|Colors of the 4th Florida Infantry|
During their return at Marianna, Florida on Sept. 27, 1864.
Part of Brig. Gen. Marcellus A. Stovall's Brigade of Breckenridge's Division, the Florida units were part of General Joseph E. Johnston's "Army of Relief" that had formed at Jackson as part of a plan to break the Union siege of Vicksburg. Johnston had advanced as far as the Big Black River between Jackson and Vicksburg when news came that the Mississippi River city had fallen to the Union army of Major General Ulysses S. Grant.
Having received this news, Johnston fell back to the fortifications of Jackson. Grant ordered Major General William Tecumseh Sherman to pursue him. Sherman closed in around Jackson on July 11, 1863. Then, on July 12 (150 years ago today), Union forces had a disastrous run in with a section of the Confederate lines:
|Brig. Gen. Jacob G. Lauman (US)|
The fighting took place on Sherman's right, (the Confederate left) where the Corps of Major General E.O.C. Ord was positioned on the Union side and Breckenridge's Division - including the Florida units - on the Confederate side. The site of the battle was in section of Jackson stretching from what was then the Great Central Railroad and the Pearl River on the southwest side of the city.
As Sherman was moving into position around the fortifications of Jackson, which he deemed "too good to be assaulted," he ordered his forces to form lines about 1,500 yards from the Confederate lines and to push skirmishers up to within 500 yards. The corps commanders were instructed to have their men begin digging trenches and preparing earthworks for battery positions. It was as this operation was underway that Brig. Gen. Jacob G. Lauman moved in too close:
|Lt. Col. Edward Badger, 4th Florida|
Florida Memory Collection: Florida State Archives
Subsequent reports placed the losses in the First Brigade of Lauman's Fourth Division, the unit most heavily engaged in the fight, at 61 killed, 241 wounded and 129 missing in action for a total loss of 441. Adjacent units also experienced losses.
The best account of the fight was written by General Ord:
|War-time map of the scene of the July 12th fight.|
|War-time sketch of the Siege of Jacskon|
|Some of these men fought at Jackson.|
Two days later, the bodies of the Union dead still lay on the battlefield and Confederate litter bearers were fired on by Federal soldiers each time they tried to go out and bury the dead or help the wounded.
The stench of the decomposing bodies in front of the position of the Florida troops became so bad that General Breckinridge reported that his men were becoming ill. He appealed to General Johnston to send out a flag of truce to General Sherman asking that burial parties not be fired on. Johnston did so and Sherman agreed to a brief truce so that his own men could be buried, after two days beneath the hot Mississippi sun on the battlefield at Jackson, Mississippi.