith's aides-de-camp. General Burbridge planted the American flag upon the fort, which had been placed in his hands as a tribute to his gallantry by General Smith for that purpose. Besides these, five thousand prisoners, seventeen pieces of cannon large and small, ten guncarriages and eleven limbers, three thousand stand of small arms, exclusive of many lost or destroyed, one hundred and thirty swords,