1-13, 1864.--Expedition from Memphis, Tenn., into Mississippi.
Proceedings of a Board of Investigation.
TENN., July 28, 1864--2.15 p.m.
The Board met pursuant to adjournment.
The members all present; also the recorder.
The minutes of the preceding session read and
Col. EDWARD BOUTON sworn and examined.
By the PRESIDENT:
Question. State your name, rank, and regiment; the
length of time :you have been in the service, and the position you occupied on
the late expedition under General Sturgis.
Answer. Edward Bouton;
colonel Fifty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry; I have been in the service two years
and eight months; on the late expedition under General Sturgis I commanded my
brigade of colored troops.
Question. How were the animals of your brigade
supplied with forage on the march?
Answer. We started out
with about one day's rations of grain, which we made to do for two days. After
that we depended on grazing, a little green corn and green wheat, and got two or
three sacks of old corn.
Question. Do you know of any corn or other forage
being guarded for the benefit of citizens?
Answer. Yes, sir; I
know of corn having been guarded at two places and I think three. Guards were
stationed with instructions to let no one in. In one place I ordered the corn to
be taken, notwithstanding the guard.
Question. How much of the time on the march out did
your brigade guard the train?
Answer. Four days out
of eight on the march out.
Question. Was the march from La Fayette to Stubbs'
made as rapidly as it could have been?
Answer. No, sir; it was
Question. How much sooner could it have been made?
Answer. We were seven
days marching from La Fayette to the camp near Stubbs'. We could have made the
same march easily in four days over the same roads, and could have gained
another half day by taking the best roads.
Question. Do you mean that the train could have been
got through in that time?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. How much was the march retarded by the train
not keeping up?
Answer. The train
delayed the column on one day five hours on account of the heavy rains and bad
roads, and one hour each on two other days on account of the pioneer corps
having slighted their work and not repaired the road so that the train could
pass. I do not know that the column was delayed by the train at any other times.
Question. State what orders you received and the
operations of your brigade on the 10th of June.
Answer. First was the
order of march, to distribute four men to each wagon of the general supply
train. The Fifty-fifth was distributed along the train. The Fifty-ninth and
Lamberg's battery were in the rear of the train. We marched in this order,
keeping as well closed up as possible, until about 11 o'clock, when we first
heard artillery firing in our front. At 2.30 o'clock, as the head of my column
reached the crest of the hill, near the white house, I first came in sight of
the battlefield. This was about 900 yards this side of the creek. At this point
the officers in charge of the train received orders to corral the train. They
commenced parking the train. Part of the train was run forward to the field just
this side of the creek, and they had not finished parking that part of it when
they commenced moving it out again. At this point I ordered my men to leave the
wagons and form companies and to come forward as rapidly as possible by the
flank of the train. While they were forming companies I went forward to the
creek. At this time the cavalry were coming back from the front; in fact, I met
some of them back nearly as far as the white house. From the point where I was I
discovered a gap in our main line, through which the rebels were approaching. I
went back, brought up two companies of the Fifty-fifth, under Captain Ewing, and
posted them in that gap under a heavy fire. Every commissioned officer of those
two companies was killed or wounded in ten minutes. The men stood their ground
until I sent an officer to bring them back. I then went back and got seven
companies more of the Fifty-fifth, brought them up, and posted them a little to
the right and rear of the other two companies, so as to hold the ground where
the other brigade was giving away. I then went back to the ridge by the old
house, met the other company of the Fifty-fifth, which I told to wait there for
orders. I sent a staff officer back to bring up the battery and the Fifty-ninth
as quickly as possible. At this point I met Colonel McMillen. He said,
"Colonel, where are your troops; what are you doing, and what are you going
to do?" I told him what I had done, and the arrangements I had made. I told
him I was going to put the battery in position on the ridge near the old house,
put the Fifty-ninth in position on its right and the company of the Fifty-fifth
on its left, bring the other companies of the Fifty-fifth to that place, and
fight the enemy as long as I had a man left; to which he said, "That's
right; if you can hold this position until I can go to the rear and form on the
next ridge you can save this entire command. It all depends on you now."
That was the only order I received during that day after leaving camp in the
morning. I did not see Colonel McMillen or General Sturgis after that until 11
o'clock that night, when I overtook them at the Hatchie bottom. I formed line on
the ridge in accordance with the plan I suggested to Colonel McMillen, and
immediately opened on the enemy with my battery, to cover the retreat of the
other troops. The right of my line, being more advanced than the other portion,
became almost immediately engaged with the enemy, and my whole
line was warmly engaged as soon as our retreating troops had passed to the rear,
which was about twenty minutes after the battery was first opened. We held that
ridge, I think, about twenty minutes after that. They charged forward with their
infantry to within fifteen paces of my battery and shot down many of the horses,
so that I was obliged to retire the battery, leaving one caisson. My line fell
back about 100 yards, the battery, by my orders, moving to the rear. We fell
back, forming one position after another, till we reached the ridge this side of
the white house, where we formed line for the fifth time at about sundown. This
position was about 800 yards in the rear of our first position. Colonel Wilkin,
with parts of the Ninth Minnesota and One hundred and fourteenth Illinois, had
been during this time on my left, conforming more or less to my movements. I did
not see him after this, but I think he moved to the rear. I don't think we staid
in this last position over fifteen minutes. We then charged them and drove them
back 500 yards, to within 300 yards of where we first formed. It was dark and
they outflanked us on both flanks and we were obliged to fall back. With about
forty men I was there cut off from my brigade and surrounded by the enemy, and
did not get clear from them until about 9 o'clock, when, by making a large
circuit, I rejoined my brigade, which was retreating along the road, at about
10.30 o'clock, and at 11 o'clock I overtook General Sturgis and Colonel McMillen
as they were crossing the Hatchie bottom.
Question. At what time on the 10th and at what point
did you first see the enemy, and where were they?
Answer. It was about 8
o'clock in the morning when we had marched about one mile and a half from the
camp near Stubbs' I saw a squad of rebel cavalry on a road about a mile to the
right of the road we were on. Back of this squad I saw a column of rebel cavalry
passing. I saw similar squads of rebel cavalry two or three times subsequently
on our right before we got to the battle-field.
Question. What did you learn about there being a
parallel road on the right near where you saw this rebel cavalry?
Answer. I learned from
the forage party of our cavalry and from several citizens that there was a
parallel road on our right. I think they said it was called the ridge road to
Baldwyn. The citizens said we might have struck it shortly after leaving Ripley,
and it was distant from one to four miles from the road we were on, and that it
led to Baldwyn Station. I was told the crossing over Hatchie bottom on this road
was a better crossing than the one on the road we were on.
Question. When you saw General Sturgis at the Hatchie
bottom, what orders did he give you and what did he say?
Answer. When I first
came up to General Sturgis I said, "General, for God's sake don't let us
give it up so." He said, "What can we do?" I told him to give me
the ammunition that the white troops were throwing away in the mud and I would
hold the enemy in check until we could get those ambulances, wagons, and
artillery all over that bottom and save them. I told him that if he would give
me one of those white regiments to help me lift the wagons and artillery over,
that I would stake my life that I would save the whole of them. He said,
"For God's sake, if Mr. Forrest will let me alone I will let him alone. You
have done all you could and more than was expected of you, and now all you can
do is to save yourselves." As I moved on my troops picked up ammunition
which had been thrown away by the white troops during the night. At early dawn,
just about five miles from Ripley, the rebels came on and fired into the rear of
our column and also into the flanks. We formed and repulsed them and continued
doing so while falling back the next mile, in about an hour's time. We were then
relieved by a battalion of cavalry, for which I had asked General Grierson when
we were first attacked. We then moved on to Ripley, where I commenced to
reorganize my brigade so as to be able to send on my wounded and disarmed men.
About this time I got orders from Colonel McMillen for my brigade to more out in
the rear of the infantry column on the Salem road. Just as I commenced
reorganizing my brigade for this purpose the enemy came charging in furiously at
the lower end of the town, broke the line of cavalry which had held them in
check, which compelled me to throw my brigade immediately in line without any
reorganization. Using sparingly what little ammunition we had, and using the
bayonet and clubbed musket whenever opportunity offered, we held them in check
until nearly all of the other brigades had moved out. The troops got separated
and retired by two separate roads.
Question. What officers were in charge of the supply
train during the expedition?
Stratton had charge of the commissary stores and Lieutenant Livings had charge
of the ordnance stores. Lieutenant Shattuck and Lieutenant Dement each claimed
to have charge of the supply train.
Question. Did you hear any dispute between Lieutenants
Dement and Shattuck concerning who had charge of the supply train?
Answer. I did. I heard
a dispute between Shattuck and Stratton. There seemed to be a misunderstanding
and difficulty as to who should control the movement of the train.
Question. Were you present at a conversation between
General Sturgis and several other officers, on the retreat this side of Ripley,
concerning the route they should take?
Answer. I was not. I
was with my command at that time attending to the wounded·
Question. State what you know about guards being
placed over water to prevent the soldiers from getting it to drink.
Answer. Guards were
placed at houses and prevented my colored soldiers from going in to get water
from the wells and cisterns, from the time we left La Fayette Station until we
arrived at Stubbs', except it may be at a few poor peoples' places.
Question. By whose orders were these guards placed for
Answer. They said they
were stationed by Colonel McMillen's orders.
Question. What did Colonel McMillen say about it
Answer. He said he had
not instructed the guards to prevent them from getting water. He said also that
the men did not need to visit the houses for the purpose of getting water, as
there was water enough to be had without.
Question. Could the men get water at other places?
Answer. A portion of
the time they could, but it was not very good, being surface water.
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