Battle of Raymond
Ordered by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, Confederate commander at Vicksburg, Brig. Gen. John Gregg led his force from Port Hudson, Louisiana, to Jackson, Mississippi, and out to Raymond to intercept approaching Union troops. Before dawn on May 12, Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson had his XVII Army Corps on the march, and by 10:00 am they were about three miles from Raymond. Gregg decided to dispute the crossing of Fourteen Mile Creek and arrayed his men and artillery accordingly. As the Yankees approached, the Rebels opened fire, initially causing heavy casualties. Some Union troops broke, but Maj. Gen. John A. Logan rallied a force to hold the line. Confederate troops attacked the line but had to retire. More Yankees arrived and the Union force counterattacked. Heavy fighting ensued that continued for six hours, but the overwhelming Union force prevailed. Gregg’s men left the field. Although Gregg’s men lost the battle, they had held up a much superior Union force for a day. (NPS summary)
Raymond – Miscommunication and Miscalculation (May 10-11, 1863)
As the Union trident was marching forward, BG John Gregg’s Confederate brigade was completing a lengthy journey of their own. Gregg’s 3300 man unit had barely finished a grueling 200 mile march from Port Hudson to Jackson when they were ordered to march “promptly to Raymond.” Additional instructions called on him to use Wirt Adams’ cavalry for reconnaissance and advanced pickets. This began another breakdown in the Confederate command structure that would have serious consequences for Gregg’s troops.
When Gregg arrived at Raymond on May10th he found only one sergeant (Miles) and four troopers from Adams’ command there. Adams had received an order from Pemberton to “direct your cavalry there to scout thoroughly, and keep him (Gregg) informed.” Adams wrongfully believed that this order meant that his troops already in the area (5 men) were to remain and fall under the control of Gregg. His understanding of the order led him to believe that he need not move the remainder of his command to Raymond. The failure of Adams to unite with Gregg as intended left Gregg woefully short of intelligence gathering assets.
Lacking veteran cavalry, the onus of Gregg’s reconnaissance effort fell to Captain Hall and a group of about 40 state militia troops. The state troops were comprised mostly of youth from the area that were not yet old enough for regular service. The group was game for the assignment but terribly inexperienced. Gregg immediately sent a request for additional troops from Adams, who sent a squadron under Captain W. S. Yerger. They arrived on the night of the 11th. Because they reported a short skirmish in the vicinity of Dillon’s Plantation they were dispatched to cover the roads to the northeast, or precisely the opposite direction of the Federal advance.
Early on the morning of the 12th Captain Hall’s young scouts reported the approach of McPherson’s column. Lacking vital information Gregg “was unable to ascertain anything concerning the strength of the enemy.” To compound his difficulties Gregg somehow assumed from a message sent by Pemberton that he was facing a brigade sized flank guard. He reported that this belief was confirmed when Hall’s untrained scouts put the estimate of the Union numbers at 2500 to 3000 troops.
Gregg saw an opportunity in the estimates. “Believing from the evidence I had that his force was a single brigade” Gregg made “dispositions to capture it.” His plan was to pin the head of the column outside of town and then flank the enemy destroying or capturing the lot. He selected the 7th Texas and the 3rd Tennessee as the attacking force. The 50th Tennessee and the consolidated 10th/30th Tennessee were to act as the flankers. The 1st Tennessee Battalion remained in support of Hiram Bledsoe’s battery and the 41st Tennessee acted as a reserve. Everything was in order. The ladies in town began preparations for a picnic lunch for the Confederate soldiers in expectation of their victorious return.
Unfortunately Gregg’s intelligence was flawed. In fact the estimate was grossly incorrect. Gregg faced not 3000 enemy troops but nearly five times that number. This miscalculation would have profound and deadly effects for two of his best regiments. The horrible results of the mix up would play themselves out at Fourteen Mile Creek.
Raymond – Gregg’s Attack (May 12, 1863)
In accordance with his orders MG James McPherson marched his men toward Raymond on the morning of the 12th. MG John Logan’s 3rd Division led the way down the Utica Road. Colonel Manning Force recalled the scene this way;“…the 20th Ohio marched as advance guard of the division, on the right of the road to Raymond, with four companies deployed in front as skirmishers…” At 0900 artillery fire from Hiram Bledsoe’s Confederate artillery and increased skirmishing stopped the column about a mile and a half south of town. The lead brigade, under BG Elias Dennis, formed a line of battle parallel to Fourteen Mile Creek. The brigade of John E. Smith moved up from their trail position and formed on their right. The 23rd Indiana was ordered ahead and disappeared into the wood line to cross the creek and set up a skirmish line.
The 20th Ohio was also ordered forward in reaction to the increased skirmishing activity in their area. The 78th Ohio on their right remained on the south bank on the creek awaiting orders so the 20th advanced alone. Colonel Manning Force led his men into the trees and across the creek. While they were scrambling over the far bank the 7th Texas Infantry came screaming out of the woods. Sergeant Oldroyd of the 20th Ohio remarked at the total surprise of the assault stating,
“The battle today opened very suddenly…some cooks, happening to be surprised near the front, broke for the rear carrying their utensil. One them with a kettle in his hand …met General Logan and cried ‘Oh General, I’ve got no gun, and such a snapping and cracking as there is up yonder as I’ve never heard before.’ The General let him pass to the rear.”
The fight opened at about 50 yards and the distance closed quickly. The Buckeyes reacted instinctively and jumped back into the creek bed which formed a natural parapet. The two sides blazed away at each other from a distance of 15 or 20 yards. In some places the fighting became hand to hand as the Texans became desperate to capitalize on their early success. MG John Logan, 3rd Division commander, was everywhere encouraging the men to remain steadfast. With the help of DeGolyer’s Michigan battery, serving in close support, the ferocious Confederate advance was stalled in front of the stubborn Federals.
On the Buckeyes right the 23rd Indiana had just completed their own difficult crossing of the steep banked creek and were somewhat disorganized when the 3rd Tennessee charged out with a yell and caught them completely by surprise. The Hoosiers managed just a ragged volley before the two forces were intertwined. The Federal soldiers did not have time to fix bayonets and most of the Confederate troops lacked the device. A brutal clubbed musket and short range duel ensued and continued for about ten minutes until the Union troops “being overpowered by numbers” began to fall back. The creek proved to be as much as an obstacle going back as it had coming in. The retreat disintegrated into confusion until LTC William Davis finally got the regiment reformed behind the 20th Illinois. There the 20th and 23rd would face the Confederate onslaught alone. The remainder of the brigade had become separated while trying to maneuver through the dense underbrush.
On the Confederate left the 3rd Tennessee was having better luck. The 20th Illinois met the retreating 23rd Indiana just as they emerged from the tress on the south bank. LTC Evan Richards ordered the 20th to fall back and form a line behind a fence at the edge of the trees. As they scaled the fence Evans was shot and killed Sergeant Ira Blanchard recalled the savage fight at Fourteen Mile Creek this way; “the battle was now fierce. Almost hand to hand, so close were they, that some of the boys fixed bayonets ready to stab them. Both lines stood equally firm; both equally determined as a couple of bull dogs engaged in a death struggle.” Here the 3rd Tennessee held the creek bed fortress and used it to lay out a deadly volume of fire but they could not convince the Union defenders to give any more ground. The entire area became an extremely close range firefight. Casualties mounted at an astounding rate.
This action has been mostly forgotten; overwhelmed by the mammoth battles at Gettysburg, Shiloh, and the like, but nowhere was the fighting harder, closer, or more deadly. The attack, although costly, had done exactly what it was planned to do. The center of the Union line was frozen. Gregg’s flanking movement would have to finish the job.
Battle of Raymond – The Tide Changes (May 12, 1863)
Although the Confederate battle plan had opened on a positive note the situation began to reverse after about ninety minutes of deadly stand off at the creek. The flanking portion of Gregg’s command, the 10th/30th Tennessee Consolidated and the 50th Tennessee, moved across the creek just east of the battle raging at the holding action. At this point, as local historian Parker Hills points out “General Gregg lost command and control” of his widely scattered forces. The individual regimental commanders began to act on their own initiative.
When they emerged from the trees behind the right flank of BG John E. Smith’s Union brigade LTC Thomas Beaumont (50th Tennessee) was astounded to find that although he had taken an advantageous position on the brigade he was supposed to attack, another (John D. Stevenson’s) was forming to his left front. Upon further investigation he discovered another brigade moving up from a ridgeline the distance. Realizing that the intelligence estimate had been seriously wrong Beaumont began adjusting his line to accommodate the tactical situation. These movements brought him in contact with Colonel Randall McGavock of the 10th/30th Tennessee on his right. Beaumont would write in his OR that he had placed himself “under Colonel McGavock’s orders to insure concert of action.” Later communication led Beaumont to believe they were awaiting orders while the new situation was evaluated.
Colonel Randall McGavock waited for the joint assault to kick off in vain. After “a few minutes” McGavock became impatient and decided that if he could not attack as planned then he would move to support the badly eroded Confederate flank at the 3rd Tennessee position. When McGavock’s regiment moved off without warning, Beaumont complained that “our regiment was thus left entirely alone. Beaumont continued to stretch his line to counter the threat of the Union forces which by this time considerably overlapped the Confederate line. He would eventually realize that he could not match the growing Union strength and would retreat on Gregg’s order without seriously engaging the enemy. McGavock’s unit was not as fortunate. His movement to assist the 3rd Tennessee brought them into the heart of a swirling bloodbath. The aggressive McGavock ordered an attack into the Union position. It was his last order. He was among the first to fall and command fell to LTC James J. Turner. Turner described the scene this way;
“The enemy, being on our right flank and strongly posted in the woods in our front, poured into our ranks a most destructive fire. We, however, drove them from the field on our right flank and reached the woods, but were forced to fall back to the top of the hill, and formed them immediately in the rear crest of the hill, and ordered them to lie down and load and fire, so as to be protected from the enemy’s fire, which continued very heavy.”
The primary Union unit engaged during this foray was the 7th Missouri. The Irish dominated unit suffered 63% of the casualties (9k, 57w, and 7m) taken by BG John D. Stevenson’s 3rd Brigade troops. Their brigade mates (8th Illinois, 81st Illinois, and 32nd Ohio) however drove the brief success back with over powering numbers. Gregg had no other option but to order a retreat before his brigade was swallowed up by the enormous Union force that was gathering in front of him. He ordered the 41st Tennessee forward to cover the withdrawal of the hard pressed units in the center and the 1st Tennessee Battalion forward to prevent a flanking movement on the quiet Confederate right. The move caught the attention of the Union pickets and artillery and the 1st suffered 42 casualties.
Ironically, as battle was ending Gregg received the asset that he had desperately needed before it started. Adams sent late word that “the enemy had a large supporting force” advancing into the area. This late intelligence was probably of little comfort to Gregg. Also arriving after the retreat began “with six companies of mounted troops”, was Colonel A. P. Thompson of the 3rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Gregg placed them in support of Bledsoe’s battery that was undefended after the advance of the 1st Tennessee Battalion. The retreat was carried out in good order but most of the Confederate wounded were left behind. After clearing Raymond, Gregg’s brigade marched toward Jackson where they met with Walker’ brigade about five miles out of town. They continued on to Jackson the next day. Back in Raymond Union troops moved into the town and some enjoyed the abandoned picnic feast set out by the ladies of Raymond.
Lack of adequate intelligence and over aggressiveness on the part of the Confederate commanders had devastated the Gregg’s Confederate brigade. The 7th Texas suffered 158 losses (nearly 52%), the 3rd Tennessee 187 losses (32%), and the 10th/30th took 89 casualties for its brief but bloody appearance on the field.