THE FIGHT AT BIG BLACK BRIDGE, May 17. *
Our army having fallen back to the intrenchments covering the railroad and boat bridges, the lines were found about completed, and were manned by General [J. C.]Vaughn's brigade and part of Bowen's DIVISION. The enemy opened early on the morning of the 17th artillery at long range, and soon came up with their infantry and took possession of a copse of wood in front of our left. I repaired to the bridges between 7 and 8 o'clock to examine their condition, and seeing signs of unsteadiness among our troops, I sent Lieutenant -general for instructions in regard to the destruction of the bridges, should the enemy succeed in forcing our position. Having received the necessary instructions, I made preparations for firing the railroad bridge by piling rails and loose cotton at intervals, and had a barrel of turpentine prepared on the boat bridge. At about 9 a. m. our troops on the left were stampeded, and leaving the trenches, came pell mell toward the river. I stationed an officer at each bridge, and after seeing that all our men were across, I gave a signal to apply the torch.
In a few moments both bridges were in flames, and were quickly and throughly burned.
I have the honor to be very respectfully, your obedient servant,
SAML. H. LOCKETT,
Major and Chief Engineer Dept. of MISS. And E. La/
Major R. W. MEMMINGER,
Asst. Adjt. General, dept. of Mississippi and East Louisiana.
Numbers 23. Reports of Major General William W. Loring, c. S. Army, commanding DIVISION. HEADQUARTERS LORING'S DIVISION, Near Crystal Springs, MAY 17, 1863.
GENERAL: You have probably learned that General Pemberton was compelled yesterday to fall back before a large force of the enemy. I was ordered with my command to hold the rear, to enable army to make good its retreat. Soon after the order was given, the enemy moved in heavy force against us. We had a bridge and ford to pass to make good their retreat. A brigade was placed at the bridge and one at the ford to protect the crossing, while my DIVISION was in the position indicated. General Bowen, in command of the ford, sent word to me that he would hold it, and was requested by me to do so and I would support him, and had ordered a brigade for the purpose. He also sent me word that the bridge was safe. Contrary to the expectation of General Bowen, he was forced suddenly to fall back in the direction of Edwards Depot, consequent upon the enemy's crossing the bridge. The enemy immediately moved to a position commanding the ford in my front. Upon hearing of Bowen's movement, my command was ordered to fall back, the enemy at the same time moving upon my right flank and rear. There was nothing to prevent their soon having commanding positions on both sides of the ford. These movements necessarily forced me to look a ford lower down the creek, and to reach it had to pass through
* For sketch, see opposite PAGE .