At 4 o'clock all my corps, except the cavalry on the opposite side of the river, took up the line of march, agreeably to instructions from Major General Grant, for the bluffs, some 3 miles back. Reaching the bluffs some time before sunset, and deeming it important to surprise the enemy if be should be found in the neighborhood of Port Gibson, and, if possible, to prevent him from destroying the bridges over Bayou Pierre on the road leading to Grand Gulf and to Jackson, I determined to push on by a forced march that night as far as practicable.
About 1 o'clock on the morning of May 1, upon approaching Magnolia Church, 13 miles from Bruinsburg and 4 miles from Port Gibson, General Carr's DIVISION, leading the advance, was accosted by a light fire from the enemy's infantry, and soon after by the fire of his artillery. Harris' brigade, the command of which had devolved upon Colonel Stone, of the Twenty-SECOND Iowa, in consequence of the illness of the former, was immediately formed in line of battle, Griffiths' and Klauss' batteries brought up, and the enemy's fire briskly replied to and silenced. The DIVISION rested upon its arms at Shaiffer's plantation during the short remnant of the night.
Coming up about day dawn in the morning, I learned from a fugitive negro that the two roads diverging at Shaiffer's led to Port Gibson, one to the right by Magnolia Church, and the other to the left, passing near Bayou Pierre, where it is spanned by a rail and earth road bridge; also that the greatest distance between the roads was only some 2 miles; that the space between, and for miles around, was diversified by fields, thick woods, abrupt hills, and deep ravines, and that the enemy was in force in front and intended to accept battle. I immediately proved the general correctness of this information by further inquiry and by personal reconnaissance, and determined to advance my forces upon the cord of the rude ellipse formed by the roads, resting my reserves back near the forks of the roads.
After the smoke of the previous engagement and the glimmering of the rising sun had ceased to blind our view, I ordered General Osterhaus to moved his DIVISION on the road to the left, to relieve a detachment of General Carr's DIVISION which had been sent to watch the enemy in that direction, and to attack the enemy's right. The object of this movement was to secure whatever direct advantage might result from attacking the enemy's line at a point supposed to be comparatively weak, and to make a diversion in favor of my right, preparatory to its attack upon the strong force understood to be in its front.
The First Brigade of General Osterhaus' DIVISION, hastening forward in execution of this order, at 5,30 a. m. encountered the enemy in considerable force a short distance from Shaiffer's house. The position of the enemy was a strong one, and he seemed determined to maintain it; yet, after an obstinate strhan an hour, he was forced to yield and seek temporary safety at a greater distance, under a cover of ravines and houses.
The splendid practice of Lanphere's and Foster's batteries disabled two of the enemy's guns, which were with difficulty withdrawn, and contributed largely to this success.
Communicating with General Osterhaus, I offered him reenforcements, but his SECOND Brigade having now come up, he declined them until more urgent occasion should arise. Thus strengthened, he pressed forward until insurmountable obstacles in the nature of the ground and its exposure to the fire of the enemy arrested his progress, and proved the impracticability of successful front attack.
It was now 2 p. m., and about this time General J. E. Smith's brigade,