COLONEL: I have the honor to report that on the 10th instant I sent
75 men of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry and 125 men of the First Mississippi Cavalry.(African Descent), under the command of Major Chapin,
First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent), across the Mississippi
River to make a scout toward Lake Village and endeavor to capture
some forty rebel cavalry who were hanging negroes end driving off
stock. The scout proceeded to Meriwether's Ferry, on Boeuf River,
and encamped half a mile from the ferry -- the First Mississippi Cavalry
(African Descent) at the house, and the Fourth Illinois Cavalry
at the cotton gin, 150 yards distant, both house and gin being surrounded with swampy land covered by water. Although no force was
known to be in the vicinity, each road was picketed with ten men, and
also a camp guard of ten men. At 3 a. m. the picket was ordered to
mount by Major Chapin and camp called. At 5 a. m., in the midst of
most intense darkness (the men having breakfasted, saddled, and only
waiting for daylight to march), the rebels, 140 strong, under Captain
Adams, of Capers' battalion, on foot-having during the night stolen
into lines between picket stations in the swamp and formed all about
the cotton gin-gave the Fourth Illinois Cavalry volley after volley,
stampeding the horses and causing great confusion among the men,
who rapidly retreated upon the house, where the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) were stationed. The rebels then charged the
house, but could not dislodge the colored soldiers. The contest here
for a long time was fiercely fought, and ended in the entire discomfiture
of the rebels. Intense darkness prevented pursuit, and when
daylight came it was found the rebels, after regaining their horses,
had dispersed through the woods, each man running on his own
account. Ten dead of the enemy were found, and numbers were seen
helped or thrown upon horses, and thus carried sway. The enemy
having dispersed, no pursuit could be made, and the number of wounded
necessitated the return to camp, which was reached at 10 a. m. to-day.
Two men too severely hurt to travel were left a few miles from here
with a surgeon until sufficiently recovered to permit their removal.
Horses and mules were captured--enough to cover our loss of stock,
although the quality is not as good as our own. Too much credit cannot be given the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, who did all that men could do
under the circumstances. Surprised, they fought hand to hand, and
those who were taken prisoners were bodily earned away. The conduct
of the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) could not have been
excelled by veterans, wounded men refusing to go to the rear. If was the
first fight for most of them, but, in the language of Major Cook, their
commanding officer, "I could have held them till the last man was shot."
I inclose a rough sketch* of the country; also a list of our losses, which,
owing to our being by the side of camp-fires, were necessarily severe.
I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieut. Col. William T. Clark,
Colonel First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent), Comdg. Post.
Assistant Adjutant-General, Seventeenth Army Corps.
Lieut. Col. William T. Clark,
RETURN TO CIVIL WAR INDEX PAGE