War of the Rebellion: Serial 019 Page 0241 Chapter XXV. EXPEDITION FROM HELENA, ARK.

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Numbers 2. Report of Colonel Charles R. Woods, Seventy-sixth Ohio Infantry, commanding expedition.


Greenville, Miss., August --, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to report as follows respecting the expedition down the Mississippi River:

On Saturday, the 16th instant, in connection with the gunboat fleet, under Captain Phelps, the following land forces embarked on board the transports Rocket and McDowell, under command of Colonel C. R. Woods, commanding Second Brigade, Third Division, Army of the Southwest, viz: Seventy-sixth Ohio Infantry, Fifty-eighth Ohio Infantry, Colonel Bowen's cavalry, about 100 strong, and having two 12-pounder howitzers and four pieces of Hoffmann's Fourth Ohio Battery.

The first landing was made at Island Numbers 65, on the Arkansas shore, about 40 miles below Helena. The only important item of information here received was the construction of a road from the White River to the Mississippi, meeting the Mississippi some 15 miles below Laconia, Ark.; subsequent information made this a certain fact. Another landing was made at Laconia, Ark. Some armed men in the vicinity mounted their horses and took to flight as soon as the gunboats hove in sight. From a Mr. Benton a fuller account of the White River road was obtained. He also stated that he was a few days previous a visitor to General Parsons, who commanded about 1,500 men. Their camp was about 15 miles from the Mississippi River and 30 miles above the mouth of White River. Napoleon was passed at night-fall, and the fleet continued to sail down the river.

The boats were just brought to anchor at Milliken's Bend when word came from Captain Phelps, of the Benton, that the rebel transport Fair Play was captured with a large cargo of arms and ammunition. The Fair Play had arrived but three hours previously. It was further stated that some of the crew got ashore, and subsequent facts showed that there was a rebel force of 700 encamped there. Their camp was at once taken possession of and pursuit made. The enemy had retreated to Richmond, Madison Parish, where there is a railroad to Monroe, La., and whence there is a stage road to Little Rock, Ark. The railroad depot was burned by our troops, and the telegraph destroyed where it went to Monroe and to Little Rock, probably by one line, and north to Providence, La., by another, both communicating with Vicksburg. Thirty-five prisoners were taken, and a large number of negroes brought off, who were in the employ of the Confederate States Government. At the depot we destroyed also 11 hogsheads of sugar and the whole telegraph apparatus.

This trip imposed a march of some 20 miles, and too much cannot be said for the brave men who tried every effort of patient endurance and much fatigue under a burning sun to overtake and capture the retreating enemy. An effort was made to reconnoiter Vicksburg, but the fog and storm prevented.

The next point was up the Yazoo River. A detachment of 300 infantry, from the Seventy-sixth and Fifty-eighth Ohio, and two pieces of artillery, under command of Major [Peter] Dister, of the Fifty-eighth Ohio, manned the ram fleet. About 17 miles up the river a battery was come upon of four heavy 42-pounder guns and two field pieces.