Texas, encountered the pickets of the enemy, and a fire from above was opened upon him by the artillery of the fort and from the two gunboats in the river. He advanced down the levee of the Mississippi next to the water's edge to the stockade (of upright timbers) behind the levee, driving the enemy from the stockade and firing upon them through their own port-holes. He pushed a portion of his men over their works, the men helping each other over; the balance of his men moved around the stockade through the water, which was shallow, into the fort. Hearing the small-arms of Major Shannon amid the roar of artillery, I ordered an advance of the whole line. Colonel Phillips, at the head of the column under Colonel Major, made a circuit of the fort, and, with most of his men and officers, made an entrance into the fort with Shannon, of the Fifth. Colonel Herbert, with the Seventh, enveloped the ditch as directed. The fight was desperately contested on every part of the ground. Colonel Hardeman, with the Fourth Texas, being unable to control his guide, was delayed in his attack on the stockade on the La Fourche idle until nearly daylight, but his casualties show with what determined courage that veteran regiment stood its ground after it came into action. By some mistake, Colonel Lane's regiment did not get into action; he was waiting for an expecting a guide, while I supposed and was informed that he was at the head of the column under Colonel Major. There is no blame attached to Colonel Lane for the mistake.
The attack on the fort was made at 2 a. m., being before daylight, for the purpose of preventing the gunboats from seeing our advance. The columns of attack of Shannon above and Hardeman below were expected to move along under the levee, sheltered from the artillery and musketry of the fort, until they reached the stockade, the weeds on the margin of the water, as I was informed, preventing a full view of them by the gun-boats.
Shannon succeeded in making the entrance with little or no loss, and he and Colonel Phillips (entering on the same side) would doubtless have succeeded in capturing the works had it not been for the existence of a ditch fronting and inside the levee, of which I had no knowledge or information. All my guides (and some of them resided within 2 miles of the fort) assured me that when we got through the stockade, between the levee and the river, we had an open way into the fort without impediment other than the bayonets of the enemy. We were not repulsed and never would have been until we found, after getting into the stockade there was yet a ditch to cross, running in front of and parallel with the river, and no means whatever on hand to cross it. At this ditch a most desperate fight ensued between the commands of Shannon and Phillips and the enemy. Our men here used brisk bats upon the heads of the enemy, who returned the same. Captain [Ira G.] Killough and Lieutenant [W. S.] Land, and other offices and men, were wounded on their heads with bricks thrown by the enemy, which had first been thrown by our men. There never was more desperate courage displayed than was shown an example of desperate courage, which will not be without it effect. But for the false information in relation to that part of the fort fronting the river, it would most certainly have fallen into our hands. Had we known of the existence of this ditch, we would have been prepared to have crossed it.
We fought from 2 a. m. until daylight without intermission, and our dead and wounded show the desperation of the assault. The garrison contained between 500 and 600 Federals. Our assaulting party engaged was about 800 strong.