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Aquilla Standifird’s Civil War Journal - Part Four

The Battle of Champion Hill - May 16, 1863

"The ground was torn up by shell, rails from fences scatured and broken and the dead and wounded by the hundreds."

May 16th: [*The Battle of Champion Hill] We moved out this morning and we had not gone far until we could hear cannonading in our front. When we arrived near the battlefield we were halted and while inactive we could but think what would be the result. Who would be the victors? Wounded was passing us to the rear. About five o-clock we were ordered to the left and front to the support of other troups. We moved forward quite rapidly at first but soon halted. Fill in line of battle. Skermishers in advance skermishing would be lively sometimes but would not last long where a general advance was made. The rebs would fall back, we would advance and halt to get lines in shape. Our route was through timber, brush, across deep ravines matted with can brake, which made it impossible to keep in line making our movement slow. All at once firing ceased in our front. And we were halted a short time, moved forward again turning to the right and soon came out in open ground and up a hill on and around which shown the unmistakable signs of a fearful struggle. The ground was torn up by shell, rails from fences scatured and broken and the dead and wounded by the hundreds. Survived the hill, we turned to the left going across an open field and through some timber taking some prisoners. Came across a family or parts of families, three women and some children. They had hidden in the deep revine while the battle raged over and around them. We turned to the right and came out into a road moving toward Edward Station it was now dusk. Crossed Baker Creek and arrived at the Station in the fore part of the night. When we got near here we could hear ever few minutes quite a clatter of which appeared to be small arms and the bursting of shells. On our arrival we found a train of ammunition had been left by the rebs. They did not want it to fall into our hands so they set fire to it. We heard that there was quite a lot of rations near the burning cars but the way the shells flew we concluded it would not healthy to make a too close investagation, if we was without rations. Our blankets was left behind this morning and we will have to lie down without any covering and it is quite cool.

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The Battlefield of Big Black River, May 17, 1863.
Wm. R. Pywell, Photographer
From: Library of Congress

"The rebs could not stand the charge of the yanks and lit out."

May 17th: (Edwards Station) Passed a very disagreeable night. I am chilled to the bone and nothing to eat. The shells and catrages is still making music at the burning train. We are ordered to move out toward Black River. After we had broken camp this morning and had marched probably three or four miles we passed some persons and they told us we would have to climb dirt before we would cross Black River, which proved to be true. When we arrived in sight of this intrenchment which we could see across the open field. They commenced sending shells over and about making it very unsafe place to stop. We were soon ordered to the right through some timber to the river. We were ordered to move down the river and to get as near the enemies intrenchment as possible which we did. Where we went down there was quite a growth of small timber between the bank and water which gave us good protection and we could get much nearer to the intrenchment and much safer than by the open field. We had not been there long until orders came for us to charge and take the intrenchment. Colonel Rinsman said I will if well supported. The Aid said he supposed that he would have the necessary support. The Colonel said I will see that I have, and started up the river but soon returned giving his Captains orders as he came down. The left wing to (a bend in the River) swing out in the open field and where he leaped upon the bank a perfect storm of lead was hurled at us but did not check those that was not hit. We went on the run the boys falling all the way across, plunged through a log in front of the intrenchment, then up and over the breast works. The rebs could not stand the charge of the yanks and lit out. We crossed over to the river and cut off the rebs that was to the right of us and we captured about fourteen hundred. Some made their escape by swimming the river and some was drowned and a number of them their arms in the river when say they were caught. The battle over – who is killed and who is wounded. Stared on the return and heard the Colonel Rinsman was mortably wounded. Also found ten of my company wounded, some severe and others slight. The rest of the day was spent in looking after the wounded and burying the dead. I met General Lawler and he asked me to show him the place on the river bank where we started on charge as he wished to know the distance. General Lawler told me it was nearly on quarter of a mile. Went into an old stock field. In camp to night in edge of the timber. Got our blankets.

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Big Black River, MS - Wagons & Sheds
Wm. R. Pywell, Photographer
From: Library of Congress

May 18th: (Black River) Colonel Rinsman died this morning. Our regiment will moarn his loss, a good officer and loved by his men. Our regiment was detailed to guard prisoners and we marched back to Edward Station. Meeting a large lot of prisoners picked up since we left the Mississippi and we camped at the station. They did not succeed in burning up all of the rations. When they had set afire to the train. They can eat their own rations and have some to spare for us. After putting a chain picket around the prisoners, lay down to rest.

May 18th: (Edward Station) Went over to the depot this morning. Saw quite a lot of shot and parts of shells in the ashes of the burned cars. Well we don’t care how much if all their ammunition is lost in that way. Lieutenant Colonel Glasgow called the officers of the regiment together. He wanted a recommendation from us for promotion to Colonel, which we gave him. Major Clark to Lieutenant Colonel, Captain Houston of Company A to major. About 2 o’clk, got the prisoners in line and marched back to Black River and camped.

(The Siege of Vicksburg – May 18 to July 4, 1863)

May 20th: (Black River) The R. R. runs nearly through the center of the battle field of the 17th on the west side of the bank is quite high and the R. R. is on tressel north for some distance out in the bottom. Then is two stockades, one on each side of the R. R. bridge near the river. What they were put there for I can’t imagine. We moved out early and was soon in a fog of dust. The Johnies in the middle of the road and a line of troups on both sides. Two young rebs passed their house. Their mother and two sisters was at the gate with a pitcher of water for them (which they got) and to bid them goodbye. She told the yanks what she thought of them. She was just let talk. When we arrived near Vicksburg we went to the right and near the town was surrounded by our forces and they was pounding away at the with shot and shell. Passed the intrenchments occupied by the rebs where they so successfully defeated General Sherman in his first assault on the almost natural fortifications. Arrived at the Yazoo River and camped for the night. Dirty and hungry, find plenty of ratios here after a 20 day campaign part of the time we had something to eat but the greater part very little and sometimes nothing.

May 22nd: (Young’s Point) I and others went down the levees to Shermans Canal, and down the canal to where it enters in the river or would if the river was high enough. Saw the gun boats shelling the reb fortifications on the other side. The rebs would sen shells at the boats striking the water or coming across in the timber which made it necessary to keep back of the levee. Looked until tired and returned to camp.

May 23rd: (Young’s Point) Was detailed for duty this morning but happened to get command of the supervisores and did not have much to do. We have about 4,000 prisoners. Some are always wanting something they can not get. They sometimes quarled among themselves. Some claim to be good union men, but I think their loyalty is not very good.

May 24th: (Young’s Point) Relieved from duty this morning. Quite a large percent of the company is on the sick list this seams a very sickly place. Troups have camped here for so long that the ground has become saturated with filth. I went to the convalescence camp of the Thiryth Iowa. Saw but one that I knew.

May 25th: (Young’s Point) Quite pleasant, over heard this morning ordered to take prisoners to Memphis, Tennessee. Our regiment, the 80th Ohio and the 108th Illinois. Takes them on five transports the Chancelor, Ohio Bell, Gladiator, Crescent City, and Omaha. I am on the first named boat with part of our regiment have to be divide up so that all five boats can have an equal number of guards. We have 4535 prisoners.

May 26th: (Aboard the Chancelor) Passed the mouth of the Arkansas River also the White River. Saw a Madrid Brigade the same that passed down when we were at New Madrid. Wrote a letter home will put it the office at Memphis.

May 28th: (Aboard the Chancelor) Passed Helena this morning after day light and arrived at Memphis at sundown and anchored out in the river and will not have any communication with the shore until morning.

May 29th: Still at anchor from the shore. The sick are numerous. A boat cam out and took twenty-three of our regiment to the hospital. Captain Glasgow was of the number. This evening we were relieved by other troups and we were transferred to the Transport Emerald. Went up town and bought some clothes which I was needing very much. Returned to boat and changed clothes, went up town and went to the theater. Which was quite a treat to us it was a change from battle, march and camp. Return to boat and to bed.

May 30, 1863: (Aboard Emerald) Started down the river this morning at day light. Passed Helena about 10 o’clk. Stopped a few minutes. The evening the guerilla fired into the boat and wounded one belonging to the 108th Illinois.

May 31, 1863: (Aboard Emerald) Moving down the river. Preaching by the chaplain of the 108th Illinois. His text was remember the sabath day to keep it Holy. Arrived at Youngs Point and disembarked. Moved down the river a short distance over the levee and went into camp. Got some mail. A letter from home, none can appreciated a letter more than a soldier. From home, from dear wife and baby.

June 1st, 1863: (Young’s Point) The siege is still going in night and day. Lots of sickness in the regiment – not very will myself. On duty, however, took a detail to the upper landing to move some corn and oats. Returned to camp in the evening.

June 2nd: (Young’s Point) Pleasant today. A continual roar of cannon from the other side of the river and the ___on this side, which sounds like a shell over in which can be seen very distinctly by the burning fuse. Nine of our company were taken to convenience camp. Eastman, Harmack, Mellis P. H., Brok, Journey, J. D. Young, Laughlin and Camerson.

June 3rd: (Young’s Point) Wrote a letter to E. Jennison and received two letters from home, and one from John Smith of the Thirty-fourth. Out news from the other side and rear is very scrapy. (John Smith, Anna’s sister’s husband).

June 4th: (Young’s Point) Has the appearance of rain, gloomy and unpleasant, makes one feel shifed and uncomfortable and the Mississippi is plainly smelled.

McCullough’s attack on Milliken’s Bend – June 6 and 7, 1863.

"In a shorter time than it takes to tell it, Pinehard was shot through the head and killed." 

June 5th: (Young’s Point) We all expecting an attack at this point by the rebs of Brisby Smith, Commandor it is reported they occupy Richmond, Louisiana and some have been seen in the vicinity of Duck Post, above here on the river.

June 6th: (Young’s Point) Cleared off and is warm again. We all ordered to be ready to move. About 9 o’clk the orders came, and we got aboard of the small boat, Fort Wayne for Millikins Bend, Louisiana a few miles above arrived here about dark and stayed aboard the boat. Here is the place we landed March the 28th.

June 7th: (Milikins Bend) Order came and we disembarked about daylight and got in line. I left the line and looked over the levee but saw nothing but some stock gazing in a field. I could not see very far on account of fog. I noticed while there that a ditch had been dug along the side of the levee. The dirt thrown on top making kind of a breast work, up the river several rods and other ditch was dug from the levee to the river. Dirt thrown out forming a parapet, and down below a short distance the same, making a three sided intrenchment and in this the colored troups were camped. When I returned after looking for Lieutenant Evans asked me if I saw any thing. I told him I saw some stock cattle and/or horses, most to foggy to tell. While standing there the colored troups took their position in the ditch to the left and right of us leaving a space to occupy if necessary. Colonel Glasgow rode out and looked over, turning around quickly called for Wolf to come and get his horse, and called to us forward double quick march. When we got to the levee and looked over, we saw the rebs coming four deep. When they got within hundred feet our troups gave them a volley. They gave the rebel yell and charged us, coming up on the other side of the levee. In a shorter time than it takes to tell it, Pinehard was shot through the head and killed. W. A. Douglas shot in the head falling against me as he fell, Gardner mortaly wounded. Owen slight on the cheek. By this time the colored troups on our left and was swept away. The Colonel Gering our disparate conditions called for us to fall back which I did not hear until repeated by Sergeant Littell. Looking to right and left saw all had retreated looked in the ditch in front of me was Sergeant Smith. I called to him and we ran back together, overtaking the command at the bank of the river. There the gun boat out in the river commenced shelling the rebs. The first shell striking the bank near us and killing a little black boy. The Colonel called us saying that we must not be taken with the negros. We started down under the cove of the bank and came out below the breast work. Saw a few rebs along the outside of the works, but when we began to climb on the bank they retreated and we did not try to follow them. Went some distance below and halted. I will say right here that I think the Colonel made a mistake in leaving our position at the boat landing. Later we returned to the battle field. The rebs having retried taking their wounded with them. They could not stand the shells from the gun boat. Here on the battle field laid 23 of our regiment dead. The 41 wounded had been moved to the boat and sent down to hospital 3 miles below. On the left of our dead I counted 55 colored troups dead, five piled on top of each other. I cross over the levee and counted 65 dead rebs and they had possibly taken some with them on their retreat. Why they did not follow up their victory is something I can not understand. They could of captured the whole outfit, accept the boats out in the river. Before leaving we buryed one of our company, Calvin Pinehard. Our regiment in this battle was represented by but few of each company. There were one hundred on picket opposite of Vicksburg, and 35 detailed to guard Piscuss to Memphis and many sick only leaving 129 for this trip. 120 got off the boat this morning, leaving nine on board sick out of the 120. Their was 65 killed and wounded. More troups are landing here this evening. Curly Smith and his rebs will have to move out faster than they came in. Camp on the battle field to night.

June 8th: (Millikens Bend) Laid on arms all night expecting an attact but no attact made, and all quiet. Lieutenant Dorous of Company C was killed yesterday and he owed George Mundess of our company $25.00 and he present his claim to the Captain of Dorous Company. The Captain told Mundess if there was any thing he could use of Lieutenant effects he could have them in payment of the claim. Mundess preferred to take the sword of Dorous if he could sell it to me, which I agreed to do, and bought it paying Mundess $25.00. Lieutenant Dorous bought it while at Memphis on our trip up there with prisoners. Received orders to return to Young’s Point. Got aboard of the Fort Wayne and landed at the point bout two o’clock again in our old camp.

June 9th: (Young’s Point) We were called in line this morning at three. We’re expecting an attact but the enemy did not appear and returned to quarters. Some of the boys acted as if they were afraid they would get hurt, and afterward received the taunts of their comrade for their small amount of sand. Was detailed this evening to picket duty on the river opposite Vicksburg. One hundred men two Lieutenants and myself. Came up a storm on our way down causing us some trouble in finding the picket post.

June 10th: (Opposite Vicksburg) Shells from our mortar up the river came over us and occasionally one would burst on this side of the instead of the other side as intended. Which would make the boys hunt for a tree in a lively manner. When a shell would burst over them it did not require a command to get them to hunt cover. Received some startling news that the rebs would probably attack us before morning. Moved our picket post close to the lines.

June 11th: (Opposite Vicksburg) Established some more picket post. The rebs are surrounding the river every night. I suppose they think there are no yanks on this side, well there they are and we’re all laying for them. I and some more of the boys went over on the other side of the canal (Sherman Canal) and picked some blackberries. The rebs on the other side acts as if they owned the patch. When ever we scattered out we can get them all right but if we get too thick they send a shell over to let us know they are still on duty.

Right.jpg (1401 bytes)Part Five

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