We arrived here yesterday from Grand Ecore having left the latter place on the 21st ???. A mail was distributed upon our arrival, but it contained no letter from you or G. The Journal of April 2d, however came.
As I anticipated, we could not leave Grand Ecore without having a brush with the Rebels, and it was decreed that our Brigade should do all the fighting that was required of the Infantry. It did its duty well and retrieved its lost laurels. It run on the 9th and so it did on the 23d but luckily in the right direction on the latter occasion.
To commence at the beginning: When we left our entrenchments at Grand Ecore we (the 3d Brigade) were detached from Emorys Division and assigned to the command under Genel. Birge,(notorious as having while Colonel, volunteered to lead the "forlorn-hope" that was to assault Port Hudson, had it not surrendered). To Genel Birge was given the advance of the Infantry Column, being preceded by one small brigade of Cavalry.
For two days we were unmolested, the Cavalry having very little trouble in opening the way. As was expected as soon as they were aware of our retreat the Rebels assailed our rear, composed of parts of the 16th & 17th Army Corps under Genl A.J. Smith, but did not come up in force until the 23d when Smith whipped them badly, driving them back and taking many prisoners and cannon.
Early the same morning our advance was checked at the place where we had first crossed the Caine River while going up to Natchitoches. Orders were soon sent to Genel Birge to cross over at a ford and attack the Enemy on their left flank should they check our advance at the crossing. An hour passed and the cannonading continued, when the crossing was effected and we went marching through a swamp densely overgrown. Our Brigade which had till now been in rear of Genel Birges own troops, was sent in advance and under cover of skirmishers pushed on for some three miles over swamps, bayous hills and gullies until the skirmishers met stern opposition. We were immediately pushed to the front and without being seen by the Enemy formed line immediately behind the skirmishers and were got ready for a charge. The position was this: we were at the outer edge of the woods with a rail fence a dozen yards in advance beyond which was an open level field ending at another fence that run obliquely to the first, approaching it toward the right and distant, opposite us, an eighth of a mile. Beyond the second fence was a swamp traversed by innumerable logs and knee deep with water. This swamp was a little wider than the field and run to the foot of the hill upon which the Rebels were posted in force. In this heavily wooded country fences are not made of as light material as where wood is scarce or valuable but the rails are generally quarters of trees of from fifteen to twenty-five or thirty inches diameter. They are log fences, many of them being twenty feet long.
To have taken the precaution to tear down the first fence would have been to give notice to the Rebels that we were going to charge, which warning would at the second, have given them a chance to prepare a warm reception. To charge over both fences would scatter and divide the men before reaching the swamp. But charge we must, and the more sudden plan was adopted, so that before we ourselves were aware of it a rush at the fence was made at the further end of the Regiment and immediately followed up by the whole line, our regiment getting the lead in crossing the field by about fifty yards, yelling loud enough to scare the "Old Gentleman himself" had he been there. So sudden was the attack that we were half-way to the second fence before they could bring an effective fire upon us. Now however we were under full headway and was not to be checked, so over and through the fence we rushed the men firing and yelling and pushing forward as if on each, depended the result. Across the swamp and up the hill they pushed through a galling fire ready upon reaching the top to pour an effective fire into the skidaddling Rebels as they fled up the slope of the next hill. The rout was complete, and the field, ours. I have left for you to take it for granted the hill was wooded as the Rebs will never fight anywhere else if they can help it. Having chased them for more than a mile and finding that they had taken to their horses (they were mounted Infantry) we halted for those in rear to close up, and in about three minutes continued on, and got near where the had their batteries when as our Regiment was passing a gully that exposed us to view to the opposite hill, upon which their batteries were planted, we received a severe musketry fire and several shells that wounded several men. This fire continued, perhaps two minutes, during which we advanced under cover. When it ceased all resistance on their part was over. A heavy column was got ready to charge the hill but there was no need of it as the Enemy had gone. The last we saw of them was three of them came out into a clearing and approaching a wounded cavalry man of ours, was seen by our boys to seize and attempt to pull of his boots, when the boys ????? at them, and shot two. Near the cavalry-man, I learned immediately after the above occurred, was an Aid of Genel Banks being wounded. On account of the firing that had just taken place over the same ground, and as we were to charge over the place soon, I considered it more prudent to leave him as he was a short time until we could send back for a stretcher, and make quick work of getting him off, if it had to be done under fire - Their retreat saved us the trouble of attempting a dangerous experiment.
I witnessed a few incidents some of a comic, and others of a more tragic character.
As we were pushing up the first hill a party of the 173d of three gobbled a Reb. Colonel and were running him to the rear at a double-quick with a bayonet on each flank and in rear. That is what the called "hiking him".
A German corporal of Co K confronted a Reb. captain and demanded his surrender, when meeting a not very complimentary refusal, shot him when within three feet of him.
Two prisoners who had been taken and were being secured in rear of our advance, became restive and one of them in pretending to give up his gun deliberately shot a lieutenant of the 162d NY, mortally wounding him. He would have paid for it with his life had not other officers interfered on the spot.
In clubbing up the skulkers from behind trees an officer near me had just tumbled one out from cover and was belaboring the poor fellow with his sword when he was shot in the head through the eye.
Genl Birge while reconnoitering was ambushed by the enemy and I am told that out of eighteen orderlies (mounted escorts) twelve were killed or wounded, the Genl escaping with a couple of holes through his coat.
Col. Peck being in suspension from command the command of the Brigade fell to Col Fessenden of the 30th Maine to whom Col Peck volunteered his service as Aid. He was on all parts of the field and did excellent service, showing that if charged with cowardice he is no coward. Co. Fessenden was wounded in the leg. We the 173d had two officers and 28 men hit, of which two died. We had less than two hundred engaged - Capt Henry R. Lee who kept a Jewelry Store in Fourth Street near South Second was so severely wounded that it is feared that he cannot live. Capt Wm A Greene was wounded twice but will recover soon. One shot made a hole through his cheek both in entering and passing out.
The variety of ways of taking prisoners is curious to observe. Some are so fearful of being shot that they are easily taken. Others would rather be shot than taken otherwise, while others still, intermediate, are wary and dangerous. no rule can apply to all and it takes a sharp man to know how to manage them until they are fairly secured.
Although our Regiment were foremost during the charge and remained there until after the rout of the Rebels our loss is not much more severe that the other regiments of the Brigade. No other Brigades were engaged and the rest of the 1st Division was on the other side of the during the fight.
While crossing the swamps previous to the charge we came across one place that we succeeded in crossing but four horses in the whole Brigade. The remainder were left behind.
NOTE: What follows is a hand-drawn map taking up 2/3 of a page. It details the charge just described.
The black dashes show our several positions: The first at the edge of the level clearing was given up as soon as the skirmishers had found logs to cross over the "deep bayou" when we advanced in line of battle to the bayou where as I stated but four horses were got across. The second position is where we charged from and drove them from where the red dashes indicate their line, and the last position is where we expected to charge from again upon the "high hill" in front. In all but the last I have shown but the 3d Brig. In the last only had we any troops in front of us, the 3d Brigade having done all the fighting throughout the day excepting only the artillery which kept the Enemy engaged in front while we "took" him in flank.
We all feel in better spirits now but the continuous roar of cannon in our rear, that has been kept up all day reminds us that we are liable to be molested even in this place, but not seriously I guess.
Hoping to hear from you soon
10PM a mail has just arrived with dates to the 12th. nothing for me_____