At nearly the close of the action Lieutenant-Colonel Keith, commanding, had to leave the field, badly wounded, leaving the regiment, without a field officer, in command of Captain Grimsley. It was at this stage of the battle that General Williams fell mortally wounded. He had just said to the boys of the Twenty-first: "Boys, your field officers are all gone; I will lead you," the men answering with three cheers for the general. The sound had scare died away when he fell. The general had previously issued an order for the line to fall back, and the artillery having done so, the regiments retired in good order to the position now occupied.
For details of movements and conduct of regiments and batteries I would refer you to the accompanying reports. I will not trespass on the patience of the commanding general further than to say what the officers commanding regiments and corps cannot well say for themselves, that more undaunted bravery, coolness, and skill in the handling of their commands has not been displayed on my battle-field than on that of Baton Rouge, and that, too, by officers who never before handled troops in a fight. From the Twenty-first Indiana and Sixth Michigan myself in common with others expected a great deal, and were not disappointed. But when I look back a few short months and bring back to my mind the arrival of the Fourteenth Maine at Ship Island and to-day consider the work done by that regiment in the action, the smoothness and steadiness of its evolutions in difficult ground and under fire from the veterans of the Confederate service, I can only say that for his efforts in building up his regiment, the most serious task of a commander, and his conduct in the field, Colonel Nickerson, of the Fourteenth Maine, deserves the highest praise.
To the impetuous Lieutenant-Colonel Keith, of the Twenty-first Indiana, no language of mine can do justice. He was everywhere, in every place, working his men through tents, trees, and underbrush like a veteran, and, when seriously wounded and taken from the field, he would not give up, but drove around among his officers and men, counseling them and assisting in everything, to the injury and irritation of his wounds.
Colonel Roberts, of the Seventh Vermont, fell mortally wounded and has since died. He was a gentleman of a generous nature and of cultivated mind. Colonel Nickerson, of the Fourteenth Maine, had his horse shot under him by a discharge of grape. He sprang from under his dying steed and waving his sword called upon his men for one more charge. The men sprang forward with three rousing cheers and drove back the advancing foe. At this time the gallant Captain French, of Company K, Fourteenth Maine, received his terrible wound. This charge was made in the presence of General Williams, who complimented the men highly. Captain French was placed on board the unfortunate steamer Whiteman, and was lost when she went down. His name deserves special mention.
The conduct of officers and men of the several batteries was everything that could be looked for by the commanding general. The various batteries were very much reduced by sickness and deaths, and even with the assistance of details from infantry were worked short-handed.
Lieutenant Hall, in command of the second pieces of Nims' battery, wishes special mention made of the successful rally by men of the Twenty-first Indiana and 3 men of the Ninth Connecticut, who, with the assistance of Private Tyler (who left his sick bed and acted as sergeant, gunner, &c.), and Privates Shields and Clogston, as also