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 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 advance on the road leading from Shaifer's house in a northerly direction and dislodge the Confederate forces from that approach. After passing the yards and outhouses of Shaifer's, the road winds over a pretty large field, not of a regular form but variously intersected by gullies and ravines more or less densely covered with undergrowth, cane, etc. The surface of the field is undulating and bordered on the north by a ridge running east and west. At the point where the Port Gibson [Bruinsburg] Road reaches the crest of this ridge, there are several houses commanding all the land around [Andrews farm and slave cabins]. At the foot of the elevation the road runs over a very narrow strip of land with deep ravines on both sides forming only a backbone of from thirty to eighty feet wide, thus affording an excellent defile for defense, being the only approach to a military position on the hill.
Pushing my skirmishers on the open field, and following them in person, I soon discovered the enemy, who had two pieces planted at the foot of the described elevation and the remainder of the battery on the crest of the hill near the houses.
The situation and assignment:
...The Seventh Kentucky and Forty-ninth Indiana were going ahead rapidly and soon developed the fact that all the ravines and gullies in front of them were full of the enemy's infantry.
...The position gained brought my line within 300 to 350 yards of the enemy's line, separated on the right of the public road by two deep ravines and [illegible] from the narrow strip of level ground described before, along the front and around my right flank, leaving between these two gullies at some places only a narrow ridge not more than from five to ten yards wide. The enemy occupied the slope near his line. On the left of the road another wide and deep ravine with very abrupt banks, and most densely covered with trees, brush and cane, forbids all passage of troops with any kind of order.
Osterhaus was facing Brig. Gen. Edward D. Tracy's Alabama brigade and the Botetourt Battery from Virginia. As he positioned his artillery and pushed his first brigade across the field and into the ravines, the difficulty of his position became more evident:
...In order to follow up the successes attained by the artillery and to get a thorough information of the strength of the enemy's forces and the ground before me, I ordered my line of skirmishers along the whole front to advance; they went forward and held every foot of ground thus gained. Therefore, I concluded to make a charge by the center of my lines (Forth-second Ohio, Sixteenth Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky Infantry)...
The order of charge was bravely executed by the commander of the Forty-second Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Pardee and Major Worthington of the Twenty-second Kentucky leading their troops against a most terrific fire to the very edge of the first ravine, but it would have demanded too great a sacrifice of life to have persisted in this attack and I therefore withdrew the regiments behind a swell in the ground, leaving only a line of skirmishers on the ground gained.
The great strength of the Rebel position was potent and I was now convinced that only a flank movement could dislodge them from it. I gave my opinion to that effect to Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, Chief of General Grant's staff, who fully concurred in it and promised the arrangement of the movement on the enemy's right flank by some regiments of General McPherson's Corps, who by this time (11 a.m.) had come within the reach of the battlefield. In order to give assistance to this movement, I had the ground thoroughly surveyed, but about three hours elapsed before the regiments could be brought on the ground.
Osterhaus now attempted a frontal assault:
...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.
Stymied by the Rebels' superior defensive position, Osterhaus could see no reason to sacrifice men unnecessarily when there were plenty of troops available for a flanking movement. But when he finally arrived, McPherson, with almost no battle experience of this type, took a look at the ground and decided to blast forward:
...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.
When McPherson had finally executed the flank movement by about 4 p.m., Osterhaus prepared the final charge:
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.