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Battle of Chickasaw Bayou
December 27 - 29, 1862
Described by Sgt. Jesse E. Leasure, Company G
December 25, 1884
Web Author's Notes:
The following is a letter by Sgt. Jesse E. Leasure, Company G, 16th OVI, to the National Tribune, written or published on December 25, 1884. It seems during the 1870's and 1880's there was a peak of activity where Civil War soldiers wanted to tell their war stories. It is presumed the letter, below, was inspired, at least in part, by the description of the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou included in Pvt. Frank H. Mason's book The Forty-Second Ohio Infantry: A History of the Organization and Services of That Regiment in the War of the Rebellion (to be presented on this section of the website soon). The 42nd Ohio was brigaded with the 16th Ohio through much of the war and Mason's work provides significant insight into the events of the 16th Ohio as well as the 42nd. However, the web author makes a casual observation that Mason's descriptions may possibly show occasional favor to the 42nd, perhaps at some expense to historical accuracy and other regiments, including the 16th Ohio. This favor may be confirmed, to a degree, by Sgt. Leasure's comments in the letter, below, though he is careful to maintain a soldier's camaraderie.

Thanks to Park Ranger Matt Atkinson, of the Gettysburg National Military Park, for contributing this valuable letter to the website.


16th Ohio, DeCourcey Brigade,
National Tribune December 25, 1884

Chickasaw Bluffs

To The Editor: Having been a participant in the charge at Chickasaw Bluffs on Dec. 29, 1862, I cannot refrain from having my say about what I know. I was a member of Co. G, 16th Ohio. I have been reading Mason and Fry's history, or rather their recollections, and, to be candid, they made a pretty good job of it. They have, however, evidently written from memory, and got things a little mixed. On the 27th night closed in upon us in line of battle, with our left (16th) within a few rods of the old cotton press that burned that night, and facing due east, the bayou in front and timber beyond. Just a short distance to the right the bayou made a square turn to the east, the ground on our right being an open cotton field. At early dawn of the 28th the 16th marched by the right flank, following the bayou, - Co. A well out as skirmishers, - a line being on the left and between us and the bayou, and bearing sharply off to the south, behind which was heavy cypress timber, in which the rebs were posted. As soon as the skirmishers got within range the johnnies commenced to pepper away at them, and the line of battle was formed just beyond a small slough that ran directly at right angles from our line of march, the road passing over near the levee on an embankment. The 16th, after passing over, filed off to the right and formed line of battle, the skirmish-line in the meantime having been called in; Lamphere's battery wheeled into position on our right, when the battle opened in all its fury. After being relieved by another brigade and our boxes filled, we filed to the left, passed over the levee, and charged down into the timber where the rebs were. The charge was made in column at half company distance, 54th Ind. in front, 16th Ohio next, 22d Ky. Next and 42d Ohio in rear. The 54th Ind. were new men, enlisted for a year, and had never seen a battle, and as they neared the edge of the timber a shell exploded in the head of the column, killing several men and fearfully demoralizing the rest. Col. Mansfield and the officers did all they could to steady the men, but they had got scared, and they wanted to get back on important business. DeCourcey, seeing how (the) matter stood, rode rapidly to the front, and in his own peculiar style called out, sharp and clear, "Col. Mansfield! Col. Mansfield! Take your damned yearling to the rear and let my regiment in." And we went in, too, and made our visit so lively that the Johnnies took the other side of the bayou, and all the afternoon the battle raged with unabated fury. That night a tired set of men lay down to rest without a fire, to be lulled to sleep by the sweet strains of "Dixie," played by the bands up on the hills, and to be rudely awakened by the screaming and bursting of shells that were carelessly thrown by our erring brethren.

In the history of the next day Mason and Fry say the 42d Ohio and 54th Ind. had to stop three times to let the front line get forward. The truth is that after the assaulting column started, it never stopped till after we had crossed the bayou, and then for a moment only to adjust our column. Up the ban and over that terrible field of death without faltering went the 16th Ohio and 22d Ky., till the number in the 16th was reduced from 730 to 134. We never fell back against the 22d Ky., for that noble old regiment was abreast of our () vainly striving with us to reach the rebel works. When we were within about 60 yards of the first line, from the sheer force of the terribly-destructive fire of the enemy, we all dropped flat on the earth, where we were slightly covered by a rise in the ground. There was, however, no confusion about it. Men dropped along the route from wounds, death and fatigue, till we could not go any farther, and then we stopped. The rebels did not run out of their works and take us in, as Mason and Fry say, but a squad of cavalry came charging in, and just then I thought of what my father had told me when leaving home - "Don't come home with a bullet in your back." I had faced the music so far and got no bullets in front, and thought I would risk the chance of getting one in the rear. It was a desperate race, and I know it did not take me as long to get back as it did forward. The 42d did not cover our retreat in good order, either; for when I reached the causeway there was not a man of the 42d there, and they had not even carried off our wounded. As to Blair's Brigade, it was a part of the assaulting column on our left, with which we had nothing to do; in fact, we had bitten off a bigger chunk than we could chaw. The 42d was a good regiment; but don't pile it on too thick comrades - J. E. Leasure, Color Sgt., 16th Ohio, Ladora, Iowa

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