War of the Rebellion: Serial 057 Page 0209 Chapter XLIV. THE MERIDIAN EXPEDITION.

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HEADQUARTERS SEVENTEENTH ARMY CORPS,

Vicksburg, Miss., March 16, 1864.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command during the recent expedition into the interior of Mississippi:

In accordance with instructions from the major-general commanding, the Third Division, Brigadier General M. D. Leggett commanding; the Fourth Division, Brigadier General M. M. Crocker commanding; the Third Brigade, First Division, Brigadier General Alexander Chambers commanding, and the Cavalry Brigade, Colonel E. F. Winslow commanding, were directed to hold themselves in readiness to march about the 1st of February. Pontoons were prepared, and the train fitted up under the direction of Captain Kossak, aide-de-camp and engineer officer, for the construction of a bridge at Messinger's Ferry, on the Big Black, for the passage of Major-General Hurlbut's command, and a floating bridge near the railroad bridge on the main Jackson road, for the passage of my own command. The latter was constructed by Brigadier-General Force's brigade, under the supervision of Captain A. Hickenlooper, chief engineer of the corps.

On the 3rd, the different divisions and brigades were assembled at this point by 12 m. The cavalry was immediately ordered across, with directions to push forward rapidly and secure the bridge across Baker's Creek, near Champion's Hill, which was done, the main portion of the command following, and bivouacking for the night in the vicinity of Edwards' Depot.

At an early hour the next morning, the 4th, the command was in motion, the infantry and artillery following the main road to Clinton, and the cavalry, as instructed keeping well out on the right flank. At Champion's Hill the first resistance was met with, where we encountered Colonel Starke's brigade of cavalry, with two pieces of artillery. Two regiments of Crocker's division were immediately deployed, a heavy line of skirmishers thrown to the front, and the whole command ordered forward, driving the enemy easily and steadily over a very broken country, with little loss on our side. The retrograde movements of the enemy were accelerated by the vigorous operations of Winslow's cavalry on their flanks; by dark they were driven hurriedly across the creek east of Bolton, the bridge saved, and my command bivouacked near the junction of the Clinton, Bolton, and Raymond roads.

During the night Starke's brigade was joined by Ferguson's from Okolona, and Major General S. D. Lee assumed command in the field. The enemy occupied a good position on the hills on the east side of the creek, and everything indicated that they intended to contest the ground stubbornly.

As soon as it was light enough to see on the morning of the 5th, the command was put in motion, Leggett's division in advance. Two brigades of this division were deployed and ordered to advance in line of battle under cover of artillery fire from two 20-pounder and two 10-pounder Parrotts. The enemy soon gave way, and were pushed so rapidly and persistently by these two brigades into and through Clinton that the march of the main column was not checked.

The cavalry of Winslow, operating on their flank, entered Clinton by the Raymond road just as the advance of our infantry was coming in on the Jackson road and the rear of the enemy going out eastward.

14 R R - VOL XXXII, PT I