Letter from Rigby, Titus

Soldier: Rigby, Titus
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 24th Infantry
Home State: Iowa
Date Written: Monday, May 4th, 1863
Location: Port Gibson, Mississippi
Correspondence Type: Letter
Subjects: Combat Description, Family, On the March, Western Theater, Combat Description, Family, On the March, Western Theater, Combat Description, Family, On the March, Western Theater, Combat Description, Family, On the March, Western Theater, Combat Description, Family, On the March, Western Theater, Battlefield, Combat Description, Commanders, Comrades, Enemy, Family, Maneuvers, Naval, On the March, Strategy, Suffering, Tactics, Warfare, Weapons, Western Theater, Battlefield, Combat Description, Commanders, Comrades, Enemy, Family, Maneuvers, Naval, On the March, Strategy, Suffering, Tactics, Warfare, Weapons, Western Theater
Link Source: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cwd/id/8095
Camp 10 miles from Port Gibson on the Road to Vicksburg
Tuesday May 4th, 1863

Dear Brother

Our Regt has at last Smelled the breath of Battle I have thank god come off untouched. I improve this my first oppurtunity at once then to write to you. & even now I do not know when a mail will leave Camp but I will have my letter ready for the first one.

My last letter was written at Noulin's plantation on the 26th Ult. next day we march under a heavy rain nearly all the time 4 miles. the Roads were so bad that we did not make that distance until 9 at night. Next day we started at one A. M. and marched to the river two miles distant. our entire Div. went on Board transports at Sundown & lay there most of the night About 10 oclock the officers of the Regt were called up to meet the Col in the Cabin He told us we wer to move down the river at 3 in the morning. that our own & Gen Carr's Divisions were to attack the Rebels in their entrenchments at grand gulf that we would land most probably under a heavy fire & carry the position at the position at the point of the Bayonet I laid down again expecting that tomorrow we would See our first battle. Our Boats started at 4 in the morning & dropped Slowly down the River to within 3 miles of the Rebel batteries where they tied up to the La side Soon after our gun Boats commenced moving into position & at a quarter past 8 & the Rebels opened on them from their Batteries from where our transports lay to the mouth of Black river the river runs directly east here it make a short turn to the south. The Rebel works are on the bluff which rises quite abruptly from both rivers & forms two sides of a almost perfect square most of their guns were placed along the beach. two of them in the side towards Black River. from our position we could see these two & about 4 of the guns on the Miss face the others were hidden by the woods on our side the River. I will not attempt any discription of the fight it lasted until one oclock when our gun Boats withdrew without having silenced the Batteries. the bombardment had proved that it would be madness to land a force under their fire & a change of plan became necessary we were accordingly landed & marched across the point to the River below the enemies works here we Camped for the night about 9 oclock our gun Boats & transports commenced running past the batteries the Rebels kept up a terrific fire upon them but all came through safley. Ten gun Boats went into the fight one was disabled in the forenoon next morning 3 Divisions of McClernands went on board the other six & the 7 transports which have run the Blockade at Vicksburg. I went down the River 8 or ten miles where we landed on the Miss side here we drew rations to last us six days. About 2 in the afternoon we resumed our march on the road to Port Gibson. Stopped for Supper at 8:12 rested nearly an hour & started again and marched slowly all night & at sunrise had come about 15 miles here we stopped for breakfast by the side of a little Stream before we had half finished our meal the booming of Cannon Called us into line again. Carr's Div was Nearer engaging the enemy. This was about Six in the morning. we had all night been marching nearly East the road here turns nearly to the south. we marched on about 1/2 mile when we unslung our Knapsacks & some of us our haversacks & threw them in the fence corners. I thew down everything but my sword & Revolver I did not regret it although I never saw my Rubber Blanket again all this time the cannon were keeping up an almost steady Roar & the Rattle of Musketry was beginning to be heard just below where we threw down our Knapsacks Osterhaus had turned to the Left. Carr had gone in further & was engaged in the Right of the Road where most of the fighting was done. we marched in a little further turned to the right & formed in line with the left nearest the Road. when we were ordered to lie down. Carr was by this time fully engaged & old soldiers say that the firing then & afterwards was as heavy as at Shiloh I can hardly tell you how I felt I was not at all Scared but I could notice an excitement of the nerves which I allways fell on important occasions. I have felt it Stronger while standing up at spelling school I did no allow my mind to dwell on the danger my plan all day was to think of nothing but my duties & when I was on my feet & engaged I entirely forgot the danger. I believe I could have gone up to a charge through the thickest hail of Balls that ever flew & not have known that there was one in the air. I have got a little ahead of my story we lay in this place about half an hour when we were ordered up to the front we marched out to the Road & about 40 rods farther on when we turned to the right again & marched down in front of one of our batteries there was some confusion here owning to the 28th Iowa Regt. getting in our way & we were obliged to wait sinse time for them to go past us during this time our Co stayed close to the battery & a Rebel battery was playing on it they had our Range very well & some of the shell Struck near us but no harm was done. Most of our Boys would drop down whe a shell passed over us but they always came up as soon as it was over finally the Command was given by the right of Companies to the rear into Column & after we got into this position we were ordered to lie down. I think we were more exposed here than at any time during the day our Co lay within a few ft of our Battery & a perfect Storm of Balls was going over our heads. If we had been kept on our feet we must have bee considerably Cut up We laid here about 15 minutes when we were ordered up. we had fixed Bayonets before & to form in the field in front of us across the ravine in our side was a field badly Cut up with Ravines Running into the large Ravine between us & the Road when we got on to the ground the peoria Battery was planted on top of the hill & were Shelling the woods. we formed behind them & lay down it was here the Elias Gabriel was wounded by a piece of Shell from the enemy's Battery it is only a flesh wound on the wrist & he is now with us Lt. Col Wilds was now in Command the Col was unwell & could not go with us he ordered us up and down one of the Ravines to the large Ravine with the left in front & led off himself Company "B" following in good style only two other companies followed not on account of fear but because the others did not hear the Command the were brought down afterward by the Major we marched down the ravine directly under the fire of our battery the shells screaming over our heads every minute nearly to it foot whe we turned up the hill to the right this enabled us to fire over the crest of the hill & afforded a good protection while loading the Rebels were in the brush just across the large Ravine we could see the Smoke from their Rifles Curling out of the Brush but only occasionally could get sight of a man Archie Patterson was wounded in the lower lip here he had just fired & was turning around to load there is an ugly gash Cut in the lip just below the mouth but none of his teeth are gone & the jaw is not broken. our men fired from 12 to 13 rounds apiece when their guns got to hot to load & we withdrew & made Room for a Co of the 23rd Iowa There was a high fence in front of us & I believe I was the first one of the Company over it the boys say that the balls were splintering the Rails every second but I but I did not see one strike we formed in line in the field & stood for a few moments when the Command by the right of Companies to the front was given & we marched by the right flank into the thickest cane break I ever saw. under most circumstances it would have been impossible to get through but we finally got out onto clear ground on the other side. through some misunderstanding the 4 Companies on the Right got separated from the rest of the Regt the other six companies were formed as soon as we got out of the brush but we were too late the Rebels had broke & the fight for that time was virtually over. we marched farther on & to the right where the 1st Iowa battery had just been placed & was pouring the shell into the retreating Rebels here we met the other 4 companies of the Regt the 56th Ohio get a large share of the glory of this engagement they charged a little before us & just at the right time & Captured a rebel flag & 230 prisoners. I think it was a great mistake that the Rebs were not followed more closely I do not see why we might not have captured or dispersed their entire force it was now about 10 oclock our Regt & I think all the Regiments rested nearly two hours when the Rebels were Seen moving up to attack us on the left flank our own & several other Regiments were sent to meet them. They were in a thick piece of woods on a side hill this is all the fighting we did although there was skirmishing & Shots from their sharpshooters all the afternoon. I think all this was for effect & to draw our attention while the Body of the army was retreating Prisoners told us that the Regt which attacked us in the left were literally Butchered behind where they lay in the Brush was an open field & they dared not cross this to escape our fire they lay in the Brush & were shot in their tracks Our Regt made no charge of which we can boast but they showed great coolness in forming under fire & in difficult circumstances Our own Co. behaved admirably not the least hesitation on the part of a Single man I have no fear but that they will prove themselves equal to any position in which they will be placed. toward evening we were moved one mile from the field in a southwest direction where we Camped for some sleep & rest of which we were in pressing need about two in the morning our Pickets were fired upon & the Regt called into line but no enemy was seen & we soon laid down again in the morning we marched to Port Gibson 3 miles from where we slept the night before our Road lay through only part of the Battlefield & as I did not get to look it over of the right time my statements may be a little wrong. I give them as they seemed at the time our Road was Strewn with Knapsacks Clothing & everything else which an army throws down before a fight & on retreat may of our Boys lost their Blankets some of them who got their Knapsacks found that they had been opened & articles of value taken out there is always a set of miserable straggler hanging around about the field who are to cowardly to go into the fight themselves & who pilfer the Knapsacks of braver men ther is a Bayou a Port Gibson over which was a handsome suspension brigge which the Rebels have burned & we were obliged to build a new one this was soon done & part of our forces commenced crossing at 4 that afternoon our Div lay in town that night it is a very handsome town with a population of 4 or 5 thousand it was 8 by the town clock on the Presbyterian Church when we passed it next morning going out in the Road to Vicksburg. 10 brought us last night to this place where we have lain all day to day this brings my story up to the present time there is now with us at least Six Divisions the 3 that came through at first & Smith Logan & Quimby's Divisions. as you probably know Gen Grant himself is with us. this is evidently a determined move on Vicksburg but whether we will move directly on the place or no is not yet known by the army I do not yet know for certain whether the enemy retreated by this road or went down to grand Gulf. two miles back we crossed a fine suspension Bridge which had been fired but had been extinguished before much harm was done this looks as though they Came this way but a negro with us says they went direct to the Gulf it is know that that place was evacuated yesterday morning at 2 oclock last night it was rumored that our advance would bag them all before they could reach the crossing of Black River which is 10 miles ahead I do not know how true it is, all our Boys but those I mentioned are well my own health is excellent My love to all
your Brother
W T Rigby