Reports of Lieutenant Colonel S. W. Ferguson, C. S. Army, of skirmish (23rd)
at Fish Lake Bridge.
DEER CREEK, WASHINGTON COUNTY, Mississippi,
February 26, 1863.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that on Sunday morning, the 22nd instant, the force of the enemy which had landed the Monday previous at the same point to capture my command, disembarked at Greenville. I was at the time encamped on Deer Creek, at the head of the road leading directly to Greenville, over Fish Lake, distant by this route 7 1/2 miles from the river, and separated from it by Fish Lake and the upper portion of same steam, called Black Bayou. All the bridges over these had been destroyed, except one, and the roads guarded. The undestroyed bridge I used to cross pickets to the river; it was arranged for instant destruction, and held by a sufficient guard.
On the advance of their infantry to Fish Lake Bridge, on the morning of the 23rd, I detailed one section of artillery to hold that point, which they did until recalled, when the enemy had obtained possession of the undestroyed bridge, the guard of which shamefully abandoned it at the distant approach of the enemy's cavalry. On learning this, I ordered the artillery to move down the creek, which protected their left flank, all the bridges in rear being destroyed. To the right was an open, level country, about a mile in width. They had started some ten or FIFTEEN minutes, when the cavalry of the enemy appeared in the distance, advancing at full speed through the open country, in pursuit of some citizens and the guard which had abandoned the bridge they should have destroyed. I at once ordered Captain [James] Lewers, with all the
cavalry present, consisting of the greater portion of his company, and 1 lieutenant and 3 privates of Captain [George] Barnes' company, to join the artillery at a gallop, and to support it.
Remaining some little time alone to observe the enemy, I started by a short cut through the fields to cut off my artillery and get them in a position I had previously selected. I had barely got into the road along whichg when the whole cavalry command dashed up in full flight, officers and men mixed up together, throwing away their arms and all that impeded their flight. Not one shot had been fired. The enemy was in sight, but sill half a mile distant, not more than 50 or at most 60 in number, and separated from them by a stout fence. I did all in my power to stop them, with the success one man might expect in a herd of stampeded cattle. Some 10 or 12 of the rear files did stop for perhaps one minute. I called on them to follow me, and started for the artillery, now, although utterly abandoned by every one, gallantly firing on the enemy. Not one man would follow me, but the panic-stricken cowards rejoined their worthy comrades at a rate which made up for lost time. Left alone, I endeavored to join my brave artillery, but was by this time completely cut off from them. Foiled in this, I determined to make another effort to rally the cavalry. Some 30 of them had run into a cul-de-sac; these I overtook, and pleaded with to follow me. Threats and entreaties were alike vain. Some dashed down the almost perpendicular sides of the creek and attempted to swim their horses; others jumped off their horses and swam for dear life. At last 9 of them promise to follow me, and with them I cut my way out, but, in doing so, unfortunately had to cross to the opposite side of the creek from the artillery. To reach this gallant band, I had
23 R R-VOL XXIV, PT. I