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Battle of Arkansas Post
January 9 - 11, 1863
by Cpl. Theodore Wolbach, Company E
Web Author's Notes:
The following is a description of the Battle of Arkansas Post, written by Cpl Theodore Wolbach of Company E. Wolbach's colorful history of the 16th Ohio can be read here.

January 2d we left the Yazoo and steamed up the Mississippi and moored our boats to the western shore, near Milikin's Bend, about five miles from the mouth of the Yazoo.

Gen. John A. McClernand had just arrived from the north to relieve Gen. W.T. Sherman. These two men planned an expedition against Fort Hindman, or as it is commonly called Arkansas Post, and the whole fleet moved for White River immediately. Entering that river, they passed up into the "cut-off," a bayou that connects with the Arkansas River, then into the latter. Before going far, mounted men could be seen, evidently watching our progress.

Landing about four miles below the rebel fort, troops under Sherman and Morgan were sent forward on the north side of the stream, and a brigade under Col. Lindsay, on the opposite bank. It had become necessary to reduce the 16th from ten to six companies. Four being broken up and distributed among the rest of the companies. It was distasteful to some of the members of the broken companies to see their organizations divided. A few of these fellows gave us an illusion of hesitancy that fired the wrath of DeCourcey, who mounted a log in front of the mutinous boys and gave them a short, sharp lecture. Told them he had been a father to them--had tried to bring them up to the highest standard of discipline--and if they ever again exhibited such disobedience he would break his sword and leave them, but immediately followed up with a savage flourish of his glittering sword, and fuming in his British wrath, said, "The first man that refuses to obey, by g-d, I'll send this through him." The speech had the requisite effect, the boys all going to the companies they were assigned to.

Sherman and Morgan soon run against the enemy and done some skirmishing, which resulted in the latter abandoning a line of rifle-pits below the fort that night, and throwing up a new entrenchment extending from the fort across a neck of land back to a swamp.

On the morning of the 11th, the land forces commenced firing very early. The work of infantry and artillery waxing warm sometimes. A little after 10 o'clock the gunboats moved up promptly, and went to work, and before noon the three casemated guns in the river front of the fort and a large barbette gun were silenced. The land forces were raining destruction against the occupants of the rifle-pits. Col. Lindsay had two of Foster's twenty pounders posted on the opposite side of the river, where they raked the rebel line, doing execution at every shot. The climax of battle was soon reached and the enemy surrendered, although the Confederate commanding officer, Gen. Churchill, denied giving such orders. The majority of the captured garrison were Texans and were inclined to be a little saucy. Many that had revolvers and other side arms hid them in the dirt of the breastworks, or threw them into the bayou back of their lines. About every thing was recovered by our fellows, who individually instituted a patient and thorough search.

A four gun battery of brass pieces that had been run up behind their shallow works, were silenced almost immediately by our sharp shooters and every horse killed, dropping right in their traces where they stood.

The usual bloody picture of men displayed itself in the trenches. Many that had been badly torn by our artillery were scattered along the line. One poor fellow that had got in the way of a heavy gunboat shell was torn almost to pieces and lifted over the parapet into the ditch, where he lay with his bowels protruding, a blackened, shapeless, horrible mass. Two shoes with feet and stubs of legs sticking in them were lying near the lifeless rebel they formerly belonged to. In the casemates the terrible work of the navy was visible. Shreds of flesh and hair stuck on the wooden walls, and human blood was smeared over every thing. It appeared to the observer, after the contest, that the men had stayed at their post until they were blown to atoms. The big gun on the parapet had a huge chip knocked from the muzzle. A broken stretcher and a dead man with his legs cut off a few inches below the knees, lay back toward their field hospital. One of Foster's shots had produced this wreck, as the fellow wounded was being carried from the field. The scene in the hospital was horrifying. About all of the victims here were wounded by the artillery. The writer was one of the guards placed here, and shall, while life lasts, retain the impressions these suffering Confederates left on his memory.

A brawny Texan, with face and forehead badly crushed, raved in delirium making incoherent utterances in which frequently occurred the name of a female, possibly his wife far away in Texas. Before the sun set he had entered the repose of death.

Outside, near the door, was a box filled to overflowing with arms, legs, fragments of flesh, splintered bones, &c. Be it said in honor to the surgeons of the unworthy cause, that they stayed devotedly with their wounded until every operation that was necessary was performed, and every available comfort was bestowed, denying themselves food or refreshment until their last suffering patient was provided for.

Two shells from a land battery had struck one of the hospital buildings, one exploding in a room full of wounded, killing several, including a nurse. Those that were alive on the morning of the 11th, were removed to the steamer J.C. Swan. The building where many of these had lain, contained in the kitchen department, a large steamboat stove that had been taken from the Red Wing, captured from us near the mouth of White river several weeks before. Some mischievous Federals removed the stove and set fire to the house. A lot of dead rebels on their bloody bunks, just as they had been left after being removed from the hospital, were near by and got considerably scorched by the heat of the burning building.

The sound prisoners had been put under a strong guard down near the fort. They were a robust, healthy-looking set. This fight had been the first for many of them and they felt badly mortified at being captured. The 19th Arkansas Infantry marched into our lines on the evening of the fight and were taken without firing a shot. There were many European born Germans among them. These men had been recruited from the German colonies in south-western Texas. A part of the rebel commissary stores here consisted of several hundred bushels of cornmeal. In fact the southern soldier was largely cornfed.

Arkansas Post, although not large enough to be called a town, is a very old place. It was one of the settlements made by the French Arcadians, who wandered in exile after their banishment from Nova Scotia by the British in the summer of 1755.

The rebel mail, made up and ready to send, was also captured. The boys ransacked it and found many curious letters. It seemed, by the contents of a majority of them, that they had received an extremely exagerated [sic] report of the Chickasaw affair. In their letters our loss was reported at fifteen thousand men and eight gunboats. All seemed eager for a fight, and doubtless they had enough of it before we tore open and perused their letters.

It was not deemed necessary to leave a garrison here, therefore the works were destroyed and everything of value put on the boats. The prisoners, a little less than five thousand, were embarked on transports in charge of one of Gen. Sherman's staff officers, with a suitable guard, and started north. They suffered from a snow storm and a cold snap that beset them on their journey. It was afterward reported to us that several had their feet frosted before they reached Cairo. One of the captives was not sent with the rest of the prisoners. It was a little boy found in the fort by Commodore Porter's men. The lad manifested a pleasing amount of grit, and the gunboatsmen, taking a fancy for him, took him aboard with them.

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