HDQRS. BOWEN'S DIVISION, ARMY OF Mississippi, Vicksburg, MISS.,
June 4, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following detailed report of the battle of Port Gibson, fought near that place on the 1st ultimo, which has been delayed until this time for want of sufficient data from brigade commanders, their commands having been ever since almost daily engaged with the enemy.
On or about April 20, it became evident from the movements of the enemy, then closely watched by Major [Isaac F.] Harrison and a portion of my brigade in Louisiana, that the intended to pass below Vicksburg and make his lodgment in Mississippi at or near Grand Gulf. I immediately dispatched for the chief engineer of the DEPARTMENT, to confer with him in regard to our position, and also urged the lieutenant-general commanding to send every gun and every man that could be concentrated to my assistance. The engineer officer, after a reconnaissance, fully concurred with me in my idea, that in case they passed my batteries and landed at Bruinsburg or Rodney, I should meet them south of Port Gibson and give them battle; also that it would require from 15,000 to 20,000 men to insure our success.
After the signal failure of the fleet to silence my batteries at Grand Gulf on April 29, and their subsequent passage by them under cover of darkness on the same night, I immediately commenced my dispositions to meet their army on the south side of Bayou Pierre. At the same time my water front was so extended, and presented four such vulnerable points, that nearly the whole DIVISION under my command was required to guard it, and left me no hope to fight the enemy on the spot selected unless the promised re-enforcements should reach me in time.
Finding, on the 30th, that Grant's army was crossing the Mississippi and landing at Bruinsburg, near the mouth of Bayou Pierre, I sent out Brigadier-General Green with about 450 of his own command (the remainder being posted on Big Black and Bayou Pierre), with a section of the Hudson Battery, and the Sixth Mississippi Regiment (Colonel [Robert] Lowry's), to occupy the two roads leading from Bruinsburg to Port Gibson. Tracy's brigade, Stevenson's DIVISION, arrived, jaded from a forced march and without provisions. I ordered them to halt near town, to collect stragglers, cook rations, and after a short rest to report to Green, who would point out their position.
During the afternoon I went out in person and established Green in his position; returned to Grand Gulf to ascertain what demonstrations were making upon the positions on Big Black, Bayou Pierre, and the river front; received reports of approaches being made on every one, and determined to strengthen the one on Bayou Pierre, as its passage by the enemy would have been extremely disastrous to us. I ordered all the rifled Parrotts (four 10-pounders) and the First Missouri Regiment to this point, then occupied by one regiment of Green's brigade and a section of
6-pounder pieces, making about 700 men and six pieces of artillery in all. The SECOND Missouri was deployed along the river below the batteries to prevent a landing at points beyond the range of our guns.
Two 12-pounder pieces and the SECOND [First?] Confederate Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel [George H.] Forney, were posted at Winkler's Bluff, to prevent the destruction of the raft and the passage of Big Black River by the gunboats. The First Missouri Cavalry (dismounted) and [Ras.] Stirman's Battalion, with [W. E.] Dawson's battery (four guns), held the position on Big Black known as Thompson's Hill, where the enemy had threatened an attack for some days. The remainder of the