War of the Rebellion: Serial 103 Page 0317 THE MOBILE CAMPAIGN.

Search Civil War Official Records

in overwhelming strength. My staff officers and scouts brought similar intelligence. Colonel F. L. Campbell, commanding Gibson's brigade, was at once withdrawn from the right and directed to dispose a part of his command in skirmish order around the enemy, and to post the rest as a rear guard at the headway, so as to hold and secure the retreat. They at once drove back the advancing line of the enemy, and so strong and vigorous were these attacks that they soon compelled his overwhelming and constantly swelling forces to assume the defensive. He set to work to intrench. Our left might have been thrown back and re-established, but the labor for such an undertaking was altogether beyond our ability. Moreover, he had advanced several hundred yards in rear of our works, and the probability arose almost to a certainly that, as soon as he discovered where he really was, a general assault would be ordered; and he surely would ascertain this fact either during the night, or beyond all question at daylight. His lodgment, too, when developed, would have enabled him to cut off retreat. I determined, therefore to withdraw my troops. My standing orders from Major General D. H. Maury, commanding District of the Gulf, had been not to hold Spanish Fort for a moment after the garrison was in danger of capture; not to risk, in the defense of an outpost, forces intended to occupy and defend the stronghold and the works around Mobile. It was always a difficult and delicate to decide, but I thought the moment had at length arrived, contemplated by my instructions, when, however painful to the devoted defenders, the position had to be given up. The guns were ordered to be spiked, and time was allowed for this purpose; the few remaining stores were issued; the sick and wounded were carefully removed; the infirmary corps and several hundred negroes who arrived that evening to be employed in the defense, and, finally, in good order, the whole garrison was withdrawn. The retreat was along a narrow treadway, about eighteen inches wide, which ran from a small peninsula from the left flank across the river, and over a broad marsh to a deep channel opposite Battery Huger. It was about 1,200 yards long, and was commanded throughout by the enemy's heavy batteries in front of our left flank. It was concealed by the high grass and covered with moss, and the troops pulled off their shoes, and thus, in a noiseless manner, succeeded in retiring without attracting the attention of the enemy. The night was rather dark and the movement could not be hurried. From the end of the treadway they were conveyed in light boats to Battery Huger, and thence to Blakely in steamers, except a few under Colonel Bush Jones, who was directed to go up the marsh to Blakely. My scouts had already moved along this route with a view of ascertaining whether it was practicable. This was necessary in order to enable all the troops to get beyond range of the enemy's batteries before daylight. From Blakely they were ordered to Mobile by the major-general commanding District of the Gulf.

I regret to report that some of the skirmishers, in spite of the precautions taken and the ample time given, and the pointed inquiries made on the occasion, and the vigilance of brigade commanders and staff officers, which I did not fail to observe, were left upon the lines. The officers in command reported all their men called in and safe. It is to be hoped and presumed that these accidents will be satisfactorily explained. I deeply deplore the capture of even a part of these brave men. I desire to express in the strongest terms my admiration of the steady valor and cheerful endurance of the officers and members of Ector's, Holtzclaw's, and Gibson's brigades, as well as of Patton's artillery.