which compelled the Fourth Mississippi to take a position a little in rear of their former one, to avoid the fire of our guns. Everything then remained in the center as first placed in the morning, when I was directed by General Bowen first to fall back to a commanding ridge about half a mile to our rear, and before this movement was completed to retire across the Bayou Pierre, designating the lower bridge across the main stream, about 3 miles below the town, as the place of crossing, and a road which led directly from the right of the new position I was taking as the route.
In falling back, the Thirty-first Louisiana, on my right, was nearly intercepted. The troops of our right as well as left wing having been drawn off, the enemy occupied the road I was designated to take, and were at least 1 mile nearer the bridge than my command. The regiments were drawn off in good order in successive echelons, alternately facing the advancing enemy, the artillery, being out of ammunition (one section having only three rounds left), retiring first.
At 9 p. m. I passed through the town of Port Gibson; crossed the south fork of Bayou Pierre, and followed the route I had come in the morning. I was induced to this departure from the route suggested by a conviction that the other course would involve the capture of my command. The enemy pressed closely upon our rear until near the town, when they allowed us to continue our march undisturbed. At midnight I crossed the north fork, rested two hours, and believing it to be the policy of the enemy to pursue us rapidly, burned the bridge; then continued the route, turning to the position occupied by General Bowen, on the right bank of Bayou Pierre, opposite the railroad and suspension bridges, which had been destroyed.
I arrived at this point and formed a junction at 9 a. m., Saturday, having marched 21 miles since we left the battle-field. At this point we remained all that day in position and until 2 o'clock the following morning, when a retreat was ordered to the Big Black.
The command reached Vicksburg at 5 o'clock Monday, evening, having in less than five days marched over 100 miles, besides being marched in better order and with less straggling than I ever before observed in any troops; and while their indomitable steadiness and courage on the battle-field is worthy of all commendation, their patient and cheerful endurance of fatigue and an unusual march bespeaks the highest quality of soldiers.
It would be a most agreeable duty to mention individual instances of courage and gallantry were it not that when all did so well it is difficult to distinguish without doing injustice to many. To the reports of regimental commanders I respectfully refer for the names of their officers whose conduct was most particularly noticed. I cordially indorse their favorable mention.
As regiments, the SEVENTEENTH Louisiana, Colonel Richardson, and the Fourth Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel Adaire, were so posted as to bear the severest part of the conflict, especially the SEVENTEENTH Louisiana, which was constantly and fiercely engaged nearly the whole of the time we were in position. The regiments both deserve the highest praise. The other regiments (Thirty-first Louisiana and Forty-sixth Mississippi) also performed their parts well, and to my entire satisfaction, but, not being in a position to engage the enemy directly, were not tried in the same ordeal.
Colonel Richardson, SEVENTEENTH Louisiana, deserves especial notice