The Battle of Port Gibson

Osterhaus's official report for this battle was not included in the original ORs. It appeared in print for the first time in Part 1, vol. 4 serial no. 4 of Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Janet B., Hewett, Noah Andre Trudeau, and Bryce A. Suderow, editors (Wilmington: Broadfoot, 1995), 367-77.

Here are some relevant excerpts of his report:

The situation and assignment:

...The night attack made it apparent that the enemy was attempting to defend this place; and, anticipating simultaneous attacks on both roads, the Major-General commanding the Corps ordered me at 5 o'clock a.m. to ad movement I had recommended was begun, to attempt to force the enemy by an assault in front over the same ground my regiments had charged several hours before, consequently, he formed a line. The men advanced gallantly, but of course had to give way as soon as they came within range of the enemy's missiles.

When McPherson had finally executed the flank movement by about 4 p.m., Osterhaus prepared the final charge:

...The enemy's attention being drawn to a great extent to the threatened attack on his right flank, he failed to oppose successfully the advances of the One Hundred Fourteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Indiana. They thus could pass over the narrow defile in front of me and by turning to the right flank gained a position in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy...I immediately ordered the One Hundred Fourteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Indiana to charge the crest of the hill, which was the nucleus of the Rebel position. I led the charge personally, ordering at the same time the Forty-second and One Hundred Twentieth Ohio and Sixty-ninth Indiana, and One Hundred Eighteenth Illinois Regiments to advance in eschelon.

The charge was a complete success.

Of course, by then the greatly outnumbered Alabama Brigade, led after Tracy's death by Col. Isham W. Garrott of the 20th Alabama, had begun its withdrawal and there were only remnants of the 6th Missouri still on the field.

In 2006 I walked this battlefield, now completely obscured by vegetation, with Brig. Gen. Parker Hills, Ret., Vicksburg expert, who pointed out where the slave cabins and old road had been located. Although no landmarks remain from the battle, here are some photos that demonstrate the fighting conditions the Union Army faced. No wonder the ravines seemed full of the enemy! Only the relatively level areas on the ridges had ever been cleared; the rest was virgin jungle and in the years since, all the land has reverted to its original state.


The Shaifer farmhouse.




The Shaifer farm road, now sunken and overgrown. This is near the "backbone." Rodney Road was sunken also, slowing movement of troops and batteries to the front.




Impenetrable canebrake. The bottoms were full of poison ivy, brambles and snakes.




The deep ravine to the left of the farm road. Not surprising that several instances of near misses from friendly fire were reported in this battle. McPherson's men had to lower themselves down hand over hand and then immediately lost sight of each other.



 
a look at the ground and decided to blast forward:

...When a brigade of General McPherson's had arrived on the field, the commanding officer concluded before the flank movement I had recommended was begun, to attempt to force the enemy by an assault in front over the same ground my regiments had charged several hours before, consequently, he formed a line. The men advanced gallantly, but of course had to give way as soon as they came within range of the enemy's missiles.

When McPherson had finally executed the flank movement by about 4 p.m., Osterhaus prepared the final charge:

...The enemy's attention being drawn to a great extent to the threatened attack on his right flank, he failed to oppose successfully the advances of the One Hundred Fourteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Indiana. They thus could pass over the narrow defile in front of me and by turning to the right flank gained a position in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy...I immediately ordered the One Hundred Fourteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Indiana to charge the crest of the hill, which was the nucleus of the Rebel position. I led the charge personally, ordering at the same time the Forty-second and One Hundred Twentieth Ohio and Sixty-ninth Indiana, and One Hundred Eighteenth Illinois Regiments to advance in eschelon.

The charge was a complete success.

Of course, by then the greatly outnumbered Alabama Brigade, led after Tracy's death by Col. Isham W. Garrott of the 20th Alabama, had begun its withdrawal and there were only remnants of the 6th Missouri still on the field.

In 2006 I walked this battlefield, now completely obscured by vegetation, with Brig. Gen. Parker Hills, Ret., Vicksburg expert, who pointed out where the slave cabins and old road had been located. Although no landmarks remain from the battle, here are some photos that demonstrate the fighting conditions the Union Army faced. No wonder the ravines seemed full of the enemy! Only the relatively level areas on the ridges had ever been cleared; the rest was virgin jungle and in the years since, all the land has reverted to its original state.


The Shaifer farmhouse.




The Shaifer farm road, now sunken and overgrown. This is near the "backbone." Rodney Road was sunken also, slowing movement of troops and batteries to the front.




Impenetrable canebrake. The bottoms were full of poison ivy, brambles and snakes.




The deep ravine to the left of the farm road. Not surprising that several instances of near misses from friendly fire were reported in this battle. McPherson's men had to lower themselves down hand over hand and then immediately lost sight of each other.



 
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