The Louisiana in the Civil War Message Board

18th LA. Inf. Fights Gunboats in TN.

MEMPHIS DAILY APPEAL, [MEMPHIS, TN], March 19, 1862, p. 1, c. 4

The Fight on the Tennessee River.

A member of the 18th Louisiana regiment furnishes to the New Orleans Picayune the following narrative of the fight in which the corps engaged with the enemy's black gunboats:

Pittsburg consists of three log houses and a pig sty, and is situated on both sides of the road which runs down between two very high hills to the river, making the only landing on this side of the river for several miles up or down. Hence No. 1 is (or was) on the bluff close to the edge; No. 2 about one hundred yards back on the road—both on the left side—and No. 3 on the edge of the bluff about two hundred yards to the right of the road.

At 12 o'clock, on the 1st, the Miles artillery arrived and had got two of their pieces into position, when the smoke of two gunboats coming up was discovered. The artillery commenced firing at long range.

Our line of battle was formed at our camp, almost four hundred yards from the river. We were marched across the road and took position in a valley, the shot and shell raining over our heads, and cutting the tree tops all around us. Just as we got to the road the rear of the line was halted to allow the Miles artillery to pass in full retreat. Our regiment was nothing daunted, however, and looking round at my boys, I could not see a lip quiver or a cheek blanch. We were marched under the iron rain to our position in the ravine, and waited there for nearly two hours, watching the falling tree tops and getting used to the music of the shells.

Our colonel thinking we were too much exposed, ordered us over the hill into the next ravine, and here our first man was wounded—Lieut. Watt—who was struck with an iron ring of a grape stand, which had glanced from a tree, bruising his leg very severely, but did not prevent him from following up the fight.

The enemy had not landed, finding that our artillery was silenced, and had taken possession of houses one and two, the first of which they set fire to. Our colonel gave the order, "Forward, charge," and with a whoop and a yell forward we went.

We had to cross three hills before we came in sight of the enemy, and when I rose the bare bluff there lay the two black rascals, blazing away at us, their launches crammed with men, evidently hesitating what to do. We gave them but little time to make up their minds, for, as we stood on the top of the hill over which the shot and shell flew thick and fast, we poured a terrible fire of musketry into their launches and through their port holes, until they bundled on board their gunboats again, leaving three dead and four prisoners on shore, and sullenly retired, their fire slackening considerably. As we rose the brow of the bluff, Corporal Huggins C. Ensign, of the Orleans cadets, fell, torn and mutilated by a shell, his left arm broken, and left side torn out. We must have been over half an hour on that naked hill, cheering and firing, the grape tearing up the ground, the shells humming, and the musket balls whistling around. Lieutenant Lavery, who was wounded early in the fight by a ball passing through his thigh, could not be induced to leave the field, and having borrowed a Maynard rifle, he leaned against a sapling, and blazed away as hard as he could. The consequence of which, however, is that his wound is very much inflamed.

The fight, take it for all in all, was a brilliant little affair. With our muskets alone we drove off two gunboats, each carrying four sixty-four's and two thirty-two's, and a twelve-pound howitzer. I cannot imagine what made them leave so soon unless that we had killed and wounded a large number in their launches and on the boats. We heard this morning that they buried sixty or seventy on the other side of the river, and think it very probable, as during the time we were peppering them the average distance of our men from the boats could not have been over seventy-five yards. They were under the bank, and we poured it right down on them. We on the right never saw a Yankee on shore, as when our left advanced to the charge they retreated precipitately to their boats, and as they passed through the hills down to the river it was only our extreme left that had a chance at them, but when we got them out on the river every one had a fair pop, and I could see the bullets falling round the launches like big rain drops.