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Aquilla Standifird’s Civil War Journal - Part Three

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(From: The Civil War-An Illustrated History ; pub 1990)

"Received a letter from home which is always the brightest part of a soldiers life to hear from home and all is well."

The Battles Begin…. "We were fired on by the enemy."Battle of Port Gibson, May 1, 1863

April 23rd: (Perkins, Louisana). Heard last night heavy cannonading in the direction of Vicksburg, but not know the meaning of it until some badly battered boats landed here. They ran apast the batterys at Vicksburg. Six started, one was sunk and the others got through badly battered. I was on the J. D. Chersman, and saw a man that was badly wounded by a piece of shell. The shells plowed their way through the smoke stacks through the upper deck, pilot house and cabin. One shell stuck the silver tank in the bar of the boat and scattered and drove it in and through the wall. Have not heard the number of killed, wounded and missing.

April 24th: Warm and pleasant. Went down to the once nice lawn of the rich aristocratic Perkins. The lawn is surround by a low hedge (possibly Barberry) once fine evergreens and magnola, and between where the house had stood and the river was a fine beech grove of perhaps two or more acres which makes a fine shade. On the lawn are two marble monuments and a vault is engraved the name Judge Perkins.

April 25th: The boys are putting their time in playing cards and dice and chuckluck. The beech grove is literaly covered with them. Some are trying to keep from carrying the pay they drew a few days ago. Some however raised great howl when they lose. I think if I were trifling enough to gamble and lose, I would be quiet about it at least. Where there is a whole division of trops camp there are always more or less gambling. Went down to the river with some the boys and went in and took a bath, rather cold for comfort.

April 26th: Received a letter from home which is always the brightest part of a soldiers life to hear from home and all is well. Our baggage and commissary barge arrived this evening. Rations had ran short and nothing to draw from. What the rebs could not take with them, they burned. Carried our tents off and out to camp bout three quarters of a mile from the river. We had got our tent sent when a storm came up and we had to go to bed without supper. We made our beds on a corn row to keep out of the water. The planters is not paying attention to cotton plantations here this spring. But we find corn fields occasionly. The corn planted this spring is nearly knee high and looks fine.

April 27th: The tent we put up last night were claimed by others and we got another and put it up. Twelve noon received orders with 3 days rations. Leaving tents and baggage, again the officers carry only their side arms and two blankets and canteens. Soldiers their usual load knapsack, haversake, canteen, gun and cartridge box. The boat was crowded from top to lower deck. Lieutenant Evans and I got up on the pilot house deck and spread down our blankets and laid down and slept a little bit.

April 28th: (On board J. W. Cheesmen). Still loading transport batteries and horses on boats and barges. The name of transports is J. W. Cheesman, Forrest Queen, Horizon, Anglo, Saxon, Mediater, Silverwave, and Empire City, and one gun boat and the other General Price commenced moving down this 10 a.m., the gun boats in advance and landed two or more miles above Grand Gulf at Hara Tinus Landing and in sight of the rebel fortifications. There were three shots fired from one of the guns on the stern of the gunboat Tecumish possibly to try what affect it would have or to measure distance as to fuse.

April 29th: (Hara Tinus, Louisanna) A most ideal morning, warm, clear and still. The bombardment commenced this morning at 8:30 o’c a.m. by the gun boats Louisville, Techumish, Lafayette, Pittsburg, Belton and General Price, and one other did not get the name. It was grand sight. The shells from the fortifications would often miss the boats and skip for a long distance on the water. Then a shot would strike the sloping side the boats and glance high in the air and burst and a little cloud of smoke would float off in the gentle breeze and another would strike and throw the water high in the air. The bombarament lasted over five hours, but did not silence the rebel batteries. We was on land but there was thousands of soldiers on the transport at the landing. After dark we marched down the levee and came to the river below the fortifications and went into camp. The losses of today are on boat, was 18 killed, 2 shell penetrated the side of one of the boats and exploded in side where the men were handling their guns. We also hear that here are between 50 and 60 wounded and during the engagement of today. General Grant was on the dispatch boat with Admiral Porter. After night the gun boats and transported the fort and landed below. When they passed the bombarament was terrific. Before they started down the troups were all landed and marched across or down the levee.

April 30th: The heavy cannonading of last night done but little damage to the fleet. Each gun boat took a transport in tow and on the side from the batterys which was a good protection. The boat we came down on from Perkins Landing had five horse killed by a shell. Got aboard the boats both transports and the iron clads. When all aboard the boats started up toward the fort and ran a short distance on the side of the river. We commenced landing very rapidly and about 3 p.m. started toward Port Gibson about 12 miles distant and sun down. We stopped and got supper but did not waste much time, and moved on again. Through dark valley and over high points, deep cuts and a rough road. Sleepy and weary.

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The Enfield Rifle

May 1st: (Battle of May 1st). [*The Battle of Port Gibson] This morning about 1 o’c a.m. our advance guard was fired upon by the pickets of the enemy. We were halted and guns ordered loaded, move forward again. Skirmishers in advance, to where the road we were on intersected another road. We were fired on by the enemy. The Skirmishers were driven back. They commenced sending shell and canister over and among us but little damage done, one or two were wounded and one gun broken. We were ordered to get to the side of the road for the Indiana battery to pass. It crossed the road into a field. Untimbered and commencing shelling the enemy. We were ordered forward to support the battery. Passing behind and to the left and halting on ground down lower than that occupied by the battery. The shell sent over by the enemy was directed at the battery and to our right. The cannons ceased firing about three a.m. and all became quiet. Until early in the morning. When the battery commenced again to our left by the advance of General Osterhans. Soon after a batterys was planted on a high ridge to our rear and threw shells over us in the enemy lines. As soon as the battery ceased firing in our rear we were ordered forward in line of battle crossing over and down the other side of the ridge into a small ravine through a can brake. As we came out and upon higher ground. The enemy was but a short distance from us they attacted us. As soon as our line could be formed, when out of the cane brake, we turned loose with our endfill [Enfield] rifles. We could see off to the right and front, a battery of the enemy turning toward us, but before they could fire the first brigade General Bentines charged them and they had to retreat. They are still in our front. Our Company lost C. C. Balterell killed, William Hogue mortaly wounded and Jacob A Tabler through the arm. The regiment loss, killed and wounded 28. The enemy fell back about 2 miles and made a stand. We again followed up and was held in reserve. We would move one direction and then ordered to some other part of the field we was kept moving, but was at no time out of the reach of the enemy. In one of our moves across the field in line of battle the left of the regiment toward the rebs. We were jumping down 8 or 10 feet into a road cut through a hill. The enemy sent a shell at us intending to sweep the cut but it entered the bank just over the heads of those in the road and under the feet of some that was in the act of jumping down plowing the dirt from under them and letting them down in the road. Fortunally the shell did not explode and no one was hurt. We returned late in the evening to where we left our blankets and rashions and passing over the battle field of the _________.

This morning saw quite a number dead both Union and Confederate. Magnola Church was where the battle commenced was used for a hospital for both Union and Confederate. After we got our supper returned to the front again, part of us laying down near the battery to sleep, if we can. Thinking what of tomorrow.

May 2nd: Last night the long road was guarded and we were quickly aroused. The rebs only made a faint attacked to let us know they was in front while the main army was on the retreat. After breakfast we was ordered to move forward in line of battle skirmishers in advance. As far as I could see back to the right and left a line of Blue could be seen down through a hollow and upon a ridge. The rebs had occupied yesterday through some timber and out of it and in sight of Port Gibson but no enemy in sight, they have retreaded. The line of battle changed to march, got onto a road and to town and camped. After dinner went up in town. It is a very nice city and the streets will shaded by large trees. The lawns with their evergreens and flowers of different colors and fine houses. Went down to the suspension bridge that spans Bayou Perie. The rebs had set on fire their morning on this retreat. A floating bridge was soon made from building near by and the advance soon was passing over.

May 3rd: The 17th Corps Major General James B. McPerson following the rebs. We was ordered out on the Grand Gulf Road and went as far as Bayou Perier and found the rebs had burned the bridge and retreat to Port Gibson. I was detailed for picket duty and went south of town.

May 4th: A negro came to the pickets last night and we had to keep him until this morning. We sent him back, he said he was coming in to see his girl and did not know there was any yank or pickets on the road. The colored people came in by wagon, on foot, and mule back, male and female, old, young, big and little of all colors. I was ordered to not allow them to come in side of our lines for we had neither food or transportation for ourselves and we could not be bothered with a lot of noncombatants. The order did not include all, if any young men came in and was willing to work I was to pass them through. Sending them to the headquarters of the pioneer corps. I passed several. May 4th quite warm and pleasant. Our picket is camped on the large lawn of the very fine plantation. We was relieved about 3 p.m. and returned to camp.

May 5th: Rained last night, got up and went in an empty house that stood nearby. We have no tents. Left them at Perkins Plantation. Received orders to march at four p.m. Colonel Rinsman arrived today, on the way at 4 p.m. and did not go into camp until ten o’clk p.m. at North Fork.

May 5th: Last evening before we arrived at our present camp we marched up to a covered bridge. Company just ready to enter it, we was halted for the artilery in front to pass over us and some of the teams got frightened and made a terrible racket and those in front thought. That a team was coming out of the bridge their way and they jumped to the side of the road frightening those in the read and they all tumbled out of the road for some distance some falling in the ditch on either side. It was laughable to hear the remarks of the slaves. You blamed fool, what did you get frightened at anyway, or haven’t you got any more since than to run over a fellow. Or did you think the rebel army was coming out of that old bridge or say hadn’t you better croked of and die!

May 6th: Said by today the weather pleasant and cool. Got some fresh beef, but short on bread. Some meal issued this evening. Order to march in the morning at three a.m.

May 7th: Moved out at 3 a.m. passing over a very rough country and the soil very poor, and near Black River. Halted in the afternoon and went in camp. I was ordered out with a detail for corn went some distance from camp and near Black River found plenty of corn in a barn loft, but could not find any team, my orders were to confiscate or take any team found and bring it in. We saw a middle aged colored man and asked if he knew where there was any horses or oxen. He said there were several yokes of oxen down in the timber near Black River. I asked him who was down there. He said soldiers. I wanted to know if we could go down and get them and not let the confederate soldiers see us, and he said no masa, spect not. Then I asked him if he could go down and get two yoke of cattle and bring them to us without being caught. He said he would try. We told him we would give him one half dollar and let him go with us to camp. He lit out and in about one half hour returned with two yoke, a wagon was in the barn and we loaded it up and another colored man drove to camp. I turned corn, wagon, oxen and man over to the quartermaster. He said he expected but not so much beef. He told the colored man he could stay with him, he wanted more help.

May 8th: Review today was called into line and General Gran McClernand and Carr passed in review. Returned to camp and had inspection of arms. The mail goes out tomorrow. Wrote a letter home the first the 21st January.

May 9th: J. W. Rankin started to Grand Gulf with the mail, General Crockers Division passed today. Got some rations today, don’t know where they come from.

May 10th: Called into line at eight a.m. and Colonel Rinsanan gave us a short talk. Told us to do our duty as a soldier and patients. Moved out about 9 a.m. rather disagreeable, dusty and warm the dust made a regular fog. Went in camp at 3 p.m.

May 11th: In camp today in a corn field. Rations getting scarce again. General Steel Division passed today. It belongs to General Shermans Corps the 15th.

May 12th: On the march today, moved forward until we came to a road leading to Edwards Station turned in that direction and went some distance and crossed Fourteen mile creek. Moved on a short distance and turned to the left into the timber. Corn field in our front, fell in line of battle and went in camp.

May 13th: On the move at eight a.m., went back to the road turned to the right and crossed the creek again, and started toward Raymond. In the afternoon a heavy rain came up, which made it very muddy. We camped in a woods pasture the ground was cover with water. I and Lieutenant Evans got some small poles and laid them down, pin fashion, so the edges of our guns and blanket would lay on the poles all around. So the water would not run in between them, after spreading one for the bottom we spread down two woolen blankets, and then a gun blanket on top. We crawled in between the woolen blankets and slept very will if water was under us, and raining on top.

May 14th: On again and raining. Passed over the battle field of Raymond it was fought the 12th by Logans division of McPhersons Corps, and the confederate General Gregg. The latter was compelled to retreat toward Jackson. Some of the dead had not been buried yet. (The Confederates). Splashed along through the mud part of the time at the side of the road, any way to get on. Got in seven miles of Jackson and camped. Out of any thing to eat I and Lieutenant W. Merrill started out and foraged on our own hook got a side of meat between us and some sturgeon. The meat was so very strong it could hardly be eat. I gave it to the boys and they managed to use it. We are all out of rations, ceased raining this evening.

May 15, 1863: Heard Jackson was taken yesterday evening. We started on the return passing through Raymond and went in camp about two miles from it. J. W. Rankin came in with the mail, got a letter from home. He brought quite a lot of mail for the regiment. The boys are in good spirits and are ready for a fight when it comes. Our trunk came up today, I was out one pair pants and one shirt, and the tail of Lieutenant Evans overcoat was cut off, which caused some comment and suggestions of what it could be used for by the boys. He thought it would not look well on the dress parade and threw it on the camp fire.

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