War of the Rebellion: Serial 010 Page 0646 Chapter XXII. KY.,TENN.,N.MISS.,N.ALA.,AND SW.VA.

Search Civil War Official Records

No. 2 Report of Major Samuel M. Bowman, Fourth Illinois Cavalry.


Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., April 14, 1862.

GENERAL: On receiving your order at Chickasaw on yesterday morning about 8 o'clock to take my command, there present, and proceed to destroy the bridge of the Charleston and Memphis Railroad across Bear Creek, I proceeded at once to execute the order. My command consisted of 100 picked men of the following companies of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry: Company E, Captain Rockwood; Company G, Lieutenant Harper; Company H, Lieutenant Fisk; Company L, Lieutenant Merriman, and Company M, Lieutenant Allshouse, with 20 men each. We took the Chickasaw and Iuka road as far as Bear Creek, driving the enemy's pickets across that creek, who, supposing we were the head of a column advancing on Iuka, fired the bridge across the creek in order to impede our progress. We then dashed up the creek at full speed to the vicinity of the railroad bridge designated. I placed a mounted platoon at the point where the road crosses the railroad track to prevent the passage of cars from the east and to guard us on that side, and marched the balance of the force into a swamp within a quarter of a mile of the bridge, where I dismounted the men, a part of them to fight on foot and a part to use axes. I ordered one platoon, under command of Captain Rockwood, to march down by the side of the railroad toward the bridge, and another, under command of Lieutenant Fisk, to march in the same direction on the track, and at the same time placed two platoons, one under Lieutenant Callon and the other under Lieutenant Merriman, in the swamp as near as possible to the bridge, to act as sharpshooters, and then ordered an advance on the bridge, firing at the enemy's guard wherever seen. The guard appeared to be about 150 strong, and seemed quite unwilling to yield the occupancy of the bridge, and contended as long as they could against us.

At the same time a party of choppers, under Lieutenant Harper, commenced cutting away the trestle work, and in half an hour from the time we arrived on the ground the bridge was on fire and a span of the trestle work over the swamp cut away, and in an hour more we had totally destroyed the bridge and 500 feet of trestle work. We also destroyed the telegraph poles and sunk the wire of about half a mile of the telegraph line along the side of the railroad. We killed 4 of the enemy's guard and 1 horse, took 2 cavalrymen prisoners, and returned to the boat before sundown without injury to my command.

Every officer and every man under my command did his duty on the occasion. I have no stronger words to express my entire approbation of the conduct of all concerned.

The bridge was 240 feet in length, in two spans, with stone piers and abutments, left standing. We had no means of destroying these. The trestle work was likewise on stone piers, left standing. Length of bridge destroyed, 240 feet; length of trestle work, 500 feet, and length of telegraph wire, half a mile.

I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, Commanding Fourth Illinois Cavalry.

Brigadier General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN,

Commanding, &c.