top of page
Siege of Port Hudson
New York Times Article August 2, 1863

June 11, 1863          June 26, 1863          July 19, 1863

The following article is transcribed from the New York Times, dated August 2, 1863:

From the Mobile Advertiser.


We have conversed with an officer who succeeded in passing out from Port Hudson while the surrender was taking place on Thursday, the 9th instant, from whom we have been furnished with details of the slege which will not fail to prove interesting to our readers. The initiatory steps of the siege may be reckoned from the 20th of May, when Gen. AUGUR advanced from Baton Rouge. His approach being reported by our cavalry, on the 21st Gen. GARDNER sent out Col. MILES, with 400 cavalry and a ba[???]ery under orders to proceed to the Plain Store six or seven miles from Port Hudson, and reconnoitre. About four miles from Port Hudson he encountered the enemy, and a service action ensued of two and a half hours' duration with a loss of thirty killed and forty wounded on our side. At night, in pursuance of an order of re[???] from Gen. GARDNER, our forces fell back within the fortifications. At the same time Col. POWERS' cavalry, some 300 strong, were engaged on the Baton Rouge and Bavou S[???] road [???] and a half or two miles from Col. MILES. No communication has been had with them [???] and these loss is unknown. On the morning of the 22d the enemy pushed his infantry onward within a mile of our breastworks, and at the same time it was reported by the cavalry [???] that Gen. BANKS, who had recently completed [???] Teche campaign, was landing troops at Bavou Sarah, (twelve miles above,) and moving in the direction of Port Hudson. From Saturday, the 23d, to Tuesday, [???]26 inclusive, the enemy was engaged in taking his po [???]ition for the investment of our works. This being completed, on the morning of the 27th he advanced with [???]s whole force against the breast-works directing his main attack against the left, commander by Col. STEADMAN. Vigorous assaults were also made against the extreme left [???] Col. MILES and Gen. BEALE, the former of whom commenced in the centre, the latter on the right On the left the attack was made by a brigade of neg[???], comprising about three regiments, together with, the same force of white Yankees, across a bridge which had been built over Sandy Creek on the night of the 25th. This force was thrown against the Thirty-[???] Mississippi regiment, commanded by Col. SHELBY. About 500 negroes in front advanced at dou[???]e-quick, within 150 yards of the works, when the a[???]y on the river bluff and two [???]t pieces on Col. SHELBY's left opened upon them and at the same time they were received with vol[???] vs of musketry from five companies of the Thirty-[???]. The negroes fled every way in perfect confusion, without firing a gun, probably carrying with them in their panic flight, their sable [???] further in the [???] for the enemy themselves repot that 600 of them perished. If this be so, they [???] have in shutdown by the Yankees in the rear, for [???]d upon them did not exceed 250: and forced. volie[???]s of musketry were heard in the [???] out of their fight. Among the slain were found [???] of two negro captains with commissions in their [???]. The first Alabama, Lieut.-Col. LOCKE, and the Ten[???] Arkansas [???] WITT, engaged the enemy outside the works in the thick woods, and fought most [???] but were compelled by the heavy odds [???] against them to fall back across the creek, [???] In this action Col. WITT was [???] but was not fated to remain long a prisoner, being one of the da[???]ng band who effected their [???]p[???]ape from the Maple Leaf, while on their way to a Yankee [???]son. Col. JOHNSON, with the Fifteenth Arkansas regiment, numbering about 300 men, occupied a hill across Sandy Creek, which he had been fortifying for the previous week. About 5,000 of the enemy came against th[???]s po[???]tion, moving down a very narrow road, and many of them succeeded in gaining the breastworks, but they were repulsed and compelled to [???] back into the woods, leaving 80 or 90 dead in front of the works. On G[???]n. BEALE's left, consisting of the First Mississippi, and the Forty-ninth Alabama, the enemy advanced in strong force, and were driven back with great slaughter. The repulse on MILES' left was decisive. About 3 o'clock the Yankees, true to their knavish national instinct, raised the white flag, and under it attempted to make a rush with their infantry. This being recorded to Gen. GARDNER, he sent orders to the different commanders not to recognize any [???] sent by the Federal commander himself. At sunset, the firing ceased, after a hotly contested engagement of twelve hours, during the whole of which our men had behaved with unflinching gal[???] and bad completely repulsed the enemy at every point. Every man along the entire line had [???] his duty nobly. While this assault was going to all the gun and mortar boats kept up an ince [???]sant [???] upon the lower batteries, but without indicting any damage. On the 2[???]th, Gen. BANKS sent a flag purposing a [???],for the purpose of burying the dead, which was granted. About 3 o'clock P.M. the [???] cease[???], and the enemy, in heavy force, made a [???]ous attack upon the First Alabama, which was ga[???]nt[???] repulsed. From this time till June 13, heavy skirmishing was constantly kept up, the men were behind the [???] works night and day, and one could scarcely show his [???]ead an instant without being made the [???] of a sharpshooter. Many were sick from ex[???] to the [???] and other causes. The enemy were, meanwhile, engaged in digging ditches, erecting batt[???]es, and advancing their parallels. The gun and [???]tar [???]ats kept up a continual fire by night and day, more, it would seem, for the purpose of ex[???]sing the garrison by wakefulness than from any hope of direct advantage. Saturday, the 13th of June, a communication was received from [???] BANKS, demanding the uncondit[???]al surrender of the post. He complimented the ga[???]n and its commander in high terms. Their courage, he said, amounted almost to heroism, but it was fo[???] for them to attempt to hold the place any l[???]nge[???], as it was at his wi[???]. and he demanded the surrender in the name of humanity, to prevent the sacrifice of [???]es, as it would be impossible for his commanders to save the garrison from being put to the sword when the works should be carried by assa[???]t. His artillery, he said, was equal to any in extent and efficiency, and his men outnumbered ours five to one. He knew to what a condition they were returned, as he had captured Gen. GARDNER's cou[???]er [???]ent out with dispatches to Gen. JOHNSTON. As these [???]spatches were in cipher, it is probable that BANKS exaggerated the amount of information he had de[???]ed from them. Gen. GARDNER replied that his duty required him to de[???]end the post, and he must refuse to entertain any such proposition. On the morning of the 14th, just before day, the fleet and all the land batteries which the enemy had succee[???]ed in erecting at 100 to 300 yards from our breast[???], opened [???]re at the same time. About daylight, under cover of the smoke, the enemy advanced along the whole line, and in many places approached within ten feet of our works. Our brave fellows were wide awake, and opening upon them with "buck and ban" drove them back in confusion, a great number of them being left dead in the ditches. One entire [???]sion and a brigade were ordered to charge the position of the First Mississippi and the Forty ninth Albama, and by the mere physical pressure of numbers some of them got within the works, but all those were immediately killed. Every regiment did its duty nobly, but this was the main attack. After a sharp contest of two hours, the enemy were everywhere repa[???]sed and withdrew to their old line, but heavy sk[???]mishing was kept up most of the day. After this repulse, Gen. BANKS sent no flag of truce to bury his dead, which remained exposed between the lines for three days. At the end of that time Gen. GARDNER sent a flag to BANKS requesting that he would remove them. BANKS replied that he had no dead there. Gen. GARDNER then directed Gen. BEALE to send a flag to Gen. AUGER, and request him to bury the dead of his division, which lay in front of the First and Forty-ninth. AUGER replied that he did not think he had any dead there, but he would grant a cessation of hostilities to ascertain. Accordingly, parties were detailed to pass the dead bodies over to the Yankees, and 260 odd were removed from this position of the works, and with them one wounded man, who had been lying there three days without water, and was fly-blown from head to foot. It was surmised that BANKS was unwilling that his men should witness the carnage which had been committed; but if that were the case, he only made matters worse by this delay, for much exasperation was manifested at the sight of the wounded man, and a great many were heard to say that, if that was the way the wounded were to be treated, they wanted to be out of the army. A great many of the dead must have perished during the three days' interval. In front of JOHNSON, STEADMAN and elsewhere, none were buried, and the bodies of the slain could be seen from the breastworks on the day of the surrender, twenty-six days after the fight. During the rest of the month there was heavy skirmishing daily, with constant firing night and day from the gun and mortar-boats, and the works were generally drawn close to our line, which, it may here been remarked, was about three miles in extent, and in the centre some three-fourths of a mile from the river. Batteries of Parrott-guns had been erected across the river, which were well served by the United States re[???]u[???]s, and maintained a continuous and very effective fire upon our river batteries, disabling many of the guns. On the land side a formidable battery of seventeen 8, 9 and 10-inch columbians was established 150 paces from our extreme [???]ght, one of seven guns in front of Gen. [???] centre; one of six guns in front of the First Mississippi, on the Jackson road; and seven guns an[???]ars were planted in front of Col. STEADMAN. Fr[???] a five was maintained day and night, [???] damage to our men; but, as the siege [???], most of our artillery was disabled, only a[???]ces remaining uninjured at the time of the surrender. [???]g the siege of six weeks, from May 27 to J[???] 7, inclusive, the enemy must have fired from fifty to seventy-five thousand shot and shell, yet not more than twenty-five men were killed by these pro[???]ee[???]s. They had worse dangers than these to con[???]nd against, but against them all they fought like [???]es, and did their duty cheerfully. Several b[???]g were burned by the enemy's shells, among which was [???] tailing a loss of two or three [???]shels of cor[???]. A[???]? the 29th or 30th of June the garrison's supply of meat have out, when Gen. GARDNER ordered the[???] to be butchered, after ascertaining that the [???] willing to eat them. Far from shrinking from [???] hardship, the men received their unusual rations cheerfully, and declared that they were proud to be [???] to say that they had been reduced to this extremity. Many of them, as if in mockery of famine, caught rats and ate them, declaring that they were better than squirrels. At the same time the supply of ammunition was becoming exhausted, and at the time of the surrender there were only twenty rounds of cartridges left, with a small supply for artillery. The hardships, privations and dangers of the situation were diversified by many exciting incidents. One day our men were rolling ten-inch shells over the ramparts to explode against the enemy's works, which were not more than fifteen feet off, when a rush was made at our breastworks by about 200 of the enemy. Two companies were hurried to the spot, and they were driven back. Of some sixteen who had gained the interior of our works every one was killed. Mining was resorted to by the enemy: and after the surrender they said that they had a charge of 3,000 pounds of powder already laid under the [???]owe[???] river battery. This, in fact, consisting of a single pivot gun, was the key to the whole position, as it commanded both the river and the land approaches, and against this the heaviest guns of the enemy, and their most vigorous efforts by land and water, were directed. Their story, however, is somewhat doubted. But if the enemy mined, the garrison countermined and succeeded in blowing up the works in front of the First Mississippi. Some time between the 20th and 30th of June, a singular circumstance occurred one night about 11 o'clock, after a heavy fire. The water commenced running up stream, and in half an hour rose six feet. In one place about twenty feet of the bluff disappeared, carrying away one of our river batteries. The roar of the water could be heard like distant thunder. If this were an earthquake -- and it is difficult to give any other explanation -- it must have "rolled unheededly away" so far as the enemy was concerned, for no notice of it has appeared in any of the Yankee papers. We are obliged to omit incidents generally, including the brilliant sortie and spiking of the enemy's guns, but merely remark that the story about BANKS' capturing fifteen prisoners on that occasion, and sending them back, for whom GARDNER liberated a like number of Yankee prisoners, is merely a Yankee romance -- in short a lie. On Tuesday, July 7, salutes were fired from the enemy's batteries and gunboats and loud cheering was heard along the entire line, and Yankees who were within conversing distance of our men, told them that Vicksburgh had fallen. That night about 10 o'clock Gen. GARDNER summoned a council of war, consisting of Gen. BEALE, Cols. STEADMAN, MILES, LYLE and SHELBY and Lieut. Col. MARSHALL J. Smith, who, without exception, decided that it was impossible to hold out longer, considering that the provisions of the garrison were exhausted, the ammunition almost entirely expended, and a large proportion of the men sick, or from exhaustion unfit for duty. A communication was sent to Gen. BANKS, stating what had been heard from the men, asking for official information as to the truth of the news, and stating if it were, that Gen. GARDNER was ready to negotiate terms of surrender. Gen. BANKS' reply was received just before day, inclosing a letter from Gen. GRANT announcing the fall of Vicksburgh. Gen. BANKS asked Gen. GARDNER to appoint commissioners to arrange with those on his part the terms of surrender, and Cols. MILES and STEADMAN and Lieut.-Col. SMITH were appointed. Gen. BANKS demanded an unconditional surrender, as in the first instance, but finally agreed that officers and soldiers should retain their private property (in which negroes were not included.) A demand for a parole of the garrison was refused. Gen. BANKS said he would grant such terms with the greatest pleasure, but the orders of the Secretary of War forbid it. The surrender was fixed to take place at 7 o'clock on the morning of the 9th. At 6 o'clock the garrison were drawn up in line, and two officers of Gen. GARDNER's Staff were sent to conduct the Federal officer deputed to receive the surrender. This was Gen. ANDREWS, who entered the lines shortly after 7 o'clock, on the Clinton road. Gen. GARDNER met him at the right of our line and delivered up his sword, observing that he surrendered his sword and his garrison since his provisions were exhausted. Gen. ANDREWS replied that he received Gen. GARDNER's sword, but returned it to him for having maintained his defence so gallantly. Meantime the enemy's infantry moved down in front of our line, both wings [???]esting on the river, and completely encircling the little garrison as if to cut off any attempt to escape. About that time our informant succeeded in passing through the r[???]s, and evading the enemy's outposts. A great many of the garrison -- probably several hundred -- ha[???]ma[???] e [???]ll attempt to escape the previous night, but the guard of the enemy was so strict that they could not pass out. The number of the garrison which surrendered was between 5,000 and 6,000; of whom there were not more than 2,000 effective men for duty. During the siege about 200 had been killed and 300 wounded, besides several deaths from sickness. Among the officers killed were Col. PIXLEY, of A[???]kar[???]sas, Capt. BOONE, of Louisiana, and Lieut. SIMONTON, of the First Mississippi, besides a few others with whose names our informant was not familiar. The universal feeling in the garrison is, that Gen. GARDNER did everything in his power to [???] the enemy and protract the siege, and only succumbed to the direst necessity. The garrison, too, have made a noble record. Even the enemy's accounts, upon which we have been entirely dependent for nearly two months, bear testimony to heroism unsurpassed during the war; but much yet remains to be told, and not a word of it but will reflect the greatest honor upon those devoted men.

bottom of page