Battle Report of Brig. Gen. Wirt Adams, C.S. Army, commanding Cavalry Brigade, of operations against Natchez, Mississippi on December 6-7, 1863
From the O.R., Series I, Volume 31, Part 1, pages 599-600.
Near Kingston, December 7, 1863
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to present the following brief report of the movements and operations of this command since leaving Gallatin up to the present date:
In obedience to orders from the commanding general of division, I marched from Gallatin on the 1st instant in the direction of the Mississippi River, and took the shortest road from that point to Natchez, by way of Union Church, at which place Colonel Wood joined me with his regiment on the 2d instant, raising my total effective strength to 1,059 men. From that point I moved rapily to the vicinity of Natchez, halting east of and near Washington on the afternoon of the 4th instant, and threw out active scouts and spies in and around the city, with the view of attack if the strength of the garrison and the state of its defensive works affored reasonable prospect of success.
Reliable information, obtained during the afternoon and night of that day, was procured to the effect that the garrison consisted of 1,200 white and 1,500 negro troops, all inside the fortifications, which were completed, or nearly so, and mounting six heavy guns, commanding all the practicable approaches. These works were perfectly protected on the river side by a precipitous bluff of 100 feet running their whole length, thus preventing ingress of a dismounted force from that side, which I deemed the place of attack most promising of success.
A dash into the city by either a part or the whole of the force promised no compensating result. I therefore determined to move my command by the nearest practicable route to Ellis’ Cliff, 10 miles below Natchez in a direct line and 21 by the river, and take position there with my battery to obstruct navigation. I reached that point on the evening of the 5th and found a gunboat stationed there; but selecting a favorable position for the battery I awaited on the evening of the 5th and the entire day of the 5th instant the passage of transports. None passed, however, during daylight, and but two at night, which, owing to the elevation of the cliff and the slender prospect of inflicting injury by the fire of the battery in the dark, I did not open on.
About 7 p.m. of the 6th instant, I received reliable information that the enemy had been re-enforced at Natchez by a brigade of infantry and one of cavalry from Vicksburg, and that, relying upon the difficulties of my position between Natchez and the Homochitto River, which is impassable owing to the destruction of its bridges, he mediated a movement to occupy the only two routes of egress and attack me with his infantry and cavalry forces. It is proper to state, however, that previous to marching to that point I fully considered these probable difficulties. When, therefore, I learned last evening that he had posted his cavalry force of 1,000 to 1,200 on the Kingston road within 4 miles of my encampment, and was to move an infantry and artillery force this morning directly against me, I at once got my command in readiness to attack and force my way through his cavalry at daylight this morning before the remainder of his forces could be brought up. With this view I kept the two roads from Kingston and Natchez strongly picketed during the night, and moved my whole force and trains by a plantation road to within a mile of his position. Obtaining as accurate information of this as the darkness permitted, I made my dispositions for attack and moved forward as soon as the dawn permitted me to distinguish objects.
The enemy occupied a very strong position along the crest of a ridge east of the creek, with a broad slope and open field toward the direction of our approach, thus completely commanding the road along which I was moving. But after a slight skirmish with the Eleventh Arkansas Regiment, dismounted and deployed, under the gallant Colonel Griffith, and a few artillery shots, the enemy gave way and fled with great precipitation in the direction of Natchez. I ordered the Fourteenth Confederate and Stockdale’s battalion in pursuit. These commands followed at a gallop for 6 or 8 miles, but such was the rapidity of his flight that they killed and captured but few. Guns, haversacks, shoes, poultry, &c., were picked up along the road by which they escaped.
I moved my command to Kingston, 16 miles from Natchez, and shall move from here to-morrow morning in the direction of the Mississippi River above Natchez, endeavoring in passing the latter place to draw out and engage the enemy’s cavalry force.
I have been burning all buildings, cotton, &c., upon the plantations of certain traitors about Natchez, and removing negroes, stock, &c., for the use of the Government.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
[Capt. GEORGE MOORMAN,
Notes on Battle of Natchez, Mississippi December 6-7, 1863 taken from Anthony C. Rushing’s book Ranks of Honor, A Regimental History of the Eleventh Arkansas Infantry Regiment & Poe’s Cavalry Battalion C.S.A., 1861-1865 (1990), pages 68-70:
On November 23, 1863 Colonel Wirt Adams was promoted to Brigadier-General and given command of the Confederate cavalry brigade commanded by Colonel John Griffith since November 4 after Colonel John L. Logan transferred back to Arkansas. Brigadier-General Wirt Adams inherited the following commands that were under the temporary command of Colonel John Griffith: Eleventh and Seventeen Arkansas Infantry (Mounted), Fourteenth Confederate Cavalry, Ninth Louisiana Battalion, Ninth Tennessee Battalion, Stockdale’s Mississippi Battalion, Wilbourn’s Mississippi Battalion, and Robert’s Mississippi Battery. The strength of Wirt Adam’s cavalry brigade stood at 1,059 men at this time.
The actions around Natchez and Ellis’ Cliff, as described in Wirt Adam’s report above, earned his brigade a respite though Christmas Day and the first few weeks of January of 1864. However, on January 24, 1864, his brigade rode into action against the Federals once again as Wirt Adams describes in his report of that same day: “The detachment under General [Colonel] Griffith captured near Natchez 35 prisoners and 60 drays and teams.” This brief report which curiously described John Griffith as “General Griffith” was addressed to Colonel Thomas M. Jack and written in Hamburg, Mississippi (O.R., Series I, Vol. 32, Part 1, p. 126).
Wirt Adams then moved his cavalry brigade to the vicinity of Raymond, Mississippi in response to orders anticipating the start of William Tecumseh Sherman’s Meridian, Mississippi Expedition of February and March, 1864.
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